The Denial Of The Supernatural -- By: J. M. Manning

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 020:78 (Apr 1863)
Article: The Denial Of The Supernatural
Author: J. M. Manning


The Denial Of The Supernatural

J. M. Manning

The subject of divine interpositions, recent denials of which we propose to consider in the present Article, is not a matter to be debated with all classes of unbelievers. There may be other questions lying back of this, which render any such debate useless. The adversary should not be allowed to meet us where, if we gain the battle, he can say it amounts to nothing; but should be compelled to defend himself in his real and fundamental position. Why should we discuss the problem of miracles, or of the supernatural generally, with a disciple of Spinoza? His pantheism is a foregone conclusion against every one of our arguments; and until he admits a personal Creator, distinct from the creation, we are merely chopping logic for each other’s amusement or mockery. This remark holds in regard to the positivist also. As neither Spinoza, Hegel, or Emerson is the antagonist, in precisely the same way, we cannot argue with Comte or Mr. Buckle for divine interpositions. If there be no first truths, transcending time and space and revealed to the spirit, but all knowledge must be reached by the induction of the senses, then, as a matter of course, there is nothing of the nature of a miracle. It is idle to attempt to show that something above the cosmos may come into it, until the existence of that something is admitted; this is the common ground on which the objector must meet us, if he

has anything to say against the Christian doctrine of the supernatural. If Hume’s celebrated Essay be atheistic, then it should be met as atheism; but if he believed in a loving and overruling God (though he carefully concealed any such belief), then that essay is one of the best possible safeguards against imposture. His argument no sooner becomes pertinent than it ceases to be an objection. When Mr. Lewes ridicules praying for rain, as like praying “for the sun to rise at midnight,” we have nothing to say, for he is speaking in praise of the positive philosophy; but the same remark on the lips of Baden Powell or Theodore Parker might deserve a respectful answer. These latter men, if we understand them, were not disciples of Comte; neither were they atheists or pantheists. Though rejecting the idea of the supernatural, claiming that nature is guided by cosmic forces only, they believed in a personal God, infinitely wise and good, who arranged the universe in the beginning, and in accordance with whose original purpose it still proceeds.

Taking these two names as representative of a class of objectors to all divine interpositions in nature, the debate to which they challenge us may be both honest and legitimate. What is, and what in all ages of the church has been, the position of ...

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