The Origin Of The Concept Of God -- By: George T. Ladd

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 034:133 (Jan 1877)
Article: The Origin Of The Concept Of God
Author: George T. Ladd

The Origin Of The Concept Of God

Rev. George T. Ladd

The knowledge which the adult mind has, or thinks it has, of God is given in the form of a concept. The truth of this statement will doubtless be admitted by all — by those who accept the theory of an innate idea, as well as by those who refer all the elements of the concept, and also the act of combining these elements, to man’s powers of observation and reasoning. Whether the concept contain some germ of knowledge or belief which, given with the original gift of the mind itself, unfolds as the mind unfolds, and gathers to itself, as it were, by accretion the other “marks “of the concept, may be, indeed, open to inquiry. We may also fairly question whether there be not some instinctive and constitutional cravings, which drive the mind to its act of conception. But a cognition so complex and shifting as that which answers to the word “God” in the ordinary experiences of the adult mind can never be looked upon otherwise than as the result of foregoing observation and reasoning. It is, therefore, a concept. A concept, however, is ordinarily considered as the sole product of the logical faculty. It is a product composed of more or fewer factors, gathered from several objects by abstraction, comparison, and reflection, and impressed by the intellect with the stamp of mental

unity. Logic is the science that deals with conception; the logicians own by native right all the concepts. But we cannot bring ourselves to believe that with the formation and criticism of this particular and somewhat peculiar concept the logical faculty alone is concerned.

Indeed, it is clear that none of the so-called concepts are formed or reproduced without contributions from many other parts of man’s total nature than that which we in dialectics have exalted to the supremacy. In the process of knowledge as it takes place in real life, the centres of sensual impressions, the feelings, the moral faculties, and particularly the will, are no less active than the intellect. The product corresponds to the process. When the word which stands for and calls up the product of this process is pronounced, and by the soul attended to, the nerve-ganglia of vision and of the other senses, the instinctive or acquired emotions, volitions put forth to summon or to repress certain elements of the desired total, take part in the response which is given by the soul. Nor do we represent the true state of the soul fairly when we speak as though these activities of sense, feeling, and will must be transformed into terms of the intellect, and so submit to be understood, in order that the concept may do its proper work. The fact is, that much of the whole product is spoiled by the very effort to re...

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