RENAN’S “VIE DE JESUS"
Histoire des Origines du Christianisme. Livre I.—Vie de Jesus.
Par Ernest Renan. Guardian, 9th September 1863.
Unbelief is called upon nowadays, as well as belief, to give its account of the origin of that undeniable and most important fact which we call the Christian religion. And if it is true that in some respects the circumstances under which the controversy is carried on are, as it has been alleged, more than heretofore favourable to unbelief, it is also true that in some other respects the case of unbelief has difficulties which it had not once. It has to accept and admit, if it wishes to gain a favourable hearing from the present generation, the unique and surpassing moral grandeur, depth, and attractiveness of Christianity. The polemic method which set Christianity in broad contrast with what was supposed to be best and highest in human nature, and therefore found no difficulty in tracing to a bad source what was itself represented to be bad, is not a method suited to the ideas and feelings of our time; and the sneers and sarcasms of the last century, provoked by abuses and inconsistencies which have since received their ample and memorable punishment, cease to produce any effect on readers of the present day, except to call forth a passing feeling of repugnance at what is shallow and profane, mixed, it may be, sometimes, with an equally passing admiration for what is witty and brilliant. Even in M. Renan’s view, Voltaire has done his work, and is out of date. Those who now attack Christianity have to attack it under the disadvantage of the preliminary