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less than this as the aim of its elucidations. Nevertheless, it justly recognizes, or at least takes account of, the inferior and inadequate ideas in which the natural religi. ous and theologic endeavors of mankind, feeling after God, have embodied their thought of Him. The content of these has been almost infinitely varied. Historically, among pagan peoples, it has been found to range from the lowest and crudest notions of the most ignorant and degraded tribes up to the highest and best conceptions in which the sages and thinkers of cultured nations have idealized the Supreme Being as an intelligent and personal Spirit, and as the Creator and Ruler of the world. In the writings of the Old and New Testaments, also, while God is from first to last identical with Himself, and from the very beginning the concrete personal Creator as well as the almighty and righteous Ruler of heaven and earth, there is an advance in the revealed view, which enlarges the content to the completeness in which He is revealed as love and a Saviour in Jesús Christ. The Scriptures, therefore, are the norm for this full content. It is the high aim of theology to realize and exhibit it. Without doubt, the sincere mind of the Church, looking with open face into the word of God's supreme self-revelation, through the Christian centuries, has been making advance in comprehending the revealed idea. It is penetrating the whole thought with increasing clearness and closer approach to the Scripture intent.
There has been progress in the doctrine. There have : been periods in which, from spurious sources or specu
lative philosophies, the pure, full idea has been obscured or false conceptions inserted. Partial or one-sided interpretations of the divine self-revelation have to some degree held sway. Misplaced or undue emphasis on particular attributes has often beclouded the full ordered reality or given faulty view. Christian theology can be satisfied only when it has succeeded in uniting, in true place and fullness, all the features of God's essential and moral perfection as disclosed in His self-revelation in nature and the Scriptures and made clear by the explaining force of advancing Providence and the life of the Church. But even this must not be regarded as giving the idea of God in the completeness of the divine reality. When the human mind, in its utmost receptiveness, has appropriated the disclosures of the double revelation of nature and redemption, it has grasped the content which belongs to the being of God in only limited comprehension. God is forever more and greater than the fullest measures of even the best Christian thought."
2. The origin or genesis of the idea in the human mind. Though there are still some differences of explanation among those who accept the validity of the idea, there is now a near approach to essential agreement as between the two general views that long have been maintained. The view, often urged, that it was given by a primitive supernatural revelation, and abides, often in obscured and corrupted form, as an inheritance in the race, the broken, scattered rays of that original disclosure, has been losing ground through modern historical, ethnological, and philological researches. Besides the difficulties in crediting so uncertain a thing as tradition with the universal conservation and communication of this truth, the laws of psychology forbid its acceptance as the actual and adequate explanation. For the “idea" being a psychic product, as all ideas necessarily
Job xi. 7; Rom. xi. 33, 34.
are, something beyond mere sense impression, could not possibly come from without except in the sense that the mind formed it simply on the occasion of some divine manifestation. As even “words" are merely occasion or suggestive force on which a hearer or reader constructs or reconstructs ideas, so even a divine self-disclosure would leave the human mind blank of the idea of God except through the mind's own interpretation and identification of the external phenomena or revelatory manifestation. Indeed, the internal idea of God, however and whenever reached, is a pre-supposition for the recognition of the supernatural phenomena as of God. For these reasons it seems best, without necessarily denying a primitive revelation as a possible or probable fact—as the Biblical view implies a relation of immediate open divine communication with man-to hold that the idea of God is natural and normal to the human mind, acting in the presence of the world of nature, with its perpetually suggestive force, for this great thought and truth. In virtue of man's lofty and mysterious endowment with a capacity to know reality, both within himself and in the realm of existence around him and above him, the world of nature itself is an adequate supply of the suggestive material for his intelligence to form the idea through acts of intuition and judgment. In this sense, it must be maintained, human nature is not atheistic; in its fundamental constitution its faculties are adapted to know God. In har mony with this principle also stands the recognized truth of the essential “religiousness” of human nature. In the deepest needs of his being and life man was “made for God”—as tested by the profoundest philosophy of human experience. As a pre-condition, therefore, for meeting the fundamental demands of his nature and living his true life, his rational capacity to think and know must have included the normal ability and tendency to form, from the contacts and suggestions of his environment, the idea of a being with the power, relations, and prerogatives denoted by the term God. The witness of history and ethnic life directly supports this view, showing the presence of the idea, in endlessly diversified construction, wherever man has been found with his capacities in natural development and action. So normal is the idea to rational thought, that we are justified in thinking that could it be for a time blotted out from the earth, the human reason would renew it and fill the world with it again.
Of the various explanations which treat the idea, either theoretically or practically as a pseud idea, whether presented in the name of history or science, no one has more than a superficial and illusory plausibility. The effort to account for its genesis through a transformed reverence for dead ancestors or departed heroes,' though made to look specious by discovery of various cults of ancestral and hero worship, sometimes of remote antiquity, is plainly futile by reason of its manifestly false assumption that the idea in reverence of ancestors is the same as the idea of God, or can generate it. For such reverence for human forefathers or heroes does not rest on any notion of their divinity at all. It may, and when left to its own simple self, always does, permit the mind to remain a blank as to the conception and reality of God. It is only when the mind attains a new and different conception, adding from some other source the idea of a God, that the act of apotheosis, i. e., the exaltation of human beings to the rank and prerogatives of deity, becomes possible. The idea of God, therefore, is a prerequisite to the movement of apotheosis—not a product of it. The theory affords neither the reality of the idea nor the process of its origination.
1 So Herbert Spencer, in his "Principles of Sociology."
The explanation which attempts to account for the origin of the idea in the ignorant and superstitious fears and dread of mankind in the presence of the terrifying and mysterious powers of nature, though often and elaborately presented, is equally illegitimate and inconclusive. It is sufficiently confuted by the permanence of the idea. For, a notion that is the product of ignorance and superstition, a phantom born of dread and darkness, ought to dissolve and disappear in the light of knowledge. The spectres of night must evanish when the day comes. But the conception of God has grown clearer and stronger with the progress of intelligence and science. Nowhere is it so full and authoritative as in the highest and most advanced civilizations, in the heart of the centuries and lands where nature and reality are investigated and certified under the acutest scientific research and philosophic scrutiny. It is positive and regnant to-day as never before. It is found, indeed, that this idea is the guiding light for human progress and elevation, and for penetrative and victorious interpretation of the cosmic existence. An idea so normal to thought and so self-authenticating to the intellectual life and moral judgments of mankind endures by virtue of its standing, not as a pseud idea, but for an immutably sure reality.
3. The earliest form of the idea. The point of inquiry here is not the degree of its original fullness or com
1 As by Lucretius, “ De Rerum Natura," Lib. VI., 50-70; and Hume, “The Natural History of Religion," sections i.-viii.