He Who Is: A Study in Traditional Theism

By E. L. B. D. Mascall | Go to book overview
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WE now proceed to consider the approach which is made by Dr. F. R. Tennant and which he elaborates with extreme thoroughness in his great two-volume work, Philosophical Theology. He is one of the most radically empirical and genetic of modern philosophers in method, and he states his view of the whole duty of the philosophical theologian in the most uncompromising way. "The classical proofs of the being of God," he writes, "sought to demonstrate that there is a Real counterpart to a preconceived idea of God. . . . The empirically-minded theologian adopts a different procedure. He asks how the world, inclusive of man, is to be explained. . . . He will thus entertain, at the outset, no such presuppositions as that the Supreme Being, to which the world may point as its principle of explanation, is infinite, perfect, immutable, supra-personal, unqualifiedly omnipotent or omniscient. The attributes to be ascribed to God will be such as empirical facts and their sufficient explanation indicate or require."1 Tennant is the irreconcilable antagonist of all attempts to deduce the existence of God from purely logical premisses or from the bare concept of abstract being; St. Anselm and Hegel are equally rejected. But it may be doubted whether he has taken sufficiently seriously the classical tradition of scholasticism with its doctrine of analogia entis; certainly he neglects to give any systematic discussion of the presentation of theism by St. Thomas, and the seven references to the Angelic Doctor which occur in his work are all related to merely incidental points. But the relevance of these remarks will become clearer later on in this chapter.

In his first volume, which occupies nearly two-thirds of the whole work, Tennant makes an extremely thorough examination of the basic philosophical principles upon which any consistently empirical theology must rest, and much gratitude is due to him for performing this task; his epistemological doctrine is also expounded, more shortly and with less elaboration, in his later book, Philosophy of the Sciences. We must, he insists, start from our own

Phil. Theol., II, p. 78.


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