S. (Sabine) Baring-Gould.

The origin and development of religious belief (Volume 2) online

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QTAETING from the facts of limnan nature and the
laws they reveal to ns, as spread out before ns in
history, can we attain to the existence of God, to Immorta-
lity, and to the fundamental doctrine of Christianity, the
Incarnation ?

Hitherto Christianity has leaned, or has been represented
as leaning, on authority, — on the authority of an infallible
text, or of an inerrable Church. The inadequacy of either
support has been repeatedly demonstrated, and as the
props have been withdrawn, the faitli of many has fallen
with a crash. The religious history of the Church exhibits
three phases. The first when dogma appealed to men and
met with a ready response, the second when dogma was
forced on man by an authoritative society, and the third
when dogma was insisted on, upon the authority of an
infallible text. Men revolted against the Church, opposing
the text against it, men revolt now against the text, and
on what does dogma stand ?

To this question I offer an answer in this volume.
Unless Theology can be based on facts anterior to text or
society, to facts in our own nature, ever new, but also ever
old, it can never be placed in an unassailable position.


For if Christianity be true, it must l)e true to liuman
nature and to liuman tliought. It must supply that to
which Loth turn, hut which they cannot unassisted

" Kevelation," says a reviewer of my first volume, in the
Edinhurgli Courant, " could never itself be made available
or useful to man unless man were able to test its claims
and recognise its adaptability to complete and satisfy the
highest aspirations and the deepest longings of our nature.
We start from a sense of insufficiency, a feeling that at
present we are not what we should be ; that our nature
desires, and is therefore capable of, fuller development and
a higher career. And to every individual man the idti-
mate test of the Eevelation which speaks in him, though
external, is just whether or not it will meet this imper-
fection, whether or not it will supply a positive to the
negative in himself, whether it will or will not complement
all his deficiencies. Eevelation does, or claims to do, this,
and Christianity especially does so, by revealing the
Infinite as united to the Finite, as one with it in nature,
and, therefore, that the home of the Finite only is in the
Infinite. The Incarnation brings home this great lesson
to human life and human history ; and as it only is
the Infinite which can meet and prove the sufficient
complement of the Finite, so it is by the latter recog-
nizing its essential unitv with the former, that all its
wants and longings are satisfied, "and that the Eevela-
tion is seen to be fully adequate, and inexhaustible in
its contents."


In tlie preceding volume we traced the origin of the
multitudinous religions of the ancient and modern world
to their roots in the soul of man. " All these religions set
themselves to respond to some craving of the heart or head
of man, to satisfy some instinct, dimly felt and ill read ;
and ho\\'ever various, however contradictory they were in
their expression, they did fulfil their office in some sort,
else they would never have lasted a day. They differ,
unquestionably, according to the stage of thought-develop-
ment of the several peoples and nations which embraced
them; but their differences ought, if man is progressive,
to be capable of arrangement in a series of progTCSsively
advancing truths."

It has been made clear that one truth was conspicuous
here — say in Mosaism, that another truth was prominent
there — say in Hellenism ; it has been shewn that each
religion was imperfect because it was partial, it maintained
only one truth or one aspect of the Truth ; and it was this
partiality which was the ruin of each.

Tliat which mankind wanted, and "wants still, is not new
truths, but the co-ordination of all aspects of the truth.
In every religion of the world is to be found distorted or
exaggerated, some great truth, otherwise it would never
have obtained foothold ; every religious revolution has been
the struggle of thought to gain another stej) in the ladder
that reaches to heaven.

That which we ask of Eevelation is that it shall take up
all these varieties into itself, not that it shall supplant
them ; and shew how that at which each of them aimed


however dimly and indistinctly, has its interpretation and
realization in the objective truth brought to light by
Eevelation. Hence, we shall be able to recognize that
religion to be the true one, which is the complement
and corrective of all the wanderings of the religious
instinct in its efforts to provide objects for its own

Starting from the great facts and laws of human nature
and the universe, I have shewn that in them is contained
the whole scheme of Christianity. I have shewn that the
law of the universe is infinite analysis infinitely synthesized.
I have shewn the existence everywhere of an antinomy.
I have argued that evil and error are the negation of one
factor in this antinomy ; that, for instance, is evil which
synthesizes without projecting individualities by careful
analysis. In what consisted the error of the ancient reli-
gions of the world ? In the negation of the oj)posed facts.
In what consists the adaptability of Christianity to the
indefinite perfection of humanity ? In its conformity to
the natural law, by insisting on the co-ordination of all
truths, by consecrating at once solidarity and individu-
ality, in maintaining unity in the midst of particulariza-

The drowning man may be saved by a plank or a rope,
but there are circumstances in which plank or rope can
not avail him. How much better for him to have learned
that in himself is the principle of buoyancy, and then rope
and plank will be serviceable though not indispensable.
Scripture and Tradition have been the rope and plank to


man drowning in a flood of doubt. Scripture has yielded,
Tradition lias given way ; — must he sink ? By no means.
The principle of Christianity is within him, let him strike
out and gain the shore.

In anticipation of hostile criticism from certain religious
periodicals and journals,^ I must distinctly repudiate
having undertaken to give an exhaustive account of Chris-
tian dogma. If the Incarnation be a divine fact, ten
thousaud generations of men will not exhaust the truths
it contains. I have chosen certain aspects of Catholic
doctrine for illustration and elucidation, but I do not
pretend to have given all. This applies especially to the
chapters on the Atonement and on Immortality. And in
speaking of the evidence for the Incarnation, in the
Scriptures, I "wish it to be distinctly understood that I am
examining it from an impartial point of view, such as
would be taken in a court of law, and that I in no way
deny their inspiration when I dispute the cogency of their
evidence. I admit, for argument's sake, every objection
raised against their authority ; — objections not groundless
nor necessarily hostile ; and I shew that nevertheless the
evidence for the Incarnation is too strong to be overthrown.

I am not aware of any l^ook having taken the line I
have adopted ; but I thankfully acknowledge a debt of

^ The Roman "Catholic World," the high Anglican "Church Review,"
and the extreme Protestant " Press and S. James' Chronicle," have agreed
to denounce me as a gross materialist, a thorough rationalist, and an
undisguised infidel.


gratitude I owe to writers wlio have treated in part of a
system 1 have taken as a whole. Especially am I indebted
to one of the most original thinkers of the Galilean Church,
the Abbe Gabriel, especially for much in Chap. IT,, also to
the Calvinist pastor, M. Charles Secretan, to the Chevalier
Bunsen, to M. Thiercelin, to j\I. de Strada, and to several
of the German Hegelianists on the right and on the left. I
confess that to Feuerbach I owe a debt of inestimable grati-
tude. Feeling about, in uncertainty, for the ground, and
finding everywhere shifting sands, Feuerbach cast a sudden
blaze into the darkness and disclosed to me the way.

Far be it from me to make any pretence to originality or
research that are not mine. I may call this book the
history of my own religious difficulties and searchings after
the truth. That these ditticidties are shared by thousands
in England and abroad, I am well aware ; that my book
may produce conviction and rest in other minds is my
highest aim.

I have said that I make no pretence to originality.
Every intellectual work is a filiation of the individual and
society, of the past and the present. Our ideas are formed
by assimilating the thoughts, the observations of others,
and that part which is really our own often escapes us.
The child is occasionally strangely unlike its parents, and
the itlea formed in our minds is sometimes very different
from the ideas from A\'hich it was engendered.

S. B.-G.

Dalton, Thirsk.




Progress in Nature general — Its law the emancipation of individuality —
The object of instinct — Animal instincts and Intelligence in man —
Consequent Antinomy — Happiness the signal when the instincts are
satisfied — The antinomy between reason and sentiment — The antinomy
between faith and reason — Reason i;nable to act without axioms —
Antinomy in morals and politics — and in religion — Natural religion in-
conclusive—The existence of God is incapable of demonstration — The
inductive and deductive methods, are usually opposed — Opposition
of analysis and synthesis — Science analytic and religion synthetic —
Conciliation possible ...... Page 1



The conciliation of antinomies a law of the universe — Man the union of
antinomical forms — The idea of the Indefinite — conciliates religion and
philosophy — speciality leads to error — the method of Hegel — applied to
man — Life is motion between ever-moving poles — Advance toward the
absolute — The existence of God follows the acceptance of the Hegelian
axiom — The three moments — the three phases of the Ideal — The good,
the true and the beautiful inseparable — The application to Cliristianity
of the Hegelian method — Its fertility . . . Page 22



Truth is relative— The antipodes of truths — antagonistic ideas — the anti-
nomy in man — Egoism and sympathj- — "Contradictories radically


exclude one another" an exploded axiom — The centre of gravity of
Truths — The Ideal conciliates all — Conciliation of reason and senti-
ment — No absolute falsehood — Error the opposition of one relative
truth against another to the exclusion of the latter — All truths positive
— Negations are nothing — Private judgment the negation of other
judgments — Private judgment the negation of absolute Truth — The
proper function of private judgment — It is the resolution of what is
true to the individual self — Universal truth the combination of all
appreciations of truth . , . . . Page 41



Eight and its relation to Liberty — diihculty in defining Eight — Is right a
rational or a sentimental verity? — Difficulty of establishing it on a
rational basis— attempt of Hobbes — of Spinoza — of Grotius — of Kant —
of Krause — confusion between right and will or force — Eight based on
duty — a sentimental verity — Liberty alienable and inalienable — Eight
the faculty of realizing our nature — Possibility of alienati?ig our right —
Consequences which flow from the admission of the dogmatic basis of
right — 1. All rights are equal — 2. All infringement of rights is im-
moral — 3. All primitive rights are inalienable — 4. Primary rights are
not mutually antagonistic — The primary rights of Man — 1. The right
of personal freedom — 2. of good reputation — 3. of liberty of conscience —
4. of expressing his convictions — 5. of appropriation — All these rights
dogmatic ..... . . Page, 55



The physical condition of man renders society necessarj- — The Social In-
stinct — Social organizations the product of the ideas of right and autho-
rity — The family, the first society — Tlie idea of parental authority a
prolongation of the idea of right — That authority ceases when the child
has become a man — for then its rights are equal to its father's rights —
Two kinds of authority, Moral authority and effective authority —
Moral authority must rest on God — necessitates the hypothesis of free
will — Effective authorit}' must derive from man— its mode of exercise
compulsion — not to be confused with Sovereignty — Sovereignty, the
right to violate rights with impunity — Sovereignty only possible, logi-
cally, if God be denied — Attempt to subordinate sovereignty to moral


authority impossible — The only possible mode of preserving moral au-
thority and effective authority intact is to distinguish them, and derive
the one from God, the other from men — Effective authority not neces-
sarily immoral ...... Payc 72



The subject of the preceding chapters — The First Hypothesis : There is a
First Cause self-existent, absolutely free, the Creator of the world —
The motive of creation not necessity nor duty — To be sought in the crea-
tion, not in the Creator — The creature is the object of creation — The
motive of creation is Love — pure love unmixed with selfishness — Second
hypothesis : God has made man in His image, i.e. with a free will —
Man's duty is to distinguish himself, and thus constitute his personality
— He cannot do so by denying God — He can only do so by simultane-
ously distinguishing God and preserving the link between himself and
God — This link is love — Recapitulation of the argument . Page 89



The difficulty of obtaining a rational idea of God — The idea traverses two
stages, one constructive, the other destructive — The first process, the
idealizing of God — The second process, the emancipation of the idea
from all relations — The true rational idea of God one of negation — The
rational idea opposed to the Ideal — Are philosophy and religion neces-
sarily antagonistic ? — The hypothesis of the Incarnation conciliates
both — Christ is the Absolute and the Ideal — conciliates reason and
sentiment — Belief and Reason necessary to one another — No system of
thouglit without a postulate — The postulate of the Incarnation may be
turned into a demonstration — Elucidation of the difficulty of identify-
ing the Absolute with the Ideal — and of considering God as a Person

Page, 99



The advantage of the Hegelian trichotomy — dread of Hegelianism — unrea-
sonable — Hegel's method destined to reconcile philosophy to religion —
The finite and the infinite supposed to be irreconcileable — The Tncarna-


tion consequently rejected as cabsurd — The true idea of the infinite — of
space and time — The ideas of space and time inapplicable to God — ■
relative only — The Word the equation between the Infinite and the
finite — He is the Mediator as well .... Taije 115



Private Judgment the basis of Certainty — Man accepts some truths by
conviction, other truths on authority —Historical evidence always dis-
putable — evidence of an historical religion especially so — The evidence
of miracles unsatisfactory — Prophecy no evidence to the divinity of
Christ — Scriptural evidence weak — 1. Scripture lays no claim to inspi-
ration — 2. It is full of inaccuracies — 3. And of discrepancies — 4. Un-
certainty of authorship— Difficulty of proving from Scripture the Divi-
nity of Christ — The weakness of Protestantism — The airtbority of the
Church — The evidence of our own Nature — The legitimate position of
the Bible ....... Facje, 128



Catholicism the religion of inclusion — a consequence of the Incarnation —
The conciliation of Eeason and Faith — of Individualism and Solidarity
The conciliation of all philosophies — of all Keligions — of Paganism — of
Sectarianism — Catholicism demands universal toleration, its op]iosite is
intolerance and persecution ..... Page 148



The affirmation of self and of God two duties — Mediaeval Catholicism
affirmed God but neglected the affirmation of self — Protestantism the
affirmation of self — Division and opposition the source of all misery and
error — Distinction not division — Christian ethics consist in the affirma-
tion of distinctions without division and opposition — The distinction of
God and His relations by meditation, prayer, and worship — Liither de-
nied these modes of affirming God — The affirmation of ourselves depends
on our affirmation of God — Immorality the division between higher and


lower natures — Duty to our neiglihours consists in recognition of their
rights and non-interference with their liberties— The negation of moral
duty by Luther — He was disposed to sanction adultery — The evil of
opposing religion to morality — Calvin denied free-will and therefore
denied duty — The Eeformers denied the holiness of God — The system of
negation and division carried on — Deification of negation — Opposition
of the Church to God — Comte — Neo-Hegelian opposition of man to
man — and negation of the Absolute — Subjective Christ opposed to his-
torical Christ — and negation of the reality of the personal Christ — The
Protestant spirit one of universal negation and opposition — it has
opposed all truths, religions, and philosophies, scientific and sesthetical

Page 167



The will the individualizing faculty — Individual will and collective will^
The tendency of society to destroy individuality — Yet individuality is
necessary for social advance — The rights of man were ignored before
the appearance of Christianity — The slave had no rights logically or
really — The poor had no place — The woman had no rights — nor had
the child — The dogmatic basis of right laid down by Christianity —
Christianity a social revolution — Testimony of the Apostles to its liberal
character — Equality in the Church — The union of Church and State
interfered with the emancipation of individuality — The doctrine of
equality of rights ignored in the Middle Ages — Exaggeration of
authority to the annihilation of liberty — Da Vinci freed science from
authority and made observation the test of truth — Lirther made the in-
dividual judgment the criterium of religious truths — Descartes made it
the basis of philosophic certaintj' — Rousseau founded morality on the
individual conscience — The French Revolution established politics on
individual right ...... Page 191



The Ideal Man must have a double aspect, individual and social — The social
Christ is the Church — a necessary consequence of the Incarnation — The
characteristics of the individual Christ must also characterize the social
Christ — The marks of the Church — the marks also of its members — The
Communion of Saints a consequence — The organization of the Church —


The object to be secured hy organization is the preservation of all rights
— The Church contains the ideally best organization — The election of
bishops — essential to the welfare of the Church — the assenildy of
councils also essential — The State interferes and assumes the right of
nominating bishops — The history of the struggle in France — Had not
the rights of the Church been invaded there would have been no
Papacy, no ecclesiastical tyranny, no Reformation — Summary of argu-
ments and conclusion . , . , . Page 219



Moral and eflective authority mutually destructive — A theocracy de-
structive of tlie dogma of free-will — The Papacy and its results — Sub-
ordination of temporal to spiritual authority — The separation of spiri-
tual and temporal authorities — Temporal authority is justifiable when
exercised in its own domain — but immoral when it invades religion-
Spiritual authority can only devolve from God — Man cannot delegate
it — because man cannot make another represent God to him — No moral
obedience due to the temporal power when it invades spiritual rights —
The representation of authority in the Church necessary — The priest-
hood necessary — Confusion of functions between priest, magistrate, and
soldier ruinous to authority — Authority lodged in the whole Church —
but devolves from Christ — it is absolute and it is limited — Ecclesiastical
authority must be confined to the declaration of religious truths — In-
fallibility resides in the whole body — Fallibility in negation — Are mem-
bers of branch churches bound by negations? — The duties of Catholics

Page 243



The relation between man and God — Deism admits the relation of origin
alone — Pantheism confuses the factors — Christianity preserves the
factors and determines the relation — Man free to accept life, reason and
grace, or to reject them all or severally — Protestantism vitiates the re-
lations — Catholicism maintains them- — The mode of God's operation
the same always — Vitally, intellectually, morally He acts mediately —
the medium material — The sacramental system the materialization of
gi-ace— Grace given at every time of life to meet all necessities —
Loss to the ignorant through the mutilation of the sacramental system

Page 265




Prayer the affirmation of tlie link between God and man — affirms grace —
Grace must coincide witli the law of the Incarnation — An historical
Christ does not satisfy the needs of man — Man needs a Christ immanent

Online LibraryS. (Sabine) Baring-GouldThe origin and development of religious belief (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 30)