In this paper I propose to examine the cognitive status of mystical experience. There are, I think, three distinct but overlapping sorts of religious experience. In the first place, there are two kinds of mystical experience. The extrovertive or nature mystic identifies himself with a world which is both transfigured and one. The introvertive mystic withdraws from the world and, after stripping the mind of concepts and images, experiences union with something which can be described as an undifferentiated unity. Introvertive (...) mysticism is a more important phenomenon than extrovertive mysticism. Numinous experiences are complex experiences involving dread, awe, wonder, and fascination. One finds oneself confronted with something which is radically unlike ordinary objects. Before its overwhelming majesty and power, one is nothing but dust and ashes. In contrasting oneself with its uncanny beauty and goodness, one experiences one's own uncleanness and ugliness. The experiences bound up with the devotional life of the ordinary believer are also religious in character. Nevertheless these more ordinary experiences should, I think, be distinguished both from numinous experiences and from mystical experiences, for they do not appear to involve the sense of immediate presence which characterises the latter. (shrink)
In a series of important and influential books, Wilfred Cantwell Smith has convincingly argued that religious traditions are misunderstood if one does not grasp the faith which they express, that these traditions are not static but fluid, and that as a result of greater knowledge and increased contact between members of different traditions, we have entered a period in which it is no longer possible for the traditions to develop in relative isolation. This paper is devoted to an important aspect (...) of Smith's thought – his distinction between faith and propositional belief. (shrink)
The falsifiability of theistic assertions no longer appears to be the burning issue it once was, and perhaps this is all to the good. For one thing, it was never entirely clear just what demand was being made of the theist. In this paper I shall not discuss the nature or legitimacy of the falsification requirement as applied to theistic assertions. Instead I shall argue that some of the reasons which have been offered to show that these assertions are not (...) falsifiable are by no means conclusive. Since the most plausible bit of anti-theistic evidence is the existence of evil, it would seem to be legitimate for us to devote our attention to arguments which are designed to show that the theist does not allow the presence of evil to count against his claims. (shrink)
This article discusses the place of mystery in Christian thought and practice. Both Christians themselves and their critics have historically thought that the concept of mystery is central to Christian reflection and Christian worship. It is initially surprising, then, to find that the indices of recent important reference works contain few if any references to mystery. The most important reason for the neglect of mystery may be this. William Alston begins his recent ‘Two Cheers for Mystery’ by observing that (...) ‘contemporary Anglo-American analytic philosophy of religion’ exhibits ‘a considerable degree of confidence in’ its ability ‘to determine what God is like; how to construe his basic attributes; and what his purposes, plans, standards, values and so on are’. No one ‘thinks we can attain a comprehensive knowledge of God's nature and doings. But on many crucial points, there seems to be a widespread confidence in our ability to determine exactly how things are with God.’ And, of course, the more confident one is, the less one will see any need for according the concept of mystery a central place in one's reflections on God. But what if failing to do so distorts these reflections? The burden of this article is that it does. (shrink)
The past forty years or so have witnessed a renaissance in the philosophy of religion. New tools (modal logic, probability theory, and so on) and new historical research have prompted many thinkers to take a fresh look at old topics (God’s existence, the problem of evil, faith and reason, and the like). Moreover, sophisticated examinations of contentious new issues, such as the problem of religious diversity or the role of emotions and other non-evidential factors in shaping rationally held religious beliefs, (...) have also emerged. Addressing the need for an authoritative reference work to make sense of this rapidly growing and ever more complex corpus of scholarly literature, Philosophy of Religion is a new title in the Routledge Major Works series, Critical Concepts in Philosophy. Edited by a leading scholar, it is a four-volume collection which brings together key examples of the most important recent work, together with carefully selected historical pieces needed to understand them. Volume I focuses on concepts of the divine while Volume II explores arguments for and against the existence of a divine reality, with special attention to the problem of evil, the problem of divine hiddenness, and the case for naturalism. Volume III and the first part of Volume IV are devoted to broadly epistemic issues: the cognitive value of religious experience; the proper role of evidence in the formation of religious belief; the nature of justified religious belief; and pragmatic arguments for religious belief. The remainder of Volume IV introduces some of the best recent work on religious diversity, tolerance, and the public role of religion in a pluralistic society. The Philosophy of Religion is fully indexed and has a comprehensive introduction, newly written by the editor, which places the material in its historical and intellectual context. It is an essential work of reference and is destined to be valued by scholars and students as a vital one-stop research resource. Available now at a special introductory price. This price is applicable until 3 months after publication. For more information, please contact us ( email@example.com ). (shrink)
The object of attitudes valorized in the major religious traditions is typically regarded as maximally great. Conceptions of maximal greatness differ but theists believe that a maximally great reality must be a maximally great person or God. Theists largely agree that a maximally great person would be omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient, and all good. They do not agree on a number of God's other attributes, however. We will illustrate this by examining the debate over God's impassibility in western theism and a (...) dispute over God's relation to the space time world in Indian theism. The entry concludes by examining some concepts of limited deities. (shrink)
Although philosophical theologians have sometimes claimed that human beings are necessarily dependent on God, few have developed the idea with any precision. Jonathan Edwards is a notable exception, providing a detailed and often novel account of humanity’s essential ontological, moral, and soteriological dependence on God.
The doctrine of the spiritual senses has played a significant role in the history of Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox spirituality. What has been largely unremarked is that the doctrine also played a significant role in classical Protestant thought, and that analogous concepts can be found in Indian theism. In spite of the doctrine’s significance, however, the only analytic philosopher to consider it has been Nelson Pike. I will argue that his treatment is inadequate, show how the development of the (...) doctrine in Puritan thought and spirituality fills a serious lacuna in Pike’s treatment, and conclude with some suggestions as to where the discussion should go next. (shrink)
Eric Wielenberg and I agree that basic moral truths are necessarily true. But Wielenberg thinks that, because these truths are necessary, they require no explanation, and I do not: some basic moral truths are not self-explanatory. I argue that Wielenberg’s reasons for thinking that my justification of that claim is inadequate are ultimately unconvincing.
In a series of influential articles published in the 1980s, Thomas Morris argued that the most promising approach to many issues in the philosophy of religion is “perfect being theology.” A philosopher who adopts it begins by construing God as a maximally perfect being and then fills the conception in by using his or her modal intuitions and intuitions concerning what properties are and are not perfections. While I am sympathetic with Morris’s program, two aspects seem problematic. More justification is (...) needed for construing God as a maximally perfect being, and the appeal to intuitions needs more support than Morris provides for it. I will comment on both difficulties. (shrink)
Rowe argues that if for every good world there is a better, then God is not morally perfect since no matter what world God were to create he could have done better than he did. I contend that Rowe’s argument doesn’t do justice to the role grace plays in the theist’s doctrine of creation, and respond to five new criticisms of my position that Rowe offers in Can God be Free?
Section I argues that theistic religions incorporate metaphysical systems and that these systems are explanatory. Section II defends these claims against D. Z. Phillips ''s objections to the epistemic realism and correspondence theory of truth which they imply. I conclude by raising questions about the status of Phillips ''s own project.
Part I argues that ontological arguments, like other classical proofs of the existence of God, are parts of larger arguments in which they are embedded. These larger arguments include reasons supporting the proofs’ premises and responses to them, and to the proofs’ claims to validity and non-circularity, since, in the final analysis, our assessment of the proofs will express our best judgment of the cumulative force of all the considerations bearing on their overall adequacy. Part II illustrates these points by (...) examining contemporary defences of, and attacks on, one of the ontological argument’s central premises, namely, that God’s existence is logically possible. (shrink)
Recent students of mysticism have sharply distinguished monistic from theistic mysticism. The former is more or less identified with the empty consciousness experience and the latter with the love mysticism of such figures as Bernard of Clairvaux. I argue that a sharp distinction between the two is unwarranted. Western medieval mystics, for example, combined the apophatic theology of Dionysius the Areopagite with the erotic imagery of the mystical marriage. Their experiences were clearly theistic but integrally incorporated ”monistic moments’. I conclude (...) by discussing Nelson Pike’s claim that these monistic moments were themselves phenomenologically theistic. (shrink)
Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758) is widely acknowledged to be America's most important and original philosophical theologian. His work as a whole is an expression of two themes — the absolute sovereignty of God and the beauty of God's holiness. The first is articulated in Edwards' defense of theological determinism, in a doctrine of occasionalism, and in his insistence that physical objects are only collections of sensible “ideas” while finite minds are mere assemblages of “thoughts” or “perceptions.” As the only real cause (...) or substance underlying physical and mental phenomena, God is “being in general,” the “sum of all being.” -/- Edwards' second theme is articulated in accounts of God's end in creation, and of the nature of true virtue and true beauty. God creates in order to manifest a holiness which consists in a benevolence which alone is truly beautiful. Genuine human virtue is an imitation of divine benevolence and all finite beauty is an image of divine loveliness. True virtue is needed to discern this beauty, however, and to reason rightly about “divine things.”. (shrink)
I distinguish between a causeless being, An essentially causeless being, And a logically necessary being, And argue that only a logically necessary being can provide an adequate answer to the question, "why do contingent and dependent beings exist?" I also argue that recent attempts to show that if a being is essentially causeless, It is logically necessary, Are unsound.
Theism maintains that God is a moralagent. Classical Christian theism also maintains that God is unable tosin. The latter claim is entailed by the proposition that the being whois God is essentially God, and this proposition is one which would beendorsed by all or most classical theologians. It would thus appearthat the claim that God is unable to sin is an important, if notfundamental, part of classical Christian theism. It follows that, at acrucial point, classical Christian theism is incompatible with (...) theassumption that moral agency logically involves the ability to sin -an assumption which is an essential part of the free will defense asthat defense is normally presented. Since (as I suggested earlier) theuse of the free will defense also plays a very important role in clas-sical Christian theism, classical Christian theism would appear toexhibit a major incoherance. While the difficulty can be overcome byemploying a modified version of the free will defense, the modifiedversion is not as attractive as the original. (shrink)
Richard Gale has mounted the most effective attack on religious experience’s cognitive credentials in recent decades. This article explains why I am nonetheless not persuaded by it. I argue that: Contrary to Gale, mystical experiences do take an objective accusative, and are therefore presumptively cognitive. The tests for the veridicality of religious experience are more like those for sense experiences than Gale allows. Gale’s “big” or “deep” disanalogy is not as devastating as he thinks. Gale’s critique of my and Alston’s (...) attempt to defuse attacks on the cognitively of religious experience by appealing to categoreal differences between the apparent objects of religious experience and sense experience is unsuccessful. (shrink)