Attempts to Evade This Difficulty by The Analogy of Physics

Attempts to Evade This Difficulty by The Analogy of Physics

October 8, 2018 0 By Felso

This defence is in part justified, and in part, I think, mistaken. It may be true that no empirical science would submit its foundations to such rigorous criticism as is here applied to theology.

And if theology is to be a merely empirical science, it has a corresponding right to make uncriticised assumptions. But the sting of the criticism lies in the fact that theology claims to be more than this. It presents itself as a philosophy, a view of the universe as a whole, the ultimate ground of reality ; and philosophy can take nothing for granted.

A historian may say, “ I give you here a sketch of the character of Julius Cæsar. It is based on all the available evidence ; but though I have weighed the documents as well as I could, and allowed for the [60] partisanship of one writer and the prejudice of another, I still feel that the evidence is very slight and scanty, and that no high degree of certainty is possible. We have to remember in dealing with remote history that no proof of a statement can ever be offered which will stand against the objections of a determined scepticism. ” If a theologian prefaced his account of the nature of God by a statement in terms analogous to these, he would doubtless win the approval of many for his toleration and breadth of mind ; but all sincerely religious people would, I am convinced, feel that his detached and judicial attitude was not merely an outrage on their feelings but exhibited a certain intellectual obtuseness and incapacity to appreciate the point at issue. We should have the same feeling if a philosopher said, “ Such, in my opinion, is the nature of morality.

We must not, however, forget that some people deny the existence of morality altogether, and it is quite possible that they are right. ” To such language we should reply that a philosopher has no right to construct the nature of morality out of his inner consciousness, and end in the pious hope that the reality may correspond with his “ ideal construction. ” His business as a philosopher is to discover what actually are the ideals which govern conduct, and not to speak until he has something to tell us about them.

In the same way, the theologian’s business is to understand, at least in some degree, the nature of God ; if he cannot claim to do this, he has no claim on our attention. A hypothetical science, one which says, “These are the characteristics of matter, or number, or space, granted that such things really exist ”—may be incomplete, but it is at any rate something ; a hypothetical philosophy or theology is not merely mutilated but destroyed.

If we say to a scientist, “ First prove to me that matter exists, and then I will hear what you have to say about it, ” he will answer, “That is metaphysics, and I have nothing to do with it. ” But theology is already metaphysical through and through ; so it would appear that when we say to a theologian “ I must have proof that God exists before I can be expected to listen to your description of him, ” the theologian is bound to supply the proof, and his science must stand still until he has done it. But this is at least not what theologians actually do ; and though it may be replied that none the less they ought to do it, is the demand quite fair either to them or to the scientists ?