The term Agnosticism, probably invented by T. Huxley (1869), is used to express the philosophy that no knowledge of absolute reality is possible. It holds that man can not have any real, valid knowledge, but can know only phenomena (Kant), or only impressions (Hume). Certain half-agnostics, denying theoretically all objective truth did nevertheless practically speak of a rough approximation to what we might loosely and colloquially call “truth” under some such designation as “value judgments” (Ritschl). Agnosticism philosophizes that the being of God can neither be proved nor disproved, and so remains unknown or unknowable. Sir Wm. Hamilton thought that “the last and highest consecration of all true religion must be an altar Agnosto Theo, ‘To the unknown and unknowable God'” (C. Hodge, Sys. Theol., I, i, 4, p. 351). The reasoning is that the finite cannot know the infinite, which being absolute cannot come into relation to finite beings, and therefore God cannot reveal Himself to man. The implication is that knowledge, to be true and valid, must be absolute comprehension of knowledge. There is not the remotest possibility of truth in limitation. But this is, we believe, assumption without foundation or evidence. Theosophy is burdened with this form of Agnosticism. It is a denial of divine revelation and a denial that the Bible is the Word of God. The Bible teaches that God is not discovered by us, but revealed to us. “Canst thou by searching find out God?” It also teaches that we can know God truly, though not absolutely. “Canst thou find out the Almighty to perfection?” It further teaches that God is known through His own self-revelation and specifically and supremely through His Son Jesus Christ. “The only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him” (John 1:18, Gk.). Christianity maintains that “God hath spoken unto us by His Son.” If the agnostic find his doubt whether there be a God the least bit annoying, let him heed the word of Christ, “If any man will to do His will, he shall know the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of Myself.” Jesus denied the whole of Agnosticism when He said “that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent.” Paul possessing this knowledge said, “I know whom I have believed.”
The “Absolute” and the “Infinite” said to be beyond the reach of knowledge and unknowable are but mere abstractions. They exist only in words. They are the product of thinking away all conditions and all limitations. This then makes the Absolute described to be nothing, which, by the way, is also the view of Theosophy. “God” is an infinite Zero. When we speak of the vibrations of the air, we have not the least idea what we are talking about. We do not know what either air, or what vibrations are. From this it may be seen that Agnosticism is intellectual suicide and the destruction of science. For it makes all the findings of science mere semblance. But the mind of an intelligent person cannot permanently rest in the agnostic position. The negation of God, knowledge and thought itself is not persistently possible to the human mind. Nothing that has objective existence can be inherently unknowable. Thus Agnosticism logically demands non-existence in order to arrive at reality. It is fundamentally nihilistic. To the agnostic knowledge is noxious.
Agnosticism, although it does not flatly deny the existence of God, as does Atheism, nevertheless denies the personality of God (Spencer). God is an inscrutable “energy.” There is then no basis even for believing the personality of man. Man may just as well be a more complex mechanical development in the evolution of the universe. Man is but a mechanical manifestation or effect of matter, motion and force.
Why do men turn to Agnosticism? Because the mind is driven to that pessimistic position as a result of its denial of supernaturalism: of the supernatural God, the supernatural Christ and of supernatural revelation. It is one of the fatal alternatives to rejection of the Christian faith. But the theory comes in a neat little “scientific” even pious, package. All it intends to claim is that it “does not know.” It does not deny that there is a God. It merely does not know that there is one. It of necessity pleads ignorance, lack of evidence, judgment therefore being held in reserve. Its philosophy does not furnish it with enough knowledge to make positive denial. It does set aside a certain category into which truth may be admitted only after the most stringent tests determine the right to be included in such a category. But Agnosticism never gets to see, much less, enjoy the truth, as this category is left in the condition of old Mother Hubbard’s cupboard.
Agnosticism presupposes that God is the absolutely unknown and unknowable. If He is unknowable, how can we know that much about Him, that He cannot be known? God is said to be energy, power, force, and that infinite, eternal and omnipresent. God is the cause of the universe. This already implies so much knowledge of the unknowable that rather than to call it Agnosticism, it would be more correct to call it a modified Gnosticism. Now, if Agnosticism in its pious ignorance and its scientific bravado, can speak of God as force, why should it hesitate in ascribing to Him personal intelligence? If it can call Him the Cause of all, why shrink from attributing personality to Him? Why presuppose that the infinite God can have no relation to finite man, yet find it impossible to grant that man was made in the image of God, after His likeness, and is still capable of bearing the divine image? Why presuppose the certain knowledge of God and of spiritual things to be unattainable, only, on that presupposition, to deem it necessary to think, feel and act as if there were no God, no spiritual life and no future existence? Agnosticism is hypocritical atheism.The religious liberals a generation or more ago, having rejected the inspiration and authority of Scripture, accepted as sufficient ground or authority for their religion that of religious feeling or experience. Whatever lies beyond the range of experience was thought to be beyond the mind of man. McGiffert, one of the past presidents of that socialist-mill, Union Theological Seminary, said, “Agnosticism touching many matters, formerly deemed fundamental, has come to be the common attitude on the part of religious men, and even of theologians.” (Mod. Relig. Liblm, J. Horsch, 1924, p. 44). However, many liberal theologians came to see that experience is in itself no standard, and that the experience of one can never be the norm for anyone else. What foundation then did the liberals have, now that they had jettisoned both Scripture and experience as religious authority? They adopted no foundation. The agnostic liberals asserted that their religion needed no foundation. For, like Freemasonry, they asserted that their system is a method, rather than a doctrine, or a religion. There is no absolute truth. Nothing is true in itself, or in fact. The agnostic says he does not know anything about the truth, or whether there be any truth. But his ignorance is no excuse, for he rejects the source of all truth, God and His Word. He claims not to know whether there be a God, whether the Bible is His Word. The agnostic is not ashamed to hide behind a sissified atheism.
Dr. Augustus Hopkins Strong, the great Baptist theologian, said of the student in the Modernist seminary, “He has all his early conceptions of Scripture and of Christian doctrine weakened, has no longer any positive message to deliver, loses the ardor of his love for Christ, and at his graduation leaves the seminary, not to become pastor, or preacher, as he had once hoped, but to sow his doubts broadcast, as teacher in some college, as editor of some religious journal, as secretary of some YMCA, or as agent of some mutual life insurance company.” (ibid., 242). This will illustrate how religious and political liberals in filtrate every human institution to begin their tactic of boring from within.
One of those institutions is the public school movement which since the days of Horace Mann has become increasingly pagan. In 1885 Prof. A.A. Hodge said of the public school system of education: “The tendency is to hold that this system must be altogether secular. The atheistic doctrine is gaining currency, even among professed Christians and even among some bewildered Christian ministers, that an education provided by the common government for the children of diverse religious parties should be entirely emptied of all religious character. The Protestants object to the government schools being used for the purpose of inculcating the doctrines of the Catholic church, and Romanists object to the use of the Protestant version of the Bible and to the inculcation of the peculiar doctrines of the Protestant churches. The Jews protest against the schools being used to inculcate Christianity in any form, and the atheists and agnostics protest any teaching that implies the existence and moral government of God . . . then he that believes most must give way to him that believes least, and then he that believes least must give way to him that believes nothing, no matter in how small a minority the atheists or the agnostics may be. It is self-evident that on this scheme, if it is consistently and persistently carried out in all parts of the country, the U.S. system of national popular education will be the most efficient and wide instrument for the propagation of atheism which the world has ever seen . . . A comprehensive and centralized system of national education, separated from religion, as is now commonly proposed, will prove the most appalling enginery for the propagation of anti-Christian and atheistic unbelief, and of anti-social nihilistic ethics, individual, social and political, which this sin-rent world has even seen.” (Pop. Lect. on Theol. Themes, 280, 281, 283).
When brought to a cross-road, the skeptic stops to get his bearings. He does not think much of either possibility. He may rather carefully test out each way in order to prove to himself that both are equally bad, or that both equally lead nowhere, or that both are mere mental projections with no foundation in fact. But the agnostic at the sight of a cross-road gives up his journey altogether. He has no reason to take another step, for at the moment he knows only what he presently experiences and feels, and that is that he knows nothing, and so is lost. Thus the agnostic is a sort of intellectual “beatnik.” He is philosophically (and may we say, epistemologically) “beat.” The agnostic is a cowardly atheist.