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vested in one man. When this one man says, ' I am tradi-
tion/ the last restrictions on autocracy have been removed,
for the ' living voice of the Church ' is independent of the
past. Thus the principle of authority, in completing its
evolution, turns against and destroys itself. At the same
time, the regula fidei, in the hands of some bold reformers,
has become independent of existential fact. The only
authority is the course of history, and the Church is a
Proteus who justifies each metamorphosis in turn by the
plea II faut vivre. These two developments may be said
to constitute a reductio ad absurdum of Church authority
as an independent ground of Faith.

We have now to consider the Protestant alternative
to the infallible Church the infallible Book. ' The Bible,'
said Chillingworth, ' is the religion of Protestants.' 1

Plato long ago exposed the necessary limitations of the
written word as a guide. * When they are once written
down,' he says, ' words are tumbled about anywhere

1 The words are written on his tombstone, but they do not deserve to be ,
perpetuated, for they are false. Protestantism is the democracy of religion.
Not the Bible, but belief in the inspiration of the inditidual is the religion of

108 FAITH [CH.

among those who may or may not understand them, and
know not to whom they should reply, to whom not ; and
if they are maltreated or abused, they have no parent to
protect them ; and they cannot protect or defend them-
selves.' l There is another kind of writing, he goes on,
graven on the tablets of the mind, of which the written
word is no more than an image. This kind is alive ; it
has a soul ; and it can defend itself. The wisdom of these
utterances has been amply proved by the history of the
doctrine of Inspiration in the Christian Church. 2

It was not till long after the^Captivity that the religion,
of TsFael became the religion of a Book. . While prophetism
flourished, the living word of the prophet was more than
the written scroll ; but no sooner had the fount of
prophecy began to run dry than rigid and mechanical
views of inspiration began to be applied to the sacred
literature. The canonisation of the Law, which began in
621, was accomplished for all time in 444 B.C. The histori-
cal books, called the ' former prophets,' obtained nearly
their final form during the exile, but the text was not
inviolable till long afterwards. The list of prophetical
books, the 'latter prophets,' was closed about 200 B.C.,
according to Cornill. 3 The third section of the Canon
contains second century writings, but they were all
supposed to be much earlier. The Canon was practi-
cally settled more than a century before the birth of
our Lord. 4 It excluded certain books, like Ecclesi-
asticus, which revealed their late origin, while admitting
the pseudonymous Daniel and Ecclesiastes. The Book of

1 Plato, Phaedrus, p. 275.

2 There is a remarkable echo of this passage in Milton (Christian Doctrine
i. p. 30). ' It is difficult to conjecture the purpose of Providence in committing
the writings of the New Testament to such uncertain and varying guardian-
ship, unless it were to teach us that the Spirit which is given to us ii a more
certain guide than Scripture, whom therefore it is our duty to follow.'

* Introduction to the Canonical Books of the Old Testament, p. 476. Cf.
also Encyclopedia Biblica, p. 665.

* So Bishop Kyle thinks j but no certainty has been arrived at.


Wisdom can have been excluded only because it was
written in Greek. The scribes seem to have acted on the
belief that the age of inspired prophecy was now past,
and not to have purposely admitted any recent work.
The grandson of the son of Sirach does not dare to claim
for his grandfather's book so much inspiration as the latter
clearly believed himself to have possessed. The Canon
was being closed.

But the rigid doctrine of inspiration was not formulated
at once, as is shown by the state of the text of the LXX. 1
Only by degrees were the other Scriptures raised to the same
position as the Law.

Meanwhile, the allegorical method of interpreting
Scripture was at once making the written word more
august, and removing objections to belief in its divine
character. Hatch has shown that this method is Greek
in its origin, and goes back as far as the fifth century B.C. 2
Plato deprecates it. * It would take a long and laborious
and not very happy lifetime,' says Socrates, to find the
allegorical value of all the old myths. It was, however,
pursued by apologists for the Pagan legends ; and when
the Alexandrian Jews adopted Greek culture, they found
the same method serviceable in meeting objections to
their own sacred literature. Philo is our great instance of
this, which he calls * the method of the Greek mysteries.'
In his hands ' every living figure who passes across the
stage of Scripture ceases for all practical purposes to be
himself, and becomes a dim personification. Moses is
intelligence ; Aaron is speech ; Enoch is repentance ; /
Noah righteousness. Abraham is virtue -acquired by
learning ; Isaac is innate virtue ; Jacob is virtue obtained
by struggle ; Lot is sensuality ; Ishmael is sophistry ;
Esau is rude disobedience ; Leah is patient virtue ; Rachel
innocence.' 3 Thus the whole Bible becomes an insipid

1 Sanday, Inspiration, p. 262. 2 Hibbert Lectures, 1888, p. 59.

Farrar, History of Interpretation, p. 145.

110 FAITH [CH.

ethical and metaphysical romance, the interpretation of
which is either an arbitrary fancy or a learned science.

The Apostolic Fathers are almost equally absurd in their
exegesis ; but they propound no theory of inspiration.
Justin Martyr is the first to use the figure of a man playing
on a harp, which he says, is like the manner hi which the
Divine Spirit uses righteous men, to make what sound he
will. 1 The use of allegory was first elaborated (with reference
to Christian literature) by the Gnostics, and is opposed by
Tertullian. But it took firm root in Alexandria ; and this
was one of the most characteristic differences between the
Alexandrian school and that of Antioch which discouraged
allegorism. Irenaeus advocates the most mechanical
view of inspiration ; Tertullian lays more stress on the
character of the medium chosen. 2 Origen's principles of
exegesis permit him to acknowledge many discrepancies
in the New Testament. There are many incidents in
the Gospel, he says plainly, which are not literally true.
As the evolution of Catholicism proceeded, the authority
of the Church, and of the ' tradition ' guarded by the
Church, grew steadily at the expense of the Bible. The
authority of the latter was not disputed, but it was
ignored ; the majority had small opportunities of even
knowing what the Scriptures contained. The Schoolmen
improved upon Origen's allegorism by finding a fourfold
sense in Holy Scripture literal, moral, allegorical, and
anagogical. Their subservience to Patristic exegesis is quite
Talmudic . Alcuin says that he has written ' cautissimo stylo
providens ne quid contrarium Patrum sensibus ponerem.'

So matters stood when the Reformation came. By the
Reformers allegorism was attacked at once, especially in
England. Tyndale writes very sensibly : ' We may

1 Athenagoras, Leg. 9, uses the same figure. Hippolytus, too, retains it*
biit guards it against the error that the prophet loses his senses while under

2 Of. Bethune Baker, Christian Doctrine, p. 46.


borrow similitudes or allegories from the Scriptures, and
apply them to our purposes ; which allegories are no
sense of the Scriptures, but free things besides the
Scriptures altogether in the liberty of the Spirit. Such
allegory proveth nothing ; it is a mere simile. God is a
Spirit, and all His words are spiritual and His literal
sense is spiritual.' l So Colet says : ' The New Testament
has for the most part the sense that appears on the surface ;
nor is one thing said and another meant, but the very
thing is meant which is said, and the sense is wholly

In Germany, Luther also pronounced against allegorism,
and with his habitual intemperance of language described
allegory as mere ' monkey-tricks,' ' dirt ' or ' scum.' We
may follow St. Paul's example, he says, and occasionally
use allegories as spangles and pretty ornaments, but
that is all.

This return to sane methods of interpretation was
dearly purchased. The allegorical method had become
very futile in the hands of the schoolmen ; but for Origen
it was a means of accommodation by which moral and
other difficulties in Holy Scripture could be set aside.
The theory of verbal inspiration was far less difficult
under medieval Catholicism than for a modern Pro-
testant, for the literal sense could be disregarded in
favour of some fanciful, but edifying interpretation.
The combination of the literal sense with verbal in-
spiration first appeared at the Reformation ; 2 and it
has been the great weakness of Protestantism ever since.
Of course, the system could not be consistently applied.
Luther himself, very naturally but very inconsistently,
introduced a new allegorism. His six rules of hermen-
eutics are : (1) necessity of grammatical knowledge ;
(2) importance of taking into consideration times and

1 Farrar, History of Interpretation, p. 300.

8 Cf. Harnack, History of Dogma, vol. vii. p. 247.

112 FAITH [OH.

circumstances ; (So St. Augustine says very well :
' distingue tempora et concordabis Scripturas.') (3) neces-
sity of observing the context ; (4) need of Faith and
spiritual illumination ; (5) need of keeping the ' proportion
of Faith ' ; (6) all Scripture must be explained with refer-
ence to Christ. 1 This last canon comes in very oddly, and
necessitates feats of exegesis that are quite worthy of Philo,
Origen, or the Rabbis. Even so, he could not find Christ
equally in all the books ; and in consequence he adopted a
very bold tone in respect to some of them, not only refusing
to believe that Solomon wrote the Canticles, but stigma-
> tising St. James as ' a right strawy epistle.' The Apoca-
lypse he believed not to be inspired, and Jude to be a late
second-hand document. This fearless criticism contrasts
oddly with his reverence for the letter of Scripture, 2 and
points to the construction of a new Canon, composed on
critical grounds. The Pentateuch he of course accepted,
but doubted the Mosaic authorship, and regarded this part
of the Bible as of very little authority for Christians. ' We
will neither see nor hear Moses ; for Moses was only given
to the Jewish people, and does not concern us Gentiles and
Christians.' In fact, we can only describe Luther's atti-
tude towards the Scriptures as a mass of inconsistencies.
His theory of inspiration was mainly a residuum of his
Catholic training. On the other hand, his view of Faith
is really independent of this belief, ^being based on the
subjective assurance of the Christian consciousness\ This
consciousness is therefore a parallel authority with the
Scriptures. The Word of God is to be found partly in the
Bible, partly in the consciousness of the Christian. He
really cares little for any part of the Bible which cannot be
1 referred to Christ.'
Calvin is a much greater expositor than Luther ; but his

* Farrar, p. 332.

a ' One letter of Scripture,' he said, ' is of more consequence than heaven or



view of the authority of Scripture is even more ambiguous.
He seems to admit of no difference in value between the
various parts of Scripture, while at the same time he asserts
verbal inspiration, and yet rejects with scorn the whole
ceremonial law.

Meanwhile, the Council of Trent was defining its theory
of Inspiration. It is a remarkable fact that up to this
time the Canon had never been fixed. Not only were the
books of the Apocrypha included in the Old Testament, in
disagreement with the Hebrew Canon, to which the Re-
formers reverted, but other books, such as the Shepherd
of Hermas, were included in some manuscripts in use. The
Council rejected these, but rehabilitated the Apocrypha,
and declared that Hebrews was written by St. Paul. With
regard to the authority of Holy Scripture, the Council
declared : ' That truth and discipline are contained in the
books of Scripture and in unwritten traditions, which,
having been received from Christ's own lips by the Apostles,
or transmitted as it were manually by the Apostles them-
selves, under the dictation of the Holy Spirit, have come
down to us.' Thus Scripture and tradition are put side
by side as parallel authorities. This was a new thing, and
was no doubt devised to defeat the Protestants. The
authority of the Church is not mentioned in this sentence,
but assuredly is not forgotten. It was enacted that ' every
one shall be obliged to adhere to the sense of Holy Scripture
to which the holy mother Church adheres, to whom it
belongs to judge of the true sense and interpretation of
Holy Scripture, and no one shall dare to set himself up
against the unanimous consent of the Fathers.' It was not
said how the opinion of mother Church is to be arrived at :
the time was not come for openly proclaiming that the
Pcpe is the Church.

The history of the Roman Church since the Reformation
has been a record of the constantly growing weight ascribed
to tradition, at the expense of the written word. A fully


114 FAITH [CH.

developed traditionalism has no need of an inspired book,
which might, indeed, have been very inconvenient but for
the prerogative claimed by the Church, that is, by the Pope
and his Council, of interpreting the Bible exactly as they
pleased, free from any questioning of their decisions. But
this gift of infallible interpretation is not often needed,
for the Scriptures are too little known, and too little valued,
in the modern Roman Church, to enter into serious com-
petition with Catholic tradition.

It might be supposed that the Roman Church would
have seen and utilised the immense advantage which their
system possesses, as compared with those of the Protestant
bodies, in being independent of any theory of inspiration.
It might be supposed that they would have granted to
their students a liberty in dealing with problems of Biblical
criticism greater than has been generally conceded in
Protestant Churches ; and that they would thus have been
able to claim that Catholicism, on this side, puts far less
strain on the intellect than orthodox Protestantism. They
might have taken this course without in any way endanger-
ing the real foundations on which the authority of their
system rests. Such, however, has not been their policy.
Since the accession of the present Pope, the most uncritical
notions about the Bible have been reaffirmed and made
binding on all Catholics. The books of the Bible, it is
declared, were all written by their traditional authors.
The Pentateuch did not gradually grow into its present
form. The Patristic expositors were superior in learning
and piety, and in their methods of exegesis, to the scholars
of the nineteenth century. No concession whatever is
made to ' Modernism ' on this side, any more than on any

The Pope's advisers are perhaps not so ill-advised as
most Englishmen think. The expostulations of the intellect
have already been so thoroughly trampled on in that Church
that a small additional burden is not worth considering ;


while if Liberalism is allowed to gain a foothold anywhere,
it may be difficult in the future to say, * Thus far shalt thou
go and no further.' In any case the result is that in the
Roman Church, though no independent authority remains
to the Scriptures, its members are tied to an even more
rigid and irrational theory of inspiration than that which
has prevailed in the Reformed Churches.

Among the German Protestants the comparative free-
dom of Luther's own teaching about the Bible soon gave
way to an iron, or wooden, scholasticism. In their contro-
versy with Rome they needed a rival oracle, and found it
in the Bible. Bibliolatry was soon in full flood. To speak
of solecisms in the style of the New Testament writers was
blasphemy against the Holy Ghost. Hellenistic Greek
was not poor Greek ; it was holy Greek a form of speech
peculiar to God. 1 The vowel points and accents of the
Hebrew Bible were directly inspired. Not a single word
of the Gospel narrative comes short of absolute accuracy.
Moreover, magical powers came to be attributed to the
Bible. Just as some humanists had consulted sortes
Vergiliance, so both the Wesley brothers advocated this
mode of divination with a Bible when in difficulty.

The Lutheran mystics, Frank and Weigel, protested in
vain against this bibliolatry. * It is an abuse and super-
stition,' says Frank, ' to treat Scripture as every one is in
the habit of doing, to make it into an oracle, as though we
were no longer to ask counsel of the Holy Spirit, no longer
to resort to God about anything, but only to Scripture.'
And Weigel wrote : ' Knowledge must well out from with-
in, and must not be introduced merely by a book, for this
is in vain. It is the most mischievous deception when that
which is most important is rejected. We put out a person's
own eye, and then try to persuade him that he ought to
see with some one else's eye.' 2

1 Farrar, p. 374.

2 Cf . Pfleiderer, Philosophy of Religion, i. p. 11.

116 FAITH [CH.

So Protestantism rapidly fell back under the tutelage of
the weak and beggarly elements, and became, like its rival,
a religion of authority. The nemesis has been severe. Our
false views of inspiration gave us many searchings of heart
during the last half of the nineteenth century ; they
survive to cripple the usefulness of the noble Evangelical
party, which in this country still shows an unfortunate
antipathy to modern Biblical scholarship ; and they have
alienated an incalculable amount of devotion and energy
which ought to have been at the service of the Church.

The theory of verbal inspiration is indeed more incapable
of defence than the theory of an infallible Head of the
Church. The writers of the sacred literature certainly
make no such claim for themselves ; nor can their in-
errancy be proved by internal evidence. The Bible, in
fact, needs another authority to guarantee its authority ;
and where can Protestants find such a guarantee ? In the
Roman Church, as we have seen, the Canon was not finally
fixed till the Council of Trent, and the Vatican now is
content to enjoin the acceptance of current traditions as
to authorship, etc., with a contemptuous disregard for the
weight of evidence. In earlier times it was necessary to
use one's private judgment, giving due weight to authority.
Augustine says : * In regard to the Canonical Scriptures
let him follow the authority of as many as possible of the
Catholic Churches, among which, of course, are those
which are of Apostolic foundation, or were thought worthy
of having Epistles addressed to them. He will therefore
follow this rule as to the Canonical Scriptures, to prefer
those which are accepted by all the Catholic Churches to
those which are accepted only by some ; and among those
which are not accepted by all to prefer those which the
greater and morj important Churches accept to those
which are accepted by fewer Churches, or those of less
authority.' l At this period, authenticity was rightly re-
1 Augustine, De Doctr. Christi, ii. p. 8.


garded as of small moment. Jerome says that it does not
matter who wrote the Epistle to the Hebrews, since in any
case it is the work of a Church- writer, and is constantly
read in the Churches. 1 The acceptance or rejection of
doubtful books was largely determined by their agreement
or disagreement with the beliefs of the Church, and with
undisputed Canonical writings.

The Reformers could not accept the living Catholic
Church as the authority for Biblical inspiration, nor did it
occur to them to have recourse to the verdict of the un-
divided Church that distinctively Anglican theory. To
judge the Bible * like any other book ' would have been fatal
to the position in which they wished to place it, as an
oracle to be obeyed without question. Accordingly, they
fell back, for the most part, on what they called the testi-
monium Spiritus Sancti, which for them was not the voice
of the Church, but the feeling of assurance and comfort
awakened in the heart of the believer by the perusal of the
sacred pages. The Westminster Confession thus states
the grounds for believing in the authority of Scripture :
* We may be moved and induced by the testimony of the
Church to a high and reverent esteem of Holy Scripture, and
the heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine,
the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, the
scope of the whole (which is to give glory to God), the full
discovery it makes of the only way of man's salvation,
the many other incomparable excellences, and the entire
perfection thereof, are arguments whereby it doth abun-
dantly evidence itself to be the Word of God ; yet notwith-
standing, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible
truth and divine authority thereof is from the inward
work of the Holy Spirit, bearing witness by and with the
word in our hearts.'

Now this is an admirable statement of what revelation
through the Bible really is. The ' testimony of the Holy

1 Sanday, Inspiration, p. 52.

118 FAITH [ca

Spirit ' is the response of our inmost personality to the
external stimulus supplied by the inspired literature. This
testimony I have argued to be the primary ground of
Faith. It is ' God working in us,' and working through
concrete experiences of various kinds, as it appears that He
always does work. But this is not a theory of inspiration
which can either erect Scripture into an oracle for deter-
mining off-hand difficult matters of conduct, or which can
cut the knot of critical problems. The Holy Spirit testifies
that the character and teaching of Jesus Christ are divine,
and that we may follow Him and believe hi Him with
perfect confidence. It certainly does not testify that the
Mosaic account of creation is scientifically correct, or that
the book of Daniel was written in the sixth century B.C.

The theory of a written oracle is, in fact, another instance
of the almost universal tendency to arrest the normal
development of Faith at a certain point. We need a light
to show us our way, and it is granted to us ; but then,
instead of using it, we shut our eyes and ask to be led like
blind men. Clement saw this very clearly when he defined
Faith as o-vrro/xos y^wo-is, and spoke of it as an expedient
for ' men in a hurry.' That definition would disparage
Faith, if he had not added that knowledge is n-icm?
firicTTTfjfioviKTJ. It is true that we must act before we know,
but knowledge will come by acting, if we keep our eyes
open. If Faith meant belief in the efficacy of magic, it
would not lead to knowledge.

The theory of verbal Inspiration is essentially static. It
assumes that revelation is permanent only in its effects.
Also, it admits of no degrees in inspiration. Nothing can
be more contrary either to the modern way of reading
history, or to the opening words of the Epistle to the
Hebrews : ' God, having of old time spoken unto the
fathers in the prophets by divers portions and in divers
manners, hath at the end of these days spoken unto us in
His Son.' Revelation is gradual, progressive, and admits of


degrees. It is personal. It is given through men who are
able to receive it, and in proportion as they are able to
receive it. Prophecy is conditioned by the spiritual
capacity of the prophet, not by the arbitrary choice of God,
selecting no matter whom as His mouthpiece. The true
prophet is not inspired when in a state of frenzy or ecstasy,
like the Delphic oracle. (We find in the early Church a
very decided dislike of ecstatic prophecy ; it is discouraged
already by St. Paul.) The inspired man is he who sees the
world the world of his own knowledge and experience
more nearly as God sees it than other men do. He inter-
prets events according to their deepest meaning. We may
say, if we choose, that he sees what he sees sub specie
aeternitatis. He certainly so interprets what to him is the
present as to throw a flood of light on what to him is the
future. But plenary inspiration has never been given to

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Online LibraryWilliam Ralph IngeFaith and its psychology → online text (page 10 of 21)