1. Doctrinal Content of the Term.—Theism means the existence of a personal God, Creator, Preserver, and Ruler of all things. Deism equally means the personality of God and also his creative work, but denies his providence in the sense of theism. These terms were formerly used in much the same sense, but since early in the last century deism has mostly been used in a sense opposed to the Scriptures as a divine revelation, and to a divine providence. Such is now its distinction from theism. Pantheism differs from theism in the denial of the divine personality. With this denial, pantheism can mean no proper work of creation or providence. The philosophic agnosticism which posits the Infinite as the ground of finite existences, but denies its personality, is in this denial quite at one with pantheism. The distinction of theism from these several opposing terms sets its own meaning in the clearer light. Creation and providence are here presented simply in their relation to the doctrinal content of theism. The methods of the divine agency therein require separate treatment. Nor could this treatment proceed with advantage simply in the light of reason; it requires the fuller light of revelation.
2. Historic View of the Idea of God.—Religion is as wide-spread as the human family and pervades the history of the race. But religion carries with it some form of the idea of some order of supernatural existence. There is no place for religion without this idea. This is so thoroughly true that the attempts to found a religion without the notion of some being above us have no claim to recognition in a history of religion. But while religion so widely prevails it presents great varieties of form, especially in the idea of God, or of what takes the supreme place in the religious consciousness. Such differences appear in what are called the ethnic religions, the religions of different races. Of these James Freeman Clarke enumerates ten. Some make the number greater, others less. However, the exact number does not concern our present point. In the instances of Confucianism, Brahmanism, and Buddhism there are wide variations in the conception of God, and equally so in the other ethnic religions. As we look into details these variations are still more manifest. In view of the objects worshiped, the rites and ceremonies of the worship, the sentiments uttered in prayer and praise, we must recognize very wide differences of theistic conception. The case is not really other, because so many of these ideas are void of any adequate truth of theism. They are still ideas of what is divine to the worshiper and have their place in the religious consciousness. We can hardly think that in the low forms of idolatry there is nothing more present to religious thought and feeling than the idol. “Even the stock or stone, the rudest fetich before which the savage bows, is, at least to him, something more than a stock or stone; and the feeling of fear or awe or abject dependence with which he regards it is the reflex of a dim, confused conception of an invisible and spiritual power, of which the material object has become representative.”
3. Account of Perverted Forms of the Idea.—These perverted forms arise, in part, from speculations which disregard the imperative laws of rational thinking, and, in part—mostly, indeed—from vicious repugnances to the true idea. When God is conceived under the form of pantheism, or as the Absolute in a sense which precludes all predication and specially denies, to him all personal attributes, the idea is the result of such speculation as we have just now characterized, or a creation of the imagination. In either form the idea is just as impotent for any rationale of the cosmos as the baldest materialism. Neither has any warrant in rational thought. When God is conceived under the forms of idolatry the conception is from a reaction of the soul against the original idea. The reaction is from a repugnance of the sensibilities to the true idea, not from any discernment of rational thought. This is the account which Paul gives of the source and prevalence of idolatry. His account applies broadly to the heathen world. “When they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” Thus closing their eyes to the light of nature in which God was manifest, they “changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things.” It was because “they did not like to retain God in their knowledge.”
4. Definitive Idea of God.—A definition of God that shall be true to the truth of his being and character is a difficult attainment. This must be apparent whether we study definitions as given, or the subject of definition. God is for human thought an incomprehensible Being, existing in absolute soleness, apart from all the categories of genus and species. Hence the difficulty of definition. The true idea cannot be generalized in any abstract or single principle. As the Absolute or Unconditioned, God is simply differentiated from the dependent or related; as the Infinite, from the finite. The essential truths of a definition are not given in any of these terms. As the Unknowable, the agnostic formula is purely negative and without definitive content. Absolute will cannot give the content of a true idea of God. In order to the true idea, will must be joined with intellect and sensibility in the constitution of personality. Some of the divine titles have the form of a definition, but are not such in fact. God is often named the Almighty, but this expresses simply his omnipotence, which is only one of his perfections. Another title is Jehovah, which signifies the eternal, immutable being of God; but while the meaning is profound the plenitude of his being is not expressed. “God is love.” There is profound truth here also; but the words express only what is viewed as supreme in God.
The citation of a few definitions may be useful. “The first ground of all being; the divine spirit which, unmoved itself, moves all; absolute, efficient principle; absolute notion; absolute end.”—Aristotle. This definition conforms somewhat to the author’s four forms of cause. It contains more truth of a definition than some given by professedly Christian philosophers. “The moral order of the universe, actually operative in life.”—Fichte. Lotze clearly points out the deficiencies of this definition. It gives us an abstract world-order without the divine Orderer. “The absolute Spirit; the pure, essential Being that makes himself object to himself; absolute holiness; absolute power, wisdom, goodness, justice.”—Hegel. “A Being who, by his understanding and will, is the Cause (and by consequence the Author) of nature; a Being who has all rights and no duties; the supreme perfection in substance; the all-obligating Being; Author of a universe under moral law; the moral Author of the world; an Intelligence infinite in every respect.”—Kant. “God is derived incontestably from good and means the Good itself in the perfect sense, the absolute Good, the primal Good, on which all other good depends—as it were, the Fountain of good. Hence God has been styled the Being of beings (ens entium), the supreme Being (ens summum), the most perfect Being (ens perfectissimum s. realissimum).”—Krug. “The absolute, universal Substance; the real Cause of all and every existence; the alone, actual, and unconditioned Being, not only Cause of all being, but itself all being, of which every special existence is only a modification.”—Spinoza. This is a pantheistic definition. “The ens a se, Spirit independent, in which is embraced the sufficient reason of the existence of things contingent—that is, the universe.”—Wolf. These citations are found in the useful work of Krauth-Fleming. Some of them contain much truth, particularly Hegel’s and Kant’s. The serious deficiency is in the omission of any formal assertion of the divine personality as the central reality of a true definition. On the other hand, too much account is made of the divine agency in creation and providence. This agency is very properly included in a definition of theism, particularly in its distinction from deism and pantheism, but is not necessary to a definition of God himself.
We may add a few other definitions. “God is the infinite and personal Being of the good, by and for whom the finite hath existence and consciousness; and it is precisely this threefold definition—God is spirit, is love, is Lord—this infinite personal Good, which answers to the most simple truths of Christianity.” Martensen gives the elements of a definition substantially the same. “God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.” Dr. Hodge thinks this probably the best definition ever penned by man. Personality is the deepest truth in the conception of God and should not be omitted from the definition. With this should be combined the perfection of his personal attributes. All the necessary truths of a definition would thus be secured. Hence we define thus: God is an eternal personal Being, of absolute knowledge, power, and goodness.
1. Possible Sources of the Idea.—We here mean, not any mere notion of God without respect to its truth, or as it might exist in the thought of an atheist, but the idea as a conviction of the divine existence. How may the mind come into the possession of this idea?
There are faculties of mind which determine the modes of our ideas. Some we obtain through sense-perception. Sense-experience underlies all such perception. We cannot in this mode reach the idea of God. Many of our ideas are obtained through the logical reason. They are warranted inferences from verified facts or deductions from self-evident principles. Through the same faculty we receive many ideas, with a conviction of their truth, on the ground of human testimony. There are also intuitive truths, immediate cognitions of the primary reason. The conviction of truth in these ideas comes with their intuitive cognition. Through what mode may the idea of God be obtained? Not through sense-perception, as previously stated. Beyond this it is not necessarily limited to any one mental mode: not to the intuitive faculty because it may be a product of the logical reason or a communication of revelation—to the logical reason; nor to this mode because it may be an immediate truth of the primary reason.
If the existence of God is an immediate cognition of the reason, will it admit the support and affirmation of logical proof? We have assumed that it will. Yet we fully recognize the profound distinction in the several modes of our ideas. The logical and intuitive faculties have their respective functions, and neither can fulfill those of the other. Further, intuitive truths are regarded as self-evident, and as above logical proof. Yet many theists, learned in psychology and skilled in logic, while holding the existence of God to be an intuitive truth, none the less maintain this truth by logical proofs. We may mistake the intuitive content of a primary truth and assume that to be intuitive which is not really so. Many a child learns that two and three are five before the intuitive faculty begins its activity, particularly in this sphere. The knowledge so acquired is not intuitive. Yet that two and three are five is an intuitive truth. But wherein? Not in the simple knowledge which a child acquires, but in the necessity of this truth which the reason affirms, in the cognition that it is, and must be, a truth in all worlds and for all minds. That things equal to the same thing, or weights equal to the same weight, are equal to one another is an axiomatic truth; but it is its necessary truth that is an intuitive cognition, while a practical knowledge of the simple fact of equality may be acquired in an experimental mode. The point made is that some truths, while intuitional in some of their content, may yet be acquired in an experimental or logical mode. So, while the existence of God may be an immediate datum of the moral and religious consciousness, it may also be a legitimate subject for logical proofs. It is a truth in the affirmation of which the intuitive reason and the logical reason combine. Hence in holding the existence of God to be an immediate cognition of the mind we are not dismissing it from the sphere of logical proofs.
2. An Intuition of the Moral Reason.—The idea of God as a sense or conviction of his existence is a product of the intuitive faculty There is an intuitive faculty of the mind—the faculty of immediate insight into truth. Thorough analysis as surely finds such a faculty as it finds the other well-known faculties—such as the presentative, the representative, and the logical. To surrender these distinctions of faculty is to abandon psychology. To hold the others on the ground of such distinctions is to admit an intuitive faculty. It is just as distinct and definite in its function as the others, and just as different from them as they are from each other. There is nothing surer in psychology than the intuitive faculty. Of all mental philosophies the intuitional is the surest of its ground. The truths immediately grasped by the primary reason or the intuitive faculty are such as the axioms of geometry, space, time, being, causation, moral duty, and responsibility.
The reality of an intuitive faculty means neither its independence of the mental state nor its equality in all minds. It may run through a vast scale of strength, just as the other faculties as they exist in different minds. It is conditioned by the mental development, and may be greatly influenced by the state of the sensibilities Some of our intuitions, such as time and space, and the axioms of geometry, are purely from the intellect, and, therefore, quite free from such influence; but it is very different in the case of moral duty and responsibility, not less intuitional in their character. There may be a repugnance of the sensibilities so intense as to blind the mind to the reality of these truths. Even the more purely intellectual intuitions, such as causation itself, may be formally denied, simply because of their contrariety to the accepted system of philosophy, as in the instance of Hume and Mill. There is no place for the primary reason in the sensationalism which they espoused, and hence their denial of its reality. Such are the possible repressions or denials of the intuitive faculty, simply because it is a mental faculty and in such close relation with the others. Like the others, it must have proper opportunity for the fulfillment of its own functions. The trained mind has a much clearer insight into axiomatic truths than the rustic mind. The æsthetic intuitions of the cultured and refined greatly excel those of the crude mind whose life is little above the animal plane. The moral and religious intuitions of Paul infinitely transcended those of the self debased and brutalized Nero. So much is the intuitive faculty subject to the mental state. It is none the less a reality in the constitution of the mind, with its own functions in our mental economy.
It is not only true that the intuitive faculty may thus be affected by our mental state, but also true that our moral intuitions are conditioned by the presence and activity of the appropriate moral feeling. Pure intellect may have immediate insight into axiomatic truths, but not into truths within the æsthetic and moral spheres. Here the appropriate sensibility is the necessary condition. This does not mean that any of our sensibilities have in themselves cognitive power, but that they are necessary to some forms of cognition. “It would be absurd to say that the moral affections have any place in a question of natural history, or chemistry, or mechanics, or any department of science; because the moral affections have nothing to do with the faculties or perceptions which are concerned with that subject-matter; but in questions relating to religion the moral affections have a great deal to do with the actual perception and discernment by which we see and measure the facts which influence our decision.” In like manner Hopkins distinguishes between pure reason and the moral reason, meaning by the former the faculty of immediate insight into truths which concern the intellect only, and by the latter the faculty of immediate insight into moral truths, particularly the ground of moral obligation. This insight he holds to be conditioned on a sensibility. It is not meant that the moral reason is any less intuitive or rational than the pure reason, but only that, as related to a different class of truths, the moral sensibilities are necessary to its insight. That the sensibilities which condition such insight must be in a proper state or tone in order to furnish the proper condition is clear to rational thought. That they may be, and often are, out of such state or tone is a fact above question. Hence neither errors of moral judgment nor even the denial, at times, of moral duty and responsibility makes any thing against the reality of a faculty of moral intuition. These facts will be of service in our further discussion.
The idea of God is an intuition of the moral reason. We previously pointed out the only difference between pure reason and moral reason—that the latter is conditioned upon the appropriate sensibilities. There must be an activity of the moral or religious sensibilities, not as in themselves cognitive, but as necessary to the capacity of the mind for this intuition. The idea of God has the determining criteria of an intuition in its universality and necessity. Of course both are denied, but without the warrant of either facts or reason.
In disproof of its universality instances of atheism are alleged. We have no dialectic interest in disputing the fact of real instances of speculative atheism, though not a few theists deny it. If there really are such, they can easily be accounted for on the ground of facts previously explained. We have seen that sensationalism is possible as a philosophy, though it leads to a denial of all intuitional truths, causation itself, and the axiomatic truths of mathematics. We have seen that through a perversity of the feelings the mind may be so blinded as not to see the most certain moral truths, or so prejudiced as openly to deny them. We have further seen that, while the moral and religious sensibilities are necessary to the intuition of moral and religious truth, they may be in a state of aversion or antagonism which refuses the proper condition for such intuition. It was shown that these facts do not in the least affect the reality of our intuitions. So neither the possibility nor the actuality of instances of speculative atheism can in the least discredit the truth that the idea of God is an intuition of the moral reason. When atheism puts itself forward as the contradiction of this truth it must be reminded that on the same principle it must deny all intuitive truths, for all have suffered a like contradiction. Indeed, atheism must deny all. No philosophy which renders atheism possible can admit the reality of our rational and moral intuitions. Theism is entirely satisfied with the issue at this point. It is grounded in the intuitional philosophy, while atheism is grounded in sensationalism, which must deny all intuitions of the reason. The truth is with theism.
The criteria of an intuition are denied to the idea of God on the assumption that there are heathen tribes without this idea. Whether there are such instances is a question of fact. Whether their actuality would disprove the intuitive character of this idea is a question of logic.
The absence of this idea from minds in the lower grades of heathenism could not disprove its intuitional character. The reality of intuitional ideas does not mean their existence in infant minds, or even in the incipiency of youthful intelligence. In such states there is not yet the mental development necessary to the cognition of intuitive truths. This might be the case with the lowest heathen respecting the idea of God. That such minds know nothing of axiomatic truths, or of the principle of causation, or know not that five and five must be ten for all minds comprehending the terms, means nothing against the intuitional character of such truths. So if such heathen should be found without any religious sentiment or any idea of God it would simply mean a lack of sufficient mental and moral development for the origin of such sentiment or idea.
Respecting the question of fact, the proof is against the existence of any such heathen. The profoundest students of man’s deeper nature are reaching the one conclusion, that he is constitutionally religious. If this is the fact, as surely it is, only the strongest historic proof could verify the existence of any tribe wholly without a religion. There is no such proof. The many reports of such tribes have been discredited. Some of these reports may have been colored by prejudice. This would be quite natural to minds in anywise skeptical or antitheistic. Not all prejudice is with theistic minds. That some have been without qualification for a proper judgment, or hasty in their conclusion, seems clear. It is not the adventurer, or sight-seer, or explorer, or even the student of some science of nature that has the proper qualification. There might be rare exceptions in the last instance. There is wanting the necessary knowledge of mind, the clear insight into the deeper nature of man. There is no other question on which the savage mind is so reserved or so difficult of access. “Many savages shrink from questions on religious topics, partly, it may be, from some superstitious fear, partly, it may be, from their helplessness in putting their own unfinished thoughts and sentiments into definite language.” This view is verified by facts.
Müller gives an instance in which some good Benedictine missionaries labored three years among native Australians without discovering any adoration of a deity, whether true or false. Yet they afterward discovered that these “natives believed in an omnipotent Being, who created the world. Suppose they had left their station before having made this discovery, who would have dared to contradict their statements?” With such a case before us we see how easy it is for men without the proper qualification, with a sojourn of only a few days, with no other intercourse than through an interpreter, to bring away false reports of atheistic tribes.
Sir John Lubbock formally discusses this question, maintaining the position that among savages there are not a few atheistic tribes—people without any religion or any idea of a deity. He surveys a very wide field and cites many authors. Professor Flint places him at the head of writers on that side of the question: “Sir John Lubbock is, so far as I am aware, entitled to the credit of having bestowed most care on the argument. He has certainly written with more knowledge and in a more scientific spirit than Büchner, Pouchet, O. Schmidt, or Moritz Wagner. He has brought together a much larger number of apparent facts than any one else on the same side has done.” It is with this author that Professor Flint joins issue, and follows him, “paragraph by paragraph.” It is made clear that in some instances Lubbock mistook the full meaning of some of the authors whom he cited; that other authors were themselves in error. Many authorities are cited which disprove their statements. The review is thorough and the refutation complete.
Other profound students of this question reach the conclusion that the idea of God or of some supernatural being or beings is universal. “Little by little the light has appeared, and the result has been that Australians, Melanesians, Bosjesmans, Hottentots, Kaffirs, and Bechuanas have, in their turn, been withdrawn from the list of atheist nations and recognized as religious.” It should be noted that the peoples here named are among the lowest of the race. “Obliged, in my course of instruction, to review all human races, I have sought atheism in the lowest as well as in the highest. I have nowhere met with it, except in individuals, or in more or less limited schools, such as those which existed in Europe in the last century, or which may still be seen in the present day.” In connection with these citations there is a thorough discussion of this question, and one thoroughly conclusive of the author’s position. “We may safely say that, in spite of all researches, no human beings have been found anywhere who do not possess something which to them is religion; or, to put it in the most general form, a belief in something beyond what they can see with their eyes.” We thus have the authority of two most thorough students of this question, and to whose judgment must be conceded the utmost impartiality. In support of his own position, Müller cites Professor Tiele: “The statement that there are nations or tribes which possess no religion rests either on inaccurate observations or on a confusion of ideas. No tribe or nation has yet been met with destitute of belief in any higher beings, and travelers who asserted their existence have been afterwards refuted by facts. It is legitimate, therefore, to call religion, in its most general sense, a universal phenomenon of humanity.”
Religion even in its lowest form means the idea of some supernatural being or beings. No fetich devotee can invest a divinity in a brook or tree or stone without the previous idea of its existence. The same is true up through all grades of idolatry. There are higher ideas of divinity than the idol would suggest. Idolatry is born of religious degeneration; its lowest forms, of successive degenerations. It would please evolutionists to find in fetichism a primitive religion, but the facts of religious history forbid it. These facts point to a primitive monotheism. The doctrine of St. Paul is fully vindicated, that idolatry is born of religious degeneration from a knowledge of the true God. The most ancient ethnic religions, however idolatrous in their later history, were originally monotheistic. Such was the Egyptian. Renouf, after maintaining this view, proceeds thus: “There are many very eminent scholars who, with full knowledge of all that can be said to the contrary, maintain that the Egyptian religion is essentially monotheistic, and that the multiplicity of gods is only due to the personification of ‘the attributes, characters, and offices of the supreme God.’ No scholar is better entitled to be heard on this subject than the late M. Emmanuel Rougé, whose matured judgment is as follows: ‘No one has called in question the fundamental meaning of the principal passages by the help of which we are able to establish what ancient Egypt has taught concerning God, the world, and man. I said God, not the gods. The first characteristic of the religion is the Unity [of God] most energetically expressed: God, One, Sole and Only; no others with Him. He is the Only Being—living in truth. Thou art One, and millions of beings proceed from thee. He has made every thing, and he alone has not been made. The clearest, the simplest, the most precise conception.’ ” James Legge, professor of the Chinese language and literature in the University of Oxford, maintains the monotheism of the primitive religion of the Chinese. Monotheism is found in the religion of the very ancient Aryans, the genetic source of the Hindus and Persian, Greek and Roman, Teuton and Celt. In the name Heaven-Father, under which that ancient people knew and worshiped God, Müller finds a bud which bloomed into perfection in the Lord’s Prayer. “Thousands of years have passed since the Aryan nations separated to travel to the north and south, the west and the east; they have each formed their languages,... but when they search for a name for what is most exalted and yet most dear to every one of us, when they wish to express both awe and love, the infinite and the finite, they can but do what their old fathers did when, gazing up to the eternal sky, and feeling the presence of a Being as far as far, and as near as near can be; they can but combine the self-same words and utter once more the primeval Aryan prayer, Heaven-Father, in that form which will endure forever, ‘Our Father which art in heaven.’ ” A few references may be given.
The idea of a divine existence is a necessary intuition of the mind. By a necessary intuition we mean one that springs immediately from the constitution of the mind, and that, under the proper conditions, must so spring. As there is thus a necessary intuition of axiomatic, æsthetic, and moral truths, so is there a necessary intuition of a divine existence. Instances of speculative atheism cannot disprove this fact. Nor could the discovery of atheistic tribes of heathen disprove it. We previously explained the consistency of such facts with the universality of the idea of God; and in the same manner their consistency with its necessity is fully explained. That explanation need not here be repeated.
The universality of the idea of God means its necessity, or that, under the proper conditions, it is spontaneous to the moral and religious constitution of the mind. There is no other sufficient account of its universality. The account has often been attempted on the ground of tradition. This has been a favorite method with some Christian apologists who maintain necessity of a divine revelation against that form of infidelity which holds the sufficiency of the light of nature for all the moral and religious needs of man. As tradition is presented simply as the mode of perpetuating the idea of God, this method of accounting for its universality must assume a primitive revelation of the idea. Of course no antitheistic theory could admit such an original. Christian theists do not question the fact of such a primitive revelation, but may with reason dispute the sufficiency of tradition for its perpetuation through all generations. It is true that some traditions, even without any element of profound permanent interest, have lived through all the centuries of human history, as, for instance, some incidents of the fall of man and the Noachian flood; but it cannot hence be inferred that the idea of God could be thus perpetuated. There is a wide difference in the two cases. The difference lies in this, that the idea of God has ever encountered a strong antagonism in the human sensibilities. We have seen that on this ground St. Paul accounts for the religious degeneration from the knowledge and worship of the true God into idolatry, and that the history of religion confirms this account. Mere tradition could not have perpetuated the primitive revelation against such a force. Were not the idea of God native to the human mind this antagonism of the sensibilities, strengthened and intensified by vicious habits, would long ago have led most races to its utter abandonment. It is this innateness of the idea that has perpetuated it in human thought and feeling.
Some would account for the universality of this idea through the manifestation of God in the works of nature. In this view there is doubtless reference to the well-known words of Paul. There is a further teaching of Paul on this question. The two passages are not in any contrariety, but clearly mean different modes of the idea of God and duty. The law written in the heart means an intuition of God and duty in the moral reason. This is so different from the manifestation of God in the outward works of nature that it cannot take the same place with that manifestation in the service of those who in that mode would account for the universal idea of a God. With this distinction between the moral reason and the works of nature as a manifestation of God, these works address themselves to the logical reason, and the conclusion of his existence can be reached only through a logical process. But the idea of God does not wait for our reasoning processes. It springs into life before the logical faculty gets to work, especially upon so high a theme. Exemplifications are without number. The heathen world is full of them. If the logical process is disclaimed the theory is surrendered, and beholding the works of nature becomes the mere occasion of the idea of God, while the idea itself is native to the moral and religious constitution of the mind. It remains true that the universality of the idea means its necessity. The idea therefore answers to the essential criteria of an intuition in its universality and necessity.
Neither a primitive revelation, nor the logical reason, nor both together could account for the persistence and universality of the idea of a God without a moral and religious nature in man to which the idea is native. “A revelation takes for granted that he to whom it is made has some knowledge of God, thought it may enlarge and purify that knowledge.” The voice of God must first be uttered within the soul. “But this voice of the divine ego does not first come to the consciousness of the individual ego, from without; rather does every external revelation presuppose already this inner one; there must echo out from within man something kindred to the outer revelation, in order to its being recognized and accepted as divine.” We are not here contradicting a previous position, that the idea of God might have its origin in either revelation or the logical reason. With the truth of that position, from which we do not depart, it would still be true that only with the intuitive source of the idea could it hold possession of the soul with such persistence and universality. It is true that in the history of the race we mostly find the theistic conception far below the truth of theism; but we have given the reasons for this fact without finding in them any contradiction to its intuitional character. When we consider how early this idea rises in the mind; how persistently it holds its place through all conditions of the race; how it cleaves to humanity through all perversions and repugnances, we must think it an intuition of the moral reason.
3. Objective Truth of the Idea.—Our intuitions must give usobjective truth. This may be denied, but only with the implication of agnosticism or utter skepticism. No mental faculty can be more trustworthy than the intuitive. If our intuitions are not truths, no results of our mental processes can be trusted. Our perceptions can have no warrant of truthfulness. Perception itself is as purely a mental work as any act of intuition. The sense-experiences which precede and condition our perceptions can be no guarantee against errors of result. If the mind cannot be trusted in its intuitions, why should it be trusted in the interpretation of the sense-experiences which mediate its perceptions? Mistakes have been made in all spheres where results are reached through a mental process, while no intuition has ever been found in error. Whatever material experience may furnish the scientist, and however necessary or useful it may be, yet the construction of a science is itself a purely mental work. All logical processes are purely mental. Mistakes are made in both experience and logic, yet we trust our faculties in both. Much more should we trust our intuitions. The more closely our mental processes are related to intuitive principles the more certainly are the results true. Hence, to deny the truthfulness of our intuitions is to discredit all our mental faculties, with agnosticism or utter skepticism as the result.
If theism must be exchanged for atheism, all rational intelligence must be added to the sacrifice. Atheism can demand nothing less. If our faculties are wholly untrustworthy, or if mental facts belong to the order of material causalities, as atheism must assume, mind as a rational agency can have no place or part in the system. It is in this view that some Christian philosophers hold theism to be the necessary and only sufficient ground of rational intelligence. “We analyze the several processes of knowledge into their underlying assumptions, and we find that the assumption which underlies them all is a self-existent intelligence, who not only can be known by man, but must be known by man in order that man may know any thing besides.” “The processes of reflective thought essentially imply that the universe is grounded in and is the manifestation of reason. They thus rest on the assumption that a personal God exists.” “We conclude, then, from the total argument, that if the trustworthiness of reason is to be maintained it can be only on a theistic basis; and since this trustworthiness is the presupposition of all science and philosophy, we must say that God, as free and intelligent, is the postulate of both science and philosophy. If these are possible, it can be only on a theistic basis.” If knowledge is possible there must be a rational order of things in correlation with rational mind. On the ground of atheism there can be no such order, and no such mind. Science and philosophy are no longer possible, rational intelligence no longer a characteristic of mind. Yet, after all grounds of knowledge are denied, atheism proceeds to give us a rational account of the cosmos from the initial movement in the primordial fire-mist up to the culmination in man. Down with reason in order to a riddance of God; up with reason to an independence of any rational ground of the universe. This is the demand. “Poor atheism... first puts out its eyes by its primal unfaith in the truth of our nature and of the system of things, and then proceeds to make a great many flourishes about ‘reason,’ ‘science’, ‘progress,’ and the like, in melancholy ignorance of the fact that it has made all these impossible. If consistent thinking were still possible one could not help feeling affronted by a theory which violates the conditions of all thinking and theorizing. It is an outlaw by its own act, yet insolently demands the protection of the laws it seeks to overthrow. Supposing logical thought possible, there seems to be no escape from regarding atheism as a pathological compound of ignorance and insolence. On the one hand, there is a complete ignorance of all the implications of valid knowing, and on the other a ludicrous identification of itself with science.”
If atheism is true, then man is out of harmony with truth, and is by his own mental constitution determined to error. The error to which he is thus determined is no trivial idea, but one that has wrought more deeply and thoroughly into human thought and feeling than any other. Such is the idea of God. Singular it is that the forces of material nature should ever originate such an idea, and singular that they should make man the victim of such a delusion and in such discord with reality, while at the same time evolving the harmonies of the universe. Man is not so formed. His mental faculties are trustworthy, and he is capable of knowledge. The intuitions of his reason are absolute truths. The intuition of God in the moral reason of the race is the truth of his existence.