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Agnosticism.

Agnosticism.

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Published by GLENN DALE PEASE
BY THE REV. J. HILES HITCHENS, D. D.

"My God, we know Thee."— Hosea, viii. 2.

The word Agnosticism is derived from the Greek agnoslos, which
signifies unknowing, unknown, unknowable. An agnostic is not one
who knows nothing, for some men who are embraced by this term are
men of unusual mental attainments and ability. He is one who neither
denies nor affirms.
BY THE REV. J. HILES HITCHENS, D. D.

"My God, we know Thee."— Hosea, viii. 2.

The word Agnosticism is derived from the Greek agnoslos, which
signifies unknowing, unknown, unknowable. An agnostic is not one
who knows nothing, for some men who are embraced by this term are
men of unusual mental attainments and ability. He is one who neither
denies nor affirms.

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Published by: GLENN DALE PEASE on Feb 15, 2014
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AGNOSTICISM. BY THE REV. J. HILES HITCHENS, D. D. "My God, we know Thee."— Hosea, viii. 2. The word Agnosticism is derived from the Greek agnoslos, which signifies unknowing, unknown, unknowable. An agnostic is not one who knows nothing, for some men who are embraced by this term are men of unusual mental attainments and ability. He is one who neither denies nor affirms. As a theological term it was adopted on the sugges-tion of Professor Huxley, at a party of scientists held at the house of the editor of The Nineteenth Century Review, on Clapham Common, in the year 1869, and is applied to those who hold that there are matters per-taining to religion which we not only do not know, but have no means-of knowing; that the existence of any person or thing beyond and behind material phenomena is unknown, and, with our present faculties, never can be known ; that the existence and person of God, as well as a future state, are subjects upon which we are ignorant and must be content to remain so. An agnostic does not simply assert the incom-pleteness of human knowledge upon things Divine, but that real knowl-edge concerning such things is an impossibility to man. An agnostic is not an atheist; for he does not believe it to be within his power to obtain sufficient knowledge to enable him to deny the existence of a God. An agnostic is not what is generally known as a sceptic ; scepticism has no conclusion for or against — it is a state of questioning ; but agnosticism
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positively affirms that we have, and can get, no knowledge of God or of the unseen world. Among agnostics of the present time Mr. Herbert Spencer takes a fore-most place. Indeed, he may be regarded as the chief exponent and advocate of their opinions. If, then, we can, in few words, state Mr. Spencer's views, we shall best describe agnosticism. Those views have been thus summarized: "Mr. Herbert Spencer maintains that (1) the proper object of religion is a Something which can never be known, or So Agnosticism. conceived, or understood ; to which we cannot apply the terms emotion, will, intelligence ; of which we cannot affirm or deny that it is either a person, or being, or mind, or matter, or, indeed, anything else. (2) All that we can say of it is that it is an Inscrutable Existence, or an Unknow-able Cause ; we can neither know nor conceive what it is, nor how it came about, nor how it operates. It is, notwithstanding, the Ultimate Cause, the All-being, the Creative Power. (3) The essential business of religion so understood is to keep alive the consciousness of a mystery that cannot be fathomed. (4) We are not concerned with the question what effect this religion will have as a moral agent, or whether it will make good men and women. Religion has to do with mystery, not with morals."*
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Mr. Spencer and those who follow his lead are opposed to the positive dogmatic atheism which we encounter in some quarters. He says : "Amid the mysteries which become the more mysterious the more they are thought about there will remain the one absolute certainty that he (man) is ever in the presence of an Infinite and External Energy, from which all things proceed, "f And Professor Huxley says: "Of all the senseless babble I have ever had occasion to read, the demonstrations of those philosophers who undertake to tell us all about the nature of God would be the worst, if they were not surpassed by the still greater absurdi-ties of the philosophers who try to prove there is no God. "| But neither Mr. Spencer nor Professor Huxley, nor Mr. Matthew Arnold, nor any other agnostic will concede the personality of that "External Energy from which all things proceed." They do not degrade God, as does the pantheist ; nor deny the existence of God as does the atheist ; but they wholly ignore the Divine Being— they will not grant that He is intelligent, personal, or possessed of moral attributes. They claim to be religious, in that they reverence the phenomenal and the Great Unknown above and behind it; but, holding that the senses are the only source of knowl-edge, they do not Jmow, and say we never can know, that the Eternal Energy behind all phenomena can think, feel, will, and contrive. There is a Great Cause, but whether that Cause has a heart to love us, or a * Nineteenth Century Jievieiv, September, 1884, p. 356. f Nineteenth Century, January, 1884.
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