« PreviousContinue »
There are also theologians who assert that religion is founded only in the feelings and that it is only by a faith-faculty, distinct from the reason and rooted in the feelings, that man comes into communication with God. They overlook the fact that reflective thought in every sphere of knowledge presupposes primitive, spontaneous, unelaborated and unproved beliefs; that it presupposes intuitions, involved in the nebulousness of the primitive consciousness, which assert their regulative power only on occasion in experience and are recognized only as the mind reflects on its own action. They overlook the fact that, therefore, there is the same reason for a faith-faculty in every science as in theology. What is demanded of the theologian is that he show the synthesis of reason and faith; that he show that the primitive belief in the supernatural and in a divinity is a reasonable belief, is itself the manifestation of the reason, is the soul's consciousness of God moving in the darkness and formlessness of its own primitive feeling and intelligence. But these theologians declare a sharp antithesis and separation of reason and faith, as well as of reason and the witness of the Spirit of God in the heart of man. In fact recent theology almost overlooks the witness of the Spirit which was prominent and dominant in the thinking of Calvin and the reformers. Thus these theologians concede the whole ground to the agnostic, who admits that religion is a matter of feeling and that the imagination in each generation may shape an object for it, but denies that God or any object of religious feeling can be an object of knowledge. There are also theologians who do not recognize God as the Supreme Reason, but exalt Will to supremacy, teaching that the distinction of right and wrong results from a fiat of God's will, and thus agree with the atheist that theism makes a capricious will supreme, and deprive themselves of all answer to the objection that the order and law of nature prove the absence of will. Others teach that the principles and laws of reason are eternal and independent of God, and thus accept the atheistic position that the ultimate ground of the universe is in the impersonal or, as Hartmann calls it, “the Unconscious," and leave no place for God and no reason for His existence.
It is evident, for all these reasons, that the study of theology must begin with investigating the reality, rise, conditions and limitations of human knowledge, defining what constitutes personality, and setting forth the principles of reason on which theism rests. And of the same purport are the words of Ulrici: “Whoever undertakes to discuss the question of the existence and essence of God, must found his investigation on a definite and determinate theory of knowledge. In reference to the old doubt whether metaphysics is not all an illusion, he must ascertain whether and how far metaphysical inquiries are justified
scientifically in accordance with the ultimate grounds of being and events.”*
IV. In pursuing this investigation we shall find that true metaphysics investigates and declares ideas and principles on which all science depends, and reaches results the reality of which cannot be impugned without disintegrating the results of all scientific thought. Empirical science must deal with metaphysical ideas and assume metaphysical principles as really as do mathematics, logic, philosophy and theology. The physical science of to-day rests on metaphysical ideas and principles, and is largely occupied with the discussion of metaphysical and theological questions. The complete positivism of Comte has proved itself inadequate to the needs of scientific thought and has been renounced.
We shall also find that the true theory of knowledge, while transcending the theory of Locke long dominant in English philosophy and theology, does not issue in mysticism, idealism or pantheism. It recognizes the dependence of all scientific knowledge on the observation of facts either by sense-perception or self-consciousness, as well as on the first principles of reason. It teaches that the principles of reason assert themselves in consciousness only on occasion in experience, and have no significance as knowledge, except as they are principles true of observed reality and making a scientific knowledge of it possible. Philosophy and theology depend on observed facts as really as empirical science; and empirical science depends on rational ideas and principles as really as philosophy and theology.
We shall also find that the true idea of personality is consistent with the true idea of absolute being; that man is “in the image of God;" and that' this truth, announced in the first chapter of Genesis and fundamental in revelation from the beginning to the end of the Christian scriptures, is also fundamental in philosophy and in empirical science. Without it no science is possible. For if man finds not in himself the image of that Energizing Reason which is at the basis of the universe and gives it its unity under law and in systematic order, the discovery and declaration of which constitute science, then he does not find it anywhere. But if unreason and not Reason is at the basis of the universe, then science is impossible, and nothing is left but a fragmentary observation of what appears to happen, with total ignorance of what lies beyond our senses in the past, or in the future, or at the present moment in the distances of space. Hence we truly say that the consciousness of God lies in the background of man's consciousness of himself;, that the true knowledge of himself involves the knowledge of God. As the late Professor T. H. Green, of Oxford, ex
# Gott und die Natur, s. 7.
presses it, “ know yourself as you truly are, and you will know the truth of God, freedom and immortality.”
And we shall reach the conclusion that the reality of scientific knowledge depends ultimately on the reality of the existence of God as the Absolute Reason energizing in the universe, and the primary ground of all that is ; that the knowledge of God is not merely a questionable belief to be remanded to the feelings and the imagination because it cannot be vindicated to the reason ; but that the existence of Reason, universal, unconditioned and supreme, the same everywhere and always, never in contradiction to the ultimate principles regulative of all human thought, the ultimate ground of the universe and ever energizing in it, is essential to all scientific knowledge, the key-stone of the arch of all rational thought; and that ultimately the question with the atheist is not whether man can know God but whether he can know anything rationally and scientifically.
We thus reach the synthesis of faith and reason. In our spontaneous religiousness the whole man, intellect, sensibility and will, responds to the contact of the supernatural and the divine. In reflective thought the intellectual is distinguished from the emotional, the motive and the voluntary. We find that we know, not merely what we have subjectively experienced, but also that what we have experienced rests on truths and laws which are not subjective and peculiar to our experience, but are universal truths regulative of all thought and laws to all action; and thus that our faith is veritable knowledge and itself the utterance of reason. Even the primitive religiousness of savage men is an utterance of reason though not recognized as such, and though distorted by ignorance, and false judgments and fear. The richer experience of the Christian is a consciousness of God manifesting itself in the spiritual life, transcending, illuminating and enriching the most advanced knowledge, culture and civilization. This also is the utterance of reason, though it may be still unrecognized as such. It is only because man is endowed with reason that he is susceptible of religion and conscious of the presence and influence of God.
The knowledge that the thoughts set forth in this volume have already been helpful to some, the hope that they will throw light into some dark places, will make some difficult subjects more intelligible by presenting them from a new point of view, will remove some misapprehensions as to what Christian theism truly is, and so may help some still mazed in the labyrinth of doubt, are the motives for publishing this book: “Non ignarus mali, miseris succurrere disco.”
KNOWLEDGE AND AGNOSTICISM.
4 3. What Knowledge is. Knowledge implies a subject knowing and a 'reality known (objective or subjective). The knowledge is the relation between them. Both a subject knowing and a reality known are essential to knowledge; if either is wanting, knowledge is impossible. This is the first law of thought.
Knowledge is always the knowledge of reality: This is of its essence; if it is not the knowledge of reality, it is not knowledge. The validity or reality of knowledge is essential in the idea of knowledge. Knowledge is the intellectual equivalent of some reality.
The act of the mind in knowing is a primitive act incapable of analytical definition. It cannot be explained any more than light can be illuminated. It is the inexplicable act by which the mind takes up a reality into itself in an intuition, an apprehension, an idea, in some intellectual equivalent, and knows it. We can declare the conditions, physiological or others, under which knowledge arises; we can analyze the processes by which the mind attains it. But the mental act itself by which an object, external and unknown, suddenly stands clear and definite within the intelligence, remains a mystery. And all physiological facts as to its connection with molecular action of the brain leave it as mysterious as ever.
What knowledge is, is known in the act of knowing and known only in the act of knowing. That it is knowledge is also known in the act of knowing. My certainty of a reality is simply my consciousness of knowing, which, whether attended to or not, is essential in every act of knowledge. “I know that I know” means no more than “I know.” Otherwise every act of knowledge would be conditioned on an act preceding and knowledge would fail in a vain regression along an infinite series.
& 4. Agnosticism. ? Agnosticism is the doctrine that the human intellect in its normal exercise is untrustworthy and incompetent to attain knowledge; and
that therefore knowledge is impossible to man. The doctrine has also been known in philosophy by the names Pyrrhonism, Nihilism and Universal Skepticism.
It is not the denial of the possibility of knowledge in a particular case for lack of evidence, or on account of the limitation of the human mind. In affirming that man's knowledge is real we do not affirm that it is omniscience. Reality may exist known to minds of a superior order, but entirely beyond the range of the human mind in its present development. It is one important aim of philosophy to determine the necessary limits of human knowledge and so to prevent the waste of intellect in vain attempts to know the unknowable.
Agnosticism is a denial that the human intellect is trustworthy; it is the consequent denial that man is competent to attain knowledge within the range of his faculties and in the normal exercise of all his powers. He may have necessary beliefs in accordance with which he must.think; but he can never have confidence that his necessary belief is trustworthy or that by any intuition or any reasoning he attains knowledge of reality.
It follows that a partial agnosticism necessarily involves complete agnosticism, and is therefore self-contradictory and untenable. If at one point the intellect is found to be false and untrustworthy, that is the discovery at that point of a falsity and untrustworthiness which discredit the intellect at every point and invalidate all that is called knowledge. For example, if the intellect in the normal exercise of its powers persistently and necessarily believes a certain self-evident principle or axiom, and yet with equal persistence and necessity believes another self-evident principle contradictory to the first, it is exposed as false and self-contradictory and discredited in all its action. The agnostic may assert a partial agnosticism while admitting the reality of knowledge in other particulars; but it is only because he has not thought far enough to see the reach of his denial. The partial necessitates the complete agnosticism.
& 5. The Reality of Knowledge.' This topic is sometimes designated “The Validity of Knowledge,” and the discussion is of the question “Is Knowledge Valid?” But validity is of the essence of knowledge; invalid knowledge is no knowledge. The question, therefore, resolves itself into this; “Is knowledge real? Does man know anything?” This form of statement clears away irrelevant matter and holds attention to the precise point in question.
I. The reality of knowledge is a primitive datum of consciousness