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Chapter One | Introduction

Theology is the happy result of a daring trust in the coherence of faith and reason.

—M.-D. Chenu, Faith and Theology, p. 30.

There is not and never has been in the world such a monster as a professor of purely natural religion. ‘When Dom John Chapman wrote those words in 1911 he was not, as might appear, intending to draw attention, in a wider context, to that void in the academic realm which, as far as Scotland was concerned, led Adam, Lord GifFord, to found the lectureship which I have the honour at this moment to occupy. He was asserting, from the standpoint of Roman Catholic theology, that in concrete fact no religious man is left to find his way to God by his own unaided natural powers, unassisted by that personal and gratuitous intervention of God himself which is technically known as grace. ‘It is obviously not possible in practice’, he wrote, ‘to disentangle the Supernatural from the Natural. The two are warp and woof from which our whole experience is woven. But it is possible to do so in theory, and Scholastic Philosophy deals only with the Natural, and therefore not with life in all its complexity as we know it, but with the world as it would be without revelation and without grace (of all kinds), which are disturbing factors.’ And again: ‘The crucial instance of this abstract nature of pure philosophy is in Natural Theology, which is a part of philosophy: its subject matter is what man can know of God without revelation and without grace; whereas it is (really) OF FAITH that it is within the power of every man to have divine faith (of some kind) and that no one is ever without “sufficient grace”.… A human being falls lower or rises higher, but is never a simply natural man.’1

Not all Christians would, of course, make the distinction between the natural and the supernatural in religion as Chapman made it. Some would deny that, even in theory, there could be purely natural religion, for they would maintain that, just because God is present in all his creatures as their creator and sustainer, it is impossible for a man to seek God in his creatures without becoming the recipient of personal address on the part of God; God will not wait passively for man to discover him. They will thus, as Austin Fairer pointed out in his Bampton Lectures,2 wish to make a distinction not between natural and revealed religion, or between ‘reason’ and ‘revelation’ tout court, but between Natural Reason and Supernatural Revelation, throwing the emphasis upon the adjectives rather than upon the nouns. ‘We have not to distinguish’, wrote Farrer, ‘between God's action and ours, but between two phases of God's action—his supernatural action, and his action by way of nature. It is difficult’, he continued, ‘to see how anything resembling Christianity can survive the denial of this distinction. For Christianity is faith in Christ, and Christ is God acting not by way of nature, but supernaturally. If you reduce Christ to a part of God's natural action, is he Christ any longer?’3 Dr James Richmond has remarked that the Augustinian tradition makes a distinction between general and special revelation where the Thomist tradition makes the different, but related, distinction between rational and revealed theology.4

Some Christian thinkers, however, will deny that, outside the revelation which God has given in Jesus Christ, any knowledge of God is to be found at all, or at any rate any knowledge of God that is not so distorted by human finitude and sin as to be worse than no knowledge at all; they will in fact deny that such a discipline as natural theology has any right to exist. Thus, one of the most distinguished of modern theologians, when invited to become Gifford Lecturer, had serious qualms of conscience about accepting the invitation, qualms which were alleviated only by the very reasonable assurance that if he made it plain in his lectures why he held that there was not, or ought not to be, such a disreputable subject as natural theology he would certainly be lecturing about it.5 John Baillie, in his projected Gifford Lectures of 1961, devoted a complete lecture to the difficulty felt by many modern thinkers in maintaining the traditional demarcation between natural and revealed theology and expressed his own support of the distinction between general and special revelation.6 Many of the earlier courses of Gifford Lectures open with somewhat anxious protestations by the lecturer that his chosen topic, in spite of appearances, does in fact fall within the terms of Lord Gifford's trust, and contain from time to time regretful suggestions that the lecturer could interestingly develop certain points in more detail if his conscience and the Trustees allowed it. It is a matter for satisfaction, since many modern thinkers find the old barrier between natural and revealed religion difficult or impossible to maintain, that more recently this kind of apologia has become much less prominent. Indeed a careful reading of the very wide conditions laid down in Lord Gifford's Deed of Foundation makes it quite plain that, as long as he does not appeal to revelation to support or take the place of argument, the Lecturer has very great latitude indeed. He can argue either for the existence of God or against it; he can discuss religion as a historical and cultural phenomenon without expressing any judgment on either its value or its truth. Indeed, from one example it would appear that he can discourse about modern science without any reference to religion at all, even in the widest sense of that very elastic term.7

My own position, if I may be permitted to come clean at the start, is very much that of Dom John Chapman. Speaking as a Christian theologian, I do not believe that any religious awareness is a purely natural or purely rational thing, from which specific intervention by God can be excluded a priori. Therefore I do not think that religious experiences can be sharply classified into definite types within which individual differences are minimal or irrelevant, in the way in which, for example, a geologist may feel satisfied when he has lumped together one lot of specimens as bauxite, another lot as pyrites and so on. Nevertheless, because I believe that God has created man as a rational animal and has endowed him with natural powers, of which reason itself is one of the most significant, I hold that in religious experience there is a common element which is highly important and which with proper precautions can be brought under rational examination. Furthermore, because I believe that all natural objects have the common characteristic of being created and sustained by God, I hold that rational investigation of them may disclose rational grounds for believing in his existence. All that I have just said is, of course, said in order to justify a Christian theologian having an interest in natural theology. His natural theologising itself must be purely rational activity making no appeal to revelation. It may well be that in all religious awareness there are, closely intertwined, both a natural and a supernatural element or, if you like, aspects of both general and special revelation. It may none the less be the case that the two elements or aspects can be distinguished and separately discussed. The point may be illustrated by a simple parallel from electrodynamics. All electric circuits contain both resistance and inductance; both factors exist in every circuit, though in particular cases one or the other may be vanishingly small. The circuit with zero resistance or with zero inductance is a pure abstraction. Nevertheless, it may be useful to discuss these fictitious cases, both because some actual circuits may approximate very closely to them and also because the cases in which both factors are significantly involved may be easier to understand if the two factors have previously been discussed separately. Similarly, it is, I would hold, useful to discuss what knowledge of God, if any, can in principle be acquired by purely rational investigation, even if we hold that the knowledge that matters most cannot be acquired in this way. We must also recognise that the activity and the objects of revelation itself can be investigated by rational means.

I would suggest at this point that a great deal of unnecessary confusion may be avoided if we carefully distinguish between two contrasts which are closely related and, for that very reason, often unreflectively assumed to be identical. The first is the contrast between natural and revealed knowledge of God as distinct elements in religious experience; the second is the contrast between natural reason and supernatural revelation as distinct sources of material for theological investigation and as distinct criteria for theological judgment.

Austin Farrer, writing in 1943, pointed out that even the most convinced believer in revelation cannot afford to repudiate or ignore reason altogether.

Illumination [he wrote], whether direct or by reflection from historical revelation, may be a sine qua non of conviction; but without the presentation of some intelligible object, it cannot be the total and sufficient cause. A man may be under the influence of the illumination and yet require to hear reason for the object to be made intelligible and the illumination to take effect in convincing him; and since it is never possible for anyone to know certainly that no illumination direct or reflected is falling upon himself or any other man, we can proceed cheerfully with our rational theology, for we need never despair of its convincing anyone.

And again:

Unless I had some mental machinery for thinking the bare notion of God, could I recognise his revelatory action as that of God? That machinery might never have worked before. Let us suppose it works now for the first time, when the revelation occurs. Still it does work now, and it is possible to study it and see how it works and what is the notion it produces. As we shall learn, to study this notion of God, of a supreme and original being, is to study what the mind can only see in and through the general nature of finite and dependent being. And this is to study rational theology.8

Thus it appears that, even if it is held that all knowledge of God is revealed in the strictest sense, it will still be true that we have to exercise our reason in order to understand it and make sense of it. Mr H. P. Owen, in his brilliant work The Christian Knowledge of God, indeed goes further. ‘Revelation’, he writes, ‘is not a special way in which we know; it is a special way in which God makes himself known.’9 I am not sure that I would go as far as this, for I should want to say that, in giving the revelation, God may also give us the supernatural discernment (‘faith’ in the scholastic sense) to recognise and understand it. But I should want to add-and this would bring me closer to Mr Owen-that this enlightenment will neither annul nor supersede the use of reason and man's other natural powers; it will, on the contrary, embrace them and fortify them, making them not less but more able to do their own jobs correctly.

In deciding on a subject for these lectures, it seemed to me that the time was ripe for a new survey of the basic structure of natural theology. Much has been written on and around the subject during the last quarter of a century from a great variety of angles. I have, however, found myself faced with certain difficulties. I have myself written at some length on the subject during that period, and I should still wish, apart from comparatively minor points of emphasis, to defend the position which I set forth in my books He Who Is (1943), Existence and Analogy (1949) and Words and Images (1957). There does not seem to me to be much virtue in repetition for the sake of repetition. A more serious obstacle arises from the extraordinarily divided condition of the philosophical world today. The lack of comprehension on the political plane between the Western democracies and the Marxist states is as nothing compared with the almost total lack of mutual interest between philosophers in the English-speaking world and those on the continent of Europe.10 (A partial exception should be made for the United States of America, where some measure of interchange is visible.) It is not so much that the Anglo-Saxon linguistic analysts and the continental existentialists and phenomenologists disagree with each other's arguments and conclusions as that each side apparently finds it impossible to recognise that what the other side is doing is philosophy at all or is even intellectually respectable. Only in those departments of theological faculties which are concerned with the philosophy of religion is a slightly wider range of interest to be found. On the other hand, together with this formidable obstacle there goes a corresponding advantage. Just because the work of continental philosophers is unknown or neglected here discussion of it may at least have the attraction of novelty. And I shall devote a good deal of space to one continental school, namely that of the so-called transcendental Thomists, and this not because I agree with all their conclusions or even with their basic philosophical assumptions but because they are highly influential in some very vigorous and intelligent Christian circles and because there is a great deal that we can learn from both their achievements and their failures.

Considerations of space as well as of competence impose upon me further limitations. I shall almost entirely restrict myself to considering those approaches to theism which can rather narrowly lay claim to the title, not widely respected today, of metaphysical; these are exemplified by the ontological and the various forms of cosmological argument for theism. With some reluctance I have decided to make only passing reference to the approach to theism from the data of the moral consciousness. This has received eloquent and, in my view, convincing expression in Mr H. P. Owen's small but very impressive book The Moral Argument for Christian Theism. This, published in 1965, seems to me to be as important as, if not indeed more important than, A. E. Taylor's massive work The Faith of a Moralist, which consists of the Gifford Lectures delivered in St Andrews from 1926 to 1928.11 With equal reluctance, and indeed perhaps with more reluctance in view of the fact that its approach is much closer to that which I am myself adopting, I shall say only a few words, and those in this first lecture, about Dom Illtyd Trethowan's recent book Absolute Value; it is the first volume of a two-volume work and an adequate discussion can hardly be attempted until the work is complete. In its general form Trethowan's argument is similar to that which he has expounded in earlier works and which is shared in its main features by such writers as Dom Mark Pontifex, Dr H. D. Lewis, Mr H. P. Owen, Austin Farrer and myself.12 It is cosmological, in the sense that it takes its starting point in the existence of finite beings and of the universe of which they are parts, but it sees the purpose of theistic argumentation not as the construction of syllogisms but as the evocation of a recognition of God as present in finite beings as the ground of their existence. ‘If I had to talk about the concept of “being”’, writes Trethowan, ‘I should suggest that it is properly a double one, that it refers both to the finite and to the infinite in that it refers to the finite in its relation to the infinite.’13 Trethowan's special feature, and it is much more prominent in his latest work, is the emphasis which he places on the moral consciousness and its recognition of value. Indeed, when he asserts that ‘the awareness of obligation is an awareness of God’14 and goes on to support this assertion, he would seem to be introducing a moral rather than a cosmological argument. Nevertheless he is clear that he is not appealing to any abstract notion of morality but to moral value as a datum apprehended by us in the concrete finite world. ‘I am not’, he writes, ‘proposing an argument from conscience according to which an inference is made from the existence of a law to the existence of a lawgiver. What I am proposing is an interpretation of our moral experience.’15 And in relation to St Thomas's famous ‘Five Ways’ he writes:

They draw our attention to features of our experience which provoke or bring into focus an awareness of God. If in fact the values of our world not only derive from absolute Value but are in this peculiar sense ‘like’ it, it is in contemplating them that we may be most naturally led to realise that such is the case. But they are no more than the natural occasions in which the awareness of God may arise or rather become more explicit.16

Thus, Trethowan's argument might be described as cosmological with a moral slant rather than as a typical example of the moral argument. He is, in fact, a thinker of unusual and sometimes startling originality, as is shown by his refusal to admit any intelligibility in the notion that there could be any possible worlds other than the world that actually exists. He is insistent that we can, with the right precautions, reach absolute certainty and there are places where he appears to be basing his conviction of God more upon the capacity of the mind to achieve this than upon the objects which it perceives. Thus he writes:

What I have been trying to show or rather to suggest (for these things can be seen only if people are prepared to look for them) is that our knowledge will not be recognised as the metaphysical experience which I believe it to be unless we realise that it is, in so far as metaphysical, a knowledge of God. We do not reach definitive conclusions about the nature and workings of the mind until we discover its source and its ground. I am not saying that we must first be certain of God before we can become certain of anything else. I am saying that in becoming certain of anything else, in recognising truth as such, we are in touch—in cognitive contact—with God, and that if we were not we should not be thus certain. So in the end it is a question of all or nothing. Either metaphysics is meaningless or it must be a theistic metaphysics.17

The lack of mutual interest and understanding in the philosophical world, to which I have referred, may be usefully emphasised by quoting a passage from the preface which Dr Louis Dupré has contributed to the English edition of M. Henry Duméry's book Faith and Reflection.

Henry Duméry, of the University of Paris, [he writes] is probably the best known philosopher of religion in France today. Born in 1920, he remained relatively obscure until 1957 when he published five books in one year. His work touched off a storm of controversy, particularly among Catholic theologians, which has never subsided. Only one of his books, The Problem of God, has been translated into English and, except for a few specialists, his name is virtually unknown in America. This obscurity seems to be due to the silence which separates Anglo-Saxon from Continental philosophers. Most of the time one group acts simply as if the other did not exist or was not worth talking to. Yet both pay dearly for this neglect, for the absence of any significant dialogue between the two Western traditions is one of the major reasons that philosophical discussion more and more spins around itself far from the real world. To the ordinary intellectual, philosophy seems to be the business of a group of inbred academic coteries which have removed their interests to a distance sufficient from those of ordinary mortals to be safe from any outside criticism. What ought to be the most stimulating of all disciplines has turned into an esoteric game totally irrelevant to what really matters in life.18

Duméry's main theme is original and stimulating, though many readers will no doubt judge it as paradoxical and perverse. From one angle it might be described as an attempt to drive out the atheism from Jean-Paul Sartre's existentialism, and to do this by taking every step with him except the last. Duméry agrees with Sartre that if there were a pre-existing realm of truth and value, to which man was morally bound to conform, man's intellectual and moral autonomy would be denied and his freedom destroyed. Man, he holds, must be the creator of his own values. But he denies, against Sartre, that this necessitates the denial of God; on the contrary, it is only as the gift of a transcendent God that man's power to create values can be explained. The immediate influence upon Duméry's thought is that of Husserl and phenomenology, but he finds an earlier justification for it in the neo-Platonism of the great third-century philosopher Plotinus, for whom the ultimate and absolute One is beyond both intelligibility and being.19 ‘In the creation of meaning and value the self expresses its essential relation to the One.’20 And like all existentialism Duméry's system detaches man metaphysically from the rest of the finite world.

Definitely eliminated in Duméry's thought is a revelation of God through nature. Nature may help man find his way to God, but it can never teach him anything about God. Nature has no voice of its own—all revelation is essentially human, for man alone can give meaning and expression. So, if God is to speak at all, he must do it through man. Man alone is the image of God.21

Thus, for Duméry, it is only through man that divine revelation can come and it is man who gives the religious object its religious meaning; this takes place in the act of faith, which involves a personal commitment. The question whether the object as religious has any reality outside the human mind clearly becomes acute. Duméry strongly denies that religion is a purely subjective experience and he sees the criterion of authenticity as given in Jesus Christ and developed and transmitted by the historic Christian community. Much more discussion than there is room for at this moment would be needed to locate Duméry's argument in the contemporary theological and philosophical scene and to make possible a judgment about its truth or falsehood. It is none the less astonishing that thought of such originality and provocativeness should be so little known in the Anglo-Saxon world.

I must now give some indication of the line which I propose to follow in these lectures. In defiance of the contemporary climate I shall be uncompromisingly metaphysical. I shall be primarily concerned with that type of argumentation for theism that is exemplified in the ontological and the cosmological argument. One of the surprising happenings in recent religious thinking has been the sudden revival of interest in the ontological argument, especially in the form which it takes in the Proslogion of St Anselm of Canterbury. This is largely due to the influence of the energetic American philosopher Dr Charles Hartshorne, though, as I shall emphasise later on, the ontological argument undergoes in his hands a transformation that would certainly have astonished St Anselm. Behind this, somewhat surprisingly, lies the revival of interest in the writings of A. N. Whitehead, which has given birth to a so-called ‘process-theology’ that has driven the short-lived’ death-of-God’ theology almost entirely off the American theological scene. Before investigating this ontological revival, however, it will be necessary to pay some attention to the linguistic aspect of theology, and to this I shall devote the second lecture. The nature and function of language does, of course, hold a central, and indeed an all-embracing, status in present-day Anglo-Saxon philosophy as exemplified by the various types of linguistic analysts. Their approach has, however, been almost entirely positivistic and behavioristic, and even under the influence of the cryptic aphorisms of the later Wittgenstein they have shown little interest in the function of language as an instrument of cogitation and communication on the part of intelligent inhabitants of the material world. It is surprising that they have had so little contact with their colleagues in the realm of philology and linguistics, and one is tempted to wonder whether it may not be the latter group of specialists, rather than the professional philosophers, who will in the near future have most help to give towards the solution of problems in the area where linguistics impinges upon philosophy. It is no doubt too early to expect a final judgment on the much publicised work of Dr Noam Chomsky, but, if his theory of a universal human grammar underlying the grammars of the various human languages establishes itself, the linguistic approach to philosophy may have the result of rehabilitating rather than of excluding a metaphysical outlook on the universe. In any case there are certain questions about language that are of importance to natural theology and which need attention at an early stage in the discussion.

After these preliminaries I propose, in the third lecture, to give as detailed an examination as time permits of the recent work on the ontological argument. Here, as I have said already, the most important figure is that of Dr Charles Hartshorne. He is himself a fervent supporter of the argument, especially in the Anselmian form, though, as we shall see, he gives a highly idiosyncratic interpretation or reformulation of it. What is surprising is to find how much attention has been recently given to the argument by persons who, unlike Dr Hartshorne, do not accept the argument's validity. There is, in fact, a widespread feeling that, even if the argument is defective, a great deal of importance is to be learnt by a detailed understanding of its deficiencies and perhaps even more by an examination of the reasons why many people have thought not only that it is valid but also that it uncovers the ultimate secrets of the nature of reality. Here I shall also briefly refer to the school of ‘reflexive philosophy’, whose best-known members are Maurice Blondel, Louis Lavelle and Aimé Forest.

I shall pass on from this to consider the approach to theism which is commonly given the name ‘cosmological’, since it takes as its datum the actual concrete existence of the cosmos or world. In one form or another this has of course become the central, and one might say the typical, argument in the Catholic philosophical tradition. However, at least since the time of Immanuel Kant, it has been rejected by the main body of empiricist philosophers, often on the ground, which I believe to be false, that it involves a covert appeal to the ontological argument.22 I have discussed it at some length in the books which I mentioned earlier in this lecture.23 Before I make any further remarks on the cosmological approach as such I shall devote two lectures to one particular type of it, which has produced a large number of works, many of which are available in English translations but which have received little attention in these islands. These are the works of the writers who describe themselves as Transcendental Thomists. They are distinguished from the Neo-Thomists such as Jacques Maritain and Étienne Gilson by the fact that, instead of rejecting the Kantian critique of knowledge, which is generally understood as having demoted God from the status of a constituent principle of reality to that of a regulative principle of human thought, they accept the necessity of beginning with a critique of human knowledge but reject the destructive consequences for theology which have generally been held to follow from it. The founder of this school was the French Jesuit Joseph Maréchal, who wrote an immense work on the foundations of metaphysics between the two World Wars, but, apart from respectful and laudatory utterances from those who managed to read it, it provoked little really fresh thinking until it inspired a group of German-speaking writers of whom the most important are Karl Rahner, J. B. Lotz and Emerich Coreth. Rahner's great work Geist im Welt was written in 1939.

While the theological and philosophical inspiration of this group was provided by Maréchal, its literary idiom was derived from Martin Heidegger, the famous existentialist thinker under whom many of its members, including Rahner, studied. My own judgment, which I make under correction, is that Heidegger's influence on Rahner was less on his philosophical outlook than on his literary idiom and style, which some readers find fascinating and others infuriating. Standing aside from these is the Canadian Jesuit Bernard Lonergan, whose chief works, while voluminous and unsparingly exacting on the reader, are free from the influence of Heidegger and are basically lucid and rigid. In the opinion of many, he is the greatest Christian thinker alive today, more profound and more penetrating even than Rahner; he has had the experience, rare among philosophers and theologians, of having a full-scale congress assembled in his lifetime and devoted to the sole purpose of understanding and developing his thought. I would hazard the guess that, if transcendental Thomism is to make itself heard in the Anglo-Saxon philosophical milieu, it will be via Lonergan rather than via Rahner and Coreth, in spite of the fact that his literary output, unlike Rahner's, consists entirely of top-level professional work with no direct popular appeal. If anybody was ever a philosopher's philosopher and a theologians’ theologian, it is Bernard Lonergan.

In the sixth and seventh lectures I shall develop my own argument and discuss the basic requirements of cosmological theism. In particular, calling upon a little-known but entertaining work of M. Gilson, I shall argue for a fundamentally realist epistemology and I shall maintain that all forms of idealism, placing the object of knowledge entirely within the mind, are inherently incapable of getting outside it. They lock themselves up inside their own mentality and then find that they have thrown away the key. The fashionable linguistic philosophy which is so familiar to us today is little more than a desperate attempt to escape from the mental prison of idealism, and it results in the equally unhappy fate of incarceration in the verbal prison of sentential analysis. (May I add in passing that linguistic analysis is a perfectly legitimate activity, so long as it does not substitute itself for metaphysics.) I shall restate, as convincingly as I can, the only doctrine of perception which, in my view, does not saw off the branch on which it is sitting. I shall then try to show that the contingent world of our experience manifests the presence, at its metaphysical root, of that absolute being which Christian theology calls God. That the knowledge about God which we can thus acquire is minimal in the extreme I shall not only admit but shall emphasise. This does not matter; once the point can be located in which finite being manifests the presence in it of the infinite, the knife-blade can be inserted and the cavity widened later on. I shall further maintain that the purpose, in this context, of argumentation in the strict sense is to induce and defend this ‘contuition’ of God in finite beings, and not to ignore it or usurp its place. In this connection I shall question the utility of the phenomenological method, as very possibly excluding from its purview the very factor in our experience for which it ought to be looking and upon which the recognition of God depends. Holding as I do that all finite beings, and not only some of them, are sustained by God's creative activity, I maintain that any of them, if we only know how to grasp it, can be seen as embodying that character of contingency which manifests God as its sustainer. In contradiction to the Christian existentialists, for whom it is only in my experience of my own subjectivity, as one who finds himself hurled into an uncongenial world, that I can come to recognise God, and in contrast to Austin Farrer, for whom my own soul is, not the only place, but certainly the easiest place in which I can recognise the creative activity of God, I shall point to extra-mental being, and in particular extra-mental material being, as providing the clearest example of sheer contingency. Just because it is the object and not also the subject of my awareness, I can, when I contemplate it, recognise its radical contingency uncontaminated by other factors which intrude themselves when I reflect upon my own self. I would therefore claim that my approach is metaphysical in the strictest sense of the word; it does not depend on the special characteristics or properties of any particular being or type of being, but upon the universal element of contingency which is common to all the objects of our perception. In taking this line quite intransigently I do not, however, wish to rule out other approaches; though I do wish to add that, without an implicit or explicit appeal to the element of contingency I do not see how they can establish their case. What the consideration of contingency may claim to have shown is the existence of transcendent self-existent being as the creative ground of the universe; and I shall go on to argue that such a creative ground must have the attributes of thought, will and power, and can therefore, in however analogical a sense, be rightly described as personal.

In the eighth lecture I shall interrupt the course of my argument to take account of a position which has achieved some measure of acceptance in certain religious circles, both Catholic and Protestant, but which, if it is accepted, seems to me to deal the death-blow not only to the kind of approach which I have adopted but to any rational form of theism. This is the view that truth itself, and not only our apprehension of it, is a historically conditioned value which changes from age to age and from place to place. The most distinguished recent exponent of it is Dr Leslie Dewart, and I shall give a detailed examination of the two books in which he has stated it. I hope to show that if it is adopted it destroys itself no less than the positions which it overtly denies.

Resuming my own argument in the ninth lecture I shall develop the notion of the openness of finite being. I shall argue that, just because of its radically dependent and non-self-sufficient character, finite being is open to fresh influxes of creative power which will elevate and transform it, but not destroy it. This, as I see it, provides the natural basis for both grace, as the Catholic tradition conceives it, and the Incarnation. To follow up the consequences of this in detail would take one beyond the limits proper to Gifford Lectures, but it is proper to indicate that natural theology itself shows finite being to have a receptive capacity, a potentia oboedientialis, for a supernaturalisation that it cannot achieve by its own natural powers. Finite being is essentially dependent, and because dependent incomplete, and because incomplete open to indefinite transformation. Of what kind and degree that transformation may be it is not for natural theology to say.

In the tenth and final lecture I shall discuss the relation of God and the world to time. I shall have nothing very original to say about this, but I shall take the opportunity to comment on the central importance which temporality has for some contemporary thinkers and in particular on the noteworthy resuscitation of the metaphysics of A. N. Whitehead by the promoters of ‘process-theology’. And there, leaving many loose threads untied and remembering that Gifford Lectures, like other things finite, are necessarily incomplete, I shall end.

The volume of writing on natural theology that has appeared in recent years is quite enormous. If some of it will receive little or no mention this will imply no slight on its quality but will merely indicate my own limits of space and of competence. I shall, for the most part, concentrate on material which, while it is of real importance and interest, may be less familiar to my audience than some that has been more widely discussed. I shall make no attempt to tell again in detail the story that begins with logical positivism and ends for the time being with the death of God. It is with real regret that I shall have to pass by in silence the profound and judicious, but inadequately appreciated, books of my friend and colleague the late George F. Woods, Theological Explanation (1958) and A Defence of Theological Ethics (1966). I can only mention the names of two quite recent works that I have found of great value, Professor A. Boyce Gibson's Theism and Empiricism (1970)24 and Dr James Richmond's Theology and Metaphysics (1970). And, while I believe that the line which I shall follow provides a valid approach to theism, I fully recognise that there are others which are equally valid and are very possibly much more interesting.

  • 1.

    Spiritual Letters of Dom John Chapman, pp. 192 ff.

  • 2.

    The Glass of Vision (1948), p. 3.

  • 3.


  • 4.

    Theology and Metaphysics (1970), p. 3.

  • 5.

    Karl Barth, The Knowledge of God and the Service of God (1938), Gifford Lectures at Aberdeen, 1937–8.

  • 6.

    The Sense of the Presence of God, ch. ix. Baillie's death prevented the actual delivery of the lectures.

  • 7.

    W. Heisenberg, Physics and Philosophy (1959), Gifford Lectures at St Andrews, 1955–6.

  • 8.

    Finite and Infinite, pp. 1f.

  • 9.

    op. cit., p. 122.

  • 10.

    Cf. the remarks on the ‘cultural solipsism’ of Oxford philosophy by C. M. Taylor in reference to the philosophical conference held at Royaumont in 1959 (cit. I. Mezoros, British Analytical Philosophy, ed. B. Williams and A. Montefiore, p. 312).

  • 11.

    Cf. also the late G. F. Woods's impressive book A Defence of Theological Ethics (1966).

  • 12.

    Illtyd Trethowan, Certainty (1948), An Essay in Christian Philosophy (1954), The Basis of Belief (1961); Mark Pontifex, The Existence of God (1947); H. D. Lewis, Our Experience of God (1959); H. P. Owen, The Christian Knowledge of God (1969); A. M. Farrer, Finite and Infinite (1943), Faith and Speculation (1967); E. L. Mascall, He Who Is (1943), Existence and Analogy (1949).

  • 13.

    Absolute Value, p. 90.

  • 14.

    ibid., p. 84.

  • 15.

    ibid., p. 87.

  • 16.

    ibid., p. 123.

  • 17.

    ibid., p. 170.

  • 18.

    Faith and Reflection, p. ix.

  • 19.

    Duméry himself writes: ‘We have drawn a certain inspiration from Plotinus’ doctrine, but that is not to say that it served as a point of departure.… For us, Plotinus was an indirect encounter (The Problem of God, p. 75n.).

  • 20.

    Dupré loc. cit., p. xxvi.

  • 21.

    ibid., p. xxix.

  • 22.

    Cf., on this point, A. E. Taylor, Encycl. of Religion and Ethics, XII, p. 278, s.v. ‘Theism’.

  • 23.

    Cf. p. 6 supra.

  • 24.

    I have discussed this book at length in Appendix I infra.