Chapter XVII:THE INFINITE, THE ABSOLUTE, AND THE UNCONDITIONED IN RELATION TO THE DIVINE FOREKNOWLEDGE
The Foreknowledge of God - L. D. McCabe
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HAD it not been for the assumption of universal prescience, and the logical consequences of that assumption, never would the world have been harassed with the profitless discussions of Kant, Hamilton, and Mansel, on the Infinite, the Absolute, and the Unconditioned. The perusal of their speculations upon these subjects is never attended with mental inspiration or holy impulse. Indeed, how could it be otherwise when they so completely shut out all trustworthy conceptions and comforting knowledge of God? "The last and highest consecration of all true religion," says Sir William Hamilton, "must be on an attar to the unknown and unknowable God."
They all agree that God is a person, but all unite in affirming that when he is conceived of as a person he can not be known as an absolute being. And yet "we are compelled," says Mr. Mansel, "by the very constitution of our minds, to believe in the existence of the absolute." Sir William Hamilton says: "When I deny that the infinite can be known, I am far from denying that by us it is and must and ought to be believed. This I have anxiously evinced, both by reasoning and authority." "We must believe in the Infinite," says Kant, "but we can not know him, because our faculties of knowing have merely a subjective validity, and hence we can not trust their results as being objectively true." Thus they all affirm implicit faith in the divine existence; but they do this because, logically, they can not help it; they do it because of the intellectual and moral necessities which the subject involves.
John Locke says, "Whoever will examine his nature can not avoid the notion of an all-wise and eternal being." "From the facts of the universe," says Dr. Mahan, "the theistic hypothesis is necessarily intuitive." The divine existence can not be inferred deductively, for all deductive reasoning rests on intuition or induction. Every deduction implies a previous induction. Neither can the divine existence be inferred inductively, for that existence must be assumed in the process of induction. For induction can have no significancy unless we assume the uniformity of nature's laws, and that the universe is so constituted as to presuppose an infinite originator of its matter, its laws, and its forces. Without the intuition of the unconditioned, a science of the conditioned is an impossibility. For every notion of every finite existence implies, God, and holds some relation to him. These relations, by which the finite is bound to the infinite, must be real, else all out knowledge is unreliable and our faculties wholly untrustworthy.
It is a fact that the finite can be explained only through its relations to the infinite. And by these relations it can be explained fully and most satisfactorily. To explain, therefore, the finite, it is indispensable that we assume the infinite. Indeed, without such an assumption the existence of self is just as inexplicable as is that of the Infinite himself. Never can philosophy explain a finite spirit without acknowledging a person as its source. We must assume the infinite in order that thought and science and philosophy may be at all possible. So long as German philosophers, in their search after the one originating principle of all things, tried to construct the finite and the infinite out of the mere abstract idea of existence they produced the most unsatisfactory metaphysics. Descartes having before them derived existence from thought, Spinoza identified thought and existence, and thus annihilated the distinction between Creator and created. Fichte then rejected both nature and God, and made self the solitary existence. Schelling identified subject and object, conceiving all phenomena as proceeding in a chain of necessary evolution, and that God attained consciousness only in man. Then came Hegel, denying the existence of both subject and object, and leaving only a universe of relations. With him God is not a self-existent reality, but every thing is a mere process of thought. Then came Strauss, teaching that God is merely a process of thought, without an individual existence.
It is only when we candidly accept our intuitions, and assume the existence of both the finite and the infinite, that philosophy is possible, or meditation thereon in any way profitable. Dr. Noah Porter, our highest authority, perhaps, in metaphysics, says: "We do not demonstrate that God is, but that every man must assume that he is. We analyze the several processes of knowledge into their underlying assumptions, and we find that the assumption which underlies them all is a self-existent intelligence, who not only can be known by man, but must be known by man in order that man may know any thing besides. In analyzing a psychological process we develop and demonstrate a metaphysical truth, and that is the truth which the unsophisticated intellect of child and man requires and accepts, that there is a self-existent personal intelligence on whom the uni- verse depends for the beings and relations of which it consist. We are not alone justified, we are compelled, to conclude our analysis of the human intellect with the assertion that its various powers and processes suppose and assume that there is an uncreated Thinker whose thoughts can be interpreted by the human intellect, which is made in his image, Kant, Hamilton, and Mansel, therefore, were compelled, with the rest of mankind, to acknowledge the force of their intuitive convictions relative; to the divine existence. They did, however, raise a very obscuring metaphysical dust over the "Infinite," the "Absolute," and the "Unconditioned." In this Hamilton and Mansel may have been actuated by a desire to keep out of view the irreconcilability of modern psychology with the doctrines of election and preterition, which are held by many able and devout minds. It may, therefore, be well briefly to define and discuss these terms, which have been so bewildering to inquirers.
To condition a thing, these writers say, is to think it, to conceive of it, or to know it, as related. The conditioned they make equivalent to the conceivable; the cognisable, the related, the unconditioned, therefore, is the inconceivable, the unthinkable, and the unrelated. Hamilton and Mansel, says Dr. Noah Porter, define "to condition" by to think, and thus make it the equivalent of "to know objects as related, or in relation." According to this definition, every object which is related to any other is conditioned by that object, and the conditioned is equivalent to the related. The unconditioned is equivalent to the unrelated, and if the infinite is equivalent to the unconditioned then the infinite must be incapable of being related. They make the unconditioned a genus, including the infinite and the absolute. The absolute they make the unconditionally limited, because it is finished or complete. The infinite they make the unconditionally unlimited, because it can not be terminated.
But for these arbitrary definitions they have neither philosophy nor authority. For we say that a truth is a conditioned truth whenever we require another truth as a condition of our assenting to it. And when we do not require another truth as a condition of our assenting to a given truth, we call it an unconditioned truth. And so when an existence depends for its being on another existence we call it a conditioned existence. The conditioned, therefore, is that which depends upon something else for what it, is and for what it does. The unconditioned, therefore, must be that which does not depend upon any thing else for what it is and for what it does. It is that which exists in itself, is subject to no conditions from without, and is not dependent upon any thing besides itself for itself, for its being, thought, or action. To think a thing, to conceive of a thing, or to know a thing is widely different from conditioning that thing. Thinking and knowing are subjective processes, while things, beings, and their relations are objective existences. To define, therefore, the unconditioned as the inconceivable, the inevitable, the unrelated, is wholly arbitrary and irrational.
The absolute is that which is complete and perfect, needs nothing beyond itself, and is wholly underived. The possibility of contingent relations is not thereby precluded. An absolute being may choose voluntarily to relate himself to other beings, his creatures, by numberless contingent relations. But this could in no way affect his subjective absoluteness. Drawing a distinction between the absolute and that which is not the absolute certainly can not affect the perfection of the absolute. Neither can the instituting of comparisons between the absolute and the beings whom he has created, under the various relations of resemblance, analogy, difference, and design, affect that perfection in any way. Indeed, it is impossible to know the absolute without knowing him as related. The term finite is from finitus, a participle from finite, to limit, Finitus means limited: limited as to quantity, capacity, extent, or duration. The in finite, therefore, is simply the not finite, the not limited, In relation to being, the infinite is that which is without limit in power, capacity, and moral excellence. "The Infinite," says Aristotle, "is that which has always something beyond." In these few sentences the reader obtains definite and clear ideas of the infinite, the absolute, and the unconditioned. And these sentences may be summarized thus: The infinite is the unlimited; the unconditioned is the not dependent; and the absolute is that which has underived perfection and completeness in itself.
The objects and beings about us are finite, conditioned, and unabsolute. The finite, the conditioned, and the not complete in itself, intuitively suggest to us the ideas of the infinite, the unconditioned, and the absolute. In the midst of events our intuitive reason compels us to seek for their causes. We are thus led on and on, and finally, to seek for the cause of that which is most remote from our view. And in pursuing this investigation we very soon reach a cause, which has none of the marks that characterize an effect. And when we find such a cause we intuitively and necessarily, perceive it to be the one great uncaused cause. In regarding that cause as the ultimate, as the uncaused, our intuition relative to causation is at once fully satisfied. For we intuitively perceive that we have reached a being who is the cause and, as such, is the intelligent author of all the design, order, and adaptation which are everywhere manifest in the universe. We know that this being must be a person, because this design, order, adaptation, uniformity, and regularity could not arise, from unintelligent matter, nor from any other than a thinking, reasoning, and determining being. The scientist announces that he finds the universe formed after particular patterns and in the most remarkable order. The more minutely he investigates, the farther he advances, the more marked is the order and the more obvious and wonderful are the evidences of design. The entire creation he finds to be an aggregation of groups, each after its own pattern, so definite and permanent that science finds there a basis of immovable truth on which to build. Certainly a being who manifests such pleasure in definite patterns and order can not himself be without conscious intelligence. The order and design seen in the universe demonstrate the personality of Jehovah. Our intuitions compel us to recognize this person as the author of the moral power within us. He then rises before us as the Infinite Being to whom our intuitive faith in infinity is ever pointing. For it is only in the contemplation of the infinite that our intuitions can ever be satisfied; it is only in the glorious conception of an underived being that our intellectual and moral convictions find a resting place. And for this underived being our reason requires no conditions. We therefore think of him as the unconditioned.
But notwithstanding all this, the above-named metaphysicians teach that God can not be known, can not be conceived, can not be thought of without contradictions. "The absolute and the infinite," says Hamilton, "can only be conceived of as a negation of the thinkable. In other words, of the absolute and the infinite we have no conceptions at all." "Knowledge," says Mansel, "is only related to ourselves, and of the infinite and the absolute we have no knowledge." He further says: "A cause, as such, can never be the absolute, and the absolute, as such, can never be a cause. As absolute and as infinite, God can never be known as a cause, because these conceptions are incompatible. The absolute must contain within himself the sum of all actual and possible modes of being. He can not be identified with the universe, nor can he be distinguished from the universe. An infinite being must be conceived of as existing both as finite and infinite. We can not conceive of him as simple, nor can we think of him as complex. We can not think of him as conscious, nor can we think of him as unconscious. For all knowledge implies consciousness, and consciousness implies a relation between the person conscious and that of which he is conscious. But the absolute must exist without relation. We can not ascribe to him succession in his consciousness, nor simultaneity in his consciousness, for we know nothing of the infinite. An object of consciousness can not be the absolute, because consciousness depends upon the laws of consciousness."
Now, it may be said, in reply to all these incompatible statements: It is very manifest that the human mind can not conceive of a being in whom all these contradictions are united. But because one can not conceive of a being to whom such contradictory notions are ascribed, as parts of his mental and moral constitution, is it any bar to his conceiving of the absolute as a person, just, wise, free, good, omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent? The only human perception of personality, these philosophers declare, is that of limitation. But we affirm that the idea of the personality of God is the inevitable result of all thorough philosophical inquiries and investigations. Schelling prophesied long since that this would be the inevitable result of sound logical speculation as to the absolute. And this prophecy is just now in the rapid process of realization. The human spirit will remain inexplicable so long as we regard God as an essence above or beyond personality. The conception of God as a person is necessary to the explanation of finite spirit. And there is nothing at all in personality to conflict with absoluteness. God's absoluteness is inferred, necessarily, from the many necessities which are involved in finite being and finite thought.
From the a posteriori argument we necessarily infer his intelligence, his consciousness, his voluntariness, and his rationality as an infinite person; that is, as a person not finite. It is possible that in God there may be millions of ideas, all harmonious and consistent with themselves, which have never yet been revealed to created minds. When we think of him as the absolute, we think of his perfection, completeness, underived nature, and independence of all necessary relations. But it is impossible to conceive of a spiritual being without attributing to him consciousness, rationality, and liberty. This conception of God we are compelled to call personality. How then can there be any conflict between the two great ideas of God's absoluteness and his personality? A person has life in himself, is self conscious, discerns and distinguishes his own faculties, distinguishes himself from all other beings, and while recognizing his own essential unity, is also conscious of the plurality of his distinctive attributes, and of possessing the power of positive self-determinations. Without distinctions in his attributes, there can be no self-consciousness. "God's personality," it is said, "is absolute, because the contents of the divine self-consciousness form an infinite and wholly self- sufficing totality." And it is only by admitting such distinctions in the divine essence that a knowledge of God is possible. Personality, therefore, is and must be the specific characteristic of theism. Sir William Hamilton in rejecting, as possible in conception, all that is positive in the idea of God, simply iterates the old error of Hobbes, who said, "of the Infinite we can form no conception whatever." Because the terms infinite and unconditioned are negative, Hamilton hastily inferred that the conceptions of the infinite and the unconditioned were negative also, and therefore that the human mind, can form no conceptions of the infinite and the absolute. "Our conceptions of the absolute," he says, "are negative, because they result from an unsuccessful attempt to think them. To know the unconditioned is to condition the unconditioned. Because God can not be conceived of, he can not be known. God can not be known under the limitations of human thought." Dr. Noah Porter says that "what Hamilton teaches is not that the absolute can not be known adequately, but that he can not be known at all, because he can not be conceived of." But we do often use negative terms to express things which are known, both as to their existence and their qualities. To many adjectives we may attach the negative, and thus obtain a negative conception, and yet they will remain perfectly definite. In the paucity of our language, and in the absence of positive terms, we use the negative terms, infinite and unconditioned, to express that God is, and that he is not something else, but possesses in an unlimited degree the leading characteristics which a finite mind possesses in a limited degree. It is not because our ideas of the infinite, the absolute, and the unconditioned are indefinite or insignificant that we employ these terms. We use them merely to emphasize the striking contrast in which the things they represent stand to what is finite, conditioned, and not complete in itself. The unconditioned merely implies the removal of all conditions. And we remove all the conditions because we come in our mental processes to the con- ception of a being as to whom our intuitive reason can not any longer insist on conditions. "Pursuing any one of our native convictions," says Dr. M'Cosh, "the cognitive, the moral, the fiducial, or the judicial, it conducts us up to, and falls back upon, an object of whom we have definite and positive conceptions that he is a being from whom all conditions are removed, and that his being and perfections are wholly underived.
The contradictions, therefore, relative to this subject, which Sir William Hamilton presents, arise in his attempts to illustrate the infinite by the finite. When he says that we must conceive of space as a sphere, either bounded or not bounded, he takes the image of a sphere, the image of an object existing in space and limited by space, to illustrate infinite space itself. He thus confounds infinite space with an object or a limitation existing in space. In substituting the limited for the unlimited, he confounds his image with our intuitive and definite conception of infinite space. Infinite space can not be cubical or spherical, because these are modes of being bounded. But does any one suppose that in ranging through space we could ever arrive at some region which was not extended, of which one part was not outside of another, where, though no body intervened, motion would be impossible? In his illustration, therefore, Hamilton creates his own difficulties. And so, whenever he reasoned that "such conceptions as those of personality, of self-existence of the possession of a complex nature, and of the creation of another than itself, are notions wholly incompatible," his reasoning is based upon his fruitless attempts to exemplify fully the infinite by the finite. The absence of dependence on the finite, and the complete dependence of the Infinite on himself, do not by any means imply such a simplicity or oneness of being as must be exclusive of personality and complexness.
Sir William Hamilton denies that the human mind can know God, but he vehemently insists that it must have faith in him. Mr. Mansel insists over and over that, though "we can not know the being in whom we are, we are compelled, by the constitution of our minds, to believe him to exist." How very great is his inconsistency in requiring our faith in a being of whom he says we can form no conceptions, in demanding of us faith in an irrational conception! For how can there be faith in a person, without some knowledge of him? Faith implies a clear conception, or at least an apprehension, as to some particulars. In our apprehension of God there are both ideas and beliefs. If we but know that God is, we must form some conception of him. And this we can do through the relations which he sustains to us. If God exist he can relate himself to his creatures, and therefore he may be known in that relation. He certainly is knowable in that way and in that degree, if in no other. If I can not think of God as a cause, then he is not a cause. If we affirm any relation of the infinite, we need not connect with it all the limitations which pertain to similar relations in the finite. Being, action, thought, and feeling, are all applicable to the finite, and also to the infinite. Between man and God there must be some resemblance, or man could not have been created in his image. No more did the first sinless man bear God's image in the finite than God now bears that image in the infinite. The Scriptures insist on our resemblance and relationship to the infinite when we are redeemed from sin. They also record great and precious promises in order that we may be made "partakers of the divine nature." And the possibility of partaking of the "divine nature" demonstrates the likeness between man and God. The infinite, then, can be known, and must be known, in some points of resemblance or analogy to the finite.
A person distinguishes himself from his acts, and from that which is not himself. While the human mind is in itself a unit, it possesses various faculties so related that it is capable of thinking. Thinking must require this combination of related mental faculties. If God's attributes were not related and combined in a particular manner, if he had no definite intellectual organization, then he could have no thoughts. But the Scriptures speak of God as thinking, speak of his thoughts, and teach us moreover that his mental organization is the pattern of our own. And the fact that God has thoughts is proof that he is an organized spiritual Being, a Person in whom related faculties inhere, combined in many respects as are our own, though of course possessing infinite capacity and power to produce results. The acts of a person must necessarily be successive, and hence separable and distinguishable in duration.
It is true that we can not form adequate, all-comprehensive, and exhaustive conceptions of the Absolute. God can neither be imagined nor fully comprehended by any finite intellect, and, doubtless, through the eternal ages he will still be to the finite intellect, as now, a soundless "deep profound." But while we can not have a conception of God in the form of an image, we can have a conception of him in the form of a definite notion. For the mind can perceive, intuit, apprehend, and judge, as well as imagine. It is possible for us to think and speak of the infinite without falling into manifest and pernicious contradictions. It does not follow that we can not know God at all because we can not know him completely or exhaustively. In the relations through which he manifests himself to us we may know him truly, though we can not know him perfectly. Our knowledge of no one thing is ever complete and exhaustive. To us the finite is, in this respect, as the infinite. Yet, however limited our knowledge of the laws of nature and of our fellow-men may be, we do know a little concerning them, and we do have clear conceptions of that little. That little, however, is not only invaluable to us in our present state, but it is indispensable. Were we bereft of it we should be at great disadvantages in such a world as this.
How surprising, then, that Hamilton and Mansel should persist in affirming that "man is impotent to know God, in consequence of the contradictions which are involved in the attempt," when neither of them could tell all that is to be known of or about any single object or subject in the universe! They might as well pronounce their own mind inconceivable, incognoscible, and incogitable, because of their inability to form to themselves an image of it, or to obtain exhaustive conceptions of its powers, possibilities, and destiny. Our conceptions of any object are real and trustworthy whenever we conceive of it by any of the attributes which are sufficient to distinguish it from every thing else. Such conceptions are sufficient to meet all our necessities relative to that object. Where, then, can we find any adequate basis for the harmful conclusions of Hamilton and Mansel as to our ability to conceive of "Our Father who is in heaven?" If we only conceive of God as a person unlimited in all his perfections, underived unconditioned, wholly independent for what he is and thinks and does; able to do all things which do not involve contradictions; knowing all things that are cognizable, though incapable of foreknowing as absolutely certain those future events which are absolutely contingent; perfectly able to maintain his moral government over free accountable beings, disciplining and rewarding them just as they develop character on the arena of probation; and if we persistently refrain from clothing him with manifest contradictions and absurdities, we then shall be able to escape all this error and bewilderment and confusion over the Infinite, the Absolute, and the Unconditioned.
But especially is the Christian believer's knowledge of God real and most trustworthy. It meets the necessities of his mental and moral nature. This alone is capable of making him as perfect and happy as he is capable of becoming. The absence of this knowledge leaves him. undeveloped and enfeebled, dark, distressed, depraved, and ever sinking deeper in degradation. The Christian man's conceptions of God are not negative; they are by far the most positive of all his conceptions. By far the grandest of all man's characteristics are his belief in the existence of the infinite, his glorious conceptions of it, and aspirations to be like it. To the spiritually minded, the true Christian, God is the clearest object of his intellection. "External objects," says Leibnitz, "are known mediately and indirectly, but God is the only immediate and outward object of the soul." The Apostle John teaches that the Christian knows God, knows 'him that was from the beginning,' knows the Father." (1 John ii, 13, 14.) He knows him as a person. He knows him by intuition, by revelation; and also by an inexpressible union with him. He knows him with a certainty that excludes all doubt. He has, therefore, more definite conceptions of God, more abiding knowledge of him than he has of any other object in the universe. Moral purity and the Holy Spirit are powerful aids to definiteness in our conceptions of the infinite.
St. Paul refers his definite conceptions of God to special revelation. "It pleased God to reveal his Son in me." "And being caught up into paradise I heard unspeakable words, words not possible for man to utter." "I know now in part," he exclaimed, "but then I shall see face to face, and know even as I am known." He also prayed "that the spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of God" might fall richly upon the Ephesians. "He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself." The pure in heart shall see God, and they shall be like him, for they shall see him as he is. Abraham was so obedient in life and so purified in heart that God distinguished him as his special friend. And if any philosopher of his time had informed him in Hamiltonian phrase, saying, "The God whom you serve is utterly inconceivable, unthinkable, and incognoscible," he would doubtless have replied, "I do have definite conceptions of God, of his character, his nature, his attributes, his perfections, and his requirements. And when I appealed to him and said, 'Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?' I had clear conceptions of his justice. To me God is neither inconceivable nor unthinkable nor impersonal, nor contradictory nor chaotic. I see him face to face and live. I stagger at none of his promises, resist none of his illuminations, question none of his commandments, and am never oblivious of his presence. He is to me a necessity, for no being but himself can know me, or understand me, or commune with me, or fully sympathize with me; and without clear conceptions of him and a deep consciousness of him, I should be an orphan in the vastness of the universe, and it would be better for me had I never had an existence. All the safety my soul can ever have is in the Infinite Father, who, in times of trouble, hath said to me, 'Abram, I am thy shield and exceeding great, reward.'" Whenever the devout soul advancing along the a posteriori line of thought, finally reaches God, he feels no necessity of going beyond, and has no power to go beyond. And, what is more important, he has no desire to advance any farther, for he has found at last the home of his soul; his "dwelling-place in all generations." And what a proof this that the soul was made for God!
But after all our condemnations of the pernicious philosophy of Kant, Hamilton, and Mansel as to the infinite, the absolute, and the unconditioned, we regretfully acknowledge that we find abundant excuses, if not ample defense, for them in the contradictory teachings of some of the ablest theologians relative to the doctrines of the Bible and the modes of the divine existence. The errors, the confusion, the dim and worthless speculations of those metaphysicians were very natural, if not, indeed, inevitable, upon the theories of some, yea of many, most accredited and gifted divines, who teach with all the confidence of demonstration and of unquestioned authority, that with God there can be neither foreknowledge nor after knowledge: that to him duration is not a progression, but merely a "nunc stans": that an eternal now, a permanent present, is essential to his perfections: that relative to him, priority and subsequency can have no significance; that we must assume the simultaneity of the divine consciousness: that all God's infinite and glorious existence is gathered up and collected and concentrated into a single moment: that eternal duration, infinite space, and the numberless objects, beings, and worlds that have ever filled the universe, and all truth and knowledge and himself also, are condensed into one infinitesimal point: that the resources of the Godhead are not sufficient to enable him to manage a moral universe without being able to foresee all the future choices of free spirits: that God sees that to be absolutely certain which is now absolutely contingent: and that God at the same instant actually beholds himself as thinking, doing, and saying things which are the most inconsistent, subversive, and destructive of his other thinkings, sayings, and doings, as making worlds, for example, and destroying them at the same instant; as lighting up the fires in the infinite depths, and then simultaneously blowing them out; as creating free, happy spirits in countless millions, offering to them his love, his protection, and himself, and yet, at the same instant, binding them in everlasting chains; as proclaiming to individual souls all the promises of the Gospel, and yet, at the same moment, bringing those same individuals forth to the resurrection of damnation; as publishing with the same breath, "Come, for all things are now ready," and "Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire."
It certainly would be difficult, if not impossible, for those philosophers, under such presentation of the modes of the divine existence, to avoid the injurious conclusion that God is inconceivable, unthinkable, and never thought of without contradictions. But these glaring absurdities are all necessarily involved in the assumption of the divine foreknowledge of the future free choices of accountable agents. Admit universal prescience, and we can not escape any one of them. We must then acknowledge all these unthinkables. But if theologians had not insisted on this doctrine, probably none of these absurdities would have marred our systems of thought. The assumption of divine foreknowledge drove Schleiermacher to identify God's being, willing, working, and knowing, and to reduce all the attributes and powers thereby implied to an abstract unity and bare causality. Mr. Mansel, for example, says, "We can never so know the divine attributes as will entitle us to reject any statement that might be made respecting the Deity, on the grounds of its being inconsistent with his character. For the infliction of physical suffering, the permission of moral evil, the adversity of the good, the prosperity of the wicked, the crimes of the guilty involving the misery of the innocent, the tardy appearance and partial distribution of moral and religious knowledge in the world, demonstrate that goodness in God must be a very different thing from goodness in man." And he insists on the same conclusion in relation to the wisdom, justice, benevolence, and mercy of God. They all may contain elements incompatible with the corresponding qualities in human character. But the Bible everywhere presupposes that the divine attributes are the same in all respects, save as to degree, with the best human attributes. And to affirm that goodness, justice, and benevolence in God may be very different in kind from the same qualities in man, unsettles all foundations both for reasonings and for morals. But none of those diffi- culties ever disturb the meditations of him who rejects universal prescience. To him all such mysteries are susceptible of the most satisfactory explanation.
Mr. Mansel quotes Augustine as affirming that "God's knowledge can not
be foreknowledge," and then proceeds to say that this theory is "just
as untenable as is the doctrine of absolute divine foreknowledge. And,
as a means of saving the infinity of God's knowledge consistently with
the free agency of man, the hypothesis becomes wholly unnecessary the
very moment we admit that the infinite is not an object of human conception
at all. If this be once conceded, we shall need no hypothesis to reconcile
truths which we do not now know with absolute certainty to be incompatible,
however incompatible they may appear to be to us." Thus he who would
teach the world the great truths of philosophy leaves us in afflictive
indefiniteness, incertitude, and suspense. But we have, perhaps, quoted
sufficient to justify the conclusion that the greater part of Mr. Mansel's
difficulties when seeking for "the limits of religious thought," and
those of Sir William Hamilton when expounding "the philosophy of the
unconditioned," have their origin in the contradictions and the absurdities
which are necessarily involved in the assumption of absolute divine foreknowledge.
No wonder Jacobi exclaimed, "As to my feelings I am a Christian, but
as to my understanding I am a heathen." "Contradictories relative to
God may both be true and trustworthy," says Hegel. But such statements
leave us wailing on the tops of the dark mountains. Let us arise and
go toward a better light.
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