According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of
explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. - anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. - anon
... Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument.
There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is
irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a
power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table
to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace,
reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants
us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. - anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

Monday, May 23, 2016

Why Philosophy is important in the Study of the Persistent Phenomenon of Religion

Below is but one excerpt in the series "What does philosophy of religion offer?" conducted by Dave Rohr found on the blog site "Philosophy of Religion." Below is an example of many more additional commentaries by philosophers and academia. Following the links as given will provide additional investigation into this area. I chose Clayton Crockett because of his interview with Homebrewed Christianity and his background work in Radical Political Theology using Continental Philosophy and Postmodern Theology.

R.E. Slater
May 21, 2016
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Clayton Crockett on “What does philosophy of religion offer to the modern university?”

September 28, 2015

Clayton Crockett is Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Central Arkansas. We invited him to answer the question “What does philosophy of religion offer to the modern university?” as part of our "Philosophers of Religion on Philosophy of Religion" series.

In many respects, Immanuel Kant defines the theoretical situation for knowledge in the modern university. In his three Critiques, Kant accomplishes a critique of science or philosophy (pure reason), a critique of morality (pure practical reason), and a critique of art (aesthetics) that sets up an idealized model for modern knowledge. This model is institutionally implemented in neo-Kantian terms, as these sciences are divided into disciplines that are then positivized and historicized. In "The Conflict of the Faculties," Kant defends the lower faculty of philosophy, which represents what becomes known as the liberal arts, against the claims of the higher faculties of theology, medicine and law. The higher faculties are the professional schools, that threaten to subsume philosophy, humanities and the liberal arts.

As the contemporary university becomes increasingly corporatized, disciplines and areas of knowledge that are less directly profitable get marginalized. The humanities, liberal arts, and what is sometimes called general education are downsized as administrators, politicians, parents and even students emphasize the value of college as a vocational training program. Students matriculate into degree programs that presumably prepare them for jobs in a precarious global economy. Philosophy and religious studies are not popular areas of study in this context, not to mention philosophy of religion.

It is significant that Kant was unable to develop a critique of religion; he viewed religion as a subset of morality, as a form of practical reason. Modern religion should function within “the limits of reason alone.” It is Hegel who articulated a modern philosophy of religion, because for Hegel religion dialectically leads to philosophy. Religion is a kind of picture-thinking, a representation that shows the true but must give way to the pure reason of the Concept (Begriff). Hegel’s teleology is problematic, but he helps historicize reason and philosophy even as he does so from a Eurocentric perspective. Adopting Freud’s idea of the return of the repressed, we could say that religion consistently returns throughout modernity to haunt reason’s desire to repress it.

A quote I often mention to my classes is one that was given by Secretary of State John Kerry in 2013. He stated: “In fact, if I went back to college today, I think I would probably major in comparative religion, because that’s how integrated it is in everything that we are working on and deciding and thinking about in life today.” Despite the pressures to study something that appears more directly useful for a career, understanding the nature and role of religion in the world today is incredibly important and valuable. And this recognition of the value of studying religion occurs within a context where more and more potential employers are recommending that students study the humanities rather than business or STEM-related topics. Recent studies show that many entrepreneurs and CEOs of thriving corporations want students to study and major in humanities subjects.

In the humanities, or more specifically the academic study of religion, philosophy of religion has a crucial role to play. Unfortunately, due to the history of academic religious studies in the United States, philosophy of religion has been devalued in religious studies programs. Kerry affirms the importance of studying comparative religion. The predominant academic model of religious studies in the US today is the comparative world religions curriculum, which replaces the Protestant seminary model for the study of religion. During much of the twentieth century, the study of religion took place under the guise of the Protestant seminary model, and this curriculum continues to influence the field because most of the major US universities have seminaries attached or connected to them. According to a seminary model, religious studies is primarily Christian, and consists of categories like scripture, ethics, church history, and theology. The secular comparative world religions model replaces and updates the Protestant seminary model.

The ascendance of a comparative world religions curriculum for religious studies is mostly a good thing, because it transcends Christian parochialism, but there is one major downside. The world religions model adopts social scientific methodologies from the social sciences. These methodologies are crucial to the academic study of religion, but they leave out any explicitly philosophical approach. Most of the time, philosophy is associated, explicitly or implicitly, with theology. And theology is what the comparative world religions model explicitly opposes. Many scholars of religion demand the expulsion of theology in order for religious studies to be a viable academic discipline. At the same time, the construction of what we call world religions is not neutral, and has a complex history that Tomoko Masuzawa explores in her important book "The Invention of World Religions."

Today we can see the breakdown of a certain kind of modern secularism, defined as the delimitation of religion to a private sphere. The return of religion in political terms indicates what José Casanova calls a deprivatization of religion. The strict opposition between reason and religion, faith and knowledge, deconstructs. This is a crucial task for philosophical understanding, to make sense of what is sometimes called a postsecular world.

My contention is that whatever one thinks about theology and the postsecular, the elimination of philosophy from the academic study of religion is a huge loss. Philosophy of religion is vital to the study of religion, not just a subset of philosophical inquiry. We need an explicitly philosophical commitment to exploring the persistent phenomenon of religion, a word that Jacques Derrida calls “the clearest and the most obscure” in his essay on "Faith and Knowledge." Philosophy of religion studies the word, the meaning, the history, and the situation of religion as it expresses itself in the world today, which is integrated with everything that one works with, decides upon, and thinks about in life today, as Kerry affirms. The modern and contemporary university does not know how to properly value this form of thinking and understanding. But it is blind without it.

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Philosophy of religion

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Philosophy of religion according to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy is, "the philosophical examination of the central themes and concepts involved in religious traditions."[1]It is an ancient discipline, being found in the earliest known manuscripts concerning philosophy, and relates to many other branches of philosophy and general thought, includingmetaphysicslogic, and history.[2]
The philosophy of religion differs from religious philosophy in that it seeks to discuss questions regarding the nature of religion as a whole, rather than examining the problems brought forth by a particular belief system. It is designed such that it can be carried out dispassionately by those who identify as believers or non-believers.[3]

As a part of metaphysics

Philosophy of religion has classically been regarded as a part of metaphysics. In Aristotle's Metaphysics, the necessarily prior cause of eternal motion was an unmoved mover, who, like the object of desire, or of thought, inspires motion without itself being moved.[4] This, according to Aristotle, is God, the subject of study in theology. Today, however, philosophers have adopted the term "philosophy of religion" for the subject, and typically it is regarded as a separate field of specialization, although it is also still treated by some, particularly Catholic philosophers, as a part of metaphysics.


Although the term did not come into general use until the nineteenth century,[5] perhaps the earliest strictly philosophical writings about religion can be found in the Hindu Upanishads. Around the same time, the works of Daoism and Confucianism also dealt, in part, with reasoning about religious concepts. The Buddhist writing in the Pali canon "contains acute philosophical thinking", and "we have in Buddhism a very shrewd grasp of the nature of religion as philosophy illuminates it."[6]

Field of study

Philosophy of religion covers alternative beliefs about God, the varieties of religious experience, the interplay between science and religion, the nature and scope of good and evil, and religious treatments of birth, history, and death.[1] The field also includes the ethical implications of religious commitments, the relation between faith, reason, experience and tradition, concepts of the miraculous, the sacred revelation, mysticism, power, and salvation.[7]
The philosophy of religion has been distinguished from theology by pointing out that, for theology, "its critical reflections are based on religious convictions".[8] Also, "theology is responsible to an authority that initiates its thinking, speaking, and witnessing ... [while] philosophy bases its arguments on the ground of timeless evidence."[9]

Basic themes and problems

Three considerations that are basic to the philosophy of religion concerning deities are: the existence of God, the nature of God, and the knowledge of God.[10]

Existence of God

Main article: Existence of God

There are several main positions with regard to the existence of God that one might take:
  1. Theism - the belief in the existence of one or more divinities or deities.
    1. Pantheism - the belief that God exists as all things of the cosmos, that "God is one" and "All is God"; [also], God is immanent.
    2. Panentheism - the belief that God encompasses all things of the cosmos but that God is greater than the cosmos; God is both immanent and transcendent.
    3. Deism - the belief that God does exist but does not interfere with human life and the laws of the universe; God is transcendent.
    4. Monotheism - the belief that a single deity exists which rules the universe as a separate and individual entity.
    5. Polytheism - the belief that multiple deities exist which rule the universe as separate and individual entities.
    6. Henotheism - the belief that multiple deities may or may not exist, though there is a single supreme deity.
    7. Henology - believing that multiple avatars of a deity exist, which represent unique aspects of the ultimate deity.
  2. Agnosticism - (literally, not knowing or without knowledge) the belief that the existence or non-existence of deities or God is currently unknown or unknowable and cannot be proven. A weaker form of this might be defined as simply a lack of certainty about gods' existence or nonexistence.[citation needed]
  3. Atheism - the rejection of belief in the existence of deities.[11][12]
    1. Weak atheism is simply the absence of belief that any deities exist.[13][14][15]
    2. Strong atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities.[16][13]
    3. Antitheism is the decided opposition to the concept of deities or even religion as a whole, and regards religion as detrimental to society.[17]
  4. Apatheism - a complete disinterest in, or lack of caring for, whether or not any deity or deities exists.
  5. Possibilianism
These are not mutually exclusive positions. For example, agnostic theists choose to believe God exists while asserting that knowledge of God's existence is inherently unknowable. Similarly, agnostic atheists reject belief in the existence of all deities, while asserting that whether any such entities exist or not is inherently unknowable.

Natural theology

The attempt to provide proofs or arguments for the existence of God is one aspect of what is known as natural theology or the natural theistic project. This strand of natural theology attempts to justify belief in God by independent grounds. There is plenty of philosophical literature on faith (especially fideism) and other subjects generally considered to be outside the realm of natural theology. Perhaps most of philosophy of religion is predicated on natural theology's assumption that the existence of God can be justified or warranted on rational grounds. There has been considerable philosophical and theological debate about the kinds of proofs, justifications and arguments that are appropriate for this discourse.[18]
The philosopher Alvin Plantinga has shifted his focus to justifying belief in God (that is, those who believe in God, for whatever reasons, are rational in doing so) through Reformed epistemology, in the context of a theory of warrant and proper cognitive function.
Other reactions to natural theology are those of Wittgensteinian philosophers of religion, most notably D. Z. Phillips. Phillips rejects "natural theology" and its evidentialist approach as confused, in favor of a grammatical approach which investigates the meaning of belief in God. For Phillips, belief in God is not a proposition with a particular truth value, but a form of life. Consequently, the question of whether God exists confuses the logical categories which govern theistic language with those that govern other forms of discourse (most notably, scientific discourse). According to Phillips, the question of whether or not God exists cannot be "objectively" answered by philosophy because the categories of truth and falsity, which are necessary for asking the question, have no application in the religious contexts wherein religious belief has its sense and meaning. In other words, the question cannot be answered because it cannot be asked without entering into confusion. As Phillips sees things, the job of the philosopher is not to investigate the "rationality" of belief in God but to elucidate its meaning.

Problem of evil

Main articles: Problem of evil and Theodicy
The problem of evil is the question of how to reconcile the existence of evil with that of a deity who is, in either absolute or relative terms, omnipotentomniscient, and omnibenevolent.[19][20] An argument from evil attempts to show that the co-existence of evil and such a deity is unlikely or impossible if placed in absolute terms. Attempts to show the contrary have traditionally been discussed under the heading of theodicy.

The nature of God

There exists many understandings of the term "God". It typically differs not only from religion to religion, but also from person to person who share the same religious believes. It is therefore hard to define "God" or list a complete array of characteristics (nature) of God that is applicable to all religions.
For the sake of simplicity, the concept of "God" is often described by philosophers of religion to be an " 1. Omniscient, 2. Omnipotent, 3. Omnibenevolent 4. Being". Any "God" that is referred to in most contexts of philosophy of religion must have the above four characteristics, including being a "Being". Note that this list is not exhaustive. There exists other characteristics of certain "God"s that are not included, for example, "omnipresent".
Above, a simple if relationship exists between "God" and those four characteristics. That is to say. if X is a "God", X must possess all four characteristics. Yet, according to the above statement, the existence of those four characteristics together on Y might not be sufficient to lead to the conclusion that Y is a "God". However, the non-existence of one or more of the four characteristics on an object Z is sufficient to lead to the argument that Z is not a "God" that we have defined above.

Knowledge of God

Analytic philosophy of religion

In Analytic Philosophy of Religion, James Franklin Harris noted that
analytic philosophy has been a very heterogeneous 'movement'.... some forms of analytic philosophy have proven very sympathetic to the philosophy of religion and have actually provided a philosophical mechanism for responding to other more radical and hostile forms of analytic philosophy.[21]:3
As with the study of ethics, early analytic philosophy tended to avoid the study of philosophy of religion, largely dismissing (as per the logical positivists view) the subject as part of metaphysics and therefore meaningless.[22] The collapse of logical positivism renewed interest in philosophy of religion, prompting philosophers like William AlstonJohn Mackie, Alvin Plantinga, Robert Merrihew Adams, Richard Swinburne, and Antony Flew not only to introduce new problems, but to re-open classical topics such as the nature of miracles, theistic arguments, the problem of evil, (see existence of God) the rationality of belief in God, concepts of the nature of God, and many more.[23]
Plantinga, Mackie and Flew debated the logical validity of the free will defense as a way to solve the problem of evil.[24] Alston, grappling with the consequences of analytic philosophy of language, worked on the nature of religious language. Adams worked on the relationship of faith and morality.[25] Analytic epistemology and metaphysics has formed the basis for a number of philosophically-sophisticated theistic arguments, like those of thereformed epistemologists like Plantinga.
Analytic philosophy of religion has also been preoccupied with Ludwig Wittgenstein, as well as his interpretation of Søren Kierkegaard's philosophy of religion.[26] Using first-hand remarks (which would later be published in Philosophical InvestigationsCulture and Value, and other works), philosophers such as Peter Winch and Norman Malcolm developed what has come to be known as contemplative philosophy, a Wittgensteinian school of thought rooted in the "Swansea tradition" and which includes Wittgensteinians such as Rush Rhees, Peter Winch and D. Z. Phillips, among others. The name "contemplative philosophy" was first coined by D. Z. Phillips in Philosophy's Cool Place, which rests on an interpretation of a passage from Wittgenstein's "Culture and Value."[27] This interpretation was first labeled, "Wittgensteinian Fideism," by Kai Nielsen but those who consider themselves Wittgensteinians in the Swansea tradition have relentlessly and repeatedly rejected this construal as a caricature of Wittgenstein's considered position; this is especially true of D. Z. Phillips.[28] Responding to this interpretation,Kai Nielsen and D.Z. Phillips became two of the most prominent philosophers on Wittgenstein's philosophy of religion.[29]

Continental philosophy of religion

Major philosophers of religion

See also