Imatges de pÓgina
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to them, their agreement, or otherwise, amongst each other, the additions, alterations, and interpolations which from time to time have crept into the MSS., in short, in the whole field of critical work, the question of inspiration must be left out of account.

For it is both certain à priori, and evident from the past record of Biblical commentators, that those, who suffer a theological prepossession of this nature to intervene, will pass lightly over glaring differences ; will see harmonies where none exist both in the facts narrated and in the ideas propounded by the various writers; will seek to prove that a gospel or an epistle was written by an apostle, instead of considering the matter on its merits ; will regard the defective arguments of inspired writers as valid; will exaggerate the differences between their ideas and the same ideas as found in secular writers, and read back into texts a meaning which is a later development of the Christian consciousness. Such are some of the pitfalls into which theological prepossessions lead criticism, and in which they stifle it. Under such conditions neither historical nor textual criticism is possible.

But the crucial and cardinal example of this fallacious method is seen when the idea of Christ's divinity is allowed to dominate Biblical criticism. Apart from this, the point of view from which the synoptics, and even the Fourth Gospel, are regarded, would be entirely different. Especially the idea of proving the truth of that divinity by miracles or prophecy would be absent. For it would then be clear that, from the historical standpoint, so far from miracles being able to prove anything to those who are living hundreds of years after they are alleged to have happened, it is they that stand in need of proof, and that, as regards prophecies, it is at least as probable that the events were adapted to them by the writers, through the unrecognised influence of those events upon their minds, as that they should actually have prefigured the events.

It is a common error of the medievalist impugners of the critical attitude to impute to it a dogmatism equal to their own, whereas it claims no more than that all such questions should be treated from a perfectly free and unbiassed standpoint.

It is of course impossible to exclude altogether the à priori element from criticism, without falling into mere empiricism; but it is quite possible to do so, in the case of the definite body of theological dogmas, when dealing with the Scriptures, and also to treat of the growth and development of these dogmas from the purely phenomenal and objective standpoint.

But the à priori element in criticism is of a very different nature from that employed by the theologians who use dogma as an organon by which to determine truths of a totally different character, and on quite a different plane from that of theology. Therefore the charge of à priorism which some theologians have had the temerity to launch against

critics, is one that only returns upon themselves with double force. The à priori element in criticism is perfectly homogeneous with its subject matter, and consists partly of such fundamental assumptions as are necessary to consistent thought and scientific method, partly of working hypotheses or theories which are openly acknowledged to be such and the validity of which is tested in the only way possible-by their application to facts. Thus evolution or development belongs to the latter class ; while continuity, which underlies it, belongs to the former, expressing, as it does, that strict causal interconnexion and filiation of phenomena without which no advance in knowledge is possible.

Criticism makes this assumption, and therefore, in dealing with the sacred books of the Christian religion, is obliged to place them on the same level, for its purposes, as the sacred books of other religions ; is bound to endeavour to sift the mythical and the ideal elements from the actual; to seek to establish the origin, historical connexion, and filiation of ideas, and in every case assign phenomenal and not mystical causes to phenomenal events.

But criticism does not destroy, because it cannot touch, the ideal element in history, whether recorded in the pages of sacred books or elsewhere. For that ideal element is apprehended in history, as elsewhere, by categories which are superior to, because more spiritual and intimate than, the mechanical categories of science. But it is only so far as scientific criticism has done its work and pushed its mechanical categories to their utmost limit that it becomes evident that there is a boundary beyond which they cannot pass, and that thus the respective spheres of science and religion become more and more defined with a truly 'scientific frontier.' It may be said that mechanical science has ever been pushing these limits further, which no doubt is true; and it will probably push them further yet; but, however far it goes, it may be confidently asserted that the advance will continue to emphasise more and more the truth that thought and consciousness are beyond its reach, being itself but a subordinate category of thought.

The ideal element, then, is not destroyed by this sifting process ; it is merely distinguished from the strictly determined chain of phenomena which forms its historical basis. Criticism seeks to distinguish between the facts of history and their ideal interpretation. That such interpretation is necessary, legitimate, and inevitable is proved by the whole history of thought; and that not only by the thought of avowed idealisers of history, such as Hegel, but of Comte, the founder of Positivism, who, seeking to reduce the metaphysical element to a minimum, yet found it impossible to escape from the category of final causes. And the historical process by which Christ has been idealised, and the conception of the God-Man evolved, is far more than the theory of a single individual, for it represents a process of thought which was collective and, up to a certain stage, world-wide, embracing and assimilating, as it did at the first, such widely different notions of Deity as were contained in the Jewish Jahweh and the Pagan incarnations.

The objection is sometimes raised to this attempt to draw a line between history and its philosophy that it is impossible to maintain throughout. Here and there a broad line of difference shows itself between facts and their interpretation, but elsewhere the distinction is blurred and apparently non-existent. Quite apart from the mythical or the legendary element, the so-called facts of history bear in every case the impress of the mind that records them, and some, even of the most (seemingly) ordinary statements of fact, are the work of an unconscious idealisation. There is of course a large element of truth in this, but it is almost equally true of the facts of any branch of science, except such as can be determined with mathematical accuracy. But, so far from this truth deterring criticism from attempting the sifting process, it makes it all the more necessary, and certainly not the less necessary as regards those ages in which no distinction seems to have been recognised between facts and their idealisation.

Of course this forces us to recognise the great and special difficulties which criticism has to encounter, and the very special qualities and training needed for its exercise ; it also shows that criticism can never yield more than approximate results.

But it does not prove the uselessness of applying the scientific method to history, nor that the imagination, theological or otherwise, should be allowed to run riot over it.

And, as regards the broad lines, there is a wonderful agreement in results among scientific critics.

What immediately concerns us, however, is not so much the general question of the applicability of the scientific method to history, as its application to that part of it which contains the data of the Christian faith. And here the special difficulty springs from that sharp separation between the phenomenal and ideal spheres which is necessary if historical criticism is to be determined solely by scientific methods.

It is objected that no such absolute separation can be made, not only for the general reasons mentioned, but also for the particular reason that certain historical data are included in the Christian creed, and form an integral part of it.

But these facts are not objects of faith quâ facts of history, but in respect of their religious significance for us, that is, in their ideal aspect and value, by which they were elevated into the sphere of the supersensuous.

And this process was gradual. The simple historical statement of the Apostles' Creed, that Christ was crucified, receives in that of Nicæa the significant addition for us.' Faith, no doubt, takes certain historical data as its starting-point, but it does not rest on them as its ultimate object. And though this historical basis exists, yet the less faith depends upon the actual occurrence of historical events, the securer is its position. Otherwise, it is liable to be overthrown at any time by some fresh light shed on history through the discovery of some ancient MS., or the like ; and, in any case, its position is made precarious when criticism has shown that the historical character of the facts on which it relied is questionable. And this much criticism has certainly effected in more than one instance.

2 Corinth. v. 16

If the faith of Christendom in an eternal, present, and living Christ could be overthrown by the historical proof that His body was never raised, its foundation would always contain an element of uncertainty. But the idea of such a possibility is based upon a false view of the nature of faith, which is really not concerned with the phenomenal except as a basis for the ideal. Its true home is in the ideal, the supersensuous, the unseen. Its object is not in time but in eternity, not in the finite but in the infinite, not in appearances but in reality. It uses these relativities only as a means of passing through them to the absolute.

If it is not lawful for a believing Catholic thus to detach his faith from his science ; if he must, as scholastic theologians have ever done, use theological concepts as a universal category by which to determine the truths of history, this is as much as to say that, for the Catholic, critical science is impossible, and that there can be no reconciliation between Catholicism and the scientific method.

In the November issue of the Contemporary Review a writer asks what right the Church had to idealise thus. 'The question, as it stands, is otiose, since, in dealing with the history of thought, as in the case of every form of history, the facts can be considered and interpreted, but it is useless to question their right to happen. All we can hope to determine is the actual course of events or of thought. The underlying assumption of such a question, though this is not made clear by the writer, is probably the old idea of a revelation which is given externally to the Church, and which the Church' has only to receive and hand on. It is not within the scope of the present paper to argue against such an assumption. It is enough to point out that it is impossible to reconcile this notion with the history of dogma. Nor is it capable of absolute and à priori proof. In this respect the old and the new standpoints rest on precisely the same footing. There is quite as much ground for belief in a Christ who has been idealised by centuries of Christian consciousness, as there is for belief in One Whose absolute Godhead has been explicitly proclaimed from the first by chosen apostles. In either case, what may be called inspiration must be assumed, though in the one case the action of the Holy Spirit is confined to the few in immediate contact with the Christ, and in the other it is spread over a wider period and a larger number of people.

In the latter case, this idea becomes, by its application to the whole course of doctrinal development, a specialised form of the belief in a Divine Providence guiding the course of events. It is, fundamentally, the same idea which, stated broadly and philosophically, is that of final causes in history, realising itself partially, and with increasing fulness, in successive historical periods, as a result of corporate human thought and effort, in which the general plan and aim is that of no single individual, and never reaching its absolute realisation under phenomenal conditions.

The Church, indeed, teaches the continuous action of the Holy Spirit throughout time, though theologians distinguish, arbitrarily enough it seems to the present writer, between this action and that which inspired the writers of the sacred books.

But there is another side of the whole matter, the importance of which is at least equal to that of the historical. This is the question of 'intellectualism,' as it is called.

It is a first principle of the scholastic philosophy that the whole of the Christian faith can be shown to follow necessarily from certain abstract intellectual positions. Thus, after the existence of God has been proved by such arguments as that of the causa causarum, it can be shown to follow logically and inevitably that He must have given a revelation of Himself; that this revelation must be the Christian one; that He commissioned His Church to teach, and therefore whatever she teaches is absolute and infallible truth. It follows from this that faith is not faith in God or Christ as such, but in those dogmatic propositions which have been propounded from time to time by the Church or Pope. These propositions, so far as they go, contain the absolute truth. If they are symbolic and fall short of an exact expression of the truth, this is only so far as human language is defective in expressing, not only divine truth, but any truth at all, even about phenomena. In fact, owing to the Source from which they came direct, these dogmas must be taken as expressing the truths they represent far more nearly and accurately than any scientific formula can express the laws of the universe. They are absolute and irreformable. The Holy Spirit has chosen the form of words, which can never be improved by addition or alteration, and not only their form, but their meaning must never change.

It is important here to note how the very first principle of this philosophy affects the whole of the theology which is made to depend upon it. God is not conceived as immanent in His universe and yet transcending it, but solely as transcendent. That is to say, God is conceived as the starting point of a chain of causes, not as underlying it.

The action of the Holy Spirit is conceived, in creation, revelation, redemption, and all the great Divine acts, as a sudden intervention, a miraculous break ab extra in the chain of continuous causation, an irruption of the Divine into human affairs, a descent of a Deus ex machina; not, according to the idea which Newman held, as

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