Thomas Allin and the Contagion of Equivocity

My first appeal shall be to that primary revelation of himself which God has implanted in the heart and conscience of man. I am merely expressing the deepest and most mature, though often unspoken, convictions of millions of earnest Christian men and women, when I assert that to reconcile the popular creed, or any similar belief in endless evil and pain, with the most elementary ideas of justice, equity, and goodness (not even to mention mercy), is wholly and absolutely impossible. Thus, this belief destroys the only ground on which it is possible to erect any religion at all, for it sets aside the primary convictions of the moral sense; and thus paralyses that by which alone we are capable of religion. If human reason be incompetent to decide positively that certain acts assigned to God are evil and cruel, then it is equally incompetent to decide that certain acts of his are just and merciful. Therefore, if God be not good, just, and true, in the human acceptation of these terms, then the whole basis of revelation vanishes. For if God be not good in our human sense of the word, I have no guarantee that he is true in our sense of truth. If that which the Bible calls goodness in God should prove to be that which we call badness in man, then how can I be assured that what is called truth in God may not really be that which in man is called falsehood? Thus no valid communication—no revelation—from God to man is possible; for no reliance can, on this view, be placed on his veracity.

“We dare not,” says the Bishop of London [Frederick William Temple], “let go the truth, that the holiness, the goodness, the justice, the righteousness, which the eternal moral law imposes on us as a supreme command, are identical in essential substance, in our minds and in His.”

“We dare not!” Why? Precisely because, if we do, the foundations of religion collapse—perishing as the moral order perishes. We are worshipping once more the unknown God. Mere scepticism is our sole refuge. We have lost our standard of right and wrong, and are wandering in a pathless desert, creedless, homeless, hopeless, mocked all the while by phantoms of virtues that are probably vices, and of vices that are probably virtues. For let me repeat that if goodness in becoming infinite turns into evil—if infinite love may be consistent with what we call cruelty—then, for all we know, truth may turn into falsehood, justice into flagrant wrong, light into darkness. Therefore, we dare not let go the truth that in our moral nature we have a true revelation of the divine mind, i.e., that the ideas of right and wrong are in their essence the same in our minds and in God’s—that they are true universally; as true beyond the grave as here and now. But if so, then that which so flatly contradicts all our deepest moral convictions, as does the dogma of endless sin (a dogma which, however modified, no imaginable hypothesis can reconcile with either justice or mercy) must be absolutely false, and in teaching it we are but libeling God.

Further, if endless evil may be defended, in even a solitary case, it may be defended logically in every case. This follows strictly from the ground taken by advocates of the traditional creed. “They say we cannot judge what is cruel or the reverse on God’s part.” Be it so, for argument’s sake. Then it follows that if every human being fall under the sway of evil for ever, and God be thus left face to face with a universal pandemonium, then we should have no right even to murmur, for we have [no] right to judge, having no faculties adequate to the task.

But in fact we are not alone justified in arguing from our own minds to God’s; we are forced to do so, or to remain agnostics. It is from our minds that we gain a knowledge of the divine mind, from the working of our intelligence and will that we gain a knowledge of God’s will and intelligence. This is the pathway God has traced, the foundation he has laid. And there is no other possible. “Ils ont beau me crier: souments ta raison. . . . Il me faut des raisons pour soumettre ma raison.1


[1] “They shout at me, they cry: Bring your reason to heel. . . . What trips me up is: I need reasons to bring my reason to heel” ~ Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

Thomas Allin

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3 Responses to Thomas Allin and the Contagion of Equivocity

  1. TJF says:

    I have thought the same thoughts but will never possess the eloquence to lay them out like this. Powerful and moving words!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. liamhuber23 says:

    C.S. Lewis wrote something very similar.

    “If God’s moral judgment differs from ours so that our ‘black’ may be His ‘white,’ we can mean nothing by calling Him good; for to say ‘God is good,’ while asserting that His goodness is wholly other than ours, is really only to say ‘God is we know not what.’ And an utterly unknown quality in God cannot give us moral grounds for loving or obeying Him. If He is not (in our sense) ‘good’ we shall obey, if at all, only through fear – and should be equally ready to obey an omnipotent Fiend. The doctrine of Total Depravity – where the consequence is drawn that, since we are totally depraved, our idea of good is worth simply nothing – may thus turn Christianity into a form of devil-worship” C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain].

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Justin says:

    Before Dr Hart, before Fr Kimel, before Robin Parry and Tom Talbott, even before MacDonald, there was Thomas Allin. At a time when I was wandering aimlessly in the dark, he handed me a light in Universalism Asserted.

    Like St Paul, he made an “Unknown God” known at last to me. I hope to thank him properly some day.


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