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the perfect revelation of God to men. He manifests to us
the will and character of God. He who knows Christ,
knows the Father also. Secondly, He completely identi-
fied Himself with God's will and purpose. Instead of the
orthodox union of natures, we have a complete harmony
of wills, which, from the peculiar standpoint of this school,
is a greater thing. Thirdly, they say, He manifests a com-
plete supremacy over the world, in the sense of inward
independence of it. This is a characteristic survival of
Luther's own thought, that the Christian is essentially
the world's master. It is not an idea which has any pro-
minence in a well-balanced Christianity, but it is extremely
popular in German Protestantism. 1 As the result of these
qualities in Jesus Christ we are allowed to say that He has
for us the value of God, and are forbidden to ask any more
questions about this Divinity. As for His present con-
dition, we are given to understand that He is living some-
how and somewhere in glory, but this belief is carefully
and jealously deprived of any religious significance by the
reiterated warning that the exalted Christ is hidden from
us, and cut off from any direct contact with us, even in
the life of prayer. Thus the mystical Christology, which
was the root and source of all St. Paul's personal religion,
and the inspiration of his life, is repudiated absolutely.
The Incarnation lives only in its effects. ' The work of
Christ in the state of exaltation must be represented by

J Orr, The Ritschlian Theology, p. 128.



viii.] AUTHORITY BASED ON JESUS CHRIST 133

the permanent effect of His historical appearance.' x This
Christology is closely akin to the theology of the Deists,
according to whom God created the world, and then left it
to itself. The exalted Christ of Ritschlianism is a roi
faineant, politely ushered, like the Epicurean gods, into
some astral limbo where He is comfortably out of the way.
It is not clear why these men do not say plainly that He
passed finally out of existence on Good Friday ; for the
logic of their system has no further use for Him. Ritsch-
lianism in fact has no eschatology. In place of the
Christian doctrine of eternal life, we have phrases like the
following curious sentence : ' Man compares himself with
the whole natural system, since in his spiritual self-feeling
he apprehends himself as a being who in greatness stands
near to the supra-mundane God, and makes the claim
to live, notwithstanding the experience of death. 5 Whether
this c claim ' is allowed or disallowed we are not told,
though the matter is presumably of some interest to man-
kind. The truth is, that according to the logic of the
system there is no room for a future life. ' The world's
master,' when removed from the world, is a king without
a kingdom.

There are many German theologians who are in partial
sympathy with Ritschl, but who accept the Resurrection,
the continued activity of the living Christ, and the future
life. Herrmann, the author of the little book Communion
with God, which has a great popularity in his own country,
and has been translated into English, occasionally indulges
in language about the exalted Christ which is in flat con-
tradiction with his principles, and in consequence, in
spite of his violent tirades against mysticism, he has been
accused by more logical Ritschlians of falling himself into
the error of the mystics. 2 Kaftan, one of the ablest of the
school, fairly breaks away from it in his Christology, and

1 Ritschl, quoted by Orr, p. 134.
* Orr, p. 223.



134 FAITH [CH.

says : ' Even Christ ha3 become to us, in this age, a
distant historical appearance. The sole means of removing
this impression is a powerful and immediate faith in, and
communion with, the exalted Christ.' Compare this with
Herrmann's : * Of a communion with the exalted Christ
there can be no question.'

Another point in which the position of Ritschl has
obviously become untenable, even to his disciples, is the
virtual denial of any other channel of revelation except
the historical Christ. Instead of forcing Christology into
the Old Testament, like Luther, the Ritschlians denied
the latter any value at all. Nor was any value attached to
revelations coming from secular history, science, or art.
The vigour and rigour of this position have been found
impossible to maintain.

My object, however, in this lecture, is not to criticise
any particular school of theology, but to arrive at a clear
idea of what is meant by saying that for us Christians
Christ is our primary authority.

According to the view which I uphold, and which has
been that of the best Christian philosophy from the first,
there is an original, natural bond between God and the
human soul. This innate ' tendency to God,' as Robert
Browning calls it, may be explained or expressed hi very
various language. To the psychologist, who rightly dis-
claims the intention of establishing ultimate truth by means
of mental science, it is simply a fact of consciousness to be
taken note of and analysed as it stands. He will give no
answe to the question whence it comes, or whether it
is in correspondence with any objective external reality.
He will not attempt to determine whether its source is
human or divine, whether it belongs to ourselves or is
imparted by God. The scholastic mystics had their own
names for it. They often called it by the queer name
(rwTTJpryo-is, the origin of which is obscure. They explain
it as a faculty which never consents to evil, a sort of divine



VIIL] AUTHORITY BASED ON JESUS CHRIST 135

core of the soul, by which it can come into touch with what
is akin to it, the divine nature. It is much the same
as the Ktvrpov if/vxys of Plotinus, and the Funkelein of
Eckhart. According to the Logos-Christology, this can
only be the operation of the creative and indwelling Logos
which c became flesh ' in Jesus Christ. Put away, if you
will, all that is fanciful and arbitrary in these figures. But
do not lightly surrender the belief which they try to express :
that there is in the human soul a potential God-conscious-
ness, which was antecedent to the historical revelation,\
and was a necessary condition of it. For the mystics
are surely right in holding that like can only be known by
like. ' If there were not something akin to the sun in us,
we could never behold the sun.' If this is denied if
there is no such inner bond between human nature and the
divine, it is very difficult to show how the two can ever be
brought together. And so we find that the revelation of
Jesus Christ, for the school which we have been considering,
is not so much a reconciliation of man with God, as a
reconciliation of man with the world. If we reject and
put out of court all that this school means by Mysticism,
and also all that they mean by Natural Theology, what
channel of revelation is left ? God does not act directly
upon the human soul, according to them ; how then does
He reveal Himself ? ' Through Jesus Christ ' is their
answer ; but how was the revelation made to Him ? The
apologists of this school seem to take refuge in the word
* mystery,' which is the usual expedient of a theologian
when caught in an awkward dilemma. There is no mystery
about it. Either Christ must have received the revelation
by direct personal union with God, or the knowledge of
God possessed by Christ must be only the intellectual
concomitant of that right direction of the will which
Christ exhibited in a pre-eminent degree. The former
alternative is excluded by the whole principles of the
school. For if the unio mystica is a reality between God



136 FAITH [CH.

and the human Christ, why are no traces of it to be allowed
between God, or Christ, and the Christian ? And the
latter alternative deprives the testimony of Christ of its
authoritative character. 1 For remember that the unique-
ness and solitariness of the revelation through Christ is
one of the points which are most insisted on.

If there is no essential kinship between God and man, no
revelation of God to man could ever take place. This seems
to be an irrefragable truth. And it follows that if Christ
was divine, as the Church teaches, and in the sense which
the Church teaches, His revelation cannot have been
purely external or purely historical and static, but must
be given to and through the Christ-like element in our
consciousness. In fact, it seems to me that the doctrines
of the divinity of Christ and of the indwelling Spirit of
Christ stand or fall together.

You will now see in what sense only I think we can
accept the statement that the authority of the historic
Christ is primary for Christians. Strictly, it is the in-
dwelling Christ who is the primary authority ; but assur-
edly I do not wish to separate the two, and postulate comme
deux Christs with M. Loisy. The difference between my
view and that which I have been criticising is important
because my view makes revelation dynamic : it gives room
for further growth ; it gives a reason and justification for
the long history of the Church, seeing that only through
long experience, much suffering, and many mistakes could
the dispensation, begun at the Incarnation, fulfil its
course and attain its end.

Some of you will suspect, I am afraid, that I am mini-
mising the historical facts connected with the Incarnation
whittling away the significance of "our Lord's life, making
it only a stage in the evolution of humanity. Well, let us
ask ourselves what a fact means whether it is just the same
as a phenomenon, or whether it means something more,
i On, p. 251.




viii.l AUTHOKITY BASED ON JESUS CHRIST 137



The distinction between fact and phenomenon has never
been better explained than by that very interesting philo-
sopher, Rudolf Eucken. The essential function of a fact,
he says, is to yield its living meaning to the present in some
imperishable form, and therefore the fact must itself first
own and exercise the life which it communicates. No
atomic conception of a ' fact ' is possible. The ' fact '
must be what Eucken calls a Lebens-system, a systematised
whole of life. * Isolated events are not facts, but abstractions
from them. The " fact " must have a certain independence
and capacity for development according to its own nature.
If it has less than this, it is only a mutilated and fractional
fact. ... A fact of history must be some historic move-
ment with at least a beginning and a middle, even if it lack
a finish. So understood, a historical fact is a true historical
unit, and the essential significance of " unit " is " unity."
A historical fact is a historical unity. Such unities do not
lie on the surface of life. ... It requires spiritual insight
to pass from phenomenon to fact.' x It is, then, a false
abstraction to isolate the events of three or thirty years
as is sometimes done. So isolated, they are degraded from
a fact to a phenomenon. The plan of the Incarnation was
to initiate a movement which in its entirety was to consti-
tute a theophany in the life of humanity itself. The
Christian revelation embraces, or rather is, the whole of
that movement, by far the greater part of which is, for us,
in the unknown future.

It appears to me, then, that this attempt to isolate the
records of the Galilean ministry as closing for ever the
revelation of God to man, is only another example of the
tendency which we have found hi other cases, to arrest
the natural development of Faith at a certain point, in
order to gain the convenience of an unchangeable standard
of belief and conduct. It is nearer the truth than belief

1 Boyce Gibson, Rudolf Eucken's Philosophy of Life, p. 41 ; and of.
Eucken's latest book, The Life of the Spirit.



138 FAITH [CH.

in an infallible Pope or an infallible Bible ; but it is open
to very grave objections, which I hope I have made clear
to you.

In practice, it may lead to an uncritical appeal to this
or that precept in the Gospels, and, on the other hand, to
a regretful repudiation of Christ's authority, on the ground
that some of His precepts are manifestly inapplicable, if
taken literally, to present conditions. Our Lord unques-
tionably used hyperbole in His teaching. He was accus-
tomed, like other teachers who wish to impress their
points on a popular audience, to make without qualifica-
tion statements which need qualification, and to supply
the necessary correction on another occasion. In plain
words, they occasionally contradict themselves ; and such
formal contradictions occur in the Gospels. It follows
that in order to understand them we must use reason and
common sense, and consider particular sayings in the light
supplied by the teaching as a whole. This, and not the
attitude of a suppliant consulting an oracle, is the proper
way to consult the authority of Christ. We have also to
face the possibility that we have not got always the exact
Greek equivalents of the words used by the Divine Speaker ;
and the strong probability that some of His sayings are
out of their places, placed by His biographers in a wrong
setting, or, in a few cases, perhaps, even wrongly put into
His mouth. All this would be disquieting if the Christ of
the Gospels were our sole primary authority. It is not
disquieting if we may interpret particular words by the
known drift of His teaching, by the witness of His Spirit
in our hearts, and, to some extent, by other sources
of revelation.

Lastly, I am not following those modern Roman Catholic
apologists who depreciate the authority of the earthly
Christ in order to exalt that of the Church speaking in His
name. That is an error which we have already considered
and rejected. The Church is to grow up into Christ in all






vin.] AUTHOEITY BASED ON JESUS CHEIST 139

things, not out of Him into something very different. He
is very much more than the historical Founder of a great
institution with a very chequered record. Nor could we
possibly confine His activities since the Ascension to the
supervision of one religious body, however august. But
the Catholic apologetic has this great advantage over the
Protestant that it accepts development, and looks forward.
It does not worship a dead Lord.

I have now finished that part of my course which deals
with authority. I have shown, I hope, that external
authority, in whatever form, cannot be a primary ground
of Faith, and that the authority of Jesus Christ, for the
well instructed Christian, is not external, but is a voice
which speaks within us as well as to us. The complete
autonomy of the human spirit would be identical with
perfect obedience to Christ ; His service, as the Collect
says, is perfect freedom.

As a matter of experience, this way of thinking about
Christ does not dehumanise Him into a cosmic principle.
Rather, we find with Robert Browning, that

That one Face, far from vanish, rather grows,

Or decomposes but to recompose,

Become my universe that feels and knows. 1

That face, explained the poet to a friend, is the face of
Christ.

* Robert Browning, Dramatis Personae, Epilogue.



140 FAITH [CH.



CHAPTER IX

FAITH AS AN ACT OF WILL

IN my last lecture I considered the proper place of authority
in matters of Faith, and came to the conclusion that no
authority can claim to be primary except the clear affirma-
tions of Faith itself those spontaneous assertions of the
basal personality which religion calls the voice of God within
us, and which philosophy, in more cumbrous phrase, might
describe as the self-revelation of the objective in our
subjectivity. This voice, as I have said, speaks through,
rather than to, the human heart and conscience and
intellect, nor is it possible to separate the divine and
human elements in any act of Faith. To-day I pass to
another branch of our subject, one of great interest and
importance. We have resisted the temptation to arrest
and fix the development of Faith in the region of undiffer-
entiated feeling. We have found that reliance on external
authority, of whatever kind, is at best only a makeshift, a
substitute for a full and manly Faith. We have decided
that Faith must operate through our natural faculties.
But which of our faculties is the chosen organ of Faith ?
Is it the will, or the intellect, or that specialised feeling
which creates aesthetic judgments ? We must consider
the claims of these faculties in turn. And first, What is
the relation of Faith to the will ? Is Faith simply and
solely a moral postulate, an act of choice ? Is the ground
of Faith our moral decision to believe ?



UL] FAITH AS AN ACT OF WILL 141

The proverb that the wish is father to the thought
assuredly calls attention to a fact which we cannot afford
to forget. People do, as a matter of fact, believe things
because they wish to believe them. Hobbes declared that

* even the axioms of geometry would be disputed if men's
passions were concerned in them ' ; and we have only to
contrast a page of Euclid with a political or theological
harangue, in order to realise how differently we reason
when we are dealing, not with mathematical symbols having
a fixed connotation, but with living ideas and disputable
values. People believe what they wish to be true, both
voluntarily and involuntarily. They will say without
shame, ' I like to think so and so,' as a reason why they do
think so. And they will not change their opinions because
they are beaten in argument.

He that complies against his will
Is of the same opinion still.

Moreover, without intending it, we often listen to the
flattering tale which hope tells. Charlatans of all kinds
trade on this weakness of human nature. Without it, a great
many popular follies, such as betting on horse-races, and
gambling at Monte Carlo or on the Stock Exchange, would
come to an end. The dry light of reason would generally
convince the gambler that he stands to lose ; but he throws
his desires into the scale, and vaguely hopes that ' luck will
be on his side.'

In matters of practice, when any end is being pursued,
the advantages of a sanguine temperament are so obvious
that men look very indulgently on the self-deceptions
which it produces. * If you do not hope,' said Heraclitus,

you will never find that which is beyond your hopes.' In
many cases, a strong will has the power to bring about the
realisation of that which it desires, and the refusal to limit
hopes by the evidence of probability brings its own reward
and Justification.



142 FAITH [CH

None without hope e'er loved the brightest fair,
But love may hope where reason might despair. 1

We encourage the wilful optimist, the dogged straggler
who cannot see when he is beaten, because this temper so
often achieves great things.

How far are we to approve of the same temper when it
is applied to our religious beliefs ? There is no doubt at
all that by determining to believe a doctrine, by deliberately
refusing to dwell on arguments on the other side, by refusing
to listen to objections or read books by opponents, above
all, by making, so to speak, a personal wager by acting as
if it were true, and incurring loss should it be false by
these methods we can make ourselves believe many things
against the weight of evidence. As Clough puts it :

Action will furnish belief, but will that belief be the

true one ?
That is the point, you know. However, it doesn't much

matter.
What one wants, I suppose, is to predetermine the

action
So as to make it entail, not a chance belief, but the

true one.

There is no doubt that this is an effective and practi-
cable method of determining and fixing our beliefs. The
will to believe is, as Professor William James and his
friends maintain, a real and actual ground of belief,
whether such a belief deserves the name of Faith or not.
However, the question is (and I do not agree with Clough
that it doesn't much matter), not whether men do form
their beliefs in this way, but whether they ought to do so.
This question is the subject of my lecture to-day.

One fact is indisputable. Wherever we find great
emphasis laid on the practical support given by Faith as a
reason for believing, there we find also intellectual scepti-
i Lord Lyttelton, 1709-1773.



ix.] FAITH AS AN ACT OF WILL 143

cism. The argument would never be advanced by any
one who (to use a phrase of Renan) ' believes heavily.' At
the same time, it does not imp y such complete distrust in
human faculties as is implied by reliance on external
revelation. Writers like Mansel are complete sceptics, 1
whose choice of orthodoxy instead of agnosticism seems
to be almost a matter of chance. Herbert Spencer was
able to accept all Hansel's arguments, while rejecting his
conclusion. The school which we are now to consider
base their religious Faith not on external authority but on
the affirmations of the * practical reason,' which is at any
rate part of our endowment as human beings. They are
intellectual sceptics, but moral believers.

Periods of ambitious construction in philosophy are
regularly followed by periods of doubt and discouragement.
The imposing thought-palace, which was to incorporate in
its fabric every kind of truth, betrays unsoundness in its
foundations. The invulnerable Achilles is discovered to
have an unprotected heel ; -and forthwith scepticism
threatens to engulf everything. But scepticism can always
be turned against itself ; and unwilling scepticism welcomes
its own discomfiture. Faith, we will suppose, finds itself
menaced by natural science. But on what grounds, men
soon begin to ask, is science made a judge and ruler over
us ? Is not science, as well as theology, the product of
human thought and of human instincts ? Her conclusions
are not infallible, her fundamental assumptions are still
disputable and disputed. Her chief dogma, the uniformity
of nature, is admitted to be a matter of Faith. Why is
Faith to be allowed an entrance at this one point and here
only ? Why may we not have Faith in the practical reason
as well as in the speculative ? Might it not even be
plausibly maintained that the theoretical reason is more

1 So far, at least, as any philosopher can be a complete sceptic. The
absolute sceptic does not construct a philosophy out of scepticism he does
cot philosophise at alL



144 FAITH [CH.

fallible than the practical ? Almost every paradox has
been plausibly maintained by philosophers. Havrl Aoyy
Aoyos avTiVeiTcu, as Aristotle said ; and the greater the
intellect, the greater may be the blunder. * There
are errors which lie out of the reach of an ordinary mind' i 1
magna magnorum deliramenta doctorum, says St. Augustine.
Further, psychology has proved that desires and emotions
do influence belief. Pure reasoning is a pure figment ; no
man was ever guided by pure reason. Again, what is the
test of truth to which the rationalist or intellectualist refers
us ? Has he any ultimate criterion of knowledge ? If
not, may not what he calls superstition be as respectable
as what he calls truth ? If the so-called superstitions
work, they justify and verify themselves. They may
claim to be * protective organs/ or something of the kind ;
and what more are the rationalist's reasons ? Lastly,
these new apologists tell us that the bases of our intellectual
constructions are not axioms but postulates ; i.e. we reject
the alternative propositions, not because they are, on the
face of them, ridiculous, but because we have ' no use for
them.' The will and the understanding are both instru-
ments of living, and the will is the more efficient of the
two. If we still desiderate some proof that the claims of
our will are ontologically true, we may be reminded (as a
concession to our weak-minded and benighted ' absolu-
tism ') that even though the ground of our belief in certain
heories lies hi the fact that we need them, we did not
create the circumstance that we need them. Either the
nature of things, which is responsible for the fact that we
need them, is irrational, ' which is absurd,' or our needs
must be founded on the real constitution of the world.

The school which we are now considering deliberately
amalgamates will and feeling thus getting a broader basis
for its constructions, though discursive thought is excluded
as a sort of pariah. This fusion of will and feeling seema to

i Balmez, quoted by Eickaby, First Principle*, p. 116.



ix.] FAITH AS AN ACT OF WILL 145

me psychologically untenable ; it leads to an extension of
the use of ' will,' which is contrary to earlier usage, and very
misleading. These writers set out to prove the primacy
of will, and then smuggle into the idea of * will ' a great


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Online LibraryWilliam Ralph IngeFaith and its psychology → online text (page 12 of 21)