In The Moral Order of the World in Ancient and Modern Thought Bruce continues his Gifford Lectures in a second series. The second course of twelve lectures presents an account of how the question of providence presented itself to men in different lands and ages. He focuses on thinkers belonging to peoples among whom the ethical consciousness reached a high measure of intensity: ancient Indians and Persians, the Greeks and the Hebrews. Bruce argues that in respect of ethics we have been influenced most especially by the Hebrew prophets and by Jesus of Nazareth.
University of Glasgow
KEY WORDS: Buddha, Moral order, Ancient, Modern times, Destiny, Karma, Nirvana, Zoroaster, Dualism, Greek Tragedians, Nemesis, Stoicism, Divination, Hebrew prophet, Book of Job, Jesus, Modern optimism, Modern dualism
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In lecture 1, “Buddha and the Moral Order,” Bruce starts his examination of the thoughts of men in ancient and modern times with an account of the Buddha and his particular way of viewing life and destiny. The account of Buddhism opens with a short biographical introduction to the originator of this religion. The concept of the religious movement is explored, showing that the moral order is the great fact for the Buddhist; it is the source of the physical order. Bruce expounds the Buddhist conception of Karma and the doctrine of Nirvana.
The second lecture, “Zoroaster: Dualism,” is devoted to the great Persian thinker. As in the previous lecture Bruce's discussion is based on the knowledge of experts in these fields. He gives an account of Zoroaster's (Zarathustra's) life, as far as it is possible drawing on the evidence of tradition. He is known as the promulgator of the dualistic theory. Bruce discusses the connections between Zoroaster and Buddha, as these connections relate to race and language. Both had a common religious inheritance. The concept of Dualism is explored.
Lecture 3, “The Greek Tragedians: Nemesis,” and lecture 4, “The Stoics: Providence,” are devoted to the Greek contribution to moral order. First Bruce presents an outline of Greek tragedy, wherein mythology and religion are intimately combined in a special sense. Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides and the concept of nemesis are discussed. Lecture 4 sheds light on Stoicism with a consideration of Zeno, Cleanthes, and Chrysippus. The relation between the Stoics and the concept of providence is examined.
In the concluding lecture “Divination” on Pagan thought, an account is given of divination with a view to enhancing our understanding of the views of the ancient world. Oracles are considered.
Lecture 6, “The Hebrew Prophet,” focuses on the prophets of Israel, who had much to say concerning God's moral government.
In lecture 7, “The Book of Job,” Bruce expounds the unique contribution of Hebrew canonical literature on the subject of providence. The lectures on Hebrew wisdom close with lecture 8, “Christ's Teaching concerning Divine Providence.” Here Bruce presents an account of the teaching of Jesus on the providence of the divine Father.
The following three lectures are devoted to modern thought on topics bearing on the primary theme of the whole lecture series. Bruce considers the question, what tendencies characterise those who have been anxious to abide as far as possible by the Christian idea of God?
Lecture 9, “Modern Optimism: Browning,” focuses on Robert Browning's work, in which he demonstrates his optimism in accepting, in a very full sense, Christ's idea of a divine Father. Lectures 10 and 11 are devoted to the dualistic tendency, which also accepts the Christian idea of God, but introduces in some form a rival to the beneficent deity of Christian faith. Lecture 10 and 11 attend to two modern forms of dualism, the first considering dualism from a scientific and philosophic perspective, and the second from a religious and social perspective.
In the concluding lecture 12, “Retrospect and Prospect,” Bruce looks back on the second lecture series and makes a forecast. First he points out the theological diversity and the differing theological positions that have been discussed: no god (in the true sense of the word) as in Buddhism, two gods as in Zoroastrianism, many gods (as in the religion of the Greeks), and one God in the religion of the Hebrews. Bruce points out that the common faith in a moral order has been associated, not only with these diverse theological positions, but with conflicting judgements about human life. He explains that, considering the historical outline he has presented, the path of progress for the future must lie along the line of Christ's teaching.
University of Glasgow