Bridging the "chasm of doubt" : fictive epistemological strategies in nineteenth-century children's Bibles



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The "conflict thesis" that science and religious are inherently incompatible was by no means taken for granted by nineteenth-century scientists, religious thinkers, or cultural commentators. In fact, scientific exploration and religion happily coexisted for years, partially through the efforts of science writers who framed their potentially incendiary claims with narrative acknowledgements of a Great Creator. This paper examines the late-nineteenth century tension between scientific and religious epistemologies through the lens of children's religious education, claiming that children's Bible adaptations can be read as a lexicon of coping strategies through which religious adults attempted to gain control of the scientific threat to their faith. In short, by employing the techniques of fiction, writers of children's Bibles encouraged their child readers to engage with fiction in an imaginative register, diverting cosmological questions by encouraging children to see themselves and their relationship with God as porous, open, and accessible to a fantastical hyperreality.