A Speculative Theory of Religion:
Its Data and Aim
A. The Data and the Problem they Raise
Before we turn to a new aspect of our problem, let us look back for a moment on the path we have already traversed. So far we have said nothing about what may be called the Metaphysics of Religion. We have regarded religion as a historic fact, tried to describe its psychical features, indicated its value in the complex life of culture, and considered its essential nature revealed in the course of development. Description, arrangement of materials, and psychological explanation do not carry us beyond the phenomenological sphere: they do not determine the validity of religious beliefs, and the question of their truth is pressed upon us. Preliminary to this question it was necessary to say something on the character of human knowledge, and the principles and methods which it involved. For scepticism on the validity of knowledge must react injuriously upon religion, which makes a claim to know. In this connexion it seemed very desirable to examine the modes of religious knowledge in order to make clear, if possible, the degree of validity which attached to them. The outcome of this inquiry went to confirm our belief in the validity of knowledge; and it also served to show that the modes of religious knowledge could be justified, because they were capable of conveying truth, though not in a perfect or scientific form. At the beginning of our course, and looking
ahead, we described in a general way the problem and method which a Philosophy of Religion should follow in dealing with the abundant materials and the different disciplines of which it must take cognisance. But, at the stage we have now reached, the religious problem assumes a definite and an urgent form which raises a fundamental issue. The general assurance of the validity of knowledge, though most important, does not carry us far enough, and the question of the truth of religious ideas has to be faced. It is not surprising that beliefs which are so largely influenced by emotional needs and practical motives should have their theoretical value doubted; and this doubt must be frankly met and, if possible, dispelled.
The specific nature of the task which lies before us ought to be noted. Our previous discussion did not lead us to claim more than that man, in the religious as well as the scientific sphere, was able to apprehend what was real. He was not shut out from truth by any inherent defect in the organ of knowledge. This, of course, could not guarantee that what was possible was always realised; and there may be error and illusion in religious matters as well as in secular things. What we have done is to justify our position against the assaults of agnosticism and scepticism at the outset; what we have now to do is to consider whether those specific ideas which are put forward by the religious spirit, in the belief that they are essential to its life, can be shown to be true. It is not enough to say that multitudes have believed in them and their value has been proved. We cannot dismiss the suggestion as intrinsically absurd, that mankind, though not condemned to illusion, has in point of fact fallen a victim to continuous illusions in the field of religion.
The demand for some pronouncement on the reality to which religious experience refers is a demand which reflective minds make and cannot help making. The sincerely religious person will not, indeed, put forward such a demand on his own behalf: reasoning did not make him religious, and the inward assurance suffices for him. But this subjective conviction on the part of the individual is not a guarantee for others; and since
religion is essentially a social phenomenon, the need for some rational justification is felt. This want cannot be met in the fashion which finds favour in some quarters at the present day — by the endeavour, namely, to exhibit the function and value of religion in the individual and social life. However interesting and useful such an exposition may be, it stops short of the critical point: it leaves the ontological question in abeyance. At the last the reader is left with the unsatisfactory impression, that the social and personal value of religion does not depend on the degree of truth contained in it, that in religion, as in science, there are such things as useful fictions. Now in the interests of religion it is desirable that the situation should be cleared up by a frank discussion of the problem of truth. No doubt neither the religious individual nor the religious society is likely to take seriously the possibility that its religious experience is purely illusory. As in the case of the external world, so in that of the religious object, the suggestion that it is a fiction of the experient subject is straightway rejected by most people. But though the mind recoils from a scepticism so subversive, simply to say that the object of the religious consciousness is real, does not carry us very far. More is wanted than a mere affirmation of this sort; and when once the reflective spirit has been aroused and is at work, it inevitably presses the further query: What then is the object? To say in a general way that God is means very little, unless we know what you mean by the word God: the term may have the highest spiritual significance or it may have none at all. It may signify the Universe as a whole, or it may denote a personal Being who thinks and loves. In religious experience the difficulty — a difficulty which prompts an appeal to reason in the interests of faith — has always been the varying ways in which the religious object has been represented. At first sight the religious beliefs of mankind resemble a dense and pathless jungle rather than a field well laid out and harmoniously ordered. And though 'the eye by long use' comes to detect the outlines of order in what at the outset seemed a hopeless confusion, nevertheless there remain
the gravest inconsistencies between the different conceptions men have formed of God. In view of the path we have already traversed this fact hardly requires comment or elucidation. The notion of God, we know, has changed with changes in culture and spiritual attainment on man's part: it develops with human development. In the face of these facts we can understand that the question, Is there a God? has seldom thrust itself on human minds in this purely general form. When the problem about God arises, it commonly does so in the form of a doubt whether the traditional conception of God denotes a real being or not. The speculative problem has always its point of practical reference; and man is impelled to think, because he desires to know whether he can go on believing in the manner he has hitherto done.
In our present inquiry the first point to be clear about is our attitude to what we may call the historic representations of the Divine Being. The remarks in a previous chapter about the relation of a Philosophy of Religion to a particular religion hold, of course, in regard to the conception of God in such a religion. A religious philosophy, though in the end it may lend support to a historic idea of the Divine Being, cannot, to begin with, select any historic idea of Deity as setting the special problem it has to solve. If such a philosophy is to rise to the height of its argument, it must base itself on religious experience in its fulness and diversity; and it must regard the phenomena from the genetic or developmental standpoint. Only when we survey the phenomena of the religious consciousness from the genetic point of view, can we understand the similarities and differences between the various ideas of God, and discern the lines of connexion between them. What at first sight seemed a radical opposition is now revealed as the outcomes of a common religious consciousness which has passed through different stages, and has been reflected through the media of diverse levels of spiritual culture. From the stone fetish to the Father of Spirits is a vast distance — indeed they seem wide as the poles asunder; but they are linked together by the desires
and needs of the human mind which work at every point of religious evolution. The forms of the God-idea, therefore, have a unity and a connexion through the active mind which reveals and expresses itself in them. It is not by accident that the spirit of man, reacting on stimuli from the environment, develops an idea of God corresponding to its own self-development. If it be true that man is 'incurably religious,' it is because there is something in him that makes him so. "Man's nature is so constituted that some kind of consciousness of God is inevitable to him, although it may be only a presentiment or a search."1
Accordingly the development of the idea of God will serve for a guide to the speculative thinker who is seeking what is central and essential in the notion. There is a continuity and a logic in history which show that human freedom does not mean caprice, and in the course of historic development ideas and values are subjected to a prolonged test. The process of development, we may safely conclude, by which a great conception is defined and purified, formed and sustained, gives us a clue to the significance and value of that idea, even though it cannot be taken finally to decide its truth. A conception, changing yet enduring, like the conception of God, testifies to some large self-fulfilment which the human soul attains through it. A value which persists and maintains itself in the developing life of mankind, can only do so because it is in harmony with the nature of man and of the world in which his lot is cast. If we look then to the evolution of the religious consciousness, what conclusion do we draw in reference to the character which it attributes to the Object? It cannot be doubted that man's religious history shows a gradual, though not by any means a continual or uninterrupted, movement from the natural to the spiritual. The God whom the developed culture of the modern world requires must at least be a spiritual and ethical Being: every lower conception of Deity has in the end failed to satisfy the growing human spirit. Man who is an ethical personality can only bow in worship before a Being in whom he sees his ideal of goodness realised, and who responds to what is highest and
best in himself. There emerges then, as the outcome of man's age-long search for God, the vision of a Reality, ethical, spiritual, and personal, in which the religious needs of humanity are fulfilled. The sympathetic student of religious history, who marks the tendency and the issues, will at the least assent to the words of a recent writer: "The dim and broken image of perfection may well be formed in sympathy and correspondence with a Perfection that is most real."2The religious man himself does not doubt that this is true: his whole spiritual life would become empty and meaningless to him, if he knew that his faith went out only to meet the void.
But, it may be asked, does not the religious consciousness affirm something more about the God whom it postulates than that he is an ethical and spiritual Being? In what sense, for example, does the religious mind require its God to be personal? Observe that we are not asking what answer theological thought has given to this problem, and expressed in the form of doctrinal propositions. We are trying to find out the conceptions to which the data of spiritual experience, in its developed form, point. When the question is put thus, the reply, it seems to us, can hardly be doubtful. The God of spiritual religion is conceived after the analogy of the human personality, and is therefore capable of entering into personal relations with men: he is near and also far, present to the world and the soul, yet not identical with either and transcending both. Religious experience is based on the existence of a relation between the subject and the object, and is incompatible with identity; even genuine mysticism, though it is haunted by the thought of the absorption of the soul in God, still asserts a difference between them. Pantheism, though religions sometimes pass into it, is not a true line of religious development; and if the pantheist is logical, he must judge the offices of worship and of prayer to be superfluous or altogether meaningless. This truth deserves to be insisted upon, for we are sometimes told that only an immanent God, a God who has no existence apart from the world and the human souls in which he reveals himself, can satisfy the
'highly reflective' modern mind. The validity of this conception does not fall to be discussed just now. But the reader will remember that it is a theory put forward by speculative thought, and cannot claim to be the philosophical rendering of what is normal and constant in religious experience. Those who, for one reason or another, hold the theory to be true, ought to say it is a rectification, not an interpretation, of the religious consciousness. It will be greatly to the advantage of his work, if the religious philosopher can regard the psychological facts and the general tendency of religious experience with a sympathetic and an unprejudiced eye, seeking first and foremost to read the meaning of his data. For thought to be fruitful must stand in living relation to experience and life: otherwise it is likely to waste its energy in barren speculations. A Philosophy of Religion which is dominated by an interest exclusively speculative, and pays no heed to the actual movement of the religious spirit, may indeed offer to us a metaphysical substitute for the idea of God. But the justification of a substitute lies in its ability to perform the function of that for which it is substituted. And it is certain that neither an Infinite Substance nor an Absolute Idea, even when persuasively commended by philosophy as the truth of the popular notion of Deity, could fulfil the spiritual office of God, or serve to explain and evaluate the data of religious experience. Nevertheless, it would be a mistake to conclude that the duty of a speculative theory of religion is merely to interpret faithfully, and draw inferences strictly from the facts of personal and racial religious experience. Though philosophy must not ignore any side of experience, its office is critical as well as interpretative. And there will be room for criticism in religion, for the religious point of view is incomplete. The religious mind occupies itself with a certain aspect of experience, passing over other aspects, while philosophy seeks to embrace experience in all its fulness. Hence postulates made from a partial point of view may require to be modified or supplemented from the point of view of the whole.
At the present time there are special grounds why those who
are sincerely interested in religion should not shrink from facing the problem raised by its data. The spirit of positivism and agnosticism, though it may not assume the form of a deliberate philosophical theory, is an influential element in current thinking; and the idea is common that religion is very much a matter of emotion and sentiment, and cannot stand the test of rational criticism. Religions, it is said, are one and all the product of a pre-scientific age; they figure as survivals in the environment of modern culture, and as such they are doomed to dwindle and die. To use the sarcastic words of Schopenhauer: "Religions are like glowworms, they need the dark in order to shine." It is a fair inference that those who adopt this attitude believe that the more strenuously we apply rational reflexion to the content of religion, the less likely are we to endorse its claims. In which case the best advice a religious philosopher could give to those who love their religion, and desire to hold to it, would be: "Feel warmly towards it and act vigorously on its behalf, but think about it as little as possible!" Even the plain man will realise that there is something dubious in this recommendation; and it in a questionable service to any religion to preach the doctrine, that its sole justification lies in its practical value. For the argument lies to hand, that utility and expediency are a sufficient defence of any idea or institution. But though rational reflexion fail to support the claims of the religious consciousness with logical proof, the exercise of reason is still needed to show us why such an attempt at proof fails. Moreover, though reason comes short of giving anything like demonstration in this field, its work may still be of conspicuous value in the interests of religious faith. I do not mean merely that it may conduct a psychological and an epistemological inquiry into the working of the religious mind. That is useful, but it is not enough. If you do not go beyond such an inquiry, you leave the whole question of ultimate truth unsettled: philosophy is dumb on the final issue, and the individual can decide for himself in response to the appeal of the feelings or by a Venture of faith.' The real danger is that a religion which ignores the claims of reason,
and moves without its guiding light, is apt to fall into fanaticism and superstition, or to drift into obscurantism. Surely the more excellent way is to exercise our reason on the content of our religion, and to follow its leading so far as we legitimately can; only thus can we hope to bring religion into vital relations with science and philosophy. It is, indeed, well not to expect too much from speculative thought, and there are those who like to remind us that 'our little systems have their day.' But if philosophical reflexion even made it clear that the postulates of the religious consciousness are not antagonistic to those of science and speculative thought, it would have performed a service whose value could not be gainsaid.
The data of religion, by their variety and by their divergences, press upon us the problem of the ultimate truth of religious experience. And it is natural to ask how the study of the data may help us to answer this question. Plainly the facts, to be of service, must be regarded as a connected whole: they must be seen in relation to the general development of religion, and be interpreted in connexion with it. In particular, the facts of religious evolution have to be used to bring out, if possible, the idea of God towards which the religious spirit seems to strive, and in which it finds the fullest satisfaction. Now it is true the study of religious development will not enable us to define accurately a conception of God, which completely and universally satisfies the religious mind. The tendencies at work are too diverse for this. What we do find, is a movement through imperfect and unsatisfying conceptions to conceptions more perfect and satisfying; and so long as religion develops, we shall not be able to say it presents to us an idea of God absolutely final. Nevertheless a study such as we have been considering does show that the line of development in religion is in the direction of a personal and ethical God, a God who enters into personal communion and sustains ethical relations with men. This is without doubt the conception of Deity which best maintains itself in the evolution of religion, and is most fruitful in its working. To investigate the truth of this idea is
therefore a problem which is set to the religious philosopher by the facts of religious experience.
I do not think we are entitled to say more, than that man's spiritual experience shows us the idea of God which on the whole prevails, and in the long run works best. The notion that the evolution of religion is itself a logical movement, a movement which is a continuous, progressive, and certain definition of what God is, will not stand criticism. The facts are far too complicated to fall into this clear-cut scheme, and historic development does not answer the questions it raises in such a convincing fashion.
The demands of the religious spirit, as they have worked themselves out in the historic process, have yielded the notion of an ethical and personal God. Is the nature of reality such that this conception of God can be justified? This is the great and enduring problem of a Philosophy of Religion. In proceeding to treat of this subject I shall begin by examining certain historic attempts which have been made to give rational proof of the existence of God.
B. Proofs of the Existence of God
The importance of the traditional proofs of the existence of God has greatly diminished in modern times. No one, remarks the late Prof. Pfleiderer, now holds it possible to prove the divine existence from an abstract conception of God, or, from an abstract conception of the world, to reach by inference a God who is separate from the world.3 Nor can it be said that these proofs have ever played a part in producing religious conviction where it did not already exist; their ostensible function has rather been to confirm religious belief than to create it. The proofs themselves do not set out from religious presuppositions, either explicit or implicit. The presuppositions from which they start are quite general and abstract; and the standing difficulty in the argument has always been, that the concrete reality at which they aim contains more than is to be found in the premisses.
Those who developed the Theistic Arguments had a clear idea of what they wanted to reach, and they hoped to reach it by logical thinking. The misfortune was that they were not fully conscious of the disparity between the means and the end. The 'proofs' have been a favourite theme of comment and criticism; in truth, the subject has been treated so often by theologians and philosophers that it has been worn threadbare, and it has become well-nigh impossible to say anything new on the topic. There is a consensus of opinion that the arguments are not valid in their present form; but some who admit this believe that they can be reconstructed so as to have weight, though the weight does not amount to demonstration. It will be necessary to refer to these reconstructions, and the whole subject, however familiar, can hardly be passed over here: for it is of historic interest, and shows the way in which thought has come to the aid of faith by offering rational proof that the object of faith is real. The proofs represent modes in which the human mind, through the exercise of reasoning meant to be universal and cogent, sought to justify to itself the truth of its religious conviction. A short discussion and criticism of these proofs will help to define more clearly in our minds the nature of the problem before us. And when we understand where certain solutions have failed, and why they failed, we shall see better the lines on which a solution may be profitably attempted.
The proof which is usually taken first is the Ontological. It is the one which raises the deepest philosophical issues, and, as we shall see, the other proofs implicitly assume its validity. The Ontological Argument has been stated in slightly different ways, but its essential contention is, that the reality of God is involved in the idea of God. There is something, it is urged, unique in the idea of God, so that it cannot be a mere idea. Anselm (1033-1109) presented this proof in its scholastic form. It runs thus: God is a Being than which a greater cannot be conceived (id quo majus cogitari nequit); but an idea which existed only in intellectu would not be so great as one which existed in re as well asin intellectu; therefore God must be
thought as necessarily existing. This argument has been set forth in a simpler and less artificial form by Descartes. He omits the step which declares that what exists in fact as well as in idea is greater than what exists merely in idea, and affirms that the very notion of God, the most perfect Being, carries existence as necessarily with it as the idea of a triangle carries with it the equality of the sum of its angles to two right angles. In short, reality belongs, and is clearly perceived to belong, to the very notion of God. Descartes is well aware that this line of reasoning will not hold in regard to other objects of thought, but he maintains the idea of God to be unique in the respect that it involves existence. This specific claim in the crux of the argument. A second form of proof was offered by Descartes. In this case the argument asserts that the idea of God, who is infinite and perfect, cannot be formed in man by any finite object, and must be caused by God himself. It is implied here that the idea of the Infinite is positive and cannot be reached via negationis. But, even if this were not open to objection, the term Infinite connotes much less than is signified by God. Still, taken simply as a probable argument, the thought is suggestive and not without weight, that man's knowledge of God is due to God himself. He is the sufficient reason of the idea of himself in man.
The reader may have already begun to suspect that the force of these attempted proofs depends a good deal on what you mean by God. And this receives a rather striking confirmation in the case of the thinker who comes after Descartes in the philosophical succession — Spinoza. Spinoza, like Descartes, infers from the idea of God, as the source and sum of all perfection, his existence. But for Spinoza, God, or Substance, is the infinite and all-inclusive Whole, within which fall the parallel differentiations of thought and extension as its corresponding aspects. On this construction of the term God his reality is inevitably involved in his idea. But there is here no transition from the essence as idea to the reality, for the one is bound up with the other. In fact, if God is defined in a purely pantheistic way,
the very notion of a proof of his existence becomes not only superfluous but absurd. To say the essence of God involves his existence is quite true, if we grant Spinoza's presuppositions; but these in effect prejudge the whole question. So far as Spinoza is concerned the important point is not his proof of the existence of God, for this is purely verbal, but the validity of the philosophical conceptions on which his system is based. The same dependence on a philosophical system is seen in the theistic proof of Leibniz. This proof might perhaps more fitly be taken to illustrate a phase of the Cosmological Argument, but since it has interesting points of contact and contrast with Spinoza's proof, I shall briefly refer to it here. Leibniz's argument proceeds on a distinction which he draws in his philosophy between the possible and the actual, the essence and the existence. With Spinoza, on the other hand, all that is possible is actual. Leibniz argues: "If there is a reality in essences or possibilities, or rather in eternal truths, this reality must needs be founded in something existing and actual, and consequently in the existence of the necessary Being in whom essence involves existence, or in whom to be possible is to be actual."4 Leibniz means by essences, possibilities or tendencies to exist, and these in turn he identifies with eternal truths. The gist of the argument is, that these possibilities must have their ground in something actual, in the existence of a Necessary Being. In the case of a perfect Being what is possible is actual, for there can be nothing to hinder the tendency to exist. In this instance also the cogency of the argument depends on the postulates of a metaphysical system, and the notion of possibility implied in the system. But it is manifest the line of proof which Leibniz endeavours to work out could not give, for its conclusion, a Necessary Being who is separate from the world in which possibilities are realised.
At the hands of Kant the Ontological Proof was subjected to a penetrating criticism, and since Kant's day it has ceased to be put forward seriously in the old form. His criticism proceeds on the principle that existence is no part of the content
of an idea. "Being is evidently not a real predicate, that is, a conception of something that is capable of being added to the conception of a thing. ... I add nothing to my conception, which expresses merely the possibility of the object, by simply placing its object before me in thought, and saying that it is. The real contains no more than the possible. A hundred real dollars do not contain a cent more than a hundred possible dollars."5 Kant has shown conclusively, that it in not possible from the analysis of a conception to deduce from it existence as a predicate. Even when we feel that existence does belong to an idea or combination of ideas, we are not entitled to say that the union of existence and idea is more than a union in idea. It has, however, been objected that, while Kant's reasoning may hold of the idea of a particular thing, — say a sum of money — the idea of God as the absolute Being is in a different position. On this ground Hegel tried to rehabilitate the Ontological Proof. In the Hegelian terminology, the being of a finite object in space and time is discrepant from its notion. "God, on the contrary, expressly has to be what can only be 'thought as existing'; His notion involves being." "Certainly it would be strange if the notion, the very inmost of mind, if even the 'Ego,' or above all, the concrete totality we call God, were not rich enough to include so poor a category as being, the very poorest and most abstract of all."6 With Hegel, as with Spinoza, if we grant the principles of his system, if we agree that the term God means what he meant by it, then the notion of God involves his being. For with Hegel being does not lie beyond thought: it is its initial and simplest determination as it moves dialectically forward to fully articulated self-consciousness. On this theory reality does not stand over against thought, but is immanent in it. To say, however, that all being falls within the development of mind is a highly disputable proposition, and Hegel's reconstruction of the Ontological Argument shares to the full the weakness of this initial assumption. But even were Hegel's principle sound, it is obvious his line of thought could not lead to a God who transcended the world, and had a being for himself apart from
the world and the self-conscious spirits in which he realises himself. And the higher religious consciousness demands this.
It is sometimes said in reply to this criticism, that, if what we are obliged to think is not necessarily real, there is an end to all proof and reasoning. And this consideration has weighed with some thinkers, who, in consequence, find themselves unable to accept Kant's condemnation of the Ontological Argument.7 Beyond doubt, if thought cannot be valid of a reality beyond the thinker, we are plunged into a hopeless scepticism. If we set out from real premisses and think out their implications logically, then our conclusions will hold good of reality. But this is far from proving that the conception of God as a Being with a determinate character — a conception not reached by strict inference from data of experience — implies his existence. There is a sense, however, in which a grain of truth is contained in the Ontological Proof, though the argument neither is nor can be made a proof of God in the religious meaning of the term. If for God we substitute the technical phrase Ens Realissimum, or a Being who is the sum of all reality, then it is difficult to suppose that such a conception is a mere idea in the mind. For thought has reference to being, and would be meaningless without it: were there no being there would be no thinking. And if so, there seems to be no sense in saying there is not a sum of reality or a most real Being. There is nothing contradictory in such a notion, and there is no relevant ground for denying its truth. But it is evident when the Ontological Argument in thus reduced to the form in which it begins to be valid, it has become quite useless for any religious purpose. Whenever we begin to quality the concept of being with the attributes which pertain to Deity, we cease to have logical warrant that our connexions in idea are also connexions in fact. The transition from God in idea to God in reality cannot be made in this way. The source of the vitality of the Ontological Argument — of the lingering belief that, after all, there is something in it — must be sought elsewhere than in the cogency of its logic. It lies, as Lotze has pointed out, in the rooted disinclination of the human
spirit to believe that the Supreme Being, who is the Supreme Value, is only a fiction of the mind.8 The refusal to entertain the thought is not due to convincing argument, but to the demands of inner experience. The Ontological Proof, in its traditional form, represents an artificial way in which men sought to justify to themselves a faith, of the truth of which they felt sure on other grounds.
In its method the second of the Theistic Proofs, the Cosmological, is sounder than the Ontological. It sets out from the world as given, and from the character of the world infers the existence of a God to explain it. This line of thought was at least suggested by Plato in the Timaeus, where he says that every created thing must be created by some cause.9It is also hinted at by Augustine: "And I beheld the other things below Thee, and I perceived that they neither are absolutely existent nor absolutely non-existent. For they are, since they are from Thee, but are not, because they are not what Thou art. For that truly is which remains unchangeably."10 The Cosmological Proof has two forms. In the first instance we set out from the contingency of facts within the world: they may either be or not be — so it is said, and there is no element of necessity in them. This contingency, however, must lead up to something which is necessary, and we have to posit a necessary Being as the ground of the contingent. The other form of proof makes use of the principle of causality. In our experienced world effects are always preceded by causes, and these in turn are the effects of other causes. So the chain of causality runs back step by step. But an infinite line of causes is impossible, and there must come a point in the series at which we arrive at a First or Uncaused Cause. This First Cause of all the different series of causes is God.
Kant was no doubt right when he said that this proof could not yield a necessary Being over and above the given series of facts. Moreover, we are not justified in assuming, without evidence, that data within our world are contingent; and even if this were so, it would not follow that the world itself in
its totality is contingent. Again, it may be asked, Why is the Unconditioned Being said to be necessary? The necessary, in the current use of the word, is that which is conditioned, in other words determined to be what it is and not something else; and this idea of necessity should not be predicated uncritically of the Unconditioned. Nor is it apparent how a world of contingent facts could be derived from a necessary Being. On the other hand, if we think the line of regress under the notion of effects and causes, there are just as good reasons for saying the series can be prolonged indefinitely as that it must end in a First Cause. Then the causal series in the world are manifold, and it is not legitimate to assume that all the lines converge upon and end in a single Cause. Why not a plurality of First Causes? Finally, there is the objection that the notion of cause is a category by which we connect and organise elements within experience, and ought not to be applied without some reason and explanation to a Being supposed to exist beyond the experienced world. The truth is that, while the principle is sound that we should argue from the facts of experience to a ground of experience, the Cosmological Proof gives effect to this principle in a faulty and one-sided way. It tries to reach a certain goal by setting out from data and using a method which preclude it from reaching the goal. This line of proof, even were it purified of flaws, could not take us beyond the world-system; it could not lead us to God in the theistic sense of the word.
The third of the traditional proofs, the Teleological, is rather an extension, or a special application, of the Cosmological than a separate argument. Like the latter, it infers that a particular aspect or character of the world requires the existence of God to explain it. The Teleological Proof bases itself on the presence of order in the world; this order it takes to be the token of design, and concludes that God must be the source of that design. Of all the Proofs this, to the ordinary mind, is the most simple and striking. The existence of design in nature at first blush seems so transparent, and the need for applying the human analogy of the designer and his material
so obvious. The Teleological Argument is consequently an old one; and Plato has in substance made use of it when he suggested that the principle that mind orders all things was the only one worthy of the world around us and the heavens above us.11 The natural tendency of thought in this matter is fairly reflected by the words of Bacon: "For while the mind of man looketh upon second causes scattered, it may sometimes rest upon them and go no farther; but when it beholdeth the chain of them confederate and linked together, it must needs fly to Providence and Deity."12 And Kant, it is well known, treated the Teleological Proof more tenderly than the others, and said that "it must be always mentioned with respect." But he very pertinently remarked: "All that the argument from design can possibly prove is an architect of the world, who is very much limited by the adaptability of the material in which he works." On the evidence it is inadmissible to say that such a Being is supreme, omnipotent, and the creator of the world. The human designer is hampered by an intractable element in the matter which he manipulates, and the way in which he overcomes this intractability is a token of his intelligence and foresight. It is obvious that this conception cannot be consistently applied to a Being supposed to be omnipotent, who cannot therefore be limited by his material in the way that man is. Moreover, while it may well be that so-called matter is incapable of producing order and adaptation, those who argue from design ought not to take this for granted. The physico-theological proof, as it is sometimes called, fails owing to the mechanical and external way in which it deals with order and adaptation in nature, and it has lost much of its former force owing to the growth and influence of the idea of evolution in modern times. I have already referred to the transformation of teleological ideas by the modern principle of development in the previous chapter, and I need not repeat here what was said there. The result has been that the notion of external design has been replaced by that of immanent adaptation, and the complex harmony of parts in organisms is regarded as a continuous development from simpler
forms. It may be well to repeat that the presence of immanent ends in the world does not prove the existence of an intelligence which is above or apart from the world-system. We have already tried to show that this inward finalism is consistent with theism, but it certainly does not point to a theistic conception of the universe as its only possible explanation.
As Kant explained, the three Theistic Proofs are intimately related to one another. The teleological proof leans back on the cosmological, and the cosmological in turn leans back on the ontological. If we follow the natural progress of the human mind in its endeavour to rise by reflexion to the idea of God, we have to reverse the order in which we have taken the proofs. The evidences of design, which he seemed to find in the world around him, led man in the first instance to think of a designer, and this designer he identified with God. Further reflexion served to show that the argument must be extended to embrace the world as a whole, and the world, it was inferred, must have a First Cause who was God. But it is plain that both these arguments imply the principle which is stated explicitly in the Ontological Argument. They presuppose the principle that what we find ourselves obliged to think holds of reality; and this is the nerve of the Ontological Proof. In short, all the arguments involve the validity and trustworthiness of thought. We have already indicated in what sense, and with what qualifications this far-reaching principle is to be understood; and in any case, whatever stress is laid on this principle, the premisses of the traditional proofs are not such that they could yield the existence of God for their logical conclusion.
Two further arguments fall to be mentioned — the Moral Proof and the Historical Proof. Though it is usual to speak of them as proofs, they are not proofs in the true sense of the word, and they do not claim to be so. The first of these, the Moral Argument, seeks to show that in the existence of God we find the best solution to the problems of the moral life. The form which this argument received at the hands of Kant is peculiar, and it is not satisfactory. Kant says it is a demand
of the moral self that the highest Good be realised. But in the highest Good there are two elements, virtue and happiness: the consciousness of duty fulfilled and of desire satisfied. Now, for Kant, virtue and happiness belong to two different worlds, the former to the intelligible and the latter to the phenomenal world. How can the union of these diverse elements demanded by the Supreme Good be assured? Kant replies by the postulate of God as the teleological ground of both worlds: God then guarantees the union of virtue and happiness, and therefore the realisation of the Chief Good. All this is very artificial. It is not a psychological description of the motives which lead men to postulate a God; nor is it consistent with Kant's own premisses that an empirical and sensuous product, which he deems happiness to be, should be raised to a constituent of the Supreme Good. Yet, if we disentangle Kant's argument from the adventitious elements which hamper it, we can present it in a form which is not without force. While not committing ourselves to the Kantian doctrine of a noumenal and a phenomenal world, we are justified in accepting the existence of an ethical and a natural order, a material and a spiritual world. The moral consciousness demands the realisation of its ideal of Good, but this demand presupposes that the natural world is adapted to the ends of the spirit. The possibility of this adaptation is contained in the conception of an ethical God who is ground of both worlds and pledge of their harmony. Though we do not demonstrate God's existence in this way, we at least show how the postulate of his existence solves an urgent ethical problem. Nor can the argument from the moral consciousness be made to yield more than this. The feeling of obligation — the sense of duty — cannot be explained from beneath: no naturalistic theory of evolution can account for the birth of the word ought in the mind of man. The thought therefore lies to hand that it must be explained from above, through man's relation to a Moral Power that governs the world. It is a fact of deepest significance that man, a moral being with a sense of right and wrong, has developed within the universe, and we rightly ask:
What must the character of that universe be which gives birth to such a being? When we postulate a God in answer to this question we are basing our postulate on the demands of the moral consciousness. And this is the legitimate use of the Moral Argument.
The Historical Proof is the name often given to the argument e consensu gentium. What we have here is not, of course, a proof, but a suggestion that the only sufficient reason of the widespread consciousness of God in human minds is God himself. The thought conveyed is closely related to the Moral Proof, which finds an explanation of the facts of the moral consciousness in the existence of an ethical Deity.13 Unfortunately, if we take the argument for what it originally professed to be, an inference from human agreement, the historical evidences do not show us the agreement which is necessary. For to agree that God is, means little unless there is some concord in regard to what he is. Now there is a consensus of belief on the part of mankind in some Power above them, but in regard to the nature of this Power beliefs are very confused and conflicting, and they range from gross materialism to refined spiritualism. If we take these ideas as they stand, in their variety and mutual inconsistency, we cannot build any solid argument upon them. On the other hand, if we revise the proof and state it in the light of the idea of development, it assumes a sounder and more hopeful form. The reality of God then becomes a postulate of the developing spiritual experience of humanity. The long upward journey of the race, during which the idea of a spiritual God has gradually taken form and substance in human minds, becomes a meaningless movement if there be no Reality corresponding to the idea. We may add, the argument from history does not depend on a metaphysical theory of the process of development, nor on a speculative conception of the relation of God to man. It rests on an unbiassed view of the development of religion, and it puts the case with studious moderation when it declares, that it is hard to believe that this growing consciousness of God as a spiritual and ethical Being
has not its source and ground in God himself.14
When we look back on these well-meant endeavours to demonstrate the existence of God, we can only reiterate the judgment we formed by the way: as proofs they break down. They suggest probabilities, probabilities of greater or less degree; but they carry no conviction to the minds of those who demand cogent logic. Proof means logical connexion or implication, and to infer God from the world and its character is to put more into the conclusion than is contained in the premisses. God in the sense that spiritual religion demands can never be reached by any deductive argument; and there is truth in the trenchant words of the late Professor James: "The attempt to demonstrate by purely intellectual processes the truth of the deliverances of direct religious experience is absolutely hopeless."15 Unfortunately, it took men a long time to discover this. But though these Proofs are in principle unsound, they are not on that account entirely valueless. For one thing, they testify to the confidence of the human spirit that reason can support the claims of faith, that the God who is necessary to the inner life can also be justified by reflective thinking. The Theistic Proofs are, in their own fashion, a witness to a persisting conviction on man's part that his religion is not a non-rational attitude of mind. The attempt to reach God by rational deduction may be taken as the symptom and expression of a constant tendency of the human spirit, which is central in the religious consciousness. This movement carries the spiritual self beyond its environment, beyond the world, to gain a deeper ground of thought and life in the Being whom it calls God. The religious man, it is true, does not reach this goal by inference from the world or what is in it: he is prompted to take this course by his practical and experimental knowledge that "the world and the desire thereof" cannot satisfy him. The inspiring motive, alike of the arguments for the existence of God and of the Godward movement of the religious spirit, is the sincere conviction that the world is imperfect and needs a deeper Reality to complete it. Both for thought and for spiritual experience the
world proves unsatisfying, and so impels men to go beyond it to find its true explanation and value. The Theistic Proofs, despite their shortcomings, recognise this, and they have worth as the symptom and the symbol of the general movement of the religious mind.
C. Experience and its relation to God
The foregoing discussion of a well-worn theme has at least helped to bring out some of the difficulties which beset our investigation, and to show the direction in which an attempt to solve the problem is most likely to succeed. The ontological value of religion centres in the reality and character of God; and if we are to treat this momentous subject fruitfully, it must be on a broader basis and by methods more flexible than we have just been considering. There need be no longer a question of strict proof, for in this instance the conditions which are necessary to a logical demonstration are absent. But we may hope to present converging lines of evidence which, by their cumulative effect, justify a theistic conclusion.
There are two lines of approach to the idea of God which suggest themselves. These lines may be termed the Cosmological and the Moral and Religious. In the former case we proceed from the nature of the universe as it is known to us in experience; and in the latter we set out from the facts of moral and religious experience which are manifested collectively in history, and also are revealed in personal lives. The one argument is mainly concerned with what is commonly termed outer experience, the other with inner experience: in the first case we have more to do with facts, in the second with values. But the one argument cannot be ultimately separated from the other; indeed the only hopeful method is to make them supplement and complete one another, so that each may strengthen what is weak in the other and both unite to give weight to the conclusion. The tendency to use only one argument, or to lay almost exclusive stress on one line of evidence, has weakened the
conclusions of many conscientious workers in this department of thought. For instance, men have often supposed they could arrive at a true idea of God by a metaphysical interpretation of the world, taken to mean external things and human minds in their mutual relations. The consequence has been that, with the eye fixed only on the metaphysical problem, they have set up a metaphysical abstraction in the place of God. The late Prof. H Sidgwick, in a paper onTheism, has made the just remark, that there is a difference between the God reached by metaphysics and the God required by the Christian religion. And I think we may generalise and say, that the religious consciousness always postulates more in its object than metaphysics can justify. But if metaphysics tends to yield a formal and abstract Being in place of a living and spiritual God, those who work at the problem purely from the side of inner or religious experience encounter difficulties and dangers of another kind. They are apt to make a free and uncritical use of the principle of analogy, without stopping to ask whether their use of the principle is valid or not. In your anxiety to do justice to the claims of spiritual consciousness, you may make demands on the universe without considering whether the nature of reality is such that it can satisfy them. This neglect of metaphysical issues must seriously affect the stability of results which have been reached by a onesided method. A theory of religion, or a theology, which is consistently anti-metaphysical, leaves us at the last in doubt whether the Being postulated in response to human needs is not ideal rather than real. Hence a speculative theory of religion will seek ultimately to connect these lines of argument, the metaphysical and the religious, and if possible to harmonise their results. Such a task will, no doubt, involve criticism and modification of both in the interests of unity. For convenience' sake it will be necessary to follow out each line by itself in the first instance, and then to bring them, if possible, into a vital and harmonious relation with one another.
The scope of the inquiry and the method to be followed in the two arguments may here be briefly indicated. In the first
or metaphysical inquiry, we set out from the world regarded as a system of experienced objects and experient subjects. From this common basis of facts every philosophy must set out, however it may finally interpret and explain them. The question then arises, What do these facts imply? The attempt to answer this question means an endeavour to work back from what is presented in experience in order to discover what is presupposed by it. This regressive movement will not be one of strict inference, as was ostensibly the case with the Theistic Proofs. Reflexion or speculative thinking must be allowed a freedom of operation while it braces itself to the task of thinking out constructively a sufficient Ground of experience. This thinking takes cognisance of what is given, but also goes beyond it, in order to unfold its deeper meaning. In this way speculation will try to make plain, if it can, the ground or sufficient reason of what is given. Now to develop this conception of a World-Ground implies that we accord to thought the right of speculative construction. Such construction corresponds on a higher level to the work of the man of science, who thinks out a theory in order to connect and unify his data. To some, however, this may seem to allow speculation a dangerous latitude, and it is usual in these days to proclaim the futility of the a priori way of philosophising. Yet the scheme of investigation here suggested has nothing in common with the method of those who develop a speculative system, and then try to make the facts of experience correspond with it. This mode of speculation is out of fashion just now, and there is a general recognition that a philosophy of experience must grow out of experience itself. At the same time any metaphysics worthy of the name must rethink experienced facts; and in doing this it is only carrying out and completing the work of the sciences. For even the physical sciences go beyond the phenomenal aspect of things, and seek to reach and exhibit the principles and relations on which phenomena depend. Such results, however, are necessarily provisional, and the metaphysician sets himself to trace the data of experience back to their first principles, and so to
find a broad and sure foundation for them. There will always be a tentative element about such work, for it does not admit of the same kind of verification as a scientific theory. Still a venture of thought is inevitable, if man is to satisfy his rational nature and gain a deeper insight into things. And there is, at all events, the kind of test possible which is implied in the degree of consistency with which a speculative theory can be applied to concrete experience, and in the coherency of the world-view it unfolds. This, then, is a metaphysical inquiry carried out from the standpoint of the metaphysician, and in the nature of the case it cannot give us a philosophy of religion. But it will at least show us how far metaphysical thinking can bring us towards our goal.
The other line of inquiry keeps the religious experience, which is a specific aspect of general experience, definitely in view, and sets itself to show the relation to God which is presupposed by that experience. The development of religion, as a psychological phenomenon and as a historic movement, is a process so characteristic, that it requires consideration and explanation on any theory of the nature of the universe. A philosophy which does not leave room for, nor give an explanation of, the growth of the religious consciousness, cannot seriously claim to be true. I have already referred in this chapter to the objections against an attempt to solve the religious problem by a purely naturalistic theory. The theory which regards religion as the mere product of an interaction between man and his environment, as a natural relationship giving birth to material hopes and fears, is a theory which in the long run will not work. It is not without a certain plausibility when used to interpret the lowest forms and expressions of religion, but it ceases to be plausible when applied to religion in its higher and spiritual stages. How a religious consciousness generated by purely natural causes should by and by react against the natural order, and finally proclaim the inadequacy of the world to its deepest needs, is quite inexplicable. For why should it thus ignore the "rock from which it was hewn and the pit from which it was
digged"? A religious soul which persistently turns to a goal in the spiritual and supramundane sphere cannot have its sufficient reason in material interests and sensuous instincts. The spirit that 'denies the world' cannot be 'of the world.'
But if the naturalistic theory of the genesis and growth of moral and religious experience proves to be inadequate, we are perforce led to ask whether this development is not to be explained from above rather than from below. In other words, should a process which issues in spiritual values and ideals not be referred to a Source which is spiritual? If it be true that the significance of a process of development is not to be found in its beginning but in its outcome, there is much to be said for the method which seeks a 'sufficient reason' of spiritual development in a supreme and spiritual Ground of experience.
I think we are justified in pressing this consideration on those who are sceptical of the reality of the object of religious faith. Granted that the idea of God is an illusion, can you, on these premisses, give an adequate theory of the origin and development of moral and spiritual experience? Now it is not enough to reply, as some are inclined to do, that religious beliefs are the outcome of imagination acting under the stimulus of hopes and fears. In particular cases this may sometimes be true, but it does not explain the persistent movement of the religious consciousness towards a Divine Object in which it can find satisfaction. That movement has never ceased in human history; though mankind revises and changes its religious ideas, it does not abandon religion, but seeks to express its religious faith in some more adequate form. Why then this continuous and enduring religious experience? It is not sufficient to refer us to human nature, and to tell us man is 'incurably religious.' Neither psychological nor historical explanations of this experience are ultimate, for they point back to some deeper ground in the nature of things. In this instance a Source or Ground is needed which will explain that spiritual nature of man and the characteristic spiritual development which issues from it.
A noteworthy feature of the developed religious conscious-
ness is that it finds the Supreme Reality and the Supreme Value in an Object which transcends the world. And if the evolution of religion cannot be explained as the result of mundane conditions, the alternative is to trace it to its ultimate Source in a living relation between human spirits and a supramundane Spirit. On this theory the religious experience which leads man to find his final good beyond the world, would have its ultimate Ground in a transcendent and spiritual God.
It is right to remind the reader that, though we speak of explaining the religious experience by reference to a transcendent Source, we do not and cannot mean explanation in the scientific sense of the term. For this, we know, signifies the establishment of rational implication and connexion between parts. God could only explain mundane experience in this way, if his Being were bound up with that experience in the manner that a system is with its elements. The note of a transcendent Being is, that it cannot thus be co-ordinated with the parts of the world, nor can its activity be rationally deduced.16 Hence a transcendent God 'explains' experience because he is its Sufficient Ground; but we cannot argue from the Ground to the dependent experience, nor can we show how the experience issues from the Ground.
This twofold regress on the Ground of reality and the Ground of the religious consciousness will help us to do justice to both these sides of experience. But it will bring us at the last face to face with the cardinal problem of religious philosophy — the problem how to reconcile the idea of God which in the outcome of scientific and speculative thinking with the idea of God which is postulated to explain religions experience. As a recent worker in this field has put it: we have to establish the Being of God "in such a manner as to meet the legitimate demands of modern science and philosophy," and to expound the "spirituality of this Being" so as "to afford evidence of the essential truth of humanity's religious experience."17 It would be too much to expect a complete success in this difficult undertaking. Even to show that the two lines of evidence do not run steadily apart
but converge on a common goal is to have achieved something. For it means that science and faith are drawn a little closer to one another. A philosophy which achieves this much has not failed, even though it cannot comprehend all 'the deep things of God.'
Text from Galloway's The Philosophy of Religion,
(New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1927), pp. 371-401.
Notes and References