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 fifth edition features revised treatments of omnipotence, miracles, and providence and updated suggestions for further reading. A sophisticated yet accessible introduction, Reason and Religious Belief, Third Edition, is ideally suited for use with the authors' companion anthology, Philosophy of Religion: Selected Readings, Fifth Edition (OUP, 2015). (shrink)
I reply to criticisms of the divine command theory with an eye to noting the relation of ethics to an ontological ground. The criticisms include: the theory makes the standard of right and wrong arbitrary, it traps the defender of the theory in a vicious circle, it violates moral autonomy, it is a relic of our early deontological state of moral development. I then suggest how Henry Veatch's view of good as an ontological feature of the world provides a context (...) in which the divine command theory can be reasonably justified. (shrink)
I consider four recently suggested difference between killing and letting die as they apply to active and passive euthanasia : taking vs. taking no action; intending vs. not intending the death of the person; the certainty of the result vs. leaving the situation open to other possible alternative events; and dying from unnatural vs. natural causes. The first three fail to constitute clear differences between killing and letting die, and "ex posteriori" cannot constitute morally significant differences. The last constitutes a (...) difference but is not morally significant. (shrink)
After writing about the need for explanation and types of explanations, I present three cosmological arguments: the argument from contingency, the kalam cosmological argument, and the inductive argument from the inference to the best explanation. I respond to major objections to each of them.
CRITIQUES OF THEODICIES FOR NATURAL EVIL, DERIVED FROM NATURAL LAWS, SUGGEST TWO REQUIREMENTS THAT A SUCCESSFUL THEODICY PURPORTEDLY MUST SATISFY. REQUIREMENT (1)-- THAT THE THEIST MUST SHOW THAT IT IS CONTRADICTORY OR ABSURD FOR GOD TO INTERVENE IN THE WORLD IN A MIRACULOUS FASHION TO ELIMINATE NATURAL EVIL--IS MET BY SHOWING THAT IT IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR GOD TO CREATE A WORLD GOVERNED BY DIVINE MIRACULOUS INTERVENTION. AS FOR REQUIREMENT (2) -- THAT THE THEIST MUST SHOW THAT IT IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR (...) GOD TO CREATE A SIGNIFICANTLY BETTER WORLD THAN THIS ONE, AND THAT THIS IMPOSSIBILITY DOES NOT CONFLICT WITH DIVINE OMNIPOTENCE--I ARGUE THAT IT NEED NOT BE MET, SINCE IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO DETERMINE EMPIRICALLY WHETHER THIS IS OR IS NOT THE BEST OF ALL POSSIBLE WORLDS. (shrink)
I argue that the atheological claim that the existence of pain and suffering either contradicts or makes improbable God's existence or his possession of certain critical properties cannot be sustained. The construction of a theodicy for both moral and natural evils is the focus of the central part of the book. In the final chapters I analyze the concept of the best possible world and the properties of goodness and omnipotence insofar as they are predicated of God.
The book's key questions concern whether we have a right to believe whatever we choose and whether we have significant control over our beliefs. After exploring four case studies in which the question of a right to believe arises and querying what epistemic obligations are, we consider how epistemic obligations might be grounded, whether in prudence, morality, or human virtues. Some argue that epistemic excellence is less concerned with our obligations to believe the truth and avoid falsehood than with seeing (...) that the beliefs we hold are justified. We argue that our epistemic responsibility is best fulfilled somewhere in between the strict objectivist and strict subjectivist views. We proceed to defend the thesis that we have not only indirect but direct control over our beliefs. We then examine the nature of belief, contending for belief as both disposition and an action. In the final chapter we discuss the relation between epistemic obligations and moral accountability. (shrink)
I first discuss the Buddhist concept of the self as lying between nihilism and substantialism, understood in terms of sets of skandhas and later momentariness. I then discuss the role of karma as a causal nexus that brings the skandhas into a state of co-ordination and whether this role is subjective or objective. Finally, I discuss the import of this view that there is no substantial self but only momentary events of various discrete sorts on the meaning and possibility of (...) life after death and the rootedness of the law of karma in justice. Finally, I consider the implications of this for rebirth and nirvana. (shrink)
The book examines what advocates of the law of karma mean by the doctrine, various ways they interpret it, and how they see it operating. The study investigates and critically evaluates the law of karma's connections to significant philosophical concepts like causation, freedom, God, persons, the moral law, liberation, and immortality. For example, it explores in depth the implications of the doctrine for whether we are free or fatalistically determined, whether human suffering can be reconciled with cosmic justice, the nature (...) of the self, and the character of moral experience. (shrink)
I review two contrasting books. Whereas Hasker constructs what he takes to be a successful theodicy, invoking an eschatology where there will be a world of fulfilled human lives engulfed in intimacy with God, Keller undertakes a critique not only of the free-will/soul-making theodicy, but of a more broadly conceived problem of evil, including issues of divine hiddenness and miracles.
I argue that if deliberation is incompatible with (fore)knowing what one is going to do at the time of the deliberation, then God cannot deliberate. However, this thesis cannot be used to show either that God cannot act intentionally or that human persons cannot deliberate. Further, I have suggested that though omniscience is incompatible with deliberation, it is not incompatible with either some speculation or knowing something on the grounds of inference.
I argue that "obligation" is a referential notion, flowing from actual or potential relationships. Applied to future persons, our relationship with them is established by virtue of the significant effects that our acts will have on them, and this in turn provides the basis of our obligation to them. Referential problems arise particularly in the types of cases where alternative acts bring different people into existence, for here there is no clear referent of the obligation. In such cases a theistic (...) model has an advantage by delineating lines of obligation through God. (shrink)
First, I consider J.L. Mackie's deductive argument from evil, noting that required modifications to his premises, especially those dealing with what it is to be a good person and omnipotence, do not entail that God would be required to eliminate evil completely. Hence, no contradiction exists between God's existence, possession of certain properties, and the existence of evil. Second I evaluate McCloskey's arguments against reasons for evil often suggested by the theist: that evil is a means to achieving the good, (...) that evil is a by-product of securing the good, and that certain goods are logically dependent on the existence of certain evils. I argue that in none of these objections is McCloskey successful. (shrink)
Treatments of God's goodness almost always appeal to the traditional Christian doctrine that God is necessarily good, but this introduces the question whether God's goodness properly can be understood as necessary. After considering an ontological conception of God's goodness, I propose that God's goodness is better understood as satisfying six criteria involving moral virtue, intellectual virtue, right actions, right motives, freedom of choice, and freedom of choice with respect to the rightness of the action. I defend the result -- that (...) God's goodness must be understood contingently, not necessarily -- against recent critics of this view. (shrink)
In a recent article in Religious Studies, Professor P. W. Gooch attempts to wean the orthodox Christian from anthropological materialism by consideration of the question of the nature of the post-mortem person in the resurrection. He argues that the view that the resurrected person is a psychophysical organism who is in some physical sense the same as the ante-mortem person is inconsistent with the Pauline view of the resurrected body; rather, according to him, Paul's view is most consistent with that (...) which affirms the disembodied survival of the person. ‘I want to argue’, he writes, ‘for the thesis that a Pauline resurrection body may well be ontologically the same as a disembodied person.’ I intend to show that Professor Gooch has failed to provide any support for this view and indeed that his own view falls prey to the criticisms which he has raised against other views. (shrink)
In an earlier issue of "Philosophical Studies" George Mavrodes provided a general definition of omnipotence. I argue that his general definition is inadequate because it fails to exclude from being omnipotent beings who have finite abilities but who possess their limited abilities necessarily.
Two objections have been raised against the re-creationist thesis that the individual human person can be re-created after death. The objection that the re-created person would not be the same person as the deceased because he would lack spatial-temporal continuity with that person I answer by showing that spatial-temporal continuity with that person is not a necessary condition for all cases of personal identity. To the objection that the decision to call the re-created individual the same as the deceased either (...) uses criteria like memory which themselves presuppose bodily continuity or is merely an unjustified convention, I show that these criteria do not presuppose continuity, and through a decision is called for, it is not an unjustifiable or arbitrary decision. (shrink)
In "Scientific Realism" I lay out the debate between scientific realism and nonrealism, developing arguments for the respective positions,assessing the views, and ultimately defending realism on the grounds that nonrealists fail to provide an explanation for why science and its predictions work.
Review of Zagzebski's book, which develops a defense of the position that freedom is compatible with divine foreknowledge. After critiquing previous attempts at reconciliation, including Boethius, Ockham, and Molina, she develops her own view that the relation between God's knowledge and human existence must accord with human models of knowing.
I ARGUE THAT THE NOTION OF THE BEST POSSIBLE WORLD IS MEANINGLESS AND THEREFORE A CHIMERA, BECAUSE FOR ANY WORLD WHICH MIGHT BE SO DESIGNATED, THERE COULD ALWAYS BE ANOTHER WHICH WAS BETTER, EITHER IN BEING POPULATED BY BEINGS WITH BETTER OR A GREATER QUANTITY OF GOOD CHARACTERISTICS, OR ELSE BY BEING MORE OPTIMIFIC.
Traditionally, when persons were viewed as a psycho-physical unity, life after death was deemed quite impossible, particularly in the face of universal human mortality and inevitable bodily corruption. However, some modern anthropologically monistic philosophers, including most notably John Hick, have argued that life after death is possible Two objections have been raised against the re-creationist thesis that the individual human person can be re-created after death. The objection that the re-created person would not be the same person as the deceased (...) because the person would lack spatial-temporal continuity I answer by showing that spatial-temporal continuity is not a necessary condition for all cases of personal identity. To the objection that the decision to call the re-created individual the same as the deceased either uses criteria like memory which themselves presuppose bodily continuity or is merely an unjustified convention, I show that these criteria do not presuppose continuity, and though an identity decision is called for, it is not an unjustifiable or arbitrary decision. (shrink)
I contend that William Hasker’s argument to show omniscience incompatible with human freedom trades on an ambiguity between altering and bringing about the past, and that it is the latter only which is invoked by one who thinks they are compatible. I then use his notion of precluding circumstances to suggest that what gives the appearance of our inability to freely bring about the future (and hence that omniscience is incompatible with freedom) is that, from God’s perspective of foreknowledge, it (...) is as if the event has already occurred, but that as if conditions do not tell us about the conditions under which the act was performed (whether it was free or not). (shrink)
I explore two positions on divine goodness: God is good because of his nature or is good because of his acts. The first is advanced by Thomas Aquinas through two basic arguments: that God is good because of his being as pure act, and that God is good because of God's desirableness. Goodness predicated because of being runs into conflict with divine freedom. The second leads to the view that God freely wills to do the good and as such could, (...) if he so chose, do evil. But though doing evil is a logical possibility, for God it is a moral impossibility, given his character and dispositions. I conclude by replying to four objections to this position. (1) If God deviated from the moral law, he would not be God. Hence, it is logically impossible for God to do wrong. (2) This view implies a standard of good independent of God. (3) We cannot term God as praiseworthy, for God is goodness itself. (4) That God is logically contingently good diminishes God's holiness. (shrink)
I reply to Houston Craighead, who presents two arguments against my version of the cosmological argument. First, he argues that my arguments in defense of the causal principle in terms of the existence being accidental to an essence is fallacious because it begs the question. I respond that the objection itself is circular, and that it invokes the questionable contention that what is conceivable is possible. Against my contention that the causal principle might be intuitively known, I reply to his (...) contention that again I have begged the question. Begging the question is not applicable in that I have not argued that a denial of the principle it possible, only that if it be denied, other endeavors likewise become impossible. Second, against my contention that the causal principle is really necessary, he asserts that the necessity predicated of propositions is solely logical necessity. I reject his contention that a really necessary proposition must either be logically necessary or else a plain contingent factuality. (shrink)
An analysis of the use of "necessary" in the cosmological argument reveals that the criticism of it, i.e., that its conclusion is self-contradictory because no existential proposition can be logically necessary, is due to the mistaken contention that the necessity involved is logical rather than conditional necessity.
Richard Swinburne claims that Christ’s death has no efficacy unless people appropriate it. According to religious inclusivists, God can be encountered and his grace manifested in various ways through diverse religions. Salvation is available for everyone, regardless of whether they have heard about Christ’s sacrifice. This poses the question whether Swinburne’s view of atonement is available to the inclusivist. I develop an inclusivist interpretation of the atonement that incorporates his four features of atonement, along with a subjective dimension that need (...) not include specific knowledge of Christ’s sacrifice. (shrink)
The book adapts St. Thomas's Third Way of demonstrating the existence of God in light of contemporary issues in philosophy. Major topics in this study are causation, the principles of causation and sufficient reason, logical and real necessity, causation of the cosmos, and non-dependency of the cosmological on the ontological argument.
In "Religious Realism," I trace the realism/nonrealism debate in religion, arguing that although religions are psychological and sociological phenomena, they make truth-claims about reality. I develop the epistemic religious nonrealism of Buddhism an contrast it with Christian realism, focusing particularly on Thomas Morris's treatment of the incarnation. In the end I argument that realism matters because of the content of religion, the importance of making truth claims, and for resolving the human predicament.
William Alston proposed an understanding of religious experience modeled after the triadic structure of sense perception. However, a perceptual model falters because of the unobservability of God as the object of religious experience. To reshape Alston’s model of religious experience as an observational practice we utilize Dudley Shapere’s distinction between the philosophical use of ‘observe’ in terms of sensory perception and scientists’ epistemic use of ‘observe’ as being evidential by providing information or justification leading to knowledge. This distinction helps us (...) to understand how religious experience of an unobservable God can be an epistemic practice that satisfies our epistemic obligations and justifies religious belief. (shrink)
If, as I argue, the law of karma is a special application of the causal law to moral causation, then one has to account for the differences between the two laws. One possibility is to distinguish between "phalas" (immediate effects actions produce in the world) and "samskaras" (invisible dispositions or tendencies to act or think), and to suggest that karma produces the latter but not the former. This subjectivist account, however, raises questions concerning the relation between a person's "samskaras" and (...) the environmental conditions that cause him pleasure and pain. (shrink)
This text uses the educational objectives of Benjamin Bloom as six steps to critical thinking (namely: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation). The book starts with the absolute basics (for example, how to find the topic, issue, and thesis) vs. the usual "explaining and evaluating arguments" and fine distinctions that easily can lose students.
In "Experience and the Unobservable" I argue that scientific and religious theories generate ideas or experiments about new data that can be used to discriminate between and test theories, and that a pragmatist account of truth can be used to supplement the correspondence account of truth. I note that science uses "observation differently than does philosophy, and that religion's use of "observation" is closer to that of science than of philosophy.
Thomas Reed argues that the Christian, if apprised of Plantinga's central claims in Warranted Christian Belief, should be agnostic regarding Christianity's central tenets. Reed models his argument on Plantinga's own argument against naturalism, according to which naturalists have a built-in defeater for their epistemology. Reed bases his argument on the contention that if Christian theism cannot be shown or demonstrated, rational Christians should refrain from believing. Not only does Reed's contention not follow, but he confuses logically possible defeaters with actual (...) defeaters and ignores Plantinga's claims regarding the Aquinas/Calvin model and the proper basicality of belief in God. (shrink)
I reply to David Basinger who, in an article printed in the same issue, develops objections to my original argument (IPQ XIX, 203-212) that it makes no sense to inquire whether God could create the best possible world since the concept of a best possible world is a meaningless notion. I argue that if the number of possible worlds is infinite, there cannot be an upper limit to this order, and without an upper limit, there can be no best possible (...) world. (shrink)
Review of David and Randall Basinger's "Philosophy and Miracle," in which they discuss the definition of miracle, the possibility of miracles, recognition of miracles, and the role of miracles in the problem of evil.
I explore various ways in which the karma we create is believed to affect our environment, which in turn is instrumental in rewarding or punishing us according to our just deserts. I argue that the problem of explaining naturalistically the causal operation of the law of karma and of accounting for the precise moral calculation it requires point to the necessity of a theistic administrator. But this option faces a serious dilemma when attempting to specify the relation of God to (...) the law of karma. (shrink)
Reviews William Craig's book, "The Kalam Cosmological Argument," which first gives the Islamic background to the kalam argument and then develops Craig's own modernization of the argument, using both philosophical and scientific sources.
Generally the theist's defense against the argument from evil invokes the libertarian ideal. But this route is not open to compatibilist Reformed theologians. They must show either that God's possibly creating humans with a more perfect nature is either an impossibility or that his doing so violates some fundamental principle of value. I argue that the compatibilist Reformed theologian is unsuccessful in both. Specifically, in the latter case, there is no ground for thinking that redemption and its associated evil (as (...) found in the concept of a fortunate fall) are superior to persistent innocence. (shrink)
Interreligious dialogue presupposes that discourse functions the same for both parties. I argue that what makes Christian-Buddhist dialogue so difficult is that whereas Christians have a realist view of theoretical concepts, Buddhists generally do not. The evidence for this is varied, including the Buddha's own refusal to respond to metaphysical questions and the Buddhist constructionist view of reality. I reply to two objections, that Buddhists do conduct metaphysical debate, and that the Buddha adopted a correspondence rather than a pragmatic theory (...) of truth. In the end I develop the implications of this realist/nonrealist dichotomy for commencing and conducting interreligious dialogue. (shrink)
I review Copan's and Craig's book, in which they present the kalam cosmological argument for God's existence, and Rundle's book refuting the existence of God. The latter argues that theological language has no empirical cash value and hence cannot assist in explanation. Further, since the only genuine substances are material, there is no place for God in explaining the universe. The universe simply necessarily is.
First I employ Bayes's Theorem to give some precision to the atheologian's thesis that it is improbable that God exists given the amount of evil in the world (E). Two arguments result from this: (1) E disconfirms God's existence, and (2) E tends to disconfirm God's existence. Secondly, I evaluate these inductive arguments, suggesting against (1) that the atheologian has abstracted from and hence failed to consider the total evidence, and against (2) that the atheologian's evidence adduced to support his (...) thesis regarding the relevant probabilities is inadequate. (shrink)
This review of Jonathan Kvanvig's "The Problem of Hell" notes his rejection of the strong thesis that God consigns people to eternal hell. Rather, he argues that since God is good, he will want to preserve both being and rational choice, and that the burden of choosing to be with God or to not to exist is our choice.
I critique one recent argument for theological fatalism as confusing bringing about with altering the past. Questions remain concerning the basis for God's beliefs about the future. I evaluate two. One, which appeals to middle knowledge, faces several problems, including specifying how propositions of middle knowledge are true and how God can have this knowledge. The other, which contends that one can in certain cases bring about the past, I clarify and defend. Finally, I explore the implications of both views (...) for the theological claims that God's goodness is compatible with evil and that foreknowledge can provide the basis for God's own actions. (shrink)
A review of Moreland and Rae's defense of Thomistic anthropological substance dualism and its application to issues in medical ethics such as physician assisted suicide, patients in a persistent vegetative state, comatose people, and anencephalic infants.
TWO QUESTIONS BASIC TO THE STUDY OF PERSONAL IMMORTALITY ARE EXPLORED. FIRST, WHAT MUST HUMAN PERSONS BE LIKE IN ORDER FOR IT TO BE POSSIBLE THAT THEY CAN LIVE SUBSEQUENT TO THEIR DEATH? BOTH PLURALISTIC AND MONISTIC ACCOUNTS OF THE HUMAN PERSON ARE PRESENTED, EVALUATED IN DETAIL, AND SHOWN TO BE COMPATIBLE WITH THE ASSERTION OF PERSONAL LIFE AFTER DEATH. IN ANSWERING THE SECOND QUESTION--WHAT GOOD REASONS CAN BE GIVEN FOR MAINTAINING A BELIEF IN LIFE AFTER DEATH--I EVALUATE BOTH PHILOSOPHICAL (...) AND THEOLOGICAL ARGUMENTS WHICH HAVE BEEN TRADITIONALLY PRESENTED TO ESTABLISH THE REALITY OF LIFE AFTER DEATH. (shrink)
In an attempt to make the idea of surviving one's own death in a disembodied state intelligible, H. H. Price has presented a possible description of what the afterlife might be like for a disembodied self or consciousness. Price suggests that the world of the disembodied self might be a kind of dream or image world. In it he would replace his present sense-perception by activating his image-producing powers, which are now inhibited by their continuous bombardment by sensory stimuli, to (...) produce mental images. Though he would be cut off from any new supply of sensory material, he might be able to draw upon his memory of his previous physical existence to create an entire environment of images. A nexus of perspectively inter-related images would constitute an object; this would serve as a substitute for the material objects which he perceived in his past life. The entire environment of the disembodied individual would be composed of such families of mental images and would serve to constitute his world. It need not, however, be a solipsistic world, for by means of telepathy the discarnate individual could communicate with other disembodied selves and in this way acquire new information. Price notes that since this world would be as real to the discarnate self as our present world is to our embodied self, in the afterlife the disembodied self in effect would create for itself a real world, though of course if it took it to be anything other than an image world it would be deceiving itself. (shrink)
In his recent book on revelation, Jorge Gracia rejects the authorial intention view of textual interpretation, arguing that the only interpretation that makes sense for texts regarded as divinely revealed is theological interpretation. Both his position and the authorial view face the problem of the Hermeneutical Circle. I contend that the arguments he provides in his own defense do not successfully avoid the circularity present in his own view. His thesis about expected behavior might provide resources for a solution, but (...) this thesis in turn can be used to respond to his own objections against the authorial intention view of interpreting divinely revealed texts. (shrink)
In his "Death and Eternal Life" John Hick criticizes H.H. Price's view of disembodied existence after death on the grounds that (1) Price cannot consistently hold that this world is a public or semi-public world, the joint product of a group of telepathically-interacting minds, and that this world is formed by the power of individual desire, and (2) in a world that is the product of the individual's desires, moral progress is impossible. I argue that there is no contradiction in (...) (1), and that in the world envisioned by Price greater moral progress is possible in that one can no longer be deceived about one's motives or by the ambiguity of actions. (shrink)