Kant’s Philosophy Of Religion -- By: James Lindsay

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 066:261 (Jan 1909)
Article: Kant’s Philosophy Of Religion
Author: James Lindsay


Kant’s Philosophy Of Religion

Rev. James Lindsay

The philosophy of religion propounded by the immortal Kant must be pronounced a thing most fearfully and wonderfully made. Interesting and ingenious in the highest degree, it yields at almost every turn the contradictory and unsatisfactory. We know how largely determined the character of Kant’s philosophy of religion was by atavistic influences, combined with those of the pietism and rationalism of Germany of the eighteenth century. His own personality was contributive of that love of liberty in harmony with law, which led him to lay supreme stress on the will to do good.

In our critical references to the work of Kant, it is not forgotten that, as Kuno Fischer said, however Kant may have varied in his thinking about the knowableness or demonstrability of God, “there was not a moment in the course of the development of his philosophical convictions when he denied, or even only doubted, the reality of God.” No more are we unmindful of the testimony of Zeller to the way in which Kant at every time held to the Being of God (das Dasein Gottes). Most important of all is Kant’s own view of the matter, that “it is indeed necessary to be convinced of the existence of God, but it is not equally necessary to demonstrate it.” Kant’s arguments did avail against a Deity that stood in external and mechanical relation to the world. But such is not the God of the theistic philosophy of to-day, who, as self-conscious and personal Spirit, is at once immanent and transcendent. Far

from complete or final, the theistic proofs yet meet a need of reason. The argument for the Divine existence is a vast and complex synthetic one—a whole of many parts—and the force is in the whole, not in any of the parts, each of which has yet its place and value.

The Ontological argument did not at all receive from Kant the effective treatment which has often been supposed. Kant missed seeing that being is given, not predicated, in the affirmation of this argument. He sets out under the misapprehension that Anselm asserted that what exists in intellectu exists also in re, whereas Anselm maintained that existence is of necessity in the concept of God. There was truth behind the existential judgment of this argument which Kant never saw. It was a rasher thing than he supposed to say that is always is the copula merely of a judgment. Hegel did much better when he found the highest proof for the truth of a concept in its being a necessity to thought, and concluded therefrom to its necessity of being. Kant has the merit, however, to have cut away defective metaphysics at certain well-known and tolerably obvious poi...

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