The Religious Foundations of Theology 2

The Location of Religion in Man

The discussion concerning the location of religion in man evolves around three aspects of man: the intellect, the will, and the emotion. Those who locate religion in the intellect perceive religion as primarily a quest for knowledge. In ancient church history, we find the proponents of this idea among the Gnostics. Bavinck claims that in modern philosophy, we see the emergence of Gnosticism and it has its influential defenders in the persons of Spinoza and Hegel (254-255). Others would locate religion in the will and think of religion as chiefly a matter of morality. Bavinck classifies Pelagianism, Deism and Immanuel Kant as popular examples of this school (258-260). Still the third group would locate religion in human emotion and consider religion as a matter of feeling. Mysticism and Pietism are two powerful forces that exemplify this persuasion. In terms of individual thinkers, we have Schleiermacher and Rousseau as influential figures, which promote this idea (264-265).

The biblical vision is different from the above convictions. The Bible finds the location of religion in man as a whole. Bavinck avers that the “Head, heart, and hand are all equally – though each in its own way – claimed by religion; it takes the whole person, soul and body, into its service” (268). Since the totality of man is the location of religion, all his cultural pursuits are also influenced by religion including science, morality, and art. Bavinck elaborates more the influence of religion in man’s life:

Religion extends its power over the whole person, over all of humanity, over family and society and state. It is the foundation of the true, the good, and the beautiful. It introduces unity, coherence, and life into the world and its history. From it science, morality, and art derive their origin; to it they return and find rest. All the higher elements of human life first surfaced in alliance with religion. It is the beginning and the end, the soul of everything, that which is highest and deepest in life (269).

The Origin of Religion

Regarding the origin of religion, various proposals are suggested but yield no satisfactory explanation. Several of these suggestions are fear, priestly deception, ignorance, animism, fetishism, ancestor worship, magic, feeling for the infinite, human urge to pursue causality, human innocence, and quest for happiness and security. Fear is suggested as the origin of religion for basically man is aware of the threats coming from nature such as hurricanes, storms, scorching heat, stinging cold and other powers of nature. Religion springs as an expression of man’s appeal to invisible power for protection over the dangers posed by natural forces. Another explanation for the origin of religion is priestly deception, which regarded religion as an easy source for economic profits. The natural tendency of man to find the primary cause of human existence is another explanation for the origin of religion. Other innumerable explanations can be offered but would yield no convincing proof to explain the origin of religion.

The study of world religions both from the perspective of natural history and psychology cannot explain the origin of religion. The origin of religion can only be explained on the bases of the reality of God’s existence and his revelation. If in fact, God does not exist, religion is absurd. Man has only two choices concerning the origin of religion. One, to accept that religion is insanity since no God exists. Or two, to believe that religion originates from the basic assumption of God’s existence and his revelation. Bavinck explains the import of the first part of this basic assumption. “Religion exists solely because God exists and wants to be served by his creatures. Only when the existence of God is certain can we understand the essence and origin, the validity and value of religion” (276). Bavinck elaborates further the second part in this basic assumption. “There is no religion without revelation; revelation is the necessary correlative of religion” (ibid.). Bavinck adds, “In its essence and origin, religion is a product of revelation” (277).

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