The Atom -- By: John Elliott Wishart

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 085:337 (Jan 1928)
Article: The Atom
Author: John Elliott Wishart


The Atom

John Elliott Wishart

There are two questions which I dare say most of you would like to ask me, as my subject is announced: What has that to do with Theology? and, What do you know about it, anyhow? The bulk of this paper will be taken up with an attempt to answer the first. But it may be well, by way of preface, to present a brief apologia in reply to the second.

Be it known then, that I am not a scientist, and make no claim to first hand knowledge on the theme with which I deal. Perhaps some of you will be disposed to quote Hamlet:

“’Tis dangerous when the baser nature comes
Between the pass and fell incensed points
Of mighty opposites.”

But my reply would be that so far as I know there is no fierce battle raging among the experts on this issue, and my life is not endangered by entering any forbidden zone of hostilities. The atmosphere of such discussions as have come under my observations is one of quiet investigation and search for truth. All agree that many details are still matters of doubt; all agree on the main lines of the theory, for they are the result of the work of many observers during a considerable period of time.

But you might assail me with lines from a lesser poet whose jingling description of Darius Greene and His Flying Machine I used to recite in my youth. The conclusion is in these ominous words:

“I’ll just have time for the moral here
And this is the moral, Stick to your sphere,
Or if you insist, as you have the right,
On stretching your wings for a loftier flight,
The moral is, Take care where you light.”

I have seen enough statues and pictures of Marsyas being flayed by Apollo for his presumption in trying to rival the god of music, not to have a wholesome fear of the dangers of incompetence when it enters fields where even the experts must walk warily. Even the great Dr. Johnson once answered a lady who asked him why he had given a certain definition in his dictionary, “Ignorance, Madam, pure ignorance.”

But with regard to the new scientific doctrines with which I am to deal today, two things are to be said to those who would warn off the mere amateur as a trespasser. One is that these doctrines have a vital bearing upon our metaphysical conclusions. They have something to say about Theism, and I am very confident that the thing they have to say supports the position of those who hold that there is a personal God, immanent in the universe and yet transcendent above it. The experts will not all agree to the inferences that are drawn today, though it is mere effrontery to assert that they are all on the other ...

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