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And in a passage of moving eloquence he endeavours to compel the conclusion that “either there is no Creator or this living society of men is in a true sense discarded from his presence ... if there be a God, since there be a God, the human race is implicated in some terrible aboriginal calamity ; it is out of joint with the purposes of its Creator.” If, then, it were the merciful will of the Creator to interfere, what methods would be naturally involved in his purpose ? Since the world is in so abnormally evil, so anarchical a state, it would be no surprise if the interposition were equally extraordinary, or what is called “miraculous." We need not pursue the argument further as Newman presents it. It has already proved too much.
Surely if Newman's view of the world were all the truth, then no man's conscience could be trusted in its verdict that there is an almighty and loving Will that rules. This is only an example of a whole class of arguments which attempt to show the need of a supernatural revelation from the fact of human ignorance and evil. The
argument if true proves too much. It gives no probability of a Revelation; it gives much improbability that there is a Revealer. And, in a still more embarrassing way, they prove too much. The facts of evil, ignorance, and sin show that the supernatural revelation, if it has happened, has failed to do its work, the work which might reasonably be expected of a miraculous agency.
If human progress is the slow growth of man's powers, wisdom, and goodness,-educated by a gradual progressive Divine inspiration,—then we should expect to find in the world all the signs of small beginnings and slow struggling achievements; but we should not expect this of the direct interpositions of an almighty providence. If there has been a supernatural intervention to save men, experience shows that it must have been contending with obstacles almost as strong as itself. The force and capacity of the revelation itself cannot have been supernatural.
If we want to consider what human sin and failure imply, we must consider their
place in human experience as a whole. We must consider human capacities altogether. And the most striking and deeply significant of man's capacities is this—that he is always rising above all his past experiences and past achievements or failures, and judging them, or reading their worth in the light of something better. Psychology and history unite to tell us that this could never be, were there not a constant self - communication of the divine Life to man, and self - revelation of the eternal reason.
We can understand-in a general waythe motives which lead to a limitation of revelation to one time and place. A great Prophet-a moral and spiritual genius—is one in whom the immanent Divine Life is stirring, expressing itself in new sources and streams of feeling which he seeks to interpret or express in new thoughts, which are really new insights into the meaning of human life and its relation to the life of God. Thus his teaching is at once the work of “his own reason” — or rather his own conscious feelings and convictions-and the work of Divine Revelation; and it appears as a revelation to his contemporaries because it is a new and higher stage of man's interpreting insight into the meaning of things. What happens then? Mr Upton, in his Hibbert Lectures, has explained the process most thoroughly and clearly. It is a particular case of the contrast -- and confusion -between a real belief or experience and its temporary intellectual expression.
“Whenever a new and vivifying central belief takes possession of a great soul, it immediately tends to modify and partly reconstruct the prophet's general conception of the World. With the new belief as a living principle, the religious reformer constructsout of the scientific ideas, or metaphysical theories, conscious or unconscious, and the recognised social relations which he shares with his contemporaries — the highest and most satisfactory account which he can form of God and His present and future dealings with humanity. The reverent but uncritical disciple recognises, in virtue of his own moral and spiritual insight, that the Reformer is giving utterance to ideas of a most inspiring and elevating character, — ideas
which the hearer, though he is vividly conscious of their truth and worth, feels that he himself could not have originated. They seem to him to be—as in truth they aredivinely inspired; but to the disciple, at his lower level of spiritual awakenment, the inspiration appears wholly to transcend the possibilities of mere humanity. The master thus becomes invested with a certain superhuman character; and the disciples come to ascribe to every feature of the prophet's teaching that absolute certainty which only belongs to the vital and essential principle in it. This confusion between the essential spirit of the prophet's teaching and the accidents of its intellectual embodiment is still further extended when—as in the case of Christianity — the same absolute worth is ascribed to the recorded religious utterances of his earliest followers. Thus the eternal principles which dogmatic religions enshrine, and which are the sources of their mighty power for good, become associated on equal terms with a set of doctrines and ideas which have no universal validity,—which belong to a particular stage of social usage or culture,