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When Christians become Naturalists

  • J. Wesley Robbins (a1)


The classical pragmatists were as concerned as any of their modern philosophical predecessors that the moral and religious aspects of human life not be swamped by the successes of the physical sciences. It was John Dewey, after all, who said that

The problem of restoring integration and cooperation between man's beliefs about the world in which he lives and his beliefs about the values and purposes that should direct his conduct is the deepest problem of modern life. It is the problem of any philosophy that is not isolated from that life.



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1 Dewey, John, The Quest for Certainty (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1960), p. 255.

2 James, William, Pragmatism and the Meaning of Truth (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1978), p. 33.

4 Ibid. p. 35.

5 Dewey, John, A Common Faith (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1962), p. 42.

6 Ibid. p. 43.

7 Ibid. p. 51.

8 Ibid. p. 46.

9 Ibid. p. 53.

10 Rorty, Richard, Objectivity, Relativism, and Truth: Philosophical Papers, Volume 1 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), p. 17.

11 Ibid. p. 13.

12 Dewey, Ibid. p. 49.

13 Rorty, Ibid. p. 17.

14 Rorty, Richard, ‘Heidegger, Contingency, and Pragmatism’, in Essays on Heidegger and Others: Philosophical Papers, Volume 2 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), p. 48.

15 Rorty, , ‘Pragmatism Without Method’, in Objectivity, p. 74.

16 Ibid. p. 76.

17 Ibid. p. 70.

18 Quine, Willard van Orman, ‘Two Dogmas of Empiricism’, in From a Logical Point of View (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1961), pp. 42–3.

19 Rorty, Ibid. p. 66.

20 Hebblethwaite, Brian, The Ocean of Truth (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), p. 142.

21 Runzo, Joseph, ‘Ethics and the Challenge of Theological Nonrealism’, forthcoming in Ethics, Religion and the Good Society (Westminster: John Knox Press), p. 8.

22 As, for instance, in Cupitt, Don, Taking Leave of God (New York: Crossroad, 1981).

23 Runzo cites these three features of Cupitt's position, Ibid. pp. 7–8.

24 Ibid. p. 23. Hebblethwaite and Runzo are by no means the only proponents of theological realism. There are, for example, numerous advocates of extending realism from the sciences to theology. Cf. Clayton, Philip, Explanation from Physics to Theology (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989);Murphy, Nancey, Theology in the Age of Scientific Reasoning (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1990);van Huyssteen, Wentzel, Theology and the Justification of Faith (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1989); as well as my critical review of Clayton and van Huyssteen, forthcoming in zygon. I pick on Hebblethwaite and Runzo in this essay because of their explicit exclusion of Don Cupitt and, by extension, Deweyan religious naturalists like myself from the community of Christians, all in the name of theological realism.

25 Hebblethwaite, Ibid. pp. 152–3.

26 Dewey, Ibid. p. 52.

27 Hebblethwaite, Ibid. p. 153.

28 Runzo, Joseph, ‘World-Views and the Epistemic Foundations of Theism’, Religious Studies, xxv (1989), 3151.

29 Ibid. p. 37, fn. 4.

30 Ibid. p. 46.

31 Ibid. p. 47.

33 James, Ibid. p. 37.


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