(1) Christianity, while acknowledging the immanence of God, makes its first stand on His transcendence.
(2) It thus fails of the perfect logical consistency which Pantheism, on its own premises, attains to, but saves the freedom and responsibility of man, sacrificed by Pantheism.
(3) Christianity rather anticipates, than directly faces, the dilemma propounded by Pantheism; occupying a mystical position, in which the immanence of God is held side by side with His transcendence.
(4) Apart from belief in His immanence, His transcendence, held alone, leads to logical difficulties which would, in the end, invalidate it.
(5) The doctrine of the Trinity in Unity implies the immanence of the creature in the Creator; while that of the Incarnation presupposes the immanence of the Creator in the creature.
(6) Analysis of the doctrine of the Trinity: that God has, from eternity, within Himself, not only actual power and potential wisdom and love, but actual wisdom and love as well as Power; because, within the Divine Nature Itself, there exists the Object on which wisdom and love are eternally exercised.
(7) To believe otherwise about God were to treat Him as essentially imperfect.
(8) This is why the Church has laid such stress upon the belief in the Trinity in Unity, not as an abstract distinction, but as a religious truth.
But if this is the attitude of Hinduism in face of Pantheistic metaphysics--an attitude of absolute surrender of all that makes Religion worth having, an attitude which leaves sinful man to regard himself as one and the same [336/337] with God, who is as sinful as himself, an attitude which makes sin and holiness indistinguishable each from the other--then how does Christianity stand in its relation to this same philosophy?
The first step to answering this question is to state uncompromisingly again that belief in a Transcendent Deity which is the first characteristic of our Faith. Christianity maintains without compromise, maintains as an absolute first principle, the distinction, essential and impassable, between God and created existence. It claims for created beings the glory of Divine Indwelling; it maintains that by His immanence in them, He sustains them all in being. But in claiming His immanence for them it can never forget for a moment the claims of absolute transcendence which belong to God Himself. It has this in common with Hinduism, that it takes the Existence of Spirit as accounting for the existence of matter--that it bases its theory of matter on finding its explanation and starting-point in the pre-existence of Spirit, that it accounts for the existence of matter by the creative action of Spirit--finds, as it were, the justification of its existence in its being the servant of spirit. But Christianity keeps steadily in sight the distinction, the impassable gulf, between God, the Creative Spirit, and the universe which His fiat created. It justifies its belief in His immanence by maintaining His absolute transcendence. It maintains that His Personal Existence is independent of anything outside Him---that He existed before the worlds were, and that in a conscious Being; that if He swept the whole universe of the finite into the nothingness from whence it came, He Himself would abide as before, Perfect although alone.
This resolute belief in His transcendence is the first foundation principle of all our beliefs about God in His relations with the universe which He has made.
 Yet if this stand isolated and alone, not tempered by belief in His immanence, then I maintain that in the face of modern knowledge it will fail to hold its own, and to command men's ultimate allegiance.
First or last, we must face the great problem which has exercised each great thinker since man first confronted the universe and tried to account for it to himself--the Finite and Infinite, the One and the Many, and the relations of each to the other. To do this is to feel the fascination which has drawn the thinkers of India in the direction of Pantheistic Monism. Nay, it is to find ourselves compelled to admit that, on the side of pure logic, ignoring all spiritual considerations, pure Pantheism has, on its own premises, a terrible compelling consistency, a consistency which belongs, and can belong, to no system acknowledging both spirit and matter, and believing in both an Infinite and a finite.
If we try to set before our minds the conception of an Infinite Creator, and that of a finite creation, co-existing in thought and in fact, we must encounter the following dilemma. The Creator is Infinite, we must say--He is Eternal, Self-sustained, Uncreated. One cannot predicate a Creator at all, and refuse to think of Him thus. Creation, next, is finite, has limitations in time and in space. There was a time when it did not exist, and now that it does exist, it is, ex hypothesi, finite. Then ask what is meant by your terms--what finite and Infinite convey to you. And we find, the very moment that we do so, that we are powerless to reconcile to our minds the contradiction introduced by the terms. The Infinite can have no limitations: to be without them is the essence of Infinity. The Infinite, in human thought, must include all things that are. If anything be excluded from its scope, then, so far, it has limitations--in a word, it is not Infinite. To believe in an Infinite being would seem to [338/339] preclude one at once from believing in anything besides. Believe that there is anything at all which is not included in Infinity, and it would seem to human logic that the conceptions of Infinity and of the finite are evacuated of the only meaning which it is possible to attach to them at all. Either the finite is included in the Infinite--has no existence apart from it--and then you have no finite. Or else it is excluded from the Infinite--and then you have no Infinite; it is limited by the very exclusion.
Now, on this fundamental problem, on this seemingly inevitable dilemma, Pantheistic Monism is based. With ruthless logical consistency it fastens upon this contradiction. True, it says, both Infinite and finite cannot be conceived of together, nay, they cannot exist together. The finite, as we seem to recognize it, as we seem to be conscious of it in ourselves, is only a mode of the Infinite--a ripple, to repeat the illustration, on the surface of that One and All which is the Infinite, which is God, which is Nature, which is my human self, in so far as I have an existence.
It must of course be freely admitted that in point of slieer logical completeness, of uncompromising consistency with itself, a monistic system of thought has the advantage over any philosophy which acknowledges spirit and matter, or which takes count of both Infinite and finite. Be it the thorough-going Pantheism of the Hindu, or the thorough-going materialism of a Hseckel, then, whatever be its moral deficiencies, yet intellectually it is rounded into completeness.
It may be argued, indeed it ought to be maintained, that to gain intellectual completeness at the cost of spiritual suicide is, after all, but a doubtful advantage. And yet it will remain sadly difficult to maintain a moral position which seems to be logically untenable. While to some the temptation will be strong to catch at a specious excuse, [339/340] with much to be said for it argumentatively, which may render the categorical imperative of inconvenient moral obligations less binding than it seemed at first sight. It may be perfectly true, on the one hand, that if we wait for our moral imperative till we have based it on unassailable logic, we shall remain unsatisfied for ever. But it is equally true, on the other, that if we offer for acceptance by the will a demand for moral obedience whose spiritual claim is unsupported by a consistent philosophical scheme, the impulses which we seek to control will take advantage of the logical weakness admitted by the law which would control them.
It is impossible, then, in the long run, that a system of Christian thought should maintain itself either spiritually or morally in dependence on a Personal God, if its view of His relations with His universe be indefensible from the side of the understanding. I do not say that in problems such as these it is possible for a system to be framed which shall support itself by reasoning alone, with no mystical appeal to the spirit at the point where human coneeptions fall short of apprehending the Divine. But I do say that if our conceptions of the Divine are vitiated from first to last by positions whose manifest inadequacy reduces them to self-contradiction, it is certain that nemesis will follow when the common understanding of mankind refuses to accord them its adhesion.
Now this is what is bound to supervene if our belief in the transcendence of the Deity, in His entire independence of His universe is untempered by belief in His immanence. This, indeed, is what is actually happening in the case of the average Englishman who thinks on such subjects at all. His belief in God as the Creator has been pushed back stage by stage till it has ceased altogether to be held as a present working fact in the daily procedure of the universe. God is held to have started things once, by a [340/341] single creative act, upon a course which from that day to this has been left to go mechanically forward independently of His Personal interference. Law, in fact, has been substituted for God.
From this practically deistie position the step to atheistic materialism is neither long nor difficult. If God be not actively present to all that goes forward in His universe, if any invariable operation of what we call the laws of nature be not thought of as actually His work, if we think of the least, or the least variable, of the forces at work before our eyes as mechanical in any such sense as shall exclude His personal operation, I can see no reason whatever for assuming a personal Creator to give the first start to the whole. I but put this in a different form, to bring it into closer connection with the subject assigned to this article, if I say that a belief in God's immanence, to temper the thought of His transcendence, is a condition, and a necessary condition, of believing in transcendence itself.
For apart from such belief in His immanence, there are only, I think, two forms in which belief in His transcendence can be held. While to each of these alike the uniform procedure of nature, as realized by us at this day, must prove certainly and rapidly fatal when apprehended in its logical bearings.
There is first the Mohammedan position, which treats every fact in the universe as the isolated, arbitrary expression of a will imposed on it from without; which makes belief in secondary causes an impiety, a blasphemous limitation of the arbitrary freedom of Allah.
And next there is the Deistic conception of an Epicurean Divinity who has started a universe on its course, as a man on the brow of a hill starts a stone to roll down by itself, and to work out its future course, uncontrolled, or uncontrollable by its mover.
 Under either of these conceptions there is absolutely no room left for interpreting the uniformity of nature as a mode of the working of God. To the Mohammedan everything alike is arbitrary--one might almost say, miraculous--imposed from moment to moment by a Will which might as well have done otherwise; which acted exactly as it did, just because it did so will, apart from any absolute perfection in either the end to be effected, or the means by which it is brought about. To such a Creed as this the uniformity of nature is fatal, if once it be realized scientifically; because the thought of uniform procedure and that of arbitrary decision are diametrically opposed to one another. Let uniformity once be realized, and the arbitrary Mohammedan Ruler is eliminated for ever from the universe.
But the Western or Deistical conception of transcendence untempered by immanence is hardly more capable of maintaining itself when confronted with modern knowledge. It admits the conception of a Creator, to account for the starting of the machine, but eliminates His Personal action from the processes by which it is sustained.
Time was when it seemed possible and plausible to argue that there were stages in the process, represented by the Days of Creation, when nothing but direct operation on the part of a Personal Creator could account for things coming into being; while it was conceivable that in the level interspaces they might go forward almost of themselves--according, no doubt, to God's fiat, but without His actual intervention. Or again, when the belief in Evolution was breaking up such a position, it was argued that for the fall of the apple one needed not to postulate anything save that God had ordained gravitation, and that the apple was mechanically fulfilling an order made aeons before: while for the intelligence of Newton, who saw [342/343] it, and inferred from it the law of gravitation, we must assume a creative act, differentiating man from the brutes.
But the Hindu is surely more logical when he argues that philosopher and apple are alike unintelligible and impossible unless we think of them on just the same plane--that both in their several ways are manifestations, self-realizations of the One Eternal Principle which energizes as thought and as gravitation, which is Newton and apple at once; is the thought which brings the two into relation; is at once the Eternal Law and the particular instance which exemplifies it; is the brain which makes possible the reasoning, and the consciousness which works through the brain.
For, in the face of our knowledge to-day, it is impossible to fix upon a stage where there comes in a difference in kind between any two processes of evolution. We cannot treat any one stage as necessitating a personal act, if that personal act be excluded--nay, if it be not expressly assumed--for every moment in the development; if any the most mechanical stage in the age-long process of the development be independent of a personal agency on the part of the Creator Himself. The first whirl of the cosmic vapour from which nebulae are growing at this moment, and from which our own planet grew out, must contain potentially within itself, to the elimination of personal agency, the last stage as well as the first of everything into which it has developed. We realize in far too much detail the infinitesimal gradations, the inevitable sequences of the development, to admit any difference in kind between any two moments in the whole. God everywhere or God nowhere--such would seem to be the inevitable alternative which confronts the thinker of to-day.
And here, as it presents itself to me, is the point where the doctrine of immanence, as embodied in the Pantheism [343/344] of India, comes in with such marvellous suggestiveness to correct our English Deism--for such, in the ultimate resort, is the attitude described just above--and to call back Christian thought to the true New Testament conception of the universe as related to God.
The immanence of all things in God, as eternally conceived in the Logos "through whom all things were made," and the immanence of the Creator in all things, when the creative act has taken place--so that, again, "in Him all things subsist"--this, not any isolated transcendence, is the doctrine of St. Paul and St. John. It is mystical rather than logical--what doctrine can be anything but mystical which professes to set forth for the creature his relations with the Infinite Creator? But at least it is consistent with itself; does not start by inviting against itself the assaults of an outraged logic which is capable of avenging itself sevenfold.
But this must be drawn out in full detail if it is to carry conviction to the reader.
If I can state the attitude of our religion towards these vast riddles of existence, I can exhibit the possible service to be rendered by Hindus to Christianity. The task is neither easy nor short. It necessitates abstract reasonings, which one knows to be of all things least palatable to the practical English mind. Yet an attitude it is necessary to find if Christianity is to hold us as its votaries. Neither Pantheism nor Materialism count for nothing in the thought of the most ordinary people. They are powers to be reckoned with by all of us--most of all, as I have indicated above, by those who least realize them as such. For they represent essential tendencies in human thinking as such. And if our thoughts about God and His universe contain no element within them, either unconsciously or consciously present, to guard us against these tendencies; then we find, in the ultimate resort, that [344/345] we are started on a process of thinking which will end in our accepting, and acting out the conclusions to which they lead on.
To go back to the typical experience which I put in the forefront, above, as a specimen of Christian thought, distinguishing it from Hindu Pantheism--all Christians believe, like Newman, though they could not express it like him, in "two luminously self-existent beings, one's self and one's Creator." Do we--did Newman, as a man, looking back to the experience of his childhood--contrive to hold fast this belief by simply ignoring the dilemma which has landed the Indian in Pantheism? Or is there that in the Christian Faith, unconsciously or consciously held, which either meets or anticipates the difficulty?
The dilemma, on the logical side, is absolutely and terribly complete. Does Christianity leave us, unguided, to take our choice between two alternatives, each of which seems equally impossible? Or does she accept, as a system, the alternative which Hinduism refused? Does she believe in a transcendence of God which leaves all things, when once He has made them, entirely outside His own Being, no matter how flagrant the contradiction between this limitation of His Infinity, and that belief in it which she has just pressed upon us? Or does she find--what Hinduism refused--some means of reconciling His transcendence with that immanence which Infinity presupposes? And if so, then what is the accommodation, what the mystical belief about God which softens the logical contradiction, 3'et preserving to its terms their real meaning? Above all, while avoiding the contradiction, or softening down its inevitable harshness, does she save for the followers of Christ what Hindus have disastrously lost, their belief in human free will, in responsibility, in sin, in repentance? And does she save these essentials of [345/346] religion without totally stultifying her position in relation to metaphysical problems?
To begin with a brief summary of the answer:--Christianity is before all things the Creed of the Blessed Trinity and the Incarnation. It starts with the Word made Mesh; with God become the Brother of His creatures; with God descending into the sphere of His own universe, and tarrying a while with us in the flesh; with a redemption effected for man, because in the words of St. Athanasius, God became human that man might become divine: QeoV enhnqrwphsen ina hmeiV qeopoihqwmen. And thus believing in God becoming man, she was led on by the necessities of the position to think out a conception of God in His Eternal, Essential Being, which should harmonize with this primary belief about what He had done for us in time. In a word, holding fast to the Incarnation, she was compelled to believe in the Blessed Trinity.
And these companion beliefs anticipate and render unnecessary the dilemma between transcendence and immanence. Believe in the truth of the Logos, and the creation of all things through Him, and you are led to an immanence of all things in the Eternal Thought of the Creator. Believe in the Logos as Incarnate, and you believe implicitly and necessarily in an immanence of God in His creation, when once He has called it into being. Transcendence is impossible of belief unless immanence be held side by side with it. But to those who believe these two truths, the facts of the Trinity and the Incarnation, transcendence is tempered by immanence, and the contradiction between the two disappears.
This, I take it, is the first great essential of a religious account of the Universe--that it secure for those who accept it a belief in the transcendence of the Creator [346/347] which shall yet not wholly exclude a companion belief in His immanence. Like many another truth which is essential to Christian thought, that belief in His transcendence of the universe which I tried to put forward above as the first characteristic of Christianity, forms a member of a great antinomy, wherein two necessary beliefs seem wholly to contradict one another, while yet neither of them can be reasonably held except as complementary to the other. Apart from belief in His immanence, I cannot repeat it too often, His transcendence leads only to contradictions which, in the end, will reduce it to absurdity. And so with His immanence as well. While, on the other hand, each must be held fast if we desire to preserve for religion her own great moral domain, her belief in human responsibility, and in a God, to Whom we are accountable. Let transcendence lapse from our thought, and we are landed, as Hinduism is, in all the immoral conclusions which a reasoned-out Pantheism necessitates. Let go the belief in His immanence, and Materialism at once looms in sight, with its denial of a Euler of the universe, to whom creatures must answer for their deeds.
At the present point in my argument, it is with Pantheism alone that we have to deal. When I come to the service to be rendered to the thought of Christendom as a whole, by those who are Pantheists to-day, were they brought into the fold of Jesus Christ, I shall have much to say about Materialism, as that against which they might help us. For the present my object is this--to show how the Truths of Christianity, as set forth by St. John and St. Paul, the truths of the Holy Trinity and the Incarnation, anticipate for Christian believers the dilemma so fatal to Hindus, between the truth of God's immanence in all things, and that of the reality of things finite.
 The Pantheistic position, as such, is not dealt with directly in the Bible. It does not state the problem, and put forward any doctrine as the answer: it does that which is more satisfactory. No reply to a dilemma propounded can meet it with half the effectiveness secured by statements of fact which, implicitly and intelligently believed, raise faith to a plane quite above it.
I must proceed, then, to draw out at length those truths of the Christian religion which meet, and which resolve by implication, the age-long antinomies and contradictions which have issued in Materialism and Pantheism.
Our belief in the Tri-Unity of Persons within the One Divine Being carries with it the immanence of Creation in the Eternal Thought of the Creator.
Our belief in the incarnation of the Logos carries with it the immanence of God in the universe, when once He has created it.
I begin with the first of these truths; because the immanence of the creature in God is to the immanence of God in creation both proteron aplwV and proteron hmin; it comes first in the order of being, and first in the order of thought.
What, then, do we actually mean when we speak of a Trinity of Persons as subsisting in the One Divine Nature? Simply this--that in His proper perfection, as being from eternity perfect, our God has essentially, within Himself, His own objects of love and of contemplation; that He is Subject and Object to Himself, and that in regard of the two attributes which most essentially constitute perfection--what we must call in our human language, which alone can embody it to us, both the moral and the intellectual aspects of a conscious, personal existence. For if we reflect intelligently at all on what we mean by Divine Perfection, we shall find that a [348/349] revelation of God must include, if it is really to appeal to us, the whole of what we know, or can conceive of as most perfect in our own human nature--must include, therefore, these three attributes: perfect Power, perfect Wisdom, perfect Love.
Now of these three essentials of perfection only one can be thought of at all apart from a realized activity. We can conceive of power as existing apart from any actual exercise. To be capable of exerting it is to possess it. It were, perhaps, not an actual contradiction to conceive of wisdom as existing with nothing on which to be exercised, without ever having actually been exercised, as a bare potentiality, and no more. But if it be not an actual contradiction, it is, at any rate, a total unreality. To be wise, in an intelligible sense, the being to whom wisdom is attributed must have something about which to be wise. To profess to think otherwise about wisdom, to think of any being as possessing it, with nothing whereupon it can be exercised, seems to me to be a juggling with words.
But with love we must go farther than this. The very thought of it assumes as its condition the conception of something to be loved, of something actually and veritably existent, towards which it is ever going forth.
To think, then, about God as being perfect, we must think of Him as actually loving--as having, therefore, some object to love; and we must think of Him as actually wise--as having, therefore, some object to contemplate, that on which He may exercise His wisdom.
But the object of His love and of His wisdom must needs be co-eternal with Himself. And this leaves us with the following alternative:--either God must have been actually imperfect before He had anything to love or anything to contemplate; or, second, there must have been something from eternity which He could contemplate [349/350] as other than Himself; or, third, He must have within Himself, co-essential and co-eternal with His Being, what to contemplate and what to love. In other words there must eternally subsist within the unity of the One Divine Nature, distinctions--personalities, the Church calls them--by which, in virtue of which, He is at once a Being who loves, and at the same time a Being who is loved, a Being who contemplates, who is wise, and a Being who is contemplated, on whom wisdom is exercised. And all this as no mere abstraction, no trifling with words without meaning; but veritably, essentially, eternally, just because He is God, and therefore perfect.
Of these three possible alternatives, the first is a contradiction in terms--that the Perfect One is essentially imperfect. The second is equally contradictory, for it would predicate of the sole First Cause that there was something co-eternal with Himself; of which, therefore, He is not the originator.
The third lies beyond our comprehension--did it not, it were unworthy of Him--but it does shadow forth to our understanding, it does offer to our adoring love, the idea of that Infinite Perfection, without which we cannot think of Him at all.
And thus it is that He has revealed Himself to His Church--" God is love," we are told by St. John. Nor has He left this conception unexplained. "The word was with God," we are told, "and the word was God." The Word was with God, proV ton Qeon--"the Face of the Everlasting Word, if we may so dare to express ourselves, was ever directed towards the Face of the Everlasting Father"--so Dr. Liddon paraphrased the force of the preposition in this expression. In other words, God is Love from Eternity, because God ever has within Himself His own Object of perfect Love.
"God is love," be it observed--not simply loves, [350/351] or feels love. Even to love means to have something to love; something, therefore, which is not wholly one's self; an object which is not so included in one's own very personal being, but that it is realized as other than one's self--as that to which one's self can go forth, and can be spent in affection upon it. But to be love--to have not only His most essential expression, but His absolutely most intimate Being in this Act of going forth to Another that what most truly constitutes Him Himself should be this act of so going forth--what, I ask, does this not imply of the veritable existence of something which is at once both not-self and Self to Him Who is said to be love? To be love, as we are told that God is--it must mean, if words can mean anything, that there are included in the Being of our God both Lover and Beloved at once. He can love, He does love, other beings, whom He has made, who are distinct from Himself. But to be love must mean more than this--nothing less than all that is meant when we speak of there being Persons within the Godhead; of there being within the Divinity distinctions which are not individualities; of there being reciprocities within the Godhead, which subsist without divisibility; of the interchange of mutual affection within the Divine Triad Itself; and of this Eternal activity of the Divine as being that which constitutes Him what He is. "Deus Est Actus Purus," says St. Thomas Aquinas, and the deepest meaning of his words seems to lie in God being love.
I have tried to indicate above the contradictions and absurdities which emerge if we think of Divine Love and Divine Knowledge as existing from all eternity apart from some distinction in the Godhead which shall secure to these Attributes of God an existence Eternal and Self-subsistent, while denying to Him in our human conceptions some Object whereupon they may be exercised.
 To these impossibilities and contradictions the belief in the Holy Trinity is the answer. We believe in a God who is love, in a Being who includes, from Eternity, within His own adorable Perfection, both Love, as actual, not possible, and an Object for the exercise of that Love; both Eternal actuality of Wisdom, and an Object, Eternal as Himself, whereupon that Contemplation may be exercised.
But Love, Love Eternal, Love Essential, Love implying a distinction of Persons--such love, once conceived of as the Being of the Godhead, all difficulties in conceiving of Wisdom as equally Essential and Eternal disappear from our beliefs about God. He is eternally and essentially Wisdom, as He is eternally and essentially Love; for He has within His own perfect Being an Eternal Object of Knowledge as well as an Object of Love. He is Subject and Object to Himself in what we, with our human distinctions, when we speak of mere finite beings, call the intellectual aspect of perfection.
This is why the Trinity in Unity, the profoundest of doctrinal beliefs, the most abstract, most metaphysical, as it is considered, has been clung to with such passionate intensity by the Catholic Church in all ages. This is why the "diphthong" of the Homoiousion was rejected by Athanasius and his disciples, at the cost of dismembering Christendom--because on the Eternity of the Word, on the distinction of Persons within the Godhead, as of the Essence of the One Divine Nature, hangs all the belief of the Christian that his God is Perfect within Himself; that from Eternity He has what to love; that in Himself He has what to know; that He lives, does not merely exist, independently of everything save Himself; that He exercises essentially and eternally the two most exalted acts which are conceivable and intelligible to man; that He was not necessitated to create, to call something not [352/353] Himself into being, before He could realize in act the potentialities of Wisdom and of Love. For the Catholic, who realizes his faith, to deny that God is Triune is to deny that He is verily God, the essentially, the eternally Perfect. And therefore, when Athanasius was asked if there ever was a time when the Father was without His Logos, he merely put the counter-interrogation, whether God was eternally wise; the two thoughts being one and the same.
This truth, I now would maintain, throws a light, very real though mystical, upon the attitude to be adopted by Christianity upon that which I have spoken of above as the first essential condition of a religious account of the Universe, a resolution of the grand antinomy between the immanence of God and His transcendence. It was, I am fully persuaded, this belief in the Trinity in Unity, side by side with that in the Incarnation, which rendered Christianity of old impervious to danger from Pantheism; which unconsciously anticipated the dilemma on which Hinduism made shipwreck of itself; which preserves responsibility and freedom to the finite creatures of God's hand, compatibly with a steadfast belief in the Omnipotence and the transcendence of the Creator.
The dilemma, to present it once more, is that between Infinity in God and objective reality in things finite. To do away with the contradiction altogether were beyond any form of belief: it is a difficulty inherent in thought, and cannot be eliminated from it. It is no mere trick of logicians, as so many of us are apt to consider it: it represents a tremendous problem, whose crushing immensity and difficulty has haunted the human understanding since it first looked out upon all things; which will haunt it so long as it exists, and exercises itself on the Universe around it. Let belief in a Self-existent Being be grasped as a reality at all, and His very Infinity, [353/354] as such, seems to shame all other existence into shadowiness, indeed into nothingness. The contingent seems to shrivel into nought, the very moment the Absolute is conceived of; the finite, to become the unreal, when the Infinite is thought of at all.
But belief in the Trinity of persons within the Unity of the One Divine Nature softens down, offers a mystical solution of, that flat contradiction in terms which the dilemma presents at first sight. And this I would set forth in three stages:
(1) The truth of the Eternity of the Logos, of the Divine Word, or Wisdom of God, as a Person consubstantial with the Father, softens down that transcendence of God which underlies all Christian belief; renders it not incompatible altogether with belief in an immanence of all things in the Eternal contemplation of God.
(2) The Divinity of God the Holy Ghost, our belief in the Love of God as being, like His wisdom, Eternal, softens down the idea of the transcendence along another line of thought. It allows of our thinking of creation, of the creative act itself, as constituting, on the part of the Creator, an act of self-realization, a completion of Himself in the creature, which spans that yawning gulf which the Pantheist maintains to exist between the Infinity of the Deity and the finitude, the nothingness of all else. It makes room for the existence of the finite as something which is actually real, while yet the belief in its reality shall not intrench with a contradiction on the thought of the Infinity of God. And this, secured, brings infinite help towards satisfying the instincts of adoration. Can we think of the work of God's hands as constituting a realization of His own adorable perfection, as actually furnishing to Him a completion of His own Divine attributes? then we have in actual possession what man has so craved to attain to. For by her doctrine of the [354/355] Trinity in Unity, with the opening for belief in God's immanence which I trust I have shown that it preserves to us, the Church has enabled us to believe in a union between Creator and creature which shall leave full standing for the creature, shall present it to us not wholly swallowed up, not annihilated, not crushed into nothingness by being thought of as merely illusory, as but a mode of the Divine One and All. There is a provision for thinking of it thus, in our belief that God is Love, and that when He created the world He realized, by evolving the contingent, a longing connatural to the Self-existent.
(3) And third, the Incarnation of the word anticipates the challenge of Pantheism from, again, a different point of view. For the bare thought of a personal Incarnation, of God descending into His world, to adopt a creaturely nature into personal union with Himself, presupposes a previous relation which can only be thought of at all as an immanence of Himself in the finite from the moment when He called it into being.
The mutual immanence of Creator and created, the absolute oneness of Infinite and finite, the all-inclusive-ness of the Absolute Being--this belief is what lends to the Pantheist a claim to a consistency of thought, to a logical exhaustiveness of conception, which he denies to every thinker who holds fast by the transcendence of the Deity and by the veritable reality of the creature, as companion factors in his beliefs.
This claim to logical consistency--on his own premises, and with his own exclusions--Christian thinkers are bound to concede to him. They do maintain, to enforce it again, that his premises are vitiated from the first by his ignoring one side of the antinomy which his logic professes to resolve. They are prepared, with equal persistence, to say that the moral conclusions to which his premises inevitably lead him are fatal, in the eyes of true [355/356] thinkers, to even the intellectual completeness which he vaunts as characteristic of his philosophy. They will not claim for themselves that their belief in the Trinity in Unity does more, on the philosophical side, than mystically anticipate difficulties which, stated, are logically insoluble. But they can and ought to declare that their own Trinitarian beliefs, albeit they are mystical and theological--incapable, therefore, of verification by ordinary processes of logic--do soften the inevitable contradiction which Pantheism thrusts in our faces.