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erally respected, and with the mass of deists was conceded to be conclusive. Indeed not a few leading deists were ready to accept so much of the Bible as that which says: "The fool hath said in his heart there is no God."
The attitude of skepticism to-day is radically different. A denial of Scripture authority is indeed maintained, but the stress of objection is based upon denials of God - at least upon the assumption that belief in a Personal Wisdom and Goodness superior to man and authoritative over him, is gratuitous, and for practical purposes, needless. In the former generation, the opponents of religious belief were, for most part, nominal philosophers; and philosophy-save as it is linked to, or interwoven with, nominal science- is seldom atheistic. The chief opponents of religious belief to-day are nominal scientists; and science so far as it takes the mind away from philosophical principles, and fixes it upon physical phenomena, is naturally atheistic its skepticism coming not from what it examines but from what it neglects to examine.
But if the attitude of skepticism has changed, that of faith has also been modified. And by this we do not mean that faith in meeting the assaults of skepticism, has done no more than adapt itself to new situations, meeting new forms of objection with new forms of argument. Of course it has done this. To resist atheism with the implements which were originally meant for deism, would be absurd. We therefore mean something more than this and different from it, when we say that the attitude of faith has undergone modifications. mean that Theism has made improvements. It is confessed that some of its former defences were not altogether valid. Had a believer at the present time occasion to confront the same kind of atheistic objection as that which Paley sought to remove, he would not confront it as Paley did. He would confess that the argument which Paley urged as principal, is at best but secondary and subsidiary - would confess that as principal and inclusive, the Paley method is not equal to the exigency. Let it be admitted, theistical writers have been compelled to abandon — or have voluntarily abandoned — cer
tain phases of the argument which thirty-five years ago were thought to be not only pertinent but conclusive. We thus indicate our meaning when we say that faith has modified its position has changed certain of its defences has taken new grounds of support.
This admission may make two different impressions on two very different classes of minds. The one may exclaim, What claims to confidence can that doctrine have which is confessedly unstable in its support- which in the face of criticism retreats and takes different positions which in one generation confesses that the grounds which, in a former generation, were thought to be conclusive, have been shown to be inadequate, even not pertinent? What reason is there to doubt that a succeeding generation, forced thereto by adverse criticism, will be as successful in compelling an abandonment of the existing argument, as present criticism has been in undermining the position taken by the earlier generation? Does not the belief which has changed its argument under every assault, virtually confess itself indefensible?
The impression made upon the other class of minds will be wholly dissimilar. Instead of being hostile to the great doctrine, the impression will be favorable. It will be to the effect that theology, like all sciences, is progressive; that it will blend the permanent with the variable; that its defences will partake at once of the strength and the infirmity of the human mind; that along with constancy in the general principle of argument there will be improvement and hence variation in the details. The impression will have the force of a first truth, that a belief which is impregnable to assault; which despite successful criticism, still clings to the essential idea; that has the candor and the courage to make changes in its method of argument and yet in no degree loses confidence in its essential truth, must be indestructibly rooted in the heart and reason of man. A modification of tactics so far from being equivalent to an abandonment of the issue, does on the contrary give evidence of confidence in it; and the reasoning may be pronounced shallow which confounds the end at which the battle aims, with any particular method of conducting a campaign.
We do not propose in this article to argue the respective merits of these contradictory impressions. We are quite willing to give to each its strongest statement, and let each pass for what it is worth. No anxiety as to the general choice troubles us. A dozen differing theories of optics will never disturb the primal fact that men see. As many theories of the Supreme Wisdom will never weaken the spiritual instinct which cries out for the living God.
We have made confession of various and profound modifications in the Theistic argument. We believe that these modifications in every case mark an advance, never a retreat — the strengthening of faith, never the weakening thereof. Discussion of long continuance finds the weak places and leads to their abandonment. It finds the strong places and concentrates upon them. It has been so in every other science. Why should the science of theology furnish a solitary exception to the rule?
We have made a confession of Theistic progress, in the hope that we can intelligibly point out its salient stages; that we can exhibit the fact of a real advance; that we can indicate wherein the human soul impelled by the divine hunger which is constitutional in it, has passed, never indeed from the bad, but from the positively yet simply good, to that which is better, and still better. And it is well that by a brief summary of the stages of the argument we may the more distinctly and im pressively present the basis which, in this day, gives support to the belief which we have described as constitutional - a belief that Intelligence, Goodness and Sovereignty, are the attributes of a Personal God.
Any classification of Theistic theories must, in some regards, be arbitrary, being determined by the particular purpose for which the classification is made. Hence the varieties of theory will be few or many according as the writer's object requires particularity, or can be served by terms more general. The most general division formerly gave but two classes-the á priori and the a posteriori. With the exception of one important omission, these were sufficiently inclusive, but they
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were very general. An article entitled "Theism," and one of *extraordinary merit, in the British Quarterly, July, 1871, nominally gives five theories, but in fact includes as subdivisions, and these specifically distinct, not less than thirteen. It will sufficiently answer the end which this article aims at if, in terms quite popular, we pass in brief review the various forms of Theistic doctrine under the following heads:
I. The Oral theory-that God declared His being at the 'outset of man's creation, and that subsequent belief is but the 'truth handed down from generation to generation;
II. The Design theory that which infers a God from the works of contrivance and adaptation, all blended in palpable unity, seen in the universe;
III. The Moral theory that which predicates God of the moral nature in man, and which gives the object for that sense of responsibility which every healthy human nature feels; and
IV. The Intuition theory-which claims that man's spiritual nature, in the entirety of its faculties, apprehends God as a truth given outright, and not simply as deduced by a process of reasoning.
This enumeration makes no account of the á priori argument that which affirms eternal and necessary being as the ground of ideas of the infinite and the absolute. This theory whatever its merit and whatever its subsidiary value, is so subtile, so purely metaphysical, that it can have no importance with the average mind and heart. It is the notion of a cultured coterie, and can hardly be other than a speculation-in no sense can it be a practical power, or very directly contribute to such a power.
I. Of the theory which we designate as the Oral, but a brief word is needed. Of men prominent for learning and argumentative ability, we recall but a single American who seriously based his belief on the proposition that in the act of creating the first man, God made Himself known to His new
1 Alexander Campbell. We give the fact as recollection. We have not the works of that eminent writer for exact verification. Our impression is strong that the theory described was given by him in his discussion with Robert Owen. It is many years since we read it.
and rational creature by a communication literally oral! This notion presupposes the fact of special creat on as distinguished from evolution. It puts a most literal interpretation upon the account of the creation given in Genesis. Whoever else may have been in doubt as to his Maker, Adam could not have had even the shadow of skepticism! God told him who was his Creator, and He gave him particulars as to His being and attributes. And from that epochal event, the truth of God's existence has been handed down from generation to generation. And it has been claimed that belief in a Being superior to man as his Creator and Ruler, which in some form is universal among men, so far from being a discovery of reason, is none other than the tradition which as veritable fact dates from the Garden in Eden.
We shall not blame the scientist who will certainly receive this theory (or by whatever name it may be called) with derision. A theism which rests upon eyesight is not simply materialistic but also grotesque. It is of significance only as it may be thought to attest the intensity of the theistic craving, which rather than go without nutriment will supply itself with the coarsest food. That is our judgment in regard to the Oral theory. With the mere statement of our estimate we are content to dismiss it.
II. The argument based upon Design, with which the name of Paley is prominently associated, has occupied the highest place in the belief of a great majority of Christian people. As opposed to the notion of Chance, the argument is so overwhelming and conclusive, as to compel the highest and most widely-extended approval. It was the favorite theory of the English school of theists of nearly every sectarian variety. Endowed lectureships are consecrated to the unfolding of the Divine plan and purpose as attested in the universe. The ponderous Bridgewater Treatise was projected for the special purpose of an extended and wide embracing claboration of the Design theology. Chalmers and a host of strong men gained their fame and prestige from the special brilliancy with which they amplified the same theory. Indeed, it is by distinction. the British argument. It can be briefly described.