[Transcriber's note: the plus (+) symbol is used in this etext to indicate bolded text.]
THE NEW THEOLOGY
R. J. CAMPBELL, M.A.
MINISTER OF THE CITY TEMPLE, LONDON
THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
All rights reserved
BY THE MACMILLAN COMPANY.
Set up and electrotyped. Published March, 1907.
Reprinted April, 1907.
This book has been undertaken at the request of a number of my friends who feel that recent criticisms of what has come to be called the New Theology ought to be dealt with in some comprehensive and systematic way. With this suggestion my own judgment concurs, but only so far as my own pulpit teaching is concerned. I cannot pretend to speak for anyone else, and therefore this monograph must not be understood as an authoritative exposition of the views held and expounded by other preachers who may be in sympathy with the New Theology. From its very nature, as I hope the following pages will show, the New Theology cannot be a creed, but its adherents have a common standpoint. My only reason for calling this book by that title is that a considerable section of the public at present persists in regarding me as in a special way the exponent of it; indeed from the correspondence which has been proceeding in the press it is evident that many people credit me with having invented both the name and the thing. It is of little use objecting to the name, for to all appearance it has come to stay and is gradually acquiring a marked and definite content. So long as it is clearly understood that this book is but an outline statement of my own personal views, the title will do no harm. The controversy which is not yet over has been fruitful in misunderstandings of all kinds, and a great many of the criticisms passed upon my teaching have been wholly due to a mistaken notion of what it really is. In so far as any of those criticisms have been directed against me personally, I have nothing to say; I hope I can leave my vindication to the judgment of whatever public may feel an interest in my work. The best rejoinder that could be made to the various criticisms of the teaching itself would be to publish them side by side, for they neutralise one another most effectually. But a better and more useful thing to do is to let the public know just what the teaching is and leave it to the test of time. I do not greatly object to having it described as "new." The fundamental principle of the New Theology is as old as religion, but I am quite willing to admit that in its all-round application to the conditions of modern life it is new. I do not see why a man should be ashamed of confessing that he does his own thinking instead of letting other people do it for him.
This book, then, is not the author's Apologia pro Vita Sua. It is intended as a concise statement of the outlines of the teaching given from the City Temple pulpit. It is neither a reply to separate criticisms nor an ex cathedra utterance. I think I am usually able to say what I mean, and in the following pages my object is to say what I mean in such a way that everyone can understand.
I. THE NAME AND THE SITUATION II. GOD AND THE UNIVERSE III. MAN IN RELATION TO GOD IV. THE NATURE OF EVIL VI. THE ETERNAL CHRIST VII. THE INCARNATION OF THE SON OF GOD VIII. THE ATONEMENT.—I. ASSOCIATION OF THE DOCTRINE WITH JESUS IX. THE ATONEMENT.—II. SEMITIC IDEAS OF ATONEMENT X. THE ATONEMENT.—III. THE DOCTRINE IN CHRISTIAN HISTORY AND EXPERIENCE XI. THE AUTHORITY OF SCRIPTURE XII. SALVATION, JUDGMENT, AND THE LIFE TO COME XIII. THE CHURCH AND THE KINGDOM OF GOD XIV. CONCLUSION
THE NEW THEOLOGY
THE NAME AND THE SITUATION
Religion and Theology.—Religion is one thing and theology another, but religion is never found apart from a theology of some kind, for theology is the intellectual articulation of religious experience. Every man who has anything worthy to be called a religious experience has also a theology; he cannot help it. No sooner does he attempt to understand or express his experience of the relations of God and the soul than he finds himself in possession of a theology. The religious experience may be a very good one and the theology a very bad one, but still religion and theology are necessary to each other, and it is a man's duty to try to make his theology as nearly as possible an adequate and worthy expression of his religion. He will never succeed in doing this in a permanent fashion, for the content of religious experience is, or should be, greater than any form of statement. But theology is everyone's business. We cannot afford to leave it to experts or refrain from forming our own judgment upon the pronouncements of experts. To speak of theology as though it had an esoteric and an exoteric side, one for the man in the study and the other for the man in the world, is a practical heresy of a most dangerous kind. Neither should theology be confounded with ecclesiasticism. It is my conviction that the battle with ecclesiasticism has long since been decided, and civilisation has nothing to fear from the official priest. Those who spend their time in protesting against sacerdotal pretensions are only beating the air—"We shall never go to Canossa," as Bismarck said. No, the real danger to spiritual religion, and therefore to the immediate future of mankind in every department of thought and action, arises from practical materialism on the one hand and an antiquated dogmatic theology on the other. I hope it will be understood by readers of these pages that in any references I may make to dogmatic theology I am passing no reflection upon the scientific theologian whose work is being done in the field of historical criticism or archaeology or any of the departments of scientific research into the subject-matter of religion. Most of my readers will understand quite well what I mean. Everyone knows that, broadly speaking, certain ways of stating Christian truth are taken for granted both in pulpit and pew; the popular or generally accepted theology of all the churches of Christendom, Catholic and Protestant alike, is fundamentally the same, and somehow the modern mind has come to distrust it. There is a curious want of harmony between our ordinary views of life and our conventional religious beliefs. We live our lives upon one set of assumptions during six days of the week and a quite different set on Sunday and in church. The average man feels this without perhaps quite realising what is the matter. All he knows is that the propositions he has been taught to regard as a full and perfect statement of Christianity have little or nothing to do with his everyday experience; they seem to belong to a different world. He does not know how comparatively modern this popular presentation of Christianity is. What is wanted therefore is a restatement of the essential truth of the Christian religion in terms of the modern mind.
The New Theology and the Immanence of God.—Where or when the name New Theology arose I do not know, but it has been in existence for at least one generation. It is neither of my invention nor of my choice. It has long been in use both in this country and in America to indicate the attitude of those who believe that the fundamentals of the Christian faith need to be rearticulated in terms of the immanence of God. Those who take this view do not hold that there is any need for a new religion, but that the forms in which the religion of Jesus is commonly presented are inadequate and misleading. What is wanted is freshness and simplicity of statement. The New Theology is not new except in the sense that it seeks to substitute simplicity for complexity and to get down to moral values in its use of religious terms. Our objection is not so much to the venerable creeds of Christendom as to the ordinary interpretations of those creeds. And, creeds or no creeds, we hold that the religious experience which came to the world in Jesus of Nazareth is enough for all our needs, and only requires to be freed from limiting statements in order to lay firm hold once more upon the civilised world.
The New Theology is an untrammelled return to the Christian sources in the light of modern thought. Its starting point is a re-emphasis of the Christian belief in the divine immanence in the universe and in mankind. This doctrine is certainly not new, but it requires to be placed effectively in the foreground of Christian preaching. In the immediate past the doctrine of the divine transcendence—that is, the obvious truth that the infinite being of God must transcend the infinite universe—has been presented in such a way as to amount to a practical dualism, and to lead men to think of God as above and apart from His world instead of expressing Himself through His world. I repeat that this dualism is practical, not theoretical, but that it exists is plain enough from such statements as that of the present-day theologian who speaks of God's "eternal eminence, and His descent on a created world." This kind of theologising leads straight to the conclusion that God is to all intents and purposes quite distinct from His creation, although He possesses a full and accurate knowledge of all that goes on in it and reserves to Himself the right to interfere. In what sense language like this leaves room for the divine immanence it is difficult to see. The New Theology holds that we know nothing and can know nothing of the Infinite Cause whence all things proceed except as we read Him in His universe and in our own souls. It is the immanent God with whom we have to do, and if this obvious fact is once firmly grasped it will simplify all our religious conceptions and give us a working faith.
The decline of organised Christianity.—For a generation or more in every part of Christendom there has been a steady drift away from organised religion as represented by the churches, and the question is being seriously asked whether Christianity can much longer hold its own. Protestant controversialists frequently draw attention to the decline of church-going in Latin countries as evidence of the decay of sacerdotalism, particularly in the church of Rome. But outside Latin countries it is not one whit more noticeable in the church of Rome than in any other church. The masses of the people on the one hand and the cultured classes on the other are becoming increasingly alienated from the religion of the churches. A London daily paper made a religious census some years ago and demonstrated that about one-fifth of the population of the metropolis attended public worship, and this was a generous estimate. Women, who are more emotional, more reverent, and more amenable to external authority than men, usually form the majority of the worshippers at an ordinary service. Mr. Charles Booth in his great work on the "Life and Labour of the People in London" asserts that the churches are practically without influence of any kind on the communal life. This I believe to be an exaggeration, but it will hardly be denied that the average working, business, or professional man looks upon the churches almost with indifference. In many cases this indifference passes into hostility or contempt. Intelligent men take little notice of preachers and sermons, and the theologically-minded layman is such a rarity as to be noteworthy. Most significant of all, perhaps, is the fact that much of the moral earnestness of the nation and of social redemptive effort exists outside the churches altogether. I am well aware that there is a great deal of snarling criticism of the churches which springs from selfish materialism, and I gladly recognise that in almost any ordinary church to-day brave and self-denying work is being done for the common good, but this does not invalidate my general statement. The plain, bald fact remains that the churches as such are counting for less and less in civilisation in general and our own nation in particular. One of the ablest of our rising young members of Parliament, a man of strong religious convictions and social sympathies, recently declared that we were witnessing the melancholy spectacle of a whole civilisation breaking away from the faith out of which it grew. To be sure, the same thing has been said before and has proved to be wrong. It was said in the eighteenth century when men with something of the prophet's fire in them preached the gospel of the Rights of Man, declaring at the same time that institutional religion was at an end, utterly discredited, and impossible of acceptance by any intelligent being. In France during the Revolution the populace turned frantically upon the established faith, tore it to shreds, burlesqued it, and set up the worship of the Goddess of Reason, as they called it, typified by a Parisian harlot. In England a devitalised Deism laid its chilly hand not only upon the world of scholars and men of letters, but even upon the church. An English king is reported to have said that half his bishops were atheists. And yet, somehow, religion reasserted itself all over the civilised world. Napoleon with shrewd insight realised that the people could not do without it, and so effected the Concordat with Rome which has now been dissolved; Wesley began the movement in England which has since created the largest Protestant denomination in the world; Germany produced a succession of great preachers and scholars the like of whom had hardly ever been known in Europe before.
Will religious faith regain its power?—Will this happen again? For assuredly Christianity has for the moment lost its hold. Can it recover it? I am sure it can, if only because the moral movements of the age, such as the great labour movement, are in reality the expression of the Christian spirit, and only need to recognise themselves as such in order to become irresistible. The waggon of socialism needs to be hitched to the star of religious faith. But have the churches spiritual energy enough to recover their lost position? That depends upon themselves. If they consent to be bound by dogmatic statements inherited from the past, they are doomed. The world is not listening to theologians to-day. They have no message for it. They are on the periphery, not at the centre of things. The great rolling river of thought and action is passing them by. Scientific scholarship applied to the study of Christian origins is extremely valuable, but the defender of systems of belief couched in the language of a by-gone age is an anachronism and the sooner we shake ourselves free of him the better. The greatest of all the causes of the drift from the churches is the fact that Christian truth has become associated in the popular mind with certain forms of statement which thoughtful men find it impossible to accept not only on intellectual but even on moral grounds. Certain dogmatic beliefs, for example, about the Fall, the scriptural basis of revelation, the blood-atonement, the meaning of salvation, the punishment of sin, heaven and hell, are not only misleading but unethical. What sensible man really believes in these notions as popularly assumed and presented, and what have they to do with Christianity? They do not square with the facts of life, much less do they interpret life. They go straight in the teeth of the scientific method, which, even where the Christian facts are concerned, is the only method which carries weight with the modern mind. The consequence is that religion has come to be thought of as something apart from ordinary everyday life, a matter of churches, creeds, and Bible readings, instead of what it really is,—the coordinating principle of all our activities. To put the matter in a nutshell,—popular Christianity (or rather pulpit and theological college Christianity) does not interpret life. Consequently the great world of thought and action is ceasing to trouble about it.
Theologians and preachers rarely realise the situation.—One would think that the men whose business it is to teach religious truth would see this and ask themselves the reason why. To an extent they do see it, but they never seem to think of blaming themselves for it except in a perfunctory kind of way. They talk about religious indifference, the need for better and more effective methods, and so on. The professional theologian rarely does even as much as this. He takes himself very seriously; sniffs and sneers at any suggestion of deviation from the accepted standards; mounts some denominational chair or other and thunders forth his view of the urgent necessity for rehabilitating truth in the grave-clothes of long-buried formulas. I mean that the language he habitually uses implies some kind of belief in formulas he no longer holds. He hardly dares to disinter the formulas themselves,—that would not be convenient even for him,—but he goes on flapping the shroud as energetically as ever, and the world does not even take the trouble to laugh. Wherever and whenever religious agencies succeed it is rarely because of the driving power of what is preached, but because the preacher's gospel is glossed over or put in the background. We have popular services by the million in which devices are used to attract the public which ought not to be necessary if their framers had any real message to declare. But they have not. Popular pulpit addresses rarely or never deal with the fundamental problems of life. The last thing one ever expects to hear in such addresses is a real living representation of the beliefs the preacher professes to hold. He makes passing allusions to them, of course, such as appeals to come to the cross, and such like, but they generally sound unreal, and the pill has to be sweetly sugared. The ordinary way of preaching the gospel is to avoid saying much about what the preacher believes the gospel to be.
To be sure there are many social activities in connection with Christian churches. If it were not for these the churches would have to be shut up. They are quite admirable in their way, and often produce excellent results, but they imply another gospel than the one supposed to be preached from the pulpits. They ignore dogmatic beliefs, and assume the salvability of the whole race and the possibility of realising the kingdom of God on earth. Wherever the churches are alive to-day, and not merely struggling to keep their heads above water, it is not their doctrine but their non-theological human sympathy that is doing it.
This, then, is the situation. The main stream of modern life is passing organised religion by. Where is the remedy to be found?
We seek to save religion rather than the Churches.—Let me say plainly that I do not think our object should be to find a remedy which will save the churches. That would be putting the cart before the horse. What is wanted is a driving force which will enable the churches to fulfil their true mission of saving the world, or, to put it better still, will serve to bring mankind back to real living faith in God and the spiritual meaning of life. Hardly anyone would seriously deny that the world is waiting for this. Men are not irreligious. On the contrary there is no subject of such general interest as religion; it takes precedence of all other subjects just because all other subjects are implied in it. Religion is man's response to the call of the universe; it is the soul turning towards its source and goal. How could it fail to be of absorbing interest? What is wanted is a message charged with spiritual power, "Where there is no vision the people perish." Mere dogmatic assertions will not do. The word of God is to be known from the fact that it illuminates life and appeals to the deepest and truest in the soul of man. That message is here now. It is being preached, not by one man only, but the wide world over. God has spoken, and woe betide the churches if they will not hear. Religion is necessary to mankind, but churches are not. From every quarter of Christendom a new spirit of hope and confidence is rising, born of a conviction that all that is human is the evidence of God, and that Jesus held the key to the riddle of existence. Although this comes to us as with the freshness of a new revelation, it is not really new. It is the spirit which has been the inspiration of every great religious awakening since the world began. In this country and in other parts of the English-speaking world that spirit is becoming associated with the name the New Theology. To associate it with any one personality is to belittle the subject and to obscure its real significance. There are many brave and good men in the churches and outside the churches to-day, men of true prophetic spirit, who would reject utterly the name New Theology, but who are thoroughly imbued with this new-old spirit and are leading mankind toward the light. In the church of Rome the movement is typified by men like Father Tyrrell, whose teaching has led to his expulsion from the Jesuit order, but not, so far, from the priesthood. The present condition of the church of Rome is not unhopeful to those who believe as I do that that venerable church has been used of God to great ends in the past and that her spiritual vitality is by no means exhausted. Father Tyrrell and such as he are nearer in spirit to the New Theology men than are the latter to those Protestants who pin their faith to external standards of belief. It is a curious but indisputable fact that the most extreme anti-Romanist Protestants are themselves in the same boat with Rome: they insist on the absolute necessity for external authority in matters of belief and are unwilling to trust the individual soul to recognise truth as it comes. In all the churches those who believe in the religion of the Spirit should recognise one another as brothers. In the church of England a large and increasing band of men are looking in this direction and are making their influence felt. Of these perhaps the most outstanding is Archdeacon Wilberforce, but he is by no means alone. A movement has begun in the Lutheran church. It has existed for a long time in French Protestantism as represented by the late Auguste Sabatier and his friend Reville. In the congregational and other evangelical churches of England and America the same attitude is being taken by many who are not even aware that the name New Theology is being applied to it. In this country the movement in the free churches is typified by men like the Rev. T. Rhondda Williams of Bradford. There are many Unitarians who are preaching it; indeed, there are some who would assert that the New Theology is only Unitarianism under another name. But, as I shall hope to show, this is very far from being the case. It may or may not be professed by exponents of Unitarianism, but it is not a surrender to Unitarianism.
The New Theology is spiritual socialism.—The great social movement which is now taking place in every country of the civilised world toward universal peace and brotherhood and a better and fairer distribution of wealth is really the same movement as that which in the more distinctively religious sphere is coming to be called the New Theology. This fact needs to be realised and brought out. The New Theology is the gospel of the kingdom of God. Neither socialism nor any other economic system will permanently save and lift mankind without definitely recognised spiritual sanctions, that is, it must be a religion. The New Theology is but the religious articulation of the social movement. The word "theology" is almost a misnomer; it is essentially a moral and spiritual movement, the recognition that we are at the beginning of a great religious and ethical awakening, the ultimate results of which no man can completely foresee.
And also the religion of science.—Again, the New Theology is the religion of science. It is the denial that there is, or ever has been, or ever can be, any dissonance between science and religion; it is the recognition that upon the foundations laid by modern science a vaster and nobler fabric of faith is rising than that world has ever before known. Science is supplying the facts which the New Theology is weaving into the texture of religious experience.
GOD AND THE UNIVERSE
What religion is.—All religion begins in cosmic emotion. It is the recognition of an essential relationship between the human soul and the great whole of things of which it is the outcome and expression. The mysterious universe is always calling, and, in some form or other, we are always answering. The artist answers by trying to express his feeling of its beauty; the scientist answers by recognising its laws and unfolding its wonders; the social reformer answers by his self-denying labours for the common good. In each and every case there is in the background of experience a conviction that the unit is the instrument of the All; religion is implied in these as in all other activities in which man aims at a higher-than-self. But religion, properly so-called, begins when the soul consciously enters upon communion with this higher-than-self as with an all-comprehending intelligence; it is the soul instinctively turning toward its source and goal. Religion may assume a great many different and even repellent forms, but at bottom this is what it always is: it is the soul reaching forth to the great mysterious whole of things, the higher-than-self, and seeking for closer and ever closer communion therewith. The savage with his totem and the Christian saint before the altar have this in common: they are reaching through the things that are seen to the reality beyond.
What the word "God" means.—But what name are we to give to this higher-than-self whose presence is so unescapable? The name matters comparatively little, but it includes all that the ordinary Christian means by God. The word "God" stands for many things, but to present-day thought it must stand for the un-caused Cause of all existence, the unitary principle implied in all multiplicity. Everyone of necessity believes in this. It is impossible to define the term completely, for to define is necessarily to limit, and we are thinking of the illimitable. But we ought to understand clearly that to disbelieve in God is an impossibility; everyone believes in God if he believes in his own existence. The blankest materialist that ever lived, whoever he may have been, must have affirmed God even in the act of denying Him. Professor Haeckel declares his belief in God on every page of his "Riddle of the Universe," the famous book in which he says that God, Freedom, and Immortality are the three great buttresses of superstition, which science must make it her business to destroy. So far science has only succeeded in giving us a vaster, grander conception of God by giving us a vaster, grander conception of the universe in which we live. When I say God, I mean the mysterious Power which is finding expression in the universe, and which is present in every tiniest atom of the wondrous whole. I find that this Power is the one reality I cannot get away from, for, whatever else it may be, it is myself. Theologians will tell me that I have taken a prodigious leap in saying this, but I cannot help it. How can there be anything in the universe outside of God? Whatever distinctions of being there may be within the universe it is surely clear that they must all be transcended and comprehended within infinity. There cannot be two infinities, nor can there be an infinite and also a finite beyond it. What infinity may be we have no means of knowing. Here the most devout Christian is just as much of an agnostic as Professor Huxley; we can predicate nothing with confidence concerning the all-comprehending unity wherein we live and move and have our being, save and except as we see it manifested in that part of our universe which lies open to us. One would think that this were so obvious as to need no demonstration. But how do ordinary church-going Christians talk about God? They talk as though He were (practically) a finite being stationed somewhere above and beyond the universe, watching and worrying over other and lesser finite beings, to wit, ourselves. According to the received phraseology this God is greatly bothered and thwarted by what men have been doing throughout the few millenniums of human existence. He takes the whole thing very seriously, and thinks about little else than getting wayward humanity into line again. To this end He has adopted various expedients, the chief of which was the sending of His only begotten Son to suffer and die in order that He might be free to forgive the trouble we had caused Him. I hope no reader of these words will think I am making light of a sacred subject; I never was more serious in my life. What I am trying to show is that, reduced to its simplest terms, the accepted theology of the churches to-day is pitiably inadequate as an explanation of our relationship to this great and mysterious universe. There is a beautiful spiritual truth underneath every venerable article of the Christian faith, but as popularly presented this truth has become so distorted as to be falsehood. It narrows religion and belittles God. It is dishonouring to human nature, and is absolutely ludicrous as an interpretation of the cosmic process. Of course, the dogmatic theologian will maintain that this is a caricature of the way in which the relationship of God to the world is set forth in religious treatises and from the Christian pulpit. But is it? I think I can appeal with confidence to the thoughtful man who has given up going to church as to whether it is or not. The God of the ordinary church-goer, and of the man who is supposed to teach him from study and pulpit, is an antiquated Theologian who made His universe so badly that it went wrong in spite of Him and has remained wrong ever since. Why He should ever have created it is not clear. Why He should be the injured party in all the miseries that have ensued is still less clear. The poor crippled child who has been maimed by a falling rock, and the white-faced match-box maker who works eighteen hours out of the twenty-four to keep body and soul together have surely some sort of a claim upon God apart from being miserable sinners who must account themselves fortunate to be forgiven for Christ's sake. Faugh! it is all so unreal and so stupid. This kind of God is no God at all. The theologian may call Him infinite, but in practice He is finite. He may call Him a God of love, but in practice He is spiteful and silly. I shall have something to say presently about the twin problems of pain and evil; but what so-called orthodoxy has to say is not only no solution of them, it is demonstrably false to the religion of Jesus.
Every man believes in God.—For the moment what I want to make clear is this. No man should refuse to assert his belief in God because he cannot bring himself to believe in the God of the typical theologian. Remember that the real God is the God expressed in the universe and in yourself. The question is not whether you shall believe in God, but how much you can believe about Him. You may think with Haeckel that the universe is the outcome of the fortuitous interaction of material forces without consciousness and definite purpose behind them, or you may believe that the cosmos is the product of intelligence and "means intensely and means good," but you cannot help believing in God, the Power revealed in it. As I write these words I am seated before a window overlooking the heaving waste of waters on a rock-bound Cornish coast. It is a stormy day. The sky is overcast toward the western horizon; on the east shafts of blue and saffron have pierced the pall of darkness and flung their radiance over the spreading sea. The total effect is strangely solemnising. The suggestion of titanic forces conveyed in the rush of wind and wave upon the unyielding cliffs, conjoined to the majestic march of the storm-clouds across the heaven from the west, is somehow elevated and composed by the mystic light that streams from the east. I have never seen anything quite like it before. It tells me of a beneficent stillness, an eternal strength, far above and beyond these finite tossings. It whispers the word impossible to utter, the word that explains everything, the deep that calleth unto deep. So my God calls always to my deeper soul, and tells me I must read Him by mine own highest and best, and by the highest and best that the universe has yet produced. Thus the last word about God becomes the last word about man: it is Jesus. Materialists may tell me that the universe does not know what it is doing, that it goes on clanking and banging, age after age, without end or aim, but I shall continue to feel compelled to believe that the Power which produced Jesus must at least be equal to Jesus. So Jesus becomes my gateway to the innermost of God. When I look at Him I say to myself, God is that, and, if I can only get down to the truth about myself, I shall find I am that too.
What does the universe mean?—But why is there a universe at all? Why has the unlimited become limited? What was the need for the long cosmic struggle, the ignorance and pain, the apparently prodigal waste of life and beauty? Why does a perfect form appear only to be shattered and superseded by another? What can it all mean, if indeed it has a meaning? This is what thinkers have been asking themselves since thought began, and I have really nothing new to say about it. What I have to say leads back through Hegelianism to the old Greek thinkers, and beyond them again to the wise men who lived and taught in the East ages before Jesus was born. It is that this finite universe of ours is one means to the self-realisation of the infinite. Supposing God to be the infinite consciousness, there are still possibilities to that consciousness which it can only know as it becomes limited. Any of my readers to whom this thought is unfamiliar have only to look at their own experience in order to see how reasonable it is. You may know yourself to be a brave man, but you will know it in a higher way if you are a soldier facing the cannon's mouth; you will know it in a still different way if you have to face the hostility and prejudice of a whole community for standing by something which you believe to be right. Perhaps you have a manly little son; he, like you, may believe in his sterling good qualities. But wait till he has gone out to fight his way in life; then you will realise what he is worth, and so will he. It is one thing to know that you are a lover of truth; it is another thing to realise it when your immediate interest and your immediate safety would bid you hedge and lie. Do not these facts of human nature and experience tell us something about God? To all eternity God is what He is and never can be other, but it will take Him to all eternity to live out all that He is. In order to manifest even to Himself the possibilities of His being God must limit that being. There is no other way in which the fullest self-realisation can be attained. Thus we get two modes of God,—the infinite, perfect, unconditioned, primordial being; and the finite, imperfect, conditioned, and limited being of which we are ourselves expressions. And yet these two are one, and the former is the guarantee that the latter shall not fail in the purpose for which it became limited. Thus to the question, Why a finite universe? I should answer, Because God wants to express what He is. His achievement here is only one of an infinite number of possibilities.
"God is the perfect poet Who in creation acts His own conceptions."
This is an end worthy alike of God and man. The act of creation is eternal, although the cosmos is changing every moment, for God is ceaselessly uttering Himself through higher and ever higher forms of existence. We are helping Him to do it when we are true to ourselves; or rather, which is the same thing, He is doing it in us: "The Father abiding in me doeth His works." No part of the universe has value in and for itself alone; it has value only as it expresses God. To see one form break up and another take its place is no calamity, however terrible it may seem, for it only means that the life contained in that form has gone back to the universal life, and will express itself again in some higher and better form. To think of God in this way is an inspiration and a help in the doing of the humblest tasks. It redeems life from the dominion of the sordid and commonplace. It supplies an incentive to endeavour, and fills the heart with hope and confidence. To put it in homely, everyday phraseology, God is getting at something and we must help Him. We must be His eyes and hands and feet; we must be labourers together with Him. This fits in with what science has to say about the very constitution of the universe; it is all of a piece; there are no gaps anywhere. It is a divine experiment without risk of failure, and we must interpret it in terms of our own highest.
MAN IN RELATION TO GOD
What is man?—So far we have seen that the universe, including ourselves, is one instrument or vehicle of the self-expression of God. God is All; He is the universe and infinitely more, but it is only as we read Him in the universe that we can know anything about Him. We have seen, too, that it is by means of the universe and His self-limitation therein that He expresses Himself to Himself. Now what is our relation to this process? What are we to think about ourselves? Who or what are we?
A witty Frenchman once sardonically remarked, "In the beginning God created man in His own image, and man has ever since been returning the compliment by creating God in his." But what else can we do? It follows from what has already been said that we know nothing and can know nothing of God except as we read Him in the universe, and we can only interpret the universe in terms of our own consciousness. In other words, man is a microcosm of the universe. What the universe may be in reality we do not know,—though I am not so sure as some people seem to be that appearance and reality do not correspond,—we can only know it in so far as it produces sense images on our brain and enters into our individual consciousness. The limits of my subject forbid that I should enter into a discussion of philosophic idealism, but I think I ought to confess at once that I can only think of existence in terms of consciousness: nothing exists except in and for mind. The mind that thinks the universe must be immeasurably greater than my own, but in so far as I too am able to think the universe, mine is one with it. All thinking starts with a paradox, even the famous saying of Descartes, "I think, therefore I am"; and my paradox seems at least as reasonable as any other, and has fewer difficulties to encounter than most. I start then with the assumption that the universe is God's thought about Himself, and that in so far as I am able to think it along with Him, "I and my Father (even metaphysically speaking) are one." It cannot be demonstrated beyond dispute that any two human beings think the same universe. Strictly speaking, it is certain that they do not in every detail. But the common dominator of our experience, intellectual, moral, and spiritual, is the assumption that in the main the universe is pretty much the same for one man as it is for another. When I speak of the rolling sea, my neighbour does not understand me to mean the waving trees, but I cannot prove that he does not. If he is consistent in seeing water as trees and trees as water, his mind must be constituted differently from mine and yet I may never know it. So, by an almost unperceived act of faith, we have to take for granted that our separate individualities meet and become one to some extent in our common experience of this great universe, which is at that same time the expression of God. The real universe must be infinitely greater and more complex than the one which is apparent to our physical senses. This becomes probable, even on material grounds, the moment we begin to examine into the nature of sense perception. The ear is constituted to hear just so many sounds; beyond that limit at either end of the scale we can hear nothing, but that does not prove that there are no more sounds to hear. Similarly the eye can distinguish five or seven primary colours and their various combinations; beyond that limit we are colour-blind. But suppose we were endowed to hear and see sounds and colours a million times greater in number than those of which we have at present any cognizance! What kind of a universe would it be then? But that universe exists now; it is around and within us; it is God's thought about Himself, infinite and eternal. It is only finite to a finite mind, and it is more than probable that spiritual beings exist with a range of consciousness far greater than our own, to whom the universe of which we form a part must seem far more beautiful and fuller of meaning than it seems to us. Imagine a man who could only see grey hues and could only hear the note A on the keyboard. His experience would be quite as real as ours, and indeed the same up to a point, but how little he would know of the world as we know it. The glory of the sunset sky would be hidden from him; for him the melting power of the human voice, or of a grand cathedral organ, would not exist. So, no doubt, it is in a different degree with us all. The so-called material world is our consciousness of reality exercising itself along a strictly limited plane. We can know just as much as we are constituted to know, and no more. But it is all a question of consciousness. The larger and fuller a consciousness becomes, the more it can grasp and hold of the consciousness of God, the fundamental reality of our being as of everything else.
The subconscious mind.—Of late years the comparatively new science of psychology has begun to throw an amount of valuable light upon the mystery of human personality. As the result of numerous experiments and investigations into the normal and abnormal working of the human mind, psychologists have discovered that a great deal of our ordinary mental action goes on without our being aware of it. This unconscious cerebration, as it is called, can hardly be seriously disputed, for every new addition to our psychological knowledge goes to confirm it. Hence we are hearing a great deal about the subconscious mind, or subliminal consciousness as some prefer to call it. Now that our attention has been directed to it, we are coming to see, as is usual with every new discovery, that after a fashion we knew it all along. The subconscious mind seems to be the seat of inspiration and intuition. Genius, according to the late F. W. H. Myers, is "an up-rush of subliminal faculty." We have all heard of the distinguished lady novelist who declares that when she has chosen her theme she is in the habit of committing it to her subconscious mind and letting it alone for a while. She is not aware of any mental process which goes on, but sooner or later she finds that the theme is ripe for treatment; she knows what she thinks about it, and the work of stating it can profitably begin. Poets, preachers, and musicians can bear testimony of a somewhat similar kind. The thoughts which are most valuable are those which come unbidden, rising to the surface of consciousness from unknown depths. The best scientific discoveries are made in much the same way; the investigator has an intuition and forthwith sets to work to justify it. Reason, by which we ordinarily mean the conscious exercise of the mental faculties, plods along as if on four feet; intuition soars on wings. Truly astonishing things are frequently done by the subconscious mind superseding and controlling the conscious mind in exceptional states of emotion, especially in the case of people who are not quite normal; but there is no one, however stolid and commonplace, who does not owe far more to his subliminal consciousness than he does to what he calls his reason; indeed reason has comparatively little to do with the way in which people ordinarily conduct themselves, although we may like to think otherwise.
Now what is this subconscious mind whose importance is so great and of whose nature we know so little? That is a question upon which psychology has not yet pronounced, but there are not a few who regard it as the real personality. Evidently it is not only deeper but larger than the surface mind which we call reason. Our discovery of its existence has taught us that our ordinary consciousness is but a tiny corner of our personality. It has been well described as an illuminated disc on a vast ocean of being; it is like an island in the Pacific which is really the summit of a mountain whose base is miles below the surface. Summit and base are one, and yet no one realises when standing on the little island that he is perched at the very top of a mountain peak. So it is with our everyday consciousness of ourselves; we find it rather difficult to realise that this consciousness is not all there is of us. And yet, when we come to examine into the facts, the conclusion seems irresistible, that of our truer, deeper being we are quite unconscious.
The higher self.—Several important inferences follow from this position. The first is that our surface consciousness is somewhat illusory and does not possess the sharpness and definiteness of outline which we are accustomed to take for granted when thinking of ourselves. To ordinary common sense nothing seems more obvious than that we know most that is to be known about our friend John Smith, with whom we used to go to school and who has since developed into a stolid British man of business with few ideas and a tendency toward conservatism. John is a stalwart, honest, commonplace kind of person, of whom brilliant things were never prophesied and who has never been guilty of any. His wife and children go to church on Sundays. John seldom goes himself because it bores him, but he likes to know that religion is being attended to, and he does not want to hear that his clergyman is attempting any daring flights. He has a good-natured contempt for clergymen in general because he feels somehow that, like women, they have to be treated with half-fictitious reverence, but that they do not count for much in the ordinary affairs of life; they are a sort of third sex. But, according to the newer psychology, this matter-of-fact Englishman is not what he seems even to himself. His true being is vastly greater than he knows, and vastly greater than the world will ever know. It belongs not to the material plane of existence but to the plane of eternal reality. This larger self is in all probability a perfect and eternal spiritual being integral to the being of God. His surface self, his Philistine self, is the incarnation of some portion of that true eternal self which is one with God. The dividing line between the surface self and the other self is not the definite demarcation it appears to be. To the higher self it does not exist. To us it must seem that to all intents and purposes the two selves in a man are two separate beings, but that is not so; they are one, although the lower, owing to its limitations, cannot realise the fact. If my readers want to know whether I think that the higher self is conscious of the lower, I can only answer, Yes, I do, but I cannot prove it; probabilities point that way. What I want to insist upon here is that we are greater than we seem, that we have a higher self, and that our limited consciousness does not involve a separate individuality.
Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting; The soul that rises with us, our life's star, Hath had elsewhere its setting, And cometh from afar. Not in entire forgetfulness, And not in utter nakedness, But trailing clouds of glory do we come From God who is our home.
The great poets are the best theologians after all, for they see the farthest. The true being is consciousness; the universe, visible and invisible, is consciousness. The higher self of the individual man infolds more of the consciousness of God than the lower, but lower and higher are the same thing. This may be a difficult thought to grasp, but the time is rapidly approaching when it will be more generally accepted than it is now.
The unity of humanity.—Another inference from the theory of the subconscious mind is that of the fundamental unity of the whole human race. Indeed all life is fundamentally one, but there is a kinship of man with man which precedes that of man with any other order of being. Here again the spiritual truth cuts across what seem to be the dictates of common sense. Common sense assumes that I and Thou are eternally distinct, and that by no possibility can the territories of our respective beings ever become one. But even now, and on mere everyday grounds, we are finding reason to think otherwise. You are about to make an observation at table and some member of your family makes it before you; you are thinking of a certain tune and someone begins to hum it; you have a certain purpose in mind and, lo, the same thought finds expression in someone else, despite all probabilities. Oh, you may remark, This is only thought transference. Precisely, but what are you except your thought? All being, remember, is conscious of being. The infinite consciousness sees itself as a whole; the finite consciousness sees the same whole in part. Ultimately your being and mine are one and we shall come to know it. Individuality only has meaning in relation to the whole, and individual consciousness can only be fulfilled by expanding until it embraces the whole. Nothing that exists in your consciousness now and constitutes your self-knowledge will ever be obliterated or ever can be, but in a higher state of existence you will realise it to be a part of the universal stock. I shall not cease to be I, nor you to be you; but there must be a region of experience where we shall find that you and I are one.
The Self is God.—A third inference, already hinted at and presumed in all that has gone before, is that the highest of all selves, the ultimate Self of the universe, is God. The New Testament speaks of man as body, soul, and spirit. The body is the thought-form through which the individuality finds expression on our present limited plane; the soul is a man's consciousness of himself as apart from all the rest of existence and even from God—it is the bay seeing itself as the bay and not as the ocean; the spirit is the true being thus limited and expressed—it is the deathless divine within us. The soul therefore is what we make it; the spirit we can neither make nor mar, for it is at once our being and God's. What we are here to do is to grow the soul, that is to manifest the true nature of the spirit, to build up that self-realisation which is God's objective with the universe as a whole and with every self-conscious unit in particular.
Where, then, someone will say, is the dividing line between our being and God's? There is no dividing line except from our side. The ocean of consciousness knows that the bay has never been separate from itself, although the bay is only conscious of the ocean on the outer side of its own being. But, the reader may protest, This is Pantheism. No, it is not. Pantheism is a technical term in philosophic parlance and means something quite different from this. It stands for a Fate-God, a God imprisoned in His universe, a God who cannot help Himself and does not even know what He is about, a blind force which here breaks out into a rock and there into Ruskin and is equally indifferent to either. But that is not my God. My God is my deeper Self and yours too; He is the Self of the universe and knows all about it. He is never baffled and cannot be baffled; the whole cosmic process is one long incarnation and uprising of the being of God from itself to itself. With Tennyson you can call this doctrine the Higher Pantheism if you like, but it is the very antithesis of the Pantheism which has played such a part in the history of thought.
Its relation to free will.—But then, another will remonstrate, it does away with the freedom of the will. Well, here is a slippery subject sure enough, and one upon which more nonsense has been talked probably than any other within the range of philosophical or theological discussion. Have I anything new to say about it? Probably not, but I think I can focus the issue and show what we must recognise in order to have a rational grasp of the subject. Thinkers have talked too much in the past about the separate faculties of human nature as though they could be divided into Reason, Feeling, Action, and so on. But they are beginning to talk differently now. They are coming to see that a human being cannot be cut up like that. The Reason is the whole man thinking, judging, comparing. Feeling accompanies Reason and is never found apart from it, for reason implies consciousness, and without consciousness nothing that can properly be called Feeling exists. The will is simply the whole man acting.
Now I will frankly confess that in strict logic I can find no place for the freedom of the will. I will defy anyone to do so if he knows much about the laws of thought. But, as the late Mr. Lecky said in his "Map of Life," and Mr. Mallock has since pointed out in "The Reconstruction of Belief," we are compelled to overleap logic when considering this matter. No argument will convince us that we have not some power of individual self-direction and self-control. The most thoroughgoing determinist that ever lived forgets his determinism even while he argues about it. It must be amusing even to himself to see how he enjoys scoring off his opponent, thus taking for granted in the heat of controversy the very freedom he sets out to deny. The assumption at the bottom of every vigorous argument is that the other party might have held other views, and ought to have held other views than those assailed. The position of the determinist in effect is this: You must believe you have no freedom to choose anything, otherwise you are to blame for choosing wrongly. Of course the consistent determinist would evade this reductio ad absurdum by saying that he is as much necessitated in blaming his opponent for holding wrong views as the opponent is for refusing to give them up. He might also tell me that I am arguing for free will in an obscurantist fashion by admitting at the outset that in strict logic I can find no place for it. But I am not arguing for free will at all. I am simply showing that by the very constitution of our minds we cannot avoid taking some measure of free will for granted. Even the determinist who scouts this view and calls it absurd is by his own action a convincing demonstration of its truth.
Only the Infinite has perfect freedom.—But this contention is something more than mere logic chopping. It points to a truth too high for a finite mind to grasp, namely, that whatever our moral freedom may be, it must consist with the all-directing universal will. There is no such thing as perfect freedom in a finite being. Perfect freedom belongs only to infinity; finiteness implies limitations. Popular theology usually assumes, or appears to assume, that every individual is a perfectly free agent able at all times to distinguish and to choose between the higher and the lower, and as liable to choose the one as the other. There is another kind of theologising, of course, which speaks of the weakened or corrupted will due to our fallen nature, that I must let alone for the present. What I want to point out is that there is not, and never has been, an act of the will in which a man, without bias in either direction, has deliberately chosen evil in the presence of good. Under such circumstances no being in his sober senses would ever choose evil; enlightened self-interest alone would forbid the possibility of such a choice. Freedom of the will in this sense has never existed. The truth is that we should not be conscious of the possession of a will but for the conflict between desire and duty, or the necessity of choosing between one impulse and another. After all, the moral choices of life are but few in number. The things we go on doing day by day are the things that for the most part we know we must do, and we scarcely reflect upon the matter. When some question emerges which demands a moral choice we know it at once by the fact that we have to take our limitations into account. Something has to be overcome if the higher is chosen, and, without that overcoming, there is no real assertion of the will. It is no heroism in me to avoid getting drunk, but it may mean a tremendous assertion of the moral reserves in some poor fellow who knows the power of the drink craving. The same observation holds good of all human life. My weak points are not my neighbour's, and his are not mine. Neither of us is in a position to estimate the other's strength of will, but we both know that in our own case an absolutely unfettered moral choice has never been made. But for our limitations and imperfections we should know nothing whatever of the choice between right and wrong. Free will, in the sense of unlimited freedom of choice, does not exist. The only freedom we possess is like that of a bird in a cage; we can choose between the higher and the lower standing ground, a choice called for by the very fact that we are in prison, but we cannot choose where the cage shall go.
No doubt these considerations will meet with the disapproval of some people who think themselves orthodox. They will object to being told that every man has a higher self than that of which he is immediately conscious; that fundamentally the individual is one with the whole race and with God; that no one possesses absolute free will. To them it may seem an absurdity to maintain these positions. But if they say so, they will convict themselves of absurdity, for, with the exception of the last, Christian doctrine already affirms them all of Jesus. According to the received theology, Jesus was God, and yet He did not possess the all-controlling consciousness of the universe. He was also man, and yet He was before all ages. All creation proceeds from and centres in Him, and yet He was able to limit Himself in such a degree as to be ignorant of much that was going on in His own universe. If so-called orthodoxy finds it no difficulty to assert these things as being true of Jesus, it will not find it easy to show good reason why the same should not be true of all humanity. For the moment I neither assert nor deny the uniqueness of Jesus. All I am concerned to show is that if it is not intellectually impossible to affirm certain things about the consciousness of Jesus and the limitation of His true being in His earthly life, it is not impossible to affirm them of mankind.
Some of my critics have contended that this view of the relationship of man to God hails not from Palestine but from Oxford and is an outcome of the philosophy of T. H. Green. But I think it can be shown that its pedigree is considerably longer than that. Whether it hails from Palestine or not, it is explicitly stated in the fourth gospel: "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father? Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? The words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, He doeth the works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me." Those who object to my statement of the fundamental identity of God and man will have to explain away such passages as this, and there are plenty of them. But, it may be urged, this is meant to apply only to Jesus. That I do not believe; I think the exceedingly able writer of the fourth gospel knew better; but for the moment I will not contest the point. Granted that it does apply only to Jesus, what then? The very things which the critics declare to be impossible of personality in general in relation to God, they are affirming already of at least one personality, that of Jesus. If Jesus was God and yet prayed to God, if His consciousness was finite and yet one with the infinite, it is clear that in this one instance the seemingly impossible was not impossible. Those who insist upon the fundamental distinction between human personality and the being of God are thus on the horns of a dilemma. Present-day orthodoxy cannot consistently attack this position. The only telling criticism that can be directed against it is that which proceeds from the side of scientific monism. A thoroughgoing monist might reasonably contend that up to a certain point I have been arguing for a monistic view of the universe, in company with practically the whole scientific world, and have then given the case away by admitting a certain amount of individual freedom. I confess it looks like it; I have had to face the antinomy. I see that there is no escape from the assertion of the fundamental unity of all existence, and yet by the very constitution of the human mind we are compelled to take for granted a certain amount of individual initiative and self-direction. I think of the human will much as I do about the mariner's compass. It is well known that the needle does not always point steadily and consistently to the pole; its tiny aberrations have to be taken into account. But these are no real hindrance to the sailing of the ship, and the compass itself cannot run away.
Again, some of my friends have been pointing out that, while the New Theology regards all mankind as "Being of one substance with the Father," our consciousness of that being is our own. I freely admit this while maintaining that there is no substance but consciousness. What other kind of substance can there be? Therefore I hold that when our finite consciousness ceases to be finite there will be no distinction whatever between ours and God's. The distinction between finite and infinite is not eternal. The being of God is a complex unity, containing within itself and harmonising every form of self-consciousness that can possibly exist. No one need be afraid that in believing this he is assenting to the final obliteration of his own personality; if such obliteration were possible, our present personality could possess no permanent value even for God. No form of self-consciousness can ever perish. It completes itself in becoming infinite, but it cannot be destroyed.
THE NATURE OF EVIL
The problem not insoluble.—Before going on to say more about human personality, especially the personality of Jesus, it is requisite that we should determine our attitude toward a great question which in manifold forms has beset the human intellect ever since the dawn of history, namely, the problem of evil. It is still the fashion to declare this problem insoluble, but I have the audacity to believe that it is not so; mystery there may be, but it is not chiefly mystery. I will even go so far as to assert that the problem had been solved in human thought before Christianity began. What I have to say about it now is ancient thinking confirmed by present-day experience.
Evil is a negative, not a positive term. It denotes the absence rather than the presence of something. It is the perceived privation of good, the shadow where the light ought to be. "The devil is a vacuum," as a friend of mine once remarked to the no small bewilderment of a group of listeners in whose imagination the devil was anything but a vacuum. Evil is not an intruder in an otherwise perfect universe; finiteness presumes it. A thing is only seen to be evil when the capacity for good is present and unsatisfied. Evil is not a principle at war with good. Good is being and evil is not-being. When consciousness of being seeks further expression and finds itself hindered by its limitations, it becomes aware of evil.
A little reflection ought to convince anyone that this is the true way to look at the question of evil. Instead of asking how evil came to be in the universe, we should recognise that nothing finite can exist without it. Infinity alone can know nothing of evil because its resources are illimitable and—if I may be permitted the expression—every need is supplied before it can be felt. Evil and good are not like two armies in deadly conflict with each other for the possession of the city of God. We ought not to say that when one is in the other is out, but rather when one is the other is not. The very word "good" implies evil. One is positive and the other negative. Good only emerges in our experience in contrast with evil, and the ideal existence must be that in which good and evil are both transcended in the life eternal, when struggle and conflict are no more. In our present state of existence evil is necessary in order that we may know that there is such a thing as good, and therefore that we may realise the true nature of the life eternal. Look at that shadow on the pavement cast by the row of houses between your vision and the rising sun. Until the sun made his presence felt, you did not even know there was a shadow. Presently as the light giver climbs beyond and above this temporary barrier you will watch the shadow shrink and disappear. Where has it gone? If it were an entity in itself, it would have moved off somewhere else, but you are well aware that it has not done so, for it never had any real existence; real as it seemed, so real that you were able to give it a name, it never did more than show the place that needed to be filled with light. When the light came the shadow was swallowed up. So it is with every kind of evil, no matter what. Your perception of evil is the concomitant of your expanding finite consciousness of good. The moment you see a thing to be wrong you have affirmed that you know, however vaguely, what is required to put it right. Even when evil comes in the form of a calamity that lessens and diminishes your previous experience of good, as in an earthquake or a pestilence, this statement as to its true nature is in no way invalidated. It is not a thing in itself, it is only the perceived privation of what you know to be good, and which you know to be good because of the very presence of limitation, hindrance, and imperfection.
The relation of evil and pain.—But to most minds evil is almost synonymous with pain, at any rate in our experience it is associated with pain. When men begin questioning the goodness of God because of the evil of the world, they usually mean the pain of the world. Perhaps their thought about sin is to some extent an exception; sin and pain are not necessarily immediately associated in the theological mind. But what is pain? Properly speaking it is not in itself evil, but rather the evidence of evil, and also in a different way the evidence of good. Pain is life asserting itself against death, the higher struggling with the lower, the true with the false, the real with the unreal. When a baby cries for food he does so in unconscious obedience to the law of life; a stone does not cry for food. When a strong man suffers in the grip of a fell disease, the life within him is fighting for expression against something that seems to be extinguishing it. The suffering is caused by the effort of the life to retain its hold on the form, and yet if the disease succeeds in breaking the form it has only released the life to find expression in some higher form. When a guilty man suffers the tortures of remorse, it means that the truth within him is declaring itself against the falsehood, although it does not follow that it will immediately conquer. This is what pain is: it is life pressing upon death, and death resisting life. If a traveller falls asleep in the snow, or a sailor is nearly drowned, the process of recovery is always painful because the returning life has to overcome death. Carry the same principle through the whole range of human experience, physical, mental, and moral, and it will indicate the real significance of all the pain which has ever been endured or ever will be endured by mankind.
Still this would not satisfy everyone who feels compassion for cosmic suffering. Professor Huxley has told us that there is no sadder story than the story of sentient life upon this planet, and in so saying he has the testimony of modern science behind him. A vast amount of attention has been directed to this phase of the subject within the past fifty years. We seem to be more sensitive to the presence of pain as well as more sympathetic than our fathers were, and this tendency shows itself in a recognition of the solidarity of humanity with the lower creation. Theology has had practically nothing to say about the suffering or even about the significance of the myriad forms of life which exist below the human scale. But why ought they to be ignored? Indeed, how can they be ignored? The theology that has nothing to say about my clever and loyal four-footed companion, with his magnanimity, his sensitive spirit, and even his moral qualities, omits something of considerable importance to a thorough and consistent world-view. "Not a sparrow falleth to the ground without your Father," said one who spake as never man spake. I think it was Schopenhauer who once remarked, "The more I see of human nature the more I respect my dog." Now the New Theology finds no difficulty in recognising the importance of the brute creation, for it believes in a practical recognition of the solidarity of all existence. There is no life that is not of God, and therefore no life can ever perish, whatever may become of the form. If we can explain human suffering, the same explanation covers the suffering of all sub-human life.
The true extent of the problem of pain.—But the problem is not so large as it looks. When we hear of a terrible event like the Jamaica disaster, we are apt to jump to the conclusion that the amount of suffering in the world is specially and enormously greater because of it. But that is not so. Our standard of measurement is a false one. The amount of pain endured depends upon the consciousness enduring it and upon its capacity for looking before and after. Besides we only suffer individually, and therefore all the pain of the world is comprised within the experience of the being who suffers most, whoever that may be. We ought to estimate the actual amount of cosmic suffering by the intensity of the suffering borne by any one individual at any one time. We are not immediately conscious of all the woe of the universe; we are each of us conscious of our own, even though it may be caused by sympathy with others; and the world's woe taken as a whole is not greater than the amount borne by him whose consciousness of it is greatest. This is what we may call the intensive as contrasted with the extensive observation of the problem of pain. It is a kind of barometrical measurement. We do not gauge the weather by adding together the figures of all the storm-glasses in the world; the rise or fall of the mercury in any one of them, especially the best one among them, comprehends the whole. Here is the problem of pain in a nutshell. The whole appalling tale of cosmic suffering can be compressed within the limits of the individual consciousness which has endured the most.
The purpose of pain.—Nor is there the slightest need to be afraid of it. Theologians may tell us that we should never have known anything about it but for man's first disobedience, and humanists may maintain that it is impossible to reconcile it with belief in the goodness of God; but they are both wrong. There are some things impossible even to omnipotence, and one of them is the realisation of a love which has never known pain. If creation is the self-expression of God, pain was inevitable from the first. For what is the nature of God? According to the Christian religion it is love. And what is love? Here is another slippery word which has had some contradictory connotations in the course of its history. Some time ago Mr. G. Bernard Shaw delivered a lecture at the City Temple on the "Religion of the British Empire," in the course of which he said that, if I knew as much about stage-plays as he did, I should distrust the word "love," for it was bound up with an amount of false and gusty sentiment. He himself preferred the word "life" to express what I meant by the word "love." But love is too good a word to be given over to the sentimentalists, although Mr. Shaw was perfectly right as to the way in which it has been misused. Love is life, the life eternal, the life of God. Jesus and His New Testament followers used both terms as expressive of the innermost of God. The life of God is such that in the presence of need it must give itself just as water will run down hill; this is the law of its being. Where no need exists, that is, where life is infinite, love finds no expression. To realise itself for what it is, sacrifice, that is self-limitation, becomes necessary. Love is essentially self-giving. It is the living of the individual life in terms of the whole. In a finite world this cannot but mean pain, but it is also self-fulfilment. "Whosoever shall save his life shall lose it, but whosoever will lose his life shall find it." This profound saying of Jesus is older even than Jesus; it is the law of God's own being, the law of love, the means to the realisation of the life eternal. It is so plain and simple, and withal so sublime, that we cannot but see it to be true, and can do no other than bow before it. The law of the universe is the law of sacrifice in order to self-manifestation. In this age-long process all sentient life has its part, for it is of the infinite, and to the infinite it will return. When, therefore, you feel compassion for the rabbit which is being killed by the weasel, or the stag that falls before the hounds, you can remember at the same time that this is not meaningless cruelty, but the operation of the same law that governs the highest activities of your own soul. You are right to feel the compassion; you were meant to feel it; and there is good reason why you should, for the suffering is real enough to awaken it. But do not forget that the suffering is not quite what it appears to you; it is only yours as it enters into your own consciousness and you suffer along with the actual victim. Compassion in such a case is the initial impulse toward self-offering, the desire to take the victim's place. But the suffering of the rabbit or the stag is to be measured by the consciousness of the rabbit or the stag, not by yours. In the slaughter nothing perishes but the form, the life returns to the Soul of the universe.
The nature of sin.—What, then, is sin? In the light of the foregoing considerations that question should not be difficult to answer. Some of my recent critics have been declaring that I deny the existence of sin, and am teaching that as there is no sin there is no need for Atonement. This looks like wilful misrepresentation, for my words on the subject have been clear enough and I have nothing to un-say, but perhaps it would be better to allow that the critics have made the mistake of rushing into print without carefully examining the utterances which they denounce. Let me say, then, that sin is the opposite of love. All possible activities of the soul are between two poles,—self on the one hand and the common life on the other. Everything we can think or say or do is in one or other of these directions; we are either living for the self at the expense of the whole, or we are fulfilling the self by serving the whole. Sin is therefore selfishness. If the true life is the life which is lived in terms of the whole, then the sinful life is the life which is lived for self alone. No man, however depraved, succeeds in living the selfish life all the time; if he did he would sink below the level of the brutes. Sin makes for death; love makes for life. Sin is self-ward; love is All-ward. Sin is always a blunder; in the long run it becomes its own punishment, for it is the soul imposing fetters upon itself, which fetters must be broken by the reassertion of the universal life. Sin is actually a quest for life, but a quest which is pursued in the wrong way. The man who is living a selfish life must think, if he thinks about it at all, that he can gratify himself in that way, that is, he can get more abundant life. But in this he is mistaken; he is trying to cut himself off from the source of life. He is like a man seated on the branch of a tree and sawing it off from the trunk. But when theologians talk of the wrath of God against sin, and the wrong which sin has inflicted upon God, they employ figures of speech which are distinctly misleading. In fact, they do not seem to have a clear idea as to what sin really is. They use vague language about it as though it were some kind of corporate offence against God of which the whole race has been guilty without being able to help it, and which no individual can escape although he is as much to blame as if he could. But sin has never injured God except through man. It is the God within who is injured by it rather than the God without. It is time we had done with the unreal language about the Judge on the great white throne, whose justice must be satisfied before His mercy can operate. The figure contains a truth which everyone knows well enough, but it is not easy to recognise it under this form.
The Fall.—The theological muddle is largely caused by the inability of many people to free themselves from archaic notions which have really nothing to do with Christianity, although they have been imported into it. The principal of these, in relation to the question of sin, is the doctrine of the Fall. This doctrine has played a mischievous part in Christian thought, more especially perhaps since the Reformation. In broad outline it is as follows: Man was created originally innocent and pure,—for what reason is not quite clear, but it is said to be for the glory of God,—but by an act of disobedience to a divine command he fell from his high estate and in his fall dragged down the whole creation and blighted posterity. Things have been wrong ever since, and God has been angry not only with the original transgressor but with all his descendants. God is a God of righteousness and therefore in a future world He will torture every human being who dies without availing himself of a certain "plan of salvation" designed to give him a chance of escape. This is a queer sort of righteousness! The plan of salvation consists in sending His own Son—a Son who has existed eternally, which the rest of us have not—to live a few years on earth and go through a certain programme ending with a violent death. In consideration of this death, God undertakes to forgive His erring children, who could not help being sinners, and yet are just as much to blame as if they could, but only on consideration that they "believe" in time to flee from the wrath to come. If they happen to die half a minute too late, repentance will be of no avail.
Dogmatic theologians must really excuse me for paraphrasing their words in this way. I know they do not put the case with such irritating clearness, but this is what they mean. Their forefathers used to put it plainly enough. Turn up John Knox's "Confession of Faith," for instance, and it will be found that my statement of the case is mildness itself compared to his; John saw no necessity for mincing matters. It may be contended that no orthodox theologian of any repute now believes in an actual historical fall of the race. Perhaps not, but theological writers go on using language which implies it and so do preachers of the gospel. I do not mean that they are dishonest, but they cannot get their perspective right. They think that by giving up belief in a historical fall of the race they would have to give up a great deal more. Without the Fall they do not know what to say about sin, salvation, the Atonement, etc. They are mistaken in this supposition, as I trust I have already shown to some extent when discussing the question of sin, and as I shall hope to show more clearly still when we come to deal with the Atonement. What I now wish to insist upon is that it is absolutely impossible for any intelligent man to continue to believe in the Fall as it is literally understood and taught.
The Genesis account.—It is popularly supposed that the doctrine is derived from the book of Genesis, but that is hardly the case. No doubt the Genesis myth about Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden forms the background of it, but it is not consonant with the doctrine itself. The Genesis narrative says nothing about the ruined creation or the curse upon posterity. There is no hint of individual immortality, much less of heaven and hell; no Christ, no cross, no future judgment, no vicarious Atonement. It is a composite primitive story. A careful examination of its constituents will show that more than one account of the event has been drawn upon to supply materials for the narrative as it now stands. The legend was in existence as oral tradition ages before it became literature. How old it may be we have no means of knowing with certainty, but the parallel stories in other Semitic religions are of great antiquity and had originally no ethical significance whatever. The Genesis story of the Fall exercised no influence upon Old Testament religion; it is scarcely alluded to in the best Old Testament writings, some of them earlier probably than the Genesis account itself. It was not until after the great captivity that it showed any tendency toward becoming an article of faith. At the time when Jesus was born it had passed into the popular Jewish religion. There is a psychological reason for the gradual transformation of a primitive legend into a religious dogma. The Jewish nation has fallen upon evil days. For generations after the great captivity they had been ground under the heel of a succession of foreign masters. Under the cruel rule of Antiochus Epiphanes, about the middle of the second century B.C., their very religion seemed likely to be crushed out by merciless persecution. It was no wonder that the serious minds of the day became inclined to look upon the present as being but the ruin of the past, the sorry remainder of what had once been an ideal world. This tendency showed itself in various ways, the chief of which was a looking back to the great days of David and Solomon as the period of Israel's brightest splendour and prosperity. Of this I must say a little more presently when we come to consider the genesis of the idea of the kingdom of God. Another way in which the same tendency showed itself was that of taking the legend of the Fall more or less literally. A suffering generation could hardly help thinking of their woes as being the result of some primitive act of transgression. This is the way in which the rabbis came to speak of the Fall as being an actual fact of religious and ethical importance.
The doctrine transferred to Christianity.—A similar set of political and social conditions carried the doctrine over into Christianity, chiefly through the influence of the apostle Paul who had received a rabbinical training. Not only Hebrews but Greeks had begun to feel that the world was decaying and perhaps nearing the end. They idealised the past and contrasted it with the present. All civilisation lay under the dominion of Rome, and Rome herself was subject to a military dictator. The heart of the world-wide empire was a hotbed of corruption where every form of vice took root and flourished. The Greek thinkers and scholars despised their masters, but their own heroic days were gone and they were helpless to cast off the yoke. They had no Pericles now, no Leonidas, no Miltiades. Gone were the men of Thermopylae, Marathon, and Salamis. These were lesser, darker days. With a sure instinct men were ceasing to feel any confidence in the future of this pagan civilisation. It had its great elements, but the signs of disruption were already apparent and no one could foresee what would take its place. The mood of the time is reflected in the pages of Tacitus and Juvenal. Into this atmosphere came Christianity with its doctrine of the holy love of God and its adoring faith in Jesus. But both Judaism and Hellenism had already the tendency to look back toward a better and happier time and to think of the present as a fall from it. Paul felt this like everyone else, and forthwith took some kind of a fall for granted when unfolding his system of thought. It is doubtful whether he took the Genesis story literally or not, and he certainly made Adam the type of the unideal or earthly man who had become estranged from God. He was too great a man to be pinned down to mere literalism in a question of this kind, so in his use of the terms supplied by the rabbinical version of the legend he glides easily into the statement of the obvious truth that the Adam, or lower man, or earthly principle in every human being, needs to be transformed by the uprising of the Christ or ideal man, within the soul. "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." "The first man is of the earth earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven."
Here, then, we have the origins of the doctrine of the Fall. Right through Christian history the tendency has run to look upon the world as the ruins of a divine plan marred by man's perversity and self-will. It is time we got rid of it, for it has had a blighting, deadening influence upon hopeful endeavour for the good of the race. It is not integral to Christianity, for Jesus never said a word about it and did not even allude to it indirectly. It implies a view of the nature and dealings of God with men which is unethical and untrue. Surely, if God knew beforehand that the world would go wrong, the blame for catastrophe was not all man's. If He were so baffled and horror-stricken by the results as the dogmatic theologian makes out, He ought to have been more careful about the way He did His work at the beginning; a world which went wrong so early and so easily was anything but "very good," although He pronounced it to be so according to the Genesis writer. Besides, why should a trivial act of transgression have sent it all wrong? We take leave of our common sense when we talk
Of man's first disobedience and the fruit Of that forbidden tree.
To be sure Milton did not believe it himself when he wrote that line, but his Puritan associates and Catholic ancestors did, and orthodoxy professes to do so still, though it does not know quite how to put it without falling into absurdity. Again, why should God feel Himself so much aggrieved by Adam's peccadillo? If it were not for the theological atmosphere which surrounds the question, we should see at once that it was ridiculous. Why should the consequences continue through countless generations? Remember this was supposed to be the very start of humanity's career. What a dreary, hopeless outlook was left to it! The notion is incredible, and most of the clear-headed men who hold it would scout it without discussion if they heard of it now for the first time. As it is, however, they go on talking of the "awful holiness" of God, the offence against the divine majesty, and so on. But what is this divine holiness? I can well remember that as a child I used to tremble at the thought of it, for somehow, like a good many other people, I had been taught to think of the divine holiness as synonymous with merciless inflexibility. But holiness, righteousness, justice, mercy, love, are but different expressions of the same spiritual reality. One might go on multiplying these considerations for ever, but there is no need to do so. Sufficient has been said to demonstrate the fact that the doctrine of the Fall is an absurdity from the point of view both of ethical consistency and common sense.
Science and the Fall.—After this it is almost superfluous to point out that modern science knows nothing of it and can find no trace of such a cataclysm in human history. On the contrary, it asserts that there has been a gradual and unmistakable rise; the law of evolution governs human affairs just as it does every other part of the cosmic process. This statement is quite consistent with the admission that there have been periods of retrogression as well as of advance, and that the advance itself has not been steady and uniform from first to last; there have been long stretches of history during which humanity has seemed to mark time and then a sudden outburst of intellectual activity and moral achievement. It could hardly be maintained, for instance, that the Athens of Socrates was not superior to the France of Fulk the black of Anjou, or that the Assyria of Asshur-bani-pal was not quite as civilised as the Germany of the ninth century A.D. Alfred Russel Wallace has shown in his popular book, "The Wonderful Century," that the latter half of the nineteenth century witnessed a greater advance in man's power over nature than the fifteen hundred years preceding it. There are some people who maintain that while the material advance is unquestionable, the intellectual advance is on the whole more doubtful, and that, morally speaking, human nature is no different from what it ever was. But I do not think any serious historian would say this. Intellectually, the average man may still be inferior to Plato,—though even Plato did not understand the need for exact thought as modern philosophers do,—but civilisation as a whole has produced a higher level of intellectual attainment than had been reached by Plato's world. A civilisation in which four-fifths of the people were helots kept in ignorance in order that an aristocratic few might enjoy the benefits of culture was not equal to ours, great and glaring as the defects of ours may be. Again, while it is only too sadly true that modern civilisation contains plenty of callous selfishness, gross injustice, and abominable cruelty, it can hardly be denied that these relics of our brute ancestry are universally deplored, and that society recognises them to be inimical to its well-being and seeks to get rid of them. Thank God, as Anthony Trollope said, that bad as men are to-day they are not as men were in the days of the Caesars.
If the New Theology controversy had arisen a few hundred years ago, theological disputants would not have wasted time in writing newspaper articles; they would have met in solemn conclave and condemned the heretic to be flayed alive or hung over a slow fire or treated in some similarly convincing manner. Of course it is remotely possible that some of them would like to do it now, but public opinion would not let them; things have changed, and the change is in the direction of a higher general morality. If any man feels pessimistic about the present, let him study the past and he will feel reassured. Those who maintain that society is not morally better but only more sentimental, beg the question. What they call sentimentalism is greater sensibility, greater sympathy, a keener sense of justice. What is the moral ideal but love? Every advance in the direction of universal love and brotherhood is a moral advance. The sternness of Stoicism or Puritanism was an imperfect morality. The grandeur and impressiveness of it were due to the fact that Stoics and Puritans for the most part took their ideal seriously; they aimed at something high and dedicated their lives to it. This dedication of the life to something higher than self-interest is of the very essence of true morality, and its highest reach is perfect love. We are a long way from that yet, although the ideal was manifested two thousand years ago. The average man to-day is certainly not nobler than the apostle Paul, nor does he see more deeply into the true meaning of life than did John the divine, but the general level is higher. Slowly, very slowly, with every now and then a depressing set-back, the race is climbing the steep ascent toward the ideal of universal brotherhood.