William Jennings Bryant Scopes Trial Summation

This is the statement William Jennings Bryant was to deliver at the end of The Scopes Trial on the teaching of evolution in Tennessee schools in 1923. Having now come across this for the first time, I have a new respect of Bryant that I had never had before.

But as you read this, ask yourself whether any of this will have any grip on a people who are no longer Christian, and where their enemies on the left absolutely reject Biblical authority. Socialism is about the supposed equal sharing of what can be produced without any moral or spiritual guidance offered by the underlying philosophical framework. Socialism is now the ethos of the very rich who have no more interest in sharing what they have with others than the court of Louis XVI was interested in sharing with the peasantry of France in 1792. But in our day, our aristocrats pretend they are on the side of the peasantry which makes them utterly secure against a revolutionary tide. The speech is found here.

Science is a magnificent force, but it is not a teacher of morals. It can perfect machinery, but it adds no moral restraints to protect society from the misuse of the machine. It can also build gigantic intellectual ships, but it constructs no moral rudders for the control of storm-tossed human vessel. It not only fails to supply the spiritual element needed but some of its unproven hypotheses rob the ship of its compass and thus endanger its cargo. In war, science has proven itself an evil genius; it has made war more terrible than it ever was before. Man used to be content to slaughter his fellowmen on a single plane, the earth’s surface. Science has taught him to go down into the water and shoot up from below and to go up into the clouds and shoot down from above, thus making the battlefield three times as bloody as it was before; but science does not teach brotherly love. Science has made war so hellish that civilization was about to commit suicide; and now we are told that newly discovered instruments of destruction will make the cruelties of the late war seem trivial in comparison with the cruelties of wars that may come in the future. If civilization is to be saved from the wreckage threatened by intelligence not consecrated by love, it must be saved by the moral code of the meek and lowly Nazarene. His teachings, and His teachings alone, can solve the problems that vex the heart and perplex the world.

It is for the jury to determine whether this attack upon the Christian religion shall be permitted in the public schools of Tennessee by teachers employed by the state and paid out of the public treasury. This case is no longer local, the defendant ceases to play an important part. The case has assumed the proportions of a battle-royal between unbelief that attempts to speak through so-called science and the defenders of the Christian faith, speaking through the legislators of Tennessee. It is again a choice between God and Baal; it is also a renewal of the issue in Pilate’s court.

Again force and love meet face to face, and the question, “What shall I do with Jesus?” must be answered. A bloody, brutal doctrine–evolution–demands, as the rabble did 1,900 years ago, that He be crucified. That cannot be the answer of this jury representing a Christian state and sworn to uphold the laws of Tennessee. Your answer will be heard throughout the world; it is eagerly awaited by a praying multitude. If the law is nullified, there will be rejoice wherever God is repudiated, the savior scoffed at and the Bible ridiculed. Every unbeliever of every kind and degree will be happy. If, on the other hand, the law is upheld and the religion of the school children protected, millions of Christians will call you blessed and, with hearts full of gratitude to God, will sing again that grand old song of triumph:

“Faith of our fathers, living still, In spite of dungeon, fire and sword; O how our hearts beat high with joy Whene’er we hear that glorious word–Faith of our fathers–Holy faith; We will be true to thee till death!”

How will a modern conservative prosecute the case for a moral order when no moral code beyond Marxism exists for the vast majority of the population?

A discussion of The Scopes Trial is found here in which Bryant’s speech is partically quoted, and not surprisingly with only an entirely veiled reference to Biblical beliefs. This is what is quoted, and this is about as far as one might go in the modern world to reference the teachings of the Bible.

Science is a magnificent force, but it is not a teacher of morals. It can perfect machinery, but it adds no moral restraints to protect society from the misuse of the machine. It can also build gigantic intellectual ships, but it constructs no moral rudders for the control of storm-tossed human vessels. It not only fails to supply the spiritual element needed but some of its unproven hypotheses rob the ship of its compass and thus endanger its cargo….If civilization is to be saved from the wreckage threatened by intelligence not consecrated by love, it must be saved by the moral code of the meek and lowly Nazarene. His teachings, and His teachings alone, can solve the problems that vex the heart and perplex the world. 

No political leader in the West would be able to say anything like that and continue to hold office.

1 thought on “William Jennings Bryant Scopes Trial Summation

  1. What I find most interesting is how I looked at the world for the first 27 years of my life as an atheist. Every one of their scolding views of Christianity and the bible I used to have too. …
    Oh, until that moment I had a real life experience.

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