The Natural Theology Of Social Science -- By: John Bascom

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 024:96 (Oct 1867)
Article: The Natural Theology Of Social Science
Author: John Bascom

The Natural Theology Of Social Science1

Rev. John Bascom

The argument for the existence of God is exceedingly simple. It involves but one premise, magnificent as this is-; but one inference, great as this is. The mind passes from that broad array of facts — that power, skill, and beauty which the universe presents — up to the Creator, the Former of all. This leap of the mind is performed, like all its reasoning, by its own native strength, under the guidance and impulse of ideas inherent in it. As force, design, adaptation, are universal, discoverable by every one everywhere, this conclusion of the existence of a spiritual, supernatural agency has entered every rational mind; robbed, indeed, among the lower races, of its true breadth and import,— passing through Polytheism into mere Fetichism; and among the higher races, sometimes partially expelled again by the tricks of philosophy and of science. Nevertheless the universality and stubbornness of the conclusion show the inherent and necessary character of the ideas which lead to it, and so far prove its justness.

The chief and most conspicuous of these are, cause and effect, and the infinite. Attention has usually been directed to the first to the oversight of the second, and thus the argument has been inadequately grounded and wrongly presented.

The polytheist reasons from cause and effect, and thus establishes many separate deities over distinct provinces of action. If with the Greek, he struggles up to a supreme God, it is with very partial success, and an inadequate grasp of the notion. Many of the arguments for the existence of the true God are logically vitiated by the same error. We are taught to arrive at his being from the effects about us which require the interpretation of a cause. The proof thus presented overlooks both the nature of a cause, and the impossibility of arresting the line of reasoning it opens.

The mind will, indeed, often reach and tenaciously hold a just conclusion from partial or from erroneous premises. That which supports its steps may lie hidden beneath the surface, and it fails theoretically to hit the exact points of rest, on which, as pivots, the movement is made. We walk before we understand how we walk; we reason safely before we can analyze our reasonings correctly. Yet, when the occasion for the analysis arises, it is important that it be accurate, or we shall by it cast discredit on our most constant and needful conclusions. We often reject in philosophy our best wisdom, simply because it is more profound than our expositions of it. Revelation is destroyed by interpretation. Let us then expose the two defects referred to.

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