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Theism

god, existence, world, natural, argument, human, personality, idea, truth and arguments

THEISM, the doctrine of the existence of a God or Gods. It may take the form either of monotheism or polytheism and is opposed only to atheism, which denies the existence of such divine beings. From its use to express the belief of cultured Christian peoples, the term has been given a more restricted meaning. Thus, theism has been identified with monothe ism, as implying belief in one God, and hence is distinguished from all forms of polytheism. Further, theism is distinguished from pantheism. on the one hand and deism on the other. Pantheism (q.v.) merges God with the world process and thus practically denies his person ality. Deism (q.v.) emphasizes the personality of God, but conceives him as existing apart from the world of his creation. Theism en deavors to rise above both of these extremes and embrace the truth contained in each. On the one hand it maintains the personality of God and his transcendence of the world. On the other it insists upon the immanence of God, upon his presence in the world as its controlling and life-giving agency. Thus the God of the ism is at once the Author and the Preserver of the world. In every age and among every people of history some form of theism is to be found as the basis of religious observance. This belief is refined and developed with the prog ress of thought and civilization and the direc tion of this development is generally in the line above mentioned, from polytheism to mono theism, and on to a comprehensive theism. Thus the traditional polytheism of Greece broke down under the influence of philosophic reflec tion; but this reflection itself culminated in the theistic philosophy of Aristotle. As the theoret ical basis of religion and the ultimate explana tion of the universe, theism has always had a prominent place in systematic reflection. In the earlier centuries of the Christian era it was the topic of supreme importance and the best effort of theologians and philosophers was given to its discussion and exposition. As a result, cer tain proofs for the existence of God were for mulated, the most important of which possess considerable historic interest. 'We may men tion three of these arguments: (1) The Onto logical argument, first proposed by Anselm, in fers the existence of God from the idea of a most Perfect Being. The presence of this idea in the human mind entails the existence of such a Being, for existence is one of the perfections necessarily contained in the idea of Most Per fect Being. (2) The Cosmological argument was adapted from Aristotle, and proceeds upon the principle that every effect must have a cause. The world is such an effect. It is im possible to suppose that the series of natural causes goes back to infinity, and consequently we are compelled to assume the existence of a Divine First Cause, adequate to account for the existence of the world. (3) The Teleological argument is based upon the evidences of design in the world, and infers therefrom the exist ence of a designing mind as its Author. These formal arguments were subjected to a destruc tive criticism by the philosopher Kant at the end of the 18th century. He attempted to show how they depended one upon the other, and all contained contradictions and inconsistencies. Kant held that the moral argument was the only possible proof for the existence of God. This argument maintains that the existence of right and duty presupposes the existence of a God who will ultimately proportion happiness to virtue and vice versa. Kant's criticism was effective in destroying the force of the three above-mentioned proofs in their traditional for mulation. Evolutionary science has also con tributed to lessen the force of the cosmological and teleological arguments in their earlier and cruder statement. If the present complex con dition of the world is the result of a slow process of development from a simpler con dition, the need for a First Cause of the present world is less apparent. If present organic

structures owe their existence to their utility that is, are the result of natural selection), their purposiveness is explained by natural causes. But all such criticism, including that of Kant, is effective rather against the form than the substance of theistic argument. It has led only to a reconstruction of old argu ments and their statement in a more adequate and convincing manner. Thus it would seem that the arguments for the existence of God are rather stronger than weaker, as the result of criticism. We can only indicate in outline what form some of these arguments have taken in recent years. (1) Belief in God is justified by the needs of human thought. The constant endeavor of the human mind in its thought, is to introduce more perfect unity, more complete system, into its knowledp. The idea of God by virtue of its all-inclusiveness, is required as the final instrument of organization to make this unity complete; for by it the self and the world are adjusted as elements of one universal life. Thus the idea of God proves its own reality by its function in knowledge. (2) The existence of God is evidenced by the nature and development of the world. In the natural world we have a series of events related as cause and effect, and each dependent upon the other. Since each component part is dependent upon and determined by some other part, it is impossible to conceive the whole series as stand ing alone. It is rather by its very nature de pendent, and requires for its existence and sup port some ground or underlying principle that is self-determined. From the nature of the world as dependent and relative, therefore, we are led to believe in the existence of an Under lying Principle that is self-determined and absolute. If we consider next the development which the natural world has undergone we see its culmination in man with his intelligence and civilization. The character of the underlying principle or ground of any process will, of necessity, be more completely manifested as the process unfolds. Thus the intelligence and personality of man, as the outcome of the natural order, reveal to us the intelligence and personality of its Ground. (3) The ideals of human activity, both theoretical and practical, presuppose the existence of a God. The thought of map has an ideal, Truth, for which it ever strives. Yet Truth exists in no single human mind, neither is it the possession of the race. Truth as an end is too real to be imaginary, but if real it must exist somewhere. We are forced then to assume a divine mind in which Truth exists in all completeness. The same is true of the Good, the ideal of human conduct. That Good which, as moral ideal, exercises absolute authority over all men, is relative neither to in dividual desires nor to the desires of a society of individuals. Here, too, we are obliged to assume a Divine Personality whose plans are realized in the moral order and whose purposes are represented in the moral ideal.

Bibliography.— Balfour, A. J., (Theism and Humanism) (New York 1915) ; Bowne, B. P. (New York 1902) ; Caldecott and Mackintosh, from the Literature of Theism) (Edinburgh 1907) ; Clark, W. N., Christian Doctrine of God) (New York 1909) ; Caird, (Evolution of Religion); Fisher, G. P., of Theistic and Christian Be (new ed., New York 1903) ; Everett, C. C., and the Christian (ib. 1909) ; Flint, Robert, (7th ed., Edinburgh 1889) ; Fraser, of Theism) ; Mill, J. S., the Utility of Religion and Theism) (3d ed., London 1885) ; Romanes, G. J., Examination of Theism) (3d ed., ib. 1892) ; Royce, J., Concept of God); Schurman, (Belief in Ward, James, Realm of Ends; or, Pluralism and Theism) (Cambridge 1911).