Divine Nescience of Future Contingencies a Necessity
By L. D. McCabe, D.D., LL.D.
Divine Nescience of Future Contingencies is a Necessity, in Order to Escape the Crushing System of Pantheism.
Of all the foes with which Christianity has now to contend, pantheism is the direst. It is a system so subtle, plausible, complete, capable of varying its aspects and applications, and so flattering to the pride of the human intellect, that it exerts over multitudes of thinkers a strange power of fascination. But no error, philosophical, theological or ethical, is so variously demoralizing. All its fundamental propositions are false. All its ground assumptions are fallacious, and all its definitions are arbitrary, antagonistic to reason, and without the authority vouchsafed by our intuitions. It identifies existence with thought, the laws of thought with the laws of being, and binds all things and themes in the brazen fetters of fatalism. It annihilates moral distinctions, affirms that might is the only measure and umpire of right, repudiates moral government, and patronizingly smiles at the puerile thought of a human accountability. It eliminates everything that is morally positive in the nature of wickedness, destroys in the soul the conviction of sin which was wrought there by the Holy Ghost, and resolutely calls iniquity an inconceivability. It robs man of his personality, strips him of self-hood, batters down the distinction between him and the brute, and leaves him no place for his faith, his trust, his hope, his support. It paralyzes all springs in his soul, checks all aspirations and inspirations in his spirit, removes all restraints from before his appetites and passions, renders speechless his conscience, the queen of his faculties, and derives not a single motive from the future world for his self-control. Knowing that the system would commit suicide were it to admit the possibility of creation, it vehemently denies all possibility thereof. It identifies unintelligent, unsusceptible nature with her glorious Creator. It makes the whole universe of mind and matter a simple substance or being. It blends finite minds into the infinite mind or substance. To Deity it denies all personality, declaring him to be destitute of freedom. It is more degrading and ruinous than even atheism itself. It is, indeed, the worst form of atheism. It being so revolting to the human soul outright to deny the existence of God, Pantheism volunteers to utter the offending affirmation surreptitiously, Judas-like betraying with a kiss of deception the God of the whole earth. "Pantheism," says one, "is the ghost of atheism, sitting defiantly upon its tombstone."
The influence of this bucklered competitor of our holy religion is now greatly on the increase, through the agency, it is vehemently claimed, of German philosophy. The Jew Spinoza gave to pantheism its substance, Emanuel Kant gave to it its form. The philosophy of Kant determined, to a very large extent, the character of all the subsequent speculations in Germany. Schelling and Hegel were the greatest and the most faithful of all the disciples of Spinoza. They were far-reaching in their pantheistic influence over Germany and general literature. And at this writing authors of sedate character, familiar with the practical influences of pantheistic philosophy, theology, exegesis, ethics and politics, express grave apprehensions of our ultimate return to paganism and polytheistic worships, unless some salutary check be presented to this monstrous error, the most formidable of all the rivals Of Christianity.
But, if absolute prescience be true, it is impossible for God to put forth or to originate a simple volition new to himself. All the volitions he ever put .forth, all that he ever will put forth, were known to him from all eternity. If they were all known to him from eternity they were as eternal as himself. If they were as eternal as himself he could not have originated them; he could not have originated them any more than he could originate himself. But if he did not originate his volitions he cannot have a free-will. If he has not a free-will he cannot be a person. If he is not a person he must be impersonal, if he really exists at all. If he is impersonal he must be without consciousness. If he is without consciousness and has a real existence, he must be without moral character or moral force or sympathy, he must be controlled in all his activities and movements, from eternity to eternity, wholly by blind but inexorable necessity. If this be so, then the pantheistic theory of Deity is established beyond controversy, and the Christian religion is absolutely vanquished and driven from tile field. If pantheism is true, the whole universe of contingencies is at once swept out of existence. All moral distinctions, moral government, human responsibility are meaningless propositions. Moral night, without a single star of hope to illumine the awful future, broods far and wide over an abandoned world and a bankrupt humanity. Grant to the pantheist, our undue assumption of absolute prescience, and he asks and needs no more. Never after that can you break the merciless chain with which he first binds you, and then proceeds to spoil this glorious house of the almighty Father of the universe.
But, on the other band, affirm divine nescience of future contingencies, and one of you can chase a hundred pantheists, and two put ten thousand to flight. How grandly nescience rescues us from all the horrors of degrading desolating pantheism, who can express, and the necessity of nescience, who can adequately estimate? Assume prescience, and pantheism is inevitable. Assume nescience, and the divine personality can never be assailed.