« AnteriorContinua »
nature of the fact in question, the other upon the nature of scientific investigation in general. First, then, let us consider the nature of the fact in itself. It is not like asking, Are there inhabitants in the moon? That is a question of detail, a question which relates only to the contents of our world of experience. We may wonder whether our universe contains such beings or not—either decision is possible, and neither is very disturbing. But if it be true that there is a Being such as we mean by the name God, His existence will be involved in that of every existing thing. The world outside us, ourselves, our powers of thought and will, are all dependent in the strictest sense upon His will, and to consider them apart from it is, strictly speaking, to consider them in a partially false light, if He exists. We cannot expect the idea of God to fit smoothly on to a predominantly godless view of the world. Because God, if He exists, is not merely one of the elements in the universe, which we may or may not take into consideration in our view of it; He is either the permanent condition of all that is and happens, or He is nothing at all. To inquire into His existence, then, is not to ask whether we are to include this one more Being in our catalogue of the contents of the universe, but to ask whether we can form a consistent account of our experience as a whole, assuming the existence of God. Something of the same sort is true of the Incarnation. That the whole of Christian Theology is an expansion and analysis of this truth we hope to show in the sequel. But simply considered as a fact, it is surely true that there is no method of arguing to it, on general principles, except this one of showing its coherence with our whole scheme of things.
Secondly, we have said that the nature of scientific
investigation itself provides an argument for the validity of the method which we regard as distinctively theological. To show this, let us consider first what science professes to be and to do. It differs surely from ordinary knowledge simply in completeness and in coherence. It does not relate to a different order of things. Ordinary knowledge is regulated by circumstances. It consists of the products of a man's observation during his lifetime. If he is a sharp man, quick at forming principles and seeing the working of things, his knowledge will tend towards the scientific ideal. If he is stupid and passively receptive, his mind will be like a sack full of miscellaneous rubbish, from which anything may emerge, but probably nothing of any value. What such a man wants is arrangement, system, coherence. And this is what science gives to ordinary experience. Science divides the field of experience into allotments. In each of these it places a body of workers, who collect and tabulate the facts obtainable within their special area. These collections form the special sciences. The greatest achievement, perhaps, yet attained by the scientific mind. is the recognition that the barriers between the separate allotments are arbitrary and movable, and that the whole field may be dealt with upon one comprehensive principle. This, then, is what science does. It does not invent new facts. When it finds one it puts it in its place. It is ordinary experience systematized. The man who knows one fact as it really is, knows it so far scientifically. Just as the man who owns sixpence can command the labour of the world to the extent of sixpence, so the man who holds one fact truly is, so far, scientific. Science uses various methods where the ordinary man is content with one,—with simple obser
vation. It deduces, it performs experiments, forms and verifies hypotheses. But the end is always the samesystematized, empirical, and coherent truth.
Now the scientific man deals, for the most part, with facts which the senses can verify. His questions of fact are settled by further observation. His theoretical questions, often the most important of all, arise over the explanation of his facts—that is, their place and importance in his system. But the theologian deals with facts which the senses do not and cannot verify, with facts which underlie the created order as a permanent condition, which are always there, and can never be completely left out of account with success. And this is why his facts require a new method. If the life of God and the spiritual world could be separated from the facts of physical nature, and considered alone, it would form a province of science by itself, in which the usual ways of experiment and observation would be valid. Theologian and scientist would pursue each his own way, each using the regular method in his own field. But this cannot be. The theologian has not only to deal with a class of facts of his own, but he has also to look at the facts of the scientist from his own special point of view. He looks for his facts in the same world as the scientist, and he sees the same facts. But he believes them to rest on a condition which his senses cannot verify, and therefore the proper method for him is to show the cohesion of the whole system of things with this condition, if it be assumed. Thus he finds the spiritual world in his conclusion only so far as he has assumed it in his premisses.1
It is, we believe, the failure to recognize these truths
1 Cf. S. Thom. Aq., Summa, P. I, Q. xxxii., Art. 1.
which has led to much of the strain between Science and Theology. The theologian has been expected and in many cases has himself attempted to use purely scientific methods in his own area,—in an area, therefore, for which they are wholly unsuited. If these fail, as, of course, they must, that failure has been ascribed to the intrinsic weakness of the theological case, whereas the truth has been that it is due to the irrelevance of the arguments employed. If we have said what is true above, it is plain that the ultimate truths of Theology will not emerge at the end of a process of argument conducted without assumptions and, as the phrase is, without bias. It is contrary to their nature to expect them to do so.
We have just adopted the ominous word bias, and this, we may be sure, will excite comment. What is the use, it will be asked, of pretending to argue and discuss when all along the decision is foreclosed? How can a biassed decision upon such points as this be of any value? To answer this it will be necessary to explain with some care what we meant by bias in Theology. There is, of course, a sense in which a biassed decision is no real result of argument at all; when the case is heard pro forma and the verdict given apart from any evidence that can be alleged on one side or the other. But this is not what we mean. By bias we mean that condition of the will which prepares a man to make proper use of the evidence before him. And we have called this a bias because, in relation to our present subject, it takes the form of a readiness to admit the existence of God, or the Incarnation. The mind will never be compelled in spite of itself to accept such truths as these: as it may be compelled in the region of Pure Mathematics or Logic. But it will be satisfied, and that not in the least
degree in an unscientific manner, if it recognizes the special conditions of theological speculation and approaches them in an attitude of readiness to follow their leading. It will be led always, never compelled.
The condition of will which we have here called bias is a moral state. And like all other such states it admits of only one alternative. Between the bias for and the bias against there is no half-way house, just as there is no alternative beyond right and wrong at the bar of conscience. The condition of suspended judgment is only possible permanently, in those matters where the mind justly expects to be compelled to have its assent wrung out of it by sheer force. Where this is not the case, the decision turns on the presence or absence of a certain moral condition, and this must be either there or not there. The evidence is admittedly insufficient to force the assent; but it can never be estimated at its real value, if the mind consciously or unconsciously is either disposed to insist upon compulsory evidence, or inclined to hope that the evidence may not carry the conclusion.1
These facts, we are persuaded, have not received adequate attention at the hands of philosophers. It has been readily assumed that the one hope of a trustworthy decision in these matters lies in the possession of a balanced mind-a mind in perfect equilibrium, without any colour of prejudice or prepossession or natural tendency. Such a condition of mind, we venture to assert roundly, exists nowhere under the sun. Moreover, if it did exist, it would not judge accurately. For it would be deficient in the very capacity for judgment: it would be blank and void, without any materials upon
1 Cf. W. Ward. The wish to believe: pp. 6-10, and throughout the book.