Hastings Rashdall.

Contentio vertitatis; essays in constructive theology online

. (page 1 of 26)
Online LibraryHastings RashdallContentio vertitatis; essays in constructive theology → online text (page 1 of 26)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

•EtKf lEY



















THE beginning of the Twentieth Century finds the
Church of England face to face with some very-
urgent problems. Of these the most clamorous, and
perhaps the least important, is the controversy which
rages round the Ornaments Rubric and kindred topics —
the problem which the daily press has dignified by the
title of " The Crisis in the Church." Those who take a
wider view of the course of religious thought during the
past century will not be disposed to treat these disputes
about ritual quite so seriously. They will recognise that
more pressing than any ritualistic controversy is a problem,
or group of problems, which touches not the Anglican
Communion only, but every Christian body. The acrimo-
nious dispute between Natural Science and the old
Orthodoxy, which agitated the last generation, is happily
a thing of the past. No section of the Church that counts
for much now denies the facts of geology, and Darwinism
is no longer regarded as the foe of Christian faith. A
great many of the clergy have accepted the principle of
criticism, and are prepared to apply it with some boldness
at least to the Old Testament. But many even of those
who are quite uncompromising in their acceptance of
critical results seem to have an inadequate appreciation
of the changes which such an acceptance necessarily




involves, not only in our attitude towards the Bible, but
also in the whole tone and temper of theology and re-
ligious teaching. And the bare acceptance of the critical
attitude towards the Bible has as yet very imperfectly
permeated the bulk of the clergy, or even the instructed
religious laity; while very little has been done to
modify, except by a silence which often escapes notice,
the ordinary religious instruction of pulpit, Bible-class,
and Sunday-school. Meanwhile, especially among younger
men and women of fair education, there is a widespread
unsettlement and uneasiness. There is a vague feeling
that the old Orthodoxy is impossible ; people suspect that
much that was once commonly believed is no longer
tenable, but they do not know how much, nor -by what
it is to be replaced.

The writers of the present work are well aware that the
needed reconstruction must take a much more solid and
substantial form than a volume of Essays by different
authors. The most that such a volume can do is to call
attention to the need of such a reconstruction, to show
that the need is felt, and to indicate some of the lines
on which they believe it ought to take place. The authors
cannot claim to speak in the name of any party or
organised section of the Church or of the clergy. But
they believe that they represent tendencies and points of
view which are far more common among the clergy of
the Church of England than is commonly supposed by
persons whose impressions about clerical opinion are
derived from current controversies whether in the secular
or the religious press.

A few words must be added as to the relation in which


the Essays included in this volume stand to each other.
The writers are agreed that, as Christians and Churchmen
no less than as lovers of truth, we have cause to be
thankful for the new light which science and criticism
have within the last half-century thrown upon religious
problems. They are agreed that scientific and critical
methods ought to be applied to such questions, and that
authority should not be invoked to crush or stifle inquiry.
They are agreed that, as the result of the rapid progress
in certain departments of human knowledge, which has
made the Victorian Age the most revolutionary epoch (in
these matters) since the Reformation, a very considerable
restatement and even reconstruction of parts of our
religious teaching is inevitable ; and at the same time they
are agreed that "other foundation can no man lay than
that which is laid, even Jesus Christ."

Beyond this they do not profess to be in close agree-
ment. Each writer is responsible solely for his own
contributions, and no attempt has been made to conceal
the differences which divide them even on matters of
importance. Moreover, they have no desire that these
Essays should be regarded as a party manifesto. They
believe, indeed, that the only reason for the current im-
pression that " the Broad Church party has disappeared "
is the fact that " liberal " ideas, which were once charac-
teristic of a very small group of prominent men, have now
to so large an extent permeated general Christian thought,
that they have ceased to be party watchwords, and have
been found capable of harmonious combination with what
is permanently valuable in the teaching of other Schools.
Among the present writers there are some at least who


would avow a general sympathy with one or other of the
great historic Church parties, and who have no wish to
dissociate themselves from it. They believe that if liberal
theology is to prosper in its work of repairing the breaches
in our walls, it must be by influencing both the Catholic
and the Protestant elements in the Church — elements
which are too deeply rooted in the history of the English
Church, and perhaps even in the constitution of human
nature, to be either fused or superseded.

Our aim throughout has been to build up, not to pull
down, and we are convinced that the work of rebuilding
is necessary and urgent. This conviction is based not
only on the results of our own studies, but on personal
intercourse with a large number of young men — our under-
graduate pupils — who may be taken to represent fairly
enough the educated class in the rising generation. The
decline in the number of candidates for Holy Orders,
especially from our Universities, is widely deplored. We
have reason to believe that other causes, besides the
uncertainty of earning a living wage, are contributing to
this decline. And we feel that in these circumstances a
great responsibility rests on all teachers of the young who
lay on the necks of the disciples any burden beyond " the
necessary things," even though "their fathers" may have
been able to bear it. And so, if anything that we have
written should give pain to some, especially among our
elders, whose age and services entitle them to our respect
and deference, we would ask them to remember that our
work here in Oxford obliges us to think mainly of those
who are younger than ourselves, and to study their needs.
We trust, therefore, that we may ask for a charitable


judgment, even from those who cannot give us their
sympathy and approval.

These Essays deal with the greatest of subjects ; they
deal with them briefly, and frankly. It is perhaps difficult
to avoid some appearance of arrogance in arguing to a
conclusion on such topics, and in so small a space. But
in truth we are very conscious of the limitations, not only
of the short essay, but of our own powers. All we hope
to do is to awaken interest, to suggest subjects for careful
thought, or at most to give a wider currency to ideas
which are for the most part familiar enough to professed
students of philosophy and theology.

We are fully alive to the fragmentary and provisional
character of such suggestions as have been made in the
present work, but it is our earnest hope that it may be
of some use to those who are trying to combine, in their
own belief and in their teaching as clergymen or otherwise,
an openminded pursuit of truth with a heartfelt loyalty
to Christ and to the fundamental ideas of Christianity.




By THE Rev. H. Rashdall, D.Litt., D.C.L., Fellow and
Tutor of New College^ and Preacher at Lincoln's Inn.


By THE Rev. W. R. Inge, M.A., Fellow, Tutor, and
Chaplain of Hertford College ; formerly Fellow of King's
College, Cambridge^ and Bampton Lecturer.


By the Rev. H. L. Wild, M.A., Vice- Principal of St.
Edmund Hall.



By THE Rev. C. F. Eurney, M.A., Fellow and Lecttirer in
Hebrew of St. John's College.


TESTAMENT . . ... 206

By THE Rev. W. C. Allen, M.A., Chaplain- Fellow, Sub-
Rector ^ and Lecturer in Theology and Hebrew of Exeter

VI. THE CHURCH . . ... 243

By THE Rev. A. J. Carlyle, M.A., Chaplain and Lecturer
in Theology, {formerly Fellow), of University College;
Rector of St. Martin and All Saints, Oxford,


By THE Rev. W. R. Inge, M.A.





(1) Introduction,

The attitude of thoughtful men towards Christianity is coming to
be determined mainly by their attitude towards Theism . . i

The great argument for Theism is ultimately metaphysical, but meta-
physic only formulates and carries further the arguments which
appeal to common sense . . . • • 5

(2) A short statement of the idealistic argument for Theism,

Things cannot be conceived of as existing by themselves. They
exist only for mind, since the things as known to us are made up of
(i) actual feelings (or an ideal content derived from actual feeling);
(2) feeling thought of as possible ; (3) relations. None of these
elements can exist apart from mind . ... 7

Nor can things out of the mind be like things in the mind . . 11

The impossibility of material things in themselves is especially shown
by the subjective or ideal character of space, which has no existence
apart from relations which can only exist for a mind apprehending
them . . . . ... 12

And this carries with it {a) the admission that " things " in space
only exist for consciousness ; {b) the reality of the self which
knows and feels. This does not destroy the difference between
objective and subjective, fact and fancy . . . . 15

Things exist for mind, but not for our minds only. If geology
is not a delusion, the world existed when there were no human or
other "finite" minds to know it. There must, therefore, have
been a Universal or Divine Mind for which the world existed.
This is the metaphysical form of the common belief that the world
must have a maker . , . ... 20



God must be thought of as in some sense a f£eling as well as a

thinking consciousness, though both expressions are inadequate . 23
This argument has led us to the idea of a God for whom the world

exists, but not of a Creator by whom it is made . . . 25

To establish a genuine Theism it requires to be supplemented by —

(3) The argument from Causality.

The plain man is right in supposing that his sensations demand a
cause other than himself, but this cause cannot be in space . . 26

The only cause known to us is our own will ; we are immediately
conscious of exercising Causality . . . . 27

The law of Causality must be distinguished from the uniformity of
Nature . . . . ... 28

The ideal of Causality is only satisfied by the union of (i) power and
(2) final cause or end. A rational Will alone can account for the
direction of power towards an end . . . . 29

Hence God must be thought of as ivilling and not merely thinking
the Universe . . . . . . 31

Meaning of Personality in God . . ' . . . 32

(4) Consideration of objections.

There is no objection to admitting that in a sense the world, being
the content of God's thought, may be thought of as ineluded in
Him . . . . • • • 33

But other spirits, though deriving their being from God, cannot be
thought of as parts of God . . ... 34

Hence God is not infinite in the sense that there is nothing which
He is not, though He is infinite in the sense of not being limited
by anything which does not derive its being from Him . . 36

(5) The character of God.

Our belief in the goodness of God is derived from our own moral
consciousness, and that belief is necessary to account for the
"objectivity" of our moral judgments . . • • 37

In what sense God is moral . . ... 42

The existence of evil requires us to believe that in a sense God's
Omnipotence is limited . . • . • 43

(6) Relation of this conception of God to Christianity.

Reason thus leads to a conception of God's nature which is implied
by the teaching of Christ . . ... 46

That conception is in harmony with the doctrine of the Holy Trinity 48

The idea of a Personal God makes possible the idea of an Incarna-
tion . . . . ... 49

The question of miracles. The genuine Theist cannot regard a
miracle as a priori inconceivable, but the observed uniformity of
Nature makes it difficult to accept the evidence for a "suspen-
sion " of natural laws . . • • • 5 ^

But every act of will is in a sense an interference with physical law,
and there may be abnormal degrees of such mental control of
natural processes . . . . . • 55


Some canons of criticism . . ... 56

Christianity must in the main rest upon the appeal which Christ
makes to the moral consciousness of man . . . . 57

THEISM is not the whole of Christianity, but Theism
of the Christian type is a very large and important
part of it. It is, I believe, more and more coming to
be true that men's attitude towards Christianity is
determined mainly by their attitude towards Theism.
That this is so is due partly to a change in what they
mean by Theism, partly to a change in their interpreta-
tion of Christianity. A Deism of the eighteenth-century
type might be, and often was, entirely divorced from
the Christian attitude towards God. Such a Deism
was compatible with an almost entire extinction of the
religious emotions, a morality which found no contact
with religion except in the form of purely external
" sanctions," and which sometimes dispensed even with the
sanctions ; belief in a future life disappeared altogether.
Its view of the relation between God and the world
made worship an absurdity, or at least a superfluity ; its
cold and critical temper was content to regard the great
historical religions in general, and Christianity in par-
ticular, as artificially invented impostures, or at least as
the creations of an irrational "enthusiasm."^ On the
other hand, while Christianity was regarded either as
a supernaturally authenticated guarantee of " Natural
Religion," or as a supernaturally authenticated appendix
of rigid and admittedly unintelligible dogma, it was clear
that the distinctively Christian elements of Religion might

^ These remarks are meant to apply to the type of thought combated by
Bishop Butler in the Analogy. But Deism was a word vaguely used, and
was often applied by opponents to latitudinarian Churchmen like Archbishop
Tillotson. To many even of the avowed ** Deists" the above description
would be quite inapplicable. Their Deism often amounted to Theism in the
sense of this Essay, though their empirical Philosophy led them to exaggerate
the separateness of God from the universe.


easily be sloughed off and leave the underlying Deism
just where it was before. At the present day minds
capable of religious feeling naturally turn towards Christi-
anity, conceived as a religion of enthusiastic loyalty
towards the Person and the ethical ideal of the histori-
cal Jesus, with sympathy and yearning. The human side
of Christianity is readily accepted. To many minds it is
just the view of the nature of God which Christianity
presupposes that creates intellectual difficulties. But a
Theism of the Christian type once accepted, the way is
prepared for the ascription of a unique position in the
religious history of the world to Him who was at once
the first great teacher of that Theism, and the supreme
embodiment of the ethical ideal which has historically
been associated with it. I do not mean to say that there
remain no difficulties and perplexities either in the tra-
ditional dogmas about the Person of Christ or about the
miraculous element in the narratives of his life. I do not
mean to say that there does not remain an important
difference between a Unitarianism or Christian Theism of
the modern type and a Catholicism or Trinitarianism of
the kind which seeks to place itself in harmony with
modern modes of thought. But I do believe that the
difference between what one may vaguely call an inside
attitude and an outside attitude (whether sympathetic or
unsympathetic) towards the Christian Faith is coming
more and more to depend upon the view that is taken of
Theism. Especially is this the case with minds which
have passed through the discipline of Philosophy, and
with whom (for the most part) the alternative to Christian
Theism is not a blank Materialism, or a confident Agnosti-
cism, but a Theism of a vague, impersonal type, exhibiting
every shade of thought and feeling intermediate between
a very real belief that the ultimate principle of things is
spiritual and a Pantheism which for every religious and


ethical purpose is indistinguishable from the purest

I propose in the following pages to try, in a systematic
but necessarily very brief and imperfect manner, to suggest
what is implied in the Theism presupposed by Christianity ;
and this may best be done by indicating the grounds on
which, as I believe, such a Theism rests. And here we
are at once met by a difficulty. The strongest argument
for Theism is, in its fully developed form, a metaphysical
argument. To some minds this will be thought to amount
to an admission that such a Theism can never be the
religion of the modern world. How, it may be said, is
Christianity to be accepted by the world in general, if
it is impossible to be a Christian on any rational grounds
without first being a metaphysician? Does not this in-
volve, as a necessary consequence, that Christianity must
be possible only on the one hand for a small circle of
professed metaphysical students, and on the other for
those who are content to accept their religion on authority?
We need not shrink from the admission that for large
numbers of people almost wholly, and for nearly all to some
extent, religious belief must rest upon authority, though it
will never rest entirely upon authority. For people will
not accept upon authority what does not meet the needs
of their own moral and rational nature ; and the fact that
a creed does meet their needs is, as far as it goes, an
argument. And it were much to be desired that some
metaphysical training should be diffused among a much
larger number of people than now enjoy it, especially
among those who are concerned with the teaching of Re-
ligion in a sceptical age. A certain elementary course of
metaphysical reading might well be recommended to all
well-educated people who feel the need of getting at the real
grounds upon which religious belief must rest, and might
be still more widely recommended had our philosophers


learnt how to imitate the lucidity of the old English
philosophical Classics without reproducing their metaphy-
sical mistakes. But the main reply to the objection above
indicated is that there is no absolute line of demarcation
between the kind of arguments upon which theistic belief
is based in thoughtful men who have never studied formal
metaphysics and the arguments of the professed meta-
physician. All men who think about things in general
are metaphysicians more or less. The plain man who has
never opened a book of geometry, or even of arithmetic,
has nevertheless some ideas about space and quantity or
number, and those ideas are mathematical ideas. And so,
the metaphysician is simply the man who thinks out
the problems about which all who think about things in
general have thought to some extent, who thinks them
out in a more thorough and systematic manner than
other people, and who has acquainted himself with the
best that has been thought and written about such subjects
by others.

I believe therefore that I shall best serve my purpose by
not shrinking from the attempt to express, in the most
popular and untechnical way that is possible, what I believe
the Theistic argument comes to when it is fully thought
out. It must be admitted that to acquire the metaphysical
attitude of mind, to see clearly what the ultimate meta-
physical question means, and fully to grasp any possible
answer to it, generally requires a rather long course of
gradual habituation. But I trust that some who may not
be prepared to accept the particular line of argument
which will be here offered in its full extent, may never-
theless be able to accept it sufficiently to acquiesce in the
religious or theological part of my conclusion. If that
should be so, it will not mean that they have substituted
some false or merely plausible grounds of belief for the
true ones, or allowed their creed to be dictated by authority


or emotion or prejudice. For, as has been suggested,
the common-sense arguments for theistic belief are, as
I believe, only the metaphysical arguments imperfectly
thought out. It is needless to say that such a statement
of my argument as is possible within the limits of this
book will fail to satisfy the professed metaphysician. It is
not so much, however, in the statement of an argument as
in the reply to objections that it is difficult to combine
metaphysical thoroughness and accuracy with general in-
telligibility. I must therefore appeal to the benevolence
of the metaphysical reader (if such there should be), and
ask him to believe that I am not unaware of the existence
of many possible objections which I am obliged to pass
over, and that I have no desire to slur over or minimise

I may add that there is nothing in the argument which
pretends to be in any way new. The greater part of it is
simply the common property of all thorough-going Ideal-
ists. If in some parts of the argument I adopt a position
which will not commend itself to all genuinely theistic
Idealists, I venture to hope that my differences from them
will be for the most part a difference of emphasis rather
than a fundamental difference of principle. It will be
unnecessary to specify my obligations to the acknowledged
masters to whose inspiration is due anything in these pages
that merits attention.

To the " plain man " it usually appears self-evident that
matter is a thing which exists "in itself," which could
conceivably be supposed to exist even if no consciousness
existed or ever had existed in the world. He may, indeed,
if he is a Theist, disbelieve that matter does exist or
ever has, as a matter of actual fact, existed without mind ;
he may even go so far as to say that it is unthinkable that
matter should in the first instance have come into exist-
ence without mind, or that the Mind which brought it


into existence should cease to exist ; but, if all mind in
the Universe could be supposed to be suddenly ex-
tinguished, there would appear to him nothing essentially
absurd or self-contradictory in the idea that matter would
go on existing all the same. That is the notion which
lies at the root of all difficulties about Theism. The
denial of this view of things is what is meant by Idealism :
and Idealism is, as I believe, the necessary basis of Theism
for minds which want to get to the bottom of things.

The line of thought which leads to the adoption of this
view may best be mastered by a perusal of Bishop
Berkeley's Principles of Human Knowledge. However
much Bishop Berkeley's argument requires to be corrected
by the criticism of that later form of Idealism which begins
with Kant, his writings remain the classical expression of
the view which all genuine Idealists agree in accepting
as the basis of a true theory of the Universe — the view
that "matter" or "things" exist only in mind or "for"
mind, that the idea of matter without mind is an un-
thinkable absurdity. I will here attempt only a very brief
resume of Bishop Berkeley's line of thought, advising the
reader not previously acquainted with metaphysics to
read Berkeley for himself, if he wishes to understand it
thoroughly, and to meet with a fuller answer to the
objections which will inevitably occur to him.^

The plain man (and the most accomplished non-
metaphysical man of science will probably for the present

Online LibraryHastings RashdallContentio vertitatis; essays in constructive theology → online text (page 1 of 26)