What Religion Is/Chapter 2



“Out of weakness were made strong . . .”

When we speak in the tone we have been using, of a spiritual being absorbed in or surrendered to a greater or to one that is supreme, we may be led to ask questions arising from certain aspects of the experience. We are apt to be curious to know how any such thing is possible.

So in this case we raise a question perhaps about the freedom of a being so absorbed or devoted; and this, I suspect, is at the bottom of our hearts a question about power. How can a being be said to do anything of himself if his whole rightness and effectiveness depends on a unity in which he seems to be subordinate? It might be idle curiosity to ask whether he could have done otherwise than he did; but we may be assailed by doubts whether as described he can be said to do anything. We should hardly be troubled about freedom if we were sure of power.

Now this is, for religion, merely a side issue, a question of description and formulation, within the great central experience. And what religion asks you to do is to keep your eye on that experience, and enter into it as fully as you can. For it is not like anything else, except the degrees of itself. "Out of weakness are made strong" — that is the story of all love and loyalty, all worship, devotedness, aspiration. Life and mind can do nothing by themselves. Their whole structure and way of working is to throw themselves into something greater, something inclusive. “As a little child,” this word will meet us on every side in religion. We are to remain in the great experience, and take it simply, and not to allow subtle reasonings and clamours for explanation to distort our vision of it. And if one says, “But how is it possible?” we are to look at the facets of human nature, and reply, “Because, in the end, there is nothing else that is possible.” We are human only in as far as we love and trust. It is no use to compare ourselves with other things, which we understand but imperfectly, and ask whether we can be isolated or united in modes which apply to them. We possess the mode which applies to us, and for religion that is all we want. If we are to argue and define, we must not stop short of philosophy, which just means keeping hold of the main certainty, while going into all the difficulties. But that is not our business here; we cannot all be trained philosophers, and it would be a queer world if we were. Our business is to see where and how you can really get the good which you trust in your religion to bring you.

In the unity of love and will with the supreme good you are not only “saved,” but you are “free” and “strong.” Action, initiative, even courage, flow from you like a spring from its source. The source may be fed from a deep reservoir in the hills; but none the less its flow is its own. You will not be helped by trying to divide up the unity and tell how much comes from “you” and how much from “God.” You have got to deepen yourself in it, or let it deepen itself in you, whatever phrase expresses the fact best to, your mind. The fact, as we said, taken altogether simply is religion. If you could break it up and arrange it in parts you would have destroyed it.