Do We Know Anything By Consciousness Of The New Birth? -- By: Frank Hugh Foster

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 050:198 (Apr 1893)
Article: Do We Know Anything By Consciousness Of The New Birth?
Author: Frank Hugh Foster


Do We Know Anything By Consciousness Of The New Birth?

Frank Hugh Foster

The Rev. Dr. G. F. Magoun, Ex-President of Iowa College, in an article in the Christian Mirror, of Dec. 17, 1892, which he has done me the honor to devote to certain essays of mine, has questioned the assertion that we know some things about Christian doctrine by our immediate consciousness. The word “consciousness” is employed here in the strict philosophical sense, as the knowledge” which the mind has of its own action. The exact drift of his criticism, owing to some misprints, is not clear; but enough is evident to show that he rejects the idea. It is an important idea in certain connections, for if we do know some things in Christian doctrine by true consciousness, then we have as absolute a knowledge of them as of any fact in the world, as we have of that basal fact, our own existence. Dr. Magoun’s question naturally leads one to examine again his position, to see if indeed it be true; and I have thought that possibly others beside myself might be interested in the examination.

There are two sides of the new birth, the divine and the human, which have sometimes been distinguished as “regeneration” and “conversion.” God sends forth his Holy Spirit and regenerates; and man obeys, accepts, chooses, according as one may prefer this term or that. Our old divines sometimes contend that regeneration and conversion are not to be distinguished whether chronologically or logically; but a better philosophy of the will has led most theologians of the present day to make this, or some similar, distinction between the divine and the human activity.

Beginning with the simple human activity, conversion is essentially an act of the will. I shall call it a choice. Now, choice is an activity, the essential activity of the soul, that activity in which personality resides. If consciousness is the knowledge which the mind has of its own activity, it must embrace the choices of the mind, and must therefore embrace the supreme choice of all others, the choice of Jesus Christ as Lord and as Saviour. And, if I may reduce the Christian choice still further toward its ultimate elements, and define it as a choice of duty, however that duty may come to be apprehended, as a choice fundamental, determinative of all other choices which the

man may make, and irreversible, I may still add that such a choice is and must be embraced within the scope of that consciousness which is the knowledge which a mind has of its own activities.

But this choice is not an isolated phenomenon in a man’s life, something which he once makes, and which has no farther reality for him except as it is an object of the...

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