Faith and/or Reason
Russell Blackford and Udo Schuklenk, eds. (Wiley-Blackwell: Oct 26, 2009), 360 pages.
Fifty Voices of Disbelief: Why We Are Atheists presents a collection of original essays drawn from an international group of prominent voices in the fields of academia, science, literature, media and politics who offer carefully considered statements of why they are atheists. Features a truly international cast of contributors, ranging from public intellectuals such as Peter Singer, Susan Blackmore, and A.C. Grayling, novelists, such as Joe Haldeman, and heavyweight philosophers of religion, including Graham Oppy and Michael Tooley. Contributions range from rigorous philosophical arguments to highly personal, even whimsical, accounts of how each of these notable thinkers have come to reject religion in their lives. Likely to have broad appeal given the current public fascination with religious issues and the reception of such books as The God Delusion and The End of Faith. ~ Product Description
John Rawls with Thomas Nagel, Joshua Cohen, and Robert Merrihew Adams (Harvard: Mar 31, 2009), 288 pages.
John Rawls never published anything about his own religious beliefs, but after his death two texts were discovered which shed extraordinary light on the subject. A Brief Inquiry into the Meaning of Sin and Faith is Rawls’s undergraduate senior thesis, submitted in December 1942, just before he entered the army. At that time Rawls was deeply religious; the thesis is a significant work of theological ethics, of interest both in itself and because of its relation to his mature writings. “On My Religion,” a short statement drafted in 1997, describes the history of his religious beliefs and attitudes toward religion, including his abandonment of orthodoxy during World War II. The present volume includes these two texts, together with an Introduction by Joshua Cohen and Thomas Nagel, which discusses their relation to Rawls’s published work, and an essay by Robert Merrihew Adams, which places the thesis in its theological context. The texts display the profound engagement with religion that forms the background of Rawls’s later views on the importance of separating religion and politics. Moreover, the moral and social convictions that the thesis expresses in religious form are related in illuminating ways to the central ideas of Rawls’s later writings. His notions of sin, faith, and community are simultaneously moral and theological, and prefigure the moral outlook found in Theory of Justice. ~ Product Description
James W. Sire (InterVarsity: Aug 2006), 111 pages.
A Little Primer of Humble Apologetics is just that: a beginner's instruction book on the subject of Christian apologetics; a subject many of us find frightening. As the author, James Sire, points out, we Christians are all called to some extent to be arguers or contenders for our faith, to be prepared at all times to be able to give a reason for the hope that we have found in Jesus Christ. (I Peter 3: 15-16) This primer tells how to defend the faith intelligently, with integrity and humility. Sire contends, in six short but tightly-packed chapters, that Christians can and should learn apologetic arguments through reading the Gospels and through the example and instruction of the early apostles Peter, Stephen, and Paul. Chapter one looks at what nine key Scripture passages say about presenting the gospel, and arrives at a guiding definition for those who hope to defend their faith. ~ Christian Book Previews
John C. Wright, in a comment at SF Signal (Nov 23, 2005).
My conversion was in two parts: a natural part and a supernatural part. Here is the natural part: first, over a period of two years my hatred toward Christianity eroded due to my philosophical inquiries. Rest assured, I take the logical process of philosophy very seriously, and I am impatient with anyone who is not a rigorous and trained thinker. Reason is the tool men use to determine if their statements about reality are valid: there is no other. Those who do not or cannot reason are little better than slaves, because their lives are controlled by the ideas of other men, ideas they have not examined. To my surprise and alarm, I found that, step by step, logic drove me to conclusions no modern philosophy shared, but only this ancient and (as I saw it then) corrupt and superstitious foolery called the Church. Each time I followed the argument fearlessly where it lead, it kept leading me, one remorseless rational step at a time, to a position the Church had been maintaining for more than a thousand years. That haunted me.
William P. Alston in God and the Philosophers: The Reconciliation of Faith and Reason, ed. T.V. Morris (New York: Oxford, 1994), 19-30.
I must begin by confessing that I am quite unaccustomed to testifying, which is what I have let myself in for by agreeing to write this essay. Abstract reasoning is more my line. Therefore, I must ask you to bear with me if I sound like a fish out of water. If I am to speak of my way back to the faith, I must say something about where I was coming back from. And for this, a little background is needed. I was raised as a Methodist in the South--Shreveport, Louisiana, to be exact. My undoubtedly imperfect recollection of this particular religious ambiance is that it was perfunctory and lacking in warmth of conviction. No doubt, a lot was going on there that was not getting through to me. But when, many years later, I came to learn something about John Wesley and the origins of Methodism, I was surprised to learn that great store was set on personal religious experience. It is a plausible conjecture that the fact that I have spent a large part of the last fifteen years working on the epistemology of religious experience represents a development of seeds that were planted during my childhood as a Methodist in Shreveport. However, as I say, none of this made any strong, conscious impression on me at the time (to the best of my recollection), and on attaining the age of reason (or what I thought of as such in early adolescence) and becoming acquainted with atheistic arguments and attitudes, I readily abandoned ship.
J. P. Moreland, Address at Christian Scholarship: Tensions and Contributions at The Ohio State University (1999).
Thoughtful Christians are agreed that an important component of Christian scholarship is the integration of faith and learning, as it is sometimes called. Because Christians are interested in the truth for its own sake and because they are called to proclaim and defend their views to an unbelieving world and to seek to live consistently with those views, it is important for members of the believing community to think carefully about how to integrate their carefully formed theological beliefs with prominent claims in other fields of study. As St. Augustine wisely asserted, "We must show our Scriptures not to be in conflict with whatever [our critics] can demonstrate about the nature of things from reliable sources."1 However, the task of integration is hard work and there is no widespread agreement about how it is to be done generally or about what its results should look like in specific cases. In what follows, I shall do three things to contribute to the integrative enterprise: 1) describe the relation between integration and spiritual formation; 2) discuss current integrative priorities for the Christian scholar; 3) analyze the epistemic tasks for and models employed in integration.
Alvin Plantinga, Truth Journal, reprinted from Faith and Philosophy: Journal of the Society of Christian Philosophers vol. 1 (October 1984).
In the paper that follows I write from the perspective of a philosopher, and of course I have detailed knowledge of (at best) only my own field. I am convinced, however, that many other disciplines resemble philosophy with respect to things I say below. (It will be up to the practitioners of those other disciplines to see whether or not I am right.)
Murder on the Orient Express (1934).
The impossible could not have happened, therefore the impossible must be possible in spite of appearances. ... Exactly! It is absurd — improbable — it cannot be. So I myself have said. And yet, my friend, there it is! One cannot escape from the facts.
"The Value of Historical Theology", in Sundoulos, Fall Issue, 2009 (Talbot: 2009), p. 7.
Leopold Von Ranke's famous maxim that the historian's task is to "tell it like it was" may be ridiculed by those who doubt the possibility or even the desirability of objective history, but I believe Von Ranke was fundamentally correct. In the case of intellectual history, this involves understanding a thinker on his or her own terms, in his or her own context. It is coming to grips with a document's meaning and penetrating what underlies the arguments being advanced. It is no about rehabilitating or castigating those long dead, but about grasping objectively what is being said and why. ¶ While objectivity is the historian's goal, this does not mean that the historian is void of personal commitments, or that he or she must remain neutral as to the truth or falsity of the positions under consideration. The point is simply that history qua history is not about passing such judgments but is merely about getting the story straight, however the chips may fall. It is only after the position has been understood on its own terms and without bias that the historian may turn to evaluation and employ the fruits of his or her discovery in polemical or other theological application. But at that point we've moved beyond the historical task simpliciter and into something else — something wonderfully valuable and necessary, perhaps, but something different nonetheless.
"An Ideal of Service to Our Fellow Man" in This I Believe (1950).
The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious — the knowledge of the existence of something unfathomable to us, the manifestation of the most profound reason coupled with the most brilliant beauty. I cannot imagine a god who rewards and punishes the objects of his creation, or who has a will of the kind we experience in ourselves. I am satisfied with the mystery of life's eternity and with the awareness of — and glimpse into — the marvelous construction of the existing world together with the steadfast determination to comprehend a portion, be it ever so tiny, of the reason that manifests itself in nature. This is the basis of cosmic religiosity, and it appears to me that the most important function of art and science is to awaken this feeling among the receptive and keep it alive.
Intellectuals Don't Need God and Other Modern Myths (Zondervan: 1993), pp. 178-9.
If the world seems attractive, the Christian must ensure that God, as its creator, is seen to be even more attractive. The world reflects the attractiveness of its creator, as the moon reflects the light of the sun. ¶ Two incidents from classical Greek mythology suggest themselves here. Homer introduces us to the Sirens, a group of women whose singing was so seductive that they caused sailors to crash their vessels through inattention to their duties. When Ulysses was attempting to sail his ship past the Sirens, he prevented the Sirens from causing any difficulties by the simple expedient of blocking his sailors' ears so that they could not hear the captivating Siren song. Orpheus, on the other hand, was a skilled lyre player. His method of dealing with this kind of threat was rather indifferent. He played his lyre, the music of which proved so enchanting and fascinating that its beauty totally outweighed anything else.
Communication and Reference (Walter de Gruyter: 1984), p. 95.
Fallacies seem to resist an illuminating and perspicuous categorization and characterization. There is a quite banal consideration that makes the search for an adequate taxonomy seem doomed to failure. While there are a few principles of correct reasoning, the number of incorrect patterns of reasoning are unlimited. In other words, there is no underestimating the ability of human beings to invent new ways of making mistakes. The seems to be the view of H.W.B Joseph, who is quoted as saying, "Truth may have its norms, but error is infinite in its aberrations and they cannot be digested in any classification".
Warranted Christian Belief, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), p. vii.
Is [Christian] belief intellectually acceptable? In particular, is it intellectually acceptable for us, now; For educated and intelligent people in the twenty-first century, with all that has happened over the last four or five hundred years? Some will concede that Christian belief was acceptable and even appropriate for our ancestors, people who knew little of other religions, who knew nothing of evolution and our animal ancestry, nothing of contemporary subatomic physics and the strange, eerie, disquieting world it postulates, nothing of those great masters of suspicion, Nietzsche, Marx, and Freud, nothing of the acids of modern historical biblical criticism. But for us enlightened contemporary intellectuals (so the claim continues) things are wholly different, for people who know about those things (people of our rather impressive intellectual attainments), there is something naive and foolish, or perhaps bullheaded and irresponsible, or even vaguely pathological in holding onto such belief.
"The Dawkins Confusion" at ChristianityToday.com (March 1, 2007).
Since we have been cobbled together by (unguided) evolution, it is unlikely, he thinks, that our view of the world is overall accurate; natural selection is interested in adaptive behavior, not in true belief. But Dawkins fails to plumb the real depths of the skeptical implications of the view that we have come to be by way of unguided evolution. We can see this as follows. Like most naturalists, Dawkins is a materialist about human beings: human persons are material objects; they are not immaterial selves or souls or substances joined to a body, and they don't contain any immaterial substance as a part. From this point of view, our beliefs would be dependent on neurophysiology, and (no doubt) a belief would just be a neurological structure of some complex kind. Now the neurophysiology on which our beliefs depend will doubtless be adaptive; but why think for a moment that the beliefs dependent on or caused by that neurophysiology will be mostly true? Why think our cognitive faculties are reliable?
Warranted Christian Belief, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), p. 63.
In religious belief as elsewhere, we must take our chances, recognizing that we could be wrong, dreadfully wrong. There are no guarantees; the religious life is a venture; foolish and debilitating error is a permanent possibility. (If we can be wrong, however, we can also be right.)
Edward John Carnell (Wipf & Stock: Oct 2007), 379 pages.
Edward John Carnell (1919-1967) was an ordained Baptist minister, who also served as President of Fuller Theological Seminary from 1954-1959, and then as professor of Apologetics. The keyword to Carnell's approach is "systematic coherence." He sought to find "a successful union of the ideal and empirical worlds," and notes that "every man is a philosopher of a sort, and must pass judgment upon the whole course of reality. But the only proof he can offer, both for his system of philosophy and for the actions which flow from it, is systematic coherence ... It is this framework that the Christian offers proof for his system: it sticks together ... God is absolute consistency. And the will of God has been revealed in Holy Writ." As presented by Carnell, "Three problems wait for the philosopher's solution. First, truth, must be located. Secondly, a rational universe must be plotted. Finally, these two must be so united that they will provide a basis for trust in personal immortality." "Having no perfect system of thought while we walk by faith and not by sight, the Christian suggests that a rational man settle for that system which is attended by the fewest difficulties." However, he further says that "Logic can be the means by which the Spirit leads a man into faith, but it is the Spirit, not logic, which finally seals the faith to the heart." He admits that "This is not a formal demonstration of God's existence: it is simply proof by coherence. The existence of God is the self-consistent hypothesis that the mind must entertain when it views all of the evidence which experience provides." Philosophical approaches to Christian apologetics are somewhat "out of fashion" these days (cf. Josh McDowell, Lee Stroebel); but Carnell was an important figure on the scene, and a worthy contrast to Gordon Clark, Cornelius Van Til, etc. ~ Steven H. Propp @ Amazon.com
"Is Religion Built on Lies", a debate between Sam Harris and Andrew Sullivan at Belief.net (March 2007).
The reason I find fundamentalism so troubling — whether it is Christian, Jewish or Muslim — is not just its willingness to use violence (in the Islamist manifestation). It is its inability to integrate doubt into faith, its resistance to human reason, its tendency to pride and exclusion, and its inability to accept mystery as the core reality of any religious life. You find it troubling, I think, purely because it upholds truths that cannot be proved empirically or even, in some respects, logically. In that sense, of course, I think you have no reason to dislike or oppose it any more than you would oppose my kind of faith. Your argument allows for no solid distinctions within faiths; my argument depends on such distinctions.
Anonymous, cited in Evenings with Skeptics (Longmans, Green, Co: 1881), p. 53.
The complete self-surrender of the reason is a partially impossible and wholly self-deceptive operation. In this endeavour men act unconsciously on the principle of Ananias. Pretending to resign their whole intellect to a creed or dogma, they still by an uncontrollable instinct "keep back part of the price".
Anselm on Discernment said...
Cur Deus Homo ["Why God Became Man"]
The intelligent creature received the power of discernment for this purpose, that he might hate and shun evil, and love and choose good, and especially the greater good. For else in vain would God have given him that power of discernment, since man's discretion would be useless unless he loved and avoided according to it