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Faith + Reason

Reason and Religious Belief

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What is the status of belief in God? Must a rational case be made or can such belief be properly basic? Is it possible to reconcile the concept of a good God with evil and suffering? In light of great differences among religions, can only one religion be true? The most comprehensive work of its kind, Reason and Religious Belief, now in its third edition, explores these and other perennial questions in the philosophy of religion. Drawing from the best in both classical and contemporary discussions, the authors examine religious experience, faith and reason, theistic arguments, the problem of evil, Reformed epistemology, miracles, and religious language. They also treat subjects not often included in competing texts, such as process theism, religious pluralism, religion and science, and the relationship between religion and morality. The third edition retains the engaging style and thorough coverage of previous editions and also takes into account the latest contributions in the field by such thinkers as Plantinga, Alston, Martin, Murphy, Dembski, M. Adams, and Swinburne. Integrating a variety of perspectives, it adds a chapter on the openness of God debate, several sections on feminist concerns, and frequent comparisons of how Eastern religions compare with Western theism. A sophisticated yet accessible introduction, Reason and Religious Belief is ideally suited for use with the authors’ companion anthology, Philosophy of Religion: Selected Readings (OUP, 2000). ~ Product Description

Os Guinness on the Weight of Prophetic Witness

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Prisoner 174517 was thirsty. Seeing a fat icicle hanging just outside his hut in the Auschwitz extermination camp, he reached out of the window and broke it off to quench his thirst. But before he could get the icicle to his mouth, a guard snatched it out of his hands and dashed it to pieces on the filthy ground. “Warum?” the prisoner burst out instinctively — “Why?” “Hier ist kein warum,” the guard answered with brutal finality — “Here there is no why.” ¶ That for Primo Levi, the Italian Jewish scientist and writer, was the essence of the death camps — places not only of unchallengable, arbitrary authority but of absolute evil that defied all explanation. In the face of such wickedness, explanations born of psychology, sociology, and economics were pathetic in their inadequacy. One could only shoulder the weight of such an experience and bear witness to the world. “Never again” was too confident an assertion. You never know was the needed refrain.

Os Guinness on Bad Faith

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Without truth we cannot answer the fundamental objection that faith in God is simply a form of “bad faith” or “poor faith.” The wilder accusation of “bad faith” … is one of the deepest and most damaging charges against these faiths in the last two centuries. Jews and Christians believe, critics say, not because of good reasons but because they are afraid not to believe. Without faith, they would be naked to the alternatives, such as the terror of meaninglessness or the nameless dread of unspecified guilt. Faith is therefore a handy shield to ward off the fear, a comforting tune to whistle in the darkness; it is, however, fundamentally untrue, irrational, and illegitimate — and therefore “inauthentic” and “bad faith.”

Todd Gitlin on Postmodernism

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Postmodernists claim that the profusion of images induces a state of vertigo, a sort of rapture of indeterminacy, in which people no longer care whether images correspond to the world in which they think they live, or, in fact, that they relish the discrepancies between images and realities, between signifiers and signifieds. Yet this is plainly not so. For all the irony and bemusement with which we manage the flow, people still search for solid ground, a search that, perversely, leads us astray, as the cultural and political industries exploit our old-fashioned, unhip longings.

Ben Witherington III on Jesus as a Historical Reality

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Any position in which claims about Jesus or the resurrection are removed from the realm of historical reality and placed in a subjective realm of personal belief or some realm that is immune to human scrutiny does Jesus and the resurrection no service and no justice. It is a ploy of desperation to suggest that the Christian faith would be little affected if Jesus was not actually raised from the dead in space and time. A person who gives up on the historical foundations of our faith has in fact given up on the possibility of any real continuity between his or her own faith and that of a Peter, Paul, James, John, Mary Magdalene, or Priscilla. The first Christian community had a strong interest in historical reality, especially the historical reality of Jesus and his resurrection, because they believed their faith, for better or for worse, was grounded in it.

Quentin Smith on Philosophical Theism

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Naturalists passively watched as realist versions of theism, most influenced by Plantinga’s writings, began to sweep through the philosophical community, until today perhaps one-quarter or one-third of philosophy professors are theists, with most being orthodox Christians. Although many theists do not work in the area of the philosophy of religion, so many of them do work in this area that there are now over five philosophy journals devoted to theism or the philosophy of religion, such as Faith and Philosophy, Religious Studies, International Journal of the Philosophy of Religion, Sophia, Philosophia Christi, etc. Philosophia Christi began in the late 1990s and already is overflowing with submissions from leading philosophers. If each naturalist who does not specialize in the philosophy of religion (i.e., over ninety-nine percent of naturalists) were locked in a room with theists who do specialize in the philosophy of religion, and if the ensuing debates were refereed by a naturalist who had a specialization in the philosophy of religion, the naturalist referee could at most hope the outcome would be that ‘no definite conclusion can be drawn regarding the rationality of faith,’ although I expect the most probable outcome is that the naturalist, wanting to be a fair and objective referee, would have to conclude that the theists definitely had the upperhand in every single argument or debate. God is not “dead” in academia; he returned to life in the late 1960s and is now alive and well in his last academic stronghold, philosophy departments.

Faith and Doubt

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What if the most important word is the one in the middle? We often think of doubt as the opposite of faith, but could it actually strengthen our relationship with God? According to John Ortberg, best-selling author and pastor, the very nature of faith requires the presence of uncertainty. In this refreshingly candid look at a life of faith, he traces the line between belief and unbelief: less a dividing line between hostile camps than a razor’s edge that runs through every soul. His findings point us toward the relief of being totally honest. Questions can expand our understanding, uncertainty can lead to trust, and honest faith can produce outrageous hope. Written from Ortberg’s own struggle with faith and doubt, this book will challenge, comfort, and inspire you with the truth that God wants all of us — including our doubts.

Richard John Neuhaus on Multiculturalism and Ecumaniacs

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Admittedly, it is not so attractive when the apparent modesty disguises a self-denigration that is almost tantamount to self-hatred, as is sometimes evident in current forms of “multiculturalism.” Among Christians committed to ecumenism there is a type that is aptly described as an ecumaniac. An ecumaniac is defined as someone who loves every church but his own. So it is that multiculturalists are forever discovering superiorities in other cultures, oblivious to the fact that, in the larger human story, Western culture is singular in its eagerness to praise and learn from other cultures. One is never more distinctively Western than when criticizing what is distinctively Western. The same holds for being American. In our multiculturalism we display our superiority by demonstrating our ability to see through what others — mistakenly, we say — admire in our culture. So maybe this new and self-denigrating way of telling the American story is not so modest after all.

Hume’s Abject Failure

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This vital study offers a new interpretation of Hume’s famous “Of Miracles,” which notoriously argues against the possibility of miracles. By situating Hume’s popular argument in the context of the eighteenth-century debate on miracles, Earman shows Hume’s argument to be largely unoriginal and chiefly without merit where it is original. Yet Earman constructively conceives how progress can be made on the issues that Hume’s essay so provocatively posed about the ability of eyewitness testimony to establish the credibility of marvelous and miraculous events.

J.P. Moreland on Christian Philosophy

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As a disciple, the Christian philosopher is enthralled with Jesus, he trusts Him, and wants everthing in his life to enhance Jesus’ reputation among the nations. The Christian is here primarly to serve a Name, not to make a name and the disciple recognizes that in Jesus all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge reside.

Dear Harper

Go I hope you'll be interested to know that I — near the start of a new millennium and at the age of 67 — am still able to believe, with no serious effort, that the entire universe was willed into being by an unsurpassed power whom most human beings call God. I believe that God remains conscious of his creation and interested in it. I believe that his interest may be described, intermittently at least, as love.

Reynolds Price on Believing in a Loving God

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I hope you’ll be interested to know that I — near the start of a new millennium and at the age of 67 — am still able to believe, with no serious effort, that the entire universe was willed into being by an unsurpassed power whom most human beings call God. I believe that God remains conscious of his creation and interested in it. I believe that his interest may be described, intermittently at least, as love (and I say “his” with no strong suspicion that he shares qualities with the earthly male gender).

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.

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

Alvin Plantinga on Religion as a Placebo

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[I]s this posture in fact possible for a human being: can a person accept it, and accept it authentically, without bad faith or doublethink? I am to remain a Christian, to take part in Christian worship, to accept the splendid and powerful doctrines of traditional Christianity. However, I am also to take it that these doctrines are only mythologically true: they are literally false, although accepting them (i.e., accepting them as true, as literally true) puts or tends to put one into the right relation with the Real. And how can I possibly accept them, adopt that attitude toward them, if I think they are only mythologically true — that is, really false? I could, indeed, believe that they are mythologically true; believing that, however, doesn’t move one toward the right kind of life; it is only believing the teachings themselves that allegedly has that salutary effect. Once I am sufficiently enlightened, once I see that those doctrines are not true, I can no longer take the stance with respect to them that leads to the hoped-for practical result. I am left, instead, in the position of a sad and disillusioned Gnostic. I no longer hold Christian belief; I recognize, as I think, that it is in fact false. I also see, of course, that those who do accept it as true are mistaken, deluded; but at any rate they are in the fortunate position of enjoying the comfort and strength and consolation these false beliefs bring; they are also being moved closer to the right kind of life.

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).

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.

Phillip E. Johnson on Rationality, or the Lack Thereof

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We all like to believe we are more rational than we really are. The painful truth is that we are naturally inclined to believe what we want to believe, and we may adopt some fashionable intellectual scheme because it allows us to feel superior to other people, especially those unenlightened masses who need the crutch or the discipline of religion. Of course people may also adopt a religious creed in order to justify themselves, especially in times or places where religion is fashionable. Everybody is subject to the temptation to rationalize. The temptation is probably greatest for those with the most intelligence because the more intelligent we are, the easier we will find it to invent convenient rationalizations for what we want to believe and to decorate them with high-sounding claptrap. Unless we take the greatest precautions, we will use our reasoning powers to convince ourselves to believe reassuring lies rather than the uncomfortable truths that reality may be trying to tell us.

Human Persons as a Test Case for Integrative Methodologies

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No one can reasonably deny that the recent Intelligent Design movement has gathered considerable momentum in the last five years. And in spite of one’s overall assessment of that movement, it remains clear that its clarion call to critique contemporary philosophical naturalism is one that must be received warmly by Christian intellectuals. In this regard, William Dembski has reminded us that the Intelligent Design movement has a four–pronged approach for defeating naturalism: (1) A scientific/philosophical critique of naturalism; (2) A positive scientific research program (intelligent design) for investigating the effects of intelligent causes; (3) rethinking every field of inquiry infected by naturalism and reconceptualizing it in terms of design; (4) development of a theology of nature by relating the intelligence inferred by intelligent design to the God of Scripture.1

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