Idealistic Philosophy
The causes which we have named, religious and aesthetic, as well as purely speculative, led to such a revision of philosophical principles in Germany as took place in no other land. The new idealistic philosophy, as it took shape primarily at the hands of Kant, completed the dissolution of the old rationalism. It laid the foundation for the speculative thought of the western world for the century which was to come. The answers which aestheticism and pietism gave to rationalism were incomplete. They consisted largely in calling attention to that which rationalism had overlooked. Kant's idealism, however, met the intellectual movement on its own grounds. It triumphed over it with its own weapons. The others set feeling over against thought. He taught men a new method in thinking. The others put emotion over against reason. He criticised in drastic fashion the use which had been made of reason. He inquired into the nature of reason. He vindicated the reasonableness of some truths which men had indeed felt to be indefeasibly true, but which they had not been able to establish by reasoning.


Immanuel Kant was born in 1724 in Koenigsberg, possibly of remoter Scottish ancestry. His father was a saddler, as Melanchthon's had been an armourer and Wolff's a tanner. His native city with its university was the scene of his whole life and labour. He was never outside of Prussia except for a brief interval when Koenigsberg belonged to Russia. He was a German professor of the old style. Studying, teaching, writing books, these were his whole existence. He was the fourth of nine children of a devoted pietist household. Two of his sisters served in the houses of friends. The consistorial-rath opened the way to the university. An uncle aided him to publish his first books. His earlier interest was in the natural sciences. He was slow in coming to promotion. Only after 1770 was he full professor of logic and metaphysics. In 1781 he published the first of the books upon which rests his world-wide fame. Nevertheless, he lived to see the triumph of his philosophy in most of the German universities. His subjects are abstruse, his style involved. It never occurred to him to make the treatment of his themes easier by use of the imagination. He had but a modicum of that quality. He was hostile to the pride of intellect often manifested by petty rationalists. He was almost equally hostile to excessive enthusiasm in religion. The note of his life, apart from his intellectual power, was his ethical seriousness. He was in conflict with ecclesiastical personages and out of sympathy with much of institutional religion. None the less, he was in his own way one of the most religious of men. His brief conflict with Woellner's government was the only instance in which his peace and public honour were disturbed. He never married. He died in Koenigsberg in 1804. He had been for ten years so much enfeebled that his death was a merciful release.

Kant used the word 'critique' so often that his philosophy has been called the 'critical philosophy.' The word therefore needs an explanation. Kant himself distinguished two types of philosophy, which he called the dogmatic and critical types. The essence of a dogmatic philosophy is that it makes belief to rest upon knowledge. Its endeavour is to demonstrate that which is believed. It brings out as its foil the characteristically sceptical philosophy. This esteems that the proofs advanced in the interest of belief are inadequate. The belief itself is therefore an illusion. The essence of a critical philosophy, on the other hand, consists in this, that it makes a distinction between the functions of knowing and believing. It distinguishes between the perception of that which is in accordance with natural law and the understanding of the moral meaning of things.[3] Kant thus uses his word critique in accordance with the strict etymological meaning of the root. He seeks to make a clear separation between the provinces of belief and knowledge, and thus to find an adjustment of their claims. Of an object of belief we may indeed say that we know it. Yet we must make clear to ourselves that we know it in a different sense from that in which we know physical fact. Faith, since it does not spring from the pure reason, cannot indeed, as the old dogmatisms, both philosophical and theological, have united in asserting, be demonstrated by the reason. Equally it cannot, as scepticism has declared, be overthrown by the pure reason.

The ancient positive dogmatism had been the idealistic philosophy of Plato and Aristotle. The old negative dogmatism had been the materialism of the Epicureans. To Plato the world was the realisation of ideas. Ideas, spiritual entities, were the counterparts and necessary antecedents of the natural objects and actual facts of life. To the Epicureans, on the other hand, there are only material bodies and natural laws. There are no ideas or purposes. In the footsteps of the former moved all the scholastics of the Middle Age, and again, even Locke and Leibnitz in their so-called 'natural theology.' In the footsteps of the latter moved the men who had made materialism and scepticism to be the dominant philosophy of France in the latter half of the eighteenth century. The aim of Kant was to resolve this age-long contradiction. Free, unprejudiced investigation of the facts and laws of the phenomenal world can never touch the foundations of faith. Natural science can lead in the knowledge only of the realm of the laws of things. It cannot give us the inner moral sense of those things. To speak of the purposes of nature as men had done was absurd. Natural theology, as men had talked of it, was impossible. What science can give is a knowledge of the facts about us in the world, of the growth of the cosmos, of the development of life, of the course of history, all viewed as necessary sequences of cause and effect.

[Footnote 3: Paulsen, Kant, a.2.]

On the other hand, with the idealists, Kant is fully persuaded that there is a meaning in things and that we can know it. There is a sense in life. With immediate certainty we set moral good as the absolute aim in life. This is done, however, not through the pure reason or by scientific thinking, but primarily through the will, or as Kant prefers to call it, the practical reason. What is meant by the practical reason is the intelligence, the will and the affections operating together; that is to say, the whole man and not merely his intellect, directed to those problems upon which, in sympathy and moral reaction, the whole man must be directed and upon which the pure reason, the mere faculty of ratiocination, does not adequately operate. In the practical reason the will is the central thing. The will is that faculty of man to which moral magnitudes appeal. It is with moral magnitudes that the will is primarily concerned. The pure reason may operate without the will and the affections. The will, as a source of knowledge, never works without the intelligence and the affections. But it is the will which alone judges according to the predicates good and evil. The pure reason judges according to the predicates true and false. It is the practical reason which ventures the credence that moral worth is the supreme worth in life. It then confirms this ventured credence in a manifold experience that yields a certainty with which no certainty of objects given in the senses is for a moment to be compared. We know that which we have believed. We know it as well as that two and two make four. Still we do not know it in the same way. Nor can we bring knowledge of it to others save through an act of freedom on their part, which is parallel to the original act of freedom on our own part.

How can these two modes of thought stand related the one to the other? Kant's answer is that they correspond to the distinction between two worlds, the world of sense and the transcendental or supersensible world. The pure and the practical reason are the faculties of man for dealing with these two worlds respectively, the phenomenal and the noumenal. The world which is the object of scientific investigation is not the actuality itself. This is true in spite of the fact that to the common man the material and sensible is always, as he would say, the real. On the contrary, in Kant's opinion the material world is only the presentation to our senses of something deeper, of which our senses are no judge. The reality lies behind this sensible presentation and appearance. The world of religious belief is the world of this transcendent reality. The spirit of man, which is not pure reason only, but moral will as well, recognises itself also as part of this reality. It expresses the essence of that mysterious reality in terms of its own essence. Its own essence as free spirit is the highest aspect of reality of which it is aware. It may be unconscious of the symbolic nature of its language in describing that which is higher than anything which we know, by the highest which we do know. Yet, granting that, and supposing that it is not a contradiction to attempt a description of the transcendent at all, there is no description which carries us so far.

This series of ideas was perhaps that which gave to Kant's philosophy its immediate and immense effect upon the minds of men wearied with the endless strife and insoluble contradiction of the dogmatic and sceptical spirits. We may disagree with much else in the Kantian system. Even here we may say that we have not two reasons, but only two functionings of one. We have not two worlds. The philosophical myth of two worlds has no better standing than the religious myth of two worlds. We have two characteristic aspects of one and the same world. These perfectly interpenetrate the one the other, if we may help ourselves with the language of space. Each is everywhere present. Furthermore, these actions of reason and aspects of world shade into one another by imperceptible degrees. Almost all functionings of reason have something of the qualities of both. However, when all is said, it was of greatest worth to have had these two opposite poles of thought brought clearly to mind. The dogmatists, in the interest of faith, were resisting at every step the progress of the sciences, feeling that that progress was inimical to faith. The devotees of science were saying that its processes were of universal validity, its conclusions irresistible, the gradual dissolution of faith was certain. Kant made plain that neither party had the right to such conclusions. Each was attempting to apply the processes appropriate to one form of rational activity within the sphere which belonged to the other. Nothing but confusion could result. The religious man has no reason to be jealous of the advance of the sciences. The interests of faith itself are furthered by such investigation. Illusions as to fact which have been mistakenly identified with faith are thus done away. Nevertheless, its own eternal right is assured to faith. With it lies the interpretation of the facts of nature and of history, whatever those facts may be found to be. With the practical reason is the interpretation of these facts according to their moral worth, a worth of which the pure reason knows nothing and scientific investigation reveals nothing.

Here was a deliverance not unlike that which the Reformation had brought. The mingling of Aristotelianism and religion in the scholastic theology Luther had assailed. Instead of assent to human dogmas Luther had the immediate assurance of the heart that God was on his side. And what is that but a judgment of the practical reason, the response of the heart in man to the spiritual universe? It is given in experience. It is not mediated by argument. It cannot be destroyed by syllogism. It needs no confirmation from science. It is capable of combination with any of the changing interpretations which science may put upon the outward universe. The Reformation had, however, not held fast to its great truth. It had gone back to the old scholastic position. It had rested faith in an essentially rationalistic manner upon supposed facts in nature and alleged events of history in connection with the revelation. It had thus jeopardised the whole content of faith, should these supposed facts of nature or events in history be at any time disproved. Men had made faith to rest upon statements of Scripture, alleging such and such acts and events. They did not recognise these as the naive and childlike assumptions concerning nature and history which the authors of Scripture would naturally have. When, therefore, these statements began with the progress of the sciences to be disproved, the defenders of the faith presented always the feeble spectacle of being driven from one form of evidence to another, as the old were in turn destroyed. The assumption was rife at the end of the eighteenth century that Christianity was discredited in the minds of all free and reasonable men. Its tenets were incompatible with that which enlightened men infallibly knew to be true. It could be no long time until the hollowness and sham would be patent to all. Even the interested and the ignorant would be compelled to give it up. Of course, the invincibly devout in every nation felt of instinct that this was not true. They felt that there is an inexpugnable truth of religion. Still that was merely an intuition of their hearts. They were right. But they were unable to prove that they were right, or even to get a hearing with many of the cultivated of their age. To Kant we owe the debt, that he put an end to this state of things. He made the real evidence for religion that of the moral sense, of the nonscience and hearts of men themselves. The real ground of religious conviction is the religious experience. He thus set free both science and religion from an embarrassment under which both laboured, and by which both had been injured.

Kant parted company with the empirical philosophy which had held that all knowledge arises from without, comes from experienced sensations, is essentially perception. This theory had not been able to explain the fact that human experience always conforms to certain laws. On the other hand, the philosophy of so-called innate ideas had sought to derive all knowledge from the constitution of the mind itself. It left out of consideration the dependence of the mind upon experience. It tended to confound the creations of its own speculation with reality, or rather, to claim correspondence with fact for statements which had no warrant in experience. There was no limit to which this speculative process might not be pushed. By this process the medieval theologians, with all gravity, propounded the most absurd speculations concerning nature. By this process men made the most astonishing declarations upon the basis, as they supposed, of revelation. They made allegations concerning history and the religious experience which the most rudimentary knowledge of history or reflection upon consciousness proved to be quite contrary to fact.

Both empiricism and the theory of innate ideas had agreed in regarding all knowledge as something given, from without or from within. The knowing mind was only a passive recipient of impressions thus imparted to it. It was as wax under the stylus, tabula rasa, clean paper waiting to be written upon. Kant departed from this radically. He declared that all cognition rests upon the union of the mind's activity with its receptivity. The material of thought, or at least some of the materials of thought, must be given us in the multiformity of our perceptions, through what we call experience from the outer world. On the other hand, the formation of this material into knowledge is the work of the activity of our own minds. Knowledge is the result of the systematising of experience and of reflection upon it. This activity of the mind takes place always in accordance with the mind's own laws. Kant held them to the absolute dependence of knowledge upon material applied in experience. He compared himself to Copernicus who had taught men that they themselves revolved around a central fact of the universe. They had supposed that the facts revolved about them. The central fact of the intellectual world is experience. This experience seems to be given us in the forms of time and space and cause. These are merely forms of the mind's own activity. It is not possible for us to know 'the thing in itself,' the Ding an sich in Kant's phrase, which is the external factor in any sensation or perception. We cannot distinguish that external factor from the contribution to it, as it stands in our perception, which our own minds have made. If we cannot do that even for ourselves, how much less can we do it for others! It is the subject, the thinking being who says 'I,' which, by means of its characteristic and necessary active processes, in the perception of things under the forms of time and space, converts the chaotic material of knowledge into a regular and ordered world of reasoned experience. In this sense the understanding itself imposes laws, if not upon nature, yet, at least, upon nature as we can ever know it. There is thus in Kant's philosophy a sceptical aspect. Knowledge is limited to phenomena. We cannot by pure reason know anything of the world which lies beyond experience. This thought had been put forth by Locke and Berkeley, and by Hume also, in a different way. But with Kant this scepticism was not the gist of his philosophy. It was urged rather as the basis of the unconditioned character which he proposed to assert for the practical reason. Kant's scepticism is therefore very different from that of Hume. It does not militate against the profoundest religious conviction. Yet it prepared the way for some of the just claims of modern agnosticism.

According to Kant, it is as much the province of the practical reason to lay down laws for action as it is the province of pure reason to determine the conditions of thought, though the practical reason can define only the form of action which shall be in the spirit of duty. It cannot present duty to us as an object of desire. Desire can be only a form of self-love. In the end it reckons with the advantage of having done one's duty. It thus becomes selfish and degraded. The identification of duty and interest was particularly offensive to Kant. He was at war with every form of hedonism. To do one's duty because one expects to reap advantage is not to have done one's duty. The doing of duty in this spirit simply resolves itself into a subtler and more pervasive form of selfishness. He castigates the popular presentation of religion as fostering this same fault. On the other hand, there is a trait of rigorism in Kant, a survival of the ancient dualism, which was not altogether consistent with the implications of his own philosophy. This philosophy afforded, as we have seen, the basis for a monistic view of the universe. But to his mind the natural inclinations of man are opposed to good conscience and sound reason. He had contempt for the shallow optimism of his time, according to which the nature of man was all good, and needed only to be allowed to run its natural course to produce highest ethical results. He does not seem to have penetrated to the root of Rousseau's fallacy, the double sense in which he constantly used the words 'nature' and 'natural.' Otherwise, Kant would have been able to repudiate the preposterous doctrine of Rousseau, without himself falling back upon the doctrine of the radical evil of human nature. In this doctrine he is practically at one with the popular teaching of his own pietistic background, and with Calvinism as it prevailed with many of the religiously-minded of his day. In its extreme statements the latter reminds one of the pagan and oriental dualisms which so long ran parallel to the development of Christian thought and so profoundly influenced it.

Kant's system is not at one with itself at this point. According to him the natural inclinations of men are such as to produce a never-ending struggle between duty and desire. To desire to do a thing made him suspicious that he was not actuated by the pure spirit of duty in doing it. The sense in which man may be in his nature both a child of God, and, at the same time, part of the great complex of nature, was not yet clear either to Kant or to his opponents. His pessimism was a reflection of his moral seriousness. Yet it failed to reckon with that which is yet a glorious fact. One of the chief results of doing one's duty is the gradual escape from the desire to do the contrary. It is the gradual fostering by us, the ultimate dominance in us, of the desire to do that duty. Even to have seen one's duty is the dawning in us of this high desire. In the lowest man there is indeed the superficial desire to indulge his passions. There is also the latent longing to be conformed to the good. There is the sense that he fulfils himself then only when he is obedient to the good. One of the great facts of spiritual experience is this gradual, or even sudden, inversion of standard within us. We do really cease to desire the things which are against right reason and conscience. We come to desire the good, even if it shall cost us pain and sacrifice to do it. Paul could write: 'When I would do good, evil is present with me.' But, in the vividness of his identification of his willing self with his better self against his sinning self, he could also write: 'So then it is no more I that do the sin.' Das radicale Boese of human nature is less radical than Kant supposed, and 'the categorical imperative' of duty less externally categorical than he alleged. Still it is the great merit of Kant's philosophy to have brought out with all possible emphasis, not merely as against the optimism of the shallow, but as against the hedonism of soberer people, that our life is a conflict between inclination and duty. The claims of duty are the higher ones. They are mandatory, absolute. We do our duty whether or not we superficially desire to do it. We do our duty whether or not we foresee advantage in having done it. We should do it if we foresaw with clearness disadvantage. We should find our satisfaction in having done it, even at the cost of all our other satisfactions. There is a must which is over and above all our desires. This is what Kant really means by the categorical imperative. Nevertheless, his statement comes in conflict with the principle of freedom, which is one of the most fundamental in his system. The phrases above used only eddy about the one point which is to be held fast. There may be that in the universe which destroys the man who does not conform to it, but in the last analysis he is self-destroyed, that is, he chooses not to conform. If he is saved, it is because he chooses thus to conform. Man would be then most truly man in resisting that which would merely overpower him, even if it were goodness. Of course, there can be no goodness which overpowers. There can be no goodness which is not willed. Nothing can be a motive except through awakening our desire. That which one desires is never wholly external to oneself.

According to Kant, morality becomes religion when that which the former shows to be the end of man is conceived also to be the end of the supreme law-giver, God. Religion is the recognition of our duties as divine commands. The distinction between revealed and natural religion is stated thus: In the former we know a thing to be a divine command before we recognise it as our duty. In the latter we know it to be our duty before we recognise it as a divine command. Religion may be both natural and revealed. Its tenets may be such that man can be conceived as arriving at them by unaided reason. But he would thus have arrived at them at a later period in the evolution of the race. Hence revelation might be salutary or even necessary for certain times and places without being essential at all times or, for that matter, a permanent guarantee of the truth of religion. There is nothing here which is new or original with Kant. This line of reasoning was one by which men since Lessing had helped themselves over certain difficulties. It is cited only to show how Kant, too, failed to transcend his age in some matters, although he so splendidly transcended it in others.

The orthodox had immemorially asserted that revelation imparted information not otherwise attainable, or not then attainable. The rationalists here allege the same. Kant is held fast in this view. Assuredly what revelation imparts is not information of any sort whatsoever, not even information concerning God. What revelation imparts is God himself, through the will and the affection, the practical reason. Revelation is experience, not instruction. The revealers are those who have experienced God, Jesus the foremost among them. They have experienced God, whom then they have manifested as best they could, but far more significantly in what they were than in what they said. There is surely the gravest exaggeration of what is statutory and external in that which Kant says of the relation of ethics and religion. How can we know that to be a command of God, which does not commend itself in our own heart and conscience? The traditionalist would have said, by documents miraculously confirmed. It was not in consonance with his noblest ideas for Kant to say that. On the other hand, that which I perceive to be my duty I, as religious man, feel to be a command of God, whether or not a mandate of God to that effect can be adduced. Whether an alleged revelation from God inculcates such a truth or duty may be incidental. In a sense it is accidental. The content of all historic revelation is conditioned in the circumstances of the man to whom the revelation is addressed. It is clear that the whole matter of revelation is thus apprehended by Kant with more externality than we should have believed. His thought is still essentially archaic and dualistic. He is, therefore, now and then upon the point of denying that such a thing as revelation is possible. The very idea of revelation, in this form, does violence to his fundamental principle of the autonomy of the human reason and will. At many points in his reflection it is transparently clear that nothing can ever come to a man, or be given forth by him, which is not creatively shaped by himself. As regards revelation, however, Kant never frankly took that step. The implications of his own system would have led him to that step. They led to an idea of revelation which was psychologically in harmony with the assumptions of his system, and historically could be conceived as taking place without the interjection of the miraculous in the ordinary sense. If the divine revelation is to be thought as taking place within the human spirit, and in consonance with the laws of all other experience, then the human spirit must itself be conceived as standing in such relation to the divine that the eternal reason may express and reveal itself in the regular course of the mind's own activity. Then the manifold moral and religious ideals of mankind in all history must take their place as integral factors also in the progress of the divine revelation.

When we come to the more specific topics of his religious teaching, freedom, immortality, God, Kant is prompt to assert that these cannot be objects of theoretical knowledge. Insoluble contradictions arise whenever a proof of them is attempted. If an object of faith could be demonstrated it would cease to be an object of faith. It would have been brought down out of the transcendental world. Were God to us an object among other objects, he would cease to be a God. Were the soul a demonstrable object like any other object, it would cease to be the transcendental aspect of ourselves. Kant makes short work of the so-called proofs for the existence of God which had done duty in the scholastic theology. With subtilty, sometimes also with bitter irony, he shows that they one and all assume that which they set out to prove. They are theoretically insufficient and practically unnecessary. They have such high-sounding names -- the ontological argument, the cosmological, the physico-theological -- that almost in spite of ourselves we bring a reverential mood to them. They have been set forth with solemnity by such redoubtable thinkers that there is something almost startling in the way that Kant knocks them about. The fact that the ordinary man among us easily perceives that Kant was right shows only how the climate of the intellectual world has changed. Freedom, immortality, God, are not indeed provable. If given at all, they can be given only in the practical reason. Still they are postulates in the moral order which makes man the citizen of an intelligible world. There can be no 'ought' for a being who is necessitated. We can perceive, and do perceive, that we ought to do a thing. It follows that we can do it. However, the hindrances to the realisation of the moral ideal are such that it cannot be realised in a finite time. Hence the postulate of eternal life for the individual. Finally, reason demands realisation of a supreme good, both a perfect virtue and a corresponding happiness. Man is a final end only as a moral subject. There must be One who is not only a law-giver, but in himself also the realisation of the law of the moral world.

Kant's moral argument thus steps off the line of the others. It is not a proof at all in the sense in which they attempted to be proofs. The existence of God appears as a necessary assumption, if the highest good and value in the world are to be fulfilled. But the conception and possibility of realisation of a highest good is itself something which cannot be concluded with theoretical evidentiality. It is the object of a belief which in entire freedom is directed to that end. Kant lays stress upon the fact that among the practical ideas of reason, that of freedom is the one whose reality admits most nearly of being proved by the laws of pure reason, as well as in conduct and experience. Upon an act of freedom, then, belief rests. 'It is the free holding that to be true, which for the fulfilment of a purpose we find necessary.' Now, as object of this 'free holding something to be true,' he sets forth the conception of the highest good in the world, to be realised through freedom. It is clear that before this argument would prove that a God is necessary to the realisation of the moral order, it would have to be shown that there are no adequate forces immanent within society itself for the establishment and fulfilment of that order. As a matter of fact, reflexion in the nineteenth century, devoted as it has been to the evolution of society, has busied itself with hardly anything more than with the study of those immanent elements which make for morality. It is therefore not an external guarantor of morals, such as Kant thought, which is here given. It is the immanent God who is revealed in the history and life of the race, even as also it is the immanent God who is revealed in the consciousness of the individual soul. Even the moral argument, therefore, in the form in which Kant puts it, sounds remote and strange to us. His reasoning strains and creaks almost as if he were still trying to do that which he had just declared could not be done. What remains of significance for us, is this. All the debate about first causes, absolute beings, and the rest, gives us no God such as our souls need. If a man is to find the witness for soul, immortality and God at all, he must find it within himself and in the spiritual history of his fellows. He must venture, in freedom, the belief in these things, and find their corroboration in the contribution which they make to the solution of the mystery of life. One must venture to win them. One must continue to venture, to keep them. If it were not so, they would not be objects of faith.

The source of the radical evil in man is an intelligible act of human freedom not further to be explained. Moral evil is not, as such, transmitted. Moral qualities are inseparable from the responsibility of the person who commits the deeds. Yet this radical disposition to evil is to be changed into a good one, not altogether by a process of moral reformation. There is such a thing as a fundamental revolution of a man's habit of thought, a conscious and voluntary transference of a man's intention to obey, from the superficial and selfish desires which he has followed, to the deep and spiritual ones which he will henceforth allow. There is an epoch in a man's life when he makes the transition. He probably does it under the spell of personal influence, by the power of example, through the beauty of another personality. To Kant salvation was character. It was of and in and by character. To no thinker has the moral participation of a man in the regeneration of his own character been more certain and necessary than to Kant. Yet, the change in direction of the will generally comes by an impulse from without. It comes by the impress of a noble personality. It is sustained by enthusiasm for that personality. Kant has therefore a perfectly rational and ethical and vital meaning for the phrase 'new birth.'

For the purpose of this impulse to goodness, nothing is so effective as the contemplation of an historical example of such surpassing moral grandeur as that which we behold in Jesus. For this reason we may look to Jesus as the ideal of goodness presented to us in flesh and blood. Yet the assertion that Jesus' historical personality altogether corresponds with the complete and eternal ethical ideal is one which we have no need to make. We do not possess in our own minds the absolute ideal with which in that assertion we compare him.

The ethical ideal of the race is still in process of development. Jesus has been the greatest factor urging forward that development. We ourselves stand at a certain point in that development. We have the ideals which we have because we stand at that point at which we do. The men who come after us will have a worthier ideal than we do. Again, to say that Jesus in his words and conduct expressed in its totality the eternal ethical ideal, would make of his life something different from the real, human life. Every real, human life is lived within certain actual antitheses which call out certain qualities and do not call out others. They demand certain reactions and not others. This is the concrete element without which nothing historical can be conceived. To say that Jesus lived in entire conformity to the ethical ideal so far as we are able to conceive it, and within the circumstances which his own time and place imposed, is the most that we can say. But in any case, Kant insists, the real object of our religious faith is not the historic man, but the ideal of humanity well-pleasing to God. Since this ideal is not of our own creation, but is given us in our super-sensible nature, it may be conceived as the Son of God come down from heaven.

The turn of this last phrase is an absolutely characteristic one, and brings out another quality of Kant's mind in dealing with the Christian doctrines. They are to him but symbols, forms into which a variety of meanings may be run. He had no great appreciation of the historical element in doctrine. He had no deep sense of the social element and of that for which Christian institutions stand. We may illustrate with that which he says concerning Christ's vicarious sacrifice. Substitution cannot take place in the moral world. Ethical salvation could not be conferred through such a substitution, even if this could take place. Still, the conception of the vicarious suffering of Christ may be taken as a symbolical expression of the idea that in the pain of self-discipline, of obedience and patience, the new man in us suffers, as it were vicariously, for the old. The atonement is a continual ethical process in the heart of the religious man. It is a grave defect of Kant's religious philosophy, that it was so absolutely individualistic. Had he realised more deeply than he did the social character of religion and the meaning of these doctrines, not alone as between man and God, but as between man and man, he surely would have drawn nearer to that interpretation of the doctrine of the atonement which has come more and more to prevail. This is the solution which finds in the atonement of Christ the last and most glorious example of a universal law of human life and history. That law is that no redemptive good for men is ever secured without the suffering and sacrifice of those who seek to confer that good upon their fellows. Kant was disposed to regard the traditional forms of Christian doctrine, not as the old rationalism had done, as impositions of a priesthood or inherently absurd. He sought to divest them indeed of that which was speculatively untrue, though he saw in them only symbols of the great moral truths which lie at the heart of religion. The historical spirit of the next fifty years was to teach men a very different way of dealing with these same doctrines.

* * * * *

Kant had said that the primary condition, fundamental not merely to knowledge, but to all connected experience, is the knowing, experiencing, thinking, acting self. It is that which says 'I,' the ego, the permanent subject. But that is not enough. The knowing self demands in turn a knowable world. It must have something outside of itself to which it yet stands related, the object of knowledge. Knowledge is somehow the combination of those two, the result of their co-operation. How have we to think of this co-operation? Both Hume and Berkeley had ended in scepticism as to the reality of knowledge. Hume was in doubt as to the reality of the subject, Berkeley as to that of the object. Kant dissented from both. He vindicated the undoubted reality of the impression which we have concerning a thing. Yet how far that impression is the reproduction of the thing as it is in itself, we can never perfectly know. What we have in our minds is not the object. It is a notion of that object, although we may be assured that we could have no such notion were there no object. Equally, the notion is what it is because the subject is what it is. We can never get outside the processes of our own thought. We cannot know the thing as it is, the Ding-an-sich, in Kant's phrase. We know only that there must be a 'thing in itself.'


Fichte asked, Why? Why must there be a Ding-an-sich? Why is not that also the result of the activity of the ego? Why is not the ego, the thinking subject, all that is, the creator of the world, according to the laws of thought? If so much is reduced to idea, why not all? This was Fichte's rather forced resolution of the old dualism of thought and thing. It is not the denial of the reality of things, but the assertion that their ideal element, that part of them which is not mere 'thing,' the action and subject of the action, is their underlying reality. According to Kant things exist in a world beyond us. Man has no faculty by which he can penetrate into that world. Still, the farther we follow Kant in his analysis the more does the contribution to knowledge from the side of the mind tend to increase, and the more does the factor in our impressions from the side of things tend to fade away. This basis of impression being wholly unknowable is as good as non-existent for us. Yet it never actually disappears. There would seem to be inevitable a sort of kernel of matter or prick of sense about which all our thoughts are generated. Yet this residue is a vanishing quantity. This seemed to Fichte to be a self-contradiction and a half-way measure. Only two positions appeared to him thorough-going and consequent. Either one posits as fundamental the thing itself, matter, independent of any consciousness of it. So Spinoza had taught. Or else one takes consciousness, the conscious subject, independent of any matter or thing as fundamental. This last Fichte claimed to be the real issue of Kant's thought. He asserts that from the point of view of the thing in itself we can never explain knowledge. We may be as skilful as possible in placing one thing behind another in the relation of cause to effect. It is, however, an unending series. It is like the cosmogony of the Eastern people which fabled that the earth rests upon the back of an elephant. The elephant stands upon a tortoise. The question is, upon what does the tortoise stand? So here, we may say, in the conclusive manner in which men have always said, that God made the world. Yet sooner or later we come to the child's question: Who made God? Fichte rightly replied: 'If God is for us only an object of knowledge, the Ding-an-sich at the end of the series, there is no escape from the answer that man, the thinker, in thinking God made him.' All the world, including man, is but the reflexion, the revelation in forms of the finite, of an unceasing action of thought of which the ego is the object. Nothing more paradoxical than this conclusion can be imagined. It seems to make the human subject, the man myself, the creator of the universe, and the universe only that which I happen to think it to be.

This interpretation was at first put upon Fichte's reasoning with such vigour that he was accused of atheism. He was driven from his chair in Jena. Only after several years was he called to a corresponding post in Berlin. Later, in his Vocation of Man, he brought his thought to clearness in this form: 'If God be only the object of thought, it remains true that he is then but the creation of man's thought. God is, however, to be understood as subject, as the real subject, the transcendent thinking and knowing subject, indwelling in the world and making the world what it is, indwelling in us and making us what we are. We ourselves are subjects only in so far as we are parts of God. We think and know only in so far as God thinks and knows and acts and lives in us. The world, including ourselves, is but the reflection of the thought of God, who thus only has existence. Neither the world nor we have existence apart from him.'

Johann Gottlieb Fichte was born at Rammenau in 1762. His father was a ribbon weaver. He came of a family distinguished for piety and uprightness. He studied at Jena, and became an instructor there in 1793. He was at first a devout disciple of Kant, but gradually separated himself from his master. There is a humorous tale as to one of his early books which was, through mistake of the publisher, put forth without the author's name. For a brief time it was hailed as a work of Kant -- his Critique of Revelation. Fichte was a man of high moral enthusiasm, very uncompromising, unable to put himself in the place of an opponent, in incessant strife. The great work of his Jena period was his Wissenschaftslehre, 1794. His popular Works, Die Bestimmung des Menschen and Anweisung zum seligen Leben, belong to his Berlin period. The disasters of 1806 drove him out of Berlin. Amidst the dangers and discouragements of the next few years he wrote his famous Reden an die deutsche Nation. He drew up the plan for the founding of the University of Berlin. In 1810 he was called to be rector of the newly established university. He was, perhaps, the chief adviser of Frederick William III in the laying of the foundations of the university, which was surely a notable venture for those trying years. In the autumn of 1812 and again in 1813, when the hospitals were full of sick and wounded after the Russian and Leipzig campaigns, Fichte and his wife were unceasing in their care of the sufferers. He died of fever contracted in the hospital in January 1814.

According to Fichte, as we have seen, the world of sense is the reflection of our own inner activity. It exists for us as the sphere and material of our duty. The moral order only is divine. We, the finite intelligences, exist only in and through the infinite intelligence. All our life is thus God's life. We are immortal because he is immortal. Our consciousness is his consciousness. Our life and moral force is his, the reflection and manifestation of his being, individuation of the infinite reason which is everywhere present in the finite. In God we see the world also in a new light. There is no longer any nature which is external to ourselves and unrelated to ourselves. There is only God manifesting himself in nature. Even the evil is only a means to good and, therefore, only an apparent evil. We are God's immediate manifestation, being spirit like himself. The world is his mediate manifestation. The world of dead matter, as men have called it, does not exist. God is the reality within the forms of nature and within ourselves, by which alone we have reality. The duty to which a God outside of ourselves could only command us, becomes a privilege to which we need no commandment, but to the fulfilment of which, rather, we are drawn in joy by the forces of our own being. How a man could, even in the immature stages of these thoughts, have been persecuted for atheism, it is not easy to see, although we may admit that his earlier forms of statement were bewildering. When we have his whole thought before us we should say rather that it borders on acosmic pantheism, for which everything is God and the world does not exist.

We have no need to follow Fichte farther. Suffice it to say, with reference to the theory of knowledge, that he had discovered that one could not stand still with Kant. One must either go back toward the position of the old empiricism which assumed the reality of the world exactly as it appeared, or else one must go forward to an idealism more thorough-going than Kant had planned. Of the two paths which, with all the vast advance of the natural sciences, the thought of the nineteenth century might traverse, that of the denial of everything except the mechanism of nature, and that of the assertion that nature is but the organ of spirit and is instinct with reason, Fichte chose the latter and blazed out the path along which all the idealists have followed him. In reference to the philosophy of religion, we must say that, with all the extravagance, the pantheism and mysticism of his phrases, Fichte's great contribution was his breaking down of the old dualism between God and man which was still fundamental to Kant. It was his assertion of the unity of man and God and of the life of God in man. This thought has been appropriated in all of modern theology.


It was the meagreness of Fichte's treatment of nature which impelled Schelling to what he called his outbreak into reality. Nature will not be dismissed, as simply that which is not I. You cannot say that nature is only the sphere of my self-realisation. Individuals are in their way the children of nature. They are this in respect of their souls as much as of their bodies. Nature was before they were. Nature is, moreover, not alien to intelligence. On the contrary, it is a treasure-house of intelligible forms which demand to be treated as such. It appeared to Schelling, therefore, a truer idealism to work out an intelligible system of nature, exhibiting its essential oneness with personality.

Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling was born in 1775 at Leonberg in Wuerttemberg. His father was a clergyman. He was precocious in his intellectual development and much spoiled by vanity. Before he was twenty years old he had published three works upon problems suggested by Fichte. At twenty-three he was extraordinarius at Jena. He had apparently a brilliant career before him. He published his Erster Entwurf eines Systems der Naturphilosophe, 1799, and also his System des transcendentalen Idealismus, 1800. Even his short residence at Jena was troubled by violent conflicts with his colleagues. It was brought to an end by his marriage with the wife of Augustus von Schlegel, who had been divorced for the purpose. From 1806 to 1841 he lived in Munich in retirement. The long-expected books which were to fulfil his early promise never appeared. Hegel's stricture was just. Schelling had no taste for the prolonged and intense labour which his brilliant early works marked out. He died in 1854, having reached the age of seventy-nine years, of which at least fifty were as melancholy and fruitless as could well be imagined.

The dominating idea of Schelling's philosophy of nature may be said to be the exhibition of nature as the progress of intelligence toward consciousness and personality. Nature is the ego in evolution, personality in the making. All natural objects are visible analogues and counterparts of mind. The intelligence which their structure reveals, men had interpreted as residing in the mind of a maker of the world. Nature had been spoken of as if it were a watch. God was its great artificer. No one asserted that its intelligence and power of development lay within itself. On the contrary, nature is always in the process of advance from lower, less highly organised and less intelligible forms, to those which are more highly organised, more nearly the counterpart of the active intelligence in man himself. The personality of man had been viewed as standing over against nature, this last being thought of as static and permanent. On the contrary, the personality of man, with all of its intelligence and free will, is but the climax and fulfilment of a long succession of intelligible forms in nature, passing upward from the inorganic to the organic, from the unconscious to the conscious, from the non-moral to the moral, as these are at last seen in man. Of course, it was the life of organic nature which first suggested this notion to Schelling. An organism is a self-moving, self-producing whole. It is an idea in process of self-realisation. What was observed in the organism was then made by Schelling the root idea of universal nature. Nature is in all its parts living, self-moving along the lines of its development, productivity and product both in one. Empirical science may deal with separate products of nature. It may treat them as objects of analysis and investigation. It may even take the whole of nature as an object. But nature is not mere object. Philosophy has to treat of the inner life which moves the whole of nature as intelligible productivity, as subject, no longer as object. Personality has slowly arisen out of nature. Nature was going through this process of self-development before there were any men to contemplate it. It would go through this process were there no longer men to contemplate it.

Schelling has here rounded out the theory of absolute idealism which Fichte had carried through in a one-sided way. He has given us also a wonderful anticipation of certain modern ideas concerning nature's preparation for the doctrine of evolution, which was a stroke of genius in its way. He attempted to arrange the realm of unconscious intelligences in an ascending series which should bridge the gulf between the lowest of natural forms and the fully equipped organism in which self consciousness, with the intellectual, the emotional, and moral life, at last integrated. Inadequate material and a fondness for analogies led Schelling into vagaries in following out this scheme. Nevertheless, it is only in detail that we can look askance at his attempt. In principle our own conception of the universe is the same. It is the dynamic view of nature and an application of the principle of evolution in the widest sense. His errors were those into which a man was bound to fall who undertook to forestall by a sweep of the imagination that which has been the result of the detailed and patient investigation of three generations. What Schelling attempted was to take nature as we know it and to exhibit it as in reality a function of intelligence, pointing, through all the gradations of its varied forms, towards its necessary goal in self-conscious personality. Instead, therefore, of our having in nature and personality two things which cannot be brought together, these become members of one great organism of intelligence of which the immanent God is the source and the sustaining power. These ideas constitute Schelling's contribution to an idealistic and, of course, an essentially monistic view of the universe. The unity of man with God, Fichte had asserted. Schelling set forth the oneness of God and nature, and again of man and nature. The circle was complete.

* * * * *

If we have succeeded in conveying a clear idea of the movement of thought from Kant to Hegel, that idea might be stated thus. There are but three possible objects which can engage the thought of man. These are nature and man and God. There is the universe, of which we become aware through experience from our earliest childhood. Then there is man, the man given in self-consciousness, primarily the man myself. In this sense man seems to stand over against nature. Then, as the third possible object of thought, we have God. Upon the thought of God we usually come from the point of view of the category of cause. God is the name which men give to that which lies behind nature and man as the origin and explanation of both. Plato's chief interest was in man. He talked much concerning a God who was somehow the speculative postulate of the spiritual nature in man. Aristotle began a real observation of nature. But the ancient and, still more, the mediaeval study of nature was dominated by abstract and theological assumptions. These prevented any real study of that nature in the midst of which man lives, in reaction against which he develops his powers, and to which, on one whole side of his nature, he belongs. Even in respect of that which men reverently took to be thought concerning God, they seem to have been unaware how much of their material was imaginative and poetic symbolism drawn from the experience of man. The traditional idea of revelation proved a disturbing factor. Assuming that revelation gave information concerning God, and not rather the religious experience of communion with God himself, men accepted statements of the documents of revelation as if they had been definitions graciously given from out the realm of the unseen. In reality, they were but fetches from out the world of the known into the world of the unknown.

The point of interest is this: -- In all possible combinations in which, throughout the history of thought, these three objects had been set, the one with the others, they had always remained three objects. There was no essential relation of the one to the other. They were like the points of a triangle of which any one stood over against the other two. God stood over against the man whom he had fashioned, man over against the God to whom he was responsible. The consequences for theology are evident. When men wished to describe, for example, Jesus as the Son of God, they laid emphasis upon every quality which he had, or was supposed to have, which was not common to him with other men. They lost sight of that profound interest of religion which has always claimed that, in some sense, all men are sons of God and Jesus was the son of man. Jesus was then only truly honoured as divine when every trait of his humanity was ignored. Similarly, when men spoke of revelation they laid emphasis upon those particulars in which this supposed method of coming by information was unlike all other methods. Knowledge derived directly from God through revelation was in no sense the parallel of knowledge derived by men in any other way. So also God stood over against nature. God was indeed declared to have made nature. He had, however, but given it, so to say, an original impulse. That impulse also it had in some strange way lost or perverted, so that the world, though it had been made by God, was not good. For the most part it moved itself, although God's sovereignty was evidenced in that he could still supervene upon it, if he chose. The supernatural was the realm of God. Natural and supernatural were mutually exclusive terms, just as we saw that divine and human were exclusive terms. So also, on the third side of our triangle, man stood over against nature. Nature was to primitive men the realm of caprice, in which they imagined demons, spirits and the like. These were antagonistic to men, as also hostile to God. Then, when with the advance of reflexion these spirits, and equally their counterparts, the good genii and angels, had all died, nature became the realm of iron necessity, of regardless law, of all-destroying force, of cruel and indifferent fate. From this men took refuge in the thought of a compassionate God, though they could not withdraw themselves or those whom they loved from the inexorable laws of nature. They could not see that God always, or even often, intervened on their behalf. It cannot be denied that these ideas prevail to some extent in the popular theology at the present moment. Much of our popular religious language is an inheritance from a time when they universally prevailed. The religious intuition even of psalmists and prophets opposed many of these notions. The pure religious intuition of Jesus opposed almost every one of them. Mystics in every religion have had, at times, insight into an altogether different scheme of things. The philosophy, however, even of the learned, would, in the main, have supported the views above described, from the dawn of reflexion almost to our own time.

It was Kant who first began the resolution of this three-cornered difficulty. When he pointed out that into the world, as we know it, an element of spirit goes, that in it an element of the ideal inheres, he began a movement which has issued in modern monism. He affirmed that that element from my thought which enters into the world, as I know it, may be so great that only just a point of matter and a prick of sense remains. Fichte said: 'Why do we put it all in so perverse a way? Why reduce the world of matter to just a point? Why is it not taken for what it is, and yet understood to be all alive with God and we able to think of it, because we are parts of the great thinker God?' Still Fichte had busied himself almost wholly with consciousness. Schelling endeavoured to correct that. Nature lives and moves in God, just as truly in one way as does man in another. Men arise out of nature. A circle has been drawn through the points of our triangle. Nature and man are in a new and deeper sense revelations of God. In fact, supplementing one another, they constitute the only possible channels for the manifestation of God. It hardly needs to be said that these thoughts are widely appropriated in our modern world. These once novel speculations of the kings of thought have made their way slowly to all strata of society. Remote and difficult in their first expression in the language of the schools, their implications are to-day on everybody's lips. It is this unitary view of the universe which has made difficult the acceptance of a theology, the understandlng of a religion, which are still largely phrased in the language of a philosophy to which these ideas did not belong. There is not an historic creed, there is hardly a greater system of theology, which is not stated in terms of a philosophy and science which no longer reign. Men are asking: 'cannot Christianity be so stated and interpreted that it shall meet the needs of men of the twentieth century, as truly as it met those of men of the first or of the sixteenth?' Hegel, the last of this great group of idealistic philosophers whom we shall name, enthusiastically believed in this new interpretation of the faith which was profoundly dear to him. He made important contribution to that interpretation.


Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was born in Stuttgart in 1770. His father was in the fiscal service of the King of Wuerttemberg. He studied in Tuebingen. He was heavy and slow of development, in striking contrast with Schelling. He served as tutor in Bern and Frankfort, and began to lecture in Jena in 1801. He was much overshadowed by Schelling. The victory of Napoleon at Jena in 1806 closed the university for a time. In 1818 he was called to Fichte's old chair in Berlin. Never on very good terms with the Prussian Government, he yet showed his large sympathy with life in every way. After 1820 a school of philosophical thinkers began to gather about him. His first great book, his Phenomenologie des Geistes 1807 (translated, Baillie, London, 1910), was published at the end of his Jena period. His Philosophie der Religion and Philosophie der Geschichte were edited after his death. They are mainly in the form which his notes took between 1823 and 1827. He died during an epidemic of cholera in Berlin in 1831.

Besides his deep interest in history the most striking feature of Hegel's preliminary training was his profound study of Christianity. He might almost be said to have turned to philosophy as a means of formulating the ideas which he had conceived concerning the development of the religious consciousness, which seemed to him to have been the bearer of all human culture. No one could fail to see that the idea of the relation of God and man, of which we have been speaking, was bound to make itself felt in the interpretation of the doctrine of the incarnation and of all the dogmas, like that of the trinity, which are connected with it. Characteristically, Hegel had pure joy in the speculative aspects of the problem. If one may speak in all reverence, and, at the same time, not without a shade of humour, Hegel rejoiced to find himself able, as he supposed, to rehabilitate the dogma of the trinity, rationalised in approved fashion. It is as if the dogma had been a revered form or mould, which was for him indeed emptied of its original content. He felt bound to fill it anew. Or to speak more justly, he was really convinced that the new meaning which he poured into the dogma was the true meaning which the Church Fathers had been seeking all the while. In the light of two generations of sober dealing, as historians, with such problems, we can but view his solution in a manner very different from that which he indulged. He was even disposed mildly to censure the professional theologians for leaving the defence of the doctrine of the trinity to the philosophers. There were then, and have since been, defenders of the doctrine who have thought that Hegel tendered them great aid. As a matter of fact, despite his own utter seriousness and reverent desire, his solution was a complete dissolution of the doctrine and of much else besides. His view would have been fatal, not merely to that particular form of orthodox thought, but, what is much more serious, to the religious meaning for which it stood. Sooner or later men have seen that the whole drift of Hegelianism was to transform religion into intellectualism. One might say that it was exactly this which the ancient metaphysicians, in the classic doctrine of the trinity, had done. They had transformed religion into metaphysics. The matter would not have been remedied by having a modern metaphysician do the same thing in another way.

Hegel was weary of Fichte's endless discussion of the ego and Schelling's of the absolute. It was not the abyss of the unknowable from which things said to come, or that into which they go, which interested Hegel. It was their process and progress which we can know. It was that part of their movement which is observable within actual experience, with which he was concerned. Now one of the laws of the movement of all things, he said, is that by which every thought suggests, and every force tends directly to produce, its opposite. Nothing stands alone. Everything exists by the balance and friction of opposing tendencies. We have the universal contrasts of heat and cold, of light and darkness, of inward and outward, of static and dynamic, of yes and no. There are two sides to every case, democratic government and absolutism, freedom of religion and authority, the individualistic and the social principles, a materialistic and a spiritual interpretation of the universe. Only things which are dead have ceased to have this tide and alternation. Christ is for living religion now a man, now God, revelation now natural, now supernatural. Religion in the eternal conflict between reason and faith, morals the struggle of good and evil, God now mysterious and now manifest.

Fichte had said: The essence of the universe is spirit. Hegel said: Yes, but the true notion of spirit is that of the resolution of contradiction, of the exhibition of opposites as held together in their unity. This is the meaning of the trinity. In the trinity we have God who wills to manifest himself, Jesus in whom he is manifest, and the spirit common to them both. God's existence is not static, it is dynamic. It is motion, not rest. God is revealer, recipient, and revelation all in one. The trinity was for Hegel the central doctrine of Christianity. Popular orthodoxy had drawn near to the assertion of three Gods. The revolt, however, in asserting the unity of God, had made of God a meaningless absolute as foundation of the universe. The orthodox, in respect to the person of Christ, had always indeed asserted in laboured way that Jesus was both God and man. Starting from their own abstract conception of God, and attributing to Jesus the qualities of that abstraction, they had ended in making of the humanity of Jesus a perfectly unreal thing. On the other hand, those who had set out from Jesus's real humanity had been unable to see that he was anything more than a mere man, as their phrase was. On their own assumption of the mutual exclusiveness of the conceptions of God and man, they could not do otherwise.

Hegel saw clearly that God can be known to us only in and through manifestation. We can certainly make no predication as to how God exists, in himself, as men say, and apart from our knowledge. He exists for our knowledge only as manifest in nature and man. Man is for Hegel part of nature and Jesus is the highest point which the nature of God as manifest in man has reached. In this sense Hegel sometimes even calls nature the Son of God, and mankind and Jesus are thought of as parts of this one manifestation of God. If the Scripture asserts, as it seemed to the framers of the creeds to do, that God manifested himself from before all worlds in and to a self-conscious personality like his own, Hegel would answer: But the Scripture is no third source of knowledge, besides nature and man. Scripture is only the record of God's revelation of himself in and to men. If these men framed their profoundest thought in this way, that is only because they lived in an age when men had all their thoughts of this sort in a form which we can historically trace. For Platonists and Neoplatonists, such as the makers of the creeds -- and some portions of the Scripture show this influence, as well -- the divine, the ideal, was always thought of as eternal. It always existed as pure archetype before it ever existed as historic fact. The rabbins had a speculation to the same effect. The divine which exists must have pre-existed. Jesus as Son of God could not be thought of by the ancient world in any terms but these. The divine was static, changelessly perfect. For the modern man the divinest of all things is the mystery of growth. The perfect man is not at the beginning, but far down the immeasurable series of approaches to perfection. The perfection of other men is the work of still other ages, in which this extraordinary and inexplicable moral magnitude which Jesus is, has had its influence, and conferred upon them power to aid them in the fulfilment of God's intent for themselves, which is like that intent for himself which Jesus has fulfilled.

Surely enough has been said to show that what we have here is only the absorption of even the profoundest religious meanings into the vortex of an all-dissolving metaphysical system. The most obvious meaning of the phrase 'Son of God,' its moral and spiritual, its real religious meaning, is dwelt on, here in Hegel, as little as Hegel claimed that the Nicene trinitarians had dwelt upon it. Nothing marks more clearly the distance we have travelled since Hegel than does the general recognition that his attempted solution does not even lie in the right direction. It is an attempt within the same area as that of the Nicene Council and the creeds, namely, the metaphysical area. What is at stake is not the pre-existence or the two natures. Hegel was right in what he said concerning these. The pre-existence cannot be thought of except as ideal. The two natures we assert for every man, only not in such a manner as to destroy unity in the personality. The heart of the dogma is not in these. It is the oneness of God and man, a moral and spiritual oneness, oneness in conduct and consciousness, the presence and realisation of God, who is spirit, in a real man, the divineness of Jesus, in a sense which sees no meaning any longer in the old debate as between his divinity and his deity.

In the light of the new theory of the universe which we have reviewed, it flashes upon us that both defenders and assailants of the doctrine of the incarnation, in the age-long debate, have proceeded from the assumption that God and man are opposites. Men contended for the divineness of Jesus in terms which by definition shut out his true humanity. They asserted the identity of a real man, a true historic personage, with an abstract notion of God which had actually been framed by the denial of all human qualities. Their opponents with a like helplessness merely reversed the situation. To admit the deity of Jesus would have been for them, in all candour and clear-sightedness, absolutely impossible, because the admission would have shut out his true humanity. On the old definitions we cannot wonder that the struggle was a bitter one. Each party was on its own terms right. If God is by definition other than man, and man the opposite of God, then it is not surprising that the attempt to say that Jesus of Nazareth was both, remained mysticism to the one and seemed folly to the other.

Now, within the area of the philosophy which begins with Kant this old antinomy has been resolved. An actual circle of clear relations joins the points of the old hopeless triangle. Men are men because of God indwelling in them, working through them. The phrase 'mere man' is seen to be a mere phrase. To say that the Nazarene, in some way not genetically to be explained, but which is hidden within the recesses of his own personality, shows forth in incomparable fulness that relation of God and man which is the ideal for us all, seems only to be saying over again what Jesus said when he proclaimed: 'I and My Father are one.' That Jesus actualised, not absolutely in the sense that he stood out of relation to history, but still perfectly within his relation to history, that which in us and for us is potential, the sonship of God -- that seems a very simple and intelligible assertion. It certainly makes a large part of the debate of ages seem remote from us. It brings home to us that we live in a new world.

Interesting and fruitful is Hegel's expansion of the idea of redemption beyond that of the individual to that of the whole humanity, and in every aspect of its life. In my relation to the world are given my duties. The renunciation of outward duty makes the inward life barren. The principle which is to transform the world wears an aspect very different from that of stoicism, of asceticism or even of the individualism which has sought soul-salvation. In the midst of unworthiness and helplessness there springs up the consciousness of reconciliation. Man, with all his imperfections, becomes aware that he is the object of the loving purpose of God. Still this redemption of a man is something which is to be worked out, in the individual life and on the stage of universal history. The first step beyond the individual life is that of the Church. It is from within this community of believers that men, in the rule, receive the impulse to the good. The community is, in its idea, a society in which the conquest of evil is already being achieved, where the individual is spared much bitter conflict and loneliness. Nevertheless, so long as this unity of the life of man with God is realised in the Church alone there remains a false and harmful opposition between the Church and the world. Religion is faced by a hostile power to which its principles have no application. The world is denounced as unholy. With this stigma cast upon it, it may be unholy. Yet the retribution falls also upon the Church, in that it becomes artificial, clerical, pharisaical. The end is never that what have been called the standards of the Church shall prevail. The end is that the Church shall be the shrine and centre of an influence by virtue of which the standard of truth and goodness which naturally belongs to any relation of life shall prevail. The distinction between religion and secular life must be abandoned. Nothing is less sacred than a Church set on its own aggrandisement. The relations of family and of the State, of business and social life, are to be restored to the divineness which belongs to them, or rather, the divineness which is inalienable from them is to be recognised. In the laws and customs of a true State, Christianity first penetrates with its principles the real world. One sees how large a portion of these thoughts have been taken up into the programme of modern social movements. They are the basis of what men call a social theology. A book like Fremantle's World as the Subject of Redemption is their thorough-going exposition in the English tongue.

We have no cause to pursue the philosophical movement beyond this point. Its exponents are not without interest. Especially is this true of Schopenhauer. But the deposit from their work is for our particular purpose not great. The wonderful impulse had spent itself. These four brilliant men stand together, almost as much isolated from the generation which followed them as from that which went before. The historian of Christian thought in the nineteenth century cannot overestimate the significance of their personal interest in religion.

chapter i introduction
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