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Dudleian Lecture Given by Dean Fenn


Dean Fenn, of the Divinity School, gave the Dudleian Lecture for this year in Emerson J last evening. The subject was "Natural Religion."

When this lectureship was founded there was extraordinary interest, especially among English thinkers, in what was called Natural Religion, by which was meant religion founded, not upon revelation, but upon the world of nature and of man and apprehended, not by faith, but by reason. The arguments based upon the physical world fall into two groups: Causal and Design. The Causal argument concludes in a dilemma, either branch of which is inconceivable. Of the so-called Design argument, that, from adaptations, has been seriously weakened by the theory of evolution and at present only the argument from an ordered system of laws is of importance. The argument based on the nature of man has changed from its earlier form of reliance upon innate ideas to a highly metaphysical attempt to present God as the necessary implication of knowledge, considered as knowledge. But both great lines of argument meet the problem of evil which neither has succeeded in solving. Natural theology may prove divine intelligence but so far it has not proved benevolence.

Yet the problem is solved in the experience of those who, knowing the sorrow of the world, find it beautiful nevertheless, and even entertain towards it the sentiments usually considered religious. In the feelings which we have towards nature, of awe, trust, and comradeship, and toward one another in the world of humanity, this is a real natural religion, extra-confessional and extra-ecclesiastical, which is the most note-worthy factor in the religious world today and calls for interpretation. Natural theology finds God as the ultimate meaning and implication of this natural religion.

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