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Identifying Bias

I spent three years of my life at McMaster University studying history (I did a bachelor’s program in 3 years). So with a past as an amateur historian, I know the importance of identifying the bias of an author when reading a historical work. Not too long ago I purchased J.A. Wylie’s book “The Papacy: Its history, dogmas, genius and prospects” – a 600 page essay written and published in 1888. Wylie was a great preacher and author who lived in the late 19th century. He is best-known for his massive three-volume masterpiece entitled The History of Protestantism. When I began to read his book, it did not take me long to discover his bias:

The ancient Chaldean worshipping the sun, – the Greek deifying the powers of nature, – and the Roman exalting the race of primeval men into gods, – are but varied manifestations of the same evil principle, namely, the utter alienation of the heart from God, – its proneness to hide itself amid the darkness of its own corrupt imaginations, and to become a god unto itself. That principle received the most fearful development which appears possible on earth, in the Mystery of Iniquity which came to be seated on the Seven Hills; for therein man deified himself, became God, nay, arrogated powers which lifted him high above God. Popery is the last, the most matured, the most subtle, the most skillfully contriven, and the most essentially diabolical form of idolatry which the world ever saw, or which, there is reason to believe, it ever will see. It is the ne plus ultra of man’s wickedness, and the chef d’oeuvre of Satan’s cunning and malignity. It is the greatest calamity, next to the Fall, which ever befell the human family. Farther away from God the world could not exist at all. The cement that holds society together, already greatly weakened, would be altogether destroyed, and the social fabric would instantly fall into ruins.

I think it would be fair to say that Wylie is not a big fan of the papacy! Of course I share his bias, though as of now do not have basis to word my bias as strongly as he does. It is funny, isn’t it, that some believers can consider Catholicism the biggest blight in the history of man while other Christians consider it a thing of beauty. Truly Satan must be doing his work on one of the camps! And I suspect I know which it is…

I enjoy the Victorian style of writing employed by authors such as Wylie, though find it difficult to follow at times since they are not as chronologically-based as modern historical works usually are. He also assumes knowledge that probably was common in the 19th century but no longer is in our day. Regardless, it make an interesting read and contains plenty of great information.

Just a side-note here: after a wonderful weekend away from the hustle-and-bustle of the city, we are heading home from our cottage in just a few moments. And that means that as of tomorrow it is back to the grind!


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