He Who Is: A Study in Traditional Theism

By E. L. B. D. Mascall | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIII
CONCLUSION

COMPARATIVELY little need be added in bringing this book to its end. It may, however, be well to summarize briefly the course that the argument has followed.

We began, in the Introduction, by distinguishing between the ordo essendi, the order in which things ultimately exist, and the ordo cognoscendi, the order in which we come to know them, and remarked that from the former, though not from the latter, standpoint the doctrine of God is the primary doctrine of the Christian Religion. Observing in passing the universal belief of mankind in a Being who, however dimly he may be apprehended, is the Being whom the theist identifies as God, we then saw how Christian theism, with its two main sources of Judæo-Christian and Græco- Roman origin, respectively, received a coherent, and for Western Christendom, a normative formulation in the transformation which Aristotelianism underwent in the hands of St. Thomas Aquinas.

In the Second Chapter, as a preliminary to investigating the question of the existence of God, we endeavoured to elucidate the precise meaning of he word God in Christian usage. Definition by genus and difference was seen to be impossible, for the reason that God does not belong to any genus. We then examined the Anselmian definition of God as aliquid quo majus nihil cogitari potest, with its implication of infinity as the formal constituent of the nature of God, and noted that, in contrast, the Thomist conception of God as ipsum esse subsistens, whlle practically equivalent to it, gives this place to the notion of being.

The Third Chapter began by asking the question: Why do we believe that God exists?, and it was seen that in all probability no two persons would answer this question in the same way. Rejecting the view that there is a natural human faculty by which we could apprehend God with the same directness as we apprehend material objects, we went on to divide the grounds on which belief in God has been alleged to be justified into three: religious experience, revelation, and reason. Our judgment on religious experience was that, while it might be overwhelmingly convincing

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