We shall do well to preface our positive discussion of the way into reality in religious thought and life by a brief but comprehensive survey of the presumptive evidence of the reality and significance of the spiritual life, in view of its connections with the great present trends of thought, and in view of the inevitably fundamental nature of religion.

If the spiritual life is to become for us an assured and significant reality, it must seem to us, as we have seen, both to be inextricably knit up with all else that we count most real, and also to have its own distinct and valuable contribution to make to life. Both things must be true, if the spiritual life is to become for us of fundamental importance. This chapter and the next are devoted to showing briefly how Christianity meets the first demand,—to pointing out the indissoluble connection of the Christian thought and life with the realest trends of our own times.

If one thinks, then, of those trends of thought which are realest for our own time, and seeks to test the spiritual life by them, he would probably have to say: that first, religion must meet the test of psychology; secondly, the test of a social, and therefore an ethical consciousness; and that would mean, in the third place, that the spiritual life must be fully awake to the reality and meaning of the personal; fourth, it must possess a scientific sense of law and unity; and, finally, it must be able, as well, to meet the historical and philosophical test.

The limits of this book do not permit a full treatment of any of these different tests; but we may consider briefly, in reverse order, their application to Christianity.

Christianity, then, may not shrink from either a historical or philosophical investigation. Least of all, in a scientific age, can it claim the right to withdraw itself from the testing of long experience. And the Christian religion can retain for the modern man its full significance only if it can meet just this test. And, in the same way, if a careful historical study of Christianity, as it manifests itself in the life of the race, side by side with other religions, does not prove the superiority of Christianity, its supreme claims cannot seem to us ultimately justified. Inevitably, whether it will or not, every religion is steadily undergoing such a test, and is being tried out by a relentless application of the principle of the survival of the fittest. It is hardly open to doubt, that, so tested, the teaching, ideals, and religion of Jesus verify themselves to an extent scarcely approached by any other point of view.

In a similar sense, Christianity cannot withdraw itself from philosophical investigation. However great may be one's sympathy with many of Ritschl's positives, the thoughtful man can hardly deny the justice of Dr. Bruce's criticism of Ritschl because of his refusal to recognize that philosophy has any legitimate task in the realm of religion. As Dr. Bruce says: "The horror of metaphysics is a reaction to be transcended." "The Christian religion implies a theory of the universe." "If Christ's doctrine is true, there ought to be something in the world to verify it." Quite in harmony with this criticism, was Professor Everett's belief that the mistake of the Ritschlians lay in separating wholly from philosophy, from the great movements of history, and from natural religion. There are plain dangers, then, in a view that tries to withdraw Christianity from the philosophical test. First, there is the danger of failing to see that one may so over-emphasize the uniqueness of the revelation of God in Christ as to take it out of its connection with all other reality, and so tend to make it unreal. A second danger is that of underestimating the revelation of God in our own natures. These, too, we may not forget, are, upon any sane view, from God,—the same God who has revealed himself in Christ. There will probably be some indication of this identity of origin. Christianity must fit human nature and the whole man. And the way in which Christianity fits man must finally be regarded as its greatest proof, and must even underlie our belief in Christ himself.

Still another danger of such a view is that it should fail to see the necessity of a unified Christian view of the world. If the Christian is to be at the same time a thinker, he cannot avoid the attempt to bring the different sides of his experience into relation to each other, and into a final unity. It is quite true that this philosophical attempt is not the introduction to religion, and is not its foundation; but it is a needed supplement for, at least, the intellectual peace of even the individual Christian soul. And so long as this need of an ultimate unity is not met, the Christian religion must still seem in some degree irrational and unreal; for it will not seem to one to fit the world as he finds it.

The believer in the Christian thought and life, therefore, if he sees things aright, must himself desire that philosophy should freely apply its own tests to Christianity, though he may have a clear sense that the philosophical consideration must at best be no adequate measure of the whole significance of religion. The most direct proof that Christianity does not fail to meet the test of the best philosophical thought of our time is found, perhaps, in the general acceptance of the Christian ethical ideal, and in the predominant ethical note of our ablest philosophical thinkers, and the way in which they make even metaphysics root in ethics. The significance, even for philosophy, of the great personalities of history is also a growing conviction.

So, too, it is quite impossible for one to belong to the present generation and not demand that religion shall show, from the scientific point of view, some sense of law and unity in the spiritual life. This will mean, no doubt, on the one hand, the growing recognition of the immanence of God, and, on the other hand, the perception that the laws of the spiritual world are chiefly the laws of personal relations. On the one hand, then, as Professor Coe has said,[1] "the sense of a divine presence can and does penetrate all human faculties. It is not limited to special occasions, or to moments of exaltation. . . . . In a word, the religious experience is what we should expect it to be if the doctrine of the immanence of God is true." And, on the other hand, if the spiritual life is the highest life of spirits, of persons, then its fundamental laws, it would seem, must be the laws of deepening personal relations with men and with God. Subsidiary laws, doubtless, there will be, but all closely related to these fundamental laws. Christianity is quite able to meet this scientific demand. Indeed, science's assertion of the universality of law is only a "disguised expression" for the final Unity of things, so strongly asserted by a theistic view. And the more surely the Christian believes in a "faithful Creator," the more surely will he rest in the great recognized laws of the spiritual, as well as the material world.

And, again, for a generation to which the personal means more than to any that has preceded, religion must be peculiarly marked with a sense of the value and sacredness of the person.

And this sense can hardly fail to dominate any theology that is to meet the deeper demand of our times.

In a precisely similar way, our conception of religion must meet the very marked social and ethical consciousness of our time. When one tries to see exactly what the social consciousness involves, it will be found to include the sense of the fundamental likeness of men, of their inevitable mutual influence, of the value and sacredness of the individual person, as well as the sense of obligation to others, and love. The very statement of these elements of the social consciousness suggests how surely akin they are to the demands of the Christian spirit, how certainly, indeed, they have grown naturally, out of Christ's conception of every man as a child of God. And that "rational ethical democracy," to which the social evolution looks, is hardly other than the "civilization of brotherly men" of the Kingdom of God.[2]

[1] The Religion of a Mature Mind, pp. 342-343.

[2] For the detailed argument cf. King: Theology and the Social Consciousness, Chapters V-XII.