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§ 4. Can the Existence of God be proved?

A large class of theologians and philosophers deny that the existence of God is susceptible of proof. This is done on different grounds.

First. It is said that the knowledge of God being intuitive, it is not a proper subject of proof. This is the position taken by that class of theologians who resolve all religion into feeling, and by the modern school of speculative philosophers, who make such a wide distinction between the reason and the understanding; the former being the intuitional, and the latter the discursive faculty. Eternal and necessary truths belong to the province of the reason; subordinate truths to the sphere of the understanding. It is the understanding that argues and concludes. The reason apprehends by immediate vision. What relates to God, as the eternal, infinite, necessary Being, belongs to the province of reason, and not to that of the understanding. Even such theistic writers as Twesten133133Vorlesungen. say that the good need no proof that God is, and that the wicked are not susceptible of conviction. You cannot prove that a thing is beautiful, or that it is good. So neither can you prove that there is a God. The fallacy of this statement is obvious. Beauty and goodness are qualities which must be discerned by the mind, just as the objects of sight are discerned by the eye. As it is true that you cannot prove to a blind man that an object is red, so you cannot prove to a peasant that the “Paradise Lost” is sublime. But the existence of God is an objective fact. It may be shown that it is a fact which cannot be rationally denied. Although all men have feelings and convictions which necessitate the assumption that there is a God; it is, nevertheless, perfectly legitimate to show that there are other facts which necessarily lead to the same conclusion.

Besides, it is to be remembered that theistical arguments are designed to prove not only that there is a necessity for the assumption of all extra-mundane and eternal Being, but mainly, to show what that Being is; that He is a personal Being, self-conscious, intelligent, moral. All this may lie inclosed in the primary intuition, but it needs to be brought out and established.

Secondly. Another class of objections against all theistical arguments, relates to the arguments themselves. They are pronounced fallacious, as involving a petitio principii; or declared to be invalid as derived from false premises; or heading to conclusions other than that intended to be established. Of this every man must judge for 203himself. They have been regarded as sound and conclusive by the wisest men, from Socrates to the present day. Of course the argument on the principle of causation must be invalid to those who deny that there is any such thing as an efficient cause; and the argument from design can have no force for those who deny the possibility of final causes.

Most of the objections to the conclusiveness of the arguments in question arises from a misapprehension of what they are intended to prove. It is often assumed that each argument must prove the whole doctrine of Theism; whereas one argument may prove one element of that doctrine; and other arguments different elements. The cosmological argument may prove the existence of a necessary and eternal Being; the teleological argument, that that Being is intelligent; the moral argument that He is a possessing moral attributes. The arguments are not designed so much to prove the existence of an unknown being, as to demonstrate that the Being who reveals himself to man in the very constitution of his nature must be all that Theism declares him to be. Such writers as Hume, Kant, Coleridge, and the whole school of transcendental philosophers, have more or less expressly denied the validity of the ordinary arguments for the existence of a personal God.

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