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knowledge of God? What are the sources of this knowledge? How can we vindicate its reality and validity against objections ? Then come questions of a second class : Admitting that God exists, what do we know of him, and what is the practical significance of the reality known of him to us and to mankind? The answers to these questions of reflective thought constitute Systematic Theology. Accordingly this is naturally and conveniently treated in two parts: Fundamental Theology, which answers the questions of the first class; Doctrinal Theology, which answers the questions of the second class.
But in answering these questions we find underlying them fundamental questions which must be answered and fundamental principles which must be ascertained. If the student begins with asking, Why am I a Christian? he is forced back on the question, Why am I a theist ? For Christianity presupposes the existence of God, and declares that he has revealed himself in redemptive action coursing through human history, and especially in Jesus the Christ. And when he asks, Why am I a theist? he is forced back on questions which reach to the profoundest depths of human thought. Among these are questions as to the reality, the processes and the possible sphere of human knowledge; the principles and laws of thought; the capacity of man to know God; the distinction between empirical science, philosophy and theology, and their necessary harmony; the basis and nature of moral distinctions and of moral law and government; the capacity of man as a free agent to be a subject of moral government and to love, trust and obey God; the distinction of the personal and the impersonal, the natural and the supernatural, spirit and matter; the real existence of personal beings and the materialistic objections thereto; the synthesis of the personal with the absolute; the reality of the two systems, the physical and the moral, and their harmony and unity in the universe of God. These and similar questions necessarily arise in the attempt to translate our spontaneous, indeterminate, unreasoned knowledge of God into knowledge rationally defined, interpreted and vindicated; for God is the absolute Ground of the universe, and the rational setting forth of our knowledge of him and the vindication of it as real knowledge must bring us down to the principles which are at the foundation alike of all thought and of all things. Christian faith in God may exist without answering or even asking these questions. But when skepticism forces them on the thought, it is necessary to investigate and answer them in order that the intellect may thread its way through the labyrinth, into which it finds itself thrust, of doubts, perplexities and objections confused in tortuous and mazy ways, and may come, with faith now illumined through and through with intelligence, to the presence and vision
of God, to an intelligent and restful conviction that the universe is grounded in Absolute Reason energizing in perfect wisdom and love, and that this Energizing Reason is God.
The examination of the personality of man is necessary also in answering theological questions of the second class and setting forth what we know of God and of his relations to the universe. Accordingly theologians in their system of doctrine have their chapters of anthropology not less than of theology. Communion between God and man is of the essence of religion. Therefore the knowledge of man, not less than the knowledge of God, is necessary to the right understanding of religious truth. Misapprehension of the personality of man and of the rational principles involved in it has always been a fruitful source of erroneous theological doctrine.
This volume is not designed to present in detail the evidence of the existence of God; it is designed to examine the constitution of man as a personal being in order to ascertain his capacity to know and serve God, to answer the philosophical questions involved in the controversy with skepticism, agnosticism and materialism, and to set forth, clear from misapprehension, and vindicate the principles on which the defence of theism must rest. It is not intended to be a treatise on psychology, ethics or metaphysics. I have given psychological definitions and classifications so far as they are necessary to explain my use of terms. Aside from this I have confined myself to those topics, the right exposition of which is of critical significance in deciding the controversies now rife between Christian theism and unbelief in its various forms, and in the discussion of which I have hoped to contribute something to the clear and exact apprehension and the true and convincing answer of the questions at issue.
82. Necessity of this Investigation. In what has been already said we see urgent reasons for this investigation. Its necessity is further evident from the following considerations.
I. The fundamental question of theology is, does a personal God exist ? Preparatory to even asking the question the theologian must ascertain what personality is. But man cannot have even the idea of personality unless he has first found the elements of it in his own being. Therefore he cannot inquire respecting the personality of God, till, by studying the constitution of man, he has found out that man is a person, and thus has ascertained what personality is and what is the distinction between persons and impersonal beings.
II. The question with the atheist is ultimately the question as to the reality of knowledge. Atheism, in its usual forms, is founded on the
denial of the capacity of the human mind to know God. It does not assert positively, There is no God; but only that man is incapable of knowing that God exists.
Some atheists have indeed asserted positively that God does not exist. This was asserted by Chaumette and Clootz in the first French Revolution. It is not only asserted, but the assertion is made the basis of a proposed political and social revolution and reorganization, by the Nihilists and by many of the Communists. This assertion, however, involves the assumption that man has capacity to know God, has also the true idea of him, knows also all the evidence of his existence which the universe contains now or ever has contained or ever will contain, and knows also that the evidence is inadequate and that God does not exist. This form of atheism assumes as its basis the omniscience of the atheist; for if he does not know everything, that which he does not know may be God, or the evidence of God's existence which would convince the atheist. A negation involving such absurdity cannot enter the field of intelligent debate. It is the atheism of ignorance, prejudice and passion.
go no further than to deny the capacity of man to know God, to declare that therefore the existence of God is not a legitimate object of inquiry or investigation. We are met at the threshold and warned off
from theology as inaccessible to knowledge and shut against explora· tion. When we discuss a question of history or astronomy, both parties
appeal to knowledge, examine facts, and decide according to evidence. But in discussing the existence of God, the atheist admits no appeal to knowledge and to evidence. If God exists, no evidence can prove his existence to us. He is out of all relation to our faculties; and whatever idea we may form of him cannot be the correct idea ; for any idea formed by our faculties cannot be the true idea of a reality out of all relation to our faculties.
Thus atheism forces us at once on the investigation of the nature and extent of man's capacity of knowledge. The question between theism and atheism is not the question whether there is evidence that God exists; it is the question whether the human mind is competent to
The theories of knowledge, on which atheism, in its different forms, rests its denial that man can know God, are various. They are usually theories denying the knowledge of God but admitting the reality of knowledge in other spheres. Such are the various forms of phenomenalism; the theories of the relativity of knowledge; the physiological psychologies, which, crediting man's lower powers to the discredit of the higher, regard the senses as the only source of knowledge; the
denial of the validity of rational intuition and of metaphysics; the patronizing recognition of religion as legitimate in the feelings and the imagination but excluded from knowledge. In all these forms of atheism the primary subject of debate is not the existence of God, but the theory of knowledge on which the denial of the knowledge of God is founded.
I expect to show that every theory of knowledge which is the intellectual basis of atheism involves in its essence complete agnosticism or universal skepticism. This necessary issue is usually hidden, often from the atheist himself, in what claims to be a theory of knowledge. But every theory of knowledge which affirms the impossibility of knowing God, will be found on examination to deny at some point the trustworthiness of man's intellect in its normal exercise and so to involve complete agnosticism. It will be found to be a theory which can be defended and justified only by appealing to objections which equally justify universal skepticism or complete agnosticism.
This fatal issue of all these theories is easily kept out of sight. Skeptical objections which are regarded as of great force when urged against theology, are often disregarded as frivolous when urged against other departments of knowledge to which they are equally pertinent. We are so constantly in contact with common things that, when applied to them, the fine speculations of skepticism that we know only impressions, and that knowledge is phenomenal, or is relative, or impossible, are brushed away by our senses and our common sense. But God and the realities of the moral and spiritual life are less obtrusive, and common sense does not react so instantaneously against the denial of them; therefore against these men discuss objections as formidable, which when applied with equal pertinence to common affairs or to physical sciences they disregard as quibbles.
The question with the atheist, therefore, as I expect to show, is ultimately the question as to the possibility of any knowledge what ever. If man cannot know God, he cannot know anything. Conversely, the existence of God is essential to the possibility of rational knowledge.
III. Some Christian theologians unwittingly take false aud indefensible positions. They adopt theories of knowledge logically involving complete agnosticism; or they misapprehend what personality is; or they give definitions logically involving the denial of man's freedom, or of his constitutional religiousness, or even of the distinctive elements of reason, and thus accept the errors on which atheism rests. Many have attempted to construct theology in accordance with Locke's theory of knowledge and so have labored to find out God by empirical methods. An evangelical clergyman has recently published an article
declaring that in metaphysics “ theory is regarded as its own verification,” that “the metaphysical method was the dream of the scholastic,” that if any theological doctrines “are inseparably bound up with metaphysics” they must be abandoned, that theology must “ begin to adjust itself to the new conditions and transfer its doctrines to the new ground," and that “the new ground” is “the Positivism of Comte.” And so we find clergymen ignorantly joining with the skeptic and ridiculing metaphysics, which investigates the first principles of reason and the universal laws of thought, as a medieval jargon of words. Some, at the opposite extreme, have supposed the knowledge of universals to precede the knowledge of particulars and have attempted to develop all truth by the a priori method and thus have plunged into idealism and pantheism. Others have been so intent on the analysis of personality in man and in God, that they have crowded the unity of the person into the back-ground and have scarcely remembered that reason is the person considered as illuminated with reason, and will is the .person considered as determining and energizing, and sensibility the person considered as the subject of motives and emotions; that will is reason determining and energizing, and reason is will rational. They push their analysis to disjunction. They are like the daughters of Pelias, who cut their father in pieces, but waited in vain to see him rise in youth and beauty from the witch's caldron. Hence comes a theology jejune, arid, and in conflict with itself.
Closely allied to this is the habit of abstract thinking about general notions and propositions expressed in words. Abstract thinking is always indispensable. But in proportion as it becomes dominant and exclusive it shuts out realistic thinking about concrete realities; and without the latter, scientific knowledge is impossible and the thinking issues only in words. Theologians have no more escaped this tendency than thinkers in other departments of knowledge. Since persons are concrete realities not less than things, concrete, realistic thinking is as indispensable in theology as in every other sphere of knowledge. It is commonly said that theology is exclusively occupied with abstractions ; but this is no more true of theology than it is of astronomy, chemistry or sociology. So far as theologians have allowed abstract thinking to exclude the realistic, they have fallen into false thinking and inextricable embarrassments, and laid themselves open to unanswerable objections. The result has sometimes been that the very concepts, definitions, propositions and systems intended to reveal God have become a veil that hides him; formulas of doctrine have filled the eye instead of
sin, the letter of a scripture instead of the living Word and the everpresent Spirit of God.