What is the status of belief in God? Must a rational case be made or can such belief be properly basic? Is it possible to reconcile the concept of a good God with evil and suffering? In light of great differences among religions, can only one religion be true? The most comprehensive work of its kind, Reason and Religious Belief, now in its fourth edition, explores these and other perennial questions in the philosophy of religion. Drawing from the best in (...) both classical and contemporary discussions, the authors examine religious experience, faith and reason, the divine attributes, arguments for and against the existence of God, divine action (in various forms of theism), Reformed epistemology, religious language, religious diversity, religion and science, and much more. Retaining the engaging style and thorough coverage of previous editions, the fourth edition adds a critical new chapter on the ontological status of religion and the nature of religious claims. It also features revised treatments of omnipotence, miracles, and providence and updated suggestions for further reading. A sophisticated yet accessible introduction, Reason and Religious Belief, Fourth Edition, is ideally suited for use with the authors' companion anthology, Philosophy of Religion: Selected Readings, Third Edition (OUP, 2006). (shrink)
In a recent article in this journal Andrew Chignell assesses attempts by Marilyn McCord Adams and Eleonore Stump to resolve the problem that infant suffering poses for theistic belief, concluding that while the theodicy of each is inadequate in its current form, both can be satisfactorily amended. I argue that (1) Chignell fails to show that the theodicy of either Adams or Stump is inadequate and that (2) since Chignell's revisions are based on assumptions about God and evil held by (...) few, such revisions are of little value as responses to the actual challenge infant suffering poses for theistic belief. (shrink)
So where does all this leave us? The reality of religious diversity, I have argued, does notnecessitate the rejection of exclusivism. But this does not end the discussion, as some apparently believe. The reality of religious diversity, I have also argued, does justifiably remainfor many a significant challenge to exclusivistic thought and practice.
I have argued previously (in this journal) that the reality of pervasive religious pluralism obligates a believer to attempt to establish her perspective as the correct one. In a recent response, Jerome Gellman maintains that the believer who affirms a ‘religious epistemology’ is under no such obligation in that she need not subject her religious beliefs to any ‘rule of rationality’. In this paper I contend that there do exist some rules of rationality (some epistemic obligations) that must be acknowledged-and (...) satisfied-within all epistemic systems (including all religious epistemic systems) and that for this reason Gellman’s critique of my position fails. (shrink)
In an ongoing dialogue, Robert Larmer and I have been discussing whether the undisputed occurrence of certain conceivable events--for instance, astonishing healings--could require all honest, thoughtful individuals to acknowledge that God has supernaturally intervened in earthly affairs. I have not denied that a theist could justifiably consider the occurrence of certain possible (or even actual) events to be strong evidence for theism. But in this essay I continue to deny that the occurrence of any conceivable event would require the acknowledgement (...) of divine intervention by all rational individuals. (shrink)
In a recent article in this journal, Michael Murray and Kurt Meyers offer us (among other things) two innovative and thought-provoking responses to the important question of why God would, even occasionally, refrain from giving us that which he can and would like to give us until we request that he do so: to help the believer learn more about God and thus become more like him and to help the believer realize she is dependent on God. I argue (...) that neither explanation is adequate and thus that more work on this significant topic remains to be done. (shrink)
There have been many calls recently for philosophers to rethink what philosophy is and how it should be practiced. Among the most vocal critics is an influential group of feminist philosophers who argue that since current philosophical activity is based primarily on a conception of reason that is both inherently inadequate and oppressive to women, it is imperative that our understanding of the nature and practice of philosophy be significantly modified. I argue that this criticism is fundamentally misguided. Specifically, it (...) seems to me that while philosophers may at times need to rethink the role of the traditional philosophical method of inquiry in the context of general societal debate and rethink the techniques used to help others understand and apply this methodology, this method of inquiry, itself, is not in need of abandonment or major modification. (shrink)
What then have we discovered? The general issue under discussion, remember, is whether it is advantageous or disadvantageous for the theist to affirm MK, especially as this form of knowledge relates to God's control over earthly affairs. As we have seen, both proponents and opponents of MK have claimed that this form of knowledge gives God significant power over earthly affairs, including control over the (indeterministically) free choices of humans.We have seen, though, that such a contention is dubious. There are (...) similarities between a God with MK and the God of Theological Determinism. But, generally speaking, the providential capacities of a God with MK have been greatly overstated. A God with MK is simply not as powerful as has been thought. And thus those recent attempts to encourage or discourage the affirmation of MK that are based on this exaggerated conception of power are on the whole not very helpful. What is needed are new discussions, discussions based on the actual providential capacities inherent in MK. (shrink)
In an ongoing dialogue, Robert Larmer and I have been discussing whether the undisputed occurrence of certain conceivable events would require all honest, thoughtful individuals to acknowledge that God has intervened in earthly affairs. I argue that there is no reason to believe that a nontheist who acknowledged certain healings to be strong evidence for theism but did not see such evidence as outweighing what she viewed as the stronger counterevidence, and thus remained a nontheist, could justifiably be accused of (...) adopting a dogmatic, uncritical question-begging stance. (shrink)
The purpose of this discussion is to analyze comparatively the influential argument for religious pluralism offered by John Hick and the argument for religious exclusivism (sectarianism) which can be generated by proponents of what has come to be labeled ‘Reformed Epistemology.’ I argue that while Hick and the Reformed exclusivist appear to be giving us incompatible responses to the same question about the true nature of ‘religious’ reality, they are actually responding to related, but distinct questions, each of which must (...) be considered by those desiring to give a religious explanation for the phenomenon of religious diversity. Moreover, I conclude that the insights of neither ought to be emphasized at the expense of the other. (shrink)
P.J. McGrath has recently challenged the standard claim that to escape the problem of evil one need only alter one’s conception of God by limiting his power or his goodness. If we assume that God is infinitely good but not omnipotent, then God can scarcely be a proper object of worship. And if we assume that if God is omnipotent but limited in goodness, he becomes a moral monster. Either way evil remains a problem for theistic belief. I argue that (...) McGrath fails to distinguish between the deductive and inductive problem of evil and between a limitation in God’s “strength” and a limitation in God’s “ability to act”, and that once these distinctions are made, his argument fails. (shrink)
IN A RECENT DISCUSSION ON THE MIRACULOUS, ROBERT LARMER ARGUES THAT THERE ARE CONCEIVABLE OCCURRENCES FOR WHICH IT WOULD BE MOST REASONABLE TO BELIEVE NO NATURAL EXPLANATION WILL BE FORTHCOMING. IN RESPONSE I ARGUE THAT THERE ARE NO SUCH OCCURRENCES. IT IS, IN PRINCIPLE, ALWAYS JUSTIFIABLE TO MAINTAIN THAT ANY CONCEIVABLE EVENT IS THE PRODUCT OF SOLELY NATURAL CAUSAL FACTORS.
The concept of middle knowledge---God’s knowledge of what would in fact happen in every conceivable situation---is just beginning to receive the attention it deserves, For example, it is just now becoming clear to many that classical theism requires the affirmation of middle knowledge. But this concept is also coming under increasing criticism. The most significant of these, I believe, has been developed in a recent discussion by William Hasker, in which he argues that the concept of a true counterfactual of (...) freedom is incoherent. I also believe, however, that his critique ultimately fails and specify why in the essay which follows. (shrink)
David Griffin and Nelson Pike recently had a spirited discussion on divine power. The essence of the discussion centered around what was labelled Premise X: “It is possible for one actual being's condition to be completely determined by a being or beings other than itself.” Pike maintains that ‘traditional’ theists have affirmed Premise X but denies that this entails that God has all the power there is and thus denies that Premise X can be considered incoherent for this reason. Griffin (...) maintains that traditional theists have as a matter of fact affirmed that God has all the power there is and then argues that, given standard Process metaphysical assumptions, to say that God has all the power there is is incoherent. Griffin succeeds in demonstrating that, given Process assumptions, God cannot determine all of the activities of any human--i.e., all of an individual’s desires, choices and actions. But Pike is primarily interested in whether God could determine all of the bodily behaviors of any given human. And to this question, Griffin gives no response. (shrink)
SINCE THE TIME OF HUME, A MIRACLE HAS MOST FREQUENTLY BEEN DEFINED IN PHILOSOPHICAL CIRCLES AS A VIOLATION OF A NATURAL LAW CAUSED BY A GOD. I ARGUE THAT THERE IS A MEANINGFUL SENSE IN WHICH IT CAN BE SAID THAT A NATURAL LAW HAS BEEN VIOLATED. BUT I FURTHER ARGUE THAT SINCE AN EVENT CAN ONLY BE A VIOLATION IN THIS SENSE IF IT IS NOT CAUSED BY A GOD, NO MIRACLE CAN BE SAID TO BE A VIOLATION OF (...) A NATURAL LAW. (shrink)
ANTONY FLEW HAS ARGUED THAT THE HISTORIAN MUST MAINTAIN WITH RESPECT TO ANY ALLEGED MIRACLE WHICH IS INCOMPATIBLE WITH CURRENT NOMOLOGICALS THAT THE EVENT DID NOT IN FACT OCCUR AS REPORTED. I ARGUE THAT THE LINE OF REASONING HE USES TO SUPPORT THIS STANCE IS MUCH MORE SUBTLE AND CONVINCING THAN MOST OF HIS CRITICS HAVE ACKNOWLEDGED. BUT I CONCLUDE IN THE LAST ANALYSIS THAT HIS ARGUMENT IS UNSOUND.
Proponents of The Free Will Defense frequently argue that it is necessary for God to create self-directing beings who possess the capacity for producing evil because, in the words of F.R. Tennant, “moral goodness must be the result of a self-directing developmental process.” But if this is true, David Paulsen has recently argued, then the proponent of the Free Will Defense cannot claim that God has an eternally determinate nature. For if God has an eternally determinatenature and moral goodness must (...) be the result of a developmental process, then God cannot be considered morally good. In response, I argue that (1) many contemporary Free Will theists do not affirm a developmental concept of morality and thus avoid Paulsen’s criticism and that (2) even those who affirm a developmental concept of morality on the human level need not grant that divine morality is also developmental in nature. (shrink)