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in other words, if not knowledge, must be rooted in knowledge or what commonly passes for knowledge. Otherwise it would be impossible to distinguish faith from credulity, or to answer the charge that the believer believes merely because it pleases him to do so. Perhaps just at this time, when theological apologetic is passing through a phase of militant subjectivism and is endeavouring to disparage the philosophical basis of theism and the historical foundations of Christianity, insistence on the indispensableness of the intellectual element in faith, and of the need of an objective ground sufficient to make our fundamental religious belief truly reasonable to beings who seek a similar support for their convictions in all other departments of life and thought, is the more called for. We propose then to present a brief outline of the chief of the various lines of argument which have been offered as affording a reasonable basis for the fundamental belief of the theist and the Christian, the belief in a self-existent, infinite and eternal Personal Being, perfect in wisdom and goodness.
At one time it was urged that the Being of God was proved by the alleged fact that the idea of God is innate in the mind of every human being. No confidence is placed in this argument, however, in our day. The alleged fact of the innateness of the idea of God is known to be false, and even if it were true the inference from it to the real existence of the Being to whom the idea referred would be unsound.
A second theistic proof which receives but little respect to-day is that based upon the assertion that God can be directly intuited. Sometimes it has been maintained that the conscience thus directly apprehends God; at other times that God is immediately perceived, not of course through any of our ordinary senses but in some other way that is supposed to be sufficiently defined when it is called mystical. But the assertion of immediate intuition of God is generally recognized at the present time to be as erroneous as that of innate knowledge. The Being of God,
indeed, is always an inference : they deceive themselves who think otherwise. Conscience immediately apprehends right and wrong, nothing else. God may indeed be the necessary postulate or presupposition of conscience; that, however, is another matter and constitutes another argument, indirect and inferential. And the case is obviously similar in other alleged kinds of direct intuition. The socalled intuition in all such instances is not even a single and simple impression contributing directly, like sense-impression, to knowledge of external reality : it consists of a number of heterogeneous elements; it is an inference from experience, one interpretation of experience amongst others, not an experience pure and simple. It should be observed, moreover, that sensation alone does not give knowledge of external reality, and that when we speak of perceiving objects such as trees or tables and crediting them with existence for themselves as well as merely for our consciousness, we are transcending the immediate deliverances of sense and involving ourselves in metaphysical inference and interpretaion. The so-called illusions of sense consist precisely in faulty interpretations or inferences concerning real sensations. We may be permitted a personal example. The writer has often only to close his eyes and gently press upon his eye-balls to have the sensation of an oval and of an enclosed lozenge-shaped patch of vivid colour, though of course there is no such coloured object in his possible field of vision such as others could see. Even sensation, then, does not always directly imply external existence; and the supposed deliverances of mystical intuition are even more precarious. The biographies of the religious reveal to us, surely, how often their inferences from subjective experience, judged by the canons of objective knowledge, must be pronounced mistaken. We do, indeed, feel more than we know. For knowledge can be constructed solely out of those elements in our individual streams of consciousness which are common to all. It is only the common that is communicable and therefore objective for consciousness in general. The unique elements are, psychologically, equally real for the individual to whom they belong. Only he can
never validly take them as evidencing an existence external to him, as he can take his synthesized collection of senseimpressions at a certain moment to constitute a tree, for instance, which is there for all suitably placed percipients. And so if an individual tells us that he possesses direct and immediate apprehension of God or the spiritual world, the utmost we can make of his assertion is that it is of biographical interest. Inasmuch as the subjective experience he really has is unique, incommunicable, ineffable, it can never become matter of common knowledge for others or form a ground on which he may persuade us to participate in the belief it has engendered in him ; and he himself can only get from his unique experience to belief in God by a process of indirect inference-a process which escapes his notice because he has not consciously reflected upon its several stages, but has confined his attention to the element of intuition and allowed that alone to absorb his interest.
We have dwelt at some little length on this point because there is a growing tendency at present to base religion upon the individual subject's immediate experience. We have ventured, at the same time, to class this method of grounding religious belief among obsolete modes of proof, because we are persuaded that such subjectivism, in all its forms, is incompatible with the established results furnished by the long series of great investigators of the nature and validity of knowledge.
One more argument that we think may also be called practically obsolete remains to be mentioned, the argument e consensu gentium, or from the universal consent of mankind. Reliance upon the common-sense or the general belief of the race with regard to matters metaphysical or philosophical is still to be found now and again in theological literature, though it is precisely on such matters, involving the critical reflexion of the trained philosopher, that the common-sense of humanity is most untrustworthy. Our ordinary theory of knowledge and existence, which we use for purposes of intercourse, is indeed sufficient for its purpose, and the philosopher no less than the plain man talks in terms of 'naïve realism.' But he is aware, whereas the
plain man generally is not, that these working theories which have grown up with the race and suffice for rough and ready practical means of intercommunion, are of very questionable validity when an exact science of knowledge is concerned. And the common-sense of humanity deserves no whit more of respect when the question is that of the inferred existence of God-a question for the discussion of which the attitude and the equipments of mind which the common consciousness, in virtue of the fact that it is common, necessarily lacks, are essential. That religious belief of some kind is universal may be true : whether it is valid or well-grounded is quite another question. There is no necessary axiom of knowledge which tells us that what is universally believed must be true, and the opposite of such a proposition is certainly not unthinkable. Everyone may have accepted the belief on insufficient grounds. Universal consent, therefore, supplies no argument.
We now pass on to notice modes of theistic proof for which more respect may be claimed, and for some of which, in modified form, more rather than less may be found capable of being said as human knowledge increases. We refer to the four ‘Proofs of the Being of God’ which have figured so largely in the history of theological philosophy, especially in the modern period : those, namely, that are called respectively the ontological, the cosmological, the teleological, and the moral arguments.
With the exception of the last-named, on which Kant staked all the religious belief to which he deemed mankind to be entitled, these proofs have for more than a century been regarded by perhaps the great majority of writers on philosophical theology as having been proved no better than nests of dialectical fallacy by the searching examination to which they were subjected in the Critique of Pure Reason.' And we are convinced that most of the objections urged against them, whether by Kant himself or by Hume before him, are valid. None of these arguments, as they were stated in Kant's time, seems to us to bear the character of coercive demonstration. Let us briefly recapitulate their content and point out their flaws.
The cosmological proof consists in inferring from the existence of the world to its necessary First Cause. Science, which so largely consists in causal explanation, is admittedly incapable of telling us anything about the ultimate origin of the universe. This problem is, and always must be, beyond the pale of science. And where science ends, theology and philosophy endeavour, in this connexion, to begin, by ministering to our want of a satisfying explanation of the world and its origin.
(From the standpoint of philosophy, as distinguished from that of science, we see ourselves confronted with these two alternatives : either the world is an effect brought about by an external existence that is uncaused, or the world is itself self-existent and eternal. Either the series of causes -the secondary causes of physical science-ultimately terminates in a First Cause beyond which there is no other, or else the series of causes constitutes an indefinite regress. Each of these alternatives has sometimes been asserted, by those who adopt the other, to be inconceivable or unthinkable; but such assertions fail to convince. Of the two, the recourse to a necessary First Cause seems, however, to be preferable. It yields at least an explanation, whereas the adoption of an indefinite series does not : the latter hypothesis leaves us just where we were, and merely restates, rather than solves, the problem. And we cannot agree with the common objection that the postulation of a First Cause, with no preceding cause, is an arbitrary desertion of the causal principle at the point where it becomes inconvenient to remain faithful to it. For this principle obviously only applies to things which begin to be. It says that every effect must have a cause ; it does not say that every cause is necessarily also an effect. The First Cause is, by hypothesis, not merely the first of a series but wholly distinct from the series of secondary causes, which, indeed, so far as efficiency is concerned, are not truly causes at all, but rather occasions.