God's Existence and Nature or Philosophy of Religion
Charles Taliaferro, Victoria Harrison, and Stewart Goetz, eds. (Routledge: Sep 25, 2012), 752 pages.
There are deep and pervasive disagreements today in universities and colleges, and popular culture in general, over the credibility and value of belief in God. This has given rise to an urgent need for a balanced, comprehensive, accessible resource book that can inform the public and scholarly debate over theism. While scholars with as diverse interests as Daniel Dennett, Terry Eagleton, Richard Dawkins, Jürgen Habermas, and Rowan Williams have recently contributed books to this debate, "theism" as a concept remains poorly understood and requires a more thorough and systematic analysis than it has so far received in any single volume. The Routledge Companion to Theism addresses this need by investigating theism's history as well as its relationship to inquiry in the sciences, social sciences, and humanities, and to its wider cultural contexts. The contents are not confined within the philosophy of religion or even within the more expansive borders of philosophy. Rather, The Routledge Companion to Theism investigates its subject through the lens of a wide variety of disciplines and explores the ramifications of theism considered as a way of life as well as an intellectual conviction. The five parts of the volume indicate its inclusive scope: I. What is Theism?; II. Theism and Inquiry; III. Theism and the Socio-Political Realm; IV. Theism and Culture; V. Theism as a Way of Life. The result is a well ordered and thorough collection that should provide a wide spectrum of readers with a better understanding of a subject that's much discussed, but frequently misunderstood. As the editors note in their Introduction, while stimulating and informing the contemporary debate, a key aim of the volume is to open new avenues of inquiry into theism and thereby to encourage further research into this vital topic. Comprised of 54 essays by leading scholars in philosophy, history, theology, religious studies, political science, education and sociology, The Routledge Companion to Theism promises to be the most useful, comprehensive resource on an emerging subject of interest for students and scholars.
Thomas V. Morris (Wipf & Stock Publishers: Jul 2011), 222 pages.
In The Logic of God Incarnate, Thomas Morris seeks to defend Chalcedonian Christology from charges of incoherence as well as heterodox alternatives. Whereas Morris's Our Idea of God is addressed to general readers, The Logic of God Incarnate focuses on scholarly readers, those who wrestle with the more mysterious aspects of the Christian faith. In his Preface, after telling how his interest in the subject developed while doing graduate work at Yale, Morris says: "In the course of thinking about the Incarnation for some years now, I have come to see that a few simple metaphysical distinctions and a solid dose of logical care will suffice to explicate and defend the doctrine against all extant criticisms of a philosophical nature. That is what this book attempts to show". The Incarnation, of course, makes the extraordinary claim that Jesus was in fact fully God and man. Extraordinary, however, does not mean illogical or absurd. "The Christian claim is that because of the distinctiveness of divinity and humanity, it was possible for the Second Person of the Trinity, God the Son, to take on human nature while still retaining his deity. The two particular natures involved, despite appearances to the contrary, allowed this unusual duality". In becoming man, the Son did not lose or even temporarily surrender His divinity — Morris respects, but does not accept, what he regards as a fatal compromise implicit in kenotic Christology. In being assumed by God, the man Jesus did not lose his humanity — though we must understand that his humanity was "fully human," realizing God's design for man, not the "merely human" being we tend to think of, taking ourselves as models. Accordingly, "The God-man is, according to orthodoxy, both fully human and fully divine, but at the same time more deeply or fundamentally divine than human. The Person bearing the two natures is an essentially divine Person". ~ Gerard Reed at Amazon.com
The True Intellectual System of the Universe (Gould & Newman: 1837, orig. 1678), pp. 266-7.
Wherefore, we shall in the next place declare, what this idea of God is, or what is that thing, whose existence they that affirm, are called Theists, and they who deny, Atheists. In order whereunto, we must first lay down this lemma, or preparatory proposition — that as it is generally acknowledged, that all things did not exist from eternity, such as they are, unmade, but that some things were made and generated or produced; so it is not possible that all things should be made neither, but there must of necessity be something self-existent from eternity, and unmade; because if there had been once nothing, there could never have been any thing. The reason of which is so evident and irresistible, that even the Atheists confess themselves conquered by it, and readily acknowledge it for an indubitable truth, that there must be something αγεννηιον, something which was never made or produced — and which therefore is the cause of those other things that are made, something ... that was self-originated and self-existing ... Wherefore all the question now is, what is this ... which is the cause of all other things that are made. ¶ Now there are two grand opinions opposite to one another concerning it; for, first, some contend, that the only self-existent, unmade and incorruptible thing, and first principle of all things, is senseless matter; that is, matter either perfectly dead and stupid, or at least devoid of all animalish and conscious life. But because this is really the lowest and most imperfect of all beings, others on the contrary judge it reasonable ... that the only unmade thing, which was the principle, cause, and original of all other things, was not senseless matter, but a perfect conscious understanding nature, or mind. And these are they, who are strictly and properly called Theists, who affirm, that a perfectly conscious understanding being, or mind, existing of itself from eternity, was the cause of all other things; and they, on the contrary, who derive all things from senseless matter, as the first original, and deny that there is any conscious understanding being self-existent or unmade, are those that are properly called Atheists.
"Why Is There Anything?" in Secular Philosophy and the Religious Temperament (Oxford University Press: 2009), p. 28.
The existence of our universe might be explained by scientific cosmology, but such an explanation would still have to refer to features of some larger reality that contained or gave rise to it. A scientific explanation of the Big Bang would not be an explanation of why there was something rather than nothing, because it would have to refer to something from which that event arose. This something, or anything else cited in a further scientific explanation of it, would then have to be included in the universe whose existence we are looking for an explanation of when we ask why there is anything at all. This is a question that remains after all possible scientific questions have been answered.
Thomas Nagel on Explanations said...
"Dawkins and Atheism" in Secular Philosophy and the Religious Temperament (Oxford University Press: 2009), pp. 22-3.
The reason we are led to the hypothesis of a designer by considering both the watch and the eye is that these are complex physical structures that carry out a complex function, and we cannot see how they could have come into existence out of unorganized matter purely on the basis of the purposeless laws of physics. For the elements of which they are composed to have come together in just this finely tuned way purely as a result of physical and chemical laws would have been such an improbable fluke that we can regard it in effect as impossible: The hypothesis of chance can be ruled out. But God, whatever he may be, is not a complex physical inhabitant of the natural world. The explanation of his existence as a chance concatenation of atoms is not a possibility to which we must find an alternative, because that is not what anybody means by God. If the God hypothesis makes sense at all, it offers a different kind of explanation from those of physical science: explanation by the purpose or intention of a mind without a body, capable nevertheless of creating and forming the entire physical world. The point of the hypothesis is to claim that not all explanation is physical, and that there is a mental, purposive, or intentional explanation more fundamental even than the basic laws of physics, because it explains even them.
"How I Believe in God" at the Chicago Sun-Times (April 17, 2009).
When I was in first or second grade and had just been introduced by the nuns to the concept of a limitless God, I lay awake at night driving myself nuts by repeating over and over, But how could God have no beginning? And how could he have no end? And then I thought of all the stars in the sky: But how could there be a last one? Wouldn't there always have to be one more? Many years later I know the answer to the second question, but I still don't know the answer to the first one. ... I no longer lost any sleep over the questions of God and infinity. I understood they could have no answers. At some point the reality of God was no longer present in my mind. I believed in the basic Church teachings because I thought they were correct, not because God wanted me to. In my mind, in the way I interpret them, I still live by them today. Not by the rules and regulations, but by the principles. For example, in the matter of abortion, I am pro-choice, but my personal choice would be to have nothing to do with an abortion, certainly not of a child of my own. I believe in free will, and believe I have no right to tell anyone else what to do. Popes come and go, and John XXIII has been the only one I felt affection for. Their dictums strike me as lacking in the ability to surprise. They have been leading a holding action for a millenium. ¶ Catholicism made me a humanist before I knew the word. When people rail against "secular humanism," I want to ask them if humanism itself would be okay with them. Over the high school years, my belief in the likelihood of a God continued to lessen. I kept this to myself. ... ¶ Did I start calling myself an agnostic or an atheist? No, and I still don't. I avoid that because I don't want to provide a category for people to apply to me.
On Natural Theology, Vol. 1 (Robert Carter & Brothers: 1857) pp. 71-3.
The prima facie evidence for a God may not be enough to decide the question; but it should at least decide man to entertain the question. To think upon how slight a variation either in man or in external nature, the whole difference between physical enjoyment and the most acute and most appalling of physical agony may turn; to think how delicate the balance is, and yet how surely and steadfastly it is maintained, so as that the vast majority of creatures are not only upheld in comfort but often may be seen disporting themselves in the redundance of gaiety; to think of the pleasurable sensations wherewith every hour is enlivened, and how much the most frequent and familiar occasions of life are mixed up with happiness; to think of the food, and the recreation, and the study, and the society, and the business, each having an appropriate relish of its own, so as in fact to season with enjoyment the great bulk of our existence in the world; to think that, instead of living in the midst of grievous and incessant annoyance to all our faculties, we should have awoke upon a world that so harmonized with the various senses of man, and both gave forth such music to his ear, and to his eye such manifold loveliness; to think of all these palpable and most precious adaptations, and yet to care not, whether in this wide universe there exists a being who has had any hand in them; to riot and regale oneself to the uttermost in the midst of all this profusion, and yet to send not one wishful inquiry after that Benevolence which for aught we know may have laid it at our feet — this, however shaded from our view the object of the question may be, is, from its very commencement, a clear outrage against its ethical proprieties. If that veil of dim transparency, which hides the Deity from our immediate perceptions, were lifted up; and we should then spurn from us the manifested God — this were direct and glaring impiety. But anterior to the lifting of that veil, there may be impiety. It is impiety to be so immersed as we are, in the busy objects and gratifications of life; and yet to care not whether there be a great and a good spirit by whose kindness it is that life is upholden. It needs not that this great spirit should reveal Himself in characters that force our attention to Him, ere the guilt of our impiety has begun. But ours is the guilt of impiety, in not lifting our attention towards God, in not seeking after Him if haply we may find Him.
James S. Spiegel (Moody Publishers: Feb 2010), 144 pages.
The new atheists are on the warpath. They come armed with arguments to show that belief in God is absurd and dangerous. In the name of societal progress, they promote purging the world of all religious practice. And they claim that people of faith are mentally ill. Some of the new atheists openly declare their hatred for the Judeo-Christian God. Christian apologists have been quick to respond to the new atheists’ arguments. But there is another dimension to the issue which begs to be addressed — the root causes of atheism. Where do atheists come from? How did such folks as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens become such ardent atheists? If we are to believe them, their flight from faith resulted from a dispassionate review of the evidence. Not enough rational grounds for belief in God, they tell us. But is this the whole story? Could it be that their opposition to religious faith has more to do with passion than reason? What if, in the end, evidence has little to do with how atheists arrive at their anti-faith? That is precisely the claim in this book. Atheism is not at all a consequence of intellectual doubts. These are mere symptoms of the root cause—moral rebellion. For the atheist, the missing ingredient is not evidence but obedience. The psalmist declares, “The fool says in his heart there is no God” (Ps. 14:1), and in the book of Romans, Paul makes it clear that lack of evidence is not the atheist’s problem. The Making of an Atheist confirms these biblical truths and describes the moral and psychological dynamics involved in the abandonment of faith. ~ Product Description
The Existence of God, 2nd Edition (Clarendon Press: 2004), p. 134.
From time to time various writers have told us that we cannot reach any conclusions about the origin or development of the universe, since it is (whether by logic or just in fact) a unique object, the only one of its kind, and rational inquiry can only reach the conclusions about objects which belong to kinds, e.g. it can reach a conclusion about what will happen to this bit of iron, because there are other bits of iron, the behaviour of which can be studied. This objection of course has the surprising, and to most of these writers unwelcome, consequence, that physical cosmology cannot reach justified conclusions about such matters as the size, age, rate of expansion, and density of the universe as a whole (because it is a unique object); and also that physical anthropology cannot reach conclusions about the origin and development of the human race (because, as far as our knowledge goes, it is the only one of its kind). The implausibility of these consequences leads us to doubt the original objection, which is indeed misguided.
"God by Design?" in God and Design: The Teleological Argument and Modern Science, N.A. Manson, ed. (2003), pp. 93-4.
It ought to be regarded as a major embarrassment to natural theology that the very idea of something like a universe's being "created" by some minded being is sufficiently mind-boggling that any attempt to provide a detailed account of how it might be done is bound to look silly, or mythical, or a vaguely anthropomorphized version of some familiar physical process. Creation stories abound in human societies, as we know. Accounts ascribe the creation to various mythical beings, chief gods among a sizable polytheistic committee, giant tortoises, super-mom hens, and, one is tempted to say, God-knows-what. The Judeo-Christian account does no better, and perhaps does a bit worse, in proposing a "six-day" process of creation.
A Treatise of Human Nature, original 1739 (Longmans, Green: 1909), pp. 303, 398.
If we see a house ... we conclude, with the greatest certainty, that it had an architect or builder; because this is precisely that species of effect, which we have experienced to proceed from that species of cause. But surely you will not affirm, that the universe bears such a resemblance to a house, that we can with the same certainty infer a similar cause, or that the analogy is here entire and perfect. The dissimilitude is so striking, that the utmost you can here pretend to is a guess, a conjecture, a presumption concerning a similar cause; and how that pretension will be received in the world, I leave you to consider.
Chad Meister (Routledge: Mar 2009), 246 pages. Companion to the Reader.
Does God exist? What about evil and suffering? How does faith relate to science? Is there life after death? These questions fascinate everyone and lie at the heart of philosophy of religion. Chad Meister offers an up-to-date introduction to the field, focussing not only on traditional debates but also on contemporary concepts such as the intelligent creator. Key topics, such as divine reality and the self and religious experience, are discussed in relation to different faiths. The wealth of textbook features, including tables of essential information, questions for reflection, summaries, glossary and recommendations for further reading make the book ideal for student use. Along with its accompanying Reader, this is the perfect introductory package for undergraduate philosophy of religion courses. ~ Product Description
Charles Taliaferro and Chad Meister, eds. (Cambridge University Press: November 2009), 288 pages.
This Companion offers an up-to-date overview of the beliefs, doctrines, and practices of the key philosophical concepts at the heart of Christian theology. The sixteen chapters, commissioned specially for this volume, are written by an internationally recognized team of scholars and examine topics such as the Trinity, God's necessary existence, simplicity, omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, goodness, eternity and providence, the incarnation, resurrection, atonement, sin and salvation, the problem of evil, church rites, revelation and miracles, prayer, and the afterlife. Written in non-technical, accessible language, they not only offer a synthesis of scholarship on these topics but also suggest questions and topics for further investigation. ~ Product Description
"Introduction" in The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology (Wiley-Blackwell: 2009), p. ix.
The collapse of positivism and its attendant verification principle of meaning was undoubtedly the most important philosophical event of the twentieth century. Their demise heralded a resurgence of metaphysics, along with other traditional problems of philosophy that verificationism had suppressed. Accompanying this resurgence has come something new and altogether unanticipated: a renaissance in Christian philosophy. The face of Anglo-American philosophy has been transformed as a result. Theism is on the rise; atheism is on the decline. Atheism, although perhaps still the dominant viewpoint at the American university, is a philosophy in retreat.
Karen Armstrong (Knopf: Sep 2009), 432 pages.
A fascinating journey through Western civilization's ongoing attempts to understand and explain the concept of God. Celebrated religion scholar Armstrong (The Bible: A Biography, 2007, etc.) creates more than a history of religion; she effectively demonstrates how the West (broadly speaking) has grappled with the existence of deity and captured the concept in words, art and ideas. Beginning in the majestic caves of Lascaux, Armstrong explores how religion became a meaningful part of prehistoric societies, and the ways in which these societies passed down their practices and ideas in the earliest forms of art. The author then moves on to early monotheism and its rivals, offering a brilliant examination of ancient Greek views on religion and reason, which laid the groundwork for so much of Western thought. Looking at the early Christians and Diaspora-era Jews in tandem, Armstrong delves into Talmudic study and midrash, as well as Christian adaptations of theological concepts. Throughout the book, the author argues against religion as an abstraction, noting that it most truly exists in practice. "Faith . . . was a matter of practical insight and active commitment," she writes. "It had little to do with abstract belief or theological conjecture." Nevertheless, scholars have always attempted to define and "prove" God, and Armstrong admirably outlines the best of them through the centuries, including Origen, Anselm, Pascal and Tillich. Armstrong claims that the "warfare" between science and religion is a myth perpetuated by those with axes to grind. Likewise, the modern atheist movement, "death of God" theology and even fundamentalism arise from extremists who see religion as correct doctrine,not correct praxis. Though mostly focused on the West, Armstrong maintains a global perspective, masterfully weaving in her solid understanding of the world's panoply of faiths. Accessible, intriguing study of how we see God. ~ Kirkus Reviews
Gregory W. Dawes (Taylor & Francis, Inc.: Jun 2009), 212 pages.
In this timely study, Dawes defends the methodological naturalism of the sciences. Though religions offer what appear to be explanations of various facts about the world, the scientist, as scientist, will not take such proposed explanations seriously. Even if no natural explanation were available, she will assume that one exists. Is this merely a sign of atheistic prejudice, as some critics suggest? Or are there good reasons to exclude from science explanations that invoke a supernatural agent? On the one hand, Dawes concedes the bare possibility that talk of divine action could constitute a potential explanation of some state of affairs, while noting that the conditions under which this would be true are unlikely ever to be fulfilled. On the other hand, he argues that a proposed explanation of this kind would rate poorly, when measured against our usual standards of explanatory virtue.