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legitimate point against their Anglican opponents by
proving that the germs of modern Catholicism can be
detected even in the sub-Apostolic age. But they have
not proved, and cannot prove, that there have been no
important changes.

The verdict of history has been pronounced decisively
against the theory that the supernatural character of the
Church can be demonstrated by the miraculous and
unparalleled ' stability ' of its teaching. 1

It would not be hi accordance with the plan of those
lectures to give detailed examples of the mutability of
dogma and culture. Martineau has given some clear

1 Cfc Burkitt, Early Christianity outside the Roman Empire, p. 6.




vi.l AUTHORITY AS A GROUND OF FAITH 95



examples in his Seat of Authority in Religion, and any fairly
written Church history will supply abundant evidence.

The exclusive claim to Sanctity can hardly be taken
seriously. We have no means of determining who are
God's true saints, and we are expressly forbidden to
attempt to do so. If sanctity is an occult quality, known
to God alone, it obviously cannot be appealed to as a
' note.' It is useless to offer evidence which, from the
nature of the case, cannot be produced. But so far as
we have the means of forming an opinion, it would appear
that men and women of the highest character have
appeared in nearly all religious bodies, and that, though
the Roman communion may claim to have been exception-
ally rich in saints, it is also true that among the most
odious scoundrels who have disgraced humanity have
been found some of the most highly placed ecclesiastics
of the Roman Church. 1

The third ' note,' Universality, is interpreted to mean
that Catholics everywhere profess the same Faith. It is
difficult to see what argument can be based on such a
fact, were it true. The Tariff Reform League every-
where professes the same faith, because those who happen
to be free-traders do not subscribe to it. But in point
of fact, divergences of belief have never ceased to show
themselves in the Catholic Church, in spite of the prompt
amputations to which she has always been ready to resort.

The fourth note, Apostolicity, is a simple begging of the
question as between Catholicism and other bodies. For

1 A good example of the manner in which history must be written to satisfy
the demands of the Catholic theory is furnished by a recent biographical
work : Chronicles of the House of Borgia by Frederick, Baron Corvo.
'Alexander vi., as earthly Vicar of Jesus Christ, merits our reverent admira-
tion. His personal piety was simple, diligent, and real. He greatly revered the
Deipara, the Blessed Virgin Mary. In her honour he ordained the bell which
rings at sunset, sunrise, and noon, for the Angelus Domini in memory of the
Incarnation. On his deathbed he said, Wt have always had a singular affection
for the most holy Vigin.' This singular affection for the Virgin was testified,
among other ways, by having one of his mistresses painted as the Madonna
with the infant Saviour.



96 FAITH [CH.

all Christian bodies claim spiritual descent from the
Apostolic Church. Whether a particular method of
devolution is essential or not is the main point at issue
between them.

The four ' notes,' then, completely break down, and a
theory of Church authority which has no better arguments
than these to rely upon must be in a very precarious
position. In truth, the legitimate claim of authority in
matters of Faith is grievously weakened by these attempts
to narrow its sphere. It is assumed that if there is such
a thing as a Church, it must be the Roman Church ; and
the religious consciousness of Europe is naively assumed
to have sanctioned not only the divinity of Christ, but
the apotheosis of Mary and the cult of the saints.

At the present time, however, the most interesting
feature in Roman Catholicism, from our point of
view, is the growth of a dynamic theory of Church
authority. This is, at least for Catholics, the most
important practical question as to the nature of authority
in matters of Faith. In order to understand it, it will be
necessary to contrast the static and dynamic theories of
revelation, outside the Roman Church, as well as within
its borders.

By a static view of revelation, as opposed to a dynamic,
I mean the theory that a supernatural revelation was at
some past time granted to mankind, which now persists
only in its effects. The date when the authoritative and
infallible revelation began, and when it ceased, may be
fixed anywhere, the limits being purely arbitrary. Accord-
ing to the old-fashioned high Anglican theory, we can
only rely with certainty on the pronouncements of the
undivided Church. The seven general councils may
claim infallibility. After the schism between East and
West, the supernatural guidance of the Holy Ghost went
into abeyance among the different Churches, which had
i excommunicated each other, exactly as an old English



vi.] AUTHORITY AS A GROUND OF FAITH 07

peerage goes into abeyance when a peer leaves two or more
daughters, and no sons. None of the daughters may take
the title, which accordingly is erased from the roll of the
peerage : but if the descendants of all the daughters
except one die out, or if the head of one clan of cousins
marries the head of the only other remaining clan, the
eldest representative of the family may claim the title,
and the series is resumed where it left off. Just so, if all
except one of the divided Churches which have the Apostoli-
cal Succession were to disappear, or if they would resume
communion with each other, and would agree to hold an
eighth general council, that council would be infallibly
guided in its decisions, in spite of the absence of non-
episcopal schismatical bodies, which are neither churches
nor integral parts of the one Church. This fantastic theory
is not often heard of by the younger generation, but it
was part of the foundations of the Tractarian position.
It is, in effect, a static view, because the conditions of in-
fallible guidance ceased to exist long ago, and there is no
likelihood of their being revived. The Church can never
modify its constitution, because the only body which could
legalise changes is a body which can never meet. It is
much as if no Act of Parliament were valid until it had
been passed by a joint session of the House of Commons
and the American Congress. The theory is well adapted
to support the old Anglican ' appeal to antiquity.' If no
further developments of doctrine, or practice, which have
taken place since the seventh general council, can claim any
authority, modern Romanism and theological Liberalism,
and anything that is new in Protestantism, are alike con-
demned.

Another essentially static theory of revelation, which
at present shows more vitality than the old-fashioned
Anglican theory, is that which is usually called after the
name of Albrecht Ritschl, of Gottingen (died 1889). I
shall have occasion, later in this course, to consider the



98 FAITH [CH.

theory of value-Judgments which is the most famous part
of his philosophy. Here I must only refer to his theory
of revelation. This is a curious blend of Schleiermacher's
view of Faith as pure feeling, wifch an old- Protestant
insistence on preaching * Jesus only.' In order to under-
stand Christianity, he holds, we must go back at every
point to the historical revelation once given in the Person
of Jesus Christ. And this revelation was definitely closed
at the time of the Crucifixion. He will have nothing to do
with the Pauline doctrine of communion with the glorified
Christ. ' Christ brings us to God ' ; but only by the im-
pression made upon us by the study of the Synoptic
Gospels. This position is as untenable as the old Anglican
theory, though for different reasons. The obvious and
fundamental fallacy in Ritschl's theory is the supposition
that Faith in a historical fact can be based on grounds
which are altogether independent of historical judgment.
For Ritschl will not allow us to base our Faith in Christ
on intellectual conviction that the narratives about Him
are trustworthy. Judgments of fact, of this kind, seem
to him irrelevant in religion. And yet religion, he says,
must be before all things * historical.' So glaring is this
inconsistency that some of the ablest of the so-called
Ritschlian school, such as Kaftan, lay great stress on
' the exalted Christ,' though they still refuse any respect
to the Logos-Christology.

Church history, written under the influence of this
static theory of revelation, must needs be a depressing
record of deterioration and corruption. Even Harnack's
great History of Dogma, (though Harnack is too inde-
pendent a thinker to be called without qualification a
Ritschlian), takes the standpoint that later developments
were a 'secularisation' and ' depotentiation ' of the
original Gospel. We are always to look back, not forward,
for our inspiration.

The older Roman Catholic apologetic did not differ very



vi.] AUTHORITY AS A GEOUND OF FAITH 99

much from Anglicanism or Protestantism in the re-
spect which it paid to primitive authority. The chief
difference is that Scholasticism, as represented by St.
Thomas Aquinas, give's a larger place to human reason
in corroborating revelation. The authorised Catholic
apologetic does not rest everything on authority. On the
contrary, St. Thomas maintains that the being and chief
attributes of God might be demonstrated, even apart j
from revelation, by ordinary reason. There is therefore
in his system no disparateness between reason and authority.
Authority supplements reason, and reason interprets autho-
rity. But the Nominalists who followed Duns Scotus cut
authority loose from its moorings, and erected it into a
wholly independent principle of belief. Duns Scotus him-
self, and still more Occam and Alexander of Hales, are as
sceptical of the old proofs of God's existence as Kant
himself, and unlike Kant they fall back not on the practical
reason, but on bare authority. Occam declares that
monotheism is, on intellectual grounds, only a more pro-
bable theory than polytheism. God's will, according to
Scotus, cannot be ascertained from our moral sense ; it
is imparted to us only in revelation. Thomas Aquinas
had himself abandoned the position of Bonaventura and
Albert the Great, who had undertaken to prove the beginning
of the world in time. The Creation, and the doctrine
of the Trinity, must be believed, he says, ' by Faith alone.'
This was a dangerous concession, which the Nominalists
made the most of, carrying the same principle over to other
dogmas. It was not intended, I think, by any of the
Schoolmen to cut authority loose from the past, as well
as from reason ; but the Nominalist theory gave the
Church a free hand to order anything to be believed. The
privilege of interpreting tradition infallibly is not far
from the privilege of determining it. The time came when
Pio Nono could say, ' I am tradition.'

The recognition of development, of the ' dynamic '



100 FAITH [CH.

principle as it is called in contrast with the ' static ' theory
that dogma can undergo no change, is modern in apolo-
getics. It laid strong hold on Newman when he had freed
himself from the false position in which he had remained
for some years. He set himself to prove that Catholic
theology is a legitimate development, and not a corruption,
of the primitive Faith. Now, what are the tests of a legi-
timate development ? The first test, Newman tells us, is
the preservation of the type ; the second, the continuity
of principles. Thirdly, doctrines must have the power
of assimilation, like living organisms. They will also
show anticipations of further development, to be fully
exhibited hereafter. Next, they will show logical sequence,
not that political evolution proceeds logically, but when
it is accomplished, we can see that a kind of unconscious
logic has determined its course. Next, the new doctrines
must tend to establish and illustrate, not to contradict,
the original creed. Lastly, it bears the test of time.
Heresies flourish and then disappear^, ; the truth continues.

We cannot help feeling how far superior this is to the
static theory of revelation. Nothing is more clear about
our Lord's ministry than that He designed to give mankind
not a code of legislation, but a standard of values ; that
He laid down principles which future ages were to apply
and work out, not a fixed rule to which the religious future
of the race was to be forced to conform. The whole con-
ception of the office and work of the Holy Ghost which
we find in the New Testament, especially in the Fourth
Gospel, involves the clearest grasp of the principle of
development which had up to that time been contemplated.

Nor can we find fault with the argument that the
collective inspiration of a great society is an easier thing
to believe in and to defend than the inspired private
judgment of individuals. Authority may claim to be
the right of the race against the individual ; it may claim
to be the conscience or the intelligence of the race, which



vi.] AUTHORITY AS A GEOUND OF FAITH 101

develops indeed in a natural and legitimate manner from
generation to generation, and from century to century,
but stores up and hands on the acquisitions of the past
in a way which is not possible to the private inquirer
who will take nothing for granted. If Christ promised
that the Holy Spirit would be always present to guide
the Church, may we not assume that He would have
prevented the Church, in her corporate capacity, from
taking any serious false steps ?

The weak point of Newman's argument is very apparent
to all who are not Roman Catholics, though within his
own communion it is less obvious, because of the aristo-
cratic contempt which prevents its members from paying
any attention to other forms of Christianity. ' Catholi-
cism,' says Dom Cuthbert Butler, in an article in the
Hibbert Journal intended for the religious public generally,
4 Catholicism, and, for Western Europe, Roman Catholi-
cism, is the religion into which, as a matter of fact, the
religion of Christ and His Apostles has grown.' It was
this assumption that lent so great a weight to the words
securus iudicat orbis terrarum, which seemed to Newman
decisive against Anglicanism and in favour of Rome.
But how strangely narrow the outlook which sees no
alternative except between atheism and the Vatican !
Newman's orbis terrarum is, as I have said elsewhere, a
dwindling and harassed minority in a few countries round
the Mediterranean sea. It comprises, broadly speaking,
the Latinised part of the Roman Empire ; and within
those limits, though it has been fairly successful in
suppressing other forms of Christianity, it has not
succeeded in retaining either the masses or the ' intel-
lectuals.' If then the ultimate test of a creed is its
vitality, the argument recoils with fatal force on
Newman's own head.

Newman is not insensible to the fact that this very
argument has led many to reject Roman Catholicism,



102 FAITH [CH.

because history seems to prove that it is not compatible
with social and intellectual progress beyond a certain
stage. He meets this objection by rejecting modern
civilisation as a huge mistake. He would prefer, he says,
to see people much more bigoted and superstitious than
they are, for a dishonest Irish beggar woman, who is
chaste and goes to Mass, is better than an honourable
English gentleman whose ideals are, after all, secular.
It is enough to say in reply to this, that it is a complete
abandonment of his test. He begins by saying, ' The
great world shall judge ' ; and ends by saying, ' If the
world decides against Rome, so much the worse for the
world.'

Newman is claimed as one of the inspirers of the modern
Liberal movement in the Roman Church, though he
would have recoiled hi horror from the critical conclusions
of Loisy and his friends. One passage will be enough to
prove this. c First of all,' writes the Cardinal, many
years after Joining the Roman Church, ' ex abundanti
cautela [that is, as something almost too obvious to need
stating], every Catholic holds that the Christian dogmas
were in the Church from the time of the Apostles ; that
they were ever in their substance what they are now.' 1
There is an essential difference between this theory of
apparent development which excludes real changes and
the Modernist theory of an idea clothing itself in new
forms from age to age.

That movement rests partly on a dynamic conception of
authority, carried to the pitch of admitting the right and
power of the Church to change its creed and dogmas if
necessary, and partly on the agnostic position that human
reason cannot go beyond phenomena, from which the
corollary is drawn that whatever helps souls may be taken
as true, or as near the truth as we can get. This latter
contention belongs to a later chapter of our inquiry viz.
* Quoted by Bishop Gore, Bampton Lectures, p. 186.



vi.] AUTHORITY AS A GROUND OF FAITH 103

the practical, or pragmatic, ground of Faith, and I will
try to give you a fair account of the position of the
Liberal Catholics when we come to that branch of our
subject. Here I am dealing with the claim of one branch
of the Christian Church to be the sole trustee of a
definite supernatural gift the power of pronouncing
infallibly and authoritatively on matters of Faith. And
our conclusion is that there never has been, and never
will be, any corporation which can decide such questions
ex cathedra. I am not disputing the right of any society
to impose its own conditions of membership ; that is
quite a different thing ; but there is nowhere any man
or institution which can impose silence upon the moral
and intellectual protests of the human mind, in the name
of some still higher authority. There is nowhere any
dogma which is exempt from examination, because it is
guaranteed to be de fide.

The Modernist position with regard to authority may
be thus summarised. ' Religion, like everything else that
lives, is subject to the law of growth, which involves
change. The God of the Old Testament differs widely
from the Father whom Christ preached, and the formulas
of our day differ in meaning, if not in form, from the
regula fidei of the early Church. Jesus Himself believed
in an approaching 'end of the age,' a catastrophic in-
auguration of a ' kingdom of God ' upon earth. It is
therefore impossible to suppose that He meant to organise
and legislate for the coming centuries. In the Gospels,
as in the rest of Scripture, the letter killeth, but the
spirit giveth life. But this law of change is not incon-
sistent with the authority of belief. For though truth is
changeless, its image as reflected in human minds con-
tinually alters. The living Faith is, the important thing ;
the forms which it employs in the vain attempt to be
articulate are mutable and imperfect.' The Catholic
Modernist differs from such Protestant writers as Harnack



104 FAITH [CH.

and Sabatier, with whom, in other ways, he has much in
common, in that he has no wish to discard the luxuriant
growth of dogma and return to a fabled 'primitive
simplicity.' He does not find in the historical Jesus the
basis for a working faith ; he cannot admit that the inter-
pretation of His life and teaching given by German
Protestantism is historically true ; but he is content with
the incontestable fact that a great institution has come
into existence, and flourished for nearly two thousand
years, which has created a series of dogmas, the products
of its ' faith and love,' dogmas which have been necessary
for its existence, and which therefore are valid until they
cease to perform their office. This is really opportunism
in excelsis. The seat of authority is the verdict of history,
and in history no judgment is final. ' The visible Church,'
writes Mr. Tyrrell hi his Much-abused Letter, ' is but a
means, a way, a creature, to be used where it helps, to be
left where it hinders. . . . Who have taught us that the
consensus of theologians cannot err, but the theologians
themselves ? Mortal, fallible, ignorant men like our-
selves. . . . Their present domination is but a passing
episode in the Church's history. . . . May not history
repeat itself [as in the transition from Judaism to
Christianity] ? Is God's arm shortened that He should
not again, out of the very stones, raise up children
unto Abraham ? May not Catholicism, like Judaism,
have to die in order that it may live again in a greater
and grander form ? Has not every organism got its
limits of development, after which it must decay and be
content to survive in its progeny ? Wine-skins stretch,
but only within measure ; for there comes at last a
bursting-point when new ones must be provided.' In
a note to justify this startling passage he explains : ' The
Church of the Catacombs became the Church of the
Vatican ; who can tell what the Church of the Vatican
may not turn into ? '



vi.] AUTHORITY AS A GROUND OF FAITH 105

The spectacle presented by the Modernist movement is
a very interesting one. The principle of authority as the
custodian of primitive tradition, which was so admirably
successful in maintaining discipline and unity, ended in
binding the Roman Church hand and foot in chains of
her own forging. And so the Pope claimed the right to
declare and interpret * tradition ' in his own way. Thus
authority turned against itself ; and the liberty of the
Papacy has let loose the unbounded licence of the
Modernists. ' The differences between the larval and
final stages of many an insect,' says Mr. Tyrrell again,
' are often far greater than those which separate kind from
kind.' And so this chameleon of a Church, which has
changed its colour so completely since the Gospel was
preached in the subterranean galleries of Rome, may
undergo another transformation and come to believe in
M. Loisy's God, who is ' never encountered in history.'
The warning against putting new wine into old wine-skins
is somewhat rashly introduced into such a programme !

We are, then, able to see in the Roman Church of to-day
the bankruptcy of the old theory of authority. The
theory of a ' static ' revelation given to the Church long
ago has been proved to be untenable, both historically and
politically. And if, abandoning this old position, the in-
spiration of the Church is explained to mean the continuous
inspiration of its earthly head, the questions cannot fail to
be asked, Is autocracy the divinely ordained government
for the Church ? Is it so certain that the Holy Spirit
speaks only through the mouth of the Bishop of Rome ?
With this doubt disappears the possibility of confident
reliance on the authority of the Church, as a primary
ground of Faith.

The true ' Church,' as the depositary of inspiration in
matters of belief and practice, is the whole body of men
and women who have any enlightenment in such matters.
This Church has no accredited organ, and claims no finality



106 FAITH [CH.

for its utterances. It does homage to the past, not to
fetter its own future, but to preserve the knowledge and
experience already gained, which are easily lost through
carelessness or presumption. Ideally, this Church is the
Divine Spirit immanent in humanity. This identification
of the Church with the indwelling Holy Spirit is ancient,
but it is far too great a privilege to be claimed by any
ecclesiastical corporation.

But though we cannot for a moment admit that infalli-
bility resides in the decisions of any man or any council,
present or past, it would not be easy to overestimate the
advantages of venerable traditions in matters of Faith.
Each age is liable to be carried away by some dominant
idea, which soon becomes a superstition, as ' progress ' did
in the nineteenth century. Authority has a steadying
influence, forbidding as to ignore doctrines which for the
time are unpopular, and preserving, to some extent, ' the
proportion of Faith.' In these high matters the dead as
well as the living have a right to speak ; and respect for
authority is the courtesy which we pay to the voices of
' famous men and our fathers that begat us/



V,J



AUTHORITY AS A GROUND OF FAITH 107






CHAPTER VII

AUTHORITY AS A GROUND OF FAITH continued



IN this lecture I wish to consider further the relations of
Faith and Authority. We have considered the theory of
an infallible authority vested in the Church, and have
shown how, just as in the Roman Empire authority became
more and more centralised until the emperor became
a sultan, so in the Roman Church authority has come to be


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Online LibraryWilliam Ralph IngeFaith and its psychology → online text (page 9 of 21)