Now, if one intends to introduce this conclusion by assuming that Jesus Christ was a man, and then considers the 1800 years of history (i.e. the consequences of his life), one may indeed conclude with a constantly rising superlative: he was great, greater, the greatest, extraordinarily and astonishingly the greatest man who ever lived. If one begins, on the other hand, with the assumption (of faith) that he was God, one has by so doing stricken out and cancelled the 1800 years as not making the slightest difference, one way or the other, because the certainty of faith is on infinitely higher plane. And one course or the other one must take; but we shall arrive at sensible conclusions only if we take the latter.
If one takes the former course one will find it impossible—unless by committing the logical error of passing over into different category—one will find it impossible in the conclusion suddenly to arrive at the new category “God”; that is, one cannot make the consequence, or consequences, of—a man’s life suddenly prove at a certain point in the argument that this man was God. If such a procedure were correct one ought to be able to answer satisfactorily a question like this: what must the consequence be, how great the effects, how many centuries must elapse, in order to infer from the consequences of a man’s life—for such was the assumption—that he was God; or whether it is really the case that in the year 300 Christ had not yet been entirely proved to be God, though certainly the most extraordinarily, astonishingly, greatest man who had ever lived, but that a few more centuries would be necessary to prove that he was God. In that case we would be obliged to infer that people the fourth century did not look upon Christ as God, and still less they who lived in the first century; whereas the certainty that he was God would grow with every century. Also, that in our century this certainty would be greater than it had ever been, a certainty in comparison with which the first centuries hardly so much as glimpsed his divinity. You may answer this question or not, it does not matter.
In general, is it at all possible by the consideration of the gradually unfolding consequences of something to arrive at conclusion different in quality from what we started with? Is it not sheer insanity (providing man is sane) to let one’s judgment become so altogether confused as to land in the wrong category? And if one begins with such a mistake, then how will one be able, at any subsequent point, to infer from the consequences of something, that one has to deal with an altogether different, in fact, infinitely different, category? A foot-print certainly is the consequence of some creature having made it. Now I may mistake the track for that of, let us say, a bird; whereas by nearer inspection, and by following it for some distance, I may make sure that it was made by some other animal. Very good; but there was no infinite difference in quality between iny first assumption and my later conclusion. But can I on further consideration and following the track still further, arrive at the conclusion: therefore it was a spirit—a spirit that leaves no tracks? Precisely the same holds true of the argument that from the consequences of a human life—for that was the assumption—we may infer that therefore it was God.