STUDY 5: FALSE VIEWS OF GOD
Scriptures are cited from the King James (Authorized) Version, unless stated otherwise.
A third false view of God is agnosticism. The word agnosticism was invented by Professor Thomas Henry Huxley to express his mental attitude toward all theories of being, especially that of God. Agnosticism is the theory that the existence of God and the problem of being are unknowable. The difference between atheism and agnosticism is that the former claims to know that God does not exist, whereas the latter claims that God is unknowable. It claims not only to be ignorant of God’s existence, but that knowing of His existence is impossible.
Mr. Huxley taught that reason is the source and rule of intellectual matters and is to be followed regardless of where it leads. Agnosticism rejects the Christian principle that the Bible is the source and rule of faith.
Mr. Huxley presumably used the word reason in the sense of: (1) our intuitions whereby we recognize the truth of certain principles as self-evident without the process of reflection; and (2) the knowledge that we gather by the exclusive and proper use of these intuitions. Although the creeds denounce reason in the above two senses, the Bible appeals to, and sanctions its use (Isaiah 1: 18).
Reason not Alone Sufficient
The Bible teaches that our individual and collective reason is not a sufficient source and rule of intellectual matters, that it needs teachers to give it knowledge that it cannot of itself gain. This is seen: (1) in our needing human teachers in earthly matters to supplement the lacks of our individual reason; (2) in the Bible teaching that through depravity our individual reason is unable of itself alone and unaided to comprehend even all earthly things (John 3: 12); (3) in our experience; and (4) in the Bible teaching that our individual and collective reason unaided and alone is unable to discover the Truth of the Divine Plan (1 Corinthians 1: 21). Revelation is in complete harmony with reason and commends itself to individual reason in the properly disposed person.
Experience has shown that individual reason, more or less imperfect in all of us, differs in every individual, dependent on heredity, environment, and training. How much we therefore need an infallible Revelation to correct man’s universal fallibility! Otherwise we cannot attain religious Truth on God’s being, the world, self, and their interrelations. This exposes a fatal lack in agnosticism.
Furthermore, Mr. Huxley’s proposition that one must follow reason, regardless of consequences, is unscientific and foolish in the ordinary affairs of life. No progress would have been made in science, if hypothesis, in theory seemed reasonable, but in practice was found to be unfruitful, unsatisfactory and dangerous. Also, in the daily concerns of life, practical and wise people do not hold to attractive theories which prove under experiment to be unfruitful or harmful.
Agnosticism’s Negative Principle
Mr. Huxley’s negative principle of agnosticism is: “Do not pretend that conclusions are certain which are not demonstrated or demonstrable.” This rule also proves to be a bad one for everyday life. Instead, a safe rule in physical, mental, moral, and religious matters when one lacks the power of demonstration or to see what is demonstrable, is to work with the practical and credible until he is led on to the demonstrable and the demonstrated. For example, the sinner does this when he starts feeling after God; and if his heart proves true, he will eventually reach a state that before was unclear, but becomes demonstrated and demonstrable by experience, which gives him certainty that he is dealing with realities in his contacts with God.
Mr. Huxley’s negative principle is also defective in that it cannot give us any criterion as to what is demonstrated or demonstrable. With individual reason as the source and rule of knowledge, what is demonstrated or demonstrable to one is not to another. Because of the varying degrees of hereditary imperfections, modified by environment and training, the abilities of individual reason vary greatly. No man’s individual reason can be used as a guide since all are imperfect.
Mr. Huxley’s individual reason is not the one for us to take as reason, because it led him to reject as not demonstrated and demonstrable some propositions that the reason of all normal persons tells them is demonstrated and demonstrable – for example, the existence of God. He admitted that his own reason never led him into a certain view on God and on existence in general. But the reason of others makes them certain that their inborn intuitions are right in implying that there is a God. Their reason, led by its intuition of cause and effect, makes them certain that there must be a first Cause, which is therefore causeless and hence eternal. Their reason makes them certain that the almost infinite expressions of intelligence, adaptation, and design in the universe imply that the first Cause is intelligent and purposeful and hence is endowed with personality.
The Help our Reason Needs
Since unaided reason cannot in man’s imperfect condition be accepted as a sufficient and satisfactory guide, should we not be open to help from other sources than unaided reason? If certainty is to be reached, is it not reasonable to expect from an infallible and benevolent Power, if such exists, the aid so desperately needed by unaided individual reason? If such outside aid comes, we may be sure it will not hamper our God-given reason, as the creeds do, but will completely satisfy it by supplying just what our reason lacks. This outside aid is the Bible, which supplies the reasonable solution of God’s being and the problem of existence.
Another evil that is associated with Mr. Huxley’s negative principle of agnosticism is its practical outcome – it always leads into unbelief. Agnosticism in its very nature draws one away from faith, which is indispensable for an approach to God and Truth on God’s existence and the problem of being.
(to be continued)
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