The Third Solution Of The Cosmic Problem Identity In Difference

We come now to the third and last solution of the cosmic problem. As

we develop it, we shall endeavour to show that it supplies that

metaphysical idea which forms the basis of catholic Christology. The

two previous solutions failed. They do not satisfy the philosopher and

they mislead the theologian. The one separates God from the world; the

other merges them. Thus both, in effect, abandon the original

They destroy the relation instead of expressing it. The

concepts both of co-existence and of identity have proved fruitless in

the speculative problem, and in Christology have given rise to heresy.

The third school of thought takes as its starting point neither God,

nor the world, nor the two as co-existing, but the relation of the two.

It makes that relation such that the terms related are preserved in the

relation. Neither identity nor difference is the full truth, but

identity in and through difference. God is not the world, nor is the

world God. God is, and the world is. Each are facts. In their

separateness they are not true facts. It is only as we conceive the

two in their oneness, a supra-numerical oneness, that we can give their

full value to each. The world is God's world; therefore it has being

and value. The cosmic relation then is expressed not by an "and," nor

by an "is," but by an "of." The God "of" the world is the key

concept that unlocks the doors of the palace of truth.

It was in the prominence given to this concept that Aristotle's system

made a great advance on that of his predecessor. Plato had established

a world of ideas with the idea of the Good as its centre, but he left

it unrelated to the world of experience. Aristotle insisted on

relating the ideal and the real. His concept of relation was that of

form and matter. The world apart from God is matter apart from form.

It has only potential reality. When it becomes united to its form, it

becomes actual. Its form makes it a fact--what it has in it to be.

Aristotle conceives different grades of being. Unformed matter is the

lowest of these grades, and God the highest. Each grade supplies the

matter of which the next highest grade is the form. Ascending the

scale of being at last we reach pure form. Thus the ladder of

development is constructed by which the world rises to its realisation

in God. Aristotle gave to humanity the conception of a God who

transcends the world, and yet is immanent in it, as form is in matter.

Thus Greek philosophy in Aristotle attained that spiritual monotheism

which supplied the foundation for the edifice of Christian doctrine.

The effect of Aristotle's teaching was felt by all the ecclesiastical

parties in the fifth century. As we shall see in a later chapter, some

of the subsidiary elements of his philosophy are reflected in

monophysitism. The dominant ideas, however, of the system, the

conception of God and the world and the relation between them, were

taken over by the catholic theologians, and incorporated into their

Christology. We need not here inquire whether Aristotle's influence

was direct or indirect. No doubt many of the theologians who

constructed Christian doctrine had read his works. Whether that is so

or not, they must have unconsciously assimilated his central doctrine.

It was common property. The determination to keep God a reality and

the world a reality and yet relate the two became the controlling

motive of their thinking.

Aristotle in theory and application of theory has always a feeling for

fact. The individual thing and the world of individual things are, for

him, never negligible. Realised matter, life, the human spirit, human

nature, are actualities and have their value as such. They are not all

on the same level of being; they do not occupy the same rank; and it is

the philosopher's business to determine their respective positions in

the scale of being and value. But he cannot have his head in the

clouds of contemplation, unless he have his feet on the earth of fact.