Proofs Of Divine Existence -- By: Cornelius Walker
BSac 55:219 (July 1898) p. 459
Proofs Of Divine Existence
In a late theological publication, account is given of the prevalent drift of opinion just now in Germany, as to the validity of previously accepted proofs of the Divine Existence. This prevalent current of thought, part of the reaction of Ritschlianism from the dogmatic and positive in theology,—good, in certain respects, as is the case with all reactions,—has also its extreme; and the question may be asked, whether such is not the result in this particular instance? The subject is so important that its discussion will not be out of place. The language of the article in question is singularly loose and indefinite in its use of terms; as also in its confusion of the two questions of the Divine Existence and the Divine Perfection. If there be the same confusion of thought and of expression in the writers spoken of, there need be no surprise at the result of their speculations.
“Efforts,” it says, “are constantly made to find some mathematical, scientific, or philosophical demonstration that God exists.” What is here meant by demonstration? Properly speaking, this word has reference to only one of three thus mentioned, the mathematical. It is only here that demonstration is possible; and mathematics cannot demonstrate a fact. Science or induction, in parts of its material and processes, deals not with demonstration, but in the probable. Philosophy, as in the region of first principles, self-evident or assumed to be so, cannot, in its very
BSac 55:219 (July 1898) p. 460
nature, demonstrate them, especially the Principle of All-sufficient Reason, without which philosophy is not rationally possible. Truths, facts like that of the Divine existence, if proved as facts, must be by scientific or probable, not demonstrative evidence. Through such evidence, facts may be known, rationally certified, and made evident. The certitude, in the mind, from such evidence, the knowledge in such case, is as real, as rationally valid, as that from a mathematical process. Certainty, a state of mind, rational certitude, does not depend upon strict demonstration. The fact, thus proved and known, as it is not the result of demonstration, in one direction, so it is not that of faith, in another. Between these, there is an intermediate. Distinct, on the one side, from demonstration, and on the other from faith, there is rational, scientific, historical proof, and the certainty following. Such scientific proof and certainty, moreover, are not confined to the domain of physics. They belong, alike, to the psychological, the moral, the historical, and the theological.
And here we find the confusion of which we have already spoken. Wundt, one of the German theologians quoted, says, “W...
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