Coleridge and Liberal Religious Thought: Romanticism, Science and Theological Tradition 9780755625307, 9781848850897

Few figures who were active in the English Romantic Movement are as fascinating as Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834).

179 104 1MB

English Pages [214] Year 2010

Report DMCA / Copyright

DOWNLOAD FILE

Polecaj historie

Coleridge and Liberal Religious Thought: Romanticism, Science and Theological Tradition
 9780755625307, 9781848850897

Citation preview

coleridge 4.9.9.qxd

8/9/09 2:24 PM

Page 5

To the memory of George Frederick Woods

coleridge 4.9.9.qxd

8/9/09 2:24 PM

Page 6

coleridge 4.9.9.qxd

8/9/09 2:24 PM

Page 9

Foreword

Graham Neville died on 15th September 2008, just as agreement had been reached with I.B.Tauris for the publication of Coleridge and Liberal Religious Thought. His family are grateful to the staff at I.B.Tauris, in particular to Alex Wright and Jayne Hill, for their continuing support and guidance during the period of preparation for publication. Graham Neville was a scholar, a priest and a teacher, whose published work began in 1961 with The Advent Hope, a study of Chapter 13 of St Mark’s Gospel. The introduction to this book ends with the exhortation ‘Come, let us reason together’, an invitation to a process in which he delighted, and which sets the scene for much of his published work, whether in articles or in books such as City of our God (1971) and the later Free Time: Towards a Theology of Leisure (2004). He was always keen to discuss his developing ideas. The Advent Hope was written at an early stage in his career when, after a period as chaplain to Sheffield University, a post which developed his life-long interest in education, he was rector of two country parishes in Northamptonshire, and was juggling scholarship and parish life. Later posts included that of chaplain at the Church of England’s new training college for teachers, Christ Church College, Canterbury, together with spells at a boys’ school and at Eastbourne College of Education. His interest in education and the diversity of his ministry led to his final post as Diocesan Director of Education for Lincoln diocese, where he was from 1980 to 1987, and where he became a canon and prebendary of Lincoln Cathedral. It was at Lincoln that he came to write on early twentieth-century church history, contributing a chapter on ‘The Churches and Religious Life’ to Twentieth Century Lincolnshire (1989). He subsequently edited the diaries of Edward Lee Hicks, bishop of Lincoln from 1910 to 1919, and published the biographical study of Bishop Hicks, Radical Churchman: Edward Lee Hicks and the New Liberalism (1998), work which gained him a Cambridge PhD. Coleridge and Liberal Religious Thought is the fruit of many years of discussion of and reflection on the development of a theological tradition in which science and the truth ix

coleridge 4.9.9.qxd

x

8/9/09 2:24 PM

Page 10

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

of Christ go together. Graham Neville’s interest in the tradition was perhaps first aroused by G.F. Woods, whose lectures he attended in Cambridge during his studies for the Theological Tripos after the Second World War, and to whose memory he dedicated this book. Over the next sixty years, in parallel with his other work and interests, he continued to explore the ideas of Coleridge himself, and of the many others whom he was influenced by or influenced, from John Donne to Horace Bushnell, F.D. Maurice and F.J.A. Hort. It is fortunate that this work was completed and had found a sympathetic publisher before his death. His family can only deeply regret that he will not be there to enjoy the ‘reasoning together’ with readers which he hoped would follow its publication. Julia Neville

coleridge 4.9.9.qxd

8/9/09 2:24 PM

Page 11

Preface On the Idea of Tradition

Coleridge was a complex person, and the literature about him is correspondingly complex. The simple reader, working through the volumes of his correspondence and notebooks, is inclined to wonder whether there was anything that was sayable in his lifetime which he did not say, at least in reference to the human mind. This has meant inevitably that the range of critical responses to him has been wide and diverse. Each response has been revealing, sometimes of Coleridge but nearly always of his critics. There has been the eccentric view that the only good things in his writings were the ‘shamanistic’ elements in a few of his poems – all else was waste.1 He has been criticized as misunderstanding Kant, as though Kant is the standard by which he is to be judged. His theology has been held up to the light of Catholic orthodoxy and has been given a hopeful ‘pass’. Then there are those who lose patience and sympathy with him over the failings of his personal life or his inability to free himself from the tyranny of opium.2 No questions seem to be finally settled. Almost every year sees the publication of articles and books about this ‘Archangel a little damaged’ (in Charles Lamb’s memorable phrase). The Coleridgean ‘tradition’ continues. Religious interest is sustained, among other things, by his very failings. He was always a disciple of Jesus, and as his theology developed it was conditioned by his self-knowledge. He knew about sin, and he ached for love. In a self-critical moment he imagined himself up for auction: ‘A rare Subject – rather fat indeed – but remarkable as a fine specimen of a broken heart’.3 The depth of his emotional experiences put a limit to his trust in the workings of his analytic intellect. He was sure there was another source of truth, where the given structure of the human mind responded to the gifts of revelation. The aim of this book is not to make an assessment of Coleridge as a person, nor even to give a comprehensive view of his attempt to construct an all-embracing system of ideas. Its purpose is to trace a theological tradition, in some of its ramifications. A ‘tradition’ is not the same as a ‘legacy’ or an ‘inheritance’. Those other terms properly refer to an intention of one person to give and others to receive something specified. 1

coleridge 4.9.9.qxd

2

8/9/09 2:24 PM

Page 12

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

Coleridge himself changed his mind about what he wanted to leave as his memorial. A tradition is less well-defined. It stands for an extended process of receiving and handing on. The moments in that process may seem to be clearly defined, as with Paul’s words to the Corinthian Christians: ‘I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you.’4 Even here there is some ambiguity. At each moment there may be forgetting or elaboration; there may be conscious or unconscious selection. This selectivity corresponds to Coleridge’s own account of reading the scriptures and treasuring whatever in them ‘finds’ the reader. This does not rule out further stages in finding meaning. There is the possibility of a prolonged interaction. Such an understanding of tradition makes irrelevant all accusations of plagiarism commonly levelled at Coleridge. He was blessed, or plagued, with a remarkable memory. As a young radical at Cambridge he was said to be able to repeat the contents of the latest pamphlet after a single reading to an admiring company. In later life his well-stocked memory made it hard for him to distinguish clearly what he had himself thought from what he had read in someone else’s writings. In fact, he wasn’t chiefly interested in doing so. His focus was what was in his own mind, with all its incorporated memories. He had a degree of contempt for those who claimed originality. This was the gist of his criticism of Locke, whose leading ideas he said he could precisely parallel in earlier writers. His thoughtworld was a world of tradition, of continuity with development. There was a grand comprehensive truth towards which a company of believers was on the move. He did not inhabit an academic world where every quotation must be acknowledged in a footnote. You did your own thinking and were pleased to find some of your own thoughts had been shared by others. That was an attitude which could be misunderstood. It easily looked like hypocrisy, but could sometimes be just forgetfulness. J.H. Newman declared in old age, according to Wilfrid Ward, that he had ‘never read a line of Coleridge’. But there is strong evidence to the contrary.5 Perhaps Newman’s lapse of memory happened because he did not like to think that he might have been indebted to such a man as Coleridge. In what sense, then, can Newman be said to share a ‘common tradition’ with him? One answer, which has been persuasively argued by John Coulson and Stephen Prickett, is that they shared a rich interpretation of language developed in the Romantic movement, and that this was more important than the obvious differences in their explicit theology. Such an idea of ‘tradition’ is very unlike its meaning on the lips of authoritative figures in the ecclesiastical world. Without denying that this tradition of language existed, even if unrecognized as such by those who now seem to stand in it, we may look for a different kind of relationship between theological writers, partly in terms of the content of what they believed, but even more in some fundamental assumptions about the process of discovering the truth. Perhaps each person who acknowledges a debt to Coleridge is inclined to make an idiosyncratic version of a tradition. Father George Tyrrell, for example, wrote: ‘Church of my baptism, Church of Westcott, Hort, Lightfoot, Church, Liddon, Taylor, Leighton, Coleridge, why did I ever leave you?’6 This overlaps to some extent with the tradition explored in this study. The idea of a theological tradition (one among many) does not demand direct and acknowledged dependence. It is not a case of the faith once delivered to the saints; not something definable as received ‘always, everywhere, by all’ (semper, ubique, ab omnibus).

coleridge 4.9.9.qxd

8/9/09 2:24 PM

Page 13

PREFACE: ON THE IDEA OF TRADITION

3

That would be a lifeless ‘highest common factor’ religion. In the present context, tradition is taken to mean something different from its use in phrases such as ‘scripture and tradition’ as the two pillars of orthodoxy – almost indeed the opposite; not something stable and dependable, but something organic, developing and changing. With changing ideas of history and science the status of tradition, in its usual sense, needed to change. The words of F.J.A. Hort are memorably relevant: There has perhaps never been a time when the Church has been absolutely content with accepting the body of inherited doctrine without any attempts, conscious or unconscious, to verify its truth in one way or another. But still, through the many centuries since the need of security against plausible error compelled the Church to press into the moulds of the human understanding that which can never be so pressed without some loss or even distortion, tradition, at certain periods corrected by an appeal to Scripture or some intermediate authority, has on the whole been accepted as a sufficient guarantee of truth. If now, by a voice which cannot be disobeyed, the Church is summoned to know as truth what it has hitherto held as sacred tradition, the prospect may seem as alarming as when the disciples learned that the Teacher’s voice would soon be no longer heard among them.7 Traditional dogma, to the dismay of many, came under scrutiny in a new age. Some of those who welcomed the change, believing it must be within the purpose of God, found in the words and thoughts of Coleridge indicators towards knowing as truth what had been previously been held as tradition. A deeper understanding of language, particularly of the scriptures, was part of this re-orientation. But science and history were indicators, too. Tradition understood in this way fulfils a function rather like that of Coleridge’s ‘Secondary Imagination’, combining and re-assorting what has been received imaginatively. It is both selective and creative. Someone as complex as Coleridge stands, not in a single tradition, but in several convergent traditions: literary, philosophical, theological, and even scientific. This study focuses on one of them, the theological. To that extent it misrepresents the person of Coleridge, particularly because he was all his life searching for a unified world-view. It makes no pretension to being a survey, which would demand in the writer a matching mind. Perhaps a partial sketch is justifiable if, as Coleridge required of a poem for it to be acceptable, the whole is contained in the part. The particular theological tradition here described does not start with Coleridge. He inherits as well as transmits. So after an introductory chapter which offers a summary outline of his developed theology, the next step is to look back before Coleridge, but without any attempt to put a beginning to the tradition, which might even be found in the Fourth Gospel. The following chapter presents a quick look at the tradition in North America. This may seem disproportionately brief, compared with the succeeding chapters dealing with aspects of the tradition in Britain. The excuse must be that the Coleridgean tradition was more at home in the particular structures of English life. Across the Atlantic there was nothing like the concentrated focus of intellectual and religious life to be found in the capital city and the two ancient

coleridge 4.9.9.qxd

4

8/9/09 2:24 PM

Page 14

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

universities; nor anything corresponding to the privileged status of the established church which nurtured (and challenged) Maurice and Hort, Westcott, Gore and Raven, while still welcoming congenial thinkers like Erskine and Oman. The tradition does not, of course, end with those included in this study. There are open questions and opening vistas, notably about democracy and evolution, as hinted in the final chapters. It seems clear that there is a tradition, however sketchily presented here, with recognizable characteristics corresponding to Coleridge’s early watchwords: science, freedom, and the love of Christ. Can there be any full understanding of our humanity without these three? As for science, in the words of Hort, ‘It is not too much to say that the Gospel itself can never be fully known till nature as well as man is fully known’.8 There cannot be the release of human potential without freedom to follow new developments of thought, about divine as well as human things. And the way, the truth and the life? Where shall we find those three until we ‘grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ’.9

coleridge 4.9.9.qxd

8/9/09 2:24 PM

Page 15

1 On to Orthodoxy

For anyone to be described as ‘one of two great seminal minds’, or as sending ‘shock waves over the ocean of mind’, is for him to receive the kind of accolade bestowed on few writers in the modern world. But it was in those terms that the philosopher John Stuart Mill described Coleridge, when comparing him with Jeremy Bentham.1 Whereas Bentham, in Mill’s opinion, discerned ‘those truths with which existing doctrines and institutions were at variance’, it was given to Coleridge to discern ‘the neglected truths which lay in them’. Like many memorable verdicts, it is only half true. Coleridge certainly did set himself the task of understanding those whom he regarded as the great thinkers of the past and re-interpreting them for his own age. But it is equally true that he attacked ‘existing doctrines and institutions’, not least those of Bentham himself, whose utilitarianism he consistently criticized, and especially when it infected Christian ethical standards in the teaching of William Paley. Mill had in mind as ‘existing doctrines and institutions’ those which claimed to justify the subordination of classes and inculcated an attitude of submission to established authority. Coleridge believed that the influential ideas of his day which needed to be challenged were those which limited knowledge to what was derivable from sense-perceptions and defined morality as the calculation of probable advantage. Some of the wealth of Coleridge’s ideas will, it is hoped, come out in the following chapters, which explore his influence on others. But something like an ‘over-view’ of his own development may set the scene. Although this will be a theological story, it should be related to two factors which have been predominant in the Coleridgean ‘tradition’. One may be called literary and the other philosophical. The literary influence was derived from Coleridge’s method of reading texts. He aimed to penetrate the surface level of a text to discover, or experience, some truth to which he could respond and, in responding, assent to its authority. When this was applied to the way of reading the Bible, it provided an escape route for those who were distressed by rigid doctrines claiming authority from its literal interpretation. His philosophical influence was to mediate and adapt the Kantian 5

coleridge 4.9.9.qxd

6

8/9/09 2:24 PM

Page 16

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

distinction between the Understanding and the Reason and so to stem the tide of rationalism and utilitarianism. The Understanding was the faculty which judged according to sense. It enabled the development of the scientific method and revealed a world emancipated from mistaken fancies and superstitions. But the process of using the emancipated Understanding depended on an inherent capacity in the knower to interpret what was given objectively through the senses. For that capacity Coleridge used the word Reason. Coleridge’s poetry and literary criticism have always commanded the attention of students of English literature. His philosophical writings have earned the serious consideration of professional philosophers and his political ideas have been carefully studied. But he lived as a sociable person with a need for friendship, and so among his manifold concerns was also his desire to find a home in a Christian community. He wanted to belong to a church. The influence of this quest for denominational identity was not usually of primary interest to his contemporary readers. Their interest in this aspect of his thought varied according to their own social contexts. In America, where there was no established church it was a side-issue. In the case of F.D. Maurice, on the other hand, it struck a sympathetic note because he, too, found his way from his father’s Unitarianism to membership of the Church of England. Coleridge’s move was, like his, theological. It was prompted by his felt need of a Redeemer, and his study of the New Testament. But it had consequences in denominational allegiance. This denominational pilgrimage is sometimes regarded as an epiphenomenon, an incidental effect of what really matters, and his adherence to the Church of England the last infirmity of a noble mind. It has been argued, for instance, that Coleridge’s existential commitment to Anglicanism ‘could not possess more than a limited validity’, since it arose from the realization that he would never achieve the fulfilment he had looked for in Pantisocracy, in married life, and in his friendship with Wordsworth. Disappointed in all these hopes, he had to rest content with ‘a community of minds with a few friends and a large company of kindred spirits of previous generations’.2 There is much to question in this interpretation. Coleridge had always enjoyed the friendship of small groups clustered round such particular friends as Southey, Wordsworth, Cottle, Davy, Green and the Gillmans. There is no reason why the last group of friends represents a compensation for disappointed hopes any more than earlier groups. Nor was his intellectual sympathy with seventeenth-century Anglican divines of limited validity, any more than his warm appreciation of Plato or the sixteenth-century philosopher, Giordano Bruno. What requires explanation is why he finally chose one type of ‘existential commitment’ rather than another. The Gillmans were important at the personal level because they offered the particular combination of sympathy, patience and medical care which he had been seeking at least since 1813; but their denominational allegiance was largely irrelevant. The question concerning his adherence to the Church of England ought not to be treated as a compensation, except to the extent that everyone needs to overcome personal isolation in one way or another. It deserves to be treated as a matter of intellectual conviction and not merely as an act of deference to the establishment, let alone as a self-protective withdrawal from the arena of honest thought.

coleridge 4.9.9.qxd

8/9/09 2:24 PM

Page 17

ON TO ORTHODOXY

7

This does not seem to have been possible for some of Coleridge’s critics. It is not difficult to see why they have treated his churchmanship with scorn or at least with indifference. Those who are primarily concerned with Coleridge as a poet naturally find their interest focused on the earlier stages of his development when his creative genius was in full flower and his interest in the established church minimal. So it has been suggested that his acceptance of Christian orthodoxy was itself a check on his creative powers. Coleridge ‘was shut up within a semidualistic world of spirit. Alien to Nature and divided from God by sin, this spirit did not prove a fruitful source of great poetry.’3 But whether or not there was any causal connection between his metaphysical development and the atrophy of his creative powers as a poet, the fact remains that he has been more widely studied as a poet and critic than as a theologian, and this has led to a depreciation of the importance of his religious views in the latter, less poetic, phase of his development. Moreover, even amongst those who have concentrated on his religious ideas there has been, quite rightly, a greater concern with their general significance than with their denominational alignment. Clearly it is more important to see their relationship to pantheism or neo-Platonism or transcendentalism than to identify their affinities with contemporary Unitarianism or Quakerism. The general philosophical schemes are part of the unchanging landscape of the human mind. The sectarian expressions of Christianity are subject to constant change, since they are related, not only to the slow changes of human outlook, but also to the more rapid changes of human society. What Coleridge said about Methodism or Roman Catholicism may have little relevance to the forms of those Christian denominations more than two centuries later. But when all this has been said, it would be a mistake to ignore the fact that Coleridge chose to say quite a lot about various Christian denominations, and that he not only ‘conformed’ to the Church of England, but explained and defended his conformity at some length. Nor will it do to treat his changing attitudes to Christian denominations as merely capricious, or unrelated to other aspects of his thought. They are part and parcel of a single human life and their coherence must be explicable within the general development of that life. Again, they should not be related simply to the influence of other writers and thinkers upon Coleridge. So-called influences are themselves seldom entirely accidental. Paul Tillich once wisely wrote of the philosopher Schelling that although it is possible to enumerate the supposed sources of his thought, it would be an error to assume that he met these influences by chance. His own inner development led him to the philosophers from whom he adopted homogeneous elements.4 So also Coleridge turned to particular religious writers at particular stages of his development because he hoped that they would have something to say which was relevant to his own situation. His apparently omnivorous appetite for books did not obliterate all principles of selection. Indeed his choice of reading was a more important clue to his intellectual development than that of many others, because he did not so much read books, as converse with them. The margins and fly-leaves of his own books and the books he borrowed from friends were covered with such a quantity of annotation and comment, that they provided after his death the bulk of the material in several volumes of Marginalia.

coleridge 4.9.9.qxd

8

8/9/09 2:24 PM

Page 18

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

If false arguments about the falling-off of the standard of Coleridge’s thought or about the discreditable timidity of his acceptance of the established church are set aside, there remain other problems to face in considering his denominational allegiance. First, we may be deterred from sympathetic study by a natural inclination to pass moral judgements on Coleridge’s feeble will and other defects of his character, and to move from such judgements to rejecting his teaching. Why should we sit humbly at the feet of a drug addict who alternated between self-pity and the elaboration of grandiose schemes of literary composition which he never fulfilled? It is, perhaps, a saving grace that he recognized these defects as clearly as his critics. There is an entry in one of the voluminous series of notebooks he kept (the date of this entry is 1805) in which he takes himself to pieces for his procrastination after sketching yet another grand proposal: ‘You have not above 300 volumes to write before you come to it – and as you write perhaps a volume once in ten years, you have ample time, my dear fellow!’5 Even in this permissive age his drug-sodden life evokes condemnation as well as pity. In a book about his life in Malta between 1804 and 1806, the author Donald Sultana confesses: ‘As I proceeded to enlighten myself about the truth of his character, I became disenchanted with him’. It would be unscholarly if that disenchantment determined our valuation of his teaching. In any case, he was hardly a ‘drug addict’ in the meaning of the term today. Opium was in his time regarded as a regular analgesic. It was recommended by the medical profession and taken by a considerable percentage of the population. Coleridge resorted to it, not for ‘kicks’ but for the relief of his genuine sufferings.6 A more serious difficulty in interpreting his teaching is that there is so much of it and in such an inchoate form that it is very difficult to represent it fairly. His collected works run to many volumes, of which only one contains his poetry, and much of this material is extremely unsystematic. Coleridge’s religious ideas seem to have changed more than any other ideas of his, and he did not over-value selfconsistency anyhow. So a little careful selection could produce half a dozen contradictory schemes of belief from the quarry of his writings. Yet throughout his entire development as a religious thinker he steadily maintained some basic interests. He was always seeking the satisfaction of certain needs and the solution of certain problems which were themselves unchanged whatever the satisfactions or solutions might be that he adopted from time to time. Needs and problems – the two words indicate the two aspects of human nature, the emotional and the intellectual, which were fully and equally developed in Coleridge. As early as 1794, when he was twenty-two, he wrote, My religious Creed bore and perhaps bears a correspondence with my mind and heart – I had too much vanity to be altogether a Christian – too much tenderness of Nature to be utterly an Infidel… my Heart forced me to admire the beauty of Holiness in the Gospel, forced me to love the Jesus whom my Reason (or perhaps my reasonings) would not permit me to worship – My Faith, therefore, was made up of the Evangelists and the Deistic Philosophy – a kind of religious Twilight.7 This passage is suspiciously orthodox for so early a period in his life, and something must be allowed for the circumstances in which the letter which contains this self-

coleridge 4.9.9.qxd

8/9/09 2:24 PM

Page 19

ON TO ORTHODOXY

9

analysis was written. Coleridge had got himself into debt at Cambridge and in a mood of romantic despair had enlisted in the King’s Light Dragoons. Before being bought out by his family and friends he wrote a letter to his brother George, a clergyman of a fairly conventional kind who always evoked the most orthodox aspect of Samuel’s thought when they corresponded. It is in this letter to George that he speaks of the problems of the head and the needs of the heart which remained his permanent concerns as he pursued his pilgrimage from his undergraduate Unitarianism to his final acceptance of the Church of England, Thirty-Nine Articles and all. For a time the leadings of head and heart diverged, and he accepted a materialist philosophy which could hardly have satisfied him emotionally. He wrote to Southey in December of the same year (1794): ‘I am a compleat Necessitarian – and understand the subject as well almost as Hartley himself but I go farther than Hartley and believe in the corporeality of thought – namely, that it is motion.’8 If there were any truth in the idea that Coleridge’s philosophy killed his poetry, surely his poetry would have been stillborn, for this dreary period of ‘necessitarianism’ preceded by four years the annus mirabilis in which Kubla Khan was written and the Lyrical Ballads published. But along with his philosophical determinism, he still professed a kind of Christianity which for the time being satisfied his emotional needs. At the end of 1794 he said that both Charles Lamb and he were Unitarian Christians and advocates for the ‘Automatism of Man’.9 Early the following year he was working to convert Southey, and described him as ‘Christianizing apace – I doubt not that I shall present him to you right orthodox in the heterodoxy of Unitarianism’. Perhaps it was an odd combination, but Coleridge did not worry unduly about rejecting something he believed to be true just because he could not immediately reconcile it with every other truth he believed. That might be accounted a fault, but it was productive of charity towards others. Some men, he wrote in August 1795, ‘hold the necessity and moral optimism of our religious Establishment’ though disapproving its peculiar dogmas. ‘Such men I do not condemn – whatever I may deem of their reasonings, their hearts and consciences I include not in the Anathema’.10 He was ready to confess that he found religion ‘and commonplace religion, too’ his restorer and comfort. The heart’s needs prevented him rejecting Christianity as a religion, and in the years between the birth of his first and second children he was shifting his philosophical stance away from materialism to idealism. Their very names are signposts along his pilgrim road. The firstborn he had named Hartley, after the philosopher of Associationism, who was at that time reckoned by Coleridge to be also a ‘great master of Christian philosophy’; the second child, born in 1798, he named after Bishop Berkeley the philosopher of Immaterialism, who taught that the only cause of ideas is spirit. The infant Berkeley Coleridge died in April 1799, and Samuel wrote to his wife from Germany: Shall we who are Christians, shall we believe that he [God] himself uses his own power vainly – that like a child he builds palaces of mud and clay in the common road, and then he destroys them, as weary of his pastime, or leaves them to be trod under by the Hoof of Accident? That God works by laws are to me words without meaning or worse than meaningless – Ignorance and Imbecillity and

coleridge 4.9.9.qxd

10

8/9/09 2:24 PM

Page 20

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

Limitation must wish in generals – what and who are these horrible shadows, necessity and general law, to which God himself must offer sacrifices?11 The experience of bereavement not only clinched his rejection of necessitarianism; it also raised doubts about the truth of the Unitarian version of Christianity which he still professed. The problem was that Joseph Priestley, the Unitarian propagandist, though he argued for a future life because he accepted the evidence of the words and miracles of Jesus, denied it to infants because they had not developed a consciousness which could be reconstructed by God. It is doubtful whether Coleridge’s Unitarianism had ever had much in common with the typical Unitarians of the eighteenth century, who professed to base their beliefs on enlightened reason. In the days of his youthful radicalism, when with Southey he had constructed the idealistic scheme for founding an uncontaminated community of love and equality on the banks of the Susquehanna, he had been thrown into the company of those who dissented from all kinds of orthodoxy. In religion the only organized heterodoxy was that of Unitarianism. It was the creed to which political radicals were drawn if they continued to profess any religion at all. But the eighteenth century had produced, or revived, a range of beliefs about the status of Jesus Christ which were distinguishable by the titles Arian, Socinian, and Unitarian.12 The original Arian heresy of the early fourth century claimed to be true to biblical usage. It acknowledged the inherent divinity of Jesus Christ, but interpreted his Godhead as derivative, according to texts such as Psalm 82.6: ‘You are gods, children of the Most High, all of you.’ Christ was God, but not ‘very God of very God’. Socinianism, which originated in the seventeenth century, denied Christ’s inherent divinity, but declared that he had been rewarded for his faithfulness by being exalted to divine status. Unitarianism, in so far as it was distinguished from views such as these, would go no further than affirming the unique status of the human Jesus as prophet and messiah. But in common usage, and especially in theological argument, the terms were not always clearly defined and could become little more than words of abuse. Some of these views were hardly regarded as altogether unorthodox in the latter part of the eighteenth century. Leslie Stephen says that then ‘the intellectual party of the Church was Socinian in everything but name’.13 But in saying this he was illustrating the kind of loose usage which confuses the issue. Probably few of the clergy would have studied and approved the teaching of Socinus as such. And an individual’s theology sometimes shifted from one position to another. That was certainly the case with Priestley, who moved from Arianism to Unitarianism. Coleridge himself illustrated the proliferation of Christological ideas when he wrote, in a letter in 1808: I know a Bishop, an English Bishop, who professing Socinianism (not indeed all the heresies of Drs. Priestley and Co., but absolutely all the distinguishing tenets of Socinus) affirms the innocence and the duty of offering Adoration and ultimate Prayer to Christ, whom he yet zealously contends to have been and to be not only a finite Creature, but a mere MAN!14 When Coleridge professed Unitarianism, in the fluid state of contemporary theological opinion, he did not wander far outside the limits of what passed for orthodoxy in the

coleridge 4.9.9.qxd

8/9/09 2:24 PM

Page 21

ON TO ORTHODOXY

11

1790s. It would be wrong to over-stress the peculiarity of the Unitarians, let alone the social handicaps they suffered. Prominent Unitarian divines, such as Coleridge’s friend in Bristol, Dr Estlin, seem to have led comfortable and respected lives. The influence of his radical political associates was not the only influence at work in his mind. One of his earliest distinctive interests of a religious kind had been in neoPlatonism. Even when he was a schoolboy at Christ’s Hospital in London, according to his friend Charles Lamb, the passer through the cloisters might have overheard him unfolding in ‘deep and sweet intonations the mysteries of Jamblichus or Plotinus’. This school of thinkers in the third century A.D. had developed out of Platonic ideas a mystical form of belief, in which they tried to relate God to the world by a system of emanations, and even elaborated a kind of Platonic trinity. There had been a revival of interest in them in the Renaissance period, and this had been continued by the seventeenth-century group of theologians known as the Cambridge Platonists. Coleridge was familiar with this tradition, and once the attraction of Hartley’s apparently scientific necessitarianism had waned, he began to explore Trinitarian ideas at the philosophical, though not yet at the doctrinal, level. For the time being he remained unconvinced of the propriety of attributing the divine nature to Jesus Christ, but he had definitely turned his back on militant Unitarianism by 1802. This step towards orthodoxy is documented by a long letter to brother George in which he says: I have read carefully the original of the New Testament – and have convinced myself that the Socinian and Arian Hypotheses are utterly untenable; but what to put in their place? I find nothing so distinctly revealed, that I should dare to impose my opinion as an article of Faith on others – on the contrary, I hold it probable that the Nature of the Being of Christ is left in obscurity.15 He was content to use the very words of scripture, in speaking about the person of Christ. But the same letter bears witness to another force at work to develop his doctrinal belief, his need for a Redeemer. A later passage runs as follows: My faith is simply this – that there is an original corruption in our nature, from which and from the consequences of which we may be redeemed by Christ not as the Socinians say, by his pure morals or excellent example merely – but in a mysterious manner as an effect of his Crucifixion and this I believe – not because I understand it; but because I feel that it is not only suitable to, but needful for, my nature and because I find it clearly revealed. Whatever the New Testament says, I believe – according to my best judgement of the meaning of the sacred writers. It was in the end his belief in the reality of Christ’s redemptive work which led him to an orthodox doctrine of Christ’s person. By 1802, then, it is possible to recognize all the tendencies already operative which eventually determined his adherence to the Church of England: the heart which made him responsive to the gospels and aware of his own need of redemption, and the head which had once indulged in neo-Platonic speculation. He had explored the attractions of Hartley’s necessitarianism, and found

coleridge 4.9.9.qxd

12

8/9/09 2:24 PM

Page 22

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

it wanting because it did not allow for the originative powers of the mind, and he had begun to develop a theoretical justification of a neo-Platonic kind of Trinitarianism. At the age of thirty Coleridge summed up his theological position as one of ‘negative Unitarianism – a non liquet concerning the nature and being of Christ but a condemnation of the Trinitarians as being “wise beyond what is written!”’ On the subjects of the original corruption of our nature, the doctrines of our redemption, regeneration, grace, and justification by faith, his convictions were altogether different from those of the leading Unitarian apologists, and he had come to think Christianity quite untenable in the form propounded by Joseph Priestley, since it rejected the doctrine of the atonement. This disavowal of popular Unitarianism was the more significant in being addressed to his friend, J.P. Estlin, the prominent Unitarian divine. A few months later, in December 1802, Coleridge wrote another lengthy letter to the same correspondent, in which he made it clear that his move away from Unitarianism by no means brought him near to Catholicism. He declared that in his view religious Deism is ‘infinitely nearer the religion of our Saviour than the gross Idolatry of Popery, or the more decorous, not less genuine, Idolatry of a vast majority of Protestants’. Such a sweeping relegation of most Christians, Catholic or Protestant, to the category of idolaters seems arrogant and requires some explication. The letter makes it clear that, to Coleridge, idolatry consisted in objectifying God, as another being over against ourselves, however exalted, instead of ‘the Eternal and Omnipresent in whom we live and move and have our Being’. There was all the difference in the world between the idea of God as the one in whom we have our Being and the idea of God as the one from whom we had our Being. That was the real issue between true religion and idolatry. The Unitarians might accuse other Christians of idolatry for worshipping Jesus, but they could not make themselves safe from the same charge merely by subtracting two Persons in the Deity, if they were left with ‘a distinct Jehovah tricked out in the anthropomorphic Attributes of Time and Successive Thoughts’. At this stage, then, Coleridge had lost sympathy with nearly all forms of Christianity commonly professed. His creed, he said, was very simple. ‘I approve altogether and embrace entirely the Religion of the Quakers, but exceedingly dislike the sect, and their own notions of their own religion.’ He does not seem to have specified what he disliked in Quakerism, beyond saying that he had attended one of their meetings while at Cambridge and so had been entirely cured of his enthusiastic fondness for it.16 But his agreement with them in belief lay in the central importance he and they attached to the Johannine text about the ‘Light that lighteth every man’. He had declared three years earlier: ‘Although the Man Jesus had never appeared in the world, yet I am Quaker enough to believe, that in the heart of every Man the Christ would have revealed himself, the Power of the Word, that was even in the Wilderness.’ Though he had rejected contemporary forms of religion, he had not rejected the heart of religion itself – the conviction that man’s spirit answers to a divine spirit. He might, indeed, have found this belief stated in some form or other in every Christian denomination, but he hung about, so to speak, on the margins of Unitarianism and Quakerism because of another facet of his character which has not so far been mentioned – his contempt for ceremonial. In a letter already quoted, he had coupled Quakers and Unitarians together

coleridge 4.9.9.qxd

8/9/09 2:24 PM

Page 23

ON TO ORTHODOXY

13

as ‘the only Christians pure from Idolatry’. And though in the context idolatry is essentially the error of objectifying God, it is probable that the two sects earn Coleridge’s modified approval because of the simplicity of their forms of worship. His visit to Germany with the Wordsworths in 1798 had evoked from him a number of denunciations of Roman Catholic superstition. When he went to live in Malta, from 1804 to 1806, and visited Sicily and Italy, he had other occasions to develop his bias against Roman Catholicism; he did not even agree with the official policy of religious toleration, and his criticism of it has earned him the title of ‘the first articulate Protestant in Malta’.17 It sounds a rather startling title, but Malta had only come under British control in 1800, and had not even yet been declared a British possession. Coleridge had a number of criticisms of Roman Catholicism, both in practice and in theory. He noted in one of his private notebooks that everything in Roman Catholic countries was brought down to the mere calculation of pain and pleasure, so that in thinking of murder, they thought of the pains of hell, and so on. He disliked the religious art he met in Catholic countries (perhaps kitsch rather than art) and noted down ‘the ghastly look of dead-drunkenness so common in the crucifix Jesuses’.18 The cardinal error of Roman Catholicism, he believed, lay in its doctrine about faith and works, which confused the former with rectitude of intellectual conviction and wrongly identified the latter with definite, and usually material, action. This error, he believed, led to such subsidiary errors as teaching damnation for all outside the bounds of the church (extra ecclesiam nulla salus), pretending there was one only visible church, claiming absolute efficacy for the sacraments, and seeing inherent merit in ceremonial.19 He even went so far as to call Rome ‘the undoubted Anti-Christ’,20 but he had his own, typically intellectual, reasons for doing so.21 The title he thought correct: ‘if Christ mean the unconditional obedience of the Free Will to the Law of Pure Reason, and AntiChrist an actually existing and most powerful Conspiracy to subvert the Law (i.e. of Pure Reason), to introduce in its stead all and every Tampering of our sensuous Nature, feelings, pride, swellings up… of Heart, melting fancies (as St Teresa), worldly importance, Terror, in all their minutiae.’ The Quakers were at least right in believing that religion must work its way out from the indwelling Spirit in every man. The practice of the Roman Church was wrong in using external incentives to induce apparently religious behaviour. In particular, the preoccupation with the external produced a confusion of the merely contingent symbolism of ceremonial with the necessary truths which they symbolized. The notebook entry in which this criticism occurs is dated 6th September 1805. At this date Coleridge was not concerned to vindicate the catholicity of the Church of England, but he is already saying in substance what he asserted explicitly some seventeen years later; ‘the present adherents of the Church of Rome are not, in my judgement, Catholics… The Council of Trent made the Papists what they are’.22 This was probably a commonplace of Anglican apologetic. It was certainly to become such under the influence of the Tractarians. Coleridge was nearly incapable of meaning a commonplace thing by a commonplace phrase, and behind the unremarkable words lies an idiosyncratic analysis of religion in general. Religion, he once noted,

coleridge 4.9.9.qxd

14

8/9/09 2:24 PM

Page 24

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

consists in Truth and Virtue, i.e. the permanent, the forma efformans [determining form], in the flux of things without, of feelings and images within – well therefore the Scripture speaks of the Spirit as praying to the Spirit – the Lord said to my Lord etc. – God is the Essence as well as the Object of Religion.23 He looked, therefore, for a religion which addressed ‘man as man’, assuring him that God was the one in whom he lived and moved and had his being. He regarded as pernicious all claims of an exclusive nature made by religious bodies – which is to say that he was already seeking a genuinely catholic religion before he was ready to use the word. A note made at the age of twenty-seven had already brushed aside the dissenting sects: ‘Socinianism Moonlight – Methodism etc. A Stove! O for some sun that shall unite Light and Warmth’.24 The exclusiveness of Roman Catholicism, together with other defects which he detected in its system, ruled out of consideration the major body that claimed the title of Catholic. There was not much left to choose from. He might have remained a lone intellectual, building an eclectic religious system with materials quarried from his vast reading. But though that might have satisfied the head, it could not meet the heart’s needs. He wanted to belong somewhere, ecclesiastically no less than politically. Before he could do so he needed to take the intellectual step which would carry him from Unitarianism (however ‘negative’) to a doctrinal Trinitarianism. A notebook entry of 1801 had put the choice which Coleridge saw facing him: ‘As we recede from anthropomorphitism, we must go either to the Trinity or to Pantheism.’25 What he calls ‘anthropomorphitism’ was more than a merely naïve picturing of God in human terms. It was closely related to the meaning of ‘idolatry’ already mentioned – the mistake of objectifying God. It was marked by or even caused by a disproportionate interest in miracles, so that he could write: ‘Miracles would effect a universal anthropormorphism if not infrequent and above all, unless confined to a small space and limited number.’ The basic choice, then, which Coleridge had already made, was between those beliefs about God which reduced him to the stature of a being amongst other beings and those beliefs which refused to consider anything at all as apart from God. The former type was widespread and perennial – from the first Jews, with their ‘rancid itch for Idolatry’26 to the contemporary Deists and Unitarians and all peddlers of ‘evidences of Christianity’, of whom Grotius and Paley were amongst the worst offenders. If this type of belief was rejected, another choice remained. The idea of God might be preserved against objectification either by being identified with the totality of the universe or by a more complicated theory which related him to the totality without such an identification. The choice, in short, was between pantheism and Trinitarianism. Coleridge had been powerfully attracted by the pantheism of Spinoza, and never lost his warm admiration for him as a man – ‘righteous and gentle spirit’, he called him. But he came to reject the doctrine of Spinoza, that the world is immanent in God, because he believed it failed to give an adequate account of certain existential facts – the distinction between thoughts and things,27 the contrast between subject and object, the existence of the originating will, and sin and responsibility and judgement.28 There remained, therefore, only Trinitarianism as a satisfying framework of ideas. He had rejected it once already. In a series of lectures delivered at Bristol in 1795 at the

coleridge 4.9.9.qxd

8/9/09 2:24 PM

Page 25

ON TO ORTHODOXY

15

age of twenty-two, he had poured scorn on Trinitarian apologetic and Trinitarian apologists. The apologetic sometimes amounted to saying we might as well believe the doctrine, since it is unintelligible; the apologists knew that their incomes depended on their orthodoxy. A mysterious Doctrine is never more keenly ridiculed, than when a man of sense, who professes it from interested motives, endeavours to make it appear consistent with Reason. By the happy chemistry of Explanation, so common among men of abilities who think a good Living a more substantial thing than a good conscience, he volatilizes absurdity into nothingness, and escapes from the charge of self-contradiction by professing a solemn Belief in the great Mystery of – what every man believes without profession or solemnity. In the same lecture he had launched an attack on Bishop Horsley (of Rochester) for advocating penalties against Unitarians. Apparently he had confused Bishop Horsley with Bishop Pretyman (of Lincoln) but his peroration is a vigorous specimen of antiTrinitarian rhetoric.29 Whosoever shall disbelieve that the Creator of the Universe became a creature, that the omnipresent God abode nine months in the Womb of a Woman, and the impassible Eternal suffered agonies and died on the Cross, whosoever shall disbelieve that the Father is one perfect God, the Son one perfect God, and the Holy Ghost one perfect God, yet that the three perfect Gods are but one perfect God, and that this aggregated God is no greater than either of its three component parts, whoever shall disbelieve this which is the Catholic Faith, beyond all Doubt, he shall perish everlastingly, and what is of more consequence, by the statutes of William and Mary yet unrepealed he is guilty of Felony without benefit of Clergy. When Christians had permitted themselves to receive as Gospel the idolatrous doctrine of the Trinity, and the more pernicious dogma of Redemption, is it not wonderful, that an Episcopal Church should be raised, fit super-structure for such foundations. It was a youthful outburst, and not even original. Where the script was not derived from the so-called Athanasian Creed (Quicunque Vult), it came more or less direct from Joseph Priestley. But it indicates the distance travelled in a mere ten years or so. The charge of idolatry has been turned back on the Unitarians, and the problem of the relationship of subject and object has steadily shifted Coleridge towards a philosophical definition of God which requires just that Trinitarian terminology which he ridiculed in 1795. The turning point in Coleridge’s development seems to have been reached during his residence in Malta (1804–06). A notebook entry dated 12th February 1805 is a kind of extended meditation on his own spiritual pilgrimage.30 Unitarianism is only good for the man whose reason would make him an atheist but whose heart and common sense will not permit him to be so. From Unitarianism he had made the necessary passage through Spinozism to Plato and St John. It had burst upon him as an awful truth that

coleridge 4.9.9.qxd

16

8/9/09 2:24 PM

Page 26

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

‘No Trinity, No God’. He now prays that his mind may be as clear about the character of Jesus and historical Christianity as it already is about the Logos and intellectual, or spiritual Christianity. Are the two – the historical and the intellectual – united or divorced from each other? The problem is stated, without the prayer for guidance, in a previous notebook entry, where he contrasts ‘the inanity of Jehovah, Christ, and the Dove’ with ‘the adorable Tri-unity of Being, Intellect, and Spiritual Action’, which, he declares, ‘are God (i.e. not mere general Terms, or abstract ideas) and one God (i.e. a real, eternal, and necessary distinction in the divine nature, distinguishable triplicity in the indivisible Unity)’.31 In moving towards doctrinal orthodoxy Coleridge did not abandon his philosophical interpretation of the Trinity. Only four years before his death (1830) he drew up a Formula Fidei de Sancta Trinitate, which is set out under four headings: the Identity, the Ipseity, the Alterity, and the Community. The Identity and the Ipseity correspond to the First Person of the Holy Trinity, who must be considered both as absolute subjectivity and as self-affirmation, as essentially causative of all possible true being, and as actually begetting co-eternally. The Alterity corresponds to the Second Person, the divine objectivity in relation to the divine subjectivity. The relatively subjective and relatively objective require a co-eternal complement, relatively objective to the subjective and relatively subjective to the objective, and this is the Community, corresponding to the Third Person of the Holy Trinity. This is all very difficult and idiosyncratic. But it helps to show why Coleridge found it a great problem to relate his philosophical Trinitarianism (even though it had not yet developed in precisely this form) to the historical realities of the gospel record. He found encouragement in the use by the ‘Platonic Fathers’ of a terminology of Word and Wisdom instead of Son and Spirit,32 perhaps because it avoided the semblance of anthropomorphism which he believed was associated with idolatry. He interpreted this Trinity of God and Word and Wisdom in terms of Life and Reason and Holy Action. Reason (Logos) signifies ‘communicable intelligibility’ and Holy Action proceeds from Life and Reason, or Being and Communication. The Catechism, he thought, had sacrificed orthodoxy to rhetorical division, since the Son both creates and redeems. These speculations, however, did not solve his problem. What was the connection between such philosophical speculations and the historical assertions of the Christian faith? He was sent back to the New Testament. He studied Thomas F. Middleton’s book The Doctrine of the Greek Article applied to the Criticism and Illustration of the New Testament (1808), and in so doing illustrated the assertion of Sir Edwyn Hoskyns that a man may bury his head in a lexicon and rise in the presence of God. For he discovered in this apparently desiccated subject ‘the ablest philological support of the Trinity’. Like the readers of Hoskyns and Davey’s Riddle of the New Testament, he discovered, a century earlier, that if you dissect the New Testament in search of a merely human Jesus you find – that there is no such thing. ‘As to Socinian Textualism, there it lies! in shakes and shatters!’ He began to connect his theoretical philosophy of Absolute Being with historical reality by discovering that a merely human Jesus, whom it would be idolatry to worship, was a figment of the Socinians’ imagination. Incidentally, Middleton’s book gave him a little push towards the established church, since he admitted that it did honour to the Church of England and would raise its character abroad.

coleridge 4.9.9.qxd

8/9/09 2:24 PM

Page 27

ON TO ORTHODOXY

17

The final steps towards substantial orthodoxy were taken under the impulse of two convictions which Coleridge already held: first, that there is such a thing as revelation, and second, that there is such a thing as redemption. Perhaps that is another way of saying that he was a poet and a drug addict. For what poet, in Coleridge’s day, could help admitting the probability of a revelation, when he considered the givenness of his own poetry? And what drug addict, considering the impotence of his own will, could fail to yearn for a redeemer? When, therefore, he came to accept the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity, it was as he wrote to Cottle in 1814, ‘from the clear revelation of Scripture, not from grovelling Reason’.33 Even nine years after his return from Malta, the Trinity still had its difficulties. But they were as nothing compared with those who argued that Christ taught his own pure humanity. The Trinity, he believed, rested substantially on the medium of inspiration, yet derived support from the rational faculties. But here, as when one looked down into Etna, obscurity terminated in total darkness. ‘This divine doctrine,’ he said, ‘is to be received, not because it is or can be clear to finite apprehension, but… because the Scriptures, in their unsophisticated interpretation expressly state it.’ The remaining difficulties, for Coleridge, were connected with the doctrine of incarnation. He had to work out for himself a rationale of this. The same letter to Cottle (already quoted) contains a long speculation about the possibility of one preeminent mind possessing an undivided and sovereign dominion over two or more disembodied minds, so as to become the exclusive source of all their subtlest volitions. This, Coleridge thought, would fully establish their unity, and this, he was prepared to believe, was the true sense in which Christ and the Father are one. There are some obscurities in his exposition, and probably he would not have wanted to claim more for the argument than that it made belief in the incarnation intellectually possible. It was received as revealed, not as logically demonstrated. A few years later, in 1818, he wrote: The mystery of the Trinity I believe to be a truth, pointed toward, and even negatively proveable, by reason; existing in all ages, under more or less disfigurement, by tradition from the patriarch Noah but first rendered an article of necessary Faith by the Incarnation and Redemption.34 If incarnation presented the difficulty of formulating a satisfactory rationale, redemp-tion on the contrary, although it, too, required a satisfactory rationale, was more like an incentive to believing the doctrine of the Trinity than a problem involved in that doctrine. Sin was an everyday experience and redemption an everyday need. In a letter already quoted, Coleridge had avowed his belief that men may be redeemed by Christ, and had based that belief on a clear revelation which met the needs of his own nature. In the most systematic of his theological writings, Aids to Reflection, he listed what he called ‘the four principal metaphors’ by which Paul had illustrated the consequences of Christ’s redemption of mankind. These are: 1. Sin-offerings, sacrificial expiation. 2. Reconciliation, atonement, katallagh [katallagé].

coleridge 4.9.9.qxd

18

8/9/09 2:24 PM

Page 28

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

3. Ransom from slavery, redemption, the buying back again, or being bought back. 4. Satisfaction of a creditor’s claims by a payment of the debt.35 He believed that only a mistaken theology could take these metaphorical illustrations of the consequences of redemption for descriptions of its very nature. In their place he put another scriptural term, regeneration, and argued that this was an enunciation of the fact itself and no mere metaphor for its consequences. Birth and rebirth, he believed, were not related as fact and metaphor, but as two facts the same in kind, though one was of far lower dignity.36 While Coleridge was thinking his way towards Trinitarian orthodoxy, he was also changing his attitude to the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England. The first long notebook entry on the subject, apparently made in 1806, is a list of doubts and queries of a generally critical kind.37 By September 1831 he could write: ‘Well! I could most sincerely subscribe to all these articles.’38 In between, the area of disagreement was gradually narrowed down. By 1814 he was projecting ‘a philosophical Defence of the Articles of the Church, as far as they respect Doctrine, or points of Faith’.39 In a letter of the following year he says that the defence of the Articles is what he has ‘most at heart, next to that of the Gospel Truth, which in all but some inessential and comparatively trifling points I sincerely believe coincident with our articles and Liturgy’.40 Later the same year he points out to a correspondent that, since the Articles say all churches are fallible, it is absurd to assert immaculateness in ‘every minute part of our admirable Liturgy’.41 These hints about his reservations are made explicit in a letter of 1818 in which he writes: ‘I give you my word as a Gentleman, that I could conscientiously subscribe to all the Articles of Faith (discipline, church government, and the article on Baptism not included) of our church in their explanation.’42 His own solution of the problem of infant baptism is set out at some length in Aids to Reflection.43 It hardly amounts to a whole-hearted endorsement of the practice. The New Testament evidence, he believes, cannot be made to support it, but the Baptists are guilty of a grievous mistake in holding that the visible rite is indispensable to salvation. It is a Judaizing mistake and must lead them to regard every disease that befalls their children between infancy and youth with terror. The one essential in Christianity is that ‘the same spirit should be growing in us which was in the fulness of all perfection in Christ Jesus’. Admitting this, we must put baptism in its proper perspective. It is a ceremony, and if it is to be perpetuated, it must be perpetuated as a ceremony justified by its own beauty, simplicity, and natural significance, and not as a mystic rite which could all too easily degenerate into a superstition. We must distinguish, he says, the several purposes which baptism was intended to serve. One of its purposes was to make publicly manifest which individuals were to be regarded by the world as belonging to the visible communion of Christians. Another was to mark out for the church those that were entitled to the especial dearness, the peculiar love and affection, which the members of that communion ought to show each other. The church was wise to affix the outward rite to these outward purposes, and to attach to the substantial and spiritual purpose – the free choice of Christ as Lord

coleridge 4.9.9.qxd

8/9/09 2:24 PM

Page 29

ON TO ORTHODOXY

19

– the ordinance of confirmation, which, he said, was not figurative (like baptism) but stood in the direct relation of means to an end. Even this guarded justification of infant baptism, however, he admits he has only recently come to accept. Clearly he believed that the church ought to make room for two different attitudes on the subject. Discipline and church government were the other two subjects in addition to baptism which Coleridge mentioned in his list of disagreements with the Thirty-Nine Articles in 1818. We can only appreciate his views on these subjects in the light of his very distinctive ideas about the church expressed in his book On the Constitution of the Church and State (1830). This was the last book published in his lifetime and evidently contains his mature reflections on the subject. Since he is considering church and state, he does not begin with any definition of the church but with the idea of a statesupported agency of religion which might as well cover the tribe of Levi or even a Druidical priesthood as the Christian church. If it is a Christian nation that sets aside a certain endowment of this kind, the result is a Christian church. It is a valuable agency with a definite function in the nation. But it is necessarily subject to the nation. There is a truth in Erastianism. Discipline and government belong to this agency, not to any other idea of the church. The established church must be kept conceptually distinct from two other ideas of the church – the denominational and the universal. The denominational idea has little interest for Coleridge. He mentions the Anglican, the Gallican, the Roman, the Latin and the Greek,44 as distinctive types of church. But these are national types of Christianity which have the potentiality of becoming established churches. The modern world-wide Protestant denominations did not exist in Coleridge’s day and would not have interested him because they could not be related to particular states, and the church–state relationship is the starting-point of his thought about the visible church. Ignoring denominational churches, Coleridge proceeds to the third idea of the church, the Church Catholic and Apostolic. This church, corresponding to no particular type of Christianity and no particular established church, is nevertheless not a merely invisible community. It is marked by four characteristics: its opposition to the world, its existence in visible and public communities, its preclusion of any local or personal centre of unity, and its universality. This church universal is ‘spiritually perfect in every true Church, and of course in any number of such Churches, of which from circumstance of place, or the community of country or of language we have occasion to speak collectively’. So Coleridge thanks God for the constitutional and ancestral Church of England; but with even deeper conviction he declares: ‘There exists, God be thanked, a Catholic and Apostolic church in England’. The question remains, whether and in what sense there is truth in the epithet applied to Coleridge by Hugh l’Anson Fausset: ‘the philosopher of Anglicanism’.45 That he was a philosopher, there can be no doubt. Equally certain it is that he ended life as an Anglican. Yet each of these two statements needs such qualification as almost to reverse its meaning. If Coleridge was a philosopher, he was just as much half a dozen other things. Though he ended life as an Anglican, it was as an Anglican with reservations. His philosophy was probably the force that broke his Unitarianism, or even perhaps prevented any really serious commitment to it. But philosophy alone could not make him embrace doctrinal Trinitarianism. To do that, he had first to apply

coleridge 4.9.9.qxd

20

8/9/09 2:24 PM

Page 30

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

his mind to theology, and above all the study of the scriptures. He needed also the inward witness that man requires a divine Redeemer, whom he could find in Christ alone. When at last he came to embrace an orthodox theology, his critical attitude to the Roman Church left him little choice besides the Church of England, to which already his patriotism and his love of the seventeenth-century divines predisposed him. But he embraced it as the national church within which the Catholic and Apostolic Church could be found as surely as Christ fulfilled his promise to be in the midst where two or three were gathered together. This presence, he declared, was ‘the total act itself, of which the spiritual Christ, one and the same in all the faithful, is the originating and perfective focal unity’. The total act was God’s creative work in humanity, which began, continues, and will perfect its union in the spiritual body of Christ. Coleridge’s pilgrimage was not to some particular version of orthodoxy previously defined, but (in Mill’s phrase) to a personal commitment to ‘the neglected truths which lay’ in all orthodoxies.

coleridge 4.9.9.qxd

8/9/09 2:24 PM

Page 31

2 Before Coleridge

No human life is in a strict sense original. There is always a before as well as an after. Later chapters will be concerned with some of the different ways in which Coleridge may be shown to have influenced other theologians who came after him. But he was fully aware of his own debts to the past. He has, of course, been accused of plagiarism; that is, of the unacknowledged use of other men’s ideas and even their words, though these attacks have focused more on philosophy than on theology. It is certainly true that his remarkable memory for words, notable even in his school days, enabled him to reproduce whole chunks of what he had been reading. But to accuse him of dressing up in other men’s feathers is to misunderstand the way his mind worked and his own self-understanding. A more sympathetic interpreter of his relationship with the past needs to look at the over-arching scheme of his life’s work as well as its central focus. Consider the huge variety of topics which at one time or another Coleridge thought about and commented on. They cover areas of classical and modern literature, philosophy, history, politics, medicine and science, as well as theology and biblical studies. Yet the last image he gives is of a scatter-brain. It is obvious that in writing as well as in conversation he could seldom resist the temptation to turn aside from the straight road and explore some beckoning alley or courtyard. But that was because he had a central conviction that the whole multiplicity of experience is a revelation of underlying unity, masked perhaps, but absolutely real. It is easy for a critic to observe with amusement how often he promises some great scheme of work and then fails to deliver it. That is the fate of anyone who believes that you cannot tell a part of the truth without trying to relate it to all its other parts, at least if the truth-teller also believes, as Coleridge did, that he had at least begun to see how all things cohered. Today we are used to thinking of the world of learning as divided up into separate disciplines, each with its own procedures and criteria of truth, so that it is often very difficult, if not impossible, for one specialist to understand another. That world-view had not become fully dominant when Coleridge lived, and he felt no embarrassment at listing the full 21

coleridge 4.9.9.qxd

22

8/9/09 2:24 PM

Page 32

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

range of topics which he hoped to master and bring into his great scheme of interpretation of the created world and man’s place in it. It was not only that at any particular moment of time all things should be seen to cohere; that coherence, that unity, should also be seen to stretch through history. Of course neither of these types of coherence consisted in simple agreement. There was no lack of contradiction and conflict. In the pursuit of scientific knowledge it was necessary to assume an underlying uniformity beneath the apparent conflict of external appearances. The same laws might in different places or at different times lead to different effects. So in history or in contemporary experience the search for unity was the search for underlying laws. It has been supposed that Coleridge had little interest in history, and indeed he himself said as much. But to interpret his chance remark (belied by much of his journalism) we need first to interpret the word ‘history’. There is a Gradgrind sort of history, which did not interest Coleridge. His memory was slipshod over dates and names – even his own birthday. But he believed that the movements of history could be interpreted in terms of underlying and unchanging laws. That was why (to take just two instances) he could call the Bible ‘The Statesman’s Manual’, and why he gave so much thought to understanding the French revolution and the rise of Napoleon in ways which were in strong contrast to the way of his onetime friend William Hazlitt. His search for the other coherence, not through history but in contemporary experience, led him to propose his scheme for the Encyclopaedia Metropolitana. Like some of his other great schemes it proved abortive. But in his rejection of a merely alphabetical arrangement of entries and his choice of a thematic arrangement he was trying to assert that there was a systematic coherence in all human knowledge, and that wisdom could only be based on an understanding of the orderliness of our apparently disordered experiences. Coleridge’s response to accusations of plagiarism was, in effect, to say that he was always delighted to meet with ideas expressed by other people which coincided with the ideas he himself had found to be true. If they had already been perfectly well expressed by other people, why not use their words? In our present age, so sensitive to the commercial claims of ‘intellectual property’, we find that attitude reprehensible – though we might pause to recollect that it seems to correspond to the attitude of the writers of the synoptic gospels. In Coleridge it was rather disingenuous, and sometimes the reality was that he had a lecture to give and had not any time to prepare it; so he used the words already in his head from his reading. But the important thing is that when he used other people’s words, he gave them his own meaning – again, like the synoptic evangelists. It is beside the point to argue that he misinterpreted Kant or Schelling or others he quoted. He saw himself as someone who inherited a great legacy from the past which it was his duty to hand on with the added value of his own thought. There was, to his mind, a great tradition and it was his task to develop and enrich it. His method was to bring to his critical attention the resources of his huge reading, to select, to resist misguided developments, and to reformulate. He has left the evidence in the margins of books he owned or, more often, books he borrowed. His marginalia show us his mind at work on the great tradition. To appreciate that process, we must have in mind what was the key assumption which determined its critical method. With all the changes and developments in his

coleridge 4.9.9.qxd

8/9/09 2:24 PM

Page 33

BEFORE COLERIDGE

23

ideas during his maturing experience he remained largely constant in his basic assumption about the relation of the objective world and the subjective experience of the observer. He would not allow the reality of the external world, however intriguing, to make him forget the equal reality of his inner world. His writings repeatedly refer back to the subject–object relation, and to the coexistence of Understanding and Reason in the mind of the observer. He believed that most of his contemporaries were forgetful of what was to him the key to wisdom. That was why he claimed the seventeenth century as his spiritual home. When he looked back on writers of that previous age, he was quite ready to enjoy and appreciate the multiplicity of the Christian tradition, but their writings really came alive to him whenever he recognized indications that they, too, shared the secret. It is perhaps helpful to bear in mind what kind of character Coleridge brought to bear on his theological studies. Even a cursory view indicates four elements which can be related directly to them: imagination, curiosity, a weak will, and an antipathy to authority. As a child, by his own account, he fostered an inner world of the imagination which was to a large extent independent of external stimuli. This did not negate a lively curiosity about his physical environment, which found expression, for example, when he was at school, in accompanying his older brother on his medical rounds at a London hospital and giving him at one time the ambition to be a surgeon. The weakness of his will was a constant factor all his life. The use of opium is a special case, to be seen as an addiction and therefore beyond the reach of simple will-power. More important, in this context, is his repeated failure to do what he believed to be his duty or to keep promises, or even to open letters for fear of what they might contain. These failures he regretted, and repeated. He could not forget that matters of conscience and the need for forgiveness must be part of any account of human nature. His rejection of authority expressed itself in a variety of ways, from his early revolutionary sentiments to his intense dislike of ecclesiastical oppression, whether by Archbishop Laud or the Roman Catholic Church in Malta and Italy. These brief notes about his character are not intended as part of an argument to the effect that he could not help developing a particular kind of theology, but only to suggest elements of human experience which he could not possibly ignore. With these interests and central concerns he turned back from what he regarded as a utilitarian and materialistic age to congenial figures from the past. The giants were men like Plato and Bacon; and a modern defender of their faith he found in Immanuel Kant. That looks rather a mixed bunch. But in Coleridge’s view each of them expressed in a different context the necessary duality of Reason and Understanding. Those are indeed the dominant categories of his theological world. The Understanding, in his usage, is the faculty that judges according to sense. It brings the external world to our attention and makes us search for patterns. It is the agency of science, but also the means of right judgements in ethical or practical affairs. The word ‘Reason’ stands over against the Understanding, in Coleridge’s usage, as a combination of rationality and imagination. It is that which is not given by the external world. It is the unaccountable difference which sets humanness over against all else in creation. It responds to God’s gift of truth. It is not difficult to see why Coleridge admired Plato, a most rational philosopher who nevertheless searched for reality beneath the surface of external things, claiming

coleridge 4.9.9.qxd

24

8/9/09 2:24 PM

Page 34

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

the right to think his way to eternal forms. It may be less expected that he should put alongside him the figure of Bacon, so often admired for his advocacy of the experimental method against the dominance of traditional notions. But Coleridge believed that he could show that Bacon, too, gave full importance to the apprehending mind. When he read Kant he found a new terminology in which the two categories of knowledge could be expressed, and characteristically pushed beyond Kant’s hesitation about the truths of pure reason to adapt what he read to his own use. So when he read some of his predecessors in the faith, though he might compliment them for their language or their spirituality, the things which really caught his attention were their foreshadowings (at least in his view) of his own twofold description of the way of wisdom. When Coleridge compared the defects of contemporary English theology with what he read of seventeenth-century writers, he declared that there was a critical divide between them. Something had been lost and needed to be recovered. The loss affected both doctrine and moral teaching. To put it in a single word – though he himself did not do so – what was lost was transcendence. The villains of the piece included Locke and Paley. The one demolished (or, in Coleridge’s view, merely parroted the demolition of) ‘innate ideas’, and the other reduced the Holy Trinity to a watchmaker and an Old Bailey judge. Their very language showed their intellectual poverty, when compared with the richness of the language of John Donne or Jeremy Taylor. Equally its emotional content felt cold and feeble alongside Richard Baxter or Robert Leighton or those known as the Cambridge Platonists, especially Henry More and Ralph Cudworth. And though they hardly enter into the comparison, Shakespeare and Milton, in their language and their imagination, stood as markers of the high tide of creative writing from which the waters of inspiration had withdrawn with the miscalled Glorious Revolution. To understand Coleridge’s place in the development of English theology, we need to go back to these earlier writers. But it would be wrong to expect from him any systematic account of each one’s theology. That was not his way. He read widely, he made notes in the margins of the books, and used what he had read in his own writings. But his way of reading was not the way of an academic student. He responded in his reading to two kinds of passages: those which he believed to express great truths of the Christian revelation in matchless words, and those which put into another person’s words the particular insights which he himself had already seen or at least had glimpsed. He did not accept teaching on the strength of a great reputation, and indeed was always on the look-out for critical failings in the best of writers. So in relating him to some of his predecessors, it is sufficient to notice how he picked up particular elements in their writings, either for praise or for blame. John Donne provides a starting-point. The time after his ordination in 1615 has been characterized by Professor Owen Chadwick as the maturity of the Reformation in England as elsewhere, when writers and preachers felt enough security to look back and appropriate the riches of the Catholic tradition.1 This in itself was not unwelcome to Coleridge, though in Donne as in others of that age he regretted any ‘over-valuing of the accident of antiquity’. He divided theologians into three groups: apostolic, patristic and papal, and was inclined to put Laud in the third group, as one who longed

coleridge 4.9.9.qxd

8/9/09 2:24 PM

Page 35

BEFORE COLERIDGE

25

for a Pope at Lambeth.2 To him even patristic writers needed to prove their value under scrutiny. Part of the problem was no more than stylistic. On reading in one of Donne’s sermons a fanciful analogy between human birth which is normally head-first from the womb and the ‘headlong falling into calamities which it must suffer after’, he wrote: The taste for these forced and fantastic Analogies Donne with the greater number of the learned divines from James I to the Restoration acquired from that too great partiality for the Fathers, from Irenaeus to St Bernard, by which they sought to distinguish themselves from the Puritans.3 He criticized Donne and his contemporaries for wanting to bring back the stream of the Reformation to the channel formed in the first six centuries of the church.4 Donne was to him a truly great man, his sermons often noble, beautiful, even admirable. But he was too often tempted to play the rhetorician. We have, from Coleridge, no overall assessment of Donne’s theology. It would have been interesting to hear how he responded to Donne’s curiously naïve description of the Holy Trinity as a kind of conversational club. He had spoken of ‘the sociableness, the communicableness, of God’, who ‘loves holy meetings’ with the Communion of the Saints, and had a kind of mutual agreement among the three Persons before proceeding to the creation of the world. Instead of that, however, it is possible to watch Coleridge both enjoying the richness of Donne’s fertile language and dissecting his thought. Much of Coleridge’s belief relied on the developing critical study of the scriptures, which contrasted with Donne’s traditional use of the Bible. They both claimed a degree of freedom in exposition. The older method was not as yet much troubled by the insights of historical study and the impact of ‘natural philosophy’, and often found its way round difficulties by allegorical interpretation. Coleridge was prepared to dissect the scriptures and to contrast one part with another. This is well exemplified in a long note on the virgin birth of Jesus, triggered by one of Donne’s sermons (on a text from Isaiah 7.14). It has a slightly defensive tone, because he knew that it would collide with opinions strongly held by other people. He begins by saying that in a doubtful case we ought to ‘submit our conviction to repeated revisals and re-hearings’. But in the end his conscience makes him declare that in his deliberate judgement the stories of the birth and childhood of Jesus (which he calls the ‘Christopaedia’) were no part of the original gospel. John and Paul knew nothing of them, and the internal disagreements between Matthew and Luke have raised questions about the historic character of the rest of the gospel account. As to the virginity of Mary, ‘no learned Jew can be expected to receive this as the true primary sense of the text’ in the Greek version of the Old Testament. He even refers to the alternative Greek version, by Aquila, to support the view that the proper rendering of the Hebrew word is ‘young woman’, not ‘virgin’.5 This example hardly shows that Coleridge was engaged in a mental dialogue with John Donne. Here he is using his reading in mature age – he notes that he is over sixty years old – as a peg to hang his thoughts on. Elsewhere the engagement is more evident. A good example is when he comments on some of Donne’s words relating to the presence of Christ in the sacrament of the eucharist. Donne says the communicant should pray for the light of faith to see that the Body and Blood of Christ is ‘applied

coleridge 4.9.9.qxd

26

8/9/09 2:24 PM

Page 36

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

to thee, in that action. But for the manner, how the Body and Blood of Christ is there, wait his leisure, if he hath not yet manifested that to thee.’ Coleridge has no patience with this attitude, expressed in the words of the hymn ‘thou art here, we ask not how’ (rem credimus, modum nescimus). ‘The whole question’, he says, ‘is concerning the transmutation of the sensible Elements. Deny this – and to what does the modum [the ‘how’] refer. We cannot ask, How is that done which we declare not done at all.’ The theologian needs a comprehensive scheme of sacramental doctrine which does not leave parts of its meaning in the air. Coleridge took a lifetime to come back to communicant practice. It is as though he had to wait to discover a full understanding of the meaning of symbols in general before he could be at ease with the particular symbol of the eucharist. In another part of the same sermon, Donne had compared the ‘epiphany’ of Christ to Simeon (Luke 2.29–30) with the manifestation of Christ in the sacrament. Coleridge declares that as the Sacrament is the Epiphany for as many as receive it in faith, so the Crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of Christ himself in the Flesh were the Epiphanies, the sacramental Acts and Phaenomena, of the Deus Patiens [suffering God], the visible Words of the invisible Word that was in the Beginning, Symbols in time & historic fact of the redemptive functions, passions, and procedures of the Lamb crucified from the foundation of the World.6 The sacramental presence of Christ in the eucharist does not stand out from the whole context of God’s relation to the created world like some erratic, left by the moving process of history. It is, in Coleridge’s terminology, a symbol; that is, it participates in the reality it represents. Symbols are ‘essential and substantive parts of the process, the whole of which they represent’. They are to be distinguished from mere metaphors or conventional signs. There is, therefore, no need for a change in the elements of bread and wine. God’s grace, as a matter of experience, operates throughout the created order, which has itself come into existence through his Word and is capable of manifesting his Word in particular symbols. Coleridge regarded Donne as a truly great man and read his sermons with close attention. But the notes of his reading are often notes of criticism. There is a frequent alternation of praise and blame: praise for striking passages of genuine devotion; blame for too great a reliance on scholastic modes of thought or ‘mystic divinity’ or poor philosophy. The same kind of alternation is to be found in his notes on Jeremy Taylor. Again, he responds to the richness and beauty of the language, but his admiration does not dull the edge of his critical faculty. We can put alongside each other two comments on passages from his Polemical Discourses. The first relates to a passage where Jeremy Taylor has taken up distinctions drawn by Roman Catholic teachers between different grades of worship (latria, dulia, and hyperdulia). A masterly specimen of grave dignified Irony. Indeed Jer. Taylor’s works would be of more service to an English Barrister than those of Demosthenes, Aeschines, and Cicero together.7

coleridge 4.9.9.qxd

8/9/09 2:24 PM

Page 37

BEFORE COLERIDGE

27

The second relates to another so-called ‘polemical discourse’ concerning original sin. Here Coleridge launches into a short essay on a blank sheet of the volume he has been reading. He begins: In this most eloquent Treatise one may detect sundry logical Lapses, sometimes in the statement, sometimes in the instances, and once or twice in the conclusions. But the main and pervading Error lies in the treatment of the subject in genere [as a whole] by the forms and rules of conceptual Logic; which deriving all its material from the Senses, and borrowing it’s [sic] forms from the Sense… or intuitive faculty is necessarily inapplicable to spiritual Mysteries, the very definition or contra-distinguishing character of which is that they transcend the Sense, and therefore the Understanding.8 This leads to a further statement of Coleridge’s fundamental conviction that Understanding and Reason are two different ways leading to two different aspects of truth. Here he distinguishes ‘words’ from ‘ideas’: words relate to conceptions derived from the senses, and ideas relate to spiritual verities or truths of Reason. This distinction will call for further consideration later. But at present it is to be noted that Coleridge’s sense of kinship with the seventeenth century is not due to detailed agreement with the theology or philosophy of the writers he admired. He uses their writings for his own purposes, as he always did, whoever might be the author he was reading. There is a hint of self-knowledge in his remark about Jeremy Taylor, that ‘his reading had been oceanic; but he read rather to bring out the growths of his own fertile & teeming mind than to inform himself respecting the products of those of other men’s’. It did not seem to matter to him that Taylor was sometimes ‘so slippery a writer, that I know not when and whether I have hold on him’.9 He noted acidly that Taylor, whose Liberty of Prophesying he found admirable, had added an ‘Epistle Dedicatory’ to explain it away when he had become a bishop. It was a ‘foul Blotch of the Episcopal Leprosy’ that the persecution of dissenters under the authority of Archbishop Laud had been revived after the Restoration. The words written had their lasting value, if they spoke to the reader, regardless of the failings of the writer. They could even deserve to be read if they were misguided, provided that they set up a dialogue with another mind. So Coleridge argues with Taylor about original sin, about sacraments, about the infallibility of the scriptures, about casuistry, about redemption. In considering Coleridge’s response to him we should not forget that he was a poet and a lover of language. It was not for his theology that Coleridge placed Taylor in a quartet of masters of the English language with Shakespeare, Bacon and Milton. As Edmund Gosse said long ago he ‘recognised his limitations as a theologian, as a thinker, but he insisted on his art as a writer, on the majesty of ‘his great and lovely mind’.10 We may turn aside to savour a few of his words of appreciation. Whether supporting or assailing, he makes his way by argument or by appeals to the affections, unsurpassed even by the Schoolmen in subtlety, agility, and logical wit, and unrivalled by the most rhetorical of the fathers in the copiousness and

coleridge 4.9.9.qxd

28

8/9/09 2:24 PM

Page 38

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

vividness of his expressions and illustrations. Here words that convey feelings, and words that flash images, and words of abstract notion, flow together, and whirl and rush onward like a stream, at once rapid and full of eddies; and yet still, interfused here and there, we see a tongue or islet of smooth water, with some picture in it of earth and sky, landscape or living group of quiet beauty.11 If Coleridge claimed the seventeenth century as his proper home, it was surely as much for its language as its theology. But it is theology which is our present theme. In the wide range of topics included in Coleridge’s comments on Taylor, the most important may be grouped as those related to sin and redemption and those concerned with the sacraments. His comments on each group inevitably refer back to the scriptures and presuppose his understanding of inspiration and authority. They are also framed within his understanding of the relation between history and the non-temporal realities (‘ideas’ in Coleridge’s terminology) which informed it. So if the doctrine of original sin is tied to a notion of historical inheritance from an original forefather of the human race, carrying with it inherited guilt, it is a monstrous fiction. That is not how to understand the scriptures, which speak to us by expressing ideas through the medium of actual or imaginative events. What the doctrine stands for is a fact of universal experience. The term itself is a pleonasm; that is, sin is of its nature original within the will, and its existence cannot be explained by reference to something previously existing. There cannot be an ‘unoriginal’ sin. The Christian gospel is consequently a way of release and renewal from the human condition of sinfulness, which is simply unaccountable. It reveals, and applies, the way of eternal life through the incarnation of the Word of God. This way has been present from the beginning, since the creation through God’s Word. It is made evident in the historic action and teaching of Jesus. Its effect is described in the New Testament in a range of metaphors, such as re-birth, redemption, the remission of a penalty, justification, or the satisfaction of a debt. But these, like all metaphors, mislead if taken to their logical conclusions. This account of sin and salvation also determines Coleridge’s account of the sacraments of baptism and the eucharist. In his attitude to sacraments, as revealed in his life, it is evident that they did not play a very important role in his religion. He had been hesitant about having his children baptized, and he did not receive communion from the time when he left Cambridge to the last decade of his life. This was consistent with what might be called his holistic approach to human life, if that is understood to mean the adjustment of an overall view to the deliverances of experience. As he found his way to reinterpreting a kind of Platonic trinitarianism in Christian terms, specific sacraments fell into place as moments when the eternal interplay of God and the world could be observed in experience. So baptism enacted God’s forgiving and empowering work upon human nature; and the eucharist enacted the sustenance of human life by the life of the eternal Son of God. Jeremy Taylor was important to Coleridge in giving him a way through the richness of his language to work out his own theology. None of the other seventeenth-century writers was equally significant for him as a theologian, though they could offer ideas relating to areas of thought which were not of great importance to Taylor. Of these,

coleridge 4.9.9.qxd

8/9/09 2:24 PM

Page 39

BEFORE COLERIDGE

29

Richard Baxter had something specific to say in relation to logic; and the Cambridge Platonists in relation to natural philosophy – to science, as we now call it. Baxter no doubt appealed to Coleridge as someone who had worked for reconciliation in a chaotic period and had suffered for not conforming to the repressive regime after the restoration of the monarchy. ‘Highly do I approve of Baxter’s conduct, affectionately admire and bless his peace-keeping spirit, and coincide with him as to the necessity of Church discipline in a Christian Church.’12 But he thought Baxter’s presbyterian system would have led to ‘an Hierocracy unexampled and insufferable, which yet he was the last man on earth to have meant or wished’. One of Coleridge’s most consistent and unchanging characteristics was his passionate opposition to repressive authority. He saw its corrupting nature in Archbishop Laud and in the Roman Catholicism he met in Malta and Italy. It was part of his admiration for the eirenic Archbishop Robert Leighton. And it made him suspect a scheme of church government by presbyteries. But his approval of Baxter was due in large part to one of his less frequently remembered convictions. This was Baxter’s dissatisfaction with the logical process known as Dichotomy, and his attempt to ground his religious thought on the alternative of Trichotomy. The terms are unfamiliar now, and indeed it is hard to find a clear explanation of them in Baxter or Coleridge. Baxter himself thought it was beyond his capacity to work it out, when he tried to set out a method of theology. He said: ‘I had been twenty-six years convinced that dichotomising will not do it, but that the Divine Trinity in Unity hath expressed itself in the whole frame of nature and morality.’13 Coleridge believed this was a recurrent idea which could be found in different forms in neo-Platonic writings, in the sixteenth-century philosopher Giordano Bruno, in Baxter and once again in Kant. In the present context its significance is that it was a line of thought which enabled Coleridge to reconcile his philosophical speculations with the Christian doctrine of Trinity in Unity. He found in that doctrine a correspondence with the universal processes of thought which proceeded from thesis and antithesis to synthesis. This process corresponded to what he believed was true of physical existence. ‘Every Thing or Phaenomenon is the exponent of a Synthesis as long as the opposite energies are retained in that Synthesis.’14 He exemplifies this statement with an example: ‘reality contains the actual and the potential, as, I sit, the actual, but I have the power, the potentiality of walking’.15 A theology, a doctrine of God, must allow for the coexistence of Being and Action held together in synthesis. There was little general interest in theological circles in this kind of speculation. If Coleridge had an inheritance it was not here. But on the other hand Coleridge’s interest in chemistry is worth noting, not for the insufficiency of what he said in the light of later scientific developments, but for the interest itself. He wanted to bring whatever science revealed into an integrated system. Encouraged by friends such as Dr Beddoes and Humphry Davy he took an active interest in current scientific enquiries. The turn of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was the last time when the scientific amateur could think he was engaged in significant research. The appeal of earlier seventeenth-century writers was increased, for Coleridge, by the fact that they, too, felt the need to construct an account of experience which held together the physical and the metaphysical worlds.

coleridge 4.9.9.qxd

30

8/9/09 2:24 PM

Page 40

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

Their uncertainty about how to do so is very clearly evident in the writings of Thomas Browne, the title of whose best known book, Religio Medici (1643), proclaims his equal concern with religion and medicine. The characteristic limitations of this stage of the so-called Enlightenment are shown in this and other writings, where Browne assembles alongside each other great quantities of facts and fictions, observations and superstitions, without organizing them into a satisfactory overall structure. He ‘migrates between various categories of evidence’ – received opinions, empirical facts, and speculative explanations.16 It was the great period of ‘cabinets of curiosities’, when leisured gentlemen collected huge assortments of oddities from all quarters of the earth. The most thoughtful among them were motivated by something more than mere curiosity. In a time of political chaos they were trying to reconstruct an orderliness which they thought the fall of man had disrupted. Thomas Browne hardly gets so far. He confesses to a battle within himself, ‘passion against reason, reason against faith, faith against the Devill, and my conscience against all’. To which Coleridge replies, ‘I really feel an impatient regret, that this good man had so misconceived the nature both of Faith and of Reason, to affirm their contrareity to each other’.17 There were others, however, in this same period of upheaval, who were more confident about holding together faith and reason. Notable among them were the group generally known as the Cambridge Platonists. During the period when Baxter was caught up in the toils of religious controversy and Browne was standing aside from it, to survey the wonderful complexity of human experience, the Cambridge group managed to shelter in academe, live charitable lives, and promote a reasonable faith. Their patriarch was Benjamin Whichcote, by ten years the senior of the group. He did not write extensively, but his character, exemplified by his Moral and Religious Aphorisms, set the temper of their minds, and gave them their watch-word: ‘The Spirit of Man is the Candle of the Lord; lighted by God, and lighting us to God’.18 In a gentlemanly controversy with another Cambridge Professor, Dr Tuckney (‘It is most unmanly to quarrel because we differ’), he upheld the rights of human reason against the Calvinist doctrine of total depravity, and maintained that reason was an instrument of God to make us God-like. ‘With God there can not be reconciliation without our becoming God-like.’19 This claim that humanity is made to be ‘deiform’, running through the writing of the various members of the group, shows the influence of neo-Platonic writers, especially of Plotinus. Indeed Coleridge considered that they were Plotinists rather than Platonists.20 It was to be expected that, in the dogmatic maelstrom of civil war, Commonwealth and Restoration, men of this conviction should look for a ground of agreement. This eirenic disposition is nowhere more nobly displayed than in a sermon of Ralph Cudworth before the House of Commons in March 1647. He insisted that true Christianity is expressed ‘not by our skill in Books and Papers; but by our keeping of Christ’s Commandments’. Let us not (I beseech you) judge of our knowing Christ, by our ungrounded Perswasions that Christ from all Eternity hath loved us, and given himself particularly for Us, without the Conformity of our lives to Christs Commandments, without the real partaking of the Image of Christ in our hearts. The great

coleridge 4.9.9.qxd

8/9/09 2:24 PM

Page 41

BEFORE COLERIDGE

31

Mysterie of the Gospel, it doth not lie onelie in Christ without us, (though we must know also what he hath done for us) but the very Pith and Kernel of it, consists in Christ inwardly formed in our hearts. Nothing is truly Ours, but what lives inwardly in our Spirits. Salvation it self cannot save us, as long as it is onelie without us; no more than Health can cure us, and make us sound, when it is not within us; no more than Arts and Sciences, while they lie onely in Books and Papers without us, can make us learned.21 It did perhaps follow from this insistence on the primacy of inner faithfulness that the outward organization of religion seemed comparatively unimportant. The Cambridge group weathered the storms of Commonwealth and Restoration in the sheltered waters of the university. Their successors within the church were labelled Latitudinarian and accused of watering down the strong wine of the gospel. But their insistence on the validity of human reason, damaged perhaps by humanity’s fall but still the candle of the Lord, was to have its posterity in those who welcomed the light which the scientific method could cast on God’s creation. For the other concern of the Cambridge men was to hold alongside each other the worlds of body and spirit. Cudworth’s huge book The True Intellectual System of the Universe aims by rational argument to demolish the false system of atheism. Its title recognizes that there are also various systems of the visible, corporeal world, of which the Copernican is ‘commonly accounted’ true. He shows the influence, at this stage, of Descartes, who separated the physical world, to be understood simply in terms of matter and motion, from the spiritual world, to be understood in the light of revelation. Cudworth aims to establish three things: that there is an omnipotent, understanding Being presiding over all; that God ‘hath an essential goodness and justice’ and cannot impel men to things that are evil; and that men have ‘such liberty or power over their own actions’ as to deserve rewards and punishments. But his argument against the atheists inevitably carries him into discussion of the origin and nature of the physical universe and the animal creation. It seems to him absurd to think that the observable world is the outcome of the fortuitous motion of atoms. The same apologetic purpose characterizes some of the works of another of the Cambridge men, Henry More, whose philosophical writings included his Antidote against Atheism. Both he and Cudworth disagree with what they understand to be Descartes’ view of animal life as merely mechanical (though Descartes only said there was no proof that they are not automatons).22 More asserted that in animals there were signs of something else, in their natural affections, in their sense of praise, in their display of gratitude, in their craft and subtlety. The study of the animal creation was ‘serviceable for our understanding of the Divine’.23 Here we meet the idea of a hierarchy in created things revealing God’s purposes. This is, for More and the others, no accident. He ‘at last grew the more confirmed that it was utterly impossible that Matter should be the one essential Principle of things’.24 But if not, what other force could be at work? The answer of the Cambridge men was to posit what they called ‘plastic nature’. This was an internal principle, a working mechanism which ran through the whole corporeal universe. It was a vicarious power to which God had delegated the ordering of the created world. But this itself did not provide a sufficient account of

coleridge 4.9.9.qxd

32

8/9/09 2:24 PM

Page 42

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

human life. Unlike animals, human beings did not merely respond to sense impressions. They brought with their birth the faculty of reason. So the Cambridge men entered a double dispute: against the materialism they saw implicit in Descartes, and explicit in Hobbes, and against the reductive account of the human mind as a mere receptor of sense impressions which was to be developed by Locke. The postulate of a ‘plastic’ nature or force at work had a long history, though under other names.25 It has been criticized as the invention of one unknown to explain another unknown. In its time it served two functions. It expressed plain incredulity that the complexities of life forms in the created world should originate by mere mechanism from original inanimate dust. It also seemed to provide an answer to a number of puzzles. It relieved the Creator from the burden of attending to the minute details of his creation. It was also called upon to give some kind of account of monsters, or abnormalities, and even of fossils. It was the lowest of delegated powers. Monsters showed the weakness of this power before the obstinacy of matter; fossils were the product of a power blindly reproducing living forms in inappropriate materials. These wild guesses show the crudity of pre-scientific thought; but they originate in a constantly recurrent conviction that there is more to the living world than the operation of mechanical forces. Coleridge did not show much interest in the idea of plastic nature. But he was concerned with the other dispute, about ‘innate ideas’. Along with the Cambridge men he rejected the description of the human mind as a blank sheet ready to receive the scribbles of sense experience. There was that in the human mind which handled and structured the evidence provided by the senses. It was, however, a mistake to label this human characteristic the possession of innate ideas, and the Cambridge group talk around the term, trying to find a way to express an antecedent capability which is stimulated by external sense impressions. Henry More, for instance, writes of ‘an active sagacity in the soul… whereby some small business being hinted unto her, she runs out presently into a more clear and larger conception.’26 Cudworth contrasts the uncertainty of sense perceptions with ‘abstract or universal things’ which, though perceived by one rational being, are ‘not private but common’, and refers to simple mathematical equations.27 John Smith does not want to ‘banish belief of all Innate Notions of Divine Truths’. God, he says ‘hath stamped a copy of his own archetypal Loveliness upon the Soul, that man by reflecting into himself might behold there the glory of God’.28 The human mind has a capacity to respond to divine things. ‘We cannot see divine things but in a divine light.’ In all this Coleridge saw a groping towards that contrast and companionship of Reason and Understanding which was fundamental to so much of his thought, and which he said had been rediscovered by Kant. Coleridge wrote very warmly of the Cambridge group. Henry More’s writings, he said, ‘contain more original, enlarged, elevating views of the Christian Dispensation than I have met with in any other single Volume’.29 John Smith was ‘so enlightened and able a divine’. But, as with John Donne or Jeremy Taylor, his appreciation did not mute his criticism. So he believed that Henry More had philosophic and poetic genius and immense erudition, yet failed to amalgamate them – for three reasons. First, they had not sufficiently analysed the human mind; in particular they had not clarified it by the critical methods which Bacon had begun to discover. Second, being handicapped by

coleridge 4.9.9.qxd

8/9/09 2:24 PM

Page 43

BEFORE COLERIDGE

33

ignorance of natural science they were unable to begin the task of integrating nature and revelation into a coherent scheme. And finally, they were still committed to absurd superstitions, of ghosts and witches, and childish ideas of the interpretation of prophecies which reduced them to the level of ‘faces seen in the moon, or the sediments of a Teacup’.30 It is impossible to describe, even in outline, the way Coleridge responded to his wide reading of seventeenth-century writers without including Robert Leighton. Continuing interest in Leighton has not been sustained as much as in John Donne or Jeremy Taylor, but his writings were at one time widely read in New England as well as in England and Scotland, with greatest interest in his Practical Commentary upon the First Epistle General of St Peter. The facts of Leighton’s life can be briefly summarized. His father’s wild criticism of the church establishment under Laud in the time of Charles I had earned him the barbaric punishment of mutilation. By contrast, he himself peaceably pursued studies in Edinburgh and in various places abroad, including Douai, and was ordained at the age of thirty to a ministry in Scotland, where he remained through the Commonwealth period. He preferred an episcopal organization of the church, but considered the form of church polity of secondary importance. The title of one of his essays was ‘A Modest Defence of Moderate Episcopacy’. After the restoration of the monarchy, he was called to be Bishop of Dunblane and then Archbishop of Glasgow. He tried hard to reconcile Episcopalians and Presbyterians, and hoped to negotiate a scheme of ‘Accommodation’ which would have incorporated elements of both types of church government. But he was defeated by their intransigence, and spent the last period of his life in quiet retirement in Sussex. Coleridge’s interest in Leighton and his admiration for him have little to do with the events of his life, though he appreciated his eirenic character and shared his conviction that there were Christian principles which were far more important than outward organization. A younger contemporary of Leighton, Gilbert Burnet, says that he was ‘accounted a saint from his youth’. He was ‘a master both of Greek and Hebrew, and of the whole compass of theological learning, chiefly in the study of the scriptures. But that which exceeded all the rest was, he was possessed with the highest and noblest sense of divine things that I ever saw in a man’.31 It is a significant indication of the depth of Coleridge’s own devotional life that he gave such a high place to one who was notable chiefly for his holiness. Coleridge once said to Southey that in the Apostolic Epistles he heard the last hour of inspiration striking and in Archbishop Leighton’s commentary on the first Epistle of Peter the lingering vibration of its sound. For him Leighton’s writings were nearer to the inspiration of scripture than anything else he read. This is an extravagant thing to say. The explanation lies not so much in their actual content, which Coleridge felt free to criticize, as in the response they evoked. ‘As I read, I seem to myself to be only thinking my own thoughts again.’32 That matches the way in which he spoke of the self-authenticating inspiration of scripture, as that which had the capacity to ‘find’ him. In Aids to Reflection his plan was to exhibit ‘the true and scriptural meaning and intent of several Articles of Faith, that are rightly classed among the Mysteries and peculiar Doctrines of Christianity’.33 For this purpose he would use extracts from Leighton’s works, to provide ‘an instructive and affecting picture’ of a richly gifted mind. In characteristic fashion he wandered off along the track of his own thoughts, and called

coleridge 4.9.9.qxd

34

8/9/09 2:24 PM

Page 44

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

in other writers, such as Jeremy Taylor and Richard Hooker, to provide material. But Leighton was the primary source of texts, and they are treated as starting-points for ‘reflection’, not for argumentation. It is as though Coleridge’s deeply devotional nature has emerged. His critical faculty has not been put to sleep, but he responds much more as a wayfaring Christian, and one with all the sad memories of personal failure and tragic addiction. As in the case of Jeremy Taylor, Coleridge’s admiration for Leighton’s writings did not preclude a careful estimate of his merits and defects. Apart from the spiritual insights which he found in Leighton, his great merit in Coleridge’s eyes was to have made the vital distinction between the functions of the Reason and the Understanding. He was disappointed that Leighton did not always use these terms in a careful way. ‘How often have I found reason to regret, that Leighton had not clearly made out for himself the diversity of the reason and understanding!’34 But he was sure that the distinction was clear in Leighton’s mind, although Leighton used terms like ‘natural reason’ or ‘human reason’ to indicate the faculty of reasoning, which is the power to draw conclusions ‘from premises of sense and reflection’.35 That does indeed bring it near to the definition of ‘understanding’, as ‘the faculty which judges according to sense’. This, Coleridge claims, is where Leighton anticipates Kant, and in doing so stands alongside him in his rejection of Locke’s inadequate account of the limits of human understanding. There is another and a different way to spiritual truths. Another virtue in Leighton’s writings, in Coleridge’s judgement, was his moderate Calvinism. It is, at first sight, surprising how strongly Coleridge attacks the general attitude which he characterizes as Arminian: that is, the rebound from a strict assertion of election and predestination to an over-estimate of the individual’s free will. What looks like a release from the fetters of predestination turns out to have the effect of loading everyone with the burden of self-determination. This is no gospel for addicts; and no one felt more bitterly than Coleridge the bondage of addiction. It was his opinion ‘that Calvinism (Archb. Leighton’s, for instance) compared with Taylor’s Arminianism is as a lamb in wolf ’s skin to the wolf in the lamb’s skin. The one is cruel in the phrases, the other in the doctrine.’36 The difference lay in two ways of envisaging the meeting between grace and human will in the process of redemption. In considering this meeting, Coleridge was moved to one of his more poetic marginalia. Wisdom and holiness, he wrote, are met by a miraculous power, a descent giving wings to an ascent. It was like the vaporous electric stem that (half-detached) stretches down from the Cloud, like an Arm of Aidance, & the up-booming Water-shaft from the Ocean, like an Arm upraised in fervent Supplication, in the same moment descend & rise & meet – behold! it is one vast continuous Pillar uniting Earth with heaven; and who shall determine the point of Junction, who shall say, Here the work of Heaven begins, here the lower Element has found its Zenith?37 Leighton retained the sense of God’s supremacy and initiative, which was the priceless merit of his Calvinistic tradition. That did not lead him to denigrate human reason or prevent him from ‘teaching the doctrines peculiar to the gospel as well as the truths common to it with the (so-called) light of nature or natural religion.’38

coleridge 4.9.9.qxd

8/9/09 2:24 PM

Page 45

BEFORE COLERIDGE

35

The general faults which Coleridge claimed to detect in Leighton’s addresses to students concern the ‘disheartening, cheerless, monkish, anti-Lutheran Gloom and ascetic or rather Manichaean Morals’ and his contemptuous declamations against science and philosophy. There were, perhaps, provocations in student life at that time, as in other times, to account for these defects. But the reference to science indicates a more general difference in outlook between Coleridge and his admired author. In his life-long quest for a unified view of human existence Coleridge responded enthusiastically to the progress of scientific inquiries, as indeed the Cambridge Platonists had done in their age. He had quite early in his life coupled together ‘science, freedom and the truth in Christ’, and believed that false science produced warps in theology.39 But science and theology both rested on invisible truth, that is to say, upon fundamental premises which were not the product of sense experience. In the early years of the nineteenth century the gap between the worlds of the sciences and the arts was still small, and Coleridge wanted to be at home in both worlds. In Leighton’s day the word ‘scientist’ had not yet replaced ‘natural philosophers’ but he did not seem to share the interest of some of his contemporaries in the rapid growth of knowledge about the natural world which scientific method was beginning to reveal. Leighton was a supreme religious teacher; but there were limits to the range of his understanding. There was one other criticism of Leighton which is of particular interest because it foreshadowed conflicts in theology which came to a crisis after Coleridge’s death. It related to the meaning of ‘eternity’. The defect of Archbishop Leighton’s reasoning is the taking eternity for a sort of time, a baro major, a baron of beef or quarter of lamb, out of which and off which time is cut, as a brisket or shoulder – while, even in common discourse, without any design of sounding the depth of the truth or of weighing the words expressing it in a hair balance of metaphysics, it would be more convenient to consider eternity the simul et totum – as the antitheton of time.40 Eternity should be regarded as simultaneous totality, the very antithesis of time. It is a postulate of the Reason, not a deduction from evidence provided by the Understanding; a starting-point for religious reflection, not a conclusion of religious thinking. A deplorable consequence of this confusion was to turn the idea of eternal punishment into an infinitely prolonged infliction of pain instead of total alienation from the vision of God. In reading Jeremy Taylor, too, Coleridge had to wink at the cruelty of the idea. He quoted a passage from one of Taylor’s sermons on Advent which ends: by this time the monsters and diseases will be numerous and intolerable, when God’s heavy hand shall press the sanies [pus] and intolerableness, the obliquity and the unreasonableness, the amazement and disorder, the smart and the sorrow, the guilt and the punishment, out from all our sins, and pour them into one chalice, and mingle them with an infinite wrath, and make the wicked drink off all the vengeance, and force it down their unwilling throats with the violence of devils and accursed spirits.

coleridge 4.9.9.qxd

36

8/9/09 2:24 PM

Page 46

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

He comments that here Taylor has displayed imagination, not discretion. He refuses to think that when reading this description of God’s wrathful punishment of sinners (‘this Tartarean drench’, he calls it) ‘it ever occurred to any reader to ground on such passages a charge against Bishop Taylor’s humanity, or goodness of heart’. The good bishop should not have tried to be ‘wise beyond what is written on a subject in which Eternity is opposed to Time, and a death threatened, not the negative, but the positive opposite of Life; a subject, therefore, which must of necessity be indescribable to the human understanding in our present state.’41 This short survey of Coleridge’s responses to his reading of seventeenth-century writers not only illustrates his method of reading and adapting what he read to his own way of thinking; it also suggests some of the ideas which were taken up in the work of later theologians. It provides something of a programme for identifying matters which were in the tradition of Coleridge, either in the sense of his direct influence or at least in continuing a general strand of theology. Some were inevitable parts of any continuing theological discourse. These included matters which were at the time at issue between the current versions of Calvinist and Arminian teaching about sin and forgiveness, the meaning of ‘original sin’, the understanding of redemption, and the place of sacraments in the life of the Christian community. The way in which these questions were approached depended upon underlying beliefs about authority. In these theological matters the individual could not avoid being influenced by parallel beliefs about history, about tradition and about scripture. Coleridge saw history as revealing permanent principles; not therefore as providing examples to be followed, but as alerting those who studied it to moral guidelines within a process of development. In a similar way tradition did not have the authority to settle disputed questions; but it offered the wisdom of the past for scrutiny in the light of increasing knowledge and new experience. The authority of scripture, for him, did not consist in its infallibility; rather it challenged the reader to deal with it as with any other writing: that is to say, critically, and yet with openness to whatever challenged the reader and carried conviction. At a still deeper level, there were for Coleridge, in his search for a unified description of ‘being’, the problems of relationship, between Reason and Understanding, between human search and divine revelation, between the disclosures of science and the disclosures of inner experience, and between the world in time and the coexisting reality of the eternal. He would surely not have expected or wanted to create a group of Coleridgeans. As F.D. Maurice said: ‘I rejoice to think that those who have most profited by what he has taught them do not and cannot form a school and … it is most desirable that the English public, with its party notions and tendencies, should not suppose that they form one.’42 That is not to deny Coleridge’s continuing influence.

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 47

3 Old England and New England

The aged Coleridge had the idea that he was regarded as a great philosopher in America, but only as a failed poet in England. That may have been based simply on a few letters received from New England and a feeling of isolation from the mainstream of intellectual life during his residence in Highbury in a kind of sheltered housing provided by the Gillmans. This was at a time when his religious position was known mainly from Aids to Reflection and Biographia Literaria. It points to an undoubted fact, little emphasized in most estimates of his influence: that there were a number of significant figures in the religious scene in America who claimed to have learned important ideas from him. The reasons for the difference between neglect in England and admiration in America, in so far as it was true, are to be found in the different religious and intellectual climates of the two countries at the turn of the nineteenth century. Some of that difference consisted in contrasted responses, on the one hand, to Calvinism, and on the other, to German idealism. The background of religious development in New England at this time was predominantly Calvinistic, but it was a Calvinism struggling to survive unaltered, or to adjust its presentation, in the face of more liberal ideas. Calvinism had been imported with early settlements; but it could not ultimately avoid being challenged by the ideas of democracy and egalitarianism which came to be expressed in the Declaration of Independence. There were two sides to Calvinism as popularly understood. On the one hand there was the assurance of salvation for the elect, which created a sense of dignity in the individual, regardless of class or country, wealth or education or social position. On the other hand, there was a rigid doctrinal scheme which must be believed, or at the very least accepted, as a condition of membership within the Christian community. Both of these aspects had proved revolutionary in England, because they came up against a hierarchical social order and a religious establishment which was more concerned with uniformity of practice than with purity of doctrine. It was to escape the control of those entrenched powers that the Pilgrim Fathers had set sail for the 37

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

38

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 48

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

new world. In doing so, they had weakened the witness of Calvinism in England and given greater scope for latitudinarian ideas. In England the temper of theological debate was regulated by the fact of establishment, which was itself conditioned by the experience of civil war. The religious turmoils of the seventeenth century could not remain normative for civil society. There were other things to do beside arguing and fighting over religious belief. So a working compromise was reached whereby there could be an established Church of England acting as a bond of nationality and maintaining a fiction of unity, but increasingly deprived of power to suppress nonconformity in religion, as long as that did not imperil social stability. Its continued acceptance as the one officially established form of religious practice was conditional on its own ability to incorporate a wide variety of religious belief. It was to be described later as having Calvinist Articles and a catholic liturgy. Neither part of that description is accurate; but it indicates that the church could accommodate both those who held Calvinistic beliefs about election and predestination and those whose devotion centred upon sacramental worship. This paradox, or contradiction, was exposed in the uniquely English career of the Wesleys. Whereas in America revivalism developed in a Calvinistic environment, John Wesley preached his gospel of salvation for all alongside the Calvinism preached by George Whitefield, and both of them thought that they could do so within the hospitable environment of the Church of England. Their mistake was not in supposing that their teaching was within acceptable limits, but in supposing that they could challenge the social structures which the established church was designed to sustain. It was their congregations, not their doctrines, which were expelled. Calvinists and Arminians were to be found both inside and outside the establishment; and there was room within that establishment for those who rejected enthusiasm of either kind. In that context, Coleridge’s criticisms of particular Christian doctrines as commonly understood, notably the inspiration of the scriptures and the meaning of atonement, did not cause the stir in England which they caused in America, because the dominant doctrines of establishment religion were less rigidly interpreted, for social reasons, than the dominant doctrines of congregations in America which were held together by those very doctrines. Whatever reinterpretation of Christian doctrine Coleridge offered in England could be included in courteous discussion, or just ignored. It was different in America, precisely because there was no similar unifying religious establishment. That did not mean that American society was less religious – quite the opposite was true. The immigrants had come because they held systems of belief which they were not free to practise as they wished in their places of origin; they arrived with a conviction that they had been chosen to form communities of faith. Even though there had been a subsequent decline in religious earnestness, from 1740 the Great Awakening had led to a revival of Calvinistic doctrine. The result was that at the end of the eighteenth century the leading citizens in many communities were preachers, and the basis of community life was, in a general sense, Christian. When it came to the question of defining the detail of that Christian basis, however, there was nothing like the threefold foundation which had been accepted in the Church of England, at least since the time of Richard Hooker: scripture, tradition, and reason. Instead there was supposed to be the single foundation of scripture. But as usual,

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 49

OLD ENGLAND AND NEW ENGLAND

39

wherever this claim is made, there needed to be interpretation, and the standard type of interpretation was Calvinistic. Where the influence of Coleridge was felt in New England it came into conflict primarily with that dominant form of Christian belief. Its impact was, therefore, greater than it was on the other side of the Atlantic. The other significant difference between the religious situations in England and New England was in the degree of German influence. Very few English theologians had shown an interest in the Romantic movement on the continent, whereas in spite of the discomforts of travel a surprising number of the American intelligentsia visited Germany or at least showed an interest in German ideas. In England it was remarkable that Herbert Marsh (1757–1839), who subsequently became Lady Margaret Professor at Cambridge and bishop of Llandaff and then Peterborough, had studied at Leipzig under the biblical scholars Michaelis and Griesbach. Few other English scholars studied in Germany. In any case, the influence of German thought might be only a phase, as in the case of E.B. Pusey, who studied what he called the rationalistic character of the prevalent theology in Germany, but whose later theology was in a very different tradition. Herbert Marsh is indeed a significant case, for he combined an interest in biblical criticism with a strong antipathy to Calvinism, so that as bishop he rejected evangelical clergy of a Calvinistic kind. It will be seen that in America, too, those who felt most strongly the faults of Calvinistic doctrine were also open to the critical reinterpretation of the Bible. For them, it could be a way of escape from the shackles of doctrine. Herbert Marsh looked down from a position of ecclesiastical authority and, with the confidence of a critical scholar, rejected a scheme of doctrine which claimed to find authority in the scriptures alone. The influence of German ideas upon the preachers and teachers of New England must not be over-emphasized. Alongside their home-grown American tradition, embodied above all in Jonathan Edwards, they were also open to Scottish and English writers. One of the principal Americans who declared his indebtedness to Coleridge, James Marsh, writing to him in 1829, summed up the theological situation by saying that when ‘questions of general interest to literary men and Christians’ were raised in England and Scotland, they were quickly taken up in America as well. German philosophy was little known, because even the young men who visited Germany paid little attention to that department of study. A Scottish writer, such as Dugald Stewart, of the so-called ‘common sense school’, author of Elements of the Philosophy of the Human Mind, would be almost universally read as the standard writer on his subject.1 The prestige of Calvinism in New England was enhanced by Scottish contacts. This distinguished the American situation from England, where the influence of Wesleyan Methodism, with its moderate Arminian basis, and the strong opposition of influential Anglicans such as Herbert Marsh, made Calvinistic ideas a minority option, at least in the Church of England. The American context, therefore, was different from the situation in England in the early decades of the nineteenth century. The constricting inheritance of Calvinism made Coleridge’s ideas all the more attractive to those who were looking for an alternative without abandoning altogether the dogmatic interpretation of Christianity. His published works were known in New England almost as soon as in England. They met with a welcome from two different kinds of religious teacher, of whom Horace

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

40

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 50

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

Bushnell and James Marsh may be taken as representative. Bushnell was a preacher rather than a systematic thinker, and was concerned primarily with the everyday life of Christian congregations; James Marsh was deeply involved in university life, and hoped to find a new basis on which to construct an academic syllabus. Bushnell picked up hints and suggestions from Coleridge; Marsh wanted to grapple with the comprehensive programme of ideas which he saw that Coleridge was trying to enunciate. In exploring the difference between the two men, we can see different kinds of influence at work. It is rather surprising, nevertheless, that they seem to have had little contact with each other. Horace Bushnell was born in Litchfield, Connecticut, in 1802 and baptised in the Episcopal Church. But the family moved to New Preston three years later, where their Christian life centred on the Congregational Church, and the young Horace grew up with the moderate Calvinism represented there. He graduated from Yale College in 1827 and returned to it two years later as tutor. At Yale students and tutors were caught up in one of the revival movements which marked religious life at the time. Although Bushnell resisted some of its doctrinal implications, he was affected at a personal level, entered the Theological School in New Haven, and was ordained Pastor of the North Church in Hartford in 1833. He died there forty-three years later, having resigned his pastorate through ill-health in 1859. This long ministry and residence rightly suggests that his importance and influence was that of an impressive personality rather than of a teacher who left a doctrinal inheritance. Coleridge’s influence on him was in releasing him from the rigidities of current Calvinistic doctrine and biblical interpretation. Once the initial impact of Aids to Reflection had done its work, he stopped reading it ‘save in a chapter or two, which I glanced over, just to see how obvious and clear, what before was impossible, had now become’.2 But the effect coincided with a particular view of the significance of language which he had developed under the other great influence which he acknowledged, that of Professor Josiah B. Gibbs of the Yale Divinity School. Gibbs had taught him that the study of language was the gateway into ‘the sanctuary of human thought’. His consideration of the nature of language led him to an analysis which had some resemblance to Coleridge’s distinction between the Understanding and the Reason. He wrote: ‘We find, then, that every language contains two distinct departments: the physical department – that which provides names for things; and the intellectual department – that which provides names for thought and spirit.’3 By making this distinction, Bushnell was able to conclude that the kind of logic demanded by current Calvinistic theology was inappropriate to the realm of the spirit. The governing category was not logic but experience. In considering the debt of Bushnell to Coleridge, it is not necessary to present a full account of Bushnell’s teaching.4 Some of his opinions, such as his limited approval of slavery, would have been anathema to Coleridge. In his view that Christ is so far divine that he cannot be classified with humanity, he stands apart from Coleridge’s final orthodoxy. But in later life, describing his student experience, he could write: For a whole half year I was buried under his ‘Aids to Reflection’, and trying vainly to look up through. I was quite sure that I saw a star glimmer, but I could not quite see the stars. My habit was only landscape before; but now I saw enough to

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 51

OLD ENGLAND AND NEW ENGLAND

41

convince me of a whole other world somewhere overhead, a range of realities in higher tier, that I must climb after, and, if possible, apprehend.5 The very vagueness of this account of his debt to Coleridge tends to confirm the general impression that he picked up suggestive ideas and developed them without further reference back to their original context. Perhaps this is inevitable in a preacher who has become convinced that language cannot precisely express truth, but only points to the actual basis of belief, which lies in individual experience. Bushnell’s undogmatic form of religion, allied to an attractive personality, enabled him to gather and hold a thriving congregation in spite of attacks and criticisms from outside. He saw himself, and was seen by others, as a mediatorial force among the religious controversialists of his time. There was a significant moment in his ministry when he received almost at the same time invitations to address the Divinity School in Cambridge, where Unitarianism was dominant, and the Theological Seminary at Andover, which was the scene of a battle against Unitarianism. If doctrine was ‘formulated experience’, it must be possible to address the religious experience which underlay the doctrinal language of such diverse groups. It must be admitted, however, that the influence of Coleridge on Bushnell, though real enough, was rather in the general direction of his ideas than in the adoption of any specific beliefs. It was a different matter with James Marsh. Whereas Bushnell was a preacher and pastor who exercised a ministry in the same congregation for twenty-six years, Marsh devoted his comparatively short life (1794–1842) to academic work in the University of Vermont. The characteristics of a pastoral ministry, particularly in a church with a congregational form of organization, are such that it can be effective within a locality and be remembered with admiration and affection, but that it has no posterity. There were no disciples of Bushnell. Marsh, on the other hand, stood at the head of a tradition which reached down and bifurcated, in one stream to Emersonian Transcendentalism and in another to the pragmatism of John Dewey. The influence of Coleridge, transmitted through Marsh, was the most important element in this tradition, although in its later stages it had lost its power to energize Christian teaching. In contrast with the English development of the tradition, through F.D. Maurice and F.J.A. Hort and beyond, it was short-lived. Coleridge’s Biographia Literaria had reached New York by 1817 and was being read soon afterwards by students, including a group at Dartmouth College in Andover, New Hampshire, which included James Marsh. The college was going through an unsettling period, with protracted litigation and uncertainty about its future.6 Marsh taught a variety of courses at other institutions before returning as President of the small University of Vermont in 1826. He was a considerable linguist, with some ability in Italian and Spanish as well as in German, which was his main interest. He translated Johann Gottfried Herder’s Spirit of Hebrew Poetry and some other German texts. The writings of Herder (1744–1803) opened a way out of the restrictive theology current at the time. Herder knew Goethe, collected folk songs, and declared that the truest poetry was the poetry of the people. His emphasis on the aesthetic power of scripture brought it into relation with general literature, and in drawing attention to the early literature of the Hebrews he related it to myth and poetry of other nations. Marsh was

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

42

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 52

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

not only open to the influence of this kind of German Romanticism but also valued the legacy of seventeenth-century writers such as the Cambridge Platonists and Archbishop Robert Leighton. All these were interests which he shared with Coleridge. He acted as an interpreter of Coleridge to his associates and disciples. But, more than that, he believed that he had found in Aids to Reflection, with its emphasis on the distinction between the Reason and the Understanding, a basis on which he could reconstruct the academic programme of the University of Vermont. In antebellum New England, college education existed within a Christian context. In some cases it included professional preparation for law or medicine; but a strong Christian basis was normally evident. The types of Christian doctrine, however, were far from uniform, although the Calvinism inherited from the founding fathers enjoyed a kind of privileged status. In the seventeenth century the settlements had generally been Calvinist in theology and Congregational in organization. Continued influence from England moderated this first disciplined Calvinism by introducing or encouraging a variety of alternatives. On the one hand, reaction against the severity of predestinarian doctrine combined with missionary enthusiasm to spread doctrines, sometimes labelled Arminian, which laid a new emphasis on the openness of salvation to all and the role of human decision in determining human destiny. At the other extreme, the philosophical writings of Hume and Locke cooled the religious climate and led to the kind of benevolent deism which underlay the Constitution of the United States. God had acted as creator; but it was the task of human reason to determine human behaviour. Nevertheless the major legacy in New England theology was that of Jonathan Edwards, even after his death in 1758. His teaching was uncompromising in its Calvinism, and he was cautious in estimating the significance of the emotional manifestations of the so-called Great Awakening of the 1740s. Edwards applied the resources of an acutely logical mind to demolishing all arguments in favour of the freedom of the will which might have been used to attack the Calvinist doctrine of predestination. All human choices were under condemnation. Salvation was bestowed on the elect by grace alone. He managed to combine this grim doctrine with a lengthy consideration of ‘The Nature of True Virtue’, which he believed to consist in benevolence, or ‘love to intelligent being’. The teachers who followed Edwards tried in various ways to moderate the harshness of his predestinarian doctrine and his denial of the freedom of the will. But they were always looking over their shoulders to avoid being attacked by those who wanted to criticize others as Arminians. The period during which the influence of Coleridge and of German Romanticism was felt coincided with a further period of evangelical enthusiasm, sometimes called the Second Great Awakening. It was a time of renewed controversy, out of which Unitarianism emerged as a separate denomination, and alongside it various forms of liberal belief covered by the name of Transcendentalism. Some of the issues at the centre of the debate were philosophical and others were more specifically theological. Coleridge and his writings were ideally adapted to focus these issues, because his Aids to Reflection declared his conviction that religious belief demanded a philosophical basis and philosophy, rightly understood, found its full expression in religious faith. The value of Coleridge’s writings, to men like James Marsh, lay in his rejection of Locke’s

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 53

OLD ENGLAND AND NEW ENGLAND

43

philosophy and his reinterpretation of central Christian doctrines, in particular those of the inspiration of scripture, the atonement, and the Trinity. The influence of Locke had long been at work in America. Jonathan Edwards claimed to have read some of his writings as early as 1717, with a delight ‘greater than the most greedy miser finds when gathering up handfuls of silver and gold from some newly discovered treasure’.7 His admiration, however, did not prevent him from disagreeing with Locke. It was the acuteness of Locke’s reasoning rather than his conclusions which captivated Edwards. He followed Locke in examining the processes of the mind; but that left him free to bring in the inspiration of scripture to reveal truths which could not be reached by reason alone. Apart from scripture, all knowledge derived from the effect of sense perceptions on the originally blank human mind. The truth about God’s purposes and human destiny could not be discovered by human reason. That was the province of revelation; and if revelation declared as truth some things which appeared repugnant to human reason, they must be accepted on the authority of the inspired scripture. When Marsh read Aids to Reflection, he believed it rescued him from the absurdity of a contradiction. He found in it the distinction between Understanding and Reason which Coleridge had made the foundation of his philosophy and his religion. The importance of this distinction to Coleridge’s whole scheme of belief is clear from ‘Aphorism VIII’ in which he begins with a short quotation from Leighton and is then led to an extended section ‘On the Difference in Kind of Reason and the Understanding’, to which he added an Appendix which was not included in the first edition, but which Marsh included in his American edition.8 Coleridge had been working with the idea at least since the publication of Biographia Literaria in 1817, in which he wrote of ‘my own conviction of the importance, nay, of the necessity of the distinction, as both an indispensable condition and a vital part of all sound speculation in metaphysics, ethical or theological’.9 Marsh believed that the introduction of this distinction was his most important contribution to theological debate in New England. He was encouraged in this belief by a letter from his friend, Ebenezer C. Tracy, who had written ‘if you can once get the attention of thinking men fixed on his distinction between the reason and the understanding you will have done enough to reward the labor of life’.10 For his 1840 American edition of Aids, he wrote a fifty page Preliminary Essay, the burden of which is to separate religious belief from the philosophy of Locke. It is our peculiar misfortune in this country that, while the philosophy of Locke and the Scottish writers has been received in full faith, as the only rational system, and its leading principles especially passed off as unquestionable, the strong attachment to religion, and the fondness for speculation, by both of which we are strongly characterized, have led us to combine and associate these principles, such as they are, with our religious interests and opinions, so variously and so intimately, that by most persons they are considered as necessary parts of the same system; and from being so long contemplated together, the rejection of one seems impossible without doing violence to the other.11

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

44

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 54

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

For Marsh, the effect of reading Aids to Reflection was primarily one of liberation from the tyranny of sense perceptions. But it also offered the hope of bringing together into a fresh unity the intellectual worlds of philosophy and theology, or of science and religion, which the prevailing type of philosophy threatened to separate, and then to set at odds with each other. He knew that many Christians rejected the need to combine the study of philosophy with that of religion, but he declared that it was impossible to keep them apart. He believed that a close study of any biblical commentary would show what kind of philosophy was held by the commentator. Having argued the necessity, or rather the inevitability, of bringing philosophy and theology together, Marsh then set out his reasons for believing that the widely accepted philosophy, of which Locke was the supreme exponent, contradicted the characteristic and distinctive doctrines of Christian belief. The main point in that philosophy was to assert the existence of the universal law of cause and effect. Marsh summarized the argument of a widely used textbook on philosophy by Thomas Brown, a Professor at Edinburgh, as follows: According to the system of these authors… the same law of cause and effect is the law of the universe. It extends to the moral and spiritual – if in courtesy these terms may still be used – no less than to the properly natural powers and agencies of our being. The acts of the free-will are pre-determined by a cause out of the will, according to the same law of cause and effect which controls the changes in the physical world. We have no notion of power but uniformity of antecedent and consequent. The notion of a power in the will to act freely is therefore nothing more than an inherent capacity of being acted upon, agreeably to its nature, and according to a fixed law, by the motives which are present in the understanding.12 Some of the implications of this argument are that there is no distinction, such as that constantly assumed in the New Testament, between the natural and the spiritual; that there are no grounds for moral obligation; that there is no difference between regret and remorse; and that the ‘image of God’ in humanity, which had traditionally been seen to consist in free will and reason, could mean no more than a capacity to be acted upon and a way of handling sense-perceptions. Marsh held firmly that Christianity was not simply a form of philosophy, but a life. Whether or not any particular believer understood or accepted the distinction between the Reason and the Understanding which Coleridge had set at the centre of his own philosophy and which Marsh welcomed as a kind of enlightenment, the basis of all forms of Christian belief was that, in Coleridge’s own words, ‘the life, the substance, the hope, the love – these are derivatives from the practical, moral, and spiritual nature and being of man’. It was a fact of experience that human beings did have intuitions of necessary truths, did exercise moral responsibility, did have ideas of the soul, free will, immortality, and God. Yet the leading principles of Locke had come to be almost universally accepted in New England, simply because they were hallowed by association with revered teachers, so that it was thought unorthodox to question them. One of the writers whose reputation stood high was William Paley.

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 55

OLD ENGLAND AND NEW ENGLAND

45

Dr Paley tells us in his Natural Theology, that only ‘contrivance’, a power obviously and confessedly belonging to brutes, is necessary to constitute personality. His whole system both of theology and morals neither teaches, nor implies, the existence of any specific difference between the understanding and reason, or between nature and the will. It does not imply the existence of any power in man which does not obviously belong, in a greater or less degree, to irrational animals.13 Marsh cannot resist putting the question whether, on that basis, a dog charged with trespass may not rationally claim to be tried by his peers. Part of the reason, he thought, why religious people were submitting to such a reductive philosophy was that in America some of the older writers were little known, and he aimed to republish in America selections from ‘the best practical works of the English Divines of the Seventeenth Century’.14 This interest coincided with, or perhaps had been encouraged by, Coleridge’s own admiration for earlier writers, including Robert Leighton, whom he prized next to scripture itself. Marsh and other like-minded friends, such as those who met as a group in Boston in what came to be called the Transcendental Club, were out of sympathy with the prolonged arguments in New England Calvinism in the second half of the eighteenth century. They were looking for a fresh source of Christian ideas. But they could not ignore the inter-related theological issues which had been debated with such divisive effect – the doctrines of original sin, the Holy Trinity, the atonement, the nature of Christian evidences, and so forth. So in addition to exploring the suggestive distinction between Reason and Understanding, they also mined the writings of Coleridge for thoughts and arguments on these theological topics. It might be supposed that the basis of Calvinistic theology in New England in their time was the Bible, and that therefore theological writers would have devoted careful thought to the question of its inspiration. In fact this was not the case. It was simply assumed that the scriptures were in some sense or other inspired. But the nature of their religion inclined them to equate inspiration with authority. If they took little notice of the development of the historical criticism of the Bible, it was because they were looking for a source of authority, not an understanding of history. In forming their doctrinal systems, they used the Bible selectively. Original sin and human depravity was established on the basis of Genesis 3 and some texts from St Paul. Predestination was a doctrine proved by Romans 8 and Ephesians 1. Pauline texts provided the basis for a doctrine of substitutionary sacrifice. An alternative form of doctrine needed first a different attitude to the interpretation of scripture. But because scriptural authority was considered the bedrock of all religion, the move towards a fresh understanding of the Bible had to be carefully managed by those who wanted to escape the rigidity of the current orthodoxy. Instead of a frontal assault, they began to establish the legitimacy of reinterpretation by raising questions about language, about the meaning of words. Locke himself had devoted a long section of his Essay concerning Human Understanding to this topic. His formal separation of reason from revelation, however, left words performing two contrasted, if not contradictory, functions in different contexts: interpreting the evidence of sense perception, and conveying

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

46

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 56

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

revelatory messages. In the period we are considering, Marsh saw that the study of words was important. At a less theoretical level, Horace Bushnell chose to examine the nature of language itself as a way to escape from hard literalism. Because he was, as has been said, primarily a preacher rather than a theologian, he tried to avoid technical theological terms. His conception of language involved the replacement of ‘definition’ by ‘expression’. It was a significant step for him. It has even been said that ‘his entrance into the company of New England theologians with such a theory was like Copernicus appearing among the Ptolemaists.’15 That judgement needs to be received with due caution. The nature of biblical language had long been a matter of discussion. To take an obvious example, W.E. Channing’s Baltimore sermon, sometimes regarded as a classical text of American Unitarianism, had been delivered in 1819, four years before Bushnell entered Yale College. Channing had declared that ‘our leading principle in interpreting Scripture is this, that the Bible is a book written for men, in the language of men, and that its meaning is to be sought in the same manner as other books. … Its language is singularly glowing, bold, and figurative, demanding more frequent departures from the literal sense, than that of our own age and country, and consequently demanding more continual exercise of judgment’.16 If it was indeed true that Bushnell’s teaching about scriptural language came as a shock, that must show how high were the fences which divided one group of congregations from another. Bushnell generally did his own thinking and was not greatly indebted to other writers. He may have turned to the hermeneutical question of his own choice. It was part of current theological discourse, and offered a way of escape from rigid orthodoxy. But he did say that he had learnt from Coleridge. His Dissertation on Language came out in 1849 and he may have known Coleridge’s ‘letters on the inspiration of scripture’ published posthumously, as Confessions of an Inquiring Spirit, in 1840, since it quickly reached America. Those ‘letters’ have as their main theme a defence of the inspiration of scripture by disengaging the idea from any picture of the dictation of actual texts, and referring it to the general message of the whole literature. The earlier Aids to Reflection contains at least one suggestive passage which Bushnell may have noted in his reading of it. After declaring that the gospel ‘is not a system of Theology, nor a syntagma of theoretical propositions’, Coleridge turned to the nature of its language. This is a wide subject. But the point to which I chiefly advert, is the necessity of thoroughly understanding the distinction between analogous, and metaphorical language. Analogies are used in aid of Conviction: Metaphors, as means of Illustration. The language is analogous, wherever a thing, power, or principle in a higher dignity is expressed by the same thing, power, or principle in a lower but more known form.17 Characteristically, Coleridge does not then provide a similarly concise definition of metaphorical language, but provides what he calls an instance and illustration. If we try to describe the effects of a transcendent cause, he says, we may illustrate them by comparison with the effects of various ordinary occurrences. He does not say so at this

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 57

OLD ENGLAND AND NEW ENGLAND

47

point, but it is clear that he had in mind the various metaphors (as he would call them) which are used in the Bible to illustrate the effects of Christ’s death and resurrection. By contrast, he claims that the language of John 3.6 – ‘that which is born of flesh is flesh; that which is born of Spirit is Spirit’ – is a true analogy. The principle of birth is the same, but at different levels. We may compare his definition of a true symbol as that which partakes of the thing which it symbolizes. Among many contentious theological issues at the time, one which seemed to turn most clearly on the nature of biblical language was the doctrine of salvation. The New Testament offered a range of words to express the transforming effect of the cross of Christ. Traditional Calvinism in New England, tied to a literal doctrine of inspiration, interpreted in a juridical sense biblical texts concerning the wrath of God, the blood of Christ, the bearing of sins, punishment, and sacrifice. Some of these ways of describing the effects of the life and death of Christ may appear to us now, on reflection, to have been congenial to the preaching of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in America because of the conditions in which a new society was being established. The authority of hereditary monarchs was thrown aside, but authority of a different kind was all the more needed. In New England that authority was claimed for God by preachers of righteousness. It was to be expected that their teaching would declare the awful majesty and strict justice of God, with the inevitable corollary of the total depravity of man through the sin of Adam. A so-called ‘governmental theory’ of the atonement was widely adopted. The justice of God requires the exaction of punishment, in the form of suffering, from humanity. Forgiveness cannot be effective without the visible satisfaction of the demands of justice, since the purpose of punishment is to restrain others from sin. That is the way in which the holy God rules, or governs, the world. But in his sovereign freedom, God substitutes a willing victim for condemned humanity. Such a form of theology matched an absolutist view of the nature of human authority, but it sat uneasily with revolutionary ideas which defined the power of governors as deriving from the consent of the governed. Those who questioned the accepted orthodoxy welcomed a different kind of approach when they found it in Coleridge’s writings. He was not by any means the first to have undermined the established orthodoxy. Indeed the temper of the age had for a long time been shifting the focus of attention from the glory of God to the welfare of man. The change has been described by a critical observer as ‘triumphant humanitarianism’. ‘Total depravity’ became a strong name for a mild disease of the soul. ‘Regeneration’ became an exaggerated description of a secret and imperceptible something which bridged the gap between awakened sinfulness and defective holiness. And God lost all His perfections except His ‘mercy and goodness,’ ready to be transformed to some sort of purely tender and affectionate kindness.18 That may have been the case with some of a new generation of preachers, but it was surely not true of Coleridge’s theology. The strength of his own self-accusation would never let him lose sight of the God’s majesty or reduce his picture of God to a mildly indulgent parent. He needed and he expounded a stronger theology than that.

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

48

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 58

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

In Aids to Reflection he included an extensive comment in which he applied the distinction quoted above between analogous and metaphorical uses of language to the meaning of the redemptive act of Christ. As usual with Coleridge, he gives way to the temptation to dart down side-alleys before returning to his direct argument, but the substance of it may be shown by the following paragraph: Now I complain that this metaphorical naming of the transcendent causative act through the medium of its proper effects from actions and causes of familiar occurrence, connected with the former by similarity of result, has been mistaken for an intended designation of the essential character of the causative act itself; and that thus divines have interpreted de omni [of the whole] what was spoken de singulo [of a particular part], and magnified a partial equation into a total identity.19 In other words, the whole purpose and effect of Christ’s unique redemptive act cannot be fully described by comparison with any other single human experience. The ‘joy, confidence, and gratitude’ of the redeemed is like the effect of priestly atonement and ransom from slavery and reconciliation after estrangement and release from a debt. But these comparisons cannot be made the basis for a legalistic doctrine of substitutionary satisfaction. They are, in Coleridge’s terminology, metaphorical, not analogous. If a true analogy is to be found, it must be in the words of Christ recorded by the beloved disciple, John. He ‘enunciates the fact itself, to the full extent in which it is enunciable for the human mind, simply and without any metaphor, by identifying it with a fact of hourly occurrence – expressing it, I say, by a familiar fact the same in kind with that intended, though in a far lower dignity. … In the Redeemed it is a re-generation, a birth, a spiritual seed impregnated and evolved, the germinal principle of a higher and enduring life.’ We understand the experience of physical life giving rise to new birth; so we can begin to understand that spiritual life gives rise to new spiritual birth. The processes are the same in kind. The words are not metaphorical. Coleridge believes that this rebirth is available to all, but he carefully avoids any easy universalism by declaring the corresponding ‘awful truth’ of spiritual death. ‘As there is a mystery of life and an assimilation to the principle of life, even to him who is the Life; so is there a mystery of death and an assimilation to the principle of evil; a fructifying of the corrupt seed, of which death is the germination. Thus the regeneration to spiritual life is at the same time a redemption from the spiritual death’. This kind of theology, with its Johannine basis, stands in stark contrast to any doctrine of a transactional or governmental type, with their appeal to Pauline texts. By relegating those texts to the level of metaphor Coleridge has left himself free to relate the life of Christ to the continuing work of the Logos, the Word which was in the beginning with God. And because salvation is through believing in Christ, the whole ministry (not the cross alone) is relevant to the rebirth of the believer. The tendency of Calvinistic doctrine had been to focus on Christ’s redemptive death, and then to look in the Old Testament for instruction in the Christian life, making Christianity seem negatively moralistic. The influence of Coleridge in this area of doctrine did not necessarily lead to the adoption of his teaching in detail; it was rather in showing how to escape from a doctrinal scheme which had become unacceptable without abandoning the authority of

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 59

OLD ENGLAND AND NEW ENGLAND

49

the Bible. There were those who remained strongly opposed to him, though they seldom entered into a properly theological discussion of his ideas. The more usual method was to find him guilty by association with other teachers of a less orthodox style. He was accused of pantheism, or of vague mysticism, or simply dismissed on account of the failures of his personal life. Where the response to Aids to Reflection was properly theological, it was in accepting the release from a rigid orthodoxy which had become unacceptable, and then re-working theology from an experiential base. This is especially true of Horace Bushnell. It has already been noted that Coleridge’s influence on him in re-interpreting the nature of religious language was important. His indebtedness may also be seen in his handling of the doctrine of salvation. His book, The Vicarious Sacrifice, has been called ‘one of the greatest books upon the subject ever written’.20 But its two volumes illustrate a critical moment of development in New England theology. The first volume was published in 1866 with the full title The Vicarious Sacrifice Grounded in Principles of Universal Obligation. That title indicates that it starts from an understanding of the redemptive act of God as achieved, not simply by the death, but by the whole life of Christ. That life fulfilled an obligation of vicarious sacrifice which was incumbent no less upon all human beings, as the expression of love. It set before humanity, and on behalf of humanity, the way of reconciliation with God. Love is a principle essentially vicarious in its own nature, identifying the subject with others, so as to suffer their adversities and pains, and taking on itself the burden of their evils. It does not come in officiously and abruptly, and propose to be substituted in some formal and literal way that overturns all the moral relations of law and desert, but it clings to the evil and lost man as in feeling afflicted for him, burdened by his ill deserts, incapacities and pains, encountering gladly any loss or suffering for his sake. Approving nothing wrong in him, but faithfully reproving and condemning him in all sin – plunged, so to speak, into all the fortunes of sin, by its friendly sympathy.21 Here Bushnell was giving his own personal expression of a moral interpretation of the atonement. But he came to think he could not leave it at that point, because it omitted any reference to the kind of orthodoxy which interpreted redemption in objective terms, as a transaction by which the righteousness of God was vindicated. He knew he could not return to language of the older orthodoxy – ‘what is said of law and justice, under the analogies of human government’. The justice satisfied is satisfied with injustice! the forgiveness prepared is forgiveness on the score of pay! the judgment-day award disclaims the fact of forgiveness after payment made, and even refuses to be satisfied, taking payment again! What, meantime, has become of the penalties threatened, and where is the truth of the law? The penalties threatened, as against wrong-doers, are not to be executed on them, because they have been executed on a right-doer!… And it is only in some logically formal, or theologically fictitious, sense that they are executed even on him.22

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

50

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 60

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

But there must be some definitive, objective act of God in Christ, over and above the setting of a supreme example by Christ for all to follow. From something in his own experience he argues that in human forgiving ‘to sweeten the bitterness of his wounded feeling and leave no sense of personal revulsion’, it is necessary for a man to ‘make cost in the endeavor, such cost as new-tempers and liquefies the reluctant nature’.23 Can it be that this truth about our moral nature somehow corresponds to a truth about God? It is a curious line of thought which left little mark on the theology of the day. Yet it represents something which is always there in any deeper consideration of the theology of redemption. The moral interpretation answers well enough when God is seen as a loving father, though it tends to present God as sitting patiently till individuals respond to the force of Christ’s example. What Bushnell had inherited was also an understanding of God as the one who took the initiative and acted in relation to the whole of humanity. Redemption was an objective fact, not simply a subjective experience. This double aspect of the redemptive act was evidently in the mind of Coleridge, too. As usual, he circles round the topic and approaches it from different sides. In his ‘Synopsis of the Constituent Points in the Doctrine of Redemption’ he tries to summarize his answers to four questions.24 They concern (1) the agent and personal cause of the redemption of mankind; (2) the causative act; (3) the effect caused; and (4) the consequences of the effect. (It is perhaps significant that he is concerned with humankind, not with the individual human being.) The problem for any moral interpretation is focused on the second of these questions, and it is only here that Coleridge avoids a straightforward answer. The causative act, he says, is ‘a spiritual and transcendent Mystery, that passes understanding’. He cannot leave it there, of course, but comes back to the problem in two further comments, of which the second is the more straightforward. We can understand the causative act, the truth of which is assured to us by revelation, if we consider that a redemptive act presupposes ‘an agent who can at once act on the Will as an exciting cause, quasi ab extra [in some sense, externally]; and in the Will [internally], as the condition of its potential, and the ground of its actual, being’. His other comment (‘for my more learned readers’) is that he would have been able to express his belief ‘in terms much more nearly resembling those used ordinarily by the Calvinistic divines, and with a conciliative show of coincidence’, if he had explored the distinction between the Absolute Will, as the universal ground of all being, and the election and purpose of God in the personal idea, as the Father. This might have been put more clearly, but he seems to say that he would safeguard the Calvinistic conviction of the majesty of the one eternal God as the origin of all that is, while relating redemption to the trinitarian activity of the Father, the co-eternal Son, and the indwelling Spirit. Redemption is not simply a process of response in human beings; that response is itself the work of the Spirit as an indwelling will. Coleridge had made his pilgrimage from Unitarian ideas to orthodoxy because his own moral failings had made it impossible for him to believe that human beings could, of their own free will, respond to the pattern of life presented in the story of Jesus. There were, then, some specific points of doctrine on which Coleridge’s writings may have had a significant influence; but his legacy was also more general. He was one

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 61

OLD ENGLAND AND NEW ENGLAND

51

channel for the influence of German Romanticism on religion in New England. There was already some interest in it before the 1830s, and visits to Germany were not unusual. When Coleridge mediated and adapted the thought of Kant and Schelling to English readers, his writings were received with enthusiasm in America, too, by some of those who were looking for a way of escape from what they regarded as the rigidities, if not the absurdities, of Calvinistic doctrine as currently preached. It was not that they found in him the teacher of an alternative scheme of doctrine. Indeed some of them doubted whether they could really understand a lot of his arguments. But they fastened on two major elements in them: a refreshing re-interpretation of the idea of inspiration as applied to the Bible, and the use of the contrast between the Understanding and the Reason. If inspiration was seen to belong to the story of God’s dealings with humanity, with actual human experience, and not to textual statements, doctrinal schemes fell into place as far less important than principles governing personal and social relationships. And if there was another kind of knowing beside the evidence of sense-perception, the way was open to declaring the supremacy of individual intuition. Coleridge himself did not adopt either of these simplistic attitudes. For him, the doctrinal tradition of the church came to be seen as an expression of principles which had eternal relevance; and the individual needed always to hear the wisdom of the past. Intuition was not a safe guide to the truth. We can see the future of these two lines of development in what is now, nearly two centuries later, our past. The destination of the two divergent paths appears in the teaching of two significant figures: Ralph Waldo Emerson and John Dewey. To begin with Emerson, we can find a testimony to Coleridge’s influence in J.E. Cabot’s Memoir of 1887. In September 1836, on the day of the second centennial anniversary of Harvard College, Mr Emerson, George Ripley, and myself, with one other [George Putnam], chanced to confer together on the state of current opinion in theology and philosophy, which we agreed in thinking very unsatisfactory… What we strongly felt was dissatisfaction with the reigning sensuous philosophy, dating from Locke, on which our Unitarian theology was based. The writings of Coleridge, recently edited by Marsh, and some of Carlyle’s earlier essays, especially the ‘Characteristics’, and ‘Signs of the Times’, had created a ferment in the minds of some of the young clergy of that day. We four concluded to call a few like-minded seekers together on the following week. Some dozen of us met in Boston, in the house, I believe, of Mr Ripley. … These were the earliest of a series of meetings held from time to time, as occasion prompted, for seven or eight years.25 These were the early days of the movement known as Transcendentalism, which developed among Unitarian ministers. A critical moment had already been reached when William Emery Channing preached an ordination sermon at Baltimore in 1819 in which he used the freedom given by a critical view of biblical interpretation to claim that it provided a firm doctrinal base for Unitarian Christianity. Its emphasis fell on reasserting the humanity of Jesus and, more generally, the worth and dignity of each

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

52

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 62

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

human being. The old scheme of mankind’s fall into sin and God’s remedy in the sacrifice of Christ was set aside. At this stage in the development of Unitarianism Calvinistic theology was replaced by a liberal form of belief which was nonetheless doctrinal, claiming a basis in inspired scripture. But the movement away from traditional theology did not come to rest there. The influence of German Romanticism, mediated for some of the clergy through Coleridge, encouraged a form of idealism which was inimical to institutional authority and pointed towards disengagement from political life. That was an attitude which had already been abandoned by Coleridge. He had always been deeply concerned with political life, and had made significant contributions to political journalism. The English situation, unlike the American, prevented the divorce of religion from politics. Even Dissent, though rejecting any form of established religion, was strongly political. In America Transcendentalism exploited Coleridge’s distinction between the Understanding and the Reason to assert intuition against intellect. Nature had become self-conscious in humanity. The divine essence was present in every individual. The intellectual faculties alienated a human being from the inner divinity. The difficulty with this belief about intuition was that it posed the question, Whose intuition? Was it individual or corporate? In the story of the Brook Farm experiment we can see how some of the transcendentalists tried to answer the question. The experiment was yet another example of a recurrent pattern of communal life which appears whenever idealism recoils from the intractable task of reforming the general society. George Ripley, mentioned above as an early promoter of Transcendentalism, wrote to Emerson in 1840, inviting his support. They proposed, he said, to take a small tract of land, which, under skillful husbandry, uniting the garden and the farm, will be adequate to the subsistence of the families, and to connect with this a school or college in which the most complete instruction shall be given, from the first rudiments to the highest culture. Our farm would be a place for improving the race of men that lived on it; thought would preside over the operations of labor, and labor would contribute to the expansion of thought; we should have industry without drudgery, and true equality without its vulgarity.26 It sounds rather like the Susquehanna scheme over again, or Coleridge trying to dig his garden at Nether Stowey, though there is no reference back to him. Emerson offered general sympathy, but no more. The idea of inter-relating thought and labour was not in his style. When the early idealistic phase of Brook Farm gave way to socialistic ideas he became hostile to it. His own ideas became more and more individualistic. If the divine essence was in all men, their need of each other was hardly pressing. The individual should try to remove the inhibitory effect of the intellectual faculties on his underlying divinity and achieve a kind of ecstasy. That was far from Coleridge’s intention when working out the relation between Understanding and Reason. The last whisper of Coleridge’s theology in New England may be detected in the work of John Dewey, the notable philosopher and educationalist whose long life stretched from 1859 to 1952. Although he moved gradually further and further away from traditional religious belief, he could never quite leave religion alone. This

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 63

OLD ENGLAND AND NEW ENGLAND

53

continuing concern was recognized in 1929 when he was appointed Gifford Lecturer in Natural Theology and delivered at Edinburgh University the lectures subsequently published as The Quest for Certainty. The basis for this concern was both personal and academic. He had been brought up as a Congregationalist in Burlington, Vermont, and his personal life, though he was hesitant to speak about it, seems to have been marked by two contrary forces. The piety and moralism of home and church somehow caused a ‘laceration of spirit’27 and led him finally to reject institutional religion. But he also had a kind of inner devotion which permitted him to continue teaching in Sunday School until he was in his thirties. One of his students even said that Dewey had had a mystical experience which released him from all anxiety.28 The academic influence derived from his student days at the University of Vermont. Though James Marsh had died in 1842 his influence was still felt at the university, and Dewey found in Aids to Reflection the beginning of that journey into broader views which continued for decades. Late in life he was given a copy of Coleridge’s book at a birthday party by a friend, who recorded that Dewey said: ‘Yes, I remember very well that this was our spiritual emancipation in Vermont… This Aids to Reflection, in Marsh’s edition, was my first bible. … I never did change my religious views.’29 Whether or not that is an accurate recollection of Dewey’s response, it shows at least that the influence of Coleridge had been at work in the University of Vermont long after his death. Dewey and his fellowstudents were also inevitably affected by the sustained effects of the Romantic movement, which emphasized feelings of spiritual integration with nature, while recognizing that the observer contributed to its interpretation in the act of observation. But the period of Dewey’s academic career was marked in American intellectual life by the decline in the influence of theological teachers, which had been so marked a feature of early post-revolution generations in New England. Religion, it has been said, prospered; theology went bankrupt.30 If Coleridge provided Dewey with emancipation from the rigidities of Calvinist dogma, the positive reorganization of his intellectual priorities was due to two major developments which affected all western societies during his lifetime. These were, on the one hand, the new scope and prestige of scientific ideas, in particular the idea of evolution and, on the other, the growing force of democratic ideals in political and social life. Dewey wanted to respond to these movements, indeed to promote them; but he could not entirely deny the force of his early experience of religion. So even after he had abandoned church membership he continued to look for an alternative way of using the word religion and the word God. His problem with religion was that it had been, in his view, unnecessarily identified with religious institutions. Those institutions, whatever their differences, all required the acceptance of some form of doctrine. They were essentially backward-looking, and this was in conflict with the fresh awareness of continuous development which was implicit in evolutionary theory. All religions… involve specific intellectual beliefs, and they attach – some greater, some less – importance to assent to these doctrines as true, true in the intellectual sense. They have literatures held especially sacred, containing historical material with which the validity of the religions is connected. They

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

54

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 64

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

have developed a doctrinal apparatus it is incumbent upon ‘believers’ (with varying degrees of strictness in different religions) to accept. They also insist that there is some special and isolated channel of access to the truths they hold.31 Another stumbling-block for Dewey was belief in the supernatural, because it went along with ‘a pessimistic belief in the corruption and impotency of natural means’.32 He saw the resort to supernaturalism as the product of belief in this impotency, which should rather be remedied by the increase of scientific understanding. It was true that so far social problems had not been solved by ‘social intelligence’. But the assumption that only supernatural agencies could give control was sure to retard the effort to find solutions. ‘It is as sure to be a hindering force now with respect to social intelligence, as the similar appeal was earlier an obstruction in the development of physical knowledge’.33 Dewey’s strongly felt sense of the corporate nature of reality, of knowledge attained in human interaction, also led him to attack supernaturalism for being, like atheism, concerned with the human person in isolation. So what was left to be the meaning of religion and the word ‘God’? Atheism was not for him an option. His attack on it shows the influence of the Romantic poets. The ties binding man to nature that poets have always celebrated are passed over lightly. The attitude taken is often that of man living in an indifferent and hostile world and issuing blasts of defiance. A religious attitude, however, needs the sense of a connection of man, in the way of both dependence and support, with the enveloping world that the imagination feels is a universe. Use of the words ‘God’ or ‘divine’ to convey the union of actual with ideal may protect man from a sense of isolation and from consequent despair or defiance.34 Religion, or ‘the religious’, stood for what was superadded to the analytical understanding of problems in society and in education. It was no longer to be found in religious institutions, which were inextricably wedded to the past; it was much more likely to be expressed through the creative activity of the arts, which reached forward with imagination into the future. Just as evolution was a continuous process in the natural world, so also certain values nurtured in social interaction grew in definiteness and coherence. ‘The process endures and advances with the life of humanity’. The idea of the supernatural was not only irrelevant, but actually a hindrance. Its elimination would accelerate and purify the process. There is something distinctively American in this development of ideas. It had originated in a distant period when the dominant forces in the new nation were still strongly religious, so that it struggled to free itself fully from religious terminology. It had moved into a time when national consciousness was fostered by the adoption of a democratic ideal, and evolutionary categories were used to project on to the future a vision of increasing order and rationality in social life. That kind of optimism, never shared by Coleridge after the Terror had obliterated the blissful dawn of the French revolution, was itself vulnerable to the shocks of the twentieth century. Somehow Dewey held on to his optimistic vision through the Great War and the Depression. But his Gifford lectures, published as A Common Faith in 1934, acknowledged that there was

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 65

OLD ENGLAND AND NEW ENGLAND

55

a strong reaction in what he called ‘orthodox circles’. The sense of human catastrophe, deeply felt by European theologians, was bearing American fruit in the teaching of Reinhold Niebuhr and others. The doctrine of original sin, which Dewey thought was not especially current in liberal circles, was back on the agenda. It had never been off the agenda for Coleridge.

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 66

4 Maurice among the Philosophers

One theologian who fully acknowledged his debt to Coleridge was F.D. Maurice. In a second edition of The Kingdom of Christ he included a Dedication to Coleridge’s son Derwent, which is a kind of apology for not having declared his indebtedness in the original publication. He offered the characteristically self-deprecating explanation that he had hesitated to involve the name of Derwent’s father in any opprobrium which his own work might earn. But his reviewers, friendly or hostile, had not been deceived; so now he had decided to avow the debt. He then ran through a list of Coleridge’s books, indicating briefly what he had learnt from each of them. The Friend had shown him that society was a reality and that ‘it would not become at all more real by being unmade and reconstructed’. It was necessary to inquire ‘what are the grounds of its reality’. Biographia Literaria showed him a man escaping from the belief that all things are dependent on association, into the discovery of a deeper harmony. Aids to Reflection was a book which could speak to ‘Peasant’ as to ‘Schoolman’ about the ‘preciousness of the simple Creeds of antiquity’. Church and State spoke of ‘the opposition and necessary harmony of Law and Religion’. As a result of his reading and his own reflection, he says, ‘There rose up before me the idea of a CHURCH UNIVERSAL, not built on human inventions or human faith, but on the very nature of God himself, and upon the union which He has formed with His creatures’. To hold on to this idea, Maurice had to discard much of the philosophy current in his day, although he did not think of himself as a philosopher. ‘It will be evident to the reader of any part of these volumes that I have felt as a theologian, thought as a theologian, written as a theologian; that all other subjects in my mind are connected with theology, and subordinate to it.’1 So F.D. Maurice characterizes the two long and painstaking volumes of his Moral and Metaphysical Philosophy. It is a true estimate which applies to all his writings as much as to the work in question. It helps to explain the difficulty of considering Maurice among the philosophers, for it shows how little he himself was concerned to vindicate his contribution to the philosophy of religion. He regarded it as the theologian’s duty to 56

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 67

MAURICE AMONG THE PHILOSOPHERS

57

help ordinary men and women to meet the problems which were forced upon them daily, and for this reason he avoids as much as possible the use of philosophical terminology, preferring the unphilosophical language of the Bible. He describes in one of his books how he came to suspect quite early in life the doctrine that there are two senses of many words, one metaphysical and the other popular.2 Neither, he thought, gave him a foundation on which to stand. One told me the opinion about certain great facts which was current among doctors. The other told me the opinion about the same facts which was common among pulpit orators. Was there no way which led to the facts themselves? From this dilemma the Bible rescued him. Using this guide it seemed to me that I could look at the words which concerned us most, such as Time and Eternity; that I need not give either two senses; provided I looked upon the permanent as the standard for the changeable and the fleeting, and did not attempt to deduce the nature of the higher from that of the lower. Maurice’s reluctance to speak in the terminology of philosophy was grounded in his abhorrence of mere opinions. Living in the turmoil of ecclesiastical parties, each with its own party line, he longed for facts to deliver him from the tyranny of opinions. Theories and notions and all abstractions from facts were in themselves worthless, if not positively dangerous. He profoundly mistrusted all systems of thought as the even more unreal combinations of unreal abstractions. He had, therefore, no particular respect for consistency and was prepared to praise contradiction and paradox if he saw they could only be removed at the expense of truth. He passes on Nicholas of Cusa this notable verdict: If we sometimes suspect him of a certain pleasure in paradoxes for their own sake, we must recollect that his great object is to make us feel the necessity of contradictions to our understanding, and the duty of facing them, if we would have a vision of the all-embracing Truth which lies beyond them.3 It is a verdict we may apply in some degree to Maurice himself. It is partly in his use of paradox that there lies that obscurity with which Maurice has often been charged. But the difficulty of his writings has a deeper root. In his controversy with Mansel (to be considered in the next chapter) we see two honest men failing to understand each other because their fundamental assumptions are very different. Maurice so consistently referred every superficial question to underlying principles that he is undoubtedly difficult to read unless those principles are understood. His principles were inflexible; his application of them most undogmatic. It is for this reason that the common estimate of him as ‘one of the Christian Socialists’ is so curiously unjust. Maurice was an unpractical man goaded into activity by the practical enthusiasm of Ludlow, and it is a hard fate that one who valued the

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

58

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 68

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

principles underlying the experiment rather than the experiment itself should be labelled by the title of the passing manifestation of those timeless principles. The reader of his works must remember these principles, and be prepared for many qualifications and concessions in their application. Many a seemingly rambling sentence cannot be pared down without losing some fine shade of meaning Maurice is trying to convey. These are the primary difficulties in understanding Maurice as an interpreter of philosophers or a controversialist among them. But there are further obstacles. In the first place he is an unsystematic writer; most of his books are sermons or addresses of an ad hoc nature. To this rule his Moral and Metaphysical Philosophy is an exception. Here the treatment follows the historical sequence. But Maurice’s method of seeking out what he thought valuable in each thinker sometimes makes it impossible to discover what in fact was the teaching of the one in question. The value of the book as an index to Maurice’s own thought is diminished by the absence of critical evaluation and by the brevity of its section dealing with most recent developments. There is, in fact, no book in which Maurice sets out regularly the structure of his philosophical position. The nearest approach to such an exposition is (absurdly enough) to be found in his reply to Mansel’s reply to his reply to Mansel’s Bampton Lectures. Maurice had to be pushed very hard before he made an effort to be philosophically systematic. It might have been helpful if he had left behind him a school of disciples. But here lies another obstacle; for it is strictly speaking impossible to be a Maurician. Maurice was not only afraid of schools and parties, but was alive to the danger of creating a ‘no-party party’ or a ‘nosystem system’. And none of his closest associates or followers acted as a Plato to his Socrates. Perhaps Westcott or Hort could have done so. But Westcott, for all his acumen as an interpreter of the scriptures, shared Maurice’s fatal diffuseness when he developed his own thoughts. In any case, he never regarded himself as a disciple of Maurice, but rather as a naturally sympathetic thinker. With Hort the case is rather different. Friend and admirer of Maurice though he was, he was too independent a thinker, and too great a man, to find fulfilment in the exposition of someone else’s ideas, with the exception of Coleridge himself. And his deep interest in the physical sciences gave him insights which would never have come to Maurice. These are some of the difficulties which confront those who try to see Maurice among the philosophers. Against them may be set two considerations of some importance. First, although Maurice made no claim to be a philosopher, the most protracted controversy of his very controversial life was with Mansel, who did. And then, although he himself set no very great store by consistency, he was at least consistent in sticking to the same paradoxes. At the age of thirty-three he published his first major work The Kingdom of Christ, and in it are to be seen already developed all his central beliefs. We are saved from the task of tracing the stages by which his main ideas developed. There were, however, some formative influences which he himself acknowledged. First of these is the Unitarianism in which he grew up, but which, he says, ‘seemed to my boyish logic incoherent and feeble’.4 He explained at some length to his father in 1832, when he was twenty-six, that the doctrines which he accepted as the true doctrines of the Bible were those which taught him how he might ‘converse with the holy and invisible God as a real living person’.5 He did not think that these

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 69

MAURICE AMONG THE PHILOSOPHERS

59

were taught by Unitarians, and so he turned away to another faith where he found that this greatest need of his nature, a link between man and God, was met in the teaching of the incarnation of the Son of God. The influence of Unitarianism acted by repulsion. In Maurice’s friendship with Julius Hare, on the other hand, we find a creative influence. Maurice was Hare’s pupil at Cambridge and from the first seems to have been deeply impressed by him. They became friends, and eventually were joined by double ties of relationship. Hare married Maurice’s sister Esther and Maurice took as his second wife Hare’s sister Georgiana. In Hare he found a man of sincere devotion coupled with a liberal mind, open to truth wherever found, and the two friends came to share many convictions. Most importantly, Hare was an avowed disciple of Coleridge, and it was through Hare in the first place that Maurice absorbed Coleridge’s influence. Another notable friendship of Maurice was with Thomas Erskine of Linlathen, though this was neither so early nor so close as with Hare. The similarity of their theological ideas, however, is striking, and they both opened up paths to the reinterpretation of Christian orthodoxy. But Erskine did not directly contribute to Maurice’s attitude to contemporary philosophy. Another important influence on Maurice was that of Wordsworth. It may seem strange to mention a poet in the present context. But Maurice could not be influenced in one part of his mind and yet shut out that influence from the rest of it, and Wordsworth’s influence on Maurice percolated through from his poetry into the realms of theology and philosophy. As C.E. Raven wrote of Maurice: It was the sincerity and simplicity with which he followed out his principles to their conclusions that amazed and sometimes perplexed his contemporaries; for most of us think in compartments, with a different set of principles dominating each, and when we meet one who insists that principles are either true everywhere or not true at all, and moreover forces us to a similar consistency in thought and action, we either stone him or sit at his feet.6 This is truly said of one who held simultaneously the chairs of Theology and of English Literature and Modern History at King’s College, London. So we may expect his attitude to the poetry of Wordsworth to correspond to some elements in his theology. His son says that he was disposed to admire Wordsworth next after Coleridge.7 Maurice explains his attitude in The Kingdom of Christ, where he speaks of modern poetic movements as maintaining a connection between man and nature which the individualism of Protestantism forbade.8 He rejected Unitarianism because he sought a link between God and man. He was drawn to Wordsworth because of his witness to the link between man and nature. At the time when Maurice came into the public eye as a substantial theologian (which we may date from the publication of The Kingdom of Christ in 1838) there were two main religious movements in the church. The elder of the two had started within the Church of England with Wesley, had been partly forced outside, and yet had continued to exercise a strong influence within it – the Evangelical Revival. No one would claim that this was primarily a philosophical movement, and yet Maurice discerned beneath its ‘enthusiastic’ surface two principles of great significance. The

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

60

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 70

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

first was that God speaks to the hearts of men and they can hear and respond – else what was the use of the evangelical preachers’ fervent appeals? The second was that humanity was depraved, or (to put it in the language commonly used by Maurice) that the root of humanity was in the fallen Adam and not in the pre-existent Christ. Maurice believed that these two principles were totally incompatible. If the second were true, the first would be impossible; if the first were possible, the second must be untrue. Human beings, if fundamentally evil, could not respond to the appeal of God through the preaching of the gospel. But it was a fact of experience that they did respond, and no excesses of emotion could conceal the fact that it was a real response to God. Maurice accepted the first principle and fought the second. The younger of the two movements was the Oxford Movement. There was much in it to attract Maurice. Suspicious as he was of all mental constructs, he welcomed teaching which aimed to restore reality to the church, her formularies and modes of worship. To him the church was no voluntary association, but a divinely instituted witness to the true state of humanity. It was a real society, a family of which we are born to be members, and become true members by acknowledging the status in which God has created us. It was a reality independent of our thought about it. So with forms and ordinances: they were not empty husks, but witnesses and signs of a universal society. In the introduction to The Kingdom of Christ he speaks of ordinances as prized by those who value personal religion – Luther, for example – because of the danger of substituting belief for its object. Elsewhere, after his breach with the Tractarians, he says: I am bound to express my conviction, though I may seem to be uttering a paradox, that the catholic movement which has taken place in this university within the last ten or twelve years was not a movement towards formalism but away from it.9 So Maurice and the Tractarians were momentarily drawn together. When in 1835 a University Bill had been introduced into Parliament to abolish the requirement of subscription to the Thirty-Nine Articles at the universities, the Tractarians naturally opposed it, and so did Maurice. They accepted him as an ally, though his standpoint differed from theirs, and encouraged the publication of his pamphlet Subscription No Bondage. At that time Maurice believed that subscription was primarily an acknowledgment of the terms on which teaching was given in the university, a recognition of the assumptions underlying all its teaching, which he thought it right should be made clear to those who came to be taught. Later he came to confess that subscription was bondage.10 But at the time he regarded the Articles as a protection against partisanship. Creeds and Articles were to him instruments of inclusion, not exclusion. He soon came to see that this was not the view of the Tractarian leaders. The same kind of conflict appears between their respective teaching about the sacraments. It was Pusey’s Tract on Baptism, also published in 1835, which finally alienated Maurice from the Oxford Movement. He certainly had something in common with them, but here the difference was too fundamental to be glossed over. As A.R. Vidler has said:

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 71

MAURICE AMONG THE PHILOSOPHERS

61

Maurice applauded the Tractarians for bringing out the social meaning of the sacrament, but they did not go far enough. They interpreted the witness of the sacrament in an exclusive manner, as though it asserted that those who were not baptized were not members of Christ, as though Christians were Sons of God only because they were baptized men, and as though their sonship was a sentence upon all the world before them and around them.11 Because they made the sacrament exclusive and failed to assert that all were children of God, it seemed to Maurice that they too, like the evangelicals, made the Fall the starting-point of their theology, and Adam rather than Christ the true representative of humanity. There was another common characteristic of Evangelicalism and Tractarianism which was offensive to Maurice, as it had been to Coleridge. They both appealed to an authority external to human beings: the one to the Bible as the infallible word of God, the other to the indisputable authority of the church. Maurice could accept no such appeal, because it seemed to suggest an absentee God who had removed his presence from among humanity and delegated his authority to a lower court. The resort to such an appeal sprang, he maintained, from a fundamental scepticism, poorly masked by the name of belief. The mask would all too easily drop away once people discovered that their views of infallibility were untenable. For the desire for an authority lower than the living Spirit betrayed their insufficient belief in that Spirit. These general criticisms of contemporary religious movements are important indicators of Maurice’s basic principles. Because he regarded himself as a theologian and not a philosopher, they provide the proper introduction to understanding his attitude to philosophy. The first stream of philosophic thought to be considered is that which flows from Locke. In the thought of Locke there is an unresolved difficulty. His examination of the processes of the human mind led him to reject the theory of innate ideas and to make his start from outside, from sense-perceptions and what they communicate, instead of from within, from the cogito of Descartes. But alongside this conviction of the primacy of the senses, Locke maintained a traditional belief in God and the Christian religion. The two elements of his scheme were ill-matched, and the resolution of this difficulty called for further enquiry. One possible outcome was the scepticism of Hume. If all our knowledge is derived from the data of the senses, we can have no knowledge of God. His references to revelation are merely ironical, for if all knowledge derives from the senses, that ‘all’ includes the knowledge of what is called revelation. Revelation, then, has only the authority of our sense-perceptions, which are themselves fallible. It was this thoroughgoing scepticism of Hume which roused Kant to further inquiry. He accepted the conclusions of Hume in a modified form. We can have no knowledge of God of the same order as the knowledge we derive from our sense-perceptions. But this admission prompts the question, Is there, nevertheless, another order of knowledge besides that derived from sense-data? To this question he returns a cautious and modified affirmative. We can hardly speak of another order of knowledge, but there are certain pre-conditions of thought which must be fulfilled in order to make thought possible. They are generically different from

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

62

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 72

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

the demonstrable propositions which we build with the material furnished by our sensory faculties, but they are equally unlike mere hypotheses. These pre-conditions Kant called the ideas of the speculative reason. In a similar fashion he held that the existence of our moral natures had its own presuppositions – the realities of freedom, of immortality, and of God. These are the postulates of the practical reason. The interpretation of Kantian ideas to English divines was partly the work of Coleridge. He was one of the few Englishmen with any real knowledge of contemporary developments of philosophy in Germany. On the whole Hume had succeeded in alienating theology and philosophy in England. But Coleridge adopted and adapted ideas and phraseology derived from Kant to the reinterpretation of orthodox Christian teaching. His most notable borrowing was the Kantian distinction of the Reason and the Understanding. The Understanding includes and interprets sensual experience; and the speculative Reason includes and interprets the experience of the Understanding. Coleridge went beyond Kant in ascribing to the conclusions of the Reason more than regulative truth. Nothing could be true which contradicted the Reason, for the Reason was the organ of the deepest spiritual experience in man. Every dogma, for instance that of the Trinity, must be brought to the test of that experience. Coleridge continued Kant’s emphasis on morality, and placed above the theoretic or speculative Reason the practical Reason – not so much a faculty of man as a form of living, the whole of man in active life. The principles of the speculative Reason are valid, but they are subordinate to the moral insights of the practical Reason. Coleridge makes the leap of faith which the more cautious Kant was unwilling to make. He equates the principles or postulates of the Reason with objective truth, and restores to man that knowledge of God which Locke had taken away. Maurice gladly acknowledged the deep influence of Coleridge. He was less concerned to vindicate the labels which Kant had stuck on portions of the human constitution. But he saw in Coleridge’s thought the acknowledgement of principles. The first of these is that the human person is so made as to be able to know God, and is called to know God. Coleridge, he says, learnt that if he could believe in God, other difficulties would be nothing to him. That was the infinite difficulty. But he discovered that it was also the infinite necessity. He could believe nothing till he had this ground of belief.12 We notice here a virtual equation of belief and knowledge in relation to God. The kind of knowledge which is possible in relation to God is the kind which is furnished by belief, not in the sense of notion or opinion, however strongly held, but in the sense of a personal relationship of trust and confidence, which is the only means of knowing another person. It is not a case of belief requiring knowledge, nor of knowledge requiring belief. In personal relationships the two are virtually equivalent. A second principle asserted by Coleridge and accepted by Maurice is that the knowledge of God is only possible because God is already enlightening man. Further, the criterion by which truth must be tested, as also the instrument by which it is apprehended, is the whole man, a moral being living a moral life. In other words, truth is not a matter of thought, of abstraction, but of act, of life, of personality. And yet truth is no mere

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 73

MAURICE AMONG THE PHILOSOPHERS

63

construct from experience, however whole or exalted that experience might be. In his Dedication of The Kingdom of Christ Maurice explicitly says that Coleridge showed and applied to theology the fact that the highest truths are beyond experience; that by the very law of Reason the knowledge of God must be given to it. This givenness of knowledge is one of the pillars of Maurice’s thought. Another important conviction of his is that human relationships are not fictitious constructions of the human mind, but God-given realities. He claims that it was from the Quakers that he learnt that society is such a reality.13 This belief sets him at odds with the Utilitarians. In The Conscience he quotes Bentham as writing: ‘The community is a fictitious body composed of the individual persons who are considered as constituting, as it were, its members’. His comment is ironic: A man who abhorred fictions and figures of speech falls into these strange expressions, because he cannot quite divest himself of the old belief that a community is a body, real and not fictitious, consisting of individuals who are its actual members. There is in his phraseology the after-glow of a sun which has set.14 To Maurice the actual relations in which a man finds himself, whether he approves or not, are the solid rock on which a man may build when he is seeking out the structure of reality. Family, nation, church, are no mere mental fictions or convenient abstractions. They are, rather, the outcrops of reality in a wilderness of notions. He sees in Bentham’s language this reality forcing its way through and disrupting a favourite, but false, theory. In much the same way he appealed to the facts of Bentham’s life against his theories about the springs of human conduct. Do not forget this. The reasons of his conduct may have been of one kind or another; his actual conduct was that of a man who would be stigmatized by the habitual followers of pleasure as an ascetic.15 The criteria of pleasure and pain are useless in cases of conscience. People are forced to look elsewhere for guidance. How many cases have occurred, and are occurring every day, of this kind, no words can tell; or what schemes of Casuistry have been devised to meet them. For as I said before, his precepts have to all intents and purposes been adopted already by these troubled spirits. They are turning to the religious casuist for help, because their Utilitarian adviser has failed to take account of a disturbing force in them which makes his medicines ineffectual.16 There are also two variations on the Utilitarian theme with which Maurice quarrelled. In the world of commerce the Utilitarian theory was interpreted as meaning that individuals should seek their own advantage. This convenient principle, when combined with the teaching of Malthus in his Essay on Population, gave rise to the socalled economic law of competition. It was his horror of this divisive lie which led

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

64

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 74

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

Maurice to throw his energies into the cause of Christian Socialism, and to create with Ludlow and others an instrument of practical protest against the law of competition and a witness for the principle of fellowship as the true basis of society. The second variation was the ‘theological utilitarianism’ of Paley. This was altogether too commercial, too mercenary a religion for Maurice. A moral code dependent on the sanctions of reward and punishment was to him abhorrent, despite his regard for Paley himself as a ‘good, tough North of England man, not spoiled by his cleverness as a lawyer.’ The truth must be believed because it is true, and the right done because it is right. Both truth and right must find their authentication within, in the depths of religious experience. The appeal to the sanctions of reward and punishment seemed to Maurice one of those acts of scepticism, of atheism in the heart, which he was always ready to suspect in himself. Further, he criticized Paley’s Natural Theology for the inadequacy of his arguments to prove the central tenet of Christianity, the existence of a heavenly Father. ‘He began with the recognition of a Person. The confession of a great designer fastened itself to that confession. He assumes that the process is reversed.’17 For others, ‘the Father was not there; the Creator could not be detected’. Paley was trying to point out a road to belief which he had not himself taken. As for the argument from miracles in The Evidences of Christianity, Maurice thought it was given disproportionate emphasis. That was inevitable, because he did not appreciate the far greater evidential value of the moral sense. From Paley Maurice turns with relief to Butler, for in the analogical argument there is something which meets a man’s real needs. ‘He can fancy that arguments about credibility and authenticity lie outside of him. The analogy appeals to himself.’18 The first characteristic of Butler which commended him to Maurice was his respect for facts. His Sermons on Human Nature and his Analogy both exhibit this characteristic. If you would understand the former, says Maurice, you should be aware of the intense dislike which Butler felt for all schemes by which an order made out of fancies is substituted for the one in which we are placed. His other great work, the Analogy, is full of vehement even scornful expressions towards those who fashion worlds for themselves, and are not content patiently to examine the characteristics and indications of that wherein they are sent to live and work.19 Butler was one of the major formative influences in Maurice’s life. It was a debt which he was most ready to acknowledge. He writes: What I owe more than anything else to Butler, and to Butler, so far as I can trace and define obligations, more than to almost any other man, is the sense of being in such a constitution, – one that I did not create, and have no power to alter, but with which I must be in conformity, or suffer the penalty of being at war with it.20 It is fundamental to Maurice’s way of thinking that we must not construct imaginary pictures of the human condition, but accept the given reality in which we live. In the

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 75

MAURICE AMONG THE PHILOSOPHERS

65

second volume of the Moral and Metaphysical Philosophy there is an instructive imaginary dialogue between Butler and Wesley.21 It starts from the argument of the Analogy that human nature is constructed upon certain recognizable principles, and that there is a divine government working continuously under the guidance of a divine Being, not with absolute uniformity but allowing certain deviations for the fulfilment of its objects. The Methodist points to the disorder of the world and suggests that it is insufficient to show the existence of a divine governor without acknowledging the equally certain fact of sin – of disorder, in fact. Butler objects that the Methodist’s emphasis on sin and the evil of human nature implies that sin is the normal, salvation the exceptional, condition of man. To this Wesley agrees. It does require a superhuman operation to raise men out of their natural state. Butler cannot accept this. It seems to him that Wesley, in making evil the ground of human nature, strikes at the root of moral obligation. He goes on to ask whether those who think that the regenerate person is not the true type of humanity ought not to set aside divine revelation about humanity (as capable of response to God) just as much as all those arguments about human nature which he, Butler, arrives at by a different method; whereas revelation and his arguments confirm each other whenever the notion is abandoned, that the evil and separation from God, to which there is a tendency in all, is the law of any one human being.22 This dialogue illuminates Maurice’s reasons for praising Butler as much as his criticisms of the Methodists. But he was not unaware of faults in Butler’s position, which he attributed, with true historical insight, to the circumstances of Butler’s day and the adversaries he challenged. It was general to begin from the distinction between natural and revealed religion, whereas Maurice regarded all truths as revealed. The phrase, ‘Natural and Revealed Religion’ is, apparently at least, inconsistent with [St Paul’s] view of the case; is it not also in itself ambiguous and bewildering? Would not many chapters in Butler become plainer if we took him to mean that the Author of Nature, whose existence he assumes, was revealing a part of His mind through the constitution and course of Nature, was indicating in that, a revelation that should be more complete and more directly addressed to man?23 Maurice further criticizes Butler for his modesty, arguing that his methods, proceeding from fact, give as much and as little certainty as the methods of science.24 Neither can do more than establish probability, which is vulnerable to new facts. A more serious charge is that Butler encouraged that calculation of chances which, as we have seen, Maurice criticized in Paley. I am bound to own that Butler did use words addressed to the loose thinkers of his day which seemed to confound probabilities with chances, to suggest the thought that we ought to calculate the odds for and against the truth of a religious principle, and that, if there is a slight balance in favour of it – nay, none at all – we are to throw in the danger of rejecting it, and so force ourselves into the adoption of it.

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

66

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 76

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

A final criticism of Butler is of his description of the conscience. He had written: ‘Had it strength as it has right; had it power as it has manifest authority, it would absolutely govern the world.’ Maurice challenges the claim of supremacy for the conscience. Butler could be hailed as a witness for fixed Laws. But when he began to talk of a tribunal within a man which might – so he seemed to affirm – reverse any decrees that had not issued from it, we cannot wonder that his admirer should have felt considerable alarm. Could the conscience claim an authority above and against laws? Would not such a pretension, besides interfering with their dominion, interfere with the fixed standard of Right which was implied in them? Might not the Conscience boast that it was itself the creator of Right?25 The ever-consistent Maurice finds yet another application of his principle that truth has an independent, objective existence and that it is not the creation of our minds. The name Conscience would seem to import, not a power which rules in us, but rather our perception and recognition of some power very near to us, which has a claim on our obedience… It does not demand sovereignty, but pays homage.26 The conscience, on which both Butler and Maurice laid such stress, is a part, or an activity, of the religious consciousness. We should, therefore, expect to find affinities between Maurice and Schleiermacher, who has been called the founder of modern theology for the very reason that he first gave primacy to the value of religious experience or consciousness, to the religious feelings in man, as a criterion. There are several points of agreement between him and Maurice. First, he taught that everything must be excluded from dogmatics which could not be referred back to experience. Maurice welcomed this for a reason which becomes obvious when we see how he stated in his own terms the characteristic of Schleiermacher’s mind: ‘he exalted personal consciousness or feeling above theories’. But personal consciousness must be used as a negative criterion only, or else there is a danger that, as with Schleiermacher, the historical basis of Christianity will be jettisoned in favour of a basis of subjective fancy. Maurice would also have been appreciative of Schleiermacher’s emphasis on the corporate nature of religious experience and the significance of the community, as well as his dissatisfaction with the traditional division between natural and revealed religion, between natural and supernatural. But Schleiermacher, whose starting-point was more subjective than that of Maurice, made all natural rather than all supernatural. Both men had also in common an interest in the comparative study of religion, and in its historical development. Both see Christianity as the final development. Maurice’s sympathetic yet critical attitude to other religions may be found in a typical note in the Preface to The Religions of the World, in which he criticizes two writers on Hindu religion. He writes: Mr [Thomas] Maurice seems to regard the abominations of idolatry as objects merely of literary interest and antiquarian curiosity. Mr Ward can see only the hateful and the devilish; of what good it may be the counterfeit, what divine

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 77

MAURICE AMONG THE PHILOSOPHERS

67

truth may be concealed in it, and may be needed to supplant it, he has not the courage to inquire. Each, I think, is refuted on its own ground. Dilettante scholarship is found not to be sound scholarship.27 Maurice believed that the effect of a detached or hostile study of the world’s religions was to trivialize, and so to distort, their significance. The first necessity was to discover what they meant to those who professed them. But he was equally sure that a merely phenomenological study of religion was inadequate. There was nothing more precious to him than the certainty that truth had an objective reality, prior to all human apprehension. There was a light which enlightened every man, and its origin was not in the human mind. Once that light had been apprehended, however imperfectly, it acted in judgement on all that anyone might study. He looked for its reflection in every aspect of human life, though he would not hesitate to judge all which failed to reflect it. Here again we discern the pervasive influence of the Fourth Gospel, which exercised a predominant influence over Schleiermacher too. Yet in the consideration of these very similarities we meet equally notable differences. Maurice is as keenly aware of the dangers of using consciousness as a criterion of truth as he is of its value. He sees that the tendency to value it is a reaction from the habits of the eighteenth century, and that another reaction is setting in, to assert that consciousness is not, cannot be, an end in itself; that men can be satisfied with nothing less than being, nothing less than an actuality prior to consciousness.28 He sees that if taken by itself as a basis of belief it may quite as well lead to false as to true ideas.29 And though he welcomes those who have realized the narrowness of Hume’s conception of experience, and wish to extend it to include religious experience, he suspects that they may use the word to cover and validate their own theories, and that they may even come to write about unexperienced experiences.30 A further difference between Maurice and Schleiermacher, which has already been touched upon, lies in their reasons for wishing to abolish the distinction between natural and revealed religion. Schleiermacher’s approach to both is from a subjective starting-point; to Maurice both are essentially ‘given’, both equally revealed. There is some difference, too, between their conceptions of the finality of Christianity. Schleiermacher never achieved a reconciliation between two ideas.31 On the one hand, Christianity is final and can never be displaced because it has made central the very essence of religion. On the other hand, religion must welcome new forms of faith, because the idea of finality, a static, dead finality, is unendurable. This dilemma does not trouble Maurice. His vivid sense of eternity, as no mere extension or negation of time, but interwoven with it, makes it seem feasible that the definitive manifestation of God should have been made in the middle of the time process. He suffers from no evolutionary presuppositions. Yet that self-manifestation is not just a past event; it continues in every apprehension of truth through a personal relationship with God. Because human personalities are infinitely varied, and because each one grows in stature by submitting to the tuition of the Spirit, so there can be no end to, nothing static in, the unveiling of the eternal Truth, to and through those personalities made in the image of God. This difference comes out in two different attitudes to the Fourth Gospel. It can be used as the basis of an unhistorical and subjective

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

68

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 78

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

interpretation of the meaning of the incarnate life of Christ; or it may be used as the witness that history is of value precisely because it is penetrated by the eternal. Maurice, who accepted the historicity even of Genesis, chose the second way. In general the sympathy of the two men arises from the similarity of their method rather than of their conclusions. It is with obvious fellow-feeling that Maurice explains how Schleiermacher taught a method and not a series of dogmas. Among his followers this method ‘encouraged the activity and earnestness of their minds; but it forbade, by its very nature, the acceptance of the decrees of the teacher’.32 The basic truth which he found in Schleiermacher, as in Reid nearer home,33 was that the religious experience was as valid a test of truth as any other sort of experience, and that the theologian must make it a part of his study. He therefore criticized the remark of Mansel that ‘Scripture is to the Theological Dogmatist what experience is to the philosophical’. He comments ironically: ‘It is generally supposed – and Mr Mansel seems himself to confirm the opinion – that experience is a ground which is common to the theologian and the philosopher.’34 Maurice’s acceptance of ‘consciousness’ as at least a negative criterion of truth leads to his criticism of Comte and the Positivists. He had no prejudice against science; indeed, he would have been as content with the phrase ‘revealed science’ as with the more commonly used ‘revealed religion’. There is a passage in the Preface to Moral and Metaphysical Philosophy in which the writer is talking to an imaginary undergraduate: Undergraduate: You reject, then, the notion that men discover physical laws? Writer: Discovery and revelation are, it seems to me, more nearly synonymous words than any which we can find in our language. I may call that which is withdrawn a cover or a veil; what is the difference? Undergraduate: Then why not apply the same rule to both subjects? Writer: Why not? Undergraduate: What! admit the discovery of a fixed star, or of any geological or mathematical principle to be a revelation? Writer: It seems to me that every man to whom such a discovery has been made feels that to be the right and simple description of it. He cannot boast that he is the author of it. That which he acknowledges was not called into existence by his acknowledgment. It was always there. He has been shown that it was always there.35 One peculiar usage in this extract epitomizes Maurice’s attitude to science. Where we should without hesitation write, ‘by whom such a discovery has been made’, Maurice has written, ‘to whom’. In the same vein he writes a few pages later: Any one whose heart confesses that every step in the apprehension of nature or man, or the Archetype of man, is due to the education of a loving parent, must be sure that no diligence such as that of Mr Darwin in studying the meanest insect or flower can be wasted.36

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 79

MAURICE AMONG THE PHILOSOPHERS

69

Both science and religion have their place in the total apprehension of the truth. But neither should usurp the other’s function. Let science explain where it can; let it not claim to have explained away, for there are facts with which it cannot deal. The psychologist and the physiologist have much to teach us about human nature, and we are to receive it thankfully. The fundamental problem remains: what is this ‘I’, this centre of consciousness to which psychological and physiological functions attach?37 The appeal of science led Auguste Comte, the Positivist, to aim at constructing a selfsufficient system of the sciences. But he ended by manufacturing a pseudo-religion. In the appendix to The Epistles of St John Maurice quotes from The Leader a sketch of Comte’s life including this sentence: ‘An emotional crisis happened in his history through which he became conscious that his own system was defective – as his early exposition of Saint-Simonism had been – on the religious side’. To Maurice the life of Comte demonstrated the double lesson, that a system of thought must satisfy the whole range of human experience, and that that experience by itself is an insufficient foundation for any such system. It showed ‘how God guides an earnest man out of his theories’.38 In a letter to the Bishop of Argyll Maurice pairs together, rather startlingly, the names of Comte and Pusey. The common fault they share is ‘the substitution of Dogma for God’. It sounds very odd to say that of Pusey, until we recollect that Maurice constantly distinguished between a man’s life and his opinions.39 He is passing judgement, not on the holiness of Pusey’s life, but upon the system elaborated by ‘Pusey and his school’, which is inadequate to match the broad charity which many of them expressed in their lives. Their system was exclusive, when it ought to have been characterized by largeness and freedom. It was for that largeness and freedom that Maurice had deserted his sectarian background, and now, like Paul withstanding Peter, he would not consent to others building up again what he had once torn down by imposing a different kind of narrowness upon his treasured liberty. The consideration of Maurice’s attitude to these various men and movements of thought provides sufficient evidence for a summary of his basic convictions or, to use his own favourite word, his principles. He made for himself no system, and it would be wrong to do for him what he refused to do for himself. Yet his beliefs have a strong coherence. Perhaps Maurice himself would not have found fault with such a summary, as long as it acknowledged the fact that theories and notions are but the shadows of beliefs, and beliefs themselves merely reduced and partial apprehensions of unalterable facts. Maurice’s basic principles may be set out under two main heads: first, personality and relationships, and secondly knowledge. Personality, unlike relationships, is not a favourite word with Maurice. He preferred to speak, with unsurpassable brevity, of the ‘I’. But it will do to express an important emphasis in his thought. He was concerned with truth above all things, and he saw the words ‘I am the Truth’ as a witness that truth could not be known or stated in terms less than personal. In discussing a passage in Aquinas he wrote: So clear and subtle a distinction, what may not be accomplished by the help of it? Everything till a man wants to believe, and begins to believe. Then the formal and the material are forgotten; he must have a living object, a Person who is

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

70

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 80

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

directly recognised, not a series of propositions which may lead to him eventually.40 And as the truth is in a Person, so it must be apprehended by a person, by a whole personality, not some isolated faculty. Similarly the truth so apprehended could be brought to no other test than the deepest spiritual experience of man and the broadest practical experience he had known. The same truth must satisfy both aspects of life. Abstractions should be feared because they so easily got adrift from life, and at their best represented it only fragmentarily. Words, too, should be carefully examined to avoid careless usage. ‘The more carefully that examination is pursued, the more we are led to feel the significance and sacredness of words, the less we are likely to play dishonest tricks with them.’41 They could be used as mere counters in a game of logic, to weave a pattern with shadows. But words could also be used as the witnesses of reality, and that most notably when they spoke of human relations. The word ‘father’, for example, was to Maurice an epitome of the teaching of Christ. Another example of the danger of abstraction he found in the formulation of rules. In The Conscience he takes Jeremy Taylor’s Ductor Dubitantium as an example of the attempts men have made to construct rules for the guidance of conscience, and exposes their inconclusiveness. They can do no more than point to ‘spiritual persons` who may guide the soul. Were not these rules of Conscience drawn up expressly because these guides of souls had ‘made the cases of conscience and the actions of men’s lives as unstable as the water and immeasureable as the dimensions of the moon’? Can it be the ultimate resource to fall back upon them, to confess that the rules are impotent without them, and that the final appeal must be to their wisdom? And yet if the comparison is between rules and the very lowest kind of sympathy, the man who is in any kind of difficulty will choose the latter.42 It comes as no surprise that Maurice, who wrote The Conscience when he had the unlikely title of Professor of Casuistry and Moral Philosophy at Cambridge, has his own definition of casuistry. It is, he says, an ‘egotistical kind of study. It brings us face to face with the internal life of each one of us. The world without, it leaves to the examination of other enquirers. The Casuist’s business is with him who received impressions from it, and compels it to receive impressions from him.’43 There is the characteristic Coleridgean insistence on the interactive nature of knowing. The obverse of his fear of abstractions is his reverence for what is – above all for human relations. He believes that reverence for their value has been characteristic of English thought since Wycliffe, as the search for the Absolute has characterized German thought since Eckhart.44 He holds that the Old Testament deals so largely with the ordinary affairs of family life because it is through the ordinary relations of human life that the revelation of the divine comes.45 They are the least abstract of things. No one can imagine that they depend on his own acknowledgment of them. They are the perpetual witnesses of a divinely created order in space and time. The family is the basic reality and the most immediate witness. But beyond it stretch other relationships,

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 81

MAURICE AMONG THE PHILOSOPHERS

71

binding people into a nation, gathering people into a church. These too are not fictitious entities, nor arbitrary human creations, but wider analogies to the family. Individuals might deny and fight against the relations in which they found themselves; they could not undo them. Perhaps he would have had to think again about these relationships if he had lived to watch them re-defined in a permissive society or a multicultural context. But he would most probably have described the process as a search for the truth about them which was being revealed. The witness of relationships and the search for a better understanding of them leads us to apprehend that there is an order and constitution of the world despite its seeming chaos. Order is basic; chaos is superimposed so long as men refuse to acknowledge the truth about themselves. So too human beings are basically good; their pattern and the ground of their existence is Christ, not Adam. Maurice was accused of believing that evil does not exist,46 chiefly on the evidence of a letter in which he says: ‘In very truth it is a falsehood. It has no reality, and why should not we treat it as having none?’47 No one would deny that Maurice had a vivid sense of the reality of sin; his critic admits it. He devoted an entire essay in Theological Essays to avowing his belief in an Evil Spirit. The bright flash of optimism in that letter is excusable enough when we realize that it was written to the girl he loved, little more than a month before their wedding. But even taken at its face value the letter hardly says that evil does not exist. Rather it is a falsehood because it contradicts the fundamental order and constitution of things. It has no reality because it is no part of the eternal nature of God. Maurice would not claim to have solved the perennial problem of the origin of evil, but he may be absolved from the charge of inconsistency. Evil exists, but it is an intrusion. It is not the law of anyone’s nature. What, then, were Maurice’s ‘principles’ in the area of epistemology? On one negative point Maurice is emphatic. Knowledge is not limited in origin to the senses, nor in scope to the product of the understanding in reliance on sensory data. Locke and Hume were wrong, not only in their conclusions but also in their method. For whatever the achievements of introspection and self-analysis may be, the process involved is in fact a regress from the real to the less real, from the concrete experience of living to the abstractions of thought, from the total to the partial, from persons to things. The method is not wrong because inherently illicit, but because it is insufficient, yet is represented as adequate. Any true method must take the human person as a whole, just as any true belief must square with the whole range of human experience. Each human being is always reaching out beyond the limits of the senses, and seeking for what will satisfy the deep need for the transcendent. But how can we gain knowledge? How can we satisfy that need? Again the negative is clear. It must not be by any appeal to external authority, whether that be tradition, the authority of the church, or the infallible scriptures. Trust in them is not belief but its denial. It masks and easily yields to scepticism and atheism. All three are merely notions. You cannot appeal from one notion to another. You must appeal to fact, to reality, to the highest you know. That highest reality cannot be less than personal. Therefore we must believe in and appeal to nothing less than the personal, inspiring Spirit. Having cleared away what he regarded as the Lockean rubbish, Maurice was free to restate the facts of experience after the more congenial example of Coleridge. The

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

72

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 82

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

moral faculty takes over the primacy from the intellectual. The existence of the conscience is a fact of experience. But it is wrongly described as a sovereign power in the individual. It is rather a witness in man to something beyond, to unchangeable laws and to the unchangeable lawgiver. But again it is not true to experience to describe the working of the conscience as the apprehension of a static external entity, inertly waiting to be apprehended. What is beyond us is coming to meet us; the Spirit of God is known because he reveals himself. The same experience of being met is to be found in fields of knowledge other than the moral. All truth, of whatever kind, can be described only as a manifestation, an unveiling. In the highest spiritual experience the whole person moves to God, and God to us. Each movement requires the other as its complement or there can be no meeting, and without this meeting there can be no knowledge. In all spheres of knowledge, and especially in the sphere of religion, the revelation is proportionate to the ability to receive it. And so there has been an education of the human race, especially in Israel, with revelation becoming correspondingly clearer until the final clarity of the incarnation, which gave the clue to the whole process. In one particular race the process had been specially ordained for a blessing to all mankind. But revelation has been nowhere without a witness. The conclusion is that the act of knowing is double. First, there are the unsatisfied human aspirations, arising from personal relationships, from the experience of fatherhood, to seek higher relations, to look for a heavenly ground of fatherhood in a heavenly Father; to seek those laws to which the conscience points, though it cannot explain them, and so to seek a lawgiver. Then there is the movement from the other side, from the beyond. These aspirations and needs are met by the revelation of the true nature of fatherhood, of the higher relations in which men stand, of the eternal laws to which the conscience points, of the eternal lawgiver. And the revelation serves in turn to reinterpret the facts of human life from which the original movement started. Yet it cannot be called original, for even the Godward movement is only made possible by the precedent guidance of the Spirit. Maurice is no Pelagian; he does not leave the initiative with humanity. Above all, he refuses to take the temporal as the measure of truth. It is the eternal which must be taken as the measure of the temporal. It was these principles, or basic convictions, which led the humane and tolerant Maurice into sharp theological controversies.

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 83

5 Maurice in Controversy

On 27th October 1853 F.D. Maurice was dismissed from his two professorial chairs at King’s College, London, and immediately forbidden to lecture. So at the age of fortyeight he was branded as a heretic in the sight of the religious world. The cause of this extreme action by the Council of King’s College was the publication of Theological Essays. There was no doubt that much else in the book gave offence to those who saw themselves as the upholders orthodoxy, but it was Maurice’s final essay on ‘Eternal Life and Eternal Death’ which raised the crucial issue. Maurice foresaw that it would be so. ‘I knew when I wrote the sentences about eternal death, that I was writing my own sentence at King’s College.’1 The gist of his argument was that the usual interpretation of the word ‘eternal’ was self-contradictory. Eternal life and eternal death were taken to mean life and death indefinitely prolonged. Here eternity is reckoned in terms of time. But the sense of eternal in one context in the New Testament should be interpreted in accordance with its sense in other passages, and more particularly with reference to its meaning when applied to God. It is certainly common to define the eternity of God as the condition of being without beginning and end. But even this (in Maurice’s view, false) definition cannot be applied to the phrases eternal life and eternal death, for they cannot be said to have no beginning, even if they have no end. Again, the expression ‘eternal punishment’ offers difficulties on this definition of eternal. For the punishment of the sinful is separation from God; or rather, sin and separation are the same thing. If, therefore, it is argued that God will keep men for ever, that is, for time indefinitely prolonged, in this state of separation, the very words imply that he will keep men for ever in sin, that he wills to keep them for ever in sin. Having exposed contradictions in the common interpretation of ‘eternal’, Maurice supplies an alternative. God is no philosophical abstraction from our knowledge of the world, nor his attributes the negation of ours. To describe him in terms of his creation is absurd. We must ascribe a positive content to his eternity, and we must interpret the eternal life and death of 73

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

74

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 84

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

which Christ spoke by reference to that positive content. The eternity of God consists in unchangeable characteristics or activities – righteousness, truth, love. So eternal life is the righteousness and truth and love of God which are manifested to men that they may be partakers of them, that they may have fellowship with the Father and with the Son.2 Eternity is neither an extension nor a negation of time, of duration. It has nothing to do with them. Maurice goes on to ask why it is that the common interpretation of ‘eternal’ is so generally accepted as true. When anyone ventures to say to an English audience that Eternity is not a mere negation of time, he is told at once that he is departing from the simple, intelligible meaning of words; that he is introducing novelties; that he is talking abstractions. This language is perfectly honest in the mouths of those who use it. But they do not know where they learnt it. They did not get it from peasants or women or children. They did not get it from the Bible. They got it from Locke. And I find that I cannot interpret… the plainest passages of the Bible or the whole context of it, while I look through the Locke spectacles – I must cast them aside.3 So long as we derive all our concepts from our sensory apprehension of temporal objects, we are sure to make nonsense of realities transcending time. Here, then, Maurice claims to detect in theological opponents the baneful influence of a false philosophy; whereas he was later to assert that he himself, even when writing about philosophy, had ‘thought as a theologian, felt as a theologian, written as a theologian’. In another controversy in which Maurice became involved the issue was more explicitly philosophical, because his opponent presented his case in a philosophical manner. Yet the reason why Maurice chose to get involved was that that case, if conceded, would have disastrous consequences for theology. It would have shut up theology in a padded cell, because it would not acknowledge the right of others to call it in question and in so doing abandoned its own claim to speak to anyone except its own devotees. This other controversy was provoked by the publication of H.L. Mansel’s Bampton Lectures of 1858 under the title The Limits of Religious Knowledge. Immediately Maurice sprang to the attack. The details of the controversy will be discussed more fully below. Suffice it to say here that Mansel denied that men were capable of positive knowledge of the absolute, and that they must therefore accept the truths of revelation as ‘regulative’. The argument was acclaimed by many, and it might have seemed attractive to Maurice because it acknowledged that the initiative lay with God and emphasized man’s utter dependence on him. In fact he set to work at once upon a reply and published in 1859 What is Revelation?, a volume which consisted of some sermons on the theme of revelation and some ‘letters to a student of theology’ dealing with Mansel’s lectures. The impression which the book gives is of haste and incoherence. It is rather a denunciation of the dangerous implications of Mansel’s arguments than an examination of their worth. Mansel misunderstood half of it and despised the rest. His rejoinder, An Examination of the Revd F.D. Maurice’s Strictures on the Bampton Lectures of

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 85

MAURICE IN CONTROVERSY

75

1858, is bitter and indignant, and yet with its keen and methodical arguments is a telling antidote to the wild and whirling words of What is Revelation? Despite his undisguised attack on Maurice’s honesty, Mansel comes off best at this stage. But the correspondence was not yet closed. Maurice, at last convinced of the deep seriousness of an opponent whom he had suspected of trifling, of that ‘dilettante scholarship which is found not to be sound scholarship’, wrote his Sequel to the Inquiry, What is Revelation? He abandoned the point-by-point method which is itself enough to vitiate any controversy, and produced a book which, despite its occasional origin, comes nearer to being a systematic exposition of his philosophical position than anything else he wrote. Its humility, its deliberate, considered tone are a complete contrast to the earlier book. He wins the sympathy of the reader as well as his intellectual respect. He knows that Mansel’s arguments are a challenge to his deepseated convictions: that all our knowledge, of whatever kind, comes by revelation; that there is in man a faculty capable of receiving the revelation of God; that this faculty is the highest activity of man, the highest mode of his being. He believes also that if revelation is only ‘regulative’, the implication is that the God of truth may lie; that if no positive knowledge of God is possible, the only logical position for an honest man is agnosticism; that Mansel, like Paley, ultimately rests his system on the ‘evidences’ of Christianity, and makes faith dependent on questionable intellectual exercises and logical niceties. He could not stand idle and see the deep inward attestations of faith set aside in favour of bookish speculations. The importance of the controversy was recognized as much by Maurice as by others. Believing that Mansel had expressed a hope that they were in essential agreement, he wrote, in the Preface to What is Revelation? Since the further I read in his book, the more I perceived that it would be needful for me to abandon every conviction that was most precious to me before I could obtain that result, I felt myself obliged by his very good nature to state the reasons of my disagreement. … I could not conceal my opinion that the existence of English faith and English morality is involved in them.4 These are strong words, but they by no means stand alone as proofs of the crucial significance of the controversy in Maurice’s eyes. Elsewhere he calls the publication of Mansel’s book a ‘critical event in the history of the English Church’, and in his second book states that ‘the question is one about two methods which concern all morals, all Theology, all the practice of life’. To understand Maurice’s attitude, we must first consider the arguments of his opponent. Mansel starts from the question, whether our conceptions of the Supreme Being are exact representations of his nature or merely analogical representations. On the answer to this question will depend our decision on the further point, whether reason – the faculty which forms these conceptions – is the paramount or merely a co-ordinate authority to be compared with others (for example, revelation and conscience) and possibly to be rejected in their favour when we try to discover what is the truth. Having formulated the problem, Mansel turns to the critical examination of the philosophical ideas of the Infinite and the Absolute. He argues that as a matter of history they have

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

76

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 86

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

usually been associated with the systems of thinkers whose conceptions of deity have lacked the attribute of personality; and that, as a matter of logic, they are selfcontradictory when applied to a single absolute and infinite Being. These contradictions cannot be avoided. They arise from the very constitution of the human mind. But human consciousness contains other elements beside the intellectual. And if we take two forms of human consciousness – the sense of dependence and the sense of moral obligation – we see that they require as their object a personal Being who is both a free agent and a moral governor. The failures of the intellect and the demands of human consciousness together show that we cannot know how God exists although we know that he exists. Our positive knowledge of God in this life is only an imperfect representation of the divine nature. In Kantian terminology, our knowledge of God is regulative, not speculative. But it must not be supposed that these difficulties are peculiar to problems of theology. They are to be met equally in purely philosophical problems. There, too, contradictions are unresolved and knowledge merely regulative. The conclusion to which all this points is that we are not entitled to criticize revelation by the exercise of reason. That would require the possibility of distinct, speculative knowledge, which the arguments put forward show that we do not possess. If reason, conscience, revelation all agree together, as they do in the majority of cases, there is no difficulty. But when revelation challenges either conscience or reason, there is no occasion to reject it on that account. The proper method is to consider the evidence that a revelation has been given, and if it is decisive, we must accept the revelation in toto, including those parts which conflict with reason or conscience. This is the recognition of the true limits of religious thought in this life. Perhaps hereafter we shall attain to that speculative knowledge which is denied us here. The Bampton Lectures were hailed by many, including Maurice’s inveterate enemies, the organs of the religious press, as a buttress of orthodoxy and the final confutation of all rationalists and mystics. But there were those who saw the dangers. Maurice saw in the lectures a challenge to his basic convictions; if they were valid, he had no gospel to preach. They required the rejection of his view of man, as endowed with a faculty, the very summit of his nature, which reached up to the transcendent and was met by the self-giving of God. They inhibited his belief in the wholeness of man, and split up human nature into contradictory faculties. They misconstrued Butler as a witness for human ignorance instead of an upholder of human knowledge.5 They cut man off for ever from that which is; they reduced the grandeur of human relations to the futile status of distant analogies; they left the faithful to the conceits and judgements of particular men.6 They took away the authority of the living Spirit and gave back the authority of a dead letter. They violated the sanctity of words by defining the epithets we apply to God as mere negations, and so adopted the false procedure of reasoning from man to God, which they themselves condemned. But their basic failure was that they made faith dependent on certain external evidences for the revealed nature of the Bible. Such slender pillars could not bear so great a weight. Their collapse would leave nothing but the ruins of scepticism. In many of these criticisms Maurice was not alone. He was able to quote in his support an article from The Times written by Mr Chrétien, an Oxford don. But his

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 87

MAURICE IN CONTROVERSY

77

method and choice of points for attack are distinctive and display his primary concern with theology rather than philosophy. He first points out the agnostic conclusions to which Mansel’s arguments would lead, if they were in fact conclusive. But when this has been done, he does not turn to a detailed examination of Mansel’s logic, though it was certainly open to criticism as assuming definitions of words, showing those definitions to be unsatisfactory, and taking this as proof that the words themselves are meaningless. Maurice is content to leave detailed logical criticism to others. He is content to show the danger to logic when its terms become detached from the realities to which they refer, by quotation and comment. What deep truth is contained in the last part of this extract! ‘Here is a contradiction which we ourselves have made.’ Assuredly it is. I take the term Existence and use that term to denote a variety of objects which are presented to my consciousness. I make the term Absolute to denote something that is not relative. I make the term Infinite to denote that which is not finite. None of these terms can possibly have anything to do with my consciousness. For never let us forget, ‘I am conscious of something’. But the term finite is just as much nothing as the term infinite, the term relative as the term absolute.7 Maurice refuses to argue in philosophical abstractions, which he fears. He keeps as close as he can to the phraseology of the Bible, and is most concerned to ask whether Mansel’s conclusions do in fact square with the teaching of the revelation he claimed to have in the Bible. In particular he is offended by the manner in which Mansel speaks of truth. Among all the sayings of Christ there was none he valued above ‘I am the truth’, and he refused to define truth in less majestic terms than those which the text implied. Mansel not only accepted a logical definition but touched what was a sensitive spot for Maurice by his use of the word ‘relation’. ‘Truth itself is nothing more than a relation. Truth and falsehood are properties of our conceptions.’ These are axioms; they do not require to be demonstrated; we are simply to receive them. May we at least consider them? Truth is a relation. To what? Between what or whom? Or is a Relation an ultimate Fact? Is a Relation that which is?8 Once the link between speech and fact was broken, all was lost. If the preacher was allowed to take for granted the definition of Truth which belongs to formal Logic, everything was taken for granted; there was no room for further disputation; all the negative part of his doctrine was established. Had I not a right, then, to turn upon him and say, ‘But how does this consist with the positive statements which you not only hold yourself but censure others for not holding? Is this the account of Truth which is given in the book which we are to receive altogether or not at all? Do these words, ‘I am the Truth’ mean anything or nothing?9

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

78

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 88

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

Maurice insists that the starting-point of definition is God and his attributes; that our nature and attributes are derivative from his. As he had defined ‘eternal’ in his Theological Essays as something positive and not the mere negation, far less the extension, of the temporal, so now he refuses to call infinite and absolute the negatives of finite and relative, as required by Mansel’s argument. He claims that the situation must be reversed, that it would be truer to regard finite and relative as the negatives of infinite and absolute. God must be the measure of his creation, not vice versa. We can have knowledge of God, and we must use our knowledge of his fatherhood to explain what our human fatherhood is meant to be, and not what it actually is to explain what his must be. In the same way we must reason from his being to ours, and so on. Both Maurice and Mansel tend to use Kantian terminology. With Mansel it was from choice, whereas it has been rather forced on Maurice by the usage of his opponent, although he was probably as happy with it as with any philosophical terminology. But the controversy shows that it could be used for different purposes. In the Coleridge-Maurice tradition the constitution of our minds, the presuppositions of all thought, yield true knowledge, because man is the creation of God in his own image. The necessary condition of man’s life and thought must correspond to the pattern of reality. To Mansel, on the other hand, these conditions show only how God chooses that we should think of him; and that may not correspond with what he really is. Maurice tries to point out the inevitable corollaries to this proposition: that we are not made in God’s image, and that the God of truth can deceive us about himself. But the two men could not share each other’s viewpoint and misunderstanding was inevitable. Mansel accepted the usual belief that there are two senses of words, one metaphysical and the other popular. For reasons already mentioned, Maurice could not, and felt that in this difference lay the key to their other differences.10 When Maurice ignored distinctions between the two usages which Mansel had drawn with some care, he roused his opponent to charge him with intentional confusion and dishonesty. Mansel was very much at home in the realms of logic, juggling with the meaning of words. Maurice refused to quit the sphere of actual life and experience in order to follow him. Most important of all, the assumptions of one were the crucial problems of the other. The controversy might have been more profitable if Maurice had concentrated on exposing the dangerous assumptions of his opponent. The Times had shown how improperly he isolated revelation as though it were not received by the same faculties as other forms of knowledge, and Maurice comments on his specious assumption that there is a generally agreed interpretation of the atonement,11 ‘a revealed doctrine of Christ’s Atonement for the sins of men’. But it is not until his second book that he really emphasizes the importance of being quite sure what realities the central words of the controversy correspond to. This is the more surprising as the title of his first book, What is Revelation?, goes straight to the point at issue. If Maurice or Mansel had disciplined themselves to a succinct statement of essentials, both they and we might have been saved considerable exasperation. What is Revelation? is an undisciplined book, more a prophetic warning than a coherent piece of criticism. Its all but inevitable effect was to provoke Mansel’s bitter reply accusing Maurice of wilful misrepresentation. Perhaps it is impossible for men to understand each other when they have a superficial resemblance along with

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 89

MAURICE IN CONTROVERSY

79

fundamental dissimilarities. Maurice sums up the issue in these words: The questions at issue between us are, whether these difficulties and contradictions are proofs that there is nothing in man which really demands a knowledge of the Infinite and Eternal, and that what seems to demand it is an impotency of the understanding, attempting unlawful and impossible flights; or whether these difficulties and contradictions only show that the faculty which God has given us for the apprehension can only put forth its full powers when He meets it and illuminates it.12 Both men believed that unaided human beings could not know God. To one this seemed a sufficient argument for an appeal to the external authority of an authenticated revelation. To the other this was the abdication of human responsibility. Certainly the human mind must look for help, but it was to be found in the active Spirit, in a personal contact with the revealer of reality. Sad as it is to follow the progress of the controversy, with its attendant misunderstandings, they were in one sense fortunate. For they drove Maurice the nearest he ever came to a definition of his position in philosophical terms, though even here he is concerned almost entirely with the narrow field of epistemology. From certain pages of the Sequel to the Inquiry an almost continuous piece of reasoning can be extracted.13 The starting-point of the argument is Mansel’s accusation that he had confused the practical with the speculative reason in discussing Kant. Maurice answers with three points. First, the accusation is mistaken; he had not confused the two. Secondly it would not have mattered if he had, because he was, in the passage under discussion, inquiring after any faculty which might transcend the limits of the senses, and either would have been equally relevant. Finally, there may perhaps be a union of the two faculties which Kant did not see. This is a fruitful suggestion which recurs later. Maurice next tries to bring out what he thinks is important in Kant. He saw that the highest faculty in man, the Reason, is subject to its own illusions, just as the senses are subject to theirs – for instance, that the distant parts of the sea are higher than those near at hand. But there are known methods of correcting the illusions of the senses, and the transcendental logic of Kant is intended as a method of overcoming the corresponding illusions of the Reason. Of course it is possible to equate the Reason and the Understanding, the illusions of one with the impotence of the other. This is Mansel’s method. Kant, however, refused to do so, because he could not identify the faculty which was dependent on phenomena with that which is for ever launching out in search of the transcendent. But Kant’s conclusions are vitiated by a wrong approach to the problem. He does not realize that it is wrong to consider the Reason itself, apart from an object coming to meet it. This method invariably produces anomalies, just as we cannot avoid them if we try to regard sense-perceptions in themselves, as their own object; or the ideas of the understanding as self-contained and apart from some corresponding reality. When we discuss the higher faculty, we should bear in mind the example of the lower. We are forced to assume some external world, which comes to meet us, and in that meeting produces sense-perceptions which we use as the data of the Understanding. If we do not assume this external world and its correspondence in

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

80

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 90

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

some way with our sensory experience, we can say nothing at all about these senseperceptions except that they deceive, and the faculty which apprehends them is just as much a ‘faculty of lies’ as Mansel holds reason to be. Maurice does not at this point elaborate the implications of his criticism, but it is clear from what he has said elsewhere. The Understanding has ideas which are obviously related in some way to sense-perceptions. Yet it was the fault of Locke to suppose that they can be fully explained without further reference, and his own theory reveals his omission. The activity of remembering, moving, and combining those sensations which we experience is itself a creative activity. The mind adds to that which is given. So also the Reason takes the ideas of the Understanding and adds to them by a similar creative activity. The question arises, where does the addition come from? The theory of innate ideas fails to account for the continual growth of the mind’s range. Maurice holds that it comes from revelation, the other half of the double process of knowing; and that this word ‘revelation’ is equally applicable to the process of unveiling at all levels of experience, from the discovery of a new star to the disclosure of God as Father. His doctrine gives an impressive unity to the whole of human experience. From Kant he turns to Butler and asks what we can learn from him. He mentions the criticism which has already been noted, that Butler treats the conscience as a sovereign faculty instead of a witness. He treats it, in fact, purely from the human standpoint, and this cannot help leading to anomalies. But at least Butler did not equate its promptings with deductions from sensual evidence made by the Understanding, nor label the conscience a faculty of lies because some anomalies came to light in the course of examination. The best he could do was to provide a kind of dialectic of his own to prevent the harm the anomalies might produce. Had he adopted the course of assuming that something came to meet the conscience, that God was speaking to it, these anomalies would have disappeared. The resemblance of Kant and Butler in their respective spheres has by this time become obvious. ‘Each seemed to himself to have worked out a full explanation of the faculty he was conversant with; each really demanded further light to make its operation intelligible.’14 Some pages later Maurice picks up the hint he has already dropped about the connection between Kant’s speculative reason and practical reason. The speculative, he says, has to do with the eternal and the infinite; the practical is that which acknowledges moral obligations. Now these moral obligations are, on Kant’s admission, the acknowledgement of eternal and universal laws. Because he tried to consider the faculties in themselves, without any external reference, he necessarily concluded that these laws were in and of the Reason itself. Yet it is an undeniable fact that these laws are not necessary, in the sense of automatic. They can be disobeyed by the will; they can be denied by the Reason. It seems, then, that they are, in spite of Kant, external to the mind, and that his attempt to regard the faculties in themselves has brought out the anomalies which crop up in every sphere when this false method is adopted. Maurice continues: Supposing Kant to be right in saying that man has a faculty which demands the Eternal, – supposing him to be also right in saying that he has a faculty which confesses an obligation to some Eternal, Universal Law or Principle, – a Revelation of God might satisfy the Speculative Reason by discovering the

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 91

MAURICE IN CONTROVERSY

81

Eternal which is demanded; or it might satisfy the Practical Reason by declaring what law or principle it is which we are formed to obey. It might do either of these things; might it not do both? Must it not do both if it is such a Revelation as the Bible sets forth to us?15 There is only one kind of revelation which can satisfy the yearnings of the speculative reason for the Infinite and the Eternal and the demands of the practical reason for absolute and universal standards of morality at one and the same time. That is the revelation of a moral Being. Such a revelation satisfies both, because it is just the moral qualities of a Being which cannot be brought under the law of space and time, and are therefore infinite and eternal. Only a mind can be an adequate standard for the minds of men. In this way those two faculties or perceptions, which are necessarily diverse, and appear sometimes as if they could not well be brought into harmony when they are looked at as faculties of ours, become united and harmonize by that light which falls upon them from above. Each finds that which meets its own need. The man in whom they dwell is no longer a dislocated being, no longer a mere philosophical compound; he is a living unity.16 Maurice has now completed the exposition of his own beliefs, and turns back to the immediate controversy. Mansel would not accept the description of the double process of knowing because he denied the existence of a faculty corresponding to what Kant called the speculative reason. What then are the ‘truths’ attributed to that faculty? On Mansel’s suppositions can they be anything but generalizations from sensory data? If that is what they are, they can only be as true, or as false, as other such generalizations. If speculative truths are rejected, why are other generalizations from sensory data accepted? And if all is thus reduced to one level, how can a revelation be fitted into the scheme? The old Lockian inconsistency recurs. But Maurice will not leave the discussion on the philosophical plane. He returns to theology where he is more at home, and considers the implications of Mansel’s arguments in connection with the Athanasian Creed. In the first place, if there is no faculty in man which can have direct contact with the Eternal and Absolute, the Athanasian Creed can only be taken to mean that all who do not accept a particular formula are damned; and their ranks include not only Sabellius but also Cyril of Jerusalem, not only those who cannot accept it but even those who cannot understand it. Such an interpretation Maurice rightly calls appalling and monstrous. But there is worse to come. Mansel’s doctrine, by forcing us to interpret eternity by reference to time, consecrated the notion that eternal punishment means torment in endless futurity. Set this beside the first implication, and the combination is unthinkable. The Athanasian Creed clearly demands a faculty in man which can take account of the Infinite and Eternal. That faculty must be concerned not only with speculative but also with practical truth. If we look into one portion of this Creed we find that which appears directly to meet the wants of that Practical Reason, so far as that demands a transcendent and yet human morality. He who is declared to be ‘the Only-begotten Son of the

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

82

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 92

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

Father, the Light of Lights, the very God of very God, of one substance with the Father’, is said to have taken upon Him our Nature, to have become actually and indeed Man. This, it seems to me, is the Human manifestation of Morality. There is an exhibition of a Universal and Absolute Morality, which yet, in the fullest and most perfect sense, is the Morality of Man.17 The incarnation has a central place, not only as a manifestation of the Eternal and Absolute, the foundation of Christian theology, but also as the exhibition of a universal and absolute morality, the foundation of Christian ethics. It is the clue to the mystery that man is made in the image of God. These beliefs do, of course, meet with opposition. It comes from those who deny the union of Godhead with manhood in Christ, from those who see the incarnation merely as a device for the renovation of some fallen men, from those who take morality to consist in divine laws and see the incarnation as a method of extricating individuals from their penalties. But St Paul, St John and all the rest of the writers of the New Testament together with the creeds and Articles of Religion take Christ as the pattern and ground of humanity, and the fall of Adam as a departure from that true ground. So Maurice turns back from philosophy to theology and dwells on the significance of its central fact, the incarnation of the Son of God. He has shown that Mansel’s position leads logically to agnosticism, because it is a kind of positivism with a religious appendage, offering no coherent hope of true knowledge after death, since men will still be finite and their knowledge equally limited. He has shown the danger of artificial divisions and oppositions, whether of reason to revelation or of one faculty in man to another. He has shown the danger of using abstractions as logical chessmen, and acquiescing in the use of words with alternative and incompatible meanings. He was not Mansel’s only opponent, but he was the ablest and most consistent. The religious world on the whole sided with Mansel, and supposed that he came out of the controversy triumphant. But it was not the kind of argument which can be won or lost. And if we sift through Maurice’s typically diffuse contributions to it, he emerges as the one with the more coherent theological scheme. In Mansel’s account of religion, revelation looks like an optional extra, or a fortunate accident. In this controversy and in other writings during his lengthy controversial life we can see the recurrent emphases which marked out Maurice among his contemporaries. We see the stress he laid on the personal nature of truth, on the significance of human relationships, on the test of human experience. We can watch him fighting to restore the wholeness of man, to break down false divisions and to protest against the incompleteness of the analytical method, and to show how faith and reason are interlinked. Above all he strove to turn attention away from notions and to direct it to the realities which lie behind phenomena, the existent order and pattern of the universe and the Father who created it. He never claimed to be a philosopher; he did not try to construct a philosophical system. From the viewpoint of the philosopher his thought may be open to criticism for its incompleteness or for its assumptions. Two such criticisms are worth mentioning in the present context. The first is that he builds his beliefs largely on experienced human needs as a criterion of truth. Secondly, his emphasis on the order and constitution of things as already existent tends to empty the

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 93

MAURICE IN CONTROVERSY

83

process of history of real significance, to make it more like the slow unveiling of a completed picture than the enactment of drama. But among the conflicting verdicts passed on Maurice, the truest note is struck by one who did claim philosophy as his own sphere, James Martineau. He spoke of the power of rejuvenescence in Maurice’s ‘abolition of time-conditions’, and prophesied of him and his followers that ‘there is more of the future, we suspect, contained in their gospel than in any talking theology whose cry is heard in our streets’.18 The central point of Maurice’s theology and the key to his importance are to be found in his appreciation of the Fourth Gospel, and particularly in two elements of Johannine thought: the doctrine of the Logos, significantly set aside at Nicea, and the vivid consciousness of eternity here and now. The historical method had been developing rapidly since the latter half of the eighteenth century and had become dominant in the field of theology. There were dangers as well as great advantages in this process. Maurice did not oppose it, but he saw its insufficiency. The eighteenthcentury deists had treated the facts of Christianity as past history. The nineteenthcentury evolutionists were in their way equally taken up with the past. For all its incalculable achievements that was the danger of the historical method. Maurice set over against it the abiding force of eternal realities. He apprehended the mystery of the paradox that we pray for the coming of the Kingdom, yet it is already among us. There were plenty of critics of Maurice’s response to Mansel who thought he had lost the argument. When the Dean of Chichester, J.W. Burgon, gathered together his reminiscences of leading churchmen under the title Lives of Twelve Good Men, he included H.L. Mansel as ‘The Christian Philosopher’. He referred to the enthusiastic reception of the Bampton Lectures by undergraduates, though he admitted that they were entirely ‘over the heads’ of most of them. They believed, however, that he was ‘single-handed contunding a host of unbelievers, – some with unpronounceable names and unintelligible theories; and sending them flying before him like dust before the wind’.19 Burgon’s words unintentionally reveal the deep suspicion of German philosophy which he shared with many clergy at the time. When another opponent of Mansel, Professor Goldwin Smith, entered the debate, Burgon dragged in from another context some words he had used about Coleridge as ‘the greatest of English Divines’, in order to mock Coleridge’s elaborate plan of a great three-volume work – unrealized, as so many of his schemes were. This, Burgon said, was ‘For the satisfaction of those persons (if any there be) who cherish the same exalted estimate of S.T. Coleridge… as a Divine’.20 From a century and a half later it is clear that Burgon was wrong to think that Coleridge and Maurice would soon be written off and Mansel’s judgement would be vindicated. The opposite is the case. Mansel’s defence of orthodoxy relied on a view of revelation which itself depended on assumptions about the Bible which have largely been rejected. When men like Burgon and Mansel set about filling the gap in human knowledge of the ‘Absolute’ by appeal to ‘revelation’, they took that word to mean the Bible as interpreted by the church. Their ‘Bible’ was a coherent document, and their ‘church’ was the Church of England. Critical study of the document exposed the Bible’s inner tensions and the movement of history revealed the insularity of the established church.

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

84

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 94

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

Maurice certainly did not anticipate these developments. They could not, therefore, be the basis of his disagreement with Mansel. The controversy has been more recently reassessed, for example by A.M. Ramsey. He notes that Mansel’s arguments, in favour of what J.S. Mill characterized as ‘the doctrine of universal nescience’, were only a short step away from Herbert Spencer’s agnosticism. He criticizes Maurice for failing to recognize his opponent’s genuine religious conviction – so unlike his sympathetic exposition of a range of Christian attitudes in The Kingdom of Christ.21 Of greater interest, and from a different angle, are the more extensive discussions of John Coulson and Stephen Prickett.22 They suggest that the violence, and indeed the incoherence, of his attack was due either to the fact that the beliefs of the two men were too close for comfort,23 or that they were concerned fundamentally about the same problem and shared the same type of language.24 These judgements follow from the writers’ different assessments of the central issue of the controversy. Both look for a ‘common tradition’, to include Coleridge, Maurice, and J.H. Newman. This tradition developed in the Romantic movement in reaction against the common eighteenthcentury assumptions about the proper use of language. Coulson says that, for Coleridge, the primary response to language is not analytic, but fiduciary. In religion, as in poetry, we are required to make a complex act of inference and assent, and we begin by taking on trust expressions which are usually in analogical, metaphorical, or symbolic form, and by acting out the claims they make: understanding religious language is a function of understanding poetic language.25 Prickett, too, relates the controversy to the nature and use of language. He places Maurice within a literary tradition which includes, along with Coleridge and Newman, Keble, Matthew Arnold and F.J.A. Hort.26 But the two writers diverge when they come to identify the chief issue at stake, and seem to let their own interests decide the question. Coulson, with his concern to reinterpret the teaching of Newman, wants to put the stress on the search for certainty. The difference between Maurice and Mansel, he says, ‘is more properly a philosophical dispute about how we become certain of the truth of Revelation’.27 No doubt this was the focus of Newman’s Grammar of Assent. But a survey of Maurice’s Kingdom of Christ shows instead his search for truth at the heart of divergent traditions – a search which does not offer a way to certainty but a way of exploring differences. Prickett, on the other hand, focuses on ‘the fundamental contradictions of Christian belief ’. Here the difficulty is in applying the idea to Mansel, not Maurice. To Mansel, there was a clear revelation of duties – the duty to believe and the duty to obey, and not to be misled by problems about the unknowable. Maurice, by contrast, had been led, as Prickett himself points out, to leave the Unitarians and join the Church of England: to leave an unambiguous rational faith for one of tension and contradiction.28 Both Prickett and Coulson offer valuable commentaries on the context of the controversy, though they seem to be reading into Maurice’s words thoughts which were not at the top of his mind. He does not concentrate particularly on the search for certainty or the ambiguities of language. The first of these was, in his view, always in

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 95

MAURICE IN CONTROVERSY

85

danger of reducing truth to a set of propositions. Language was certainly a steady concern of his, but not in this case the fundamental issue. He believed his opponent was threatening the interactive nature of revelation. God had created human beings with the capacity to appropriate what was revealed. Discovery and revelation were different names for the same thing. This was an essential element in the Coleridgean tradition, which was being denied by Mansel. The sign of this was his use of the word ‘Reason’ for a capability which Coleridge would have allocated to the ‘Understanding’ – little more than the ability to think logically on given postulates. What was missing, in Maurice’s eyes, was the central fact of the incarnation. The scriptures presented Christ as the image of the unseen God.29 He himself had declared that whoever had seen him had seen the Father.30 This made sense only if human beings were so constituted as to be able to apprehend what was being revealed. Mansel seemed to be saying, ‘We don’t know what God is like, but it is our duty to do what he has told us to do.’ Maurice’s deepest belief was that God had always been revealing himself as Father and guiding his children by his spirit. This was not a philosophical question about certainty, nor a hermeneutical question about language. But it is right to locate Maurice, like Coleridge, within the Romantic tradition. There is, as Prickett reminds us, a section in The Kingdom of Christ which spells out, in his own discursive fashion, the critical change in the use of language in the eighteenth-century. Coulson’s description of the newer usage as ‘fiduciary’ makes it sound strange and innovatory. Coleridge’s preference for the language of the seventeenth-century indicates a continuity interrupted and impoverished by the so-called Enlightenment. J.S. Mill contrasted the different methods of interpretation of Hobbes and Coleridge, the one asking, ‘Is it true?’, and the other asking, ‘What does it mean?’ That is a better indication of the change, or reversion, in the use of language than to introduce the idea of faith (implicit in ‘fiduciary’), unless that is taken to mean trust that there is a meaning to be found. It was a time when it was acceptable in the liberal tradition of theology to talk about poets as theologians. F.W. Robertson was happy to treat Wordsworth as a guide to some aspects of the truth. His biographer, Stopford Brooke, even regarded poets (or some selected poets) as prophets, in true Romantic fashion, and lectured on Theology in the English Poets.31 The theology tends to be little more than ‘morality tinged with emotion’; but the influence of the German Romantics – and Robertson at least was at home in the German language – turned attention away from the understanding of dogma as propositional to the inner experience of the believer. Robertson has been called ‘the first and greatest of the psychological preachers of the Church of England’.32 He asked of any dogmatic statement what psychological need it met.33 Words, then, were not exchangeable counters, but fluent interpreters of human experience. In a lecture which Maurice delivered to students of Guy’s Hospital, he asked them to see words as living witnesses to the history of a community. He rejected the cataloguing method of Johnson’s Dictionary as well as the etymological method of the philologist Horne Tooke, who wanted to reduce each word to a single meaning, based on a genuine or false Anglo-Saxon origin. As Coleridge said of Horne Tooke, ‘in writing about the formation of words only, [he] thought he was explaining the philosophy of language, which is a very different thing’.34 Coleridge’s sense of the depth of meaning in words of poetry was summarized by Hort as believing that ‘true

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

86

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 96

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

poetry deals on the one hand only with the world of sense, and on the other hand of it and its manifold contents only so far as they are symbols of corresponding realities in the world of spirit’.35 A later interpreter of Coleridge, Owen Barfield, relates the two levels of language to the familiar dualism of Understanding and Reason. The Understanding constructs words out of sense experience; the Reason creates the grammar, and in so doing reflects the forms of the human mind.36 In this perspective, the language of the Bible must be read at two levels: relating events from the past, and also setting up an interaction with the readers in the present. Those readers, of course, are lay people quite as much as clergy. And so, as Coulson says, the laity need to be ‘educated to become bi-lingual, skilled not only in their particular profession or trade, but also in the language of the Church’.37 The meaning in scripture is not objective, or not only objective; it has to ‘find’ the interpreter. For Maurice, there was no court of appeal beyond the conscience, like Newman’s ‘Catholic Church’ waiting to guarantee or countermand the findings of his ‘illative sense’, or the less well-defined traditional orthodoxy of Mansel. So commitment to what was recognized as ‘truth’ was vulnerable (as faith must always be). The response of the individual to revelation was conditioned by sensibilities. No interpretation of biblical texts could, for example, excuse the horrors of the slave trade, which Coleridge had vigorously attacked. And although Maurice found good theological reasons for rejecting the idea of everlasting torment for the damned, he did so fundamentally because of his humane qualities. The rigid literalism which had enabled preachers to defend the indefensible in the Old Testament had evoked the caustic wit of Tom Paine. The status of the scriptures had to be rescued by two forces external to the limits of traditional theology. One was the discovery of ‘development’ as a governing category in the understanding of the world. Outside theological studies that discovery focused on history and evolution. Inside theology, it offered a new image of the scriptures as the account of human education into a fuller response to God. The other force was the fresh understanding of language, in the Romantic movement. At first, words were seen as the re-creation of the enlightened poet. But if, as Maurice claimed, words had a history and found their meaning in communities, they would inevitably be open to a whole range of meanings for different individuals within different communities.38 That truth would stare anyone in the face who studied the history of biblical interpretation. All the basic Christian texts – scriptures and creeds – had been repeatedly taken and used for their own purposes by individuals and groups; indeed the creeds were examples of the process. Maurice is himself a notable case of the same thing. His Kingdom of Christ shows him looking for truth in all the major variants of Christian belief and making them acceptable by re-interpreting them. Revelation itself then becomes a process. The faith has not been ‘once delivered to the saints’. Tradition comes from the past and leads into the future.

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 97

6 Hort: Science and Tradition

The name of F.J.A. Hort (1828–1892) is, for biblical scholars, inevitably associated with the classic edition of the Greek New Testament known as ‘Westcott and Hort’. Those who know the story of the 1881–85 Revised Version of the English Bible will also acknowledge his unique contribution to that enterprise. Even casual readers of the story of nineteenth-century religion may have heard the criticism that Hort talked for three of the ten years which were given to the production of the Revised Version of the New Testament. The first image, then, which arises before the mind’s eye when his name is mentioned is that of a painstaking biblical scholar who could spend hours with a magnifying glass scanning the proofs of the Greek text of the New Testament for the minutest blemish. That was not how he struck those who knew him. They were much more likely to emphasize the extraordinary breadth of his interests and the wisdom and far-sighted range of his opinions. At Cambridge he had taken First Classes in Classics, Moral Philosophy and Natural Sciences, and would probably have taken yet another First Class in Mathematics had he not been prevented by illness. Later he had the distinction, possibly unique, of having examined in the Theological and Natural Sciences Triposes in the same year. The purpose of this chapter is primarily to consider his work in areas other than textual criticism. But that text-critical work should not be altogether forgotten, because it reveals intellectual characteristics which affected other subjects in which he was interested. If the image of the painstaking textual critic were the complete image of Hort, he could not claim to stand alongside men such as Coleridge or Maurice. Whatever their merits, they certainly were not meticulous scholars with an eye for minute detail. It would seem to require some justification to place him in the Coleridgean tradition. His simplest claim is that he was an admirer of them both. In 1856 he contributed to a volume of Cambridge Essays by members of the university a long essay on Coleridge – so long that he exceeded his allotted space by thirty pages and had to subsidize it out of his own pocket. Maurice he knew well, loved as a personal friend, and admired with a sincere but critical admiration. He wrote of him in 1871: ‘Mr Maurice has been a dear 87

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

88

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 98

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

friend of mine for twenty three years, and I have been deeply influenced by his books. To myself it seems that I owe to them a firm and full hold of the Christian faith’. Yet it is not enough to note that Hort was, in a general sense, of the company of Coleridge and Maurice. Even in the nineteenth century, when theological passions could run high, it was possible to maintain friendships with men whose ideas one rejected. He himself claimed, in a letter of 1871, to have friends ‘of various creeds and creedlessness’. The fact is that he had certain convictions and interests which found one particular expression in his work of biblical scholarship but might have expressed themselves in other ways, if the changes and chances of his life had fallen out otherwise. He told his wife in 1872, almost regretfully, that he felt he must renounce any hope of making philosophy his main occupation, since circumstances had drawn him into engrossing study. His basic convictions and interests place him in the Coleridgean tradition. Put concisely, those convictions were that truth cannot be had cheaply, and that one aspect of truth cannot threaten another. The outstanding characteristic of his work is the combination of broad views with concern for detail. The same could be said of Coleridge, whose approach to truth required the consideration of every possible aspect that occurred to him, so that he could scarcely say anything without trying to say everything. The discovery of truth was costly of time and mental effort; so costly, in fact, that Coleridge’s whole life was not sufficient to pay for it. It was also true, as his notebooks reveal, that he was fascinated by all kinds of detailed observation as much as by the grandest of sweeping generalizations. Maurice, in his own way, had similar convictions and interests. He was, no doubt, blind to some aspects of human knowledge. He never seems to have understood or appreciated the new claims and the new stature of science. But his writings testify to a very broad interest in human affairs, covering history, literature and politics no less than philosophy and the comparative study of religion. He tried to co-ordinate a large accumulation of detailed knowledge into a coherent whole, even at the risk of over-simplification. His Moral and Metaphysical Philosophy was written as a contribution to the Encyclopaedia Metropolitana; and that ambitious work claimed to be constructed ‘on a methodical plan projected by Samuel Taylor Coleridge’. Maurice’s contribution shows his particular kind of concern for detail. He would not have consented to write a mere catalogue of opinions or systems, but he was willing to put all ages under contribution to shed light on the grand questions which must be faced in any age. Given such convictions and such interests, no one could be content to belong to an exclusive organization, let alone to found a party to propagate one person’s views. Where none could claim exclusive rights to the spiritual legacy of a master, all kinds of divergent and indeed contradictory views might be fathered on the teacher. Coleridge and Maurice have been condemned, and praised, for many different reasons. If Hort escaped that fate, it is partly because his major published works are, generally speaking, so severely technical that they have only been read by specialists, and even they must find difficulty in laying hold of the fundamentally controversial nature of some of Hort’s opinions. The painstaking detail and careful arguments of the introductory volume to The New Testament in Greek is matched by the equal scrupulousness of his Two Dissertations (on Μονογ νη Θ ο [God only-begotten] and the Constantinopolitan

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 99

HORT: SCIENCE AND TRADITION

89

Creed). It all seems so scholarly and, in a sense, so innocuous. But the basic assumption underlying Hort’s work in two different fields, textual criticism and historical theology, is that research must be honest and untrammelled. In a word, it must be scientific. Such a conception of theological study was so uncommon in Hort’s generation, at least in England, that he even suspected that his closest friends and collaborators, Westcott and Lightfoot, might not be prepared to go all the way with him in following truth wherever it might lead. Some of his letters in 1860, when the three men were planning to produce a complete set of commentaries on the books of the New Testament, show him as the most confident of them in the application of free criticism to the Bible. Lightfoot apparently saw the work as a demonstration that honest criticism did not disturb orthodox assumptions, and seems to have proposed that Hort should not work on the gospels, with a slight suggestion that his handling of them might not be quite safe. So at least Hort suspected. He wrote a firm letter to make clear that he could not work on any book of the New Testament, ‘if I were under any obligation to produce results of a predetermined colour’.1 He asked if Lightfoot assumed, as Westcott certainly did, a ‘natural and historical origin for the Gospels’. For, he continued, ‘if you make a decided conviction of the absolute infallibility of the New Testament a sine qua non for co-operation, I fear I could not join you’. Although he thought he and Westcott agreed in principle, a letter to Westcott written the next day draws a distinction between the two of them. ‘I am not able to go as far as you in asserting the absolute infallibility of a canonical writing.’ The difference between the collaborators must not be over-emphasized. Evidently Lightfoot persuaded Hort that their attitudes to infallibility were the same. And Hort himself declared that he wanted to find the New Testament infallible, but thought the limits of divine guidance could be established only by unbiased a posteriori criticism. He would have to declare his opinion, if he thought real error more probable in any particular case than apparent error due to our ignorance. It seems that Hort alone of the three felt the need to make quite explicit his acceptance of the basic scientific assumption with which he believed they should approach the work of biblical criticism. The explanation for his insistence that research and scholarship must be free from orthodox trammels is to be found in the fact that science had played a much more significant part in his education than that of his collaborators. Hort’s distinctive contribution to nineteenth-century religious ideas concerns the relation between science and religion. Its importance does not derive from any substantial writings on the subject, but from the influence which he exercised in the intellectual life of Cambridge University. The biography of James Clerk Maxwell, who became the first Professor of Experimental Physics at Cambridge, shows that in the 1850s and the 1870s Hort was a member of two informal clubs, the Ray Club and the Eranus (or picnic) Club, in which issues of science and religion were discussed.2 Lightfoot and Westcott were also members of the Eranus Club. But for Hort science was not just a matter of discussion, as it was for his collaborators in New Testament work. There is no particular evidence that Lightfoot was interested in science, and although Westcott promoted, as a schoolmaster at Harrow, a scheme of scientific education and personally undertook to teach and examine in the classification and distribution of plants, he never did any serious work of a scientific kind. His interests outside the field

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

90

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 100

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

of theology were, like Maurice’s, primarily in history, literature and philosophy. Hort, on the other hand was at one time considered one of the rising hopes of Cambridge botany in the 1850s.3 His whole-hearted acceptance of open-ended enquiry as the proper method in textual and historical studies did not cause, as it might easily have done, any scandal in the church. There was some rather unintelligent criticism of its results in the determination of the text of the New Testament by men like Dean Burgon.4 But very few churchmen were capable of understanding the details of textual criticism, and so Hort avoided the notoriety of the writers of Essays and Reviews, although his basic assumption was identical with theirs: ‘if theological argument forgets the judge and assumes the advocate, or betrays the least bias to one side, the conclusion is valueless, the principle of free enquiry has been violated’. The difference of treatment which he received was in part due to the technical nature of his main published work, but two other factors affected the situation. One was simply Hort’s lack of prominence in the public eye. He never obtained what is called preferment in the church. He was a far from prolific writer. And his whole nature inclined him to seek ways of reconciliation and peace rather than engage in the kind of controversy that catches public attention. The second factor that protected Hort from attack was that his theological opinions were in fact moderate and orthodox by the standards of the day. Radical methods do not inevitably lead to radical conclusions, as Coleridge showed. The significance of the ‘Cambridge Trio’ lay in showing that honesty and orthodoxy do sometimes coincide. In any case, as Hort’s great contemporary, Søren Kierkegaard, saw clearly, a man’s faith is not established by historical investigation. Hort believed that there is a realm of spiritual realities; that ‘the truth is that in which we live daily’,5 and that there was a genuine harmony of the voice of the church in all ages. Such beliefs were independent of the outcome of particular historical inquiries. A scholar who grounded belief on contemporary realities of spiritual experience would be free to pursue the most searching inquiries into the phenomena which had been associated at different moments in history with the faith of the forerunners. Few of those who have given any assessment of Hort have had a scientific background. The best we can do is to turn to the judgements of E.W. Barnes (later Bishop of Birmingham), and C.E. Raven (Regius Professor of Divinity at Cambridge 1932–50). Barnes had a distinguished career as a mathematician before his ordination. Raven was never more than a serious amateur scientist, though his devotion to the study of birds gave him an insight into the essential nature of field-work, and he became a respected historian of science. Barnes spoke of Hort as the greatest English theologian of the nineteenth century, and quoted frequently from The Way, the Truth, the Life.6 The particular grounds for such a high estimation were Hort’s rejection of the ‘prevalent nervousness about naming and commending reason’ and his readiness to approach evolutionary theories with an open mind. Raven is more specific. In a note on the ‘tradition of a reasonable faith’ he writes of Hort: ‘Probably the greatest scholar of the great Cambridge trio, he published first-rate work on plants in his twentieth year. In 1857 he discovered a new Bramble, Rubus imbricatus, in the Wye valley; he examined in the Natural Sciences Tripos in the same year in which he delivered his Hulsean lectures.’7 These are among the very few notices of Hort’s scientific interests, and they

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 101

HORT: SCIENCE AND TRADITION

91

demand supplementation, to show his clear and subtle attitude to questions of science and religion. A brief contrast between him and a contemporary writer who also combined interests in science and religion, Henry Drummond, will bring out his critical carefulness. In 1883 at the age of thirty-two Drummond published his best known book, Natural Law in the Spiritual World. At the time he was a lecturer in Natural Science at the Free Church College, Glasgow, where he subsequently became Professor of Theology. The aim of the book was to state the subject-matter of religion while using the method of expression of science. Drummond believed that he could enunciate spiritual law in the exact terms of biology and physics. He did not merely claim that there was an analogy between the realms of religion and science; he asserted that there was an identity of laws in the two realms of experience.8 The book was a great success. In two years it sold 45,000 copies and ran to sixteen editions. The reason for its success is not hard to see. In the words of A.L. Moore, an Oxford tutor of high church sympathies: ‘The Christian world wants to be scientific.’9 By the 1880s it had become apparent to many thoughtful Christians that if religion and science were both to remain as significant forces in the same society, the concessions would have to come, not from science, but from religion. Here was a writer of some scientific standing who not only managed to remain a fervent, evangelical Christian, but seemed to turn the tables on agnostic scientists by showing that their own discoveries of scientific law corroborated the teachings of Christianity, which they had the temerity to reject. The sales of the book are an index of the strength of liberal Protestantism in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. But it was, in Moore’s phrase, ‘a brilliant example of a radically false method’. And Hort wrote to J. M. Ludlow that it was a ‘quite singularly muddle-headed book’.10 Its main interest lay in the insight into the author which it provided. He was quite evidently fresh and genuine, but his book showed the powerlessness of the mere love of Natural Science to teach men to think. Hort’s scientific abilities never betrayed him into facile ‘reconciliations’ between science and religious belief. There can be no doubt that he found science a compelling adventure of the human mind. An indication of his excitement is to be found in the letters in which he expressed his response to Darwin’s The Origin of Species. It was ‘a treat to read such a book’. He is astonished that Westcott says he has seen no facts which support Darwin’s view – some kind of development must be supposed. The subject had completely flung him back into Natural Science. He obviously derived great pleasure when he was able, on an Alpine holiday, to catechize one of the leading scientists of the day, Professor Owen, ‘to my heart’s content’ on his attitude to the Darwinian hypothesis, verifying his belief that Owen could not possibly differ from Darwin as much as his reserve in print might suggest. From the first he believed that Darwin was unanswerable. He had reservations on points of detail, but these were of a strictly scientific kind. His general attitude, he declared, was that Darwin’s book was ‘a book that one is proud to be contemporary with’. If he was right in thinking it was unanswerable, then ‘it opens up a new period in – I know not what’.11 It is significant that he had read The Origin of Species within a few months of its publication, but Natural Law in the Spiritual World had to wait three years before he read it.

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

92

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 102

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

The undoubted excitement with which he greeted Darwin’s book was in the strictest sense a result of its scientific value. And although he contemplated writing an article, or even a book, which should deal with the evolutionary theory both scientifically and theologically, he was not very keen on committing himself on the second part of the topic. The difficulty about the first part was mainly that of finding time to assemble the data for his proposed criticisms and additional illustrations. But the second part, he knew, was ‘a ticklish matter, and one wants months and months to think and read about it, or one will be driven to utter only brief and cloudy oracles’.12 The hesitations which held him back from writing about Darwin and his criticism of Drummond’s book were all of a piece. He did not believe in any simple relation between science and theology. They were two distinct disciplines, each valid in its own right, and each building up elements of truth which it was much too early to articulate into a body. In the early Cambridge days he had shown the drift of his thoughts in a disagreement with his lifelong friend, John Ellerton, about Gilbert White of Selborne. Evidently Ellerton felt that White, as a clergyman, ought to have drawn moral lessons from his knowledge of natural history. Hort wrote in answer: ‘If you mean that Gilbert White neglected his trust because he wrote only of natural objects as natural objects, and did not seek to draw lessons from them, to make them the mystical oracles or moral principles to others, I differ from you toto coelo [totally]. An honest student of nature must, I think, make physical principles the objects of his search.’ And this conviction remained with him through life. Six years later he noted that his friend Westcott was interested in what he called ‘physical theology’; but he had to confess that he himself had thought little about it. ‘I have’, he wrote, ‘a strong Job-like feeling, “The deep saith, It is not in me”.’13 Later still, in a long self-explanatory letter to Bishop Browne, who had invited Hort to become one of his examining chaplains, he declared his keen interest in criticism, physical science, and philosophy. He was convinced, he said, that their vigorous and independent progress was to be desired for the sake of mankind, even when for a time they seemed to be acting for the injury of faith.14 Vigorous and independent – the words define succinctly the difference between Hort and the ‘popular science’ theologians upon whom the mantle of Paley had fallen. They believed they could read spiritual lessons in the physical world; he believed they merely read such lessons into it. The assumptions of physical science were so different from the assumptions of theology that nothing but confusion would come from attempting to apply the assumptions of one to the subject-matter of the other. In an isolated note about the atonement, Hort wrote as follows: ‘Till the whole is unrolled, the most comprehensive idea remains empty: the higher must never be interpreted by the lower, but the lower by the higher: otherwise in theology itself we fall into the same vicious method which in physics leads legitimately to the denial of God.’15 Hort did not himself pass that note for publication before his death, or he might have cleared up the ambiguity of the last phrase. He seems, on the one hand, to recognize that the method of physics, involving analysis of larger entities into small constituent units, leads legitimately to the denial of God. There is a sense in which the physicist must, as a physicist, be also an atheist. But if that is so, how can it be a vicious method? Or is it only vicious when misapplied to the realm of theology, on the mistaken assumption that it is the one universally valid method? Hort certainly did not elsewhere express the

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 103

HORT: SCIENCE AND TRADITION

93

belief that the physicist qua physicist is bound to be an atheist – bound, that is to say, to rule God out of his calculations, and to proceed as though God did not exist. It was certainly not the case with Clerk Maxwell. Yet that seems to be the logical result of demanding that different disciplines should be vigorously and independently pursued. The concept of independence is not the only concept that Hort employed when considering the relation between different kinds of truth. In fact the main idea which underlies the detailed argument of his Hulsean Lectures, The Way, the Truth, the Life, is that there is a fundamental unity binding together all partial insights. In discussing the advance of knowledge in the contemporary world, he affirms that ‘the new worlds conquered for knowledge give promise to aid powerfully in bringing to light the unity of all truth’. Just as the investigator of truth is ‘concentrically manifold—self within self ’, so also ‘all knowledge ministers to the knowledge of the highest’.16 The problem was to maintain that assertion at a time when, as Hort clearly recognized, there were increasing areas of knowledge which claimed independence of theology. He was not dismayed by this development; indeed he welcomed it. In as far as he felt obliged to explain the paradox that God allowed the development of areas of intellectual exploration in which he was not acknowledged as Lord, Hort argued on two complementary lines. First, it was a matter of experience that theology itself was benefiting from the development of scientific methods. In former ages the work of theology had been marred by ‘the lack of independent standards of truth’.17 It was a matter of thankfulness that that lack had been remedied. The sciences were establishing standards of truth for themselves, and ‘every kind of truth which is valued and known is a pledge of the place which truth must hereafter hold in the estimation of the Church, and of the multiplication of all its energies which the Church will thereby receive’.18 Second, man stands, so to speak, at the convergence of two mighty influences – those of God and of nature. Man’s self-knowledge must remain inchoate, till he has attained knowledge of God and of the natural world. It was God’s will that man should learn first, by revelation, the truth about Himself; now it is God’s will that man should learn, by scientific discovery, the truth about the world. Only so can man learn about himself. But the development of the method of discovery inevitably reacts upon the truth about God originally given by revelation, bringing it under the same kind of scrutiny as anything else that claims the name of truth. Hort did not shy from this scrutiny; indeed he was concerned to promote it. He felt confident that ‘the result can be only favourable to a faith of the apostolic type, a faith which finds the primary truth in One known through a permanent history of words and acts, and learns to understand and employ the truth thus found through a varied and growing experience’.19 In other words, the Christian faith, though in one sense given by revelation, since it was bestowed through the gracious act of God in Christ, was in another sense the result of discovery, even of empirical verification, in the lives of the Apostles; and it continues to be in some sense verifiable through the disciplined histor-ical study of the documents and traditions which record the apostolic experience. The two aspects are embraced in the single term incarnation: God in human life, and God in human life. These two arguments would only have seemed at all valid to those who were capable of looking, with the eye of faith, beyond the apparently chaotic conflicts of opinion

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

94

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 104

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

which troubled Victorian society. To many it seemed that the effect of science upon religion was entirely destructive. And the conflicts of opinion within the religious world led to the question whether any religious opinions could be true when contradictory creeds claimed the title of truth. Those who listened to Hort found that he had taken the measure of both types of religious despair. The first he countered with a calm assurance that every kind of genuine knowledge must bring men nearer to Christ, who alone is the Truth. The second he met with the repeated assertion that the conflict of opinions must be resolved by a whole-hearted acceptance of the use of reason in religious matters: It may be urged that the right, or rather duty, of personal verification of truth here maintained is in effect to set up the authority of reason in matters of faith. So be it. There can be no surer sign of decrepitude and decay in faith than the prevalent narrowness about naming and commending reason, an unwillingness to allude to its existence except under wrappings of language which suggest that it is a necessary evil. The fear of doing injury to the unstable by a bolder policy is perversely fallacious. The faith of ordinary people would be far more clear and sure if they had been freely instructed in the responsibilities of reason.20 To this passage he added the caveat that the term ‘reason’ suffered from incurable ambiguity. He did not seek to resolve this ambiguity by offering a definition. But we may assume, from his early sympathetic essay on Coleridge, that he would have contrasted ‘reason’ with ‘understanding’, and thought of it as the imaginative cooperation of every critical faculty, so far removed from mere logic as to be almost its opposite. It stood for man’s ability to produce a creative synthesis out of established facts rather than the ability to unpack the constituents of agreed statements. The use of reason would not lead to undeniable conclusions, since ‘reason could not be reason if it were impossible to reject its affirmations the proof of which no man can give to another, yet every man may find in himself ’, and that with a certainty proportionate to the health and purity of his whole inward nature.21 Here we reach a crucial point in the understanding of Hort’s championship of science. Because he had a genuine understanding of one particular branch of science, he fully appreciated the need to sit down patiently before the facts and to subject every generalization to scrutiny by holding it up against the empirical world. But because his training was not confined to Natural Science, and he was equally at home in classics, in theology, in history and in moral philosophy, he saw that there were other valid methods of enquiry. In fact even science itself needed more than mere humility before a disorganized array of empirical data. In his essay on Coleridge he had written: The unfortunate confusion of a purely formal and logical process with the progressive method of science, under the common name of induction, has caused the latter to be too frequently identified with a form which it usually but not necessarily takes, that of advancing from the many to the one. Coleridge, on the other hand, dwells solely on the necessity for ‘a previous act and conception

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 105

HORT: SCIENCE AND TRADITION

95

of the mind’ in addition to experiment and observation, and points out that a law may be discovered by a true process of induction even from a single instance.22 It is only by some such argument as this that the field of historical enquiry, in which every event is unique, can be brought into one category with other disciplines more usually described as scientific. The complexity of Hort’s attitude to scientific enquiry escaped most of his critics. T.B. Strong, for example, in his article ‘Dr Hort’s Life and Works’, in the first volume of the Journal of Theological Studies, fell into the same error as that of more simplistic critics in building a criticism on the quotation of particular phrases. He picked out (pp.382–3) some sentences from the Life and Letters and continued: Passages such as these seem to imply that the methods and philosophical axioms which are, consciously or unconsciously, at the root of most modern natural science, prevailed in great force over the mind of Dr Hort. From this point of view, mind and its object stand over against one another, and in order to attain truth the mind has to empty itself, as far as possible, of all preconceptions, and passively accept that which is given from without. Strong went on to argue that this method, though perhaps suitable ‘in all subjectmatters of which the object is the mere collection of isolated facts’ is inappropriate in matters of historical enquiry, and has occasionally misled Hort. But this notion of the passivity of the scientist in the face of facts was not implied, let alone expressed, in the passages Strong quoted, and is plainly at odds with the understanding of method Hort had learnt from Coleridge. Strong thought that Hort had reached mistaken conclusions about the early church through treating documents in isolation, by ‘the purely passive attitude of acceptance’, instead of perceiving ‘the gradual unfolding of an immanent idea’. In fact Hort argued that the ‘idea’ had been read back into a previous phase which unbiased historical study showed not to contain it. There might be other ways of validating the idea, but the appeal to history must be renounced. Hort was also very far from advocating a ‘passive attitude of acceptance’. He stressed the need for moral qualities in the observer and interaction with the complexities of the world. As Peter Walker has written, he showed a ‘penetrating understanding of how God’s truth (including the ‘special’ revelation of the gospel) is to be seen as disclosing itself to us; not, in fact, in isolation from our experience in the world, but rather in a dialectic with the world.’23 The methods of the different disciplines in which Hort was interested differed from each other, but they had something in common. It would be easy but misleading to say that they must all be scientific, because that word, like ‘reason’ suffers from ‘incurable ambiguity’. In fact he was careful not to make that kind of claim. He certainly does not speak of ‘scientific theology’. The common features of all intellectual inquiries, however different their subject-matter, must be their freedom from prescribed conclusions and their use of empirical verification. These are among the essentials for which he argues. When the controversial Essays and Reviews came under ecclesiastical

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

96

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 106

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

attack, he drafted a declaration which began with the words: ‘Believing that the suppression of free criticism must ultimately be injurious to the cause of truth and religion…’ He feared an unholy alliance of evangelicals and high churchmen ‘to crush all belief not founded solely on tradition, and, if possible, to drive from the Church all who, whether orthodox or not, value truth above orthodoxy’.24 When the judgement of the Dean of Arches was pronounced on the Essayists, he wrote to John Ellerton: ‘Now and for some time to come, mere naked freedom of opinion is the thing to strive for, as the indispensable condition of everything else.’ He did not find this belief widely shared in the contemporary church. He once commented that a bishop’s visitation address showed ‘absolutely no recognition of a use for thought or knowledge or love of truth’. It was fortunate for him that his great work of textual criticism kept him in the company of some of the few scholars who shared his overriding concern for free inquiry. He wrote in the introductory volume to the Westcott and Hort text of the Greek New Testament: An implicit confidence in all truth, a keen sense of its variety, and a deliberate dread of shutting out truth as yet unknown are no security against some of the wandering lights that are apt to beguile a critic: but, in so far as they are obeyed, they at least quench every inclination to guide criticism into delivering such testimony as may be to the supposed advantage of truth already inherited or acquired. Critics of the Bible, if they have been taught by the Bible, are unable to forget that the duty of guileless workmanship is never superseded by any other.25 This guileless workmanship was required no less in the borderlands of theology and science. It has been argued that ‘most theologians before 1914 had still not come to terms with a scientific, as distinct from a purely speculative, doctrine of evolution’.26 Hort was one of the few who wanted to assess Darwin’s theory on purely scientific grounds, as part of the one truth to which theology was called to witness. If it demanded revision in traditional doctrine or change in our way of interpreting scripture, that would be a step towards clearer understanding of the one truth. Most of those who reviewed or criticized Hort’s writings were not equipped to assess his scientific judgements. They turned to other issues. The Church Quarterly Review carried three articles, in 1894, 1895 and 1898, dealing with some of his publications. The review of Judaistic Christianity, while critical of some details, hailed it as ‘an illustration of the sound methods of careful and scholarly exegesis’. The Christian Ecclesia received a more guarded welcome. Hort had argued, amongst other things, that in the Bible ‘ecclesia’ did not mean those ‘called out of the world’, but simply those summoned from their own homes; that the title ‘apostle’ did not refer to a habitual relation but to a specific mission; that there was no trace in scripture of a formal commission of authority from Christ to the Twelve for the government of the church; and, in general, that the principles and ideals of the apostolic age are not precedents for succeeding ages. The reviewer, aware that the book had been noticed even by the Daily News as ‘hostile to ecclesiastical pretensions’ and to claims of apostolic succession, denied that Hort’s historical doubts affected ‘catholic theology’. Others had less patience with Hort’s doubts and hesitations.

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 107

HORT: SCIENCE AND TRADITION

97

Unfortunately some of Hort’s more important writings, including The Christian Ecclesia were published posthumously and we do not know how or whether he would have replied to criticism. Sometimes he was ‘satisfied to wait and be misunderstood for a time’.27 One of the more serious comments came from R.C. Moberly in Ministerial Priesthood. In the preface to the first edition he wrote that it was a somewhat characteristic temptation of careful textual interpreters to try to work what are called the historical or exegetical methods, as if it were possible that they should yield their best results apart from the light of the truths of dogmatic theology… It would be hard to find a scholar of graver or more solid judgment than Dr Hort… Yet even Dr Hort appears sometimes so to interpret the history as if the narrative detail of historical passages could yield their fullest meaning apart from the doctrinal verities which underlie, and find partial expression in, historical detail; as if, that is, the true exegesis of Church history could be non-theological. This comes most clearly into view when he draws negative conclusions from his text and offers, by them, to correct traditional belief.28 A note in the main text of the book, relating to John 20.19-23, shows the exasperation often associated with rhetorical questions: ‘Does Dr Hort really mean that the Church was anarchical? or that the powers spoken of in the text could be exercised by, or through, any one? or that the ministerial distinction of Apostles, if it existed, depended on anything else except the selection, and preparation, and commission of Jesus Christ?’29 To which, the general answer is No. Hort’s examination of the evidence of the New Testament had failed to convince him that the traditional catholic doctrines of the ministry had a secure foundation in the apostolic age, but that did not mean that there was anarchy. Patterns of ministry were developed within the life of the church under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, as indeed they continued to be developed in later ages. He had a strong feeling for the institutional life of the church – stronger than Lightfoot’s or Westcott’s – but he refused to subject historical research to the needs of dogma or apologetic. In a more measured assessment of his convictions, Michael Ramsey wrote that he ‘insisted that divine revelation is apprehended by a process akin to discovery without thereby compromising its utter God-givenness’.30 Hort’s conclusions about the New Testament evidence for ministry in the earliest church were inevitably disputed within the Anglo-Catholic tradition. Charles Gore, for instance, regarded his argument against the existence of an apostolic office of government ordained by Christ himself as ‘singularly unconvincing’.31 On the other hand the similar views of Lightfoot, at least concerning apostleship, have continued to carry weight. For instance, Walter Schmithals has said that Lightfoot ‘gave answers which have lost none of their persuasive power’.32 Ramsey represents a modified acceptance of Hort’s doubts, concluding that the use of the word apostle varied, being vague at first and later restricted.33 It is difficult to resist the conclusion that these apparently historical judgements have been affected by types of churchmanship, joined with the belief that precedents from the primitive church determine later practice. That was not Hort’s belief. The history of the early church was for him of vital interest

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

98

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 108

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

because it was the period when, in the words of E.G. Rupp, ‘fundamental questions are asked, if not answered’; or if answered, then not answered immutably.34 Hort wrote, concerning the ‘ancient church’, in trenchant words: ‘Even the best theological literature of that age, as of every age, contains much which cannot possibly be true; and it is difficult to imagine how the study of Councils has been found compatible with the theory which requires us to find Conciliar utterances divine.’ He said of the creeds that their guidance was trustworthy, yet ‘like other gifts of God’s Providence, they can be turned to deadly use: but to those who employ them rightly they are the safeguard of a large and progressive faith’35 And although he never used those words about the scriptures, the same attitude was implicit in his critical work on them. They had been put to too many uses in Christian history, and not all of them were good. The basic assumption underlying Hort’s work in the different fields of textual criticism and historical theology was the same: that research must be just as honest and untrammelled as in any of the sciences. Here as in other things Hort was ‘more in advance of his time’ than his collaborators.36 But he was fully aware that historical research by itself was not the basis of religious belief. The original text of the New Testament might be established, to a high degree of probability; but its interpretation was another matter. It has been suggested that he accepted the Fourth Gospel as preserving the words of Jesus and that his use of them is unlikely to carry conviction today.37 But we have here, in his inability to produce the synoptic commentaries and in his meditative use of St John, a clue, not only to his character, but also to the continuing problem of Christian belief in a critical age. All four gospels offer religious truth in the guise of historical statements. Critical study can only establish firm probabilities concerning the beliefs of those who created the gospels, and less firm probabilities concerning the historical events preceding those beliefs. But there is also the long history of the churches which have conveyed Christian belief through the centuries and constantly adapted its form to different circumstances. Membership of any church in any age implies general acceptance of the form of belief which is the end product of this historical process in a particular Christian tradition. But historical studies in a critical age inevitably posed the problem of the relationship of those forms of belief to the original gospel. Fundamentalists did not even see that there was a problem. Old forms of Catholic apologetic asserted virtual identity of current teaching and original gospel; the new had always been implicit in the old. Catholic modernists rejected that argument, but said it did not matter. Believers should accept the church, rather than the gospel. Newman also rejected the notion of identity but argued that believers were now offered legitimate developments of Christian belief. None of these positions satisfied Hort, because in his make-up the theologian and the historian were in constant tension. Here we may turn to another theologian in the Cambridge tradition, John Martin Creed. In his book, The Divinity of Jesus Christ, he discussed the role of Ritschl, after ‘the general collapse of Baur’s speculative reconstruction’ of the history of the early church, and threw out the incidental comment that: Ritschl played a part in German Biblical Scholarship, which may be compared with that of the contemporary Cambridge School, Westcott, Lightfoot and Hort,

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 109

HORT: SCIENCE AND TRADITION

99

in this country. After the exaggerated historical scepticism of the middle decades of the century Lightfoot in England and Ritschl in Germany restored confidence in the New Testament and thus prepared the way for a new type of historical Biblical theology.38 Creed noted, perhaps with regret, that the Cambridge school did not develop systematic theology; but gave, without remarking it, a reason which calls into question the validity of systematic theology as a whole. He recalled a note of ‘that wise and farsighted man Dr Hort’, from the appendix to The Way, the Truth, the Life. There, in answer to an imagined objection that he had replaced Christianity as it is by a personal product of his own, Hort had writen: There is no ‘Christianity as it is’, but a multitude of Christianities each of which covers a small part of what is believed in the nineteenth century, while this as a whole excludes much that has been believed in past centuries, and the sum of the whole covers but a part of the contents of the Bible. It is true that certain modifications of doctrine have been much more widely current in different ages, and in different places in the same age, than others; but the moment we study the greater theologians who have done more than reflect or even systematise current beliefs, we find the harmony broken, and we often find also these isolated but not isolating voices to reflect the inarticulate feelings of the simply devout who are not theologians and do not think it necessary to repeat the phrases of their friends and teachers. Hence the vital need of the study of the history of doctrine. Linear progress means often the neglect of such developments as are not taken up for development. But no possible modification can be accepted as Christianity which contradicts the broad testimony of Scripture, and requires the rewriting of its most distinctive passages.39 It was possibly his awareness of the historical multifariousness of doctrine which led him to say that much German theology showed a ‘fatal lack of comprehensiveness’.40 So far was he from wanting to establish some simple ‘linear progress’ that, in his articles on the Gnostics, he ‘listens as patiently and one might almost say as reverently to their exotic jargon as though he were listening to the Apostles’.41 Such patient study might disabuse the student of many illusions about the past; about permanence, about semper, ubique, ab omnibus [always, everywhere, by everyone]. There would remain the issue of commitment in the present. Hort, too, has to be placed within his own historical context. It was, for all English Christians, a moment created by the upheaval of the Oxford Movement, since that movement, whatever else might be said for or against it, undoubtedly acted as a catalyst, bringing out men’s beliefs with a clarity which surprised others, and even themselves. Hort accepted Carlyle’s view that Coleridge was the unintentional progenitor of the Oxford Movement. To that extent he was predisposed in its favour. He agreed with both Coleridge and the Anglo-Catholics that Christianity without a substantial church is ‘vanity and dissolution’. He declared that he had a ‘deeply rooted agreement with High Churchmen about the Church, the Ministry, the Sacraments and the Creeds’.42 He could

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

100

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 110

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

write about J.H. Newman with warm appreciation of his intense devotion and his marvellous power of analysing men’s thoughts and feelings. Yet each word of approval was matched by a word of blame. The Anglo-Catholics hankered to restore a medievalism which had been destroyed for ever by the open Bible. The Oxford Movement showed no sign of the influence of Greek theology and consequently lacked the largeness of mind of the great sixteenth- and seventeenth- century English divines. And Newman had as many faults as virtues: ‘I suppose there is no distinguished theologian in any church, or of any school, whom I should find it so hard to think of as having contributed anything to the support or advance of Christian truth … Not content with sober and reasonable faith, he delighted to use his never-failing subtlety in finding reasons or excuses for any belief which he wished to accept’.43 Hort refused to enter into the argument between high churchmen and Roman Catholics over the question, ‘Where is Catholicity to be found?’ To answer that question would be to ratify its assumption that somewhere or other Catholicity existed. That was precisely what he denied. Romanism as a sharply defined creed was, in Hort’s view, a more recent emergence than Protestantism itself, and neither had preserved that comprehensiveness which marked the religion to be found in the biblical records. True Catholicism must be preserved by Protestantism from rotting into one of the legion forms of pseudo-Catholicism. Unfortunately contemporary German Protestantism could find no divine meaning in the words ‘Church’ or ‘Creeds’. In a letter to Westcott he argued that perfect Catholicism had been destroyed at the Reformation, and indeed injured long before by ‘the Filioque and the Athanasian Creed’. Since then the Church of England had had ‘the pre-eminence in constitutional Catholicity’ and ‘the churches that hold to Rome in historical Catholicity’. The result was an entirely abnormal Christendom in which one must not be too squeamish about church relations with Protestant bodies. He looked forward, not backward. And so his hope was that each Christian communion would develop on its own historical base. Each had now a venerated past. We should think of the members of the different sects as being also members of the universal Christian brotherhood – until the ultimate union of the estranged bodies. Hort was in no hurry for that union. The great thing was to avoid ‘the insane passion for narrowing the Church’, which terror and faithlessness seemed to be increasing, even among the bishops.44 Hort’s understanding of Catholicity was in fact related to his knowledge of history.45 He knew that many controversial claims would not stand up to historical scrutiny, just as many arguments about the ‘ideal’ church would collapse if only they were brought face to face with reality. It was quite unjustified to begin by assuming that there was ‘one absolutely and exclusively Divine system in all things, especially one Church so entirely right that all others were entirely wrong’. The great flaw in Newman’s Apologia was that so much of it seemed to belong to ‘that world of neat “theories of the universe” which is so rudely shaken to pieces both by personal experience and (may I say it?) by natural science’.46 Those last words show how artificial it is to contrast the orthodox and the speculative or critical sides of Hort’s mind. Even his orthodoxy was shot through with lights and insights which he owed to the scientific attitude. The study of history, itself a scientifically conditioned activity, provided the material upon which a definition of orthodox Christianity might be reached. If that orthodoxy threw light on everyday

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 111

HORT: SCIENCE AND TRADITION

101

experience, it might be embraced as truth. But it was not even then exempt from further a posteriori criticism. It must be exposed to every sort of continuing experience and held up alongside every other kind of knowledge. So it might be continually revised. And this was a necessary process, since ‘to have become disabled for unlearning is to have become disabled for learning; and when we cease to learn, we let go from us whatever of vivid or vivifying knowledge we have hitherto possessed’.47 Hort was very explicit about the radical change that had overtaken the church and the Christian in the nineteenth century. He described it by saying that the church was being summoned ‘by a voice that cannot be disobeyed’ to know as truth what it had previously held chiefly as sacred tradition. He was not alarmed at the prospect, because he believed that both the period of tradition and the period of truth were parts of a divine plan for the world. The period of tradition had enabled the church to give its attention to active work in the world, without expending too much energy and attention on the scrutiny and argumentative validation of the fundamentals of belief. And tradition would never become useless. It would, in any conceivable future, be the guide of a large proportion of the church’s members. And even upon those who were engaged in the freest scrutiny of those fundamentals it exercised a ‘gracious pressure’. Yet however grateful we might be for the period of tradition, it should be with a thrill of excitement that men entered the new phase of the church’s existence: ‘To those whose eyes are now first opening to the bright world of knowledge, it is an occasion of exulting joy.’ The enterprise was full of peril; yet its peril was but the inverted image of its promise.48 Two dangers threatened the enterprise. The first was that one kind of tradition should be rejected, only to yield its place to another, and a worse, tradition. ‘The air is thick with bastard traditions which carry us captive unawares while we seem to ourselves to be exercising our freedom and our instinct for truth.’ The second danger was that we should forget that there are moral qualifications for seeing the truth. This remained a central conviction governing Hort’s attitude to scientific enquiry. Theological critics, such as T.B. Strong, fearful of a sell-out to the scientific method, were inclined to lump him with others whose admiration for science was less measured. The conviction that truth is to be apprehended by the exercise of every human faculty is so central to Hort’s understanding of what we mean by truth and how we come by knowledge, that his words deserve extended quotation: The perception of truth depends as much on the state of him that desires to perceive as on the objects that are presented to his view. No slight or swift or uniform process will enable any one to master the mere art of discerning truth from false appearance. But, not to speak of this most needful and most various mental preparation, there is another condition which is never forgotten with impunity. The more we know of the truth, the more we come to see how manifold is the operation by which we take hold of it. It is not reached through one organ but through many. No single faculty, if indeed there be any single faculties, can arrogate a right to exclude from the domain of truth what cannot be readily subjected to its own special action. It may be that no element of our compound nature is entirely shut out from taking part in knowledge. It is at all

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

102

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 112

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

events certain that the specially mental powers will never be able to judge together in rightful relation when the nature as a whole is disordered by moral corruption. There is no evil passion cherished, no evil practice followed, which does not cloud or distort our vision whenever we look beyond the merest abstract form of things. There is a truth within us, to use the language of scripture, a perfect inward ordering as of a transparent crystal, by which alone the faithful image of truth without us is brought within our ken. Not in vain said the Lord that it is the pure in heart, they whose nature has been subdued from distraction into singleness, who shall see God; or, we may add, who shall see the steps of the ladder by which we may mount to God. If the tone of this passage tends at its close toward the homiletic, we should recall that it forms part of Hort’s Hulsean Lectures, which were delivered from the pulpit, not the rostrum. But there is no mistaking the epistemology which he is expounding. Knowledge depends upon the knower, as well as upon the known; and the knower is not a mere bundle of independent ‘faculties’, but an organism in which every part has its effect upon the whole. This is explicitly stated, not in the printed text of the lectures, but in a passage included in that appendix of ‘notes and illustrations’ which was selected and arranged from Hort’s papers after his death by another Fellow of Emmanuel College, J.O.F. Murray: All our knowledge is affected by our personality, and this really makes it knowledge. The naked reflexion of a mirror is not knowledge. Whatever is cognized becomes knowledge only by combination with other cognitions that we possess or may possess or else by combination with our life or our action. The vain effort to obtain a purely ‘objective’ or detached view implies the possibility of emancipation from ancestry or from past and present environment.49 Here is the key which unlocks the meaning of John 8:32: ‘The truth shall make you free.’ We do not begin with freedom, although we think we do. We set about the quest for truth with an illusory sense of freedom, but as the quest continues we recognize how many assumptions, good and bad, we have brought to the quest. It is not only an external truth which we discover; it is a truth which embraces both external and internal things, a truth which includes ourselves in the totality of what we discover. Hort put this epigrammatically by saying, ‘freedom comes last, not first’.50 We can only be genuinely free when we live in conformity with the truth. The freedom which we thought we had when we first set out to discover the truth redefines itself continually, to the very end of the quest. In fact, when we recognize what Hort called ‘the endless manifoldness of the one comprehensive truth’,51 we see that its attainment lies beyond the capacity of any single mind. It can only be caught by a comprehensive body of men. We must not, therefore, be surprised if we cannot yet reconcile different aspects of truth. We must often be content to affirm separate truths without any attempt to fit them together into a larger whole. Our inability to reconcile them implies that each is but an approximation to truth:

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 113

HORT: SCIENCE AND TRADITION

103

We have to be content with approximations, and also to uphold them as worth having, fragments of substantial truth, enveloped in wrappings of secondary falsehood from which we never can wholly disentangle them, though it is our duty to be always working towards that end. In trying to escape from this need of approximations we necessarily fall into the same fundamental error, by seeking refuge either in dogmatic authority, or in abandoning the whole sphere of knowledge in which the approximations lie.52 This is something like a statement of what Hort understood to be the attitude of the scientist: a clear-eyed recognition of the relativity of his knowledge in order to achieve a closer and closer approximation to the truth. As for authority, or tradition, he would refuse to let it take the place of inquiry, and yet would freely acknowledge how much he owed to it. When critics like Moberly or the reviewer in the Church Quarterly Review postulated another source of knowledge, which they called variously ‘the truths of dogmatic theology’ or more simply ‘traditional belief ’, Hort would not have disagreed; but when they implied that those ‘truths’ were immune to criticism or alteration in the light of further discoveries or fresh experience, they were denying one of his central convictions. His problem was that in cultivating the comprehensiveness which he saw to be lacking in some German theology, he became afflicted with what has been called his ‘literary aphasia’.53 In his text-critical work where decisions were forced on him, he amassed more background evidence than he could possibly publish,54 and had to be content to be misrepresented. In the world of practical policies he was simply overwhelmed by the thought of the vastness of relevant material, and was reduced to a silence which did not signify the lack of convictions but the impossibility of conveying to others the grounds on which they were based. So when his friend Benson became Archbishop of Canterbury he sent a letter which was meant to be supportive, but turned into a lamentation over the church’s ‘alienation in thought and spirit from the great silent multitude of Englishmen, and again of alienation from fact and love of fact – mutual alienations both’. Pressed to declare himself explicitly in a volume of essays, he could only say that ‘articulate speech is denied me’. This has been castigated as a pathetic apology, perhaps justly, perhaps harshly.55 What is certain is that if he had tried to do as he was asked, he would have spent years in background research, and then, at best, have turned out something as unsuitable for its intended audience as the learned essay on ‘The Last Days of Simon de Montfort’ was for its originally intended readership of schoolboys.56 But perhaps it would have been among the ‘golden books’ of practical theology, as The Way, the Truth, the Life is ‘among the golden books of Anglican theology which can be read and re-read and never lose their freshness’.57 Hort’s ‘literary aphasia’, like Coleridge’s inability to complete his ‘opus maximum’, was the price of his comprehensive range of interests. It was inevitable that he should, again like Coleridge, have ambivalent thoughts about the church. The measure of the worthiness of religion, for him, was to be found in ‘the due honour which it learns to pay to all departments of human action in their several places’.58 The church was called to carry the light of life into all the outlying worlds of knowledge and action and life,

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

104

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 114

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

and to discern Christ The Way not only as manifest in a chosen body bearing his name, but also in ‘the wide outlying universe of human action and knowledge’ where he abides hidden.59 Its message was ‘the central and most significant truth concerning the universe, intelligible only in connection with other truth not obviously Christian’.60 The Christian task was to reclaim for Christ what would otherwise be a wilderness. We hear echoes of the voice of Maurice when we read that the church was, rightly understood, nothing else than ‘mankind knowing and fulfilling its destiny’. The true Christian life was just ‘the true human life, seen in relation to the true Lord and Saviour of man’s whole being’.61 With such a comprehensive view of Christianity, Hort found little to satisfy him in the contemporary religious world. Current views of Christianity had so limited a view of its scope that he would have to reject it if they rightly represented it. He saw its scope as co-extensive with human life. Yet this did not lead him to a vague comprehensiveness in his hopes for the future of the church. Although he once declared that he was what Arnold’s Rugby had made him, he did not share the ideas expressed in the Doctor’s Principles of Church Reform, which would have defined the church simply as the English nation in Christian guise. The Oxford Movement stood between him and his old master. Arnold wrote his pamphlet in 1833, whereas Hort’s theology did not begin to crystallize till some fourteen or fifteen years later. It took final shape long after the excitement of Newman’s secession, when it had begun to appear that the Church of England would survive without Arnold’s desperate remedies. The doctrines of the Oxford Movement were anathema to the liberal-minded Arnold, but Hort, despite his evangelical upbringing, was sympathetic to sacramentalism. When he spoke of the eucharist or baptism, we hear the accents of Maurice rather than Pusey; but that does not mean that the doctrine is any the less a ‘high’ doctrine. He wanted no rushing into union between different Christian denominations. He hoped that the Church of England might be the mediator (not the ‘via media’) of Christendom. But it must not depreciate anything positive in its traditions. Without imposing a narrow uniformity, it must treasure the varied and even conflicting legacies it had received from the past, while permitting, and even encouraging, the freest possible inquiry in response to the demands of the new age in which what had been received as tradition must be tested and received, if at all, as truth. There were no short cuts to the truth. When consulted by some student on a difficult theological question, on which he himself had already reached a conclusion, he would send the inquirer away with a string of references but no indication of what he himself thought. When the inquirer returned and expounded his hard-won conclusion, he would sometimes be disconcerted by the response, ‘I thought you would come to see it in that light’. It may be a refreshing surprise to find, in the introduction to some theological lectures, the disarming statement: ‘if they do not suggest more questions than they answer, their intention is not fulfilled.’62 It accords entirely with his epistemology that he refused to listen to the demand for ‘transferable arguments to silence inconvenient questions without or within’.63 If the knower, as well as the thing known, conditions the knowledge, there cannot strictly be transferable arguments. What passes for such simply encourages the recipient to accept answers on insufficient grounds, and under those conditions even truth itself cannot prevail.

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 115

HORT: SCIENCE AND TRADITION

105

The Way, the Truth, the Life contains some remarkable aphorisms which, even out of context, show a profound and fertile mind. It is all the more remarkable because much of his more ‘popular’ writing such as his sermons at St Ippolyt’s, where he held a living from 1857 to 1863, seems commonplace and uninspiring. The fact is that Hort was a first-class mind for first-class minds. He revealed himself to his friend Westcott as ‘keen, fluent, fertile, subtle’ in correspondence and conversation. And although many who did not know him well thought of him as a somewhat junior partner of other famous Cambridge scholars, by 1928 the notable biblical scholar, A.S. Peake, wrote that ‘the general drift of expert opinion has been to put Hort at the head of the Cambridge trio’.64 The comparison is a matter of opinion, however expert. What is not a matter of opinion is that Hort embodied in a distinctive way a particular tradition in English theology – learned, rational and empirical, valuing much that was conveyed to it by the traditions of the past, yet subjecting that valued tradition to clear-eyed scrutiny. In several cases this particular outlook developed after an early phase of evangelical fervour, or on the basis of an evangelical upbringing. The young Hort, on first coming to Cambridge, sought out the evangelicals there and looked up to Dr Carus, their leading figure. But he soon came to regard them as sectarian. Looking for something that would give him greater satisfaction, he came under the influence of Coleridge and F.D. Maurice. One by his writings and the other also through friendship released Hort into a Christianity which had room for what he himself was to call ‘the fearless love of truth’.

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 116

7 Fellow-Travellers: Erskine and Robertson

If there is a theological legacy from Coleridge, his inheritors may be divided into two different types. There are those who acknowledged a direct influence, through quotation of, or reference to, his writings and by an explicit engagement with his leading ideas. The most obvious of these were F.D. Maurice and F.J.A. Hort. But other writers, hardly to be called a group, showed a less focused awareness of what Coleridge had to say, though they clearly welcomed his contribution to theological thought. Some were far from being systematic in their theology. Among these we may count Dr Thomas Arnold and Dean Arthur Stanley. Arnold’s correspondence with Mr Justice Coleridge, Samuel’s nephew, includes several favourable references to his writings, leavened with criticism. The young Stanley, during his early friendship with John Sterling and Julius Hare, both in different ways disciples of Coleridge, said that he had been ‘reading a good deal more of Coleridge’ and felt that he had got a new element in his mind.1 Arnold and Stanley were more concerned with history than with theology. Two names, however, stand out among those broadly influenced by Coleridge as examples of independent thinkers whose principal interest was in theology: F.W. Robertson and Thomas Erskine. In each case there was an intermediate link through Maurice. Erskine was one of his friends and met him on a number of occasions as well as writing to him. Robertson met Maurice, but only once and declined an invitation to join in a course of sermons with him. They were both to some degree refugees from the harshness of contemporary Calvinism; and both found shelter from strict church discipline, Robertson in a non-parochial curacy, and Erskine in his lay status. Erskine was once called the Scottish Coleridge. This would be misleading, if it was taken to imply similarity of character. There could, indeed, hardly be a greater contrast between the two as individuals, the one being constitutionally incapable of taking responsibility for himself, let alone his family, and the other living a socially responsible life as laird of an estate. Nor is there much evidence of Erskine’s direct dependence on Coleridge’s lines of thought. He was certainly familiar with some of Coleridge’s writings, but made sparing reference to them, even in his correspondence. In his 106

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 117

FELLOW-TRAVELLERS: ERSKINE AND ROBERTSON

107

theological writings he hardly ever referred to other writers, claiming to base them securely on the scriptures and his own inner experience. There are a few specific points of similarity; for example, their shared admiration for Bishop Leighton. Strangely, they shared a friendship with Edward Irving, the charismatic preacher and founder of the Catholic Apostolic Church, and were inclined to treat seriously the manifestation of ‘spiritual gifts’, such as speaking with tongues. Erskine revised his first opinion, but refused to accept the common view that they were mere impostures. What makes them alike is that they moved in similar worlds of free theological speculation, and they were both sought out by intellectual friends for the value of their conversation. One of Erskine’s many friends once described him as ‘so gentle and truthful and loving; the best man I think I ever knew’. But the bitterness of theological enmity had made someone else call him ‘a broken-down barrister living amidst a crew of half-pay lieutenants, foolish women, and so forth.’ The first is the estimate of Frederick Denison Maurice; the second is something Maurice had heard someone else say.2 We may take the first as an indicator of his capacity for self-denying friendship with a great variety of people, including Thomas Carlyle, Dean Stanley, Charles Kingsley and Maurice himself. The second at least tells us something of his life and the controversy caused by his religious opinions. Born in Edinburgh in 1788, he studied law at the university, but gave it up as a profession when he inherited the estate of Linlathen, near Dundee. The estate occupied much of his time and energy; but he had sufficient resources to travel widely on the continent and meet French-speaking intellectuals and writers. The family of the Erskines had been notable in the religious life of Scotland and had provided leaders in spiritual revival in the previous century. They had been ministers in the kirk; Thomas enjoyed the greater freedom of a layman to pursue his own lines of thought without the fear of losing his livelihood when accused of heterodoxy. His long life – he lived to be 82 years old – was largely uneventful. It needs to be seen against the background of the religious life of Scotland in the eighteenth century. That presents a curious mixture of conservative theology and the ideas of the so-called Enlightenment. The established Church of Scotland remained committed to the rigidities of the Westminster Confession, which had been drawn up in the 1640s by an assembly of Presbyterian divines in Westminster, with the purpose of establishing a uniform pattern of belief and church government in England, Scotland and Ireland. It had been ratified by the General Assembly in Edinburgh and remained the definitive statement of the Church of Scotland with no modification right up to the twentieth century. Its outstanding features were the ‘infallible truth and divinity of the scriptures’; the predestination of the elect to salvation; the eternal punishment of those who were not among the elect; the transmission of the guilt of the sin of Adam and Eve to all their posterity; and the satisfaction for sins through the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ on the cross. The effect of the Enlightenment, of which the Scotsman David Hume (1711–1776) was a chief proponent, was to set up an alternative source of beliefs in the use of reason and the appeal to experience. Among those within the church who were affected by this movement were those who came to be called Moderates. They did not aim to challenge Calvinistic orthodoxy head-on, but stressed the value of reason and secular culture, and the maintenance of orderliness in the

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

108

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 118

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

church by the exercise of lay patronage in the appointment of ministers. To them dogma was less important than morality. This attitude, which was characteristic of eighteenth-century thought elsewhere, offered little spiritual satisfaction to many ordinary believers. It provoked a reaction of an evangelical and popular kind, corresponding to some extent to the evangelical revival in England. This reached a climax in 1742 at Cambuslang in Lanarkshire, after an Edinburgh minister, Alexander Webster, had invited George Whitefield to Scotland. On a green brae scattered with broom and furze and thorn trees, Webster and Whitfield and ten other ministers preached simultaneously to as many as forty thousand people gathered from all over the Lowlands, ‘bathed in tears’, terrified for their own salvation.3 Half a century later ‘camp meetings’ of a similar type at Mow Cop were introduced into English Methodism from America. They had proved just as divisive in Scotland. as in England. They were equally abhorrent to the Moderates and the Popular party, the one seeing them as a threat to social order and the other detecting the dangers of heresy. All this was a generation before Thomas Erkine was born, but the legacies left by these conflicts were inevitably inherited by thinking people like him, even though he had no intention of entering the ministry of the kirk. Not only so, but he was also aware of another tradition which survived in Scotland. One of his grandmothers was a staunch Jacobite, held an episcopalian service on Sundays in her house, and refused to pray for King George.4 Whereas the dominant form of Christianity in Scotland was Calvinistic, here was an alternative which was often labelled Arminian. It usually had little direct reference to the specific ideas of Arminus, the sixteenth-century Dutch theologian, whose teaching was summarized after his death in the Five Articles of the Remonstrance. These asserted conditional election, atonement available to all, human inability to do good without regeneration, the possibility of resisting grace, and the uncertainty of final perseverance of believers. But it was taken to represent a reinstatement of human free will against the strict emphasis on election preached by Calvinists. As in England in the reign of Charles I those who were influenced by the continental reformers accused Archbishop Laud and his high church supporters of Arminianism, so in another century the preachers of the established church in Scotland detected what they regarded as heresy in those who continued to support the Episcopal Church. Erskine regarded himself as a Calvinist; but his gentle and humane spirit drew back from the harsher version of Calvinism which regarded human reason as fatally corrupted by the Fall and consigned those who were not among the elect to everlasting torment. There were other kinds of religion and less arrogant kinds of theology from which he could sustain his spiritual life. Chief among these was William Law, known now principally for his book, A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life. Erskine wrote: I remember well the satisfaction I felt on first reading the works of William Law. I felt as if I had found a great treasure, for I perceived that he regarded

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 119

FELLOW-TRAVELLERS: ERSKINE AND ROBERTSON

109

Christianity, not as a system of doctrines imposed on us by God, of which we could know nothing except from the Scriptures, but as the eternally true and natural religion to which all our faculties are adapted, and the intrinsic truth and certainty of which, though we could not have discovered it for ourselves, yet when revealed we can so apprehend, as to hold it on account of that intrinsic truth, and not on any outward authority whatsoever.5 Doctrines, therefore, had to be internalized. It was not enough to receive them, as he said, ‘in the way of mere passive obedience’. They were not like precepts, which were intended to control particular actions. The only purpose of doctrines was to affect character, and they did so, he said, by revealing ‘the relation in which God stands to man, implying of course a revelation of His nature and character’. The key to the meaning of Christianity was neither in a new law nor in dogmas imposed by authority, but in understanding our human situation as revealed in the gospel. We are created in certain relations to God and to the spiritual world, and we have certain capacities and aptitudes suited to those relations, just as we have material organs suited to their objects; and the test of a true religion is that it gives such a representation of those relations as commends itself to our deepest consciousness. The doctrines of Christianity, if it is the true religion, must contain this representation. How then, in dealing with other minds, can we justify the truth of the representation? In the last resort I believe our only real argument must consist in reproducing to them in our life the impression made by it on our own reason and conscience.6 If there is some difficulty in understanding his argument, it lies in his use of the word ‘representation’. It contains the ideas of pattern and reproduction. God’s revelation in Christ is the revelation of a pattern of relationships between himself and every human being, and therefore of each human being and all others. We can only commend this as the truth for others by living in the consciousness of its truth ourselves. It is obvious from these brief extracts from Erskine’s writings that he had come to reject an important part of Calvinist doctrine. Calvin taught that at the Fall not only were man’s supernatural gifts, such as faith, and love of God, taken away, but even his natural gifts, such as soundness of reason and uprightness of heart, were corrupted. Erskine is saying that there is that in everyone’s heart which responds to revelation, when that revelation discloses the true relationship between God and humanity. As William Law had shown him, Christianity was not a system of doctrines imposed on us by God, of which we could know nothing except from the scriptures, but the eternally true and natural religion to which all our spiritual faculties were adapted. In other words, there is such a thing as ‘natural religion’, if it is properly understood. All true religion, he said, is supernatural, being the meeting of the Spirit of God with the spirit of man. Natural religion, in his language, is not opposed to supernatural religion, ‘but to conventional religion – that is, religion adopted on external authority, without any living consciousness within our hearts corresponding to it’.7 So natural religion is not a kind of human possession or a faculty by which a human being could reach up

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

110

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 120

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

to a conclusion about God. It is not ‘the production of man’s reasoning or imagination … but is itself a supernatural revelation to the heart of every individual testifying there to what is righteous, and proving itself, by the response of conscience, to be of God.’8 Moreover it is, in his view, made to ‘every individual’. This had important implications for other elements in his theology. But it must not be forgotten that he claimed to be a Calvinist, in spite of the apparent harshness of its doctrines. He was fond of quoting a saying which he had in fact picked up from Coleridge, that Calvinism was a sheep in wolf ’s skin and Arminianism a wolf in sheep’s skin. It is not an easy saying to work out. Coleridge said that Calvinism was ‘cruel in the phrases’, ‘horrible for the race, but full of consolation for the individual’ and Arminianism was cruel in the doctrine.9 The key to understanding Coleridge, at any rate, is in his acknowledged failures of will-power. Arminianism seemed to him to be saying, as Methodist preachers often did, that it was only necessary to turn to Jesus, to surrender one’s life to him, and one was at once reconciled to God and assured of salvation. It threw all the responsibility on the human individual with all the weakness of human nature. And how could anyone be sure that he or she had genuinely made this surrender or would not turn back from it? Calvinism on the other hand, with its unrelenting emphasis on predestination, did not leave the critical decision to the human will. It upheld the divine initiative. The fundamental question, however, for Erskine was how to understand the nature of the divine initiative. What had been revealed in the scriptures? He found passages in the Old Testament, such as Ezekiel 18, which declared God’s purpose as a purpose of rescue. ‘I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord: wherefore turn yourselves and live ye.’ The tenor of this passage showed him two things. First, that God’s righteousness was of a kind which man was capable of appreciating. He rejected the argument that God’s ways were so much beyond our understanding that we simply had to submit to the revealed intention of God, however repugnant it might appear to our usual standards of judgement. It has already been noted that this was argued by H.L. Mansel in his 1858 Bampton Lectures on ‘The Limits of Religious Thought’, and vigorously rebutted by Erskine’s friend, F.D. Maurice. Having made that point, he continued: It further appeared to me that this passage, according to its obvious and natural signification, contained not only a denial of the existence of an eternal purpose of God, by which any of the race of man are passed by and left to their sins and their punishment, … and also, that it contained a denial that the difference between the righteous and the wicked arose from God’s applying any peculiar irresistible operation of the Spirit to the former and withholding it from the latter.10 This denial of an irresistible predestination might seem logically to involve the repudiation of the whole Calvinistic system. That was not how Erskine saw it. He was unwilling to adopt any alternative scheme of doctrine which began by throwing the weight of responsibility entirely on the human will and ended by reducing the work of Christ to the mere setting of an example. That was the route from Arminianism via

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 121

FELLOW-TRAVELLERS: ERSKINE AND ROBERTSON

111

Pelagianism to Socinianism which had been denounced by Coleridge. This kind of short-hand needs some explanation. Whatever the original intention of the Arminians had been, their rejection of the doctrine of irresistible grace in the elect was taken to exalt the freedom of the will even in fallen human nature. It suggested a picture of God standing aside and patiently waiting for a stirring of the human spirit. Each human being was left to achieve salvation by human effort. Consequently the role of Jesus Christ was only exemplary, the manifestation of the ideal of humanity which provoked others to offer a similar obedience to God’s will. From that point it was a short step to redefining the divinity of Christ as meaning only that the man Jesus was exalted by God on account of his obedience to the kind of subordinate divinity deducible from some Old Testament usage, such as Psalm 82.6 (RSV): ‘I say, You are gods, children of the Most High, all of you.’ Against this Erskine responded that the work of redemption was the work of God. The human situation he described as one in which there were two cords attached to every heart, drawing the heart in opposite directions, one in the hand of Satan and the other in the hand of God. ‘Thus man in all his actings never has to originate anything; he only has to follow something already commenced within him. … Here, then I found that which I had approved in Calvinism.’11 It was a very conditional approval. For in its accepted form it involved a particular doctrine of the work of Christ, the teaching that God’s righteous judgement on all humanity pronounced a universal death sentence, but that his righteousness had been satisfied by the substitution of an innocent divine victim in place of guilty humanity. Erskine believed that the suffering of the innocent for the guilty was a fact of human experience. But he could not accept two implications of the Calvinist scheme. In spite of his own legal training (or possibly because of it) he did not believe God’s dealings with humanity should be understood in legal terms. Nor could he accept the teaching that the atonement achieved by Christ was effective only for the elect. His writings show that he wrestled with these problems. It is not always clear how far he continued to accept parts of the Calvinist scheme, based as they claimed to be on the teaching of St Paul. But it is clear that he was caught up in the contemporary theological movement towards the recovery of incarnation as the central element of Christian doctrine and away from an almost isolated emphasis on redemption. The meaning of Christ’s life must be found in its totality, not in a final act which satisfied the justice of an outraged God. He said that he was compelled to regard the doctrine of expiation through the vicarious death of Christ as ‘a human invention opposed to the true character of God’. The coming of Christ was ‘the expression of an infinite love already existing in the Father’s heart’. Christianity revealed God as a Father whose purpose was to train his children into ‘a participation of the spirit and character of his Son’.12 This process of training, or education, was the key to the meaning of all the scriptures. It was the light which could guide the reader through what he called ‘all the obscure chapters of God’s dealings with ourselves and our fellow-men’.13 And it was a universal purpose. There was a great principle expressed in the Epistle to the Romans 11.32: ‘God hath concluded them all in unbelief that he might have mercy upon all’. The purpose of Christ’s life must not be regarded as the redemption only of the elect. It was the coming of a new head of the human race, a second Adam.

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

112

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 122

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

Holding this conviction, Erskine needed to find an alternative to the accepted doctrine of a vicarious sacrifice. Those who reject as fictitious all judicial ideas involving penalty or satisfaction have always had to face the problem of finding language which affirms the unique validity of Christ’s death. The work of Christ must not be simply an example, a specimen, an instance, which leaves the generality of human beings unaffected, unless they choose to take notice of it. This is a theological problem which corresponds to a devotional problem, described by Evelyn Underhill as ‘the chasm between the universal and the historic experience of Christ’. If there is a solution to the problem of connecting the historic event with what is both universal and contemporary, it can only be in restating the relationship of Christ to humanity as a whole. A substitutionary doctrine contains within it an assumption that Christ is in some sense separate from, apart from, even unrelated to, the human race. Only so can a substitution take place, so that a penalty can be transferred from one to the other, or a satisfaction can be paid by one on behalf of another. Erskine believed that there was another, and a better, starting-place for understanding the universal relevance of Christ’s work. He began with the scriptural doctrine of Christ as the second, or final, Adam (I Cor.15.45). He saw humanity as a corporate entity with two kinds of inheritance; or in biblical language, as being both ‘in Adam’ and ‘in Christ’. This he expressed by saying, rather inelegantly, that humanity has two heads, as being both carnal and spiritual. ‘These two natures – Adam and Christ – by their respective characters and actions essentially affect the whole condition of the race and of all the individuals composing it, independently of any doings or deservings of their own’.14 If humanity as a corporate whole is ‘in Christ’, it does not make sense to speak of Christ’s work as substitutionary. But for the work of salvation in any particular individual, it is necessary that there should be a link between that individuality and the representative action of Christ who is the Head of the human race. That link Erskine finds in faith. If there is one thing which distinguishes Erskine’s teaching from others who thought on similar lines it is in his central emphasis on faith, which he interprets as meaning filial trust. It is the proper relationship of a human being to God. He recognizes that there are other ways of using the word. For example, in the Epistle of James, he says, it ‘approaches very nearly to the idea of creed, or formula of faith’. It can also be used in common language to describe a general attitude of expectancy. But for Erskine it is supremely demonstrated in the life of Jesus. ‘Jesus was himself the pattern Truster; he trusted the Father in the extremity of suffering and death, and the Father, by setting him forth as our example, condemned the distrust of man.’15 And again, in his exposition of St Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, he interprets Paul as saying that righteousness consists in the development of faith in God, and he makes the value and efficacy of the gospel to lie in the revelation of this faith given in the person of Jesus Christ, who was himself the eternal Truster, and in whom we were created that we might participate in this trust. Thus ‘abiding in him’ comes to be the truest expression of faith in its full development.16 Erskine has used the words ‘pattern’ and ‘example’, which were the target of those who criticized all versions of the doctrine of redemption which tended towards making

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 123

FELLOW-TRAVELLERS: ERSKINE AND ROBERTSON

113

human effort the way to salvation. Any suggestion that it was enough for human beings, so to speak, just to try harder was seen as undermining the claim that Christ’s work was unique. They were routinely dismissed as Pelagian. But Erskine meant to say that Christ was the unique revelation of the true relation of human beings to God, as essentially one of filial trust. His life and death were a historic moment. They achieved a momentous change. They opened a new and living way. Salvation was by revelation, not by penalty or satisfaction. The act of God in Christ was the full disclosure of what had always been true; and that full disclosure changed history. Yet Erskine could also say that Christianity had ‘more analogy with natural science than with history’. ‘It is a revelation of laws that are independent of facts.’17 Just as there is a physical order governing the universe, so also there is a spiritual order. (One of his books is significantly entitled The Spiritual Order.) But it is a similarity with a difference. It is not a chart of its course which a planet needs to keep it in its orbit, but a centre of gravity and a law of gravitation. The planet has its proper centre imposed on it, and it is kept by an irresistible necessity in its orbit, without any need for its own concurrence or co-operation. Man also has his proper centre, but as he is a voluntary being he must choose it for himself, it cannot be imposed on him. As God is the true eternal centre of his spiritual life, for whom and in whom he was created, so, by the law of his being, while he remains in his true relation to Him everything that he does will necessarily be right.18 The suffering of Christ on the cross is the working out, even to the uttermost, of an eternal law, the law of filial trust, which witnesses to God being at the centre of the spiritual universe. That is what all human beings need to recognize. His action, then, is not substitutionary, but representative. What he does, he does for our sake, but not instead of us. For Erskine the only proper use of the idea of substitution is to say that Christ takes the place of Adam as the Head of the human race. ‘Remember, Christ came into Adam’s place. This is the real substitution.’19 ‘He does nothing instead of us – nothing, that is, to save us from doing it; he does things for us that we also may in him have power to do them’.20 This strong conviction that humankind is a unity, by God’s creation in Adam and God’s recreation in Christ, leads inevitably to Erskine’s view of God’s ultimate purpose for the human race. Final salvation cannot be partial; it must be comprehensive. The conviction of the unity of humankind coincided in Erskine’s mind with another certainty: that the witness of the scriptures, especially in the teaching of Jesus, revealed God as having a loving purpose for his whole creation. This revelation he found already there in the Old Testament. As mentioned earlier, he quoted at length Ezekiel chapter 18, with its telling climax: ‘Why will ye die, O House of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, saith the Lord God: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.’ It appeared to him, he said, that this passage, according to its obvious and natural signification, contained not only a denial of the existence of an eternal purpose of God, by which any of the

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

114

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 124

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

race of man are passed by and left to their sins and their punishment, but also the assertion of the existence of an opposite purpose of God towards them… and also, that it contained a denial that the difference between the righteous and the wicked arose from God’s applying any peculiar irresistible operation of the Spirit to the former and withholding it from the latter, because such a dealing on the part of God would destroy the very ground of the appeal, so strongly urged through the whole chapter inasmuch as the intelligible equality of His judgment on both classes depends entirely on the essential and true sufficiency of the spiritual provision made for both of them.21 It has often been observed that in the nineteenth century there was a quickening of human sympathy and sensibility which led to campaigns such as those against the slave trade and the industrial exploitation of children. In religion this was paralleled by disquiet over the image of God whenever divine righteousness was presented as demanding the endless torment of the damned. An instance of the revulsion of kindly people against that view is recorded in the Life of Frederick Denison Maurice.22 Maurice had as a young man accepted a strictly Calvinist view of human destiny, and could not think he would be treated better than the worst of human beings. In 1821 one of his friends, who had read some of Erskine’s writings, wrote to him asking, ‘Where is your authority for regarding any individual of the human race as destined to misery either here or hereafter?’ She declared that to represent God as capable of such a mode of dealing with his creatures was to make him into a horrible tyrant, whatever adulatory epithets the subjects of his tyranny may feel obliged to apply to him. So already, fifty years before his death, Erskine was evidently troubled by this element of his Calvinist heritage. His freedom as a layman led him to conclusions which would certainly have earned him official condemnation from church authorities. That was indeed the consequence in both England and Scotland. Maurice was later, in 1853, deprived of his professorship at King’s College, London, for his teaching that ‘eternal’ was the antithesis of temporal, not its indefinite extension. Erskine was sooner and more nearly affected by the condemnation of another of his friends, Dr John Macleod Campbell, who in 1831 was deposed from his position as Minister of Row by the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland for teaching universal atonement and pardon through the death of Christ. In both cases those who took action against what they regarded as heresy believed that they were defending the plain teaching of scripture. This leads us back to consider Erskine’s understanding of scriptural authority. It was still the case that the Bible was commonly regarded as the witness to its own authority. It was the bearer of a message authenticated by miracles and true prophecies. But it was also an age when critics claimed the freedom to deny the very possibility of miracles and scrutinize the events which were supposed to fulfil prophecies. Erskine had no need to challenge this freedom, because he looked elsewhere for the vindication of the authority of the scriptures. He invited the critic to give his unprejudiced attention to the Bible. [He] will discover that there is contained in it the development of a mighty scheme, admirably fitted for the accomplishment of a mighty purpose… [which

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 125

FELLOW-TRAVELLERS: ERSKINE AND ROBERTSON

115

is] no less than to impart to man the happiness of God, by conforming him to the character of God… a moral mechanism, which, by the laws of our mental constitution, has a tendency to produce that character, as directly and necessarily as the belief of danger has to produce alarm, the belief of kindness to produce gratitude, or the belief of worth to produce esteem. He will discern that this moral mechanism… consists simply in a manifestation of the moral character of God, accommodated to the understandings and the hearts of men.23 It is the ability of the Bible to ‘probe the disease of the human heart to the bottom’ which is the evidence of its inspiration. What counts, then, is the recognition of this ‘mighty scheme’. We are led to discern its ‘intrinsic, necessary truth’. In Erskine’s view there is no other foundation on which to rest the authority of the Bible. But that does not mean that we must regard every part of it as having equal importance. He says The most zealous defenders of the verbal inspiration of the Bible admit that there are parts of it of less importance than others. This is a great admission, because another is involved in it, namely that we ourselves must be judges of the comparative importance of these different parts.24 Then he quotes Deuteronomy 13, where a prophet proclaims a false religion, supporting his claim with a miracle. The people are held responsible for rejecting the teaching, even if supported by a miracle. He concludes that we are intended to exercise our judgement in spiritual matters, and mildly disagrees with those who say that we must accept without question the bare word of God. Erskine came under severe attack from John Henry Newman, still in his Anglican phase. In Tract 73 of the ‘Tracts for the Times’, Erskine was attacked for having made man the measure of God, using human moral standards to judge God’s will. Newman paraphrased what he attacked as meaning ‘I cannot believe anything which I do not understand.’ But Christianity, he said, is a mystery – not a system but ‘a number of detached and incomplete truths belonging to a vast system unrevealed’. Unfortunately Newman then allowed his tongue full rein and spoilt what might have been a serious criticism with contemptuous words to the effect that Erskine had let himself distort the contents of revelation, to ‘frame some gratuitous hypothesis about them, & then to garble, gloss, & colour them, to trim, clip, pare away, & twist them’. That is nonsense. Erskine had a reverent attitude to scripture; but it was the reverence of someone who lived in the new age of biblical criticism. Scripture was a historical record of God’s dealings with mankind and mankind’s responses to God. Everything in it belonged at first to particular moments in this dialogue, and therefore everything in it needed to be reinterpreted to each successive age. Newman believed that the right to this reinterpretation belonged to the church, and specifically the church of the Fathers. That view had been rejected by the Scottish Reformers, and Erskine was a son of the Reformation, but a son with the freedom of his lay status. Newman’s tract was republished in 1835 with the title On the Introduction of Rationalistic Principles into Revealed Religion. By ‘rationalism’ he did not mean anti-religious

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

116

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 126

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

humanism, but the use of human reason as a yard-stick for religious truth. Perhaps he still carried over from his early Calvinist upbringing Calvin’s own view of the legitimate, but strictly limited, function of reason which stopped short of dealing with matters concerning salvation. The ways of God were beyond human understanding. Here we find an instance of the kind of misunderstanding based on ambiguity of language. Newman did not appropriate Coleridge’s distinction between Reason and Understanding, and therefore set revelation against both, as the only remaining alternative. Those who followed Coleridge’s use of language would have agreed that human understanding, the faculty which judges according to sense, could not be used to criticize God’s ways. But the basis of Erskine’s belief was not human understanding, but human conscience. It was God’s gift of conscience which made him reject doctrines which reduced God to a lower moral standard than the best of mankind. The critical issue was whether or not God was a God of fatherly love. No doubt there were depths of the divine being and reaches of the divine purpose which human beings could not understand. But God had revealed in Jesus Christ a quality of divine love, and it was not only possible but necessary to bring all doctrines to the criterion of love. Other aspects of Erskine’s theology were related to his central belief in the fatherhood of God, notably his attitudes to history and to science, the one as a basically educational process, and the other as a revelation of the patience of God’s fatherly work. The facts of history, he was sure, were not in themselves a basis for belief. [When I] ask myself what reason or right I have to believe that a man who lived in Palestine 1860 years ago was the Son of God, in order to be certain that in this belief I have hold of a substance and not of a mere shadow, I must discern in the history itself a light and a truth which will meet the demands both of my reason and my conscience. In fact, however true the history may be, it cannot be of any moral or spiritual benefit to me until I apprehend its truth and meaning.25 The Bible assumed that we have ‘some innate original capacity of apprehending spiritual truths when revealed’. Erskine compared this process to the discoveries of scientists, such as Kepler and Newton, who ‘addressed the intellectual capacity’ as revelation addressed the spiritual capacity. In neither case were truths subsequently affirmed simply on the basis of authority. In one sense the process of history was a repeated revelation of spiritual truths. But in another sense it was a continuous act of education, both for the individual and the race. ‘Who that sees life in the light of a process of divine education; above all, that believes Christ to be the Educator within each man, can contemplate the education ever terminating, or the Educator ever abandoning the school?’26 He believed there were few religious phrases so capable of ‘darkening men’s minds’ as that we are here in a state of probation. ‘If probation is our thought, then forgiveness or receiving a favourable sentence is our object; if education is our thought, then progress in holiness is our object.’27 This carried with it the implication of the ultimate salvation of all. No loving human father would ever abandon a child or cease to work for that child’s salvation. And since humankind was itself a unity established by God and renewed by

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 127

FELLOW-TRAVELLERS: ERSKINE AND ROBERTSON

117

Christ, God’s ultimate purpose must be the redemption of the race, not trial ending in judgement but education resulting in perfection. Even to Erskine in a settled, Christian Scotland in the nineteenth century this must have appeared to be a far horizon. But he found a strange source of hopefulness in his interest in science. ‘He who waited so long for the formation of a piece of old red sandstone will surely wait with much longsuffering for the perfecting of the human spirit.’28 The huge vistas of time which were opening in people’s minds in the mid-nineteenth century might be a source of optimism. It was a time when very different writers, influenced by ideas of progress, were sketching schematic patterns of history. One of these was F.W. Robertson, the influential Brighton preacher. As with Erskine, his emphasis on development was only a part of his message. It will be best to consider the general lines of his teaching before returning to it in the next chapter. The context of Robertson’s work was very different from Erskine’s. The common element was the presence in Brighton, as in Scotland, of an established Calvinistic type of Evangelicalism. The differences lay in the social mix of fashion and its dependent working class, and in the constant influx of visitors from the metropolis who brought with them the unsettlement of doubts about received religion characteristic of the mid-nineteenth century. The explanation of his wide and deep influence during his preaching ministry and after his death was that his hearers found in Robertson a teacher who had himself questioned the very foundations of his own religious belief. He did not look at doubt from the outside, so to speak, but from the inside. He won his way, not indeed back to his former beliefs, but on to different beliefs which were, by our present standards, no less Christian than those of his former life. It was not a unique pilgrimage. Many others took a similar path. But he has left, in his letters and his sermons, a valuable record of one of the forms of doubt which assail believers, particularly of an evangelical sort. Robertson had been brought up in a dogmatic evangelical tradition, which saw Roman Catholicism as idolatry and held firmly to the literal inspiration of the scriptures and the necessity of belief in the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ. At Brasenose, his Oxford college, he was a militant opponent of the current high church theories. He was ordained and served two short curacies, and then somehow his evangelical faith was shaken to its very roots. There is little to show exactly how this happened. It was in part due to his disillusionment about the personal sanctity of the evangelical clergy and church people of Cheltenham. That is certainly not the whole story. It was also in part due, as he himself has said, to the appeal of Transcendentalism. It was ‘the rock on which I split’.29 It is hard to pin down exactly what he meant by the term. In its context he was criticizing a poetry of ‘mawkish feeling’. He had certainly been open to the temptations of romantic self-pity during the long European holiday he took after abandoning his ministry in Cheltenham. But it also fairly clear that he was aware of the teaching of the New England sage and popular lecturer Ralph Waldo Emerson.30 Matthew Arnold hailed Emerson as the preacher of ‘a strain as new and moving and unforgettable as the strain of Newman or Carlyle or Goethe’. That is to put him among the formative minds of his age. The message he proclaimed was in extreme reaction against the dogmatic Calvinistic orthodoxy of New England. He repudiated, that is to

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

118

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 128

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

say, teaching which asserted the total corruption of the human race. He refused to set the Bible on a pedestal as the unique medium of divine revelation. He preached spiritual self-reliance together with a passionate moral sense as the heart of religion. He aimed, as Matthew Arnold did after him, to incorporate in his belief all the best that has been said and thought by people in all ages. He claimed to have something to offer which was larger and better than historical Christianity. In retrospect that claim hardly stands the test of time. But to many brought up in strict Calvinistic orthodoxy his teaching came as a breath of fresh air blowing away the cobwebs of dogma. He had little regard for institutional religion. ‘God builds his temple in the heart on the ruins of churches and religions,’ he said. Emerson’s ‘Transcendentalism’ was a potent liberalizing influence. It was instrumental in undermining Robertson’s faith. Added to his personal dislike of some of his evangelical associates and his interest in the scientific revolution which was gaining momentum, it precipitated a crisis of religious belief. On Easter day 1853 he preached a sermon in Trinity Chapel, Brighton, on ‘The Doubt of Thomas’, which gives us his later reflections on the experience of doubt. In it he draws a distinction between two kinds of doubt: the honest doubt of Thomas, and the cold doubt of the Sadduccee; the doubt of love and the doubt of indifference. He is, of course, speaking here about doubting the resurrection. He declares that Jesus made the same distinction, because he was willing to give a sign to the honest doubt of love which he withheld from the cold doubt of indifference. He stresses the naturalness of doubt concerning the resurrection. All analogies drawn from nature, he says, however valuable in the way of suggestiveness are worth nothing in the way of proof. And though Thomas received the evidence of the senses, that is not the case with people today. If they believe, it is not solely on the grounds of evidence. The evidence does not convince everyone alike. There must be, he says, ‘an inward state of heart which makes truth credible the moment it is stated’. Here is a common theme to be found in those who belonged to a generation which had absorbed the criticisms of Coleridge aimed at reliance on such evidences of religion as could appeal to the Understanding. Looking back upon it all after his recovery of belief, he asked himself the question, How was the doubt of love to be met and overcome? He was not a systematic thinker by any means, but up and down his later writings and sermons there are many chance remarks which can be put together to show what he thought. The obvious way to meet doubt in that generation seemed to be by the consideration of ‘evidences’. Archdeacon Paley’s book A View of the Evidences of Christianity, with its emphasis on the evidential value of prophecy and miracle, was required reading for undergraduates at the universities. Robertson was criticized for making little use of these kinds of evidence. He recognised that they carried weight with some people, but he condemned reliance on them as a form of rationalism. In one of his letters he wrote: I hold that the attempt to rest Christianity upon miracles and fulfilments of prophecy is essentially the vilest rationalism; as if the trained intellect of the lawyer, which can investigate evidence, were that to which is entrusted the soul’s salvation; or as if the evidence of the senses were more sure than the intuitions of the spirit to which spiritual truths almost alone appeal. It is not in words

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 129

FELLOW-TRAVELLERS: ERSKINE AND ROBERTSON

119

(though they are constant), but in the deepest convictions and first principles of my soul, that I feel the failure of intellect in this matter.31 It was characteristic of him to turn the charge of ‘rationalism’ against his critics. Evangelical believers argued that rejection of Christian truth was due to the misuse of the unregenerate reason; Robertson countered with the charge that to base belief on ‘evidences’ was open to the same charge. The evidential use of miracles he regarded as ‘a secondary kind of proof for a low kind of mind’; their value lay in startling and arousing many to the claims of Jesus who otherwise would not have attended to them. But where spiritual insight was lacking, their effect could not be deep or lasting. He was unwilling to lay much stress on them for a variety of reasons. First, he believed that the divine power was manifested as much in the ordinary as in the extraordinary. Second, he regarded miracles as a higher operation of the laws of nature rather than a contravention of them. And third, he saw that a faith grounded upon the appeal to miracles was no stronger than the evidence for their credibility. Most men, he thought, believe that the life of Jesus was divine, because he wrought miracles. But if their faith in miracles were shaken, their faith in Christ would go. If the evidence for the credibility of those miracles were weakened, then the mystic glory would have faded off his history. They could not be sure that his existence was divine. That love, even to death, would bear no certain stamp of God upon it. That life of long self-sacrifice would have had in it no certain unquestionable traces of the Son of God.32 Robertson’s language and thought bear the marks of a romantic age which was being forced to accept the critical assumptions of historical and scientific study. Doubts were bound to be suggested by those studies; but he continued to assert that spiritual truth could not be judged by anything except one’s own spiritual faculties. There was, however, another way which seemed to offer a sure resolution of doubts: the appeal to authority. Robertson was pre-disposed to reject any such appeal, because of his very loneliness and self-reliance. Like Emerson, he would have called it unmanly. In this he showed the defect of his first faith. In all manner of beliefs outside the realm of religion we give due weight to authority, which might be described favourably as the cumulative experience and wisdom of others. Surely, then, for the resolution of religious doubts the cumulative testimony of the people of God ought to be acceptable and helpful. But Protestant Evangelicalism, reacting against the pretensions to infallibility of the church, could not allow even reasonable weight to the authority of tradition. Yet at the same time Protestantism could not so far forget its mediaeval heritage as to dispense altogether with the notion of infallibility, and so it transferred to the scriptures the inerrancy others claimed for the church. The appeal to authority, especially where it leads to a claim of infallibility, is the very opposite of the scientific spirit. Robertson, in his period of doubt, took it for granted that infallibility was nowhere to be found. And because, like his former evangelical associates, he could not allow a proper place for the authority of Christian tradition, he was left to fight his

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

120

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 130

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

battle with doubt alone. Yet there is really no other way in which that battle can be fought, in the inmost recesses of the individual human spirit. After his recovery of belief, Robertson rediscovered in a fashion the value of tradition. He came to see that it had a purpose: the preservation of truths treasured by a particular community, not that they should be accepted without question, but for the individual to appropriate and interpret to himself from his own experience. In a letter to a member of his congregation he wrote that dogmas express eternal verities and facts; they are what a mathematician might call approximative formulas to truth. In this spirit I always ask, What does this dogma mean? Not, What did it mean on the lips of those who spoke it? How, in my language, can I put into form the underlying truth, in correcter form, if possible, but in approximative form after all?33 Professed orthodoxy was not enough. He saw that many whose orthodoxy could not be impugned denied their professed belief by their lives. This led him to say that it was less important to state true views than to state views truly. It would be better earnestly to hold the doctrines of Unitarianism than in a cowardly or indifferent spirit, or influenced by authority, or from considerations of interest, or for the sake of lucre, to hold the doctrines of Trinitarianism. In the period of crisis, however, he seems not to have allowed even this much validity to the authority of Christian tradition. The stars that had guided his pilgrimage so far seemed to have been extinguished. He turned to the light within. Truth could not be judged by reason, nor was it to be accepted on authority; but each individual was given a revelation by which he would be judged. Within himself a man could find intuitions of the spirit which were surer than the evidence of the senses. So his crisis of belief was the painful process of deliberately rejecting all ‘the customary props of belief ’, as he called them. It was the memory of this experience which made him say, in one of his sermons, ‘The soul is thrown in the grandeur of a sublime solitariness on God’.34 The evidence of prophecy, the evidence of miracles, the weight of authority, the formulations of dogma – all had been rejected as the ground of belief. What was left? He found within himself three things which remained unshaken: an intuitive perception of God, a profound veneration for the person of Christ, and a moral imperative governing action. For the first he uses a version of the typical Coleridgean distinction between Understanding and Reason to refer to an intuitive perception of God. If I place before a man an argument resting on miracles or prophecy, or the proof from design, or any of the truths addressed to the understanding, he may be neither an idiot nor insane, and yet unable to feel its force. An old French proverb says that ‘grand thoughts come from the heart’. God must be felt by the heart, intuitively perceived by the reason, before he can be demonstrated to the understanding. If a man does not feel in every fibre of his heart a divine presence, I cannot prove that it is there, or anywhere else. For the evidence of the senses can never be more certain than the convictions of the soul or the reason.35

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 131

FELLOW-TRAVELLERS: ERSKINE AND ROBERTSON

121

The second unshaken foundation of his belief was his veneration for Jesus Christ, rising from admiration of his humanity to the worship of him as God. If it should ever chance that, finding yourself thrown upon your own self, and cut off from sects – suspected in quest of a truth which no man gives – then that wondrous sense of strength and friendship comes – the being alone with Christ, with the strength of a manlier independence. Slowly then, this almost insensibly merges into adoration. For what is it to adore Christ? To call him God; to say, Lord, Lord? No. Adoration is the mightiest love the soul can give – call it by what name you will. Many a Unitarian has adored, calling it only admiration; and many an orthodox Christian, calling Christ God with most accurate theology, has given him only a cool intellectual homage.36 The intuition of God, veneration for Christ, and thirdly, the moral imperative for action. When doubts had closed in upon him, Robertson was still left with an imperious conscience. In a clearly autobiographical passage in an address to the Working Men’s Institute at Brighton he described the experience: It is an awful moment when the soul begins to find that the props on which it has blindly rested so long are, many of them, rotten, and begins to feel the nothingness of many of the traditionary opinions which have been received with implicit confidence, and in that horrible insecurity begins also to doubt whether there be anything to believe at all. It is an awful hour – let him who has passed through it say how awful – when this life has lost its meaning, and seems shrivelled into a span; when the grave appears to be the end of all, human goodness nothing but a name, and the sky above this universe a dead expanse, black with the void from which God himself has disappeared. In that fearful loneliness of spirit, when those who should have been his friends and counsellors only frown upon his misgivings, and profanely bid him stifle doubts, which for aught he knows may arise from the fountain of truth itself, to extinguish, as a glare from hell, that which for aught he knows may be light from heaven, and everything seems wrapped in hideous uncertainty – I know but one way in which a man may come forth from his agony scathless; it is by holding fast to those things which are certain still, the grand, simple landmarks of morality. In the darkest hour through which a human soul can pass, whatever else is doubtful, this at least is certain. If there be no God and no future state, it is better to be generous than selfish, better to be chaste than licentious, better to be true than false, better to be brave than a coward.37 It was this experience which led Robertson to the conviction that obedience is the organ of spiritual knowledge, a belief which puts him very near to Erskine. That is the theme of an Assize Sermon preached in March 1851 with the text from John 7: ‘If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.’ On this truth he insisted again and again. He thought no great harm would come if a man unsettled the verdict of his intellect, but it was at his peril that he

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

122

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 132

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

tampered with the convictions of his conscience. It was the life that formed the creed, not the creed that formed the life.38 There Robertson found an unshakeable basis of belief, a threefold rock in the shifting sands of doubt. Had he been a layman, he might perhaps have been content simply to have found security in an intuitive perception of God, a profound veneration for Christ, and a moral imperative governing action. But the active work of a clergyman, to which he returned after a period of withdrawal, demanded the building of a superstructure of belief upon this foundation. He has left, in sermons, addresses and letters, some evidence to show the way in which he proceeded with this reconstruction. It was a necessary process for him because, although he saw religion as a thing of the heart and not of the intellect, he realised that the intellectual person must have an intellectual religion, since he will give his energies to that which he most loves. The key to his method of reconstruction is to be found in his conviction that dogmas become ‘living facts’ only when we recognise in them the particular expressions of ‘eternal principles’. This was a very ‘Coleridgean’ conviction. One of the central Christian doctrines to which he applied this insight was the doctrine of the atonement. The church, he said, proclaims the death of Christ to be a sacrifice. It declares that death to be the law of every life which is to be like his. It says the law, which alone can interpret the mystery of life, is the self-sacrifice of Christ. It proclaims the law of His life to have been this: ‘For their sakes I devote (sanctify) myself, that they also may be devoted through the truth.’ In other words, the Self-sacrifice of the Redeemer was to be the living principle and law of the self-devotion of his people. It asserts that to be the principle which alone can make any human life a true life. ‘I fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh, for his body’s sake which is the church’. We have petrified that Sacrifice into a dead theological dogma, about the exact efficacy of which we dispute metaphysically, and charge each other with heresy. That atonement will become a living fact only when we humbly recognise in it the eternal fact that sacrifice is the Law of life.39 Here the Coleridean inheritance is at work, whether Robertson derived it from him, or from his more general reading of German writers. It is most likely that he derived at least some of his terminology from Coleridge. The imaginative faculty, which he calls the ‘Reason’ as opposed to the ‘Understanding’, has the duty of connecting the truths of revelation with other truths. It must perceive the general law of which the particular dogma is a special instance. The theologian must scan nature and history for ‘corroborative analogies’; even more, he must scan his own soul for the operation of the general law. This process makes dogma real to the heart of the believer; but it cannot convince the unbeliever. If a man go to the world with convictions of Eternity, the Resurrection, God, already in his spirit, he will find abundant corroborations of that which he already believes. But if God’s existence be not thrilling every fibre of his heart,

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 133

FELLOW-TRAVELLERS: ERSKINE AND ROBERTSON

123

if the Immortal be not already in him as the proof of the Resurrection, if the law of Duty be not stamped upon his soul as an Eternal Truth, unquestionable, a thing that must be obeyed, quite separately from all considerations of punishment or impunity, science will never reveal these – observation pries in vain – the [physicist] comes away from the laboratory an infidel.40 This process, of ‘realising’ the truth of dogma, enabled Robertson to reconstruct a pattern of belief with a full doctrinal content. He had escaped the narrow dogmatism of his earlier evangelical associates. He had been tempted by the solipsistic sort of religion preached by Emerson. He repudiated both kinds of belief, perhaps without being able to acknowledge how much he owed to each. From Evangelicalism he learnt his reverence for the Christ of the Gospels. From Transcendentalism he learnt his desire to make the Christian revelation continuous with the best of ‘natural religion’, in its usual interpretation as a broad and vague assertion of the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. In looking for an alternative to the certainties of his evangelical upbringing which no longer convinced him, Robertson turned his attention inward, to his own spiritual faculties, to his heart, to the light within. The language he used was inevitably the language of his own time. He was a child of the Romantic movement, who believed that ‘the intuitions of the spirit’ were more sure than the evidence of the senses, that there was an inward state of the heart ‘which makes truth credible the moment it is stated’. He borrowed the language of Coleridge and called the total imaginative response of the human spirit ‘Reason’ and elevated it above the mere exercise of rationality which he called by the name of ‘Understanding’. He felt at home with talk about ‘eternal principles’ which gave whatever validity they possessed to ecclesiastical dogmas. He rejected any notion that beliefs could be worked up in the loneliness of the individual thinker. Life formed creed, not creed life. To discover a true basis of belief, it was necessary to go out and get on with the business of living, accepting or rejecting the challenges which it brings, to be generous or selfish, to be chaste or licentious, to be true or false, to be brave or a coward. If you choose the harder way, it will be because of the response you have already made to the image of Christ which you have found in the gospels, an image that expresses the presence of God. His inner conflict was creative, in leading to a radical revision of his understanding of dogma. That process enabled him to preach effectively, because his convictions were hardly won. He had much in common with Erskine; in particular the determination to rely on the movements of their own spirits as they responded to what they read in the scriptures without submitting to established norms of interpretation. In his nonparochial chapel in Brighton Robertson felt able to exercise a freedom from ecclesiastical pressures of a kind which Erskine possessed in his lay status, and Coleridge before them. In all of them doctrine had to be called to account before the judgement of conscience and reason. But the intellectual temper of mid-nineteenth century Britain separated them from Coleridge in many ways. He passed much of his life in a shocked reaction against the terror of the French revolution and the dictatorship of Napoleon. They lived in the heyday of Victorian optimism. The

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

124

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 134

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

contrast stands out in their handling of the idea of progress. But even here they share a common concern for education as the instrument of change. The theological heritage is perceptible.

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 135

8 Democratic Vistas

Coleridge died in 1834, leaving a legacy of books and letters which have received increasing attention up to the present day. But his life ended before he had the opportunity to bring his own critical acumen to bear on epoch-making developments of the mid-century. Two of these can be symbolically represented by the Communist Manifesto, first published in German in 1848, and The Origin of Species, published in 1859. Both stand for extraneous forces at work upon theology. Darwin’s work was not responsible for beginning discussion and controversy about development and purpose in the world, but it necessitated fresh interpretation of teleological ideas. Some of this will be considered in the next chapter. The Communist Manifesto, however we regard its message, was a sign of the shift of power in human society following the development of industrialism. There is plenty of room for argument over the question where the power shifted to. It certainly was not to the united workers of the world. The world’s workers never have been united, and their disunity has left room for all kinds of powerseekers to pretend to be acting in their name. But though the new focus of power may be difficult to identify, it is clear that it was no longer within the old hereditary aristocracy. As the reality changed, the old justifications for oligarchy collapsed and a new ideal emerged. Democracy, which had been a dirty word even for a Methodist leader like Jabez Bunting earlier in the nineteenth century, became a shining ideal, and western man moved towards a new era in which everything, even dictatorship, would justify itself by mouthing the same shibboleth. The ‘era of the common man’ certainly did not begin with the Manifesto. Perhaps it has never begun. But in the age of democracy if there were to be heroes for the ‘common man’ to admire they would have to look, as time wore on, more like the ‘common man’ himself. The meaning of democracy, then, contained two different, but related, elements. It stood for a theory about the organization of political life, and it also embodied an evaluation of human beings as, in some sense, equal. In Coleridge’s lifetime there was no general agreement in Britain about the best form of government, and it did not seem to him self-evident that democracy was the 125

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

126

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 136

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

best, or even a good, way of organizing national life. Part of the problem lay in the meaning of the word itself. Who were the ‘demos’, the people? And how could they exercise power? These were questions which exercised him all his life. The evidence is there in his earliest and in his last completed book. In the political lectures of 1795 we meet a young man in full rhetorical flow, excited by the campaign of libertarians against the frightened repressions of a government at war with revolutionary France and determined to prevent a revolution at home. On the Constitution of Church and State, published in 1829, shows the mature ‘sage of Highgate’ working out an ‘ideal’ constitution for the nation with a balance of powers, the opposition of powerful interests being moderated by a third element: the legitimate power of the landowners and merchants requiring the intermediary element which he called the clerisy. He has been widely accused of being a renegade from the revolutionary cause – a charge which he was at pains to deny. In his own self-assessment, what had changed in his political outlook amounted only to dispensable elements, while his principles remained consistent. Even later in life he said there was nothing in his 1795 lectures which he retracted or regretted except some unguarded expressions and heterodox religious opinions. The unchanging core of his political beliefs embraced two elements which he struggled to maintain in tension. One of them was a simple, almost naïve, allegiance to the personality and teaching of Jesus; the other was his selfunderstanding, which he came to express in the Kantian terms, Reason and Understanding. The coexistence of these different elements meant that he approached the idea of democracy from two different angles. Both were held together under his over-arching concern for freedom. First, then, there was the importance of Jesus’ teaching. No account of the young revolutionary Coleridge of the 1790s is complete which does not include the evidence of his ‘Six Lectures on Revealed Religion’ delivered in Bristol in 1795. At that time he saw Christianity as deeply corrupted by its expression in established forms of religion. But at its heart it still had the treasure of the gospel. This he set forth as the ‘system’ of Jesus. That is a strange phrase; but it reveals what Coleridge was attacking as well as what he was defending. His unmentioned target was the atheist William Godwin whose Enquiry concerning Political Justice of 1793 was a recognized expression of the contemporary drive for liberty in political life. It had all the appeal for young freethinkers of a dangerous publication at a time when the government was looking to suppress every group in which it detected, and feared, the beginnings of revolution. Coleridge had responded favourably at first, but had come to suspect its tendencies and its author. Godwin’s moral life, as it seemed to him, did not match his own romantic ideals. Godwin’s ‘system’ involved a kind of bloodless benevolence in which the warmth of family life and the love of friends were to be banished in favour of a theoretical love of mankind. All ties of family, friendship and nation were to be set aside in the pursuit of a rational application of principles.1 Severe moralist! that teaches us that filial Love is Folly, Gratitude criminal, Marriage Injustice, and a promiscuous Intercourse of the Sexes our wisdom and our duty. In this system a man may gain his self-esteem with little Trouble; he

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 137

DEMOCRATIC VISTAS

127

first adopts Principles so lax as to legalize the most impure gratifications, and then prides himself on acting up to his principles. With this inhuman system Coleridge contrasted the teaching of Jesus, who ‘knew our nature – and that [it] expands like the circles of a Lake – the Love of our Friends, parents and neighbours, leads[s] us to the love of our Country, to the love of all Mankind.’2 This revulsion against Godwin was encouraged by his newer interest in the ideas of David Hartley, an interest he marked memorably by naming his son after him. Hartley’s appeal lay less in his elaborate theories about vibrations and ‘vibratiuncles’ in the brain explaining the association of ideas than in his teaching that benevolence was inherent in the human mental constitution. Hobbes was wrong to explain society as the product of fear; it was in fact the product of sympathy. In adopting, for the time being, this optimistic interpretation of human relations, Coleridge was able to imagine the realization of a free and equal society which would be, on a small scale, the acme of democracy. He gave it a name, Pantisocracy, and he envisaged its establishment on the banks of the Susquehanna in Pennsylvania. He may have found the name itself attractively poetical,3 but it had already been chosen as a venue by one of his earlier mentors, Joseph Priestley. Coleridge’s unrealizable scheme was planned on a basis which he believed was essential to a true democracy. There was to be no private property. This would match the common life of the first disciples of Jesus as portrayed in the Acts of the Apostles.4 Coleridge later declared that the church was the only pure democracy5 – not, of course, as it existed, but as it was in the intention of Jesus. Pantisocracy did not, could not, exist, except as an idea. It was the Kingdom of Heaven, not a pattern for the kingdoms of this world. In it there was no place for the exercise of power, since all were called to be servants. So how did the ideal of democracy look to Coleridge when he thought about the state, where the exercise of power was unavoidable? Inevitably the question had to be answered with the memory of the French revolution painfully in mind. As usual, Coleridge wanted to go back to basic principles. The difference between church and state, he declared, was that a church regards persons and a state regards property. He rejected the idea that human societies are formed to protect the lives of their members; their basic purpose was the protection of property. Only the existence of private possessions required the organization of a state. Then a different morality had to come into play, not the simple ethic of love which governed relations in a church. Where private possessions existed, it was impossible to establish or maintain simple equality. The choice of a form of government was to be determined by the need to ensure a balance of forces. Within any society there were always elements of progression and elements of permanence. Their balance required to be moderated by a third element, the clerisy. The disastrous course of the French revolution was due to the absence of any such moderating factor. If the French example was what democracy meant, it was shown to be a mistaken idea. Beneath this practical assessment there was the other line of thought mentioned above. In his 1795 Moral and Political Lectures he had not gone further than to outline a psychological assessment of the various kinds of people who claimed to be, or were regarded as, democrats. Some were quickly frightened out of democratic ideas by

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

128

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 138

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

events in France. Some had little more in mind than a lust for revenge against oppressors. Some only wanted to drag down those they regarded as uselessly privileged, and rejected the idea of raising ‘our poorer brethren’ to equality. There were just a few (‘a small but glorious band’) who aimed calmly and steadily towards ‘the universal fraternity of Love’. This analysis he thought worth reprinting in 1809.6 By then he had adopted the controlling categories of Reason and Understanding, and tried to trace the origin of the French revolution back to the mistaken application of the teaching of Rousseau. He welcomed the teaching of the Social Contract, with its emphasis on the ‘general will’ because it treated the nation as a real entity. It was not a mere coincidence of individuals, every one asserting their own rights, as Hobbes assumed. He agreed with Rousseau that there is an inalienable sovereignty inherent in every human being possessed of Reason.7 Reason was indeed what distinguished a person from a thing. But it was not the possession of any individual or any collection of individuals. To authenticate the democratic process it was assumed, even by Burke, that the errors and passions of individuals would cancel each other out. In parliamentary proceedings ‘prejudice corrects prejudice, and the different asperities of party zeal mitigate and neutralize each other’.8 Coleridge dismissed this as a ‘mere probability’. Rousseau himself admitted as much. He distinguished between the collective will (Volonté de Tous) and ‘a casual overbalance of wills’ (Volonté generale). The sovereign will, to which the right of universal legislation appertains, did not apply to the ‘mixed multitude that makes up the PEOPLE, but only to REASON itself ’. The task of applying the insights of Reason to particular decisions was the work of the Understanding, which might easily be misled by the forces at work in any assembly. The horrors of the French revolution were made possible by crediting majority decisions with the infallibility of Reason. The problem about democracy, as Coleridge saw it, was that it left no room for the moderating power which was demanded by the lack of equality inherent in social life, as contrasted with the actual equality of all members of a church. That was equally the case with absolute monarchy. ‘A democratic Republic and an Absolute Monarchy agree in this; that in both alike, the Nation, or People, delegates its whole power.’ But in England ‘the Nation has delegated its power, not without measure and circumscription.’9 This difference left room for the moderating effect of what Coleridge called the clerisy. The word originated from Kant’s klerisei,10 though the idea might be traced further back, for example to Milton. But as usual Coleridge adapted it to his own purposes. The klerisei was the ideal Church of Reason, standing in contrast to existing religious institutions which were the object of Enlightenment criticism. This contrast expressed at a theoretical level the current stresses in the universities of Germany, where a conflict was taking place between two different fundamental ideas of the nature of a university.11 On the one hand, each state ruler normally regarded his own university as an economically useful institution, providing the necessary supply of educated men for the church, the law and public health. The result was that the faculties of medicine, law and theology were regarded as ‘higher’ and those of literature, philology and philosophy were ‘lower’. The Romantic movement, with its reverence for the uniqueness of the individual, had the effect of turning that contrast upside down. It elevated philosophical studies as supreme and declared the purpose of

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 139

DEMOCRATIC VISTAS

129

university education to be ‘Bildung’, the self-development of man. Those who benefited from this process would constitute a scholarly élite. In England the universities had virtually abandoned the practical role fulfilled by the ‘higher’ faculties in Germany. Law and medicine were taught elsewhere, and even theology was not a vocational subject. In spite of their defects, therefore, they could be imagined as a part of the clerisy. Coleridge’s mind evidently went back to an idealized past in which there was something like a unified intelligentsia or ‘permanent learned class’. THE CLERISY of the nation, or national church, in its primary acceptation and original intention comprehended the learned of all denominations [= professions]; – the sages and professors of the law and jurisprudence; of medicine and physiology; of music; of military and civil architecture; of the physical sciences; with the mathematical as common organ of the preceding; in short, all the socalled liberal arts and sciences, the possession and application of which constitute the civilization of the country, as well as the theological.12 The different historical realities of English society, with its particular parochial system, provided Coleridge with a pattern for the universal distribution of the clerisy, contributing to the necessary balance between forces of progression and permanence in society – with a heavy tilt towards permanence. This establishment in England was in fact, as Coleridge said, Christian by historical accident. That was, literally, a ‘Godsend’.13 But its essential character was that of a learned class. Its task was to teach citizens the basic principles of social life, not the application of those principles to everyday decisions. It is difficult to fit this ‘ideal’ picture to the actuality of an established church, and it seems that Coleridge had scanned the existing elements in English society for some organization which operated universally and at the two levels which he required. The parochial system provided the universality; the existence of a hierarchy offered a distinction between those with opportunity of creative thought and those who made it available locally. It was also important, in this scheme, that the church was national, being supported by a portion of the nation’s wealth. Only in that way could it have the right to act on behalf of the whole people, maintaining a balance between permanence and progression. The idea of a clerisy, if not the word itself, was an important part of Coleridge’s legacy to sympathetic followers. The difficulty in the idea consisted in relating it to the rapidly changing social scene of the early nineteenth century. Not only was any such idea hardly recognizable in the actual established church, but the picture of a coherent body of Christian opinion capable of moderating contrary forces in society bore little resemblance to the facts of the case. Dr Arnold proposed to adapt the idea by stretching the bounds of the established church to include all existing variations of Christian belief, in his Principles of Church Reform (1833). The church should be regarded as the nation on its religious side. This clashed with the demand of the Tractarians, that the Church of England must assert its intrinsic authority as a part of the whole church catholic. A better understanding of the idea was shown by F.D. Maurice. The word itself, according to his son, was commonly used by Maurice to describe the body of

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

130

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 140

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

university men, artists, scientific men, and others who were capable of teaching.14 He did not see it as a third estate of the realm. Its role was educational, and its primary task was the preparation of those who had been excluded from the existing structures of education for their new responsibilities as citizens, in a society which was moving towards fuller democracy. This hope was embodied in the creation of the Working Men’s College. That was one of the two successful and lasting results of the early Christian Socialist movement, along with the organization of co-operative societies. The students of the Working Men’s College were to be educated for democracy; but the democracy for which they were to be educated was not, in Maurice’s teaching, an absolute power, the unchallengeable source of all authority. In order to raise money for the college, Maurice gave a series of lectures in which he distanced himself from any such idea.15 Whatever involves the worship of Demus as of a divine monarch who may decree what he likes, may put down one and set up another, dealing with all as his tools to execute his commands, I repudiate as a husk, hard, coarse, and tough, but not substantial.16 To flatter the mob was not to love its members but to despise them. The will of the majority was something he would never follow. As for ‘the greatest happiness of the greatest number’, he simply did not understand what it meant; but if it meant what they would vote for, he had no confidence that they would not decide for something ‘profoundly low or swinish’. That was why education was the key to citizenship. It was the raison d’être of the Working Men’s College. He viewed society as containing within it a number of existing relationships, such as the family and different social classes. Within them individuals felt the need of organization, and in doing so recognized that they were not merely numerical units but members of a body. Within the College there could be a fruitful interaction of different classes, the voluntary teachers relating to the working men. But the aim and object was to raise up some of the working men to share the work of teaching. By the end of 1865 Maurice was able to claim that students were already doing so, at least in mathematics. Here was a small example of the clerisy in operation at the simplest level. It was concerned with educating working men into responsible citizenship. Here was creative thought made available locally. But Coleridge’s idea of the clerisy also required a hierarchy. In abstract terms that was where the activities of the Understanding were grounded in the insights of the Reason. This level of the clerisy might be represented in the universities. They were still preserves of the established church where religious tests were applied. But that was soon to change. What basis could there be for the idea of a clerisy when the universities were thrown open and secularized? For Maurice, the theological answer was to be found in recognizing that that there was, by God’s creation, a universal, spiritual society to which everyone belonged, whether they acknowledged that fact or not. Every honest inquiry in every realm of learning must therefore be seen as the elucidation of the existing truth embodied in God’s creation. It did not follow that everyone occupied in this inquiry was equally engaged with its reality or even recognized its existence. So what was needed was the gathering of

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 141

DEMOCRATIC VISTAS

131

groups of people who were consciously seeking to enable society to move towards the outward expression of its true basis. A fragment of the clerisy might then be found in small groups. The so-called Apostles at Cambridge University formed one such group. The story of the early years of this fluctuating association has been well told.17 Originally a group of evangelically-minded undergraduates, it developed under the influence of Maurice into a kind of ‘think-tank’ (to use an anachronistic term) with a surprisingly long future. At first it seemed to be just one of the innumerable little groups of like-minded students who amuse themselves with a degree of secrecy and exclusiveness, and disappear as its members move on in their careers. But in the case of ‘The Society’ (which was what they called themselves) a succession of notable members gave it a serious character, for all the facetiousness inseparable from youth. These included F.D. Maurice, Arthur Hallam and John Sterling. They were just the material Coleridge envisaged for his third force: certainly not drawn from the groups which he had included in his scheme under the names of landowners and merchants. They believed society was in need of reformation, and this drew some of them towards ordination in the Church of England, as the means of disseminating their ideas. It offered educational possibilities. But others despaired of the church, despised the universities as they were, and turned to journalism as a force in society. One of the members of the Society, J.M. Kemble, who was at the time editing a newly founded journal, wrote: [A]ll reform is misplaced which does not begin with reforming our system of education, from the lowest to the highest and from the dame school to the University. I do thank God that I for one escaped the soulkilling and ruinous effect of a University education: I hated and despised them and owe them nothing… Education must be taken out of the hands of the parsons, till the parsons are educated for their task of educating others.18 The reforms in the universities of Oxford and Cambridge in the mid-nineteenth century began to destroy their character as preserves of the established church, and the later Apostles formed their opinions, not only in a secular context, but at a time when different academic disciplines were going their separate ways. The usual assumption that universities were the breeding grounds, or the playgrounds, of leaders in a coherent governing class was abandoned. The early Apostles’ concerns for theology and education were replaced by the cultivation of literature and an interest in sociology. The ‘Apostles’ are not very significant in relation to the Coleridgean inheritance. The connection is mainly due to the early participation of Maurice, Sterling and Hort, all of whom were strongly influenced by Coleridge. The characteristics of the Society from time to time were determined by the interests of a forceful minority of the undergraduate members. The emergent difference between the generations is indicated by the formation in 1872 of a senior group calling themselves ‘Eranus’.19 Its membership included the theological trio, Lightfoot, Hort and Westcott. Although this suggests a greater interest in religious questions, the papers and discussions of ‘Eranus’ indicate that its major concern was to bring together different departments of academic study which were tending to lose contact with each other as the university

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

132

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 142

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

expanded and diversified. Coleridge’s scheme had postulated the kind of coherent Christian basis for all serious study which was implicit in the imposition of assent to the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion as a requirement for matriculation or graduation. When that was no longer required, the functions of a clerisy were disseminated across faculties. The exercise of a moderating influence on national life, but in secular terms, came to be exemplified by the serious purposefulness of Balliol College at Oxford under the Mastership of Benjamin Jowett. ‘Jowett made Balliol “count”, and Balliol continued to “count” – but not quite in the same way; becoming concerned for the cure of a sick society, rather than for the improvement of a healthy social order’.20 Geoffrey Faber’s assessment is that Jowett’s influence was not an impulse toward worldly success, nor the communication of any fixed moral or intellectual system, but the infusion of a living principle, to be defined cautiously as ‘an active faith in the supremacy of right reason’. That sounds very Coleridgean. Its relevance to the question of democracy was that it embodied the hope of ‘an oligarchically controlled transition from oligarchy to democracy’. The later Mastership of A.L. Smith (1916– 1924) continued the Balliol tradition, replacing Jowett’s ideal of a dedicated élite with the ideal of an educated, industrial, democracy.21 What, then, had happened to the specifically Christian element in Coleridge’s clerisy? The answer lies in considering the second element in the twofold legacy of F.D. Maurice. His work with the Working Men’s College fits into the process of democratizing education; his contribution to constructive social criticism is indicated by the early Christian Socialism of 1848–54. His attitude to democracy was, to say the least, unenthusiastic. But he held firmly to the conviction that theology was an essential basis for social criticism. After 1854 there seemed to be a pause in the development of Christian social thought in England, but there was certainly a ferment in theology. Seeds sown by Maurice and by leaders of the Oxford Movement were germinating. In particular a new generation of Anglo-Catholics, working in slum parishes (as Newman and Keble and Pusey never did) tried to relate their belief in the spiritual reality and inherent authority of the church catholic to the dehumanizing effects of industrial organization. Individual priests, from Stewart Headlam with his Guild of St Matthew to Conrad Noel with his Catholic Crusade, preached the close relationship, if not the identity, of the gospel and socialism. The general membership of the Church of England regarded them as eccentric. But the picture changed when the exponents of the tradition came to include more respected, and more respectable, church dignitaries, such as B.F. Westcott, Bishop of Durham, and Charles Gore, Bishop successively of Worcester, Birmingham and Oxford. The Christian Social Union, which they headed in turn, was not a campaigning body, but a kind of clerisy. Westcott believed that the prime duty of its members was ‘quiet study’. ‘It is worse than vain to attempt to “do” anything before you are master of the subject’.22 The CSU was much more friendly to the idea of democracy than either Coleridge or Maurice had ever been. And that idea might have theological implications. Before considering them we should note variations of the idea of a clerisy in the early twentieth century. Just as the initial strain of Evangelicalism in the Cambridge Apostles gave rise to their more broadly based concerns in later generations, so the Christian Unions which were active in the universities produced the Student Christian

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 143

DEMOCRATIC VISTAS

133

Movement, with its greater concern for social affairs. At the same time there had grown up a number of Christian Social Service Unions, which focused on particular social problems; and they were forced to consider the underlying causes of social evils. These two streams came together and resulted in inter-denominational summer schools and conferences. After one such conference, at Matlock in 1909, some of its leaders continued to meet as the ‘Collegium’ for further study and discussion. Eventually plans were laid for the 1924 Conference on Christian Politics, Economics and Citizenship (COPEC), and this was succeeded by other conferences in the period before the outbreak of the Second World War. This is not the place to detail their activities. They are noted here to indicate that the idea of a moderating force in social life was alive in this period, though there was seldom any appeal to the writings of Coleridge. But two different interpretations of ‘clerisy’ had explicit reference to him. One was in the Boutwood Lectures delivered at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, by T.S. Eliot in 1939. Their title was The Idea of a Christian Society, and the use of the word ‘idea’ clearly indicates the influence of Coleridge. In them Eliot uses and redefines the meaning of ‘clerisy’. The burden of the lectures is to distinguish three ideas: the Christian State, the Christian Community, and the Community of Christians. They represent an increasingly conscious and explicit commitment to Christian faith. The State is one in which there is a significant residuum of Christian morality. The Christian Community is the ‘religious-social’ body of worshippers, whose Christianity is largely ‘unconscious’. The Community of Christians consists of those from whom ‘one would expect a conscious Christian life on its highest social level’.23 This is his clerisy. But he hesitates to apply the word because society has changed radically since Coleridge’s day. It approximates to the idea of an ‘intelligentsia’, without the politically revolutionary implications of that word. It would be a ‘body of indefinite outline; composed of both clergy and laity, of the more conscious, more spiritually and intellectually developed of both’. Its function was ‘collectively to form the conscious mind and the conscience of the nation’.24 It is difficult to see how such an amorphous body could effect anything. To be effective it must crystallize into smaller units. After the 1937 Oxford Conference on Church, Community and State, Eliot himself became involved in the Council on the Christian Faith and the Common Life. This led to the formation of an inner group called The Moot which met for week-end discussions. Its leading member was the sociologist, Karl Mannheim, who held that cultural leadership should be exercised by cultivated minorities.25 Eliot’s ideas were dismissed by left-wing critics at the time as crypto-Fascist. But the period of the 1930s was a time when Christians, among others, were searching for a theoretical basis for national unity which could match the appeal of Fascism and Communism, and it is in this context that the second instance of the use of the idea of the clerisy is worth noticing. This was by the writer and publicist John Middleton Murry, better known for his literary criticism and his championship of his first wife Katherine Mansfield after her death. His book, The Price of Leadership,26 argues that the recovery of national self-confidence in the face of challenges from the continent demands the creation of a new (classless) governing class through education. The idea of democracy did not rule out the need for the training of such a class; indeed Fascism and Communism demonstrated the peril of destroying one governing class without

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

134

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 144

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

having available an adequate replacement. Murry believed he could trace a tradition from Coleridge through Dr Arnold of Rugby and on to his son Matthew Arnold in which this need was recognized. The ideas of Coleridge’s On the Constitution of Church and State had led Dr Arnold to equate the Church of England with the nation on its religious side and in his educational work to set about creating in the upper classes a body of men capable of infusing Christian standards into the government of the nation. Matthew Arnold devoted himself to a similar task at a lower social level through his work as educational inspector. In Murry’s view Christianity, with its respect for the individual as made in God’s image, was the indispensable basis for democracy. The only hope of a coherent democratic ideology to rival the appeal of totalitarianism lay in recovering a Christian basis for national education, on which a clerisy could be based. In retrospect Eliot and Murry can be seen as swimming against the tide of democratic ideas which gained force in war-time and swept the Labour party to power in 1945. By then the enthusiasm for social reform seemed to have become universal and to have lost its theological dimension. Was there, then, some Christian significance in the other aspect of ‘democracy’, not as a political ideal, but in its equalizing view of human nature? How might theology, and in particular Christology, respond to the democratizing process? Coleridge himself was not very successful in relating his constructive social ideas to his early devotion to the person of Jesus. He had started from a view of Jesus as a great moral teacher. Then the necessities of his own nature, as sinful yet endowed with Reason, had led him to overlay that picture with the images of Redeemer and Logos. In this process the person of Jesus tended to become detached from a particular social context – in a sense, to become timeless. It did not really matter that the historical Jesus showed the limitations of human knowledge typical of his own age. Those were the deliverances of the Understanding, dependent on the external world, part of the very process of relating to other human lives. The work of the incarnate Logos was to use these human limitations to mediate the life and light of God. But with the passage of time it became possible to ask, How might a tendency towards democratization express itself in the interpretation of the Person of Christ? Christologies which begin with the stress on his divinity are inherently élitist or feudal or paternalistic (though the nineteenth century would not have used those words). At their worst they could suggest a kind of deception in which, like Haroun-al-Raschid, God passes himself off among his subjects as though he were one of them, restraining in an act of supreme condescension the exercise of those powers which never cease to be at his disposal. But an increasingly democratic age would choose instead to begin with Christ’s humanity. Some of its writers also chose to end with his humanity, and created the first portraits of Jesus as a mere man, admirable perhaps but not worshipful. Such was Renan (1823–1892), who saw in place of an ideal being who never existed ‘a glorious countenance full of life and movement’, a completely and admirably human Jesus. It might have been expected that the first theological response among the orthodox in England to the democratizing tendencies of the age would come from the Christian Socialists of the forties and fifties of the nineteenth century, and particularly F.D. Maurice. But here we meet a paradox. On the one hand Maurice sought to find

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 145

DEMOCRATIC VISTAS

135

and express ‘truth for man as man’. He insisted on Christ’s solidarity with suffering humanity. ‘He had not seemed to become like the poorest of you. He had become so.’ Yet on the other hand he asserted in his social teaching the supremacy of relationships as God-given. So for example the family or the nation were to be seen as existent facts which brooked no denial, and as such they were revelations of the divine order. Those God-given relationships included such things as the monarchy and the aristocracy. For him equality and fraternity, though they were ideals which corresponded to God-given realities in human life, must be balanced against other kinds of relationship, no less real and no less God-given. Men were not only brothers; they were also fathers and sons, kings and subjects. That had implications for Christology as well as politics. For Maurice, Christ was above all the Second Adam, the initial realization of a new humanity. But though he was truly identified with the lowliest sufferer in the human race, he was also set apart as humanity’s Head. To say, as Maurice did, that Christ is and always has been the One in whom mankind is created does not do away with the distinctions internal to humanity. It is equally true to say that restored humanity is the Kingdom of Christ, and you cannot have a Kingdom without a King. So Christ is not only the initiator and realizer of a new humanity which is in principle common to all people; he is also the master of all. Perhaps there were in the voluminous compass of Maurice’s writings hints for the making of a kenotic Christology, a Christology of selfemptying. But it never came near to being stated, partly (we may suspect) because of the restraining force of his hierarchical view of human society, and partly because of his lack of interest in the elaboration of dogma. It would, indeed, be hard to show that he wanted to work out a Christology that went beyond the repetition of scriptural phrases. And since he took a very guarded attitude to the idea of democracy, it was not under his influence that democracy came to be so taken for granted that it could act as an idea congenial to theologians. Four years after the first publication of the Communist Manifesto he had written: A king given, an aristocracy given, and I can see my way clearly to call upon them to do the work which God has laid upon them; to repent of their sins, to labour that the whole manhood of the country may have a voice, that every member of Christ’s body may be indeed a free man. But reconstitute society upon the democratic basis – treat the sovereign and the aristocracy as not intended to rule and guide the land, as only holding their commissions from us, and I anticipate nothing but a most accursed, sacerdotal rule or a military despotism, with the great body of the population in either case morally, politically, physically serfs, more than they are at present or ever have been.27 Though known as a Christian Socialist, he sometimes sounds like a Tory democrat. Certainly the development of a kenotic Christology had to wait for further developments in the Christian social movement. In the latter part of the nineteenth century two developments took place which were relevant. First, the democratic ideal gained ground in the Church of England and a watery socialism became broadly acceptable amongst churchmen, as the idiosyncratic Guild of St Matthew faded before the pale pink sunrise of the Christian Social Union.

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

136

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 146

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

The monarchy had become distant and denatured with bourgeois respectability, and the aristocracy had been so diluted with the nouveaux riches of industrialism that it had been virtually replaced by a plutocracy which certainly had no place in Maurice’s scheme of God-given relationships. Secondly, the Maurician and the Tractarian traditions had tended to fuse. It is not obvious that this fusion was any more likely than a fusion of Maurician with evangelical elements. Maurice’s The Kingdom of Christ had ended with an equal appraisal of liberal, Catholic, and evangelical systems as bearing witness to the existence of a Divine Order, and an equal condemnation of each of the three systems as ‘a miserable, partial, human substitute for it’.28 But Maurice was right in detecting a strong tendency to individualism in the evangelical system. That was more inimical to the development of Christian social concern at a time when collectivist ideas were gaining ground than was the tendency of the Catholic system which Maurice characterized as ‘the direct denial of the distinction of National Churches, and the implicit denial of the church as a spiritual body holding a spiritual Head’. Maurice’s criticism of Evangelicalism is more plausible than his criticism of the Catholicism of the Anglo-Catholics. But, for whatever reasons, the revival of the Christian social movement in the last quarter of the nineteenth century owed something to the confluence of the Maurician tradition with the doctrinal interests of the successors of the Tractarians. Of that confluence we may regard Charles Gore as a leading exponent. It is perhaps too much to claim that he owed much to Coleridge, but he certainly knew what Maurice and Hort had written and was closely associated with Westcott. A critical moment in this confluence was the publication of the book, Lux Mundi, which Gore edited. It came out in 1889, with the sub-title: ‘Studies in the Religion of the Incarnation’. The Preface begins: The writers found themselves at Oxford together between the years 1875–1885, engaged in the common work of University education; and compelled for their own sake, no less than that of others, to attempt to put the Catholic faith into its right relation to modern intellectual and moral problems. This ‘right relation’ is neither defined nor discussed. It is simply taken for granted that there is and should be some such relationship and that it is perfectly evident what counts as a right relationship. A consideration of the book as a whole, however, makes it clear that in the authors’ view the same methods of enquiry are applicable to historical and critical questions within the field of theology as would be appropriate to the investigation of similar questions in secular contexts. Indeed that, rather than its specific conclusions, is the reason why the book has historic significance. It stands for freedom of inquiry in matters of theology within the Anglo-Catholic tradition. The importance of this vindication of free inquiry was enhanced by the fact that its writers were expected to be upholders of orthodoxy in a way which was not expected of the earlier group of writers responsible for Essays and Reviews (1860).29 But the admission that secular academic disciplines might set the pace for theologians had implications which the writers do not seem to have recognized. The priority of developments in

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 147

DEMOCRATIC VISTAS

137

secular thought might affect more than the technical methods of enquiry. They might suggest questions, and even answers, about the actual content of the Catholic faith. So indeed it proved. The subject-matter of theology, as well as its techniques, was profoundly affected by the intellectual and moral problems of the nineteenth century, and this effect was to become even more marked in the twentieth. The great movement of ideas to which Darwin’s The Origin of Species gave such a strong stimulus opened new vistas of theological thought concerning God’s creation and his purpose which would have been unintelligible to both sides in the deistic controversy of the eighteenth century. This development had already begun when Lux Mundi was written. Just over the historical horizon was the next great challenge to theology – that of analytical psychology. But the table of contents of Lux Mundi makes practically no concession to this changing agenda. The writers wanted to adopt modern methods to deal with old problems. They were not expecting to refashion the traditional faith of the church, as the liberals hoped to do. But in one instance at least, where they thought they were only applying modern methods to the elucidation of scripture, they were at a more unconscious level responding to the temper of what that book itself called ‘a democratic age’.30 They used the more open methods of contemporary New Testament study to encourage a kenotic Christology better adapted to just such an age. In the Anglican Church Charles Gore, the editor and moving spirit of Lux Mundi, became the best known, and the best, exponent of the kenotic interpretation of the doctrine of incarnation. It was not an entirely new departure. It could claim to go back to the apostolic age, and was grounded, as far as scriptural texts are concerned, on the memorable text in Philippians (2.5-9) which speaks of Christ Jesus as the one who emptied himself (ekenosen) and took the form of a servant. But that passage is more akin to liturgy than systematic theology, and its kenotic possibilities lay dormant through the mediaeval centuries. For those possibilities to come alive, there were two pre-conditions. One, which was fulfilled before the end of the patristic age, was that the Christian church should adopt the formal doctrine of the two natures in Christ. That posed the permanent problem of the relationship between those two natures. Yet the problem did not begin to bear with intolerable weight upon Christian theology so long as one nature was, in practice if not in theory, permitted to dominate the other. The tendency of mediaeval theology, or at least the effect of devotional custom, was to stress the divinity of Christ, and so reduce the humanity to negligible proportions. This could not be done at the theoretical level. It was essential to maintain the full assertion of Christ’s humanity, without which an orthodox doctrine of atonement could not be maintained. That which was not assumed could not have been redeemed. But in practical terms Christ’s humanity counted for little more than the capacity to be born, to suffer and to die. That capacity was necessary for the act of redemption. But when the minimum humanness had been conceded, the rest could be forgotten, and the incarnate Christ could be regarded, for all other purposes, as God and not man. The kenotic implications of Philippians 2 were in hibernation until the second precondition of their revival was fulfilled. That other pre-condition was the adoption of a different view of ‘man’. The recovery of belief in man’s dignity and worth was characteristic of the Renaissance,

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

138

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 148

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

and some theological consequences might have been expected to follow in the Reformation period. But though the Renaissance view of ‘man’ might have adjusted the balance between divinity and humanity in Christ, it would not have predisposed anyone to pick on the text in Philippians as the key to Christology, for its emphasis was on man’s sublimity, not his humiliation. In retrospect, therefore, it seems inevitable that some Lutherans should have taught that even in his human nature Christ was omniscient and almighty. And if Reformed theologians left more room for the real manhood, they saw the kenosis as sufficiently accomplished in the acceptance by the pre-incarnate Son of personal union with the human nature conjoined to him in the incarnation. They did not feel it necessary to carry the process of self-emptying and humiliation into the everyday activities of the Son in his incarnate life. But as the secular world tended towards a greater appreciation of the worth and dignity of the common man, as contrasted with the hero, so the picture of Christ in the Christian imagination needed adjusting from that of a regal figure who submitted to certain human experiences (of birth, suffering and death) because they were necessary moves in the scheme of redemption, to that of a socially commonplace figure whose human limitations operated throughout the years of growth and maturity. It cannot be said that kenotic Christology figures prominently in Lux Mundi. The two essays which include the word incarnation in their titles deal chiefly with matters extraneous to Christology: evolutionary theory and the justification of dogmatic theology. But in his essay on ‘The Holy Spirit and Inspiration’ Gore included a note to the effect that Christ exhibits supernatural insight into men’s characters and lives. But He never exhibits the omniscience of bare Godhead in the realm of natural knowledge; such as would be required to anticipate the results of modern science or criticism. This ‘self-emptying’ of God in the Incarnation is, we must always remember, no failure of power, but a continuous act of Self-sacrifice: cf. 2 Cor. viii.9 and Phil. ii.7. Indeed God ‘declares His almighty power most chiefly’ in this condescension, whereby He ‘beggared Himself ’ of Divine prerogatives to put Himself in our place.31 This self-emptying is to be regarded as a continuous act; and Gore relates the particular question he is discussing – the limitations of Christ’s knowledge – to what he claims as ‘the general method of the Incarnation’. This transforms kenosis from an ingenious device enabling the Son of God to achieve man’s redemption by squeezing through the narrow portals of birth and death, to something more like a reverent and tactful acceptance by the Creator of the burdens of finitude he had imposed in creating ‘man’ in his own image. That is more than Gore actually said. But it is noticeable that a kenotic doctrine which seems to approach the problem by asking how God can, so to speak, contract divinity to fit into a human life, has the inevitable effect of expanding humanity till it becomes itself in some sense worshipful. This happens through the transfer of attention from those attributes of Godhead which will not fit into the human frame to other attributes which can co-exist with human finitude. That is the real significance of the distinction between different kinds

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 149

DEMOCRATIC VISTAS

139

of attributes. It seemed tidy to describe omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence as dispensable or inessential to Godhead because they only come into play through God’s relation to his creation; whereas truth, holiness and love are indispensable to the very being of God. But it is disputable whether omniscience and perfect love can be put into different categories in this way, since both knowledge and love are relational; and if it is argued that love already belongs to the essence of God, as Holy Trinity, apart from creation, the same can also be said of knowledge. The classification may look objective. But if it appeals to us, it may be quite as much because of its implications about our humanity as because of its explicit assertions about our God. It has the emotional recommendation of emphasizing those things of which our humanity is capable through grace. When Gore had developed his exposition of Christology in the earlier Bampton Lectures of 1891, later published as The Incarnation of the Son of God, he had devoted one of the eight lectures to the topic ‘Man revealed in Christ’. In considering the effect of a doctrine which met the problem of the self-emptying of the second person of the Godhead by distinguishing the ‘attributes’ of God and proposing that some might be set aside, he met the question, What is left as a revelation of divinity? His answer was, Love which involves self-effacement. Inevitably he shows us his ideal of manhood in his interpretation of the evidence of scripture, and his ideal of manhood is inevitably conditioned by contemporary society. Christ, he says, exhibits ‘a true example of manhood – tried, progressive, perfected’.32 Or again, It is physical power which makes itself felt only in self-assertion and pressure; it is the higher power of love which is shown in self-effacement. The power to think one’s self into another’s thoughts, to look through another’s eyes, to feel with another’s feelings, to merge one’s self in another’s interests, – this is the higher power, the power of love.33 When he comes to enumerate some points in which Christ is unlike ourselves, the unlikeness resides in achieving what Gore saw that he had tried and failed to achieve, not in having quite different objectives. ‘None of His faculties were disordered, there was no loose or un-governed movement in His nature, no movement save under the control of His will.’34 Gore fully recognized that different ages and different races had been able to find their true ideal in Jesus, and that each one marvelled at the blindness of others to what it valued especially. He did not, however, carry this thought so far as to relate different interpretations of Christ’s humanity to different sub-cultures within a particular society. He seems here to attribute to contemporary society at large the particular ethos of his own background and education when he writes: We in our time… have learnt to give great prominence to the virtue of considerateness. The rough and summary classifications of men in groups, the equally rough and summary condemnations of them, the inconsiderate treatment of heretics and even of speculators, these facts in Church history strike us as painful and unworthy. Considerateness, we say, is a Christian virtue.

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

140

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 150

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

‘Let your considerateness be known unto all men’. We look back to our Lord, and are astonished that any can have failed to see His intense respect for individuality, His freedom from fanaticism, in a word His considerateness.35 Here is the best side of that so-called public school ethos which showed up clearly in the early days of the 1914–18 war, and which virtually perished in the first battle of the Somme. It is a matter of social history as well as theology that ‘in the twenty years from 1890 to 1910 the subject [sc. the kenotic theory] had a prominence such as it never had in English theology before or since’.36 It is not by any means here suggested that we can explain the theological development in terms of social history. Indeed Dr Ramsey, in the passage quoted, suggests reasons for the prominence of kenotic Christology at that particular time which are purely theological, or at least ecclesiastical. The proper conclusion is more likely to be that theology has its own independent course of development; but from time to time other developments, whether social or intellectual, call into prominence particular theological emphases. So at a particular period in the development of English society democratic ideals and tendencies called into prominence a particular approach to Christology. Yet the limitations of contemporary democracy were quite as evident as its achievements. It was, we may say, democracy by permission of an aristocracy. If social relationships were to some extent sweetened by the ‘considerateness’ of men with an aristocratic background like Charles Gore, that considerateness could easily change into condescension in its worst sense. That, too, is matched at the theological level by a kenotic Christology. Gore is indeed aware that Christianity is open to the criticism of presenting a God who pauperizes man. He recognizes that Christians have given an excuse to the kind of critic who has represented the grace, which Christianity proclaims, as an arbitrary or even demoralizing action of divine benevolence.37 He is here considering, not Christology, but the nature of God as one whose actions are not despotic or arbitrary, but consistent with the law of perfect reason, which is his own very being. He suggests a number of reasons, some purely theological, others more sociological, why God has sometimes been wrongly regarded as an unfettered monarch.38 But like some of those who suggest what may have determined the opinions of other people, he does not stop to ask what may have formed his own. The kenotic interpretation of Christology is, therefore, presented as if it were simply the product of honest, critical study of the New Testament. But the mind which pursues this study is itself embedded in a social context. It cannot help responding more readily to some things which it sees than to others. Its theological vision is inevitably selective. There were plenty of theological critics of a kenotic Christology. Their arguments are summarized in Dr Ramsey’s discussion of the incarnation and kenosis. Some thought it would lead to theories of gradual development in the incarnate life from a de-potentiated phase to the full repossession of divine prerogatives. Others argued that it threatened the divine impassibility. William Temple asked what was happening to the rest of the universe while the Creative Word was so self-emptied as to have no being except in the Infant Jesus. Hastings Rashdall doubted whether ‘such a colossal loss of memory’ in the Son was consistent with anything which could be called personal identity. Such criticisms assume that all theological doctrines must be coherent with

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 151

DEMOCRATIC VISTAS

141

each other. It seems an obvious assumption to make, and yet perhaps it should be questioned, just as we should question the demand that a poet’s work should present a unified picture of the world he experiences. If we find that a kenotic Christology has something valuable to say about the incarnation, at least in devotional terms, we need not reject it wholly because it is difficult to integrate with other equally valid insights. ‘From an intellectual standpoint Gore’s theory is riddled with difficulties, but from a moral and devotional perspective it has vast appeal.’39 The motives for achieving an integrated doctrinal scheme have been as much ecclesiastical and disciplinary as philosophical or theological. As soon as we bring doctrinal issues into the realm of worship it becomes difficult to demand coherence. To look through any hymn book in current use with a doctrinally critical eye is to face incompatibilities. Each hymn represents a moment of experience in the life of the writer. It is unnecessary for every singer to be expected to subscribe personally to every word. All that is required to justify using hymns, and indeed the Psalter, is recognizing the varied richness of the total Christian inheritance and trying to empathize with the writer. So perhaps we should be content if our doctrines are held together by that blessed word ‘complementarity’, and bound loosely to a simple credal core. Be that as it may, there are other questions to ask which are prompted by Gore’s kenotic Christology. Was it merely the product of a particular phase in the development of English society? If so, do we have to pass on to a further stage in the development of theology? Must we do that whenever the structures of society change, rejecting everything that evidently corresponds to a phase of social development which can never return? But then our own phase will never return either, and what we are saying about social structures today will be made obsolete merely with the lapse of time. Discussion of the social conditioning of kenotic Christology should not be a prologue to scepticism about all interpretations of the incarnation. Gore’s ideal of considerateness is of permanent value, to be set alongside other attempts to interpret the divine presence in the life of Jesus. The possible outcome of the attempt to relate theology to its context is the acceptance of an accumulative model for theology, no less than society. In the study of any society we need to take into account its sedimentary layers. Even revolution cannot entirely obliterate all trace of the past. Theology, too, is a sedimentary deposit. Its continuities are even more obvious than those of social organisms, because it never wholly repudiates its past. In theology revolution itself is justified by appeals to a real or imagined golden age conceived as the norm and criterion for present decisions. So Gore’s Christological doctrine, which was certainly regarded as revolutionary by many of his contemporaries, was presented as a more careful exposition of texts from scripture. He did not stress its connection with contemporary social attitudes. Nor did he acknowledge how closely some of its elements corresponded to his own humane interpretation of a particular ethos of condescending service characteristic of a particular social class. Years afterwards, when he came to deliver the Halley Stewart Lectures in 1927, under the title Christ and Society, he saw how the democratization of society had developed further, to a point where it seemed to be in conflict with the aristocratic element in Christianity.

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

142

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 152

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

If we can imagine someone inspired with the modern democratic spirit as it commonly appears, listening to Jesus as he taught in Galilee, it is obvious that sometimes he would have heard what would give him unfeigned satisfaction. But the satisfaction would have been soon checked and perhaps turned into resentment. For modern democracy, as Walt Whitman said, ‘The average man of the land at last only is important’, and the rights of man as man are its theme. But he would quickly perceive that Jesus Christ would not take men as He found them: he was creating a sort of spiritual aristocracy in the world.40 The phrase from Whitman’s essay, Democratic Vistas, had evidently impressed Gore, since he took it somewhat out of context and quoted it twice in the same series of lectures. Whitman had written it years before, in 1870. In England it may have needed the impact of the 1914–18 war to bring it alive, and certainly Gore’s words give the impression that he had only recently been reading what he calls ‘Walt Whitman’s eloquent essay’. He saw its relevance to the statement of a Christian ideal for social life. The essential meaning of democracy Whitman found to lie in the refusal to recognize a privileged class, whose position can be maintained only by the enslavement or exploitation of others. ‘The average man of a land at last only is important.’ But if it were nothing but this, democracy would prove to be nothing but a ‘levelling down’ rather than a levelling up of humanity. The equalizing process needs to be counterbalanced by the development in all its infinite variety of the strength of personality. And the ultimate test of any democracy is to be found in the demand that in its organization of society it shall so truly grant equality of opportunity to all who are born into its citizenship as to encourage and enable them freely to develop the fullest richness of personality of which they are capable, or, more briefly, to make the best of themselves.41 The importance of the average must not preclude the encouragement of all that is excellent. Here Gore and Whitman could agree, though Whitman’s purely individualistic view of religion (‘the noiseless operation of one’s isolated self ’42) could not have satisfied Gore. The Christian ideal for society required some reconciliation of the demands of equality and individuality. He saw the need to put Catholic social teaching ‘into its right relation’ (as the Preface to Lux Mundi had said) to contemporary social developments. It is too much to expect that he would also have considered the possible implications of a more thorough-going democratic ideal for the interpretation of the Person of Christ which would eliminate all traces of spiritual aristocracy. Since his day that ideal has elicited from theologians claiming some kind of orthodoxy various descriptions of a Jesus whose divinity consists simply in the fulness of his humanity. So we have moved from the Haroun-el-Raschid figure of a docetic Christ, through the mediating picture of a kenotic Son of God who really suffers, to the figure of a superman, a man par excellence, whose divinity consists in fulfilling completely the potentiality of the image of God which is impressed on all men. That which makes Christ a man among men, suitable for the so-called age of the common man, is also that which makes him God among men. The final step in that direction would be to

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 153

DEMOCRATIC VISTAS

143

claim that error, perhaps even in the form of sin, is what makes people human, and so Christ could not have been perfect, perhaps could not have been sinless, if he was to realize man’s full potential. In the present generation the absurdities of The Da Vinci Code have fed upon the current obsession with fulfilment through sexual intercourse and have produced the condescending response that it would be a pity to deny Jesus the warmth of a woman’s affection. By this stage we are so far away from traditional Christianity that it would only be confusing for anyone holding such a view to claim to be Christian. But there is some value in pursuing the idea of democratizing Christology, if not to its ultimate. That value lies in emphasizing two points, one of which has already been mentioned. First, the work of theology should be taken as accumulative. So whatever truth there may be in the ultimate ‘democratization’ of the Person of Christ does not invalidate the truth already perceived in the more ‘élitist’ kenotic Christology. They are, to use a metaphor already suggested, two different poems written by the Christian community about the same subject. It might be helpful if a critic could somehow produce a theoretical integration of their meanings; but it is not necessary, and it would not increase our appreciation of the beauty of each poem to any significant degree. Above all, we should gain nothing from denigrating those who prefer poems which do not greatly appeal to us. If we become more aware of the social determinants of other people’s theology, we should also become more aware of the social determinants of our own, and heresy hunts, formal and informal, would cease. The second valuable outcome of considering the democratization of Christology is that it reacts upon our understanding of society, and theology becomes a criterion of social ideals. If, carried to its ultimate, a tendency of thought leads to the apotheosis of ordinariness, the warning signals are out. The idolization of the average is no better than any other idolatry. Human dignity can only be asserted if we also condemn human degradation. Even for Walt Whitman the fulfilment of democracy involved the deliberate cultivation of each person’s own particular excellence, not acquiescence in shoddy ordinariness. That kind of ideal was only discernible at the end of a ‘democratic vista’. In the same way the truth in the ‘common man’ Christology is only discernible as an ideal, or distant hope. The word ‘common’ is itself a snare. It can suggest a minimum, a tedious commonplaceness. But to the eye of faith it may raise up a vision of transfiguration, the real glory of God-given humanity. Paul saw that vision and anticipated the time when we shall all come ‘in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ’.43 A Christology of emptying, of kenosis, cannot stand without a Christology of fulfilment, of pleroma.

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 154

9 Towards the Future

In the second half of the nineteenth century two general tendencies found a response in the theological – and specifically the Christological – field. One was the social tendency towards democratization, which has already been considered. The other was the intellectual tendency to interpret experience in evolutionary categories. The focus of intellectual interest shifted away from ideas of static order towards ideas of continuous process. In different disciplines the time-scales were different. The new sense of historical change required a scale of centuries. Ideas of evolution required at least millennia. Soon people were expected to accept unimaginable aeons for the development of the universe. When the theologian sat down at his desk, or got up in his pulpit, to expound the truth as he saw it for his own generation, perhaps the idea of progress was not in the forefront of his mind; but the cultural environment in which he lived would encourage certain lines of theological thought which were in tune with those secular assumptions. This was particularly true of those who maintained, one way or another, that God’s concern was with the world rather than merely with the church. For the non-specialist the details were not important. What was significant was the vision of the continuous production of new things; and one could not help thinking these new things were somehow better. They certainly were better if they survived; for survival was what all existence was fighting for. That attitude, whether logically defensible or not, was intuitively adopted by those who grew up with the idea of evolutionary development, and it changed the way they saw religion, too. In his maturity Coleridge was not enamoured of the idea of progress. His youthful intoxication with hopes of ‘science, freedom and the truth of Christ’ belonged to the first days of his friendship with Southey and Wordsworth. He did not lose these hopes, but as he watched events in France and saw revolution turning to terror and then to dictatorship, hopes of a political transformation faded, and he sustained his residual optimism with schemes of education. This change was denounced by Hazlitt and others as a traitorous dereliction. But it was in fact a return to a deeper element in his mental universe: his Platonism. For whatever fascination he felt with the surface of 144

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 155

TOWARDS THE FUTURE

145

experience through his acute capacity to observe and record the external world, it only overlaid a deeper concern with eternal verities. It might be said that he was in this being faithful to the Johannine element in the New Testament, in which events are presented as both actual and significant. Fact and significance are inextricably united. But the significance, it may be suspected, has shaped the telling. As a young man he wrote to the political agitator, John Thelwall: ‘I do not like History. Metaphysics & Poetry, & Facts of Mind… are my darling studies.’1 In old age he was heard to say I have read all the famous histories, and, I believe, some history of every country and nation that is, or ever existed; but I never did so for the story itself as a story. The only thing interesting to me was the principles to be evolved from, and illustrated by the facts. After I had gotten my principles, I pretty generally left the facts to take care of themselves.2 Perhaps he did himself an injustice. His extensive journalism shows that he was capable of a close analysis of current affairs; and in that work facts undoubtedly counted. In reading about the past, he wanted original documents. He wanted to put texts in context. He deplored the way readers of the latest writings, those of Locke for example, forgot what was good about the past.3 In any case, he was dismissive of Locke’s claim to originality. But certainly his priorities were elsewhere. His method depended on establishing the facts sufficiently to be able to interpret their significance for the use of the present. In one of his marginal jottings he said: The difference between a great mind’s and a little mind’s Use of History – The Latter would consider, for instance, what Luther did, taught, or sanctioned: the former, what Luther, a Luther, would now do, teach, or sanction.4 History, then, however interesting in itself, was a textbook for the future; just as the Bible was ‘The Statesman’s Manual’. Past, present and future were linked to each other by historical continuities. Not to be progressive was, in Coleridge’s view, to be retrograde. Hope, which is not only a human instinct but also an indispensable condition of moral and intellectual progression, led the mind forward into the unknown. In doing so, it was necessary to develop a true historical feeling for the immortal life of an historical Nation, generation linked to generation by faith, freedom, heraldry, and ancestral fame, languishing and giving place to superstitions of wealth, and newspaper reputation.5 Coleridge was clear that there was no inevitable progress to a better future. When his early hopes of progress towards a free and equal society faltered, he looked for another kind of progress. It could not satisfy him to accept things as they were. Providence, he said, had distinguished us from other orders of being by the progressiveness of our nature. It had given mankind the restless faculty of imagination.6 Valuing good things from the past should not prevent our looking forward to the future. In society there

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

146

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 156

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

needed to be a balance between permanence and progression. In the scheme of a balanced society which he sketched in On the Constitution of Church and State the progressiveness of the mercantile interest and the conservative influence of the landed interest were to be held in balance by the intellectual element in society which he called the clerisy. He acknowledged that this was not presented as an actual description or even a programme for the future, which is why he wrote of church and state ‘according to the idea of each’. For Coleridge, an ‘idea’ was that conception of a thing, which is not abstracted from any particular state, form, or mode, in which the thing may happen to exist at this or at that time; nor yet generalized from any number or succession of such forms or modes; but which is given by the knowledge of its ultimate aim. Progress should not, therefore, be seen to change the ultimate aim of freedom within a balanced society, but rather as the progressive realization of its true nature. It would be wrong to imagine that this progress was inevitable or linear; the onward movement might be in cycles. Sometimes Coleridge felt that it was an act of heroism ‘to believe in the progressiveness of all nature, during the present melancholy state of humanity’.7 Even when he considered the condition of the church, where progress might be expected to take place through obedience to God’s will, he could not escape doubts. The Reformation had brought a measure of freedom from the kind of priestly obscurantism he had found, and detested, in Malta and Italy; but his admiration for the divines of the seventeenth century made him wonder at the thin theology of a later age. He compared the ‘manhood’ of the preaching of Donne and his contemporaries with the ‘feeble dotage of the Paleyan school, the “natural” theology, or watchmaking scheme, that knows nothing of the maker but what can be proved out of the watch’. He reflected on the crowded congregations of an earlier age who heard hour-long sermons with intense interest, and could not help doubting ‘the fact of any true progression, moral or intellectual, in the mind of the many’.8 The state of theology and the quality of preaching were not irrelevant to the general question of progress. When Coleridge had lost his early revolutionary hopes for society, he came to see the hope of progress as dependent on the intellectual progress of humanity as a whole, and that in its turn as dependent on the genius of a few individuals. ‘At all events, a certain number of speculative minds is necessary to a cultivated state of society, as a condition of its progressiveness.’9 And something more was required. As F.J.A. Hort said, he had learnt from Lessing and Herder the philosophical value of history, ‘the summed experience of the human race in all the stages of its marvellous education’.10 That must include its religious experience and, for Coleridge, a religion not revealed was a contradiction in terms. There must be more than the unaided human mind could discover from history, a revelation to which the human mind could respond. Progress must be by a double process of education: the discoveries of science matched by its philosophical understanding. Education for the future was a theme of many writers and thinkers of the new historically-minded age. It was a central conviction of Thomas Erskine that the

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 157

TOWARDS THE FUTURE

147

traditional idea of human life as a time of probation must be replaced by one of education. There are few religious phrases that have had such a power of darkening men’s minds as to their true relation to God, as the phrase that we are here in a state of probation – under trial, as it were. We are not in a state of trial: we are in a process of education directed by that eternal purpose of love which brought us into being. It is impossible to have a true confidence in God whilst we feel ourselves in a state of trial: we must necessarily regard him not as a Father but as a Judge.11 Here is a significant alteration from ‘state’ to ‘process’. Erskine did not try to describe the process in detail; but others did. The general notion of development had been in the air for a good while already. You did not have to agree with the details of grand dreams and visions of the future to believe that now at last the real clue had been discovered which explained a universal process, leading from simpler beginnings to an ever more complex future. Even in biology scientists could hardly avoid using valueladen terms as they spoke of the evolution of ‘higher’ forms from ‘lower’ organisms. Once the discourse moved from the scientific arena, where value-free objectivity was at least in theory supreme, it was inevitable that the self-confidence and optimism of the Victorian age should give free rein to ideas of progress, continuous and irresistible, which placed the ideal of human destiny, not in some past golden age, but in the dimly discerned golden future. That was characteristic of romantic ideas which were having some influence on writers in Britain. If there was a process, it was difficult to resist the temptation to work out its various stages. One of those who did so was F.W. Robertson. In 1850 he used the idea of progress in a Whitsunday sermon, which he began with the words, ‘According to a view which contains a profound truth, the ages of the world are divisible into three dispensations, presided over by the Father, the Son, and the Spirit’. The occasion of the sermon determined its contents, as a presentation of the gifts of the spirit. But there is an unspoken background to this. Robertson was familiar with some contemporary German writings, and published in 1851 a translation of Lessing’s Education of the Human Race. ‘That which Education is to the individual, Revelation is to the Race.’ He did not mean to endorse everything that Lessing said; certainly not the hints at reincarnation as a continuation of the process of education, nor the idea that revelation was just a speeding up of the process of learning. But he, like Erskine, had become dissatisfied with the traditional evangelical view of human life as a time of probation, and expressed the combination of the ideas of progress and education which were common at the time. He was happy to find in Lessing’s short essay words like these: It will assuredly come! the time of the perfecting, when man, the more convinced his understanding feels itself of an ever better Future, will nevertheless not be necessitated to borrow motives of action from this Future; for he will do the Right because it is right, not because arbitrary rewards are annexed thereto,

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

148

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 158

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

which formerly were intended simply to fix and strengthen his unsteady gaze in recognizing the inner, better, rewards of well-doing.12 Hopes for the future seemed best encouraged by drawing a parallel between the individual and the human race, and that suggested the phases of childhood, youth and approaching maturity, which had commended themselves also to Coleridge. He hoped he might show ‘how it pleased Providence to educate the earliest period of the Human Race, then its Youth, and lastly if not its Manhood yet the preparation for its Manhood’.13 There is a note of caution here. Manhood has not yet been achieved, but only the preparation for it. And it is not easy to see exactly how Coleridge was trying to relate the stages of growth to his other model, of a polarity between ‘the Greeks as the Ideal Pole and the Romans as the Real’ with the Hebrew nation as ‘the primary or mid point from which both were produced’. These are jottings in his notebook, thoughts flashing through his fertile mind, not to be read as a fully worked out scheme. He himself almost dismisses them: ‘It is but a Simile’. It was hard to see the development of humankind as a linear movement towards an ideal society; even within the limited scope of European history which is all he, and others, took into account in framing their schemes. But at least, he thought, there might be progress in the best and highest reaches of understanding and imagination. The organic metaphor of growth from childhood to maturity appealed to a wide variety of thinking people as historical studies and scientific advance demanded a revision of established attitudes in biblical interpretation and Paleyan apologetic. Among them the future bishop and archbishop, Frederick Temple, added his voice to the chorus. He was above all an educationalist. After a distinguished career at Oxford and a Fellowship at Balliol, he had held a number of positions under the Committee of Council on Education, and then moved to the Headmastership of Rugby School. In 1860 he edited and contributed the first essay to Essays and Reviews, one of the most notoriously successful religious books of the middle of the nineteenth century. His contribution was entitled ‘The Education of the World’. His scheme was not unlike Lessing’s, in that he drew a parallel between the stages of childhood, youth and maturity and the stages of God’s dealings with humanity, by law, by example, and by the spirit or conscience. This may be part of his inheritance from Coleridge, some of whose writings he had known at Oxford. The book as a whole drew down upon it the execrations of orthodox believers of various kinds, though Temple was not the chief object of their criticisms. But he took his stand, then and later in life, on the need to maintain the freedom of religious opinion. That included, along with approval of scientific discoveries, the validity of biblical criticism. For him, as for Erskine, the supreme elements of the religious life were morality and reason, as they were also for Coleridge. If there was a case for seeing development in human history, it must be in these areas. It was not only, or even mainly, within Christian circles that this kind of developmental interpretation of human history was going on. The most influential of those who tried to interpret development and progress in the mid-century was Auguste Comte, whose major work had been translated into English by Harriet Martineau in 1853 with the title The System of Positive Polity. It was widely read in academic circles and

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 159

TOWARDS THE FUTURE

149

was taken seriously by some Christian writers, in spite of some absurdities, like the attempt to create a new religion from the study desk, or his apotheosis of woman in the person of his friend Clothilde de Vaux.14 Comte, too, offered a picture of historical development in three stages, but for him they were categories of ideas: the theological, the metaphysical, and the positive. This over-view of history was considered carefully and criticized, within the Coleridgean tradition, by both F.D. Maurice and B.F. Westcott. Maurice discussed it at length in his 1868 Cambridge lectures which were republished as Social Morality. It was characteristic of him that he looked for what was good in Comte, and also that he did so by restating in his own words what he criticized. Comte, he said, had ‘explained to our generation the desire of former teachers to build up a Universal Society, and a Morality which should be adapted to it; their eagerness to associate this Human Society and Human Morality with physical studies; their impatience of theology’. Comte had forced theologians to admit that ‘if what we have called the Kingdom of Heaven is not concerned about the reformation or regeneration of the earth… we have been walking in a dream, or have been deliberately imposing a lie upon our fellow creatures.’ Moreover Comtists ‘suppose the human characteristic, that which they are to strive for because it is human, to be not selfishness but love; only when each man seeks not his own interest, but the interest of the whole society, is he truly human. … Great as the intellect is, it must bow to the heart’.15 That was all to the good. But Positivism had a fatal defect, in Maurice’s eyes. It calls us to ‘believe in Humanity, but a headless Humanity’. It is to be adored in our fellow-creatures, and so provides ‘the most clear and complete Philosophy of Idolatry that exists in the world’. The counter to that idolatry was Christology. Westcott also, like Maurice, was always trying to find positive things to say about those from whom he differed. He wanted to welcome some elements in Positivism. He said that though he differed profoundly in fundamental beliefs from Comte, nevertheless reading his works had in unexpected ways illuminated the apostolic gospel.16 Positivism, he said, was ‘more in harmony with a historic religion than any other philosophy’ and ‘had vindicated the social dimension’. A historic religion is one which is based on outward events and verified by personal experience and by social development. Any doctrine which is based upon the incarnation or the resurrection must be progressive, organic and total, as Positivism also aims to be. But a perfect religion must take account of three entities: the individual, the world, and God. The Comtist omits God. Evangelical religion omits the world; and not only the evangelical religion. Westcott remembered Newman’s phrase about ‘two only supreme and luminously self-evident beings, myself and my Creator’.17 He believed that a full awareness in any human being ought to include the recognition of the greater human context into which everyone enters from birth.18 Positivism was incomplete in dismissing the idea of God as transcendent and substituting the worship of a deified humanity. But it had the merit of considering humanity as a whole, and describing a forward movement in human thought. The context of Westcott’s theology included both the social tendency towards democratization and the intellectual tendency to interpret experience in developmental categories. Both tendencies affected Christology. On the one hand, it seemed right to emphasize the humanity of Jesus. Erskine and Robertson did so, in their different ways.

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

150

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 160

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

So also did Charles Gore with his kenotic Christology. On the other hand, it seemed right to throw the emphasis forward to some future culmination of a process which had begun in the past but was not yet complete. Interest in the historic Jesus must not become so dominant as to exclude him from the forward movement of the human race. Westcott, therefore developed a theology in which the idea of ‘pleroma’, or fulfilment, was an important element. It was set out particularly in a series of sermons preached in Westminster Abbey in 1885, subsequently gathered together in a book with the significant title, Christus Consummator. He believed the incarnation was always the intended plan of God, whether or not the fall of man had necessitated the redemptive purpose it actually achieved. The particular conditions of the incarnation were determined by humanity’s fallen state, but that did not fundamentally alter the purpose of God or humanity’s ultimate destination. That had also been declared by F.D. Maurice, though on this point his teaching was to some extent equivocal. His favourite appeal was to the Fourth Gospel, which tends to subsume redemption under incarnation, and sacrificial death under life-giving life. But this can have the effect of making every incident contain the meaning of the whole story, and the idea of development is then difficult to sustain. He was, indeed, largely untouched by critical studies of the Bible and happy to read the same lessons in, or into, every part of it. Moreover his dominant category of ‘relationships’ supported a basically static view of society. For him, the task of the Christian in social or political life was to realize a God-given, and therefore in some sense unchanging, pattern of relationships rather than to create new types of relationship as society evolved. This was close to Coleridge’s view that history witnessed recurrent examples of the embodiment of fundamental ‘ideas’. For Westcott the divinity of the Logos, or Word of God, lay in the total adaptation of a human life to the revelation of the divine purpose, not in the idea of an ‘inherent nature’ which had to be fitted into the narrow confines of humanness. He set out the meaning of the incarnation in various analogies. One was as the crown of the original purpose of creation. Here he was consciously responding to what he described as that striving after some kind of unity which had been stirred by a novel sense of the connection of human beings with each other and with the material world. He argued that believers needed to pay attention to ‘unrecognised aspects of the Incarnation’: The forces of nature, so to speak, are revealed to us in the Bible as gathered together and crowned in man, and the diversities of men are gathered together in the Son of man; and so we are encouraged to look forward to the end, to a unity of which every imaginary unity on earth is a phantom or symbol, when the will of the Father shall be accomplished. The divinity of Christ, then, was to be understood partly in his unique relation to God’s total purpose. It must be interpreted by a reverent contemplation of the whole story of creation. We should thankfully receive the insight into God’s purposes which evolutionary theory makes available to us. The incarnation was also the fulfilment of the destiny of humankind. Even if there had been no ‘fall’, the Word in becoming a human being would have taken to himself ‘humanity with its immeasureable obligations, life with its untold temptations and

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 161

TOWARDS THE FUTURE

151

sorrows’. To become a man meant entering into a real relationship with all humankind. That, he believed, was freshly intelligible through the growing sense of social unity. In a sermon preached in 1885 he said: Fifty years ago the term ‘solidarity’ and the idea which it conveys were alike strange and unknown… It was then fashionable to regard a state as an aggregation of individuals bound together by considerations of interest or pleasure. But we have now learnt in some degree, and we are learning better from year to year… that the family, the nation, the race, are living wholes which cannot be broken up by any effort of individual will. In this context the idea of vicarious suffering ceased to be ‘arbitrary, fictitious, unnatural, external in human relationships’. It expressed ‘the highest energy of love’, which took and transfigured another’s sorrows. Because the fall was a reality, the incarnation meant not only sympathy and support, but forgiveness, redemption, and reconciliation. The divinity of Christ included his unique ability to fulfil God’s redemptive purpose, which was, in a sense, only a special application of his purpose in creation. To say that the incarnation was the ‘crown’ or the ‘fulfilment’ was enough to embrace all development before Christ. Westcott, however, went on to claim that the same divine purpose was operative in all that happened afterwards. It was ‘a new creation of the world’ which would culminate in the transformation of humanity, and that would be reflected in ‘the larger realm of Nature’. The vital unity of nature which was demonstrated in one way by evolutionary studies would be demonstrated in another way by the participation of everything non-human in the transformation of humankind. Our present understanding of all that prepared for humanity’s coming must be put together with the revelation in Christ of humanity’s future potentialities. ‘The progress of the past is the sign and not the measure of that which shall be when the glory of the sons of God shall be reflected by the scene of their finished labour’. All this was contained in Paul’s remarkable assertion that ‘the whole creation groans and travails’, waiting for the revelation of the children of God. Although that might seem an isolated assertion, it fell in with ‘the entire scope of scripture’, and at last its meaning had been clarified by the discovery of the process of evolution. ‘The characteristic thoughts of an age become articulate voices through the living interpretation of the Spirit.’ Westcott was here claiming that dogma can take new dimensions when viewed in the context of the general development of social thought and our understanding of the processes at work in the ‘natural world’, as we call it. His case rested upon history and present experience. The life of Jesus, as a matter of historical fact, was the occasion of a new revelation. The believing community did, as a matter of historical fact, respond to Jesus by claiming that God’s purpose for all humankind was seen in him. That insight was available to believers in every age as a motive for present action. But it needed to be interpreted by responding to ‘the characteristic thoughts of an age’. If the dominant categories of thought were those of development and purpose, they should be applied to incarnational theology. How else could the Author of all be present in his creation except by a disclosure of his whole

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

152

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 162

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

purpose? In Christ the creation became aware of its own meaning. That was incarnation. And incarnation is being fulfilled as humanity wakes up and sets itself to achieve its own appointed destiny. That would be another coming of Christ; but you could not say of it ‘Lo, here!’ or ‘Lo, there!’ The whole process was divinely intended, and its goal could not be achieved anywhere without being achieved everywhere. Westcott was not alone in adopting the idea of development to the uses of Christology. One of the contributory essays in Lux Mundi, by J.R. Illingworth, was given the title ‘The Incarnation and Development’. He wrote: In scientific language the Incarnation may be said to have introduced a new species into the world – a Divine man transcending past humanity as humanity transcended the rest of the animal creation, and communicating His vital energy by a spiritual process to subsequent generations of men.19 The essay contains only the barest outline of a ‘developmental Christology’. But it is significant that it appears in a volume of studies in the religion of the incarnation rather than a religion of redemption. There are schemes of theology which, in emphasizing the once-for-all aspect of salvation in Christ, inevitably tend to be backward-looking. Human history stands as a sort of post-script to God’s action in the historic Jesus. To a certain extent this is countered by emphasis on the ‘second coming’, although that itself tends to imply a lack of interest in the intervening period of human history. A developmental Christology must place the incarnation rather than the atonement at the centre of the theological scheme. As natural selection goes on all the time, so the purpose of God must be present in the whole process and not just in a supremely significant moment in the past. The incarnate Christ must be one who guarantees the future; who not only redeems, but progressively fulfils. The truth in a ‘common man’ Christology had to be matched by an ultimate hope, when we all come ‘in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ’ (Ephesians 4.13). There self-emptying is to be matched by fulfilling; kenosis must be matched by pleroma. There are questions to be asked about this kind of theology. Does history really have any meaning? Does evolution have a purpose, at least at the point at which it becomes self-conscious in humanity, which seems to develop the capacity to take it over and give it a particular slant? Is the figure of Christ relevant to human planning? If all these questions are given a negative answer, Westcott’s exposition of incarnation can only be an interesting example of the peril of interpreting theology by reference to ‘the characteristic thoughts of an age’. It may also look as though the consummation envisaged by Westcott approximates to a type of religious communism ushered in by an inevitable historical process. The salvation of the individual loses its centrality. But history is not just about the free and classless society or an ecological utopia. It also justifies itself in every moment in which truth or beauty or goodness flowers in the desert of sin. A creative theology will acknowledge both that the Christological doctrine of Westcott has some sort basis in the New Testament, and at the same time that the biblical writers knew nothing of evolution. The relevant texts in Ephesians may be incidental to the mainstream of New Testament thought, an eddy rather than

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 163

TOWARDS THE FUTURE

153

a current. But they are there, and they show that the idea of fulfilment, of ‘pleroma’, which frequently recurs in the New Testament, was open to development in a fertile mind interpreting the Christian message. It has a right to be part of the accumulation of doctrine. So far these theologians of the mid-nineteenth century were responding to progress in the general sense of development, of which scientific advance was a significant element. But one aspect of that advance posed particular questions to theology: the evolutionary scheme worked out by Wallace and Darwin. It was not a new challenge. Coleridge had already exemplified the conflict between an enthusiasm for science in general and a critical view of some of its possible implications. His friendship with, and admiration for, Humphry Davy aroused a positive delight in scientific experiment. He could even say, ‘I love chemistry’. This was just part of his love of exploring the unknown. At a deeper level his life-long search for a principle of unity in all experience led him to assert that ‘falsities of physical science’ in past centuries produced ‘corresponding warps in the theological systems and dogmas of the several periods’.20 Science, then, was only inimical to theology when it was itself false. But it must not be overlooked that the fundamental premises of both science and theology were accessible only to the Reason and could not be demonstrated by the Understanding. Coleridge followed Kant in distinguishing between the ‘pure’ sciences of mathematics and geometry, which were dependent on knowledge presupposed a priori by reason itself, and other sciences, such as physics, biology or chemistry, which were based on observation and were vulnerable to disproof.21 In considering the relation between the varieties of animate creature Coleridge did not have to consider the form of evolutionary theory which was developed after his death; but his response to Erasmus Darwin’s earlier scheme of evolution, which he called ‘the Ouran Outan theory’, was hostile. He observed with imaginative sympathy the ascending complexity of the creation. Considering the natural world, he launched into a poetic apostrophe: Who, that hath watched their ways with an understanding heart could contemplate the filial and loyal Bee, the home-building, wedded and divorceless Swallow; and above all the manifoldly intelligent Ant-tribes with their Commonwealths and Confederacies, their Warriors and Miners, their Husband-folk, that fold in their tiny flocks on the honeyed leaf, and their Virgin Sisters with the holy instincts of Maternal Love,… and not say to himself, Behold the shadow of approaching Humanity.22 There was a continuous ascent in ‘the great chain of being’, but the higher was not explicable in terms of the lower. At each stage something new emerged which was a discontinuous fulfilment of what was adumbrated before. He stood in the long tradition of those who, at least from the time of the Cambridge Platonists, were astonished at the complexity of animate life and could not believe in the accidental emergence of the higher from the lower. It was not the result of a ‘fortuitous mechanism’. There must be a guiding providence. The work of Charles Darwin put the process in a different frame. There is no way of knowing how Coleridge might have responded to it. He would surely not have

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

154

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 164

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

abandoned his foundation belief in the distinctiveness of the human reason and imagination. But that was not the only basic belief he would not surrender. He also rejected the notion that the process of ascent to higher stages in the order of being was simply the result of natural striving. And here once for all I beg leave to remark that I attach neither belief nor respect to the Theory, which supposes the human Race to have been gradually perfecting itself from the darkest Savagery, or still more boldly tracing us back to the bestial as our Larva, contemplates Man as the last metamorphosis, the gay Image, of some lucky species of Ape or Baboon. Of the two hypotheses I should, indeed, greatly prefer the Lucretian of the Parturiency of our Mother Earth, some score thousand years ago, when the venerable Elder was yet in her Teens, and her human Litter sucked the milk then oozing from countless Breasts of warm and genial Mud.23 It was not humble origin that worried him, but self-improvement. There is a succession of theological writers, directly or indirectly indebted to much of his thought, who had no difficulty in welcoming The Origin of Species. Among them were F.J.A. Hort, Charles Raven, and John Oman. Each of them carried on the succession, begun in the seventeenth century, of those who accepted the scientific method as a valid procedure for establishing a true theology. It is noticeable that their special interest in scientific matters was in the field of biology, which was where Charles Darwin made his case. Perhaps the simplest way of representing their response to ‘the survival of the fittest’ is to say that, for them, it was in reality only an explanation of what do not survive. There were many characteristics of surviving forms which were not necessary for survival. There was also the prior factor of variation, which was assumed without explanation. In different ways, these writers argued that the mundane environment was such as to foster complexity. That was the factor which, in the postDarwinian age, took on the mantle of Providence. Frederick Temple also deserves another mention in this context. He would not have called himself a theological writer, but he had a distinguished career at Oxford, where he was open to a wide range of theological thought, including the writings of Coleridge as well as Kant and Hegel. His contribution to Essays and Reviews, already mentioned, indicated his belief in a developmental view of human history. He was also convinced of the importance of the sciences and ensured an unusually large place for them in the school curriculum at Rugby. But his right to be mentioned in the present context rests upon the Bampton Lectures which he delivered in 1884 with the title The Relations between Religion and Science, in which he devoted space to ‘the doctrine of evolution’. He believed that it added force to the Paleyan argument for belief in God as designer because it gathered ‘as it were into one original creative act’ the whole process of development. Where Paley’s argument had left open the possibility of many designers, evolution gave unity to the design. But it could not give, so far at least, an explanation of the cause of variations, or the origin of life, or the origin of the moral law. It was this last, the moral law, which was the ground on which Temple rested his conviction

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 165

TOWARDS THE FUTURE

155

that the evolutionary process must include the emergence of new capacities, new levels of being as part of a purposive movement. Of F.J.A. Hort sufficient has perhaps already been said. But it is important in understanding his position to stress his conviction, which comes out strongly in The Way, the Truth, the Life, that all aspects of truth are coherent. He said that ‘the new worlds conquered for knowledge give promise to aid powerfully in bringing to light the unity of all truth’. That did not mean that there was any easy transfer of laws or principles from one kind of knowledge to another, as Henry Drummond had believed. He loved facts as much as Charles Darwin did. The relevance of new facts to the total picture of truth was seldom to be found easily. What must not be allowed was to take the existing forms of dogma and use them to repudiate what had been established as fact. Equally it was wrong to use facts quickly to construct theories which went beyond their necessary import. It is unfortunate that Hort never got round to writing the book he projected as a response to Darwin, through the pressure of other concerns. He told the publisher Macmillan that it would have been in two parts: the first an examination of the details of Darwin’s theory, some of which he thought should be scrutinized carefully in a strictly scientific sense; and the second to consider its consequences, on the assumption of its general truth. It would indeed have been a privilege to overhear the conversation at the dinner given to Darwin after his acceptance of an honorary degree at Cambridge University, which Hort attended along with a distinguished gathering of scientific men including T.H. Huxley and Francis Galton. In the controversies following the publication of The Origin of Species, and even more after The Descent of Man had come out, it was rare indeed to meet among theologians the welcoming, but scientifically critical, attitude of F.J.A. Hort. Perhaps his best successor was John Oman, the Presbyterian scholar and Principal of Westminster College, Cambridge. His major work, The Natural and the Supernatural, contained a lengthy discussion of the meaning of evolution. He accepted wholeheartedly the scientific work of Charles Darwin, but argued that it left unanswered a number of general questions, not because he considered them as unanswerable but because there was more work to do and more thought to be given to the theory. In particular, ‘We cannot say that the survival of the fittest produces everything, and then say that everything must be such that the survival of the fittest can produce it’.24 His discussion is set within the general framework of his description of the emergence of the idea of the sacred. Where Frederick Temple and others had taken the moral consciousness as an undeniable fact which no evolutionary theory should be allowed to ignore, Oman concentrated on the distinctively human category of the supernatural. In his usage the ‘holy’ referred to the direct sense or feeling of the supernatural, and the ‘sacred’ to its valuation as of absolute worth. In other forms of animal life actions were controlled by what Oman called ‘fixed ideas’, responses called up by particular situations, which could not be separated from similar situations or transferred to other contexts. In human beings there could also be what he called ‘free ideas’. These were separable from their contexts and could be applied to different, or even imaginary, contexts. These permitted the ‘triumph over mere happenings’, or ‘the victory over the natural’, which alone could enable the development of the concept of the supernatural.

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

156

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 166

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

From that point there was introduced into human behaviour another factor beside the struggle to survive. This valuation as sacred, therefore, we ought to esteem as the spring of all selfmastery over the world, as the sublime attainment by which man became truly man. Man with a taboo, which he would not break for any earthly gain or even to save his life, was no longer a mere animal whose only inhibition was the threat of suffering or the fear of death. He might still fear what could only kill the body and his judgment of sacredness might still relate itself to this fear, but if there was something in his experience more sacred than life, the fear of death as the final ill was conquered in principle; and this victory is the condition of all progress, for there is no real spiritual good possible at lower cost than the hazard of our material life, nor any impossible at that price.25 It did not follow that all the promptings of this sense of the sacred were good. The progress which they made possible must be a process of learning, of education. In this process humanity was not left to its own devices. Oman stressed the importance of the total environment. As each new development in evolution takes place, ‘the environment responds to the living creature by providing ever increasing meaning for it’.26 His use of ‘meaning’ is central to his description of the evolutionary process. Living creatures do not simply respond to sense-perceptions; they interpret them. In doing so, they find an environment with potential for ‘growing intelligence and more subtly adjusted activities’. It is possible to hear in this interpretation of the evolutionary process echoes of Coleridgean themes: the rejection of a mechanical explanation of human responses to sense-perceptions, and the emphasis on the creative contribution of the imagination. Coleridge was primarily concerned with exploring the human mind, not the behaviour of the animal creation. But Oman asserted that it was rational to carry mind and purpose as far down as we can, not to carry mechanical explanations up to the limits of plausibility, because life develops towards mind and purpose. Here was a principle which appealed to those who gave the highest priority in the interpretation of behaviour to field studies rather than to work in the laboratory. This was particularly true of one of Oman’s Cambridge friends, Charles Raven, Master of Christ’s College, Cambridge, and Regius Professor of Theology. Raven was a man of many gifts. He was capable of serious and sustained academic study, and of disciplined devotion to the observation of the natural world. His academic work bore fruit in ground-breaking studies of early Christian thought and of nineteenth-century Christian Socialism.27 But he also made a name for himself among amateur scientists by serious contributions to ornithology. He devoted the latter years of his life to an interpretation of the relationship of religion and science, beginning with a deeply researched study of John Ray, the English naturalist of the seventeenth century, and leading to his two series of Gifford Lectures in Edinburgh with the title Natural Religion and Christian Theology (1951–52). He looked back, as Coleridge had done, to the Cambridge Platonists, and found in their age a turning point for both science and religion.

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 167

TOWARDS THE FUTURE

157

But even more critical for both, in Raven’s estimation, was the period ushered in by The Origin of Species. He would have echoed Hort’s declaration that the church was being called to know as truth what it had hitherto received as tradition; that is, to review tradition in the light of accumulating truth. He accepted the evolutionary hypothesis as a true contribution to the understanding of the natural world. But he did not think it was a complete account. Writing of the period following the Cambridge Platonists, he said: ‘Cudworth’s sense of the continuity and creativity of nature was being replaced by the concept of progress by random and uncoordinated variation sifted by cut-throat competition in a world of robots’.28 The sentence reveals both the basis of his criticism and the emotional charge of his resistance. His consideration of the great sweep of the evolutionary process and his hours of painstaking observation of the natural world left him unconvinced that the process of evolution was random and uncoordinated. There was, in his view, an overall movement which was inadequately described as the sum of infinitesimal changes; and within that movement some steps (such as the emergence of the unique behaviour of the cuckoo) depended on the unforeseeable coincidence of unrelated factors. In retrospect we may think that his detailed scientific criticism was not of great importance, since it could turn out to be unfounded, in the light of further research. And in fact there has been, since his lifetime, a continuous elaboration of evolutionary theory, making ever more detailed claims for the adequacy of its explanation of the variety of living organisms, including the human race. What underlies the difference between the two descriptions of the process is a divergence of basic presuppositions. Oman suggested one way of describing this divergence when he contrasted the method of carrying mind and purpose as far down as we can, as against the alternative of carrying mechanical explanations up to the limits of plausibility. It is the contemplation of the total picture of life developing towards mind and purpose which constrained Raven and Oman to deny that the struggle for survival was an adequate description of the process. In doing so, they were among the later representatives of a tradition going back at least to the seventeenth century. And although the issue was in this instance the description of the evolutionary process, it is common to a number of other topics where the alternative methods of analysis and synthesis are available. Historical studies, biblical criticism, textual interpretation – to name some of the more obvious instances – provide different minds with different possibilities of interpretation. Those who are engaged in the polemics of controversy are tempted to treat them as irreconcilable. Others may incline to adopt a doctrine of complementarity. When the details of a process have been established, it is still possible to stand back and consider what it all adds up to. This was the way of Coleridge: to look at the details and then grasp the ‘idea’. It was related to his contrast between the Understanding and the Reason. The deliverances of the faculty which judges according to sense were valid within their limits; but they needed to be supplemented and corrected by the imaginative power of the Reason. And that was the power by which we live – not just think. As the impact of two world wars was felt by theologians in Europe and issued in a theology of crisis, the appeal of Raven’s hopeful theology diminished. It should be

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

158

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 168

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

remembered, however, that it had not been born in the groves of academe, but through personal self-discipline and the terror of death in the trenches by Vimy Ridge. A similar experience somehow contributed to another man’s theology of evolution: that of Teilhard de Chardin. He, too, had faced death close at hand in 1915 in a situation which revealed at once the depths and the heights of the human spirit. He was even more obviously qualified than Raven to relate scientific field-work to theology. He was a professional scientist (as well as a Jesuit) and an acknowledged authority on geology and palaeontology, with an unrivalled experience stretching from China to Ethiopia and Java. In a series of books, only published after his death, he struggled to create a comprehensive scheme of the evolutionary process from before the emergence of life on earth and pointing forward to some final consummation. His work was enthusiastically championed by Charles Raven and for a time seemed to offer a way of relating Christian belief to evolutionary science. Although his initial studies had reached back to the origins of life, and even beyond, he said that he lost interest in the past and focused his attention on the future. It was ‘infantile’, he said, to confine the meaning of evolution to arguments about the origin of species. It was vital to envisage the possible future. Humanity’s evolution was unfinished. There was still to be a ‘superevolution’ leading to the ‘ultra-human’. All this was comprehended in the idiosyncratic terminology of ‘biosphere’, ‘noosphere’, and ‘Christogenesis’ which he used to convey a vision which he believed was a true interpretation of the Christian revelation as well as a true scientific account of the development of the cosmos. He was fascinated by the invention of computers and saw in them a sign of the possibility of a human ‘convergence’, a sort of super-brain ready to serve collective humanity.29 It is understandable that few scientists followed this flight of imagination with sympathy. Even those who felt the attraction of his writings had difficulty in making any clear connection between his loyal obedience to tradition within the Society of Jesus and a scheme of ideas which used for his own purposes a few verses of Pauline (or deutero-Pauline) texts. But although his grand ideas were dismissed as a variant on the discredited idea of an élan vital proposed by Bergson, the idea of some kind of ‘emergence’ lives on. It does seem to be a fact that different areas of scientific research reveal problems in accounting for the emergence of complexities simply as extensions of mechanisms already operative at a simpler level.30 It must have been this that led Hort to reject Drummond’s attempt to claim that one kind of law governed religion and science. When laws formulated to deal with simpler phenomena prove inadequate for more complex levels, philosophers of science divide into those who are content to wait for further light, believing that continuity will eventually be proved. Others are ready to accept the possibility that evolution includes transitions which produce genuinely new levels of existence requiring the formulation of new laws. Whether or not this supports, in the mind of the scientist, the idea of an overall creative scheme, those who bring other convictions derived from other kinds of human experience, in religion and the arts, will feel assured that science does not invalidate the values they find elsewhere. It can be welcomed into an overall picture. Hort and Oman were firm in their acceptance of the evolutionary results of scientific research, believing that it was one way in which God revealed his truth. As a matter of fact there had emerged the possibility of new kinds of relationship, between human beings and between

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 169

TOWARDS THE FUTURE

159

humanity and God, and this fact was as much a part of the one truth as were the stages which had produced this reality. Teilhard de Chardin was not, of course, within a Coleridgean tradition in any sense. Yet we might see him as a kind of post-script to that tradition. For it was a central conviction of Coleridge that the truth lay behind or beyond the evidences of senseperception, and could be grasped only as ‘ideas’, ever embodying themselves in new forms. He might well have sympathized with Teilhard’s view that history should be delivered from the ‘barren cyclism’ of Spengler or Toynbee. ‘In the universe it is the drifts which are important, not the rhythms.’31 Rhythms might appeal to the understanding; it required the reason to appreciate the drifts. Whatever parts of truth about the past the evolutionary process reveals to us, it has little to say about the future. Yet the future is what we have to live into; the present is always becoming the past. Coleridge listened with surprising tolerance to all kinds of prophets such as Jakob Böhme, Emanuel Swedenborg and Edward Irving. He said that his principle was to look for elements of truth, not to seek out errors; and if he did not always live up to that principle in his journalism and ‘table-talk’, he did give his sympathetic attention to many figures on the margins of the Christian tradition. The most relevant of these in the present context is Giordano Bruno, who exercised an attraction on Coleridge from an early age. He even formed an intention of writing his life. It was the tragic story of a Dominican friar whose speculations brought on him charges of heresy and led to his burning at the stake in February 1600. His condemnation was on grounds of false doctrine concerning the Trinity and incarnation. But his significance lies in his combination of a simple version of religious belief with a commitment to scientific discovery. He believed in ‘the law of love, which springs… from God the father of all, and is in harmony with universal nature, which teaches a general love of man, that we should love our enemies even, should not remain like brutes or barbarians, but be transformed into the likeness of Him who makes His sun rise upon the good and the bad, and pours the rain of His mercies upon the just and the unjust’.32 But along with this undenominational faith he shows acute anticipations of later scientific theories. J. Lewis McIntyre lists, among others, the following: the evolution or gradual transformation of lower organisms into higher; the part played by the hand in the evolution of the human race; the gradual changes brought about on the surface of the earth by the constant operation of natural causes; the true nature of comets as natural bodies; the certainty of other worlds inhabited by beings possibly more highly developed than ourselves.33 It would be stretching the comparison with Teilhard de Chardin too far to compare Bruno’s martyrdom with the restraints imposed by the Society of Jesus on the publication of Teilhard’s writings. But in their different historical contexts they stand as examples of the difficulty of holding together scientific and religious perceptions of reality and convincing other believers that to do so is the only way ahead. Theologians mistrust science; scientists mistrust theology. To understand the past and to move creatively into the unknown future is a task which calls for ‘science, freedom and the truth of Christ’. The way forward in the Coleridgean tradition is not to be found in challenging the genuine discoveries of science and trying to invent alternatives. It is to do as Hort did, in rejoicing to find new vistas opening, after carefully scrutinizing their scientific basis,

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

160

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 170

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

and then standing back and holding in stereoscopic focus with it all that has been revealed (or discovered, as Maurice might have said) about God’s redemptive purpose in human history. Where others impose on the evolutionary picture, as they did in Hort’s day, a pre-conceived atheism which does not ask all the questions which are posed by the complexity and creativity of humankind and indeed by the cohesion and multiplicity of the universe, those who have rejoiced in freedom and the truth of Christ will see another picture. The problem is to find exponents who are qualified to hold firmly the scientific picture and equally qualified to speak of spiritual experience and creative imagination. Coleridge came near to that position in his own day; but his day is not ours.

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 171

Epilogue

Here is a sketch of a long tradition which goes back further than Coleridge and continues long after his death, branching out in different directions. It is a narrowly focused historical study, not the prologue to an overview of theology today. Although Coleridge remains a perpetual subject of interest, it is more for his poetry or his philosophy than as a theologian. But the question remains whether the theological tradition which has been described is any longer alive in the new millennium. In the middle of the twentieth century the theological scene, at least in Great Britain, seemed to be still hospitable to its chief elements, as presented here. The end of the Second World War, with the victory of the western powers, encouraged in many Christians the hope that ‘science, freedom and truth’ might be the marks of an increasingly unified civilization, such as was represented by the United Nations organization. The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, though not explicitly based on religious beliefs, had been strongly influenced by leaders of the churches.1 The role of the Church of England which had developed under the leadership of Archbishop William Temple as a focus of national unity could be reasonably affirmed as important. On a broader front, the World Council of Churches had been inaugurated in the same year with high hopes of increasing understanding between Christians of very different cultures and their contribution to world peace. But in the second half of the century developments in western society did not continue to encourage such simplistic hopes. Science (in as far as it is a meaningful collective term) challenged religion (if that, too, is a meaningful collective term) in at least two ways. The first was by opening possibilities of human control over human lives which had been traditionally reserved to God’s own initiative. Traditionalists accused some scientists of wanting to ‘play God’. The second was more reminiscent of nineteenth-century controversies, when particular high-profile scientists went beyond rejection of religious values and denounced religion as the source and origin of disaster and suffering. Freedom, too, lost its universal appeal as a political watchword, when socalled free societies were exposed for exploiting vulnerable minorities within them, and 161

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

162

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 172

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

the scientific study of human motivation provided an excuse for a kind of determinism. At an intelligent level this resulted from the refinement of genetics; but that was paralleled at a credulous level by the retrograde revival of astrology. Finally, the truth of Christ became clouded over by the uncertainties of biblical criticism, historical studies, and an increasing awareness of the complexity of world religions, as theologians in the universities happened more commonly to be free from commitment to any particular church community, and were more willing to look at Christian theology from outside. One of the English theologians who responded most radically to changes during this period was Don Cupitt, who in 1997 provided an account of the way in which they affected him in the earlier stages of his career. He might be taken as a particularly clear example of those who responded to the new stresses of a particular period. He is an ordained Anglican priest who, by his own account, had been converted to Christianity in his teens, and after a short parochial ministry had moved into the academic milieu of Cambridge University, where he remained from 1962 until his retirement. For him the 1950s were ‘the very last years of a fairly confident and secure mainline traditional religious consciousness and national identity’.2 He continued his account by referring to the effect of mass travel and migration in ending the time of monocultural states, to the development of the consumer society under the dominance of the mass media, and to the creation through scientific advance of a global technological civilization characterized by all-encompassing anonymity. His response over a number of years was to rescue the meaning of ‘religion’ by re-positioning it among the creations of the human mind, without reference to any external transcendental reality.3 But some of the groups Cupitt had long since dismissed as inadequate showed new vigour, notably those who accepted a past revelation as infallible for their personal lives within the enclosed community of believers, whether that revelation was to be found in the Bible or elsewhere. Fundamentalisms of one sort or another continued to flourish, even if the extent of their remit was within a self-selected community rather than any whole nation. In their case religion could, in a fashion, be disestablished, and thrive. It is perhaps worth noting that Coleridge, though he was deeply concerned about the role of Christianity within the nation, and found a justification for the established church in his idea of the clerisy, spent much of his life in a very loose connection with organized religion. He did not receive communion after his days at Cambridge University until Christmas 1827, seven years before he died. He wrote as a layman whose admiration for members of the clergy was entirely conditional on their lives and teaching, not their office. When David F. Ford, Professor of Divinity in the University of Cambridge, came to write an Epilogue for the second edition of the massive survey of the theological scene, The Modern Theologians, in 1996 he offered a quick survey of some recent developments and a tentative view of the prospects for theology at the turn of the millennium.4 His summary is a valuable guide to the problems for the continuation of the Coleridgean ‘tradition’. The revisions in the second edition of the book had introduced new chapters, and this had been partly due to the emergence of a variety of distinct types of theology such as liberation theology, black theology, feminist theology, and theology of mission. It was possible to regard this rich variety as a sign of the

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 173

EPILOGUE

163

‘polyphonic abundance’ of God, which the doctrine of God as Holy Trinity suggested, or to see it as endangering a discipline which assumed the coherence of the whole. The Coleridgean ‘tradition’, as it has been sketched in this book, took its motive force from someone whose whole intellectual life was driven by a search for a comprehensive and unifying philosophy. If the continuance of the tradition can be seen only in some of its constituent elements, that is a witness to the fragmentation of intellectual life in western society. One facet of this is the apparently irresistible drive towards ever more specialization in academic life, so that intelligible conversation between different specialists becomes problematic. Another is the confusion of cultures through travel and migration. It is hard to see how the idea of a coherent ‘clerisy’ can be applied in any national society. Indeed the very continuance of national identities in an age of globalization is a matter of debate. If there are anywhere those who claim to know the secret of unifying the discordant cultures of modern global society they are likely to be found either among the devotees of free-market capitalism or of evolutionary science. The former are happy to see the dominance of what has been called ‘functionalization’, which involves ‘Fundamental interchangeability of anything for anything, definition of things in terms of their exchange value, i.e. as commodities, with capital as the standard form of interaction’.5 Anyone standing in the Coleridgean ‘tradition’ would deplore the universal triumph of this world-view, for lacking a deep foundation in the responsiveness of human nature to the divine Logos. The other view, that human nature is the incidental product of Darwinian evolution, and that the forces of pragmatic competition are sufficient ultimately to produce the best universal society, is in direct conflict with the fundamental conviction of the tradition, that there is such a thing as revelation; that human striving and human development are met by the disclosure of the divine purpose. In spite of the disagreement of those who are involved in the continuing study of human evolution, it may be here that inheritors of the tradition are to be found. There are different attitudes to be found among those who are engaged at the meeting-point of science and theology. A fourfold taxonomy of attitudes has been proposed: conflict, dialogue, independence, or integration.6 But perhaps this scheme does not allow for differences between the different branches of science. ‘[A]t present, for example, there may be more dialogue and integration between physics, cosmology and theology; but between biology and theology there certainly is ample conflict and considerable independence.’7 Another approach is to begin with the obvious contrast between those whose attitude involves waiting to receive scientific advances as disclosures of God’s way of working in his creation and those who come armed with prior theological convictions to scrutinize scientific statements and impose on them those prior convictions. The first group continue the tradition exemplified by Maurice and Hort that discovery and revelation were two words for the same self-disclosure of God to humankind. The second group includes the advocates of Creationism or Creation Science who claim that there is no need of theories such as the evolutionary hypothesis to understand the diversity of the external world, which is to be seen rather as the outcome of God’s work as revealed in scripture. This is contrary to the Coleridgean tradition, which encouraged a cautious sense of excitement about the new

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

164

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 174

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

knowledge which the scientific method made available. The task of creating a unified view of the human situation, open to religious experience as well as the empirical disclosures of science, has been handled in different ways. There is no generally agreed procedure. The bibliography of any serious study of the inter-relationship between science and theology will show the wide engagement and divergence of opinions;8 and also the difficulty of a brief postscript to the present historical study. But perhaps it is excusable to suggest that one particular strand in the discussion represents a line of thought which, without any conscious indebtedness to the thinkers so far mentioned, would nevertheless have been congenial to many of them, not least to Coleridge himself. It has, indeed, been already mentioned: the idea of emergence.9 John Oman was a notable exponent of this idea.10 Recent developments of the theme from different angles are to be found in Philip Clayton’s Mind and Emergence11 and J. Wentzel van Huyssteen’s 2004 Gifford Lectures, Alone in the World?12 The latter is of particular interest to those who recall Teilhard de Chardin’s hope of setting out a comprehensive evolutionary scheme reaching back into geology and palaeontology and forwards into an unknown future. That was perhaps more visionary than scientific, but it is otherwise with van Huyssteen who in a painstaking way takes his starting-point in a detailed exposition of paleoanthropology and evolutionary epistemology. The one explores the implications of the emergence of creative imagination in cave art and other artifacts. The other shows the critical transition in the evolutionary process within the minds of primates from possessing separate cognitive domains to the ‘cognitive fluidity’ characteristic of the human mind. He concludes: It seems that both philosophically and scientifically it can be argued that the potential arose in the human mind to create art, to discover the need and ability for religious belief, to invent technologies, and – much later – to undertake science.13 That is to say, the study of cave art and of mental capacities in primates reveal developmental moments in evolution which produce human uniqueness, and in that uniqueness imagination and religious awareness are significant elements, succeeded (but not negated) by scientific reasoning. In the Coleridgean tradition science and the truth of Christ must go together, each trying to interpret the other and recognizing inevitable boundaries. When the sciences have carried our understanding of the processes of physical and cultural evolution to its present limits there remains much that is unsaid about the human condition. In a sympathetic assessment of another writer,14 van Huyssteen concludes that the theology which he offers is ‘so abstract that there is no Christ, no sin, no salvation, and no eschatology. In fact, the Christian viewpoint emerges as utterly undistinctive’.15 That is inevitable unless the points of emergence are understood in relation to a reality which discloses itself in the total human experience of which the scientific project is only a part, however important that part is taken to be. In the meeting of what we call discovery with what we call revelation our understanding of revelation itself must change. Christ, sin, salvation and eschatology retain their validity, but not without re-

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 175

EPILOGUE

165

interpretation. The scriptures need to be re-discovered as speaking of the One who has always something new to say. The newer element in the present stage is explored by van Huyssteen in terms of the Imago Dei. The ‘image and likeness’ of God in humanity has been redefined by theologians over successive generations as their cultural assumptions have changed. It is no longer convincing, he believes, to speak of a separable element, such as ‘the soul’ or ‘the reason’. We are identified ‘by the unique presence of a spoken language; the remarkable cognitive fluidity to think, reason, plan, and generate mental symbols, especially as expressed in art and religion; and the bizarre inability to sustain prolonged bouts of boredom’.16 It is the total embodied condition, not particular elements or faculties, which sets us apart. The image and likeness is therefore revealed in activity, as God is the One who acts. [T]he image of God is not found in some intellectual or spiritual capacity, but in the whole embodied human being, ‘body and soul.’ In fact, the image of God is not found in humans, but is the human, and for this reason imago Dei can be read only as imitatio Dei: to be created in God’s image means we should act like God, and so attain holiness by caring for others and the world.17 Society and the environment are the context of discipleship. For this we may borrow the much discussed words from The Ancient Mariner: He prayeth best who loveth best All things both great and small; For the dear God who loveth us He made and loveth all.

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 176

Appendix: Dogma as Poetry

There has never been doctrinal uniformity in the church. We no longer find it convincing to speak of ‘the theology’ of the New Testament. The evangelists’ differences have been explored through redaction criticism and their individuality rediscovered. Johannine and Pauline theology stand in contrast with each other. The theologians of Antioch and Alexandria in the early centuries have long been seen to be in contrast if not in conflict with one another. Recurrent battles between heresies of various kinds and orthodoxy (in various guises) show how often freedom has been claimed by some individuals and groups to interpret Christian experience in their own ways. But the basic dogmatic statements of the church have long remained unchanged in spite of the transformation of human experience by revolutionary forces: the scientific revolution which has set up alternative sources of truth alongside the claims of revelation, and the information revolution which has brought into the homes of ordinary people in western society dozens of discordant voices. If we are to value the formulation of doctrine in the historic creeds, we should recall that they served three functions in the early centuries. A creed could be the basis of teaching for new converts. It could also be embodied in the baptismal liturgy as an act of identification by the convert with the faith of the church. And it could become a regular element in worship to express the bonding of believers in a common faith declared before God. Whatever was actually happening in baptism and corporate worship, it was not an intellectual exercise. The essential experience of the worshippers was of a double relationship, to the divine and the human. It was communion with God and with other believers. The relevance of the words for the ordinary worshipper was not as intellectual tests, but as the expression of a shared spiritual and social life secured by participation in the redemptive work of Christ. Nothing could make these individual experiences identical and so make the words which affirmed those experiences univocal, possessed of only one meaning. Even less could the meaning remain unchanged as the words were translated and transmitted through the cultures of Syria, of Greece, of Rome, of mediaeval and Renaissance society, to the modern 166

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 177

DOGMA AS POETRY

167

world of nationalism and pluralism. The underlying experience had such unity as it could be given by humanness itself; but as converts through the centuries looked to the Son of Man, it was a different kind of ‘man’ that they had in mind. Dogma could not become living truth for the believer without being brought into relation with his or her character and culture. An absolute truth (whatever that might mean) would be absolutely useless without adaptation to individual circumstances. The incarnate Word is not only the truth but also the way and the life. Even if truth were the same for all, the way and the life must be different for each. Truth embodied in doctrine is about life: the life of God, the life of the incarnate word, and the life-giving spirit interpreting the will of God in the life of human beings. At each interface there must be adaptation. The incarnation reveals the life of God in as far as that is possible within human life, and specifically the life of a Palestinian Jew at a particular moment in history. The life of Jesus relates to innumerable lives at different points in time and space, not as a physical presence but by an indwelling spirit constrained by changing circumstances. The roll of the redeemed, from Paul to Bonhoeffer, or along whatever line of tradition each one of us chooses, witnesses to multiplicity, not just of life but of doctrine, too. It was a strange declaration by Paul to say, ‘In every way, whether in pretence or truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in that I rejoice’.1 He did not always show that sort of toleration of variant gospels, but for the moment he was glad to see Christ and not his gospel about Christ working in the world. Now looking back over centuries we can begin to see what ‘in every way’ came to mean. Whenever we use words, we face ambiguity. That was expressed in a different context by the poet and literary scholar William Empson, as being between ‘an asceticism tending to kill language by stripping words of all association, and a hedonism tending to kill language by dissipating their sense under a multiplicity of associations’.2 Empson was writing about types of ambiguity in literature. But in doctrine, too, verbal expressions are ambiguous, and there are similarly two ways of treating them. We can kill the language of dogma by stripping words like ‘son’ or ‘sacrifice’ of all secular associations, making them counters in a theological game, with theologians or priests as privileged exponents of a timeless revelation. Then the catechumen, the learner looking for admission to the church, has nothing to do but to accept the peculiarities of a language which bears little relationship to personal experience. His son, or her son, is, perhaps, a drop-out, disowning family and home. His sacrifice, or her sacrifice, may be of cherished hopes which must give way to more urgent necessities, the hard graft of bare existence imposed by a society too busy with success to offer help to failures. But all that is ruled out as irrelevant to the meaning of dogma. The alternative is to recognise a multiplicity of associations without dissipating the sense of the language. That is how we treat the Bible, which is so rich and varied a collection of writings, easily shifting our way of listening as our attention moves from myth to history, from poetry to prose. But the statements of dogma in the creeds are concise and appear to be plain and straightforward. What kind of meaning should we find in them? Are they all of the same kind? If we had time to think about it as we recite the creed, we might wonder whether ‘he came down from heaven’ was the same sort of statement as ‘he was crucified’. We need some way of distinguishing credal

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

168

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 178

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

language from everyday language, the language of the news bulletin. Perhaps it will be helpful to consider the contrast between prose and poetry, as general categories. Poetry is an ancient and persistent element in language and evidently corresponds to a characteristically human way of seeing the world. It has been belittled as mere fancy or deceit by hard-minded exponents of practicality. It has also been exalted as the great revealer of truth. Shelley, for example, in his Defence of Poetry wrote that it strips the veil of familiarity from the world and lays bare the naked and sleeping beauty which is the spirit of its forms… It makes us the inhabitants of a world to which the familiar world is a chaos… it purges from our inward sight the film of familiarity which obscures from us the wonder of our being. It compels us to feel that which we perceive, and to imagine that which we know. It creates anew the universe, after it has annihilated in our minds the recurrence of impressions blunted by reiteration. That description of poetry could be used almost as it stands for the professions of faith of the church. The faithful, like Moses, can be described as having ‘endured as seeing him who is invisible’.3 All aspects of dogma, whether used as professions of personal or corporate faith or for didactic purposes or as doxologies in worship, penetrate the veil of familiarity and point to the sleeping beauty of God and the wonder of our being as children of God. In the words of another poet, William Blake, we can say that ‘if the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is, infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern’.4 Poetry, however, does not arouse and cannot expect identical responses in all who read or hear it. We bring to our reading preconceptions formed by our particular culture, which may have taught us to use identical words for different purposes. One of the problems of creating new forms of worship or new credal formulations is that the poetical nature of older forms, emphasized by their antiquity, may be obscured by the use of everyday speech, and therefore seem to have the same meaning as in everyday contexts. The veil of familiarity will be put back again. Authorities, however, are uneasy with the poetical use of language, and for the purposes of control they have wanted to turn poetry into prose. But those who wanted to exclude heretics, of whatever kind, have had to contend with the undeniably poetical form of much of the Bible and the clearly metaphorical or analogical nature of theological terms such as ‘father’, ‘son’, ‘body’, ‘blood’, and many more which are central to Christian doctrine. The process of turning poetry to prose is seen in formulations like the Athanasian Creed, Reformation confessions, the Tridentine Profession of Faith, and the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England. To quote again from Empson, ‘a poetical word is a thing conceived in itself and includes all its meanings’, whereas prosaic knowledge requires putting the thing known into a coherent structure.5 In theology, which deals with the unique and the transcendent, there is no ‘coherent structure’. There is no other God, no other only-begotten Son, no other unique sacrifice for sin, and in the absence of comparisons there cannot be such a thing. If a coherent structure is invented, it is only a matter of time before someone sees it in a different way.

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 179

DOGMA AS POETRY

169

We might compare dogmatic statements with pictorial images. As John Berger has argued,6 every image embodies a way of seeing, the way of seeing of the artist; but our perception or appreciation of an image depends upon our own way of seeing. So it has been with dogmatic statements. A clear example of this was the way in which Newman, towards the end of his Anglican days, ‘saw’ the Thirty-Nine Articles. For him they said almost the opposite of what most people thought they said. He was not dishonest when he wrote Tract 90, arguing that the Articles were ‘patient of a catholic interpretation’. He had simply come to see a different pattern in them from what was generally recognised. We might think of a chess board pattern which permits the observer to make either colour the ground on which the other is placed. In Empson’s words, it is at once an indecision and a structure. There are alternative ways of seeing most theological terms. Does incarnation tell us more about humanity or about divinity? Christology, it has been said, is poetry about Christ. The basis of everyday religion is more a matter of the affections than of the intellect, and poetry rather than prose is the language of the affections. The central experience of religion is one of self-identification with a worshipping and caring community which has boundaries. If established authority defines those boundaries in doctrinal terms, that will be recognized, perhaps with some reservations; but it is no longer generally acceptable to consign those outside to perdition. Even within the believing community there will be degrees of commitment to different items of the doctrinal menu. Surveys of churchgoers reveal surprising gaps in personal belief. Uncommitted observers, looking from outside any particular community of faith, are tempted to assume a degree of unanimity which more intimate knowledge would disprove. Church members in tolerant societies permit themselves to hold reservations about credal statements; but reservations also existed underground in ages when open dissent was suppressed by authority. Heresies arose within the believing community; they did not have to be imported from outside. In a community of faith within a liberal society the unifying factor is voluntary consent, the sensus communis fidelium. It should not be defined in ways which require validation, and therefore invite censorship, by authority. It can only be established retrospectively and at the grass roots. People will not be told what to believe in advance. That is particularly obvious in matters of morals, where people insist on following their own consciences, whatever they may be told from high places in the church. A consensus in morals can only be established by actual experience. Consensus in doctrine may seem to be different, as though the truth can be revealed to privileged exponents and then command universal consent. The history of the Christian churches proves otherwise. Doctrines are declared, and then believers take them in their own hands and read them in the light of their own experience. Baptists accept profession of faith in place of adult baptism. Calvinists treat everyone as capable of salvation. Anglicans doubt that good works before Christ have the nature of sin. Catholics reduce papal infallibility to the level of irrelevance. There are big shifts in doctrinal emphasis which have not simply been promoted by authority, notably from redemption to incarnation, from Easter to Christmas. Yet the Christian communities survive, and feel a strong sense of continuity with the past, reaching out beyond the dogmatic limits declared by authority.

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

170

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 180

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

That is the real sensus communis fidelium, the sense of belonging to the household of faith, which survives even when people find some doctrinal elements of the package, such as ideas of perpetual torment or being washed in the blood of the Lamb, unattractive or even abhorrent, and other elements of moral guidance, particularly concerning sexual behaviour, simply unworkable. Over-dogmatic preachers may be makers of doubt, though the perceptive listener may reckon that sometimes preachers of orthodoxy allow themselves flexibility in their own understanding of dogma. This is not a new situation. In that strange record of nineteenth-century doubt, The Autobiography of Mark Rutherford, the fictional author, still at that stage exercising his dissenting ministry, defends his honesty by saying that when a preacher uses traditional theological terminology, such as the Westminster Confession, he cannot stay to put his own interpretation upon it whenever it is upon his lips, and so his hearers are in a false position, and imagine him to be much more orthodox than he really is.7 Even for the preacher, the denominational package, once opened, is sorted according to individual preference. It is more like responding to poetry than analysing prosaic statements. To take a particular example, Nicholas Lash once threw out the question, ‘How many Christians “believe” in any religiously significant sense, in the ascension?.’8 The answer is not as obvious as the question seemed to imply. If to one kind of believer it means something more or less literal (though it is hard to see how that belief can survive as the universe is further and further explored), to another it may be transmuted by a more spiritual understanding. As the mystic Boehme wrote: This world belongs as well to the Body or Corpus of God the Father, as Heaven does. Thou must not therefore think, that the heavenly Light in this world is quite extinct: No, there is only a Duskishness or dim obscurity upon it, so that we cannot apprehend it with our corrupted eyes. But if God did but once put away that Duskishness, which moves about the Light, and that thy Eyes were opened, then in that very place where thou standest, sittest or liest, thou shouldst see the glorious Countenance or Face of God and the whole heavenly Gate.9 If ascension means to a particular believer entry into full awareness of God’s presence, the removal of ‘duskishness’, does dogma pronounce that belief invalid? And if anyone interpreting the creeds in such a spiritual sense were denied entry into the church, would it be convincing to declare that outside the church (whichever church) there is no salvation? In the words of Thomas Traherne, ‘All men see the same objects, but do not equally understand them’.10 The dogma of the ascension, like all dogmas, stands or falls not by its historical truth but by its religious significance. What we find believable will depend upon all kinds of factors, many of which have little to do with dogma, such as our experience of personal relationships and our capacity for historical imagination.

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 181

DOGMA AS POETRY

171

No one begins life in solitariness; community is given from the beginning. In religion, too, the beginning is not in solitariness but in the experience of some worshipping community. That community will usually claim to be based on a doctrinal scheme, but the degree of commitment to that scheme varies from individual to individual. It is proper for each one to put at the centre of belief those elements which have most meaning, without denigrating the simplifications of others. The first believers found in Jesus a deliverer and giver of new life. What each one was delivered from, and what newness each one was given, must have been unique, because of the individuality of human life. Paul and John and Mary Magdalene had their own fears and sins and were capable of their own different fulfilments in life. Different theologies of salvation in the church grew up when people tried to explain and commend the faith in Jesus which was their dear possession, and those theologies took the form of a coming down, of a sacrifice, of a resurrection, of a promised triumph. In due time they were embodied in simple formulas such as the Apostles’ Creed. There are no simply historical statements in that creed which can be sorted from other affirmations of a theological kind; no prose to set against poetry. The clauses which refer to birth, suffering and death are about the birth, suffering and death of ‘the Son of God’ – part of a declaration of unprovable faith. There is no separable ‘myth of the incarnation’. Within the general ‘myth’ of the creed (if that word can be taken to refer to the nature of all religious and imaginative statements as distinguished from mere factuality) the central assertion, of deliverance and new life, is not separately mentioned, but is present in such words as ‘for us and our salvation’. For it was historically true, and is still experientially true, that the gift of new life is prior to belief in incarnation. The best road to belief is to begin from the grace, the free gift, of the Lord Jesus Christ and to work out within the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, perhaps with doubts and wrestling, what is the meaning of the dogmas enshrined in strange archaic words charged with poetic warmth.

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 182

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 183

Notes

Preface: On the Idea of Tradition 1 2 3 4 5 6

7 8 9

Ted Hughes (ed.), A Choice of Coleridge’s Verse (London: Faber, 1996). For example, Donald Sultana, Samuel Taylor Coleridge in Malta and Italy (Oxford: Blackwell, 1969). S.T. Coleridge, Collected Letters, ed. Earl Leslie Griggs (Oxford: Clarendon, 1956), IV, 882. I Corinthians 11.23. John Coulson, Newman and the Common Tradition (Oxford: Clarendon, 1970), esp. appendix: ‘How Much of Coleridge had Newman Read?’, 254–5. Autobiography and Life of George Tyrrell, ed. M.D. Petre (2 vols, London: Arnold, 1912), II, 366, quoted in Adrian Hastings, History of English Christianity 1920–1955 (London: Collins, 1986), 154. F.J.A. Hort, The Way, the Truth, the Life (London: Macmillan, 1922), 86. ibid., 83. Ephesians 4.15.

Chapter 1 On to Orthodoxy 1 2 3 4 5

J.S. Mill, On Bentham and Coleridge, intro. by F.R. Leavis (London: Chatto & Windus, 1967 [1838]), 39–40. J.B. Beer, Coleridge the Visionary (London: Chatto & Windus, 1959), 41. James D. Boulger, Coleridge as Religious Thinker (New Haven, CT: Yale UP, 1961). Quoted in Thomas MacFarland, Coleridge and the Pantheist Tradition (Oxford: Clarendon, 1969) 31, n.2. S.T. Coleridge, Notebooks, ed. Kathleen Coburn (4 vols, New York: Pantheon, 1957–90), 2373, quoted in Donald Sultana, Samuel Taylor Coleridge in Malta and Italy (Oxford: Blackwell, 1969), 248. 173

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

174

6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21

22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 184

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

See Alethea Hayter, Opium and the Romantic Imagination, rev. edn (London and Wellingborough: Crucible, 1988 [1968]). S.T. Coleridge, Collected Letters, ed. Earl Leslie Griggs (6 vols, Oxford: Clarendon, 1956), I, 44. ibid., 74. ibid., 77. ibid., 87. ibid., 275. See Maurice Wiles, Archetypal Heresy: Arianism Through the Centuries (Oxford: Clarendon, 1996), esp. ch.4 ‘The Rise and Fall of British Arianism’. Leslie Stephen, English Thought in the Eighteenth Century (New York: Harcourt Brace & World, 1962), I, 361. S.T. Coleridge, Collected Letters, III, 731. ibid., 443. S.T. Coleridge, The Table Talk and Omniana of S.T. Coleridge, ed. T. Ashe, (London: Bell, 1884), 301. Sultana, STC in Malta and Italy, 47. Coleridge, Notebooks, 2420. ibid., 2434. ibid., 2664. In his lectures of 1795 he had applied the title equally to the Church of Rome and the Church of England: S.T. Coleridge, Lectures 1795, vol. I of The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, and Princeton: Princeton UP, 1969), 210. S.T. Coleridge, Table Talk, 29. S.T. Coleridge, Notebooks, 2550. ibid., 467. ibid., 922. ibid., 3022. S.T. Coleridge, Collected Letters, II, 634. S.T. Coleridge, Collected Letters, IV, 957. S.T. Coleridge, Lectures, 1795, 211 & note 3. S.T. Coleridge, Notebooks, 2448. ibid., 2444. ibid., 2445. S.T. Coleridge, Collected Letters, III, 922. S.T. Coleridge, Collected Letters, IV, 1160. S.T.Coleridge, Aids to Reflection and Confessions of an Enquiring Spirit (London: Bell, 1884), 215–16. ibid., 217. S.T. Coleridge, Notebooks, 2888. S.T. Coleridge, Literary Remains, ed. H.N. Coleridge (4 vols, London: Pickering, 1838), III, 18. S.T. Coleridge, Collected Letters, III, 951. S.T. Coleridge, Collected Letters, IV, 976.

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 185

NOTES

41 42 43 44 45

175

ibid., 984. ibid., 1126. S.T. Coleridge, Aids to Reflection, 242–58. ibid. 150. Hugh l’Anson Faussett, Samuel Taylor Coleridge (New York: Russell, 1967), 23.

Chapter 2 Before Coleridge 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26

Owen Chadwick, The Reformation (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1964), 219. S.T. Coleridge, Marginalia , vol XII of The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (Princeton UP, 1992), pt 2, 260. ibid., 272. ibid., 304. ibid., 269–70. ibid., 279. R.F. Brinkley (ed.) Coleridge on the Seventeenth Century (Durham, NC: Duke UP, 1955), 287. ibid., 291. S.T. Coleridge, Collected Letters, ed. E.L. Griggs (6 vols, Oxford: Clarendon, 1956), II, 51–2. Edmund Gosse, Jeremy Taylor (London: Macmillan, 1904), 211. Brinkley, Coleridge on the Seventeenth Century, 61. ibid., 75. Richard Baxter, Autobiography of Richard Baxter (New York: Dutton, 1931), 212. S.T. Coleridge, The Friend, vol. IV of The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (2 parts, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul; and Princeton: Princeton UP, 1969 [1887]), I, 94. S.T. Coleridge, Collected Letters, II, 8. Claire Preston, Thomas Browne and the Writing of Early Modern Science (Cambridge, and NY: CUP, 2005), 119. S.T. Coleridge, Marginalia, pt 1, 789. Benjamin Whichcote, Moral and Religious Aphorisms (London: Elkin Matthews, 1930 [1753]), 916. ‘Eight Letters of Dr Antony Tuckney and Dr Benjamin Whichcote (1753)’ ibid., 14. Brinkley, Coleridge on the Seventeenth Century, 366. Quoted in C.A. Patrides (ed.) The Cambridge Platonists (London: Arnold, 1969), 109. Brinkley, Coleridge in the Seventeenth Century, 84. Henry More, An Explanation of the Grand Mystery of Godliness (1660), preface, x. ibid., 19. See William B. Hunter, ‘The 17th Century Doctrine of Plastic Nature’, Harvard Review 43 (1950), 197–213. Henry More, A Collection of Several Philosophical Writings, 2nd edn (1662), 17.

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

176

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 186

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

27 Ralph Cudworth, A Sermon Preached to the Honourable Society of Lincolnes-Inne (London: Flesher Royston, 1664), 719. 28 Select Discourses(1660), quoted in Patrides, The Cambridge Platonists, 132. 29 Brinkley, Coleridge on the Seventeenth Century, 70–1. 30 ibid. 31 Gilbert Burnet, A History of My Own Time (1724), I, bk.2. 32 S.T. Coleridge, Marginalia, pt 3, 523. 33 Brinkley, Coleridge on the Seventeenth Century, 249. 34 S.T. Coleridge, Literary Remains, ed. H.N. Coleridge (4 vols, London: Pickering 1838), IV, 178. 35 ibid., 183. 36 ibid., 303–4. 37 S.T. Coleridge, Marginalia, pt 2, 564. 38 S.T. Coleridge, Collected Letters, II, 717–20. 39 S.T. Coleridge, Literary Remains, III, 113 (on Henry More). 40 S.T. Coleridge, Notebooks (1819–1828), ed. Kathleen Coburn (New York: Pantheon, 1957–90). 41 Apologetic Preface to ‘Fire, Famine and Slaughter’, in Poems of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (London: OUP, 1960), 601. 42 F.D. Maurice, The Kingdom of Christ (London: Dent, 1906), dedication.

Chapter 3 Old England and New England 1 2

3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

John J. Duffy (ed.) Coleridge’s American Disciples: The Selected Correspondence of James Marsh (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1973), 80. Quoted in Gary Dorrien, The Making of American Liberal Theology: Imagining Progressive Religion 1805–1900 (Louisville, KT, and London: Westminster John Knox, 2001), 147. Quoted in Theodore T. Munger, Horace Bushnell, Preacher and Theologian (Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1899), 103. See Dorrien, Making of American Liberal Theology, 111–78. ibid., 46–7. Louis Menand, The Metaphysical Club (London and NY: Flamingo, 2002), 240–3. Quoted in George Park Fisher, History of Christian Doctrine (Edinburgh: Clark, 1896), 397. ‘A Synoptical Summary of the Scheme of the Argument to prove the Diversity in kind of the Reason and the Understanding.’ S.T. Coleridge, Biographia Literaria (London: Dent , 1906), 84 Duffy, Coleridge’s American Disciples, 97. S.T. Coleridge, Aids to Reflection (London: Bell, 1884), lxv. ibid., xlix. ibid., lx. Duffy, Coleridge’s American Disciples, 76.

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 187

NOTES

177

15 Munger, Horace Bushnell, 109. 16 Conrad Wright (ed.) Three Prophets of Religious Liberalism: Channing – Emerson – Parker (Boston: Beacon, 1961), 49–50. 17 S.T. Coleridge, Aids to Reflection, 136. 18 Joseph Haroutunian, Piety versus Moralism: The Passing of the New England Theology (New York: Harper & Row, 1970 [1524]), 87. 19 S.T. Coleridge, Aids to Reflection, 224. 20 L.W. Grensted (ed.) The Atonement in History and in Life (London: SPCK, 1929), 25. 21 The Vicarious Sacrifice, 42, quoted in Munger, Horace Bushnell, 244–5. 22 Munger, Horace Bushnell, 252–4. 23 ibid., 264. 24 S.T. Coleridge, Aids to Reflection, 223. 25 Quoted from James Elliot Cabot, A Memoir of Ralph Waldo Emerson, (1887), in Henry David Gray, Emerson (Stanford UP, 1917), 24. 26 George Hochfield (ed.) Selected Writings of the American Transcendentalists (New York: New American Library, 1966), 373–4. 27 Alan Ryan, John Dewey and the High Tide of American Liberalism (New York: Norton, 1997), 43. 28 ibid., 58. 29 Corliss Lamont (ed.) Dialogue on John Dewey (1959), quoted in Duffy, Coleridge’s American Disciples, 30. 30 H. Steele Commager, The American Mind, quoted in Ryan, John Dewey, 37. 31 John Dewey, The Later Works, ed. J.A. Boydston (Southern Illinois UP, 1984), IX, 21. 32 ibid., 32. 33 ibid., 51. 34 ibid., 36.

Chapter 4 Maurice among the Philosophers 1 2

3 4 5 6 7 8

F.D. Maurice, Moral and Metaphysical Philosophy (1890), II, ix. F.D. Maurice, Sequel to the Enquiry, What is Revelation? (Cambridge: Macmillan, 1860), 13–15. Cf. Coleridge: ‘to use each word in a sense peculiarly it’s [sic] own, is an indispensable Condition of all just thinking’: Collected Letters, ed. E.L. Griggs (Oxford: Clarendon, 1956), II, 418 (12th Aug. 1812). F.D. Maurice, Moral and Metaphysical Philosophy, II, 54. Frederick Maurice (ed.) Life of Frederick Denison Maurice (2 vols, London: Macmillan, 1884), I, 175. Frederick Maurice, Life, I, 133. C.E. Raven, Christian Socialism 1848–1854 (London: Macmillan, 1920), 85. Frederick Maurice, Life, I, 65. ibid., I, 225.

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

178

9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27

28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 188

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

F.D. Maurice, On Right and Wrong Methods of Supporting Protestantism (London: 1843), 10. Frederick Maurice, Life, I, 174. Alec R. Vidler, F.D. Maurice and Company (London: SCM, 1966), 100–1. F.D. Maurice, Moral and Metaphysical Philosophy, II, 668. F.D. Maurice, The Kingdom of Christ (2 vols, London: Dent, 1906), I, 40. F.D. Maurice, The Conscience, 3rd edn (1883), 62. ibid., 67. ibid., 73. F.D. Maurice, Moral and Metaphysical Philosophy, II, 599–600. F.D. Maurice, What is Revelation? (London: Macmillan, 1859), 173. F.D. Maurice, The Conscience, 46. F.D. Maurice, What is Revelation? 169–70. F.D. Maurice, Moral and Metaphysical Philosophy, II, 467–8. ibid. F.D. Maurice, What is Revelation? 182 (my italics). F.D. Maurice, Theological Essays (London: CUP, 1853), 201f. F.D. Maurice, The Conscience, 126–7. F.D. Maurice, Theological Essays, 196–7. F.D. Maurice, The Religions of the World, and their Relation to Christianity (London/Cambridge, 1847), xxii (reference probably to Thomas Maurice, Indian Antiquities and Ward’s Literature, Manners, and Religion of the Hindoos). F.D. Maurice, What is Revelation? 335–6. F.D. Maurice, Theological Essays, 110–11. F.D. Maurice, What is Revelation? 285f. Cf H.R. Mackintosh, Types of Modern Theology (London: Nisbet, 1937). F.D. Maurice, What is Revelation? 293. F.D. Maurice, Moral and Metaphysical Philosophy, II, 584. F.D. Maurice, What is Revelation? 192. F.D. Maurice, Moral and Metaphysical Philosophy, I, xxi. ibid., xxiii. See F.D. Maurice, The Conscience 172–3. F.D. Maurice, The Epistles of St John (London: Macmillan, 1867), 344. Frederick Maurice, Life, II, 571; cf. his remark about Mill ‘as a human being’, 496. F.D. Maurice, Moral and Metaphysical Philosophy, I, 628. ibid., 577. F.D. Maurice, The Conscience, 97. ibid., 18. F.D. Maurice, Moral and Metaphysical Philosophy, II, 31. F.D. Maurice, The Claims of the Bible and of Science (London: Macmillan, 1863), 27f. R.H. Hutton, Essays on Some of the Modern Guides to English Thought in Matters of Faith (London: Macmillan, 1900), 328. Frederick Maurice, Life, I, 233.

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 189

NOTES

179

Chapter 5 Maurice in Controversy 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34

Frederick Maurice, The Life of Frederick Denison Maurice (2 vols, London: Macmillan, 1884), II, 168. F.D. Maurice, Theological Essays (London: CUP, 1853), 383; Frederick Maurice, Life, II, 168. F.D. Maurice, Theological Essays, 396–7. F.D. Maurice, What is Revelation? (Cambridge: Macmillan, 1859), viii. F.D. Maurice, Sequel to the Inquiry, What is Revelation? (Cambridge: Macmillan, 1860), 129. ibid., 278–9. F.D. Maurice, What is Revelation? 303. ibid., 346. F.D. Maurice, Sequel to the Inquiry, 99. ibid., 26. F.D. Maurice, What is Revelation? 203. F.D. Maurice, Sequel to the Inquiry, 192. ibid., 169–86, 199–203, 237–40, 244–9. F.D. Maurice, Sequel to the Inquiry, 183. ibid., 200. ibid., 201. ibid., 246. James Martineau, Essays, Reviews and Addresses (4 vols, London: Longmans, 1890), I, 263, 265. J.W. Burgon, Lives of Twelve Good Men (London, 1888), 339. ibid., 345, n.3. A.M. Ramsey, F.D. Maurice and the Conflicts of Modern Theology (Cambridge: CUP, 1951), 72–81. John Coulson, Newman and the Common Tradition (Oxford: Clarendon, 1970); Stephen Prickett, Romanticism and Religion (Cambridge: CUP, 1976). Prickett, Romanticism and Religion, 137–8. Coulson, Newman and the Common Tradition, 223. ibid., 4. Prickett, Romanticism and Religion, 133. Coulson, Newman and the Common Tradition, 215. Prickett, Romanticism and Religion, 138, n.1. Hebrews 1.3. John 14.8. Stopford A. Brooke, Theology in the English Poets (NY: AMS, 1970 [1880]). Charles Smyth, The Art of Preaching (London: SPCK, 1940), 229. See e.g. F.W. Robertson, ‘On Mariolatry’, Sermons Preached at Trinity Chapel, Brighton, ed. S.E. Robertson (London, 1885) 2nd ser., XVIII, 220–34. S.T. Coleridge, The Table Talk and Omniana of S.T. Coleridge , ed. T. Ashe (London: Bell, 1884), 7th May 1830.

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

180

35 36 37 38

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 190

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

F.J.A. Hort, ‘Coleridge’, Cambridge Essays (1856). Owen Barfield, What Coleridge Thought (Oxford: OUP, 1972), 99. Coulson, Newman and the Common Tradition, 210. For a possible development of this idea, see Appendix: ‘Dogma as Poetry’ (pp. 166–71).

Chapter 6 Hort: Science and Tradition The substance of this chapter is reproduced, by permission of Oxford University Press, from the article ‘Science and Tradition: F.J.A. Hort and his Critics’, Journal of Theological Studies, n.s. 50/2 (October 1999), 560–82. 1 2 3

4

5 6 7 8 9

10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17

A.F. Hort, The Life and Letters of Fenton John Anthony Hort (2 vols, London: Macmillan, 1896), I, 419–20. Lewis Campbell and William Garnett, The Life of James Clerk Maxwell (London: Macmillan, 1882), 205, 213, 366, 434. The verdict of G.S. Boulger; see A.F. Hort, Life and Letters, I, 178. Cf. E.W. Barnes, Should Such a Faith Offend? (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1927), 148: ‘the only theologian of the 19th century who began with a thorough scientific training’. For reference to some more recent examples of criticism, see my ‘Science and Tradition: F.J.A. Hort and his Critics’, Journal of the Theological Society, n.s. 50/2 (Oct. 1999), 560 ff. A.F. Hort, Life and Letters, I, 223, 367. E.W. Barnes, Scientific Theory and Religion (Cambridge: CUP, 1933), 527, 624, 635–6; Should Such a Faith Offend? 148, 227–8, 316. C.E. Raven, Natural Religion and Christian Theology, 1st ser. (Cambridge: CUP, 1953), II, 189n. Henry Drummond, Natural Law and the Spiritual World (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1883), 11. Aubrey Lackington Moore, Science and the Faith (London: Kegan Paul, 1889); cf. A.L. Moore, ‘The Christian Doctrine of God’ in Lux Mundi, ed. Charles Gore (London: Murray, 1889), 81: ‘For human nature craves to be both religious and rational.’ Moore was regarded, like Hort, as a serious student of botany. A.J. Hort, Life and Letters, II, 340. A.J. Hort, Life and Letters, I, 414, 431, 434, 432. ibid., 415, 445, 416. ibid., 313. A.J. Hort, Life, II, 155–6. F.J.A. Hort, The Way, the Truth, the Life (London, 1893), appendix: notes and illustrations, 210. ibid., 76, 4, 60. Cf. John Burnaby, ‘Revised Reviews: VII, ‘F.J.A. Hort’s The Way, the Truth, the Life’,

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 191

NOTES

18 19 20 21 22 23

24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39

40 41

181

Theology, 64/493 (July 1961), 284: ‘The Church came inevitably to take the knowledge of God as not only the beginning but the end of ascertainable truth.’ F.J.A. Hort, The Way, 74. ibid., 74–5. ibid., 176. F.J.A. Hort, ‘Coleridge’ in Cambridge Essays, 324. ibid. 335. Peter Walker, The Anglican Church Today: Rediscovering the Middle Way (London: Mowbray, 1988), 43; Walker also quotes D.M. Mackinnon’s inclusion of Hort with Butler, Gore and Scott Holland as Anglicans who all in different ways ‘tried to manifest the feeling for the total human environment’ (Christian Faith and Communist Faith, London: Macmillan, 1953), vi. A.F. Hort, Life and Letters, I, 439–40. B.F. Westcott and F.J.A. Hort (eds) Bible: The New Testament in the Original Greek (Cambridge, Macmillan, 1881), introduction, 323–4. John Kent, From Darwin to Blatchford: The Role of Darwinism in Christian Apologetic 1875–1910 (London: Dr Williams’s Trust, 1966), 37. J. Armitage Robinson and W.M. Ramsay, ‘The Late Professor Hort’, The Expositor, 4th ser., VII (1893), 68. R.C. Moberly, Ministerial Priesthood (London: Murray, 1899), xiv–xv. ibid., 127–9, n.30. A.M. Ramsey, From Gore to Temple: The Development of Anglican Theology between Lux Mundi and the Second World War (London: Longmans, 1960), 7. Charles Gore, The Church and the Ministry, new edn. rev. by C.H. Turner with an appendix (London: Rivingtons, 1919 [1888]), appended note M, 382. Walter Schmithals, The Office of an Apostle in the Early Church, trans. John E. Steely (London: SPCK, 1971), 19. A.M. Ramsey, The Gospel and the Catholic Church (London: Longmans, 1936), 70–3. E.G. Rupp, Hort and the Cambridge Tradition: An Inaugural Lecture (Cambridge: CUP, 1970), 18. F.J.A. Hort, Two Dissertations (Cambridge and London, 1876), x. John Burnaby, ‘Revised Reviews: VII, F.J.A. Hort’s The Way, the Truth, the Life’, Theology, 4/493 (July 1961), 282. David L. Edwards, Leaders of the Church of England, 1828–1944 (Oxford: OUP, 1970), 190. John Martin Creed, The Divinity of Jesus Christ: A Study in the History of Christian Doctrine since Kant (Cambridge: CUP, 1938), 91. ibid., 128; cf. The Way, 186. Andrew Louth, in his Discerning the Mystery (Oxford: Clarendon, 1983), tries to use part of this passage from Hort to support the view that the role of the ‘consensus of the Fathers’ is to provide a ‘milieu which provides security’. Its meaning is more nearly the opposite. J.A. Robinson and W.M. Ramsay, ‘The Late Professor Hort’, The Expositor, 7: 29, 67. Rupp, Hort and the Cambridge Tradition, 13.

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

182

42 43 44 45

46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 192

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

A.F. Hort, Life and Letters, I, 205; II, 31; I, 400. ibid., I, 423, 77, 38. A.F. Hort, Life and Letters, I, 464, 210, 220; II, 32, 65, 358, 434. For a high assessment of Hort as a historian, see Rupp, Hort and the Cambridge Tradition, esp. 9: Hort’s vision ‘foresaw a century of historical studies throughout the learned world’. Another high estimation is in A.S. Peake, Recollections and Appreciations, ed. W.F. Howard (London: Epworth, 1938), 117, reprint of article ‘J.B. Lightfoot’, Holborn Review, April 1928. A.F. Hort, Life and Letters, II, 36. F.J.A. Hort, The Way, xxxiv. For succeeding quotations see The Way, 86-93. F.J.A. Hort, The Way, 174–5. ibid., 94. F.J.A. Hort, The Christian Ecclesia (London: Macmillan, 1897), 267. F.J.A. Hort, The Way, 173. Stephen Neill, The Interpretation of the New Testament 1861–1961 (London: OUP, 1964), 33. Robinson and Ramsay, ‘The Late Professor Hort’, 66-7. Edwards, Leaders of the Church of England, 185. Rupp, Hort and the Cambridge Tradition, 14. Stephen Neill, Anglicanism, 3rd edn (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1965 [1958]), 270–1. F.J.A. Hort, The Way, 185. ibid., 88, 34–5. ibid, 180. F.J.A. Hort, The Christian Ecclesia, 291. F.J.A. Hort, The Way, xxv. ibid., xxxiv. Peake, Recollections and Appreciations, 117.

Chapter 7 Fellow-Travellers: Erskine and Robertson 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

R.E. Prothero (ed.) Life and Letters of Dean Stanley (London: Nelson, 1909), 65. Frederick Maurice (ed.) The Life of Frederick Denison Maurice (2 vols, London, 1884), I, 533, 121. Arthur Fawcett, The Cambuslang Revival (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1971), 67 (spelling as in the original). Henry H. Henderson, Erskine of Linlathen, Selections and Biography (Edinburgh: Oliphant, 1899), 12. Thomas Eskine of Linlathen, The Spiritual Order and Other Papers (Edinburgh: David Douglas, 1884), 258. ibid., 259–60. Henderson, Erskine of Linlathen, 140.

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 193

NOTES

8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40

183

Erskine, Spiritual Order, 133. S.T. Coleridge, Literary Remains, ed. H.N. Coleridge (London: Pickering, 1838), III, 313–14. Henderson, Erskine of Linlathen, 255–6. ibid., 267–8. Erskine, Spiritual Order, 151–2. ibid., 221. ibid., 178. ibid., 206. ibid., 202. Henderson, Erskine of Linlathen, 49. Erskine, Spiritual Order, 22. Henderson, Erskine of Linlathen, 185. Erskine, Spiritual Order, 154. Henderson, Erskine of Linlathen, 255–6. Frederick Maurice (ed.) Life of F.D. Maurice, I, 43. ibid., 202–3. Erskine, The Spiritual Order, 85 n.1. ibid., 82. Henderson, Erskine of Linlathen, 71. W. Hanna (ed.) Letters of Thomas Erskine of Linlathen, 2nd edn (Edinburgh: David Douglas, 1878), 215. Henderson, Erskine of Linlathen, 71. Stopford A. Brooke (ed.) Life and Letters of Frederick W. Robertson (London: Smith Elder, 1859), I, 298. See Frederick Arnold, Robertson of Brighton (1886), 302f. Brooke, Life and Letters, II, 140. F.W. Robertson, Sermons Preached at Trinity Chapel, Brighton, ed. S.E. Robertson (London, 1855), II, 245. Brooke, Life and Letters, II, 36. Robertson, Sermons, II, 299. F.W. Robertson, Lectures, Addresses and Literary Remains (London: Kegan Paul Trench, 1883), 52–3. Brooke, Life and Letters, II, 162–3. Robertson, Lectures, Addresses and Literary Remains, 49. Robertson, Sermons, II, 99. Robertson, Sermons, I, 260. ibid., 6.

Chapter 8 Democratic Vistas 1

‘Six Lectures on Revealed Religion’ in S.T. Coleridge, Lectures 1795, vol. I of The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, and Princeton: Princeton UP, 1969), 164–5.

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

184

2 3 4 5 6 7

8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29

30

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 194

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

ibid., 163. ‘Yet will I love to follow the sweet dream / Where Susquehannah pours his untamed stream’ (‘On the Death of Chatterton’). 4.32ff. S.T. Coleridge, The Table Talk and Omniana of S.T. Coleridge, ed. T. Ashe (London: Bell, 1884), 19th Sept. 1830. S.T. Coleridge, Lectures, 1795, 8ff. largely reproduced in Conciones ad Populum, introductory address, 37ff. S.T. Coleridge, The Friend, vol. IV of The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (2 parts, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul; and Princeton: Princeton UP, 1969 [1887]), pt 1, 195. Quoted ibid., 193. S.T. Coleridge, On the Constitution of Church and State, ed. John Colmer (Princeton UP, 1976), 96–7. See ‘Coleridge and J.H. Green’ by Tim Fulford and M. Lefebure in M. Gravil and M. Lefebure (eds) The Coleridge Collection, (New York: St Martin’s, 1990), 161. On this whole issue, see Michael J. Hofstetter, The Romantic Idea of a University, England and Germany, 1770–1850 (Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave, 2001). S.T. Coleridge, Church and State, 46. ibid., 55. Frederick Maurice (ed.) The Life of Frederick Denison Maurice (2 vols, London: Macmillan, 1884), II, 304. Published as The Workman and the Franchise: Chapters from English History on the Representation and Education of the People (London and New York, 1866). ibid., 201. See especially Peter Allen, The Cambridge Apostles: The Early Years (Cambridge, CUP, 1978). ibid., 164. A.F. Hort, Life and Letters of Fenton John Anthony Hort (2 vols, London: Macmillan, 1896), II, 184–5. Geoffrey Faber, Jowett: A Portrait with Background (London: Faber, 1957), 32. ibid., 30, 41. A. Westcott, Life and Letters of Brooke Foss Westcott (London: Macmillan, 1903), II, 261. T.S. Eliot, The Idea of a Christian Society (London: Faber, 1934), 28. ibid., 42. See Stefan Collini, Absent Minds: Intellectuals in Britain (Oxford: OUP, 2006), 314–21. John Middleton Murry, The Price of Leadership (1939). Frederick Maurice, Life of F.D. Maurice, II, 129. F.D. Maurice, The Kingdom of Christ (London: Dent, 1906), II, 314. ‘We have written. . . not as “guessers at truth” but as servants of the Catholic Creed and the Church, aiming only at interpreting the faith we have received.’ (Charles Gore (ed.) Lux Mundi (London: Murray, 1889), preface, viii.) W.J.H. Campion in Gore (ed.), Lux Mundi, 331.

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 195

NOTES

31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42

43

185

Charles Gore, The Incarnation of the Son of God (London: Murray, 1891), 157. ibid., 157. ibid., 160. ibid., 166. ibid., 170. A.M. Ramsey, From Gore to Temple (London: Longmans, 1960), 36 . Gore, The Incarnation, 130. ibid., 129. James Carpenter, Gore: A Study in Liberal Catholic Thought (London: Faith, 1960), 171. Charles Gore, Christ and Society (London: Allen & Unwin, 1928), 53. Gore, Christ and Society, 133–6. Walt Whitman, ‘Democratic Vistas’ in Complete Poetry and Selected Prose, ed. E. Holloway (London: Nonesuch, 1938), 693: ‘Religion is a part of the identified soul . . . which can really confront Religion when it extricates itself entirely from the churches, and not before.’ Ephesians 5.13.

Chapter 9 Towards the Future 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

10 11 12 13

Letter of 19th Nov. 1796, quoted in R.F. Brinkley, Coleridge on the Seventeenth Century (Durham, NC: Duke UP, 1955), 258. 13th July 1832: S.T. Coleridge, The Table Talk and Omniana of S.T. Coleridge, ed. T. Ashe (London: Bell, 1884). ‘Philosophical Lecture XIII’, quoted in Brinkley, Coleridge on the Seventeenth Century, 91. S.T. Coleridge, Marginalia (Princeton UP, 1980) pt 1, 795. S.T. Coleridge, On the Constitution of Church and State, ed. John Colmer (Princeton UP, 1976), 67. S.T. Coleridge, The Watchman, ed. Lewis Patton (London: Routledge, and Princeton: Princeton UP, 1970), 131. S.T. Coleridge, Collected Letters (Oxford: Clarendon, 1956), I, 309 (2nd January 1800). On Donne, ‘Sermon xvii’, in S.T. Coleridge, Notes on English Divines, ed. Derwent Coleridge (London: Moxon, 1853). S.T. Coleridge, The Friend, vol. IV of The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (2 parts, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul; and Princeton: Princeton UP, 1969 [1887]), pt 1, 416. F.J.A. Hort, ‘Coleridge’ in Cambridge Essays (1856), 328. H.H. Henderson, Erskine of Linlathen (Edinburgh: Oliphant, 1899), 128. G.E. Lessing, The Education of the Human Race, trans. F.W. Robertson, 3rd edn (1875), 69–70. S.T. Coleridge, Notebooks, ed. Kathleen Coburn (3 vols, New York: Pantheon, 1957–73), III, 4378.

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

186

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 196

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

14 See G. Neville, Radical Churchman (Oxford: Clarendon, 1998), 178–80. 15 F.D. Maurice, Social Morality (London: Macmillan, 1886 [1875]), 355ff. 16 A. Westcott, Life and Letters of Brooke Foss Westcott (London: Macmillan, 1903), II, 284. 17 B.F. Westcott, Gospel of the Resurrection (London: Macmillan, 1874), appendix I, 249–76. 18 Perhaps Evelyn Underhill shared some of this uneasiness. She wrote, in a private letter, about ‘Newman’s spiritual selfishness’ (Westcott, Letters, 210). 19 Charles Gore (ed.) Lux Mundi (London: Murray, 1889), 151–2. 20 S.T. Coleridge, Literary Remains (4 vols, London: Pickering, 1836–39), III, 158 (Notes on Henry More). 21 See Neil Vickers, Coleridge and the Doctors, 1795–1806 (Oxford: Clarendon, 2004), 56. 22 S.T. Coleridge, Marginalia, pt 2, 581. 23 Quoted from British Library MS Egerton 2801 in Collected Works, 15 clxx. 24 John Oman, The Natural and the Supernatural (Cambridge: CUP, 1931), 350. 25 ibid,. 93. 26 ibid., 279. 27 C.E. Raven, Apollinarianism: An Essay on the Christology of the Early Church (Cambridge: CUP, 1923) and Christian Socialism 1848–1854 (London: Macmillan, 1920). 28 C.E. Raven, Natural Religion and Christian Theology, 1st ser. (Cambridge: CUP, 1953), II, 163. 29 ‘Computers and Superbrains’, March 1950, quoted in Claude Cuénot, Teilhard de Chardin, trans. V. Colimore, ed. R. Hague (London: Burns & Oates, 1965). 30 See, for example, Philip Clayton, Mind and Emergence (Oxford: OUP, 2004). 31 Cuénot, Teilhard de Chardin, 347. 32 Quoted in J. Lewis Macintyre, Giordano Bruno (London and New York: Macmillan, 1903), 109–10. 33 ibid., 107–8.

Epilogue 1 2 3 4

5 6

See John Nurser, For All Peoples and All Nations: Christian Churches and Human Rights (Geneva: WCC, 2005). Don Cupitt, After God (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1997), vii. For a friendly criticism of his position, see Rowan Williams, Wrestling with Angels, ed. Mike Higton (London: SCM, 2007), 228–54. David F. Ford (ed.) The Modern Theologians: An Introduction to Christian Theology in the Twentieth Century, 2nd edn (Cambridge, MA, and Oxford: Blackwell, 1997), 720–8. Robert Spaemann, ‘The Question of the Meaning of the Word “God”’, quoted in Williams, Wrestling with Angels, 249. Ian G. Barbour, Religion in an Age of Science (London: SCM, 1990).

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 197

NOTES

7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17

187

J. Wentzel van Huyssteen, Duet or Duel: Theology and Science in a Postmodern World (London: SCM, 1998), 3. E.g. ‘Bibliographic Essay’ in John Hedley Brooke, Science and Religion (Cambridge: CUP, 1991) 348–403. See Chapter 9, p.158. See Chapter 9, pp.155ff. Mind and Emergence: From Quantum to Consciousness (Oxford: OUP, 2004). Van Huyssteen, Alone in the World? Human Uniqueness in Science and Theology (Grand Rapids, MI, and Cambridge: Eerdmans, 2006). ibid., 217. Edward Farley, Good and Evil: Interpreting a Human Condition (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 1990). Van Huyssteen, Alone in the World? 306. ibid., 317. ibid., 320.

Appendix: Dogma as Poetry This appendix is reproduced by permission of the editor of Modern Believing from the article ‘Dogma as Poetry’, vol. 42:4 (Oct. 2004), pp.41–8. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Philippians 1.18. William Empson, Seven Types of Ambiguity (London: Chatto & Windus, 1930) 296. Hebrews 11.27. Marriage of Heaven and Hell (London: Nonesuch, 1941), 187. Empson, Seven Types of Ambiguity, 318–19. John Berger, Ways of Seeing (London: BBC and Penguin, 1972). Autobiography of Mark Rutherford ‘edited by his friend Reuben Shapcott’, 10th edn, (London: T. Fisher Unwin, n.d.), 41. 8 Nicholas Lash, Change in Focus: A Study in Doctrinal Change and Continuity (London: Sheed & Ward, 1973), 55. 9 Aurora, trans. W. Law, quoted in Victor Gollancz, From Darkness to Light (London: Gollancz, 1956), 361. 10 Centuries of Meditations, Third Century, 68.

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 198

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 199

Selected Bibliography

This bibliography includes only those books and articles which are either quoted or referred to in the text and significant items in the author’s background reading. Where relevant, date of original publication is cited in square brackets.

Principal sources Brinkley, R.F. (ed.) Coleridge on the Seventeenth Century (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1955). Coleridge, S.T., Aids to Reflection and Confessions of an Inquiring Spirit (London: Bell, 1884). Coleridge, S.T. Biographia Literaria, Everyman edn (London: Dent, 1906). Coleridge, S.T., Collected Letters, ed. Earl Leslie Griggs (6 vols, Oxford: Clarendon, 1956). Coleridge, S.T., The Friend, vol. IV of The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (2 parts, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul; and Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1969 [1887]). Coleridge, S.T., Lectures 1795, vol. I of The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, and Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1969). Coleridge, S.T., Lay Sermons, ed. R.J. White, vol. VI of The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, and Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1972). Coleridge, S.T., Literary Remains, ed. H.N. Coleridge (4 vols, London: Pickering, 1836-39). Coleridge S.T., The Major Works, ed. H.J. Jackson (Oxford: OUP, 1985). Coleridge, S.T., Marginalia, vol. XII of The Complete Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, published in 6 parts (Princeton University Press, 1980–2001). Coleridge, S.T., Notebooks, ed. Kathleen Coburn (New York: Pantheon, 1957–1990). 189

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

190

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 200

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

Coleridge, S.T., Notes on English Divines, ed. Derwent Coleridge (2 vols, London: Moxon, 1853). Coleridge, S.T., On the Constitution of Church and State According to the Idea of Each, ed. John Colmer (Princeton, NJ: PUP, 1976). Coleridge, S.T., On Religion and Psychology, ed. John Beer (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2002). Coleridge, S.T., Poems of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (London: OUP, 1960). Coleridge, S.T., Select Poetry and Prose, ed. Stephen Potter (New York: Nonesuch, 1933). Coleridge, S.T., The Table Talk and Omniana of S.T.Coleridge, ed. T. Ashe, Bohn’s Standard Library (London: Bell, 1884). Coleridge, S.T., The Watchman, ed. Lewis Patton: vol. II of The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, and Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1970). Dewey, John, The Later Works, 1925–1953, ed. Jo Ann Boydston (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1984). Erskine, Thomas, of Linlathen, The Spiritual Order and Other Papers (Edinburgh, 1884). Gore, Charles, The Incarnation of the Son of God (London: Murray, 1891). Henderson, H.F.H. (ed.) Erskine of Linlathen: Selections and Biography (Edinburgh and London: Oliphant, 1899). Hort, A F., Life and Letters of Fenton John Anthony Hort (2 vols, London: Macmillan, 1896). Hort, F.J.A., The Christian Ecclesia (London: Macmillan, 1897). Hort, F.J.A., ‘Coleridge’, Cambridge Essays (1856). Hort, F.J.A., The Way, the Truth, the Life (London, 1922 [1893]. Lessing, G.E., The Education of the Human Race, trans. F.W. Robertson, 3rd edn (1875). Leighton, Robert, Archbishop, A Practical Commentary upon the First Two Chapters of the First Epistle of Peter (York: J. White, 1693–4). Maurice, F.D., Claims of the Bible and of Science (London: Macmillan, 1863). Maurice, F.D., The Conscience, 3rd edn (1883 [1868]). Maurice, F.D., Moral and Metaphysical Philosophy (2 vols, London: Macmillan, 1890 [1850]). Maurice, F.D., On Right and Wrong Methods of Supporting Protestantism (London, 1843). Maurice, F.D., The Religions of the World, and their Relation to Christianity (London/ Cambridge, 1847). Maurice, F.D., Sequel to the Inquiry, What is Revelation? (Cambridge: Macmillan, 1860). Maurice, F.D., Social Morality (London: Macmillan, 1886 [1875]). Maurice, F.D., Theological Essays (London: Cambridge UP, 1853). Maurice, F.D., What is Revelation? (Cambridge: Macmillan, 1859). Maurice, F.D., The Workman and the Franchise: Chapters from English History on the Representation and Education of the People (London and New York, 1866).

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 201

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY

191

Maurice, Frederick (ed.) The Life of Frederick Denison Maurice, (2 vols, London: Macmillan, 1884). Robertson, F.W., Lectures, Addresses and Literary Remains (London: Kegan Paul Trench, 1883). Robertson, F.W., Sermons Preached at Trinity Chapel, Brighton, ed. S.E. Robertson, 2nd ser. (London, 1855). Westcott, B.F., Gospel of the Resurrection (London: Macmillan, 1874).

General bibliography Allen, Peter, The Cambridge Apostles: The Early Years (Cambridge: CUP, 1978). Andrews, Stuart, The British Periodical Press and the French Revolution, 1789–99 (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2000). Barfield, Owen, What Coleridge Thought (London: Oxford UP, 1972). Barbour, Ian G., Religion in an Age of Science, Gifford Lectures 1989–91, I (London: SCM, 1990). Barnes, E.W., Scientific Theory and Religion, Gifford Lectures 1927–29 (Cambridge: CUP, 1933). Barnes, E.W., Should Such a Faith Offend? (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1927). Barth, J. Robert, Coleridge and Christian Doctrine (Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1969). Baxter, Richard, Autobiography of Richard Baxter, Everyman’s Library (New York: Dutton, 1931). Beer, J.B., Coleridge the Visionary (London: Chatto & Windus, 1959). Boorstin, Daniel J., The Americans: The Colonial Experience (New York, Vintage, 1958). Boulger, James D., Coleridge as Religious Thinker (New Haven: Yale UP, 1961). Brastow, L.O., Representative Modern Preachers (New York: Macmillan, 1904). Brent, Richard, Liberal Anglican Politics (Oxford: Clarendon, 1987). Brett, R.L. (ed.) S.T. Coleridge (London: Bell, 1971). Brooke, John Hedley, Science and Religion (Cambridge: CUP, 1991). Brooke, Stopford A. (ed.), Life and Letters of Frederick W. Robertson (2 vols, 1859). Brooke, Stopford A., Theology in the English Poets, 6th edn (New York: AMS, 1970 [1880]). Brookfield, Frances M., The Cambridge ‘Apostles’ (London: Pitman, 1906). Brown, James, Subject and Object in Modern Philosophy (London: SCM, 1955). Browne, Thomas, Sir, Selected Writings, ed. Geoffrey Keynes (London: Faber, 1968). Burleigh, J.H.S., A Church History of Scotland (Oxford: OUP, 1960). Burnaby, John, ‘F.J.A. Hort’s “The Way, the Truth, the Life”’, Theology, 4/493 (July 1961).

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

192

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 202

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

Burnet, Gilbert, A History of My Own Time (1724). Burr, Nelson R., Critical Bibliography of Religion in America, Princeton Studies in American Civilization, V (Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1961). Byatt, A.S., Unruly Times: Wordsworth and Coleridge in Their Time (London: Vintage, 1997 [1970]). Bygrave, Stephen, Samuel Taylor Coleridge (Plymouth: Northcote House, 1997). Calleo, David P., Coleridge and the Idea of the Modern State (New Haven, CT: Yale UP, 1966). Campbell, L., and Garnett, W., Life of James Clerk Maxwell (London: Macmillan, 1882). Canuel, Mark, Religion, Toleration and British Writing, 1790–1830 (Cambridge: CUP, 2002). Carlyle, Thomas, Two Biographies: Life of Friedrich Schiller (1825) and Life of John Sterling (1851) (London: Chapman & Hall, 1893). Carpenter, James, Gore: A Study in Liberal Catholic Thought (London: Faith, 1960). Chadwick, Owen, The Reformation (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1964). Chambers, E.K., Samuel Taylor Coleridge (Oxford: Clarendon, 1938). Church Quarterly Review: ‘Hort’s Hulsean Lectures on The Way, the Truth, the Life’, 76 (July 1893). Church Quarterly Review: ‘Judaistic Christianity’, 41 (Oct. 1894). Church Quarterly Review: ‘Hort’s “Christian Ecclesia”’, 45 (1897). Clark, G. Kitson, Churchmen and the Condition of England, 1832–1885 (London: Methuen, 1973). Clayton, Philip, Mind and Emergence (Oxford: OUP, 2004). Clements, Keith, Faith on the Frontier: A Life of J.H. Oldham (Edinburgh: Clark, 1999). Coburn, Kathleen (ed.) Coleridge: A Collection of Critical Essays (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1967). Coburn, Kathleen, In Pursuit of Coleridge (London: Bodley Head, 1977). Coburn, Kathleen (ed.) Inquiring Spirit: A New Presentation of Coleridge (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1951). Coleridge, E.H., ‘Preface to Anima Poetae’, in S.T. Coleridge, Anima Poetae, ed. E.H. Coleridge (London: Heinemann, 1895). Coleridge, Hartley, Letters of Hartley Coleridge 1796–1849, ed. E.G. Griggs and E.L. Griggs (London: OUP, 1936). Coleridge, S.T., Spiritual Writings: Selected Poems and Prose (London: Fount, 1997). Coleridge, Sara Fricker, Minnow among Tritons: Mrs S.T. Coleridge’s Letters to Thomas Poole, ed. Stephen Potter (London: Nonesuch, 1934). Collini, Stefan, Absent Minds: Intellectuals in Britain (Oxford: OUP, 2006). Cottle, Joseph, Reminiscences of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Robert Southey (Highgate: Lime Tree Bower, 1970 [1847]). Coulson, John, Newman and the Common Tradition (Oxford: Clarendon, 1970).

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 203

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY

193

Creed, J.M., The Divinity of Jesus Christ (Cambridge: CUP, 1938). Cudworth, Ralph, A Sermon Preached to the Honourable Society of Lincolnes-Inne (London: Flesher Royston, 1664). Cuénot, Claude, Teilhard de Chardin: A Biographical Study, tr. V. Colimore, ed. R. Hague (London: Burns & Oates, 1965). Cunningham, Andrew, and Jardine, Nicholas (eds) Romanticism and the Sciences (Cambridge: CUP, 1990). Cupitt, Don, After God (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1997). Cupitt, Don, ‘Mansell and Maurice on Our Knowledge of God’, Theology 73 (1970). Davis, H. Francis, ‘Was Newman a Disciple of Coleridge?’, Dublin Review, 217/435 (Oct–Dec. 1945). Dawson, Davis, ‘Coleridge and De Man on Symbol, Allegory and Scripture’, Journal of Literature and Theology, 4/3 (Nov. 1990). De Pauley, W.C., The Candle of the Lord: Studies in the Cambridge Platonists (London: SPCK, 1937). Dorrien, Gary, The Making of American Liberal Theology (Louisville, KY, and London: Westminster John Knox, 2001). Drummond, Henry, Natural Law in the Spiritual World (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1883). Duffy, John J. (ed.) Coleridge’s American Disciples: The Selected Correspondence of James Marsh (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1973). Duriez, Colin, and Porter, David, The Inklings Handbook (London: Azure, 2001). Ecclestone, Alan, Yes to God (London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1975). Edwards, D.L., Leaders of the Church of England, 1828–1944 (Oxford: OUP, 1970). Eliot, T.S., Points of View, ed. John Hayward (London: Faber, 1941). Engell, James (ed.) Coleridge: The Early Family Letters (Oxford: Clarendon, 1994). Everest, Kelvin, Coleridge’s Secret Ministry: The Context of the Conversation Poems, 1795–1798 (Hassocks: Harvester, 1979). Faber, Geoffrey, Jowett: A Portrait with Background (London: Faber, 1957). Farley, Edward, Good and Evil: Interpreting a Human Condition (Minneapolis, IN: Fortress, 1990). Fausset, Hugh l’Anson, Samuel Taylor Coleridge (New York: Russell, 1967). Fawcett, Arthur, The Cambuslang Revival (London: Banner of Truth Trust, 1971). Fisher, G.P., History of Christian Doctrine (Edinburgh: Clark, 1896). Ford, David F. (ed.) The Modern Theologians, 2nd edn (Cambridge, MA, and Oxford: Blackwell, 1997). Fulford, Tim, and Lefebure, M., ‘Coleridge and J.H. Green’, in Richard Gravil and Molly Lefebure (eds) The Coleridge Connection (New York: St Martin’s, 1990).

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

194

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 204

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

Gill, Robin, and Kendall, Lorna (eds) Michael Ramsey as Theologian (London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1995). Gore, Charles, Christ and Society (London: Allen & Unwin, 1928). Gore, Charles, The Church and the Ministry (London: Rivingtons, 1888). Gore, Charles (ed.) Lux Mundi (London: Murray, 1889). Gosse, Edmund, Jeremy Taylor (London: Macmillan, 1904). Gray, Henry David, Emerson (Stanford, CA: Stanford UP, 1917). Grayling, A.C., The Quarrel of the Age: The Life and Times of William Hazlitt (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2000). Grensted, L.W. (ed.) The Atonement in History and Life (London: SPCK, 1929). Hanna, W. (ed.) Letters of Thomas Erskine of Linlathen , 2nd edn (Edinburgh: David Douglas, 1878). Haroutunian, Joseph, Piety versus Moralism: The Passing of the New England Theology (New York: Harper & Row, 1970 [1524]). Hayter, Alethea, Opium and the Romantic Imagination (Wellingborough: Crucible, 1988 [1968]). Henderson, H.H., Erskine of Linlathen (Edinburgh: Oliphant, 1884). Hochfield, George (ed.), Selected Writings of the American Transcendentalists (New York: New American Library, 1966). Hofstetter, Michael J., The Romantic Idea of a University: England and Germany, 1770–1850 (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2001). Hort, F.J.A., Cambridge and Other Sermons (London: Macmillan, 1898). Hort, F.J.A., The Christian Ecclesia (London: Macmillan, 1897). Hort, F.J.A., Two Dissertations (Cambridge and London, 1876). Hughes, Ted (ed.) A Choice of Coleridge’s Verse (London: Faber, 1996). Hughes-Hallett, Penelope, The Immortal Dinner (London: Viking, 2000). Hunter, William B., ‘The 17th Century Doctrine of Plastic Nature’, Harvard Theological Review, 43 (1950). Hutton, R.H., Essays on Some of the Modern Guides to English Thought in Matters of Faith (London: Macmillan, 1900). Jasper, David, Coleridge as Poet and Religious Thinker (London: Macmillan, 1985). Jones, Alun R., and Tydeman, William (eds) Coleridge: The Ancient Mariner and other Poems – A Casebook (London: Macmillan, 1973). Kent, John, From Darwin to Blatchford: The Role of Darwinism in Christian Apologetic, 1875–1910, Friends of Dr Williams’s Library, Lecture no 20 (London: Dr Williams’s Trust, 1966). Kessler, Edward, Coleridge’s Metaphors of Being (Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1979). King, Ursula, Christ in All Things: Exploring Spirituality with Teilhard de Chardin (London: SCM, 1997).

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 205

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY

195

Knights, Ben, The Idea of the Clerisy in the Nineteenth Century (Cambridge: CUP, 1978). Lamont, Corliss (ed.) Dialogue on John Dewey (New York: Horizon, 1997). Lefebure, Molly, The Bondage of Love: A Life of Mrs Samuel Taylor Coleridge (London: Gollancz, 1986). Louth, Andrew, Discerning the Mystery (Oxford: Clarendon, 1983). Lowes, J. Livingston, The Road to Xanadu, 2nd rev. edn (London: Pan, 1978). McAdoo, H.R., The Spirit of Anglicanism: A Survey of Anglican Theological Method in the Seventeenth Century (London: Black, 1965). MacFarland, Thomas, Coleridge and the Pantheist Tradition (Oxford: Clarendon, 1969). Macintyre, James Lewis, Giordano Bruno (London and New York: Macmillan, 1903). Mackerness, E.D., The Heeded Voice: Studies in the Literary Status of the Anglican Sermon, 1830–1900 (Cambridge: Heffer, 1959). Mackinnon, D.M., Christian Faith and Communist Faith (London: Macmillan, 1953). Mackintosh, H.R., Types of Modern Theology (London: Nisbet, 1937). Martineau, James, Essays, Reviews and Addresses (4 vols, London: Longmans, 1890). Maurice, F.D. The Kingdom of Christ (2 vols, London: Dent, 1906 [1838]). Maurice, F.D. Politics for the People (New York, 1971 [1848]). Menand, Louis, The Metaphysical Club (London and NY: Flamingo, 2002). Mill, J.S., On Bentham and Coleridge, ed. F.R. Leavis (London: Chatto & Windus, 1967 [1838]). Moberly, R.C., Ministerial Priesthood (London: Murray, 1899). Moore, A.L., Science and the Faith (London: Kegan Paul, 1889). More, Henry, A Collection of Several Philosophical Writings, 2nd edn (London, 1662). More, Henry, An Explanation of the Grand Mystery of Godliness (London, 1660). Morris, Jeremy, F.D. Maurice and the Crisis of Christian Authority (Oxford: OUP, 2005). Munger, Theodore T., Horace Bushnell, Preacher and Theologian (Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1899). Murry, J. Middleton, The Price of Leadership (London: SCM, 1939). Neill, Stephen, The Interpretation of the New Testament, 1861–1961 (London: Oxford University Press, 1964). Neville, Graham, Radical Churchman: Edward Lee Hicks and the New Liberalism (Oxford: Clarendon, 1998). Neville, Graham, ‘Science and Tradition: F.J.A. Hort and his Critics’, Journal of Theological Studies, NS, 50/2 (October 1999). Newsome, David, The Victorian World Picture (London: Murray, 1997). Niebuhr, H.R., The Kingdom of God in America (Chicago and New York: Willet Clark, 1937). Nurser, John, For All Peoples and All Nations: Christian Churches and Human Rights (Geneva: WCC, 2005).

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

196

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 206

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

Overton, John H., and Relton, Frederic, The English Church from the Accession of George I to the End of the Eighteenth Century (1714–1800), vol. VII of A History of the English Church, ed. W.R.W. Stephenson and W. Hunt (London: Macmillan, 1906). Parker, T.H.L., Calvin: An Introduction (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 1995; London: Continuum, 2002). Patrick, Graham A., F.J.A. Hort: Eminent Victorian (Sheffield: Almond, 1988). Patrick, Graham A., The Miners’ Bishop: Brooke Foss Westcott (Peterborough: Epworth, 2004). Patrides, C.A. (ed.), The Cambridge Platonists (London: Arnold, 1969; Cambridge: CUP, 1980). Pattison, Mark, Memoirs (Fontwell: Centaur, 1969 [1885]). Peake, A.S., Recollections and Appreciations, ed. W.F. Howard (London: Epworth, 1938). Perry, Seamus (ed.) Coleridge’s Notebooks: A Selection (Oxford: OUP, 2002). Petre, M.D. (ed.) Autobiography and Life of George Tyrrell (2 vols, London: Arnold, 1912). Preston, Claire, Thomas Browne and the Writing of Early Modern Science (Cambridge and New York: CUP, 2005). Prickett, Stephen, ‘Has Liberalism a Future?’ Higher Education Newsletter, 7 (July 1984). Prickett, Stephen, Romanticism and Religion (Cambridge: CUP, 1976). Prothero, R.E. (ed.) Life and Letters of Dean Stanley (London: Nelson, 1909). Pym, David, Religious Thought of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (Gerrards Cross: Smythe, 1978). Ramsey, A.M., F.D. Maurice and the Conflicts of Modern Theology (Cambridge: CUP, 1951). Ramsey, A.M., From Gore to Temple The Development of Anglican Theology between Lux Mundi and the Second World War (London: Longmans, 1960). Ramsey, A.M., The Gospel and the Catholic Church (London: Longmans, 1936). Raven, C.E., Christian Socialism, 1848–1854 (London: Macmillan, 1920). Raven, C.E., Natural Religion and Christian Theology 1st ser., Gifford Lectures, 1951 (2) (Cambridge: CUP, 1953). Robinson, J.A., and Ramsay, W.M., ‘The Late Professor Hort, The Expositor, 7 (1893). Roston, Murray, Prophet and Poet: The Bible and the Growth of Romanticism (London: Faber, 1965). Rothblatt, Sheldon, The Revolution of the Dons (London: Faber, 1968; Cambridge: CUP, 1981). Rule, Philip C., ‘Coleridge’s Reputation as a Religious Thinker: 1816–1972’, Harvard Theological Review (July 1974). Rupp, E.G., Hort and the Cambridge Tradition: An Inaugural Lecture (Cambridge: CUP, 1970). Ryan, Alan, John Dewey and the High Tide of American Liberalism (New York: Norton, 1997). Sanders, Charles R., Coleridge and the Broad Church Movement (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1942).

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 207

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY

197

Schmithals, Walter, The Office of Apostle in the Early Church, tr. J.E. Steely (London: SPCK, 1971). Smyth, Charles, The Art of Preaching (London: SPCK, 1940). Stephen, Leslie, History of English Thought in the Eighteenth Century (London: Smith Elder, 1876; New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1962). Stephenson, Alan M.C., The Rise and Decline of English Modernism (London: SPCK, 1984). Stewart, Herbert L., ‘The Place of Coleridge in English Theology’, Harvard Theological Review (January 1918). Storey, Mark, Robert Southey: A Life (Oxford: OUP, 1997). Sultana, Donald, Samuel Taylor Coleridge in Malta and Italy (Oxford: Blackwell, 1969). Tulloch, J., Movements of Religious Thought in Britain during the Nineteenth Century (London: Longmans, 1885). van Huyssteen, J. Wentzel, Alone in the World? Human Uniqueness in Science and Theology, Gifford Lectures 2004 (Grand Rapids, MI, and Cambridge: Eerdmans, 2006). van Huyssteen, J. Wentzel, Duet or Duel: Theology and Science in a Postmodern World (London: SCM, 1998). Vickers, Neil, Coleridge and the Doctors, 1795–1806, Oxford English monographs (Oxford: Clarendon, 2004). Vidler, Alec R., F.D. Maurice and Company (London: SCM, 1966). Vidler, Alec R., The Church in an Age of Revolution: 1789 to the Present Day, vol. V of The Pelican History of the Church (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1961). Walker, Peter Knight, The Anglican Church Today: Rediscovering the Middle Way (London: Mowbray, 1988). Wedgwood, B., and Wedgwood, H., The Wedgwood Circle, 1730–1897 (London: Studio Vista, 1980). Westcott, Arthur, Life and Letters of Brooke Foss Westcott (London: Macmillan, 1903). Westcott, B.F., Essays in the History of Religious Thought in the West (London: Macmillan, 1891). Westcott, B.F., and Hort, F.J.A. (eds) Bible: The New Testament in the Original Greek (Cambridge: Macmillan, 1881). Whichcote, Benjamin, Moral and Religious Aphorisms (London: Elkin Mathews, 1930 [1753]). Whitman, Walt, Complete Poetry and Selected Prose and Letters, ed. E. Holloway (London: Nonesuch, 1938). Wiles, Maurice, Archetypal Heresy: Arianism through the Centuries (Oxford: Clarendon, 1996). Willey, Basil, The Seventeenth Century Background: Studies in the Thought of the Age in Relation to Poetry and Religion (London: Chatto & Windus, 1949). Willey, Basil, Samuel Taylor Coleridge (New York: Norton, 1972).

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

198

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 208

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

Williams, Rowan, Anglican Identities (London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 2004). Williams, Rowan, Wrestling with Angels, ed. Mike Higton (London: SCM, 2007). Wilson, Ben, The Laughter of Triumph: William Hone and the Fight for the Free Press (London: Faber, 2005). Wood, H.G., Frederick Denison Maurice (Cambridge: CUP, 1950). Worthen, John, The Gang: Coleridge, the Hutchinsons and the Wordsworths (New Haven: Yale UP, 2001). Wright, Conrad (ed.) Three Prophets of Religious Liberalism: Channing, Emerson, Parker (Boston: Beacon, 1961). Young, David, F.D. Maurice and Unitarianism (Oxford: Clarendon, 1992).

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 209

Index

Articles, Thirty-Nine, of Church of England 9, 18–19, 60, 132, 168–9 ascension, dogma of the 26, 170 Athanasian Creed 15, 81, 82, 100, 168 atonement 12, 17, 38, 45, 92, 137 Arminian idea of and Erskine 108, 111, 114 in developmental Christology 152 interpretation 49, 78 pardon and 114 punishment and 47 reinterpretation of 43 Robertson and doctrine of 122 authorities, uneasiness with poetical language 168 authority 5, 36, 109, 130, 169, 170 antipathy to, Coleridge’s 23, 29 of Bible, scriptures 3, 28, 36, 43, 45, 61, 71, 114 conscience as 66 ecclesiastical 39, 61, 71, 130, 132 external 79, 109 of God 47, 61, 76, 96 Hort on 103 human or institutional 47, 48, 169 of Reason 94 Robertson on 119, 120 of sense-perceptions 61

Absolute Being 16, 76 absolute monarchy 128 Absolute Will 50 abstractions, Maurice’s fear of 70–1 agnosticism 75, 82, 84 Alterity, Second Person of Holy Trinity 16 America, United States of 3-4, 42 Coleridgean tradition in 37–55 see also New England ambiguity 94, 95, 116, 167 analogy and metaphor 46–7, 48 Anglican Church see Church of England Anglo-Catholic criticism of Hort 97–8 freedom of enquiry 136–7 tradition 97, 99, 100 working in slum parishes 132 anthropomorphism (objectification of God) 14, 16 Apostles, Cambridge University 131, 132 Aquinas, St Thomas 69 Arianism 10 Arminianism 34, 36, 38, 42, 108–11 Arnold, Matthew 84, 118, 134 Arnold, Dr Thomas 104, 106, 129, 134 199

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

200

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 210

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

Bacon, Francis 23, 24, 27, 32 baptism 18, 19, 28, 104, 166, 169 Pusey on 60 Barnes, E.W. 90 Baxter, Richard 24, 29, 30 Being and Action 29 belief Coleridge’s 11, 12, 14, 17, 25 (scheme of) 8, 43 crisis of 120 eighteenth-century schemes of 10 and knowledge of God 62 liberal forms of 42, 52 in New England 38 traditional 52–3, 61, 86, 97, 103, 137 benevolence 42, 126, 127, 140 benevolent deism 42 Benson, E.W., Archbishop of Canterbury 103 Bentham, Jeremy 5, 63 Berger, John 169 Berkeley, George 9 Bible 83, 100, 115 Coleridge and 5, 22, 25, 51 exposition of 25 Hort and the Revised Version 87 language 46, 57, 86 multiplicity of associations in 167 in New England 39, 45–7, 49, 117–18 biblical criticism 89, 96, 115, 148 Blake, William, on poetry 168 Brook Farm experiment 52 Browne, Thomas, Religio Medici 30 Bruno, Giordano 6, 29, 159 Burgon, J.W. 83, 90 Bushnell, Horace 49–50 Dissertation on Language 46 The Vicarious Sacrifice 49 influenced by Coleridge 39–41 Butler, Joseph on conscience 80 influence on Maurice 64–6 imaginary dialogue with Wesley 65

Calvinism 30, 36, 108, 109, 114, 116 Arminianism and 110, 111 in Church of England 38 conviction of God as father and as origin 50, 52 harshness of 106 Leighton’s 34, 35, 107 in New England 37, 38, 42, 45, 52 Cambridge Platonists 11, 24, 30, 42, 156–7 Coleridge’s view 30, 32–3 ‘Cambridge Trio’ 90 Carlyle, Thomas 51, 99, 107, 117 casuistry 27, 63, 70 Catholic tradition, riches of the 24 ceremonial, Coleridge’s contempt for 12 Channing, William Ellery 46, 51 Chardin, Teilhard de, on evolutionary process 157–9 Christ as Educator 116, 117 devotion to the person of 120–2, 126, 134 divinity of 142 humanity of 112, 134, 137, 142, 151 meaning of life of 111 teaching of 126, 127 virgin birth of 25 Christian Community 6, 133 Christian denominations, Coleridge’s attitudes 7, 8 Christian inheritance, total 141 Christian life as human life (Hort) 104 Christian Politics, Economics and Citizenship (COPEC) 133 Christian Social Union 132, 135 Christian Social Service Unions 133 Christian Socialism 64, 130–2 Christian state, and morality 133 Christian theology 82 Christianity denominations of 19 doctrines in England and America 38 finality of 67

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 211

INDEX

(Christianity, continued) gospel key to the meaning of 109 orthodoxy, check on creative powers 7 Christianities, multitude of 99 ‘Christogenesis’ 158 Christology 10, 134–43, 149, 152, 169 Christ’s Hospital 11 Church catholic and apostolic, idea of 19–20 Church of England and catholicity 100 Coleridge’s adherence to 6, 7, 9, 11, 13, 19–20 challenges to in eighteenth century 38, 39 as established church 4, 38, 84 Evangelical Revival 59, 129 and Oxford Movement 104 post-war role of 161 and socialism 135 Church of Scotland 107 church–state relationship 19 church universal 56 clerisy (klerisei), Church of Reason 126–34, 146, 162 Clerk Maxwell, James 89, 93 Coleridge, S.T. Aids to Reflection 17–18, 33–4, 37, 42–6, 49, 53, 56 Biographia Literaria 37, 41, 43, 56 Church and State 56 Confessions of an Enquiring Spirit 46 Encyclopaedia Metropolitana 22, 88 The Friend 56 Moral and Political Lectures 127 On the Constitution of Church and State 19, 56, 126, 146 ‘Six Lectures on Revealed Religions’ 126 admired in America 37, 39 early watchwords, science, freedom and love of truth 4 character and theology 23 family of 9, 56

201

knowledge of German philosophy 62 methods of developing theology 24 ‘philosopher of Anglicanism’ 19 theological legacy 106 common man, age of the 125, 126, 142 communion see eucharist Communist Manifesto 126, 135 Community, Third Person of Holy Trinity 16 community of Christians 6, 133, 169, 171 Comte, Auguste 68, 69, 148–9 confirmation, sacrament of 19 conformity to Church of England, Coleridge’s 7, 8 Congregationalism in New England 42 conscience Butler and 66, 80 Erskine and 116 and experience 72 of the nation 133 in Mansel–Maurice debate 75–6 Maurice’s view on 66, 70, 72, 86 part of human nature 23 considerateness as Christian virtue 139–40 Constitution of the United States 42 Cottle, Joseph 6, 17 Coulson, John 2, 84–6 Creationism 163 Creed, J.M., The Divinity of Jesus Christ 98, 99 creeds Athanasian 15, 81–2, 100, 168 Constantinopolitan 88–9 doctrine in 82, 86, 98, 166–7, 171 formed by life 122–3 crucifixion 11, 26 Cudworth, Ralph, 24, 30–1 Cupitt, Don, theologian 162 Darwin, Charles 155 The Descent of Man 155

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

202

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 212

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

(Darwin, Charles, continued) The Origin of Species 91, 92, 125, 154 Hort on scientific assessment of 96 Darwin, Erasmus 153 Deism 6, 12, 42 democracy 125–7, 130 and Christianity 37, 132–5 and Christology 140, 143, 144 as ideal 54, 125, 126 Whitman’s views 142 democratic ideas, tide of 134 Descartes, René 31 Dewey, John 51 A Common Faith 54 The Quest for Certainty 53 abandoning church membership 53 pragmatist 41 Dichotomy and Trichotomy 29 discipline and church government 18–19, 29 discovery and revelation 68, 85, 94, 163 dissent 10, 14, 27, 52, 169 divine education 116 government, laws, order 65, 82, 101, 135–6 love 116 nature 76, 140, 152 objectivity and subjectivity 16 plan, purpose 101, 110, 116, 150–2, 163 response of man to the 4, 31–2, 52, 121, 163, 166 revelation 36, 65, 79, 97, 118–19 spirit and man’s spirit 12 Divine Trinity in Unity 29 divinity and humanity of Christ 11–12, 40, 137–8, 141–2, 152 doctrine 16, 109, 166, 169–71 challenged in New England 39–42, 48–9, 51 coherency of 99, 140–1, 170 existing, inherited 3, 5, 12, 15, 33, 166

orthodox 11, 17–18, 39, 96–7 scheme of 26, 29, 49, 109–11 truth in 58, 167 dogma 123, 127, 135, 155, 167, 170 Donne, John 24, 25, 26 doubt of Thomas, Robertson’s sermon on 118 drug addict, Coleridge as 1, 8, 18, 23, 34 Drummond, Henry, Natural Law in the Spiritual World 91 Edwards, Jonathan 39, 42 election and predestination 34, 38, 108 Eliot, T.S. The Idea of a Christian Society 133 emergence, idea of 155, 158, 163–4 Emerson, Ralph Waldo 51, 52, 118 Emersonian Transcendentalism 41 Empson, William 167 Enlightenment 30, 85, 128, 107 equality 128, 142 ‘Eranus’, group of Cambridge Apostles 131 Erskine, Thomas, of Linlathen 59, 106–17 The Spiritual Order 113 on education 146–7 established church 4, 6, 7, 19, 83 eternal 12, 15, 36, 68, 71–2, 80 Eternal and Absolute 80–2 ‘eternal’ and ‘eternity’, meaning of 73–4, 78, 80 eternal forms, Plato’s 24 God 28, 50, 71 knowledge of the 79 life 28, 73 principles 123 purpose 147 truth 67, 109, 145 eternity as antithesis of time 35, 36 as simultaneous totality 35 Mansel’s doctrine of 81

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 213

INDEX

eucharist, sacrament of 25, 26, 28, 104 Coleridge and 28, 162 evangelical alliance with high church 96 beliefs 61, 98, 117, 149 enthusiasm 42 in Hort’s thinking 104–5 individualism 136 Marsh’s rejection of clergy 39 revivalism 38, 59–60, 108 in Robertson’s background 117–20, 123, 147 evangelicalism 117, 131–3, 136 evolutionary theory and theology 53, 144, 150–9 ‘Existential commitment’ 6–8 expiation, doctrine of 17, 111 faith emphasis on in Erskine 109, 112–13 justification by 12 new forms of 68 reason and 30, 82, 90, 94 result of discovery 93 and trust 85 and works 13 faith, community of 38, 169–71 fall of man 30–1, 52, 61, 82, 150–1 and Calvinism 108–9, 111 fascism and communism 133 fatherhood of God 15, 50, 64, 72, 78, 85, 111, 116–17 Finite and Relative 77–8, 81 ‘fixed ideas’ and ‘free ideas’ 155 forgiveness, Arminian teaching about 36 forms of worship 60, 168 free will 13, 34, 44, 108 freedom in enquiry, exposition 25, 51, 95–6, 114, 136 God’s 47 of human will 42, 110–11 last not first 102

203

of religious opinion 148 science, f. and truth 4, 35, 102–3, 144, 159, 161 French revolution 22, 123, 124, 128 fulfilment (‘pleroma’) 143, 151 German thought Creed and 98–9 influence of 39, 62, 70, 83, 103 Romanticism 39, 41–2, 52, 85 Gillmans, Dr and Mrs James, friends of Coleridge 6, 37 Gnosticism 99 God and creation 26, 28, 31, 51, 78, 93, 130, 137–9, 164 C’s idea of 12, 14–16, 20, 47 denial of 92 and humankind 60, 67, 72, 93, 109, 111–13, 117, 163 image of 44, 67, 78, 82, 85, 114, 134, 142, 165 knowledge of 63, 76-8, 120–1 purpose of 43, 50, 110, 114, 137, 150–2, 160 righteousness of 110 theology of 29 will, judging of 115 godhead 10, 82, 138–9 Godwin, William, Enquiry Concerning Political Justice 126–7 Gore, Charles, 132 Christ and Society 141 The Incarnation of the Son of God 139 criticism of Hort 97 editor, Lux Mundi 136–9 and kenotic Christology 140 Gosse, Edmund, on Coleridge’s art in writing 27–8 grace doctrine of 12, 42, 108, 111, 139 God’s 26, 140, 171 and human will 34

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

204

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 214

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

Great Awakening, New England (1740s) 38 Jonathan Edwards and 42 Greek New Testament, Westcott and Hort 87 Green, Joseph Henry, friend of Coleridge 6 Griesbach, Johann Jakob, influence of 39 growth of human race parallel to growth of individual 148 Hare, Julius, friend of Maurice 59 Hartley, David, philosopher of Associationism 9, 127 Hazlitt, William 22 Headlam, Stewart 132 hierarchy 31, 37, 129, 135 Hindu religion, Maurice’s criticism 66–7 history Coleridge’s view of 22, 28, 36, 145, 146 Erskine’s attitude to 116 meaning of, 153, 159 and science, changing tradition 3 value of 68, 83 of words and interpretation 85, 93, 97 Holy Trinity, doctrine of 15–17, 25, 45, 139, 159, 163 Hooker, Richard 38 Hort, F.J.A. 3, 41, 84, 87–105 Essays and Reviews 95 New Testament in Greek 88 Two Dissertations 88 The Way, the Truth, the Life 90, 93, 103–4, 155 ‘Eranus’, Cambridge University 131 on Origin of Species 154–5 human reason 30–2, 34–5, 42–3, 108, 116, 153 humanitarianism, ‘triumphant humanitarianism’ 47

humanity of Christ 16–17, 52, 134–5, 137–8 Hume, David 42, 61 idealism 9, 52 Identity, First Person of the Holy Trinity 16 idolatry 13, 14–16, 66, 117, 143 image of God, Imago Dei, 165 incarnation, doctrine of 17, 81, 82, 86 God’s plan 150 and kenosis 137–40 and redemption 111 of Son of God 59 independence as attitude to science and theology 164 Hort’s concept of 93 infallibility of Bible, scriptures 27, 36, 61, 89 of church, 119–20, 169 of reason 128 Infinite and the Absolute 76–9 ‘innate ideas’ 32 inspiration and authority 28 ‘The Holy Spirit and Inspiration’ (Gore) 138 in human experience 51 of scripture 33, 38, 43, 45–7, 51, 115, 117 and Reason 17 intellectual exploration without God 93 intellectual poverty of Locke and Paley 24 intuition, against intellect 51–2 Jesus Christ see Christ Johannine theology influence on Coleridge 12, 15, 145 Maurice and 67, 69, 83 Hort and 98, 102 Westcott and 150

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 215

INDEX

Jowett, Benjamin, Master of Balliol 132 Kant, Immanuel 1, 5–6, 51 discussed in Maurice–Mansel controversy 79–81 on knowledge, orders of 61–2 terminology, use of his 78 Keble, J.M. 84, 131 kenosis, see self-emptying Kierkegaard, Søren 90 klerisei, see clerisy knowledge development of scientific 22, 35, 54, 93, 101, 155, 164 essence of God 139 of God 61, 63, 71–3, 75–6, 78, 93 human 22, 76, 88, 134 and knower 102 not limited to sense perception 71, 73 by revelation 75–6, 78 of the Son of God 152 sense-perceptions 5, 43, 61 virtual equation of belief and 61 Lamb, Charles 1, 9 language 2, 40, 46, 84, 86 Latitudinarians 31 Laud, William, 24, 27, 108 Law, William 108–9 Leighton, Robert 29, 33–5, 42, 45 ‘A Modest Defence of Moderate Episcopacy’ 33 Practical Commentary on the First Epistle General of St Peter 33 Lessing, G.E. Education of the Human Race 147 Lightfoot, Joseph Barber 89, 131 Locke, John 24, 32, 61 Essay Concerning Human Understanding 45 accepted in New England 43, 44 Coleridge’s criticism of 2, 42 on meaning of words 45

205

logic 27–8, 40, 76–8 Logos 83, 150 love of truth, science, freedom and 4 Ludlow, J.M. 57, 64, 91 Lux Mundi, edited by Charles Gore 136–9, 142, 152 Malta, 13, 15 Malthus, T.R. Essay on Population 63 man and nature, connection perceived by Maurice 59 man created in image of God 78 ‘man’, Renaissance view of 137–8 Manichean Morals, Coleridge on Leighton 35 Mannheim, Karl, sociologist 133 Mansel, H.L. 58, 59, 68 The Kingdom of Christ 58 The Limits of Religious Knowledge (Bampton Lectures) 58, 74, 75–6 rejoinder to Maurice 75 marginalia of Coleridge 22, 24, 34 Marsh, Herbert, antipathy to Calvinism 39 Marsh, James 39, 40, 41, 53 Martineau, James, philosopher 83 materialism of Descartes and Hobbes 32 Maurice, F.D. 36, 41, 56–86, 107, 129, 132 The Conscience 63, 70 The Kingdom of Christ 56, 58, 59, 63, 85–6, 136 Life of Frederick Denison Maurice 114 Moral and Metaphysical Philosophy 56, 58, 65, 68, 88 Sequel to the Inquiry 79 Social Morality 149 Subscription No Bondage 60 Theological Essays 73, 78 What is Revelation? 74, 75, 78 branded as heretic 73 on Butler and Wesley 65–6 debt to Coleridge 56

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

206

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 216

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

(Maurice, F.D., continued) ‘Eternal Life and Eternal Death’, essay 73 and Hort 87–8 Tractarianism 60 Maurice–Mansel controversy 75–86 Maxwell, James Clerk, biography 89 metaphor as illustration 46–7, 48 metaphorical texts 48 Methodism 7, 14, 39, 65, 108, 110, 125 Michaelis, Johann David, influence of 39 Middleton, Thomas F. 16 Mill, John Stuart 5, 20, 84, 85 Milton, John 24, 27, 128 mind, pre-eminent 17 Moberly, R.C., Ministerial Priesthood 97 Moore, A.L. 91 moral imperative for action 120–2 moral law 154 moral obligations 44, 76, 80, 82 morality 5, 62, 108 morals, consensus in 169 More, Henry, 24, 31, 32–3 Murray, J.O.F., on knowledge 102 Murry, John Middleton, The Price of Leadership 133, 134 national identities in age of globalization 163 national life, 132–4, 161–3 types of Christianity 19–20, 129 natural religion 34, 65–7, 109, 123 natural selection, and purpose of God 152 natural and the spiritual 44 Necessitarianism 9–12 New England Calvinism in 37, 38–9, 42, 45, 47, 52 national consciousness 54 popularity of Leighton 33 Newman, John Henry 2, 84, 100, 132 Apologia pro Vita Sua 100 attack on Erskine 115, 116

Nicholas of Cusa, Maurice on 57 Niebuhr, Reinhold 55 Noel, Conrad 132 obedience the organ of spiritual knowledge 121 Oman, John, 154–7 opposition to repressive authority, Coleridge’s 29 original sin, doctrine 27, 28, 36, 45, 55 orthodoxy 3, 15–20, 47, 59, 73, 76, 142, 166 Bushnell’s 40, 46, 49–50 C’s 1, 7, 10–11, 40, 49 Hort and 90, 96, 100 Mansel’s 83, 86 Robertson on 120 Oxford Movement 60, 99, 104, 132 Paley, William 5, 14, 24, 92, 146 Natural Theology 45, 64, 146, 156 A View of the Evidences of Christianity 64, 118 on God as designer 154 on power in man and animals 44–5 ‘theological utilitarianism’ 64 pantheism 7, 14, 49 Pantisocracy 6, 127 Pauline theology in Calvinism 45 in Erskine’s teaching 112, 152 and incarnation 82, 151 and revelation 111, 152 and theological tradition 2 Pelagianism 72, 111, 113 perception of God, intuitive 120–2 personal consciousness 66–8 philosophy C’s 8, 9, 19, 22 German 40, 42–3, 62, 83 Lockean 43–4 and religion, theology 44, 52, 59, 74, 77, 82 terminology of 57

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 217

INDEX

physics, and denial of God 92–3 plagiarism, Coleridge accused of 2, 21, 22 Platonism 7, 11, 16, 23–4, 28-30, 144–5 Plotinus 11, 30 poetic language, understanding of 84, 84–6 poetry Coleridge’s 1, 6–9, 17, 27, 37, 85–6, 161 dogma as 168–9 of the people 41 poets Romantic 54, 59 as theologians 85, 140 positive eternity the p. opposite of life 36, 73 knowledge of the Absolute, God 74–6 Positivism 68–9, 82, 148–9 preaching C. comparing preachers 146 of the gospel, appeal of 60 in America 47 Robertson’s ministry 117 predestination, Calvinist doctrine 34, 38, 42, 45, 107, 110 Priestley, Joseph 10, 12, 15, 127 probation, state of 116, 147 progress Coleridge on 145–6, 148 Comte and Westcott on 148–9 in holiness 116 ideas of 117, 124, 129, 144, 147, 157 of scientific enquiry 35, 92, 94, 153 progression 127, 129, 145–6 progressive faith 98, 152 Protestantism 91, 100, 119 Pusey, Edward Bouverie 39, 60, 69 Quakerism, Coleridge and 12 Ramsey, A. Michael 84, 97, 119, 140 rationalism 6, 117–19

207

Raven, Charles 4, 59 Christian Socialism 58, 90, 156–7 on Hort 90 on Origin of Species 154 on religion and science 156 Ray, John 156 reading texts, Coleridge’s method 5 reason 94–5, 53, 107, 122 basis of belief 10, 38 clerisy, as church of 128 in C’s thinking 8, 13, 15–17, 23–4, 27, 30–2, 36 and conscience 75–6, 109, 116, 123 faith and 30, 82 human 31–2, 34–5, 42–5, 108, 116, 153 illusion and 79 imaginative response of human spirit 123 objective truth and 62 speculative and practical 80–1 Rousseau and 128 Reason and Understanding 6, 23–4, 34, 36, 40, 116, 120 and levels of language 86 in New England 42–5, 51–2 Kantian 24, 32, 45, 62, 79–82, 85–6, 126 rebirth to spiritual life 18, 48 Redeemer 122, 134 Coleridge’s need for 6, 11, 17, 19–20 redemption 28, 150–1 Christ’s act of 11, 17, 48–50, 137, 166 doctrine of 12, 15, 17–18, 36, 50, 111, 112 incarnation and 152, 169 process of 34, 48 redemptive purpose, God’s 117, 160 reform 52, 108, 115, 129, 131, 134, 138 Reformation 24–5, 100, 138, 146, 168 relations God-given 135, 136 higher 72, 109

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

208

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 218

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

(relations, continued) human 15, 70–1, 72, 127, 150, 151 Maurice on 63 relationships, patterns of 150 relative and absolute 77 finite and 78 religion and affections 169 C and 9, 12–14, 28 and idolatry 12 meaning of, to Dewey 54 natural, revealed 35, 65–8, 109, 116, 123 and philosophy 42, 44 and science, relationship 69, 89, 91, 94, 156, 158 sectarian 12, 19, 38, 45, 149 truth and 95–6 of the heart not of the intellect 122 religious experience 41, 64, 66–8, 146, 164 religious institutions 53–4, 128 religious language 49, 84–5 revelation 1, 17, 21, 116, 118, 139, 150 discovery and 163–5 and knowledge 61, 93, 97, 109 in life of Jesus 112–13, 151 Maurice on 69–86 response to 109, 146 truth of 51, 122 Ripley, George, Transcendentalist 52 Ritschl, Albrecht 98–9 Robertson, F.W. 85, 106, 117–24 The Doubt of Thomas, 1, 18 on the idea of progress 147 Roman Catholicism 13, 14, 29, 100, 117 Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, Social Contract 128 sacramentalism, Hort’s sympathy 104 sacraments 13, 25–8, 36, 60–1, 99 sacrifice 47, 52, 109, 117, 122, 138, 167–8, 171 substitutionary 45, 107, 117

vicarious 49, 112 salvation 18, 28, 37, 42, 65, 110 doctrine of 47–9, 107, 164–5 gospel of 38 of individual 111–13, 116, 152 theologies of 171 Schelling, F.W.J. von 7, 22, 51 science and enquiry 103 and the gospel 4 Maurice on 68–9 and philosophy, Leighton’s declamations against 35 and religion 89–92, 94, 156 and theology 153, 157, 163, 164 and tradition 3, 164 and truth 69, 93, 159, 161, 164 scientific advance 22, 148, 153 scientific ideas, new scope 53 scriptures 38, 43, 45, 114–15 self-development of man (Bildung) 129 self-emptying (kenosis) 137, 138, 140 and fulfilling (pleroma) 152 self-sacrifice of redeemer 119, 122, 138 senses limitation on knowledge 61, 71, 79, 118–23 means of knowing 6, 27, 32, 51, 80–1 Shakespeare, William 24 Shelley, Percy Bysshe, on poetry 168 sin 165, 168–9 C. and 1, 7, 14, 17, 28 and disorder 65 makes people human 143 original 28, 36, 45, 55, 107 and punishment, 47, 73 Smith, A.L., Master of Balliol 132 Smith, John (Innate Notions) 32 social intelligence, not a solution to social problems 54 Society of Jesus 158, 159 Socinianism 10, 14, 16, 111 Southey, Robert, 6, 9, 10, 33, 144 Spencer, Herbert, agnosticism 84

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 219

INDEX

Spinoza, Baruch, rejection of doctrine of 14 Stanley, Dean Arthur 106 Sterling, John, member of Apostles 131 Stewart, Dugald 39 Strong, T.B., on Hort 95 Student Christian Movement 132–3 subjective experience, relation to objective world 23 supernatural 54, 66, 109–10, 138, 155 Supreme Being, conceptions of 75, 149 Susquehanna scheme (pantisocracy) 10, 52, 127 Taylor, Jeremy Ductor Dubitantium 70 Liberty of Prophesying 27 criticism and praise of 26, 27 rich language 24 sermon on Advent, Coleridge’s response 35–6 Temple, Frederick 148, 154–5 Temple, William 140, 161 textual criticism 87, 89, 98 theologies, various 162–3 theology 74 decline of teaching 53 evolution and 153 historical 89 lack of coherent structure in 168 moral problems and 137 philosophy and 44, 77 Thirty-Nine Articles 18, 60, 132, 168, 169 time, ideas of time 57, 67, 70, 73–4, 81 Tooke, Horne, philologist 85 totalitarianism 134 Tractarians 13, 129, 136 and Maurice 60, 61 and sacraments 61 tradition American 3, 39 of the churches 38, 96, 98, 118, 136 Coleridge and 22–3

209

Coleridgean 5–6, 36, 162–4 Hort and 101, 103–5, 156 literary 84–5 parallel beliefs of history, t. and scripture 36 theological 1–2, 2–3 value of, to Robertson 120 Traherne, Thomas 170 transcendence, loss of 24 transcendent, the 71, 76, 81, 149, 162, 168 Transcendental Club, Boston 45 Transcendentalism 7 in America 41–2, 51–2 Robertson and 117–18, 123 Tridentine Profession of Faith 168 Trinitarian ideas 11, 12, 14–15 Trinity, Holy 29, 43. 45, 62, 139, 159, 163 C. and the 14–17, 24–5 truth 62, 64, 77, 88, 94, 96 in doctrine 167 of dogma 123 immune to criticism 103 Maurice’s criterion for 82 objective reality 67 perception, Hort on 101–2 speculative 81 understanding 23, 27, 32, 134 words out of sense experience 28, 86 Understanding and Reason 6, 27, 30, 40, 86, 120, 123 distinction between 23, 43 Kantian 6 and clerisy 130 Unitarianism 6, 120 Coleridge and 9–12, 15 doctrinal base 52 emergence as denomination 42 United Nations, representing increasingly unified civilization 161 Universal Declaration of Human Rights 161 universities 4, 60, 118, 128–32, 162

coleridge 17.8.9.qxd

210

17/8/09 3:29 PM

Page 220

COLERIDGE AND LIBERAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

university, nature of 128 Utilitarianism 5–6, 63–4 van Huyssteen, J. Wentzel Alone in the World? 164, 165 Victorian optimism 123 Victorian progress 147 virgin birth of Jesus, uncertainty on 25 Wesley, John, 38, 59, 65 Wesleyan Methodism, influence in New England 39 Westcott, B.F. 58, 97, 131–2, 142 and Hort 87, 89–92, 97, 100, 105 overview of history 149–51 Westminster Confession 107

Whichcote, Benjamin, Moral and Religious Aphorisms 30 White, Gilbert, of Selborne 92 Whitefield, George 38, 108 Whitman, Walt, Democratic Vistas 142 wisdom and holiness 34 words 45, 70, 85–6 Wordsworth, William 6, 13, 59, 144 working men and responsible citizenship 130 Working Men’s College 121, 130, 132 world wars, impact of 157, 161 worship 8, 13, 26, 141, 166, 168 modes of 60 sacramental 38