27 SEPTEMBER 1930, Page 22

Recent Theology

The Fullness of Sacrifice : an Essay in Reconciliation. By F. C. N. Hicks, D.D.. I3ishop of Gibraltar. (Macmillan. 15s.)

The Grace of God. By N. P. Williams. D.D. (Anglican Library of Faith and Thought). (Longmans. 2s. 6d. paper, 4s. cloth.) Pt:mines there is no more trustworthy sign of spiritual degen- eration than the tendency to emphasize the amiable, human and useful aspects of religion, explain away its other- worldly elements and slur its austere demands. This cheapen- ing process was strongly marked during the first quarter of the present century ; but there arc many signs that it has spent its force and that the compensating movement is now full• set in. A transcendental tone, an instinct for religion in the real sense of the word, characterizes the best contemporary theology. Where the old school, represented by such scholars as Mofessor Pringle-Pattison, continue to emphasize with a certain disdain the barbarous nature of our religious past, and the mistaken character of its observances, the forWard movement of thought is leaving this well-trodden path for that indicated by Bishop Hicks when he says :- "The truth often is that where we assume the power to criticize we ought really to be learners. Ancient religions were crude, bar- barous ; from our standpoint, immoral or non-moral ; based at the best on a perilous admixture of the false with the true : but they were religions. and ours may have gained all the advantages which they had not, but have lost itself."

ApOroaching, from this angle the vast subject of Sacrifice, as it appears in all primitive cults and as it influences thought and practice at the present day, the Bishop is able to show that here, even in its barbarous forms, the religious instinct of inanthe impulse to seek God—is already working long before he is able to rationalize his acts. In the gradual deve- lopment of Jewish sacrifices, from the simple sacrificial meal which represents communion on easy terms " with the tribal God, to the great offering of the sin-conscious people on the Day of Atonement, he finds a wonderful picture of the growth of the Jewish religious consciousness. lie reminds us

that this fundamentally sacrificial idea of religion, and its expression in cultus, is taken for granted by all the New Testament writers, though their references to it are often indirect ; and that neither the general orientation of our Lord's life nor the development of the Apostolic Christology, can be understood without it. The " drawing near " of the individual, the costly offering of a life, the communion of the worshipper with the Divine : it is on this profound Semitic tradition that the Christian religion, both in 'its redemptive and sacramental expression, is built.

The tendency of modern theology to emphasize the immanence rather than the transcendence of Gad, and the

prophetic as against the priestly strand in Old Testament spirituality, has obscured the genuine religious value of this idea of sacrifice, with its three great moments of approach, oblation, and communion, still so plainly present in the Christian Eucharist. For sacrifice, rightly understood, is a personal and not a sacerdotal approach of humanity to the Divine. It means life surrendered, not life destroyed—and the surrender as a preliminary of transformation. All this, symbolized in the sacrifices of the Temple, is shown to us in the Gospels in terms of human personality. Here the his- torical, ethical, mystical and sacramental aspects of religion meet, to cast light on " the great single offering in which the whole movement of man and of nature towards God is summed up." Dr. Hicks has written a most suggestive and illuminating book, which should appeal in its wide charity and lofty spirituality to theologians of all schools of thought. It gives us a wonderful picture of the ascent of man, from his in- stinctive offerings at the first " green altar " to the heights of the sanctified life.

Dr. E. 0. James would also help forward the reconciliation of full Christian theology with modern thought, and has pro-

duced FI short text-book full of facts and ideas, which will be

found invaluable in study-circles, such as the Lambeth Report encourages us to set up. The large number of modern authors quoted, and the select bibliographies at the end of each chapter, add to its usefulness. Dr. James considers first the witness of the physical universe, and the problems it creates for religion ; and then in order, the Bible, the chief Christian dogmas, and the place of the Church and the Sacraments in the landscape of the modern world. In his sacramental teaching he follows the lines traced by those creative theolo- gians, Pere de la Taille and the Master of Corpus : whose work, strangely enough, is ignored by Dr. Hicks, though his own doctrine has so much in common with it. As we should expect front an anthropologist, Dr. James's chapter on Magic and Religion is particularly good ; and may be compared with Dr. Pringle-Pattison's more elaborate but disappointing and conventional treatment of the same subject. Studies in the Philosophy of Religion, in fact, mainly reproduces material

long familiar to students. It is partly based on Clifford Lectures delivered in 1923 ; and in spite of its excellent writing and obvious scholarship, the theological outlook is that charac- teristic of the " liberal Protestantism " of the last century.

The admirable essay on Grace by Dr. N. P. Williams gives us, on the contrary, a genuinely constructive theory of religious experience ; reconciling the historical and psychological points of view. This little work, though complete in itself,

may be regarded as an appendix to the Lady Margaret Pro- fessor's important book on The Ideas of the Fall and Original Sin. It finds in primitive religion the beginnings of man's

consciousness of grace, as a supernatural energy, changing and endowing him with power ; and traces through Christian

history the gradual development of this primal human thought about the encompassing mysteries of the spiritual world. That "robust ethical common sense" which he attributes to Cassian, the author of the wholesome doctrine of " synergism," is characteristic of Dr. Williams's own temper of mind. Ilis final chapter, on grace in modern thought, is particularly, valuable. It outlines a theory which entirely gets rid of the mechanistic rs3sciations and harsh dualism, involved in the extreme Augustinian view ; and " reveals the term ' grace'. as standing for nothing other than the living God Himself, penetrating the subconscious selves of His disciples through the power of His Spirit." This simplification, always made in their own experience by the mystia, is now shown to satisfy the requirements 'alike of strict–Chxistiart -theology . wad. of