Philosophy of religion - Wikipedia
philosophy of religion, method and theory, theology, critical theory, definition confessing our relationship to Western philosophy, and this is not entirely a. continue to exist after death, whether any God is active in human history, and whether human ethical relations have spiritual or supernatural dimensions. view of the philosophy-theology relation and explores the foundation upon which it is based. rooted in the same ultimate and religious concern with being.
If so, there is the following problem. If God is simultaneous with the event of Rome burning inand also simultaneous with your reading this entry, then it seems that Rome must be burning at the same time you are reading this entry. This problem was advanced by Nelson Pike; Stump and Kretzmann have replied that the simultaneity involved in God's eternal knowledge is not transitive.
A different problem arises with respect to eternity and omniscience. If God is outside of time, can God know what time it is now? Arguably, there is a fact of the matter that it is now, say, midnight on 1 July A God outside of time might know that at midnight on 1 July certain things occur, but could God know when it is now that time?
The problem is that the more emphasis we place on the claim that God's supreme existence is independent of time, the more we seem to jeopardize taking seriously time as we know it. Finally, while the great monotheistic traditions provide a portrait of the Divine as supremely different from the creation, there is also an insistence on God's proximity or immanence.
For some theists, describing God as a person or person-like God loves, acts, knows is not to equivocate. But it is not clear that an eternal God could be personal. For recent work on God's relation to time, see work by Katherin Rogers Rogers Some religions construe the Divine as in some respect beyond our human notions of good and evil.
In some forms of Hinduism, for example, Brahman has been extolled as possessing a sort of moral transcendence, and some Christian theologians and philosophers have likewise insisted that God is only a moral agent in a highly qualified sense, if at all Davies To call God good is, for them, very different from calling a human being good.
Here I note only some of the ways in which philosophers have articulated what it means to call God good. In treating the matter, there has been a tendency either to explain God's goodness in terms of standards that are not God's creation and thus, in some measure, independent of God's will, or in terms of God's will and the standards God has created.
The latter view has been termed theistic voluntarism. A common version of theistic voluntarism is the claim that for something to be good or right simply means that it is willed by God and for something to be evil or wrong means that it is forbidden by God. Theistic voluntarists face several difficulties: Indeed, many people make what they take to be objective moral judgments without making any reference to God.
If they are using moral language intelligibly, how could it be that the very meaning of such moral language should be analyzed in terms of Divine volitions? New work in the philosophy of language may be of use to theistic voluntarists.
Also at issue is the worry that if voluntarism is accepted, the theist has threatened the normative objectivity of moral judgments. Could God make it the case that moral judgments were turned upside down? For example, could God make cruelty good? Arguably, the moral universe is not so malleable. In reply, some voluntarists have sought to understand the stability of the moral laws in light of God's immutably fixed, necessary nature.
By understanding God's goodness in terms of God's being as opposed to God's will alonewe come close to the non-voluntarist stand. Aquinas and others hold that God is essentially good in virtue of God's very being. All such positions are non-voluntarist in so far as they do not claim that what it means for something to be good is that God wills it to be so.
The goodness of God may be articulated in various ways, either by arguing that God's perfection requires God being good as an agent or by arguing that God's goodness can be articulated in terms of other Divine attributes such as those outlined above.
For example, because knowledge is in itself good, omniscience is a supreme good. God has also been considered good in so far as God has created and conserves in existence a good cosmos. Debates over the problem of evil if God is indeed omnipotent and perfectly good, why is there evil? The debate over the problem of evil is taken up in section 4. The choice between voluntarism and seeing God's very being as good is rarely strict. Some theists who oppose a full-scale voluntarism allow for partial voluntarist elements.
According to one such moderate stance, while God cannot make cruelty good, God can make some actions morally required or morally forbidden which otherwise would be morally neutral. Arguments for this have been based on the thesis that the cosmos and all its contents are God's creation. According to some theories of property, an agent making something good gains entitlements over the property.
Theories spelling out why and how the cosmos belongs to God have been prominent in all three monotheistic traditions. Plato defended the notion, as did Aquinas and Locke. See Brody for a defense. A new development in theorizing about God's goodness has been advanced in Zagzebski Zagzebski contends that being an exemplary virtuous person consists in having good motives. Motives have an internal, affective or emotive structure.
The ultimate grounding of what makes human motives good is if they are in accord with the motives of God. Zagzebski's theory is perhaps the most ambitious virtue theory in print, offering an account of human virtues of God. Not all theists resonate with her bold claim that God is a person who has emotions, but many allow that at least in some analogical sense God may be see as personal and having affective states. One other effort worth noting to link judgments of good and evil with judgments about God relies upon the ideal observer theory of ethics.
According to this theory, moral judgments can be analyzed in terms of how an ideal observer would judge matters. To say an act is right entails a commitment to holding that if there were an ideal observer, it would approve of the act; to claim an act is wrong entails the thesis that if there were an ideal observer, it would disapprove of it. The theory receives some support from the fact that most moral disputes can be analyzed in terms of different parties challenging each other to be impartial, to get their empirical facts straight, and to be more sensitive—for example, by realizing what it feels like to be disadvantaged.
The theory has formidable critics and defenders. If true, it does not follow that there is an ideal observer, but if it is true and moral judgments are coherent, then the idea of an ideal observer is coherent. Given certain conceptions of God in the three great monotheistic traditions, God fits the ideal observer description and more besides, of course.
Should an ideal observer theory be cogent, a theist would have some reason for claiming that atheists committed to normative, ethical judgments are also committed to the idea of a God or a God-like being.
For a defense of a theistic form of the ideal observer theory, see Taliaferro ; for criticism see Anderson, For example, an argument from the apparent order and purposive nature of the cosmos will be criticized on the grounds that, at best, the argument would establish there is a purposive, designing intelligence at work in the cosmos. This falls far short of establishing that there is a God who is omnipotent, omniscient, benevolent, and so on.
But two comments need to be made: Second, few philosophers today advance a single argument as a proof. Customarily, a design argument might be advanced alongside an argument from religious experience, and the other arguments to be considered below. True to Hempel's advice cited earlier about comprehensive inquiry, it is increasingly common to see philosophies—scientific naturalism or theism—advanced with cumulative arguments, a whole range of considerations, and not with a supposed knock-down, single proof.
One reason why the case for and against major, comprehensive philosophies are mostly cumulative is because of discontent in what is often called foundationalism. In one classical form of foundationalism, one secures first and foremost a basis of beliefs which one may see to be true with certainty.
The base may be cast as indubitable or infallible. One then slowly builds up the justification for one's other, more extensive beliefs about oneself and the world. Many but not all philosophers now see justification as more complex and interwoven; the proper object of philosophical inquiry is overall coherence, not a series of distinguishable building operations beginning with a foundation. One way of carrying out philosophy of religion along non-foundationalist lines has been to build a case for the comparative rationality of a religious view of the world.
It has been argued that the intellectual integrity of a religious world view can be secured if it can be shown to be no less rational than the available alternatives. It need only achieve intellectual parity. John Hick and others emphasize the integrity of religious ways of seeing the world that are holistic, internally coherent, and open to criticism along various external lines see Hick On the latter front, if a religious way of conceiving the world is at complete odds with contemporary science, that would count as grounds for revising the religious outlook.
The case for religion need not, however, be scientific or even analogous to science. If Hick is right, religious ways of seeing the world are not incompatible with science, but complementary. Independent of Hick but in the same spirit, Plantinga has proposed that belief in God's existence may be taken as properly basic and fully warranted without having to be justified in relation to standard arguments for God from design, miracles, and so on. Plantinga argues that the tendency to believe in God follows natural tendencies of the human mind.
This stance comprises what is commonly referred to as Reformed Epistemology because of its connection to the work of the Reformed theologian John Calvin — who maintained that we have a sense of God sensus divinitatis leading us to see God in the world around us. Plantinga has thereby couched the question of justification within the larger arena of metaphysics.
By advancing an intricate, comprehensive picture of how beliefs can be warranted when they function as God designed them, he has provided what some believe to be a combined metaphysical and epistemic case for the rationality of religious convictions see Beilby ed. Who has the burden of proof in a debate between a theist and an atheist? Antony Flew thinks it is the theist. By his lights, the theist and atheist can agree on a whole base line of truths such as the findings of the physical sciences.
The question then becomes, Why go any further? Flew wields a version of Ockham's razor, arguing that if one has no reason to go further, one has reason not to go further.
As it happens, Flew has subsequently claimed that there are good reasons for going beyond the natural world, and he is currently a theist; see Flew His challenge has been met on various fronts, with some critics claiming that Flew's burden of proof argument is wedded to an outmoded foundationalism, that any burden of proof is shared equally by atheists and theists, or that the theist has an array of arguments to help shoulder a greater burden of proof.
The position of fideism is a further option. Fideism is the view that religious belief does not require evidence and that religious faith is self-vindicating. Karl Barth — advocated a fideistic philosophy. For a critical assessment of fideism, see Moserchapter 2. Hick and Plantinga need not be considered fideists because of the high role each gives to experience, coherence, and reflection. Table 1 lists some key theistic arguments, along with some of the leading advocates.
Rowe partial advocate Design D. Swinburne Values—Moral Experience P. Wynn Argument from Consciousness R. Swinburne Religious Experience W. Taylor Wager Arguments J. Theistic Arguments To sketch some of the main lines of argument in this literature, consider the ontological, cosmological, and teleological arguments, arguments from the problem of evil, and the argument over the cognitive status of religious experience.
If a version of the argument works, then it can be deployed using only the concept of God and some modal principles of inference, that is, principles concerning possibility and necessity. The argument need not resist all empirical support, however, as I shall indicate. The focus of the argument is the thesis that, if there is a God, then God's existence is necessary. God's existence is not contingent—God is not the sort of being that just happens to exist.
That this is a plausible picture of what is meant by God may be shown by appealing to the way God is conceived in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic traditions. This would involve some a posteriori, empirical research into the way God is thought of in these traditions.
Alternatively, a defender of the ontological argument might hope to convince others that the concept of God is the concept of a being that exists necessarily by beginning with the idea of a maximally excellent being. If there were a maximally excellent being what would it be like?
It has been argued that among its array of great-making qualities omniscience and omnipotence would be necessary existence. The principle can be illustrated in the case of propositions.
That six is the smallest perfect number that number which is equal to the sum of its divisors including one but not including itself does not seem to be the sort of thing that might just happen to be true. Rather, either it is necessarily true or necessarily false.
If the latter, it is not possible, if the former, it is possible. If one knows that it is possible that six is the smallest perfect number then one has good reason to believe that. Do we have reason to think it is possible that God exists necessarily? In support of this, one can also appeal to a posteriori matters, noting the extant religious traditions that uphold such a notion.
The fact that the concept of God as a necessarily existing reality seems to be coherently conceived widely across time and cultures is some evidence that the concept is coherent it is possible there is a Godfor God's existence has plausibility, thus can also contribute to believing it is possible God exists. There is an old philosophical precept that from the fact that something exists, it follows that it is possible ab esse ad posse valet consequentia.
A related principle is that evidence that something exists is evidence that it is possible that such a thing exists. There does not appear to be anything amiss in their thinking of God as necessarily existing; if the belief that God exists is incoherent this is not obvious.
Indeed, a number of atheists think God might exist, but conclude God does not. If we are successful in establishing the possibility that God necessarily exists, the conclusion follows that it is necessarily the case that God exists.
There have been hundreds of objections and replies to this argument. Perhaps the most ambitious objection is that the argument can be used with one minor alteration to argue that God cannot exist.
Assume all the argument above is correct, but also that it is possible that God does not exist. Atheists can point out that many theists who believe there is a God at least allow for the bare possibility that they could be wrong and there is no God. If it is possible that there is no God, then it would necessarily follow that there is no God. Replies to this objection emphasize the difficulty of conceiving of the non-existence of God.
The battle over whether God is necessary or impossible is often fought over the coherence of the various divine attributes discussed in section 3. If you think these attributes are compossible, involve no contradictions, and violate no known metaphysical truths, then you may well have good grounds for concluding that God is possible and therefore necessary. However, if you see a contradiction, say, in describing a being who is at once omniscient and omnipotent, you may well have good grounds for concluding that God's existence is impossible.
Another objection is that it makes no sense to think of a being existing necessarily; propositions may be necessarily true or false, but objects cannot be necessary or contingent. Some philosophers reply that it makes no less sense to think of an individual God existing necessarily than it does to think of propositions being necessarily true.
A further objection is that the ontological argument cannot get off the ground because of the question-begging nature of its premise that if there is a God, then God exists necessarily. Does admitting this premise concede that there is some individual thing such that if it exists, it exists necessarily? Replies have claimed that the argument only requires one to consider an ostensible state of affairs, without having to concede initially whether the state of affairs is possible or impossible.
To consider what is involved in positing the existence of God is no more hazardous than considering what is involved in positing the existence of unicorns.
One can entertain the existence of unicorns and their necessary features that necessarily if there were unicorns, there would exist single-horned beasts without believing that there are unicorns. Finally, consider the objection that, if successful in providing reasons to believe that God exists, the ontological argument could be used to establish the existence of a whole array of other items, like perfect islands.
Replies to this sort of objection have typically questioned whether it makes sense to think of an island a physical thing as existing necessarily or as having maximal excellence on a par with God. Does the imagined island have excellences like omniscience, omnipotence a power which would include the power to make indefinitely many islandsand so on?
Classical, alternative versions of the ontological argument are propounded by Anselm, Spinoza, and Descartes, with current versions by Alvin Plantinga, Charles Hartshorne, Norman Malcolm, and C.
Dore; classical critics include Gaunilo and Kant, and current critics are many, including William Rowe, J. The latest book-length treatment of the ontological argument is a vigorous defense: Rethinking the Ontological Argument by Daniel Dombrowski There are various versions.
Some argue that the cosmos had an initial cause outside it, a First Cause in time. Others argue that the cosmos has a necessary, sustaining cause from instant to instant.
The two versions are not mutually exclusive, for it is possible both that the cosmos had a First Cause and that it currently has a sustaining cause. The cosmological argument relies on the intelligibility of the notion of something which is not itself caused to exist by anything else.
This could be either the all-out necessity of supreme pre-eminence across all possible worlds used in versions of the ontological argument, or a more local, limited notion of a being that is uncaused in the actual world. If successful, the argument would provide reason for thinking there is at least one such being of extraordinary power responsible for the existence of the cosmos.
At best, it may not justify a full picture of the God of religion a First Cause would be powerful, but not necessarily omnipotentbut it would nonetheless challenge naturalistic alternatives and bring one closer to theism. Both versions of the argument ask us to consider the cosmos in its present state. Is the world as we know it something that necessarily exists?
At least with respect to ourselves, the planet, the solar system and the galaxy, it appears not. With respect to these items in the cosmos, it makes sense to ask why they exist rather than not.
In relation to scientific accounts of the natural world, such enquiries into causes make abundant sense and are perhaps even essential presuppositions of the natural sciences. Some proponents of the argument contend that we know a priori that if something exists there is a reason for its existence.
So, why does the cosmos exist? If we explain the contingent existence of the cosmos or states of the cosmos only in terms of other contingent things earlier states of the cosmos, saythen a full cosmic explanation will never be attained. At this point the two versions of the argument divide.
Arguments to a First Cause in time contend that a continuous temporal regress from one contingent existence to another would never account for the existence of the cosmos, and they conclude that it is more reasonable to accept there was a First Cause than to accept either a regress or the claim that the cosmos just came into being from nothing. Arguments to a sustaining cause of the cosmos claim that explanations of why something exists now cannot be adequate without assuming a present, contemporaneous sustaining cause.
The arguments have been based on the denial of all actual infinities or on the acceptance of some infinities for instance, the coherence of supposing there to be infinitely many stars combined with the rejection of an infinite regress of explanations solely involving contingent states of affairs. The latter has been described as a vicious regress as opposed to one that is benign.
There are plausible examples of vicious infinite regresses that do not generate explanations: This would not explain how I got the book. Alternatively, imagine a mirror with light reflected in it. Would the presence of light be successfully explained if one claimed that the light was a reflection of light from another mirror, and the light in that mirror came from yet another mirror, and so on to infinity? Consider a final case. You ask its meaning and are given another word which is unintelligible to you, and so on, forming an infinite regress.
Would you ever know the meaning of the first term? The force of these cases is to show how similar they are to the regress of contingent explanations. Versions of the argument that reject all actual infinities face the embarrassment of explaining what is to be made of the First Cause, especially since it might have some features that are actually infinite.
In reply, Craig and others have contended that they have no objection to potential infinities although the First Cause will never cease to be, it will never become an actual infinity. They further accept that prior to the creation, the First Cause was not in time, a position relying on the theory that time is relational rather than absolute.
The current scientific popularity of the relational view may offer support to defenders of the argument. It has been objected that both versions of the cosmological argument set out an inflated picture of what explanations are reasonable.
Why should the cosmos as a whole need an explanation? If everything in the cosmos can be explained, albeit through infinite, regressive accounts, what is left to explain? One may reply either by denying that infinite regresses actually do satisfactorily explain, or by charging that the failure to seek an explanation for the whole is arbitrary.
If there are accounts for things in the cosmos, why not for the whole? The argument is not built on the fallacy of treating every whole as having all the properties of its parts. But if everything in the cosmos is contingent, it seems just as reasonable to believe that the whole cosmos is contingent as it is to believe that if everything in the cosmos were invisible, the cosmos as a whole would be invisible.
Another objection is that rather than explaining the contingent cosmos, the cosmological argument introduces a mysterious entity of which we can make very little philosophical or scientific sense. How can positing at least one First Cause provide a better account of the cosmos than simply concluding that the cosmos lacks an ultimate account?
In the end, the theist seems bound to admit that why the First Cause created at all was a contingent matter. If, on the contrary, the theist has to claim that the First Cause had to do what it did, would not the cosmos be necessary rather than contingent? Some theists come close to concluding that it was indeed essential that God created the cosmos. If God is supremely good, there had to be some overflowing of goodness in the form of a cosmos see Kretzmann and Stump in Morrison the ideas of Dionysius the Areopagite; see Rowe for arguments that God is not free.
But theists typically reserve some role for the freedom of God and thus seek to retain the idea that the cosmos is contingent. Defenders of the cosmological argument still contend that its account of the cosmos has a comprehensive simplicity lacking in alternative views. God's choices may be contingent, but not God's existence and the Divine choice of creating the cosmos can be understood to be profoundly simple in its supreme, overriding endeavor, namely to create something good.
Swinburne has argued that accounting for natural laws in terms of God's will provides for a simple, overarching framework within which to comprehend the order and purposive character of the cosmos see also Foster At this point we move from the cosmological to the teleological arguments.
Part of the argument may be formulated as providing evidence that the cosmos is the sort of reality that would be produced by an intelligent being, and then arguing that positing this source is more reasonable than agnosticism or denying it. As in the case of the cosmological argument, the defender of the teleological argument may want to claim only to be giving us some reason for thinking there is a God.
Note the way the various arguments might then be brought to bear on each other. If successful, the teleological argument may provide some reason for thinking that the First Cause of the cosmological argument is purposive, while the ontological argument provides some reason for thinking that it makes sense to posit a being that has Divine attributes and necessarily exists.
Behind all of them an argument from religious experience may provide some initial reasons to seek further support for a religious conception of the cosmos and to question the adequacy of naturalism.
One version of the teleological argument will depend on the intelligibility of purposive explanation. In our own human case it appears that intentional, purposive explanations are legitimate and can truly account for the nature and occurrence of events.
In thinking about an explanation for the ultimate character of the cosmos, is it more likely for the cosmos to be accounted for in terms of a powerful, intelligent agent or in terms of a naturalistic scheme of final laws with no intelligence behind them?
Theists employing the teleological argument will draw attention to the order and stability of the cosmos, the emergence of vegetative and animal life, the existence of consciousness, morality, rational agents and the like, in an effort to identify what might plausibly be seen as purposively explicable features of the cosmos. Naturalistic explanations, whether in biology or physics, are then cast as being comparatively local in application when held up against the broader schema of a theistic metaphysics.
Darwinian accounts of biological evolution will not necessarily assist us in thinking through why there are either any such laws or any organisms to begin with. Arguments supporting and opposing the teleological argument will then resemble arguments about the cosmological argument, with the negative side contending that there is no need to move beyond a naturalistic account, and the positive side aiming to establish that failing to go beyond naturalism is unreasonable. In assessing the teleological argument, we can begin with the objection from uniqueness.
We cannot compare our cosmos with others to determine which have been designed and which have not. If we could, then we might be able to find support for the argument. If we could compare our cosmos with those we knew to be designed and if the comparison were closer than with those we knew not to be designed, then the argument might be plausible.
Without such comparisons, however, the argument fails. Replies to this line of attack have contended that were we to insist that inferences in unique cases were out of order, then we would have to rule out otherwise perfectly respectable scientific accounts of the origin of the cosmos.
Besides, while it is not possible to compare the layout of different cosmic histories, it is in principle possible to envisage worlds that seem chaotic, random, or based on laws that cripple the emergence of life.
Now we can envisage an intelligent being creating such worlds, but, through considering their features, we can articulate some marks of purposive design to help us judge whether the cosmos was designed rather than created at random. Some critics appeal to the possibility that the cosmos has an infinite history to bolster and re-introduce the uniqueness objection. Given infinite time and chance, it seems likely that something like our world will come into existence, with all its appearance of design.
If so, why should we take it to be so shocking that our world has its apparent design, and why should explaining the world require positing one or more intelligent designers? Replies repeat the earlier move of insisting that if the objection were to be decisive, then many seemingly respectable accounts would also have to fall by the wayside. It is often conceded that the teleological argument does not demonstrate that one or more designers are required; it seeks rather to establish that positing such purposive intelligence is reasonable and preferable to naturalism.
It is rejected by J. Mackie, Michael Martin, Nicholas Everitt, and others. One feature of the teleological argument currently receiving increased attention focuses on epistemology. It has been contended that if we do rely on our cognitive faculties, it is reasonable to believe that these are not brought about by naturalistic forces—forces that are entirely driven by chance or are the outcome of processes not formed by an overriding intelligence.
An illustration may help to understand the argument. Imagine coming across what appears to be a sign reporting some information about your current altitude some rocks in a configuration giving you your current location and precise height above sea-level in meters. Some theists argue that it would not be reasonable, and that trusting our cognitive faculties requires us to accept that they were formed by an overarching, good, creative agent. This rekindles Descartes' point about relying on the goodness of God to ensure that our cognitive faculties are in good working order.
Objections to this argument center on naturalistic explanations, especially those friendly to evolution. In evolutionary epistemology, one tries to account for the reliability of cognitive faculties in terms of trial and error leading to survival.
A rejoinder by theists is that survival alone is not necessarily linked to true beliefs. It could, in principle, be false beliefs that enhance survival. In fact, some atheists think that believing in God has been crucial to people's survival, though the belief is radically false. Martin and Mackie, among others, object to the epistemic teleological argument; Plantinga, Richard Creel and Richard Taylor defend it.
Two recent developments in teleological argumentation have involved the intelligent design hypothesis and fine tuning arguments. The first is an argument that there are orders of biological complexity emerging in evolution that are highly unlikely if accounted for by random mutation and natural selection or any other means in the absence of a purposive, intentional force Behe Debate on the intelligent design ID proposal includes questions of whether it is properly scientific, about the biochemistry involved, and whether if the ID hypothesis is superior to non-ID accounts the ID hypothesis can inform us about the nature of the intelligent, designing forces.
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While the ID hypothesis has been defended as an allegedly scientific account—it is not based on an appeal to Genesis as Creationism is —many scientists argue that ID is not a scientific theory because it is neither testable nor falsifiable.
Some also argue that ID goes beyond the available evidence and that it systematically underestimates the ability of non-intelligent, natural causes plus chance to account for the relevant biological complexity. Critics like Kenneth Miller contend that Behe does not take into sufficient account the adaptive value of very minor changes in evolution such as the sensitivity to light found in algae and bacteria that gradually lead to complex organs such as the eye Miller Fine tuning arguments contend that the existence of our cosmos with its suns, planets, life, et al.
Even minor changes to the nuclear weak force would not have allowed for stars, nor would stars have endured if the ratio of electromagnetism to gravity had been different. A more sustained objection against virtually all versions of the teleological argument takes issue with the assumption that the cosmos is good or that it is the sort of thing that would be brought about by an intelligent, completely benevolent being.
This leads us directly to the next central concern of the philosophy of God. The problem of evil is the most widely considered objection to theism in both western and eastern philosophy.
There are two general versions of the problem: The deductive problem is currently less commonly debated because it is widely acknowledged that a thoroughly good being might allow or inflict some harm under certain morally compelling conditions such as causing a child pain when removing a splinter. More intense debate concerns the likelihood or even possibility that there is a completely good God given the vast amount of evil in the cosmos.
Why should there be so much gratuitous, apparently pointless evil? In the face of the problem of evil, some philosophers and theologians deny that God is all-powerful and all-knowing. John Stuart Mill took this line, and panentheist theologians today also question the traditional treatments of Divine power. According to panentheism, God is immanent in the world, suffering with the oppressed and working to bring good out of evil, although in spite of God's efforts, evil will invariably mar the created order.
Another response is to think of God as being very different from a moral agent. Brian Davies and others have contended that what it means for God to be good is different from what it means for an agent to be morally good Davies A more desperate strategy is to deny the existence of evil, but it is difficult to reconcile traditional monotheism with moral skepticism. Also, insofar as we believe there to be a God worthy of worship and a fitting object of human love, the appeal to moral skepticism will carry little weight.
The idea that evil is a privation or twisting of the good may have some currency in thinking through the problem of evil, but it is difficult to see how it alone could go very far to vindicate belief in God's goodness.
Searing pain and endless suffering seem altogether real even if they are analyzed as being philosophically parasitic on something valuable. The three great monotheistic traditions, with their ample insistence on the reality of evil, offer little reason to try to defuse the problem of evil by this route. Indeed, classical Judaism, Christianity and Islam are so committed to the existence of evil that a reason to reject evil would be a reason to reject these religious traditions.
What would be the point of the Judaic teaching about the Exodus God liberating the people of Israel from slaveryor the Christian teaching about the incarnation Christ revealing God as love and releasing a Divine power that will, in the end, conquer deathor the Islamic teaching of Mohammed the holy prophet of Allah who is all-just and all-merciful if slavery, hate, death, and injustice did not exist?
In part, the magnitude of the difficulty one takes the problem of evil to pose for theism will depend upon one's commitments in other areas of philosophy, especially ethics, epistemology, and metaphysics. If in ethics you hold that there should be no preventable suffering for any reason, regardless of the cause or consequence, then the problem of evil will conflict with your acceptance of traditional theism.
Debate has largely centered on the legitimacy of adopting some middle position: Could there be reasons why God would permit cosmic ills? If we do not know what those reasons might be, are we in a position to conclude that there are none or that there could not be any? Exploring different possibilities will be shaped by one's metaphysics.
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For example, if you do not believe there is free will, then you will not be moved by any appeal to the positive value of free will and its role in bringing about good as offsetting its role in bringing about evil. Theistic responses to the problem of evil distinguish between a defense and a theodicy. A defense seeks to establish that rational belief that God exists is still possible when the defense is employed against the logical version of the problem of evil and that the existence of evil does not make it improbable that God exists when used against the probabilistic version.
Some have adopted the defense strategy while arguing that we are in a position to have rational belief in the existence of evil and in a completely good God who hates this evil, even though we may be unable to see how these two beliefs are compatible.
A theodicy is more ambitious and is typically part of a broader project, arguing that it is reasonable to believe that God exists on the basis of the good as well as the evident evil of the cosmos. In a theodicy, the project is not to account for each and every evil, but to provide an overarching framework within which to understand at least roughly how the evil that occurs is part of some overall good—for instance, the overcoming of evil is itself a great good.
In practice, a defense and a theodicy often appeal to similar factors, the first and foremost being what many call the Greater Good Defense. Peter van Inwagen's work on the trinityhas been mostly concerned with addressing this challenge.
Their suggestion is that reflection on cases of material constitution e. If this is right, then, by analogy, such reflection can also help us to see how Father, Son, and Holy Spirit can be the same God but three different persons.
Consider Rodin's famous bronze statue, The Thinker. It is a single material object; but it can be truly described both as a statue which is one kind of thingand as a lump of bronze which is another kind of thing. A little reflection, moreover, reveals that the statue is distinct from the lump of bronze. For example, if the statue were melted down, we would no longer have both a lump and a statue: This seems to show that the lump is something distinct from the statue, since one thing can exist apart from another only if they're distinct.
If this is right, then this is not a case in which one thing simply appears in two different ways, or is referred to by two different labels. It is, rather, a case in which two distinct things occupy exactly the same region of space at the same time. Most of us readily accept the idea that distinct things, broadly construed, can occupy the same place at the same time. The event of your sitting, for example, occupies exactly the same place that you do when you are seated.
But we are more reluctant to say that distinct material objects occupy the same place at the same time. Philosophers have therefore suggested various ways of making sense of the phenomenon of material constitution.
One way of doing so is to say that the statue and the lump are the same material object even though they are distinct relative to some other kind e. The advantage of this idea is that it allows us to say that the statue and the lump count as one material object, thus preserving the principle of one material object to a place. The cost, however, is that we commit ourselves to the initially puzzling idea that two distinct things can be the same material object. What, we might wonder, would it even mean for this to be true?
It is hard to see why such a claim should be objectionable; and if it is right, then our problem is solved. The lump of bronze in our example is clearly distinct from The Thinker, since it can exist without The Thinker; but it also clearly shares all the same matter in common with The Thinker, and hence, on this view, counts as the same material object.
Likewise, then, we might say that all it means for one person and another to be the same God is for them to do something analogous to sharing in common all of whatever is analogous to matter in divine beings. On this view, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are the same God but different persons in just the way a statue and its constitutive lump are the same material object but different form-matter compounds. Of course, God is not material; so this can only be an analogy. But still, it helps to provide an illuminating account of inter-trinitarian relations, and it does so in a way that seems at least initially to avoid both modalism and polytheism.
Brower and Rea maintain that each person of the trinity is a substance; thus, none is a mere aspect of a substance, and so modalism is avoided.
And yet they are the same substance; and so polytheism is avoided. This account is not entirely free of difficulties however. It is tempting to see the view as simply playing a verbal trick: Critics also object that this view does not directly answer the question of how many material objects are present for any given region, lump, or chunk. Is there an objective way of deciding how many objects are constituted by the lump of bronze that composes The Thinker?
Are there only two things statue and lump or are there many more paperweight, battering ram, etc. And if there are more, what determines how many there are?
Incarnation The doctrine of the Incarnation holds that, at a time roughly two thousand years in the past, the second person of the trinity took on himself a distinct, fully human nature. As a result, he was a single person in full possession of two distinct natures, one human and one divine. The Council of Chalcedon C. We confess one and the same our Lord Jesus Christ… the same perfect in Godhead, the same in perfect manhood, truly God and truly man … acknowledged in two natures without confusion, without change, without division, without separation—the difference of natures being by no means taken away because of the union, but rather the distinctive character of each nature being preserved, and combining into one person and hypostasis—not divided or separated into two persons, but one and the same Son and only begotten God, Word, Lord Jesus Christ.
For example, it seems on the one hand that human beings are necessarily created beings, and that they are necessarily limited in power, presence, knowledge, and so on. On the other hand, divine beings are essentially the opposite of all those things. Thus, it appears that one person could bear both natures, human and divine, only if such a person could be both limited and unlimited in various ways, created and uncreated, and so forth. And this is surely impossible.
Two main strategies have been pursued in an attempt to resolve this apparent paradox. The first is the kenotic view. The second is the two-minds view. We shall take each in turn. According to this view, in becoming incarnate, God the Son voluntarily and temporarily laid aside some of his divine attributes in order to take on a human nature and thus his earthly mission. If the kenotic view is correct, then contrary to what theists are normally inclined to think properties like omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence are not essential to divinity: The problem, however, is that if these properties aren't essential to divinity, then it is hard to see what would be essential.
If we say that something can be divine while lacking those properties, then we lose all grip on what it means to be divine. One might respond to this worry by saying that the only property that is essential to divine beings as such is the property being divine. This reply, however, makes divinity out to be a primitive, unanalyzable property. Critics like John Hick Alternatively, one might simply deny that any properties are necessary for divinity.
It is widely held in the philosophy of biology, for example, that there are no properties possession of which are jointly necessary andsufficient for membership in, say, the kind humanity. That is, it seems that for any interesting property you might think of as partly definitive of humanity, there are or could be humans who lack that property.
Philosophy and Christian Theology (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
Thus, many philosophers think that membership in the kind is determined simply by family resemblance to paradigm examples of the kind. Something counts as human, in other words, if, and only if, it shares enough of the properties that are typical of humanity. If we were to say the same thing about divinity, there would be no in-principle objection to the idea that Jesus counts as divine despite lacking omniscience or other properties like, perhaps, omnipotence, omnipresence, or even perfect goodness.
One might just say that he is knowledgeable, powerful, and good enough that, given his other attributes, he bears the right sort of family resemblance to the other members of the Godhead to count as divine. Some have offered more refined versions of the kenotic theory, arguing that the basic view mischaracterizes the divine attributes. According to these versions of the kenotic view, rather than attribute to God properties like ommniscience, omipotence, and the like, we should instead say that God has properties like the following: These latter sorts of properties can be retained without contradiction even when certain powers are laid aside.
In this way, then, Jesus can divest himself of some of his powers to become fully human while still remaining fully divine. However, Christians have typically argued that the exalted Christ is omniscient while retaining his humanity.
It is hard to see how this view can respond to such an objection. But for one response see Feenstra Moving away from the standard version of the kenotic theory, some philosophers and theologians endorse views according to which it only seems as if Christ lacked divine attributes like omniscience, omnipotence, and so on.
They are views according to which the apparent loss of divine attributes is only pretense or illusion. Among other things, this raises the concern that the incarnation is somehow a grand deception, thus casting doubt on Christ's moral perfection.
More acceptable, then, are views according to which it somehow seems even to Christ himself as if certain divine attributes which he actually possesses have been laid aside.
On this view, the loss of omniscience, omnipotence, and so on is only simulated. Christ retains all of the traditional divine attributes. But from his point of view it is, nevertheless, as if those attributes are gone. One concern that might be raised with respect to the doctrine of functional kenosis is that it is hard to see how a divine being could possibly simulate to himself, without outright pretense the loss of attributes like omniscience or omnipotence.
But perhaps the resources for addressing this worry are to be found in what is now widely seen as the main rival to the traditional kenotic theory: First, Morris claims that the incoherence charge against the incarnation rests on a mistake. The critic assumes that, for example, humans are essentially non-omniscient. But what are the grounds for this assertion?
Unless we think that we have some special direct insight into the essential properties of human nature, our grounds are that all of the human beings we have encountered have that property. But this merely suffices to show that the property is common to humans, not that it is essential. As Morris points out, it may be universally true that all human beings, for example, were born within ten miles of the surface of the earth, but this does not mean that this is an essential property of human beings.
An offspring of human parents born on the international space station would still be human. If this is right, the defender of the incarnation can reject the critic's characterization of human nature, and thereby eliminate the conflict between divine attributes and human nature so characterized.
This merely provides a way to fend off the critic, however, without supplying any positive model for how the incarnation should be understood.
In the second step, then, Morris proposes that we think about the incarnation as the realization of one person with two minds: During his earthly life, Morris proposes, Jesus Christ had two minds, with consciousness centered in the human mind. This human mind had partial access to the contents of the divine mind, while God the Son's divine mind had full access to the corresponding human mind.
The chief difficulty this view faces concerns the threat of Nestorianism the view, formally condemned by the Church, that there are two persons in the incarnate Christ. It is natural simply to identify persons with minds—or, at the very least, to assume that the number of minds equals the number of persons. If we go with such very natural assumptions, however, the two minds view leads directly to the view that the incarnation gives us two persons, contrary to orthodoxy. Moreover, one might wonder whether taking the two minds model seriously leads us to the view that Christ suffers from something like multiple personality disorder.
In response to both objections, however, one might note that contemporary psychology seems to provide resources which support the viability of the two minds model. As Morris points out elsewhere, the human mind is sometimes characterized as a system of somewhat autonomous subsystems.
The normal human mind, for example, includes on these characterizations both a conscious mind the seat of awareness and an unconscious mind.
It does not really matter for present purposes whether this psychological story is correct; the point is just that it seems coherent, and seems neither to involve multiple personality nor to imply that what seems to be a single subject is, in reality, two distinct persons. Morris proposes, then, that similar sorts of relations can be supposed to obtain between the divine and human mind of Christ.
First, a brief note about terminology. But it is not a neutral term. Rather, it already embodies a partial theory about what human salvation involves and about what the work of Christ accomplishes. In particular, it presupposes that saving human beings from death and separation from God primarily involves atoning for sin rather than say delivering human beings from some kind of bondage, repairing human nature, or something else. Obviously these terms are not all synonymous; so part of the task of an overall theology of salvation—a soteriology—is to sort out the relations among these various terms and phrases is salvation simply to be identified with eternal life, for example?
That said, however, we do not ourselves intend to advocate on behalf of any particular terminology. In what follows, we shall discuss only three of the most well-known and widely discussed theories or families of theories about what the work of Jesus accomplishes on behalf of human beings. All take the suffering and death of Jesus to be an integral part of his work on our behalf; but the first theory holds Jesus' resurrection and ascension also to be absolutely central to that work, and the second theory holds his sinless life to be of near-equal importance.
Discussing these theories under three separate headings as we do below may foster the illusion that what we have are three mutually exclusive views, each marking off a wholly distinct camp in the history of soteriological theorizing, and each aiming to provide a full accounting of what Jesus' work contributes to human salvation from death and separation from God. As we have already indicated, however, a variety of terms and images are used in the Bible to characterize what Jesus accomplished and, in contrast with the doctrines of the trinity and incarnation, we do not have for the doctrine of salvation an ecumenical conciliar prononouncement i.
Consequently, it is no surprise that many thinkers appropriate imagery from more than one of the theories described below or others besides to explain their understanding of the nature and efficacy of Jesus' work.
One might question, however, whether any of these theologians ever intended to offer the ransom story about to be described as a theory of the atonement, rather than simply an extended metaphor. What does seem clear, however, is that they at least intended to emphasize victory over sin, death, and so on as one of the principle salvific effects of the work of Christ.
The ransom theory takes as its point of departure the idea that human beings are in a kind of bondage to sin, death, and the Devil. The basic view, familiar enough now from literature and film, is that God and the Devil are in a sort of competition for souls, and the rules of the competition state that anyone stained by sin must die and then forever exist as the Devil's prisoner in hell.
As the view is often developed, human sin gives the Devil a legitimate right to the possession of human souls. Thus, much as God loves us and would otherwise desire for us never to die and, furthermore, to enjoy life in heaven with him, the sad fact is that we, by our sins, have secured a much different destiny for ourselves. But here is where the work of Christ is supposed to come in. According to the ransom view, it would be unfitting for God simply to violate the pre-ordained rules of the competition and snatch our souls out of the Devil's grasp.
But it is not at all unfitting for God to pay the Devil a ransom in exchange for our freedom. Christ's death is that ransom. By living a sinless life and then dying like a sinner, Christ pays a price that, in the eyes of all parties to the competition, earns back for God the right to our souls, and thus effects a great triumph over the Devil, sin, and death.
The Son of God became incarnate, on this view, in order to set this example and thus provide a necessary condition for the moral reform that is, in turn, necessary for the full restoration of the relationship between creature and Creator. On this picture, Jesus' sinless life is as much a part of his soteriologically relevant work as his suffering and death on the cross. Thus far, it may sound as if the exemplar theory says that all there is to the efficacy of Jesus' life and death for salvation is the provision of a fine example for us to imitate.
According to Philip L.
Quinnhowever, to present the theory this way is simply to caricature it. According to Quinn, the dominant motif in Abelard's exemplar theory is one according to which human moral character is, in a very robust sense transformed by Christ's love.
My suggestion is that what Abelard has to contribute to our thinking about the atonement is the idea that divine love, made manifest throughout the life of Christ but especially in his suffering and dying, has the power to transform human sinners, if they cooperate, in ways that fit them for everlasting life in intimate union with God.
On [this] view, the love of God for us exhibited in the life of Christ is a good example to imitate, but it is not merely an example. Above and beyond its exemplary value, there is in it a surplus of mysterious causal efficacy that no merely human love possesses. And the operation of divine love in that supernatural mode is a causally necessary condition of there being implanted or kindled in us the kind of responsive love of God that, as Abelard supposes, enables us to do all things out of love and so to conquer the motives that would otherwise keep us enslaved to sin.
In Quinn's hands, then, the exemplar theory is one according to which the life and death of Christ do indeed provide an example for us to imitate--and an example that plays an important role in effecting the transformation that will make us fit for fellowship with God.
But, in contrast to the usual caricature of that theory, the exemplary nature of Christ's love does not exhaust its transformative power.
These theories go on to note that human beings are absolutely incapable on their own of compensating God for the wrong they have done to him, and that the only way for them to satisfy the demands of justice is to suffer death and eternal separation from God.
Thus, in order to avoid this fate, they are in dire need of help. Christ, through his death and, on some versions, through his sinless life as well has provided that help.
The different versions of the satisfaction theory are differentiated by their claims about what sort of help the work of Christ has provided. Here we'll discuss three versions: Anselm's debt-cancellation theory, the penal substitution theory defended by John Calvin and many others in the reformed tradition, and the penitential substitution theory, attributed to Thomas Aquinas and defended most recently by Eleonore Stump and Richard Swinburne.
According to Anselm, our sin puts us in a kind of debt toward God. As our creator, God is entitled to our submission and obedience. By sinning, we therefore fail to give God something that we owe him. Thus, we deserve to be punished until we do give God what we owe him. Indeed, on Anselm's view, not only is it just for God to punish us; it is, other things being equal, unfitting for him not to punish us.
For as long as we are not giving God his due, we are dishonoring him; and the dishonoring of God is maximally intolerable.What's the Difference Between Science, Religion, and Philosophy?
By allowing us to get away with dishonoring him, then, God would be tolerating what is maximally intolerable. Moreover, he would be behaving in a way that leaves sinners and the sinless in substantially the same position before him, which, Anselm thinks, is unseemly. But, of course, once we have sinned, it is impossible for us to give God the perfect life that we owe him.
So we are left in the position of a debtor who cannot, under any circumstances, repay his own debt and is therefore stuck in debtor's prison for the remainder of his existence. By living a sinless life, however, Christ was in a different position before God. He was the one human being who gave God what God was owed. Thus, he deserved no punishment; he did not even deserve death. And yet he submitted to death anyway for the sake of obeying God. In doing this, he gave God more than he owed God; and so, on Anselm's view, put God in the position of owing him something.
According to Anselm, just as it would be unfitting for God not to punish us, so too it would be unfitting for God not to reward Jesus.
But Jesus, as God incarnate, has already at his disposal everything he could possibly need or desire. So what reward could possibly be given to him? But, Anselm argues, the reward can be transferred; and, under the circumstances, it would be unfitting for God not to transfer it.
Thus, the reward that Jesus claims is the cancellation of the collective debt of his friends. This allows God to pay what he owes, and it allows him to suffer no dishonor in failing to collect what is due him from us. As should be clear, the notion of substitution isn't really a part of Anselm's theory of the atonement. Contrary to the more common view in the liteature, Richard Cross doesn't even take satisfaction to be part of Anselm's theory.
Perhaps he is right—the question seems to turn on whether part of what God the Father receives in the overall transaction with Jesus is a kind of compensation for the harm done by human sin.
Nevertheless, substitution is a central part of other satisfaction theories. Thus, consider the penal substitution theory.
According to this theory, the just punishment for sin is death and separation from God. Moreover, on this view, though God strongly desires for us not to receive this punishment it would be unfitting for God simply to waive our punishment. But, as in the case of monetary fines, the punishment can be paid by a willing substitute. Thus, out of love for us, God the Father sent the willing Son to be our substitute and to satisfy the demands of justice on our behalf. Richard Swinburne'sversion of the satisfaction theory also includes a substitutionary element.
See also Stump The views defended by Stump and Swinburne are quite similar, and both attribute the same basic view to Aquinas.