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principle, not in favour of our principle that doctrines are imperfect expressions of religious realities. He rejects the historical forms of doctrine, because he believes that criticism has shown them to be à baseless fabric of human invention :
Christianity, as defined or understood in all the Churches which formulate it, has been mainly evolved from what is transient and perishable in its sources, from what is unhistorical in its traditions, mythological in its preconceptions, and misapprehended in the oracles of its prophets. From the fable of Eden to the imagination of the last trumpet, the whole story of the Divine order of the world has been dislocated and deformed. The blight of birth-sin with its involuntary perdition; the scheme of expiatory redemption with its vicarious salvation; the Incarnation with its low postulates of the relation between God and Man, and its unworkable doctrine of two natures in one person; the official transmission of grace through material elements in the keeping of a consecrated corporation ; the second coming of Christ to summon the dead and part the sheep from the goats at the general judgment, —all are the growth of a mythical literature, or Messianic dreams, or Pharisaic theology, or sacramental superstition, or popular apotheosis. Is not this an embarrassing conclusion for a thinker who believes in the infallible conscience of man and the all-wise Providence of God ? Surely the judgment is too severe.
1 Seat of Authority, p. 650.
It is possible—if we admit that there may be degrees of truth–to find ethical and religious truths implicit in every fundamental dogma of the Christian system : Divine Judgment, Justification by Faith, Mediation, Divine Mercy and Forgiveness, Atonement, Vicarious Suffering, and above all in that grand achievement of Christian thought, the doctrine of the Incarnation of God in Man.
Passing from these preliminary thoughts, we observe that in Dr Martineau's Theism there are three lines of thought in combina tion, each one of which has been taken by various groups of writers as the basal principle of religious belief. Dr Martineau has not welded them together into a consistent whole ; but this is a common characteristic of the work of the greatest thinkers.
We will consider first the time-honoured Argument from Cause and Design. Put in one sentence, it is an argument from the creation to a Creator. It must be remembered that the truth and importance of this mode of inference are affirmed in the official tradition of the Church of Rome. Thus, the Vatican Council of 1870 declared,—Sancta Mater Ecclesia tenet et docet Deum ... naturali humanæ rationis lumine e rebus creatis certo cognosci posse; the existence of God may be known with certainty, by the unaided reason of man, from the works which He has created.1 If so, belief in God may be securely reached by a merely logical road. This idea is by no means peculiar to Roman Catholic theologians. Locke expounds it vigorously in his Essay concerning Human Understanding, Paley, in his Natural Theology (1803), and Chalmers, in his “Bridgwater Treatise” on The Adaptation of External Nature to the Intellectual and Moral Constitution of Man (1834). Among more recent writers, the same argument is placed in the forefront of theistic“ proofs” by Tulloch, in his Burnett Essay on Theism (1855), and by Mozley, Bampton Lectures 11865), and by Flint, Theism (1876). The argument is made one of the main pillars on which the structure of Theism rests, in Martineau's great work, A Study of Religion
(1887). This attempt to pass “ from Nature up to Nature's God” consists of a twofold argument,—the world needs a Creator, and the traces of design in Nature imply a Designer. In the hands of Paley and Locke, both arguments are made to rest on the deistic view of Nature as a vast machine, of which the Deity is the maker and contriver; and traces of this assumption cling to the arguments in every statement of them, even in that of Dr Martineau. And they were originally elaborated long before the idea of Evolution had been applied, as now it has been, in every sphere of existence,—animal life, mind, society, civilisation, morality, art, and religion. This moving, living, growing world, this world that is not yet made, is very different from the world from which the old arguments set out to find a “wise Architect." To - day they must change their form, and change it fundamentally,—or be relegated to the various “refuges of the obsolete” which still survive.
Dr Martineau's version of the argument from Causality is simple and clear; but it will not prove what is desired. He insists
that the only causes which we know are our wills; we are “real causes,” for we are the causes of our own actions. This assumption is a natural one, and it is made and defended by some of the foremost psychologists of the day.1 But Dr Martineau goes on to say that the world needs a Cause, and—since Will alone is cause—there must be a Divine Will. Now, this passage from the human will as cause to the Divine Will as creative cause does not seem to be logically possible. My will certainly moves my arm; but I may will all day without being able to move anything beyond the reach of my arm; and surely this essential difference between the human will and the assumed Divine or Creative Will cannot be treated as unimportant. It may well be true that “causality” is a conception arising in connection with our own activity and transferred to Nature ; but, when so transferred, it gives us no Divine Cause. It only warrants us in seeking to explain natural events as “causes” one of another.
1 See Ward, Naturalism and Agnosticism (Gifford Lectures), vol. ii. p. 130 ff.