The foundation of all knowledge
As we enter into the re-write of this book by evangelist and revivalist Charles Finney, we are conscious of our present generation in which it seems that any discussion of God is with much reservation to the point that we have literally tried to legislate God out of our daily lives. One has to wonder why it is that any discussion of God is deemed to be hurtful to society. Has there been some alteration in the definition of God that has caused this tendency to eliminate God from our lives as if He were the problem and not the solution to our problems? It is almost as if the word God is some form of virus and if we don’t use extreme care, the very use of the word will in some way cause a collapse in society as a whole. In every culture there is some form of belief in a supreme being, God. Any logical or scientific discussion of God or any facts relating to God are generally defined as Theology. Thus, when it comes to theology, a person’s knowledge of the subject, God, will directly affect the acceptance or rejection of any other facts relating to God and His relations to human beings and further to society as a whole. In other words, the attitudes that we take toward God are based upon the knowledge that we have of Him. So we start our discussion of facts relating to God with the basic discussion of knowledge in general and then we will go to more specific discussions of God, moral law and to other aspects of that which makes all human beings moral agents. Our conclusions will be based mostly upon truths which the entire universe accepts as fact and about which there can be no debate. As we progress in this discussion, we will find out that there is a clear and well accepted truth about moral law that is so powerful that even God Himself cannot break the true moral law. But it all starts with a knowledge that all of society can comprehend and accept without reservation or argument.
So let’s start with a basic discussion of knowledge in general. Knowledge, whether it is spiritual or physical, takes certain facts or truths for granted. Therefore, in order to form any opinion or science, no matter what the subject or how vast the scope of the thought, these facts or truths must be such as are affirmed by reason and widely accepted by all men. Any form of science has a priori facts that are assumed. Since Theology is the queen of the sciences and the science of the existence of God, there is no difference in our form of reasoning and logic. The dictionary defines a priori as:
- Proceeding from a known or assumed cause to a necessarily related effect;
- Derived by or designating the process of reasoning without reference to particular facts or experience.
- Knowable without appeal to particular experience.
- Made before or without examination; not supported by factual study.
This does not mean that we arrive at unrealistic conclusions or form a hypothesis that will generally fail in the minds of all mankind. It means, rather, that we will make statements that no one can logically deny since every living human being naturally sees these things in the same way. Unlike the way many characterize believers in a supreme being, we can be very scientific in our discussion and these facts will be accepted by all.
To develop our discussion in this chapter, we need to state some facts related to Psychology. Few realize it, but none can adequately enter a discussion of Theology without an equally compelling discussion of psychology, since they are both intertwined in a way that they cannot be separated. There is no Theological system that does not make a full series of assumptions as relates to Psychology and thus Theology becomes a science of the mind. Then we find that this science of the mind is intimately related to truth that is widely a part of the entire universe whether defined verbally or understood subconsciously. This truth is what we call moral law.
The first truth that all Theologies assume is that God is a spirit with a mind and all moral agents are in His image. “Theology is the doctrine of God, comprehending his existence, attributes, relations, character, works, word, government, providential and moral, and, of course, it must embrace the facts of human nature, and the science of moral agency.” – Charles G. Finney.
There is a difference between knowing something on the basis of reasoning or logic and knowing something with no such basis but the sense of the knowledge that is just as strong or stronger, even though there may be no logical explanation. There is much talk in this world about the fact that people want to only believe in what can be explained or understood on the basis of reason and logic. The problem with that reasoning is that there are many things that we know that have no basis in logic but they are just as real and there are none that will dispute these truths.
The first of these a priori facts is what we call self-consciousness. Every living being in the human or animal world has a sense of self-consciousness. We and they can all distinguish between other beings and themselves. Self-consciousness is the act of knowing yourself. The truth is that you know yourself. You know your thoughts, your attributes, your likes and dislikes. You have a way that you view the world and you have explanations for things that you see and feel as it relates to you. Some of these thoughts or feelings are because of necessity while others are from a sense of liberty.