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1958 Nr. 3




Systematische Theologie: Allgemeines


Campbell, Charles Arthur


On selfhood and godhood 1958


Dickie, Edgar P.

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225 Theologische Literaturzeitung 1958 Nr. 3 226

; C a m p b e 11, CA.. Prof.: On Selfhood and Godhood. The Gifford
i Lectures delivered at the University of St. Andrews during Sessions
19 53—54 and 19 54—5 5 revised and expanded. London: Allen &
Unwin; New York: The Macinillan Comp. [1957]. XXXVI, 436 S.
gr. 8° = Muirhead Library of Philosophy, ed. H. D. Lewis. 3 5 s.

The Gifford lectureship was founded in 188 5 and has evoked
many of the best contributions to philosophy, science and
theology published in Britain during those seventy years. It was
intended for "diffusing the study of Natural Theology" in the
widest sense of that term, in other words "The knowledge of
God, the Infinite, the All, the First and Only Cause ... the knowledge
of the nature and foundation of Ethics or Morals, and of
all obligations and duties thence ansing." Lord Gifford, the
donor of this munificent fund, which provides a separate Lecture-
6hip in each of the four Scottish Universities of St. Andrews,
Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh, had a special request in mak-
ing it available: — "I wish", he wrote, "the lecturers to treat
their subject as a strictly natural science, the greatest of all pos-
sible sciences, indeed, in one sense, the only science, that of
Infinite Being, without reference to or reliance upon any 6up-
posed special exceptional or so-called miraculous revelation.
I wish it considered just as astronomy or chemistry is." It was
a surprise to many that, under these terms, Dr. Karl Barth was
able to deliver, at Aberdeen, the lectures under this foundation
entitled "The Knowledge of God and the Service of God"; but
Dr. Campbell is in the true succession. And it is a succession of
giants. His immediate predecessor in St. Andrews was Brand
Blanshard, professor of philosophy in Yale University; and his
immediate successor was Werner Carl Heisenberg, director of
the Max Planck Institute of Physics, Göttingen.

This is philosophical theology at its best; and its appearance
is timely; for symptomatic of the period is the appearance in
1955 of a volume called "New Essays in Philosophical Theology
", written by young philosophers of the post-war generation
who say, in the preface, that they have borrowed the term
"philosophical theology" from Professor Paul Tillich. It is
significant that the influential two volumes of F. R. Tennant,
"Philosophical Theology", seem to be unknown. The name of
Hegel, it has been said, is nowadays spoken in Oxford only to
6coff. Thus a wide gulf has opened between past and present in
this realm, threatening a dangerous discontinuity in thought.
Professor Campbell has bridged the gulf between idealism and
contemporary philosophy. He is professor of Logic and Rhetoric
in Glasgow. In Oxford he studied specially the works of F. H.
Bradley and Bernard Bosanquet. And one of his most memorable
essays is "Ryle on the Intellect" (Philosophical Quarterly,
April 1953), a refutation of Gilbert Ryle's theory in "The Con-
cept of Mind". In this volume he is dealing with the real issues
of philosophy and has brought back to the enquiry the sense of
wonder and immensity. It is the second part of the book which
is of particular interest to this journal. It deals with the follow-
ing themes: — The concept of religion: the relation of religion
to theism: theism and the problem of evil, considered under
two heads, Sin, and Suffering: Rudolf Otto's concept of Das
Heilige: supra-rational theism and symbolic knowledge; and
the objective validity of religion. (Three excellent lectures are
allotted to the last theme.)

The author brings his deep study of human free-will (Dr.
Campbell's inaugural lecture in taking up his chair in Glasgow
in 1938 was a Delence of Free-WM) to the examination of
theological problems, and of very special interest is his chapter
on Sin.

,,In the last resort", he writes (page 275) „perhapß the best answer
to those who are troubled about the compatibility of human sin
with a God who is supremely good (as well as omnipotent) is to ask
a question. Would it have been a b e 11 e r world if man had been
created without the power of self-determination; without, there-
fore, the opportunity of realising moral values? — for it is only on
that condition that the complete absence of human sinning is con-
ceivable. I fancy that very few people, or at anyrate very few Christians
, would be prepared to answer this question in the affirmative. To
most of us human life would seem to lose not only all its dignity but
its very meaning if men were not endowed with the freedom of choice
which makes their realisation of moral values possible."

He States, with refreshing clarity, the case for human res-
ponsibility. Whenever we make a wrong choice we know that
we c o u 1 d have done otherwise: responsibility is not in question
; but perhaps we should have to add to Dr. Campbell's
exposition the complementary truth — the honest verdict of
man that even the otherwise would have been sinful. Only
by the grace of God are we enabled to do that which is really
good in the sight of God. All is of God; nevertheless
man is responsible — there is no shame in holding to paradox
here. Professor Campbell and the theologians can agree in
distinguishing sharply between the alienation from God of which
man is aware because of his creatureliness; and the alienation
which is caused by his sinfulness; yet the religious person is
equally aware that, when he is on his knees in prayer before
God the Father Almighty, he cannot lift up his hands and claim
goodness for himself.

It may be that the author will still have to take account
of those facts which have led other strenuous thinkers in recent
years to posit once again a d e m o n i c dement. At one end of
the scale is the theory that free-will alone is sufficient to
account for human sin: at the other a belief in the demonic.
But there is surely a middle way, which recognises the clear fact
of the illimitable power released by sin. Sin lets loose forces
of evil which are still at large long after the sinner has repented
and is forgiven. There is a kingdom of sin; a body of guilt.

Emphasising the major defect of rational theism (its failure
to be in earnest with the mysterium), Dr. Campbell sets forth
his own plea for supra-rational theism which asserts that it is
meaningful to speak, in a religious context, of 'objectively
valid' symbols of God's nature. In expounding his own epistemo-
logy, he is aware of the danger of nescience, and meets this
with an examination of the via negativa, showing how the
theory of symbolic knowledge escapes the danger. But he is
also aware of the problem of analogical thinking — if you
emphasise the resemblances within the analogy you arrive at
anthropomorphism: if you underline the differences, you are
back at the via negativa; — and in a brief but convincing
appendix he distinguishes the traditional method of analogy
from his own symbolic theism, claiming that, at the least, it is
no more agnostic. Certain Symbols are f o r c e d on the mind,
though not understood in their application to God. "Between

symbol and symbolizandum......there exists a natural

'affinity' which the human mind finds itsfelf obliged to accept
even while it cannot 'understand' it. It is this that confers on
symbols like wisdom, love and justice objectivity and necessity
as symbols of the Divine nature" (p. 432).

This central theme is a most important contribution and
carries the discussion notably forward. When Fr. Przywara wrote
his treatise on P o 1 a r i t y, he was content to remain in the
paradox: — God is tamquam ignotus, wholly beyond, past
all comprehension. Yet Creation is a likeness of God — a like-
ness of a God who is beyond similitude. God and Creation are
in their resemblance completely unlike. Protestantism has its
paradoxes also. God is both transcendent and immanent; He is
the Beyond who is within; even the Beyond who is akin. Professor
Campbell draws an important distinction: — There are
positive value terms which are negated because they are
inadequate to describe the nature of God; and there are
negative value terms which are negated because they are
incompatible with the nature of God. And here the
author successfully breaks out from the i m p a s s e of Thomism,
which, from the viewpoint of Existence and Analogy, has never
been able to supply any kind of direction in the problem of

There is a real affinity here with Karl Barth's analogia
iidei. Barth would express it in theological terms: — In Jesus,
God becomes comprehensible: man is called upon to venture
assertions about His nature. Clearly not all assertions are ade-
quate or appropriate. How then are we to choose? how decide
what are worthy and what are not? Barth replies that God's revelation
chooses our words. The concept of 'analogy' becomes
thoroughly applicable, even inevitable. God's genuine revelation