The Clergyman In Politics -- By: William H. Spence

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 071:284 (Oct 1914)
Article: The Clergyman In Politics
Author: William H. Spence


The Clergyman In Politics

William H. Spence

Oberlin, Ohio.

The earnest parson of to-day, who is eager to serve his present age with efficiency and force, is often in an exasperating dilemma. For instance, Dr. Charles H. Parkhurst, in his recently published Yale Lectures on Preaching, strenuously urges that the minister should enter the political arena as a champion of decency and righteousness; and now comes to hand an article in the April Bibliotheca Sacra, from the pen of Professor Karl Geiser, of Oberlin, in which he bemoans ministerial activity in politics, and pleads that the parson retire and give the field over to the political scientist. What is the poor over-advised minister to do?

It seems a bit strange to have such counsel as Professor Geiser’s come from Oberlin, where religion has always busied itself with political affairs, and where there- has never seemed to be the least incongruity in a sermon on some great political issue, or in the transition of a clergyman from the pulpit to the political platform.

The chief burden of the Professor’s complaint is that his science is neglected in the American democracy, that the specialist in political science gets scant hearing to-day. There is nothing particularly strange about that. One inherent right in a democracy is that the people shall learn how to govern themselves, if necessary, by making their own mistakes. It is a costly process to be sure, but there is scarcely any other way in which to develop a self-reliant people. Democracy will doubtless continue for some centuries blundering along, trying its experiments and enjoying the privilege of tinkering with its own machine, the government. It will not readily consent to stand, cap in hand, at the door of the univer-

sity classroom, and wait for the expert to give it the word to proceed with a new piece of business. We shall not see very soon in this country a government turned over to bureaus of specialists.

The truth of the matter is, that with all his training and importance the expert is sometimes guilty of bungling. Every step forward in learning and civilization has been opposed by scientists who knew all about the subject. The trouble is, that the trained mind often becomes provincialized, and fails to take in, adequately, new data. An Oberlin professor of physics loudly proclaimed years ago that it was impossible for a man to throw a curved ball, and he proved it scientifically in the classroom; but out on the lawn a little later some students set up a row of sticks and one of their number pitched a curve, and then science yielded to common sense, and went into the laboratory to correct its findings in accord with ...

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