Reprinted in Philosophy of Religion: An Anthology, Wadsworth 2015, 6th edition, eds Michael Rea and Louis Pojman. What is propositional faith? At a first approximation, we might answer that it is the psychological attitude picked out by standard uses of the English locution “S has faith that p,” where p takes declarative sentences as instances, as in “He has faith that they’ll win”. Although correct, this answer is not nearly as informative as we might like. Many people say that there (...) is a more informative answer. They say that, at the very least, propositional faith requires propositional belief. More precisely, they say that faith that p requires belief that p or that it must be partly constituted by belief that p. This view is common enough; call it the Common View. I have two main aims in this paper: (i) to exhibit the falsity of the Common View and the paucity of reasons for it, and (ii) to sketch a more accurate and comprehensive account of what propositional faith is. (shrink)
Does faith that p entail belief that p? If faith that p is identical with belief that p, it does. But it isn’t. Even so, faith that p might be necessarily partly constituted by belief that p, or at least entail it. Of course, even if faith that p entails belief that p, it does not follow that faith that p is necessarily partly constituted by belief that p. Still, showing that faith that p entails belief that p would be (...) a significant step in that direction. Can we take that step? In this essay, I assess, and reject, seven reasons to think we can. Along the way, I discuss having faith in a person, being a person of faith, believing something by faith, and believing a person. (shrink)
Infallibilism is the view that a belief cannot be at once warranted and false. In this essay we assess three nonpartisan arguments for infallibilism, arguments that do not depend on a prior commitment to some substantive theory of warrant. Three premises, one from each argument, are most significant: (1) if a belief can be at once warranted and false, then the Gettier Problem cannot be solved; (2) if a belief can be at once warranted and false, then its warrant can (...) be transferred to an accidentally true belief; (3) if a belief can be at once warranted and false, then it can be warranted and accidentally true. We argue that each of these is either false or no more plausible than its denial. Along the way, we offer a solution to the Gettier Problem that is compatible with fallibilism. (shrink)
J.L. Mackie’s version of the logical problem of evil is a failure, as even he came to recognize. Contrary to current mythology, however, its failure was not established by Alvin Plantinga’s Free Will Defense. That’s because a defense is successful only if it is not reasonable to refrain from believing any of the claims that constitute it, but it is reasonable to refrain from believing the central claim of Plantinga’s Free Will Defense, namely the claim that, possibly, every essence suffers (...) from transworld depravity. (shrink)
This paper assesses J. L. Schellenberg’s account of propositional faith and, in light of that assessment, sketches an alternative that avoids certain objections and coheres better with Schellenberg’s aims.
Foundationalism is false; after all, foundational beliefs are arbitrary, they do not solve the epistemic regress problem, and they cannot exist withoutother (justified) beliefs. Or so some people say. In this essay, we assess some arguments based on such claims, arguments suggested in recent work by Peter Klein and Ernest Sosa.
According to many accounts of faith—where faith is thought of as something psychological, e.g., an attitude, state, or trait—one cannot have faith without belief of the relevant propositions. According to other accounts of faith, one can have faith without belief of the relevant propositions. Call the first sort of account doxasticism since it insists that faith requires belief; call the second nondoxasticism since it allows faith without belief. The New Testament may seem to favor doxasticism over nondoxasticism. For it may (...) seem that, according to the NT authors, one can have faith in God, as providential, or faith that Jesus is the Messiah, or be a person of Christian faith, and the like only if one believes the relevant propositions. In this essay, I propose to assess this tension, as it pertains to the Gospel of Mark. The upshot of my assessment is that, while it may well appear that, according to Mark, one can have faith only if one believes the relevant propositions, appearances are deceiving. Mark said no such thing. Rather, what Mark said—by way of story—about faith fits nondoxasticism at least as well as doxasticism, arguably better. More importantly, the account of faith that emerges from Mark is that faith consists in resilience in the face of challenges to living in light of the overall positive stance to the object of faith, where that stance consists in certain conative, cognitive, and behavioral-dispositional elements. (shrink)
The fact that our asking God to do something can make a difference to what he does underwrites the point of petitionary prayer. Here, however, a puzzle arises: Either doing what we ask is the best God can do or it is not. If it is, then our asking won’t make any difference to whether he does it. If it is not, then our asking won’t make any difference to whether he does it. So, our asking won’t make any difference (...) to whether God does it. Our asking is therefore pointless. In this paper, we try to solve this puzzle without denying either that God must do the best he can or that petitioning God can make a difference to what he does. (shrink)
Do we rightly expect a perfectly loving God to bring it about that, right now, we reasonably believe that He exists? It seems so. For love at its best desires the well-being of the beloved, not from a distance, but up close, explicitly participating in her life in a personal fashion, allowing her to draw from that relationship what she may need to flourish. But why suppose that we would be significantly better off were God to engage in an explicit, (...) personal relationship with us? Well, first, there would be broadly moral benefits. We would be able to draw on the resources of that relationship to overcome seemingly everpresent flaws in our character. And we would be more likely to emulate the self-giving love with which we were loved. So loved, we would be more likely to flourish as human beings. Secondly, there would be experiential benefits. We would be, for example, more likely to experience peace and joy stemming from the strong conviction that we were properly related to our Maker, security in suffering knowing that, ultimately, all shall be well, and there would be the sheer pleasure of God's loving presence. As a consequence of these moral and experiential benefits, our relationships with others would likely improve. Thirdly, to be personally related to God is intrinsically valuable, indeed, according to the Christian tradition, the greatest intrinsic good. In these ways our well-being would be enhanced if God were to relate personally to us. Moreover, the best love does not seek a personal relationship only for the sake of the beloved. As Robert Adams rightly notes, "It is an abuse of the word 'love' to say that one loves a person, or any other object, if one does not care, except instrumentally, about one's relation to that object."1 Thus, God would want a personal relationship with us not only for the benefit we would receive from it but for its own sake as well. So, if a perfectly loving God exists, He wants a personal relationship with us, or more accurately, every capable creature, those cognitively and affectively equipped to relate personally with Him.. (shrink)
For many people the existence of God is by no means a sufficiently clear feature of reality. This problem, the fact of divine hiddenness, has been a source of existential concern and has sometimes been taken as a rationale for support of atheism or agnosticism. In this collection of essays, a distinguished group of philosophers of religion explore the question of divine hiddenness in considerable detail. The issue is approached from several perspectives including Jewish, Christian, atheist and agnostic. There is (...) coverage of the historical treatment of divine hiddenness as found in the work of Maimonides, St. John of the Cross, Jonathan Edwards, Kierkegaard, and various Biblical writers. A substantial introduction clarifies the main problems of and leading solutions to divine hiddenness. Primarily directed at philosophers of religion, theologians, and scholars of religious studies, this collection could also serve as a textbook for upper-level courses in philosophy of religion. (shrink)
Dennis Whitcomb argues that there is no God on the grounds that God is supposed to be omniscient, yet nothing could be omniscient due to the nature of grounding. We give a formally identical argument that concludes that one of the present co-authors does not exist. Since he does exist, Whitcomb’s argument is unsound. But why is it unsound? That is a difficult question. We venture two answers. First, one of the grounding principles that the argument relies on is false. (...) Second, the argument equivocates between two kinds of grounding: instance-grounding and quasi-mereological grounding. Happily, the equivocation can be avoided; unhappily, avoidance comes at the price of a false premise. (shrink)
Is evil evidence against the existence of God? Even if God and evil are compatible, it remains hotly contested whether evil renders belief in God unreasonable. The Evidential Argument from Evil presents five classic statements on this issue by eminent philosophers and theologians and places them in dialogue with eleven original essays reflecting new thinking by these and other scholars. The volume focuses on two versions of the argument. The first affirms that there is no reason for God to permit (...) either certain specific horrors or the variety and profusion of undeserved suffering. The second asserts that pleasure and pain, given their biological role, are better explained by hypotheses other than theism. -/- Contributors include William P. Alston, Paul Draper, Richard M. Gale, Daniel Howard-Snyder, Alvin Plantinga, William L. Rowe, Bruce Russell, Eleonore Stump, Richard G. Swinburne, Peter van Inwagen, and Stephen John Wykstra. (shrink)
Reprinted in Philosophy of Religion: An Anthology, Wadsworth, 2013, 6th edition, eds. Michael Rea and Louis Pojman. In this essay, I argue that the moral skepticism objection to what is badly named "skeptical theism" fails.
This essay is a detailed study of William P. Alston’s view on the nature of Christian faith, which I assess in the context of three problems: the problem of the skeptical Christian, the problem of faith and reason, and the problem of the trajectory. Although Alston intended his view to solve these problems, it does so only superficially. Fortunately, we can distinguish Alston’s view, on the one hand, from his illustrations of his view, on the other hand. I argue that, (...) although Alston’s view only superficially solve these problems, his illustrations of his view suggest a substantive way to solve them, a way that I spell out in some detail. (shrink)
According to Agnosticism with a capital A, even if we don’t see how any reason we know of would justify God in permitting all the evil in the world and even if we lack evidential and non-evidential warrant for theism, we should not infer that there probably is no reason that would justify God. That’s because, under those conditions, we should be in doubt about whether the goods we know of constitute a representative sample of all the goods there are, (...) among relevantly similar things. In my "Epistemic Humility, Arguments from Evil, and Moral Skepticism" (2009), I defended Agnosticism against the charge that it leaves us in doubt about whether we are obligated to intervene to prevent horrific suffering we can prevent at no risk to ourselves. In his “Agnosticism, Skeptical Theism, and Moral Obligation” (2014), Stephen Maitzen argues that, in light of my defense, Agnosticism is at odds with commonsense morality’s insistence that we have an obligation to intervene in such cases. In the present essay, I argue that the moral principle Maitzen seems to impute to commonsense (it's hard to tell what principle he has in mind) is false and that a moral principle much more in keeping with commonsense is compatible with Agnosticism and my defense of it. Along the way, I mention multiple misrepresentations Maitzen makes of Agnosticism and my defense of it. (shrink)
Reprinted in Philosophical and Theological Essays on the Trinity, Oxford, 2009, eds Michael Rea and Thomas McCall. In this essay, I assess a certain version of ’social Trinitarianism’ put forward by J. P. Moreland and William Lane Craig, ’trinity monotheism’. I first show how their response to a familiar anti-Trinitarian argument arguably implies polytheism. I then show how they invoke three tenets central to their trinity monotheism in order to avoid that implication. After displaying these tenets more fully, I argue (...) that Trinitarians would do well to hold Moreland’s and Craig’s trinity monotheism at arms length. (shrink)
Among the things that students of the problem of evil think about is whether explanatory versions of the evidential argument from evil are better than others, better than William Rowe’s famous versions of the evidential argument, for example. Some of these students claim that the former are better than the latter in no small part because the former, unlike the latter, avoid the sorts of worries raised by so-called “skeptical theists”. Indeed, Trent Dougherty claims to have constructed an explanatory version (...) that is “fundamentally immune to considerations pertaining to skeptical theism”. I argue that he has done no such thing. (shrink)
This 9,000+ word entry briefly assesses five models of the Trinity, those espoused by (i) Richard Swinburne, (ii) William Lane Craig, (iii) Brian Leftow, (iv) Jeff Brower and Michael Rea, and (v) Peter van Inwagen.
According to the Christian religion, Jesus was “crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again”. I take it that this rising again—the Resurrection of Jesus, as it’s sometimes called—is, according to the Christian religion, an historical event, just like his crucifixion, death, and burial. And I would have thought that to investigate whether the Resurrection occurred, we would need to do some historical research: we would need to assess the reliability of (...) the New Testament documents and related manuscripts; we would need to look into the credibility of the witnesses to his post-mortem appearances, the empty tomb, and the like. The task looks rather daunting. But, according to David Hume, we don’t have to do anything of the kind. For no matter how strong the testimony in favor of a miracle is—indeed, even if we “suppose…that the testimony considered apart and in itself, amounts to an entire proof”—we have at our disposal a “full proof…against the existence of any miracle”. So we can avoid all that tedious historical work. We can simply use Hume’s shortcut, a proof against the existence of any miracle, and hence a proof against the Resurrection. So Hume says he has a “a decisive argument,” “an everlasting check to all kinds of superstitious delusion,” superstitious delusions like the Resurrection. There is good news and bad news in Hume’s proclamation. The good news is that he really has two arguments, not just one—or, at any rate, many scholars discern in his writings two arguments. The bad news is that neither succeeds; at any rate, try as I might, I can’t see how they do. (shrink)
We might be tempted to think that, necessarily, if God unsurpassably loves such created persons as there may be, then for any capable created person S and time t, God is at t open to being in a positively meaningful and reciprocal conscious relationship with S at t, where one is open to relationship with another only if one never does anything (by commission or omission) that would have the result that the other was prevented from being able, just by (...) trying, to participate in that relationship. I argue that we should resist the temptation. (shrink)
It is common these days for theists to argue that we aren’t justified in believing atheism on the basis of evil. They claim that neither facts about particular horrors nor more holistic considerations pertaining to the magnitude, kinds and distribution of evil can ground atheism since we can't tell whether any evil is gratuitous.1 In this paper we explore a novel strategy for shedding light on these issues: we compare the atheist who claims that there is no morally sufficient reason (...) for certain evils with the physicist who claims that there is no causally sufficient reason for some events. (shrink)
Reprinted in Oxford Readings in Philosophical Theology, Volume 1: Trinity, Incarnation, and Atonement, Oxford 2009, ed. Michael Rea. A popular argument for the divinity of Jesus goes like this. Jesus claimed to be divine, but if his claim was false, then either he was insane (mad) or lying (bad), both of which are very unlikely; so, he was divine. I present two objections to this argument. The first, the dwindling probabilities objection, contends that even if we make generous probability assignments (...) to the relevant pieces of evidence for Jesus’ divinity, the probability calculus tell us to suspend judgement on the matter. The second, and more telling objection in my opinion, the merely mistaken objection, contends that it is no less plausible to suppose that Jesus was neither mad nor bad but merely mistaken than that he was divine. (shrink)
A descriptive polytheist thinks there are at least two gods. John Hick and Richard Swinburne are descriptive polytheists. In this respect, they are like Thomas Aquinas and many other theists. What sets Swinburne and Hick apart from Aquinas, however, is that unlike him they are normative polytheists. That is, Swinburne and Hick think that it is right that we, or at least some of us, worship more than one god. However, the evidence available to me shows that only Swinburne, and (...) not Hick, is a cultic polytheist: he actually worships more than one god. I conclude that only Swinburne is a polytheist par excellence. (shrink)
We argue that Michael Peterson's and William Hasker's attempts to show that God and gratuitous evil are compatible constitute miserable failures. We then sketch Peter van Inwagen's attempt to do the same and conclude that, to date, no one has shown his attempt a failure.
Laurence BonJour observes that critics of foundationalism tend to argue against it by objecting to "relatively idiosyncratic" versions of it, a strategy which has "proven in the main to be superficial and ultimately ineffective" since answers immune to the objections emerge quickly (1985: 17). He aims to rectify this deficiency. Specifically, he argues that the very soul of foundationalism, "the concept of a basic empirical belief," is incoherent (1985: 30). This is a bold strategy from which we can learn even (...) if, in the end, as I shall argue, it fails. (shrink)
This collection of essays is dedicated to William Rowe, with great affection, respect, and admiration. The philosophy of religion, once considered a deviation from an otherwise analytically rigorous discipline, has flourished over the past two decades. This collection of new essays by twelve distinguished philosophers of religion explores three broad themes: religious attitudes of faith, belief, acceptance, and love; human and divine freedom; and the rationality of religious belief. Contributors include: William Alston, Robert Audi, Jan Cover, Martin Curd, Peter van (...) Inwagen, Norman Kretzmann, George Nakhnikian, John Hawthorne, Philip Quinn, James Ross, Eleonore Stump, and William Wainwright. (shrink)
The Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FCA), whose leaders govern well over half of the 80 million Anglicans worldwide, have put forward ‘a contemporary rule,’ called The Jerusalem Declaration, to guide the Anglican realignment movement. The FCA and its affiliates, e.g. the newly-formed Anglican Church in North America, require assent to the Declaration. To date, there has been little serious appraisal of the Declaration and the status accorded to it. I aim to correct that omission. Unlike ap-praisals in the social media, (...) however, mine grants the FCA’s conservative stand on same-sex unions and homosexual practice. Nevertheless, I argue, the Declaration mischaracterizes the traditional Christian teaching on marriage, binds Anglicans to falsehoods and dubieties in the Thirty-Nine Articles, and adds to the gospel. Two things follow. First, no one—especially no Anglican who identifies herself as con-servative, traditional, orthodox, evangelical, Anglo-catholic or simply concerned with the truth—should assent to the Jerusalem Declaration. Second, since the FCA and its affiliates know that these defects ex-ist in the Declaration, they should fess up to these shortcomings and retract the Declaration’s status as ‘a contemporary rule’ and they should stop requiring assent to it. Anything less constitutes intellectual dis-honesty of a most egregious sort. (shrink)
Imagine that there exists a good, essentially omniscient and omnipotent being named Jove, and that there exists nothing else. No possible being is more powerful or knowledgable. Out of his goodness, Jove decides to create. Since he is all-powerful, there is nothing but the bounds of possibility to prevent him from getting what he wants. Unfortunately, as he holds before his mind the host of worlds, Jove sees that for each there is a better one. Although he can create any (...) of them, he can't create the best of them because there is no best. Faced with this predicament, Jove first sorts the worlds according to certain criteria. For example, he puts on his left worlds in which some inhabitants live lives that aren't worth living and on his right worlds in which every inhabitant's life is worth living; he puts on his left worlds in which some horrors fail to serve an outweighing good and on his right worlds in which no horror fails to serve an outweighing good. (We encourage the reader to use her own criteria.) Then he orders the right hand worlds according to their goodness and assigns to each a positive natural number, the worst of the lot receiving '1', the second worst '2', and so on. Next, he creates a very intricate device that, at the push of a button, will randomly select a number and produce the corresponding world. Jove pushes the button; the device hums and whirs and, finally, its digital display reads '777': world no. 777 comes into being. (shrink)
Nonskeptical foundationalists say that there are basic beliefs. But, one might object, either there is a reason why basic beliefs are likely to be true or there is not. If there is, then they are not basic; if there is not, then they are arbitrary. I argue that this dilemma is not nearly as decisive as its author, Peter Klein, would have us believe.
Donald Davidson’s epistemology is predicated on, among other things, the rejection of Experiential Foundationalism, which he calls ‘unintelligible’. In this essay, I assess Davidson’s arguments for this conclusion. I conclude that each of them fails on the basis of reasons that foundationalists and antifoundationalists alike can, and should, accept.
Stump, Aquinas, and Dawkins & Company seem to think that objectual faith--"faith in"--is identical with propositional belief. I argue that they are wrong. More plausibly, objectual faith requires belief of the relevant proposition(s). There are other forms of faith: propositional faith, allegiant faith, and affective or global faith. We might conjecture that each of these forms of faith likewise require belief of the relevant propositions. More weakly, we might conjecture that at least one of them does. This latter thesis I (...) call the Stump-Aquinas-Dawkins Thesis (SAD). In this essay, I develop one reason against SAD and critique seven reasons for it. (shrink)
Preprinted in God and the Problem of Evil (Blackwell 2001), ed. William Rowe. In this article, we reply to Bill Rowe's "Evil is Evidence Against Theistic Belief" in Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Religion (Blackwell 2003).
Evil, it is often said, poses a problem for theism, the view that there is an omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good being, "God," for short. This problem is usually called "the problem of evil." But this is a bad name for what philosophers study under that rubric. They study what is better thought of as an argument, or a host of arguments, rather than a problem. Of course, an argument from evil against theism can be both an argument and a (...) problem. Some people realize this for the first time when they assert an argument from evil in print and someone publishes a .reply in which numerous defects and oversights are laid bare for the public eye. And if it turns out that there is a God and He doesn't take kindly to such arguments, then an argument from evil might be a big problem, a very big problem, for one who sincerely propounds it. Typically, however, an argument from evil is not thought to be a problem for the atheist. But if not for the atheist, for whom is an argument from evil a "problem"? (shrink)
Preprinted in God and the Problem of Evil(Blackwell 2001), ed. William Rowe. Many people deny that evil makes belief in atheism more reasonable for us than belief in theism. After all, they say, the grounds for belief in God are much better than the evidence for atheism, including the evidence provided by evil. We will not join their ranks on this occasion. Rather, we wish to consider the proposition that, setting aside grounds for belief in God and relying only on (...) the background knowledge shared in common by nontheists and theists, evil makes belief in atheism more reasonable for us than belief in theism. Our aim is to argue against this proposition. We recognize that in doing so, we face a formidable challenge. It’s one thing to say that evil presents a reason for atheism that is, ultimately, overridden by arguments for theism. It’s another to say that it doesn’t so much as provide us with a reason for atheism in the first place. In order to make this latter claim seem initially more plausible, consider the apparent design of the mammalian eye or the apparent fine-tuning of the universe to support life. These are often proposed as reasons to believe in theism. Critics commonly argue not merely that these supposed reasons for theism are overridden by arguments for atheism but rather that they aren’t good reasons for theism in the first place. Our parallel proposal with respect to evil and atheism is, initially at least, no less plausible than this proposal with respect to apparent design and theism. (shrink)
The need to address our question arises from two sources, one in Kant and the other in a certain type of response to so-called Reformed epistemology. The first source consists in a tendency to distinguish theoretical beliefs from practical beliefs (commitments to the world's being a certain way versus commitments to certain pictures to live by), and to treat theistic belief as mere practical belief. We trace this tendency in Kant's corpus, and compare and contrast it with Aquinas's view and (...) a more conservative Kantian view. We reject the theistic-belief-as-mere-practical-belief view: it is bad descriptive anthropology, it embraces a misguided ideal of a fragmented self unattainable by human beings, and it will deter people from the most desirable sort of faith. The second source consists in the idea that since theistic beliefs function as answers to why-questions, their epistemic status hangs on whether they meet certain distinctively explanatory standards, whatever support they might receive from other sources. We argue that this is a non-sequitur and suggest questions for further research. (shrink)
Foundationalists distinguish basic from nonbasic beliefs. At a first approximation, to say that a belief of a person is basic is to say that it is epistemically justified and it owes its justification to something other than her other beliefs, where “belief” refers to the mental state that goes by that name. To say that a belief of a person is nonbasic is to say that it is epistemically justified and not basic. Two theses constitute Foundationalism: (a) Minimality: There are (...) some basic beliefs, and (b) Exclusivity: If there are any nonbasic beliefs, that is solely because they (ultimately) owe their justification to some basic belief. Proponents of Minimality but not Exclusivity endorse Minimal Foundationalism. Proponents of Exclusivity but not Minimality endorse either Epistemic Nihilism, the view that there are no justified beliefs, or some non-foundationalist epistemology such as Coherentism or Infinitism. In this essay I aim to characterize the notion of a basic belief more precisely and to assess some arguments for and against Foundationalism. In the process, I hope to exhibit the resilience and attractiveness of Foundationalism. (shrink)
Many Christian theodicists believe that God's creating us with the capacity to love Him and each other justifies, in large part, God's permitting evil. For example, after reminding us that, according to Christian doctrine, the supreme good for human beings is to enter into a reciprocal love relationship with God, Vincent Brummer recently wrote: In creating human persons in order to love them, God necessarily assumes vulnerability in relation to them. In fact, in this relation, he becomes even more vulnerable (...) than we do, since he cannot count on the steadfastness of our love the way we can count on his steadfastness.... If God did not grant us the ability to sin and cause affliction to him and to one another, we would not have the kind of free and autonomous existence necessary to enter into a relation of love with God and with one another.... Far from contradicting the value which the free will defence places upon the freedom and responsibility of human persons, the idea of a loving God necessarily entails it. In this way we can see that the free will defence is based on the love of God rather than on the supposed intrinsic value of human freedom and responsibility.1 And Peter van Inwagen recently put the same point this way. (shrink)