categoryFaith + Reason

Faith and/or Reason

Richard Dawkins on Truth

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A little learning is a dangerous thing. This has never struck me as a particularly profound or wise remark, but it comes into its own when that little learning is in philosophy. A scientist who has the temerity to utter the t-word — true — is likely to encounter philosophical heckling that goes something like this: “There is no absolute truth. You are committing an act of personal faith when you claim that the scientific method, including mathematics and logic, is the privileged road to truth. Other cultures might believe that truth is to be found in a rabbit’s entrails or the ravings of a prophet atop a pole. It is only your personal faith in science that leads you to favor your brand of truth.” That strand of half-baked philosophy goes by the name of cultural relativism.

The Case for Faith

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Ex-newspaperman Strobel’s Christian apologetics read like feature interviews in the religion pages rather than a theological treatise. To knock down what he calls "the Big Eight" roadblocks to faith, he questions experts about them rather than logically bulldozing his way to solutions. He grills Catholic lay philosopher Peter Kreeft about the problem of evil, Indian-born evangelist Ravi Zacharias about Christian exclusivism, historian John Woodbridge about oppression in the name of Christ, and other authorities about the truth of miracles, God’s callousness in the Hebrew Bible, the justice of Hell, the challenge of evolution, and the struggle with persistent doubt. Kreeft and Woodbridge are Strobel’s least doctrinaire interlocutors. The others, staunch evangelicals all, may interest fewer readers, though Zacharias on the exclusivisms of the other major religions touches on matters Americans too rarely hear discussed. ~ Ray Olson for Booklist

Faith With Reason

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Religious faith is a complex phenomenon, admitting of even greater variations than Helm is able to discuss. Undoubtedly, those who choose to work through his book will be better equipped to negotiate religious faith’s subtleties and nuances. ~ The Philosophical Review This book will prove stimulating to anyone intrigued by the challenge of providing a coherent account of the nature and reasonableness of Christian faith. ~ Australasian Journal of Philosophy Faith with Reason is an excellent book, especially unique and recommendable because of the balanced way in which both the cognitive and the non-cognitive elements playing a role in religious belief and its justification are treated. ~ Ars Disputandi. Yet another welcome contribution to one of the liveliest debates in contemporary philosophy of religion … The style is simple, lucid and well-ordered. The arguments are persuasive, the criticisms of other veiws perceptive and fair … This book will commend itself to many different kinds of readers. Students will find it easily accessible, refreshingly free of jargon and unnecessary technicalities, well focused on the key issues. Professional philosophers in the field will find in it original arguments, and a freshness of approach to some well-worn issues. Religious Studies Contains a lot of sophisticated, intelligent, and subtle guidance around the subject. ~ Brian Davies, Times Literary Supplement

Kim Walker on Loss of Faith

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It’s a familiar story now. Young Christian was born into a God-fearing household. He learned to read from an illustrated children’s Bible (one of those with the sex and nastiness carefully bowdlerised). He went to a Christian school. He joined a Christian group in college. He got into an argument with an atheist and found his knowledge of the Bible wanting. He set out to study the Bible in greater depth, so he could answer the atheist’s objections all the better. He found the Bible hopelessly flawed and suffered a crisis of faith. He went to his church so his faith might be restored, but found no convincing answers for his questions. He left the church, convinced that there was something wrong with him, which made him unable to believe and left him eternally damned. He discovered that there was life after religion, and that it wasn’t all bad, and that there are more things in heaven and earth than his priest ever told him about. Now he calls himself an atheist.

Alvin Plantinga on Religious Belief and No Guarantees

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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.)

Edna Ullmann-Margalit on Presumptions and Defeasability

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Given my focus on practical rather than theoretical reasoning, I may at this point consider weakening the principle of total evidence and examining a presumption instead. The presumption to be examined establishes, for purposes of rational action, a generic bias in favor of more knowledge rather than on less. To defend the adoption of the presumption in favor of being maximally informed amounts to defending the belief that following it will lead, in the long run, to better overall results, in terms of goal fulfillment, than the results of following its antithesis (i.e., a presumption establishing a generic bias in favor of acting on the basis of less knowledge rather than on more), or indeed better than the results of a case-by-case balancing (i.e., of following no rule or presumption at all).

The Myth of Certainty

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Do you resent the smugness of closed-minded skepticism on the one hand but feel equally uncomfortable with the smugness of closed-minded Christianity on the other? If so, then The Myth of Certainty is for you. Daniel Taylor suggests a path to committed faith that is both consistent with the tradition of Christian orthodoxy and sensitive to the pluralism, complexity and relativism of our age. The case for the questioning Christian is made with both incisive analysis and lively storytelling. Brief fictional interludes provide an alternate way of exploring topics at hand and vividly depict the real-life dilemmas reflective Christians often face. Taylor affirms a call to throw off the paralysis of uncertainty and to risk commitment to God without forfeiting the God-given gift of an inquiring mind. Throughout he demonstrates clearly how much the world and the church need question askers. ~ Product Description

Jeffrey Satinover on Religious Certitude

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I suppose that God Himself is doing just fine, but His earthly defenders are on the ropes, and it’s our own fault. Religion deservedly comes in for more criticism in its failures than does science, because genuine religion claims for itself the ability to know what’s true, whereas genuine science claims for itself only the ability to quantify the probability of a thing being wrong. (Bad science and bad religion simply swap roles, the former proclaiming Truth, the latter worshiping Doubt.) Religion’s bête noire is the fact that a genuine truth arrogantly asserted — that is, without so much as a moment’s consideration that it might be false — is a most pernicious kind of falsehood, far worse in its effects on the humane than a flat mistake. It’s a matter of modesty. It never uses the term, but science itself is a method to insure modesty of claims (however arrogant its practitioners). Religion, on the other hand, speaks constantly of the virtues, and then, on the whole, displays them with no greater consistency than does any other human institution.

Alvin Plantinga on Being Intellectually Acceptable

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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.

Faith and Reason

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The philosophy of religion is an intrinsic part of the richness of Western philosophy. Faith and Reason displays in historical perspective some of the rich dialogue between religion and philosophy over two millennia, beginning with Greek reflections about God and the gods and ending with twentieth-century debate about faith in a world that tends to reserve its reverence for science. Paul Helm uses as a case study the question of whether the world is eternal or whether it was created out of nothing, following this theme from Plato through medieval thought to modern scientific speculation about the beginnings of the universe. This Oxford Reader also includes discussion of many other fundamental issues raised by the juxtaposition of faith and reason, including arguments for and against the existence of God, the relationship between religion and ethics, the contrast between reason and revelation as sources of knowledge, and the implications of religious belief for freedom of the will. ~ Product Description

Academic Integration and the Christian Scholar

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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.

Reason for the Hope Within

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This book should be required reading for every thinking Christian. The articles are very engaging and informative. Each contributor deals with a certain philosophical and/or theological issue from the problem of evil to divine action and human freedom. It is a compilation of some of the choice young Christian philosophers and apologists currently writing and researching. This title is a fresh assessment of some fairly thorny issues that have been discussed for centuries. Michael J. Murray (co-editor with Eleonore Stump for the book titled Philosophy of Religion: The Big Questions) is the editor, while great thinkers such as Alvin Plantinga (who wrote the forward), J.P. Moreland (Scaling the Secular City), William J. Wainwright (editor of Faith and Philosophy), and Kelly James Clark (Return to Reason) endorse the book. While the book anticipates that the reader already has a background knowledge in the areas covered, nonetheless, each article is so well articulated that the reader will either gain a better understanding or be able to develop a data base to launch them into further investigation. Thus, this work is a must for anyone interested in the areas of Philosophy of Religion and Christian Apologetics. ~ T.B. Vick at Amazon.com

Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics

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The Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics by Norman L. Geisler is the ultimate one-volume reference for Christians who seek meaningful responses to criticisms of their faith. Geisler, a professor of theology and apologetics at Southern Evangelical Seminary, is the encyclopedia’s sole author. His previous books — Answering Islam and When Cultists Ask — help qualify Geisler to respond to a wide range of challenges to Christian belief. And this encyclopedia covers almost every conceivable philosophical challenge to Christianity, from "Agnosticism" to "Zen Buddhism." It also summarizes the key points regarding oft-challenged Christian doctrines and beliefs ("Adam, Historicity of," "Virgin Birth of Christ"). Each article is cleanly written and clearly organized. Indeed, Geisler’s greatest talent is for logical thinking. Whether he is considering Jesus’ view of the Bible or the tenets of Deism, he writes with confident assurance, so that no reader will feel lost. ~ Amazon.com

John Paul II on Relativism and Knowledge

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This has given rise to different forms of agnosticism and relativism which have led philosophical research to lose its way in the shifting sands of widespread scepticism. Recent times have seen the rise to prominence of various doctrines which tend to devalue even the truths which had been judged certain. A legitimate plurality of positions has yielded to an undifferentiated pluralism, based upon the assumption that all positions are equally valid, which is one of today’s most widespread symptoms of the lack of confidence in truth. Even certain conceptions of life coming from the East betray this lack of confidence, denying truth its exclusive character and assuming that truth reveals itself equally in different doctrines, even if they contradict one another. On this understanding, everything is reduced to opinion; and there is a sense of being adrift. While, on the one hand, philosophical thinking has succeeded in coming closer to the reality of human life and its forms of expression, it has also tended to pursue issues — existential, hermeneutical or linguistic — which ignore the radical question of the truth about personal existence, about being and about God. Hence we see among the men and women of our time, and not just in some philosophers, attitudes of widespread distrust of the human being’s great capacity for knowledge. With a false modesty, people rest content with partial and provisional truths, no longer seeking to ask radical questions about the meaning and ultimate foundation of human, personal and social existence. In short, the hope that philosophy might be able to provide definitive answers to these questions has dwindled.

Fides et Ratio: On Faith and Reason

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Encyclical letter from Pontiff John Paul II to the bishops of the Catholic church on the relationship between faith and reason. Faith and reason, teaches John Paul, are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth — in a word, to know himself — so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves.

Dallas Willard on Doubt and Teaching

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We [must] listen carefully to those we teach. We encourage every question, and we make it clear that dealing honestly with questions that come up is the only path to a robust and healthy faith. We will never “pooh-pooh” difficulties, or take any problem with anything less than utter seriousness, or direct the slightest reproach or shame on anyone for having questions and doubts. When we don’t honestly know what to say at the time, we will just say so. We will go away and find an answer through study, conversation, and prayer.

Tim Garrett on Tertullian and Reason

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Contemporary theologians who deny the rationality of Christian belief often quote Tertullian’s statement that the crucifixion should be believed because it is absurd. He also said the fact of the Resurrection is certain because it is impossible. But these statements must be understood from the context of Tertullian’s own life and work. He himself utilized elements of Greek philosophy and logic that he believed to be compatible with Christian belief. The major emphasis in his writings was to contrast the coherence of Christianity with the inconsistency of his heretical opponents. When he does speak of the absurdity of Christian belief, he is actually referring to the unlikelihood that any human mind could conceive of God’s redemptive plan. Like C. S. Lewis, he was convinced of the truth of the gospel by the very fact that no human being could possibly concoct such a story as is presented in Scripture. Certainly the Jews could not; the claim of Christ that He was God in the flesh was blasphemous to many of them. Nor could the Greeks create such a story; for them, the material world was inferior to the divine realm. God could not possibly assume human flesh in their philosophical reasoning. But for Tertullian, this was compelling evidence that the gospel is true! The religious and philosophical systems contemporary with the advent of Christianity would have prevented any human from simply making up such a fantastic tale. He concluded that the gospel had to originate in the mind of God himself.

Ethical Egoism and Biblical Self-Interest

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The Old and New Testaments contain a number of passages that in some way or another associate moral obligation with self-interest in the form of seeking rewards and avoiding punishment. Thus, Exod 20:12 says “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.” Jesus tells us to “seek first His kingdom, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you” (Matt 6:33). On another occasion he warns his listeners that at the end of the age “the angels shall come forth, and take out the wicked from among the righteous, and will cast them into the furnace of fire; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt 13:49-50). Paul states his ambition to be pleasing to the Lord “for we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds. (II Cor 5:10).

J.P. Moreland on Belief

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It is unproductive to try to believe something beyond your grounds for believing it and dishonest to act as if you believe something more strongly than you do. Overbelief is not a virtue. For example, I am far from certain on many Christian beliefs I hold. I lean toward the view that the days of Genesis are vast periods of time and not literal twenty-four-hour periods. But about two days of the week I flip-flop and accept the literal view. Based on my study, I cannot convince myself either way… Other beliefs of mine have grown in certainty over the years — that God really exists, for example. We should be honest with ourselves about the strength of our various beliefs and work on strengthening them by considering the issues relevant to their acceptance.

J.P. Moreland on Faith

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Throughout church history, theologians have expressed three different aspects of biblical faith: notitia (knowledge), fiducia (trust), and assensus (assent). Notitia refers to the data or doctrinal content of the Christian faith. Assensus denotes the assent of the intellect to the truth of the content of Christian teaching. Note that each of these aspects of faith requires a careful exercise of reason, both in understanding what the teachings of Christianity are and in judging their truthfulness. In this way, reason is indispensable for the third aspect of faith — ducia — which captures the personal application or trust involved in faith, an act that primarily involves the will but includes the affection and intellect too.

J.P. Moreland on Academic Accomodation

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Unfortunately, I have seen too many Christian thinkers who have a certain texture or posture in life that gives the impression that they are far more concerned with assuring their academic colleagues that they are not ignorant fundamentalists than they are with pleasing God and serving His people. Such thinkers often give up too much intellectual real estate far too readily to secular or other perspectives inimical to the Christian faith. This is why many average Christian folk are suspicious of the mind today. All too often, they have seen intellectual growth in Christian academics lead to a cynical posture unfaithful to the spirit of the Christian way. Fidelity to God and His cause is the core commitment of a growing Christian mind.

Philosophers Who Believe

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Eleven American, British, and Canadian philosophers contributed to this collection of essays, addressing the theme of their practice of Christianity. Both the Roman Catholic and various Protestant traditions are included here, but the majority of writers are affiliated with or have been influenced by the philosophy staff at Calvin College and Seminary, Grand Rapids, Michigan. Alvin Plantinga, Mortimer Adler, and John Rist number among the authors, all of whom write well and many of whom write compellingly. However, an overall lack of clear audience focus — some are writing for scholars, some for the convinced, some as though they were addressing the callowest undergraduates — calls into question the usefulness of the volume as a whole. The best place for this in the library may be where undergraduate students browse for relaxation or inspiration. ~ Library Journal

Love Your God With All Your Mind

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Prepare Your Mind For Action. The mind plays an important role in Christianity. Unfortunately, many of us leave our minds behind when it comes to our faith. In Love Your God with All Your Mind, J. P. Moreland presents a compelling case for the role of the mind in spiritual transformation. He challenges us to develop a Christian mind and to use our intellect to further God’s kingdom through evangelism, apologetics, worship, and vocation. "This exploration into the mind of evangelical Christianity is one of the most courageous books of our time. In language that is thoroughly erudite but compassionate, theological but practical, and scriptural but entirely relevant to today, the author presents the deeper significance of Paul’s plea to the Christians at Phillipi: ‘Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus. ‘". ~ From the Publisher

A Realist Conception of Truth

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One of the most important Anglo-American philosophers of our time here joins the current philosophical debate about the nature of truth with a work likely to claim a place at the very center of the contemporary philosophical literature on the subject. William P. Alston formulates and defends a realist conception of truth, which he calls alethic realism (from “aletheia,” Greek for “truth”). This idea holds that the truth value of a statement (belief or proposition) depends on whether what the statement is about is as the statement says it is. Although this concept may seem quite obvious, Alston says, many thinkers hold views incompatible with it — and much of his book is devoted to a powerful critique of those views. Michael Dummett and Hilary Putnam are two of the prominent and widely influential contemporary philosophers whose anti-realist ideas he attacks. Alston discusses different realist accounts of truth, examining what they do and do not imply. He distinguishes his version, which he characterizes as “minimalist,” from various “deflationary” accounts, all of which deny that asserting the truth of a proposition attributes a property of truth to it. He also examines alethic realism in relation to a variety of metaphysical realisms. Finally, Alston argues for the importance — theoretical and practical — of assessing the truth value of statements, beliefs, and propositions. ~ Product Description

God and the Philosophers

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Twenty professional philosophers tell how they combine intellectual rigor with religious commitment. Although most of the great philosophers have believed in God, argues Morris , many Americans today reckon that religion and reason are diametrically opposed. With this collection of essays, Morris assembles a cross section of scholars who effectively challenge this assumption. In brief chapters, the philosophers touch on themes such as their upbringing, conversion or religious development, and the ideas and thinkers who have most influenced them (Immanuel Kant, William James, and C.S. Lewis are among the most often mentioned). The general tone, however, is more personal than scholarly. We are treated to insights into the connection between spiritual life and the love of learning, as well as discussions of more obvious philosophical problems such as the nature of objectivity and the rational grounds required for religious assent. Eleanore Stump offers a moving account of how confrontation with the problem of evil can cause us to seek, rather than reject, God. Peter van Inwagen questions the basic assumptions of the Enlightenment, which he believes continue to distort our view of religion. David Shatz speaks of the dual program of Torah and secular studies at New York’s Yeshiva University and of the intense relationship between religion and study in Orthodox Judaism. Morris lets his authors speak for themselves, without attempting to draw together what has been said. Although he provides a broad spectrum of Christian viewpoints, some readers will regret the absence of Islamic and Buddhist perspectives and of any discussion of the classical syntheses of faith and reason, such as that of St. Thomas Aquinas. The honesty and humanity with which these controversial themes are treated make for attractive reading. ~ Kirkus Reviews