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is the real problem with which we have here to deal-whether there be or be not any ground for such a faith as was held by the writer to the Hebrews? The theology of our age is not called, like the theology of the last century, to answer objections; no objections are made. It is not called to prove that there are fallacies in the argument for atheism ; no argument is offered for atheism—the Agnostic would deem an attempt to disprove God as contrary to true science as an attempt to prove Him. What the theology of our age has to do is to discover some positive ground for the continuance of a belief in that which transcends nature. It has to meet Agnosticism by proving that something can be known beyond the things of experience; or, to speak more correctly, by proving that there is a region beyond the things of experience—a region of whose essential nature we are, indeed, in ignorance, but of whose existence we have the most satisfactory evidence.
How is this to be proved? Shall theology refute Agnosticism by appealing to itself? that would, indeed, be reasoning in a circle. It will not do for the theologian to take refuge in that sense of mystery which he himself experiences in the study of Divine things. The Agnostic will tell him that the Divine things which have created his sense of mystery are themselves in all probability the creation of his own fancy and the product of his own brain. He will tell him that he has first built the wall and then tried to push it down ; that the thing which now transcends his power is itself the result of his power. Such a retort on the part of the Agnostic would, from his point of view, be quite legitimate : denying as he does that there is any evidence for the existence of a Power which transcends experience, he cannot, in reason, be expected to acknowledge the legitimacy of a sense of mystery which is professedly created by the contemplation of that Power. Here, then, we seem to be stopped on the very threshold, and to be debarred from the right of calling any witnesses whatever. Religious faith has in all ages felt that the object which it worships is one which transcends experience; but who is to tell, or by what evidence is it to be told, that this religious faith itself was not the child of a poetic imagination? If the theologian is to meet the Agnostic, it must be on other and wider ground-on ground which, for the time, shall be common to both, and in which both shall agree to find the issue by which their creed shall stand or fall.
Now there is such a common ground on which the theologian and the Agnostic may meet—the ground of that very Positivism on which the latter professes to base his whole system. For if we look at the matter a little more closely, we shall find that the necessity for faith in something which transcends experience, is by no means a merely religious necessity. It is popularly thought that faith in the supernatural belongs peculiarly to the world of religion ; in point of fact it belongs to every thinking man in every department of thought. If the believer in a God became the heir to certain intellectual difficulties which the non-believer in a God avoided, it would become a very serious question whether Atheism were not the more excellent way. But the truth is, the believer in a God does not become heir to a single intellectual difficulty which does not press with at least equal force on the non-believer. Sir William Hamilton has remarked that every difficulty in theology may be paralleled by an equal difficulty in philosophy; we may go further and say, that every difficulty in theology may be paralleled by an equal difficulty in Positivism, which is the negation of philosophy. Bishop Butler wrote his 'Analogy' to prove that every argument which can be used against Christianity can be used with equal force against Deism. Such a work was thoroughly well-timed in an age where the unbelievers in Christianity were believers in Deism. But in our age the men who have given up Christianity have, at the same time and for the same reason, given up Deism ; they see in both these religions the worship of a Power which transcends nature, and they cannot find evidence for the existence of such a Power. For them, therefore, there is needed a new Analogy-an Analogy which shall describe the relation not between the belief in Christianity and the belief in Deism, but between the belief in any religion and the belief in no religion. There is wanted a work which will show that the denial of a Divine existence involves intellectual difficulties precisely the same in kind and infinitely more intense in degree than the intellectual difficulties created by the acceptance of such an existence—difficulties which must compel the Positivist to find in nature herself that supernatural element which he has refused to recognise as existing beyond nature.
If such a book of Analogy were written it would lead, we think, to a very remarkable conclusionthe necessity for belief in miracle as a first principle of thought. Mr Hume says that we have no experience of a miracle; it seems to us that the sense of the miraculous is just the deepest experience of our lives. If it be asked in what sense we here use the word “miraculous,” our answer is, it depends on what department of nature we are to consider. If a man accepts some religion as a solution of the universe, he will be compelled, indeed, to recognise a miracle, but only a miracle of the milder sort-a Power that transcends nature, but not necessarily a Power that violates nature. If, on the other hand, a man should refuse to accept any religion as a solution of the universe, and should insist instead on studying the universe itself, he will require to accept a miracle of the most pronounced description-a miracle which shall consist not in the mere transcendence of law but in the actual violation of law, and which shall make a demand upon his faith in comparison with which the requirement of any religion would be small and gentle.
To bring out this point, let us consider the alternatives which are open to a man who seeks a solution of the universe. These alternatives are three. He may say that the world never began to be-in other words, that its duration has been eternal. He may say that the earliest forms of matter and life sprang up spontaneously and became the progenitors of other forms — in other words, that the present system of things is, in its origin, the product of chance. He may say, finally, that the present system of things is the product of a Power that transcends it, and that therefore the first principle of the universe is a Divine Intelligence. These are the three alternatives, and, as Mr Herbert Spencer? admits, the only alternatives which are open to him who seeks a solution of the universe. Even the Agnostic must hold that one or other of these is the explanation of the origin of things. It is impossible that all
1 First Principles, § 11.