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BOOK REVIEWS 



HOW SHALL WE CONCEIVE THE PERSONALITY OF GOD? 1 

The most searching inquiry of the religious mind today is concerning 
the possibility of a definite belief in God. The popular theology of 
past centuries made frank use of anthropomorphic analogies, and suc- 
ceeded in bringing to clear consciousness the conception of a definite 
personal figure with whom men might have intimate relationships. 
But as the principles of modern scientific and philosophical thinking 
have become dominant, the older anthropomorphism becomes incredible, 
and the loved picture of God as a compassionate Father grows dim. If 
the Christian faith is to persist in its accustomed form, some way must 
be found in which to make real the idea of personality in God. 

It is to this task that Mr. Webb devotes himself in the Gifford 
Lectures. His previous studies in the field of theological and philo- 
sophical thought in antiquity and during the Middle Ages admirably 
equip him for an exact and historically correct understanding of the precise 
meaning of theological terminology in the history of Christian thinking. 
From the point of view of literature, the lectures are a delight. The 
author is thoroughly at home in his subject, he possesses a charming 
style, and his spirit of fairness and courtesy is unfailing. The wealth 
of allusions, the many side lights, and the attempt to do justice to all 
phases of a question furnish an unusually stimulating discussion. Yet 
there is preserved an exactness of philosophical reasoning, and an insist- 
ence on some abstruse considerations, which lead one to marvel at the 
intellectual capacity of the audience which listened to these discussions 
without the aid of the printed page. 

Mr. Webb attempts first by a critical study of historical phases of 
thought to ascertain exactly what the concept of personality means. 
It cannot be said that he succeeds in giving us a very definite picture. 
But the fault lies in the difficulty of the concept itself. The definition 

'God and Personality. (Gifford Lectures, 1918 and 1919: First Course.) By Clem- 
ent C. J. Webb. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1918; New York: Macmillan. 
281 pages. $3.00. 

Divine Personality and Human Life. (Gifford Lectures, 1918 and 1919: Second 
Course.) By Clement C. J. Webb. London: George Allen & Unwin; New York: 
Macmillan, 1920. 291 pages. $3.00. 

55° 



BOOK REVIEWS 551 

of Boethius, Persona est naturae rationabilis individua substantia, is 
considered, on the whole, as about the best description available. On 
the basis of this definition attempts are made to differentiate personality 
from mere individuality and from mere rationality. It is discovered 
that what is really important in the concept of personality is the possi- 
bility of social relationships between persons. But the Boethian defini- 
tion, designed as it is to analyze metaphysical substance, is a poor 
starting-point for the discussion of the social implications of personality. 
Those who are accustomed to thinking in terms of modern social psy- 
chology will feel the discussion to be curiously medieval in spirit and 
method. 

One of the interesting and valuable conclusions of Mr. Webb is that 
Christian theology, until very recent times, has never ventured to affirm 
the personality of God. It has asserted personality in God. God is 
not a person. This would be such an individualizing of him that he 
could no longer be considered the Absolute. The doctrine of a finite 
God is hopelessly wrecked here. But there is that in the character of 
the Absolute which makes possible reciprocal personal relationships 
between God and the worshiper. This personality in God, Mr. Webb 
finds to be well stated in the Christian doctrine of the trinity, with its 
three "persons" in the Godhead. 

The evidence for this personal aspect of the divine nature is to be 
found exclusively in the religious experience of personal communion 
with God. While this conception may be made rationally plausible, it 
is yet possible to defend other conceptions of the Absolute if the testi- 
mony of the religious consciousness be left out of account. The whole 
case, then, rests ultimately on the testimony of a profound religious 
consciousness. The book thus is really a very careful and suggestive 
study of definitions. Granted the legitimacy of the testimony of the 
mystic consciousness, Mr. Webb asks how we may best think of the 
transcendent source of that personal relationship which we experience 
in religion. It is evident that those who demand a study based on the 
history of religions will not find it here. The argument moves entirely 
in the older field of definition of concepts. The author seems to be 
almost unaware of the interest which modern students find in tracing 
the psychological and social genesis of concepts. 

The second course follows in the footsteps of the first. The various 
aspects of our human life are considered, and it is argued that the fields 
of economics, science, aesthetics, morals, politics, and religion are all 
better interpreted with the help of the conception of personality in the 
Absolute than by any other alternative. There are, of course, suggestive 



552 THE JOURNAL OF RELIGION 

considerations at every turn; but the general positions are, on the whole, 
very familiar to students of apologetics. In short, the two volumes are 
valuable chiefly as an apologetic for that concept of God which was 
developed by the Christian thinkers who employed the categories and 
the method of Greek metaphysics. And if the metaphysical presupposi- 
tions be granted, it is a most effective presentation. What many readers 
will miss is an apprehension of the problems presented by the empirical 
point of view embodied in modern psychology and history. 

Gerald Birney Smith 
University op Chicago 



THE SOCIAL IDEALS OF THE OLD TESTAMENT 1 

This is a book on theory, not history. The author is attempting 
to point out what the people thought on social matters in a given period, 
regardless of the practice of the time or of the historical basis of their 
theories. Following the chronology of the modern school, he classifies 
the materials of the Old Testament in four large sections; viz., "The Age 
of the Patriarchs"; "Moses to Samuel"; "The Monarchy"; and "The 
Exilic and Post-Exilic Epoch." All the New Testament materials are 
used without discrimination in the two chapters composing the last one- 
third of the book, the one on the "Christian Ideal" and the other on 
the "Social Institutions of Early Christianity." His warrant for so 
doing is that this book takes as its unit the doctrine of an epoch, not of 
individual teachers. Again the writer is interested, not in origins, but 
in use. 

Two important assumptions underlie the entire development of the 
thesis: (i) in the Bible, sociology waits upon theology, and (2) the theory 
of society is naturally a branch of ethics. The author's ethical creed is 
evolutionary, idealistic, and Christian. One is therefore impressed that 
the book as a whole is a fairly good biblical theology, for, as the author 
holds, his sociology constantly merges into theology. This is the more 
clearly brought out when it is noted that in the compilation of the present 
book from the original thesis, three important social topics — "Work," 
Womanhood," and "Wealth" — have been omitted, and that "yet with- 
out them the book has perhaps a true unity." With the omission of 
such important materials, one scarcely hopes to find unity from the 
social point of view. 

1 The Bible Doctrine of Society in Its Historical Evolution. Charles Ryder Smith. 
Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, xviii+400 pages. 18s.