The following Gifford Lectures were delivered at the University of St. Andrews in the academic year 1939–1940, not exactly in the form as they are published now but with the same content. I have enlarged their scope of thought in some respects, and I have omitted some parts of the lectures as delivered.
Circumstances, not connected with the lectures themselves, have delayed publication. This delay certainly has some disadvantages, since my inner development has proceeded in the meantime. It has, I trust, proceeded along the lines which I was then pursuing. The delay has also one advantage: I have had the occasion to work out some theses suggested in the lectures and to discourse about them in the United States. Thus two other courses of lectures amplify and interpret the program that I outlined at St. Andrews: The Bedell Lectures on The Religious Function of Imagination,1 and the Hewett Lectures on How Do We Know God?2 Together with these they form a kind of trilogy that might be entitled: The Boundary Line between Philosophy and Religion. This was the original title of the Gifford Lectures.
In the Bedell Lectures I dealt with the problem of religious imagination, a problem too long neglected, I think; in the Hewett lectures I discussed the problem of religious knowledge, a very intricate problem, because religious knowledge deviates so obviously from all other kinds of knowledge that even the question might be raised as to whether we are allowed to speak of knowledge at all; in the following lectures the problem of faith is in the foreground, but the problems of religious imagination and religious knowledge also are discussed. Indeed, faith, imagination and knowledge are so intimately combined in the spiritual field that it is not easy to distinguish them. They are elements within one and the same living unity.
The standpoint of the following treatise may be outlined in advance. I try to show that a natural theology cannot be prohibited by dogmatics as Karl Barth would have it; but also that a merely rational faith, as provided by Kant, is not tenable. Reason needs the supplement of revealed religion. In such a way thought and faith do not contradict, but rather complement each other. In this relationship faith has the primacy. It surpasses the power of reason and completes its undertaking.
I might call this standpoint a modern conservatism. It does not inaugurate a new orthodoxy, but it shows the legitimate right of a super-natural and even super-rational faith—of that faith which was and is and I trust will ever be the basis and the source of our life.
The tendency towards the humanization of religion is passing; it led finally to the dehumanization of man, and thus it refuted itself. Faith should neither be orthodox nor heterodox; it should not be dogmatic at all. It should be universal and individual at the same time, preserving the ancient message but also reconciling it with the thinking mind of today.
I should like to express my sincere gratitude to the Administration of the Gifford Foundation. The image of beautiful St. Andrews, the memories of many friendly hours I enjoyed in the hospitable house of Professor Knox and his wife, and the echo of many conversations and discussions with the colleagues in the University, all this is still alive in me and will remain alive as long as I live. I also wish to thank Professor Monroe C. Beardsley of Yale University and the Reverend Dudley D. Zuver, who kindly revised the English of my manuscript.
New York, January, 1943