Basis of Theism -- By: John Bascom

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 068:269 (Jan 1911)
Article: Basis of Theism
Author: John Bascom


Basis of Theism

John Bascom, D.D.

There are two very distinct sets of phenomena in the world, — those which pertain to matter and those which pertain to mind. They are interlocked in a great variety of ways. We make progress in recognizing this interplay, but are as far off as ever in resolving the one class of facts into the other; or in understanding how the constant transitions which take place between them are possible. We spend much time on the mechanism of the interchange, but its method escapes us.

There is a decided tendency which leads us, in our explanations of the world as one whole, to put foremost either the physical or the spiritual series. Our theories seem thereby to be more simple and philosophical. We may regard physical facts and laws as the omnipresent and ruling terms, and make spiritual facts dependent on them. Causation thus becomes absolute and universal. The present is wholly contained in the past, and as completely contains the future. If we are bold enough to make this explanation self-consistent, we have to do only with causes, which, as we trace them backward, become more and more physical in their expression. The world is translated into terms of matter and motion. The universe is simply itself, and is self-sufficing. It is to its very core physical.

We may reverse the process, and look upon physical activity as another form of spiritual activity. The two forms, it is true, are not convertible in our experience, and remain, in the

building process, forever distinct. Yet we can regard the physical fact as a product of the spiritual fact; rejecting the idea that the spiritual fact is the result of antecedent physical conditions. The universe thus becomes spiritual at its very core.

Any blending of these two views seems less satisfactory, less self-consistent, than either of them separately. The two lines of activity cannot run on independently of each other. The moment we begin to divide them, they fall apart utterly and lose interaction. We cannot unite them in pantheism or in monism, because our explanations become verbal, something which receives no light from experience; one of those occult dreams of phraseology whose intricacies we can thread only when the somnambulant state is upon us. Nor can we pass at random, in our theory of the world, from the one seres of forces to the other. If we attempt it, we shall reach incoherent and conflicting results.

What we have now to consider is not which of these two theories is the sounder, the physical or the spiritual. We can bring to either of them a fairly distinct conception and some light from experience. Whichever we adopt, some heavy shadows will lie athwart th...

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