History And The Concept Of God -- By: George T. Ladd
BSac 37:148 (Oct 1880) p. 593
History And The Concept Of God
The rational grounds for a belief in God have been invaded and damaged especially by two classes of confessed friends. The one class have presented the reality and nature of Divine Being chiefly as the indisputable conclusion of a single syllogism or a single chain of syllogistic demonstration. The other class have denied that this fundamental inquiry of all philosophical theology admits of any trustworthy answer. The doctrine that God is, and that his existence is in the form of such and such attributes and predicates, is relegated by this latter class entirely to the decisions of authority or to the impressions of religious feeling. But the entire being of man must work harmoniously together, as to some extent in the reception of all truth, so pre-eminently in the reception of this most comprehensive of all truths. There is no single direct and indisputable argument which may be relied upon to prove the existence of an object of rational religious faith. Yet there is no other object of knowledge or faith upon which so many lines of proof converge, or whose reality is capable of becoming the focus of so many rays of conviction, as the absolute personality whom we call God. On the other hand, unanalyzed and uncriticised feeling can become only the
BSac 37:148 (Oct 1880) p. 594
foster-mother of opinion; it can never become the parent, tutor, and defender of a reasonable faith.
The so-called ontological argument of Descartes is a notable instance under the first class. The complete argument of this philosopher for the necessary being of God seems, indeed, to have been twofold; the one part more strictly ontological; the other, psychological. The ontological part is entirely unsatisfactory as a demonstration, and, in the form in which Descartes presented it, of little or no value as an argument. Its errors are, (1) that it assumes the reality of the subject of definition, viz. God; and (2) that it introduces the very questionable conception of being or existence (left undefined by Descartes unlike Anselm in his similar argument) as an attribute of most perfect being; and here again we have the assumption that a, or some, most perfect being really — that is objectively — exists. Now when postulates are put forth as demonstrations they injure the case to be proved; when, however, they are criticised and exhibited as postulates, they are found to furnish the basis of all argument. All ontological demonstrations of the being of God are as such to be distinctly rejected, and the presentation of them is damaging to the cause of rational theology. Indirectly, however, an argument for the being of God may be derived from this effort of Descartes, and from all other similar efforts to set up ontolo...
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