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Nature, Man and God

1932 to 1934
University of Glasgow

In Temple's Gifford Lectures, “Nature, Man and God,” he explores his own brand of Philosophical Theology which places at its centre, the person and work of Jesus Christ. Temple develops this system within the two main parts of the book, wherein the 20 lectures are divided equally. The first part explores general themes in the development of a philosophy of mind, moving towards an understanding of personality. The second part applies the notion of personality to the Divine, and argues in its conclusion that only revealed religion can sufficiently combine Progress, Ultimate Reality and Ultimate Personality.

Lecture 1, “Distinction between Natural and Revealed Religion”, discusses the Christian theological origins for the division of thought between natural and revealed theologies, leading to a closer association between Natural Theology and practiced religion. Lecture 2, “The Tension between Philosophy and Religion”, argues that the core difference between religious thought and philosophical thought is not, as often is suggested, found in the fact that religion possesses an opinion about God and philosophy does not; but rather in the fact that religion is based upon a “personal relationship with God” and philosophy can only appeal to abstractions. Lecture 3, “The Cartesian ‘Faux-Pas’”, is a discussion of the Cartesian prioritisation of the ego and of the way in which Cartesian subjectivity developed in Continental and British philosophical thought. Temple presents this history with the intent of extricating his own thought from what he terms the “Cartesian entanglement”. Lecture 4, “Mathematics, Logic, and History” continues Temple's discussion of Descartes, with special interest in how Cartesian logic represents a break from the intricacies of Scholastic Logic, and opens the door to a system of thought which can sufficiently describe processes and forms of day-to-day existence. Lecture 5, “The World as Apprehended”, asks after the means by which the world is known and knowledge is made accessible, by touching on themes related to consciousness and the philosophy of mind. In Lecture 6, “Truth and Beauty”, having established what constitutes mind, Temple turns his attention to how the mind comes to discover Value, Truth and Beauty. Lecture 7, “Moral Goodness”, argues that Goodness, which is to say, value, truth and beauty, can be discovered by appealing to the Golden Rule — to do good is to behave in keeping with the Mind's understanding of truth and beauty, within the context of a concern for the other. Lecture 8, “Process, Mind and Value”, discusses the scientific understanding of the development of mind, and argues that to understand what constitutes mind, it is pointless to examine either physical existence or the mind itself. The secret of mind is only found in the process and purpose of reality, the pursuit of which Temple identifies with theism. In Lecture 9, “Freedom and Determinism”, Temple reviews historical perspectives on the …free-will versus predestination… argument, and concludes that moral action is carried out under the rubric of free will, yet is itself predetermined inasmuch as moral action conforms to submissive self-surrender of free-will to a pre-established Good. Lecture 10, “The Transcendence of the Immanent”, concludes the first part of the book by summarising the previous lectures and by asserting that although what has been described provides impetus for a system of divine immanence within the world, there has been no impetus given for religious faith. An appeal to religious faith would entail an appeal to process vis-à-vis personality, as personality is always transcendent in juxtaposition to the world process (contrary to Dr. Whitehead).

The second part of Temple's lectures begins with Lecture 11, “The Immanence of the Transcendent” which starts by restating Temple's thesis that within the cosmic process is a spirit which is both immanent and transcendent. Here he identifes this spirit in terms of Deity. Having argued elsewhere that the cosmic spirit is both the ground and personality of ultimate reality, in Lecture 12, “Revelation and its Mode”, Temple argues that such personality must act within the world, and equates this action with Revelation. Lecture 13, “Spiritual Authority and Religious Experience” discusses the tension between revealed spiritual authority and personal experience in religion, and argues that rather than being antithetical to one another, authority and experience are part of an indispensable unity. Lecture 14, “Finitude and Evil”, argues that the problem of evil is best expressed in terms of the moral problems of the individual, which can be summarised as a disharmony in social relationships, where human self-interest fails to meet its compliment in disinterested love. In Lecture 15, “Divine Grace and Human Freedom”, Temple argues that although humanity exists in a fallen state, the self is not so tainted that it is unable to respond to the love of God. Lecture 16, “The Commonwealth of Value”, proposes a change in historical thinking about theism which departs from modern, mediaeval, and ancient thought and the tendency for theism to function as a divisive element. Rather, Temple wishes to encourage a form of theism which harmonises minds and values in anticipation of the everlasting Kingdom of God. Having taken a sojourn into the end of history, Lecture 17, “The Meaning of History” provides a survey of traditional thinking about history, and Temple argues that rather than seeing history as meaningless, undetermined, or pure transition, it is more appropriate to view history as a synthesis of the past, present and future. Lecture 18, “Moral and Religious Conditions of Eternal Life”, discusses the possibility of eternal life in terms of the Christian doctrine of the Resurrection of the dead. In Lecture 19, “The Sacramental Universe”, Temple introduces a cosmology which places sacramental value (that is to say, spiritual and transformative value) upon the material and spiritual elements of the universe. Lastly, in the final lecture, “The Hunger of Natural Religion”, Temple argues that although a form of theism can be derived from Natural Religion or Natural Theology, ultimately, the personality of the cosmic spirit can only be found through the experience of specific revelation.


Nature, Man and God

Nature, Man and God
Textbook Publishers
  • Michael W. DeLashmutt, University of Glasgow