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
The probabilistic teleological argument exploits the idea that it is extremely improbable that the laws of the universe should be so balanced as to permit the development of life unless we adopt the hypothesis that these laws were fixed by a creator who desired the development of life. The argument, however, faces the same kind of objection as the one we brought against the cosmological argument in the previous chapter: it takes a certain concept out of a context in which it is obviously applicable, and applies it to a context in which that concept is not applicable. In the case of the cosmological argument, the crucial concept is that of causation; in the case of the teleological argument, it is statistical probability. Neither argument carries conviction because we can plausibly deny that the concept in question can be extended to cover extraordinary contexts.
‘But if oxen (and horses) and lions…. could draw with hands and create works of art like those made by men, horses would draw pictures of gods like horses, and oxen of gods like oxen. … Aethiopians have gods with snub noses and black hair, Thracians have gods with grey eyes and red hair.’ Like many later critics of anthropomorphism, Xenophanes evidently did not question the gods themselves but only their human attributes. Later Western writers think the Greek gods especially anthropomorphic, but gods in many other religions are equally so.
Is evil evidence against the existence of God? Even if God and evil are compatible, it remains hotly contested whether evil renders belief in God unreasonable. “The Evidential Argument from Evil” presents five classic statements on this issue by eminent philosophers and theologians and places them in dialog with eleven original essays reflecting new thinking by these and other scholars. The volume focuses on two versions of the argument. The first affirms that there is no reason for God to permit either certain specific horrors or the variety and profusion of undeserved suffering. The second asserts that pleasure and pain, given their biological role, are better explained by hypotheses other than theism. Contributors include William P. Alston, Paul Draper, Richard M. Gale, Daniel Howard-Snyder, Alvin Plantinga, William L. Rowe, Bruce Russell, Eleonore Stump, Richard G. Swinburne, Peter van Inwagen, and Stephen John Wykstra. ~ Product Description
We cannot foreclose on the question of God’s willingness to disclose himself and his purposes in some concrete, particularized way without first looking into the evidence for the authenticity of an alleged revelation from him; even if a quest for some particular truth of the matter is scandalous by today’s ephemeral standards, It will hardly do to accuse God of hiding from us if we have not sincerely sought him in appropriate ways, or if we have insisted on prescribing for God the conditions under which we would approve a revelation of himself.
Many have thought that the reality of evil in the world makes the existence of God unlikely and religious belief irrational. The most influential contemporary solution to this problem has been offered by philosopher John Hick: God is responsible for evil, using it as a soul-builder to make human beings into morally perfect creatures. This book is an appraisal of Hick’s work on the specific topic of theodicy — his effort to cope philosophically with the problem of evil from within the Judeo-Christian tradition. R. Douglas Geivett seeks to show why any adequate response to the problem of evil must begin with the positive reasons one might have for believing in God. Geivett begins with a survey of three influential figures who grappled with this question: St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Gottfried Leibniz. Hick’s approach to the problem of evil is then contrasted with their views. The author makes a case for the possibility of natural theology and he defends the view that it is rational to believe in the existence of God, even given the reality of evil in the world. Geivett takes issue with Hick’s approach to the significance of evil, the nature of human freedom, and the character of the afterlife. He argues for a return to the Augustinian free-will tradition: that creatures with free wills are responsible for evil. This discussion of one of the most challenging questions in the philosophy of religion concludes with an afterword by John Hick in which he responds to the author’s thesis.
Faith and Criticism addresses a central problem in the church today — the tension between traditionalists and progressives. Traditionalists want above all to hold fast to traditional foundations in belief and ensure that nothing of value is lost, even at the risk of a clash with “modern knowledge.” Progressives are concerned above all to proclaim a faith that is credible today, even at the risk of sacrificing some elements of traditional doctrine. They are often locked in uncomprehending conflict. Basil Mitchell argues that, not only in theology but in any other serious intellectual pursuit, faith and criticism are interdependent. A tradition which is not open to criticism will eventually ossify; and without faith in some established tradition criticism has nothing to fasten upon. This interdependence of faith and criticism has implications for society at large. Religious education can be Christian without ceasing to be critical, and a liberal society can espouse Christian values. ~ Product Description
If the conditions in our universe were not what they are, within a very small margin of flexibility, no life of any kind would be found in this universe. Thus, while the present universe is a fit habitat for human and other forms of life, the initial probability of there being such a universe is quite small. The confluence of so-called “cosmic constants” is improbable enough on the assumption that the universe is uncaused and undesigned; it is even more improbable on the supposition that we owe our existence to Creator who has it in for us. If, on the other hand, our lives are special, and if what makes our lives special has anything to do with the physical condition in which we come to have our lives, then the good of human life depends upon the Creator as well. This is cause for considerable comfort, for it offers an important clue concerning the Creator’s good intentions for humans. Our bodies locate us in a physical world of astonishing complexity, apparently ordered by its Creator to the goal our physical well-being.
When we are told by a perfect stranger that he believes in God, we still don’t know much about the person. That is partly because the word “belief” is used all too flippantly these days. For some, to say “I believe in God” mean little more than “I haven’t gotten around yet to denying the existence of God.” But there is another reason why a person’s assertion of belief in God is seldom very illuminating about that person. That is because two people who believe in God may believe radically different and incompatible things about God; or, to put it another way, one person’s theism is another person’s atheism. To say “I believe in God,” then, is to say almost nothing.
Besides abuse, rejection, or cowardice, one way in which a father can be seriously defective is simply by not being there. Many children, of course, interpret death of their father as a kind of betrayal or an act of desertion. In this respect it is remarkable that the pattern of a dead father is so common in the lives of many prominent atheists. Baron d’Holbach, the French rationalist and probably the first public atheist, is apparently an orphan by the age of 13 and living with his uncle. Bertrand Russell’s father died when young Bertrand was 4-years-old; Nietzsche was the same age as Russell when he lost his father; Sartre’s father died before Sartre was born and Camus was a year old when he lost his father… the information already available is substantial; it is unlikely to be an accident.
Current discussions of the ‘problem of evil’ vary greatly in at least two ways. First, those involved in such discussions often differ on the exact nature of the problem. Some see it as primarily logical (deductive), some as primarily evidential (inductive), and still others as primarily psychological (personal, pastoral). Second, those involved in such discussions differ radically on what is required of the theist in response. Some claim that unless the theist can offer an explanation for evil (a theodicy) that is satisfying to rational individuals in general, theistic belief is rendered unjustified. Others agree that the theist must offer a theodicy, but deny that such an explanation must be found convincing by most if theistic belief is to remain justified. And still others deny that the theist is required to offer any sort of explanation (theodicy), arguing instead that the theist need only defend the logical consistency of simultaneous belief in the existence of evil and God.
In a lively debate, which includes questions from the audience, Christian philosopher and ethicist J.P. Moreland and Kai Neilsen, one of today’s best-known atheist philosophers, go head to head on the fundamental issues and questions that have shaped individual lives, races, and nations throughout history. The book is divided into three sections: (i) the transcriptof the oral debate on the existence of God between Christian philosopher J.P. Moreland and atheist philosopher Kai Nielsen; (ii) commentaries on the debate by two Christian philosophers (William Lane Craig and Dallas Willard) and two atheist philosophers (Antony Flew and Keith Parsons); and (iii) concluding thoughts by Moreland and Nielsen.
This chapter began with a paean of praise of the power of God manifested in the works of creation. The gospel of grace ends any apparent dichotomy between God’s power and his love. The God who flung from his fingertips this universe filled with galaxies and stars, penguins and puffins, gulls and gannets, Pomeranians and poodles, elephants and evergreens, parrots and potato bugs, peaches and pears, and a world full of children made in his own image, is the God who loves with magnificent monotony.
The slant of the earth, for example, tilted at an angle at 23 degrees, produces our season,. Scientists tell us that if the earth had not been tilted exactly as it is, vapors from the oceans would move both north and south, piling up continents of ice. If the moon were only 50,000 miles away from earth instead of 200,000 the tides might be so enormous that all continents would be submerged in water, even the mountains would be eroded. If the crust of the earth had been only ten feet thicker, there would be no oxygen, and without it all animal life would die. Had the oceans been a few feet deeper, carbon dioxide and oxygen would have absorbed and no vegetable life would exist. The earth’s weight has been estimated at six sextillion tons (that’s a six with 21 zeros). Yet it is perfectly balanced and turns easily on its axis. It revolves daily at the rate of more than 1,000 miles per hour or 25,000 miles each day. This adds up to nine million miles a year. Considering the tremendous weight of six sextillion tons rolling at this fantastic speed around an invisible axis, held in place by unseen bands of gravitation, the words of Job 26:7 take on unparalleled significance: “He poised the earth on nothingness.” The earth revolves in its own orbit around the sun, making the long elliptical circuit of six hundred million miles each year — which means we are traveling in orbit at 19 miles per second or 1,140 miles per hour. Job further invites us to meditate on “the wonders of God” (37:14). Consider the sun. Every square yard of the sun’s surface is emitting constantly an energy level of 130,000 horse power (that is, approximately 450 eight-cylinder automobile engines), in flames that are being produced by an energy source much more powerful than coal. The nine major planets in our solar system range in distance from the sun from 36 million to about 3 trillion, 6,664 billion miles; yet each moves around the sun in exact precision, with orbits ranging from 88 days for Mercury to 248 years for Pluto. Still, the sun is only one minor star in the 100 billion orbs which comprise our Milky Way galaxy. if you were to hold out a dime, a ten-cent piece, at arm’s length, the coin would block out 15 million stars from your view, if your eyes could see with that power.
It is almost irresistible for humans to believe that we have some special relation to the universe, that human life is not just a more or less farcical outcome of a chain of accidents reaching back to the first three minutes, but that we were somehow built in from the beginning. As I write this I happen to be in an airplane at 30,000 feet, flying over Wyoming en route home from San Francisco to Boston. Below, the earth looks very soft and comfortable — fluffy clouds here and there, snow turning pink as the sun sets, roads stretching straight across the country from one town to another. It is very hard to realize that this all is just a tiny part of an overwhelmingly hostile universe. It is even harder to realize that this present universe has evolved from an unspeakably unfamiliar early condition, and faces a future extinction of endless cold or intolerable heat. The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless. … The effort to understand the universe is one of the very few things that lifts human life a little above the level of farce, and gives it some of the grace of tragedy.
This is the God of the gospel of grace. A God who out of love for us, sent the only Son he ever had wrapped in our skin. He learned how to walk stumbled and fell, cried for his milk, sweated blood in the night, was lashed with a whip and showered with spit, was fixed to a cross and died whispering forgiveness on us all. The God of the legalistic
Christian, on the other hand, is often unpredictable, erratic, and capable of all manner of prejudices. When we view God this way, we feel compelled to engage in some sort of magic to appease him. Sunday worship becomes a superstitious insurance policy against his whims. This God expects people to be perfect and to be in perpetual control of their feelings and thoughts. When broken people with this concept of God fail — as inevitably they must — they usually expect
punishment. So, they persevere in religious practices as they struggle to maintain a hollow image of a perfect self. The struggle itself is exhausting. The legalists can never live up to the expectations they project on God.
Dawkins, to explain LIFE apart from a designer, not only gives himself all the time Darwin ever wanted, but also helps himself to all the conceivable planets there might be in the observable universe (note that these are planets he must posit, since no planets outside our solar system have been observed, nor is there currently any compelling theory of planetary formation which guarantees that the observable universe is populated with planets). Thus Barrow and Tipler, in order to justify their various anthropic principles, not only give themselves all the time and planets that Dawkins ever wanted, but also help themselves to a generous serving of universes (universes which are per definition causally inaccessible to us).
Astronomy leads us to a unique event, a universe which was created out of nothing, one with the very delicate balance needed to provide exactly the conditions required to permit life, and one which has an underlying (one might say ‘supernatural’) plan. Thus, the observations of modern science seem to lead to the same conclusions as centuries-old intuition.
Why believe that there is a God at all? My answer is that to suppose that there is a God explains why there is a world at all; why there are the scientific laws there are; why animals and then human beings have evolved; why humans have the opportunity to mould their characters and those of their fellow humans for good or ill and to change the environment in which we live; why we have the well-authenticated account of Christ’s life, death and resurrection; why throughout the centuries men have had the apparent experience of being in touch with and guided by God; and so much else. In fact, the hypothesis of the existence of God makes sense of the whole of our experience, and it does so better than any other explanation which can be put forward, and that is the grounds for believing it to be true. This paper seeks to justify this answer; it presents in summary arguments given in more detailed form in my book The Existence of God,1 and seeks to rebut criticisms of those arguments given in J.L. Mackie’s book The Miracle of Theism.2
This article is Dr. Craig’s Introduction to volume three of the Truth Journal on “New Arguments for the Existence of God.” It charts the resurgence in our day of Philosophy of Religions and interacts briefly with the thought of such important theistic philosophers as Plantinga, Swinburne, and Leslie.
The problem of evil is one of the most discussed topics in the philosophy of religion. For some time, however, there has been a need for a collection of readings that adequately represents recent and ongoing writing on the topic. This volume fills that need, offering the most up-to-date collection of recent scholarship on the problem of evil. The distinguished contributors include J.L. Mackie, Nelson Pike, Roderick M. Chisholm, Terence Penelhum, Alvin Plantinga, William L. Rowe, Stephen J. Wykstra, John Hick, and Diogenes Allen. Including an introductory essay and a selected bibliography, this comprehensive and completely up-to-date collection is an invaluable guide to current scholarship in this highly debated area of the philosophy of religion. Oxford Readings in Philosophy aims to bring together important recent writings in major areas of philosophical inquiry, selected from a variety of sources, mostly periodicals, which may not be conveniently available. ~ Publisher’s Description
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.
The kalam cosmological argument, by showing that the universe began to exist, demonstrates that the world is not a necessary being and, therefore, not self-explanatory with respect to its existence. Two philosophical arguments and two scientific confirmations are presented in support of the beginning of the universe. Since whatever begins to exist has a cause, there must exist a transcendent cause of the universe.
Alvin Plantinga argues that a natural way to understand such notions as rationality and irrationality is in terms of the proper functioning of the relevant cognitive equipment. Seen from this perspective, the question whether it is rational to believe in God without the evidential support of other propositions is really a metaphysical or theological dispute. The theist has an easy time explaining the notion of our cognitive equipment’s functioning properly: our cognitive equipment functions properly when it functions in the way God designed it to function. The atheist evidential objector, however, owes us an account of this notion. What does he mean when he complains that the theist without evidence displays a cognitive defect of some sort? How does he understand the notion of cognitive malfunction?
This work re-opens a controversial subject by calling into question how well theological views of human nature stand up to the discoveries of modern science. Alan Olding explores the question of whether the argument for the existence of God is fatally undermined. Emphasizing the metaphysical implications of biology, Modern Biology and Natural Theology takes up issues currently of concern to many thinkers, particularly those interested in the impact of Darwinism on natural theology. This book will interest not only professional workers in the fields of philosophy of biology and philosophy of religion and theology, but also students and laypersons, and is bound to provoke further debate on this controversial subject. ~ Product Description