Frederick Temple.

The Relations Between Religion and Science Eight Lectures Preached Before the University of Oxford in the Year 1884 online

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Testament, they are at any rate sufficient to show that our Lord was
universally believed by His disciples to have the power of working
miracles and to have often worked them. There is no hesitation in regard
to this; no hint of any doubt. But not only so, there is no hint of any
disclaimer on His part. He must have known whether He could work
miracles or not. He must have known that His disciples believed Him to
possess the power. There is not the slightest trace of His ever having
implied that this was a misconception. He did sometimes disclaim what
was ascribed to Him, even when what was ascribed to Him was truly His,
but was ascribed to Him without real knowledge of what it implied. 'Why
callest thou Me good? There is none good but One, that is, God,' we
DO find. But 'Why askest thou Me to do this? There is none
that can do this but One, that is God,' we do NOT find. It is
plain that He accepted the belief that assigned Him powers above those
of other men - powers given Him by His Father in heaven - and never
discouraged it. Nay, He demanded it. Take the lowest ground, and admit
for argument's sake that the New Testament contains a legendary element,
and still you cannot cut the miracles out of the Gospels and Epistles
without altering them beyond recognition. The Jesus Christ presented to
us in the New Testament would become a different person if the miracles
were removed. And if He claimed to possess and exercise this power, the
evidence becomes the evidence of One Who must have known and Whom we
cannot disbelieve.

And this claim, which He has thus made, and which was thus accepted by
His disciples, is corroborated by the power, different in form but
similar in kind, which He exerted then on the men of His own day, and
has ever since continued to exert on all succeeding generations. The
first disciples were under His absolute dominion. They preached Christ
and not themselves. They referred everything to Him, and professed to
have no power but from Him. St. Paul with all his genius and marvellous
power of influence, yet professes to be nothing without Christ and to be
everything in Christ. Our Lord left no writing behind Him, but committed
His Revelation to His Apostles, and we only know Him through them. But
they are not like ordinary disciples of a great teacher; philosophers
succeeding a philosopher; prophets succeeding a prophet. To no one of
them does it occur for a moment to teach anything except as from Him.
St. Paul gives advice sometimes which he does not profess to be giving
by our Lord's command, but when he does so, he puts the mark of his own
inferiority on what he says, and claims for it no such authority as
belongs to a word from Christ. A word from Christ was final on all

And this power over men has never weakened from that day to this. There
is no other power like it in the world. Science proceeds in far the
majority of cases by trial of some theory as a working hypothesis. Such
too has been the procedure of Christian Faith. Trust Christ; stake your
happiness on Him; stake your hope of satisfying all spiritual
aspirations on Him; stake your power of winning the victory over
temptation on Him - this is the exhortation of Apostle, and martyr, and
saint, and evangelist, and pastor, and teacher. And those who have thus
tried the strength of the Christian hypothesis have not failed. The
Christian Church has been stained with many a blot. Ill deeds have been
wrought in the name of Christ. Evil laws have been passed. Strange
superstitions have prevailed. But no other body can show such saints, no
other body can produce so great a cloud of witnesses. It is certain that
the lives and the deaths, the characters and the aims, of those who have
trusted their all to Christ have made them what He bade them be, the
salt of the earth. And they testify with one voice that they know no
other power which has upheld them but the power of Christ whom they have
taken for their Lord. Others have sometimes been set up as in some sort
rivals to Him as teachers or as examples; but here there is no rival
even pretended. In no other man have men been called on to believe as a
living present power, able to give strength and victory in the
conflicts of the soul. The Church, too, has passed through times of
spiritual depression, we may almost say of degradation. And in the worst
of times within the Church there has always remained a wonderful
recuperative power, which has shaken off inconsistencies and defects in
the past, and will do so yet more in the future. But this recuperative
power has always shown itself in one form, and in one form only, namely,
a return to Christ and to trust in Him, a trust which has never been

The martyrdom of our Lord's disciples is enough to prove that belief in
His supernatural powers and in His exercise of those powers was no
gradual growth of later times, but from the very beginning rooted in the
convictions of those who must have known the truth. The character of our
Lord as revealed in the Gospels makes it impossible to disbelieve His
claims whatever they may be. His power attested by generations of
believers ever since corroborates those claims by the persistent
evidence of eighteen centuries.

Against this evidence what is to be said?

It is said that the evidence for the uniformity of nature is so
overwhelming that nothing can set it aside. And further it is said,
that, even if it be conceded that it might be set aside, no evidence
sufficient for the purpose has yet been produced.

Now to deal with this second assertion first, we must ask what is the
nature of the evidence that would be deemed sufficient? If the inquirer
does not believe that God created and still governs the world, assuredly
no evidence will ever be sufficient to convince him that God has worked
a miracle. The existence of God is certainly not to be proved by His
interference with nature. Had He desired to reveal Himself to us
primarily in that way, He would have wrought many more miracles than we
now know of, and would have kept our faith alive by perpetual and
unmistakeable manifestations of His presence and power. But He has not
so willed. He has made our belief in Him rest mainly on the voice within
ourselves, in order that we might walk by faith and not by sight. It
will be a hopeless task to convince men that there is a God by
pointing, not to His creation but to His interference with creation. But
if a man do believe there is a God, what kind of evidence ought he to
expect to show him that God has interfered in the course of the

In the first place, he must not expect that the physical evidence, that
is the miraculous evidence, for Revelation should be of such a character
as to stand above the spiritual evidence. Just as the fundamental
evidence for the existence of a God is to be found in the voice of
conscience, and the arguments from design and from the order and beauty
and visible purpose of the creation are secondary - corroborative not
demonstrative - so too the primary evidence of a Revelation from God must
be found in the harmony of that Revelation with the voice of conscience,
and only the secondary and corroborative evidence is to be looked for in
miracles. And in both cases the reason is the same. For it is not God's
purpose to win the intellectually gifted, the wise, the cultivated, the
clever, but to win the spiritually gifted, the humble, the
tender-hearted, the souls that are discontented with their own
shortcomings, the souls that have a capacity for finding happiness in
self-sacrifice. It would defeat the purpose of the Revelation made to us
if the hard-headed should have an advantage in accepting it over the
humble-minded. The evidence must be such that spiritual character shall
be an element in the acceptance of it. There would be a contradiction,
if the faculty whereby we mainly recognised God were the spiritual
faculty, and the faculty whereby we mainly recognised His Revelation
were the scientific faculty.

And, in the second place, we have no right to expect that the evidence
for miracles wrought in one age should be such evidence as properly
belongs to another age. It is sometimes urged that the evidence supplied
by the testimony of the early Christians is of little value because it
was never cross-examined. No such precautions surrounded the evidence as
would now be required to give any value to evidence of similar events.
The witnesses gave up their lives to attest what they taught; but there
was no one to scrutinise what they asserted. St. Paul's evidence on our
Lord's Resurrection cannot now be put to the test of searching
questions. But to make such objections as these is to make what is on
the face of it an absurd demand. It is to ask that the scientific
processes of the nineteenth century should have been anticipated in the
first, that men should be miraculously guided to supply a kind of
evidence which would be utterly superfluous at the time in order to be
convincing eighteen hundred years afterwards. This would indeed have put
the miraculous incidents in the New Testament narrative altogether out
of place, and made the miracles more important than the Revelation which
they were worked to introduce.

Now, if these two conditions are borne in mind, it is difficult to see
what better evidence could be obtained of a miraculous life than we
possess concerning the life of our Lord.

The moral and spiritual evidence is His own character which
intentionally overshadows all the rest, and it is inconceivable that He
should have made a false claim. And the material evidence is the
testimony of men who freely gave their lives in proof of what they said.
Nor has anything yet been said or written to shake Paley's argument on
this point.

But, if we pass on to the other objection, that no evidence can ever be
sufficient to prove a miracle because the evidence for the uniformity of
nature is so overwhelming, we can only see in such an assertion an
instance of that inability to get out of an accustomed groove against
which Science has perpetually to guard. In Science the uniformity of
nature is so indispensable a postulate, that without it we cannot stir a
step. And if the student of Science is to admit a breach, it can only be
by stepping outside of his science for the time and conceiving the
possibility that there is some other truth beside scientific truth, and
some other kind of evidence beside scientific evidence. We have all
heard of the need of guarding against the bondage in which custom binds
the mind. We have heard of the student who when first he saw a
locomotive looked perseveringly for the horses that impelled it, because
he had never known, and consequently could not imagine any other mode of
producing such motion. But this danger attends not only the separate
investigations which Science makes into phenomena; it attends Science as
a whole. And it is necessary repeatedly to insist on the fact that
Science has not proved and cannot prove that the scientific domain is
co-extensive with nature itself.

The evidence for the uniformity of nature consists in the fact that from
the beginning of Science the known reign of physical law has been
steadily extending without a check; that instance after instance of
apparent exception has been brought by further examination within its
province; that the hypothesis of uniformity has now been long on trial
and has never yet been found to fail; that no one who has so tried it
has the slightest hesitation in trusting it for the future, as he has
proved it in the past. But clearly as this evidence proves a general, it
never gets beyond a general, uniformity. It has not succeeded in showing
that the human will comes under the same rule. It has not succeeded in
silencing the voice within us, which claims superiority for the moral
over the physical. And when the utmost extent of human knowledge is
compared with the vastness of nature, the claim to extend the induction
from generality to universality is seen to be utterly untenable. So
much as this, indeed, Science has rendered highly probable, that the
uniformity of nature is never broken except for a moral purpose. It is
only for such a purpose that the will is ever free. It is only for such
a purpose that Revelation has ever claimed to be superior to nature. But
beyond this Science cannot go. Let it be granted that the claim for
freedom of the will has been often unduly pushed far beyond this limit,
and let it be granted that religions professing to be revelations have
included records of miracles which had no moral purpose. This does not
affect the general conclusion that the evidence for uniformity has never
succeeded, and can never succeed in showing, that the God who made and
rules the universe never sets aside a physical law for a moral purpose,
either by working through the human will or by direct action on external

Science will continue its progress, and as the thoughts of men become
clearer it will be perpetually more plainly seen that nothing in
Revelation really interferes with that progress. It will be seen that
devout believers can observe, can cross-question nature, can look for
uniformity and find it, with as keen an eye, with as active an
imagination, with as sure a reasoning, as those who deny entirely all
possibility of miracles and reject all Revelation on that account. The
belief that God can work miracles and has worked them, has never yet
obstructed the path of a single student of Science; nor has any student
who repudiated that belief found any aid in his study from that
repudiation. The rush of Science of late years has for the time made
many men fancy that Science is everything; and believers in Revelation
have helped this fancy by insisting on their part that Revelation is
everything; but such waves of opinion, resting really on feeling, are
sure to pass away, and scientific men will learn that there are other
kinds of knowledge besides scientific knowledge, as believers are
already learning that God teaches us by other methods besides the method
of Revelation. The students of the Bible will certainly learn that
Revelation need not fear the discoveries of Science, not even such
doctrines as that of Evolution. And the students of nature will
certainly learn that Science has nothing to fear from the teaching of
Revelation, not even from the claim to miraculous power. For most
certainly both Science and Revelation come from one and the same God;
'the heavens declare His glory, and the firmament showeth His handywork;
His law is perfect, converting the soul; His testimony is sure, making
wise the simple.'



Uniformity of nature not demonstrated, but established, except in two
cases; the interference of human will and of Divine Will. The exception
no bar to the progress of Science. Unity to be found not in the physical
world, but in the physical and moral combined. The Moral Law rests on
itself. Our recognition of it on our own character and choice. But we
expect it to show its marks in the physical world: and these are the
purpose visible in Creation, the effects produced by Revelation.
Nevertheless a demand for more physical evidence; but the physical
cannot be allowed to overshadow the spiritual. Dangers to believers from
leaning this way: superstition; blindness; stagnation. The guarantee for
spiritual perceptiveness: to take Jesus as the Lord of the conscience,
the heart, the will.



'No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.'
1 _Cor._ xii. 3.

It is now the proper time to review the argument of these Lectures, and
to endeavour to trace, if possible, the source of the estrangement which
just at present separates Religion and Science.

The postulate of Science is admitted on all hands to be the uniformity
of nature, and the proof of this postulate has been found to consist in
an induction from the facts which nature presents and our senses
observe. Uniformity is quickly noticed, and after it has been noticed
for some time it is instinctively used as a working hypothesis. So used
it accumulates perpetually increasing evidence of its truth, and if we
except two great classes of facts, we never find any instance of its
failure. The two classes of facts which are thus excepted are the acts
of the human will and the miraculous element in Revelation, both of them
instances of one thing, namely, the interference of the moral with the
physical. To complete the induction and to deprive the denial of
universal uniformity of all evidence to rest on, all that is necessary
is to get rid of these two exceptions. If Science could get rid of these
exceptions, though it could not be said that the fundamental postulate
was demonstrated, it could be said that all the evidence was in its
favour and absolutely no evidence against it. And although scientific
belief would then still rank below mathematical belief, it would
nevertheless have a cogency quite irresistible. Science would not
thereby gain in power of progress, in practical acceptance, or in
utility to man. But men are so constituted that completeness gives a
special kind of satisfaction not to be got in any other way. If Science
could but be complete it would seem to gain in dignity, if it gained in
nothing else. And it is easy to foster a kind of passion for this
completeness until every attempt to question it is resented. I have
seen a boy first learning mechanics show a dislike to consider the
effect of friction as marring the symmetry and beauty of mechanical
problems; too vague, too uncertain, too irregular to be allowed any
entrance into a system which is so rounded and so precise without it.
And something of the same temper can sometimes be seen in students of
Science at the very thought of there being anything in the world not
under the dominion of the great scientific postulate. The world which
thus contains something which Science cannot deal with is pronounced
forthwith to be not the world that we know, not the world with which we
are concerned; a conceivable world if we choose to indulge our
imagination in such dreams, but not a real world either now or at any
time before or after. And yet the freedom of the human will and the
sense which cannot be eradicated of the responsibility attaching to all
human conduct, perpetually retorts that this world in which we live
contains an element which cannot be subdued to obedience to the
scientific law, but will have a course of its own. The sense of
responsibility is a rock which no demand for completeness in Science
can crush. All attempts at reconciling the mechanical firmness of an
unbroken law of uniformity with the voice within that cannot be silenced
telling us that we must answer for our action, have failed, and we know
that they will for ever fail.

If indeed it could be said that the progress of Science was really
barred by this inability to make the induction complete, and to assert
the unbroken uniformity of all nature; if it could be said that any
uncertainty was thus cast over scientific conclusions, or any false or
misleading lights thus held up to draw inquirers from the true path, it
would undoubtedly become a duty to examine, and to examine anxiously,
whether indeed it could be true that our faculties were thus hopelessly
at variance with each other, the scientific faculty, imposing on us one
belief, and the spiritual faculty another, and the two practically
irreconcileable. But there is no reason whatever for thinking this.
Newton's investigations were unquestionably pursued, as all true
scientific investigations must ever be pursued, in reliance on the truth
of the uniformity of nature, and yet he never felt it the slightest
hindrance to his progress that he always tacitly and often expressly
acknowledged that God had reserved to Himself the power of setting this
uniformity aside, and indeed believed that He had used this power. The
believer who asserts the universality of a law except when God works a
miracle to set it aside is certainly at no real disadvantage in
comparison with an unbeliever who makes the same assertion with no
qualification at all. It is granted on all hands that miracles are, and
ever have been, exceedingly rare, and for that reason need not be taken
into account in the investigation of nature. It is granted that the
freedom of the human will works within narrow limits, and very slowly
and slightly affects the great mass of human conduct and what depends on
human conduct. And Science has often to deal with approximations when
nothing but approximations can be obtained. We perpetually meet in
nature with quantities and relations that cannot be accurately expressed
nor accurately ascertained, and we have to be content with
approximations, and we know how to use them in Science. Many chemical
properties can only be so expressed; many primary facts, such as the
distances, the volumes, the weights of heavenly bodies; and yet the
approximations serve our purpose. And so too, if there be a reserve
still uncovered by the scientific postulate, that will not in any degree
affect our investigation of what is so covered.

In short, the unity of all things which Science is for ever seeking will
be found not in the physical world alone, but in the physical and
spiritual united. That unity embraces both. And the uniformity which is
the expression of that unity is not a uniformity complete in nature,
taken by itself, but complete when the two worlds are taken together.
And this Science ought to recognise.

Let us turn from the physical to the spiritual.

The voice within us which demands our acceptance of religion makes no
direct appeal to the evidence supplied by the senses. We are called on
to believe in a supreme law of duty on pain of being lowered before our
own consciences. And this law of duty goes on to assert its own
supremacy over all things that exist, and that not as an accidental
fact, but as inherent in its essence. And this supremacy cannot be other
than an accidental fact unless it be not only actual but intended. And
intention implies personality; and the law thus shows itself to be a
Supreme Being, claiming our reverence, and asserting Himself to be the
Creator, the Ruler, and the Judge of all things that are. And this same
voice within us asserts that we are responsible to Him for all our
conduct, and are capable of that responsibility because free to choose
what that conduct shall be. We are to believe not because the truth of
this voice is proved independently of itself, but simply because we are
commanded. Corroborative evidence may be looked for elsewhere, but the
main, the primary evidence is within the soul.

Hence the strength of this belief depends on ourselves and on our own
character. To every man the voice speaks. But its authority is felt in
proportion to the spirituality of each who hears. Its acceptance is
bound up in some way with our own wills. How far it is a matter of
choice to believe or to disbelieve it is not possible to define. The
will lies hidden as it were behind the emotions, the affections, the
nobler impulses. The conscience shades off into the other faculties, and
we cannot always isolate it from the rest. But though it be impossible
to say precisely how the will is concerned in the spiritual belief,
there can be no doubt that it always takes its part in such belief. It
is the keen conscience, it is the will that can be moved to its depths
by the conscience, that grasp most strongly the certainty of the law of
duty. It is the man with the strongest and noblest aspirations, the man
who sees the beauty of humility, the man who feels most strongly the
deep peace of self-sacrifice, _that_ is the man who finds the voice
within most irresistible. It is not by any means always the man who
lives the most correct life; correctness of life may be due to natural
and not to spiritual causes. And the man whom we should find faultless
in point of morals may yet be wanting in spiritual depth, and not have
as yet, and perhaps may not have to the last, the spiritual faculty
strong within him. But the man, even if he have many and grievous
faults, who nevertheless is keenly susceptible of higher things, is the
one to whom the voice within speaks with authority not to be gainsaid,
and to him that voice is final.

It is this fact that the perception of things spiritual varies from man
to man, and depends on character, and involves action of the will, that
makes it always possible to represent our knowledge of the law of duty

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Online LibraryFrederick TempleThe Relations Between Religion and Science Eight Lectures Preached Before the University of Oxford in the Year 1884 → online text (page 10 of 11)