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The Truth of Christianity By William Harry Turton Characters: 12273

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03

(A.) Meaning of the Term God.

The Personal Being who designed and created the universe.

(B.)Two of God's Attributes.

Wisdom and Power. He is also Omnipresent.

(C.) The Objection that God is Unknowable.

This is partly true; but everything is unknowable in its real nature, though in each case the partial knowledge we can obtain is all we require.

(D.) Summary of Argument.

The position in the argument at which we have now arrived is this. We showed in the last chapter that the Creator designed the universe; in other words, that when he created it, He foreknew its future history. And from this the next step, as to the existence of God, is quite plain; in fact, it is merely a question of words.

(A.) Meaning of the term God.

Now any being who is able to design we will call a personal being. And God is the name given to the Personal Being who designed and created the universe.

But it ought to be noticed, before we pass on, that the term personal being is also applied to man, and is said by many writers to involve the three ideas of thought, desire, and will. But these seem to be all included in design; for if I design anything, I must first of all think of it, then wish it, and then accomplish it.

We will examine in the next chapter whether man is a personal being as we have used the term; but if we admit that he is, we have another and independent argument in favour of the Creator being so too. For the Creator has somehow or other produced man, with all his attributes; so He cannot be a mere impersonal Being or Force, since a cause must be able to account for its effect. And a free and intelligent man cannot be due to a Force, which is neither free nor intelligent. Therefore, if man is a personal being, it follows that man's Maker must be so too.

It should also be noticed that man's mind and spirit, which make him a personal being, cannot be discovered by any physical means. And this meets the objection that we cannot discover God by any physical means. It would be much more surprising if we could. But though the telescope can find no God in the heavens, just as the microscope can find no mind in man, the existence of each may be quite certain for other reasons. In popular language, all we can see is the house, not the tenant, in either case.

(B.) Two of God's Attributes.

We must next notice somewhat carefully two of God's attributes, Wisdom and Power. Both of these are involved in the idea of a Personal Being able to design. For design, as used in this Essay, means originating or freely doing anything, as well as previously planning it. Therefore, if we use the word, as is often done, for planning alone, we must remember that a personal being is one who can both design and accomplish. The former implies a mind able to form some plan, and the latter a free force, or will, able to carry it out. So a personal being must of necessity have wisdom to design and power to accomplish. And considering the vastness of the universe and the variety of its organisms, it seems only reasonable to conclude that the Creator possesses these attributes to the greatest possible extent, so that He is both Omniscient and Omnipotent.

It is important, however, to notice the meaning given to these words. By Omniscient, then, we mean possessing all possible knowledge. Now the only knowledge which might be thought impossible is how a free being would act in the future, and we have already shown that such knowledge is not in the nature of things impossible; so there does not seem to be any necessary restriction here.

But with Omnipotent the case is different. This means, as just said, possessing all possible power; that is to say, being able to do anything which is not impossible. Of course some Christians may be inclined to answer, that with God all things are possible; but as He who said so began one of His own prayers with the words if it be possible, this cannot be taken in its widest sense.[2] And provided the word impossible is used in its strict meaning, we have no reason for thinking that God could do impossible things; such as make a triangle with the properties of a circle, or allow a man a free choice between two alternatives, and yet force him to choose one of them. These, then, are two of the great attributes of God, Wisdom and Power. There is a third, which will be considered in Chapter V.

[2] Matt. 19. 26; 26. 39.

It should also be noticed that besides being the Designer and Creator of the universe in the past, God seems to be also its Preserver at the present, being, in fact, the Omnipresent Power which is still working throughout nature. That there is such a Power can scarcely be denied (however hard it may be to realise), and that it is the same as the Creating Power is plainly the most probable view. God is thus the Cause of all natural forces now, just as He was their Creator in times past; and what are called secondary or natural causes, have probably no existence. They may, indeed, be called secondary forces, but they are not causes at all in the strict sense; for a cause must be free, it must have the power of initiative. Thus man's free will, if it is free, would be a real secondary cause, but the forces of nature are mere links in a chain of events, each of which is bound to follow the previous one. This is often spoken of as the Divine Immanence in nature, and means little else than the Omnipresence of a Personal God-the all-pervading influence of One 'who is never so far off as even to be called near.'

(C.) The Objection that God is Unknowable.

We must lastly consider an important objection which may be made to the whole of these chapters. It may be said that the human mind is unable to argue about the First Cause, because we have no faculties for comprehending the Infinite; or, as it is commonly expressed, because God is Unknowable.

Now this objection is partly true. There is a sense in which all will admit that God is Unknowable. His existence and attributes are too great for any human mind to comprehend entirely, or for any human language to express completely an

d accurately. Therefore our statements on the subject are at best only approximations to the truth. We can apprehend His existence, but we cannot comprehend it, and God in His true nature is certainly Unknowable.

But, strictly speaking, it is the same with everything. Man in his true nature is also unknowable, yet we know something about man. So, again, the forces of nature are all unseen and unknowable in themselves, yet from their effects we know something about them. And even matter when reduced to atoms, or electrons, or anything else, is still a mystery, yet we know a good deal about matter. And in each case this knowledge is not incorrect because it is incomplete. Why, then, should the fact of God being in His true nature unknowable prevent our having some real, though partial, knowledge of Him? In short, we may know something about God, though we cannot know everything about Him.

And it should be noticed that Natural Religion and Natural Science are alike in this respect-they are both founded on inferences drawn from the observed facts of nature. For example, we observe the motion of falling bodies, and infer the existence of some force, gravity, to account for this. Similarly, we observe the marks of design in nature, and infer the existence, or at least foresight, of some Being who designed them. In neither case have we any direct knowledge as to the cause of what we see. And in some respects Religion is not so unknowable as Science. For our own, real or apparent, mind and free will do give us some kind of idea as to the existence of a personal being, apart from what he does; while of a natural force, such as gravity, apart from its effects, we can form no idea whatever. Thus our knowledge of every subject is but partial, and it finally leads us into the Unknowable.

But now comes the important point. This partial knowledge, which is all we can obtain in either Science or Religion, is all we require. It is not a perfect knowledge, but it is sufficient for all practical purposes. Whatever the force of gravity may be in itself, we know what it is to us. We know that if we jump off a cliff we shall fall to the ground. And so in regard to Religion. Whatever God may be in Himself, we know what He is to us. We know that He is our Maker, and therefore, as will be shown in the next chapter, He is the Being to whom we are responsible. This is the practical knowledge which we require, and this is the knowledge which we can obtain.

Moreover, though our reason may be to some extent unfit to judge of such matters, the vast importance of the subject seems to demand our coming to some conclusion one way or the other. This is especially the case because important results affecting a man's daily life follow from his deciding that there is a God, and to leave the question undecided is practically the same as deciding that there is not a God. In the same way, if a ship were in danger of sinking, and a steamer also in distress offered to take off the passengers, for one of them to say that he did not know whether it was safer to go in the steamer or not, and would therefore do nothing and stay where he was, would be practically the same as deciding not to go in the steamer. So in the case before us. To refuse to decide the question because of the supposed inadequacy of human reason is practically the same as to deny the existence of God.

Still, it may be urged, granting that our reason must decide the question one way or the other, and granting that our reason seems to force us to conclude in the existence of God, are there not great difficulties in honestly believing this conclusion? No doubt there are, and no thoughtful man would think of ignoring them. But after all it is only a choice of difficulties; and, as we have shown, there is less difficulty in believing what we have here maintained than the contrary. It is less difficult, for instance, to believe that the universe had an origin, than to believe that it had not. Similarly as to the existence of God; the theory is not free from difficulties, but, with all its difficulties, it is still by far the most probable theory to explain the origin and present state of the universe. We therefore decide, judging by reason alone (which is the line adopted in this Essay), that the existence of God is extremely probable.

(D.) Summary of Argument.

In conclusion, we will repeat very briefly, the main line of argument thus far. To begin with, in the present universe we observe a succession of changes. If these changes are not recurring, which seems incredible, they must have had a commencement; and this is supported by the theories of Evolution and the Degradation of Energy. Therefore, as this commencement cannot have been a necessity, it must have been due to some Free Force. And a Free Force must be a Supernatural Force, since natural forces are not free, but always act according to some fixed law, while the unity of nature points to its being a Single Supernatural Force, which we called the Creator.

Next, it follows that the Creator must have foreknown the consequences of His acts, judging by the marks of design which they present. And this conclusion was shown to be not inconsistent with either the process of evolution, or the existence of free will in man or other beings. Hence He must have been a Personal Being, possessing both Wisdom to design, and Power to accomplish.

Or the whole argument may be repeated in an even shorter form. The universe (in its present condition) has not existed always, it is therefore an effect,-something that has been effected, or brought about somehow; and therefore like every effect, it must have had a Cause. Then since the effect shows a certain unity throughout, the Cause must have been One. Since the effect shows in some parts evidence of having been planned and arranged, the capacity for planning and arranging must have existed in the Cause. In other words, a universe showing marks of design is the effect, and nothing less than a Personal Being who designed it can be the Cause. And God is the name given to this Personal Being.

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