« AnteriorContinua »
I, however, do not think that Lewis wants the succour of the plea which, after all, only human infirmity would supply. I contend that he has included nothing in his general dicta which militates against his particular propositions; and that the only fault, if fault it be, lies in this that he has not verbally developed the method that secures their harmony.
Civilised nations, according to him, agree in accepting Christianity, but not any one form or mode of Christianity. He goes into reasons; and the passage which presses most on his consistency is evidently that in which he says that 'religion as such' deals with matters neither sensible, nor subjects of consciousness or intuition.' It appears to me that my critic has overlooked the importance of the introduction in this place of the word intuition. It appears to me to establish a chasm between Lewis and the Lockian philosophy: between Lewis and Sir James Stephen. It is plain that he thought there is an office, and there are objects, of intuition both apart from sense, and apart from self-contemplation. Unless there be such a faculty of intuition, the whole science of morals vanishes, and leaves ' not, a wrack behind,' except a debased materialising Hedonism. With virtue, truth melts away, and with truth beauty-I would almost add ́and all that makes a man.' What I am here concerned with is the undoubted fact that, according to Lewis, there are some objects of intuition. Yet he says 'religion as such' does not deal with them. Did he then mean to assert that there is no discernment of God by the mental eye and by spiritual experience? If discernment of God is neither founded on intuition, nor upon a just consideration and comparison of what we know by sense or by consciousness, how is the consent of nations in the being of God erected, as he tells us it has been erected, into an authority rationally binding on us?
The answer is, I think, perfectly simple for every unbiased and careful reader of Lewis's forcible Chapter. It seems to me plain that the distinction is to be taken between belief in God, and attempts at scientific exposition in detail of that belief, and of the multitude of matters which may cluster round it: between acceptance of Christianity, and acceptance (as absolutely true) of any of the particular forms and modes of Christianity. And that when he speaks of 'religion as such' he has in view, not the general forms of belief implied in his use of the words 'God' and 'Christianity,' but religion as such when placed under scientific handling; the questions that at once arise, when we endeavour to clothe within the narrow dimensions of our human speech truths that surpass all such limits; and of which I suppose every reasoning Christian would allow that some glimpses, and thin outlines, and faint shadows, are all that words can convey to us. That Lewis is too parsimonious in his admissions as to religion, I have elsewhere argued; but he is perfectly consistent if, in construing his text, we give reasonable heed to his context. Throughout his
detailed exposition of conflicts in theology, it will be found that he is speaking of the special matters in which Churches differ; but he has nowhere said there is nothing common to them in which they agree. He denies that any one of them is for mankind a complete authority; but in their aggregate they form a Christendom, and, in that character, establish the title of Christianity' to acceptance. No one will suppose for a moment that he used that word as a mere counter. As a Theist, he did not recognise the Ark of the Covenant, but he recognised the Presence within it as true, though undefinable; while, as a Christian, he would not philosophically pronounce between one Church and another. He did not allow (as I think he ought to have allowed) a place in a philosophic system to any documents of Christian theology; but, in the name of their reason, he demanded of all men that they should be Christians. And, though he has appointed no one his expositor, I think it not immoderate to say that by Christianity he meant clearly nothing less than this; a special agency, divinely organised for the deliverance, instruction, and elevation of mankind—an agency, at the least, giving scope for the prayer of Milton in his great exordium:
What in me is dark,
There is not, I believe, one line in the Fourth Chapter, which will not harmonise with these remarks, and thus establish the coherency of a singularly temperate, upright, and discerning writer.
I must say, however, parenthetically, that I do not undertake to stand by all that is contained in the six heads given above. I doubt whether I am, and even whether Lewis was, qualified by study to discuss all the topics they contain. I do not precisely know what persons Lewis means to indicate when he speaks of the later Greeks.' His remark may have force in relation to Justin, Clement of Alexandria, and some other early Christian writers. But the material question is, whether it can justly be applied to those upon whom fell the arduous duty of giving verbal form to the Christian dogma. Now I have never learned (§ 3) that these Greek Fathers were hampered by any 'subtle, refined, and abstruse metaphysical philosophy,' or have imported it into the Christian creed. We are familiar, indeed, with an allegation of this kind in respect to some of the later Scriptures; but not from Lewis. To me, viewing the matter from below and from without, it seems that the Greek Christian Fathers were guided to their ultimate results by a circumspection not less remarkable than their acuteness; that it is hard to trace in their dogmatic terminology the influence of any entangling philosophy whatever; that, upon the whole, they used the imperfect instrument of human lan
guage, moving as they did always inter apices, about as well as it could be used by man. What their difficulties were, may in some degree be gathered from that remarkable Treatise, Dr. Newman's History of the Arians. I do not speak now of criticisms, which may be suggested upon a comparison of some of the established Latin phrases with their Greek equivalents. Still less do I raise the question whether the Aristotelian philosophy has entered essentially, a thousand years later, into some of the Tridentine definitions. But Lewis writes as if he had been led into error at this point by assuming a resemblance of basis between the Homoousion of the Greeks and the substantia of St. Thomas Aquinas; a supposition which I suppose to be altogether groundless.
I think also that, if he had worked out more fully his two succinct comparisons between consent in religion and consent in morality, there would have been some valuable results. That comparison, indeed, is not stated by my opponent in a manner to which I can subscribe. Lewis certainly alleges a wider present consent in morality than in religion; but he asserts a consent of all nations' in religion -namely, as to the being of God-whereas he only asserts a consent of all Christian nations in morality. I have said already that I do not deny the greater breadth of subject-matter embraced in this Christian consent as to morality, and I have even suggested one of the reasons for it. But I am inclined only to admit the fact itself in a certain sense, not universally. I submit that the consent as to morality is eminently a consent belonging to the popular Christian tradition, which stands, and has ever stood, in immediate relation to the Christian dogma. It is what I may term theological morality, with regard to which this consent may boldly and thankfully be predicated. But when we come to philosophical morality, apart from the simple Divine command, it appears to me that we are all at sea. Is it governed by necessity or option? Is it founded in the will of God, or in His attributes apart from will, or in the nature of things apart from Deity? Is the ultimate criterion of actions to be found in goodness or in enjoyment? There are hardly two stones of the foundation, on the setting of which the philosophers are as yet agreed, or likely to agree. I know not what the future may have in store for us, but such is the upshot of the present and the past. Neither do I see much of that tendency to convergence, which my author and my critic are at one in justly noting as to the other sciences. Historically, the subsisting Christian agreement in the highest doctrines of religion seems to me far more remarkable, far more authoritative, than any philosophical agreement as to the basis of morality apart from religion. But I am not hereby driven to scepticism as to the reality and solidity of moral any more than of religious science; and I find an adequate explanation of the greater diversity of sense as to these, when compared with most other sciences, in the loftiness and profundity of their subject
matter, and in the terrible abundance and multiformity of bewildering, deadening, and misleading influences. But the lengthening shadows warn me to have done, and I shall deal briefly with the closing part of Sir James Stephen's article.
With a clearness which leaves nothing to be desired, he contends 42 (1) that authority is only another name for the evidence of experts; (2) that assent upon authority is only warrantable when the assenting person has some knowledge of the principles of the subject and of the methods pursued; so that it is his knowledge, not his ignorance, which gives the evidence its value. Considered in respect to the subject at large, these assertions appear to me far too sweeping. Many persons, not without cultivation, are totally ignorant of the principles and methods of physics, but they may still act rationally in giving credit to a prediction by the storm-signal; or, even without view, to what Tyndall would tell them on the severance of heat and light, or Whitworth on his millionth of an inch. Or again, to take Sir James Stephen's own illustration, they would reasonably assent to an astronomer predicting an eclipse; for they would know that he was acting within his own science, without presumable cause of deviating from its laws, laws recognised by the general assent of the persons either specially or generally competent. But his belief in an astrologer predicting a birth would be irrational; for neither the opinion of the instructed nor the opinion of mankind at large asserts or allows the existence of a science of astrology, and without it there cannot even be an expert. In every case where authority is to be pleaded, there must be a primâ facie case, a point of departure, involving certain conditions, of which the first seems to be that the existence of a subject-matter, of a possible science, should be recognised. Here there is no point of departure, no primâ facie case. It is true then, as my opponent asserts, that it is by knowledge and not by ignorance that we accept authority, but untrue that it must be a knowledge of the principles and methods of the particular subject. It may be a mediate, not an immediate knowledge, a knowledge of the general rules of good sense and experience, according to which an authority ought to know, and probably does know, and thus knowing supplies us with a ground of action or belief reasonable, and if reasonable then so far obligatory.
I have thought it a fundamental defect in my opponent's philosophy, that it does not seem to recognise the vast diversities which have place in the forms of evidence according to diversities of subject-matter. There are sciences in which light is entirely with the few whom we call experts; for example, pure mathematics, and I am disposed to add philology. There are sciences in which a little light is given to all, by all meaning always all such as are not without good sense :
42 Pp. 286-97.
as such in the material order I might name medicine; still more, when we pass out of the material order, the three great branches of politics, morals, and religion.
In these branches of knowledge it is not possible to lay down a fast and clear line between experts and non-experts, more than between day and night. With mathematicians or philologists we are slow to interfere, but with those who teach in politics, in morals, or in religion, we interfere very freely. In these departments especially it is that ignorant self-assertion prevails, but in these also it is that the most fatal dangers attend upon an invasion of just liberty; and, as is common in human affairs, that which is in itself an excess counteracts or neutralises another and opposite excess, yet more injurious.
In the case of these subjects, I can approximate to the two propositions of my opponent now under discussion. Here, too, there are experts, and there are non-experts: there is a line between them, as between day and night, real, though indeterminate. The non-expert of average qualities in modern Christendom has a general knowledge of the subject-matter, not in the scientific forms, but yet in the elementary notions which those scientific forms are intended to methodise, conserve, develope, and apply. And woe were it to him, if he were not thus far at least equipped. For he has come into a world where he finds his life conditioned by the family and the State, by the Bible and the Christian Church; which touch him at a thousand points, and take a large share in the government of his life. As food and liquids are a necessity for all, nature provides all with some knowledge how to eat and drink. As society, personal duty, and religion make urgent demands on him, some of which cannot be rejected, while the rest are not always easy to reject, nature does not leave him wholly destitute of the primary instruments for handling these subjects in the practical forms suited to his condition, and he is thus placed in more or less of possible relation to their more developed aspects. Such knowledge as he has of his own disposes and helps him to recognise authority, to recognise an authority that proceeds both from experts and from the race; for few will assert that St. Augustine wrote nonsense when he wrote the remarkable, though indeterminate, words: securus judicat orbis terrarum.
I contend, then, that there is no reason why a trustworthy authority should not be generated in an appropriate manner for the benefit of mankind in these matters of universal concern-politics, morals, and religion. As to the limits of this authority in religion, I refer to my former paper, where this topic is partially considered. But I am anxious here to insist on the close analogy, which prevails between the three subjects. That analogy there seems to be, on the 'other side' generally, an indisposition either to recognise or to deny. To assert a trustworthy authority in morals would sadly damage the