Philosophy and Religion - Six Lectures Delivered at Cambridge
by Hastings Rashdall
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(6) Dr. McTaggart's whole theory seems to me to waver between two inconsistent views of Reality. When he insists that the world consists of a system or Unity, he tends towards a view of things which makes the system of intellectual relations constituting knowledge or Science to be the very reality of things: on such a view there is no impossibility of an ultimate Reality not known to any one mind. But Dr. McTaggart has too strong a hold on the conviction of the supremely real character of conscious mind and the unreality of mere abstractions to be satisfied with this view. If there is no mind which both knows and wills the existence and the mutual relations of the spirits, the supreme reality must be found in the individual spirits themselves; yet the system, if known to none of them, seems to fall outside the reality. The natural tendency of a system which finds the sole reality in eternally self-existent souls is towards Pluralism—a theory of wholly independent 'Reals' or 'Monads.' Dr. McTaggnrt is too much of a Hegelian to acquiesce in such a view. The gulf between the two tendencies seems to me—with all respect—to be awkwardly bridged over by the assumption that the separate selves form an intelligible system, which nevertheless no one really existent spirit actually understands. If a system of relations can be Reality, there is no ground for assuming the pre-existence or eternity of individual souls: if on the other hand Reality is 'experience,' an unexperienced 'system' cannot be real, and the 'unity' disappears. This is a line of objection which it would require a much more thorough discussion to develope.

(7) On the view which I myself hold as to the nature of Causality, the only intelligible cause of events is a Will. The events of Dr. McTaggart's world (putting aside the very {126} small proportion which are due, in part at least, to the voluntary action of men or spirits) are not caused at all. His theory is therefore open to all—and more than all—the objections which I have urged in Lecture II. against the theory which explains the Universe as the thought of a Mind but not as caused by that Mind.

(8) It is just possible that some one might suggest that the first of my objections might be met by the allegation that there is nothing in the scheme which forbids us to suppose that the whole of Nature is known to more than one of the spirits which make up Reality, though not to all, or indeed any, of the human and non-human spirits known to us. I should reply (a) that the considerations which lead to the hypothesis of one omniscient Being do not require more than one such spirit, and entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem; (b) such a scheme would still be open to Objection 7. If it is a speculative possibility that all Nature may exist in the knowledge of more than one spirit, it cannot well be thought of as willed by more than one spirit. If the Universe, admitted to form an ordered system, is caused by rational will at all, it must surely be caused by one Will. But perhaps a serious discussion of a polytheistic scheme such as this may be postponed till it is seriously maintained. It has not been suggested, so far as I am aware, by Dr. McTaggart himself.

(9) The real strength of Dr. McTaggart's system must be measured by the validity of his objections to a Theism such as I have defended. I have attempted to reply to those objections in the course of these Lectures, and more at length in a review of his Some Dogmas of Religion in Mind (N.S.), vol. xv., 1906.

[1] Cf. Flint's Theism, Ed. v., p. 117 and App. xi.

[2] The most illuminating discussion of time and the most convincing argument for its 'objectivity' which I know, is to be found in Lotze's Metaphysic, Book II. chap. iii., but it cannot be recommended to the beginner in Metaphysic. A brilliant exposition of the view of the Universe which regards time and change as belonging to the very reality of the Universe, has recently appeared in M. Bergson's L'Evolution Creatrice, but he has hardly attempted to deal with the metaphysical difficulties indicated above. The book, however, seems to me the most important philosophical work that has appeared since Mr. Bradley's Appearance and Reality, and though the writer has hardly formulated his Natural Theology, it constitutes a very important contribution to the theistic argument. Being based upon a profound study of biological Evolution, it may be specially commended to scientific readers.

[3] Such a view is expounded in Dr. Schiller's early work The Riddles of the Sphinx and in Professor Howison's The Limits of Evolution. The very distinguished French thinker Charles Renouvier (La Nouvelle Monadologie, etc.), like Origen, believed that souls were pre-existent but created.

[4] I use the word 'causally connected' in the popular or scientific sense of the word, to indicate merely an actually observed psycho-physical law.

[5] In part, perhaps, also to a mistaken theory of predication, which assumes that, because every fact in the world can be represented as logically a predicate of Reality at large, therefore there is but one Substance or (metaphysically) Real Being in the world, of which all other existences are really mere 'attributes.' But this theory cannot be discussed here.

[6] In The New Theology.

[7] E.g. by Mr. Bradley in Appearance and Reality and still more uncompromisingly by Professor A. E. Taylor in The Problem of Conduct, but I rejoice to find that the latter very able writer has recently given up this theory of a 'super-moral' Absolute.

[8] I think it desirable to mention here that Professor Watson's account of my views in his Philosophical Basis of Religion completely misrepresents my real position. I have replied to his criticisms in Mind, N.S. No. 69 (Jan. 1909).

[9] This is sometimes denied by Philosophers, but I have never been able to understand on what grounds. If I know a priori the existence of other men, I ought to be able to say a priori how many they are and to say something about them. And this is more than any one claims.

[10] In Esquisse d'une Philosophie de la Religion d'apres La Psychologie et l'histoire.




I have tried in previous lectures to show that the apprehension of religious truth does not depend upon some special kind of intuition; that it is not due to some special faculty superior to and different in kind from our ordinary intellectual activities, but to an exercise of the same intellectual faculties by which we attain to truth in other matters—including, however, especially the wholly unique faculty of immediately discerning values or pronouncing moral judgements. The word 'faith' should, as it seems to me, be used to express not a mysterious capacity for attaining to knowledge without thought or without evidence, but to indicate some of the manifold characteristics by which our religious knowledge is distinguished from the knowledge either of common life or of the physical Sciences. If I had time there would be much to be said about these characteristics, and I think I could show that the popular distinction between knowledge and religious {128} faith finds whatever real justification it possesses in these characteristics of religious knowledge. I might insist on the frequently implicit and unanalysed character of religious thinking; upon the incompleteness and inadequacy of even the fullest account that the maturest and acutest Philosopher can give of ultimate Reality; upon the merely probable and analogical character of much of the reasoning which is necessarily employed both in the most popular and in the most philosophical kinds of reasoning about such matters; and above all upon the prominent place which moral judgements occupy in religious thought, moral judgements which, on account of their immediate character and their emotional setting, are often not recognized in their true character as judgements of the Reason. Most of the mistakes into which popular thinking has fallen in this matter—the mistakes which culminate in the famous examination-paper definition of faith as 'a means of believing that which we know not to be true'—would be avoided if we would only remember, with St. Paul and most of the greater religious thinkers, that the true antithesis is not between faith and reason but between faith and sight. All religious belief implies a belief in something which cannot be touched or tasted or handled, and which cannot be established by any mere logical deduction from what can be touched or tasted or handled. So far from implying {129} scepticism as to the power of Reason, this opposition between faith and sight actually asserts the possibility of attaining by thought to a knowledge of realities which cannot be touched or tasted or handled—a knowledge of equal validity and trustworthiness with that which is popularly said to be due to the senses, though Plato has taught us once for all[1] that the senses by themselves never give us real knowledge, and that in the apprehension of the most ordinary matter of fact there is implied the action of the self-same intellect by which alone we can reach the knowledge of God.

It may further be pointed out that, though neither religious knowledge nor moral knowledge are mere emotion, they are both of them very closely connected with certain emotions. Great moral discoveries are made, not so much by superior intellectual power, as by superior interest in the subject-matter of Morality. Very ordinary intelligence can see, when it is really brought to bear upon the matter, the irrationality or immorality of bad customs, oppressions, social injustices; but the people who have led the revolt against these things have generally been the people who have felt intensely about them. So it is with the more distinctly religious knowledge. Religious thought and insight are largely dependent upon the emotions to which religious {130} ideas and beliefs appeal. The absence of religious thought and definite religious belief is very often (I am far from saying always) due to a want of interest in Religion; but that does not prove that religious thought is not the work of the intellect, any more than the fact that a man is ignorant of Politics because he takes no interest in Politics proves that political truth is a mere matter of emotion, and has nothing to do with the understanding. Thought is always guided by interest—a truth which must not be distorted with a certain modern school of thought, if indeed it can properly be called thought, into the assertion that thinking is nothing but willing, and that therefore we are at liberty to think just what we please.

And that leads on to a further point. Emotion and desire are very closely connected with the will. A man's moral insight and the development of his thought about moral questions depend very largely upon the extent to which he acts up to whatever light he has. Vice, as Aristotle put it, is phthartike arches—destructive of moral first principles. Moral insight is largely dependent upon character. And so is religious insight. Thus it is quite true to say that religious belief depends in part upon the state of the will. This doctrine has been so scandalously abused by many Theologians and Apologists that I use it with great hesitation. I have no sympathy {131} with the idea that we are justified in believing a religious doctrine merely because we wish it to be true, or with the insinuation that non-belief in a religious truth is always or necessarily due to moral obliquity. But still it is undeniable that a man's ethical and religious beliefs are to some extent affected by the state of his will. That is so with all knowledge to some extent; for progress in knowledge requires attention, and is largely dependent upon interest. If I take no interest in the properties of curves or the square root of -1, I am not very likely to make a good mathematician. This connexion of knowledge with interest applies in an exceptional degree to religious knowledge: and that is one of the points which I think many religious thinkers have intended to emphasize by their too hard and fast distinctions between faith and knowledge.

Belief itself is thus to some extent affected by the state of the will; and still more emphatically does the extent to which belief affects action depend upon the will. Many beliefs which we quite sincerely hold are what have been called 'otiose beliefs'; we do not by an effort of the will realize them sufficiently strongly for them to affect action. Many a man knows perfectly that his course of life will injure or destroy his physical health; it is not through intellectual scepticism that he disobeys his {132} physician's prescriptions, but because other desires and inclinations prevent his attending to them and acting upon them. It is obvious that to men like St. Paul and Luther faith meant much more than a mere state of the intellect; it included a certain emotional and a certain volitional attitude; it included love and it included obedience. Whether our intellectual beliefs about Religion are energetic enough to influence action, does to an enormous extent depend upon our wills. Faith is, then, used, and almost inevitably used, in such a great variety of senses that I do not like to lay down one definite and exclusive definition of it; but it would be safe to say that, for many purposes and in many connexions, religious faith means the deliberate adoption by an effort of the will, as practically certain for purposes of action and of feeling, of a religious belief which to the intellect is, or may be, merely probable. For purposes of life it is entirely reasonable to treat probabilities as certainties. If a man has reason to think his friend is trustworthy, he will do well to trust him wholly and implicitly. If a man has reason to think that a certain view of the Universe is the most probable one, he will do well habitually to allow that conviction to dominate not merely his actions, but the habitual tenour of his emotional and spiritual life. We should not love a human being much if we allowed ourselves habitually to {133} contemplate the logical possibility that the loved one was unworthy of, or irresponsive to, our affection. We could not love God if we habitually contemplated the fact that His existence rests for us upon judgements in which there is more or less possibility of error, though there is no reason why we should, in our speculative moments, claim a greater certainty for them than seems to be reasonable. The doctrine that 'probability is the guide of life' is one on which every sensible man habitually acts in all other relations of life: Bishop Butler was right in contending that it should be applied no less unhesitatingly to the matter of religious belief and religious aspiration.

The view which I have taken of the nature of faith may be illustrated by the position of Clement of Alexandria. It is clear from his writings that by faith he meant a kind of conviction falling short of demonstration or immediate intellectual insight, and dependent in part upon the state of the will and the heart. Clement did not disparage knowledge in the interests of faith: faith was to him a more elementary kind of knowledge resting largely upon moral conviction, and the foundation of that higher state of intellectual apprehension which he called Gnosis. I do not mean, of course, to adopt Clement's Philosophy as a whole; I merely refer to it as illustrating the point that, properly considered, faith is, or rather includes, a particular kind or stage {134} of knowledge, and is not a totally different and even opposite state of mind. It would be easy to show that this has been fully recognized by many, if not most, of the great Christian thinkers.

One last point. It is of the utmost importance to distinguish between the process by which psychologically a man arrives at a religious or other truth and the reasons which make it true. Because I deny that the truth of God's existence can reasonably be accepted on the basis of an immediate judgement or intuition, I do not deny for one moment that an apparently intuitive conviction of the truth of Christianity, as of other religions, actually exists. The religious belief of the vast majority of persons has always rested, and must always rest, very largely upon tradition, education, environment, authority of one kind or another—authority supported or confirmed by a varying measure of independent reflection or experience. And, just where the influence of authority is most complete and overwhelming, it is least felt to be authority. The person whose beliefs are most entirely produced by education or environment is very often most convinced that his opinions are due solely to his own immediate insight. But even where this is not the case—even where the religious man is taking a new departure, revolting against his environment and adopting a religious belief absolutely at variance with the established {135} belief of his society—I do not contend that such new religious ideas are always due to unobserved and unanalysed processes of reasoning. That in most cases, when a person adopts a new creed, he would himself give some reason for his change of faith is obvious, though the reason which he would allege would not in all cases be the one which really caused the change of religion. There may be other psychological influences which cause belief besides the influence of environment: in some cases the psychological causes of such beliefs are altogether beyond analysis. But, though I do not think M. Auguste Sabatier justified in assuming that a belief is true, and must come directly from God, simply because we cannot easily explain its genesis by the individual's environment and psychological antecedents, it is of extreme importance to insist that it is not proved to be false because it was not adopted primarily, or at all, on adequate theoretical grounds. A belief which arose at first entirely without logical justification, or it may be on intellectual grounds subsequently discovered to be inadequate or false, may nevertheless be one which can and does justify itself to the reflective intellect of the person himself or of other persons. And many new, true, and valuable beliefs have undoubtedly arisen in this way. Even in physical Science we all know that there is no Logic of discovery. It {136} is a familiar criticism upon the Logic of Bacon that he ignored or under-estimated the part that is played in scientific thinking by hypothesis, and the consequent need of scientific imagination. Very often the new scientific idea comes into the discoverer's mind, he knows not how or why. Some great man of Science—I think, Helmholtz—said of a brilliant discovery of his, 'It was given to me.' But it was not true because it came to Helmholtz in this way, but because it was subsequently verified and proved. Now, undoubtedly, religious beliefs, new and old, often do present themselves to the minds of individuals in an intuitive and unaccountable way. They may subsequently be justified at the bar of Reason: and yet Reason might never have discovered them for itself. They would never have come into the world unless they had presented themselves at first to some mind or other as intuitions, inspirations, immediate Revelations: and yet (once again) the fact that they so present themselves does not by itself prove them to be true.

I may perhaps illustrate what I mean by the analogy of Poetry. I suppose few people will push the sound-without-sense view of Poetry to the length of denying that poets do sometimes see and teach us truths. No one—least of all one who is not even a verse-maker himself—can, I suppose, analyse the intellectual process by which a poet {137} gets at his truths. The insight by which he arrives at them is closely connected with emotions of various kinds: and yet the truths are not themselves emotions, nor do they in all cases merely state the fact that the poet has felt such and such emotions. They are propositions about the nature of things, not merely about the poet's mental states. And yet the truths are not true because the poet feels them, as he would say—no matter how passionately he feels them. There is no separate organ of poetic truth: and not all the things that poets have passionately felt are true. Some highly poetical thoughts have been very false thoughts. But, if they are true, they must be true for good logical reasons, which a philosophical critic may even in some cases by subsequent reflection be able to disentangle and set forth. Yet the poet did not get at those truths by way of philosophical reflection: or, if he was led to them by any logical process, he could not have analysed his own reasoning. The poet could not have produced the arguments of the philosopher: the philosopher without the poet's lead might never have seen the truth. I am afraid I must not stay to defend or illustrate this position: I will only say that the poets I should most naturally go to for illustration would be such poets as Wordsworth, Tennyson, and Browning, though perhaps all three are a little {138} too consciously philosophic to supply the ideal illustration.

I do not think it will be difficult to apply these reflections to the case of religious and ethical truth. All religious truth, as I hold, depends logically upon inference; inference from the whole body of our experiences, among which the most important place is held by our immediate moral judgements. The truth of Theism is in that sense a truth discernible by Reason. But it does not follow that, when it was first discovered, it was arrived at by the inferences which I have endeavoured to some extent to analyse, or by one of the many lines of thought which may lead to the same conclusions. It was not the Greek philosophers so much as the Jewish prophets who taught the world true Monotheism. Hosea, Amos, the two Isaiahs probably arrived at their Monotheism largely by intuition; or (in so far as it was by inferential processes) the premisses of their argument were very probably inherited beliefs of earlier Judaism which would not commend themselves without qualification to a modern thinker. In its essentials the Monotheism of Isaiah is a reasonable belief; we accept it because it is reasonable, not because Isaiah had an intuition that it was true; for we have rejected many things which to Isaiah probably seemed no less self-evidently true. And yet it would be a profound mistake to assume that {139} the philosophers who now defend Isaiah's creed would ever have arrived at it without Isaiah's aid.

I hope that by this time you will have seen to some extent the spirit in which I am approaching the special subject of to-day's lecture—the question of Revelation. In some of the senses that have been given to it, the idea of Revelation is one which hardly any one trained in the school—that is to say, any school—of modern Philosophy is likely to accept. The idea that pieces of information have been supernaturally and without any employment of their own intellectual faculties communicated at various times to particular persons, their truth being guaranteed by miracles—in the sense of interruptions of the ordinary course of nature by an extraordinary fiat of creative power—is one which is already rejected by most modern theologians, even among those who would generally be called rather conservative theologians. I will not now argue the question whether any miraculous event, however well attested, could possibly be sufficient evidence for the truth of spiritual teaching given in attestation of it. I will merely remark that to any one who has really appreciated the meaning of biblical criticism, it is scarcely conceivable that the evidence for miracles could seem sufficiently cogent to constitute such an attestation. In proof of that I will merely appeal to the modest, apologetic, tentative tone in which {140} scholarly and sober-minded theologians who would usually be classed among the defenders of miracles—men like the Bishop of Ely or Professor Sanday of Oxford—are content to speak of such evidences. They admit the difficulty of proving that such miraculous events really happened thousands of years ago on the strength of narratives written at the very earliest fifty years after the alleged event, and they invite us rather to believe in the miracles on the evidence of a Revelation already accepted than to accept the revelation on the evidence of the miracles. I shall have a word to say on this question of miracles next time; but for the present I want to establish, or rather without much argument to put before you for your consideration, this position; that the idea of revelation cannot be admitted in the sense of a communication of truth by God, claiming to be accepted not on account of its own intrinsic reasonableness or of the intellectual or spiritual insight of the person to whom it is made, but on account of the historical evidence for miraculous occurrences said to have taken place in connexion with such communication. The most that can reasonably be contended for is that super-normal occurrences of this kind may possess a certain corroborative value in support of a Revelation claiming to be accepted on other grounds.

What place then is left for the idea of Revelation? {141} I will ask you to go back for a moment to the conclusions of our first lecture. We saw that from the idealistic point of view all knowledge may be looked upon as a partial communication to the human soul of the thoughts or experiences of the divine Mind. There is a sense then in which all truth is revealed truth. In a more important sense, and a sense more nearly allied to that of ordinary usage, all moral and spiritual truth may be regarded as revealed truth. And in particular those immediate judgements about good and evil in which we have found the sole means of knowing the divine character and purposes must be looked on as divinely implanted knowledge—none the less divinely implanted because it is, in the ordinary sense of the words, quite natural, normal, and consistent with law. Nobody but an Atheist ought to talk about the unassisted human intellect: no one who acquiesces in the old doctrine that Conscience is the voice of God ought either on the one hand to deny the existence of Revelation, or on the other to speak of Revelation as if it were confined to the Bible.

But because we ascribe some intrinsic power of judging about spiritual and moral matters to the ordinary human intellect, it would be a grievous mistake to assume that all men have an equal measure of this power. Because we assert that all moral and spiritual truth comes to men by {142} Revelation, it does not follow that there are not degrees of Revelation. And it is one of the special characteristics of religious and moral truth that it is in a peculiar degree dependent upon the superior insight of those exceptional men to whom have been accorded extraordinary degrees of moral and spiritual insight. Even in Science, as we have seen, we cannot dispense with genius: very ordinary men can satisfy themselves of the truth of a hypothesis when it is once suggested, though they would have been quite incompetent to discover that hypothesis for themselves. Still more unquestionably are there moral and spiritual truths which, when once discovered, can be seen to be true by men of very commonplace intellect and commonplace character. The truths are seen and passed on to others, who accept them partly on authority, by way of social inheritance and tradition; partly because they are confirmed in various degrees by their own independent judgement and experience. Here then—in the discovery of new spiritual truth—we encounter that higher and exceptional degree of spiritual and ethical insight which in a special and pre-eminent sense we ought to regard as Revelation or Inspiration. Here there is room, in the evolution of Religion and Morality, for the influence of the men of moral or religious genius—the Prophets, the Apostles, the Founders and Reformers of Religions: and, since {143} moral and spiritual insight are very closely connected with character, for the moral hero, the leader of men, the Saint. Especially to the new departures, the turning-points, the epoch-making discoveries in ethical and religious progress connected with the appearance of such men, we may apply the term Revelation in a supreme or culminating sense.

It is, as it seems to me, extremely important that we should not altogether divorce the idea of Revelation from those kinds of moral and religious truth which are arrived at by the ordinary working of the human intellect. The ultimate moral judgements no doubt must be intuitive or immediate, but in our deductions from them—in their application both to practical life and to theories about God and the Universe—there is room for much intellectual work of the kind which we commonly associate rather with the philosopher than with the prophet. But the philosopher may be also a prophet. The philosophically trained Greek Fathers were surely right in recognizing that men like Socrates and Plato were to be numbered among those to whom the Spirit of God had spoken in an exceptional degree. They too spoke in the power of the indwelling Logos. But still it is quite natural that we should associate the idea of Revelation or Inspiration more particularly with that kind of moral and intellectual discovery which comes to exceptional men by way {144} of apparent intuition or immediate insight. We associate the idea of inspiration rather with the poet than with the man of Science, and with the prophet rather than with the systematic philosopher. It is quite natural, therefore, that we should associate the idea of Revelation more especially with religious teachers of the intuitive order like the Jewish prophets than with even those philosophers who have also been great practical teachers of Ethics and Religion. But it is most important to recognize that there is no hard and fast line to be drawn between the two classes. The Jewish prophets did not arrive at their ideas about God without a great deal of hard thinking, though the thinking is for the most part unexplicit and the mode of expression poetic. 'Their idols are silver and gold; even the work of men's hands. . . . They have hands and handle not; feet have they and walk not: neither speak they through their throat.' There is real hard reasoning underlying such noble rhetoric, though the Psalmist could not perhaps have reduced his argument against Polytheism and Idolatry to the form of a dialectical argument like Plato or St. Thomas Aquinas. In the highest instance of all—the case of our Lord Jesus Christ himself—a natural instinct of reverence is apt to deter us from analysing how he came by the truth that he communicated to men; but, though I would not deny that the deepest {145} truth came to him chiefly by a supreme gift of intuition, there are obvious indications of profound intellectual thought in his teaching. Recall for a moment his arguments against the misuse of the Sabbath, against the superstition of unclean meats, against the Sadducean objection to the Resurrection. I want to avoid at present dogmatic phraseology; so I will only submit in passing that this is only what we should expect if the early Church was right in thinking of Christ as the supreme expression in the moral and religious sphere of the Logos or Reason of God.

The thought of great religious thinkers is none the less Revelation because it involves the use of their reasoning faculties. But I guarded myself against being supposed, in contending for the possibility of a philosophical or metaphysical knowledge of God, to assume that religious truth had always come to men in this way, or even that the greatest steps in religious progress have usually taken the form of explicit reasoning. Once again, it is all-important to distinguish between the way in which a belief comes to be entertained and the reasons for its being true. All sorts of psychological causes have contributed to generate religious beliefs. And when once we have discovered grounds in our own reflection or experience for believing them to be true, there is no reason why we should not regard all of them as {146} pieces of divine revelation. Visions and dreams, for instance, had a share in the development of religious ideas. We might even admit the possibility that the human race would never have been led to think of the immortality of the soul but for primitive ideas about ghosts suggested by the phenomena of dreams. The truth of the doctrine is neither proved nor disproved by such an account of its origin; but, if that belief is true and dreams have played a part in the process by which man has been led to it, no Theist surely can refuse to recognize the divine guidance therein. And so, at a higher level, we are told by the author of the Acts that St. Peter was led to accept the great principle of Gentile Christianity by the vision of a sheet let down from heaven. There is no reason why that account should not be historically true. The psychologist may very easily account for St. Peter's vision by the working in his mind of the liberal teaching of Stephen, the effect of his fast, and so on. But that does not prevent us recognizing that vision as an instrument of divine Revelation. We at the present day do not believe in this fundamental principle of Christianity because of that dream of St. Peter's; for we know that dreams are not always truth or always edifying. We believe in that principle on other grounds—the convincing grounds (among others) which St. Luke puts into St. Peter's mouth {147} on the following morning. But that need not prevent our recognizing that God may have communicated that truth to the men of that generation—and through them to us—partly by means of that dream.

The two principles then for which I wish to contend are these: (1) that Revelation is a matter of degree; (2) that no Revelation can be accepted in the long run merely because it came to a particular person in a peculiarly intuitive or immediate way. It may be that M. Auguste Sabatier is right in seeing the most immediate contact of God with the human soul in those intuitive convictions which can least easily be accounted for by ordinary psychological causes; in those new departures of religious insight, those unaccountable comings of new thoughts into the mind, which constitute the great crises or turning-points of religious history. But, though the coming of such thoughts may often be accepted by the individual as direct evidences of a divine origin, the Metaphysician, on looking back upon them, cannot treat the fact that the psychologist cannot account for them, as a convincing proof of such an origin, apart from our judgement upon the contents of what claims to be a revelation. Untrue thoughts and wicked thoughts sometimes arise equally unaccountably: the fact that they do so is even now accounted for by some as a sufficient proof of direct diabolic suggestion. When we have judged the {148} thought to be true or the suggestion to be good, then we, who on other grounds believe in God, may see in it a piece of divine revelation, but not till then.

From this point of view it is clear that we are able to recognize various degrees and various kinds of divine revelation in many different Religions, philosophies, systems of ethical teaching. We are able to recognize the importance to the world of the great historical Religions, in all of which we can acknowledge a measure of Revelation. The fact that the truths which they teach (in so far as they are true) can now be recognized as true by philosophic thought, does not show that the world would ever have evolved those thoughts, apart from the influence of the great revealing personalities. Philosophy itself—the Philosophy of the professed philosophers—has no doubt contributed a very important element to the content of the historical Religions; but it is only in proportion as they become part of a system of religious teaching, and the possession of an organized religious community, that the ideas of the philosophers really come home to multitudes of men, and shape the history of the world. Nor in many cases would the philosophers themselves have seen what they have seen but for the great epoch-making thoughts of the great religion-making periods. And the same considerations which show the importance of religious movements in the {149} past tend also to emphasize the importance of the historical Religion and of the religious community in which it is enshrined in modern times. Because religious truth can now be defended by the use of our ordinary intellectual faculties, and because all possess these faculties in some degree, it is absurd to suppose that the ordinary individual, if left to himself, would be likely to evolve a true religious system for himself—any more than he would be likely to discern for himself the truths that were first seen by Euclid or Newton if he were not taught them. To under-estimate the importance of the great historical Religions and their creators has been the besetting sin of technical religious Philosophy. Metaphysicians have in truth often written about Religion in great ignorance as to the real facts of religious history.

But because we recognize a measure of truth in all the historical Religions, it does not follow that we can recognize an equal amount of truth in all of them. The idea that all the Religions teach much the same thing—or that, while they vary about that unimportant part of Religion which is called doctrine or dogma, they are all agreed about Morality—is an idea which could only occur to the self-complaisant ignorance which of late years has done most of the theological writing in the correspondence columns of our newspapers. The real student of comparative {150} Religion knows that it is only at a rather advanced stage in the development of Religion that Religion becomes in any important degree an ethical teacher at all. Even the highest and most ethical Religions are not agreed either in their Ethics or in their Theology. Not only can we recognize higher and lower Religions; but the highest Religions, among many things which they have in common, are at certain points diametrically antagonistic to each other. It is impossible therefore reasonably to maintain that fashionable attitude of mind towards these Religions which my friend Professor Inge once described as a sort of honorary membership of all Religions except one's own. If we are to regard the historical Religions as being of any importance to our own personal religious life, we must choose between them. If we put aside the case of Judaism in its most cultivated modern form, a form in which it has been largely influenced by Christianity, I suppose there is practically only one Religion which would be in the least likely to appeal to a modern philosophical student of Religion as a possible alternative to Christianity—and that is Buddhism. But Buddhist Ethics are not the same as Christian Ethics. Buddhist Ethics are ascetic: the Christianity which Christ taught was anti-ascetic. In its view of the future, Buddhism is pessimistic; Christianity is optimistic. Much as {151} Buddhism has done to inculcate Humanity and Charity, the principle of Buddhist Humanity is not the same as that of Christianity. Humanity is encouraged by the Buddhist (in so far as he is really influenced by his own formal creed) not from a motive of disinterested affection, but as a means of escaping from the evils of personal and individual existence, and so winning Nirvana. We cannot at one and the same time adhere to the Ethics of Buddhism and to those of Christianity, though I am far from saying that Christians have nothing to learn either from Buddhist teaching or from Buddhist practice. Still less can we at one and the same time be Atheists with the Buddhist and Theists with the Christian; look forward with the Buddhist to the extinction of personal consciousness and with the Christian to a fuller and more satisfying life. To take an interest in comparative Religion is not to be religious; to be religious implies a certain exclusive attachment to some definite form of religious belief, though it may of course often be a belief to which many historical influences have contributed.

I have been trying to lead you to a view of Revelation which recognizes the existence and the importance of those exceptional religious minds to whom is due the foundation and development of the great historical Religions, while at the same time we refuse, in the last resort, to recognize any {152} revelation as true except on the ground that its truth can be independently verified. I do not mean to deny that the individual must at first, and may quite reasonably in some cases throughout life, accept much of his religious belief on authority; but that is only because he may be justified in thinking that such and such a person, or more probably such and such a religious community, is more likely to be right than himself. Rational submission to authority in this or that individual postulates independent judgement on the part of others. I am far from saying that every individual is bound to satisfy himself by personal enquiry as to the truth of every element in his own Religion; but, if and so far as he determines to do so, he cannot reasonably accept an alleged revelation on any other ground than that it comes home to him, that the content of that Religion appeals to him as true, as satisfying the demands of his intellect and of his conscience. The question in which most of us, I imagine, are most vitally interested is whether the Christian Religion is a Religion which we can accept on these grounds. That it possesses some truth, that whatever in it is true comes from God—that much is likely to be admitted by all who believe in any kind of Religion in the sense in which we have been discussing Religion. The great question for us is, 'Can we find any reason for the modern man {153} identifying himself in any exclusive way with the historical Christian Religion? Granted that there is some truth in all Religions, does Christianity contain the most truth? Is it in any sense the one absolute, final, universal Religion?'

That will be the subject for our consideration in the next lecture. But meanwhile I want to suggest to you one very broad provisional answer to our problem. Christianity alone of the historical Religions teaches those great truths to which we have been conducted by a mere appeal to Reason and to Conscience. It teaches ethical Monotheism; that is to say, it thinks of God as a thinking, feeling, willing Consciousness, and understands His nature in the light of the highest moral ideal. It teaches the belief in personal Immortality, and it teaches a Morality which in its broad general principles still appeals to the Conscience of Humanity. Universal Love it sets forth as at once the central point in its moral ideal and the most important element in its conception of God. In one of those metaphors which express so much more than any more exact philosophical formula, it is the Religion which teaches the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. And these truths were taught by the historical Jesus. No one up to his time had ever taught them with equal clearness and in equal purity, and with the same freedom from other and inconsistent teachings: {154} and this teaching was developed by his first followers. Amid all aberrations and amid all contamination by heterogeneous elements, the society or societies which look back to Christ as their Founder have never in the worst times ceased altogether to teach these truths; and now they more and more tend to constitute the essence of Christianity as it is to-day—all the more so on account of the Church's gradual shuffling off of so many adventitious ideas and practices which were at one time associated with them. Christianity is and remains the only one of the great historical Religions which has taught and does teach these great truths in all their fullness.[2] These considerations would by themselves be sufficient to put Christianity in an absolutely unique position among the Religions of Mankind.

I have so far been regarding our Lord Jesus Christ simply as a teacher of religious and ethical truth. I think it is of fundamental importance that we should begin by regarding him in this light. {155} It was in this light that he first presented himself to his fellow-countrymen—even before (in all probability) he claimed to be the fulfiller of the Messianic ideal which had been set before them by the prophets of their race. And I could not, without a vast array of quotation, give you a sufficient impression of the prominence of this aspect of his work and personality among the earlier Greek Fathers. Even after the elaborate doctrines of Catholic Christianity had begun to be developed, it was still primarily as the supremely inspired Teacher that Jesus was most often thought of. When the early Christians thought of him as the incarnate Logos or Reason of God, to teach men divine truth was still looked upon as the supreme function of the Logos and the purpose of his indwelling in the historical Jesus. But from the first Jesus appealed to men as much more than a teacher. It is one of the distinctive peculiarities of religious and ethical knowledge that it is intimately connected with character: religious and moral teaching of the highest kind is in a peculiar degree inseparable from the personality of the teacher. Jesus impressed his contemporaries, and he has impressed successive ages as having not only set before man the highest religious and moral ideal, but as having in a unique manner realized that ideal in his own life. Even the word 'example' {156} does not fully express the impression which he made on his followers, or do justice to the inseparability of his personality from his teaching. In the religious consciousness of Christ men saw realized the ideal relation of man not merely to his fellow-man but also to his heavenly Father. From the first an enthusiastic reverence for its Founder has been an essential part of the Christian Religion amid all the variety of the phases which it has assumed. The doctrine of the Christian Church was in its origin an attempt to express in the philosophical language of the time its sense of this supreme value of Christ for the religious and moral life of man. As to the historical success and the present usefulness of these attempts, I shall have a word to say next time. Meanwhile, I would leave with you this one thought. The claim of Christianity to be the supreme, the universal, in a sense the final Religion, must rest mainly, in the last resort, upon the appeal which Christ and his Religion make to the moral and religious consciousness of the present.


See the works mentioned at the end of the next Lecture, to which, as dealing more specially with the subject of Lecture v., may be added Professor Sanday's Inspiration, and Professor Wendt's Revelation and Christianity.

[1] Throughout his writings, but pre-eminently in the Theoetetus.

[2] If it be said that Judaism or any other Religion does now teach these truths as fully as Christianity, this may possibly apply to the creed of individual members of these Religions, but it can hardly be claimed for the historical Religions themselves. I should certainly be prepared to contend that even such individuals lose something by not placing in the centre of their Religion the personality of him by whom they were first taught, and the communities which have been the great transmitters of them. But in this course of lectures I am chiefly concerned with giving reasons why Christians should remain Christians, rather than with giving reasons why others who are not so should become Christians.




In my last lecture I tried to effect a transition from the idea of religious truth as something believed by the individual, and accepted by him on the evidence of his own Reason and Conscience to the idea of a Religion considered as a body of religious truth handed down by tradition in an organized society. The higher Religions—those which have passed beyond the stage of merely tribal or national Religion—are based upon the idea that religious truth of enduring value has been from time to time revealed to particular persons, the Founders or Apostles or Reformers of such religions. We recognized the validity of this idea of Revelation, and the supreme importance to the moral and religious life of such historical revelations, on one condition—that the claim of any historical Religion to the allegiance of its followers must be held to rest in the last resort upon the appeal which it makes to their Reason and Conscience: though the individual may often be {158} quite justified in accepting and relying upon the Reason and Conscience of the religious Society rather than upon his own.

The view which I have taken of Revelation makes it quite independent of what are commonly called miracles. All that I have said is quite consistent with the unqualified acceptance or with the unqualified rejection of miracles. But some of you may perhaps expect me to explain a little more fully my own attitude towards that question. And therefore I will say this much—that, if we regard a miracle as implying a suspension of a law of nature, I do not think we can call such a suspension a priori incredible; but the enormous experience which we have of the actual regularity of the laws of nature, and of the causes which in certain states of the human mind lead to the belief in miracles, makes such an event in the highest degree improbable. To me at least it would seem practically impossible to get sufficient evidence for the occurrence of such an event in the distant past: all our historical reasoning presupposes the reign of law. But it is being more and more admitted by theologians who are regarded as quite orthodox and rather conservative, that the idea of a miracle need not necessarily imply such a suspension of natural law. And on the other hand, decidedly critical and liberal theologians are more and more disposed to admit {159} that many of the abnormal events commonly called miraculous may very well have occurred without involving any real suspension of natural law. Recent advances in psychological knowledge have widened our conception of the possible influence of mind over matter and of mind over mind. Whether an alleged miraculous event is to be accepted or not must, as it seems to me, depend partly upon the amount of critically sifted historical evidence which can be produced for it, partly upon the nature of the event itself—upon the question whether it is or is not of such a kind that we can with any probability suppose that it might be accounted for either by known laws or by laws at present imperfectly understood.

To apply these principles in detail to the New Testament narratives would involve critical discussions which are outside the purpose of these lectures. I will only say that few critical scholars would deny that some recorded miracles even in the New Testament are unhistorical. When they find an incident like the healing of Malchus's ear omitted in the earlier, and inserted in the later redaction of a common original, they cannot but recognize the probability of traditional amplification. At the same time few liberal theologians will be disposed to doubt the general fact that our Lord did cure some diseases by spiritual influence, or that an appearance of our Lord to the disciples—of whatever nature—actually {160} did occur, and was the means of assuring them of his continued life and power. At all events I do not myself doubt these two facts. But at least when miracles are not regarded as constituting real exceptions to natural law, it is obvious that they will not prove the truth of any teaching which may have been connected with them; while, even if we treat the Gospel miracles as real exceptions to law, the difficulty of proving them in the face of modern critical enquiry is so great that the evidence will hardly come home to any one not previously convinced, on purely spiritual grounds, of the exceptional character of our Lord's personality and mission. This being so, I do not think that our answer to the problem of miracles, whatever it be, can play any very important part in Christian Apologetic. When we have become Christians on other grounds, the acts of healing may still retain a certain value as illustrating the character of the Master, and the Resurrection vision as proclaiming the truth of Immortality in a way which will come home to minds not easily accessible to abstract argument. The true foundation not merely for belief in the teaching of Christ, but also for the Christian's reverence for his Person, must, as it seems to me, be found in the appeal which his words and his character still make to the Conscience and Reason of mankind. This proposition would be {161} perhaps more generally accepted if I were to say that the claim of Christ to allegiance rests upon the way in which he satisfies the heart, the aspirations, the religious needs of mankind. And I should be quite willing to adopt such language, if you will only include respect for historic fact and intellectual truth among these religious needs, and admit that a reasonable faith must rest on something better than mere emotion. Fully to exhibit the grounds of this claim of Christ upon us would involve an examination of the Gospel narratives in detail: it would involve an attempt to present to you what was this teaching, this character, this religious consciousness which has commanded the homage of mankind. To attempt such a task would be out of place in a brief course of lectures devoted to a particular aspect of Religion—its relation to Philosophy. Here I must assume that you feel the spiritual supremacy of Christ—his unique position in the religious history of the world and his unique importance for the spiritual life of each one of us—; and go on to ask what assertions such a conviction warrants us in making about his person and nature, what in short should be our attitude towards the traditional doctrines of the Christian Church.

You may know something of the position taken up in this matter by the dominant school of what I may call believing liberal Theology in {162} Germany—the school which takes its name from the great theologian Ritschl, but which will be best known to most Englishmen in connexion with the name of Prof. Harnack, though it may be well to remember that Harnack is nearer to the left than to the right wing of that school. The fundamental principle of that school is to base the claims of Christianity mainly upon the appeal which the picture of the life, teaching, character, and personality of Christ makes to the moral and religious consciousness of mankind. Their teaching is Christo-centric in the highest possible degree: but they are almost or entirely indifferent to the dogmatic formulae which may be employed to express this supreme religious importance of Christ. In putting the personal and historical Christ, and not any doctrine about him, in the centre of the religious life I believe they are right. But this principle is sometimes asserted in an exaggerated and one-sided manner. In the first place they are somewhat contemptuous of Philosophy, and of philosophic argument even for such fundamental truths as the existence of God. I do not see that the subjective impression made by Christ can by itself prove the fact of God's existence. We must first believe that there is a God to be revealed before we can be led to believe in Christ as the supreme Revealer. I do not believe that the modern world will permanently accept a view of the Universe {163} which does not commend itself to its Reason. The Ritschlians talk about the truth of Religion resting upon value-judgements. I can quite understand that a value-judgement may tell us the supreme value of Christ's character and his fitness to be treated as the representative of God to us, when once we believe in God: but I cannot see how any value-judgement taken by itself can assure us of that existence. Value is one thing: existence is another. To my mind a Christian Apologetic should begin, like the old Apologies of Justin or Aristides, with showing the essential reasonableness of Christ's teaching about God and its essential harmony with the highest philosophic teaching about duty, about the divine nature, about the soul and its eternal destiny. The Ritschlian is too much disposed to underrate the value of all previous religious and ethical teaching, even of Judaism at its highest: he is not content with making Christ the supreme Revealer: he wants to make him the only Revealer. And when we turn to post-Christian religious history, he is apt to treat all the great developments of religious and ethical thought from the time of the Apostles to our own day as simply worthless and even mischievous corruptions of the original, and only genuine, Christianity. He tends to reduce Christianity to the ipsissima verba of its Founder. The Ritschlian dislikes Dogma, not because it may be at times a {164} misdevelopment, but because it is a development; not because some of it may be antiquated Philosophy, but simply because it is Philosophy.[1]

In order to treat fairly this question of doctrinal development, it must be remembered that what is commonly called dogma is only a part—perhaps not the most important part—of that development. Supreme as I believe to be the value of Christ's great principle of Brotherhood, it is impossible to deny that, if we look in detail at the moral ideal of any educated Christian at the present day, we shall find in it many elements which cannot explicitly be discovered in the ipsissima verba of Christ and still less of his Apostles. And development in the ethical ideal always carries with it some development in a man's conception of God and the Universe. Some of these elements are due to a gradual bringing out into clear consciousness, and an application to new details, of principles latent in the actual words of Christ; others to an infusion of Greek Philosophy; others to the practical experience and the scientific discoveries of the modern world. Christianity in the course of nineteen centuries has gradually absorbed into itself many ideas from various sources, {165} christianizing them in the process. Many ideas, much Hellenic Philosophy, many Hellenic ideals of life, many Roman ideas of government and organization have thus, in the excellent phrase of Professor Gardner, been 'baptized into Christ.' This capacity of absorbing into itself elements of spiritual life which were originally independent of it is not a defect of historical Christianity, but one of its qualifications for being accepted by the modern world as a universal, an absolute, a final Religion.

It does not seem to me possible to recognize the claim of any historical Religion to be final and ultimate, unless it include within itself a principle of development. Let me, as briefly as I can, illustrate what I mean. It is most clearly and easily seen in the case of Morality. If the idea of a universal Religion is to mean that any detailed code of Morals laid down at a definite moment of history can serve by itself for the guidance of all human life in all after ages, we may at once dismiss the notion as a dream. In nothing did our Lord show his greatness and the fitness of his Religion for universality more than in abstaining from drawing up such a code. He confined himself to laying down a few great principles, with illustrations applicable to the circumstances of his immediate hearers. Those principles require development and application to the needs and {166} circumstances of successive ages before they can suffice to guide us in the details of conduct. To effect this development and application has been historically the work of the Church which owes its origin to the disciples whom he gathered around him. If we may accept the teaching of the fourth Gospel as at least having germs in the actual utterances of our Lord, he himself foresaw the necessity of such a development. At all events the belief in the continued work of God's Spirit in human Society is an essential principle of the Christian Religion as it was taught by the first followers of its Founder. Take for instance the case of slavery. Our Lord never condemned slavery: it is not certain that he would have done so, had the case been presented to him. Very likely his answer would have been 'Who made me a judge or a divider,' or 'Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's.' No one on reflection can now fail to see the essential incompatibility between slavery and the Christian spirit; yet it was perhaps fourteen hundred years before a single Christian thinker definitely enunciated that incompatibility, and more than eighteen hundred years before slavery was actually banished from all nominally Christian lands. Who can doubt that many features of our existing social system are equally incompatible with the principles of Christ's teaching, and that the {167} accepted Christian morality of a hundred years hence will definitely condemn many things which the average Christian Conscience now allows?

And then there is another kind of development in Ethics which is equally necessary. The Christian law of Love bids us promote the true good of our fellow-men, bids us regard another man's good as equally valuable with our own or with the like good of any other. But what is this good life which we are to promote? As to that our Lord has only laid down a few very general principles—the supreme value of Love itself, the superiority of the spiritual to the carnal, the importance of sexual purity. These principles our consciences still acknowledge, and there are no others of equal importance. But what of the intellectual life? Has that no value? Our Lord never depreciated it, as so many religious founders and reformers have done. But he has given us no explicit guidance about it. When the Christian ideal embraced within itself a recognition of the value and duty of Culture, it was borrowing from Greece. And when we turn from Ethics to Theology, the actual fact of development is no less indisputable. Every alteration of the ethical ideal has brought with it some alteration in our idea of God. We can no longer endure theories of the Atonement which are opposed to modern ideas of Justice, though they were quite compatible with {168} patristic or medieval ideas of Justice. The advances of Science have altered our whole conception of God's mode of acting upon or governing the world. None of these things are religiously so important as the great principle of the Fatherhood of God, nor have they in any way tended to modify its truth or its supreme importance. But they do imply that our Theology is not and cannot be in all points the same as that of the first Christians.

Now with these presuppositions let us approach the question of that great structure of formal dogma which the Church has built upon the foundation of Christ's teaching. A development undoubtedly it is; but, while we must not assume that every development which has historically taken place is necessarily true or valuable, it is equally unphilosophical to assume that, because it is a development, it is necessarily false or worthless. Our Lord himself did, indeed, claim to be the Messiah; the fact of Messiahship was what was primarily meant by the title 'Son of God.' Even in the Synoptists he exhibits a consciousness of a direct divine mission supremely important for his own race; and, before the close, we can perhaps discover a growing conviction that the truth which he was teaching was meant for a larger world. Starting from and developing these ideas, his followers set themselves to devise terms which should express their own sense of their Master's unique {169} religious value and importance, to express what they felt he had been to their own souls, what they felt he might be to all who accepted his message. Even to St. Paul the term 'Son of God' still meant primarily 'the Messiah': but in the light of his conception of Jesus, the Messianic idea expanded till the Christ was exalted to a position far above anything which Jewish prophecy or Apocalypse had ever claimed for him. And the means of expressing these new ideas were found naturally and inevitably in the current philosophical terminology of the day. With the fourth Gospel, if not already with St. Paul, there was infused into the teaching of the Church a new element. From the Jewish-Alexandrian speculative Theology the author borrowed the term Logos to express what he conceived to be the cosmic importance of Christ's position. He accepted from that speculation—probably from Philo—the theory which personified or half-personified that Logos or Wisdom of God through which God was represented in the Old Testament as creating the world and inspiring the prophets. This Logos through whom God had throughout the ages been more and more fully revealing Himself had at last become actually incarnate in Jesus Christ. This Word of God is also described as truly God, though in the fourth Gospel the relation of the Father to the Word—at {170} least to the Word before the Incarnation—is left wholly vague and undefined.

From these comparatively simple beginnings sprang centuries of controversy culminating in that elaborate system of dogma which is often little understood even by its most vigorous champions. You know in a very general way the result. The Logos was made more and more distinct from God, endowed with a more and more decidedly personal existence. Then, when the interests of Monotheism seemed to be endangered, the attempt was made to save it by asserting the subordination of the Son to the Father. The result was that by Arianism the Son was reduced to the position of an inferior God. Polytheism had once more to be averted by asserting in even stronger terms not merely the equality of the Son with the Father but also the Unity of the God who is both Father and Son. The doctrine of the Divinity of the Holy Ghost went through a somewhat similar series of stages. At first regarded as identical with the Word, a distinction was gradually effected. The Word was said to have been incarnate in Jesus; while it was through the Holy Ghost that the subsequent work of God was carried on in human hearts. And by similar stages the equality of the Holy Ghost to Father and to Son was gradually evolved; while it was more and more strongly asserted that, in spite of the eternal distinction of {171} Persons, it was one and the same God who revealed Himself in all the activities attributed to each of them.

Side by side with these controversies about the relation between the Father and the Word, there was a gradual development of doctrine as to the relation between the Logos and the human Jesus in whom he took up his abode. Frequently the idea of any real humanity in Jesus was all but lost. That was at last saved by the Catholic formula 'perfect God and perfect man'; though it cannot be denied that popular thought in all ages has never quite discarded the tendency to think of Jesus as simply God in human form, and not really man at all. Even now there are probably hundreds of people who regard themselves as particularly orthodox Churchmen who yet do not know that the Church teaches that our Lord had a human soul and a human will.

What are we to make of all that vast structure, of the elaboration and complication of which the Constantinopolitan Creed which we miscall Nicene and even the so-called Athanasian Creed give very little idea to those who do not also know something of the Councils, the Fathers, and the Schoolmen? Has it all a modern meaning? Can it be translated into terms of our modern thought and speech? For I suppose it hardly needs demonstration—that such {172} translation is necessary, if it be possible. I doubt whether any man in this audience who has not made a special study of the subject, will get up and say that the meaning of such terms as 'substance,' 'essence,' 'nature,' 'hypostasis,' 'person,' 'eternal generation,' 'procession,' 'hypostatic union,' and the like is at once evident to him by the light of nature and an ordinary modern education. And those who know most about the matter will most fully realize the difficulty of saying exactly what was meant by such phrases at this or that particular moment or by this or that particular thinker. A thorough discussion of this subject from the point of view of one who acknowledges the supreme claims of Christ upon the modern mind, and is yet willing fairly to examine the traditional Creed in the light of modern philosophical culture, is a task which very much needs to be undertaken. I doubt if it has been satisfactorily performed yet. Even if I possessed a tithe of the learning necessary for that task, I could obviously not undertake it now. But a few remarks on the subject may be of use for the guidance of our personal religious life in this matter:

(1) I should like once more to emphasize the fact that the really important thing, from the point of view of the spiritual life of the individual soul, is our personal attitude towards our Lord himself and his teaching, and not the phrases in which we express {173} it. A man who believes what Christ taught about God's Fatherhood, about human brotherhood and human duty, about sin, the need for repentance, the Father's readiness to forgive, the value of Prayer, the certainty of Immortality—the man who finds the ideal of his life in the character of Jesus, and strives by the help which he has supplied to think of God and feel towards God as he did, to imitate him in his life, to live (like him) in communion with the Father and in the hope of Immortality—he is a Christian, and a Christian in the fullest sense of the word. He will find in that faith all that is necessary (to use the old phrase) for salvation—for personal goodness and personal Religion. And such a man will be saved, and saved through Christ; even though he has never heard of the Creeds, or deliberately rejects many of the formulae which the Church or the Churches have 'built upon' that one foundation.

(2) At the same time, if we believe in the supreme importance of Christ for the world, for the religious life of the Church and of the individual, it is surely convenient to have some language in which to express our sense of that importance. The actual personal attitude towards Christ is the essential thing: but as a means towards that attitude it is of importance to express what Christ has actually been to others, and what he ought to be to ourselves. Children {174} and adults alike require to have the claims of Christ presented to them before they can verify them by their own experience: and this requires articulate language of some kind. Religion can only be handed down, diffused, propagated by an organized society: and a religious society must have some means of handing on its religious ideas. It is possible to hold that under other conditions a different set of terms might have expressed the truth as well as those which have actually been enshrined in the New Testament, the Liturgies, and the Creeds. But the phrases which have been actually adopted surely have a strong presumption in their favour, even if it were merely through the difficulty of changing them, and the importance of unity, continuity, corporate life. It is easier to explain, or even if need be, alter in some measure the meaning of an accepted formula than to introduce a new one. Religious development has at all times taken place largely in this way. Our Lord himself entirely transformed the meaning of God's Fatherhood, Messiahship, the Kingdom of God, the people of God, the true Israel. At all events we should endeavour to discover the maximum of truth that any traditional formula can be made to yield before we discard it in favour of a new one. If we want to worship and to work with Christ's Church, we must do our best to give the maximum of meaning {175} to the language in which it expresses its faith and its devotion.

(3) We must insist strongly upon the thoroughly human character of Christ's own consciousness. Jesus did not—so I believe the critical study of the Gospels leads us to think—himself claim to be God, or to be Son of God in any sense but that of Messiahship. He claimed to speak with authority: he claimed a divine mission: he claimed to be a Revealer of divine truth. The fourth Gospel has been of infinite service to spiritual Christianity. It has given the world a due sense of the spiritual importance of Christ as the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Perhaps Christianity could hardly have expanded into a universal Religion without that Gospel. But we cannot regard all that the Johannine Christ says about himself as the ipsissima verba of Jesus. The picture is idealized in accordance with the writer's own conceptions, though after all its Theology is very much simpler than the later Theology which has grown out of it permits most people to see. We must not let these discourses blind us to the human character of Christ's consciousness. And this real humanity must carry with it the recognition of the thoroughly human limitations of his knowledge. The Bishop of Birmingham has prepared the way for the union of a really historical view of Christ's life with a reasonable interpretation of the Catholic {176} doctrine about him, by reviving the ancient view as to the limitation of his intellectual knowledge;[2] but the principle must be carried in some ways further than the Bishop himself would be prepared to go. The accepted Christology must be distinctly recognized as the Church's reflection and comment upon Christ's work and its value, not as the actual teaching of the Master about himself.

(4) It must likewise be recognized that the language in which the Church expressed this attitude towards Christ was borrowed from Greek Metaphysics, particularly from Plato and Neo-Platonism in the patristic period, and from Aristotle in the Middle Ages. And we cannot completely separate language from thought. It was not merely Greek technical phrases but Greek ways of thinking which were imported into Catholic Christianity. And the language, the categories, the ideas of Greek Philosophy were to some extent different from those of modern times. The most Platonically-minded thinker of modern times does not really think exactly as Plato thought: the most Catholic-minded thinker of modern times, if he has also breathed the atmosphere of modern Science and modern Culture, cannot really think exactly as Athanasius or Basil thought. I {177} do not suppose that any modern mind can think itself back into exactly the state of mind which an ancient Father was in, when he used the term Logos. This central idea of the Logos is not a category of modern thought. We cannot really think of a Being who is as distinct from the Father as he is represented as being in some of the patristic utterances—I say advisedly some, for widely different modes of thought are found in Fathers of equal authority—and yet so far one with him that we can say 'One God, one spiritual Being, and not two.' Nor are we under any obligation to accept these formulae as representing profound mysteries which we cannot understand: they were simply pieces of metaphysical thinking, some of them valuable and successful pieces of thinking, others less so. We must use them as helps, not as fetters to our thought. But, though we cannot think ourselves back into exactly the same intellectual condition as a fourth- or fifth-century Father, there is no reason why we should not recognize the fundamental truth of the religious idea which he was trying to express. A modern Philosopher would probably express that thought somewhat in this manner. 'The whole world is a revelation of God in a sense, and still more so is the human mind: all through the ages God has gone on revealing Himself more and more in human consciousness, especially through the prophets and other {178} exceptionally inspired men. The fullest and completest revelation of Himself was made once for all in the person and teaching of Jesus, in whom we recognize a revelation of God adequate to all our spiritual needs, when developed and interpreted by the continued presence of God's Spirit in the world and particularly in the Church which grew out of the little company of Jesus' friends.'

(5) I do not think at the present day even quite orthodox people are much concerned about the technicalities of the conciliar Theology, or even about the niceties of the Athanasian Creed. They are even a little suspicious sometimes that much talk about the doctrine of the Logos is only intended to evade a plain answer to the supreme question of the Divinity of Christ. You will expect me perhaps to say something about that question. I would first observe that the popular term 'divinity of Christ' is apt to give a somewhat misleading impression of what the orthodox teaching on the subject really is. For one thing, it is apt to suggest the idea of a pre-existent human consciousness of Jesus, which would be contrary to Catholic teaching. The Logos—the eternal Son or Reason of God—pre-existed; but not the man Jesus Christ who was born at a particular moment of history, and who is still, according to Catholic Theology, a distinct human soul perfectly and for ever united with the Word. {179} And then again, it is apt to suggest the heretical idea that the whole Trinity was incarnate in Christ, and not merely the Word. Orthodox Theology does not teach that God the Father became incarnate in Christ, and suffered upon the Cross. And lastly, the constant iteration of the phrase 'Divinity of Christ' tends to the concealment of the other half of the Catholic doctrine—the real humanity of Christ. To speak of the God-manhood of Christ or the indwelling of God in Christ would be a truer representation even of the strictest orthodox doctrine, apart from all modern re-interpretations. But even so, when all this is borne in mind, it may be asked, What is the real meaning of saying that a man was also God? I would answer, 'Whether it is possible to give a modern, intelligible, philosophically defensible meaning to the idea of Christ's Divinity depends entirely upon the question what we conceive to be the true relation between Humanity in general and God.' If (as I have attempted to show) we are justified in thinking of all human consciousness as constituting a partial reproduction of the divine Mind; if we are justified in thinking of human Reason, and particularly of the human Conscience, as constituting in some measure and in some sense a revelation by means of which we can rise to a contemplation of the divine nature; if Personality (as we know it in man) is the highest category within our knowledge; then {180} there is a real meaning in talking of one particular man being also divine; of the divine Reason or Logos as dwelling after a unique, exceptional, pre-eminent manner in him.

As Dr. Edward Caird has remarked, all the metaphysical questions which were formerly discussed as to the relation between the divine and the human nature in Christ, are now being discussed again in reference to the relation of Humanity in general to God. We cannot say intelligibly that God dwells in Christ, unless we have already recognized that in a sense God dwells and reveals Himself in Humanity at large, and in each particular human soul. But I fully recognize that, if this is all that is meant by the expression 'divinity of Christ,' that doctrine would be evacuated of nearly all that makes it precious to the hearts of Christian people. And therefore it is all-important that we should go on to insist that men do not reveal God equally. The more developed intellect reveals God more completely than that of the child or the savage: and (far more important from a religious point of view), the higher and more developed moral consciousness reveals Him more than the lower, and above all the actually better man reveals God more than the worse man. Now, if in the life, teaching, and character of Christ—in his moral and religious consciousness, and in the life and character which {181} so completely expressed and illustrated that consciousness—we can discover the highest revelation of the divine nature, we can surely attach a real meaning to the language of the Creeds which singles him out from all the men that ever lived as the one in whom the ideal relation of man to God is most completely realized. If God can only be known as revealed in Humanity, and Christ is the highest representative of Humanity, we can very significantly say 'Christ is the Son of God, very God of very God, of one substance with the Father,' though the phrase undoubtedly belongs to a philosophical dialect which we do not habitually use.

(6) Behind the doctrine of the Incarnation looms the still more technical doctrine of the Trinity. Yet after all, it is chiefly, I believe, as a sort of necessary background or presupposition to the idea of Christ's divine nature that modern religious people, not professionally interested in Theology, attach importance to that doctrine. They accept the doctrine in so far as it is implied by the teaching of Scripture and by the doctrine of our Lord's Divinity, but they are not much attached to the technicalities of the Athanasian Creed. The great objection to that Creed, apart from the damnatory clauses, is the certainty that it will be misunderstood by most of those who think they understand it at all. The {182} best thing we could do with the Athanasian Creed is to drop it altogether: the next best thing to it is to explain it, or at least so much of it as really interests the ordinary layman—the doctrine of three Persons in one God. And therefore it is important to insist in the strongest possible way that the word 'Person' which has most unfortunately come to be the technical term for what the Greeks more obscurely called the three huostaseis in the Godhead does not, and never did, mean what we commonly understand by Personality—whether in the language of ordinary life or of modern Philosophy. I do not deny that at certain periods Theology did tend to think of the Logos as a distinct being from the Father, a distinct consciousness with thoughts, will, desires, emotions not identical with those of God the Father. The distinction was at times pushed to a point which meant either sheer Tritheism, or something which is incapable of being distinctly realized in thought at all. But that is scarcely true of the Theology which was finally accepted either by East or West. This is most distinctly seen in the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas: and I would remind you that you cannot be more orthodox than St. Thomas—the source not only of the Theology professed by the Pope and taught in every Roman Seminary but of the Theology embodied in our own Articles. St. Thomas' explanation of the Trinity {183} is that God is at one and the same time Power or Cause[3] (Father), Wisdom (Son), Will (Holy Ghost); or, since the Will of God is always a loving Will, Love (Amor) is sometimes substituted for Will (Voluntas) in explanation of the Holy Spirit.[4] How little {184} St. Thomas thought of the 'Persons' as separate consciousnesses, is best seen from his doctrine (taken from Augustine) that the love of the Father for the Son is the Holy Spirit. The love of one Being for himself or for another is not a Person in the natural, normal, modern sense of the word: and it would be quite unorthodox to attribute Personality to the Son in any other sense than that in which it is attributed to the Holy Ghost. I do not myself attach any great importance to these technical phrases. I do not {185} deny that the supremely important truth that God has received His fullest revelation in the historical Christ, and that He goes on revealing Himself in the hearts of men, might have been otherwise, more simply, to modern minds more intelligibly, expressed. There are detailed features of the patristic or the scholastic version of the doctrine which involve conceptions to which the most accomplished Professors of Theology would find it difficult or impossible to give a modern meaning. I do not know for instance that much would have been lost had Theology (with the all but canonical writers Clement of Rome and Hermas, with Ignatius, with Justin, with the philosophic Clement of Alexandria) continued to speak indifferently of the Word and the Spirit. Yet taken by itself this Thomist doctrine of the Trinity is one to which it is quite possible to give a perfectly rational meaning, and a meaning probably very much nearer to that which was really intended by its author than the meaning which is usually put upon the Trinitarian formula by popular religious thought. That God is Power, and Wisdom, and Love is simply the essence of Christian Theism—not the less true because few Unitarians would repudiate it.

(7) Once more let me briefly remind you that any claim for finality in the Christian Religion must be based on its power of perpetual development. {186} Belief in the continued work of the Holy Spirit in the Church is an essential element of the Catholic Faith. We need not, with the Ritschlian, contemptuously condemn the whole structure of Christian doctrine because undoubtedly it is a development of what was taught by Christ himself. Only, if we are to justify the development of the past, we must go on to assert the same right and duty of development in Ethics and in Theology for the Church of the future. In the pregnant phrase of Loisy, the development which the Church is most in need of at the present moment is precisely a development in the idea of development itself.

But how can we tell (it may be asked), if we once admit that the development of Religion does not end with the teaching of Christ, where the development will stop? If we are to admit an indefinite possibility of growth and change, how do we know that Christianity itself will not one day be outgrown? If we once admit that the final appeal is to the religious consciousness of the present, we must acknowledge that it is not possible to demonstrate a priori that the Christian Religion is the final, universal, or absolute Religion. All we can say is that we have no difficulty in recognizing that the development which has so far taken place, in so far as it is a development which we can approve and accept, seems to us a development which leaves the {187} Religion still essentially the Religion of Christ. In the whole structure of the modern Christian's religious belief, that which was contributed by Christ himself is incomparably the most important part—the basis of the whole structure. The essentials of Religion and Morality still seem to us to be contained in his teaching as they are contained nowhere else. All the rest that is included in an enlightened modern Christian's religious creed is either a direct working out of the principles already contained there, or (if it has come from other sources) it has been transformed in the process of adaptation. Nothing has been discovered in Religion and Morality which tends in any way to diminish the unique reverence which we feel for the person of Christ, the perfect sufficiency of his character to represent and incarnate for us the character of God. It is a completely gratuitous assumption to suppose that it will ever lose that sufficiency. Even in the development of Science, there comes a time when its fundamentals are virtually beyond the reach of reconsideration. Still more in practical life, mere unmotived, gratuitous possibilities may be disregarded. It weakens the hold of fundamental convictions upon the mind to be perpetually contemplating the possibility or probability of fundamental revision. We ought no doubt to keep the spiritual ear ever open that we may always be hearing what the Spirit saith unto {188} the Churches. But to look forward to a time when any better way will be discovered of thinking of God than Jesus' way of thinking of Him as a loving Father is as gratuitous as to contemplate the probability of something in human life at present unknown being discovered of greater value than Love. Until that discovery is made, our Religion will still remain the Religion of him who, by what he said and by what he was, taught the world to think of God as the supreme Love and the supreme Holiness, the source of all other love and all other holiness.


The literature is here too vast to mention even the works of the very first importance: I can only select a very few books which have been useful to myself. The late Sir John Seeley's Ecce Homo may be regarded as in the light of modern research a somewhat uncritical book, but it remains to my mind the most striking expression of the appeal which Christ makes to the Conscience of the modern world. It has proved a veritable fifth Gospel to many seekers after light. Bishop Moorhouse's little book, The Teaching of Christ, will serve as an introduction to the study of Christ's life and work. A more elaborate treatment of the subject, with which I am very much in sympathy, is Wendt's Teaching of Jesus. The ideal life of Christ perhaps remains to be written. Professor Sanday's Article on 'Jesus Christ' in Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible may be mentioned as a good representative of moderate and scholarly Conservatism or Liberal Conservatism. Professor Oscar Holtzmann's Life of Jesus is based on more radical, perhaps over-radical, criticism. Professor Harnack's {189} What is Christianity? has become the typical expression of the Ritschlian attitude. The ideas of extreme Roman Catholic 'Modernism' may be gathered from Loisy's l'Evangile et l'Eglise and Autour d'un Petit Livre. Professor Gardner's three books—Exploratio Evangelica, the shorter An Historic View of the New Testament, and The Growth of Christianity—may be especially commended to those who wish to satisfy themselves that a thorough-going recognition of the results of historical Criticism is compatible with a whole-hearted personal acceptance of Christianity. Dr. Fairbairn's Philosophy of the Christian Religion and Bousset's What is Religion? are especially valuable as vindications of the supreme position of Christianity combined with the fullest recognition of the measure of Revelation contained in all the great historical Religions. Allen's Continuity of Christian Thought suggests what seems to me the right attitude of the modern thinker towards traditional dogma, though the author's position is more decidedly 'Hegelian' than mine. I may also mention Professor Inge's contribution to Contentio Veritatis on 'The Personal Christ,' and some of the Essays in Lux Hominum. Though I cannot always agree with him, I recognize the high value of the Bishop of Birmingham's Bampton Lectures on The Divinity of Jesus Christ the Son of God and the accompanying volume of Dissertations.

[1] In their assertion of the necessity of Development, and of the religious community as the origin of Development, the teaching of the Abbe Loisy and the Roman Catholic Modernists seems to me to be complementary to that of the Kitschlians, though I do not always accept their rather destructive critical conclusions.

[2] In his Essay in Lux Mundi (1889). He has since developed his view in his Bampton Lectures on The Incarnation of the Son of God and a volume of Dissertations on Subjects connected with the Incarnation.

[3] I venture thus to translate 'Principium' (arche); in Abelard and his disciple Peter the Lombard, the famous Master of the Sentences, the word is 'Potentia' (L. I. Dist. xxxiv.): and St. Thomas himself (P. I. Q. xli. Art. 4) explains 'Principium' by 'Potentia generandi Filium.'

[4] Thus in Summa Theologica, Pars I. Q. xxxvii. Art. 1, the 'conclusio' is 'Amor, personaliter acceptus, proprium nomen est Spiritus sancti,' which is explained to mean that there are in the Godhead 'duse processiones: Una per modum intellectus, quae est processio Verbi; alia per modum voluntatis, quae est processio amoris.' So again (ibid. Q. xlv. Art. 7): 'In creaturis igitur rationalibus, in quibus est intellectus et voluntas, invenitur repraesentatio Trinitatis per modum imaginis, inquantum invenitur in eis Verbum conceptum, et amor procedens.' In a friendly review of my Essay in Contentio Veritatis, in which I endeavoured to expound in a modern form this doctrine, Dr. Sanday (Journal of Theological Studies, vol. iv., 1903) wrote: 'One of the passages that seem to me most open to criticism is that on the doctrine of the Trinity (p. 48). "Power, Wisdom, and Will" surely cannot be a sound trichotomy as applied either to human nature or Divine. Surely Power is an expression of Will and not co-ordinate with it. The common division, Power (or Will), Wisdom, and Love is more to the point. Yet Dr. Rashdall identifies the two triads by what I must needs think a looseness of reasoning.' The Margaret Professor of Divinity hardly seems to recognize that he is criticizing the Angelical Doctor and not myself. If Dr. Sanday had had the formulation of the doctrine of the Trinity, the result, if less metaphysically subtle, might no doubt have proved more easily intelligible to the modern mind; but the 'identification' of which he complains happens to be part of the traditional doctrine, and I was endeavouring merely to make the best of it for modern Christians. I add St. Thomas' justification of it, which is substantially what I gave in Contentio Veritatis and have repeated above: 'Cum processiones divinas secundum aliquas actiones necesse est accipere, secundum bonitatem, et hujusmodi alia attributa, non accipiuntur aliae processiones, nisi Verbi et amoris, secundum quod Deus suam essentiam, veritatem et bonitatem intelligit et amat' (Q. xxvii. Art. 5). The source of the doctrine is to be found in St. Augustine, who habitually speaks of the Holy Spirit as Amor; but, when he refers to the 'Imago Trinitatia' in man the Spirit is represented sometimes by 'Amor,' sometimes by 'Voluntas' (de Trin., L. xiv. cap 7). The other two members of the human triad are with him 'Memoria' (or 'Mens') and 'Intelligentia.'

With regard to the difficulty of distinguishing Power from Will, I was perhaps to blame for not giving St. Thomas' own word 'Principium.' The word 'Principium' means the pege theoteos, the ultimate Cause or Source of Being: by 'Voluntas' St. Thomas means that actual putting forth of Power (in knowing and in loving the Word or Thought eternally begotten by God the Father) which is the Holy Ghost. I am far from saying that the details of St. Thomas' doctrine are not open to much criticism: a rough correspondence between his teaching and any view of God's Nature which can commend itself to a modern Philosopher is all that I endeavoured to point out. The modern thinker would no doubt with Dr. Sanday prefer the triad 'Power, Wisdom, Love,' or (I would suggest) 'Feeling, including Love as the highest form of Feeling.' The reason why St. Thomas will not accept such an interpretation is that his Aristotelianism (here not very consonant with the Jewish and Christian view of God) excludes all feeling or emotion from the divine nature; 'Love' has therefore to be identified with 'Will' and not with 'Feeling.' I cannot but think that the Professor might have taken a little more trouble to understand both St. Thomas and myself before accusing either of us of 'looseness of reasoning.'


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