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Wittgenstein published next to nothing on the philosophy of religion and yet his conception of religious belief has been both enormously influential and hotly contested. In the contemporary literature, Wittgenstein has variously been labelled a fideist, a non-cognitivist and a relativist of sorts. This Element shows that all of these readings are misguided and seriously at odds, not just with what Wittgenstein says about religious belief, but with his entire later philosophy. This Element also argues that Wittgenstein presents us with an important 'third way' of understanding religious belief – one that does not fall into the trap of either assimilating religious beliefs to ordinary empirical or scientific beliefs or seeking to reduce them to the expression of certain attitudes.
Suffering is ubiquitous. Quests to make sense of it in relation to the existence of God – and to find meaning in our lives in the face of it – are significant aspects of the human experience. Evil and Theodicy motivates the project of theodicy by examining arguments rooted in evil against God's existence and by critically assessing the response of skeptical theism. Ekstrom explores eight different lines of theodicy. She argues that, even if the prospects for theodicy are dim with respect to defending the rationality of theistic belief in light of suffering, nonetheless, work in theodicies is practically useful.
According to Jeff Speaks, one sort of perfect being theology takes its rise from a description of God as the greatest conceivable being. Speaks offers two problems for this project. One is finding a suitable sense of ‘conceivable’. The other concerns what he calls ‘troublemakers’, attributes that seem to show that God cannot be the greatest conceivable being. Speaks brings these together in a dilemma.
‘Listen, I'm against sin. I'll kick it as long as I've got a foot; I'll punch it as long as I've got a fist; I'll butt it as long as I've got a head; and I'll bite it as long as I've got a tooth’ (Billy Sunday). Billy Sunday was a revivalist preacher in the early half of the twentieth century. I take it that Billy's approach to sin will be taken by most to be more theologically acceptable than the following. ‘I figure I'll go for the life of sin, followed by the presto-change-o deathbed repentance’ (Bart Simpson). Bart Simpson is a character in the animated TV Show, The Simpsons. In the vignette from which this quotation of Bart's is abstracted, Bart is actually in conversation with a Billy-Sunday-like preacher. The preacher, on hearing of Bart's theology (Bartian theology, we may call it; not, NB Barthian theology), replies in a slightly stunned way, as if he had never himself considered Bartianism prior to that particular moment, ‘Wow! That is a good angle. . .’ However, he quickly collects himself and adds definitively, ‘But it's not God's angle.’ In this article, I wish to explore Bart's angle; could it, or something like it, after all, be a prudent angle?
Christian theological interpretation of Scripture is a practice that brings together both trained biblical scholars as well as theologians of various types. In recent years this has enabled the importance of some foundational theological questions about scriptural interpretation to come to the forefront. This chapter both highlights the importance of addressing these questions and how the practice of theological interpretation might move forward in the future.
Tolstoy’s day-to-day engagement with nature shaped who he was and how he conceived of himself; it is reflected, abundantly, in what he wrote. But while the natural world remained an essential touchstone for Tolstoy for the whole of his life – a reservoir and measure of what was authentic and good – as he grew older this regard was tinged with ambivalence. He came to believe that not everything that was natural (war, violence, predation, sex) was necessarily good, and he appears to have doubted whether humans could live in a way that was at once fully natural and fully moral. This essay explores this central paradox of Tolstoy’s thinking, and focuses particular attention on the following aspects of his relationship with the natural world: the "green" creation myth that Tolstoy self-consciously fashioned about himself; the close link between nature and Tolstoy’s sense of the divine; Tolstoy’s presciently ecological conception of life in nature as a realm of both ceaseless "struggle" (war) and overarching harmony (peace); Tolstoy’s environmentalism.
In this chapter, we argue that Thomas Jefferson affirmed the core of classical philosophical theology. Jefferson understood Nature’s God to be a creating, particularly providential, and moralistic being, whose existence and causal relation to the world was essential to the foundations of natural-rights republicanism. For Jefferson, belief in such a God was warranted on the basis of reason, and thus is akin to the propositions that Thomas Aquinas called the preambula fidei. Jefferson’s theology was essential to natural-rights republicanism in that God’s creation and ordering of man to happiness grounded the moral law, human moral equality, and the natural right of property. Jefferson did not adhere to the major tenets of orthodox Christianity as presented in the religion’s earliest creeds, but he nonetheless affirmed the existence of a God of Nature whose attributes included being a providential, moralistic creator. And while Jefferson can appear at times as a philosophical dilettante with scattered thoughts, Jefferson developed a natural theology that has surprising continuities, and some important discontinuities, with the classical natural-law tradition.
The pamphlets written during the great transatlantic debate spanning the 1760s and early 1770s are a window into the theoretical frame of the American mind in the years leading to the Declaration of Independence. The shared background assumptions of those pamphlets include the existence of a providential God whose governance of the world was an essential premise in their natural-law theories of morality and law. Most of the leading lights of the patriotic pamphleteers held their natural-law principles within a Christian frame, and the pamphlets they wrote in the 1760s and 1770s cast light on the ideas the colonists put forward, with one united voice, in the Declaration of Independence. This chapter highlights major contributors to the pamphlet debates, with particular attention given to two influential pamphleteers, James Otis and John Dickinson.
My claim in this article is that the thesis that Buddhism has no God, insofar as it is taken to apply to Buddhism universally, is false. I defend this claim by interpreting a central text in East-Asian Buddhism – The Awakening of Faith in Mahāyāna – through the lenses of perfect being theology (PBT), a research programme in philosophy of religion that attempts to provide a description of God through a two-step process: (1) defining God in terms of maximal greatness; (2) inferring the properties or attributes that God must have in virtue of satisfying the definition. My argument comprises two steps. First, I argue that, since PBT is a method for providing a description of God starting from a definition of God, any text that contains a PBT ipso facto contains a notion of God. Second, I argue through textual evidence that The Awakening articulates a PBT, concluding that it contains a notion of God. Since the method of PBT leaves open what descriptions are to be inferred, my argument allows me to conclude that a text contains a notion of God without previously committing to any particular conception of the divine, which makes it particularly versatile and powerful.
William R. Rowe argues for the low probability of the existence of God given our ignorance of the goods that come from apparently gratuitous evils. After exploring this argument, I present Stephen Wykstra's response, which is known as ‘sceptical theism’, focusing on the evocation of the so-called ‘parent analogy’. According to the parent analogy, God's knowledge, compared to ours, is analogous to the comparison between a parent's knowledge and a one-month-old infant's. After pointing out some difficulties with this analogy, I develop an improved version of sceptical theism. My main point is that the most valuable disinterested love and awe for God can be best developed in a world with two evils: our ignorance about most of the justifying goods and the apparent divine absence to sufferers. Moreover, since disinterested love and awe for God bring numerous benefits to human beings, God has good reasons for creating a world with these two evils.
A number of theistic philosophers have recently denied that God is subject to moral and rational norms. At the same time, many theists employ epistemological and inductive arguments for the existence of God. I will argue that ‘no-norms’ theists cannot make use of such arguments: if God is not subject to norms – particularly rational norms – then we can say nothing substantive about what kind of worlds God would be likely to create, and as such, we cannot predict the likelihood of any particular evidence given theism. What is more, I argue that this lack of constraint on God's creative act raises a serious sceptical challenge for no-norms theism.
This chapter explores some philosophical quandaries facing the natural law outlook, with particular emphasis on the prospects for a natural law account of human rights. The chapter begins by considering challenges to natural law’s reliance on the notion of human nature. It then examines the role of time in natural law theories, focusing on the question of whether natural law changes. Next, the chapter looks at the place of rights in the natural law tradition, critically discussing the suggestion that the notion of rights is at odds with the core themes of the natural law outlook, before considering what natural law has to offer to human rights theory. Finally, I turn to the place of God within natural law theories, raising the issue of whether natural law assumes a theistic worldview. I argue throughout the chapter that a hermeneutic and historicised view of natural law, which sees it as shaped by and discovered through human social practices, holds important advantages in responding to each of these challenges.
In providing a new foundation for natural law and thence political authority, Pufendorf engaged in a major and explicit reconstruction of the discipline. Scholastic natural law derived the law of nature from a prior nature held to contain norms for moral and civil conduct; for example, from a divine nature whose will imprinted the human will, or a rational nature that was supposed to guide the will, or from humanity’s supposedly sociable nature as the source of the key norm of sociality. Pufendorf’s radical intervention into this field lay in his declaration that since it had been “imposed” or instituted as a “moral entity” by God for unaccountable reasons, human nature was not itself normative, rationally or socially. Rather, as a set of given conducts and predispositions—seen most clearly humanity’s paradoxical need for co-operation in order to survive and its ineradicable proclivity to envy, malice and mutual predation—human nature supplied only the observable basis from which it was possible to deduce the natural law: that man should cultivate sociality as a disposition needed for security and social thriving. This formed the basis for political sovereignty as the unchallengeable deployment of civil power required to obtain social peace and security.
Far from being solely an academic enterprise, the practice of theology can pique the interest of anyone who wonders about the meaning of life. This introduction to Christian theology – exploring its basic concepts, confessional content, and history – emphasizes the relevance of the key convictions of Christian faith to the challenges of today's world. Part I introduces the project of Christian theology and sketches the critical context that confronts Christian thought and practice today. Part II offers a survey of the key doctrinal themes of Christian theology, including revelation, the triune God, and the world as creation, identifying their biblical basis and the highlights of their historical development before giving a systematic evaluation of each theme. Part III provides an overview of Christian theology from the early church to the present. Thoroughly revised and updated, the second edition of An Introduction to Christian Theology includes a range of new visual and pedagogical features, including images, diagrams, tables, and more than eighty text boxes, which call attention to special emphases, observations, and applications to help deepen student engagement.
To motivate the gospel of divine self-sacrifice, Paul proposes a basis for hope in God. This ground is in divine righteous agapē toward humans in their experience, and it anchors, as supporting evidence, not only human hope in God but also divine promises for humans. In Paul’s view, divine epiphany and divine promise belong together as constituents of grounded human hope in God. His view provides a corrective to Jürgen Moltmann’s unduly sharp contrast, in Theology of Hope and elsewhere, between a God of epiphany and a God of promise. The chapter clarifies Paul’s position on an important kind of experience-grounded hope in God neglected by Moltmann and many others. In doing so, it identifies a key role for divine self-sacrifice in grounding human hope in God. The chapter also explains how a kind of fear toward divine self-sacrifice yields an obstacle to hope in God. It distinguishes two kinds of fear of God in order to clarify a command from Paul to fear God. The chapter illuminates why one kind of fear, even when combined with felt abandonment by God, need not yield despair about God’s reality or goodness.
This chapter summarizes Paul’s gospel of divine self-sacrifice, giving special attention to the character of the righteous God responsible for his gospel. It identifies how divine righteousness figures in a solution to the human predicament of the corrosive powers of sin and death by offering a remedy in reparative self-sacrifice. The needed reparative sacrifice begins with divine self-sacrifice that includes the sacrifice of the Son of God, Jesus Christ, but it does not end there. It calls for human reciprocity in self-sacrifice to God, as voluntary sharing in the life-giving obedience of Jesus Christ to God. The chapter identifies how God agitates in human history to attract the cooperation of humans in such reparative self-sacrifice. This divine effort is at the center of God’s righteous love for humans, regardless of their national, ethnic, or religious background. Paul focused his calling from God on the good news that God has intervened in human history, climactically in Jesus Christ, to attract humans to cooperation with this good news.
Paul’s gospel of divine self-sacrifice, according to this chapter, is rejectable by humans. In fact, many people do reject it, for various reasons, even after careful reflection. Most scholarly attention to Paul on God focuses on his position on divine grace and promised triumph, in a way that neglects his position on divine frustration and failure in redemptive purpose. This chapter counters that neglect with a presentation of Paul’s case for human frustration of God and God’s redemptive aim. It identifies how this case bears on Paul’s understanding of the divine redemption of humans, and it observes how many commentators have missed the important role of human frustration of God in Paul’s theology. The chapter thus acknowledges a role for human power in redemption, according to Paul, as a response to the gospel of divine self-sacrifice. The result does not compromise, however, Paul’s understanding of redemption by divine grace through faith in God. The human power in question enables God to be blameless, by Paul’s lights, in the human frustration of the intended divine redemption for humans. The chapter identifies how divine election works in this context.
This chapter clarifies the relation between sacrificial love and human faith in God in Paul’s gospel of divine self-sacrifice. Paul offers a critically important but disputed connection between the two: “In Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working [or made effective] through love” (Gal. 5:6). The chapter contends that Paul understood faith in God to have a formative basis in divine agapē, and that this basis secures a foundational role for divine grace. The case benefits from a neglected appreciation of a bimodal, combined middle and passive voice of a participle for Paul. The result is Paul’s view of a divinely intended ground and expression of faith in divine agapē. The chapter explains how this approach illuminates Paul’s view on the fulfillment-expression of the law of God in divine agapē. It thus offers an underappreciated basis for the importance of such agapē in faith and in pursuing the law, according to Paul. It also relates faith in God to dying with Christ, as sharing in his obedience to God.
In this book, Paul Moser explains how self-sacrificial righteousness of a reparative kind is at the heart of Paul's gospel of God. He also shows how divine self-sacrifice authenticates that gospel via human reciprocity toward God in reconciliation. A basis for this reciprocity lies in a teaching of ancient Judaism that humans are to reciprocate toward God for the sake of an interpersonal relationship that is righteous and reconciled through voluntary self-sacrifice to God. Moser demonstrates that Paul's gospel calls for faith, including trust, in God as reciprocity in human self-sacrifice toward God. Although widely neglected by interpreters, this theme brings moral and evidential depth to Paul's good news of reparative redemption from God. Moser's study thus enables a new understanding of some of the controversial matters regarding Paul's message in a way that highlights the coherence and profundity of his message.
Paradise Lost is constructed almost entirely of men talking to other men. Depending heavily on conversation and social discourse, Milton's epic takes the ideology of conversation in his culture seriously. Employing conversation to create social rank and hierarchy, while also using it to suggest homosocial pleasure and erotic attraction, Paradise Lost makes Adam, Raphael, the Son, Eve, and Satan into talkers who make power while they make desire. By linking conversation itself to the poem's hierarchies and hegemonic superstructures, this chapter argues that small talk and social discourse are key levers of authority-making in the poem and in early modern England.