Outlines of Theology

Outlines of Theology


1. What is the distinction between a NOMINAL, and a REAL definition? and give the true definition of the word God

A nominal definition simply explains the meaning of the term used, while a real definition explains the nature of the thine signified by the term.

The English word God is by some derived from “good.” Since, however, its various forms in cognate languages could not have had that origin, others derive it from the Persic Choda—dominus, “possessor.” The Latin Deus, and the Greek Θεός have been commonly derived from the Sanscrit div to give “light” But Curtius, Cremer, and others derive it from θες in θέσσασθαι “to implore.” Θεός is “He to whom one prays.”
The word God is often used in a pantheistic sense, for the impersonal, unconscious ground of all being, and by many for the unknowable first cause of the existent world. It is for this reason that so many speculators, who actually or virtually deny the existence of the God of Christendom, yet indignantly repudiate the charge of atheism, because they admit the existence of a self-existent substance or first cause to which they give the name God, while they deny to it the possession of the properties generally designated by the term.

But, as a matter of fact, in consequence of the predominance of Christian ideas in the literature of civilized nations for the last eighteen centuries, the term “God” has attained the definite and permanent sense of a self-existent, eternal, and absolutely perfect free personal Spirit, distinct from and sovereign over the world he has created.

The man who denies the existence of such a being denies God.

2. How can a “real” definition of God be constructed?

Evidently God can be defined only in so far as he is known to us, and the condition of the possibility of our knowing him is the fact that we were created in his image. Every definition of God must assume this fact, that in an essential sense he and his intelligent creatures are beings of the same genus. He is therefore defined by giving his genus and specific difference. Thus he is as to genus, an intelligent personal Spirit. He is, as to his specific difference, as to that which constitutes him God, infinite, eternal, unchangeable in his being, in his wisdom, in his power, in his holiness, and in all perfections consistent with his being.

3. To what extent is the idea of God due to Tradition?

It is evident that the complete idea of God presented in the foregoing definition has been attained only by means of the supernatural revelation recorded in the Christian Scriptures. It is a fact also that the only three Theistic religions which have ever prevailed among men (the Jewish, Mohammedan and Christian) are historically connected with the same revelation. It is also, of course, in vain to speculate as to what would be the action of the human mind independent of all inherited habits, and of all traditional opinions. We are entirely without experience or testimony as to any kind of knowledge attained or judgments formed under such conditions. It is moreover certain that the form in which the theistic conception is realized, and the associations with which it is accompanied, are determined in the case of each community by the theological traditions they have inherited from their fathers.

It is, on the other hand, indubitably certain that all men under all known, and therefore under all truly natural conditions, do spontaneously recognize the divine existence as more or less clearly revealed to them in the constitution and conscious experience of their own souls, and in external nature. The theistic conception hence is no more due to authority, as often absurdly charged, than the belief in the subjective reality of spirit or in the objective reality of matter formed under the same educational conditions. The recognition of the self-manifest God is spontaneous, and universal, which proves the evidence to be clear and everywhere present, and convincing to all normally developed men.

4. Is the idea of God INNATE? And is it an INTUITIVE truth?

That depends upon the sense in which the respective terms are taken. It is evident that there are no “innate” ideas in the sense that any child was ever born with a conception of the divine being, or any other conception already formed in his mind. It is also certain that the human mind when developed under purely natural conditions, in the absence of all supernatural revelation, can never attain to an adequate conception of the divine nature. On the other hand, however, all history proves that the idea of God is innate in the sense that the constitutional faculties of the human soul do, under all natural conditions, secure the spontaneous recognition, more or less clear, of God as the ultimate ground of all being, and as the Lord of conscience, self-manifested in the soul and in the world. It is innate in so much as the evidence is as universally present as the light of day, and the process by which it is apprehended is constitutional.

If the term “intuition” is taken in its strict sense of a direct vision of a truth, seen in its own light to be necessary, by an intellectual act incapable of being resolved into more elementary processes of thought, then the existence of God is not a truth apprehended intuitively by men. The process whereby it is reached, whether spontaneously or by elaborate reasoning, embraces many indubitable intuitions as elements, but no man apprehends God himself by a direct intuition.


(1.) Although the recognition of the divine existence is necessary in the sense that the great majority of men recognize the truth, and are unable to disbelieve it even when they wish, and no one can do so without doing violence to his nature, yet it is not necessary to thought in the sense that the non-existence of God is unthinkable.

(2.) Because God manifests himself to us not immediately but mediately through his works, and there is always present, at least implicitly, an inference in the act whereby the soul recognizes his presence and action.

(3.) The true idea of God is exceedingly complex, and is reached by a complex process, whether spontaneous or not, involving various elements capable of analysis and description.

On the other hand it is true that God manifests himself in his working in our souls and in external nature just as the invisible souls of our fellow-men manifest themselves, and we spontaneously recognize him just as we do them. We recognize them because

(a) we are generically like them, and

(b) their attributes are significally expressed in their words and actions.

And we recognize God because

(a) we have been made in his image, which fact we spontaneously recognize

(b) from his self-revelations in consciousness, especially in conscience, and from the characteristics of the external world.

“While the mental process which has been described—the theistic inference—is capable of analysis, it is itself synthetic. The principles on which it depends are so connected that the mind can embrace them all in a single act, and must include and apply them all in the apprehension of God, Will, intelligence, conscience, reason, and the ideas which they supply; cause, design, goodness, infinity, and the arguments which rest on these ideas—all coalesce into this one grand issue.”—“Theism” by Prof. Flint, pp. 71, 72.

5. If the existence of God is spontaneously recognized by all men under normal conditions of consciousness, what is the value of formal arguments to move that existence? And what are the arguments generally used?

1st. These arguments are of value as analyses and scientific verifications of the mental processes implicitly involved in the spontaneous recognition of the self-manifestations of God.

2d. They are of use also for the purpose of vindicating the legitimacy of the process against the criticisms of skeptics.

3d. Also for the purpose of quickening and confirming the spontaneous recognition by drawing attention to the extent and variety of the evidence to which it responds.

4th. The various arguments are convergent rather than consecutive. They do not all establish the same elements of the theistic conception, but each establishes independently its separate element, and thus is of use

(a) in contributing confirmatory evidence that God is, and

(b) complementary evidence as to what God is.

They constitute an organic whole, and are the analysis and illustration of the spontaneous act whereby the mass of men have always recognized God. “Although causality does not involve design, nor design goodness, design involves causality, and goodness both causality and design. The proofs of intelligence are also proofs of power; and the proofs of goodness are proofs of both intelligence and power. The principles of reason which compel us to think of the Supreme Moral Intelligence as self-existent, eternal, infinite, and unchangeable Being, supplement the proofs from other sources, and give self-consistency and completeness to the doctrine of theism.”—“Theism,” Prof. Flint, pp. 73, 74

The usual arguments will be examined under the following heads:

1st. The Cosmological Argument, or the evidence for God’s existence as First Cause.

2d. The Teleological Argument, or the evidence of God’s existence afforded by the presence of order and adaptation in the universe.

3d. The Moral Argument, or the evidence afforded by the moral consciousness and history of mankind.

4th. The evidence afforded by the phenomena of Scripture and the supernatural history they record.

5th. The A priori Argument, and the testimony afforded by reason to God as the Infinite and Absolute.

6. State the Cosmological Argument

It may be stated in the form of a syllogism, thus—

Major Premise.—Every new existence or change in any thing previously existing must have had a cause pre-existing and adequate.

Minor Premise.—The universe as a whole and in all its parts is a system of changes.

Conclusion.—Hence the universe must have a cause exterior to itself and the ultimate or absolute cause must be eternal, uncaused, and unchangeable.

1st. As to the major premise;

The causal judgment is intuitive and absolutely universal and necessary. It has been denied theoretically by some speculators, as Hume and Mill, but it is always used by them and all others in all their reasoning as to the origin of the world, as well as of all things it contains. The judgment is unavoidable; the opposite is unthinkable. Something exists now, therefore something must have existed from eternity, and that which has existed from eternity is the cause of that which exists now.

It has been claimed that the causal judgment leads to an infinite regressive series of causes and effects. But this is absurd.

(1.) The judgment is not that every thing must have a cause, but that every new thing or change must have been caused. But that which is eternal and immutable needs no cause.

(2.) An infinite series of causes and effects is absurd, for that is only a series of changes, which is precisely that which demands a cause, and all the more imperatively in proportion to its length. A real cause, on the other hand,—that in which the causal judgment can alone absolutely rest,—must be neither a change nor a series of changes, but something uncaused, eternal and immutable.

As a matter of fact all philosophers and men of science without exception assume the principles asserted. They all postulate an eternal, self-existent, unchangeable cause of the universe, whether a personal spirit, or material atoms, or a substance of which both matter and spirit are modes, or an unconscious intelligent world-soul in union with matter.

2d. As to the minor premise.

The fact that the universe as a whole and in all its parts is a system of changes is emphasized by every principle and lesson of modern science. Every discovery in the fields of geology and astronomy, and all speculation—as the nebular hypothesis and the hypothesis of evolution—embody this principle as their very essence.

But John Stuart Mill in his “Essay on Theism,” pp. 142, 143, says: “There is in nature a permanent element, and also a changeable: the changes are always the effects of previous changes; the permanent existences, so far as we know, are not effects at all.… There is in every object another and permanent element, viz., the specific elementary substance or substances of which it consists, and their inherent properties. These are not known as beginning to exist; within the range of human knowledge they had no beginning, consequently no cause; though they themselves are causes or concauses of everything that takes place.” “Whenever a physical phenomenon is traced to its cause, that cause when analyzed is found to be a certain quantum of force, combined with certain collocations.… The force itself is essentially one and the same, and there exists of it in nature a fixed quantity, which (if the theory of the conservation of forces be true) is never increased or diminished. Here then we find in the changes of material nature a permanent element, to all appearance the very one of which we are in quest. This it is apparently to which, if to any thing, we must assign the character of First Cause.”—“Essay on Theism,” pp. 144, 145.


(1.) The existence of “Energy” in any of its convertable forms dissociated from matter is absolutely unthinkable. This is recognized as an unquestionable scientific truth by Stewart and Tait (“Unseen Universe,” p. 79).

(2.) It is an obvious fact “that all but an exceedingly small fraction of the light and heat of the sun and stars goes out into space, and does not return to them. In the next place the visible motion of the large bodies of the universe is gradually being stopped by something which may be denominated etherial friction,” and at last they must fall together, and constitute by successive aggregations one mass. “In fine the degradation of Energy of the visible universe proceeds, pari passu, with the aggregation of mass. The very fact, therefore, that the large masses of the visible universe are of finite size, is sufficient to assure us that the process can not have been going on forever, or in other words that the visible universe must have had an origin in time”—since

(a) Energy remains aggregated in finite quantities yet undiffused, and

(b) since the matter of the universe still remains in separate masses. Thus the very law of the correlation of Energy to which Mill appeals proves, when really tested, that the visible universe had a beginning and will have an end. Stewart and Tait (“Unseen Universe,” p. 166).

(3.) His assumption, also, that the matter of the universe is in its ultimate atoms eternal and unchangeable, is unproved and contrary to scientific analogy. Clark Maxwell (in his address as President of the British Association for Advancement of Science, 1870) says: “The exact equality of each molecule to all others of the same kind gives it, as Sir John Herschell has well said, the essential character of a manufactured article, and precludes the idea of its being eternal and self-existent.”

(4.) As a matter of fact all evolution theories as to the genesis of the universe necessarily postulate a commencement in time, and a primordial fire-mist But this fire-mist. can not be the First Cause the causal judgment demands, because it is not eternal and immutable. If eternal it would be fully developed. If fully developed it could not develop into the universe. If immutable it could not pass into change. If not immutable it is itself, like the universe which issues from it, a transient condition of matter, like all other change demanding for itself a cause.

7. State the Teleologioal Argument

Teleology from τέλος, end, and λόγος, discourse, is the science of final causes, or of purposes or design as exhibited in the adjustments of parts to wholes, of means to ends, of organs to uses in nature. It is also familiarly called the Argument from Design; and is ultimately based upon the recognition of the operations of an intelligent cause in nature. It may be profitably stated in two forms based respectively on the more general and the more special manifestations of that intelligence.


Major Premise.—Universal order and harmony in the conspiring operation of a vast multitude of separate elements can be explained only by the postulate of an intelligent cause.

Minor Premise.—The universe as a whole and in all its parts is a fabric of the most complex and symmetrical order.

Conclusion.—Therefore the eternal and absolute cause of the universe is an intelligent mind.


Major Premise.—The adjustment of parts and the adaptation of means to effect an end or purpose can be explained only by reference to a designing intelligence and will.

Minor Premise.—The universe is full of such adjustments of parts, and of organisms composed of parts conspiring to effect an end.

Conclusion.—Therefore the First Cause of the universe must be an intelligent mind and will.
These arguments if valid amount to proving that God is an eternal self-existing Person. For the assumption of an unconscious intelligence, or of an intelligence producing effects without the exercise of will is absurd. These phrases represent no possible ideas. And intelligence and will together constitute personality.

As to the first form of the argument it is evident that the very fact that science is possible is an indubitable proof that the order of nature is intellectual. Science is a product of the human mind, which is absolutely incapable of passing beyond the laws of its own constitution. Intuitions of reason, logical processes of analysis, inductive or deductive inference, imagination, invention, and all the activities of the soul organize the scientific process. To all this external nature is found perfectly to correspond. Even the most subtle solutions of abstract mathematical and mechanical problems have been subsequently found by experiment to have been anticipated in nature.

The laws of nature are expressions of numerical and geometrical harmonies, and are instinct with reason and beauty. Yet these laws although invariable under invariable conditions, are neither eternal nor inherent in the elementary constitution of the universe. The properties of elemental matter are constant, but the laws which organize them are themselves complicated effects resulting from antecedent adjustments of these elements themselves under the categories of time, place, quantity, and quality. As these adjustments change the laws change. These adjustments, therefore, are the cause of these laws, and the adjustments themselves must be the product either of chance, which is absurd, or of intelligence, which is certain.

This intellectual order of nature is the first necessary postulate of all science, and it is the essence of all the processes of the universe from the grouping of atoms to the revolution of worlds, from the digestion of a polyp to the functional action of the human brain.

As to the second form of this Argument.

The principle of design presupposes the general intellectual order of the universe and her laws, and presents in advance the affirmation that the character of the First Cause is further manifested by the everywhere present evidence that these general laws are made to conspire by special adjustments to the accomplishment of ends evidently intended. This principle is illustrated by the mutual adjustments of the various provinces of nature, and especially by the vegetable and animal organisms, and the relations they involve, of organ to organism, of organism to instinct, and of single organisms and classes of organisms to each other and to their physical surroundings. In many cases the intention of these special adjustments is self-evident and undeniable, as in the case of the parts of the eye to the purpose of vision. In other cases it is more obscure and conjectural. In the present condition of science we can understand only in part, but from the beginning the evidence of intelligent purpose has been transparent and overwhelming. A single sentence proves intelligence, although the context is undecipherable. But every advance of science discloses the same evidence over wider areas and in clearer light.

8. State and answer the objections to the theistic inference from the evidences of special design

1st. Hume (“Dialogues on Natural Religion,” Pt. VII., etc.,) argues that our conviction that adaptation implies design is due to experience and cannot go beyond it. That our judgment that natural organisms imply design in their cause is an inference from the analogy of human contrivance, and its effects. He argues further that this analogy is false because

(1.) The human worker is antecedently known to us as an intelligent contriver, while the author of nature is antecedently unknown, and the very object sought to be verified by the theistic inference.

(2.) The processes of nature are all unlike the processes by which man executes his contrivances, and the formation of the world, and the institution of the processes of nature are peculiar effects of the like of which we have no experience.

We answer

(1.) The argument rests upon a false assumption of fact. The human contriver, the soul of our fellow-man, is not antecedently known to us, nor is ever in any way known except by the character of the works by which he manifests himself. And precisely in the same way and to the same extent is the Author of nature known.

(2.) It rests on a false assumption of principle. The analogy of human contrivances is not the ground of our conviction that order and adaptation imply intelligence. It is a universal and necessary judgment of reason that order and adaptation can only spring from an intelligent cause, or from accident, and that the latter supposition is absurd.

2d. Some men of science, who have become habituated to the consideration of the universe as an absolute unit, all the processes of which are executed by invariable general laws (a mode of thought in which for centuries science was anticipated by Augustinian Theology), object that in inferring intention from the adjustment of parts in special groups or systems, the natural theologian had mistaken a part for a whole, and an incidental effect of a general law, resulting from special and temporary conditions, for the real end of the law itself. They hold that if even the First Cause of the universe were intelligent, it were infinitely absurd for men to presume to interpret his purpose from what we see of the special results of the working of laws working from infinite past time, through infinite space, and over an infinite system of conspiring parts.

We answer

(1.) It is self-evident that the relations of the parts of a special whole conspiring to a special end may be fully understood, while the relations of that special whole to the general whole may be entirely unknown, although strong light is thrown even on this side by reason and revelation. A single bone of an unknown species of animal gives undeniable evidence of special adaptation, and may even, as scientists justly claim, throw light beyond itself upon the constitution of that otherwise unknown whole to which it belonged.

(2.) We confess that this criticism, although failing as to the argument from design, has force relatively to the mode in which that argument has often been conceived. The older natural theologians did often to too great a degree abstract individual organisms from the great dynamic whole of which they are products as well as parts. Dr. Flint (“Theism,” p. 159) well distinguishes between the intrinsic, the extrinsic, and the ultimate ends of any special adjustment. Thus the intrinsic end of that special adjustment of parts called the eye is vision. Its extrinsic ends are the uses it serves to the animal it belongs to, and all the uses he serves to all he stands immediately or remotely related to. Its ultimate end is the end of the universe itself. “Theism,” p. 163—“When we affirm, then, that final causes in the sense of intrinsic ends are in things, we affirm merely that things are systematic unities, the parts of which are definitely related to one another, and co-ordinated to a common issue; and when we affirm that final causes in the sense of extrinsic ends are in things, we affirm merely that things are not isolated and independent systems, but systems definitely related to other systems, and so adjusted as to be parts or components of higher systems, and means to issues more comprehensive than their own.”

It is true indeed that a man can not discern the ultimate end of a part until he discerns the ultimate end of the whole, and that he can not discern all the extrinsic ends of any special system until he knows all its relations to all other special systems. Nevertheless, as a man who knows nothing of the relation of a given plant or animal to the flora or fauna of a continent, may be absolutely certain of the functions of the root or the claw in the economy of the plant or beast, so the manner in which all the parts which conspire to make a special whole are adapted to effect that end may be perfectly understood, while we know nothing as yet of the extrinsic relation of that special whole to that which is exterior to itself.

3d. It has been claimed in recent times by a certain class of scientists that evidence for the existence of God afforded by the order and adaptation exhibited in the processes of nature has been very much weakened, if not absolutely invalidated, by the assumed probability of the alternative hypothesis of Evolution. There are many theories of Evolution, but the term in the general sense denotes the judgment that the state of the universe as a whole and in all its parts any one moment of time, has its cause in its state the immediately preceding moment, and that these changes have been brought about through the agency of powers inherent in nature, and that they may be traced back from moment to moment without any break of causal continuity through all past time.

All possible theories of Evolution, considered in their relation to theology, may be classified thus:

(1.) Those which neither deny nor obscure the evidence which the order and adaptation observed in nature afford to the existence of God, and his immanence in and providential control of his works.

(2) Those which, while recognizing God as the original source in the remote past, to which the origination and the primary adjustments of the universe are to be referred, yet deny his immanence and constant providential activity in his works.

(3.) Those which professedly or virtually obscure or deny the evidence afforded by the order and adaptation of the universe for the existence and activity of God alike as Creator and as Providential Ruler.

With the first class of Evolution theories the Natural Theologian has, of course, only the most friendly interest.

As to the second class, which admits that a divine intelligence contrived and inaugurated the universe at the absolute beginning, yet deny that any such agent is immanent in the universe controlling its processes,


(1.) That the point we have at present to establish is the eternal self-existence of an intelligent First Cause, and not the mode of his relation to the universe. The latter question will be treated in subsequent chapters.

(2.) It is far more philosophical, and more in accordance with a true interpretation of the scientific principle of continuity, to conceive of the First Cause as immanent in the universe, and as organically concurring with all unintelligent second causes in all processes exhibiting power or intelligence. This is recognized by that large majority of scientific men who are either orthodox Theists, or who refer all the phenomena of the physical universe to the dynamic action of the divine will.

(3.) The evidence afforded by man’s moral consciousness and history and by revelation, to the immanence and effective agency of God in all his works, is unanswerable.

As to the third class of Evolution theories, which do either professedly or virtually obscure or deny the evidence afforded by order or contrivance to an intelligent First Cause of the Universe, as for example the theory of Darwin as to the differentiation of all organisms through accidental variations occurring through unlimited time,


1st. Every such scheme, when it is proposed as an account of the existing universe, must furnish a probable explanation of all classes of facts. It is notorious that every theory of purely natural Evolution fails utterly to explain the following facts:

(1.) The origination of life. It could not have existed in the fire-mist. It could not have been generated by that which has no life. The mature decision of science to-day (1878) is expressed in the old axiom omne vivum ex vivo.

(2.) The origin of sensation.

(3.) Also of intelligence and will.

(4.) Also of conscience.


(5.) The establishment of distinct logically corrolated and persistent types of genera and species, maintained by the law of hybridity.

(6.) The origin of man. Prof. Virchow of Berlin, in his recent address at the German Association of Naturalists and Physicians at Munich, says, “You are aware that I am now specially engaged in the study of anthropology; but I am bound to declare that every positive advance which we have made in the province of prehistoric anthropology has actually removed us further from the proof of such connection (i.e., the descent of man from any lower type).”

2d. But even if continuous evolution could be proved as a fact, the significance of the evidence of intelligent order and contrivance would not be in the least affected. It would only establish a method or system of means, but could in no degree alter the nature of the effect, nor the attributes of the real cause disclosed by them.

(1.) The laws of abiogenesis, of reproduction, of sexual differentiation and reproduction, of heredity, of variation, such as can evolve sensation, reason, conscience, and will out of atoms and mechanical energy, would all still remain to be accounted for.

(2.) Laws are never causes, but always complicated modes of action resulting from the co-action of innumerable unconscious agents. Instead, therefore, of being explanations they are the very complex effects for which reason demands an intellectual cause.

(3.) All physical laws result from the original properties of matter acting under the mutual condition of certain complicated adjustments. Change the adjustments and the laws change. The laws which execute evolution, or rather into which the process of evolution is analyzed, must be referred back to the original adjustments of the material elements of the fire-mist These adjustments, in which all future order and life is by hypothesis latent, must have been caused by chance or intelligence. Huxley in his “Criticisms on Origin of Species,” p. 330, founds the whole logic of Evolution on chance thus: It has been “demonstrated that an apparatus thoroughly well-adapted to a particular purpose, may be the result of a method of trial and error worked out by unintelligent agents, as well as of the direct application of the means appropriate to that end by an intelligent agent.” “According to Teleology, each organism is like a rifle bullet fired straight at a mark; according to Darwin organisms are like grape-shot, of which one hits something and the rest fall wide.” The modern scientific explanation of the processes of the universe by physical causes alone, to the exclusion of mind, differs from the old long-exploded chance theory, only by the accidents

(a) of the juggling use of the words “laws of nature,”

(b) and the assumption that chance operating through indefinate duration can accomplish the work of intelligence. But as no man can believe that any amount of time will explain the form of flint knives and arrow heads, in the absence of human agents, or that any number of throws could cast a font of type into the order of letters in the plays of Shakespeare, so no man can rationally believe that the complicated and significantly intellectual order of the universe sprang from chance.

(4.) In artificial breeding man selects. In “natural selection” nature selects. Hence, if the results are the most careful adjustments to effect purpose, it follows that that characteristic must be stamped upon the organisms by nature, and hence nature itself must therefore be intelligently directed, either (a) by an intelligence immanent in her elements, or in her whole as organized, or (b) by the original adjustment of her machinery by an intelligent Creator.

9. State the Moral Argument or the Evidence afforded by the Moral Consciousness and History of mankind

The Cosmological argument led us to an eternal self-existent First Cause. The argument from the order and adaptation discovered in the processes of the universe revealed this great First Cause as possessing intelligence and will; that is, as a personal spirit. The moral or anthropological argument furnishes new data for inference, at once confirming the former conclusions as to the fact of the existence of a personal intelligent First Cause, and at the same time adding to the conception the attributes of holiness, justice, goodness, and truth. The argument from design includes the argument from cause, and the argument from righteousness and benevolence includes both the arguments from cause and from design, and adds to them a new element of its own.

This group of arguments may be stated thus:

1st. Consciousness is the fundamental ground of all knowledge. It gives us immediately the knowledge of self as existing and as the subject of certain attributes, and the agent in certain forms of activity. These souls and all their attributes must be accounted for. They have not existed from eternity. They could not have been evolved out of material elements, because

(1.) Consciousness testifies to their unity, simplicity, and spirituality.

(2.) The laws of reason and the moral sense can not be explained as the result of transformed sense impressions modified by association derived by heredity (Mill and Spencer); for,

(a) they are universally the same,

(b) incapable of analysis,

(c) necessary, and

(d) sovereign over all impulses.

Therefore the human soul must have been created, and its Creator must have attributes superior to his work.

2d. Man is essentially and universally a religious being. The sense of absolute dependence and moral accountability is inherent in his nature, universal and necessary. Conscience always implies responsibility to a superior, in moral authority, and therefore in moral character. It is especially implied in the sense of guilt which accompanies every violation of conscience. God is manifested and recognized in conscience as a holy, righteous, just, and intelligent will; i.e., a holy personal spirit.

3d. The adaptations of nature, as far as we can trace their relations to sentient beings, are characteristically beneficent, and evidence a general purpose to promote happiness, and to gratify a sense of beauty. This implies design, and design of a special esthetic and moral character, and proves that the First Cause is benevolent and a lover of beauty.

4th. The entire history of the human race, as far as known, discloses a moral order and purpose, which cannot be explained by the intelligence or moral purpose of the human agents concerned, which discovers an all-embracing unity of plan, comprehending all peoples and all centuries. The phenomena of social and national life, of ethnological distribution, of the development and diffusion of civilizations and religions can be explained only by the existence of a wise, righteous, and benevolent ruler and educator of mankind.

10. State and answer the objections to the Moral Argument

These objections are founded

1st. On the mechanical invariability of natural laws, and their inexorable disregard of the welfare of sentient creatures.

2d. The sufferings of irrational animals.

3d. The prevalence of moral and physical evils among men.

4th. The unequal apportionment of providential favors, and the absence of all proportion between the measure of happiness allotted, and the respective moral characters of the recipients.

These difficulties, more or less trying to the faith of all, are the real occasion in the great majority of instances, of skeptical atheism. John Stewart Mill in his “Essay on Nature” (“Three Essays on Religion”) describes it as the characteristic of “Nature” ruthlessly to inflict suffering and death, and affirms that the cause of nature, if a personal will, must be a monster of cruelty and injustice. In his “Essay on Theism,” Pt. 2, he argues that the attempt to maintain that the author of nature, such as we know it, is at once omniscient and omnipotent and absolutely just and benevolent is abominably immoral. That he can be excused of cruelty and injustice only on the plea of limited knowledge or power, or both.

He sums up his conclusion from the evidence thus: “A Being of great but limited power, how or by what limited we cannot even conjecture; of great and perhaps unlimited intelligence, but perhaps also more narrowly limited than his power: who desires and pays some regard to the happiness of his creatures, but who seems to have other motives of action which he cares more for, and who can hardly be supposed to have created the universe for that purpose only.” In his “Autobiography,” ch. ii., he says of his; father, James Mill, “I have heard him say, that the turning point of his mind on the subject was reading Butler’s Analogy.

That work, of which he always continued to speak with respect, kept him, as he said, for some considerable time, a believer in the divine authority of Christianity; by proving to him, that whatever are the difficulties of believing that the Old and New Testaments proceed from, or record the acts of, a perfectly wise and good being, the same and still greater difficulties stand in the way of the belief, that a being of such a character can have been the Maker of the universe. He considered Butler’s argument as conclusive against the only opponents for whom it was intended. Those who admit an omnipotent as well as perfectly just and benevolent Maker and Ruler of such a world as this, can say little against Christianity but what can with at least equal force be retorted against themselves. Finding, therefore, no halting place in Deism, he remained in a state of perplexity, until, doubtless after many struggles, he yielded to the conviction, that concerning the origin of things nothing whatever can be known.”


1st. It is unquestionably true that God has not created the universe for the single purpose, or even for the chief purpose, of promoting the happiness of his creatures. Our reason and observation, and the Christian Scriptures, unite in revealing as far higher and more worthy ends of divine action the manifestation of his own glory, and the promotion by education and discipline of the highest excellence of his intelligent moral creatures. It is evident that the operation of inexorable general laws, and the mystery and sufferings incident to this life, may be the most effective means to promote those ends.

2d. The direct intention of all the organs with which sensitive creatures are endowed is evidently to promote their well-being; pain and misery are incidental. Even the sudden violent deaths of irrational animals probably promote the largest possible amount of sentient happiness. 3d. Conscience has taught men in all ages that the sufferings incident to human life are the direct and deserved consequences of human sin, either penalties, or chastisements benevolently designed for our moral improvement.

4th. The origin of sin is a confessed mystery, relieved however by the consideration, that it results from the abuse of man’s highest and most valuable endowment, responsible free agency, and by the fact revealed in the Christian Scriptures that even sin will be divinely overruled to the fuller manifestation of the perfections of God, and to the higher excellence and the more perfect happiness of the intelligent creation.

5th. The inequalities of the allotments of providence, and the disproportion between the well-being and the moral characters of men in this life, results from the fact that it is not the scene of rewards and punishments, and that different characters and different destinies require a different educational discipline, and it points to future readjustments revealed in the Bible (Ps. 73).

6th. Neither the teleological nor the moral argument involves the assertion that with our present knowledge we are able to discern in the universe the evidences of either infinite or perfect wisdom or goodness. These are both indicated as matters of fact, and general characteristics of nature. But our discernment of both is necessarily limited by the imperfections of our knowledge. Even in the judgment of reason alone the infinite probability is that what appears to us anomalous, inconsistent either with perfect wisdom or perfect goodness, will be found, upon the attainment of more adequate information on our part, to illustrate those very perfections which we have been tempted to think they obscure.

11. State the Scriptural Evidence

Since man is a finite and guilty and morally corrupt creature it is unavoidable that the self-manifestations of God in nature should be imperfectly apprehended by him. That supernatural revelation which God has disclosed through an historical process of special interventions in chronological successions, interpreted by a supernaturally endowed order of prophets, and recorded in the Christian Scriptures, supplements the light of nature, explains the mysteries of providence, and furnishes us with the principles of a true theodice. The God whom nature veils while it reveals him, stands before us unveiled in all the perfection of wisdom, holiness, and love in the person of Christ. He who hath seen Christ hath seen the Father. The truth of Theism is demonstrated in his person, and henceforth will never be held except by those who loyally acknowledge his Lordship over intellect and conscience and life.

12. State the principle upon which the A priori arguments for the existence of God rest, the value of the principle, and the principal forms in which they have been presented

An à posteriori argument is one which logically ascends from facts of experience to causes, or principles. Thus by means of the preceding arguments we have been led from the facts of consciousness and of external nature to the knowledge of God as an intelligent and righteous personal spirit, the powerful, wise, and benevolent First Cause and Moral Governor. An à priori argument is one which proceeds from the necessary ideas of reason to the consequences necessarily deduced from them, or the truths necessarily involved in them.

It is certain that the intuitions of necessary truth are the same in all men. They are not generalizations from experience, but are presupposed in all experience. They bear the stamp of universality and necessity. They have objective validity, not depending upon the subjective state of personal consciousness, nor depending upon the nature of things, but anterior and superior to all things. What then can be the ground of eternal, necessary, universal, unchangeable truth, unless it be an infinite, eternal, self-existent, unchangeable nature, of whose essence they are.

We have seen that our reasons can rest only in a cause itself uncaused. An uncaused cause must be eternal, self-existent, and unchangeable. We have in our minds ideas and intuitions of infinity and perfection, as well as of eternity, self-existence, and immutability. “These, unless they are wholly delusive—which is what we are unable to conceive—must be predicable of some being. The sole question is, Of what being? It must be of him who has been proved to be the First Cause of all things, the source of all the power, wisdom, and goodness displayed in the universe. It can not be the universe itself, for that has been shown to be but an effect, to have before and behind it a Mind, a Person. It can not be ourselves, or any thing to which our senses can reach, seeing that we and they are finite, contingent, and imperfect. The author of the universe alone—the Father of our spirits, and the Giver of every good and perfect gift—can be uncreated, and unconditioned, infinite, and perfect. This completes the idea of God so far as it can be reached or formed by natural reason. And it gives consistency to the idea. The conclusions of the à posteriori arguments fail to satisfy either the mind or the heart until they are connected with and supplemented by, the intuition of the reason—infinity. The conception of any other than an infinite God—a God unlimited in all his perfections—is a self-contradictory conception which the intelligence refuses to entertain.”—Dr. Flint, “Theism,” p. 291.

1. Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury (1093–1109), in his “Monologium and Proslogium,” states the argument thus:

We have the idea of an infinitely perfect being. But real existence is a necessary element of infinite perfection. Therefore an infinitely perfect being exists, otherwise the infinitely perfect as we conceive it would lack an essential element of perfection.

2. Des Cartes (1596–1650) in his “Meditationes de prima philosophia,” prop. 2, p. 89, states it thus:

The idea of an infinitely perfect being which we possess could not have originated in a finite source, and therefore must have been communicated to us by an infinitely perfect being. He also in other connections claims that this idea represents an objective reality, because

(1) it is pre-eminently clear, and ideas carry conviction of correspondence to truth in proportion to their clearness, and

(2) it is necessary.

3. Dr. Samuel Clarke, in 1705, published his “Demonstration of the Being and Attributes of God.”

He argues that time and space are infinite and necessarily existent. But they are not substances. Therefore there must exist an eternal infinite substance of which they are properties.


13. What is Atheism?

Atheism, according to its etymology, signifies a denial of the being of God. It was applied by the ancient Greeks to Socrates and other philosophers, to indicate that they failed to conform to the popular religion. In the same sense it was applied to the early Christians. Since the usage of the term Theism has been definitely fixed in all modern languages, atheism necessarily stands for the denial of the existence of a personal Creator and Moral Governor. Notwithstanding that the belief in a personal God is the result of a spontaneous recognition of God as manifesting himself in consciousness and the works of nature, atheism is still possible as an abnormal state of consciousness induced by sophistical speculation or by the indulgence of sinful passions, precisely as subjective idealism is possible.

It exists in the following forms:

1. Practical,

2. Speculative.

Again Speculative Atheism may be

(1) Dogmatic, as when the conclusion is reached either

(a) that God does not exist, or

(b) that the human faculties are positively incapable of ascertaining or of verifying his existence (e.g., Herbert Spencer, “First Principles,” pt. 1).

(2.) Skeptical, as when the existence is simply doubted, and the conclusiveness of the evidence generally relied upon is denied.

(3.) Virtual, as when

(a.) principles are maintained essentially inconsistent with the existence of God, or with the possibility of our knowledge of him: e.g., by materialists, positivists, absolute idealists

(b.) When some of the essential attributes of the divine nature are denied, as by Pantheists, and by J. S. Mill in his “Essays on Religion.”

(c.) When explanations of the universe are given which exclude

(a1) the agency of an intelligent Creator and Governor,

(b1) the moral government of God, and the moral freedom of man, e.g., the theories of Darwin and Spencer, and Necessitarians generally. See Ulrici, “God and Nature” and “Review of Strauss”; Strauss, “Old and New”; Buchanan, “Modern Atheism”; Tulloch, “Theism”; Flint, “Theism.”

14. What is Dualism?

Dualism, in philosophy the opposite of Monism, is the doctrine that there are two generically distinct essences, Matter and Spirit in the universe. In this sense the common doctrine of Christendom is dualistic. All the ancient pagan philosophers held the eternal independent existence of matter, and consequently all among them who were also Theists were strictly cosmological dualists. The religion of Zoroaster was a mythological dualism designed to account for the existence of evil. Ormuzd and Ahriman, the personal principles of good and evil, sprang from a supreme abstract divinity, Akerenes. Some of the sects of this religion held dualism in its absolute form, and referred all evil to ὕλη, self-existent matter. This principle dominated among the various spurious Christian Gnostic sects in the second century, and in the system of Manes in the third century, and its prevalence in the oriental world is manifested in the ascetic tendency of the early Christian Church. See J. F. Clarke, “Ten Religions”; Hardwicke, “Christ and other Masters”; Neander’s “Church History”: Pressensé, “Early Years of Christianity”; Tennemann, “Manual Hist. Philos.”

15. What is Polytheism?

Polytheism (πολύς and θεός) distributes the perfections and functions of the infinite God among many limited gods. It sprang out of the nature-worship represented in the earliest Hindu Veds, so soon and so generally supplanting primitive monotheism. At first, as it long remained in Chaldea and Arabia, it consisted in the worship of elements, especially of the stars and of fire. Subsequently it took special forms from the traditions, the genius, and the relative civilizations of each nationality. Among the rudest savages it sank to Fetichism as in western and central Africa. Among the Greeks it was made the vehicle for the expression of their refined humanitarianism in the apotheosis of heroic men rather than the revelation of incarnate gods. In India, springing from a pantheistic philosophy, it has been carried to the most extravagant extreme, both in respect to the number, and the character of its deities. Whenever polytheism has been connected with speculation it appears as the exoteric counterpart of pantheism. Carlyle, “Hero-worship”; Max Müller, “Compar. Myth.,” in Oxford Essays; Prof. Tyler, “Theology of Greek Poets.”

16. What is Deism?

Deism, from deus, although etymologically synonymous with theism, from θεός, has been distinguished from it since the middle of the sixteenth century, and designates a system admitting the existence of a personal Creator, but denying his controlling presence in the world, his immediate moral government, and all supernatural intervention and revelation.

The movement began with the English Deists, Lord Herbert of Cherbury (1581–1648), Hobbes (†1680), Shaftesbury, Bolingbroke (1678–1751), Thomas Paine (†1809), etc. It passed over to France and was represented by Voltaire and the Encyclopædists. It passed over into Germany and was represented by Lessing and Reimarus (“Wolfenbüttel Fragmentist”), and invading Church and Theology, it was essentially represented by the old school of naturalistic rationalists, who admitted with it a low and inconsequent form of Socinianism, e.g., Eichhorn (1752–1827), Paulus (1761–1851), Wegscheider (1771–1848). It has been represented in America by the late Theodore Parker, and the extreme left of the party known as “Liberal Christians.” In Germany mere deistical naturalism gave way to pantheism, as the latter has recently given way to materialistic atheism, e.g., Strauss. See Leland, “View of Deistical Writers”; Van Mildert’s “Boyle Lectures”; Farrar, “Critical Hist. of Free-thought”; Dorner, “Hist. Protest Theology”; Hurst, “Hist. of Rationalism”; Butler’s “Analogy.”

17. What is Idealism?

“Idealism is the doctrine that in external perceptions the objects immediately known are ideas. It has been held under various forms.”—See Hamilton’s “Reid,” Note C.

“Some of the phases of modern Idealism among the Germans, may be seen in the following passage from Lewes:—‘I see a tree. The common psychologists tell me that there are three things implied in this one fact of vision, viz.: a tree, an image of that tree, and a mind that apprehends that image. Fichte tells me that it is I alone who exist. The tree and the image of it are one thing, and that is a modification of my mind. This is subjective idealism. Schelling tells me that both the tree and my ego (or self), are existences equally real or ideal; but they are nothing less than manifestations of the absolute, the infinite, or unconditioned. This is objective idealism. But Hegel tells me that all these explanations are false. The only thing really existing (in this one fact of vision) is the idea, the relation. The ego and the tree are but two terms of the relation, and owe their reality to it. This is absolute idealism. According to this, there is neither mind nor matter, heaven or earth, God or man.’ The doctrine opposed to Idealism is Realism.”—“Vocabulary of the Philosophical Sciences,” by C. P. Krauth, D.D., 1878.

18. What is Materialism?

As soon as we begin to reflect we become conscious of the presence of two everywhere interlaced, but always distinct classes of phenomena—of thought, feeling, will on the one hand, and of extension, inertia, etc., on the other. Analyze these as we may, we never can resolve the one into the other. The one class we come to know through consciousness, the other through sensation, and we know the one as directly and as certainly as the other; and as we can never resolve either into the other, we refer the one class to a substance called spirit, and the other class to a substance called matter.

Materialists are a set of superficial philosophers in whom the moral consciousness is not vivid, and who have formed the habit of exclusively directing attention to the objects of the senses, and explaining physical phenomena by mechanical conceptions. Hence they fall into the fundamental error of affirming

(1.) That there is but one substance, or rather that all the phenomena of the universe can be explained in terms of atoms and force.

(2.) That intelligence, feeling, conscience, volition, etc., are only properties of matter, or functions of material organization, or modifications of convertible energy. Intelligence did not precede and effect order and organization, but order and organization developed by laws inherent in matter develop intelligence. The German Darwinists style that system the “mechanico-causal” development of the universe; Huxley says life, and hence organization results from the “molecular mechanics of the protoplasm.”


1st. This is no recondite theory, as some pretend, concerning substance. If the phenomena of consciousness are resolved into modifications of matter and force, i.e., ultimately into some mode of motion, then all ultimate and necessary truth is impossible, duty has no absolute obligation, conscience is a lie, consciousness a delusion, and freedom of will absurd. All truth and duty, all honor and hope, all morality and religion, would be dissolved.

2d. The theory is one-sided and unwarrantable. In fact our knowledge of the soul and of its intuitions and powers are more direct and clear than the scientist’s knowledge of matter. What does he know of the real nature of the atom, of force, of gravity, etc.

3d. The explanation of matter by mind, of force and order by intelligence and will, is rational. But the explanation of the phenomena of intelligence, will, and consciousness as modes of matter or force is absurd. The reason can rest in the one and can not in the other. The soul of man is known to be an absolute cause—matter is known not to be, to be but the vehicle of force, and force to be in a process of dispersion. Intelligence is known to be the cause of order and organization, organization can not be conceived to be the cause of intelligence.
Tyndal (“Athenæum” for August 29, 1868) says: “The passage from the physics of the brain to the corresponding facts of consciousness is unthinkable.

Granted that a definite thought and a definite molecular action in the brain occur simultaneously: we do not possess the intellectual organ, nor apparently any rudiment of the organ, which would enable us to pass, by a process of reasoning, from the one phenomenon to the other.… In affirming that the growth of the body is mechanical, and that thought as exercised by us has its correlative in the physics of the brain, I think the position of the Materialist is stated as far as that position is a tenable one. I think the Materialist will be able finally to maintain this position against all attacks; but I do not think as the human mind is at present constituted, that he can pass beyond it. I do not think he is entitled to say that his molecular grouping and his molecular motions explain every thing. In reality they explain nothing.”

19. What is Pantheism?

Pantheism (πᾶν θεός) is absolute monism, maintaining that the entire phenomenal universe is the everchanging existence-form of the one single universal substance, which is God. Thus God is all, and all is God. God is τό ὄν, absolute being, of which every finite thing is a differentiated and transient form. This doctrine is, of course, capable of assuming very various forms.

(1.) The one-substance pantheism of Spinoza. He held that God is the one absolute substance of all things, possessing two attributes, thought and extension, from which respectively the physical and intellectual worlds proceed by an eternal, necessary, and unconscious evolution.

(2.) The material pantheism of Strauss, “Old and New Faith.”

(3.) The idealistic pantheism of Schelling, maintaining the absolute identity of subject and object; and of Hegel, maintaining the absolute identity of thought and existence as determinations of the one absolute Spirit.

It is obvious that pantheism in all its forms must either deny the moral personality of God, or that of man, or both. Logically it renders both impossible. God comes to self-consciousness only in man; the consciousness of free personal self-determination in man is a delusion; moral responsibility is a prejudice; the supernatural is impossible and religion is superstition. Yet such is the flexibility of the system, that in one form it puts on a mystical guise, representing God as the all-person absorbing the world into himself, and in the opposite form it puts on a purely naturalistic guise, representing the world as absorbing God, and the human race in its ever-culminating development the only object of reverence or devotion. The same Spinoza who was declared by Pascal and Bossuet to be an atheist, is represented by Jacobi and

Schleiermacher to be the most devout of mystics. The intense individuality of the material science of this century has reacted powerfully on pantheism, substituting materialism for idealism, retiring God, and elevating man, as is seen in the recent degradation of pantheism into atheism in the case of Feuerbach and Strauss, etc.

The most ancient, persistent, and prevalent pantheism of the world’s history is that of India. As a religion it has moulded the character, customs, and mythologies of the people for 4,000 years. As a philosophy it has appeared in three principal forms—the Sanckhya, the Nyaya, and the Vedanta. Pantheistic modes of thought more or less underlay all forms of Greek philosophy, and especially the Neo-Platonic school of Plotinus (†205–270), Porphyry (233–305), and Jamblicus (†333). It reappeared in John Scotus Erigena (b. 800), and with the Neo-Platonists of the Renaissance—e.g., Giordano Bruno (†1600). Modern pantheism began with Benedict Spinoza (1632–1677), and closes with the disciples of Schelling and Hegel.

Besides pure pantheism there has existed an infinite variety of impure forms of virtual pantheism.

This is true of all systems that affirm the impersonality of the infinite and absolute, and which resolve all the divine attributes into modes of causality. The same is true of all systems which represent providential preservation as a continual creation, deny the real efficiency of second causes, and make God the only agent in the universe, e.g., Edwards on “Original Sin,” pt. 4, ch. 3, and Emmons. Under the same general category falls the fanciful doctrine of Emanations, which was the chief feature of Oriental Theosophies, and the Hylozoism of Averröes (†1198), which supposes the co-eternity of matter and of an unconscious plastic anima mundi. See Hunt, “Essay on Pantheism,” London, 1866; Saisset, “Modern Pantheism,” Edinburgh, 1863; Cousin, “History of Modern Philosophy”; Ritter’s “Hist. Ancient Philos.”; Buchanan, “Faith in God,” etc.; Döllinger, “Gentile and Jew,’ London, 1863; Max Müller, “Hist. Anc. Sancrit Lit.”

Archibald Alexander Hodge, Outlines of Theology: Rewritten and Enlarged, (New York: Hodder & Stoughton, 1878), 29–52.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

6  +  2  =  

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.