Date of Award


Degree Type

Master's Essay - Restricted

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Religious Studies




In contemporary philosophy and theology a debate has developed which, in most of its forms, does more harm than good to both of these disciplines. Modern man is too frequently faced with the pseudo-dilemma of choosing between the God of the philosophers and the God of the religions. However, this question is an exceedingly delicate one for the Christian conscience. How can the Christian be sure that the God whom he is worshipping and who is determining his life is not a God whom he has created or a human creation accepted from others? This essay concerns itself with the problem of a God who was such a human creation. The Enlightenment created for itself a God of human reason, a God who conferred on reason the gift of infallibility. Eventually this God was to be superceded by human reason itself which could sit in judgment on all things, human and divine .

This paper will restrict itself to one of the roots of the modern. problem of God in tracing briefly this problem from Rene Descartes to Immanuel Kant. Upon examination we will find that a curious phenomena comes to light. A mediating principle is used to solve the dilemma involved in a new conception of human knowledge and then is rejected. This rejection leads to a system which attempts to found itself on a critical and empirical base unimpeachable, architectonic, and able to account for scientific knowledge. This last is Kant's conception of human knowledge. What is of great significance is that the principle of mediation which he rejects is God. The thesis of this essay is that from Descartes to Baumgarten (the main figure in this tradition is Leibniz) God is brought in to solve the problem of human knowing and hence appears as the philosophical principle of mediation between the knower and the world outside of him. The genius of Kant then recognizes that this God is not the God of religion or faith and proceeds in his critical philosophy to solve the whole problem of cognition on other grounds. If God does not mediate knowledge then subjectivity must carve its object out of experience. However, since human subjectivity is created and finite it is dependent on a "given" which is unknowable (the noumena), God is thus rescued from reason and becomes intelligible only in terms of the exigency of human action (the categorical imperative), The knowledge of God, in the strict sense, for the predecessors of Kant required a unique a priori proof since the mediating principle cannot be itself cognitionally mediated. Thus Kant's rejection of the proofs for the existence of God is both the rejection of a notion of God which is, at root, philosophical and of the conception of human knowledge which follows from this notion, Kant refused to allow God to be reduced to a principle so he removed him from knowledge. On this supposition philosophy becomes non-theistic and science, in the fulfillment of its task, nonreligious.

This essay will attempt to show, first, how God is conceived to be the mediating principle of knowledge and, second, how his existence is arrived at in terms of an a priori proof which has come to be known as the ontological proof for the existence of God, Then we shall see how Kant's rejection of this God (and, as a result, of the proof) necessitated a reorientation of knowledge on critical grounds, This is not to say that the entire Kantian ediface is explainable from this problem alone. Rather we shall indicate that one of the major foundations of Kantian philosophy is this refusal to reduce God to a philosophical exigency. The relevance of this for the contemporary debate will become clear in the course of the treatment.