Richard Athelstone Parker Hill.

The Interregnum online

. (page 5 of 9)
Online LibraryRichard Athelstone Parker HillThe Interregnum → online text (page 5 of 9)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


ratification of His claims. It is an exceedingly interest-
ing study to trace out His gradual training of men at
first attached to Him in this way, and to see how their
entirely alien connotations were gradually purged from
the idea of His Mission, and the true spiritual elements
of Messiahship gradually introduced to them. For us
the important point to be noted is that the supreme
implications were the latest taught, and that the
apostles were even sent out to preach before they
had reached the point of intelligent confession of His
Messiahship, and long before the ideas of Atonement
or even of a suffering Christ had come home to them.
All this I take to be a sufficient sanction for this
method of looking on Christianity as an edifice from
broad simple moral bases, through various corollaries
up to its crowning doctrines 1 . And with this agree
the experiences of a writer on mission work in India
who says, " A belief in the Divinity of Christ, in the
sense in which Christians understand the words, will
come not as a primary impression, nor as the result of

1 Professor Charles in Eschatology, Hebrew, Jewiah and Christian,
traces the historical origin of some Christian concepts from the
conquest of old pagan Semitic ideas by the logical implication of the
most fundamental doctrine of Judaism, the righteousness of Jehovah.



B.



66 THE CHRISTIAN CEEED [CH.

dogmatic teaching, but as the final outcome of spiritual
experience." I, for one, have no doubt that a disciple-
ship of this kind will prove the gate to a spiritual
experience of an undeniable kind that even when
strictly criticised in the light of psychological and other
sciences, must have a very considerable weight as
positive testimony even towards influencing opinion on
this matter.

So we propose to put ourselves under the guidance
of Christ and the apostles to help us to a more effectual
fulfilment of our faith ; to endeavour to grasp the ideas
that inspired them and to follow the practices that
helped them. We choose them because we find their
teaching embodies the highest we know already, and
has inspired lives far nobler than our own ; and while
we cannot as yet understand or see the force of many
of the things they say, we know it would be folly
hastily to reject it all for that reason. Miracles when
they have a religious value we accept ; when we do not
see such value we can leave them for the present and
with them all doctrines of theoretical importance only,
especially those that are still in question among
Christians. And if we avowedly base our position on
choice and make as yet no profession of an intellectual
conviction for which we are not yet qualified (though
we do not impugn the right of those who have
examined the question to an opinion, and ourselves
purpose to proceed to enquiry), we are therein simply



VII] THE CHRISTIAN CREED 67

recognising that in this matter there is a great IF and
taking our stand deliberately on the Christian side of
it. The most " assured " Christian can do no more, and
we need not fear to lose anything by being honest. If
Christianity be true we shall infallibly come to know
of the doctrine, whether it be of God, and if it be not
true, no amount of subjective assurance will make it
so. There is then nothing left for us but " to die with
Odin 1 ."

1 See Appendix D, p. 143.



5 S



PART II

CHAPTER VIII

OPINION AND THE FAITH

Every plant which My heavenly Father planted not, shall be
rooted up. Matt. xv. 13.

The grand question still remains, Was the judgment just? If
unjust, it will not and cannot get harbour for itself or continue to
have footing in this Universe, which was made by other than One
Unjust. CABLYLE, Past and Present.

IT is not my purpose to discuss the nature of
evidence and opinion at any great length. The laws
of evidence can be found in text books on logic. I
intend rather to indicate the outlines of the theo-
logical vindication of Christianity, to discuss one or
two of the typical objections to it, to criticise the more
important anti-Christian systems and to offer a few
thoughts on the place of opinion in life, especially with
regard to teaching and preaching.

We have seen that the essence of Christianity is a
logical outcome of a faith in the moral sense, and that
this faith provides also the a priori presumption ne-
cessary to make the historical evidence of Christianity
adequate. I now put forward as a logical proposition



CH. VIII] OPINION AND THE FAITH 69

the assertion that the moral sense has an equal claim.
to confidence with the rational sense. Notice I do not
say it is trustworthy. Either or neither may be trust-
worthy so far as this proposition is concerned. I only
say that no one can logically claim validity for the
rational sense while denying it to the moral sense.

In the following discussion, I shall assume that
natural selection in one or another form accounts for
all characters of organisms ; and my point is that the
two senses have parallel origins, similar characters, and
identical objections to face.

To begin with, the rational sense itself repudiates
itself as the sole judge of truth. By its own showing
it is only a recently and imperfectly articulate section
of a large number of reactions to the universe. On
many matters it can only pronounce its own inability
to judge. Other similar reactions exist along with it,
and have also partly articulated their "judgments"
into codes and laws. Like the moral judgment, the
rational judgment has varied widely in different ages
and places. One generation's verdict has often been
overthrown by the succeeding generation. In short,
the moral and rational senses and judgments form a
pair alike in all essentials. The trustworthiness of
neither can be demonstrated ; it must be assumed.
The very argumentation by which one would seek
to establish the validity of reasoning must assume it.
Universally assumed it is, since no thinking could



70 OPINION AND THE FAITH [CH.

progress without it, and man is irresistibly impelled
to believe in thought. Just so with the moral sense ;
and my claim is that the one assumption, which has
been at the base of our structure hitherto, must be
admitted as reasonable in virtue of the very act of
reasoning by which an opponent would attack it, since
that act is involving a precisely similar assumption.

This is so important (for I conceive that all religious
apologetic must finally rest here), that it will be worth
while to examine two criticisms that at first sight appear
to weaken this position.

It may be said that the verifiable nature of reasoning
gives it a superior authority to morality. To this I
reply in two ways : first, that morality too is verifiable,
and secondly, that we are now discussing the validity of
reasoning as a guide to regions as yet unverifiable.

Morality is " verifiable " within limits, in other
words morality can often be shown to lead to success
as reason to truth. "Honesty is the best policy" is
proverbial ; and in larger spheres we may find the
Psalmists prophesying the triumph of right on the
strength of the moral sense alone, and against all
appearances, a triumph which has to a large extent
come to pass in our day. But if in transcendent
matters morality cannot yet be seen to profit, so truly
the higher ranges of reasoning often appear directly
injurious to the reasoner ; for if the martyr suffers,
the philosopher is notoriously unpractical. Moreover,



VIII] OPINION AND THE FAITH 71

many things at the present day turn out contrary to
reasoned expectation, but we do not therefore reject
reason. Rather we plead insufficient knowledge and
defective observation, and hypostatise causes to ac-
count for the variation ; and we shall continue to do
so though disappointed again and again, rather than
distrust reason. The like procedure is perfectly legi-
timate in the moral sphere and no more deserves
opprobrious charges of " hedging " or " cooking " in
the one case than in the other. Thus the faith we
repose in reasoning, even when experience seems to
give the lie to it, may be extended to morality.

The second objection will need a more lengthy
discussion. It may be urged that reasoning is of
value as between man and the inanimate universe,
while morality comes into action only between sen-
tient beings ; and thus reason may appear more
fundamental.

Our reply to this must involve a consideration of
the methods of development of characters on Natural
Selection principles.

A character is developed because it benefits the
organism in conflict with

1. Natural forces.

2. Other organisms of the same or other kinds.

3. Others of its own sex for possession of the
female.

To class 1 belong the instincts of building,



72 OPINION AND THE FAITH [CH.

hibernating, etc.; to class 2 the combative mechanisms
or superior adaptations for obtaining food, which latter
are again direct adaptations to inanimate nature ; to
class 3 belong the sexual combative mechanisms and
ornamentation.

Morality therefore must have been beneficial either
in direct adaptation to nature, or in conflict with other
organisms, or as commending its possessor to the fe-
males or possibly to the protection of the other
members of the race. In the latter two cases is it
less fundamental than in the former, that is, is it
less directly derivable from the universe and less
likely to correspond to something in its composition?

First we must remember that these things account
only for the development, not for the origin of the
character. The origin is relegated to "accidental
variation," i.e. causes as yet unknown.

Then it is not strictly true that morality is
entirely a social matter and therefore possibly a con-
vention. Sloth and intemperance are individual, and
are as disastrous to the individual as irrationality.
The difference between reason and morality is thus
only in degree ; most rational acts benefit the in-
dividual in contact with inanimate nature, though
many benefit him in dealings with his fellow men;
most moral acts are social, but some are individual.
But if we take the tribe as the unit instead of
the individual, we see that the survival of morality



VIII] OPINION AND THE FAITH 73

indicates in the moral tribe a superior adaptation to
the universe ; and survival thus means a co-operation
of the universe, whether with the moral individual or
the moral tribe. The correspondence is only removed
one degree, from the individual to the tribe, but it is
still a correspondence, and by the natural selection
principle the conquest of the moral tribe is evidence
of a superior adaptation to " Nature " in that tribe,
which obliterates the distinction between classes 1
and 2. Further, we may see at once that in all
probability rationality has survived in the same way,
for it is the mass common sense of the nation that
determines its survival in its dealings with other nations
rather than the scientific acumen of the individual.
With the reasoner as with the moralist, his ideas
become effective for preservation of the nation in
so far as they are absorbed into its common sense
and influence its actions; it is the adaptation of the
tribe rather than of the individual that has preserved
rationality.

This leads us to the third class, in which a feature
owes its survival to its attracting the favour of its own
species, especially of the females. The ornaments of
the male are of this class, but it is conceivable that
a character, such as morality, should evoke the ad-
miration and protection of the tribe, thus conducing
to survival in times of danger. It is clear at once
that to make such a method effective the instinct of



74 OPINION AND THE FAITH [CH.

approval is as essential as the character itself. A
peacock's tail would be useless to the peacock unless
the peahen had a sense of beauty a true aesthetic
sense, whatever we may think of her judgment. The
sense in the approver must co-operate with the thing
in the approved. They are two parts of one tribal
character, like an upper and lower jaw, and, as before,
we have to seek the origin and survival of the whole in
some fundamental correspondence with the universe.

The further suggestion that morality may owe its
survival to an invariable association with some totally
distinct beneficial character is of course equally applic-
able to reason, and does not affect our contention, which
is that they have an equal claim to our confidence. I
am not saying that either really does indicate a similar
element in the universe ; only that one cannot logically
assume this for one and deny it for the other. But all
philosophising rests on this assumption in the case of
reason, therefore an anti-moral philosophy has undercut
its own foundation.

But it will be said that, granted this contention,
the claim made for the rational sense is merely that it
corresponds to something fundamental in the method
of the universe. The universe taken as a whole,
statically, may be wholly irrational. We cannot
guarantee an "end in view," nor, if we could, must
that end be one which man would consider reason-
able; much less can we infer a reasoning Governor



VIII] OPINION AND THE FAITH 75

of the universe. Therefore, granting the moral sense
and its equality with reason, you have yet to find any
value in it for religion.

To the first objection, we can reply that in this
case we are left with a duality of reason and unreason
which is surely less satisfying philosophically than a
conception of method as expression of essence. If we
have a picture of the universe as reason wrestling with,
and indeed absolutely directing, unreason, we have no
explanation of the presence of that reason itself. The
agnostic position that we have no means of deciding
on such a point is discussed in a later Essay. Suffice
it here that we observe this duality between method
and essence, and that an unity is at least equally
probable, and must be assumed in any further steps
of philosophy through a consideration of reason and
science beyond the agnostic position.

Secondly, admitting that method gives a clue to
nature, must the end in view be such as man would
think reasonable ? I think a fallacy creeps in here
through a new meaning for the word "reasonable."
Hitherto it has referred to the link of cause and effect ;
in this place it means " desirable." Now, that which
man with full understanding and full appreciation of
all circumstances would desire surely is identical with
his own true welfare ? And to bring this about for
man is the same thing as " loving " man in the prac-
tical sense. So that really a " reasonable end as man



76 OPINION AND THE FAITH [CH.

would count reasonableness" is synonymous with a
moral end. We make no suggestion that the rational
sense would testify to a moral end ; but we do suggest
that the moral sense in filling this gap is as worthy
of confidence as the rational sense in its own sphere.
Whether moral method means moral end depends on
our view of the question in the last paragraph.

But there are yet one or two considerations to be
taken into account. In the first place, it is a common
mistake to try to express an appreciation of the vast-
ness of things by a belittling of man and his concerns.
In truth this is but an extension of anthropomorphism
in its defects. Important men are usually concerned only
with the main lines of the affairs they have in hand,
therefore details are supposed to be as it were beneath
the notice of the universe. Added to this one often
finds the philosophical folly of measuring importance
by size or weight. Truly has it been said that the
sun is a less thing than the mind of man which can
comprehend it. This attitude is all the more intensely
fatuous when introduced into Theistic systems; but
even without that it is quite unwarrantable. The
universe may or may not concern itself with man,
but to argue that it cannot do so because it is big
and important is sheer folly. It would enhance its
dignity considerably to conceive of it as accurate and
effective in every detail, however insignificant.

But besides this, the fact that lately threatened to



Vlll] OPINION AND THE FAITH 77

embarrass us now comes to our aid. If morality chiefly
concerns one's activities towards sentient beings, then
to postulate a moral "end" for the universe and yet to
suppose that this moral end ignores the fate of sentient
moral beings is a contradiction in terms.

The last question as to whether a moral method
and end imply a moral Governor will be considered
more fully in the next Essay ; or rather we shall dis-
cuss briefly the steps from the one conception to the
other. Here we may just remind ourselves that unless
this concept is to be used as an argument in support
of other concepts, it is enough practically to know that
the universe will so behave as it would if it had a
moral Governor. In other words, the internal meta-
physics of the universe, as an end in itself, is not of
practical importance.

We must carefully remember that we cannot in
opinion deduce all the corollaries from our present
proposition that we deduced from our faith, for there
our primary proposition was that goodness is profitable
for me; an individualistic element was present that can
scarcely be justified beyond dispute by our present
wider proposition of the validity of the moral sense,
at least without an elaboration of argument that would
be inadmissible in the interregnum and therefore out of
place here 1 . Our present proposition was a deduction

1 I am of opinion that this individualistic element can be justified
in opinion, thus justifying in opinion the whole of our beliefs, but



78 OPINION AND THE FAITH [CH.

from this, and the anthropomorphic figure was intro-
duced as an adjuvant, being logically connected only
with our "genuine desire," though its use was justi-
fied against attacks on its metaphysical validity.
An argument connecting it with the validity of the
moral sense was introduced as I think, a sound one
but its full justification and support would again be
too elaborate to be introduced here. In the next Essay
I shall show how this proposition bears on Christianity
(chiefly by creating a priori presumptions and justi-
fying deductions from historical evidence) ; but for the
present we must content ourselves with this much,
that the existence of a moral sense affords a pre-
sumption in favour of believing morality to be a
fundamental character of the universe, from which
its ultimate action with respect to sentient moral
beings may be deduced ; and that this must be ad-
mitted by anyone attempting to philosophise about
the nature of the universe beyond the stage of pro-
fessing complete ignorance of its nature; in which
case we have seen already that it is unreasonable to
ignore practically even the least chance of an infinite
value in life. Moreover we have this very important
deduction, that any rational system which involves a

since the argument is intricate I am content to demonstrate a bare
probability only. The scope of the Essays forbids more. The in-
dividualist element must then be introduced via the historical evidence
for Christianity, viewed in the light of this a priori probability.



VIII] OPINION AND THE FAITH 79

denial of the validity of the moral sense is less probable
than one which admits both; and though it may be
possibly true, there can always be erected a similar
and opposite system starting from the moral sense and
denying the rational, which will have an equal and
counterbalancing likelihood.

I do not think that the majority of mankind will
ever progress from general considerations beyond
" probable " and " legitimate " in their opinion on
Christianity. The function of opinion seems to me
to be mainly to justify beliefs held fundamentally on
choice as before ; but I do hold that that choice
can be abundantly justified as not only moral but
logical as logical as any alternative choice, more
logical, at any rate, in the present state of the
world's knowledge certainly more logical than a
definite denial would be, and infinitely more logical
than neglect of the whole subject. It is now with
this logical justification that we are concerned, though
it is lawful to choose apart from the support of logic.



CHAPTER IX

OPINION AND CONDUCT

When in doubt, if we act and live as if our doubts were true,
declension follows and our doubts become to us practical realities.
But if we hold on to God, and live and act as if we knew they were
not true, we emerge from the eclipse into light and peace.

HORACE BOSHNELL (quoted by A. T. Pierson, Godly Self -Control).

THUS far we have, I think, shown that it is reason-
able to believe in a morality in the universe that is a
probable guarantee of an " end " in which the welfare
of man is not neglected. This, indeed, gives logical
justification to our choice of our faith, and therefore we
are reasonable in believing in Christianity. For we
have seen now that it is reasonable to follow the least
chance of an infinite value for life, that the existence
of the moral sense offers us a " chance " that is far from
infinitesimal, and that there is no sound metaphysical
objection to our helping ourselves by expressing our
hope concerning the universe in anthropomorphic terms.
More than this, there is at least some reason to think
that this figure is more truly applicable than any other
to an universe " cognisant of moral distinctions."



CH. IX] OPINION AND CONDUCT 81

But the rigid logical support of Christianity for
opinion even so resting still on an assumed 1 basis
must come from other sources. The soundness or
otherwise of the evidence it will be the reader's duty
to examine for himself later; I will here only
state what I, as one of no special expert authority,
but also one who has tried to form an independent
judgment, conceive to be the state of the evidence
to-day.

Looking at history we see the Jewish nation,
through a most eventful history, again and again in
danger of extermination, developing certain religious
ideas, notably the Messianic idea and that of immor-
tality for the righteous, and the Supreme Good God.
These ideas doubtless developed gradually. The idea
of immortality, for example, was not definitely formu-
lated till late times ; but very early there was the idea
of a "sequel" "surely there is a sequel 2 " though
the nature of that sequel was differently conceived at
different ages. By the time of Christ the Messianic
idea was so developed that the official religion saw
nothing strange in ascribing to David language imply-
ing inferiority, and Messiah was a direct Representative
of God to man. To a nation with such expectations, at
almost the last possible minute, came Jesus, fulfilling

1 But now seen to be in this respect on a par with the logical
support of any proposition whatever.

2 Proverbs xxiii. 18, B.V.M.

H. 6



82 OPINION AND CONDUCT [CH.

in a striking way their highest religious ideals, and
claiming to be Messiah 1 . It must also be remembered
that these Jewish religious ideas were not wholly
peculiar to the race. All nations more or less shared
the hope of a " sequel," and the multitude of religions,
as well as Jewish prophecy, testifies to the widespread
expectation of some communication from God to man.
These expectations are evidence in favour of the
proposition that an objective embodiment of a religious
ideal such as ours is probable. This religious ideal was
embodied in the life and character of Jesus ; and then
we have the testimony of His disciples to His corrobo-
ration of the great expectation of a " sequel." The
testimony in brief is that sober, truth-loving men, who
had been utterly dejected and almost demoralised by
the crucifixion, became inexplicably a band of optimis-
tic and ardent religious reformers. They themselves
asserted that the cause was to be found in the fact that
for forty days they had had frequent intimate inter-
course with their Risen Master. They acknowledged
the possibility of mistake and they said they would not
believe it themselves on the testimony of their fellows,
but subsequent interviews satisfied them absolutely.
Later St Paul seriously refers questioners to the
evidence of hundreds of living eye-witnesses. There is
no serious dispute now about the date or authenticity
of the letter in which he does so, and he refers in it to

1 See Appendix E, p. 146.



IX] OPINION AND CONDUCT 83

his past teaching on the subject. His letter was written
about 25 years, and his teaching was given at Corinth


1 2 3 5 7 8 9

Online LibraryRichard Athelstone Parker HillThe Interregnum → online text (page 5 of 9)