return to religion-online

Searchlights on Contemporary Theology by Nels F. S. Ferré

Dr. Ferré was for many years Abbot Professor of Christian Theology at Andover Newton Theological School. Copyright 1961 by Nels F.S. Ferré. Published by Harper & Brothers, New York. All rights reserved by Harper & Brothers. This material has been prepared for Religion Online by Ted & Winnie Brock.

Chapter 3: Linguistic Analysis and Transcendence

Numerous contemporary philosophers are centrally interested in the problem of language. Many theologians who are in touch with their times are rapidly catching this interest. Perhaps at no time in human history has the nature of linguistic meaningfulness been more scrutinized than now. On the other hand, as Ronald Gregor Smith contends, "the crucial problem for human life and thought is the problem of transcendence."(The New Man [Harper & Brothers, 1956], Vol.II) But even to raise this question is to invite theology, which is the science of the transcendent. A central interest of modern philosophy and increasingly of theology thus meet in the topic of this chapter: linguistic analysis in its bearing on transcendence.

Language is the door to man’s life as man. Paul Tillich has pointed out that "man is free, in so far as he has language. With his language, he has universals which liberate him from bondage to the concrete situation to which even the highest animals are subjected." (Systematic Theology [The University of Chicago Press, 1957], Vol. II, p. 31.) Thomas Edmund Jessop has told us that "man emerged when an animal spoke." ("The Scientific Account of Man," The Christian Understanding of Man, [Harper & Brothers, 1938], p. 10.) An American psychiatrist, Clemens E. Benda in his profound work, Der Mensch im Zeitalter der Lieblosigkeit, has made clear how language is the chief means of human socialization, how consciousness as conditioned by speech is originally strange to self (". . . das Bewusstsein als sprachbedingt ursprünglich ichfremd ist").(P. 141. Trans. by N.F.S.F.) If man’s freedom and social nature in the human sense are both dependent on speech, the profound nature of the topic begins to become apparent. Ernst Cassirer in his famous Essay on Man may have ridden the subject of the symbolic nature of speech almost to death, but he could hardly exaggerate the climactic nature of modern man’s concern with the nature and meaning of speech.


Our discussion will center around three topics: (1) the rise and history of linguistic analysis; (2) the problem of transcendence in the modern world; (3) the Christian answer to linguistic analysis with regard to transcendence and theological language.

Linguistic analysis in the modern sense has a long history. Perhaps the string is best knotted at Ernst Mach’s discussion of the logic of physics and the consequent rise of the Vienna circle of logical positivists, represented by philosophers like Rudolf Carnap. This position spread to England after the First World War, particularly through the influence of the Cambridge philosopher, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and was popularized by men like A. J. Ayer in his Language, Truth and Logic.

The gist of the logical positivist position was that there are two kinds of logic: analytical and empirical. The former deals only with propositional meaning; the latter deals only with scientifically verifiable meaning which is methodologically confined to sense data. Necessity belongs exclusively in the realm of analytical logic; the empirical realm at best is limited to probability. The proper work of philosophy is to analyze language according to the nature of these two areas of investigation: the internal relations of propositional meaning and the relevant relations of language to empirically verifiable data. Such an understanding of the task of philosophy leads to its severe limitation of function. Metaphysics as the knowledge of ultimate reality, and ethics as a normative science of conduct, for instance, were completely eliminated from philosophy.

Perhaps it may be suggested that the reason for this radical shrinkage of the philosophical field was due to Immanuel Kant’s monumental criticism of metaphysics, to his Copernican revolution away from the realm of the transcendent to the transcendental, or from the region of ultimate reality to principles of validity which were no more than the logical presuppositions of experience in general. Then, too, the specialization of modern science had pre-empted the more limited areas of interpretation, whereas the growth of modern knowledge was so staggering that a philosopher’s attempt at synoptic vision seemed sheer presumption.

The shrinkage of philosophy gave philosophers both a sense of relief and a distinctive reason for existence. Philosophers now saw their proper task to be linguistic analysis in the manner specified. They made virtue of necessity, heralding the redistricting of field as the critical revolution in the history of philosophy. In whatever proportion the ground for this messianism was divided -- on the negative side, between guilt feelings occasioned by the abandonment of philosophy’s urgent tasks and insecurity concerning the worth of the work within the new scope; and on the positive side, joy in the cleanness and clarity of the limited field and the newness of the concentrated approach -- logical positivism became a vital, missionary philosophy.

During recent yeas, however, linguistic analysts have themselves claimed that logical positivism is "dead as a doornail." The movement has, indeed, enlarged the means and area of verification, and has turned to the study of the proper usage of language. "Ordinary usage" has become an important category for analysis. As far as the question of transcendence goes, however, the main attitude and approach of logical positivism’s basic limitation of legitimate meaning to propositional analysis and empirical data have persisted. "Ordinary usage" has grown to include common sense and such practical extension of method in the sciences as cannot be reduced to public verifiability in terms of immediate sense data.

Linguistic analysts have recognized, beyond the need for extension of method in the sciences, the fact that man cannot live within the confines of its approach, but that life must go on, be accepted, and be meaningfully communicated on a wider basis. Such growth in no way changes the basic contention of the position as to the meaning and scope of reliable knowledge. "Functional analysis" is primarily a change of name in order to get rid of the odium and impossible restrictions associated with logical positivism. There are a few minor indications of radical shifts in attitude and position, where knowledge of genuine transcendence is accepted. If such changes become general, the importance of linguistic analysis will remain, while the logical restrictions of the philosophical field -- restrictions due in fact, whether or not consciously realized, to religious attitudes and metaphysical assumptions -- will disappear.

With regard to the question of transcendence, linguistic analysis has conducted a consistent attack on the meaningfulness of theological language, for the following main reasons:

1. The necessity entailed in analytical logic and the probabilities of empirical logic are realms different in kind. They may not be confused. To mix the two categories is to indulge in meaningless language. Theology presupposes God as necessary being. The concept of necessary being is an illegitimate mixing of logical realms and, therefore, linguistically meaningless. To prove God’s nonexistence, as some have tried to do by this very argument, is, of course, equally meaningless. On this level the problem of God is not the problem of proof but the problem of meaning.

2. On the level of the empirical, only that is meaningful which can be scientifically proved. Verification must be on the level of publicly ascertainable truth, which is, in fact, in terms of sense data in a controllably strict manner. But the existence of God, if granted meaning, cannot be thus verified. No vision or experience will do, nor will history. All such attempts can be reduced to psychological states or to content of experience in this world which is projected on another.

3. Then, too, a sovereign God of love cannot be responsible for a world containing evil. Even the argument of the "compossible," those things which are possible together -- to the effect that if genuine freedom is to develop there must be some opportunity for man to learn from choices and for God to control those choices ultimately by following bad choices with painful consequences -- some analysts dismiss with the observation that a God who has to depend on evil means is smaller than a God who can effect the same result without such evil means.

4. It is further claimed that no argument holds water unless it can be falsified, i.e., unless something concrete is also denied by the positive assertion. John Wisdom developed his famous illustration of a garden, the care of which bespoke the presence of a gardener; but when all possible measures were taken, such as electric fences, for instance, to find him, and he could not be thus caught, then the negative evidence canceled the positive. Antony Flew went further, using the parable to assert that an invisible gardener is equal to no gardener. Similarly, God’s work cannot be falsified, some insisted; for, although the good in the world is used to prove the existence of God, so also, is the bad, the proof being in terms of God’s holiness or his correctional work. Thus the arguments for God cannot be meaningfully falsified.

5. God is all-inclusive, and we have no analogy for the whole. The "all" is unique. Thus we see organisms and purposeful processes on a finite scale, but no indications of purposeful process in the world can be an argument for God, for the whole is by definition unique and beyond comparative language. Moreover, how can a finite being deal with the whole? If man considers himself outside, there is no longer any whole; but from within he is dealing only with finite comparables, and cannot get perspective on the whole.

Thus run the main lines of attack, by analysts, on theological language.


Transcendence is obviously in a critical state in the modern world. Not only analysts but existentialists like Martin Heidegger and Karl Jaspers wrestle with the question. Carl G. Jung has told us that modern man turned to psychology when he lost his faith. Charles Coulston Gillespie(Genesis and Geology) has documented the extent to which this question haunted the scientists who formulated much of our modern world-view. Modern man hungers for the meaning that transcendence can give, but he does not know how to find it.

By transcendence we mean whatever goes beyond the world of ordinary experience. The nature and manner of what goes beyond are not the formal question of transcendence. If there is transcendence, these matters are, of course, of decisive importance. A main argument against all knowledge of transcendence, which we examined in the preceding chapter, is the linguistic dilemma of the univocal or the equivocal posed by the consideration of the nature of language itself, dealing unavoidably according to this dilemma with the world of ordinary experience only. We saw the nature of this dilemma to be:

Either language is univocal or it is equivocal. Univocal language deals with words in their ordinary sense. If words are thus used, we have said nothing concerning another world. If, on the other hand, we use language equivocally, or in another than the ordinary sense, we have said nothing in terms of any known meaning about another world. This dilemma is claimed to be both inescapable and exhaustive. Therefore, the conclusion runs, there can be no knowledge of transcendence.

Analogy is no escape, for even the analogy of proportionality -- which claims that God is personal in proportion to his being, as man is personal in proportion to his being -- ultimately is reducible to the dilemma of our using either univocal or equivocal language. The part of analogy that is drawn from ordinary experience never leaves this world, and the part that claims difference has no concrete content, only mystery or the appeal of ignorance. Thus added to linguistic meaninglessness and to the charge of lack of verifiability of theological language is this general charge of the emptiness of theological assertions.

To that we may add the reports of psychology. Some psychologists insist that theology is a science, dealing with man’s attempt to give meaning to the unknown. The unknown makes man anxious, and therefore it needs to be discovered. Man also is threatened by the negative things he knows: failures, dangers, and death. In his despair he manufactures religions to protect him from these threats and to give him comfort. Religions are illusions due to the process of dream-fulfillment, especially as they project some fanciful realm beyond the experience we know. They are imaginary compensations for the ills of this life. They cannot be created consciously and deliberately, but are the slow growth of man’s collective and racial adjustment to his actual world. The same line of approach can be taken by all the behavioral sciences, such as sociology and anthropology. Thus, transcendence as a whole may be dismissed.

We have now mentioned some definite objections to theological language on the part of modern man. Most of the objections, however, are not stylized like that of linguistic analysis. Some are vaguely agnostic. Who is man, to try to know ultimates? One world at a time! Some are anticlerical and antichurch. Some are opposed to theologies of narrow limits and of low moral visions. Much of man’s objection to theological language is ambivalent. It is a building up with one hand and a tearing down with the other. Even great theologians have reared edifices of theological thought only to affirm at the end that ultimately we are left with nescience. Much of the thought on the subject is hopelessly confused and wistful.

Many modern thinkers, hankering for religious help, yield to theologies of authority where no understanding is sought, while others give way to esoteric cults. Some seek for substitutes within experience, in the analysis of experience, or in the presuppositions for experience. We have, for instance, the attempt to establish "horizontal transcendence," which is in effect the picking out of strands of higher experience in history to challenge and to direct the lower and the general. Obviously, such a procedure is illegitimate with reference to transcendence. Much of modern existentialism is of this nature, as is the attempt to make science or certain philosophies into ultimates for life, in order to substitute them for classical transcendence. The word "transcendence" is now altered to indicate a functional substitute which will give continuity with the past. Certainly, linguistic analysis itself has become religion for many, the way to, and of, the only reliable truth available to man. It has sometimes become a missionary religion attempting to replace both past philosophies and past theologies.

To this question of transcendence and of the charges of linguistic analysis in particular, what has theology to answer? Can it give an open, positive answer, without defensiveness, witnessing instead to its own security in the life of the truth?


Here we have the charges by linguistic analysis, namely, the general problems of the meaninglessness or impossibility of theological transcendence. What answer can we give? First of all, the theologian must be genuinely open to any and all serious criticism and not merely make a polite bow in its direction. Real security dares to face facts.

Let us then consider the charge that there are two kinds of knowledge and that theology is neither purely analytical nor merely empirical. Theology is neither one nor the other. Therefore, the ontological argument -- in the definitional sense that perfection involves existence by the very analysis of meaning, and therefore that God, who is by definition perfect, must necessarily exist -- will not do as a serious argument for God. There is no analytical or deductive way to the knowledge of God. For all who are intellectually informed, the precritical identification of mind with reality came to a definite end with Kant. Nor is any empirical argument able to produce, for knowledge of God, the kind of measurable, controllable knowledge that we have established, at least comparatively well, in the sciences. If such demands are made of knowledge by the analysis of meaning, theological knowledge is impossible, for theological language has become meaningless.

The further question, however, is whether these two categories exhaust the areas of meaningful language in the sense of the kind of knowledge that directs experience, or whether, in fact, the two areas can be kept apart. The matter of transcendence as such must wait until these two questions are answered.

No one lives by analytical knowledge. That is obvious. The only way analytical knowledge is known at all is as it relates itself to, or is part of, the knowledge or the experience of the knower. In other words, the two realms are known only together, and then the one is abstracted from the other. This fact is primary. But neither does anyone live by discrete particulars established by science. These are known only as they are abstracted from total experience. To live is to make a stream of responses with regard to other people, the world of nature, and the whole world of thought as it confronts each life. Some of these responses are deliberately the performance of logical analysis and of scientific experiment.

When life as a whole is normal, this stream of responses takes some shape. It becomes a configuration. It becomes organized in some way. This evaluative, or interpretive organization as a whole is neither analytical nor reducible to an empirical science. Analysis and experiment can clarify this total but can never be exchanged for it. As a way of living or as an attitude we take toward life as a whole, this configuration is the general presupposition of our lives. It is a way of neither analytical knowledge nor scientific knowledge. It is subject to a presupposition or presuppositions of wholeness which cannot be logically established by either method.

The content of this total response is then arational or meaningless in the strict sense of linguistic analysis, and yet it is inescapable. It is the totality of this evaluative response that directs and shapes life. It is in the positive sense a way of faith, a total, evaluative response to the world in general. In this sense, all persons live by faith and must live by faith. If religion is, by standard definition, man’s evaluative response to reality, then everyone is religious or lives by faith, and such living is not optional. It is situational. We all have presuppositions for living which we cannot prove.

In this living, moreover, the two categories are constantly mixed. Even when the logician carries on analysis and the scientist, verification, he does so from within a total context of life within which these activities are included. The processes of analysis and verification are constantly taking place informally as part of living and thinking, and even formal analysis and verification root in this more foundational process of living as a whole. Living can be better because analysis and verification are well done, but analysis and verification have no meaning for life at all except as they improve the total, evaluative response to, and of, experience as a whole, which is life itself. Even when isolated from the living total for the sake of methodological abstraction, analysis and verification are still related to the general experiential continuum of living.

When these methodological activities clarify knowledge and provide a more dependable basis for life, they are of genuine importance. To call the result of these critical activities knowledge of a special kind is right. This knowledge is valid in a different sense from general experience that has not been critically examined. But the meaning of these processes is not isolation from life, which is possible only as pathological blockage or as methodological contrivance. The meaning is in the evaluative response that directs life, for only with the knower is there any usage of linguistic tools.

To limit language to the segments of life that can be thus abstracted momentarily from it, is linguistic suicide. As far as both meaning and verification go, the question boils down to whether or not living language is meaningless. Is actual usage meaningful? Is life’s communication itself meaningful? If there is no relation between knowledge and living, then all language is meaningless, indeed impossible. Logical positivism is dead, analysts now claim. Dead, too, should be the body of death that still persists in functional analysis. The author’s Faith and Reason has made full room for the truth in analysis, while avoiding its body of death.

Or, put in another way, the question runs thus: Is all faith for living, arbitrary and unconnected with knowledge? If there is no connection with life and no connection between the two realms, there can be no knowledge, for such a complete division is impossible except in theory. Such logical necessity if known by life cannot be known necessarily, for it is now connected with the empirical, and hence it is by definition meaningless!

Theology should grant unhesitatingly the fact that theological knowledge is neither analytical nor empirical truth in the sense of logical necessity or of strict, scientific verifiability. These tools deal with validity. Theology must take these into full account but not be reducible to them. Rather, it is the confession and communication of faith as the total response of experience. This total will be communicated in any case, and the whole history of the human race and the nature of experience itself testify unmistakably to the meaningfulness of such communication. Life cannot be limited to the formal exercise of logic or pursuit of science by the experts. Nor can language.

Before we deal with theological transcendence as such, a prior question, therefore, is whether the kinds of truth represented by analysis and science, strict or extended, exhaust the realm of accessible knowledge. If knowledge is now to be given a restricted definition, the way science has been, the question concerns the nature of the realm of meaningful truth that can be communicated. It seems wiser, however, in the light of the history of analysis itself not to strangle the word "knowledge," but to leave it flexible for proper usage and tests, according to the nature of the different fields of knowledge.

Men do in fact interpret experience by their very living; their lives become contexts of evaluative responses; some presuppositions not verifiable by logic or science shape their lives. Throughout the ages men have made basic interpretations, called religions, that have outlasted all other forms of human, large-scale organizations, such as nations. Are these completely arbitrary, merely relative, and devoid of ascertainable truth? Men have found in their deepest wisdom that mutual concern gives satisfaction in family relations as selfishness does not.

If such an insight is put up against the demand of controllable proof, analytically or empirically, there is neither sense nor reason to it. That an open society is better than a dictatorship likewise is a complicated, conditional assertion that can never be proved but that may be both meaningful and significant. That health and life are better than illness and death is a general assertion that people find meaningful, but it is conditional to the point that it cannot be proved. That education is worthwhile and should be carried on with competence and integrity is a meaningful and even important statement to faith, but beyond proof of both logic and science. That freedom is part of the fulfilled life is beyond both kinds of knowledge and yet it is in accordance with man’s total evaluative response.(Logical analysis as a meaningful human activity is itself beyond the kind of proof demanded by the analysts themselves.)

All of these statements combine the registered, evaluative responses that approximate universal statements. As a matter of fact, the more predictable the findings of science, the more they intend universals that can be reversed and applied back to particulars without need of immediate verification. Thus, practically speaking, the more knowledge of anything we have, the more the two kinds of logic come together; and the quest for meaningful and trustworthy knowledge is a maximum of coming together of logical consistency and coverage with empirical data. The distinction between the two realms is, therefore, basically a methodological contrivance.

Before we deal with theological language in terms of transcendence, we should treat the proposal that theological language is impossible because theology deals with the whole, and the whole cannot be known since all knowledge is analogical or based on comparison. The reply can be brief. If there is no direct knowledge anywhere there is no knowledge. Knowledge grows from comparison but roots in direct awareness. Growth in knowledge is aided by comparing one item with the other. From the thorough knowledge of one oak there can be meaningful discussion of the nature of the oak in general. The wholeness or generality in any case is known through sampling.

For instance, an ocean can be tested for general salinity without testing the ocean as a whole; yet, statements are made about the ocean as a whole rather than about the single spot where the test was made. The rest is inference, not proof. Similarly, there is only one inclusive realm of gravitation, and statements are made concerning it from various samplings. Our knowledge of the sun did not come first from comparing its nature and operation with other suns equally well known. Albert Einstein worked on formulae for the whole universe without access to comparable, detailed formulae for comparative universes. To say that science can have a unit of discourse, a universal framework, but that theology cannot, is to beg the question. To maintain that physics knows in one way and theology in another is an accepted assumption. The argument itself is obviously contrived and manufactured, but it is an assertion of faith provable neither analytically nor scientifically.

The interpreter, to be sure, is either inside or outside gravitation, or considers himself either inside or outside the whole, but actually this observation has only the value of the subjective conditionedness of all knowledge. The interpreter can still generalize concerning the nature and operation of gravitation or the whole without claiming an abstract, absolute knowledge. No finite being can know infinitely, or as the inclusive reality; but such a fact does not preclude meaningful knowledge of the totality to which he responds in a meaningful and even significant manner. In claiming to speak meaningfully about God, the theologian never claims to know as God knows. Just as the analyst can know necessity, while himself being finite and part of the empirical world, so the theologian can know the absolute but not absolutely, for he is far more known than knowing.

For that matter, knowledge can be from finite samples of process to the totality as process. If there is sameness of kind there is no reason that size would debar valid observation and comparison. The natural assumption is that there is likeness of nature between the whole and its parts. But both kinds of knowledge are approximate, and neither needs to be total.

What then, finally, of the general question of transcendence? If there is meaningful, general truth, not reducible to the two kinds of valid knowledge in the narrow sense, can we know anything more generally beyond our ordinary experience? Are we not still caught within the univocal or equivocal dilemma of all knowledge? From the point of view of knowledge it is obvious that unless what is known comes to and through experience, it cannot be known. In experience, the content of knowledge is of this world. For this reason the Christian faith has antedated the modern emphasis by linguistic analysis and existentialism that valid knowledge exists in terms of accessible experience. It centers its knowledge in Incarnation, which means in a kind of life, a kind of love, seen and become effective in this world. Such a basis in Incarnation does not by itself solve the problem of transcendence or the dilemma of the univocal or equivocal nature of knowledge. No matter how a kind of life may illumine and guide experience, the question of transcendence as such is obviously still unanswered, at least in the classical and proper sense of the word "transcendence."

Transcendence roots in the claim that God is creator. The fact of transcendence becomes clear in the light of the history of creation. The facts of science, as far as the history of "evolution" goes, constitute a series of fulfillment where emergent novelties are seen not only to be organically related to the previous process but fulfillingly related. That such a series has come to be without cause and without purpose is a faith-judgment not only incredible but preposterous. If that can be believed, whatever be the verbalization which hides the emptiness, reason itself loses its meaning. An organic universe that has come to be through a series of organic fulfillments bespeaks a cause at least as real and as purposive as the most inclusive and integral "evolvement" of that process. And since process is not completed, is perhaps far from its peak, the cause most probable is indescribably more potent and purposeful than the small and incomplete process we now see. The most likely faith is in the creator.

Merely to look away from the question is to accept in effect such a mystique without examination of the issues. Since any handling of the question of the new and the process as a whole involves difficulties, and since the process is not without resistances and brokenness, the fact of God as creator cannot be established by any proof. But that there is a ground, both eloquently meaningful and immeasurably mysterious, is a faith far more near adequate organization of what we know than the denial or neglect of such a ground. Thus, since we have to live by faith-judgments anyway, God as creator, or classical transcendence, is a better choice than other alternatives.

Proof we cannot have, by the nature of the situation; choice we must make. Our most credible faith, mysterious and staggering as it is, is God the creator. The main fact of process, furthermore, is that it moves; it points ahead. And this process has been accelerated incredibly, as far as meaning goes, within the most recent moments of cosmic time. If each new level relates to previous levels and goes beyond them fulfillingly -- for instance, life was a basic novelty, then self-conscious, then interpretative, and just recently concerned with world problems and universal forms of evaluative responses to reality -- we can expect further fulfillment. The evidence is not yet in.

Such incoming of meaningful life has leaped into being with a rapturous sound. Not life as such, but the best life, seems to be the key that finally fits cosmic process. Not the past by itself which cannot account for the surge of the process, nor the mere, tiny now of lightning-quick cosmic development, but the unimaginable future beyond the now of time and the here of earthly space, as indicated by the direction of development up to now, has the best credentials for pointing us to the meaning of existence.

From among the three -- the past, the present, and the future -- we must choose as far as the context of life goes. Or we must choose between the lowest beginning, the present average attainment, and the highest pointing of process. (Cf. the close and fuller arguments of Ferré, Faith and Reason [Harper & Brothers, 1946], chap. iv. A careful analysis of the same theme is Teilhard de Chardin’s The Phenomenon of Man [Harper & Brothers, 1959]). All three present choices of faith. Realism favors the choice of high hope in line with the upshooting of cosmic meaning, with the pointing of process in life, and in the highest kind of life. Our weary, confused, and guilty selves may demur, but the universal Concern, the ever faithful God, seen in the kind of life Jesus lived and taught, offers the most credible faith in line with the highest plane of cosmic process. The implications of such an organization of experience and knowledge stagger all imagination and transcend all knowledge. Nevertheless, a serious accounting for total meaning in terms of the total process offers no alternative faith that is not even more incredible.

Besides, there is the transcendence of true human potentiality. Man needs such love lived with genuineness and interpreted with integrity. The more one practices co-operative concern, open community, and truth in freedom, the more is life fulfilled rather than frustrated. This is true for society as a whole. The persons, moreover, who live for this end speak to the depths of people as people, men like Socrates, Jesus, St. Francis, Gandhi, and Schweitzer. A behavior pattern of this kind is, to be sure, so exceptional as now to seem entirely idealistic, but the fact is that the more it is lived the more the true interests of life are promoted.

Such statements cannot be proved by analysis nor crammed into exact scientific experiment, but they represent the heart of human wisdom at the depth of its need. Faith lived in line with such wisdom is surely more real and significant that the kind of skepticism which, in practice, assumes no ground or goal for the process, or the kind of timid faith that is frozen fast where process is now passing through to its fuller unfolding. From a near view, the process of fulfillment seems slow because of man’s stubborn freedom, his determined sinning, and his little faith, but in the scale of cosmic movement the changes are indescribably, breathtakingly rapid! Human history appears with cometlike speed. Faith is a quality of life that can never be reduced to the quality and feel of reason; but the fulfillment of reason best occurs when it is in line with the truest and highest faith.

What, however, of the charge by psychology that such faith is wishful thinking? Is it not compensation for the bitter disappointments of life and the threat of death? In line with the main objective pointing of cosmic process -- the God of love as creator, guide, and fulfiller of life -- psychology should come to a different conclusion. Fearful and faithless man fears God, who threatens his individual and collective selfishness. Therefore, he flees and hides from God. Sinful man seeks to kill God, to bury him. But no matter how much he pulls down the shades to keep out the light, there are cracks at the window. It is the sinner who rationalizes, who makes false gods, who seeks substitute ultimates. More than we know, science when abused by being perverted into a world-view or made to debar all other roads to truth is largely the attempt to shut out God.

At least this much can be safely said: Linguistic analysis in its absorbing concern with theological statements should be subjected to the test of fire to determine its reasons for branding theological statements as meaningless at the very time modern knowledge has rendered God in terms of an allegedly scientific view of the world as mechanism without meaning. What fighting of God is this? Psychology, too, can become a substitute for genuine faith, internalizing even the objective problems. Now the world of thought is beginning to pass "beyond psychology." (Cf. Otto Rank, Beyond Psychology (Dover, 1959), and Ira Progoff, The Death and Rebirth of Psychology (Julian Press, 1956).

We must listen well and long and thankfully to the criticisms of linguistic analysis. Strong faith can never bypass validity. Somehow, minimum hypothesis and adequate explanation must continue together for living truth. Nor can that truth ever be settled by mortal man. Dynamic, alert, open, and critical must be man’s faith. No other faith can be held without defensiveness. We thus learn from linguistic analysis without accepting its metaphysics or the method that is contrived to guard it. Truth lies deeper and is fuller. The truth lies in the fullest faith best tested in the service of man’s deepest need. Faith is man’s most valid and adequate evaluative response to life’s meaning and direction.

Where lies a faith that will neither try to lean on logic but rightfully use it, nor build on science but heed its facts, that will, however, first of all know and accept its own nature? Such a faith will recognize the genuineness of the statement by Augustine: "They only understand it who compare that voice received from without with the truth within." (Confessions, X, vi, 10.) There is no easy or safe way to verifiable knowledge or to dependable faith, but there is no full life without bold walking in the direction of both.

Viewed 90476 times.