THE CHRISTIAN FAITH: AN INTRODUCTION TO DOGMATIC THEOLOGY - By CLAUDE BEAUFORT MOSS, D.D.LONDON - S.P.C.K 1965 Holy Trinity Church  Marylbone Road London NW 1 - Printed in Great Britain by Richard Clay (The Chaucer Press) Ltd  Bungay Suffolk - First published in 1943 - Prepared for katapi by Paul Ingram 2004.




HOME | Contents | theology: nature & purpose | material & spiritual | different views of material & spiritual | personality

I. Nature and Purpose of Theology

1. Theology is the Science of God

What is Theology? 
It is the science of God and the things of God, just as ornithology is the science of birds. 
Every science has something already given on which it works. 
Ornithology assumes that birds exist, and that we know what a bird is. 
Theology assumes that there is a God, and that it is possible to know Him.

There are people who deny that there is a God. 
If there were no God,
there could be no Theology,
except the history of what men have believed about their gods. 
But this is not the place to try to convince those who deny that there is a God. 
Genesis does not begin with a proof of the existence of God;
it begins with the words,

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

2. Christian Theology is the Science of God Revealed in Jesus of Nazareth

Christian Theology is the science of God as revealed by and in Jesus of Nazareth. 
It assumes, not only that there is a God,
but that He is the God whom Jesus of Nazareth proclaimed to the world. 
Christians do not believe that there is or can be any other God.

3. The Purpose of Theology is to Explain the Meaning of the Universe

If there is a God,
and if He is such as the New Testament (and also the Old Testament) declares Him to be,
there can be no kind of knowledge more important than Theology. 
For the nature of man,
and the nature of the universe in which he finds himself,
depend on the nature of God. 
It is possible to deny that there is a God,
but it seems hardly possible to deny that the question whether there is a God is important;
for the answer to this question makes the greatest possible difference to everything in the world. 
Therefore Theology is concerned with everything in the world and must be of supreme importance to every human being. 
For this reason it was formerly called the Queen of the Sciences.

4. The Difference between Theology and Metaphysics

Philosophy, or metaphysics, is concerned with the being of everything in the world. 
But metaphysics is concerned with the world as it can be understood by reason and the senses only. 
It does not assume the existence of God or the revelation of Him in Jesus of Nazareth. 
Therefore Theology possesses more given material than metaphysics.

II. Material and Spiritual

1. Distinction between the Material, which can be perceived by the Senses, and the Spiritual, which cannot

Of all the things in the world
there are some which can be seen, touched, weighed, and measured;
which can or could, that is,
be known by means of the senses,
though not all of them can be perceived by all the senses
(air cannot be seen, but it can be touched or weighed). 
We call these things MATERIAL
They are the subject of the natural sciences.

There are other things that cannot be seen, or touched, or weighed, or measured,
not because they are too large or too small,
but because their nature does not permit it. 
These things, which cannot be perceived by the senses, are called SPIRITUAL.

(Some of these things are described as intellectual rather than spiritual. 
We must not use the word "spiritual" of what is merely intellectual, though some people do it. 
To draw an exact line between the intellectual and the spiritual is not easy.)

2. Materialism, the Denial that the Spiritual World Exists

Some people deny that the spiritual world, which cannot be perceived by the senses, exists at all. 
Those who hold this theory are called materialists. 
But they have never been more than a minority, usually a small minority, of mankind. 
Most philosophers reject Materialism as an absurdity,
on the ground that if a man is nothing but a piece of material like a stone,
he cannot think or know,
and therefore cannot form a theory. 
They are supported by the belief of the great majority of mankind
that there is a spiritual world behind the material world.

Note on the Theory of Values

(Some people call the spiritual world the world of values, as opposed to the world of facts. 
This seems to be a confusion of thought. 
If anything is a VALUE, someone must value it. 
If there were no persons, there would be no values. 
If, for instance, the moon is quite dead, as we are told,
there cannot be in it any values at all except for persons outside it. 
If, then, we say that God belongs to the world of values,
 we must mean that man is the valuer of God;
that is, that God is merely a name for the highest ideals of man. 
But if God did not exist apart from man's thoughts about Him,
He would not be worth believing in. 
Christians, and indeed all who really believe in God, believe that He is a Fact. 
To say that Jesus "has the value of God" is not at all the same as to say that Jesus is God,
which is what Christians believe. 
It is better, therefore, not to speak of the world of facts and the world of values,
but of the material world and the spiritual world
or, with St. Paul, of the things temporal and the things eternal.)

3. The Five Means of Access to the Spiritual World

Since the spiritual world cannot be perceived by the senses,
we must have other ways of perceiving it. 
Christians believe that we have five means of access to the spiritual world.

(a)  Reason

The reason,
by which we can deduce from the things that we perceive by our senses
the existence and the character of their Creator.

(b) Conscience

The conscience, by which we can distinguish
between what is right and what is wrong.

(c) Holy Scripture

God's Revelation of Himself to men,
of which the Holy Scriptures are the record.

(d) The Sacraments

The Sacraments,
material things (outward and visible signs) by means of which God,
according to His promise,
bestows upon us His heavenly power, or grace.

(e)  Religious Experience

The religious experience (apart from the sacraments) of millions of Christians (and others),
including such experience as we ourselves have shared. 
(The mystical experience, or direct vision of God,
which is only given to some people,
not to all,
is one kind of this religious experience.)

But though we believe that the spiritual and the material orders are distinct from one another,
we do not believe that they are quite separate. 
Each of us is partly spiritual and partly material,
and each part profoundly affects the other part.

created and directed by one God. 
They are governed by similar laws, as was shown by Bishop Joseph Butler in The Analogy of Religion
They are closely associated with one another,
and it is sometimes hard to draw a sharp line of division between them.

III. Different Views of the Material and the Spiritual

Four different beliefs have been held about the material and spiritual.

1. Materialism

The first, which has been already mentioned, is Materialism the denial that the spiritual world exists. 
All the best philosophers for the reason already given have rejected this theory. 
The system of Marxian Communism introduced by Lenin into Russia is based on what its supporters call DIALECTICAL MATERIALISM
It appears, however, not to be materialism in the strict sense,
for the Communists hold that the ultimate basis of existence is impersonal Tension or Struggle to be resolved at last in a synthesis. 
This seems to be a very crude form of Monism (see below). 
 Marxians do not reject cultural and intellectual values, as strict materialists would;
for museums, the Communist Government supports art galleries, and concerts. 
Marxian Communism, as preached and enforced by Lenin, has all the characteristics of a religion except an object of worship. 
It has its organized CHURCH, its HERESIES, its missionaries, and its martyrs. 
It is the most successful and the most dangerous rival of Christianity with which it is, of course, fundamentally incompatible,
for it is based on the denial of God, freedom, and immortality, and on the duty, not of love but of hatred (the CLASS WAR).

2. Idealism

The second doctrine about the material and the spiritual is Idealism the denial of the reality of the material world. 
Unlike Materialism, this theory has very great philosophical and religious support. 
Many of the religions of Asia are based upon it;
for instance, the most prevalent forms of Hinduism and Buddhism. 
Plato was an Idealist, and so were many modern philosophers. 
Some, like George Berkeley (Bishop of Cloyne, near Cork, 1734-53),
and many Christian Platonists, have tried to reconcile it with Christianity.

3. Monism

The third doctrine is Monism the belief that there is no difference between the material and the spiritual,
but that everything in the universe is of one substance. 
The chief teachers of Monism were

Plotinus (204-70),
Spinoza (1632-77),
Hegel (1770-1831),
and Schopenhauer (1788-1860).

4. The Hebrew-Christian

The fourth doctrine is the Hebrew and Christian doctrine that matter and spirit both really exist,
but that the spiritual world is more real than the material world. 
It is especially displayed in the Christian doctrines of the Incarnation and Resurrection of Jesus Christ,
and the Resurrection of the Body.

IV. Personality

No doctrine of the nature of the universe is satisfactory which does not regard personality as real,
and as the highest form of existence known to us.

1. We Need not Define Personality

We need not define personality,
for we have direct knowledge of what a person is. 
Everything is more real the more closely it is connected with a person.

2. Persons are More Real than Things

Persons are more real than things. 
Things are real, but they owe their reality to persons. 
For this reason persons are more important than anything else in the universe. 
Quantity matters little in comparison with quality. 
A living baby is more important than a whole system of stars. 
The feeling that man is lost in a boundless creation (Eccles.16.17),
which modern astronomy has raised as a bogey to haunt the imagination
("Must my tiny spark of being wholly vanish in your deeps and heights?"  [Tennyson]), is an illusion. 
It is man
and man alone
who has the power even to know that there is a universe.

3. God, the Supreme Reality, is Personal

The supreme reality must be at least as personal as we are. 
To suppose that the existence of rational beings on this one planet is an accident,
and has no relation to the general scheme of the universe,
is to suppose what is more difficult to believe than that the universe is governed by reason.

4. Causation is Personal

We know nothing of causation except when we ourselves are the cause of anything. 
Apart from our wills, cause is merely an observed sequence. 
Primitive men believe that all causes are personal,
that it is God (or the gods) who makes the rain to fall and the sun to shine. 
We find this belief throughout the Old Testament. 
Primitive men and the writers of the Old Testament are right. 
Everything that happens is caused by the will of some person,
either by man,
or by some other created being (as an angel, or a devil),
or by God. 
There is no such thing as an impersonal cause. 
When we say that one thing causes another,
we mean, or we ought to mean, that we have observed that the latter always follows the former,
and that we believe that God has made them in such a way that it always will follow it. 
It is because God is a God of order that nature is uniform.
If it were not uniform, natural science could not exist.