Skip to main content

Full text of "The Motive of Theology"

See other formats


STOP 



Early Journal Content on JSTOR, Free to Anyone in the World 

This article is one of nearly 500,000 scholarly works digitized and made freely available to everyone in 
the world by JSTOR. 

Known as the Early Journal Content, this set of works include research articles, news, letters, and other 
writings published in more than 200 of the oldest leading academic journals. The works date from the 
mid-seventeenth to the early twentieth centuries. 

We encourage people to read and share the Early Journal Content openly and to tell others that this 
resource exists. People may post this content online or redistribute in any way for non-commercial 
purposes. 

Read more about Early Journal Content at http://about.jstor.org/participate-jstor/individuals/early- 
journal-content . 



JSTOR is a digital library of academic journals, books, and primary source objects. JSTOR helps people 
discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content through a powerful research and teaching 
platform, and preserves this content for future generations. JSTOR is part of ITHAKA, a not-for-profit 
organization that also includes Ithaka S+R and Portico. For more information about JSTOR, please 
contact support@jstor.org. 



THE MOTIVE OF THEOLOGY 



GEORGE CROSS 
Rochester Theological Seminary, Rochester, New York 



This article discusses the relationship between the aim of science and the aim of 
theology. 

Science, in the large sense, is seeking to understand the universe as a coherent 
and unified whole. But this aim is an ideal rather than an actual achievement. The 
progress of science rests on will rather than on mere knowledge. 

This means that in pursuing science the world is actually subdued to the interests 
of man. It rests on ethics, requiring the co-operation of human wills. It points to 
the future for its full realization. 

These considerations bring the ultimate end of science into close harmony with 
the aim of theology, which seeks to interpret the ultimate control in the universe so 
as to promote human, ethical, and forward-looking interests. "The ultimate interest 
of science and the interest in God are one — the interest in human betterment, human 
perfection, human salvation." 



To speak categorically, the motive of theology lies in our 
human interest in God. The character of this interest is the 
thing now to be explained. For its existence is undisputed. 
From the earliest stages of human life to the present nothing 
has had a deeper meaning for men and nothing has stirred their 
emotions more profoundly than the thought of some such being 
as we seek to designate by the name God. The purpose of 
theology is exhausted and its task completed in the exposition 
of this ineffable name. In saying this, however, we are not 
determining in any degree the peculiar character of this interest 
or its relation to other interests. At the outset of our discus- 
sion the question arises: Is the interest in God distinct and 
isolated from all other interests — common and secular — that 
men pursue ? Or is it at bottom one with those interests that 
operate along the common highway of life ? 

The very term theology reminds us that in it we are under- 
taking a pursuit that seeks to proceed according to the prin- 
ciples of human thinking and submits itself to those ordinary 
tests to which thinking on any subject whatsoever must be 

3 8o 



THE MOTIVE OF THEOLOGY 381 

subjected. If it is to be something beyond an excuse for 
indulging in whims and fancies, if it is a serious effort to give 
to the idea of God a significance in relation to everything 
that happens in our lives or confronts us as we view the world 
and the men that live in it, then theology is an attempt to 
unfold a body of knowledge that shall be valid for all who place 
themselves in such relations as give them access to it. Our 
question now becomes more definite — Is the interest in God 
identical with the desire for knowledge ? 

A negative answer is promptly given to this question by 
many, and a superficial view of the matter would seem to 
justify it. Surely, it will be said, the attitude of soul which is 
assumed in the act of worship, for example, is fundamentally 
different from the mental action that occurs in the working 
out of a proposition in geometry or the discovery of the time of 
a transit of Venus across the face of the sun. It may be, how- 
ever, that the contrast owes its vividness to a want of a 
thorough appreciation of the significance of the common effort 
to attain to knowledge of anything whatsoever. It may be 
that the failure to bring these two acts together in unity is a 
consequence, not of an exalted estimate of worship so much as, 
of a low conception of the worth of the knowing act. A finer 
appreciation of the desire for knowledge might disclose its 
truly religious character. The search for knowledge may turn 
out to be an act of worship. 

The presence to our consciousness of an object hitherto 
unknown is invariably the signal— to the child and the man 
alike — for an effort to relate the new object to what was 
known before. Until this is done the new object is not really 
known. Indeed, until this is done the reality or adequacy 
of the prior knowledge is made uncertain The attempt at 
a new construction of a body of knowledge becomes indis- 
pensable. But we do not proceed very far in the new under- 
taking before we discover that the unexplored regions into 
which we are trying to enter are interminable. The desire 



382 THE JOURNAL OF RELIGION 

for knowledge is insatiable. Nothing is known completely 
until all things are known in their entirety. There is no 
stopping place this side of omniscience. The object that 
ultimately presents itself to our inquiring intelligence is the 
whole world. All knowledge has the world in mind. 

The difference in the ways in which this truth is apprehended 
and in the methods by which this end is approached consti- 
tutes the difference between the '' scientific" and the "unscien- 
tific" pursuit of knowledge. To the man of unscientific mental 
habits the world exists as a vague somewhat, half-unconsciously 
conceived and in independence of his personal thought or of 
all thought. To the man of scientific habits, on the contrary, 
the world is no alien territory but it is the sphere of his 
mental, as well as his physical, activities, and for this very 
reason it has meaning for him. To such a mind the world 
exists to be known, while for the other type of mind it may 
seem just the vast unknown, and whether it is to be known 
or not is not clear to him. 

Their ways of approach to the object of knowledge differ 
correspondingly. They differ as the ordered differs from the 
unordered. The unscientific mind gains its knowledge in a 
haphazard fashion. It works without any clear recognition 
of the truth that the validity of one's conclusions respecting 
any single object depends on their harmony with, and their 
complementary relation to, a systematic knowledge of other 
objects. The man of scientific mind, on the contrary, aims at 
discovering the laws of existence. He cannot admit the final 
possibility that these laws may be violated. The presence 
of disharmony or even the lack of harmony in the world 
would mean, to him, ultimately the destruction of the world. 
He is not content to gain a sum of knowledge. He assumes 
that knowledge of many things is possible only if there is a 
unit of knowledge. He must construe that unity by bringing 
all the materials of knowledge under the constructive action 
of his thought. In his investigations he is definitely aware 



THE MOTIVE OF THEOLOGY 383 

that his task is to know the world from within, that he must 
mentally organize the processes that go on in seeming inde- 
pendence of his thought or of all thought. 

A similar contrast appears between the theological and the 
non- theological view of God. To the latter God exists in 
some sense but the meaning of his existence for thought 
remains uninterpreted. He stands apart from all else. 
Mystery surrounds him. The marvellous, the uncontrolled, 
the unnatural, the unaccountable, are his most befitting 
symbol. Whatever he may be he is Not-man, he is Not-the- 
world. Man, the world, is not-God. 

The theological attitude toward God is different. God is, 
to be known. He is not alien to the native processes of our 
minds. The laws of our thinking have their seat in him. 
His relations to us are not mysterious in the sense of being 
unknowable but only in the sense that our knowledge of them 
is progressive and incomplete. Neither is the world alien to 
him. Its processes are not separate from the movement of 
his thought. His relations to us are, therefore, ordered, 
regular and constant. The most befitting symbol of him is 
the orderly, the natural, the intelligible, the significant. His 
name is familiar and is to be pronounced with assurance. 

The question that now rises is, whether the action of the 
scientific mind as it seeks to interpret the world and man 
and the action of the theological mind as it seeks to interpret 
God to itself are to be identified. Are the truly scientific 
view of the world and the theological view of God at bottom 
one? That is to say, Does the quest of science, when it is 
carried out to the end, turn out to have the same character 
as the quest for God ? Or putting it reversely, is it the interest 
in God that furnishes the interest in the universe? Is the 
motive of theology the ultimate impulse of science? If so, 
then science too is a sacred thing, an act of worship. 

In order to answer our question it is necessary that the 
scientific impulse be given further consideration. On the 



384 THE JOURNAL OF RELIGION 

instant that a strange or unaccounted-for object strikes upon 
the attention we become mentally restless. The appearance 
of the new fact is the occasion of this restlessness, but the 
source of it lies deeper. The eagerness to locate the new 
phenomenon, to set it in its true place so that we may pass 
from it to the whole complex of facts known to us before it 
broke upon our view, the unwearying efforts to construe it in 
relation to all else disclose the presence of an original, almost 
unconscious, assumption that all that is exists to be known. 
Everything is to be made to stand in some kind of ordered 
relation to our intelligence. All objects of human cognition 
are to be conceived, in the end, as standing in such ordered 
relation that in their totality they constitute an organized 
whole, an intelligible unity, a world. A careful analysis of 
scientific investigation will show that it is controlled by the 
determination to work out this capital assumption. Without 
it there would be no science. That is, all scientific research 
is an attempt to vindicate this assumption by mentally con- 
structing the unity that was presupposed at the outset. This 
is the first discovery we make in answer to the question asked 
a moment ago. 

We can hardly have failed to note, however, the striking 
fact that the manner in which science proceeds to work out the 
assumption seems to be out of harmony with the assumption 
itself. Our "scientific" procedure seems somewhat arbitrary. 
For, instead of taking the world as a unit we proceed straight- 
way to break up the field of study into numerous sections 
in which we arrange groups of objects selected on the basis 
of their common possession of certain characteristics to which 
we desire to limit attention. These separate groups contain 
the materials which are worked up in the various special 
sciences. Each of these goes its own gang. Indeed, one 
might almost say that each of these is pushed to the limit 
obliviously of the others— for the time, at least. Thus in 
the very activity which is supposed to effect mentally the 



THE MOTIVE OF THEOLOGY 385 

unity of all things this unity is broken in pieces — to the alarm 
and confusion of the uninitiated — and then each of these 
groups, more or less arbitrarily selected, is treated as itself a 
unity. Science becomes the sciences. Each is aggressive 
and pushes out in efforts to appropriate territory heretofore 
counted as pertaining to the preserve of another. Notwith- 
standing, the fact that these groups continually overlap and 
that each feels itself impelled to push on to the final solution 
of the riddle of the world rises up as a reminder that the primary 
assumption of an ultimate unity of all things lies latent in 
the consciousness of the scientific student. It is, in truth, 
this particular form of consciousness that operates all the while 
and the seemingly arbitrary division of the entire array of facts 
is understood to be only a matter of convenience and in order 
to avoid confusion, until the various inductions may be 
co-ordinated and the approach made to the ultimate interpre- 
tation, with fuller assurance that the unity is real. All scientific 
processes, therefore, arise out of our capital assumption. The 
unity of all things is an intellectual ideal that calls for its own 
realization. The world must be annexed by our intelligence. 
Every new collocation of materials and every new discovery 
of a law that operates in them marks an advance. There is 
no stopping-place short of the ever beckoning, ever receding 
end when the world shall lie organized in the human conscious- 
ness. 

Now, if theology professes to set forth a knowledge of God, 
in what manner can this (religious) knowledge be distinguished 
from the knowledge whose aims and methods have been roughly 
described in the foregoing? To what different end does 
theology seek to come? If the religious thinker, in the 
presence of his own religious experiences and activities and of 
those religious phenomena that he thinks he observes around 
him, finds himself assuming God as the supreme reality that 
gives meaning to them all, just as the man of science finds 
himself assuming the world as the supreme reality without 



386 THE JOURNAL OF RELIGION 

which he can give no meaning to the facts he observes, must 
not the religious thinker proceed to group and relate and 
interpret the religious facts until they present themselves to 
his mind as an ordered whole according to the methods which 
are used by the scientist ? Most certainly, if religion is to 
have a clear meaning to him. Just in so far as this is accom- 
plished, and no farther, has the latent fundamental assump- 
tion, or consciousness, of God obtained interpretation and 
worth. This is the direction in which religious knowledge 
must move. In this case the ideal of knowledge that is 
progressively realized in the soul is called God, as in the case 
of natural science it is called the world. 

The striking thing about all this is that the body of facts 
considered in both instances is ultimately identical. Neither 
the religious thinker (or theologian) nor the scientist is at 
liberty to leave out of view in the end any single fact, as if it 
were of no account for his purposes. To the religious man 
all facts, whether of the outer world or the inner life, are to be 
viewed as having religious significance; while to the man of 
science all facts must be viewed eventually as natural and 
as having cosmic significance. The two realms are coterminous 
and equally inclusive. For the religious man all things are 
to be unified ultimately in God, and for the man of science 
they are to be unified in an intellectually conceived world. 
Are there then two ultimate unities? Neither religion nor 
science can rest content with an ultimate dualism and, in 
despair of finding a deeper unity underlying this division, 
there seems, for the instant, no alternative to the conclusion 
that God and the world are ultimately equivalents. 

If, in order to escape this conclusion, it is insisted that there 
is, nevertheless, a separate series of facts, such as the exercise 
of religious faith, repentance, hope, love, forgiveness, which 
have a distinctively religious character and on that account 
there may be a special science of religion alongside other special 
sciences and making on its part a special contribution to our 



THE MOTIVE OF THEOLOGY 387 

knowledge, it is to be granted that this is true. But if this 
special science is called theology, this can mean nothing 
more than that theology, like astronomy or biology, becomes 
a stepping-stone to a final science, a philosophy yet to be, that 
will include all the sciences. Or, if in the effort to avoid 
placing theology on a level with the natural sciences and to 
secure for it a realm which the sciences cannot invade, it be 
contended that theology has to do with facts of a distinct 
and higher order made known to our intelligence through 
superintelligent or subliminal processes that reveal the forces 
of another world whose meaning is entirely different, we are 
still no better off. For, in the very act of making themselves 
known to us these higher forces become domiciled in our 
natural mental world and make themselves subject to the 
methods of science. Nor is there any relief to be found in 
the supposition that religion comes to us solely in the mystical 
experience and is therefore not amenable to the requirements 
of our common intellectual activities. For while this view 
seems to leave religion intact and distinctive, it really makes 
religion meaningless and at last sentences theology to death 
by making its task impossible, or else, by denying to theology 
the competency to explain religion, degrades it to the level 
of a profane science with no motive peculiar to itself. The 
man who is interested in this sort of religion is likely in the end 
to discard both science and religion as a clog to the soul. 

Before yielding to the disheartening conclusion to which 
we seem to have come it may be well to inquire whether the 
trouble does not lie in a defective interpretation of the motive 
of science. Certain characteristics of the scientific movement 
deserve more attention than they commonly receive. One of 
these is the liberty we take with the objects of perception 
when we separate them into groups to suit our convenience 
in the pursuit of knowledge, as mentioned above. When we 
separate the data of astronomy from the data of biology, 
biology from chemistry or physics, and physics from 



388 THE JOURNAL OF RELIGION 

psychology, we may seem to be simply adjusting our intelli- 
gence to the facts, the methods of procedure in each case being 
prescribed by the specific character of the material. But 
this is not the whole truth of the matter. It is equally true 
that we adjust the materials to the operations of our intel- 
ligence. The action in question appears to be more or less 
arbitrary. The divisions are more or less for convenience 
as we seek to master the secrets of the universe. One might 
well ask, By what right do we declare that the world shall 
yield to us its secret and by what right do we arrange its 
phenomena conformably with our mental preference or special 
mental purpose ? 

The more this matter is looked into the more impressive 
it appears. The process of knowledge is seen to rest on a 
kind of affirmation on the part of the knower to the effect that 
the world of objective reality shall be subject to the interpre- 
tative and constructive activity of our minds. When this 
declaration is pushed back to its final foundation we find it 
to lie in the sweeping avowal that there shall be a world for us, 
for the phenomena that meet our sense become for us a world 
only in so far as they are construed into unity by our mental 
action. The knowing act carries us back to a legislative enact- 
ment of the human will. 

Will is the controlling force in the knowing process. The 
ability of the ordinary student to compass and organize a 
body of knowledge on any subject depends upon the steady 
concentration of energy along a single path, upon his ability 
to hold himself to the task of mastering a confused assembly 
of facts that challenge his powers. Will-power is the driving 
force. When we look back over the long course by which 
the human mind by a labor prolonged through the ages and 
by a careful treasuring of results, in order that coming ages 
may inherit the acquired wealth, has built up its systems of 
knowledge, we can see that this age-long pursuit of the ideal 
unity into which, as we believe, all things are to suffer them- 



THE MOTIVE OF THEOLOGY 389 

selves ultimately to be built is just one unbroken affirmation of 
the human will. There is and can be no cessation of this action, 
no subsiding into mere receptiveness. No sooner do we reach a 
temporary resting-place in the severe task of comprehending 
the universe by building up a great body of facts into a unitary 
whole than we find our conclusion disturbed by the irruption 
into the area of our knowledge of some recalcitrant phenomenon 
that refuses to become a part of the new-found whole, the new 
order. Instead, however, of desisting from the attempt we 
find ourselves immediately affirming the determination that 
the mass of realities shall become for us an organized and 
consistent whole, and we proceed to reconstruct our world in 
such a manner as will give to the phenomenon in question an 
orderly place in it. That is to say, we decree that there 
shall be a world for our intelligence and we proceed doggedly 
to construct it. 

In so far as this is effected it is accomplished by the har- 
monious co-operation of a host of human intelligences. Each 
member of the multitude of workers in this field brings his 
own contribution and each is finally aware that all are fellow- 
workers. Their several contributions are to be built together 
into one structure. None is a solitary worker and none is 
independent. How many soever may be the directions they 
take, in the end they all will one will. In the specific affirma- 
tion, by each intelligence, of the imperative need of the 
subjection of the world to human ends there is a common 
enactment of the will that is in them all. It is this that 
makes the individual's knowledge real and that makes pro- 
gressive knowledge possible. 

This examination of the knowing process has led to the 
interesting discovery that the significance of science cannot be 
properly stated by saying that pure intelligence, unwilled 
intelligence, fulfils itself in an impersonal manner by its own 
inherent logic. What we do actually find is that humanity 
as such and individual men as constituents of a social human- 



39Q THE JOURNAL OF RELIGION 

ity are intent on the intellectual conquest of the world. They 
determine to make it their own mental possession. They 
project their minds into it and appropriate its wealth to a 
personal end. Science affirms, not so much that the world 
is an actual unity, as that it shall fulfil a comprehensive 
unitary aim, it shall become a practical unity, its meaning 
shall be found in its subservience to a personal, moral end. 

This is but another way of saying that we men are ulti- 
mately superior to the world and that this superiority is to be 
realized in achievement. If a moment ago we found that, 
in the inevitable scientific task of reducing to order the mass of 
unordered facts presented to our percipiency, we were really 
imposing the laws of our intelligence upon the phenomenal 
world, we now find that the work of science obtains its signifi- 
cance and value from the consideration that it is the method of 
our acquisition of a world as the sphere and instrument for the 
perfection of our personality. For that building up of our 
common human lives into great communities where each shares 
the good of all is made possible only by the mastery of the forces 
physical and spiritual that rise up around us and the utilization 
of them as mediums for the mingling of thought and will and 
feeling together, so that we become, as Paul said long ago, 
members of one another. Science is really aiming at building 
up a community of persons and in its vast inductions it is con- 
structing the bonds that shall join them in united aims and 
action. Great communities of men can be built up no other- 
wise. 

The correctness of this view of the matter is confirmed by 
the fact, so well attested today, that every new discovery of 
the forces of the universe and the mode of their operation is 
promptly turned to a personal, practical use. The discoveries 
of science do not remain mere formulas drawn up on paper. 
They are forthwith embodied in some structure or invention 
that places them at the disposal of a waiting world of men. 
Here is revealed the tacit assumption of all men that the world 



TEE MOTIVE OF THEOLOGY 391 

exists for a personal end. This is one of the universal human 
dogmas, acted upon long before it is formulated in a proposi- 
tional form. Knowledge, therefore, has value in that it 
ministers to action. Intelligence is tributary to will. The 
laws of thought obtain their force from their relation to the 
laws of conduct. Science becomes in its higher meaning 
ethics. 

Science, therefore, becomes a sort of moral legislation. 
It prescribes the direction which action must take if it is to 
be successful in reaching the end in view. It serves to guide 
the personal will that seeks to fulfil itself in action within a 
world suited to itself. In formulating the laws of nature men 
are truly legislating for themselves, they are revealing to them- 
selves the way they must take in order to attain the object of life. 
While science seems at first glance to be concerned with the 
question, What is ? it is really concerned in the end with the 
question, What is to be ? It is prevenient, piloting men on 
their way, indicating the channels in which their movements 
onward will be clear and safe. Science is translating the 
world into terms of human future good. The world is what it 
is to us because of what we are, and we are what we are because 
of what we are to be. 

The last statement carries us far into the realm of ethics. 
It is not possible, in the present connection, to construct in 
detail and from the foundation this ethical interpretation of 
life. All that can be done is to present it in bare outline 
and somewhat dogmatically. 

It has been pointed out that the creation of a body of 
knowledge is necessarily dependent on the mutual co-operation 
of a multitude of intelligences and that these mutually 
co-operating intelligences accomplish their task through the 
driving power of their united wills. These united wills express 
the common will that the world shall be a unitary whole. 
The imperative decree that there shall be a world is issued in 
execution of the will that there be a sphere in which men may 



392 THE JOURNAL OF RELIGION 

fulfil the potencies of their being. Knowledge is tributary 
to action, intelligence executes the behest of will. Science is 
preparing norms of conduct, operating in the interest of 
morality. It rises to ethics. 

Again, in the realm of ethics, as in the processes of knowl- 
edge, there is no isolated action, no separated individual 
whose conduct is concerned solely with a fixed norm that stands 
over him and judges him. Morality is a community affair. 
Moral action arises only when there is membership in a com- 
munity life. The moral career becomes a possibility where 
men are members of one another. Only thus can there be 
an advance to a higher moral realm on the part of anyone. 
That is to say, progress to a higher moral life is possible only 
if there is a moral world in which men may come to their 
best. This moral world does not stand over there against us 
as an objective existence complete in itself independently of the 
activities of the beings who occupy it, but, as in the world 
of knowledge, it is brought into actual being through the 
combined activities of mutually complementary wills. The 
human will cannot be satisfied with anything short of a world 
in which its activity may reach to perfection. While, empiric- 
ally speaking, one might say that there are as many worlds 
as there are personal wills, yet each of these personalities 
finds himself and makes his estimate of himself only in and 
through other and finally all other, personalities. This fact 
is never lost sight of in the process of making our moral 
world, so that this moral world which is constituted by the 
mutually complementary activities of a multitude of personal 
wills expresses one common will and for that reason is one 
world. 

It is to be observed that every affirmation of the human 
will refers to the future. It is an effort to reach out to a good 
beyond the present. That good is personal, that is, it is a 
better state of one's self. It is guided by a vision of a finally 
perfect state and it is in effect a declaration that our future 



THE MOTIVE OF THEOLOGY 393 

self shall be perfect. It is this future self or personality that 
gives to our present self its character and worth. This it is 
that ever beckons us on to further achievement. But, con- 
formably with the view that our moral world must be a world 
of moral communion, this future self, which is so meaningful 
to us now and reigns over us so imperiously, must be so rich 
and comprehensive in its nature that it embraces the whole 
human community in its sweep. That perfect self must find 
itself and fulfil itself in a world in which a universe of personal 
existences can find, each for himself, its perfection. Each 
member of this great family finds himself determined to this 
ideal. In this sense they all will one will. 

There is a common will operating in all the true achieve- 
ments of men. There is one Will common to our human 
wills as we seek to make the world of moral action in which 
we shall live. This is the Will which is ever working in our 
unperfect self and bringing it to its ideal. This is the Will 
which is to be actually ours but to which we never actually 
attain because our true life is always in the future. This is 
the supreme legislative Will that makes our individual and 
common legislative will effective. There can be no denial of 
this Will if we are to live at all. Our task in the field of 
knowledge and of action becomes, therefore, imperative. We 
exercise legislative power because we are under legislative 
authority. Hence our acquisition of knowledge as well as 
our moral conduct becomes an act of moral obedience. 

We have found, then, that knowledge is tributary to the 
action of will and that it is an interpretation of will. The 
world of knowledge is to serve the interest of the personality 
as it reaches forward to a perfection yet to come. The mastery 
of the world by intellect is subservient to self-affirmation and 
self-achievement. The Will that dominates our activity is 
the will of the ideal self. The activity of our present self 
is in obedience to the imperative of that self. This is the same 
as saying that it is in obedience to the command of God. 



394 THE JOURNAL OF RELIGION 

It appears, therefore, that our interest in God is not to be 
distinguished from the interest in personality at its best. 

Of an activity of God outside of this will that is immanent 
in human personalities who gather up into themselves the 
meaning of the whole world, we have no experience and, 
properly speaking, no knowledge. When we try to predicate 
action by such an outside will we find ourselves destitute of 
any means of describing the character of it. The only terms 
we can use to describe it are those that carry us into the 
realm of the moral experience. May it be said, then, that if, 
on the one hand, knowledge has been elevated to the realm 
of moral action and science to ethics, on the other hand, religion 
and theology seem to have been reduced to this level and the 
interest in God lowered to the interest in man? If this 
conclusion repels us shall we seek to escape from it by making 
an absolute distinction between God and the human person- 
ality, between morality and religion and between ethics and 
theology ? Not so. For this is to make each of the opposing 
terms meaningless in relation to its opposite and reduces all 
to confusion. A better solution will be found through finding 
a fuller interpretation of moral effort. The true meaning of 
morality is apprehended only when it is transmuted into 
religion. Without this it would be meaningless. 

Again I must beg my reader's indulgence while I state the 
matter somewhat dogmatically, since a full discussion of the 
subject would fill a volume. Special attention must be given 
to two important facts. The first is that in making the 
discovery that I am a subject under the necessity of obedience 
to the will of that ideal which is the perfection of my own 
personality and in discovering that the will of that ideal 
self is that which gives meaning and force to my present 
personal will, I also become aware that I am already advancing 
toward that ideal. The same is true on that lower plane 
(as it seems) of the process of gaining knowledge. The world 
as an ordered and integrated whole is the ideal of knowledge 



THE MOTIVE OF THEOLOGY 395 

that ever incites our intelligence to progress. But this ideal 
never stands before the human mind as a bare abstract com- 
pleteness of knowledge. It is ever an efficacious ideal. It 
reveals itself to the intelligence in an actual progressive 
knowledge that rises from a lower stage to a higher stage and 
it proves its efficacy by constantly unfolding itself in a higher 
meaning for the mind that transcends the lower stage. In 
other words, the intellectual ideal possesses "saving efficacy" 
in the realm of knowledge. 

Similarly of the realm of action into which, as we have seen, 
this realm of knowledge has been sublimated. The ideal 
moral self is no mere abstract categorical imperative which 
eternally urges our human spontaneity forward, but which 
becomes separated from our everyday deeds by a great fixed 
gulf over which we can throw no bridge. The ideal self is 
efficacious. It produces moral progress. Indeed, it is in our 
moral progress that we become able to recognize the ideal. 
In the very awareness that it exists for us we become aware 
that we have passed beyond the stage where we stood prior 
to this discovery of the better state. By the very fact that 
the personal ideal commands us to rise to it we are made to 
approach it. The ideal has become in part already real to us. 
To this extent it has saved us from our former lower self. It 
is a power of salvation to everyone that believes, to everyone 
that recognizes its authority. "The law of life," as we often 
describe it, is seen to be merely a lower expression of the grace 
of fife. Our final interest in this ideal is the interest of salva- 
tion. That is to say, the moral imperative becomes an inspira- 
tion and a hope. In discovering the high aim which we must 
seek we find ourselves subjects of an elevating power that 
delivers us from the lower state. We are recipients of salva- 
tion. Morality, properly understood, takes on the character 
of religion, of faith in a saving power working in us. 

That this is the case even in the scientific study of nature 
can be seen by a little reflection. It is true, indeed, as has 



396 THE JOURNAL OF RELIGION 

been already pointed out, that in the pursuit of natural science 
there is an effort to impose the forms of our thought upon 
external nature and make it tributary to our ends. The 
whole truth of the matter, however, is not thereby stated. 
The fact that the man of science endeavors to see nature as 
she is and without importing into the objective facts anything 
alien or merely subjective indicates that there is a mutual 
activity between the investigating human intelligence and the 
world of fact that yields itself to the action of mind. Intel- 
ligence interrogates nature and nature yields her ready answer 
as soon as the inquirer is ready for it. Nay, she herself calls 
forth the inquiry by her very presence, and her reply in the 
terms of fact and law are her free and hearty bestowment 
upon him who seeks her face. In all the activity of knowing 
the mind is receptive and is aware of its receptivity. Nature 
by her very presence to our minds saves us from dullness and 
ignorance and arouses us to the conquest of herself. Should 
this truth be forgotten by the man of science the poet will 
remind him of it. The salvation which science seeks comes 
to us from beyond ourselves. It is a gift. There is something 
in nature that seeks us out and prompts us to seek it in response. 

These two activities, our search and nature's stimulus, are 
not really successive; they are coincident. They are mutually 
implicated. They are one. The saving activity by which 
we become possessed of nature's secret is produced within us 
continually by that in nature which is beyond us and more 
than we. The process by which we work out our mental 
salvation in subjugating the facts of nature by the forces of 
mind and stamping them with the seal of mind is itself in 
part owing to the power beyond us which at the same time is 
truly working in us. 

The second outstanding fact to be noticed is that all ad- 
vancement from the lower to the higher, whether in the realm 
of the distinctively intellectual, the moral or the religious, is 
of a social nature and socially conditioned. Each man's 



THE MOTIVE OF THEOLOGY 397 

progress in any one of these realms is made possible by his 
relation to a community of persons every one of whom operates 
upon his capacity by way of depression or of stimulus. "As 
iron sharpeneth iron, so the face of a man his fellow." There 
is a mutuality of reception and of impartation. None grows 
except through fellowship in this community of interest. 
Thus even the study of the objective material world becomes 
a study of human social achievement. This carries us into 
the moral realm. Morality itself is meaningless except as a 
fulfilment of social relations. The same is true of religious 
faith. There is no salvation outside of the communion of 
faith. Faith is communicated as truly as moral motive or 
intellectual stimulus. 

Not equally by all. The impulse to the higher life comes 
to us with peculiar power from some worthier personality 
that has impinged on our consciousness, disclosing to us our 
inferiority and at the same time — perhaps unwittingly to us 
at first — the possibility of our rising to this better state. In a 
greater or lesser degree such a personality communicates to us 
the power to become as he is and to this extent saves us. The 
outstanding fact in all human progress is that our lives are 
elevated correspondingly with our attachment to a worthy 
dominating personality, whether it be the parent, the teacher, 
the companion, the prophet, the martyr, or the Christ. 

This fact has been so fully recognized that there is little 
need of establishing it here. The history of the world shows 
that the formation of communities of men animated by the 
common purpose of betterment and mutually working for 
advancement in it depends on their having come into the sphere 
of the influence flowing from a personality who stands before 
them as the embodiment of what they all fain would be in that 
particular realm. The community finds the center of gravity 
of its life in this dominating personality. The explanation of 
its social progress is found in its loyal attachment to this person 
because he is to them, in himself, the embodiment and the 



398 THE JOURNAL OF RELIGION 

revelation of their own possibilities. This is pre-eminently 
true of the Christian community. To the members of this 
community Christ is the end of law because he is the perfection 
of personality and thereby becomes to them the source of 
their attainment of this end. He is Savior. While to the 
Greek, for whom the meaning of the world was the problem 
immediately at hand, the ideal man was he who possesses 
perfect knowledge; and while to the Jew, for whom the moral 
significance of life was the problem immediately at hand, the 
ideal man was he who obeys perfectly the moral law; to the 
Christian, to whom the worth of personality is the thing to be 
realized, the ideal man is the Savior. Thus while the true 
worth of knowledge is manifest when it is apprehended as 
tributary to the action which seeks the law of its direction, 
so also the moral law becomes effective only when it has been 
sublimated to grace. 

The foregoing discussion seems to have established the 
following positions: the scientific endeavor to embrace by a 
series of converging movements of investigation the whole 
of the phenomena presented to our percipiency is no mere 
curious interest to know things as they are in their unity. 
The comprehension of a static whole satisfies no man. The 
impulse to know stands in no separate or independent relation 
to the world but it is itself a part of the whole of our human 
activity world-ward. The motive to knowledge is embraced 
within the motive to action and ministers to action. The 
tremendous efforts of the scientific mind to present to itself a 
universe as an organized and integrated unity are pursuant to 
the task of fulfilling a moral imperative. The way to this 
end is in and through the universe from which the subject 
of activity is inseparable and of which he is a denizen. The 
formulas of science are guide-lines for practice. They point 
out the direction and the means by which the great conquest 
of the ideal may be achieved. The value of scientific investiga- 
tion is subject ultimately to a practical test and the impulse 



THE MOTIVE OF THEOLOGY 399 

that arouses it is a moral impulse. The scientific task must 
be performed because the man must live. His life has its 
meaning in an ideal the attainment of which is, on one side of 
it, deliverance from the lower life of the past and the present — 
it is salvation. The name God is another name for this ideal 
which enables a man to move toward the self-fulfilment that 
lies in it at the same time that it commands him to do so. 
The ultimate interest of science and the interest in God are 
one — the interest in human betterment, human perfection, 
human salvation. 

The motive of theology lies in the human interest in God. 
The pursuit of the ever beckoning, ever receding ideal that 
lures us on in the search for knowledge and the effort at self- 
betterment must be abandoned at last unless there be an assur- 
ance that the endeavor is not to fail. May the ideal be 
attained ? May men be finally saved ? Is human life possessed 
of such a quality as guarantees salvation? Is the world so 
constituted that its immanent energies and the modes of their 
activity operate in this same direction ? Is the world inter- 
pretable as the arena in which this human salvation is wrought 
out? Theology is an attempt to answer these questions in 
the affirmative and to justify the answer. It is an attempt 
to vindicate the faith that there is a God whose name is love 
in that he not only is that perfect personality to attain to 
whom is salvation, but he is that personality who so effectuates 
in us the worth of himself that the end is assured. 

The being of God is the guaranty of the worth of human 
endeavor. Our heart and flesh cry out for the living God 
because without him our life must lose its meaning and its 
aim. If there were no God the demand for perfection 
must issue in despair because of our conscious impotence. 
The only escape from it would lie in the extinction of 
consciousness and will. Against such a mockery of life 
all scientific endeavor and all moral struggle is a protest 
and a defiance. 



400 THE JOURNAL OF RELIGION 

In this discussion it is not forgotten that science deliberately 
sets limits for itself. It deliberately excludes the play of 
personal interest or preference in order that its processes may 
be unprejudiced and trustworthy. But if these limits are 
regarded as absolute they are imposed arbitrarily. For no 
man dare be less than himself. The truth is, they are only 
provisional. In order that greater accuracy may be secured 
the range of action is limited for the time being. But the 
limitations are necessarily transcended when the larger question 
of the meaning of the whole life is raised. Then it is that the 
man of science discovers that his human interest is the nerve 
of his whole scientific procedure. He is trying to solve the 
meaning of the whole of human life and is truly taking the 
common things in it and giving them a sacred value. He must 
become a moralist and the moralist must become a theologian. 
The limits which science and ethics set for themselves 
temporarily theology consciously and deliberately transcends. 
Thereby it saves science and ethics from decay and death. 

The motive of theology is not alien to the motives that 
operate in our achievements in other directions. It carries 
these motives up into the highest realm and vindicates their 
worth and efficacy. Hence it descends from the highest 
heights to the deepest depths of human life, inspects the 
commonest things that men do and say with the hope of 
discovering something divine and eternal there and seeks to 
exhibit them in their final significance. If there were no 
science of nature, if there were no science of human action, 
if there were no philosophical interpretation of all existence 
as an ultimate unity, theology must bring them into being, 
for without them its task would fall away. 

We are well aware that a very different view of the matter 
has prevailed among theologians until recently. Orthodoxy 
has declared that man is universally a fallen creature, that 
the course of his nature is persistently downward and that 
deliverance can come only by means of an irruption into his 



THE MOTIVE OF THEOLOGY 401 

natural life of an extra-natural power of an entirely different 
order. The common is the bad. Mysticism has said that 
the world of sense-given fact is not the arena in which salvation 
is wrought out but that it is an impediment to the soul's 
attainment of its goal and must be set aside and abandoned 
if we would find the God of our salvation. Both of these 
relegate natural science and ethics to the realm of the non- 
religious and the undivine and they would make all secular 
interest the opposite of the interest in God. 

Yet it is plain that neither of these has been quite content 
with this divorce of nature and man from God and the knowl- 
edge of his salvation. For orthodoxy has attempted to set 
forth the order of the divine, extra-natural, operation manward, 
that is, to present a science of it, and in so doing has found 
itself using the canons of thought that pertain to the natural 
order — thereby making the supernatural natural. Mysticism 
also has felt itself impelled by its assumption of truly know- 
ing God to reflect back that knowledge on this world as the 
true clue to its interpretation. Both orthodoxy and mysticism 
have thus tacitly admitted the failure of the negative answer 
to the question whether the world is the arena of the working 
of salvation and the instrument of it. A true theology gives 
the affirmative answer and thereby brings comfort and strength 
to the religious spirit. 

Summarily, then, the motive of theology lies in the longing 
of the human heart for the assurance of the validity of the 
conviction that there is an all-perfect personality who is produc- 
ing in us the longing for fellowship with himself; who is the 
source of all those beneficent institutions and enterprises by 
which mankind have been conducted along their homeward 
way; whose progress is wrought out through the illimitable 
forces of the universe; and whose spirit is the inspiration of 
all those who seek, in reverence for and devotion to humanity, 
to interpret this universe in the forms of thought that are 
expressive of the human intelligence at its best.