Theology and Philosophical Inquiry: An Introduction

Theology and philosophical inquiry : an introduction
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Reason is often very foolish: it immediately jumps to conclusions when it sees a thing happen once or twice. But by its reflections on the nature of words and our use of language, it can help us to grasp our own spiritual impotence. Luther thus rejected the doctrine of analogy, developed by Aquinas and others, as an example of the false power of reason. In his Heidelberg Disputation Luther claims that a theologian must look only "on the visible rearward parts of God as seen in suffering and the cross.

Thus faith is primarily an act of trust in God's grace. Luther thus stresses the gratuitousness of salvation. In a traditional sense, Roman Catholics generally held that faith is meritorious, and thus that salvation involves good works. Protestant reformers like Luther, on the other hand, held that indeed faith is pure gift. He thus tended to make the hitherto Catholic emphasis on works look voluntaristic.

Like Luther, John Calvin appealed to the radical necessity of grace for salvation.

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This was embodied in his doctrine of election. But unlike Luther, Calvin gave a more measured response to the power of human reason to illuminate faith. In his Institutes of the Christian Religion , he argued that the human mind possesses, by natural instinct, an "awareness of divinity.

Even idolatry can contain as aspect of this. So religion is not merely arbitrary superstition. And yet, the law of creation makes necessary that we direct every thought and action to this goal of knowing God. Despite this fundamental divine orientation, Calvin denied that a believer could build up a firm faith in Scripture through argument and disputation. He appealed instead to the testimony of Spirit embodied gained through a life of religious piety. Only through this testimony is certainty about one's beliefs obtained.

We attain a conviction without reasons, but only through "nothing other than what each believer experiences within himself--though my words fall far beneath a just explanation of the matter. Calvin is thus an incompatibilist of the transrational type: faith is not against, but is beyond human reason. But he expanded the power of reason to grasp firmly the preambles of faith.

In his Meditations , he claimed to have provided what amounted to be the most certain proofs of God possible. God becomes explicated by means of the foundation of subjective self-certainty. His proofs hinged upon his conviction that God cannot be a deceiver. Little room is left for faith. Descartes's thinking prepared Gottfried Leibniz to develop his doctrine of sufficient reason. Leibniz first argued that all truths are reducible to identities.

From this it follows that a complete or perfect concept of an individual substance involves all its predicates, whether past, present, or future. From this he constructed his principle of sufficient reason: there is no event without a reason and no effect without a cause. He uses this not only to provide a rigorous cosmological proof for God's existence from the fact of motion, but also to defend the cogency of both the ontological argument and the argument from design.

In his Theodicy Leibniz responded to Pierre Bayle, a French philosophe , who gave a skeptical critique of rationalism and support of fideism. First, Leibniz held that all truths are complementary, and cannot be mutually inconsistent. He argued that there are two general types of truth: those that are altogether necessary, since their opposite implies contradiction, and those that are consequences of the laws of nature. God can dispense only with the latter laws, such as the law of our mortality.

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A doctrine of faith can never violate something of the first type; but it can be in tension with truths of the second sort. Thus though no article of faith can be self-contradictory, reason may not be able to fully comprehend it. Mysteries, such as that of the Trinity, are simply "above reason. We must weigh these decisions by taking into account the existence and nature of God and the universal harmony by which the world is providentially created and ordered.

Leibniz insisted that one must respect the differences among the three distinct functions of reason: to comprehend, to prove, and to answer objections. However, one sees vestiges of the first two as well, since an inquiry into truths of faith employs proofs of the infinite whose strength or weakness the reasoner can comprehend. Baruch Spinoza , a Dutch philosopher, brought a distinctly Jewish perspective to his rigorously rationalistic analysis of faith.

Noticing that religious persons showed no particular penchant to virtuous life, he decided to read the Scriptures afresh without any presuppositions. He found that Old Testament prophecy, for example, concerned not speculative but primarily practical matters. Obedience to God was one. He took this to entail that whatever remains effective in religion applies only to moral matters. He then claimed that the Scriptures do not conflict with natural reason, leaving it free reign. No revelation is needed for morality. Moreover, he was led to claim that though the various religions have very different doctrines, they are very similar to one another in their moral pronouncements.

Instead he focused on the way that we should act given this ambiguity. He argued that since the negative consequences of believing are few diminution of the passions, some pious actions but the gain of believing is infinite eternal life , it is more rational to believe than to disbelieve in God's existence. This assumes, of course, both that God would not grant eternal life to a non-believer and that sincerity in one's belief in God is not a requirement for salvation. As such, Pascal introduced an original form of rational voluntarism into the analysis of faith.

John Locke lived at a time when the traditional medieval view of a unified body of articulate wisdom no longer seemed plausible. Yet he still held to the basic medieval idea that faith is assent to specific propositions on the basis of God's authority. Yet unlike Aquinas, he argued that faith is not a state between knowledge and opinion, but a form of opinion doxa. But he developed a kind of apology for Christianity: an appeal to revelation, without an appeal to enthusiasm or inspiration.

His aim was to demonstrate the "reasonableness of Christianity. Faith cannot convince us of what contradicts, or is contrary, to our knowledge. We cannot assent to a revealed proposition if it be contradictory to our clear intuitive knowledge. But propositions of faith are, nonetheless, understood to be "above reason. Locke specifies two ways in which matters of faith can be revealed: either though "original revelation" or "traditional revelation.

The truth of original revelation cannot be contrary to reason. But traditional revelation is even more dependent on reason, since if an original revelation is to be communicated, it cannot be understood unless those who receive it have already received a correlate idea through sensation or reflection and understood the empirical signs through which it is communicated. For Locke, reason justifies beliefs, and assigns them varying degrees of probability based on the power of the evidence. But faith requires the even less certain evidence of the testimony of others.

In the final analysis, faith's assent is made not by a deduction from reason, but by the "credit of the proposer, as coming from God, in some extraordinary way of communication. Locke also developed a version of natural theology. In An Essay Concerning Human Understanding he claims that the complex ideas we have of God are made of up ideas of reflection.

For example, we take the ideas of existence, duration, pleasure, happiness, knowledge, and power and "enlarge every one of these with our idea of Infinity; and so putting them together, make our complex idea of God. David Hume , like Locke, rejected rationalism, but developed a more radical kind of empiricism than Locke had.

He argued that concrete experience is "our only guide in reasoning concerning matters of fact. He supported this conclusion on two grounds. First, natural theology requires certain inferences from everyday experience. The argument from design infers that we can infer a single designer from our experience of the world. Though Hume agrees that we have experiences of the world as an artifact, he claims that we cannot make any probable inference from this fact to quality, power, or number of the artisans.

Second, Hume argues that miracles are not only often unreliable grounds as evidence for belief, but in fact are apriori impossible. A miracle by definition is a transgression of a law of nature, and yet by their very nature these laws admit of no exceptions. Thus we cannot even call it a law of nature that has been violated. He concludes that reason and experience fail to establish divine infinity, God's moral attributes, or any specification of the ongoing relationship between the Deity and man.

But rather than concluding that his stance towards religious beliefs was one of atheism or even a mere Deism, Hume argued that he was a genuine Theist.

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He believed that we have a genuine natural sentiment by which we long for heaven. The one who is aware of the inability of reason to affirm these truths in fact is the person who can grasp revealed truth with the greatest avidity. Immanuel Kant was heavily influenced by Descartes's anthropomorphism and Spinoza 's and Jean Jacques Rousseau 's restriction of the scope of religion to ethical matters. Moreover, he wanted a view that was consistent with Newton's discoveries about the strict natural laws that govern the empirical world.

To accomplish this, he steered the scope of reason away from metaphysical, natural, and religious speculation altogether. Kant's claim that theoretical reason was unable to grasp truths about God effectively continued the contraction of the authority of scienta in matters of faith that had been occurring since the late medieval period. He rejected, then, the timeless and spaceless God of revelation characteristic of the Augustinian tradition as beyond human ken.

This is most evident in his critique of the cosmological proof for the existence of God in The Critique of Pure Reason. This move left Kant immune from the threat of unresolvable paradoxes. Nonetheless he did allow the concept of God as well as the ideas of immortality and the soul to become not a constitutive but a regulative ideal of reason. God's existence remains a necessary postulate specifically for the moral law.

God functions as the sources for the summum bonum. Only God can guarantee an ideal conformity of virtue and happiness, which is required to fulfill the principle that "ought implies can. Rational faith involves reliance neither upon God's word nor the person of Christ, but only upon the recognition of God as the source of how we subjectively realize our duties. God is cause of our moral purposes as rational beings in nature.

Yet faith is "free belief": it is the permanent principle of the mind to assume as true, on account of the obligation in reference to it, that which is necessary to presuppose as condition of the possibility of the highest moral purpose. Like Spinoza, Kant makes all theology moral theology. Since faith transcends the world of experience, it is neither doubtful nor merely probable. Thus Kant's view of faith is complex: it has no theoretical grounds, yet it has a rational basis that provides more or less stable conviction for believers. He provided a religion grounded without revelation or grace.

It ushered in new immanentism in rational views of belief. Hegel, at the peak of German Idealism , took up Kant's immanentism but moved it in a more radical direction. He claimed that in Kant, "philosophy has made itself the handmaid of a faith once more" though one not externally imposed but autonomously constituted. Hegel approved of the way Kant helped to modify the Enlightenment's dogmatic emphasis on the empirical world, particularly as evidenced in the way Locke turned philosophy into empirical psychology.

But though Kant held to an "idealism of the finite," Hegel thought that Kant did not extend his idealism far enough. Kant's regulative view of reason was doomed to regard faith and knowledge as irrevocably opposed. Hegel argued that a further development of idealism shows have faith and knowledge are related and synthesized in the Absolute. Hegel reinterpreted the traditional proofs for God's existence, rejected by Kant, as authentic expressions of the need of finite spirit to elevate itself to oneness with God.

In religion this attempt to identify with God is accomplished through feeling. Feelings are, however, subject to conflict and opposition. But they are not merely subjective. The content of God enters feeling such that the feeling derives its determination from this content.

Thus faith, implanted in one's heart, can be defended by the testimony of the indwelling spirit of truth. Hegel's thoroughgoing rationalism ultimate yields a form of panentheism in which all finite beings, though distinct from natural necessity, have no existence independent from it. Thus faith is merely an expression of a finitude comprehensible only from the rational perspective of the infinite.

Faith is merely a moment in our transition to absolute knowledge. Physics and astronomy were the primary scientific concerns for theologians in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. But in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries the sciences of geology, sociology, psychology, and biology became more pronounced. Kant's understanding of God as a postulate of practical reason - and his dismissal of metaphysical and empirical support for religion -- soon led to the idea that God could be a mere projection of practical feeling or psychological impulse.

Such an idea echoed Hobbes's claim that religion arises from fear and superstition. Sigmund Freud claimed, for example, that religious beliefs were the result of the projection of a protective father figure onto our life situations. Although such claims about projection seem immune from falsification, the Freudian could count such an attempt to falsify itself simply as rationalization: a masking of a deeper unconscious drive.

The nineteenth century biological development most significant for theology was Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection. It explained all human development on the basis simply of progressive adaptation or organisms to their physical environment. No reference to a mind or rational will was required to explain any human endeavor.

Darwin himself once had believed in God and the immortality of the soul. But later he found that these could not count as evidence for the existence of God. He ended up an agnostic. On the one hand he felt compelled to affirm a First Cause of such an immense and wonderful universe and to reject blind chance or necessity, but on the other hand he remained skeptical of the capacities of humans "developed from a mind as low as that possessed by the lowest animals. Not all nineteenth century scientific thinking, however, yielded skeptical conclusions.

He concluded that the cultic practices of religion have the non-illusory quality of producing measurable good consequences in their adherents. Moreover, he theorized that the fundamental categories of thought, and even of science, have religious origins. Almost all the great social institutions were born of religion. He was lead to claim that "the idea of society is the soul of religion": society derived from religious forces. In the context of these various scientific developments, philosophical arguments about faith and reason developed in several remarkable directions in the nineteenth century.

Friedrich Schleiermacher was a liberal theologian who was quite interested in problems of biblical interpretation.

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He claimed that religion constituted its own sphere of experience, unrelated to scientific knowledge. Thus religious meaning is independent of scientific fact. His Romantic fideism would have a profound influence on Kierkegaard. Karl Marx is well known as an atheist who had strong criticisms of all religious practice. Much of his critique of religion had been derived from Ludwig Feuerbach, who claimed that God is merely a psychological projection meant to compensate for the suffering people feel.

Rejecting wholesale the validity of such wishful thinking, Marx claimed not only that all sufferings are the result of economic class struggle but that they could be alleviated by means of a Communist revolution that would eliminate economic classes altogether. Moreover, Marx claimed that religion was a fundamental obstacle to such a revolution, since it was an "opiate" that kept the masses quiescent.

Religious beliefs thus arise from a cognitive malfunction: they emerge from a "perverted world consciousness. He came up with an unequivocal view of faith and reason much like Tertullian's strong incompatibilism. If Kant argued for religion within the limits of reason alone, Kierkegaard called for reason with the limits of religion alone.

Faith requires a leap.

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It demands risk. All arguments that reason derives for a proof of God are in fact viciously circular: one can only reason about the existence of an object that one already assumes to exist. Hegel tried to claim that faith could be elevated to the status of objective certainty. Seeking such certainly, moreover, Kierkegaard considered a trap: what is needed is a radical trust. The radical trust of faith is the highest virtue one can reach. Kierkegaard claimed that all essential knowledge intrinsically relates to an existing individual.

The aesthetic is the life that seeks pleasure. The ethical is that which stresses the fulfillment of duties. Neither of these attains to the true individuality of human existence. But in the ethico-religious sphere, truth emerges in the authenticity of the relationship between a person and the object of his attention. With authenticity, the importance is on the "how," not the "what," of knowledge.

It attains to a subjective truth, in which the sincerity and intensity of the commitment is key. This authenticity is equivalent to faith understood as "an objective uncertainty held fast in an appropriation-process of the most passionate inwardness. Kierkegaard makes a similarly paradoxical claim in holding that "nothing historical can become infinitely certain for me except the fact of my own existence which again cannot become infinitely certain for any other individual, who has infinite certainty only of his own existence and this is not something historical. Faith involves a submission of the intellect.

It is not only hostile to but also completely beyond the grasp of reason. Though he never read Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche came up with remarkable parallels to his thought. Both stressed the centrality of the individual, a certain disdain for public life, and a hatred of personal weakness and anonymity. They also both attacked certain hypocrisies in Christendom and the overstated praise for reason in Kant and Hegel. But Nietzsche had no part of Kierkegaard's new Christian individual, and instead defended the aesthetic life disdained by Kierkegaard against both morality and Christianity.

So he critique religion not from Kierkegaard's epistemological perspective, but from a highly original moral perspective. Nietzsche claimed that religion breeds hostility to life, understood broadly as will to power. In The Joyful Wisdom Nietzsche proclaims that God as a protector of the weak, though once alive, is now dead, and that we have rightly killed him. Now, instead, he claims that we instead need to grasp the will to power that is part of all things and guides them to their full development completely within the natural world.

For humans Nietzsche casts the will to power as a force of artistic and creative energy. Roman Catholics traditionally claimed that the task of reason was to make faith intelligible. In the later part of the nineteenth century, John Cardinal Newman worked to defend the power of reason against those intellectuals of his day who challenged its efficacy in matters of faith. Though maintaining the importance of reason in matters of faith, he reduces its ability to arrive at absolute certainties.

In his Grammar of Assent, Newman argued that one assents to God on the basis of one's experience and principles. And one can do this by means of a kind of rational demonstration. And yet this demonstration is not actually reproducible by others; each of us has a unique domain of experience and expertise. Some are just given the capacity and opportunities to make this assent to what is demonstrated others are not. Drawing for Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics , Newman argues that "a special preparation of mind is required for each separate department of inquiry and discussion.

He claims that Locke, for example, overlooked how human nature actually works, imposing instead his own idea of how the mind is to act on the basis of deduction from evidence. If Locke would have looked more closely at experience, he would have noticed that much of our reasoning is tacit and informal. It cannot usually be reconstructed for a set of premises. Rather it is the accumulation of probabilities, independent of each other, arising out of the circumstances of the particular case. No specific consideration usually suffices to generate the required conclusion, but taken together, they may converge upon it.

This is usually what is called a moral proof for belief in a proposition. In fact, we are justified in holding the beliefs even after we have forgotten what the warrant was. This probabilistic approach to religious assent continued in the later thinking of Basil Mitchell. William James followed in the pragmatist tradition inaugurated by Charles Sanders Peirce.

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Pragmatists held that all beliefs must be tested, and those that failed to garner sufficient practical value ought to be discarded. In his Will to Believe , James was a strong critic of W. Clifford's uncompromising empiricism. Clifford, like Hume, had argued that acting on beliefs or convictions alone, unsupported by evidence, was pure folly. He likened such acting to that of an irresponsible shipowner who allows an untrustworthy ship to be ready to set sail, merely thinking it safe, and then gives "benevolent wishes" for those who would set sail in it. Clifford concluded that we have a duty to act only on well founded beliefs.

If we have no grounds for belief, we must suspend judgment. This provided the basis for an ethics of belief quite different than Newman's. Clifford's evidentialism inspired subsequent philosophers such as Bertrand Russell and Michael Scriven. James argued, pace Clifford, that life would be severely impoverished if we acted only on completely well founded beliefs.

Like Newman, James held that belief admits of a wide spectrum of commitment: from tentative to firm. The feelings that attach to a belief are significant. He defended the need we have, at times, to allow our "passional tendencies" to influence our judgments. Thus, like Pascal, he took up a voluntarist argument for religious belief, though one not dependent solely upon a wager.

There are times, admittedly few, when we must act on our beliefs passionately held but without sufficient supporting evidence. These rare situations must be both momentous, once in a lifetime opportunities, and forced, such that the situation offers the agent only two options: to act or not to act on the belief. Religious beliefs often take on both of these characteristics.

Pascal had realized the forced aspect of Christian belief, regarding salvation: God would not save the disbeliever. As a result, religion James claimed that a religious belief could be a genuine hypothesis for a person to adopt.

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James does, however, also give some evidential support for this choice to believe. We have faith in many things in life -- in molecules, conversation of energy, democracy, and so forth -- that are based on evidence of their usefulness for us. But even in these cases "Our faith is faith in some one else's faith. Nonetheless, James believed that while philosophers like Descartes and Clifford, not wanting to ever be dupes, focused primarily on the need to avoid error, even to the point of letting truth take its chance, he as an empiricist must hold that the pursuit of truth is paramount and the avoidance of error is secondary.

His position entailed that that dupery in the face of hope is better than dupery in the face of fear. In "The Sentiment of Rationality" James concludes that faith is "belief in something concerning which doubt is still theoretically possible; and as the test of belief is willingness to act, one may say that faith is the readiness to act in a cause the prosperous issue of which is not certified to us in advance. Faith is oriented towards action: it is a kind of "working hypothesis" needed for practical life. Darwins's scientific thesis of natural selection and Freud's projective views of God continued to have a profound impact on many aspects of the philosophy of religion in the twentieth century.

In fact the interplay between faith and reason began to be cast, in many cases, simply as the conflict between science and religion. Not all scientific discoveries were used to invoke greater skepticism about the validity of religious claims, however. For example, in the late twentieth century some physicists endorsed what came to be called the anthropic principle. The principle derives from the claim of some physicists that a number of factors in the early universe had to coordinate in a highly statistically improbable way to produce a universe capable of sustaining advanced life forms.

Among the factors are the mass of the universe and the strengths of the four basic forces electromagnetism, gravitation, and the strong and weak nuclear forces. It is difficult to explain this fine tuning. Many who adhere to the anthropic principle, such as Holmes Rolston, John Leslie, and Stephen Hawking, argue that it demands some kind of extra-natural explanation. Some think it suggests possibilities for a new design argument for God's existence.

However, one can hold the anthropic principle and still deny that it has religious implications. It is possible to argue that it indicates not a single creator creating a single universe, but indeed many universes, either contemporaneous with our own or in succession to it.

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Studies of the thought of Saint Thomas and other Scholastic writers received new impetus. Though Hume agrees that we have experiences of the world as an artifact, he claims that we cannot make any probable inference from this fact to quality, power, or number of the artisans. A strong critic of the negative impact of scientific naturalism on faith is the Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor. Here the aims, objects, and methods of reason and faith are understood to be distinct. The officials of the Catholic Church - with some exceptions -- strongly resisted these conclusions and continued to champion a pre-Copernican conception of the cosmos.

The twentieth century witnessed numerous attempts to reconcile religious belief with new strands of philosophical thinking and with new theories in science. Many philosophers of religion in the twentieth century took up a new appreciation for the scope and power of religious language. This was prompted to a large extent by the emphasis on conceptual clarity that dominated much Western philosophy, particularly early in the century. This emphasis on conceptual clarity was evidenced especially in logical positivism. Ayer and Antony Flew, for example, argued that all metaphysical language fails to meet a standard of logical coherence and is thus meaningless.

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Metaphysical claims are not in principle falsifiable. As such, their claims are neither true nor false. They make no verifiable reference to the world. Religious language shares these characteristics with metaphysical language. Flew emphasized that religious believers generally cannot even state the conditions under which they would give up their faith claims. Since their claims then are unfalsifiable, they are not objects for rational determination. One response by compatibilists to these arguments of logical positivists was to claim that religious beliefs, though meaningless in the verificational sense, are nonetheless important in providing the believer with moral motivations and self-understanding.

This is an anti-realist understanding of faith. An example of this approach is found in R. Responding to Flew, he admitted that religious faith consists of a set of unfalsifiable assumptions, which he termed "bliks. Basil Mitchell responded to Flew's claim that religious beliefs cannot be falsified. Mitchell argued that although rational and scientific considerations can and ought at times to prompt revisions of one's religious belief, no one can give a general determination of exactly at what point a set of evidence ought to count decisively against a faith claim.

It is up to each believer to decide when this occurs. To underscore this claim, Mitchell claimed that the rationality of religious beliefs ought to be determined not foundationally, as deductions from rational first principles, but collectively from the gathering of various types of evidence into a pattern.

Nonetheless, he realized that this accumulation of evidence, as the basis for a new kind of natural theology, might not be strong enough to counter the skeptic. In the spirit of Newman, Mitchell concluded by defending a highly refined cumulative probabilism in religious belief. Another reaction against logical positivism stemmed from Ludwig Wittgenstein. In his "Lectures on Religious Belief," he argued that there is something unique about the linguistic framework of religious believers.

Their language makes little sense to outsiders. Thus one has to share in their form of life in order to understand the way the various concepts function in their language games. The various language games form a kind of "family resemblance. From Wittgenstein's perspective, science and religion are just two different types of language games. This demand to take on an internal perspective in order to assess religious beliefs commits Wittgenstein to a form of incompatibilism between faith and reason. Interpreters of Wittgenstein, like Norman Malcolm, claimed that although this entails that religious beliefs are essentially groundless, so are countless other everyday beliefs, such as in the permanence of our objects of perception, in the uniformity of nature, and even in our knowledge of our own intentions.

Wittgenstein, like Kierkegaard, claimed that proofs for God's existence have little to do with actual belief in God. He did think that life itself could "educate" us about God's existence. In Culture and Value he claims that sufferings can have a great impact on one's beliefs. Experiences, thoughts--life can force this concept on us. Phillips also holds the view that religion has its own unique criteria for acceptable belief. John Hick , in Faith and Knowledge , modifies the Wittgensteinian idea of forms of life to analyze faith claims in a novel manner. Hick claimed that this could shed light upon the epistemological fides analysis of faith.

From such an analysis follows the non-epistemological thinking fiducia that guides actual practice. Taking up the epistemological analysis, Hick first criticizes the voluntarisms of Pascal and James as "remote from the state of mind of such men as the great prophets. Hick argues instead for the importance of rational certainty in faith. He posits that there are as many types of grounds for rational certainty as there are kinds of objects of knowledge. He claims that religious beliefs share several crucial features with any empirical claim: they are propositional; they are objects of assent; an agent can have dispositions to act upon them; and we feel convictions for them when they are challenged.

Nonetheless, Hick realizes that there are important ways in which sense beliefs and religious beliefs are distinct: sense perception is coercive, while religious perception is not; sense perception is universal, while religious is not; and sense perception is highly coherent within space and time, while religious awareness among different individuals is not.

In fact, it may in fact be rational for a person who has not had experiences that compel belief to withhold belief in God. From these similarities and differences between faith claims and claims of reason, Hick concludes that religious faith is the noninferential and unprovable basic interpretation either of a moral or religious "situational significance" in human experience. Faith is not the result of logical reasoning, but rather a profession that God "as a living being" has entered into the believer's experience.

This act of faith situates itself in the person's material and social environment. Religious faith interprets reality in terms of the divine presence within the believer's human experience. Although the person of faith may be unable to prove or explain this divine presence, his or her religious belief still acquire the status of knowledge similar to that of scientific and moral claims. Thus even if one could prove God's existence, this fact alone would be a form of knowledge neither necessary nor sufficient for one's faith. It would at best only force a notional assent.

Believers live by not by confirmed hypotheses, but by an intense, coercive, indubitable experience of the divine. Sallie McFague , in Models of God , argues that religious thinking requires a rethinking of the ways in which religious language employs metaphor. Religious language is for the most part neither propositional nor assertoric.

Rather, it functions not to render strict definitions, but to give accounts. To say, for example, "God is mother," is neither to define God as a mother nor to assert an identity between them, but rather to suggest that we consider what we do not know how to talk about--relating to God - through the metaphor of a mother.

Moreover, no single metaphor can function as the sole way of expressing any aspect of a religious belief. Many Protestant and Roman Catholic theologians in the twentieth century responded to the criticisms of religious belief, leveled by atheistic existentialists, naturalists , and linguistic positivists, by forging a new understanding of Christian revelation. Karl Barth, a Reformed Protestant, provided a startlingly new model of the relation between faith and reason. He rejected Schleiermacher's view that the actualization of one's religious motivation leads to some sort of established union between man and God.

Barth argued instead that revelation is aimed at a believer who must receive it before it is a revelation. This means that one cannot understand a revelation without already, in a sense, believing it.

God's revelation of Himself, His very communication of that self, is not distinct from Himself. Moreover, Barth claimed that God's revelation has its reality and truth wholly and in every respect, both ontically and noetically, within itself. Revelation cannot be made true by anything else. The fullness of the "original self-existent being of God's Word" reposes and lives in revelation. This renders the belief in an important way immune from both critical rational scrutiny and the reach of arguments from analogy.

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Barth held, however, that relative to the believer, God remains "totally other" totaliter aliter. Our selfhood stands in contradiction to the divine nature. Religion is, in fact, "unbelief": our attempts to know God from our own standpoint are wholly and entirely futile. This was a consistent conclusion of his dialectical method: the simultaneous affirmation and negation of a given theological point. Barth was thus an incompatibilist who held that the ground of faith lies beyond reason. Yet he urged that a believer is nonetheless always to seek knowledge and that religious beliefs have marked consequences for daily life.

Karl Rahner, arguably the most influential Catholic theologian of the twentieth century, was profoundly influenced by Barth's dialectical method. But Rahner argued that God's mystical self-revelation of Himself to us through an act of grace is not predestined for a few but extends to all persons: it constitutes the "supernatural existential" that grounds all intelligibility and action. It lies beyond proof or demonstration. Thus all persons, living in this prior and often unthematized state of God's gift, are "anonymous Christians.

Rahner held thus that previous religions embodied a various forms of knowledge of God and thus were lawful religions. But now God has revealed his fullness to humans through the Christian Incarnation and word. This explicit self-realization is the culmination of the history of the previously anonymous Christianity.

Christianity now understands itself as an absolute religion intended for all. This claim itself is basic for its understanding of itself. Rahner's claim about the gratuitous gifts of grace in all humans reaches beyond a natural theology. Nonetheless one form of evidence to which he appeals for its rational justification is the stipulation that humans, social by nature, cannot achieve a relationship to God "in an absolutely private interior reality. Rahner thus emphasized the importance of culture as a medium in which religious faith becomes understood.

He thus forged a new kind of compatibilism between faith and rationality. Paul Tillich , a German Protestant theologian, developed a highly original form of Christian apologetics. In his Systematic Theology , he laid out a original method, called correlation, that explains the contents of the Christian faith through existential questions and theological answers in mutual interdependence. Existential questions arise from our experiences of transitoriness, finitude, and the threat of nonbeing. In this context, faith is what emerges as our thinking about our "ultimate concern.

Secular culture provides numerous media, such as poetry, drama, and novels, in which these questions are engendered. In turn, the Christian message provides unique answers to these questions that emerge from our human existence. Tillich realized that such an existentialist method - with its high degree of correlation between faith and everyday experience and thus between the human and the divine -- would evoke protest from thinkers like Barth.

Steven Cahn approaches a Christian existentialism from less sociological and a more psychological angle than Tillich. Cahn agrees with Kierkegaard's claim that most believers in fact care little about proofs for the existence of God. Neither naturalist nor supernaturalist religion depend upon philosophical proofs for God's existence. It is impossible to prove definitely the testimony of another's supposedly self-validating experience.

One is always justified in entertaining either philosophical doubts concerning the logical possibility of such an experience or practical doubts as to whether the person has undergone it. Moreover, these proofs, even if true, would furnish the believer with no moral code. Cahn concludes that one must undergo a self-validating experience personal experience in which one senses the presence of God. All moral imperatives derive from learning the will of God. One may, however, join others in a communal effort to forge a moral code. The Darwinistic thinking of the nineteenth century continued to have a strong impact of philosophy of religion.

Richard Dawkins in his Blind Watchmaker, uses the same theory of natural selection to construct an argument against the cogency of religious faith. He argues that the theory of evolution by gradual but cumulative natural selection is the only theory that is in principle capable of explaining the existence of organized complexity in the world.

He admits that this organized complexity is highly improbable, yet the best explanation for it is still a Darwinian worldview. Dawkins even claims that Darwin effectively solved the mystery of our own existence. Since religions remain firm in their conviction that God guides all biological and human development, Dawkins concludes that religion and science are in fact doomed rivals. They make incompatible claims. He resolves the conflict in favor of science. Contemporary philosophers of religion respond to the criticisms of naturalists, like Dawkins, from several angles. Alvin Plantinga thinks that natural selection demonstrates only the function of species survival, not the production of true beliefs in individuals.

Yet he rejects traditional Lockean evidentialism, the view that a belief needs adequate evidence as a criterion for its justification. But he refuses to furnish a fideist or existentialist condition for the truth of religious beliefs. Rather he claims that religious beliefs are justified without reasons and are, as such, "properly basic. P Alston and Nicholas Wolterstorff. Plantinga builds his Reformed epistemology by means of several criticisms of evidentialism.

First, the standards of evidence in evidentialism are usually set too high. Most of our reliable everyday beliefs are not subject to such strict standards. Second, the set of arguments that evidentialists attack is traditionally very narrow. Plantinga suggest that they tend to overlook much of what is internally available to the believer: important beliefs concerning beauty and physical attributes of creatures, play and enjoyment, morality, and the meaning of life. Third, those who employ these epistemological criticisms often fail to realize that the criticisms themselves rest upon auxiliary assumptions that are not themselves epistemological, but rather theological, metaphysical, or ontological.

Finally, and more importantly, not all beliefs are subject to such evidence. Beliefs in memories or other minds, for example, generally appeal to something properly basic beyond the reach of evidence. What is basic for a religious belief can be, for example, a profound personal religious experience.

In short, being self-evident, incorrigible, or evident to the senses is not a necessary condition of proper basicality. We argue to what is basic from below rather than from above. These claims are tested by a relevant set of "internal markers. He concludes, though, that religious believers cannot be accused of shirking some fundamental epistemic duty by relying upon this basic form of evidence. Epistemological views such as Plantinga develops entail that there is an important distinction between determining whether or not a religious belief is true de facto and whether or not one ought to hold or accept it de jure.

On de jure grounds, for example, one can suggest that beliefs are irrational because they are produced either by a errant process or by an proper process aimed at the wrong aim or end. Theism has been criticized on both of these grounds. But since Christianity purports to be true, the de jure considerations must reduce ultimately to de facto considerations.

Haldane criticizes the scientific critiques of religion on the grounds that they themselves make two unacknowledged assumptions about reality: the existence of regular patterns of interaction, and the reality of stable intelligences in humans. These assumptions themselves cannot be proven by scientific inquiry.

Thus it seems odd to oppose as rivals scientific and religious ways of thinking about reality. Science itself is faith-like in resting upon these assumptions; theology carries forward a scientific impulse in asking how the order of the world is possible. But what do we make of the fact that scientific models often explain the world better than religious claims?

What troubles Haldane is the explanatory reductionism physical sciences employ is often thought to be entailed by the ontological reduction it assumes. For example, the fact that one can give a complete description of human action and development on a biological level alone is often thought to mean that all action and development can be explained according to biological laws.

Haldane rejects this thesis, arguing that certain mental events might be ontologically reducible to physical events, but talk of physical events cannot be equally substituted for mental events in the order of explanation. Such argumentation reflects the general direction of the anomological monism proposed by Donald Davidson. Haldane concludes that language can be a unique source of explanatory potential for all human activity.

Like Haldane, Nancey Murphy also holds for a new form of compatibilism between religion and science. In Science and Theology she argues that the differences between scientific and theological methodologies are only of degree, not kind. She admits that scientific methodology has fundamentally changed the way we think about the world. Consequently, theology in the modern period has been preoccupied with the question of theological method. But she thinks that theological method can develop to meet the same standard of criteria as scientific method has.

Scientific thinking in the twentieth century in particular has been developing away from foundationalism: the derivation of theories from indubitable first principles. Willard van Orman Quine and others urged that scientific methodologists give up on foundationalism. He claimed that knowledge is like a web or net of beliefs: some beliefs are simply more apt to be adopted or rejected in certain situations than others are. Murphy sees that theology, too, is developing away from the foundationalism that literal interpretations of Scripture used to provide.

Now it tends to emphasize the importance of religious experience and the individual interpretation of beliefs. But two problems await the move from theology away from foundationalism: subjectivism and circularity. The subjectivism emerges from the believer's inability to make the leap from his or her private inner experience to the real world.

The circularity emerges from the lack of any kind of external check on interpretation. Alasdair MacIntyre is concerned with the latter problem. He claims that evidence for belief requires a veridical experience for each subsequent belief that arises from it. But Murphy finds this approach still close to foundationalism. Instead she develops two non-foundational criteria for the interpretation of a religious belief: that several related but differing experiences give rise to the belief, and that the belief have publicly observable consequences emanating from it.

To illustrate this approach to interpretation of beliefs, Murphy considers Catherine of Siena's claim that a true "verification" of a revelation from God requires that the believer subsequently engage in publicly observable acts of humility and charity. The verification also requires what Murphy calls discernment. Discernment reveals analogous experiences and interpretations in other believers and a certain reliability in the actions done. It functions the same way that a theory of instrumentation does in science.

Discernment often takes place within a community of some sort. But are these beliefs, supported by this indirect verification and communal discernment, still in any sense falsifiable? Murphy notes that religious experience has clashed with authoritative theological doctrine numerous times. But it has also ended up correcting it, for example in the way that Catherine of Siena's writings eventually changed the Roman Catholic tradition in which she was writing. Murphy claims, however, that until theology takes on the status as a kind of knowledge of a reality independent of the human subject it is unlikely that theology and science will have a fruitful dialogue.

But she thinks that turning from the subjectivization of the liberal turn in theology to discourse about human religiosity will help this dialogue. A strong critic of the negative impact of scientific naturalism on faith is the Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor. Taylor finds in all naturalisms a kind of "exclusive humanism" that not only puts humans at the center of the universe, but denies them any authentic aspirations to goals or states beyond the world in which they live. In modernity naturalism has led inexorably to secularization.

In Sources of the Self, Taylor argues that secularization, inspired by both Luther and Calvin, first resulted in the prioritizing of "ordinary life" of marriage and family over that of contemplative lives in the vowed or clerical state. In later phases it led to the transformation of cultural practices into forms that are neutral with regard to religious affiliation. But secularization is not a prima facie problem for any religious believer, since it does not preclude the possibility of religious faith or practices per se.

Moreover, secularization has made possible the development of legal and governmental structures, such as human rights, better fit for pluralistic societies containing persons of a number of different religious faiths. Thus it has made it easier for Christians to accept full rights for atheists or violators of the Christian moral code.

Nonetheless, Taylor sees problems that secularism poses for the Christian faith. It can facilitate a marriage between the Christian faith and a particular form of culture. In contrast to naturalism, Taylor urges the adoption of a unique transcendental point of view. Such a view does not equate a meaningful life with a full or good life. Instead, a transcendental view finds in suffering and death not only something that matters beyond life, but something from which life itself originally draws. Thus natural life is to be subordinated to the "abundant life" that Jesus advocates in his Good Shepherd discourse John This call of the transcendental requires, ultimately, a conversion or a change of identity.

The sciences were organized within this philosophic framework so that logic, physics, mathematics, and metaphysics culminated in a political science whose subject matter is the investigation of happiness and how it can be realized in cities and nations. The central theme of this political science is the founder of a virtuous or excellent community. Included in this theme are views concerning the supreme rulers who follow the founder, their qualifications, and how the community must be ordered so that its members attain happiness as citizens rather than isolated human beings.

He paid special attention to the study of language and its relation to logic. That a person could combine the functions of prophecy, lawgiving, philosophy, and kingship did not necessarily mean that these functions were identical; it did mean, however, that they all are legitimate subjects of philosophic inquiry. Philosophy must account for the powers, knowledge, and activities of the prophet, lawgiver, and king, which it must distinguish from and relate to those of the philosopher.

The public, or political, function of philosophy was emphasized. Article Media. Info Print Print.