« AnteriorContinua »
nature of the Power disclosed in the universe. It willfully refuses to advance upon its own premises and beginnings. If it is correct, as it surely is, in saying that the “universe manifests this Power to us” by its simple existence, and on this fact predicates four or five distinct attributes, certainly we are entitled to claim that the entire manifestation, in all its essential characteristic parts, as well as in its unity, must be read, and all the attributes of the manifested Reality be included in the predicates of the Power. When this is carefully and justly done, something of the nature and many of the attributes of God must become rationally and legitimately certain, as many natural theologies have clearly shown.
We are sustained in this view by what must be regarded as the actual facts of history and human belief. Whatever gross crudities and intolerable absurdities are exhibited among pagan peoples, it is yet historically certain that when, on the basis of their common recognition of the existence of a divine Being, they come to describe Him, some great features of His nature and character have been at least dimly discerned in their best thought, among their philosophers and sages. Though popular mythologies failed even to recognize their gods as creators, or to distinguish between nature and the Power revealed in it, nevertheless a Plato could and did discern in the primal Source of all being a perfect“Mind," I ever existent or without beginning of being, uncaused, with intelligence, goodness, and will, who formed the world according to ideals of His own reason, an "eternal Deity," “Creator and Father of this universe.” 2 Similar results
1 Timæus, ch. ix. ; Philebus, sec. 50. * Timæus, ch. ix., X., xii.
of thought come from other parts of the ethnic horizon, bringing to view collectively a fair list of divine attributes which the best intellect of the world has agreed must stand for essential truth. As a matter of fact, human thought has penetrated in some degree the nature of the Power which the universe reveals. In this affirmation the voice of science is at one with the claims of religion.
The possibility of this knowledge is provided for in the truth, maintained alike by Christian and by scientific postulates, that the mould of human nature has been cast into that of the divine, and can think God's thoughts after Him, within certain finite reaches. Science assumes nature's intelligibility, and in finding the truth of things comes into contact with the divine mind everywhere. In the application of this sure principle, as in science so in theology, our knowing faculties find avenue
The realities of thought within, when reached through our mind's necessary and normal cognitive action, reflect realities that are true for universal mind. All our conceptions of being which enter into our necessary notion of God, and together make up what we call our “knowledge ” of His nature, come to us as unquestionably genuine concepts which stand for true knowledge or actuality. For instance, take the idea of real being, which we affirm for God; we know what this reality is from the depths of our own consciousness of real exist
Or take the idea of intelligence; what “intelligence " is we know directly and surely through our own conscious sharing of it. Or, still further, take personality; in our own personality we have an immediate knowledge of the essentials of this reality as we predicate it of the Supreme Being. If other properties or charac
up to God.
teristics, such as wisdom, power, righteousness, and goodness, are revealed as divine attributes, these words all stand for concepts of qualities which we know by the necessary action of our minds, to be justly predicable of intelligent personal existences. From first to last in these instances, these concepts are not pseud products, but are formed directly from the most indubitable realities recognized in human knowledge. It is not at all of fictions that theology constructs its portraiture of the nature and attributes of God.
If it be objected that this process simply makes an anthropomorphic God, a being fashioned in the mould of our own minds, it is sufficient to reply that our knowledge does not cease to be knowledge, when we know, as we must, according to the laws and measures of our own faculties. Our faculties are not proved false by their being human. Our knowledge on every subject must be human or anthropomorphic. The firm basis on which, nevertheless, we may still assert the competency of our faculties to reach all the way up to God, is in the great truth of our being made in His image-in the likeness of His personality. The real process in the case is just the opposite of that implied in the objection—that of making a fictitious anthropomorphic God.
In the creation of a theomorphic humanity, the human knowing was adjusted, in its finite measure, to the divine, the human capacities becoming an open window for reception of the revealings of Deity.
Accordingly the Scriptures distinctly maintain that we may “know God.” It is assumed and placed as the basis of their offered guidance. It is distinctly affirmed (Job xxxii. 8; Ps. xix. 1-3 ; xc. 2; Matt. xi. 27 ; v. 8; Rom. i. 19-22; ii. 15; 1 Cor. xiii. 12; John xvii. 3; Phil. iii. 10). This capacity is fundamental to the idea of our being created to be children of God and to live in fellowship with Him. But the Scriptures, with equal plainness and emphasis, assure us that we cannot know Him fully (Job xi. 7; Rom. xi. 34; 1 Tim. vi. 16). When our cognitive powers have done their completed work of thought and comprehension, they know Him only in part, in limited measure. While this knowledge supplies us with real truth, and may suffice for the religious direction of life and the attainment of its true destiny, there are in God realities of being and altitudes of perfection which are beyond human conception. It is a suggestive statement of the Roman Catholic theologian : “As the Infinite, God is seen and not seen by us, as we see and do not see the ocean and the heavens."
The two one-sided or extreme notions on this subject are carefully to be guarded against. On the one hand, a failure to keep in mind the impossibility of fully knowing God has always tended to a worship of Him under a false anthropomorphism, in which some of the supreme attributes of Deity either fall away or are lowered into the finite types and measures found in men. The partial, and often faulty, conception is treated as if it were the whole and full reality. Allowed full sway, it opens the way to the worship of false gods and into multiform idolatry. On the other hand, through failure to recognize the true knowableness of God in the measure of our need, men hold Him as out of all relation both to our finite faculties and to the practical ordering of life. This is the “unknown God ” of deism and irreligion, which put Him so far off from the world and interest in our race that practically He is as if He were not. The interests of religion are met only when God, in His nature and relations with which we, in our freedom, are required to adjust ourselves, is revealed and understood. At the same time, we can render homage and adoration, bowing in true awe, only as we also realize that in Him, so revealed and known, there are yet heights of perfection, realities of existence, beyond all the elevations and circumferences measurable in human thought. The warrant of theology to take this position has never been shaken, unless it be only the shaking which settles it upon its immovable right.
THE NATURE OF GOD.
How are we to think of this? By the nature of anything, we mean the thing in itself as substance and attributes. In this sense we apply the term nature, although derived from nascor, to be born, or arise, to God. Irrespective of all questions of origin, it is applied simply as a designation of the essence and qualities of an existing being. A distinction is legitimately made in the schools between natura naturata, meaning originated entities of both matter and mind, and natura naturans, applied to the Author of originated nature. Though this distinction comes to us from pantheistic Spinozism, it serves a good use, severed from monism.
The effort to state the nature of God, therefore, seeks to state what He is. Theology has often put the statement in the form of a definition. A definition, to be complete, would have to both name His substance and include all His attributes. But, because even now, with revelation given, we see only in part, every definition must come short, showing only a partial conception
1 E. g., Melanchthon: “God is a spiritual essence, intelligent, eternal, true, good, pure, just, merciful, most free, of vast power and