The Wrestle of Religion with Truth

By Henry Nelson Wieman | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IX
ULTIMATE CAUSE, SUPREME GOOD AND RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE

We shall endeavor to clarify two concepts which are most constantly and intimately involved in religion. They are ultimate cause and supreme good. The critical question for all religion is the relation between these two. Are they interdependent and inseparable, or are they independent and separable? Is the ultimate cause a necessary constituent of the supreme good, so that when we refer to the supreme good we must include the ultimate cause as supremely good? Or can we conceive the supreme good without reference to the ultimate cause? Answer to these questions can be found by correctly defining these two concepts and noting their implications.1 But the key to the problem of how ultimate cause and supreme good are related to human life is to be found through interpretation of religious experience.

All the great historic religions have assumed that the supreme good involved the ultimate cause. They have assumed that to attain the supreme good we must get into right relations with the ultimate cause. He who gets right with the ultimate cause will have the supreme good. He who gets wrong with the ultimate cause will have the supreme evil. If this view is mistaken and people come to see the mistake, we can still have moral idealism which strives toward an unattainable good, and we can still have metaphysical speculation concerning

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1
The more formal definitions of these concepts are given in the next chapter.

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