Besides the influence of these common fallacies, religious thinking and living are likely to be hindered by failing to set aside certain traditional objections, that are supposed to put religious life and thought at peculiar disadvantage.

Some of these have been already implied, and need only be mentioned here: like the objections that come from an abstract intellectualism, from a crude sensationalism, and from an impossible hypostasizing of laws, and, in general, from a quite unwarrantable exaltation of the mathematico-mechanical view of the world. These are, in fact, simply inherited bugbears. The truth is, as it may be hoped we are more and more coming to see, that all these views, from which objection arises, are themselves so involved in difficulties and self-contradictions that, when an attempt is made clearly to think them through, they are driven to abandon their position of self-sufficiency and to admit that they themselves require an ideal view to complete them. The universal abandonment of materialism is one interesting illustration of this trend. Besides these objections, already briefly considered, which arise more from the point of view of natural science, there are other objections inherited from the philosophical point of view, which are often supposed to put the religious life at peculiar disadvantage. Without going into elaborate argument upon any one of these points, we can perhaps see that none of them have any such decisive weight against the religious life as has been supposed. And, first, we ought carefully to observe that there is absolutely no ground for the very common tacit assumption, that the theistic view is in any peculiar way bound up with all the difficulties of the problems of the theory of knowledge and of metaphysics. It is rather creditable than otherwise to theistic thinking, that this impression has come to prevail; for it shows, at least, that theistic thinkers generally have tried to be really thorough-going in their inquiries, and to shirk no problems, however difficult, in the attempt to reach a genuinely unified view of the world. And yet, the solving of all the difficult problems of epistemology and metaphysics is, in truth, no responsibility belonging peculiarly to religion. It might be justly urged that the very objects of science indicate that it, rather than religion, should be here specially concerned. The problems are difficult, but the difficulties are philosophical, and they exist for all thinkers alike, and are not only no more difficult for a theistic view than for any other, but seem rather to require some kind of theistic view for their solution. In any case, epistemological and metaphysical difficulties are not at all peculiarly religious difficulties.

So, too, the doctrine of the relativity of human knowledge has been long supposed to make peculiar difficulties for religion. The theory affirms that all human knowledge is relative; we cannot reach absolute truth, but only what is true for us, and this may greatly differ from the absolute truth. All our conceptions of God must be after the constitution of our own minds—"anthropomorphic"—it is said, and therefore untrustworthy. The Infinite God must then be for us essentially unknowable. The sweep of the objection is to be noted. It makes all inquiry useless. The inference from the theory is supposed to be that every evidence of divine truths may be set aside, because however it may seem to us, since our knowledge is merely relative, we cannot have attained anything of value in our inquiry—no real truth.

As to the inference from the theory, a few things may be said.

The theory states no new truth. When we say that human knowledge is relative, we only affirm what most of us learned long since that human knowledge is human knowledge, not angelic or divine, and has consequently human limitations—a doctrine quite as old as Job. We need not then be greatly disconcerted, or driven off the field by large words, "anthropomorphic" or otherwise.

The inference drawn from the theory really denies the trustworthiness of our reason. We suppose that reason has given us some real truths in the religious sphere, and we are told, "Not so; they cannot be relied on, for your thought is relative." This makes all science equally impossible. The first induction of science goes upon the assumption of the truth of our instincts, upon the principle as expressed by a clear thinker,[17] that "the world within us, and the world without us are parts of the same whole, and thus must be related to one another. They must be at heart the same. Thus by the same principle which gives us authority to make the slightest generalization which goes beyond the enumerated facts, we are authorized to assume that the necessary forms of our thought have some relation definite and real to the forms of existence outside of us."

Upon this point Professor Simon has these forcible words:[18] "Convince man that his thinking must be untrue because it is his, and thinking will be paralyzed; but surely that which paralyzes thought cannot be true for thought. Besides I would reply in the language of Scripture, 'God created man in his own image; in the image of God created he him'—words which the German philosopher Jacobi aptly applied to this subject when he said, 'Man anthropomorphizes in thinking God, because God theomorphized in creating man.'"

It is one thing to say that our knowledge is finite, partial, and quite another to affirm that it is therefore no true knowledge. This illustration has been used: "Could the inanimate worlds conceive of God, from their lower degree of relations, they would conceive of him as the infinite force. This conception would be partial, yet true as far as it went. No higher conception could leave out that of the infinite force. So the plant would, and rightly, conceive of God as the infinite life. That conception would be true, though partial. The spirit conceives of him as the infinite spirit. This is still true, but still partial."

While distinctly less terrifying than it was, this doctrine of the relativity of knowledge still seems to many the sum of wisdom; and the current naturalism makes much of it, in one form or another. It is the very heart of Ward's able discussion of Naturalism and Agnosticism, to show that this strange alliance of naturalism and agnosticism is really fatal to naturalism; that really to think through the implication of such common scientific terms as "phenomena" and "law" and "method" is to see that science itself cannot admit, without self-destruction, such a complete and final relativity in human knowledge as agnosticism asserts. In other words, the doctrine of the relativity of human knowledge is terrifying, not because it is a peculiarly deep probing of the problem of the theory of knowledge, but just because it does not go to the bottom. It loses all its terrors as a peculiar difficulty for ideal views as soon as the problem of knowing is vigorously grappled.

Professor Ward's own way of getting at the matter may be seen in a condensed statement from his first chapter. He has summed up the common naturalistic position in two statements.

"These two statements," he goes on to say, "amount to saying, first, that there is no knowledge save scientific knowledge, or knowledge of phenomena and of their relations, and secondly, that this knowledge is non-theistic. It is worth our while to note that in a sense both these propositions are true, and that is the sense in which science in its every-day work is concerned with them. But again there is a sense in which, taken together, these propositions are not true, but this is a sense that will only present itself to the critic of knowledge reflecting upon knowledge as a whole. Thus it is true that science has no need, and indeed, can make no use, in any particular instance, of the theistic hypothesis. That hypothesis is specially applicable to nothing just because it claims to be equally applicable to everything. Recourse to it would involve just that discontinuity which it is the cardinal rule of scientific method to avoid. But, because reference to the Deity will not serve for a physical explanation in physics or a chemical explanation in chemistry, it does not therefore follow that the sum total of scientific knowledge is equally intelligible whether we accept the theistic hypothesis or not. Again, it is true that every item of scientific knowledge is concerned with some definite relation of definite phenomena and with nothing else. But, for all that, the systematic organization of such items may quite well yield further knowledge which transcends the special relations of definite phenomena. In fact, so surely as science collectively is more than a mere aggregate of items or 'knowledges,' as Bacon would have said, so surely will the whole be more, and yield more, than the mere sum of its facts."

"In other words," he says later, "ideally complete science will become philosophy. This conceit or doctrine of an absolute boundary between science and nescience and the endeavor to identify with it a like sharp separation between empirical knowledge and philosophic speculation may then, we conclude, be both dismissed as 'sophistical and illusory.' Nevertheless, as I have said, these notions are widely current in one shape or other, save among the few in these days, who have even a passman's acquaintance with the rudiments of epistemology. One of the most plausible and not least prevalent forms of this doctrine is embodied in the shallow Comtian 'Law of Development,' according to which there are three stages in human thought, the theological, the metaphysical, and the positive; the metaphysical superseding the theological and being in turn superseded by the positive or scientific. A glance at the past history of knowledge would show at once the facts that make these views so specious and yet prove them to be false."[19]

So far, then, as it is regarded as peculiarly a difficulty for a theistic view, or as precluding a real relation to God, we may regard this ghost of relativity as quite exorcised for us.

[17] C. C. Everett: The Science of Thought, p. 375.

[18] Bibliotheca Sacra, January '87, p.4.

[19] Naturalism and Agnosticism, pp. 23-4; 29-30.