A. (Arthur) Clutton-Brock.

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'Will be of great use to Christian teachers.'

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Printed in Great Britain
First Published, 1918


I AM often told by my friends that Christianity is
nothing but a set of statements about supernatural
history which no one now can honestly believe.
When I deny this, they ask me what Christianity is ;
and, if I try to tell them, they reply That is not
Christianity at all but certain beliefs which were
held by men before Christ was born and may be held
by them after his name has been forgotten. But,
all the while, I am convinced that there is a body of
belief, not concerned with supernatural history, which
is Christian ; that it began with the teaching of
Christ, as Platonism began with the teaching of
Plato, that it has been enlarged and enriched with
the experience of nineteen centuries and yet has
remained itself. I am not anxious to prove the
originality of Christ in detail. It may be that he
said no single thing which had not been said before
him. ~The originality of a great teacher consists,
not in particular sayings or doings, but(in his power
of giving life to an idea) so that it continues to live
in other men's minds and is enriched with other
men's thought. The greatest ideas are not those
which remain peculiar to their authors. Rather
they are those which take on an independent life of
a 2



their own, changing and growing yet remaining
always themselves, like a living thing. So, I
believe, Christianity has changed and grown and
remained itself ; and in this book I have tried to
state what it is to us now.

At all times it has been adulterated with beliefs
irrelevant or incongruous. ( Every age has its own
peculiar heresies which seem to it part of the Christian
faith ; for that faith, being expressed always by the
mind of man, is always tainted by man's imper-
fections.) But these pass and change, while the
faith itself remains. And yet the faith itself also
changes in its expression, because in different ages it
is confronted with different counter-beliefs ; and it
always expresses itself in terms of the prevailing
counter-beliefs. But, again, they pass and change,
while Christianity remains. For, although it is
expressed by the minds of men, yet, for those who
believe it, it is a truth independent of those minds,
a truth which they recognise and to which they make
answer. So our very expressions of it are rather
answers to this truth than the truth itself ; and
those who are most convinced of this truth know
best that their own statements of it are not the
truth itself. Was not Christ aware of a truth
independent of his own mind,, to which he made
his own passionate answer ? To him that truth
was not his own word but the word of God. We
cannot understand his teaching unless we see it as
the answer which he made to the word of God, as


something to which he was moved by the truth of
God, as a musician is moved to music by the beauty
of the universe. So we are moved by the words of
Christ as we are by music ; and at one time we see
one truth in them, at another another. But through
all generations men are moved by them and discover
new truths in them ; it seems to them that his
words have never been understood before. So to
us now it seems that we understand them in the
light of all our new knowledge and experience ; and,
even while we are told that Christianity is dead, we
see it rising from the grave, as men have always seen
it when they were not content to accept it on hear-
say. Perhaps every age needs to reject the Christi-
anity of the past so that it may discover Christianity
for itself. Only through disbelief in what we are
told do we attain to belief in that truth which
remains independent of all man's expression of it.

And yet all the past efforts to express it are not
vain ; for we can recognise the truth in them as in
the words of Christ himself. And they are con-
nected with each other by the truth that is in them.
That truth is the Christian tradition : it is what
persists from generation to generation, while that
which is false becomes obsolete. There is, in all the
struggle for life of conflicting beliefs, a survival of
the true ; and the true is tested by that struggle.
But we need to be aware that the true does not
necessarily survive in our individual minds. Even
when we are most sure of it, we need to be aware that


we ourselves are very imperfect mediums of ex-
pression for it. And the more surely we know that
it is a truth independent of ourselves, the more we
shall be aware of that fact. The truth is not some-
thing made by man but something that knocks at
the mind of man ; and his mind may open to it or
be closed against it. But when it enters his mind,
he can express it to himself or to others only through
his mind. The knocking is that which arouses in
him the desire for expression, the desire to make the
truth his own. The truth itself is perfect ; but his
mind and the language in which alone he can express
it are imperfect. So the more urgently it knocks,
the more he is aware of its glory and perfection, the
greater is his sense of his own failure to express it.
Even as he makes it his own by expression, he knows
that he has not made it all his own ; that there is
that in him which misrepresents whatever it tries
to express, an egotism which turns the universal
into the particular, and provokes the egotism of
other men against it. Only those at whose minds
truth has never knocked, or who have never re-
cognised the knocking, suppose that they can express
the truth perfectly, or that any past expression of it
is perfect.

So the truth knocks still at our minds ; but in
many different ways. It may seem to come sud-
denly out of our own experience of life ; or it may
seem to come in the words of some great man of the
past. But, even when it does that, those words are


not enough for us. Because the truth is knocking
at our minds in them, we feel the need to make it
our own, to give it our own expression. And we
know that, until we have done that, we have not
received it into our minds. So there is, and can be,
no end to the expressions of Christianity ; so long as
it is a truth knocking at the minds of men, they will
continue to express it for themselves ; and in this
unceasing effort at expression the Christian tradition
lives from one generation to another.

The effort which I have made in this book does not
pretend to be complete. I meant it to be so when I
began it ; but I soon found that the task was beyond
my powers. I was not able to express even all that
Christianity means to me ; and, if I had tried to do
so, I should never have finished the book. I had
meant, for instance, to write a chapter on Christianity
and politics ; but in writing it I found that it was
growing longer than the rest of the book. I there-
fore put it aside ; but without it the book is not
complete, as any reader can see for himself. So I
have called it Studies in Christianity ; but I have
tried to maintain a continuity of thought through it,
and to produce not merely a set of separate essays.
I have also tried to say as little as possible about
those points of belief on which I differ from many
other Christians, points so important that some of
them, perhaps, would refuse to call me a Christian
at all. My object has been to state what is positive
in my own beliefs, not what is negative. It is


necessary, I think, to rid Christianity of beliefs that
can no longer be held ; but, before we do that, we
must state as clearly as possible what we believe to
be the eternal essence of it. And we must be aware
that what seems incredible to us may seem so only
because we misexpress it to ourselves. All through
the ages men, individually and in common, have
tried to express Christianity ; and, if we know that
they have never quite succeeded, we shall be less im-
patient of each other's attempts at expression, even
when they are unintelligible to us. It is when men
pretend that their own expressions are perfect, that
other men are provoked to call them false ; and that
is so whether the expression is that of an individual
or of a church.






gf v^



'iv. THE GRACE OF GOD . 97






THE nature of religion, like that of man himself,
consists in what it is trying to become. Like man,
religion tries to free itself more and more from the
tyranny of its own past, to grow more and more aware
of its own nature, to purge itself of what is foreign to
that nature, and to gain in the power of expression
by discovering what it has to express. But, for this
reason, it is hard to define ; and men still dispute
what it is. Some would define it in terms of its
origins and discredit it with their definition. So we
might define, and discredit, science by talking of
the alchemist or the medicine man. There is magic
in the past both of science and of religion, but both
outgrow magic as they free themselves of the egotism
of the individual, as they discover that they are not
themselves until they are freed from it. The virtue
of both consists in freedom from egotism and at that
the man of science and the religious man continually
aim. They know that egotism is always producing
error in science and in religion ; but they are on
their guard against it, and it is a function of both
to set men on their guard against it.


But they are on their guard against it for different
reasons. The man of science, because it hinders
him from discovering the truth ; for it tempts him
to believe what he wishes to believe, as, for instance,
that he has discovered the truth before he has dis-
covered it. The religious man, because it perverts
his conduct, and through his conduct, his thought.
For religion asserts a constant interaction between
conduct and thought, that interaction which is
asserted in the Christian doctrine of faith and works.
Indeed religion is an effort to produce a complete
harmony in conduct and thought ; and we may
describe it imperfectly as the effort to express all
that is implied in a right way of living. Men, in all
reasoned conduct, necessarily imply certain con-
victions about the nature of the universe, convictions
about matters that are beyond their own knowledge
and experience. ( They may live rightly and imply
these convictions' without ever trying to express
them, without even being aware of them?) They
may even consciously refuse the attempt to express
them, as being impossible and sure to lead them into
error. But religion makes the attempt and, in
making it, assumes that the convictions implied in
right living can be expressed ; and that, if rightly
expressed, they are true, even about matters beyond
the knowledge and experience of man.

It also makes this assumption about right living ;
that what is right is not to be discovered by observa-
tion and experiment alone, but that men have a


power of recognising it, and a desire for it, as natural
as their appetites ; and that this power and desire
grow in proportion as they live rightly. So, to
religion, this power of recognition and this desire
are the most important of all facts. They are the
facts upon which man should base his beliefs about
the nature of the universe. Through them, and
through them alone, is there a connection between
the known and the unknown. For they are them-
selves a connection between man himself and the
unknown ; by means of them he does experience
the unknown even while it remains unknown to him.
' It is the way of Heaven not to speak but it knows
how to obtain an answer.' That saying of Lao-tze
is the basis of all true religion ; and religion only
becomes itself when its aim is to make that answer.
Heaven does not speak to us ; it does not tell us
about itself, for if it did man could not understand it.
If an angel came down from Heaven to reveal the
nature of the universe to me, he could use only that
language which men have developed for and with
V their own thoughts, a language capable only of the
thoughts of men. And there are thoughts, even of
men, which I cannot fully understand, though they
have expressed them in human language. I know,
from the difference between myself and Plato, how
infinite is the capacity of thought and how, in Plato
himself, it struggles with the medium of language.
Always the poets and philosophers are enlarging
that medium, because they, as individuals, think


beyond the capacity of the common medium of
language. But Heaven, if there is a Heaven that
would reveal its secret to us, must use the medium
of our language and of our intelligence. Whatever
/ it says to us, we must say to ourselves, and in our
own words. Therefore it is true that Heaven does
not speak to us in a heavenly language of its own.
It speaks to us only through the medium of ourselves,
and in the answer we make to it.

What is this answer ? It is our absolute values ;
and we may say of religion that it is the affirmation
of absolute values. But this phrase ' absolute
values ' needs explanation, for there are those who
say that it is meaningless.

The word value cannot be defined, for it is a fact
of the human mind like thought or desire. What I
value hi the present I desire to persist. If I value
life, I desire to go on living. But religion asserts,
and Christianity more consciously than most religions
asserts, that two kinds of values are possible to man ;
namely the value for life itself, and so the mere
desire to go on living ; and that other kind of value
which is called absolute value. This absolute value
is the answer which man makes to Heaven and the
manner hi which Heaven expresses itself to man.

If a man values life itself above all things and
above all things desires to go on living, he will value
all things as they help him to go on living. They
will, in a useful phrase, have for him only a survival
value ; that is to say he will see them only in relation


to his own survival. Now there are those who
maintain that man is of such a nature that he must
value life above all things, and that everything has
for him only a survival value. Sometimes they
assert that he is capable of valuing the survival of
the human race above his own individual survival.
They assume the existence of some power, which
they often call Nature, more interested in the
survival of the race than of the individual, a power
which exists apart from the individual yet works
in him. This power struggles, sometimes with
success sometimes with failure, to make the in-
dividual man value the survival of the race above
his own survival. This is the struggle we call moral
conflict in ourselves. It produces in us the sense
of higher and lower values, the higher being those
which make for the survival of the race, the lower
those which make for the survival of the individual.
But it is Nature who, for purposes of her own, makes
us call one set of values higher and the other lower,
makes us value one set above the other. And in
either case our values remain survival values. It
is life itself that we value, whether for ourselves
or for the race, and we value all things in terms
of life.

This is a dogmatic assertion ; and religion denies
it dogmatically, the more dogmatically the more it
becomes religion. There are those who assert the
existence only of survival values and yet rise into
religion, illogically enough, by proclaiming the


absolute value of Nature. They tell us that,
although we can value nothing but life itself for
the individual or for the race, yet we are also to
value the universe in which only these values are
possible. We are to affirm that this force, which
makes us value life above all things, is itself good ;
that is to say, it is to be valued above life itself,
it is what makes life valuable. That is a religion,
but an illogical one, a religion trying to escape from
its own irreligious affirmations. For religion is, in
its essence, the effort to escape from the valuing of
life for its own sake and from living for the sake of
living. Nor can it be content with living for the
sake of the life of the race ; for, if his own life is
not to be valued by the individual above all things,
why should he sacrifice himself, as an individual,
to give that which he does not value for himself to
an abstraction called the race ? The race consists
of individuals ; and in sacrificing himself, he asserts
some value above the value for life. There is some-
thing which he himself values more than his life.
His desire must be that the race, that is to say other
men, should have this something, not that they
should have merely life itself, which has no values
without this something.

It may be, of course, that man, in his belief that he
values something above life itself, is merely deceived
by Nature for her own purpose, which is the survival
of the race. But, in that case, he cannot value the
Nature that so deceives him. As soon as he finds


her out, which he can do by the exercise of his own
reason, he will cease to value her, or life, either for
himself or for the race. Therefore she must be
against his exercise of his reason, at least beyond a
certain point ; and man's reason must be dangerous
to the existence of man. The further it is exercised,
the more it will empty life of values for him, unless
he can reconcile himself to the valuing of his own
individual life for its own sake.

In that case he will be rid of religion and of
morality altogether, even of that religion which
affirms that Nature is good, or of that morality which
makes for the persistence of the race. He will be
merely an individual concerned for his own survival
as an individual. Enlightened self-interest will be
the basis of his society, if self-interest, become thus
conscious and supreme, can bring him any enlighten-

But religion asserts that it cannot. All religion
asserts that, even the religion of Nature ; and in
doing so it affirms, whether consciously or uncon-
sciously, the existence of absolute values in the
mind of man. Man, it says, does not, cannot, live
only so that he may go on living. He does desire
to go on living ; he has an instinct of self-preserva-
tion. But that is only a part, not the whole, of his
mind, nor are the values produced hi him by it all
his values. Besides them, and often in conflict with
them, he has other values, those which are called
absolute because in them he forgets his desire to go


on living, forgets himself altogether, and values
things for their own sake, not as they help him to go
on living. It is said sometimes that we cannot
value anything thus absolutely ; we must value it
in relation to ourselves, as, for instance, because it
gives us pleasure. But we do not value beauty
because it gives us pleasure. It gives us pleasure
because we value it. Without the absolute value
for beauty we cannot be aware of it. The pleasure
comes when we are aware of it and is therefore the
effect, not the cause, of the absolute value. The
belief in absolute values implies, not merely that we
are capable of valuing things absolutely, but also
that there is in things, in the universe, an absolute
value, a virtue not dependent on the use which any
one thing may have for another. It is possible to
see the universe merely in terms of use, to see God
Himself in those terms. Many people think that
they can explain all things in terms of use. They
explain beauty, for instance, as the expression of
something useful to man, as the manner in which
use presents itself to man's emotions ; when he
takes pleasure in the contemplation of use he calls
it beauty. So beauty has no real existence ; it is
not a quality or a virtue of the thing itself but exists
for us because the thing is useful to us. If it ceased
to be useful, it would cease to be beautiful. And
so there are devout people for whom God Himself is
good because He is useful. They are always ex-
pressing His goodness in terms of use ; they cannot


conceive it otherwise, because they cannot conceive
any relation between any one person or thing and
another except one of use. There is a sort of com-
merce between all existing things which alone gives
them their value and apart from it they have no
virtue in themselves. They are like the parts of
a machine which, if they were separated, would have
no function ; or they are like food which, considered
as food, is of no value except to those who wish to
eat it.

But it is part of belief in God to affirm the absolute
value of God. God is good, we say the two words
mean the same thing God is good in Himself and
apart from His use to us or to anything else. If we
believe in God we believe in absolute good, we affirm
it in the very word God ; and the love of God means
the love of absolute good. When we speak of the
love of God, we assert that there is a relation between
ourselves and God, which is not merely one of use or
of emotions produced by use. We see God as good
in itself and we love that good. But ' no man hath
seen God at any time.' What we have seen is good,
and to believe in God is to believe that we have seen
absolute good in those things which we do see, the
good which we call by the names of truth, beauty,
and righteousness. One may believe this without
believing in God ; and one may believe in God
without believing this. But a passionate and real
belief in absolute good usually expresses itself as a
belief in God ; and a passionate and real belief in


God usually expresses itself also as a belief in absolute
good. In either case there is asserted a relation
between ourselves and the universe which is not a
relation of use but one of love ; and this relation is
also asserted to be more real, more lasting, more
valuable, than the relation of use. We need to rise
above the relation of use to be aware of it ; but, as
soon as we are aware of it, we are aware of its
superior reality. We are aware that we live, and
fulfil the purpose of our lives, in the relation of love
not in the relation of use ; and we have a vision of
life that shall be all love and not at all use, that
vision which we call Heaven. For love, in the
Christian sense of the word, is absolute value. When
we say that we love we mean that we value absolutely
and not in terms of use. We assert a virtue in that
which we love, a virtue that constrains us to love
it as soon as we see it ; and, in loving it, to forget
ourselves, that is to say the use which it may have
for ourselves. Love is self-forgetfulness and the
/ only way in which we can attain to self-forgetfulness ;
but we value self-forgetfulness because it is love, not
love because it makes us forget ourselves. The
Christian doctrine of love is but a more precise and
passionate form of the religious affirmation of
absolute values. The saying that God is love means
that all God's values are absolute and that we are
most like God when our values are absolute. In
the utterly real existence of God there is no relation
of use but only a relation of love ; and our existence


becomes more real as we rise from the relation of

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