15 JUNE 1929, Page 18


[To the Editor of the SPECTATOR.] SIR,—Among the encouraging characteristics of the present age is its acute awareness of its own imperfection, an awareness giving rise on all hands to the demand for reforms. But this demand is crippled in its very expression by a fundamental lack of the kind and degree of certainty or certitude—call it, for the moment, which you will—on which all resolute and persistent effort must in the last resort depend. Certainty may be achieved at very different levels, and may be valid for action of various degrees of depth and extent. But in so far as a civilization is an integration of life in all its aspects and in its profoundest intensity, it needs at its roots a certainty of a total or absolute kind, or in other words a metaphysical and religious faith. It is here that the groping hunger of countless souls shows itself one with the needs of society as a whole.

It might be argued, so far as individuals are concerned, that religion, unlike the other elements of our manifold human life, is a thing that a' man must achieve for himself, as a purely personal possession, with a private validity for himself alone, But it is plain that no such private religion, nor any aggregate of such religions, can serve as the integration, for society or civilization as a whole, of its common mental and religious background. Civilization transcends the personal limits of the individuals composing it ; it transcends even the aggregate of those individuals—it is a " Whole " with qualities that do not belong to its constituents in their separateness. It follows necessarily that religion, too, must be more than a merely personal thing ; that it must present itself and recom- mend itself to the individual's conscience 'as the corporate faith of a society which does not absolutely depend on him, though he absolutely depends on it.

Such a religion must, of course, offer certain credentials in support of its claim to validity ; though its deepest and most essential appeal is always likely to depend on its consonance with the deepest intuitions of the human conscience and consciousness. I would only point out here that, since religion, though a corporate thing, must yet be personal in the fullest possible sense, the absolute or universal Religion seems to require at its point of origin in space and time, a Person whose authority is not only that of a great or good man (for we have already seen that no merely personal human faith is adequate for civilization or humanity as a whole), but in whom there is implicit an authority essentially divine.

It is hardly necessary to argue that we have no reason to expect the emergence, at this time, of a new religion which should sufficiently fulfil these twin requirements of a super- natural origin and an essentially social and authoritative character ; but it does seem worth while to emphasize as strongly as possible the fact that historic Christianity, where it has not surrendered to the fallacious individualism of the last few centuries, exists by claiming to be a religion of precisely this kind, and to suggest that those claims, after passing through the crucible of modern criticism, are beginning to show themselves, so far as concerns their essential content at least, as convincing as they ever were. " Credo . . . in Jesurn Chrislum. Credo in . . . sanctam Ecclesiam Calho- Beam."

I have spoken of certainty as of a thing that can exist at different degrees—a manner of speech not, I hope, unintelli- gible. But the certainty of faith is not attained till a man looks on doubts (not difficulties) as a temptation to be resisted. Faith is thus moral in quality, and can coexist with the frankest recognition that the articles of the faith, if viewed in abstraction from the moral arguments, would in many cases fail to rise above the status of probability.—I am, Sir, &c., Stratton on the Posse, Bath, Somerset. B. E. BUTLER.