It should be remembered that we are here speaking of argument, not of life-experience.

We may argue, first, directly from the fact of Christ himself,—his life, his teaching, and especially his consciousness—as the greatest and most significant fact in the world, and so our best proof of the existence of God in the full Christian sense. This seems to me, even from the side of pure argument, the most decisive proof. The argument goes upon the simple assumption that, if we are ever to discern the real nature of the ultimate world-ground, our best light must come from the greatest and most significant facts. For myself, I have no doubt that Christ is the most significant of all facts known to us, and, therefore, the best basis for direct and decisive inference to the nature of the world-ground. The argument does not at all go, it should be noticed, upon any assumption of the arbitrary authority of Jesus, but simply upon the significance of what he is. Any authority subsequently given him must be based wholly upon what he is in fact found to be. I count the fact of Christ, the greatest of all proofs of a completely satisfying God,—the proof most powerful to produce conviction in the mind of a man who has himself come to full moral self-consciousness.

One may argue, similarly, (but less decisively, so long as Christ is omitted) from the whole historical revelation of God—from the line of the prophets, and from the great spiritual seers of all time, as constituting the greatest and most significant historical movement of the world. Persons are incontrovertibly the greatest facts, and the most significant data. Let us not, then, ignore the most decisive evidences in our search for God, nor underestimate the greatness of the personalities with whom we have here to do. One may well recall the words of a thoroughgoing modern critic like Cornill, concerning Amos and Hosea, for example. "Amos," he says, "is one of the most marvellous and incomprehensible figures in the history of the human mind, the pioneer of a process of evolution, from which a new epoch of humanity dates." And Hosea, too, he counts "among the greatest religious geniuses which the world has ever produced."[1] We are not to suppose that the argument from such personalities is less significant than the argument from things. God is best known in his completest manifestations. Turning to lines of argument more traditional, it may be justly urged that the plain logical defects to be pointed out in all the common forms of the cosmological, teleological, and ontological proofs, seem themselves to show a practical initial certainty of God, on other grounds. These arguments have been taken as sufficiently satisfying, and not narrowly scrutinized, because their goal was really assumed to be already certain. It is very difficult to explain, otherwise, the weight that has actually been attached to arguments, which in strict logical form are quite inconclusive. We have seen why they could not be conclusive; we are here simply trying to face the question: Why are they felt to be still so satisfying, though so strictly inconclusive? The natural answer is, the goal of the argument is practically taken by us all as an immediate certainty. A quite insufficient proof satisfies our intellectual conscience, simply because we are already sure of the conclusion.

This brings us to a fourth suggested line of argument. Our only possible standard of truth is in our own constitution. In consequence, all proof of every kind moves on a double assumption: first, that the world is a sphere of rational thinking—must satisfy the intellect; second, that the world is a sphere of rational living—must satisfy the whole man. One might say that this double assumption is the heart of the intention of the ontological argument, and suggests the two forms in which that argument may be stated, or the double interpretation of our necessary constant assumption that the world is a "rational," or an "honest" world.

The Hegelian form of the argument—"the real is rational"—starts from the intellectual demand of our natures; has for its test of truth, logical consistency; and affirms the rationality of the world in the simply intellectual sense, and so finds the world a sphere for rational thinking. This form of the argument asserts that the world must be thinkable, intelligible. It is by no means able to prove this universal assertion; but it simply points out that every bit of thinking, every single argument, must really assume for its own justification the rationality—the honesty—of the world in this sense. What, perhaps, may be called the Lotzian form of the argument—"that which is most worthy must exist"—starts from the side of our interests, from a judgment of worth—an essentially ethical judgment; it has for its test of truth, worth; and affirms the rationality of the world not in the narrower, merely intellectual sense, but in the broad sense, as satisfying the whole man; and it, thus, finds the world a sphere for rational living. It holds, that is, as an immediate conviction, that the world must be not merely construable, thinkable to the understanding as a chain of causes and effects, but a world in which we can live, and in which we can cherish our ideals—a world that can satisfy the whole man. Paulsen thus states the position: "I could not live, I could not breathe and move freely in a world that is nothing but an enormous, senseless, and soulless machine; hence I cannot believe that it is such a machine; hence I believe that it is the revelation of an all-wise and all-good God, even though my eyes fail to see him and my understanding comprehend him not."[2] A completely rational world, it is here asserted, must have value, must go back to a purpose of good. It must be worth while. It must not play fast and loose with me. Otherwise, I am left at cross-purposes with myself; my ethical and aesthetic demands are all unmet; the world is for me an intolerable world.

We are scarcely aware to what an extent this assumption permeates all our reasoning on questions in any degree moral and spiritual. All the arguments that really weigh with us to-day, for freedom, and for immortality, for example, go forward on the plainly implied major premise that the world is not absurd and intolerable. So James says as to freedom: "The whole feeling of reality, the whole sting and excitement of our voluntary life, depends on our sense that in it things are really being decided from one moment to another, and that it is not the dull rattling off of a chain that was forged innumerable ages ago."[3] And he cannot persuade himself that this feeling, which alone gives reality and meaning to life, can be a mere illusion. Tennyson's argument as to immortality goes forward upon a precisely similar assumption:

"My own dim life should teach me this,
     That life shall live forevermore,
     Else earth is darkness at the core,
 And dust and ashes all that is."

He cannot believe that this awful alternative is possible.

Underlying, then, all our rational living, all setting of goals we count worthy, all thinking, even, concerning the life of the whole man, is the initial assumption that the world is rational in the broadest sense, that that which ought to be is, that Living Love is the source of all.

Now it should be noted, neither of these two assumptions, involved in the assertion of the rationality or honesty of the world, can be fully met and made thinkable, except by the existence of a living, personal, loving God, whose reason and whose love are in truth the sure basis of all our thinking and living. The so-called eternal truths, logical or ethical, can have no existence and power of their own; they are finally intelligible only when conceived as the actual modes of activity of God himself. No argument of any kind for anything can be framed that does not in some way virtually make these assumptions of the reason and love of God. The real truth, therefore, concerning all our theistic arguments seems to be this: they do not reach their goal at all, except upon an assumption that implies that the goal has been already reached in immediate conviction. It is for just this reason that we are comparatively unaffected by their logical defects.

To see, now, the fundamental nature of these two great assumptions that underlie all our thinking and living, is really to see that the existence of a God of reason and love is so certain and fundamental a fact, that it really has to be assumed in all thinking and living—a fact that cannot be proved just because it is the basis of all proof;—the postulate, without which we should ultimately be driven to give up altogether the possibility of rational thinking. And we need to remind ourselves how often, in both scientific and philosophical questions, when we try to think our terms and conceptions completely through, we are driven necessarily beyond the finite, if we are to avoid plain self-contradiction. We cannot think the finite as simply finite. The real reality, as Bradley points out, which persistently forces itself upon us in intellectual thinking, is a reality absolutely consistent and all-embracing. Even science cannot finally do without such a basis, as Spencer's so-called Unknowable testifies.

An additional reason is thus given us, why to our ordinary thinking God should seem peculiarly hidden, and his existence not easily shown. He cannot be proved, because his existence is necessarily assumed in all proof. Along with the clear perception of the inevitable limitations of the theistic arguments, therefore, the thoroughly fundamental nature of the theistic position is at the same time shown. It is so fundamental, that to relinquish it is to relinquish all hope of rationality in any part of our final thinking, and, indeed, to surrender the logical bases of all thinking and living. The religious postulate, thus, is necessary to all the rest of life. Religion may well be satisfied with this conclusion.

It is not impossible, however, that one may go a step farther. Even our mathematical demonstrations depend at every step upon the certainty of intuitive insight, and it is quite possible that Schopenhauer was right in asserting that so-called mathematical proofs are simply our labored attempted justifications of insights intuitively certain; that we see first, and prove afterward; we do not prove and then see. In a quite similar sense, it may be, that with as real a certainty as our natures can give us anything, God is given, in the two fundamental assumptions which have been seen to be implicit in all our thought and life, for they are necessities of thought and life; we seem really to use them in all subordinate thinking, as clearly given certainties, much as we use our mathematical insights. The precise way in which we come to these certainties may be hidden from us in both cases, but they are not counted less certain on that account. Such added logical obscurity as seems to attach to this immediate practical certainty of God has been perhaps sufficiently accounted for. There are weighty reasons why the real immediate certainty of God upon which we seem to be perpetually counting in all life and thought, should not reveal itself at once to our seeming. The certainty given us is like that of the moral life. So far, as to the theistic argument.

[1] The Prophets, pp. 46, 50.

[2] Introduction to Philosophy, p. 420.

[3] Psychology, Briefer Course, p. 237.