The Principal Anti–Theistic Theories from A.A. Hodge

13. What is Atheism?

Atheism, according to its etymology, signifies a denial of the being of God. It was applied by the ancient Greeks to Socrates and other philosophers, to indicate that they failed to conform to the popular religion. In the same sense it was applied to the early Christians. Since the usage of the term Theism has been definitely fixed in all modern languages, atheism necessarily stands for the denial of the existence of a personal Creator and Moral Governor. Notwithstanding that the belief in a personal God is the result of a spontaneous recognition of God as manifesting himself in consciousness and the works of nature, atheism is still possible as an abnormal state of consciousness induced by sophistical speculation or by the indulgence of sinful passions, precisely as subjective idealism is possible. It exists in the following forms:

1. Practical, 2. Speculative.

Again, Speculative Atheism may be 1. Dogmatic, as when the conclusion is reached either (a) that God does not exist, or (b) that the human faculties are positively incapable of ascertaining or of verifying his existence (e.g., Herbert Spencer, “First Principles,” pt. 1).

2. Skeptical, as when the existence is simply doubted, and the conclusiveness of the evidence generally relied upon is denied.

3. Virtual, as when (a) principles are maintained essentially inconsistent with the existence of God, or with the possibility of our knowledge of him: e.g., by materialists, positivists, absolute idealists. (b) When some of the essential attributes of the divine nature are denied, as by Pantheists, and by J. S. Mill in his “Essays on Religion.” (c) When explanations of the universe are given which exclude (a1) the agency of an intelligent Creator and Governor, (b1) the moral government of God, and the moral freedom of man, e.g., the theories of Darwin and Spencer, and Necessitarians generally. See Ulrici, “God and Nature” and “Review of Strauss”; Strauss, “Old and New”; Buchanan, “Modern Atheism “; Tulloch, “Theism”; Flint, “Theism.”


14. What is Dualism?

 Dualism, in Philosophy the opposite of Monism, is the doctrine that there are two generically distinct essences, Matter and Spirit in the universe. In this sense the common doctrine of Christendom is dualistic. All the ancient pagan philosophers held the eternal independent existence of matter, and consequently all among them who were also Theists were strictly cosmological dualists. The religion of Zoroaster was a mythological dualism designed to account for the existence of evil. Ormuzd and Ahriman, the personal principles of good and evil, sprang from a supreme abstract divinity, Akerenes. Some of the sects of this religion held dualism in its absolute form, and referred all evil to u[lh , self–existent matter. This principle dominated among the various spurious Christian Gnostic sects in the second century, and in the system of Manes in the third century, and its prevalence in the oriental world is manifested in the ascetic tendency of the early Christian Church. See J. F. Clarke, “Ten Religions”; Hardwicke,” Christ and other Masters”; Neander’s “Church History”; Pressensé, “Early Years of Christianity”; Tennemann, “Manual Hist. Philos.”


15. What is Polytheism?

Polytheism (polu>v and qeo>v) distributes the perfections and functions of the infinite God among many limited gods. It sprang out of the nature–worship represented in the earliest Hindu Veds, so soon and so generally supplanting primitive monotheism. At first, as it long remained in Chaldea and Arabia, it consisted in the worship of elements, especially of the stars and of fire. Subsequently it took special forms from the traditions, the genius, and the relative civilizations of each nationality. Among the rudest savages it sank to Fetichism as in western and central Africa. Among the Greeks it was made the vehicle for the expression of their refined humanitarianism in the apotheosis of heroic men rather than the revelation of incarnate gods. In India, springing from a pantheistic philosophy, it has been carried to the most extravagant extreme, both in respect to the number, and the character of its deities. Whenever polytheism has been connected with speculation it appears as the esoteric counterpart of pantheism. Carlyle, “Hero–worship” Max Muller, “Compar. Myth.,” in Oxford Essays; Prof. Tyler. “Theology of Greek Poets.”


16. What is Deism?

Deism, from deus, although etymologically synonymous with theism, from qeo>v, has been distinguished from it since the mid of the sixteenth century, and designates a system admitting the existence of a personal Creator, but denying his controlling presence in the world, his immediate moral government, and all supernatural intervention and revelation. The movement began with the English Deists, Lord Herbert of Cherbury (1581–1648), Hobbes (†1680), Shaftsbury, Bolingbroke (1678–1751), Thomas Paine (†1809), etc. It passed over to France and was represented by Voltaire and the Encyclopaedists. It passed over into Germany and was represented by Lessing and Reimarus (“Wolfenbuttel Fragmentist”), and invading Church and Theology, it was essentially represented by the old school of naturalistic rationalists, who admitted with it a low and inconsequent form of Socinianism, e.g., Eichhorn (1752–1827), Paulus (1761–1851), Wegscheider (1771–1848). 1t has been represented in America by the late Theodore Parker, and the extreme left of the party known as “Liberal Christians.” In Germany mere deistic naturalism gave way to pantheism, as the latter has recently given way to materialistic atheism, e.g., Strauss. See Leland, “View of Deistical Writers”; Van Mildert’s “Boyle Lectures”; Farrar, “Critical Hist. of Freethought”; Dorner, “Hist. Protest. Theology”; Hurst, ” Hist. of Rationalism”; Butler’s “Analogy.”

17. What is Idealism?

“Idealism is the doctrine that in external perceptions the objects immediately known are ideas. It has been held under various forms.”—See Hamilton’s ” Reid,” Note C. Some of the phases of modern Idealism among the Germans, may be seen in the following passage from Lewes:—”I see a tree. The common psychologists tell me that there are three things implied in this one fact of vision, viz., a tree, an image of that tree, and a mind that apprehends that image. Fichte tells me that it is I alone who exist. The tree and the image of it are one thing, and that is a modification of my mind. This is subjective idealism. Schelling tells me that both the tree and my ego or self), are existences equally real or ideal; but they are nothing less than manifestations of the absolute, the infinite, or unconditioned. This is objective idealism. But Hegel tells me that all these explanations are false. The only thing really existing (in this one fact of vision) is the idea, the relation. The ego and the tree are but two terms of the relation, and owe their reality to it. This is absolute idealism. According to this, there is neither mind nor matter, heaven or earth, God or man., The doctrine opposed to Idealism is Realism.”—”Vocabulary of the Philosophical Sciences,” by C. P. Krauth, D.D., 1878.


18. What is Materialism?

As soon as we begin to reflect we become conscious of the presence of two everywhere interlaced, but always distinct classes of phenomena—of thought, feeling, will on the one hand, and of extension, inertia, etc., on the other. Analyze these as we may, we never can resolve the one into the other. The one class we come to know through consciousness, the other through sensation, and we know the one as directly and as certainly as the other; and as we can never resolve either into the other, we refer the one class to a substance called spirit, and the other class to a substance called matter. Materialists are a set of superficial philosophers in whom the moral consciousness is not vivid, and who have formed the habit of exclusively directing attention to the objects of the senses, and explaining physical phenomena by mechanical conceptions. Hence they fall into the fundamental error of affirming— 1. That there is but one substance, or rather that all the phenomena of the universe can be explained in terms of atoms and force. 2. That intelligence, feeling, conscience, volition, etc., are only properties of matter, or functions of material organization, or modifications of convertible energy. Intelligence did not precede and effect order and organization, but order and organization developed by laws inherent in matter develop intelligence The German Darwinists style that system the “mechanico–causal” development of the universe: Huxley says life and hence organization results from the “molecular mechanics of the protoplasm.”

 WE ANSWER—1st. This is no recondite theory, as some pretend, concerning substance. If the phenomena of consciousness are resolved into modifications of matter and force, i. e., ultimately into some mode of motion, then all ultimate and necessary truth is impossible, duty has no absolute obligation, conscience is a lie, consciousness a delusion, and freedom of will absurd. All truth and duty, all honor and hope, all morality and religion, would be dissolved. 2nd. The theory is one–sided and unwarrantable. In fact our knowledge of the soul and of its intuitions and powers are more direct and clear than the scientist’s knowledge of matter. What does he know of the real nature of the atom, of force, of gravity, etc.? 3rd. The explanation of matter by mind, of force and order by intelligence and will, is rational. But the explanation of the phenomena of intelligence, will, and consciousness as modes of matter or force is absurd. The reason can rest in the one and cannot in the other. The soul of man is known to be an absolute cause—matter is known not to be, to be but the vehicle of force, and force to be in a process of dispersion. Intelligence is known to be the cause of order and organization, organization cannot be conceived to be the cause of: intelligence.

Tyndal (“Athenaeum ” for August 29, 1868) says: ” The passage from the physics of the brain to the corresponding facts of consciousness is unthinkable. Granted that a definite thought and a definite molecular action in the brain occur simultaneously: we do not possess the intellectual organ, nor apparently any rudiment of the organ, which would enable us to pass, by a process of reasoning, from the one phenomenon to the other . . . . In affirming that the growth of the body is mechanical, and that thought as exercised by us has its correlative in the physics of the brain, I think the position of the Materialist is stated as far as that position is a tenable one. I think the Materialist will be able finally to maintain this position against all attacks; but I do not think as the human mind is at present constituted, that he can pass beyond it. I do not think he is entitled to say that his molecular grouping and his molecular motions explain every thing. In reality they explain nothing.”


19. What is Pantheism?

Pantheism (pa~n qeo>v) is absolute monism, maintaining that the entire phenomenal universe is the ever–changing existence– form of the one single universal substance, which is God. Thus God is all, and all is God. God is to> o]n , absolute being, of which every finite thing is a differentiated and transient form. This doctrine is, of course, capable of assuming very various forms.1. The one–substance pantheism of Spinoza. He held that God is the one absolute substance of all things, possessing two attributes, thought and extension, from which respectively the physical and intellectual worlds proceed by an eternal, necessary, and unconscious evolution. 2. The material pantheism of Strauss, “Old and New Faith.” 3. The idealistic pantheism of Schelling, maintaining the absolute identity of subject and object; and of Hegel, maintaining the absolute identity of thought and existence as determinations of the one absolute Spirit.

It is obvious that pantheism in all its forms must either deny the moral personality of God, or that of man, or both. Logically it renders both impossible. God comes to self–consciousness only in man; the consciousness of free personal self determination in man is a delusion; moral responsibility is a prejudice; the supernatural is impossible and religion is superstition. Yet such is the flexibility of the system, that in one form it puts on a mystical guise representing God as the all absorbing the world into himself, and in the opposite form it puts on a purely naturalistic guise, representing the world as absorbing God, and the human race in its ever–culminating development the only object of reverence or devotion. The same Spinoza who was declared by Pascal and Bossuet to be an atheist, is represented by Jacobi and Schleiermacher to be the most devout mystics. The intense individuality of the material science of this century has reacted powerfully on pantheism, substituting materialism for idealism, retiring God, and elevating man as is seen in the recent degradation of pantheism into atheism in the case of Feuerbach and Strauss, etc.

The most ancient, persistent, and prevalent pantheism of the world’s history is that of India. As a religion it has molded the character, customs, and mythologies of the people for 4,000 years. As a philosophy it has appeared in three principal forms—the Sanckhya, the Nyaya, and the Vedanta. Pantheistic modes of thought more or less underlay all forms of Greek philosophy, and especially the Neo–Platonic school of Plotinus (†205–270), Porphyry (233–305), and Jamblicus (333) It reappeared in John Scotus Erigena (b. 800), and with the Neo–Platonists of the Renaissance—e.g., Giordano Bruno (l600). Modern pantheism began with Benedict Spinoza (1632–1677), and closes with the disciples of Schelling and Hegel. Besides pure pantheism there has existed an infinite variety of impure forms of virtual pantheism. This is true of all systems that affirm the impersonality of the infinite and absolute, and which resolve all the divine attributes into modes of causality. The same is true of all systems which represent providential preservation as a continual creation, deny the real efficiency of second causes, and make God the only agent in the universe, e.g., Edwards on “Original Sin,” pt. 4, ch. 3, and Emmons. Under the same general category falls the fanciful doctrine of Emanations, which was the chief feature of Oriental Theosophies, and the Hylozoism of Averröes (†1198), which supposes the co–eternity of matter and of an unconscious plastic anima mundi. See Hunt, “Essay on Pantheism,” London, 1866; Saisset, “Modern Pantheism,” Edinburgh, 1863; Cousin, “History of Modern Philosophy”; Ritter’s “Hist. Ancient Philos.” Buchanan, “Faith in God,” etc.; Döllinger, “Gentile and Jew,” London, 1863; Max Müller, “Hist. Anc. Sancrit Lit.”

This writing has been excised from  A. A. Hodge’s Outlines in Theology (1878).

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Originally posted 2011-12-21 07:33:33. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

About Darius Styl

Lay Christian theologian and amateur philosopher.
This entry was posted in A.A. Hodge, Atheism, Systematic Theology, Theology, Thoughts and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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