PREFACE TO THE THIRD EDITION
THE contributors to this collection of essays have every reason to be grateful for the welcome extended to the volume as a whole during the past three years, and for the thoroughness with which it has been criticised by theologians of the most diverse standpoints, both at home and abroad ; and the publication of a third edition appears to offer an opportunity for considering some of these criticisms, and endeavouring in some sort to meet them. Of many of the book's deficiencies the writers were well aware at the outset ; others have been brought home to them in the course of discussion and review. It is impossible to attempt to deal with all of them, and it has been decided to leave the text of each essay as it stands. But certain points of detail raised in regard to particular essays are considered in a series of Additional Notes now appended to the volume ; and major issues of principle, as these have been presented both from the Catholic and from the Protestant side, form the subject of this Preface.
It has been urged that this book " attempts the impossible " in trying " to bring into synthesis the Catholic and critical movements." 1 The criticism contains a just expression of what was in fact the purpose of its writers, and they believe that the task was both practicable and necessary. They are convinced, moreover, that this belief is part and parcel of the principles to which Anglican theology is committed and by which it stands or falls. At the same time, Liberal Catholicism (to give these principles a name) has undoubtedly a very difficult task to perform. It appears to beat one and the same time trying to hunt with the hounds and to run with the hare—to uphold reason and freedom on the one hand and tradition and authority on the other. It is exposed to attack, accordingly, from the stalwarts of either camp. The conflict centres especially in its conception of authority.
Now, it is significant that the conception of religious authority outlined in the two essays here devoted to that subject has elicited almost identical criticisms from representative writers of the most diverse schools of thought. Lutheran or Roman Catholic, Evangelical or believer in the Inner Light, each makes the same complaint, viz., that no satisfying answer is provided as to what and where religious authority is. On further analysis it is found, however, that behind each of these complaints lies a very definite, though in each case, different, idea of what the true answer is— an infallible Pope, or an infallible Bible, or an infallible conscience. Judged from the standpoint of any of these, the Liberal Catholic conception must appear vague. But what if the answer be really complex ? If the truth lies not in any simple or single formula, but in a critical synthesis of all these other, so confident, answers ? What if those answers themselves spring from, and unwittingly appeal to, a vast volume of religious experience which calls for some larger theory to account for it than any one of them alone provides ? Such a theory, it must be admitted—and especially if it were incomplete—would certainly appear to the votaries of those earlier theories as vague and unsatisfying : but it might none the less contain the truth. In the Preface to the first edition of this volume we admitted that its doctrine of authority was as yet incomplete. It may be worth while, therefore, to try to develop it further.
But first a. preliminary question may be answered, which is not the less important because it takes the form of an argumentum ad hominem. The learned and kindly reviewer in "The Expository Times" writes : " If authority rests on Christian experience, surely those great Churches (Free, Lutheran, etc.) have some authority to plead. But if the Christian experience of these bodies is to count in assessing the authority of any truth, what becomes of the Anglo-Catholic contention ? " Now, so far as the religious experience of the great Protestant bodies is concerned, its significance for a Catholic doctrine of authority is by no means overlooked (cf. pp. 118, 119). The reviewer's question, however, betrays a misunderstanding of the Anglo-Catholic claim. That claim is not that Anglo-Catholicism gives a final and exclusive expression of the truth, but that it represents the best expression at present available, in thought, worship, and life, of the principles necessary to an ultimate synthesis. That this is no merely insular prejudice is indicated by the interest and respect which Anglo-Catholicism commands in circles unconnected with England or with the Church of England. Dr. Brilioth in Sweden, Dr. Heiler in Germany, and Professor H. L. Stewart in Canada are none of them either English or Anglican ; but all agree in seeing in Anglo-Catholicism an attitude towards the principles and practice of Christianity which is of moment to the whole Church of Christ. That attitude is what underlies the work of the essayists in this volume. They aim, as a sympathetic Roman Catholic critic has put it, " at the restoration of order in the truth." Inevitably, they must endeavour to conserve all elements of such order that exist already ; and their apologetic, if it is successful at all, will vindicate the Christian faith far outside the borders of the Anglo-Catholic movement or even of the Anglican Communion itself.