stages in the to discover the ultimate reality of things
with drawing into the inner life, or
losing all the manifold forms of existence, like Plotinus, in a mystic unity,
It was committed to the hard task of idealising a world which in its first aspect seems to know nothing of the ideal; of taking away the commonness of life by the power of a more comprehensive vision, and finding the key to its discords 2i a harmony which realises itself through them. It had to seek the essential means for the realisation of its ideal in that very chance and contingency of life, which the greatest of ancient philosophers regarded as inexplicable, or as the result of that ternal necessity which clings to all finite existence.
Christianity we might say that religion was for the first time brought face to face with the whole problem of the world in its vastness and universality, and at the same time in all its complexity of individual concrete detail. It had to idealise life and death, and in a certain even sin and evil, and to attain to more real through the lowest depths ever fathomed by pessimism. And philosophical reflexion upon such a religion was bound to follow in its footsteps, to face the same difficulties, and find by its own methods a way to the same or to a better solution of them
Hence modern philosophy, though in its earlier stages—in the effort to assert its own freedom and to establish the first basis of an intelligible
' evolution of theology 57
view of the universe—it tended rather to withdraw from the whole sphere of religious thought, and even to regard it with hostility, has heen obliged by the necessity of its own development more and more definitely to take cognisance of the Christian system • of thought and life. It has been obliged to consider whether in its own way and by its own methods it can reinterpret and justify the thorough-going and fearless idealism and optimism of the founder of Christianity, while bringing it in relation to the whole results of modern life and science. This aspect of its work has gained greater prominence since the days of Eant, in the great speculative movement which he initiated at the end of the eighteenth century. And if it be true that during the course of last century there has been a partial reaction from the premature attempt then made to snatch at the fruits of philosophy before they were quite ripe, I think it may fairly be said that in its later years, after all the great development of science, especially of biological and historical science, there has been a return upon the methods and principles of idealism which, if it be characterised by greater caution, is perhaps on that account the more likely to bring about a permanent result.
Was this article helpful?