Imágenes de páginas

committed to obsolete modes of thought with all their implications and consequences-unless indeed we were to cut away our religious thought from the unity of our mind and put it to moulder away in a watertight compartment by itself.

But if, on the other side, we are asked to accept the unanimous conclusions of critical experts, we may surely suspend our judgment until we see some way of reconciling these conclusions with convictions derived from more sacred sources. It may well be that the results of free criticism do not seem to us more irreconcilable with the teachings of faith than the philosophy of Aristotle seemed to the Fathers, or than the astronomy of Copernicus seemed to the theologians of the sixteenth century; but we too have a right and duty of intransigeance pendente lite.

I ventured to suggest in the article aforesaid that the attempt to find a solution of the dilemma in the principle of development of ideas was in many ways unsatisfactory; that the principle was all-dominating in the case of liberal theology; that it was dominated and brought under that of authority in the case of Catholic theology. There it was a wild horse in the prairies; here, a tram-horse in harness moving up and down within fixed limits along fixed lines; there it was mistress; here it was but a handmaid, an ancilla theologia. And the root of this difference I assigned to the fact that liberal theology, like nature science, has for its subject-matter a certain ever-present department of human experience which it endeavors progressively to formulate and understand, and which is ever at hand to furnish a criterion of the success of such endeavors; whereas our school-divinity professes to find its subject-matter in the record or register o! certain past experiences that cannot be repeated and are known to us only through such a record. In the former case In the former case our knowledge progresses not merely (as in the latter) in virtue of mental labor and reflection brought to bear on an unchanging datum, but in virtue of an ever new supply of experience, presenting us with ever new aspects and parts of the subject-matter. Our first naïve formulations and categories soon prove too tight and narrow for our accumulating experience, and after a certain amount of stretching and adaptation they burst altogether, and more comprehensive conceptions take their place. These we criticise, not by their correspondence to the aban

doned forms, whose interest is henceforth merely historical, but by their adequacy to the newly revealed matter. We do not ask if Copernican be true to Ptolemaic astronomy, but if it be true to experience. Nor does the liberal theologian ask or care that his theology be substantially identical with that of the past, but only that it be truer to experience than that which it supersedes. The new contains the old, not as an unchanged nucleus with additions, not as three contains two; but only as Copernicus contains Ptolemy; as a new hypothesis is said loosely and inaccurately to contain the old, because it explains the same facts and experiences, albeit in a totally different synthesis.

For theological developments of this scientific sort the conception of the depositum fidei as a record of a bygone supernatural experience leaves no place whatever. Those to whom that supernatural experience was accorded could not communicate it directly to others; they could not open the eyes of others to see what they saw. They could only (under divine inspiration) reconstruct the revealed realities in the rude algebra of conventional signs or symbols, by means of which others, for whom those signs possessed a like value, might reproduce this reconstruction in their own minds, and see, not what the Apostles saw, but the symbol thereof, the expression of things supernatural and ineffable in terms of things natural and communicable. That symbol, that "form of sound words," is the depositum fidei; the realities symbolized were revealed for a moment and then withdrawn again into darkness. Hence the preservation of that symbol, not merely of the dead words but of the meaning they bore for their first hearers, of the figures under which the mysteries revealed to the Apostles were presented by them to the minds of their followers, is the supreme end of the Church's doctrinal authority. From the nature of the case this original expression of the mysteries of faith is classical, normative, inspired; for it alone has been shaped in face of the realities expressed. Were it a mathematical equation, and not merely a defective presentment of the higher in terms of the lower, we might safely translate it into its equivalents and not alter its truth-value; but, as it is, we dare not tamper with it; we cannot adjust or correct a representation of what we only know through and in that representation. But the Church can and does correct and adjust

later copies, expansions, and illustrations of that representation by means of it. For not only are the inevitable explications and applications of the apostolic tradition liable to error; but the meaning of the language and symbolism in which it is transmitted is continually shifting. Words and material signs, so far as they are dead things, are comparatively stable, but their sense grows and varies incessantly with the growth and variations of the living mind. "La fixité des mots," says a recent writer, "qui désignent des choses mouvantes, trompe les esprits et cause de faux jugements." Obviously it is the sense, the thought-forms, the categories, and not the material signs, that constitute the depositum fidei. The Church criticises doctrinal developments by the standard of "Apostolicity," i. e., of their conformity to the sense of her original record, in respect to which they are either false or true. Her criterion of dogmatic truth is not the eternal reality, but the inspired representation of that reality given to her keeping by the Apostles. That later presentments of dogma should swallow up and supersede these earlier and earliest, as Copernican superseded Ptolemaic astronomy is therefore (from the nature of the presuppositions of Catholic theology) quite impossible. For doctrinal development in that sense there is no room. The Athanasian Creed is not the fruit of a fuller supernatural experience than the confession of St. Peter, but is simply the explication of that confession, the fruit of the Church's reflection thereon, of her ponderings and inferences; of her endeavors to relate it to the rest of human knowledge. There is no question of gathered experience bursting through the narrower categories and formulations; of new wine seeking new bottles. All unworthy though even the original inspired formulations must necessarily be, we dare not, in the absence of the eternal realities for which they stand, translate them into higher categories such as inspiration might have used had the revelation been deferred to our own day. For we only hold so much of those realities as is symbolized in the narrower categories; nor have we any other data beyond that limit.

By way of illustration of all that I have said, I would venture, with some diffidence, to contrast Newman's Anglican Theory of Developments of Religious Doctrine, as sketched in the University Sermon of 1843, with the application of the same


theory in his Catholic Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine (1845); and to show how, in being combined with the presupposition of a past revelation infallibly interpreted by present authority, it necessarily becomes an ancilla theologia, and loses that independence and supremacy which it possesses on the presuppositions of liberal theology.*

In the University Sermon of 1843, Newman asks:† "Why should there not be that real connection between science and its subject-matter in religion which exists in other departments of thought?" He speaks throughout of the object of Revelation (the Trinity or the Incarnation) as continually presented to our apprehension in a way quite parallel to that in which the natural world is presented, and as therefore furnishing us in like manner with a sort of experimental criterion of our formulations and mental reconstructions of that object. "Revelation sets before it (the Christian mind) certain supernatural facts and actions, beings and principles; these make a certain impression or image upon it; and this impression spontaneously or even necessarily becomes the subject of reflection on the part of the mind itself, which proceeds to investigate it and to draw it forth in successive and distinct sentences." Revelation is described as an abiding "master-vision" controlling the workings of the Church's mind. § A dogma professes to formulate the results of "direct contemplation" of "of the object defined. The very "first impulse" of every Christian's faith "is to try to express itself about the 'great sight' which is vouchsafed to it," and which is the subject-matter of its theory just as the vision of nature is the subject-matter of natural science. The devout mind turns "to the contemplation of the object of its adoration and begins to form statements concerning him" till "what was first an impression on the imagination has become a system or creed in the reason." ** This "impression" of God "is not a thing of parts. It is not a system. . It is the vision of an object," and "may be fitly compared to the impressions made on us through the senses."++ As being "images of what is real," the ideas which we are granted of divine objects may be called real; ‡‡

*I am only speaking of these two writings of Newman's considered apart from the context of his entire life and work. Also I quite recognize the purely ad hominem character of the Essay on Development which simply takes Tractarianism on its own admissions, and may stand with a different synthesis in the author's mind to that which he is actually defending. + P. 328 in Longman's edition of 1900. Pp. 322, 323. P. 325.

P. 327.

[ocr errors]

P. 329.

P. 320.

tt P. 330.

#P. 330.

and like all real concrete objects can never be exhaustively formulated. "Creeds and dogmas live in the one idea which they are designed to express and which alone is substantive." * This idea or "sacred impression," which is "prior" to its formulations "acts as a regulating principle, ever present, upon the reasoning," just as ever-present nature offers the test of direct experience to the theories of science.† "Religious men, according to their measure, have an idea or vision of the Blessed Trinity in Unity, of the Son Incarnate and of his Presence, not as the subject of a number of propositions, but as one and individual and independent of words, as an impression conveyed through the senses." For the understanding of all these quotations it is only needful to remember that with Newman "idea" does not mean the mental formulation of an experienced object, but the object itself considered. as apprehensible and intelligible. In his Essay on Development,§ he defines the "idea" of an object as "the sum-total of its possible aspects" or, as we might say, the sum total of possible experiences in regard to it; and as this sum total is inexhaustible to the finite mind, it follows that we can go forever developing our formulation (or reasoned reconstruction) of the idea.

This conception of doctrinal development, though applied to a supernatural revelation, is, I think, in principle identical with that of liberal theology. For the subject-matter of development is not a formulation of the object revealed, but the object itself ever present to experience-or at least present in the same way that material objects are present. To the objection: "There is no such inward view of these doctrines distinct from the dogmatic language used to express them," he answers: "It should be considered whether our senses can be proved to suggest any real idea of matter," || of the thing in itself, as distinct from the sum-total of experiences it produces But this answer still insists on the parallelism between natural science and theology in respect of the abiding presence of those experiences which they formulate. "The senses do not convey to us any true impression of matter, but only an idea commensurate with sensible impressions."¶ Of matter in se we know nothing, but only of matter as it impresses itself on the senses; of the Trinity in se we know nothing, but only [§ P. 34. || Pp. 338, 339.

in us.

* P. 331.

+ P. 334.

P. 331.

P. 349.

« AnteriorContinuar »