There are, still, certain special applications of the doctrine of relativity that, because of their direct bearing on the religious life, it may be worth while briefly to consider. It is often urged, that the very terms we apply to God show that we must be out of any real living relation to him. The term 'Absolute,' for example, has been made, of itself, to settle the whole matter. The Absolute, it is said, is that which by hypothesis is out of all relations, and with which, therefore, it is of course not possible to come into relations. One would be almost ashamed to call attention to such pure verbal jugglery, if it had not been so often solemnly paraded as an argument of vital consequence. God is not the Absolute, let us unhesitatingly say, as being unrelated. A being out of all relation to all else—incapable, that is, of any possible reciprocal action with other beings—would be as nearly a nonentity as we could well conceive, if indeed it were possible to conceive such a supposed being at all. On the contrary, God is the Absolute rather, in that he is the being in whom all relations find their reason and possibility of existence.

Nor is God the Absolute in the sense that he is without qualities. This would be to assert that he is without content, whereas we must rather conceive of God as having the richest, largest, fullest content, in the direction of Spinoza's idea of an infinite number of attributes. Positively, the Absolute as applied to God ought to mean, raised above all the limitations which pertain to the finite as a mere part of a whole—the final and fundamental source of all, unexhausted in any or all of his manifestations.

Similar statements need to be made about the use of the word unchangeable, as applied to God. God is unchangeable in the consistency of the meaning of his nature and of his loving purpose. But instead of this making it true that there can then be no change in him answering to our need, it rather insures such adjusting activity as his love requires. This whole false notion of un-changeableness in God goes back to a metaphysically false and abandoned notion of an ever identical stuff or substance, and should no longer be allowed to obscure our religious thinking or living. We are to believe in a really living God, who is in the realest reciprocal action with all the finite, and with whom, therefore, our inner attitude does make a difference.

And when we have once gotten rid of these spectres of an unthinkable Absolute and of an ever-identical substance, we discover that that other ghost is also laid, that supposes that there is some profound philosophical difficulty in prayer or in any revelation. There is, in truth, no sound reason, philosophical or scientific, for denying that God has actual access to our minds. Lotze certainly did not speak without full knowledge of all the difficulties involved when he said: "There is nothing whatever that stands in opposition to the further conviction that God, at particular moments and in particular persons, may have stood nearer to humanity, or may have revealed himself at such moments and in such persons in a more eminent way than at other moments and in other persons. . . . It is even without doubt legitimate to regard the relation in which he [Christ] stood to God as absolutely unique, not only as to degree but also as to its essential quality."[20]

Once more, I think religion ought to count exorcised that other philosophical spectre, which affirms a necessary contradiction between the terms Infinite and personality. Of course, if one starts, as Paulsen does, with a definition of personality as "the form peculiar to human life," that by hypothesis restricts it to the finite, it is easy to prove that such personality cannot belong to the Infinite. But the continuation of Paulsen's own argument, though he calls his view "pantheistic," really shows that he himself cannot rest there: "Pantheism, as we understand it, has no intention of depriving God of anything or of denying him anything but human limitations. It will not permit us to define God by the concept of personality, simply because the notion is too narrow for the infinite fulness and depth of his being. Still, in order to remove the apprehension, we might call God a supra-personal being, not intending thereby to define his essence, but to indicate that God's nature is above the human mind, not below it. And Pantheism might add that it finds no fault with anyone for calling God a personal being in this sense. Insomuch as the human mind is the highest and most important thing that we know, we can form an idea of God only by intensifying human attributes. .... That is the possible and inevitable anthropomorphism of all religions."[21]

It seems wholly legitimate not only but, for our ultimate thinking, far more satisfactory to say, as Lotze essentially does, that the fact is, that so far from being true that personality is inconsistent with the Infinite, it is rather true that personality can be regarded as complete and perfect only in the Infinite. He alone, whose being is not bestowed by another and therefore in much necessarily hidden; he alone, who is not a mere part in a whole; he alone, whose memory may infallibly gather all the past; he alone, whose life is absolutely self-conditioned—he alone can have complete self-consciousness and perfect freedom, can thus be a perfect personality.[22] The terms Infinite and personal, thus, do not seem to me contradictory. Moreover, it is to be remembered that the alternative conceptions, suggested by such terms as "Impersonal Spirit," "Moral World Order," "Infinite Substance," "Self-developing Idea," we are really not able to think at all without at least tacit reference to the notion of personal spirit. It may well be, that God transcends all our highest thought, and in this sense may be called "supra-personal," though this is for us wholly empty of content; but our highest possible conception of him, nevertheless, is as personal.

Perhaps no one in modern literature has indicated more effectively the legitimacy of this argument, from the best in the human to the divine, than Browning, in the latter part of his "Saul." This is hardly less than a consummate study of the way by which inspiration may come, and its resulting mood. The whole theme of the latter part of the poem is that God cannot be less than man at his best, even in man's willingness to suffer for love's sake. And the whole world seems to David, in Browning's closing paragraph, to feel the awe of this revelation, and to throb with this vision of an infinitely loving, suffering God:


"I believe it! 'Tis thou, God, that givest, 'tis I who receive:
 In the first is the last, in thy will is ray power to believe."

 "See the King—I would help him but cannot, the wishes fall
Could I wrestle to raise him from sorrow, grow poor to enrich,
To fill up his life, starve my own out,
I would—knowing which, I know that my service is perfect.
Oh, speak through me now!
Would I suffer for him that I love?
So wouldst thou—so wilt thou!
So shall crown thee the topmost, ineffablest, uttermost crown—
And thy love fill infinitude wholly, nor leave up nor down
One spot for the creature to stand in!"


Browning often argues that will is more than power, and love than will; and that God cannot be less in any of these ways than man at his best. We have no higher capacities for the true vision of God than exactly the divinest qualities in ourselves,—the qualities of a seeking, suffering, self-giving love. This is a fully justified part of that "inevitable anthropomorphism of all religions" of which Paulsen speaks. No philosophical inheritances need be regarded as invalidating the essence of this contention.

[20] Outlines of the Philosophy of Religion, pp. 149, 150.

[21] Paulsen: Introduction to Philosophy, pp. 254, 255.

[22] Cf. King: Reconstruction in Theology, pp. 209-210.