The doctrine of the Divinity of Man is a source of inspiration or degradation according to the type of humanity regarded as ideal.
The influence of personality is such that the appearance in history of an individual worthy to be regarded as the Ideal Man would have been uniquely creative. Is Christ such an individual ? (Note.-The historical evidence.)
The voice from heaven at the Baptism is, in the life of Christ, comparable to the `Call' of an Old Testament Prophet; it is a moment of realisation of vocation.
Both this voice and the symbolism in the story of the Temptation must be interpreted in the light thrown by modern Psychology on visions and auditions.
The Temptation expresses the conflict between the contemporary Messianic ideal and the moral ideals expressed in the life and teaching of Jesus.
SON OF GOD
Inferences as to the mind of Christ which may be drawn from the words, (a) ` Thou art my beloved Son ', (b) ' I thank Thee Father . . . ', and other sayings.
All men are potentially ` sons of God '-not slaves, but free-men.
AS the free-man must fight the battles of the state, so the citizens of the Kingdom of God must serve and, if need be, die-Christ, the Son par excellence, leading the way. The conception, Kingdom of God, stands for an ideal which, by its very definition, is unsurpassable.
To Christ the Crucifixion meant, not only personal disgrace and agony, but the rejection by His people of its national destiny. The moral grandeur of His act is obscured, if it be supposed that He had supernatural knowledge (as distinct from faith) that His cause would triumph. As an expression in action of the ideal of service, ' the utmost for the highest', His self-devotion has an absolute quality, it is a ne plus ultra.
A POSITIVE IDEAL
The conventional emphasis on ` 'sinlessness' ' in Christ unfortunate
(1) It is impossible to prove a negative.
(2) It suggests that the moral ideal is mainly `to do no harm'. The New Testament suggests that there was both a real development of character and a real struggle with temptation.
Granting that Christ did achieve moral perfection, this is to be seen, not in a negative avoidance of sin, but in His positive and creative passion for righteousness.
Is not the Christ ideal a little tame, and also impracticable ?
The criticism would be valid were not the conventional picture of Christ a misrepresentation of the actual historic person. This shown under five headings
(1) ` The man of sorrows ' ; (2) ` The sheep before the shearers ' ; (3) Christ a ` constructive revolutionary ' ; (4) The ` Way of the Cross ' means not asceticism, but battle; (5) The higher common-sense.
THE IDEAL OF MAN
The intellectual and aesthetic tradition of Europe looks back to Athens, not to Galilee. Must the Ideal Man be an `Admirable Crichton' ?
Christ was a specialist in ethics and religion; nevertheless everything He said and did appears to be intellectually and aesthetically, as well as morally, the ideal reaction to the actual circumstances. This illustrated by a detailed consideration of-(1) His intellectual powers. (2) His esthetic insight. (3) The element of finality in His moral teaching.
THE MIRROR OF THE INFINITE
The personality of Jesus is intensely individual, but at the same time it perfectly embodies a universal principle, viz. Creative Love. The appearance in history of such a person constitutes prima facie evidence that Creative Love is an element in Reality.
Man asks no special assurance that among the attributes of the Power behind things are (1) Infinite might; (2) Beauty; (3) Bare rationality. Of Its purpose (i.e. of Its moral quality) he would know more.
If in any agency there is purpose, that constitutes its essence. Unless God is as good as Christ, man can be nobler than his Creator. If love exists at all in God, it must be dominant, and therefore what He is.
DOGMA AS SYMBOL
Dogma can be treated, not as an intellectual fetter, but as a devotional symbol. The concept of the Trinity, taken in this way, expresses the inscrutable mystery and supra-personal character of Reality. The concept of Christ as the ` portrait' of the Father gives to that mystery a luminous centre.
But Christ is not an arbitrarily chosen symbol of the Divine; He can be that only because of what He really is, and of what God is.
THE doctrine of the Divinity of Man is one full of inspiration, but also full of peril. It may find expression in the worship of the Christ ; but also in the worship of Napoleon or Don Juan. The Will to Power and the Will to Pleasure are instincts so powerful that they have sometimes wrested even from Reason and Religion sanction for their claim to rule witness the philosophy of Nietzsche in the West or the erotic cults of Krishna 1 ( It is the peculiar tragedy of Indian religion that Krishna, who in the Oita voices the loftiest conceptions of Hinduism, is also hero of a legend which makes him the Don Juan of the gods ; and in certain districts the centre of a cult in which immoral practices have a place.) in the East. The Will to Righteousness is no less truly human than the Will to Pleasure or to Power; but -it develops later, and, like the heir to a contested throne, though born to reign may never wear the crown. Man's divinity is a thing that he must win.
Predominantly in childhood, only a little less in later years, character develops along the lines of the attraction exercised by striking personalities who seem to impersonate ideals. A man's philosophy of the Universe and the code of ethics which he accepts his Creed and his Commandments, so to speak-count for much, but the personalities that appeal to him count for more.
Every one knows the difference that it makes to the ` tone ' of a regiment, a college or an office, whether the dominant personalities therein more nearly embody the Napoleonic, the Don Juan, or the Christ ideal.
Thus it comes about that at the stage in Creative Evolution reached by man-the stage at which, in virtue of the possession of self-consciousness, a species becomes capable of taking, to however limited extent, an active share in the direction of its own destiny-dynamic personality becomes the centre of the creative process. Whenever a truly creative personality appears in history, the Power behind the Universe not only finds a new expression for some element in Its-or His-own nature, but also makes a fresh contribution to the actual task of creation. Not only is a remarkable specimen of the race produced, but also, through him, there is effected a new constructive work.
The inspiration of humanity is the roll-call of its famous men. But does any one of these represent an absolute ideal, an ideal, that is, which is wholly and without qualification worthy of imitation ? And if we have no criterion, no objective standard of the ideal, how are we to say exactly where or to what extent any one model is defective ? The very richness of our heritage of great men makes for confusion. Also an ideal tends to be dynamic in proportion to the clearness of its outline. There is, then, nothing intrinsically unreasonable in the idea that at some time in the course of history Creative Evolution should have produced a super-hero who could stand to humanity as the embodiment of a kind of super-ideal, capable of providing the rallying standard which men require. Such a person, appearing at a certain stage of man's development, would have been, of all possible variations in the species, the one most effectively creative.
To our fathers Christ was such a super-hero. Is He such to us ? or must we look elsewhere for our Superman ? Or are we to say that the Power-or Person-manifested in Creative Evolution has not as yet proved capable of this supreme creative act, and that we must do the best we can without it? 1
1 THE HISTORICAL EVIDENCE.-Of the life of Jesus we know less than we could wish, but we know a good deal. Our documentary authorities are incomparably superior, for example, to those on which rest our knowledge of the Buddha. The allusions in the letters of Paul, though scanty in amount, are the evidence of an actual contemporary. Mark, the earliest of the Gospels, seems to have been written something under forty years after the happenings it records, and there is contemporary evidence (cf. B. H. Streeter, The Four Gospels, p. 17 f. Macmillan, 1924) that its author was a resident in Jerusalem and a follower of the Apostle Peter. His story shows traces of that kind of enhancement of detail which, where events recorded are remarkable, is a common phenomenon in reports by simple-minded persons who derive their information from others by word of mouth ; but there is very little that can be dismissed at once as legend. In the stories of the Infancy, and a few other passages of Matthew and Luke, poetic legend has clearly been at work. But the bulls of the material in these two Gospels appears to be derived either from Mark or from written collections of parables and sayings of still earlier date, and Luke seems to have used an account of the Passion independent of Mark. For the life of Christ, then, we turn first to Mark, supplementing him to some extent from Luke ; for the teaching we rely mainly on Luke and Matthew. The Gospel of John is a work of an entirely different character, not a biography but a meditation. It is a mystic's interpretation of the essence of Christianity cast into dramatic form. It probably incorporates authentic traditions other than those preserved in the Synoptics ; nevertheless it should be read, as we read a dialogue of Plato or the book of Job; that is, for the sake, not of the incident's and situations, but of the thought they are selected to convey.
The remainder of this chapter is largely an attempt to give an answer to this question. It has cost me much thought and much labour ; but, as I read it through once more in proof, there came over me a feeling of acute dissatisfaction. In discussing problems about Christ, I seemed to have left unportrayed the Christ Himself. But, perhaps, that does not really matter. The Gospels are there ; from their pages who will may find the plaster's personality in all its grace and majesty. And if what I have written leads any one to re-read a familiar story with a freshened eye my purpose has been effected.
A scholar who studies the mind of an Isaiah or an Ezekiel, will take as starting-point the vision and the voice through which, to them, as to so many of the Hebrew prophets, there calve the conviction of vocation. In the form assumed by the ` Call' of a prophet, both his own individuality and the essence of his special message are concentrated in symbolic form. It was through a Voice and a Vision of this same symbolic character that conviction reached the mind of Jesus, as He rose from the water after baptism by John, that He was indeed Messiah.2 a In Mark, the earliest of the Gospels, the words are, `coming up out of the water, he saw' ; and there is no suggestion that any one but Jesus saw the vision or heard the voice. So also Matthew; in Luke, and still nacre in John, the original tradition has been modified.
Curiously enough, many eminent critics, instead of seeking in this incident the key to the understanding of His mind and message, have on purely a priori grounds denied its historicity.
At the end of this volume I have set out in an Appendix some facts which illustrate the psychological mechanism of experiences of this type; and have tried to show the vital necessity of distinguishing in such cases between the content and the form. The principle I have inferred from the evidence there adduced, i.e. that their significance lies, not in a particular psychological mechanism, but in their spiritual quality, requires special emphasis when we come to study some of those experiences which have changed the history of the world-the summons which brought Amos from following the flock, the vision that made Paul a Christian, or the voice that convinced Jesus that He was indeed the Christ.
By the recipient of such a 'call' its compulsive authority could not be questioned, ` The lion hath roared who will not fear ? The Lord God hath spoken, who will not prophesy ? ' 1
1 Amos iii. 8. Both the ethical monotheism of the Jew, and the practice of putting a prophetic message in writing-to `which ultimately we owe the fact that there is a Bible-go back to the new line struck out by Amos. z I have worked this out in more detail, and have also discussed at length the extent to which Jesus accepted the Apocalyptic views of the age, in my essay, ° The Historic Christ', in Foundations. (Macmillan, 1912.)To Jesus from the moment of His baptism, whatever may have been the case before, it could not for a single moment be doubtful that He was the Christ. And to the contemporary Jewish mind- which was inclined to interpret the utterances of earlier prophets in the light of later Apocalyptic--Messiahship implied an office of far more than human magnificence and power. Only, therefore, in the light of the conviction that Messiahship had been authenticated by the voice of God Himself, can we consider how far the life of Jesus is an expression of the religious and moral ideal He taught.
Matthew and Luke-drawing apparently on a lost document (Q so-called) which represents the earliest stratum of the Gospel tradition-go on to tell of a series of Temptations. One after another there are presented to His mind, in symbolic picture, aspects of the contemporary ideal of what the Christ should be or do ; one after another, luxury, empire, the appeal to marvel, are rejected as entailing faithlessness to the highest. The incompatibility between His estimate of moral and religious values and that picture of regal magnificence and easy triumph which religious tradition had associated with the Messianic office was fundamental .2 The mental conflict entailed by such a crisis may well have found expression in visionary experiences of the kind recorded in the Gospel story (p. 320 ff.) ; but a generation which worshipped Jesus as superhuman would never have guessed even the fact, much less the character, of such a conflict. Some account of it must have reached them, derived ultimately from Christ Himself. And He would have had reason to give the disciples some account of it. At Caesarea Philippi, Peter saluted Him as Messiah; at once, we are told, He began to point out that He was not Messiah in anything like the sense supposed; and in particular He repudiated, as temptation from Satan, Peter's suggestion that the Christ ought not to suffer. This incident, or the period of esoteric teaching which seems to have followed it, was, I suggest, an occasion when He could hardly have avoided communicating to His disciples the nature of, and the conclusions reached by Him in, the spiritual conflict in regard to this very point which had accompanied His call. Jesus always taught (probably He also thought) to a large extent in parable and metaphor; and allowance must also be made for the possibility of a difference in matters of detail between the account as originally related by Him and as recorded in our documents. It is, therefore, safer to leave open the question whether the story of the Temptation should be read as conscious parable, or whether the scenes and voices described were originally seen or heard in visions. But that the voice at the Baptism, ` Thou art my beloved Son', was what psychologists style an ` audition', I do not personally regard as an open question.
SON of GOD
Visions and auditions seem normally to be dramatised projections of conclusions to which the self has arrived in its subconscious ranges ; but when they occur to great souls who have used themselves to deep communion with the Infinite, it may well be that they express something larger than the individual mind, and are indeed a veritable expression of the Divine. Nevertheless, in these cases also it would appear that their actual form is mainly determined by the character and mental history of the individual and his race. It is not surprising, then, that, so far as form is concerned, the audition which assured Jesus that He was the Christ reflected a passage of the Old Testament commonly interpreted as Messianic.'
1 Ps. ii. 7. The Western text in Luke iii. 22 reads: " Thou art my son, this day have I begotten Thee." If, as I believe (cf. The Four Gospels, p. 188), this is what Luke wrote, and represents the wording found in the oldest source Q, the reference to the Messianic text is even clearer than in the Marcan version of the Voice.
But we are entitled to draw large inferences as to the inner depths of the mind of Him who heard the Voice from the fact that the words echoed are not such as point to royal dignity or supernatural power, `Son of David', `Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God', but `beloved Son', which suggest a personal relation between a human soul and the Divine. This note of personal intimacy, if one may so call it, between Himself and God can be felt in many of His recorded sayings. The prophets of the Old Testament believed that there was given to them, but only at certain intervals, ` a word of the Lord', from which they derived an absolutely authentic, but still only a partial, knowledge of God's nature and His will for man. Christ always speaks as if He felt that He knew this fully and knew it all the while. Quite naturally, as it were, He substitutes for the prophet's ` thus saith the Lord ' the simple ` I say unto you '. To use technical language, in Him the `prophetic consciousness ', raised as it were to the nth power, is sublimated into the Messianic. But if He speaks with authority, it is less the authority of status and of office than of direct intuitive knowledge.
` I thank thee, 0 Father, . . . that thou didst hide these things from the wise and understanding and didst reveal them unto babes.' To say this was, in a sense, to put Himself alongside the babes. Not the pedant nor the sophist, but he alone who, with the man's courage and the man's intellect, retains the child's heart and the child's direct simplicity, has the necessary equipment, so to speak, for understanding God's parental love towards man. Would Christ have told others that to enter the Kingdom of Heaven they must become as little children, unless He had verified the fact by personal experience ? Just because He was the first and only grown man of high courage and powerful intellect to try that and no other method of approach to God, He could say, ` No one knoweth the Son, save the Father; neither doth any know the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son willeth to reveal Him'. Thereby He won (or perhaps He did not have to win it) an insight into the nature of God that told Him that God not only is, but asks to be treated as, ` our Father'. Those best worship God who think of Him first and foremost, not as Creator, not as Sovereign, not as Judge, but just as Parent to be loved and trusted. And if we may judge from words and actions which are clearly the spontaneous expression of the inner mind of Jesus, we must conclude that alike in sorrow and in joy this attitude was by Him completely realised. Legend had spoken of Abraham as `the friend ' of God; Jesus thought, spoke and acted as `the son'.
But this conviction of sonship to God, though in one sense unique, is not proclaimed by Him as an exclusive personal privilege ; He is the pioneer, the one to whom and through whom the full secret of God's goodness has been first disclosed-but now it is an open secret. The main burden of His message is that this parenthood of God, this overflowing tenderness and individual care, so far from being confined to the one unique Messiah Son, is for all-for the publican, the sinner and the little child. All are God's children, and all who recognise the fact and respond in love and trust may aspire in the fullest sense to become the sons of God. They can become, and are exhorted to become, like God.
Love your enemies . . . that ye may be the sons of your Father which is in heaven; for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good . . . ye therefore shall be perfect even as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Before Christ, the typical conception of God had been that of monarch; with the corollary that the good man was His faithful slave. Once to Ezekiel, prostrate before ` the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord', there had come a voice, ` Son of man stand upon thy feet and I will speak to thee '. Christ said that to all men. Stand upon your feet, realise your sonship to God, and He will speak to you ; and, in that inspiration, all things good will then be possible to you.
From slave to son. The word rappnsia--that citizen right of 'freespeech' which the old Greek republican loved to contrast with the servility of the subject of an oriental despot---is chosen by St. Paul (Eph. iii. 12) to summarise the difference between the new religion and the old. But in the Greek world, along with the free-man's privilege of speech, went the free-man's responsibility to take counsel for, and fight the battles of, the state. So it is in Christ's teaching. If God's sons are free, they must enter into His purposes and fight His battles. `Strait is the gate and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.' The citizens of the Kingdom of God are a fighting aristocracy; but their objective is to give and not to get, and, therefore, their methods of warfare differ from the common as widely as their aim. It follows that the Messiah, who is the first to realise man's sonship to God, must be the leader in that fight. Citizenship in the Kingdom of God brings inspiration and consolation, but also conflict, desolation and rebuff. In both directions Christ says `Follow me'. To an enthusiast aspiring to discipleship He gives the damping warning, `The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests but the Son of Man hath not where to lay his head'. His special privilege as Messiah is just the unique service which He renders, the unique burden He takes up. The Kings of the Gentiles may delight in adulation and lord it over servile courts, but He whom God has chosen to fulfil the destiny of Israel, to be King of Kings and Lord of Lords, came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.' 1 Cf. Mark g. 35-45.
` As a ransom' it is written. A price, it seems, had to be paid. For the deliverance of suffering, erring humanity, to further the coming of the Kingdom of God-to realise, that is, an unsurpassable ideal-He must give His life. The Kingdom of God was a name for something conceived of by Him as being alike the climax of the working of Divine Providence and the goal of human effort. It is not surprising that a large literature has come into existence in the attempt to elucidate His meaning.l
1 I have attempted to sum up the controversy in Foundations, p. 111 ff. An outline of that meaning is given in a clause of the Lord's Prayer, ` Thy Kingdom come,' that is, ` Thy Will be done on earth as it is in heaven.' It is sufficient for my present purpose to point out that the ideal as here expressed has an `absolute quality. A state of things in which the will of God is completely realised in concrete fact is, by definition, that that which no higher can be conceived. Human progress may go on to the end of time, yet from the nature of the case it can consist only in ever learning better how to fill out the detail of this grandly simple scheme.
Jesus had pointed out to men the way to reach the Kingdom, but Jerusalem, even more emphatically than Galilee, had rejected this ; there was left only the last desperate throw-to die for it. But the death which Jesus faced was not the death of a soldier or a martyr applauded by sympathetic friends-all had left Him disillusioned, and He had anticipated that they would do so.2 2 Mark xiv. 27-31.
It was the death of a discredited pretender. More than that, it meant the failure of Ibis own highest and dearest hopes-the hope that even at the last His beloved Jerusalem 3 ( 3 Cf. Luke xiii. 34 ; xix. 41-44. ) might not prove blind to the hour of her visitation, that the people, who were His own people and God's own people, in the hour of destiny might not play false.
Popular theology assumes that Christ possessed a supernatural knowledge of the details of the future, and that a Resurrection and Ascension were by Him all through clearly and explicitly foreseen.4
It is probable that some of the explicit detail in the prophecies Mark viii. 31 ; ix. 31 ; x. 33 f. (and parallels), is due to a modification of the original sayings in oral tradition, influenced by subsequent events.
Such an assumption belittles the moral grandeur of His act. Doubtless He believed that His cause was God's cause, and that therefore it could not finally be worsted; that God was the God of the living, and that therefore this life was not for Him the end. But to Him, as to other men, this was a matter, not of knowledge but of faith. To Him, as to any other of His time, crucifixion stood for torture, disgrace and death.
But the rejection which preceded it made it mean to Him something which it did not mean to others the failure of His life's mission, the renunciation by His people of their national destiny. That was the cup which in Gethsemane He feared to drink.
Called to an office of a majesty the highest conceivable, Christ lived a life of complete self-devotion to the service of His fellow-men in a cause which He believed, and with good reason, to be God's cause ; He braved a death of utter failure, torture and disgrace in the hope (not with the explicit knowledge) at that price to realise on earth an unsurpassable ideal. Such an expression in action of such an ideal has in it the quality of an ` absolute ' ; there is in its perfection a certain finality. Such a life is a ne plus ultra; it is not merely something which before or since has been unequalled ; it is something which one cannot even imagine as transcended.
A POSITIVE IDEAL
Apologetic theologians are wont to build large constructions upon the ` 'sinlessness' ' of Christ. For two reasons this is unfortunate.
(1) It is proverbially impossible to prove a negative. If it be urged that no sinful action is recorded of Him, it can be replied that the faults of an idealised leader are not the things which his biographers love to dwell upon. If, again, it be urged that anything. of the kind would be inconsistent with the whole character portrayed in the Gospels, that is a stronger argument; yet in human nature unexpected inconsistencies are found. In this particular case it may plausibly be urged that any exhibition of the will to evil would be an inconsistency so startling as to be psychologically incredible ; but can a whole theology be built on the assumption of its impossibility ?
(2) The word ` 'sinlessness' ' suggests the idea, which has been the bane of popular ethics, that the highest moral achievement is ° to do no harm'; whereas the most conspicuous feature in the teaching of Christ is His insistence that righteousness is positive and consists, not in avoidance of error, but in being inspired by an overwhelming passion for good, and by an unquenchable love of God and man.
A sentence in the Fourth Gospel, ` which of you convinceth me of sin ? ' is commonly quoted to prove that Christ thought of Himself as morally perfect. But this, like so much in the Fourth Gospel, may well represent the reflection of the disciple on the character of Christ rather than anything He Himself actually said. More illuminating to my mind is the passage in Mark where, in reply to the somewhat `gushing' greeting `Good Master', he replies, `Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, God.' From the days of the author of the First Gospel, who in the parallel passage modifies Mark's phrase, theologians have striven to explain away the obvious meaning of the words. But why try to do so ? Have we not an instinctive feeling that one who could explicitly think and definitely affirm that he had reached the goal of moral perfection would be, not the ideal man, but the ideal Pharisee ?
Indeed I would be bold to ask, ` If Christ had affirmed that He had attained perfection, would He not by so doing have shown a certain lack of moral insight ? ' Luke quite frankly says `Jesus grew in wisdom', and in biblical usage the word 'wisdom' implies moral quite as much as intellectual insight. Character is something which is ever being enriched by experience, and the sublime assertion that He was `made perfect through suffering'1 (1 Cf. Heb. ii. 10 with v. 8.) has meaning only if we suppose that the character of our Lord never ceased to be so enriched, and only attained its full maturity in the World Invisible after the supreme experience of the Crucifixion.
But to say that a character has not attained perfection, in the sense of not having yet reached its full maturity, does not necessarily imply that it is defective through that actual exercise of evil choice which we call sin. And we may readily believe that this was the case with Christ. But if He avoided actual sin, it was not without real effort. Most men at some point in their career must face a struggle, a choice of Hercules, on the issue of which will depend the tenor and the quality of their whole life. The Gospel tradition, in the Temptation story, emphasises the occurrence of such a moral crisis in the life of Christ.
Man is an animal, and he has godlike dreams ; temptation may arise from either fact. Natural selection suffers no race to survive in which the primary instincts, for food and for the reproduction of the species, are too weak to spur into activity. In themselves both these fundamental instincts are good, but both may be indulged under circumstances in which the indulgence is evil. Where in a food shortage all are rationed, it is base for an individual to indulge an innocent and natural hunger; in a far greater variety of circumstances it is base to indulge the other primary (and in itself equally innocent) instinct ; so much so that many have come to look upon the mere possession of that instinct as wrong. On the higher side of man's nature, temptation comes from the purely spiritual desire for power and admiration ; and this temptation comes in its most subtle form when these allure by the thought of the influence for good which they might give. It is worth while to note that, in the testing crisis which determined the character of His career, Christ was assailed first by hunger, the simplest and strongest of the animal desires, and then by the most insinuating of spiritual temptations the power and position which offer influence for good.
There is no reason to suppose that the Temptation in the wilderness was the only occasion in which it cost Christ effort to choose the better way. The strength that overcomes in great temptations has commonly been won through victory in small ones. Christ would not have become a creative moral force in history if at the age of thirty He had never yet-in things physical as well as spiritual-heard the tempter's voice. Nor even after this ` Choice of Hercules ' was He-if we must accept the Gospel record-wholly free. ` The devil departed from him for a season', says Luke; and again ` Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations '. And why, otherwise, in Gethsemane, face to face with the final conflict, did he crave the prayers of friends?
Christ, we read, was 'in all points tempted like as we are ' ; and the fight was not ended in a single round. If we conclude that, unlike us, He was enabled on each several occasion to overcome, we draw an inference in accordance with the general impression produced by the records of His life. But an avoidance of moral error, even if it could be demonstrated to be complete, would be a merely negative achievement which would throw little light on the main problem of this chapter. The question whether Christ is the Ideal Man is one the answer to which practically decides the further question whether or no the Divine Creative Principle reveals Itself in the life of Christ in some unique sense. Now, whatever else It is, the Creative Principle must be something positive and active ; Its trend and character cannot therefore be displayed by any mere negation. But it is just the positive, active, creative righteousness in the life and teaching of Christ which strikes us first and last. No doubt, could we detect any obvious and conspicuous fault in His character or actions, this impression would be to that extent weakened and impaired. But the defects which have been alleged to exist are so trifling and superficial that, even if they could be substantiated as such (personally I believe they cannot be 1 ) 1 See the admirable discussion by the late Dean Rashdall, Conscience and Christ, p. 1.69 ff. (Duckworth, 1916.) they would relatively to the positive good be like the spots on the sun's disk, practically negligible. Goodness is positive and creative; Divinity also must be something essentially positive and always creative. ` My father worketh hitherto and I work.' It is not on account of a negative sinlessness which, even if actual, is unprovable, but because of the positive quality in His life and words, and because in history Christ has been uniquely creative, that no discussion of the nature either of goodness or of God can afford to leave Him out.
And yet, with all its commanding appeal, may it not be said that the moral ideal set forth in tile life and teaching of Christ is in one sense negative ? Is it not at least a little unpractical ? Does it not under-estimate the value of self-assertion under proper circumstances ? ` A beautiful character, but just a little soft,' is a comment one sometimes hears. Hectically as he overstates it, has not Nietzsche something of a case ?
It should be admitted-rather it ought to be shouted from the housetops-that, as most often interpreted in Christian art or Christian teaching, Christ's ideal is not the highest. The portrait of the Christ which has been impressed on the general mind of Europe is defective in certain positive moral qualities. It is worth while, then, to point out that precisely in regard to those qualities it differs from the portrait of the historic Jesus which we find in the first three Gospels.
(1) ` Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by ? Behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow.' In their original context I (1 Lamentations, i. 12.) these wonderful words are the wail of Jerusalem desolated by the Babylonian conqueror ; written beneath a crucifix, as if spoken by Christ Himself, they are misleading. The best men do not make pitiful appeals of this kind for themselves ; they incline to be silent about, or to understate, their personal sufferings. And that was the attitude of the historic Jesus, ` Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me '. Christ drank to the dregs the cup of disappointment and despair; Isaiah's words 'a man of sorrows and acquainted with grieff' appropriately describe Him but He did not pathetically call attention to the fact. He wore, but did not advertise, a crown of thorns.
(2) The argument from prophecy played a large part in early Christian apologetic. Diligently were the Scriptures searched for passages which by any possibility might be read as a forecast of some incident in the Messiah's life. Christ had kept silence before Caiaphas and Pilate; in Isaiah were found the words, ` He humbled himself and opened not his mouth; as a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and as. .a sheep that before her shearers is dumb.' The too literal application of this text has permanently discoloured the accepted portrait of the Christ. What was the real reason why Christ was silent before the High Priest ? To plead one's cause before a tribunal is to acknowledge it as one which at any rate desires to do justice ; it is morally to bind oneself to respect the verdict. Christ knew that the tribunal before which He stood was not a court of justice, but a conspiracy. Had there been among His judges any desire at all to do justice, it might have been worth while to state a case ; to beg for mercy merely He could not stoop. Before Pilate He kept silence for another reason. Pilate had a real, if Iukewarm, wish to see justice done; but for the Messiah, condemned by His own people, to make any effort to escape with bare life, through the intervention of the magistrate of an alien and oppressive power, was morally impossible. Socrates, unjustly sentenced by what was, similarly, the supreme court of his people, felt that he could not worthily allow his friends to bribe the jailor to let him escape: and could Jesus, publicly condemned by God's High Priest, speak a single word which might induce the pagan Roman to grant Him life ? The silence of Christ before His judges was not that of the sheep before the shearers ; it was the silence, not of meek submission, but of selfrespect.
(3) The submissiveness, which is an outstanding feature in the conventional picture of the Christ, is sheer parody of the historic Jesus. True, He taught and lived in practice a life of complete surrender to the will of God. But by Him the will of God was thought of, not as an arbitrary decree, but as the expression of the absolutely good. Surrender to the will of God meant to Him unwavering devotion to the Absolute Ideal, coupled with the recognition that both the path towards it and the price of its attainment is known to God but often veiled from man. Christ did not teach surrender to the will of man: least of all a docile submission to those men who claimed to be the guardians of a special revelation of the will of God for man. In His attitude to the religious authorities of the day Christ was a revolutionary. The notion that it is the duty of a religious man to accept uncriticised anything. that the past has held venerable and sacred, finds no support in Him. Christ was conspicuously a critic of tradition. He was constantly condemning accepted conceptions of God, accepted canons of morality, and above all that ecclesiastical tradition by which the word of God, then as so often since, was made of none effect.
Christ assuredly was not the mere iconoclast who loves destruction for its own sake; if He was a revolutionary He was a `Constructive Revolutionary'.1 (1 In my essay under that title in The Spirit (Macmillan 1919) I have tried to explain on historical grounds the paradoxical fact that in Europe generally the Church, which professes to incarnate the spirit of Christ, has come to be associated with resistance to all change.) He realised fully the value of the religious heritage of a mighty past. He came not to destroy but to fulfil. He brought out of His treasury things old as well as new. Yet in the main His eye was less on the past than on the present and the future; and He saw that for the sake of righteousness law must be sometimes broken, and for the sake of Religion the Temple might have to be destroyed. He had a passionate affection for the Church of His fathers, `Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would I . . .' ; but He saw that when the fig tree had ceased to bear fruit it ought not, and would not much longer be permitted, to cumber the ground. His 'churchmanship' ' consisted in an effort at all costs to reform and vitalise existing thought and usage, not in the endeavour to perpetuate and defend the status quo. Where no principle was involved He counselled the keeping of the Law. ` Go show thyself to the priest and offer for thy cleansing . . . .' ` Leave there thy gift before the altar.' But if Law or commentary stood in the way of humanity or freedom, He brushed them aside with the revolutionary dictum-`the Sabbath was made for man'. In the Jewish theory Church and State were one ; and in this State, organised as a Church, He was no anarchist. He did recognise, and ordinarily He obeyed, the legitimate authority of scribe and priest. But it is not for this obedience that He is known to history, but because He also recognised that occasion may arise when the duty of rebellion has the higher claim. In the face of glaring abuses, He was not content merely to criticise in words. In driving out of the Temple the vendors of sacrificial animals, He committed an outrage on a trade sanctioned by public opinion and by the authorities of both Church and State-that was why they crucified Him. He stirred up a hornets' nest, and the hornets stung.
(4) Christ was crucified. He had divined that fate; and to all who would follow Him He promised--` threatened' would be the better word-a cross. He knew that humanity has always persecuted its prophets and stoned those who have been sent unto it. But He had none of the ascetic's passion for suffering for its own sake. John the Baptist was an ascetic; and Christ respected John. But He did not imitate John's way ; He claimed to better it. He came eating and drinking-He enjoyed life to an extent that scandalised His critics. He was inclined to laugh at the grave and solemn Pharisees; and they did not like it.' (a On the humour of Christ, cf. T. R. Clover, The Jesus of History, p. 49 f.)
Not only the progress, the very existence, of our race has daily to be bought with blood and tears; and suffering necessary for the work's sake, if bravely faced and cheerfully endured, ennobles and uplifts. But history shows that austerities, studiously devised as a means of spiritual self-culture, tend to produce a capacity for self-sacrifice only at the price of a fanatic limitation of the moral vision. The power of the ascetic ideal to make noble minds indifferent or even hostile to the highest moral and intellectual movements of their day has been the tragedy of religion in East and West alike. But it falsely claims the prestige of Christ's example. Not for its own sake did He take up the cross, but only because there was no other way to the triumph of His cause. Even to the last He prayed ` if it be possible, let this cup pass '-though with absolute readiness to drink it if the cause required.
(5) But, perhaps, at the back of our mind there still remains the haunting query, Is not Christ, all said and done, a dreamer of dreams, the very type of the unpractical idealist? We want our morality for every day use. A moral ideal to be of real service must be compatible with common sense; it must be one which, if put in practice, will work.
The Greek used the same word (To kalov) for the beautiful and for the good; and perhaps the deepest of all instincts in the human heart is the conviction that goodness, like beauty, has an intrinsic value. A heroic deed, a noble character, exacts our admiration. A fine action, like a fine picture, needs not to justify itself before the tribunal of common sense. But there is a lower and there is a higher common sense; and this latter is not a matter unworthy of the moralist's consideration. It is necessary, then, to consider the morality of Christ from the standpoint of the higher common sense, that is, of practical effectiveness in the interests of human progress.
The essence of common sense is to know exactly, what you want to achieve, to make sure that your object is to you worth the price which must be paid for it, to estimate accurately the assets you possess and how best to utilise them. It is not common sense at all to strive after things which other people value, but which you yourself do not, or to strive after things which you do desire, but without counting the probable cost, and being willing, if necessary, to pay it.
Christ knew what He wanted to achieve, He knew the price, and He was prepared to pay it. The resources available for the accomplishment of His aims, in the way of wealth, learning, position, or the support of those who had these things, were simply nil. He had His own clear insight, sincerity of purpose and unflinching courage; He had an absolute trust in God, and He had the devotion of a group of uneducated and not conspicuously intelligent working men. Those were all His assets. Yet as the result of what He said and did during
a space of time-possibly four, more probably a little more than two, years in length 1--(1 I have discussed this point in The Four Gospels, p. 421.)
He has left a deeper mark on the history of the world than any other one individual that ever lived. If to produce a maximum of results with a minimum of resources and opportunities is a test of practical sagacity, Christ affords a supreme example of that gift, that is, of that kind of common sense which realises that for the sake of great ends great sacrifices must be made and great risks taken.
There were times when the odds against Him seemed too great. There were moments when the stupidities and iniquities of His contemporaries seemed too gross for remedy and He almost despaired of men'Nevertheless, when the Son of man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth ? ' (Lk. xviii. 8). There was a moment (I like to think) when He despaired of God, when to Him-as to so many since-it seemed that the Power which determines all things is in the last resort indifferent to the triumph of right or wrong-'My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me ' ? From one who trusted God as Christ had done, who had staked all for a cause so obviously God's cause, this cry attests the lowest depths of failure and despair. It is just because the Christ did so despair, did so, to use a slang phrase, ` touch absolute bottom', that we feel His fellowship with us ordinary men.
But had He failed ? Grant, if you will, His belief in God, in immortality, in His own unique mission, to be an empty dream; grant, if you must, that everything He lived and died for was delusion. Yet to have succeeded during twenty centuries in imposing that delusion upon half the world is at least a practical success-and is, perhaps, presumptive evidence that it was not delusion after all.
Jesus, whose lot with us was cast,
Who saw it out, from first to last
Patient and fearless, tender, true,
Carpenter, vagabond, felon, Jew
Whose humorous eye took in each phase
Of full rich life this world displays,
Yet evermore kept fast in view
The far-off goal it leads us to
Who, as your hour neared, did not fail--
The world's fate trembling in the scale-
With your half-hearted band to dine,
And chat across the bread and wine
Then went out firm to face the end,
Alone, without a single friend
Who felt, as your last words confessed,
Wrung from a proud unflinching breast
By hours of dull ignoble pain,
Your whole life's fight was fought in vain
Would I could win and keep and feel
That heart of love, that spirit of steel.l
1- Lines published anonymously in, and reprinted by permission from, the Speetator. I have since been told that they have been traced to a London doctor, Wilfred Brinton, who gave his life to slum work.
THE IDEAL OF MAN
The intellectual and aesthetic tradition of Europe looks back to Athens, not to Galilee; and no amount of special pleading will make it plausible to maintain that Science, Philosophy or Art owe as much to Jesus as to Hippocrates, Plato or Praxiteles. Nor on the other hand can it be maintained, as some Christians have done, that because the stimulus to such activities is not derived from Jesus, they are of little worth.
Again, reflection soon compels us to face the question whether, in view of the necessary limitations of individual personality, the conception of an Ideal Man has really any meaning. The inspiration to progress has usually come from individuals who, without being narrow specialists, have yet been eminent in some particular department. Like Plato and like Praxiteles, Christ was a supreme discoverer and creator-but only in one field. But can a specialist in some one department be regarded as the ideal for all humanity ? Or must any one who wants to realise the highest possibilities of human nature be one who, in a famous phrase, `left no subject untouched, and touched nothing which he did not adorn ' ? Must the Ideal Man be a kind of `Admirable Crichton'?
The point here raised is one which has far-reaching consequences for any theory of conduct. Quite obviously any practicable ideal for man must involve a certain element of specialisation. The things that are do-able are infinite, and no one can do them all; indeed no one can do more than a very few of them really well. The quality of a man's life or character must be judged, not by the number of different things he does, but by the nature of the particular things he elects to do, and by the way in which he does these. It follows that the ideal must be, not to do every conceivable thing, but for each one to do the things which he personally can and ought to doin the best way possible. But-and this I would urge is essential-the best way possible is a way which is intellectually and aesthetically, as well as morally, adequate to the circumstances of the case.
Christ was not an Admirable Crichton; He was a specialist in Ethics and Religion. It is worth while, then, to inquire how far everything which He said or did appears, if we scrutinise it carefully, to be intellectually and aesthetically, as well as morally, the ideally suitable reaction to the actual circumstances.
(1) Intelligence is often confused with extent and range of knowledge ; or it is supposed to be identical with interest in science, philosophy, letters, or other so-called intellectual pursuits. That is a misconception. Intelligence shows itself in apprehending the exact nature of the particular problems with which the individual is himself called upon to deal; in seeing through the fog of contemporary sophism and misunderstanding ; in detecting underlying principles which to most men are lost in a mass of detail or are obscured by accepted catchwords; in noticing the connexion of things usually unrelated or the distinction between things usually confused; in apprehending the importance of what others overlook or the relative unimportance of what they regard as central. It may best perhaps be described as a kind of ` flair', in virtue of which the discoverer, the artist, the true reformer-not to mention the man who really possesses that not too common quality known as ` common sense '-seize at once on what is relevant, and discard or subordinate what is not.
II. Intellectual quality of a high order is conspicuous in the incidental sayings of Christ, so notable for pith and point. What observation, what penetration, what concentration, do His parables reveal-never a trace in them of the prolix, the 'sloppy' or the confused. How apt the irony which counters the Pharisees' complaint of the company He kept, `Healthy people (sc. like you) do not need a doctor'. How skilfully (as in the answer `Render unto Caesar') He will enunciate a profound principle, while at the same time eluding an opponent's trap. The circumstances of His life presented neither the opportunity nor the need for Him to interest Himself in metaphysical speculation or scientific research ; they did present both opportunity and need for a knowledge of the Old Testament and of current religious thought. Extensive book-learning was not a thing He was called upon to acquire ; but the books He had read were the best available, and He got from them the best they had to give. In regard to these He displays that insight which selects the really valuable and discards the rubbish, which in a confused process of development detects the fundamental ideas and the right and real direction, which in the name of the spirit dares to sit in judgement on the letter. Consider, too, the sublime unity of conception-of God, man and duty-that underlies His philosophy of life. The more one ponders it, the more one realises it as the constructive synthesis, the creative simplification, of a master mind. If the test of intelligence is capacity ` to see the point', among those born of woman Christ is not surpassed.
(2) Of the aesthetic quality of the mind of Christ it might appear that we lack material to frame a judgement. Not so. Of course we shall not ask, What masterpieces of painting or sculpture did He produce? The particular work which He felt called upon to do neither required nor allowed of the concentration of effort on such activities. Nor could He have done so without renouncing both His nationality and His mission; for the Jew was forbidden by his religion to make any graven image or the likeness of anything in heaven or in earth. But the aesthetic capacity of the Hebrew race, disallowed the use of brush or chisel, had been concentrated entirely on the art of expression in words. Viewed simply as literature-judged, that is, by a purely aesthetic standard the Old Testament contains poetry, impassioned rhetoric, descriptive narrative, which may be rivalled elsewhere but which has nowhere been surpassed. Our question, then, as to the aesthetic quality in Christ is answered when we note that in the one art in which His nation had excelled, Christ showed Himself a master. Christ as artist must be judged by His achievement in an art which He practised, not by the absence of achievement in arts which He did not even attempt. True, the test is one which cannot be applied to Him without injustice. His parables and sayings were not written down at the time. They have come down to us doubly diluted, first by the fallible memories of His followers, and again by translation into a foreign tongue ; the original context of most of them is lost, translation has obscured their subtler nuance and poetic rhythm. Yet for all that, judged simply from the aesthetic standpoint, the words of Jesus are in the forefront of the world's literature.
Esthetic capacity is at bottom an apprehension of value-which expresses itself, now in creation, now in appreciation. The two can never be completely separated, but its creative side appears most clearly in the artist, the appreciative in the critic using the word critic to mean, not one who carps, but one who is supremely sensitive to finer shades of value. In parables like the Good Samaritan, the Lost Sheep, or the Prodigal Son we can see the creative artist ; it is more difficult to test what I have called the `critic'. The sayings of Christ have been, as it were, put through a sieve : those only have been handed down which seemed interesting, or useful for purposes of exhortation, to the rather commonplace and prosaic minds of those who first listened to Him. One saying only, `not one sparrow shall fall on the ground without your Father', shows His love for animals; one only shows His love of flowers. And neither of these, be it noted, is reported for its intrinsic interest, but only because it serves to illustrate a practical injunction; yet neither can be read in its context without our seeing that it is not a chance reflexion, but implies a deeply pondered conviction. We are justified, then, in pressing the full meaning of one famous saying.
Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin ; and yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
Here is an aesthetic judgement, simple, penetrating, sublime ; and it is expressed in an aesthetically perfect phrase. The idea has by now become a commonplace, the standard of taste implied is one which most moderns would accept as obvious ; but at the time it was new and even revolutionary. It is the one aesthetic judgement of His which has been preserved ; but it implies the possession of perfect taste.
(3) The way is now clear to consider the specific contribution of Christ to moral theory. In a sense this has been done already; just as aesthetic theory has little meaning unless it be illustrated in a concrete work of art, so a moral ideal will be effective in proportion as it has found concrete expression in an ideal life. The greatest contribution of Christ to moral theory was the life He led, and about this I have said enough. Nevertheless a moral ideal requires to be rightly defined in word as well as to be expressed in act. That is a point often overlooked. It is of small value to humanity that a prophet should die for his ideal, if the ideal itself be confused or false. If we are to affirm that Christ stands out above all other heroes and martyrs of our race, it must be for some unique sublimity in the ideal He taught, quite as much as for the completeness of the sacrifice which He made for its attainment.
Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength. Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
By the selection from the whole range of Jewish literature of these two sentences, as embodying between them the essence of Religion and Ethics, Christ effected one of those master simplifications which not infrequently inaugurate new eras in human progress. Considered as a summary expression of the moral and religious ideal, it has a quality to which the term `finality ' may properly be applied, in that it states a foundation principle which, so far as we can conceive, cannot in the nature of things ever be transcended. Once grant the existence of a Personal God-the source of all goodness, beauty, truth-love is the only adequate expression of the ideal attitude of man towards Him. Again, the maxim `love thy neighbour as thyself' has a quality which we may style 'absolute'. As definition it cannot be improved -upon; and the ideal which is defined is one towards which the higher minds in all countries and in all ages have been slowly and painfully feeling their way. And if it is a true ideal at all, it is completely true; for the simple reason that, if the right track lies in that direction, you have here reached its end. Nietzsche, we know, maintains that a direction exactly the opposite is right, and that therefore this is an utterly false and corrupting ideal ; but in so saying he traverses, not the teaching of Christ alone, but the moral sense of all humanity, and, as I have already pointed out, the lessons of biology, psychology and history as well. If the conscience of mankind has in all times and all places been wholly perverted, if Socrates, Confucius and the Buddha are to be counted the great deceivers of mankind, then, I grant, the maxim ` thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself' is in perversity and deceit the most dangerous of all. If not, Christ has here stated-and that in a way that could not conceivably be improved upon-the principle and the criterion of that final ethic towards which all the rest were reaching out. And it is of all ethical principles both the simplest to apply and the most obviously fruitful in its results ; for, as was shown in the last chapter, a society approaches to, or recedes from, an ideal state in exact proportion as the ethics of its individual members are inspired by this principle or the reverse.
The formula, Love God and love thy neighbour, provides us also with an unsurpassable expression of the right relation between Ethics and Religion; the love of God is the precondition and the inspiration of the love of man, the love of man is the practical expression of the love of God. It is also an ideal which is impatient of any static conception of Ethics or Religion. So far from conflicting with the idea of evolution, it necessarily demands for its realisation an unending development. Only as man advances in personal morality can he really learn to love God; only as there is social progress can he effectively put in practice the love of man. As society develops and civilisations change, opinions will and ought to change as to the best way to make real and effective, in the individual heart and in the body corporate, the love of God. Methods of religious discipline, organisation, ceremonial and the like, which are well suited to one age, one nation, one temperament, may be found ill-suited to another. There will be constant change in the ways of education, the codes, the institutions, which attempt to give practical realisation to the principle of the love of man. Development in these ways may be neverending. But the ideal as apprehended and as defined by Jesus does not admit of improvement or advance. It is either false or it is final.
THE MIRROR - OF THE INFINITE
` Christ is the greatest character in history, just as Hamlet is the greatest character in art', wrote CluttonBrock. A great work of art, while intensely individual, is always felt to be the expression of something universal. Thus Hamlet is not a type, but an individual; and yet up to a point every man is Hamlet. Just so Christ is individually Himself and no one else; yet, in a sense, He is humanity. There is hardly a saying or an action recorded in the first three Gospels which is not in some subtle way 'characteristic'; of which, if we found it in some other book, we should not at once say, ` That might have come from the Gospels.' Yet about the deeds and words of Christ there is always a haunting quality of seeming to be the expression of something universal. Can we account for this impression?
The life and character of Christ are an embodiment (whether perfect or approximate hardly affects my argument) in concrete experience of an ideal principle-the principle of Creative Love. It follows that the thinker who wishes to frame a conception of the Universe must regard the occurrence in history of such a life as a phenomenon of unique importance. The life of Christ is a fact ; no theory, therefore, of the Universe can be intellectually watertight which is inadequate to explain this fact. And when a principle has been realised in concrete experience, we must ask how far it is representative of an element in Ultimate Reality. The fact of Christ, the actual emergence upon the stage of history of this transcendent personality, is an empirical phenomenon which challenges explanation. For every effect we assume a cause adequate to produce it. If the personality of Christ is the effect, is it not reasonable to infer, in that Infinite Creative Life which we must assume as cause, a character in which Love is an essential element ?
Few philosophers have fully realised the tremendous import of a personality whose mere occurrence in history compels us to face the possibility that Love may be even one attribute among many in the Power behind the Universe.
(1) We are never in doubt about Its irresistible might, Its all-pervasiveness, Its infinity. That is obvious. No Christ was required to show us that man in the presence of everlasting Nature is but a speck of animated dust, ` an infant crying in the night'. What we want to know is the purpose (if there is one), the goal (if such there be), of this stupendous Process, the scheme of values (if any) towards the realisation of which It moves, Its attitude (whether kindly or indifferent) towards you and me.
(2) Nor again is Its beauty the thing about which we ask for further light. ` The Heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament showeth His handiwork.' The aesthetic quality of the Ultimate Creative Power is never far to seek. Nature, where it is unspoiled by man, blazons this abroad-in the starry heavens, the mountains, the sunsets, the lilies of the held. The occurrence of a unique personality in history is not needed to tell us that the Totality of things is beautiful.
(3) Nor is it the bare rationality of the Power behind things for which we ask the evidence. Mankind has always found it hard to believe that this ordered Universe, so immensely varied yet so completely linked in one intricately coordinated system, could have come into existence without the direction of conscious Mind.
Those who, like Epicurus of old or the Scientific Materialists of our time, maintain the contrary, maintain what to the plain man seems a paradox-to be accepted, of course, if irrefutably proved, but in itself antecedently improbable.
Neither the physical nor the metaphysical, neither the rational nor the aesthetic quality of the Infinite is what we are most concerned to know. But what, for lack of a richer word, I can only call its 'moral' quality is a piece of knowledge which affects our every act and every hope, which gives character to our every aspiration or achievement. More than that-the moral quality and purpose in the Infinite are not only that element in It which it is most important for us to know; they are also (if they exist at all) intrinsically the most important thing about It, they must constitute what Greek thinkers called its ovsia, or Its 'essence', i.e. that which makes It to be what It is. This follows from our previous conclusion (cf. p. 150) that power is a shadow unless it be linked to conscious purpose. For this, if true at all, must hold of the Universe as well as man.
This last point, self-evident as it is, is so often ignored that I will, at the risk of tedium, elaborate it. What is it that differentiates the force which shows itself in an electric current from that which shows itself in a growing tree ? Is it its extent, or its quality ? Is it the amount of `work ' that it can do, or the fact that it is alive ? Ask again, what is the real difference between the lifeforce in a tree and in a man? The man knows what he wants; in him life is conscious, that is, capable of direction by a sense of quality. So too the essential difference between the life of one man and another, between the hero and the coward, between the cruel and the kind, is one of quality, it lies in the nature of his aims and his ideals. But once it is realised that the distinctive character of any power which can initiate or direct action is constituted by its intention or purpose, that is, its own inner quality, it logically follows that awareness of the highest values and complete devotion to them (if these exist at all in God) must be His ` essence '. Once think of the Power behind things as fully conscious, and it follows that the ovsia of God must be conceived in terms, not of blank existence, but of quality.
I may also recall the argument (p. 140) that, whereas from the standpoint of `pure reason' God must always remain a mystery, yet His nature, so far as its quality is concerned, can be known if, and in so far as, in human personality life is manifested of such a character as to be qualitatively homogeneous with the Infinite Life. The ' absolute ' character in the ethical quality of the life of Christ is such as to suggest that in this case the required condition is approximately, if not completely, fulfilled.
May we, then, infer that the Infinite Mind is one which really loves the individual, that not one sparrow falls on the ground without Its caring ? That is an inference which follows in strict logic from the argument, set out in the last two chapters, for regarding human personality at its highest as a representative expression of the Life of the Infinite. But it is an inference which would lose half its cogency were it not that in Christ we see a personality whom we cannot but regard as adequate to be a Mirror of that Infinite ; and that, for the very simple reason that the life of Christ forces us to face this issue : unless God is at least as good as Christ, then man is nobler than his Creator.
But, some one may object, to argue thus from man to God is pushing the principle of anthropomorphic interpretation too far. I concede the objection; we have reached the bounds beyond which human reason may not feel confident of its conclusions. But reason, at the point where it begins to fail us, is pointing clearly in one direction ; it is possible, but it is not likely, that just beyond our sight the long straight road we gaze down turns backward on itself. Not proof, but all the weight of probability, points to the conclusion that in that principle of Creative Love, which in the life and character of the Christ found for once undimmed expression, we glimpse the quality inherent in Reality. ` The quality', I say, not ` a quality'. For love, where it exists at all, exists as a directing activity in the Being who loves, and, unless (as commonly in human lives) there is an acute internal conflict in the soul, it is the directing power. There can be no inner conflict in the soul of God. In that Life love, if there at all, must be the ruling principle, the most essential element of all-in fact, we must conclude, to use an ancient phrase, that God is Love.
DOGMA AS SYMBOL
I have publicly associated myself with the effort to vindicate, within the Church of England, that freedom of thought and experiment which is for ever threatened in the name of dogma and tradition. But it is possible to treat dogmas, not as intellectual fetters, but as representations in symbolic form of that which cannot be adequately expressed in philosophic or scientific terms; and such a treatment has the historical justification that, at any rate during the first five centuries, dogmatic decisions were avowedly a refusal to accept definitions of belief in terms of the philosophy of that age. God in His totality must be That which transcends human comprepension or description. Within His unique Being there must for ever be something which is the counterpart of that living interaction of subject and object, that communing of soul and soul in love, which to us is possible only in a society of persons and a universe of things. Only in symbol can we name this suprapersonal Personality. And no symbol is fitting which does not suggest a mystery inscrutable-beyond logic, beyond conception, beyond imagination. Such a symbol, saturated through age-long use with worshipping associations, is the Three in One and One in Three, a symbol arithmetically absurd, representatively apt.
Holy, Holy, Holy! though the darkness hide Thee,........... God in three persons, Blessed Trinity!
But, if the doctrine of the Trinity seems to make vivid to us the dark mystery of the transcendent ` otherness ' of God, that of the Incarnation gives us back the vision within that darkness of a luminous centre. Christ is `the image of the invisible God'. In Him `the Word is made flesh'-the meaning of the Infinite is spoken out. In that life and death is reflected, as in a mirror, the face of God.
Recalling what was said in an earlier chapter (p. 45) about Truth and Representation, it is clear that, if God is a spirit whose essential quality is that which we call love, then Christ can, or rather must, be a representative symbol of the Divine. And He is that, not because we choose to make Him such, but by reason of being what He is, and having lived the life He did. He is that, but He is more than that. By `symbol ' we commonly mean something intrinsically diverse from the thing it represents-as a flag is diverse from the country for which it stands, or as a written word is from the objects it describes. But if life instinct with love is the dynamic essence of Reality, then to describe the relation of Christ to God we require some stronger word than ` symbol ', or even than St. Paul's word eikwv `portrait ', for a portrait in marble or on canvas is essentially heterogeneous to living, breathing flesh and blood. Here both the portrait and its original are ex eadem rnateria, the Representation and the Reality are of the same stuff. It is in no impoverished sense that we recite the ancient phrase, Christ is ' of one substance with the Father' ; and to describe Him we shall find no words more true than `Son of God.
I bind unto myself the Name,
The strong Name of the Trinity;
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One, and One in Three,
Of Whom all nature hath creation ;
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.
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