Infidels and Heretics: An Agnostic's Anthology

Infidels and Heretics: An Agnostic's Anthology

Infidels and Heretics: An Agnostic's Anthology

Infidels and Heretics: An Agnostic's Anthology

Excerpt

Few even with this there are differences of opinion.

Thomas Henry Huxley, unquestionably its originator, states: "I . . . invented the title of 'agnostic.' It came into my head as suggestively antithetic to the 'gnostic' of Church history, who professed to know so very much."

Richard Holt Hutton states, with equal assurance as a witness, that the word was "suggested by Professor Huxley at a party held previous to the formation of the now defunct Metaphysical Society, at Mr. James Knowles's house on Clapham Common, one evening in 1869, in my hearing. He took it from St. Paul's mention of the altar to 'the Unknown God.'"

Doctor Wilhelm Bousset, D.Th., defines "gnostic" in the Encyclopædia Britannica thus: "Among the followers of the movement 'Gnosis' was understood not as meaning 'knowledge' or 'understanding,' but 'revelation.' These little Gnostic sects and groups all lived in the conviction that they possessed a secret and mysterious knowledge . . . not based on reflection, on scientific enquiry and proof, but on revelation. . . . All alike boast a mystic revelation and a deeply veiled wisdom." Basing his position on human revelation, never upon "divine," Huxley chose wisely and well.

The reference made by Hutton is to the Acts of the Apostles, chapter xvii, verses 22 and 23: "Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars' Hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him I declare unto you."

There is both a distinction and a difference here. Huxley . . .

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