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of working, they have not, nor has evolution in particular, shaken the idea of design, but simply exalted Christian thought, from its view of the teleological character of nature in its totality, to the conception of one grand, all-comprehending design, reaching over unbounded space and running through unlimited time, and given it a wider and worthier teleological view of the world, as an organism having an end in itself, than was possible to the older theory of it as a machine of so many parts, indwelt by no principle of life.
It will hardly be deemed too much to say that recent theology, through the conception of a supramundane yet immanent Deity towards which science has been helping it, has gained a firmer grasp of the inner or essential teleology involved in such a view, and found in this replacement of the older presentation merely of isolated instances of adaptation by an evolutional view of the world-manifestations of the Absolute and Eternal Reason, a truer and larger apprehension than the old mechanical mode of viewing the question presented. While evolutionists, in their just zeal for the honest interpretation of nature, have repudiated teleology because of the old pre-scientific
associations of the term, the scientific account of nature has become more teleological in the newer sense, more entirely based upon the “rationality" of nature. While Trendelenburg, Dorner, and some others among modern theologians have viewed final cause as an à priori principle, this view has been rejected by Janet, not, it is to be feared, with the highest degree of self-consistency. We believe we are justified in affirming that recent Christian thought has grown in the confidence that larger knowledge and deeper insight will make always more apparent the basal reason on which the universe rests, and more abundantly justify the objective belief that seeks the ground of all things in an intelligent and self-directing agency.
The Ontological argument, in its ordinary form of inferring the objective reality of Deity from our idea of an absolutely perfect Being, has been generally held since Kant's “incisive refutation” in ill repute. This argument, which proceeds from thought to being in the varied presentations of Anselm, Descartes, Spinoza, Clarke, Wolff, Kant, Hegel, and others, its essential point being that what must be thought as existing does neces
sarily exist, has been accepted by modern theology as, in its syllogistic garb, a failure. The passage from the mere subjective idea to its objective validity was admittedly impossible, and the presumption that the idea of God carried the full theistic contents with it was decidedly unfortunate. But, imperfect as its logical form has been found, our modern Christian theology may be said to have gained a clearer view of the evidential value of the principle that underlies the Ontological argument in its endeavour after the highest unity of thought and being, and to have found in the conception of God as the Absolute, which rational thought is necessitated to think-the Infinite Mind, the prius of all thought as of all things, through whom we are able to think God-a notion of God incomplete, no doubt, but authentic and real, and one that bears in its bosom proof of the validity of its objective existence. What the Absolute may be it tells not; only that the Absolute is, that its positive existence is, in Spencerian phrase, “a necessary datum of consciousness."
It cannot be doubted that the statements of the case for the Ontological argument in its modern aspects, as these have come to us from Trendelenburg, Pfleiderer, Dorner, Flint, Caird, to mention no other names, must issue in beneficial result to Christian theology, whatever the final appraisement of their treatment in the way of establishing the positions maintained. The persistence of the argument has, in the view of modern theology, to be accounted for by its carrying with it in some way, after every theoretic disclaimer, the basal form of actual reality, so that not merely the idea, but also the existence, of God has been found as necessary to reason.
What may be called the religious value of these arguments, despite their failure or defects as theological proofs, has been well appraised in modern theology. Even as proofs they have of late years been largely redeemed from discredit by the power displayed in their presentation in newer forms in fuller accord with modern knowledge, and their force better perceived as consisting in their forming an organic whole of argument, correlated in its parts but more cogent than any of its separate elements, which are but so many stages in a single rational process. Modern Christian theology does not, however, found belief in God on formal logical arguments whereby the Deity appears enclosed in the neat compass of a syllogism : there is here a sense in which philosophy declares Him the Unknowable. It has come to be better recognised by theology by what inductive process of truth, known therefore only in part, but sufficiently attested by experience to command belief, man rises to the knowledge of God, an experimental knowledge reached through His self-revelations. More than ever theology recognises the impossibility of deductive demonstration of the Being of God, and the complex nature of the process by which God is apprehended : more is now left to cumulative evidence along the many lines of theistic argument, and to the intuitive, inductive, and inspirational processes of the mind and soul of man. Theology feels, with Rückert, that,
“Wer Gott nicht fühlt in sich und allen Lebenskreisen,
Dem werdet ihr Ihn nicht beweisen mit Beweisen.”
The Moral argument, with its emphasis upon the ethical element — righteousness — as the highest in God and man, has found large favour in modern times. But deistic distance is not escaped when conscience is in this argument