The Doctrine of a Finite God
THE subject of this Lecture was, it will be remembered, to be the conceptionnow so frequently in one shape or another brought to our noticeof a finite God, which it is sometimes thought will satisfy the claims at once of Religion and of Metaphysics. For a finite God, we are told, can be a person, in personal relations with ourselves; but since he is admitted, as finite, not to be the Infinite and all-inclusive Reality to which philosophers have in recent times given the name of the Absolute, the difficulties of ascribing personality, with its implication of finitude, to the Absolute, which by definition is not finite, are at once removed. This conception appears, as I have said, in several forms. To onewhich I may conveniently associate with the name of Mr. BradleyI referred toward the close of my last Lecture. Here God is not the Absolute, but (like every separate object of experience) an appearance of that Reality which, when we speak of it not as it appears but as it is in its undivided harmonious unity, we call the Absolute. We may in the end find this the most intelligible form of the doctrine of a finite God; but it is not the form of it which to most people the phrase would immediately suggest.
More familiar perhaps is a form of the doctrine in which the all-inclusive Reality, however designated, is regarded as an aggregate of spiritual beings, fundamentally and ultimately distinct from one another, to one or more among whom is ascribed a vast superiority over the rest, which fits it (or them) to be worshipped by the rest. A single Supreme Being of this sort may even be consideredas by Dr. Rashdall, who has in several of his works1
elaborated a view of this kindas the original source from which all the other beings derive their existence. Such a God is said to be finite
, as being limited both by the other beings who through his own will have come to coexist with him and also by the necessities of his own nature, which is described, after the analogy of what we call our own original and natural endowment, as something which he finds given
, and as setting to his activity a bound which it cannot pass. Other writersfor instance Professor Howison2
would make the other beings beside God not merely coexistent but coeternal with him; and here too we must, I think, suppose the world in which he and they coexist to have a nature of its own which determines that of the beings which it includes; this nature could, however, not be described as the nature of that firstborn among many brethren3
who is called God rather than as the nature of any other member of the universal society.
One of the most brilliant of contemporary novelists has lately presented to us4
as a new religion, challenging the allegiance of all who desire to prove themselves equal to the demands of our time, yet another version of the doctrine of a finite God. The God of Mr. Wells is an object of personal loyalty and devotion. He is also in some sense, as the phrase goes, immanent in us, and not merely another than we, standing in external relations with us. But he is not the all-inclusive and ultimate Reality. He is not one with that Veiled Being, nor does our knowledge of him throw any special light upon its nature. There is a genuine religious experience open to individual human beings of which this God is the object; but such experience has merely a racial not a cosmic significance. I venture to think that the chief interest of this latest Gospel lies not in its philosophical value, nor even in its capacity of exerting a practical influence on men's lives, but in the appeal of its author to certain personal experiences of his own, as authenticating the creed of which he has proclaimed himself the apostle. I would therefore call attention to a fact of some importance about these personal experiences as described by Mr. Wells, which ought not to be overlooked in passing judgment upon the doctrine which they are alleged to support.
It is an essential feature of this doctrine that the God whom it invites us to accept as our invisible king does not in any way claim to be the author or indwelling Spirit of Nature. But the book in which the new religion is propounded is not, as it happens, the first in which its prophet has related the personal experiences in which his God revealed himself to his soul. They had already been described in an earlier confession of the author's faith, published under the title of First and Last Things
. But the account of them there given leaves no doubt that Mr. Wells was then without suspicion that it was any other being than the Spirit immanent in Nature with whom he had enjoyed communion. It is clearly only as the result of subsequent reflexion upon difficulties which (as he is well aware) are no novelties in the history of theology that he has come to hold a different opinion; although it would seem that, by a common psychological illusion, his later judgment has coloured his memory of the original experiences.5
Mr. Wells is not unconscious of the kinship between his speculations and those of the thinkers of early Christian times who distinguished the Author of Nature as a being of wholly different character from the Author of the Gospel. In the light of his earlier record of the mystical experiences upon which he founds his belief, we may see in these experiences a confirmation of the contention which is the theme of Tertullian's great treatise against one of those thinkersthe celebrated Marcionthe contention that, whatever the difficulties of reconciling the moral attributes of God with the phenomena of nature, we can never consistently mean by God less than that being whose witness is, in words which I quoted in another connexion, in my first Lecture, totum quod sumus et in quo sumus:
our whole selves and our whole environment.
I feel convinced that when once a stage of intellectual development has been reached at which the question of the relation of God to the Absolute would arise, no conception of God which takes him for less than the ultimate Reality will satisfy the demands of the religious consciousness. And this is so because it is, I think, in principle true from the first that what men have sought in religion is always communication with that which is supposed or suspected to possess within itself the secret of our life and of our surroundings, and therefore to exert over us and them a mysterious power which we shall do well to enlist upon our side.
Wherever this hidden power may be conjectured by primitive men to residein whatever queer-shaped stone, or totem animal, or initiated wizard, or vanished founder of their tribal customsit is dislodged from one abiding place after another as knowledge is increased and the horizon of the worshippers interests widens, and at last we discover that it is after nothing less than the ultimate Reality wherein we live and move and have our being6
that we are inquiring; this which we have been seeking throughout. Now it is, I suppose, precisely because in Religion we seek to place ourselves effectively in touch with what nevertheless must, it would seem, already include us within itself that a philosopher like Mr. Bradley can find in it a necessary and essential contradiction which forces us, when we apply the criterion of non-contradiction, to regard it as, in the end, appearance
only. The other forms of the doctrine of a finite God fail, I will venture to say, just because they abandon the attempt to identify God with the Absolute, and in so doing abandon the quest which is
Religion. But what I have called Mr. Bradley's form of the doctrine invites a more detailed discussion, for here we find what we miss in the rest, a clear recognition that to abandon that quest must be in the long run the ruin of the very thing which it is intended by this strategy of retreat to save from destruction at the hands of Philosophy.
It is indeed true that all genuine religion involves a paradox, even if we do not care to call it a contradiction. On the one hand religious worship is ever full of the insistence upon the vast distance between the divine majesty and the worshipper who humbles and prostrates himself before it; and yet, on the other hand, it is of the essence of Religion that this vast distance is annihilated; that the worshipper comes to live in God and God in him; so that it is not to himself but to God in him that he attributes the acts wherein he expresses the life which through his religion he is thus enabled to live.
It is true also that it is not Mr. Bradley's intention by his formula that in Religion we have only Appearance to reduce Religion to an illusion. For in the language of his philosophy every object of experience is appearance, so that it is in its appearances that the Absolute Reality lives, moves, and has its being. Religion can, I think, have no interest in maintaining that it can establish communication with a Reality which does not appear; and certainly the Christian Religion, which is committed to the doctrine of a Logos, which was in the beginning with God, and was God,7
cannot deny appearance to be essential to ultimate Reality.
Thus with Mr. Bradley's philosophy of Religion indeed, especially as it has found its latest expression in the chapter On God and the Absolute in his Essays on Truth and Reality, I should, for my own part at any rate, feel that I am in essential agreement. Nevertheless certain doubts of its complete adequacy remain in my mind. The nature of these will appear from some further comments which I propose to offer upon it, in the course of which I shall also point out what I take to be the relation of Mr. Bradley's philosophy of religion to that of Mr. Bosanquet. For, near to one another as these two eminent thinkers are, not only in their general view of the world but also in the terms which they employ in speaking of the relation of Religion to the Absolute Experience, yet I think that on a near inspection there will be found to be between their respective attitudes toward Religion an important difference which will repay our study. These discussions will bring us to close quarters with the antithesis of Divine Immanence and Divine Transcendence which has played a considerable part in recent theology, and to which I promised in my first Lecture that I would call attention.
I will begin the observations which I wish to make on Mr. Bradley's philosophy of Religion by quoting the following passage from the essay On God and the Absolute, to which I have just referred.
Whatever ideas, says Mr. Bradley, really are required in practice by the highest religion are true. In my judgement their truth is not contradicted by metaphysics, so long only as they will not offer themselves as satisfying our last intellectual demands. And exactly how religious truths are to be in the end supplemented and corrected, I would repeat that, as I understand the matter, metaphysics cannot say. Within the outline which it takes for real there is room for all truth and all truth assuredly is completed. But the answer in concrete detail is beyond the finite intellect, and is even beyond any mere understanding.8
I do not think there is anything here said with which I should not agree. If any objection can be taken to Mr. Bradley's statement, it would not come, I take it, from the theologians who insist on what they call the personality of God as a religious truth, and whose position, in the context of the passage I have quoted, Mr. Bradley is criticizing. They would be probably in most cases quite willing to admit that in our most intimate communion with God our vision of him must still be proportioned to the measures of our creaturely nature, which, however highly exalted, must remain creaturely and other than the uncreated nature. They would, at least if they were Christian theologians, find no fault with the wonderful stanzas with which the Paradise of Dante ends; yet whoever will place the words of Mr. Bradley which I have just quoted by the side of those stanzas will, I am convinced, be surprised to see how closely the thought of the philosopher echoes that of the great Christian poet:
Veder voleva, come si convenne
L'imago al cerchiò, e come vi s'indova.9
In my third Lecture, when I was dealing with the history of the application of the word person to God, I showed that this application was first made in the theology of Catholic Christianity, wherein the personal communion with God which found expression in the recorded language of a historical person, Jesus Christ, was affirmed to belong to the eternal nature of the Supreme Being. This being so, the problem which Dante has in mind in the lines which I have just quoted, the problem traditionally known as that of the two natures in Christ, involves the problem which Mr. Bradley is considering in the passage I cited above. So far as the demand that God should be personal is a genuinely religious demand, it is the demand for an assurance that the possibility of such a relation to God as is exemplified in the Godward attitude of Jesus is no vain dream, but is rooted in the fundamental structure of ultimate Reality.
Dante could not see what he wished without a flash of supernatural illumination:
Ma non eran da ciò le propice penne
Se non che la mia mente fu percossa
Da un fulgore, in che sua voglia venne.10
So, too, Mr. Bradley ends his essay on God and the Absolute with the confession that we need a new religion, which philosophy has it not in its power to supply, though he doubts whether any religious doctrine will be able in the end to meet our metaphysical requirement of ultimate consistency.11
What we want is a religious belief founded otherwise than on metaphysics, and a metaphysics able in some sense to justify that creed. Whether a new religion is really required for such justification of this demand, or only a more thorough and courageous acceptance of an old one is a matter on which much might be said, but which cannot be discussed here: for apologetic is not the business of a Gifford Lecturer.
I have already observed that there seems to me to be a certain difference in the attitudes towards Religion taken up by Mr. Bradley and Mr. Bosanquet respectively, and have suggested that we should find it instructive to note where it lies. Mr. Bosanquet does, unless I misconstrue him greatly, conceive it possible to make the Absolute the object of religious devotion. In this I should so far be in sympathy with him that I should even insist that the object of religious devotion cannot, when once the question is raised, be held to be less than the Ultimate Reality.12
But Mr. Bradley seems to imply that, not only for the less philosophical, but even for those who share his own metaphysical convictions, there is still room for an exoteric religion which may involve the consciousness of a personal God. His words suggest that the absence of a generally recognized religion which might fill this place without being in flagrant contradiction with those convictions is to him a matter for regret. How far I am right in interpreting his attitude thus I am not sure. But should it turn out thus, then I should find myself more in sympathy with his philosophy of religion than with Mr. Bosanquet's, in so far as it evinces a keener perception of the permanent and universal value of elements in the religious consciousness, with which it appears to Mr. Bosanquet, unless I greatly mistake his meaning, comparatively easy to dispense; and consequently a greater sense of the grave loss which may attend the inevitable depreciation of these in view of their failure, in the judgment of both philosophers alike, to satisfy the metaphysical test for admission to a place in the system of ultimate truth. A kindred difference between the two thinkers in their respective attitudes toward the question of a future life will engage our attention when I come, as I hope to come in my second course of Lectures, to the consideration of that question as part of the problem of finite personality.
According to Mr. Bradley the belief in God as a separate individual seems to many (though not to all) religious minds to be required for practical religion. Where truly that belief is so required, he says, I can accept it as justified and true; but only if it is supplemented by other beliefs which really contradict it.13
With this statement, again, I should certainly have no quarrel; for I am sure that the consciousness of standing in a personal relation towards God, however we may picture
it, is never, at any rate where it is the form of a genuine experience, the consciousness of standing in such a relation towards a separate individual. There is ever present a sense at least of God's privity to the thoughts and intents of our hearts which we could not admit in the case of a truly separate individual as tolerable, even if conceivable.14
In Mr. Bradley's treatment of the subject there sometimes seems to be too little distinction drawn15
between two contrasts: the contrast of a personal God with the Absolutethat is, the ultimate system of Reality, within which God and his worshipper and everything else that is real must be embracedand the contrast of a God personally distinct from his worshipper with a God who is the indwelling Life and Mind and the inspiring Love16
both of the universe which he makes and sustains and also of the finite soul. But the two contrasts are not, I think, the same contrast, and should be discussed separately.
For of the former contrast it seems sufficient to say that in no religion that I know of is the nature of God held to be exhausted in a personal relation to his worshipper. Religion may demand that this relation be regarded not as merely figurative or illusory, but as real, and as no less real than the worshipper's own personality or than his personal relations with his fellow-men; this, however, is not to say that there is in God nothing beyond his relations to us. Indeed, to suppose this would surely be highly unsatisfactory to the religious emotions, which, on the other hand, respond readily to that profound saying of Anselm17
that God is not only that than which no greater can be conceived, but is also greater than anything which can be conceived.18
If I am forced to take reality, says Mr. Bradley, as having
only one sense
nothing to me in this sense is real except the Universe as a whole: for I cannot take God as including or as equivalent to the whole Universe.
I am allowed to hold degrees in reality
God to me is now so much more real than you or myself that to compare God's reality with ours would be ridiculous.19
I will confess that, in the sense in which we may rightly speak of degrees of reality, and of God's reality being greater than yours or mine, I should not attribute a higher degree of reality to the Universe as a whole than to God; for it is, as I take it, only in God that the Universe is a whole. I will content myself with saying that among the ideas which (to quote Mr. Bradley) are required to satisfy the interest and claim of the religious consciousness, and therefore must be true, I am compelled to reckon that of the ultimate reality of its object; but that this does not for me mean that in the personal relation to that object, which is another idea (if we are to use this phraseology) required for the same purpose, we apprehend the whole of its nature; nor is it, I believe, an idea in any way required by the religious consciousness that we do so apprehend it.
I pass to the other contrast, that between a separate individual and an indwelling Spirit. As I said before, this contrast seems to be insufficiently discriminated by Mr. Bradley from that last mentioned. He does, indeed, recognize that they are distinct by pointing out that even a higher inclusive will than the will of an individual human being, if it be one which can say I to itself, such as that of the State or of some vaster society (no matter how vast we imagine it) must still be finite.20
It seems to be implied in this remark that the Absolute could not say I to itself; no doubt because the Absolute is not confronted by any thing that is not itself. I have already reminded you21
of Lotze's criticism of this implied view. My own criticism would take a somewhat different form, but I will reserve it till a later and more constructive stage of my argument. But certainly there is nothing in the incompatibility of personality with absolute reality, even though we should admit this, which involves the incompatibility of personality with what is nowadays often called immanence. That there is an essential contradiction between the two I do not admit, and should appeal with confidence in support of my contention to the religious consciousness, which, so long as the nature of the absolute or ultimate Reality is reserved for the cognizance of metaphysics, Mr. Bradley admits to be in religious questions the final court of appeal. I do not think that in religion God is ever regarded as having a purely exclusive or separate personality; wherever he is regarded as a person, this is not felt to exclude his indwelling. I could call here as a witness Mr. Wells, who in his recent summons to thinking men to adopt his new religion, insists that its God must be a person without it ever occurring to him that this must exclude his indwelling in his worshippers. But I would prefer to point out that to no one who has been brought up to think of the Holy Spirit as a Person should it seem strange to regard the notion of a person and that of an indwelling spirit as mutually consistent.
Of course it is not only in religion that we find ourselves in a difficulty, if we attempt to regard the complete mutual exclusiveness of human souls each in his hidden sphere of joy or woe22
as of the very essence of personality. Nowhere is there a fuller consciousness of the Personality and of the distinction from one another of the persons concerned than there is in love. Yet just here, in proportion to the greatness and the depth of the love, such mutual exclusiveness is transcended and done away.
It would be of course absurd to suppose that this thought is unfamiliar to Mr. Bradley. Few philosophers have shown themselves more keenly alive to the lessons to be drawn from this region of experience. Never unregardful of the significance of poetry for metaphysic, he has lately told us that he finds himself now taking more and more as literal fact what he used in his youth to admire and love as poetry.23
It is not for lack of appreciation of the importance of the experiences of saint or lover that he would regard the paradox of those experiences as proving their failure to make good a claim to ultimate reality. It is rather because of that principle of his logic which has led him to call all relations unintelligible because they are relations and not something else. If one is not convinced by his reasoning upon that subject, one may venture also to deny that any inconsistency or contradiction is involved in saying that in Religion we have communion with a personality which is more perfect than our own, just because our personalities do not exclude it as the personality of any one of us excludes that of any other of our fellow-men.
The immanence of God, if we are to use this now familiar expression, is certainly a doctrine with which the religious consciousness cannot dispense. But the same is, to my mind, true of the complementary doctrine of his transcendence. It is necessary, however, to scrutinize somewhat more closely the sense in which this term is used.
There is a transition of thoughtand, as it seems to me, a fallacious transition of thoughtin the philosophy of Herbert Spencer of which we are reminded by an unfortunate ambiguity sometimes to be found in discussions of Divine Transcendence. Spencer starts, as is well known, from the position which is called Realism. He holds that the onus of proof lies upon any one who denies to physical objects a reality independent of any perception or consciousness of them by human or other minds. But he ends by finding the ultimate and genuine reality of things to be unknowable by any mind whatsoever. Here what begins by being outside of or external to our minds, in the sense of having an existence independently of our thinking or being aware of it, gradually slips into being out of mind in the sense which that expression bears in the proverbial phrase out of sight out of mind, where it means in fact that we do not think of it at all. But what is thus maintained at the end is just the reverse of what was maintained at the beginning. The physical world is not an idea in our minds; it is that which we perceive, of which we think. Our perception, our consciousness gives itself out, so to speak, as perception and consciousness of a reality which, whether ultimately independent of mind or no, is at least independent of the act of perception or consciousness of it, since this act presupposes it. Such is the first position, the position of Realism. On the other hand, according to the final position, that of Agnosticism as we may call it, the physical world is really something of which we can never be aware as it really is; what we are aware of is always something else than what it really is; for it is merely a phenomenon which, as it appears, is not independent of our consciousness.
I do not now propose to criticize the transition of thought here involved, but only to show that what is in principle the same transition has introduced a parallel difficulty into theology. When God's transcendence is opposed to his immanence, we sometimes begin by meaning merely that in our religion we have to do with something more than ideas or emotions of our own, which, whatever value or practical efficacy they may possess, are not ideas of
anything or emotions excited by
anything beyond our own individual or racial life. We intend to deny that, so far as we speak of a God or gods, we are merely personifying
certain moods or emotions, as poets personify
passions or virtues, to which they yet do not by any means intend us to ascribe an independent being like that of another real person, as real as ourselves. But we must be careful not to let this
kind of transcendence pass over under our hands, as it were, into a transcendence which severs God altogether from the religious consciousness, in and through which alone we know him, and treats him as an unutterable mystery, of which we can say nothing that is true. A God thus transcendent has nothing to do with Religion. That sense of something beyond the reach of scientific knowledge, in which alone Herbert Spencer could recognize a legitimate form of religious consciousness,24
can be called Religion at all only in virtue of that last rag of intelligibility which is left to the Unknowable, when we describe it as the ultimate ground of all that we can know, and are (doubtless in company with Spencer himself) stirred as we think of this by the characteristically religious emotion of solemn awe.
I said just now that only in and through the religious consciousness do we know God; and I think that a discussion of this phrase, the like of which is frequently to be found in the writings of Mr. Bradley, will assist us in defining the meaning of the transcendence which, if I am not mistaken, is always ascribed to God in Religion, and that even where God cannot be said to be conceived as personal.
Si magna licet componere parvis, I will here illustrate this matter of our knowledge of God from our knowledge of a poet or of a musical composerof Shakespeare, for instance, or of Beethoven. Would it not be true to say that we could only know Shakespeare as a poet or Beethoven as a musician in and through our poetical or musical experience? Had we no appreciation for poetry, no ear for music, we could know nothing of Shakespeare as poet or of Beethoven as musician. We might know a number of facts about themthe dates of the chief events in their life, of the editions of their works, or what notwe might even be learned in their autographs or in their bibliography, but, if their poetry or music waked in us no emotions, we should still be strangers to the poet or the musician. Moreover, our knowledge of the poet or musician could never go beyond our appreciation of his work; for only by an æsthetic activity, secondary no doubt and stimulated in us from without, but still one which echoes, as it were, the mightier activity of the creative mind whose works we study, can we understand at all a work of art. Yet we know that this activity is not the primary activity of creation, that it is stimulated by and dimly echoes another; we can make no mistake about that. It is easy to make the application of the parable. It is true to say that only in and through a religious experience have we any knowledge of God; what are called arguments for the existence of God will never prove to those who lack such an experience the existence of God, but only at most the need of assuming, in order to account for our experiences other than religious, a designing Mind, or a Necessary Being, or an Absolute Reality. But the religious experience is ever an experience of a Reality distinct from and unexhausted in the experience as mine. And where there is religious experience present, the arguments which apart from it prove the existence of something which is yet not God are informed with a new significance.
No doubt here as elsewhere the parable will fail at certain points. The æsthetic activity by means of which we appreciate a work of art, though stimulated by that work, is initiated by ourselves in each particular case, and not by the personality of the artist, the existence of which is notwithstanding presupposed in the whole process. But, on the higher level of religious experience, the initiation of our experience in every case is referred to its object. Thus, to take an example, St. Paul, when he speaks of his converts as having known God, corrects himself at onceor rather are known of God.25
Again, there are facts about Shakespeare and Beethoven which may be said to have nothing to do with their art. Not only do such facts fail by themselves to help us towards the knowledge of what the men to whom they relate are as artists, but, if we know those men as artists through appreciation of their art, this knowledge of them as artists throws no light upon these facts, which yet no doubt may come to be interesting as associated with men who have become so much to us in other ways. But, on the higher levels of Religion at any rate, we cannot regard anything as thus disconnected from God. To the religious man the experiences which cannot bring the irreligious to God are transfigured by his religion. The heavens, which the irreligious astronomer can sweep with his telescope and find no God there, are to the religious man telling his glory and showing his handiwork.26
He may not be able to see God in all things, but he cannot but believe him to be there. The statement, in which recent philosophers of very various schools in this country have concurred, that God is not the Absolute must, I am sure, if seriously taken, make nonsense of Religion; and the reasonings of Mr. Bradley, though they deserve, like all that comes from him, the greatest respect and attention, have not convinced me that a new religion could conceivably be found which could, if it knew itself to be the neighbour of a metaphysic that openly made that statement, live alongside of it on any terms but those of declared hostility.
So far as concerns the demand of the religious consciousness for an immanent God, a demand on the importance of which I am wholly at one with Mr. Bradley, I see nothing in this inconsistent with a demand for a God with whom we can stand in personal relations. I would express this latter demand thus rather than as a demand for a personal God. For I do not think that Religion is concerned with the nature of the divine self-consciousness, except so far as this may be involved in the reality of our personal relations with God: so long as these are not regarded as figurative or illusory, we have no religious interest in hesitating to confess without reserve that God's thoughts are not as our thoughts nor his ways as our ways.27
Again, I am convinced that Religion cannot, when once it has reached the stage at which the question has become intelligible, give any but an affirmative answer to the question whether God is the Absolute. I see no more, if also no less, difficulty in allowing that the Absolute may be the object of personal religious devotion than in allowing that the Absolute may be the object of metaphysical speculation; and I should say that the existence of Religion (in some of its highest manifestations), and the existence of Philosophy prove that the Absolute can be, because it is, both the one and the other.
But, just because neither Religion nor Philosophy can consent to admit itself to be an illusion, both are bound to recognize that the activity in which the Absolute is known or worshipped is not and cannot be something which falls outside of the Absolute, for if it were this, the Absolute would not be the Absolute. Hence, philosophy can use in the person of Apollo those words of the hymn which Shelley puts into his mouth:
I am the eye with which the universe
Beholds itself and knows itself divine.28
And Religioneven, and especially, that very religion by which the representation of divine worship as a personal relation has been most seriously takencan find itself driven to recognize in the Spirit which expresses itself in the worshipper's personal love and devotion to God as to a Father nothing less than an integral factor in the very life of God himself.
This is by no means, however, as perhaps has sometimes been too hastily assumed, an end of our difficulties. If our worship of God is regarded as a divine activity, where is there room for that sense of infinite distance between the worshipper and that which he worships which has no doubt predominated in certain forms of religion more than in othersI suppose that Islam stands especially for it among the great historical faithsbut which seems to have a place in all higher religion, and may give even to the profoundest consciousness of union with God its keenest poignancy, as the adoring soul measures by her own infinite unworthiness the infinite love of the divine Bridegroom, who has so joined her to himself that she and he are no more twain but one spirit?29
I shall pass in the next Lecture to the consideration of the problem thus presented to us. We may call it the problem of Creation. For the term creation calls up the thought of the origination by God of something outside of himself and of quite different nature; it is just in virtue of this thought that it differs from other metaphors such as those of procreation or emanation which suggest rather a unity of substance between the produced and the producer. Is there, then, I shall go on next time to inquire, any reason for retaining the metaphor of creation, as expressing something which the other metaphors do not express, but which needs expressing, or should we do well to discard it as a relic of anthropomorphic mythology, and one perhaps fraught with danger to a right estimate of our spiritual dignity? It is to this problem that we must now turn.