degrees of truth

The Idea of God in the Light of Recent Philosophy

  • Andrew Seth Pringle-Pattison
1911 to 1913
University of Aberdeen

The principal purpose of these lectures is to examine critically the true significance of Enlightenment philosophy and 19th century biology for Christian theism. A discussion of Kant's attempt to found religious belief on moral experience leads to an exploration of the foundations of the Idealist philosophy of Hegel and his successors, and to its rival — positivistic naturalism.

Evolutionary biology has liberating insights for both theology and philosophy, provided the theory of evolution is understood correctly. Ironically, this proper understanding shows Christianity's moral rival — ethical humanism — to be anti-scientific.

Further reflection on the deficiencies of positivism confirms the cogency of Absolute Idealism, which is not to be confused with pan-psychism, mentalism or “subjective” idealism. The mistakes of some Idealist philosophers have to be corrected, however, chief among them the tendency of Idealist philosophy to deny reality to “finite selves.” Once amended, Idealism gives us reason to abandon the conception of God as a superhuman Creator in favour of creation conceived as an evolutionary “process,” and also provides a more satisfactory answer to the traditional problem of evil.

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