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.