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HE works of Dr. Ward and Mr. Lilly, both English Catholics, the one dealing with “the Philosophy of Theism,” the other with “the Philosophy of Religion,” suggest a question at once interesting and significant:—What has been the value for the higher religious thought, apologetic, critical and constructive, of the Catholic movement in England? The works indeed are not without intrinsic worth, and deserve for their own sakes careful perusal. They are each a collection of essays, with the merits of the more solid work done for our periodical literature, with the defects of the same work when its scattered parts are gathered together and issued as a connected whole. The whole is not connected, it wants completeness, suffers from large and small omissions, progresses by a series of leaps and bounds, rather than by the orderly evolution of thought; the essays, taken singly, are instructive, often weighty and admirable, but they do not form a body or organism whose force is equal to the combined strength of the several parts. In the posthumous work of Dr. Ward these merits and defects are most apparent, though better editing would have done much to make the defects less obvious. He was a man of conspicuous philosophical ability, a vigorous and earnest thinker and writer, strong in criticism, forcible in argument, with the love for the arena and the respect for a skilled antagonist that mark the true intellectual athlete. His own system was an intuitional transcendentalism, that is, one uncritical and dogmatic, though it only all the more allowed room for the free play of his dialectical ingenuity. He thoroughly understood the traditional English empiricism, especially as it had been formulated by the younger Mill, whose death he never ceased to lament as “a serious controversial disappointment.” The foemen were indeed worthy of each other and of their respective causes, maintaining them, when the fight was hottest, with an almost chivalrous courtesy. The later “transfigured ” empiricism, with its novel and ambiguous speech, its larger problems and vaster range, Dr. Ward, perhaps, never fully mastered, possibly because he did not apprehend the reason and significance of so sudden and ambidextrous a change from the older methods and doctrines and scope. But he struck boldly and strongly at precisely the most vulnerable points in the historical empiricism. Over against its associational psychology, relativity of knowledge, hedonistic ethics, and necessitated volition, he placed and emphasized his cardinal philosophical doctrines, the immediacy and veracity of memory, the reality and validity of the belief in necessary truths, the originality and sovereignty of conscience, and the freedom of the will. While he vindicated his main theses as a philosopher, he did it that he might build on them a theological superstructure; in all his discussions the ruling motive was religious, or rather, more precisely, Roman Catholic. This he was too honest and convinced a man to conceal; he was throughout, frankly, the theistic, that he might the better be the Catholic, apologist; and he would have judged an apology that stopped short of Catholicism insufficient, even radically defective. His aim narrowed his range, but increased his subtilty ; in other words, made him more of a schoolman than a philosopher. He could hardly be said to have studied and grasped the history and problems of philosophy in the spirit of the scientific student; indeed, it is remarkable how skilfully he avoided these, or whatever did not serve his ultimate purpose. He looked into philosophy no further than it helped him to refute the men or doctrines he held to be hostile to faith, and to construct a theism whose logical issue should be Catholicism. He found his Church not only in his speculative principles, but in the very mode of stating and apprehending them, and he showed his scholasticism by the way in which, often with small conscience of history, he described and distinguished“ non-Catholic” from “ Catholic ” thinkers. Yet, whatever his defects, we are grateful for his critical achievements. His criticism of empiricism was radical and valid, though his "philosophy of theism ” remains inadequate and incomplete.
Mr. Lilly's book is of a different character, more literary, but less philosophical, the work of a cultivated and thoughtful man, not of a special scholar or student. It attempts throughout to look at its problems from the historical point of view, is well written, enriched by many felicitous quotations, the fruits of extensive and careful reading, and is suffused with a bright and genial spirit, the love of good that delights to recognise goodness wherever found. It is a pleasant book, certain to give pleasure to the man who reads it seriously, but not too critically; it abounds in suggestive “views”
of men and movements, fine sayings and eloquent passages, here and there in significant and valuable hints as to the way in which our profounder problems are to be faced and solved. It is not a thorough or a masterly, but it is a helpful book; one everywhere feels behind the author another and far richer mind, whose familiar thoughts and most potent arguments we are glad to meet reflected in so sensitive a mirror as this disciple's spirit. Most of these are better studied in the original; but some of the developments and applications are happy and striking. What Mr. Lilly regards as the ultimate of “modern thought” is not modern at all. Schopenhauer and Newman are in about equal degrees representatives of ancient religions, though the religions are very different. The “ancient religions” here described are not well described; the pages devoted to them present no distinct or concrete image to the imagination. The essays on “Naturalism and Christianity” and “Matter and Spirit” are brilliant, though the writer moves over large and deep questions with so light a step and easy a spring that one is tempted to doubt whether he has gauged their size or guessed their depth. Some of our gravest philosophical, historical, or critical difficulties are answered by an incisive phrase or a sharp question. One would beforehand have thought it impossible that so keen and kindly a thinker would have met a series of grave objections to Christianity with the remark— “in the light of reason man has in strictness no rights against God.” (P. 261.) That is not an answer, but a confession that no answer can be given. It means that if there were a sovereign being against whom man had rights, that being would be in the wrong. And such a defence is the worst indictment. Looked at in the clear light of reason, man has rights against God. To be made is to be invested with rights; to create is for the creator to assume duties. I do not like such modes of speech, but an argument like Mr. Lilly's compels their use. I prefer to say that God’s ways towards men are regulated, not by what He owes to men, but by what He owes to Himself. But so to conceive the matter is to affirm, if not “man’s rights against God,” yet God’s high duties towards man—which means here, that the justification of God’s ways must proceed on a far loftier and truer principle than either the denial or the affirmation of the creature's rights, the principle that the Divine nature is a law to the Divine will, and that nature is perfect reason, righteousness and love. My purpose, however, is not to review either or both of these books; it is to discuss the question they have suggested, and indeed, in a fashion directly raised,—In what measure has the English Catholic movement helped us to a constructive philosophy of religion? To what extent has it, in an age, if not of denial, yet of transition and of the inquiry which leans to doubt, contributed at once to conserve
and quicken the Christian faith, making it credible to living minds, real to the men who feel that their religious beliefs are the dearest to the heart, but the hardest to the intellect, and the least practicable or relevant to the life? These are questions it is easy to ask, but very difficult to discuss judicially or even judiciously, while the most difficult thing of all is to find a just and sufficient answer. Underneath all such questions others still more fundamental lie, and the principles implied in the deeper must always regulate the criticism and determination of the more superficial. The writer is clearly conscious that his attitude to religion and our religious problems is one, and the attitude of the Roman Catholic another and very different; and it would be simple impertinence in him to ignore the difference, or enforce his own canons of criticism on the Catholic mind. He does not mean to judge those who have found refuge and peace in Catholicism—indeed, he would not do so if he could. If it has made its converts happier and better men, it has done a work for which all good men ought to be grateful. But the question that now concerns us in no way relates to the sufficiency of Catholicism for Catholics, but to the adequacy and relevance of what may be termed its special apologetic to the spirits possessed and oppressed by the problems of the time. The power of Catholicism to satisfy convinced religious men in search of the best organized and most authoritative Christianity is one thing, and its ability to answer the questions and win the faith of the perplexed and critical mind is another thing altogether. This is a matter we are all free to discuss, nay, every man concerned for the future of faith is bound to discuss it, and the frankest will always be the fairest discussion.
1. In order to an intelligent discussion of this question it may be as well to explain what is here meant by a relevant apologetic. It means not a mere defence of the faith, a marshalling of evidences, a method or process of proof, but such a constructive interpretation and presentation of Religion as shall make it stand before the living reason as a living and intelligible thing. Evidences may admit of no answer, and yet produce no conviction; if the thing they are meant to prove have no meaning or no adequate meaning to thought, no real concrete rationality for reason, they may be multiplied to almost any extent without gathering weight or begetting belief. Men lose faith in religious truth not so much through a failure in its evidences as through a failure in its relevance; in other words, the terms in which it has been interpreted cease to be credible either by ceasing to be intelligible, or by falling out of harmony with the logical basis and methods of living mind. Every age has its own mental habits, which imply common principles and processes of inquiry and proof, modes of apprehending and handling questions, and these affect man’s attitude to every matter of thought and belief. An idea like evolution changes, not only our notion of the mode in which nature does her work, but also the way in which we study alike her works and manner of working, the methods by which we inquire into the phenomena of life, the order and facts of history, the appearance and meaning of a man. It causes, in a word, such a revolution in our basal conceptions as to demand, in order to mental wholeness and harmony, that they and their related beliefs be restated or reformulated. In a period of transition faith is hard, because religious ideas at once resist formal change and seem to suffer more from it than empirical or scientific; and men hastily or fearfully conclude that the change which is glorifying science will abolish Religion. On the one side, it stands by its theistic idea so related to nature as to feel every variation in men's notions concerning the creative cause, method, moment; and, on the other side, it is by its beliefs, institutions, and life so related to history as to be sensitive to every new historical doctrine, discovery, or process of inquiry. Hence, when the cosmic idea has changed its form, while the religious has not, when a new conception reigns in every department of history save the religious, the chronic difficulties between Science and Religion become to many minds insurmountable, and they cease to believe simply because Religion has ceased to be intellectually relevant—i.e., to belong to the living and growing body of truth, which at once possesses and inspires living mind. Men so situated are men whom no mustering of conventional evidences can convince; to reach or even touch them apologetic thought must seek to construe Religion as scientific thought has construed nature and history. What can make men feel at harmony with themselves and their universe, will always be the system most open to successful proof; what cannot accomplish this, no mass of probable or other evidence will save from ultimate disbelief. It would lead us much too far to illustrate, with all the needed detail, the principles now stated; but two works will show what is meant. The De Civitate Dei is the greatest work in the whole region of Christian apologetics. Yet its form and argument were determined by the conditions and questions of Augustine's own day; these must be understood before its significance and force can be felt. The ideas of the time, heathen and Christian, political, social, philosophical, religious, its conflicts, fears, hopes, despairs, must be recalled; the student must fill his imagination with the Roman ideal of the Etermal City; must realize what may be described as its apotheosis by the Latin peoples, the degree in which it was a city at once sacred and imperial, venerable, august, invincible, queen for centuries of civilized man, sole mother of the law that ruled him and the order he