The Miraculous As The Preternatural
THROUGHOUT the preceding chapters our effort has been to explore and formulate the attitude towards the miraculous which was distinctive of our Christian origins. We have made consider-able progress with this endeavour, but must return to it in the concluding chapter in order to determine more definitely the practical bearing of our results. Any such inquiry, however, into practical application can be undertaken with zest only by those who believe that the results in question have something more than historical interest, and that the view of the supernatural, which we have been trying to interpret in semi-scientific and semi-pictorial modern language, reflects an attitude that deserves to be respected as fundamentally sane and philosophically intelligible. Accordingly it may be well to turn aside for a time from exploration to apologetic, from constructive formulation to defensive argument.
It is not possible, indeed, to provide any complete defence by mere abstract reasoning. For a complete apologetic practical experiment is necessary ; and unless the Church at large recovers the belief that miracle-working ought to be a permanent note in her life, there cannot be experimental evidence on a scale substantial enough to provide a really conclusive apologetic. Nevertheless, abstract reasoning may render a real service. The question to be investigated may be divided into two : (1) Is the miraculous or supernatural to be regarded as theoretically possible at all? (2) Ought miracle-working to constitute an abiding note in the life of the Church ? The answer to the latter of these questions must be mainly provided by the success or failure of acts of Christian adventure under-taken, under what is believed to be the leading of the Holy Spirit, by those who are convinced that miraculous aid is really available. But the former question, the question whether miracle is even theoretically possible, lies open to determination on purely abstract grounds. To this theoretical question we must now address ourselves.
Nothing is easier, and perhaps nothing is more common, than to settle the issue out of hand by defining the idea of the miraculous or supernatural in such a way as to render it either futile or meaningless. One result or the other follows at once when miracle is conceived as involving a breach or suspension of natural law in the absolute sense of the term a breach or suspension, that is to say, of what actually are the laws of nature, and not simply of what our present knowledge takes for such. Let us glance first at the form of this error which issues in futility rather than in gross logical self-contradiction.
Since natural laws are definitions and not statutes or injunctions, any one who seeks to put upon them a religious interpretation must avoid conceiving them as a code of legislation imposed by God upon something standing over against Himself, called "matter," which would continue to be its identical self even if it disobeyed these laws or if other laws were substituted. If we allow ourselves, in our religious reflection, to make use of the idea of general laws of nature at all, we must think of them as laws imposed by God not upon nature, but upon Himself ; we must conceive them as rules whereby God has defined for Himself His own mode of procedure upon that plane of His self-manifestation which we call natural phenomena. Now, from this point of view there is not, indeed, any logical self-contradiction involved in conceiving miracle as the breach or suspension of the laws of nature ; for one who is competent to enunciate for himself such rules of procedure is evidently free to contravene or suspend them at discretion. To such a conception of the supernatural the valid objection is religious rather than logical. It is expressed in the remark, familiar to the point of wearisomeness : " I do not deny that God is able to work miracles, but the question is whether He could ever wish to do so." By those who utter it, this trite observation is often regarded as sufficient to put out of court the whole case for the miraculous ; and certainly it suffices to dispose of this futile way of conceiving miracle. It will be argued below that even to think of God as enunciating rules for Himself, is to detract from His supreme rationality ; but to suppose that, after making for Himself rules, He should proceed to suspend or break them, is to descend to a level of conception which even the most casual reflection must recognize to be derogatory to the Divine dignity.
The absurdity of conceiving the supernatural as involving the suspension or breach of the real laws of nature becomes still more manifest when, instead of giving these laws a religious colouring as above, we take them frankly as science conceives them. A definition which is not universally valid is, in strictness, not a definition after all ; and from the scientific point of view laws of nature are attempted definitions of natural process. For scientific purposes matter is what it does. Matter means that which behaves so and so that which behaves in the ways which the laws of nature formulate ; and if ever it did not behave in these ways, then (unless the definitions were false) it would not be the matter which it is. If it be actually true that upon one occasion water became wine, this means for science not that the real laws of water were set aside, but that water cannot after all be only what is meant by H2O, but must really be, in spite of the failure of chemical analysis to discover the fact, something much more complex. To affirm that matter can break, or can be made to break, what are all the time its real natural laws, is to commit the absurdity of affirming that matter can, at one and the same time, both be and not be itself. Any conception of the miraculous which involves such an affirmation is a mere counter of the verbal exchange-market, incapable of conversion into the currency of coherent thought.
It was to no such futilities of conception, however, that we were conducted by our study in last chapter of the essential or timeless significance of the message of Jesus. The result to which that study pointed included three outstanding features : (I) The miraculous does not involve any breach of the natural order itself, but only of a barrier within the natural order ; within the phenomenal or created universe, which in its completeness if per impossibile it ever could be completed would be the exhaustive self-manifestation of God, there is a partially isolated realm which very inadequately displays His wealth of resource and benevolence of purpose, and the miraculous or supernatural involves the irruption into this realm of some of the reserves of God's cosmic energy which do not ordinarily have free operation there ; (2) Although both those familiar events which are explicable in terms of the laws of the enclosed world of man's ordinary experience, and those extraordinary events which imply an unexplored wider empire of reality, may rightly be called the work of God, yet in the latter we may recognize the act of God in a more eminent sense ; (3) The most important factor conditioning the occurrence of these extraordinary or supernatural events is human faith. Now, of these three outstanding features of the conception we arrived at, the first and most crucial is so far from being difficult of acceptance that it is possible, on quite general grounds, to make out a conclusive case for a position not very dissimilar. Christianity, we may say, does not require to invent the idea in question, but only to give it a fuller and more practical significance. To make good this assertion, in such measure as the limits of space permit, is the task of the present chapter.
If we choose to think seriously and consecutively at all, we are bound to accept the conditions without which coherent thought is impossible. One of these is the principle of continuity. Without committing suicide, thought cannot recognize any absolute discontinuity, any ultimate division of reality into entirely separate realms.
In prosecuting its effort to understand the course of events, therefore, reflection instinctively pre-supposes some all-inclusive rational order as the ultimate ground of all particular fact. When reflection is inspired by a religious interest, it will consider that the way of conceiving this universal order which is ultimately most adequate consists in identifying it with the active will of God, and it will regard as interchangeable expressions the phrases, " due to the will of God," and "due to the working of the real universal order."45 Not even for religious reflection, then, so long as it is faithful to the principle of continuity, can there be any such thing as supernatural intervention in the sense of a contravention of the principles which really constitute the universal or cosmic order, or of a supplementation of them from outside that order. For every particular event whatever an immanent explanation must be looked for.
This is how the case stands from the point of view of reflection. From the perceptual or practical point of view, on the other hand, the position is very different. And it must be very different if the postulate of the reflective point of view is true. If reflection is right in denying the possibility of real contraventions of the universal order, then for this very reason it is bound to admit the likelihood of what, from the perceptual or practical point of view, are contraventions of - that order. And this likelihood is the stronger, the more perfect or integrally differentiated is supposed to be the type of order that really holds good in the universe. These assertions may not be self-evident, but no great subtlety of argument is required to commend them for acceptance.
It is quite obvious that, no matter how strenuously we may insist, in our moments of reflection, upon the idea of a single and all-inclusive rational order, and no matter how conscious we may then be of the imperfection of our acquaintance with that universal order, when we turn from reflection to applied thought and practical conduct, we are constrained to treat our imperfect understanding of that cosmic order as if it were the real truth. Perceptive judgment and practical exploitation of nature's apparent properties and forces cannot wait for a complete ascertainment of the real cosmic order. Of necessity we have to put some interpretation upon the data of sense in order to decide how to act here and now, and so we interpret those data by means of the incomplete and schematic reading of the universal or cosmic order which is all that our intellect has so far attained. Hence the actual situation is that the facts, as we interpret them, are never really fact, and that the possibilities, as we measure them, are never an accurate and exhaustive statement of the real possibilities. And so, although we are incurably prone to forget this, it is constantly on the cards that the very next event may be something which our knowledge condemns as impossible because it would be a breach of what we take for the cosmic order. Thus there is nothing at all difficult of belief in the idea of contraventions of what, for practical purposes and for the purposes of calculation and further scientific research, we take to be the real order of nature. Our limited experience and our human need for immediate working generalizations prevent what we dignify with the name of " the universe " from being more than an illuminated patch within the dark immensity a kind of enclave within the real universe. Contraventions of seemingly established scientific laws are nothing but interferences, on the part of the real cosmic order, with the success of our theory of that order in passing itself off as practically adequate.
The circumstance which actually calls for surprised attention and inquiry is not that such contraventions should occur, but that they should appear to be relatively so infrequent. For the whole enterprise of the natural sciences consists in applying with meticulous care what is essentially an artifice or working convention, and in developing and combining the results of its application with magnificent acumen and with brilliant practical success. Knowledge as such is interested in nothing less than fact, and fact is always individual. But our human minds, even in their most penetrating flashes of intuition, never succeed in knowing an object through and through in its constitutive individuality or uniqueness. Accordingly, we endeavour to secure that our understanding of things shall make up in breadth for what it lacks in depth. We seek to compensate for our incomplete capacity of adaptation to the individual fact or situation by exactness of adjustment to the average case. To this end we adopt the expedients of generalization or classification, and of abstraction or the construction of conceptual fictions. In effect to borrow Croce's piquant way of expressing these processes the scientist says, for example, " to a rose : 'See, I draw you in my treatise on botany, and you will represent all roses' ; and to the triangle : 'It is true I cannot think you, nor represent you ; but I suppose that you are the same as what I draw with rule and compass, and I make use of you to measure the approximate triangles of reality.' " Described in more general terms, the working convention on which the whole edifice of the natural sciences rests consists in treating our universe, in which it seems impossible to discover even two objects exactly alike, as if it abounded in identical constituents. I do not mean, of course, that science wilfully shuts its eyes to the existence of differences. On the contrary, it does its very best to take accurate note of them. But the only way in which the uniqueness of any object can be grasped for purposes of scientific computation is to regard this uniqueness as consisting merely in the selection and arrangement . of features which it shares in common with some other objects. The result is that the universe is treated as if it were made up not of an infinity of objects or parts of objects, each possessing a unique nature of its own, but of an unmeasured number of classes of objects, or of parts of objects, such that any specimen of a class may, for purposes of calculation, be regarded as identical in pattern and behaviour with any other. Now it is so far from being obvious that the universe contains multitudes of identical factors that in the realm of what is perceptible by the senses we cannot get beyond standard types, which the particular specimens of the classes reproduce with more or less negligible variations. If we are to suppose that the universe contains any absolutely identical constituents, they must be looked for in that realm of the infinitesimally small which baffles even the microscope, and where belief in absolute sameness may be insusceptible either of direct verification or of direct confutation. That they are to be found even there, philosophy has its own grounds for doubting. Evidently, then, the convention on which the natural sciences depend has very slender claim to be anything better than a working device of method. What deserves to provide occasion for surprise is not that in particular cases the actual course of nature should sometimes contradict the conclusions about the limits of natural possibility which we may have drawn from well-established scientific formula, but rather that sciences which proceed by the methods of abstraction and generalization should be able to present us with an idea of the cosmic order of which there occur few obvious contraventions.46
Perhaps the essential contention of the preceding paragraph may be expressed more popularly as follows. Science, we may say, sets itself to discover the rules by which we suppose the Divine Mind to proceed in its cosmic self-expression not, indeed, rules which God imposes on matter, but rules which He imposes upon Himself in expressing Himself through natural phenomena. Since our human minds, in dealing with a vast multiplicity of detail, can proceed in an orderly manner only by classifying the immense mass of fact under general headings, and formulating for ourselves general rules in accordance with which we shall act, we incautiously assume that the Divine Mind in nature cannot be orderly or rational unless God directs the course of things in accordance with fixed rules which He decided upon from the beginning and maintains intact. But the real truth is that the orderliness attained by acting according to rule is a very imperfect kind of orderliness. Rules are abstract : facts are concrete or individual ; and no possible number of rules can ever be adequate to the concrete individuality of the facts. It is a perception of this truth that makes people talk of preferring to decide a case on its own merits instead of being content to dispose of it on general. principles. The essence of a rule is that it enjoins sameness in spite of differences. No event or action can take place which is not due to a particular agent possessing particular characteristics, and which does not occur under particular conditions, at a particular time, in a particular place, and with particular results. But a rule prescribing this event or action is not a rule at all unless it requires the event or action to take place in spite of differences in some or all of these respects, namely, characteristics, conditions, times, places or results. Meticulous obedience to rules, that is to say, implies that in the action carried out some of the wealth of detail which constitutes the actual situation, and makes it individual or unique, is being ignored or treated as of no account. But surely for God there is no detail of His universe that is insignificant ! Therefore God can never be content to adopt the clumsy finite device of submitting to the guidance of rules of mere generalizations like those, the sum-total of which we regard as the order of nature ; each new event He must decree on the individual merits of the situation out of which it springs.
Because the orderliness of a system of rules is a rough mechanical imitation of the living and spontaneous orderliness of a perfect intelligence, the system of rules or natural laws which our investigation seems to spell out in the workings of the universe approximates in some degree to providing an account of the path along which the living wisdom of God makes the course of things to run. But the wonder is that it approximates to this with any closeness at all. It is in no degree surprising that contraventions of what we take to be a system of rules or natural laws imposed by God upon Himself should sometimes occur.
Probably enough has now been said by way of showing that, even on quite general grounds, miracles in the narrow sense of preternatural events or contraventions of what we take to be the cosmic order must be regarded as always possible. They are possible, as has been shown, precisely because the real cosmic order, the true orderliness of things, is necessarily something wider, richer and more living than what our thought has at any time spelled out of the cosmic order and is compelled, for practical purposes, to treat as the actual nature of things. But there was a further assertion which has still to be made good. It was observed that while any kind of reflective belief in a single and all-inclusive rational order constrains us to admit the possibility of what, from the perceptual or practical point of view, are contraventions of the cosmic order, this possibility becomes an increasing likelihood, the more perfect is the type of universal or cosmic order which we reflectively postulate. How is this additional contention to be established ?
That which the reason is impelled to reach after as its ideal of a detailed explanation of things is an understanding of why, at each particular time and place, there is to be found precisely the one peculiar feature or occurrence which experience shows to be there. Our ideal of a perfection of order is the ideal of a universal system so minutely systematic that its every humblest member is required by all the others to be exactly its own peculiar self, and also requires all the other members to be precisely what they are. When the universal orderliness which reflection necessarily believes to characterize the cosmos is supposed to be of this ideally systematic type, and is envisaged under the forms of space and time, the implication is that a perfect understanding would comprehend how every object in space is required to be what it is by every other object in all space, and how every event in time is required to fall out so and not otherwise by every other event in all time. In short, such a perfect understanding would recognize in every individual entity the unique way in which alone the cosmic whole can, at this particular point, express its essential genius or significance.
Now this principle of seeking the explanation of each part of the universe in nothing less than the whole is already accepted by popular semi-scientific reflection so far as space is concerned. It has become a commonplace that each atom in the universe is acted upon by every other, and that consequently the behaviour of any particular atom could be fully explained only by taking into account the whole expanse of matter in every direction throughout space. But when we turn from space to time, we have to ac-knowledge how very one-sided is the manner in which this principle of looking for the explanation of the part in nothing less than the whole is apt to be here applied by popular reflection.48 The common belief is in a chain of causation stretching back from the present into the immeasurable past, and of a character such that each link in the chain requires, for the complete explanation of its nature and occurrence, all the preceding links ad infinitum. That is to say, the common belief is that for the complete explanation of any event in time it is necessary and sufficient to take into account all the other events stretching back into the immeasurable past, but not any of the events that stretch away in front into the immeasurable future. But so high-handed a bisection of the demands of the ideal of explanation is entirely arbitrary. No one who holds that what the present requires to be depends upon the past, can reasonably deny that it depends also on the future. If he objects that the future is not yet real and so cannot affect the real present, he has to face the question of how the past, which is no longer real, is in any better position. If the past, although it is no longer actual or existent, has yet reality enough to determine the present, why should not the future possess an equally effectual kind of reality in spite of being not yet actual or existent ? The truth is that to believe in mechanical causation, or the determination of the present by the chain of events taken merely in one direction, is theoretically as indefensible as it would be to believe that the behaviour of an atom could be fully understood by considering all the other atoms behind it in space but not any of those in front, or of all those beneath it but not any of those above. The fond belief of our impetuous, scheming human minds in the possibility of completely understanding and mastering the present by study of the mere past is, in fact, just a " foolish, wilful dream." In mere self-consistency popular reflection ought to admit that every event without exception, whether apparently natural or apparently supernatural, can only be fully explained or " caused " by that totality of the past, the present and the future which, if it could be completed, would be the exhaustive phenomenal self-expression or will of God. The logical necessity for admitting this is in no way set aside by the experimental fact that a very large proportion of the actual course of events seems capable of being explained, for practical purposes, by study of the past alone. For this experimental fact may quite possibly signify nothing more than that the plan or system of the cosmos as a whole requires for its realization long stretches of occurrence so monotonous that within these stretches the attempt to explain the present by the past alone does not lead to practical miscalculation. But at any moment the special reason which calls for this monotony in the self-expression of the whole may cease to apply, and then at once the monotony will be interrupted, the calculations of what is to come next will be stultified, and there will occur what will wear the aspect of a miraculous or preternatural breach of the supposed law of causation by the mere past. And this result, which on any rational interpretation of the principle of order must be always possible, is the more likely, the more complex or coherently differentiated is the orderly system by which past, present and future are bound together into one inter-related whole.
Strictly scientific thought, being much less na´ve than the popular semi-scientific reflection which we have been criticizing, has done its best to cut itself clear from this quite irrational belief in causation by the mere past. In a most useful way of its own it endeavours to show how the present is grounded in, or explained by, a super-temporal whole. This method has defects, indeed, which prevent it from supplying an explanation of the world that can be regarded as philosophically ultimate. For the super-temporality of the cosmic system which it traces out for us is an absolute timelessness, and the utterly timeless can never completely explain our human time-conditioned experience. Nevertheless the method avoids the extreme irrationality of cutting the course of time in two, and according preferential treatment to one section. The method followed by modern science consists in trying to reduce all that takes place to a complex of continuous processes, the nerve of each of which can be expressed in mathematical equations or identities. These equations are adequate to " explain " the processes by showing that what happens at any stage is the same as what is happening at every stage. Thus, by resort to timeless equations there is provided the same apparent power of calculating the future, and the same extrusion of the idea of contraventions of the natural order, as is provided by the more popular resort to the past and to mechanical causality. Yet in its practical application this procedure of strict science can only lead to conclusions which have the same kind of logical weakness as those which depend on the more popular and mechanical idea of causation. For in practice it is only by inspection of the present and past that science can devise the timeless equations of which it is in search. And to suppose that timelessly true formulations of the laws of process can be reached by an analysis of that portion of the process which has so far run its course, is once again to rule out quite arbitrarily the possibility that in the nature of the cosmic whole there may lie reasons for long stretches of monotony, which are calculated to mislead the investigator into taking for a formulation of the total potentialities of the process what is only a reasonably adequate formulation of those potentialities which the process has so far revealed. On this basis too, therefore, we must grant the permanent possibility of miracles, in the narrow sense of contraventions of the laws of nature as at any time mathematically formulated. And this possibility will have the greater degree of likelihood, the more intricately we suppose the future to be bound up with the present and the past in one integrated orderly whole.
It seems fair now to claim that the main contention of the present chapter has been sufficiently made good. Not by any precariously long and involved chain of reasoning, but by a single and fairly obvious line of argument, repeated and developed in different forms, it has been shown that there is no logical difficulty at all about admitting the constant real possibility of events which contradict our most scientifically grounded conceptions of the natural order. The argument has not made use of any specifically Christian premises. Entirely on general grounds it has been pointed out that there must always be room for the occurrence of miracles, in the sense of interferences by the real cosmic order with what our scientific knowledge, with its limited range and schematic methods, represents that order to be, and what our need for immediate action requires us to treat as if it were the actual cosmic order. Moreover, while still proceeding on quite general grounds, we may surmise the existence of a good moral and spiritual reason for the apparently strange fact that our careful scientific generalizations, although too artificial in method to be part of the philosophical or ultimate truth about reality, yet work so well on the whole. In other words, we may surmise a good reason why miracles, in the narrow sense of contraventions of accepted scientific law, while always possible, are not obviously of very frequent occurrence. In order that man may grow up a responsible self-directing agent, he must have some power of planning and choosing his ways ; and in order that there may be any moral virtue in that self-surrender to the will of God which is a vital aspect of genuine religion, man must have some independence to surrender. Now the adequate development of this responsibility and independence seems impossible unless to a very great extent nature works with a degree of monotony that will place within man's grasp far-reaching generalizations of a high degree of validity. For the sake of our moral and spiritual education the cosmic order, although it is not capable of being truly represented as a system of general laws, must in a very considerable degree operate as though it were such a system.49 If we regard nature as the phenomenal self-expression of God, we may put this contention in a popular form by saying that so-called natural events are, as it were, nothing else than God, for the sake of our spiritual education, playing at being a machine, and that miracles or contraventions of natural law are God interrupting that make-believe, and reminding us that really He is something greater and more mysterious than our knowledge has discovered.
This is how the case stands so long as, in the investigation of the idea of contraventions of natural law, we keep to quite general grounds. We must now consider the special contribution of Christianity. It was declared above that in order to a useful abstract formulation of Jesus' view of miracle it would only be necessary to take. the idea to which the foregoing general considerations have pointed, and to give it a fuller and more practical significance. This idea is that miracle is a breach not of the real or ultimately true cosmic order, but of what might be called an enclave within that order. The conditions which we have seen to prevent what our knowledge takes for the cosmic order from coinciding with the real cosmic order, and to render it comparable to an enclave within the latter, are the limited range of actual human experience at any given time, and the schematic character inseparable from scientific knowledge. These conditions are purely intellectual ; they are inevitable consequences of our human finitude. But what if there be other conditions, producing a similar effect, which are not inevitable but due to moral and spiritual faults ? What if there be principles of the real cosmic order which have not merely happened hitherto to escape our ken because of the incompleteness which the nature of space and time never ceases to impose upon our finite knowledge, but have remained unknown because our moral and spiritual unfitness prevents us from having sufficient experience of their operation? In that case the cosmic order as scientifically apprehended would be a mere enclave within the real cosmic order in a much more radical and practically important sense. For in that case a mere change of spiritual attitude in one man or another might at any time release into redemptive activity cosmic agencies whose principles of operation science has had no opportunity of studying, and which might occasion seemingly inexplicable departures from routine in the natural processes which have long been familiar. Now we need do nothing else than affirm that this undeniable possibility is something more than a possibility that it is indeed plain matter of fact, in order to reach a useful abstract formulation of what we have been led to regard as Jesus' view of the miraculous in its aspect of a contravention of the natural order.
Whether this possibility is no mere possibility but actual fact, is fundamentally an experimental question. This is not to say that it can be submitted to the exact tests which characterize the experimental method as practised by the physical sciences. Scientific experiment of that kind can provide no evidence either for or against Christian miracle, for the simple reason that Christian miracle depends on what Jesus meant by " faith " ; and that, as shown by Jesus' reply to the temptation to fling Himself down from the temple parapet, true faith can never consent to gratify the legitimate, but self-defensively critical, purposes of scientific experiment by attempting a miracle in order to prove the effectual presence of the supernatural. Miracle (not as the merely preternatural, but in the full sense of the term) is the response of nature's God to the uniquely personal need of the self-surrendered soul. Now it would indeed be unjust and absurd to deny that the scientist may pursue his scientific toils in the spirit of religious self-surrender, and may enjoy a supernatural enhancement of his powers of rational intuition, application and critical self-restraint. But at the same time what such a scientist is seeking, in a religious spirit and with supernatural aid, is to discover how far nature may be harnessed hard and fast to the service of finite thought and will ; and the very same benevolence which inspires God to respond in a uniquely individual way to the personal need of the self-surrendered soul, must lead Him to respond to the broad human need which animates scientific experiment man's need to be capable of self-direction, and of an independence which he can surrender only by natural phenomena with the control of which it is good for men in general to be trusted, and which, therefore, the God of nature is willing to repeat without limit in approximately identical manner.
Quite evidently, then, it is impossible to submit to exact scientific experiment the question with which we are here concerned, the question whether faith brings the individual into commerce with a greater cosmic order, a realm of wider possibilities, than that familiar to average human experience and ordinary scientific knowledge.
Nevertheless, being a practical question, it is in a broader sense of the term fundamentally one to be experimentally determined. What is needed is that the Church, casting aside the theological prepossessions which hinder her from sharing the primitive Christian attitude toward miracle-working, should restore to the New Testament miracles their demonstrative experimental value by exhibiting broadly analogous modern triumphs of faith. Because of the very sensitively social nature of faith it is supremely difficult for the individual, no matter how honestly persuaded he may be that miracle-working ought to be a permanent note of the Church's life, to act upon this belief with the necessary unfaltering conviction so long as it is not shared by the Church at large. But while we may therefore have to wait for adequate experimental demonstration, this does not imply that in the meantime we are restricted to unsupported guesswork. That faith should bring into perceptible operation cosmic principles which otherwise lie outside human experience may be, in the abstract, only an undeniable possibility. But there are broad religious grounds which render it much more than a bare possibility, which render it, indeed, extremely probable. For the spirit of faith is a childlike spirit, and the wisdom of the Divine Father can trust the childlike with tasks and resources which may not fitly be committed to the hands of the wilful and self-confident. If the evolution of sons of the Heavenly Father be a central feature of the purpose of creation, surely the subtle texture of the cosmic order must be shot through with potencies which only the touch of filial fingers can evoke, and which only a spirit of confiding trust and eager loyalty is competent to direct !
( Originally Published 1922 )
Redemption From This World:
Supernatural Because Redemptive
"the Time Is Fulfilled"
The Dawning Of "the Last Days"
Supernatural And Natural
The Miraculous As The Preternatural
The Miraculous As The Act Of God
On The King's Business