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any mere man. Inspired writers see further into the nature
of things than other men ; but they have their limitations.
The reporters of Jesus Christ are obviously unable to under-
stand all that He wished to impart ; He is driven again
and again to remonstrate with those who heard Him.
' fools and slow of heart ! ' ' Are ye so without under-
standing ? ' We are driven every now and then to criticise
even the Gospels from themselves, or rather from our know-
ledge of Christ and His Gospel ; e.g. it is not likely that,
after declining to give the * sign ' which the multitude
demanded, He at once proceeded to refer to Jonah and the
whale, and promised to give them a sign of the same order.
It is not likely that He ever said, ' Tell it unto the Church,'
when no Church existed. He can hardly have used the
expression, ' From the days of John the Baptist until now,'
when He Himself lived in the days of John the Baptist.
No ; there is no infallibility of this kind about the sacred
records. The men were inspired, but they were not raised
above the intellectual limitations of their times and of
their own endowments. Christ never intended to shut up

120 FAITH [CH.

His Gospel in a book. The Spirit of Truth was to be the
main factor in the Faith of the Church. He was to inter-
pret and call to remembrance the deposit of oral teaching
enshrined in the Gospels, but also to develop it in a manner
which would have been unintelligible to the first disciples.
The Christian view of inspiration, so long as it is true to the
intentions of Christ, is dynamic ; and this involves a
continuous moral and intellectual activity on the part of
those who receive the revelation.

Revelation and inspiration are the same thing viewed
from different standpoints. 1 Revelation is the word we
use when we view the matter from the side of God, inspira-
tion when we view it from the side of man. 2 And both
must be regarded as living, active processes. It is not
possible to receive revelation passively, whether it comes
through a book or in any other manner. And in order to
receive it actively, in such a way as to make it our own
and respond to it, we must bring to it the best of ourselves,
the reasonable service of all our faculties. The more
certain we are that the revelation is divine, the more
convinced we ought to be that it makes an exacting demand
upon us to understand and profit by it. God does not
throw His best gifts at our heads, nor does He give us any-
thing to save us the trouble of finding it. At the same
time, we are not given conundrums to guess in matters of
vital importance. We may accept Chrysostom's maxim
(Comm. in 2 Thess.) that ' all necessary things are clear *
(TTOLVTO. ra dvayKala 677 A.a), though certainly not the pre-
ceding word that * everything in Scripture is clear and
straightforward.' And we shall miss much if we are
satisfied with the 'plain, necessary things.' Erasmus's

1 Gwatkin, The Knowledge of God, vol. i. p. 168.

* Dr. Fairbairn, Christ in Modern Theology, p. 496 seq., reverses this.
'God inspires, man reveals. Inspiration is the process by which God gives ;
revelation is the mode or form in which man embodies what he has received.'
This is to use 'revelation' in a forced and unusual sense, which even the
authority of Martineau can hardly justify.


advice for the study of the Bible is good. ' Adsit pia
curiositas et curiosa pietas.'

The desire for an infallible guide is so strong in the
human heart that it often causes distress and disappoint-
ment to show that the inspired records were drawn up by
fallible human beings ; that the selection of the Canonical
Books was made by fallible men, who, in certain cases in
the Old Testament, and in at least one case (that of 2
Peter) in the New Testament, appear to have been deceived
by documents which claimed a greater antiquity and
authority than they possess ; and lastly that unless
the reader of the Bible is also infallible and miraculously
protected against human infirmity, there is no guarantee
that he may not entirely misunderstand what he reads.
But those who feel distress cannot have understood the
nature of Faith. An infallible oracle would destroy the
possibility of Faith, or at least would finally arrest its
growth at the point where the revelation was made. The
' Bible of the race ' l is not yet fully written ; and our
powers of understanding all that is already written are
limited. And we must not forget that an exaggerated
view of the infallibility of Holy Writ depresses and de-
prives of authority all the other channels through which
we are justified in believing that the divine will is made
known to us. I do not refer only- to the writings of great
and good men outside the Canon, and even outside the
Christian Church, to whom a minor degree of inspiration
may be attributed without any disrespect to the Bible,
but to divine revelation through science, through art,
through the beauties of nature, through the course of
history, and so forth. Make any one of these infallible
and exclusive, and the rest lose their value.

Our conclusion then is, that, as in the case of the infallible
Church, so in the case of the infallible Book, the attempt
to make authority a primary ground of Faith has failed.

* Lowell : * Slowly the Bible of the race is writ.'

122 FAITH [CH.

Revelation and inspiration, being really two aspects of
1 he same process, can never be separated from each other.
Revelation, like inspiration, is a process, not a static con-
dition. There are adequate reasons for putting the Bible
in a class by itself, above all other books ; but not for
regarding it as the primary ground of Faith. The only
word that our Lord ever wrote, so far as we know, was
traced with His finger on the unrecording ground. It was
not His will that His religion should be, like Islam, the
religion of a book. He wrote His message on the hearts
of a few faithful men, where it was not to be imprisoned
in Hebrew or Greek characters, but was to germinate
like a seed in fruitful soil. ' The words which I have
spoken to you,' says the Johannine Christ, ' they are spirit
and they are life.'

The office of authority in religion is essentially educa-
tional. Like every good teacher, it should labour to make
itself superfluous. The instructor should not rest content
till his pupil says, * Now I believe, not on thy saying, but
because I see and know for myself.'

Theology is the most conservative of the sciences, and
among other tendencies of bygone days it has retained
a timid and superstitious reverence for the written word,
whether it be text or commentary. Too many theologians
persist in looking back, though the people are looking for-
ward. They look back, and they pay the penalty for doing
so, like Lot's wife. The deserts of theological literature are
strewn with these dreary pillars of salt. Commentaries
on the Old and New Testaments, full of palpably absurd
explanations borrowed from the Fathers ; books on dog-
matic theology constructed on the same principles ; anxious
researches into the liturgies and ritual of the Middle Ages
with a view to careful imitation all alike show how
potent the dead hand is in matters of religion. The
scribe who is instructed to the Kingdom of Heaven, said
our Lord, is like a householder who brings out of his




treasure things new and old. The wise scribe does not,
however, bring forth some things that are new and other
things that are old, but he gives a new life to things
that are old (for indeed we cannot truly believe in
our authority unless we believe with it the truth
must be born anew in the heart of every believer),
and he discerns the ancient, eternal truth of what seems to
be new. In part, our objection to orthodox dogmatism
is that it does not go back far enough. ' Res ipsa, qwe
nunc Christiana religio nuncupatur, erat apud antiques,
nee defuit ab initio generis humani, quousque ipse Christus
veniret in carne, unde vera religio, quae iam erat, coepit
appellari Christiana. 9 1

The ultimate authority, which alone is infallible, is the
eternal and living Truth.

Augustine, Retract, i. 13, 8.

124 FAITH fen.



WE have discussed two great historic attempts to make
Faith rest on external authority. We have investigated
1 the claims of the infallible Church and of the infallible
Book, and have found them both defective. At the same
time we have found that each contains a true principle.
The authority of the Church, rightly understood, is the
authority of the redeemed race, the elect the stored
spiritual experience of humanity. The authority of the
Book, rightly understood, is the authority of the records
of revelation, the testimony of those who have been in-
spired, to whom truth has been revealed. Neither
authority is, or can be, absolute or infallible ; for there
is no way of escape from the objection that an infallible
authority requires infallibility in the recipient as well
as in the author of the revelation. If such infallibility
were in the possession of any man or any institution, there
would be no room for Faith.

My subject in these lectures is Faith, not the Christian
Faith. But I have naturally taken my examples from
our own religion, and as my aim in choosing this subject
is not purely speculative, but also practical, I have felt
no scruple in approaching each department of it mainly
from the side which is familiar to thoughtful persons in
our own age and country. And having said so much
about the Catholic Church and the Bible, as the alleged
seats of authority in matters of Faith, I feel that I cannot


leave the subject without considering, however cursorily
and inadequately, what for very many Christians, and in
a sense for all Christians, is the ultimate court of appeal,
viz. neither the Church nor the Bible as a whole, but the
recorded utterances of Jesus Christ, and, in matters of
conduct, what those records tell us of His example and

I shall maintain that there is a sense in which every
Christian must own the authority of Christ as the primary
ground of his faith. It is not enough even to say that
Christ is our primary authority, leaving it open to admit
other grounds of Faith besides authority. But it will be
necessary to explain how this is consistent with my thesis
that the primary ground of Faith is an instinct or faculty
which impels us to seek and find God. We must also
remember that, in connecting the name of Christ with what
is primary and essential in Faith, we must be careful not
to do less than justice to what is true and spiritual and
genuinely religious in non-Christian ages and countries, and
in high-minded Agnostics among ourselves. I hope, before
the end of these lectures, to deal with both these difficulties.

What kind of authority did Christ Himself claim, so far
as we can judge from the Gospels ? We know that it was
a distinguishing feature of His teaching, that He taught ' as
one having authority, and not as the Scribes.' The doctrine
of the Scribes was founded on documents, traditions,
responsa prudentum ; that of Christ was fresh from the
mint ; it was/all at first hand, clean-cut and unhesitating.
He also required that His disciples should adopt a definite
attitude towards His Person. They were to ' take up the
cross and follow Him/ For His sake and the Gospel's,
they were to be ready to sacrifice all earthly goods, and
life itself. They were never to be ashamed of Him and
His words, on pain of being disowned at the great day.
An action done in His name is meritorious ; a friendly act
done to Him has the same value as an act done for God

126 FAITH [CH.

Himself, who sent Him. That man ia blessed, who shall
not be offended in Him. He is the stone on whom whoso-
ever shall fall shall be broken, and on whomsoever it shall
fall, it shall scatter him as chaff. These sayings are all
from the Synoptics. In the Fourth Gospel this personal
claim is even more dominant and all-embracing.

In His teaching He calmly sets aside even the revered
law of Moses in one particular after another. ' Ye have
heard that it was said to them of old time . . . but I say
unto you ' something quite different. ' Ye call Me
Master and Lord, and ye say well, for so I am,' He tells His
disciples. In spite of His meekness and gentleness He
rebukes sharply any one, no matter whom, who presumes to
offer Him advice. Two of the severest rebuffs recorded in
the Gospels are inflicted upon His Mother and the fore-
most of His disciples for attempting to suggest to Him
what He should do. So far as we can judge from our
records He claimed absolute obedience, unqualified trust
and confidence. He taught and acted ' with authority '
in the fullest sense of the word.

And yet there is another side. In the Fourth Gospel,
no less than in the other three, Christ always declares that
' the Word which ye hear is not Mine, but the Father's
which sent Me.' ' I came not to do Mine own will, but the
will of Him that sent Me.' It is, after all, His cause rather
than His Person, the Revelation rather than the Revealer,
on which He desires to fix men's thoughts, and for which
He claims their homage. He will resent no personal
affronts, avenge no private injuries. The Samaritan village
which refuses to receive Him remains unpunished. He
declares that a word spoken against the Son of Man would
find forgiveness : it is only blasphemy against the Holy
Ghost that is unpardonable. He never sought to be any-
thing of Himself as man, but only as the vehicle of re-
demption and salvation.

This combination of unlimited claims with unlimited


self-abnegation is the key to the understanding of Christ's
authority. He came in the Father's name ; and the Holy
Spirit was to continue His work. The former linked His
mission with the past ; the latter with the future. The
Faith in Himself and His Person which He demanded was
not a homage which obliged the Jew to renounce his past,
nor the Gentile his future. He came not to destroy the
Law and the Prophets, but to fulfil them. He placed Him-
self in the line of historical evolution. The law and the
prophets were until John. At that point with the appear-
ance of the last and greatest of the prophets, His own
immediate forerunner the old dispensation had fulfilled
its historical task of a TrcuSayouyos. The time had now
arrived for humanity to come of age and live the freer, fuller,
more responsible life of manhood. ' Ego sum cibus
grandium,' as Augustine heard Christ say to him. But the
God of the prophets was His Father, and it was as His
envoy that He came to the people of His choice.

And it is equally certain that the Galilean ministry was
not intended to be the last stage in God's active dealings
with men. Nothing was further from Christ's intentions
than to leave a code of legislation for all future generations.
Neither the substance of His teaching, nor the manner in
which He chose that it should be transmitted, is com-
patible with any such intention. His teaching lays down
all-embracing principles ; it gives few or no rules. The
difference between it and the Old Testament legislation
differs not only in the often-noticed fact that the latter is
chiefly negative in form, the former positive. There is an
even greater difference, in that the Law is dead, the Gospel
alive. The Law, like all other sacrosanct codes, must end
in cramping and fettering the growth of those who are
subject to it. The Gospel looks forward, 1 and has in itself
a principle of growth and development which, so long as

* This is true, whatever views may have been entertained by the disciples at
to the approaching Parousia.

128 FAITH [CH.

His Church was true to itself, could never leave it behind
the true progress of civilisation towards the realisation of
all the highest potentialities of mankind. ' I have still
many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them
now. Howbeit, when He, the Spirit of Truth is come, He
will guide you into all truth ; for He shall not speak of
Himself ; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He
speak ; and He will show you things to come.'

The action of the Father, of the Incarnate Word, and of
the Holy Spirit are thus indissolubly linked together. The
Son comes to reveal the Father, the Holy Spirit to reveal
the Son, or the Father through the Son. There is no
question of a dynasty in three reigns ; but there is a Trinity
of dispensations, that of the Father before the Incarnation,
that of the Son during the earthly life of Christ, that of
the Spirit ever since. The third period may justly be
called the ' reign ' of the Son, but assuredly not as super-
seding that of the Father, nor as looking forward to a later
reign of the Spirit.

There is, no doubt, a difference between the mode of
action of the Incarnate Christ, and that of the Spirit. The
former was external, the latter internal. The Incarnate
Christ addressed Himself to all who came in contact with
Him ; the Paraclete is a principle of spiritual life in the
hearts of believers, on whom He acts directly and without
intermediary. But the New Testament writers are far more
concerned to identify the indwelling Spirit with the exalted
Christ than to separate them. Bengel's words, ' Conversio
fit ad Dominum ut Spiritum,' are thoroughly Pauline. St.
Paul speaks quite indifferently of the Spirit, the Spirit of
God, the Spirit of Christ, and Christ. In one passage he
formally identifies the exalted Christ with the Spirit, at
least as regards their functions. 'The Lord is the Spirit ;
and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.'

If we are guided by the New Testament, we must dis-
possess ourselves of the idea that the Incarnation came to


an end within a few weeks of our Lord's last Passover on
earth. When Christ said, ' I will not leave you orphans,
I will come to you,' He was not using a metaphor, but
making a real promise. ' Lo, I am with you all the days,
even to the end of the world.'

You will see at once how this bears on the question of the
authority of Christ as a primary ground of Faith. To
those who share the religious philosophy of St. Paul and
St. John there is no difficulty or rather, there is an ab-
solute necessity in identifying the mainspring of religion
in the heart of man with the action of the Second Person
of the Trinity. If any philosophy has a right to call itself
the philosophy of the Christian religion, it is that which
won the intellect of the ancient world for Christianity in
the third and fourth centuries, which shaped our Creeds,
and which has satisfied the deepest Christian thinkers from
that time to our own day. According to this philosophy,
there is an unbroken chain uniting the creative Logos,
through whom all things were made, with the historical
Jesus of Nazareth, and with the mysterious Power which
works unseen in every human soul. The universe, as
Bishop Westcott says, is the hymn of the Word to the
glory of the Father. This World-Spirit was once incar-
nated in a human life. That life is the expression of
the meaning of the world, so far as the meaning of the
world can find expression in a human life. Christ re-
vealed to us that God is the Father of His creatures ;
that God is Light, Life, Love, and Spirit (I will not now
stop to draw out the meaning of these pregnant utter-
ances) ; and above all, He revealed to us in word and
deed the law of sacrifice, of life through death, which is
the master-key to the understanding of the universe. We
are quite right in calling this revelation final ; but we must
remember that it was the inauguration of a new dispensation
of revelation, not the termination of an era of direct divine
intercourse with mankind ; and also that this new dispensa-


130 FAITH [CH.

tion is characterised by inwardness by the action of the
Spirit of Christ bearing witness with our spirit. The
primary ground of Faith may be identified with the
authority of Christ, if by Christ we mean ' Christ that died ;
nay, rather that is risen again.' It is not strictly correct
to say that the historical Jesus of Nazareth, whose mission
terminated when He ceased to walk and teach in Galilee
and Judaea, is the primary ground of Faith. To say so
would be to adopt a static and not a dynamic view of
Faith. It would rivet our gaze on the past instead of on
the future. It would commit us to a pessimistic view of
the course of history. It would fill us with disquieting
doubts ; for how can we base our Faith on the shifting
sand of historical tradition, which leaves us at the mercy
of the good faith of reporters about whom we know little or
nothing ? Those who think otherwise are compelled to
choose between the apologetics of the evidential school,
of whose methods we may surely say that by them * nothing
worthy proving can be proven, nor yet disproven ' at any
rate within the religious sphere, or, as an alternative, they
must rest their religion on the mere subjectivity of feel-
ing, which we have found to be so utterly inadequate and
treacherous a ground for a living Faith.

I wish, however, to give you as fair an account as I can
of the attempts which have been made to arrest Faith at
this stage to fix it as consisting of devotion to a historical
figure which was finally withdrawn from any further
direct influence upon human affairs nearly nineteen hundred
years ago.

In speaking of the Lutheran treatment of the Bible I
said that, though Holy Scripture as a whole was elevated
to a primary authority in matters of Faith, the real centre
was found in the Person of Christ, round which all the Old
Testament, as well as the New, was made, by forced and
unnatural exegesis, to revolve.

Modern Lutheranism, as represented by the Ritschlian


school, does not follow Luther in this new Scholasticism.
Indeed, Ritschl boldly affirms that c the ideas of the
Reformation were more concealed than disclosed in the
theological works of Luther and Melanchthon.' But the
language of Ritschlians about the 'historical Christ' is
very similar to that of Luther. It is part of their theory
that the Christian Church began to go wrong from the very
first, i.e. as soon as Greek influences began to modify the
Palestinian gospel. Forgetful of the essentially quiet and
unemotional character of Christ's teaching, they find true
Christianity in the enthusiastic revivalism of St. Paul's
Corinthian converts, and complain (as Harnack does)
that Christianity was ' secularised ' when ' what made
the Christian a Christian was no longer the possession of
charisms, but . . . the performance of penance and good
works.' They can see little but progressive decline be-
tween St. Paul and the Reformation, and the Reforma-
tion, it appears, has never yet rightly understood itself.
' History,' for Faith, begins and ends, according to them,
with the ministry of Christ in Palestine.

Dislike of Greek metaphysics has much to do with this
view. It is part of the movement against speculative
intellectualism, which swept over Germany and almost
destroyed the once tyrannical power of Hegel's philosophy.
Of the rigorous moralism and theoretical agnosticism of
the neo-Kantians I must speak later. Here I wish to
consider only their Christology, and especially the real sig-
nificance of their maxim, ' Back to the historical Christ.'

It goes without saying that the orthodox Church doctrine
of the Trinity, and of the Incarnation of the Eternal Son,
is condemned by this school as part of Greek metaphysics.
They do not object to our speaking of the ' Godhead ' of
Christ, if we add that this statement is only a judgment of
value, not of fact. (I shall discuss the validity of this anti-
thesis in a later lecture.) This is no arbitrary view ; it belongs
to the logic of the system. If metaphysics, that is to say

132 FAITH [CH.

the quest of ontological truth, is ruled out as having
nothing to do with religion ; if, moreover, a theory of know-
ledge is held which confines us to phenomena and puts
absolute truth wholly out of our reach ; if all mysticism, in-
cluding of course the Pauline doctrine of the unio mystica,
is rejected as * Catholic piety ' ; what have we left but a
Christ who for us somehow ' has the value of God ' ? If
the Ritschlian is pressed further as to what he means by
this phrase, he probably answers : First of all, Christ is

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Online LibraryWilliam Ralph IngeFaith and its psychology → online text (page 11 of 21)