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Henry Drummond (James Pott & Co.: 1890), 69 pages. »
In this timeless speech, Henry Drummond argues that the greatest thing, the summum bonum, is love. But this love is not here just a cliché, the love of pop songs and romantic comedies. As Drummond puts it: "Patience; kindness; generosity; humility; courtesy; unselfishness; good temper; guilelessness; sincerity — these make up the supreme gift... You will observe that all are in relation to men, in relation to life, in relation to the known to-day and the near to-morrow, and not to the unknown eternity." I have always appreciated this fact, that the biblical portrait of love is not merely a beautiful but empty concept, but rather a love with form and flesh. Drummond enumerates and expounds on the nature of biblical love, contrasting it with other goods, analyzing its aspects, and defending its primacy of place. ~ Afterall
Henry Drummond (1851-1897)
By far the most original thing here is the simple conception of Heaven as a City. The idea of religion without a Church — "I saw no Temple therein" — is anomalous enough; but the association of the blessed life with a City — the one place in the world from which Heaven seems most far away — is something wholly new in religious thought. No other religion which has a Heaven ever had a Heaven like this. The Greek, if he looked forward at all, awaited the Elysian Fields; the Eastern sought Nirvana. All other Heavens have been Gardens, Dreamlands — passivities more or less aimless. Even to the majority among ourselves Heaven is a siesta and not a City. It remained for John to go straight to the other extreme and select the citadel of the world's fever, the ganglion of its unrest, the heart and focus of its most strenuous toil, as the framework for his ideal of the blessed life. ~ Excerpt
J.P. Moreland, on his blog at Amazon.com (June 12, 2008).
Recently, I've been doing a lot of thinking about consciousness and how it might contribute to evidence for the existence of God in light of metaphysical naturalism's failure to provide a helpful explanation. Some of my thinking has culminated in the recently released Consciousness and the Existence of God (Routledge Studies in the Philosophy of Religion) (Routledge, 2008). Consciousness is among the most mystifying features of the cosmos. Geoffrey Madell opines that "the emergence of consciousness, then is a mystery, and one to which materialism signally fails to provide an answer."i Naturalist Colin McGinn claims that its arrival borders on sheer magic because there seems to be no naturalistic explanation for it: "How can mere matter originate consciousness? How did evolution convert the water of biological tissue into the wine of consciousness? Consciousness seems like a radical novelty in the universe, not prefigured by the after-effects of the Big Bang; so how did it contrive to spring into being from what preceded it?"ii Finally, naturalist William Lyons argues that "[physicalism] seem[s] to be in tune with the scientific materialism of the twentieth century because it [is] a harmonic of the general theme that all there is in the universe is matter and energy and motion and that humans are a product of the evolution of species just as much as buffaloes and beavers are. Evolution is a seamless garment with no holes wherein souls might be inserted from above."iii
William P. Alston
Alston notes two pillars that he believes, in tandem, support theistic belief: the general consideration of natural theology and the experience of God. For Alston, the latter bears the greater weight and he goes on to explore how such experience contributes appropriate epistemic support to theism.
William P. Alston in Faith, Reason, and Skepticism (Temple University Press: 1992), pp. 6-49.
In this essay I shall explore the possibilities for knowledge of God that are opened up by recent developments in epistemology that go under the title externalism; more specifically, I shall be concerned with the version of externalism known as reliabilism. I shall set this up with a consideration of how those possibilities look from a more internalist epistemological stance. I shall be working from within the Christian tradition, though I take my remarks to have a wider bearing.
William P. Alston, presented at Christian Scholarship: Knowledge, Reality, and Method (Oct. 1997).
What should we make of Naturalist's efforts to explain language and mental states in acceptably naturalistic ways? What does it mean to say that intentionality and conceptual content are perfectly natural? What is there to commend Naturalism to us in it own right? Alston begins by attempting to clarify just what it would mean for a given phenomenon to be described in strictly naturalistic terms, concluding that establishing such criteria is itself difficult. The problem in part is a tendency to allow naturalism to permit any phenomena whatsoever within its ken, a license that Alston characterizes as a kind of "blank check". Unable to find the necessary criteria, Alston settles on: nature is, "by definition, to include all and only what is discoverable by the 'scientific method', including the incipient beginnings of this in ordinary sensory observation, and reasoning from the results of observation." Given such a definition, Alston proceeds to ask the epistemological question of why we should think that science is the only purveyor of knowledge. ~ Afterall
Alvin Plantinga Rough Lecture Notes by Alvin Plantinga
I've been arguing that theistic belief does not (in general) need argument either for deontological justification, or for positive epistemic status, (or for Foley rationality or Alstonian justification); belief in God is properly basic. But it doesn't follow, of course that there aren't any good arguments. Are there some? At least a couple of dozen or so. According to Swinburne, a good argument is one that has premises that everyone knows. Maybe there aren't any such arguments, and if there are some, maybe none of them would be good arguments for anyone. (Note again the possibility that a person might, when confronted with an argument he sees to be valid for a conclusion he deeply disbelieves from premises he knows to be true, give up (some of) those premises: in this way you can reduce someone from knowledge to ignorance by giving him an argument he sees to be valid from premises he knows to be true. These arguments are not coercive in the sense that every person is obliged to accept their premises on pain of irrationality. Maybe just that some or many sensible people do accept their premises. What are these arguments like, and what role do they play? They are probabilistic, either with respect to the premises, or with respect to the connection between the premises and conclusion, or both. They can serve to bolster and confirm ('helps' a la John Calvin); perhaps to convince.
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.
Alexander R. Pruss, Dep. of Philosophy, Georgetown University (Nov. 2004). Referenced images absent.
I will sketch an argument that if we follow St. Augustine in seeing the cosmos—i.e., the sum total of all created existence—as a work of art, then we have good reason to be sceptical of the judgment that there are gratuitous evils. I will do so by stating several features of works of art each of which, when transferred to the case of the cosmos, makes it difficult to conclude that any evil we see is gratuitous. However this account does not undercut the religious claims that from the goodness of things in the universe we can tell something about God’s goodness. Paradoxically, evil does not give a strong argument against the existence of God, but good might give a strong argument in favor of it.
John Hare in Evolution and Ethics: Human Morality in Biological and Religious Perspective (Eerdmans: 2004), pp. 187-203.
I am going to talk about the question of whether we can find an evolutionary basis for human morality. I am not a scientist, but a philosopher. So I am not going to try to pass judgment on the theory of evolution itself, as it applies to human beings. I do not regard philosophers as professionally competent either to pass a positive or negative judgment on the theory, except insofar as there are philosophical commitments embodied in it. However, I do regard myself as having made some progress in understanding human morality. In particular, I have been interested in and have written about the gap between the demands of morality on us and our natural capacities to meet those demands. This gap presents the problem of how we can be held accountable or responsible for a standard we are not equipped to meet either by innate capacity or natural development. So I want to ask the conditional question: if we assume that the theory of evolution as it applies to human beings is correct, does this help us answer the questions of whether we can be morally good and why we should be morally good? The first question, whether we can be morally good, is the question raised by the moral gap between the demands of morality and our natural capacities. It is only after answering this first question, “yes, we can be morally good,” that the second question arises of why we should be morally good, for we can only be held accountable or responsible for standards that we are able to reach. The burden of my presentation will be that we do not get an answer to these two questions from the theory of evolution. I am not arguing here that the theory is false, but that even if it is true, it doesn’t give us an answer. I will be looking at a number of recent attempts to provide such an answer from the theory, but I will claim that all of them fail.