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Philosophical Theology

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The Oxford Handbook of Philosophical Theology by Thomas P. Flint and Michael Rea(Oxford Handbooks in Religion & Philosophy: Oxford University Press) (Hardcover) Philosophical theology is aimed primarily at theoretical understanding of the nature and attributes of God and of God's relationship to the world and its inhabitants. During the twentieth century, much of the philosophical community (both in the Anglo-American analytic tradition and in Continental circles) had grave doubts about our ability to attain any such understanding. In recent years the analytic tradition in particular has moved beyond the biases that placed obstacles in the way of the pursuing questions located on the interface of philosophy and religion. The result has been a rebirth of serious, widely-discussed work in philosophical theology.

The Oxford Handbook of Philosophical Theology familiarizes readers with the directions in which this scholarship has gone and pursues the discussion into hitherto under-examined areas. Written by some of the leading scholars in the field, the essays in the Handbook are grouped in five sections. The first section focuses on the authority of scripture and tradition, on the nature and mechanisms of divine revelation, on the relation between religion and science, and on theology and mystery. The second section focuses on philosophical problems connected with the central divine attributes. Section Three explores theories of divine action and divine providence, questions about petitionary prayer, problems about divine authority and God's relationship to morality and moral standards, and various formulations of and responses to the problem of evil. The fourth section examines philosophical problems that arise in connection with such central Christian doctrines as the trinity, the incarnation, the atonement, original sin, resurrection, and the Eucharist. Finally, Section Five introduces readers to work that is being done in Jewish, Islamic, and Chinese philosophical theology.

Thomas P. Flint is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana.

Michael C. Rea is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana.

Excerpt: The first half of the twentieth century was a dark time for philosophical theology. Sharp divisions were developing among philosophers over the proper aims and ambitions for philosophical theorizing and the proper methods for approaching philosophical problems. But many philosophers were united in thinking, for different reasons, that the methods of philosophy are incapable of putting us in touch with theoretically interesting truths about God. To be sure, doubts of this sort never gained a sure foothold in Catholic universities, which maintained the theological focus evident from their founding. But, for a variety of reasons, the scholasticism practiced in these institutions went on in virtual isolation from the philosophical trends dominant at the great secular universities of Europe and America. There, doubt reigned about the possibility of fruitful interaction between philosophy and religion. Since philosophical theology (as we understand it) is aimed primarily at theoretical understanding of the nature and attributes of God, and God's relationship to the world and things in the world, the prevailing skepticism about our ability to learn about God through philosophical reasoning left philosophical theology on the wane.

A bit of history is needed to understand the genesis of this skepticism. It is common now to see the field of academic philosophy as divided broadly into two camps—`analytic' and `Continental'—and to locate the origins of the division somewhere in the first half of the twentieth century. The two camps elude precise definition and cannot plausibly be seen as encompassing all philosophical work. Furthermore, it is misleading at best to treat them either as wholly discrete from one another or as anything more than very loosely unified within themselves. Still, at the risk of dramatically oversimplifying, we offer the following characterizations. The analytic tradition has, by and large, treated philosophy as an explanatory enterprise aimed at analyzing fundamental concepts (`person, 'action, 'law, etc.), and at using this analytic method to clarify and extend the theoretical work being done in the natural sciences. The Continental tradition, on the other hand, has viewed philosophy as an autonomous discipline aimed, more or less, at exploring and promoting our understanding of the human condition in creative and decidedly non-scientific (and not even mostly explanatory-theoretical) ways.

As the division between the two camps was developing, the aboriginal figures of the analytic tradition leaned strongly in an empiricist direction. By and large, they thought, in the words of Wilfrid Sellars, that 'science is the measure of all things: of what is that it is, and of what is not that it is not.' Indeed, the logical empiricists—figures such as Otto Neurath, Moritz Schlick, Rudolf Carnap, and, a bit later, A. J. Ayer——went so far as to say that statements that do not admit of empirical verification (i.e. statements where no observations would be sufficient to determine their truth or falsity) are entirely meaningless. Carnap likened metaphysicians to 'musicians without musical ability':2 not only are the noises they produce utterly devoid of propositional content, but the noises don't even manage to sound beautiful. Thus, since philosophical theology is a mostly non-empirical enterprise, the heyday of logical empiricism found philosophical theologians beating a hasty retreat.' Moreover, even those in the analytic tradition who were unwilling to endorse anything resembling a verifiability criterion of meaning were nevertheless very suspicious of anything that looked like theory-building that wasn't somehow grounded in the natural sciences. In short, the analytic tradition generally proved to be an inhospitable climate for religious theorizing.'

Matters were not much better on the Continental side either. Among Continental philosophers, at least two strains of thought tended to choke out philosophical theology. Some were so gripped by the transcendence of God that they came to think that God was beyond all human categories, even Being itself. In the eyes of these thinkers, the project of trying to arrive at theoretical understanding of God is just hopeless. Indeed, more than hopeless—it might even be idolatrous, since what we would inevitably end up talking about in trying to discuss God in terms of human concepts would be a 'simulacrum' of human creation rather than God himself.' On a closely related note, some were gripped more by human limitations, and came to despair of the possibility of arriving via philosophical methods at general, universally valid theoretical understanding of anything at all. The idea, roughly, was that our belief systems are so inevitably tied to our own very limited perspectives—perspectives conditioned by our biological make-up, our sociopolitical circumstances, our own particular experiences in life, and the like—that it is ridiculous (at best) to think that we might ever attain to any kind of undistorted 'absolute' knowledge or understanding that would be valid for all rational creatures from all points of view for all of eternity. Given the prevalence of both these strands of thought throughout the Continental tradition, it is no surprise that philosophical theology did not flourish there either.

In the latter half of the twentieth century, however, there was a great revival of interest in the philosophy of religion in general and, in its wake, in philosophical theology in particular. It is common to locate the origin of this revival in the publication of Alasdair Maclntyre and Anthony Flew's landmark anthology, New Essays in Philosophical Theology.' In that volume, the main issues on the table were concerns about the meaningfulness of religious discourse and questions about the rationality of religious belief. In other words, the volume was oriented mainly toward objections to religious belief and discourse arising primarily out of the analytic tradition. These topics constituted a large proportion of the agenda for subsequent work in philosophy of religion for the next two or three decades.

In a recent essay, Nicholas Wolterstorff has argued persuasively that the revival just described was made possible within the analytic tradition by three major developments.' First, there was the death of logical empiricism during the 196os. Logical empiricism was responsible for much of the anti-metaphysical bias within the analytic tradition. Thus, with the death of logical empiricism came a revival of interest in metaphysics more generally, and a corresponding openness to the theoretical investigation of religious topics.

Moreover, according to Wolterstorff, the demise of logical empiricism also brought about a loss of interest in general questions about the origins of our concepts and the limits of human thought and judgement. This was the second major development. Whereas the Continental tradition remained (like the modern period through Kant, and like the logical empiricists) rather preoccupied with the idea that human limitations might entirely close off certain avenues of inquiry or render impossible meaningful thought or discourse about certain kinds of topics, the analytic tradition seems to have left such concerns behind, thereby opening the door even wider to all sorts of metaphysical inquiry, theological and otherwise.

Finally, the third development was the flowering of meta-epistemology--explicit reflection on and evaluation of alternative theories of knowledge. One of the main developments within meta-epistemology was the rejection of classical foundationalism (the view, roughly, that a belief is justified only if it is indubitable, incorrigible, evident to the senses, or deducible from beliefs that are indubitable, incorrigible, or evident to the senses). Classical foundationalism was an epistemological theory that many modern philosophers implicitly took for granted; and it has been shown to lie at the heart of objections against the rationality of religious belief leveled by a variety of thinkers, including Hume, Freud, Marx, W. K. Clifford, and others. The collapse of classical foundationalism made room for the flourishing of alternative epistemological theories, including some that were much more friendly to the idea that religious belief might be perfectly rational.'

In sum, then, the analytic tradition seems to have moved beyond several important biases that placed obstacles in the way of the growth of philosophical theology. As Wolterstorff notes, however, the same sort of thing has not happened within the Continental tradition. Thus, though there has surely been some measure of philosophical theology done within that tradition, the field of philosophical theology has been dominated by figures writing within the analytic tradition. This fact goes a long way toward explaining why the present volume is oriented in that direction as well.

We said earlier that the agenda set for philosophers of religion for a couple of decades placed heavy emphasis on discussion of the epistemology of religious belief and the meaningfulness of religious discourse. There was also quite a bit of discussion of the divine attributes (omnipotence, omniscience, perfect goodness, and the like), of traditional arguments for the existence of God, and of the most widely discussed argument against the existence of God—namely, the problem of evil. Over the past twenty years, however, philosophers of religion have begun to focus more of their attention on theological doctrines apart from those concerning the nature, rationality, and meaningfulness of theistic belief. Thus, for example, a great deal of attention has been devoted recently to philosophical problems arising out of the Christian doctrines of the Trinity, the Incarnation, and the Atonement; there has been an explosion of work on questions about the nature of divine providence and its implications for human freedom; and a fair bit of recent work has also been done on questions about the metaphysical possibility of the resurrection of the dead. Other topics are still ripe for discussion. For example, there is a (relatively) very small literature on the topic of divine revelation and the inspiration of Scripture, only a handful of works on the topics of prayer, original sin, and the nature of heaven and hell, and virtually nothing on the Christian doctrine of the Eucharist.

In the present handbook we have tried to provide articles covering most of the above topics. However, we have tried to avoid covering topics that have already been discussed in the Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Religion. The most notable exceptions are in Parts II and III where we include chapters on omniscience, omnipotence, moral perfection, and the problem of evil. We include these topics for two reasons. First, we believe that readers of a handbook in philosophical theology would quite naturally expect to see these sorts of issues covered. Second, and perhaps more importantly, we believe that each of these topics deserves more extended and detailed treatment than it could sensibly have received in a more general philosophy of religion handbook. To take just one example: there is a vast literature on the problem of evil; but the Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Religion devotes (sensibly) only one chapter to that issue. For our more narrow purposes here, however, we have seen fit to include distinct chapters on (a) the different versions and instances of the problem of evil (e.g. the logical problem, the evidential problem, the problem of divine hiddenness, and perhaps others), (b) the so-called `skeptical theist' strategy for responding to the problem of evil, and (c) questions about the prospects for `theodicy' (i.e. a response to the problem of evil that offers a complete story about why God in fact permits evil). Similar reasoning explains our decisions to include the few other topics in this handbook that have already received coverage in the Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Religion.

The chapters that follow are divided into five parts covering five general topics:

  • I. Theological Prolegomena

  • II. Divine Attributes

  • III. God and Creation

  • IV. Topics in Christian Philosophical Theology

  • V. Non-Christian Philosophical Theology

The chapters in the first part treat questions about the authority of scripture, tradition, and the church; the nature and mechanisms of divine revelation; and the nature of theology. We also include a chapter on theology and mystery, a topic that we think has not yet received its due in the analytic tradition.

Chapters in the second part focus on philosophical problems connected with the central divine attributes: aseity, omnipotence, omniscience, and the like. These have traditionally been among the most widely discussed topics in philosophical theology.

In the third part, we take up questions about God's relationship to creation. The chapters in this part explore theories of divine action and divine providence; questions about the purpose and efficacy of petitionary prayer; problems about divine authority and God's relationship to morality and moral standards; and, finally, various formulations of and responses to the problem of evil.

In the fourth part, we turn to topics in specifically Christian philosophy. In recent years there has been a surge of interest in philosophical problems that arise in connection with the Christian doctrines of the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Atonement, original sin, and resurrection. Other topics, the doctrine of Christ's real presence in the Eucharist, or the nature of heaven, are ripe for exploration but have not, as yet, received their due. Part IV provides coverage of all these issues.

Finally, in the fifth part, we have included three chapters on non-Christian philosophical theology—Jewish, Islamic, and Confucian. The vast majority of philosophers (in the English-speaking world, anyway) devoting their attention to philosophical theology tend to focus either on distinctively Christian doctrines or on topics that are common to all the theistic traditions. Thus, relatively few pay much, if any, attention to topics in philosophical theology that fall squarely outside the Christian tradition. Since the target audience of our handbook comprises English-speaking philosophers of religion mostly in the analytic tradition, it is appropriate that our handbook emphasize, as it does, topics that have occupied and will probably continue to occupy center stage in the major journals in the philosophy of religion. But we believe that it is both important and valuable more widely to expose precisely that group of philosophers to the work that is being done in philosophical theology outside the Christian tradition. Providing such exposure is the goal of our fifth part.'

Global Philosophy of Religion by Joseph Runzo (Oneworld) What is religion? Is every religion different? Is there life after death? What do we define as faith? As long as religion has existed, so too have these questions. A new and sophisticated addition to the 'Short Introduction' series, Global Philosophy of Religion addresses these and other key questions. Accessible debates allow readers to consider each area creatively and coherently, while including and thoroughly exploring each major religion's respective thoughts. In this stimulating new introduction, Joseph Runzo addresses the fundamental questions of life to present a uniquely global perspective on the philosophy of religion. Comparing and contrasting the philosophical insights offered by the different world religions, and examining their application today, this concise yet comprehensive book covers everything from the arguments for and against the existence of God to the problem of suffering and the possibilities of life after death. Balancing scholarship with a jargon‑free approach, Runzo makes even the most profound arguments accessible to readers of all levels.

Sophisticated, authoritative, yet thoroughly readable, this contemporary study encourages readers to arrive at their own informed and global understanding of the great religious ideas of humankind. It will fascinate students, scholars and the general reader alike.

Global Philosophy of Religion does not espouse a global theology -- as for example Wilfred Cantwell Smith has proposed -- not only because this book is not a theology, but also because a global theology is a philosophically impossible ideal. Global theology is an attempt to produce a single, universal religious perspective which all humans could hold. This necessitates obviating the specific doctrines of each tradition which, if true, would conflict with other traditions. For example, Jesus could not be the unique incarnation of God for Christians if Christians were to subscribe to a global theology which included Muslims, Buddhists, and Baha'is, just as Buddhists could not continue to hold the conception of anatman (noself) if they were to subscribe to a global theology with those who hold that humans have souls. Moreover, precisely what does give a religious worldview its power as an action guide for a meaningful life is the specificity of the doctrines and moral directives that it sets out. Hence, the idea of a global theology does not really designate a religious worldview, for it is not a theology so much as a vision of general religious principles which humankind does, or could, hold in common. But such an abstraction, while having a certain philosophic interest, is of no practical interest for a lived religious life.

Likewise, this book does not set out a global philosophy of religion. There are global issues in the philosophy of religion, and a number of those are addressed here. But the idea of a single global philosophy of religion is specious. First, since there can be no global theology, there can be no correspondent global philosophic inquiry into that purported theology. Second, there are a multitude of philosophic approaches, and it seems highly unlikely that any one single philosophic approach could triumph over all others and so form the basis of a global philosophy. It simply does not follow from the commonality of humankind that there is a single, distillable essence of human philosophic inquiry. In short, both theology and philosophy certainly seem to be irreducibly plural, much as the world's religions, while sharing characteristics that make them all religions, are irreducibly plural.

This brings us to the perennial question of whether, if there is a way to the Transcendent, it is a way of knowledge -- i.e., a purely philosophical path -- or a way of love. Typically, those who conceive of the way (or the mystical path) to the Transcendent as a perfecting of the intellect, think of humans as sharing common intellectual capacities that enable all humans to follow this same ascent to the Transcendent. In a general sense this is, to use a Western term, "gnosticism." As a specific historical movement prevalent during the first centuries of the Christian Church, Gnosticism was the view that gnosis or knowledge is the way to salvation for humans, where humans are seen as sparks of the divine spirit, who are trapped in this world in the prison of the flesh. However, the later medieval domination of Aristotelian thought among Christian, Islamic, and even Jewish thinkers led to a form of gnosticism in the broader sense, where intellect was thought to take precedence over the heart.

The first half of Global Philosophy of Religion focuses more on the way of the intellect, or jnanayoga (though the fulfillment of this path in Hinduism would also require meditative realization). In the later chapters Runzo turns more to a consideration of the way of love or bhaktiyoga. Thus, as we turn to the considerations of chapter I and the question of why religion needs philosophy, we should keep in mind that pure philosophy or gnosis or the intellect may not be the final way to the Transcendent.


edited by Stephen T. Davis

Claremont Studies in the Philosophy of Religion

General Editor: D.Z. Philips

St. Martin’s Press

$59.95, hardcover, 232 pages, notes, index



At one time in Western intellectual history the philosophers and the theologians were pretty much the same sets of people. But the two disciplines drifted apart in the modern period, and for centuries the conversation between them has been negative and polemical. In the first half of the twentieth century, philosophy and theology were scarcely on speaking terms. But times have changed. One of the most interesting movements in recent Christian thought in Great Britain and the United States is the participation of professional philosophers in theological conversation. What has brought about the recent change?

First, in the 1960s, from within analytical philosophy broadly conceived, some philosophers began to question the widespread assumption that attention to our ordinary usage of concepts showed that religious belief is confused. They argued that the use of religious concepts was as ordinary as the use of other concepts and that they, like them, awaited conceptual elucidation.

Second, beginning in the 1970s, a group of philosophers, most of them practicing Christians, seemed almost simultaneously to tire of writing about general issues in theism or the philosophy of religion, and began to address themselves to various topics in Christian theology, albeit from different philosophical and denominational perspectives. Most philosophers in this group seem to be either Roman Catholics, Anglicans-Episcopalians or Christians from the Reformed tradition, but there are also Baptists, Methodists, Pentecostals and many others.

While some professional theologians look with approval on this second movement, others have reservations and even objections to it. There are ‘turf’ issues involved whenever people from one field write about another. Legitimate concerns have been expressed. Are philosophers well enough trained in the foundational discipline of biblical exegesis to do theology well? Do they know the history of theology well enough? Aren’t they too inclined to read theological statements as timeless truths (or falsehoods) rather than being sensitive to the historical and social context of those statements?

Nevertheless, the conversation between theologians and interested philosophers about theological concepts is going to continue. Indeed, it appears to be gaining momentum. Some of the contributors to the present collection come from the first philosophical development just mentioned, but most come from the second; others cannot be placed in either category. For example, the collection contains timely reminders that Christian theology cannot be done without firm grounding in both biblical exegesis and the history of doctrine and the Church, and of what can happen to theology, under philosophical influence, when this is forgotten. The collection also contains contributions from the perspectives of process thought, feminist and liberation theology. Yet despite differences, philosophy, as an unending search for clarity, must surely be of assistance to theology.

The nine symposia contained in this volume revolve around three large topics. Part I, Classical Theism and the Theological Given, contains discussions of three grand assumptions or ‘givers’ on which Christian theology is often said to rest: its metaphysical assumptions, the Church and Scripture. In Part II, Changing Concepts of Theological Doctrines, there are discussions of ways in which philosophical reflection, in different centuries, can clarify, motivate or even radically change what theologians have to say. Twentieth century theologians cannot simply repeat what their predecessors in the third or sixteenth century had to say. Part III, the Ethical and Social Dimensions of Theology, deals more specifically with the ethical dimensions of theology facing us today. Let me comment on these essays in a little more detail.

In Part I, Paul Badham, an Anglican theologian who serves as Dean of the Faculty of Theology in the University of Wales, St. David’s Lampeter, defends the view that Christian theology presupposes the metaphysical beliefs of philosophical theism. Badham argues that recent Christian theology and practice have neglected the doctrine of God, and that the task of arriving at a coherent and theologically satisfying concept of God ought to be one of the Church’s foremost tasks. D.Z. Phillips, Danforth Professor of the Philosophy of Religion at the Claremont Graduate School and Professor of Philosophy in the University of Wales, Swansea, strongly opposes this claim in his response. Arriving at a coherent notion of God cannot be logically prior to Christian practice, since it is Christian practice which gives sense to the Christian notion of God.

In the second symposium, the relation of Christian theology to the Church is discussed. Theology does not exist in a vacuum; the Church is the context of Christian theology and practice. Jack Verheyden, Richard Cain Professor of Ecclesiology and Theology at the School of Theology at Claremont, notes critically that despite these seemingly obvious points, ecclesiology (systematic theological reflection about the Church) has been virtually absent in twentieth-century Protestant theology. He argues that there is an urgent need of a reclamation of the centrality of the Church in theology, and that philosophical influences have much to answer for in creating the problem.

In his reply, Anselm Min. Professor of Religion at the Claremont Graduate School, agrees that the crisis Verheyden has described exists, but wants to deepen our understanding of the reasons for its existence. In today’s world, where we witness a crying out for justice and the alleviation of suffering, it is not surprising that the Churches are more concerned with what they are doing rather than with what they are in themselves. He thinks that the contemporary exploration of what is meant by Christian praxis, though it may not result in formal theologies, may itself constitute a reworking of our idea of the Church. What is now needed in relations between Catholicism and Protestantism is a gathering together of these insights in a nonabsolutizing catholicity.

In the third symposium, Stephen T. Davis, Professor of Philosophy and Religion at Claremont McKenna College, argues that there can be no serious theology without authority and that that authority is found preeminently in Scripture. While tradition is necessary for the interpretation of Scripture, it cannot take precedence over it. Davis defends this conclusion in the light of formidable objections.

The reply to Davis is by Frank Rogers Jr., Associate Professor of Religious Education at the School of Theology at Claremont, a practicing Roman Catholic whose theological perspective is informed by Karl Barth. He argues that neither Bible nor Tradition is infallible, but can become authoritative sources when they mediate God’s presence in our lives.

In Part II, the first symposium gives us an example of the impetus that philosophical reflection can give to radical theological change. John Hick, Danforth Professor of the Philosophy of Religion, emeritus, at the Claremont Graduate School, argues that important changes need to be made to the traditional doctrine of atonement. When atonement is associated with ideas such as inherited guilt, expiation, satisfaction, penal substitution and imputed justification, philosophical reflection can show the doctrine is mistaken. Hick’s positive theological recommendation is that we need a transformational model of atonement, similar to the notion of ‘deification’ in Eastern Orthodoxy, involving a transformation of our lives into the paths of love and forgiveness.

In his reply, Robert M. Adams, Professor of Philosophy and Chair of the Department of Philosophy at Yale University, agrees with Hick in his rejection of certain traditional conceptions of atonement. He too emphasizes the transformational character of atonement, but insists that Christ’s acts amount to a reconstitution of our relationship with God.

In the second symposium, William P. Alston, Professor of Philosophy at Syracuse University, discusses the relation of doctrine of the Trinity to the Holy Spirit. Usually, discussions of the Trinity centre on difficulties concerning the Incarnation, or of how God can be a plurality of persons. Alston considers the question whether there are functions of the divine which need the conception of the third person of the Trinity and which could not be attributed to God the Father or God the Son. Although he holds that it makes little difference to the Christian life whether we conceive of God in binatarian or trinitarian terms, he does conclude with a qualified endorsement of the traditional notion of the divinity, and the distinct personhood, of the Third Person of the Trinity.

In his reply, Joseph Runzo, Giset Professor of Religion and Professor of Philosophy at Chapman University, disagrees with Alston’s conclusion. He argues that religious experience, the belief that God is no deceiver and the praxis-forming power of our religious conceptions should all give us good reasons for not jettisoning the notion of the Holy Spirit.

In the third symposium, Marjorie Suchocki, Ingraham Professor of Theology at the School of Theology at Claremont argues that a far more radical contextualization of theology is called for in our age than in any previous one. Former contextualizations were governed by the conception of the unknowability of God, whereas ours is governed by our perception of the social, historical, political and linguistic contexts in which we live. Influenced by the theology of Leondo Hoff, she argues for a new contextualization of theology in the contexts of liberation politics concerning gender and race. It is in these contexts that doctrines such as that of the Trinity must emerge anew, shorn of assumptions which no longer address our situation.

Axel Steuer, President of Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota, raises critical questions about these conclusions. He asks whether the doctrine of the Trinity, if taken to be a correct interpretation of reality, should not determine the experiential directions we should take, rather than be regarded as a function of our soteriological needs. Boff’s theology is subjected to the same question. Are we prone to move too quickly from how things are to a prescriptive conclusion regarding how they ought to be?

In Part III, Philip Quinn, John A. O’Brien Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, raises the issue of the place of theology in debates over public policy. He is concerned about the marginalization of religious ethics in modern society. He considers two proposed solutions to this dilemma, one offered by Alisdair MacIntyre and the other by Jeffrey Stout. Quinn argues that a Thomistic tradition where differing parties are held together by a respect for each other in a common search for moral truths is not viable in our fragmented culture. By contrast Stout, noting our differences, says that all that can be achieved is a bricolage, a putting together of elements of different traditions to serve the purposes of the moment. The danger here is that of losing what is religiously distinctive. Quinn argues that religious moralists, while ready to learn from secular viewpoints, should not apologize for their own point of view. In the ensuing conversation, fanaticism is avoided if apologists restrict themselves to rational persuasion. In this discussion religious apologists should avoid the extremes of optimism or pessimism about the possible outcome.

In his reply, Richard Rice, Professor of Theology at La Sierra University, has some misgivings about Quinn’s solutions. He doubts whether religious ideas can offer an appropriate focus for public laws and emphasizes that while a society may be secular, it may nevertheless exercise religious tolerance. In this way, religious pluralism will be tolerated. To ensure these ends, Rice argues, official public policies should be based on secular reason above.

In the second symposium, Marilyn Adams, who is Professor of Historical Theology at Yale Divinity School, argues that a high Chalcedonian christology is crucial to providing a Christian solution to the problem of evil. Rejecting the solutions of traditional theodicies, she argues that God’s love for human beings is such that it will be shown in ultimate heavenly beatitude, in the light of which even victims of horrendous evils will not wish them taken away from their life histories.

In his reply, John B. Cobb Jr, Ingraham Professor of Theology, emeritus, at the School of Theology at Claremont, welcomes the emphasis on God sharing in human suffering in the experience of believers. He has difficulty, however, with the suggestion that this implies that people would not wish not to have suffered in the first place. Wouldn’t a mother who watches her child suffer prefer that child not to have suffered, and would it not have been better if the child had lived to experience adult life? Does any of this show that such suffering adds to the goodness of the world? Surely not. Cobb argues that these problems arise out of the conception of divine power which is assumed by advocates of traditional theodicies.

In the final symposium of the collection, Linda Zagzebski, Professor of Philosophy at Loyola Marymount University, puts forward a moral notion of rational arguments for theologians based on Aristotle’s conception of phronesis, a reasoned and true state or capacity to act with regard to human goods. Linking these insights with Newman’s thought, and combating the charge of relativism, Zagzebski argues that here we have a model for rationality which is superior to any alternative, by which a belief is rational if it is accepted by a person with phronesis in the relevant circumstances.

In her reply, Professor Nancey Murphy, Professor of Christian Philosophy at Fuller Theological Seminary, is worried by the fact that Zagzebski’s proposal could seem too individualistic to be offered as an alternative to models of rationality based on mathematics, sense perception or science. Zagzebski’s proposal is best seen as a valuable addition to those other models.

All the contributors to the collection take Christian tradition seriously. Part of that tradition has been the conversation between theology and philosophy. The nine symposia presented in this collection give informative and valuable insights into important aspects of that conversation in our time. This volume shows that a less polemical and more probing, even complementarity of approach may mark a greater reconciliation of philosophical and theological approaches to human problems.


Faith and Eternal Acceptance

by J. Kellenberger

Library of Philosophy & Religion

General Editor: John Hick

St. Martin’s Press

$49.95, hardcover, 150 pages, notes, index



Kierkegaard and Nietzsche were autobiographical writers who never wrote an autobiography. It was not the explicit intention of either to write about himself. Nevertheless their written works came to express and to embody much of their lives, especially their ma! inner lives. To be sure, the writings of any philosopher, like the r novels of a writer of fiction, flow from and express the life experience of the author. In some way, inevitably, what philosophers write reflects their experience - indirectly, if not directly, and perhaps as much in what they do not say as in what they do say. In at least this way the philosophical thinking of even the most formalistic analytic philosophers to a degree reflects their life experiences. For other philosophers, more inclined towards psychological reflection, the degree to which their thinking reflects their experience is greater. Kierkegaard and Nietzsche were thinkers of the second sort, and at times their writings reflect in a fairly obvious way certain definite experiences in their lives. So it is that one can find in Kierkegaard’s writings echoes of his romantic relationship to Regina Olsen and can find in Nietzsche’s writings intimations of his relationship to Lou Salome. Such echoes and intimations, however, are merely autobiographical snippets. In another, more significant, dimension the substance of what Kierkegaard and Nietzsche wrote about religion and value flows from and reflects their life-experiences. It is not too much to say that Kierkegaard and Nietzsche came to live in and through their writings. Thus it is Kierkegaard’s own polyphonous voice that we hear in his pseudonymous works, when, for instance, he bodies forth the aesthetic, and it is Nietzsche’s voice we hear in the prophecy of Zarathustra.

In this respect these authors, who are so radically different in the way they see life and the significance of life, are exactly similar. In other ways too, Kierkegaard and Nietzsche share a deep similarity. Both are psychologists - in the sense that Dostoyevsky was a psychologist. (Nietzsche, incidentally, said that Dostoyevsky was ‘the only psychologist … from whom I had something to learn.’) )!Like Dostoyevsky, each author explores the hidden feelings and motives that can shape a human life. Again, Kierkegaard and Nietzsche are profoundly similar in their absolute commitment to their writing, to their ‘work’, to use Nietzsche’s term. Each lived a life of rigorous solitude dedicated to his writing. Each was constantly writing: Kierkegaard immured in his rooms in Copenhagen - the city he never left except for an excursion within Denmark and several visits to Berlin, Nietzsche in lodgings in the Engadin in Switzerland or in northern Italy. During their intensely productive periods 1843-50 for Kierkegaard and 1878-88 for Nietzsche - they turned out a book a year, or, in the case of Kierkegaard, several books a year. Kierkegaard would take walks and carriage rides for diversion. Nietzsche too took the air to restore himself before returning for another bout of writing. In Ecce Homo Nietzsche tells us that all of Zarathustra came to him in 1883 on his walks around the Gulf of Rapello near Genca.

Another point of significant similarity: both are religious writers. Both address the religion of their fathers. Their common heritage is Christianity, but, moreover, they share Lutheran roots and upbringing. Both speak critically to the religion of their fathers, the Christianity of their fathers. Nietzsche was the son of a Lutheran minister and literally rejected his father’s religion. Kierkegaard, though he was never the pastor of a church, was qualified by theological training to be a pastor in the Lutheran Church of Denmark, the established church of the state. Neither believes that religion ultimately, as it expresses itself in the life of an individual, is merely a matter of holding a set of significant religious propositions to be true. They agree that religion’s subtler ramifications require the probing of a psychologist. Each is concerned with the connection between religious belief and ethics and between God and morality.

Both are religious writers - but not just because their writings share a religious target. Both authors can cite scripture and draw sustenance from biblical themes. Both know Christian sensibility from the inside. And each, out of his religious sensibility, speaks critically to his religious tradition - although they do so in different ways. Nietzsche challenges society to throw off the last vestiges of a half-consciously rejected Christianity. Kierkegaard challenges the society of ‘Christendom’ to become Christian. For Nietzsche, faith falsifies human potential and vitiates the will to power. For Kierkegaard, the members of Christendom affirm the doctrines of Christianity, but lack faith. For Kierkegaard, the fault is in the established and socially accepted forms of religion, precisely because they give no place to faith. For Nietzsche, the fault goes beyond the established and socially accepted forms of religion and lies at the very heart of religion, and of Christianity in particular.

In one way Nietzsche, who proclaims the death of God, is more a religious writer than Kierkegaard. It is not Kierkegaard but Nietzsche who speaks as a prophet. Zarathustra, through whom Nietzsche speaks, is the prophet of the Obermensch. As much as the prophets of the Old Testament, Zarathustra has a message to proclaim. However, he is not a prophet of the Lord. Thus saith the Lord, say Isaiah and Jeremiah. Thus spoke Zarathustra, says Nietzsche. Zarathustra speaks authoritatively, but on his own authority. Kierkegaard did not speak authoritatively - not as an apostle or as a prophet. In fact, in his pseudonymous works, he did not even speak ‘directly’, but ‘indirectly’.

Yet both authors share the existential language of passion. Both understand that religion, when it enters into the life of an existing individual, must affect that individual’s life through life-values that become internalized. For Nietzsche we are the slaves of a pervasive religious belief in God and must free ourselves of its baneful influence. For Kierkegaard, belief in God, religious faith in God, is something very different from the comfortable social belief of Christendom. For Nietzsche, God is dead and we have killed God, but we must bend our wills to accept our act, which, though our own act, is still distant from us. For Kierkegaard, faith is an entered God-relationship, filled with dread and joy, which is the highest passion a human being can attain, attainable by all, though - for all we can see - rarely attained. Kierkegaard and Nietzsche of course never met. Kierkegaard died in 1855, when Nietzsche was only eleven. But had they met as contemporaries they would have understood one another, they could have spoken to one another in a shared language.

A good part of the reason Kierkegaard and Nietzsche spoke the same language is that both probed beneath the surface of religion. Nietzsche accused religion of having hidden motives and springs: the secret motive of religion, or of Pauline Christianity at least, is revenge, and belief in all gods is created by ‘weariness [MudigLeit]’ .Kierkegaard would have disagreed, but he would have felt the force of the claim and seen it as striking at the heart of religion in a way that the animadversions of Hume and the Enlightenment did not. Kierkegaard spoke out of a religious sensibility that would not have dismissed such a claim as irrelevant to what is essential to religious faith and commitment. Of course for many what really counts in religion is, first, the truth of what is believed religiously and, second, the rational basis of religious belief. This is the perspective of much traditional philosophy of religion, going back to Hume, and much contemporary philosophy of religion done in the analytic tradition. Much analytic philosophy of religion is seemingly unaware of what both Nietzsche and Kierkegaard are acutely aware of: that if the concern with doctrinal truth and the concern with rationality have importance for the life of religious faith, they do so by virtue of the psychological dimension of belief - the side of faith that analytic philosophy is inclined to dismiss as irrelevant. I would argue, moreover, that in order to approach a resolution of the concerns of truth and rationality that does not violate a strain of religious sensibility deeply embedded in Judaism and Christianity, one must heed the sorts of psychological claims that animate the controversy between Kierkegaard and Nietzsche. Our concern here, though, is a different one.

Here our concern is with joy, with the joyful acceptance of the world. For Kierkegaard in Fear and Trembling, faith is joyful. A joyful acceptance of the world is allied with faith as a fruit of the spirit. Nietzsche, also, gives a central place to a joyful acceptance of the world. But Nietzsche sees joyful acceptance as possible only after the renunciation of all gods. At work here are very different intuitions, correlated with deeply opposed worldviews and with profoundly different conceptions of a fulfilled human life. A good part of our inquiry will be to explore critically the different intuitions and background views of these two thinkers, this being a necessary preliminary to the comparison of the joyful acceptance projected by Kierkegaard with that projected by Nietzsche. A not unimportant element of the opposition between Kierkegaard and Nietzsche is the precise affective character of the joyful acceptance that each proclaims. While in Fear and Trembling and in Thus Spoke Zarathustra Kierkegaard and Nietzsche respectively project visions of a fulfilled life that includes an enthusiastic - joyful - acceptance of the world, this is not to say that the affective character of this acceptance is the same for both. For Kierkegaard in Fear and Trembling joyful acceptance is a part of faith in God. For Nietzsche it flows from a very different source. And this difference impinges on the subjective character of the acceptance of life.


Perception of the History of Being

by D.G. Leahy


$19.95, 422 pages , notes, index




Matter the Body Itself

by D.G. Leahy


$24.95, paper; 696 pages, notes, bibliography, index



The phoenix has arisen anew from the ashes of the death of God theology and its apocalyptic flight blazes across the sky in these epochal works of D.G. Leahy. His mentor, Thomas J. Altizer, the famous death of God theologian has claimed that NOVITAS MUNDI "is quite simply the most important work of philosophical theology published in our century."

The "Prolegomena" sets out the fundamental perception of the history of being now operative in consciousness. The center of the book is comprised of a two-part "Reflection on the History of Being": Part I is an examination of the impact made on the shape of scientific philosophy by the fact of Christian faith. Aristotle, the sacra doctrina of Thomas Aquinas, and their relationship with the modern thinkers, Descartes, Kant, Hegel, and Kierkegaard are examined in this section.

In Part II the history of the conception of time becomes the measure of a prospective analysis of the limits essential to the modern enterprise. Augustine, Leibniz, Husserl, and Heidegger become the major figures here, and there is a specific delineation of the relationship of the phenomenologists to Kierkegaard and Hegel.



Prolegomena in Comprehension of the History of Being

Reflection on the History of Being


A Retrospect: Faith and Self-consciousness

Aristotle: The Paradox of Good Sense

Thomas Aquinas: A New Reality

Descartes: A New Thought

The Infinite Practical. I: Kant

The Infinite Practical. II: Hegel

Kierkegaard and Lessing: The Leap of Faith

The Prospect: Introductory Presentations In The Essential History of Thought

Augustine: The Knowledge of Existence

Leibniz: The Ideal of The History of Being

Hegel: The Absolute Truth

Clarification of The Absolute. I: Kierkegaard

Clarification of The Absolute. II: Husserl

Clarification of The Absolute. III: Heidegger

Epilogue: The Essential Anticipation of the Finality of the Fact

Appendix alpha : The Reality of Transcendental Historical Thinking

Appendix beta : The Now Existing Thought of Faith

Appendix gamma : Missa Jubilaea: The Celebration of The Infinite Passover


FOUNDATION manages to be the single most significant work of philosophical theology to be written in many decades. The epochal excellence of these books is the consummate vehemence and earnestness of practically every utterance. Leahy is an innovative thinker who writes to demonstrate the thinking he is trying to create anew. It is practically as demanding to read these works as it would be to write one's own. They require intense concentration and repeated rereadings to follow the argument, much less extract the implicit propositions and wild assumptions that underpin this effort. Novitas Mundi provides an original account of the history of being, in many ways more subtle and finely attuned than Heidegger's views of history. In Foundations, Leachy continues his critique but with a magnificent constructive and demonstrative metaphysics that is likely to be closely studied and controversially explored for decades to come. Novitas Mundi is a sort of prolegomena to this enterprise. It ordains the fundamental conception of the history of being that is now operative in consciousness, basically a culmination of past constructions and a relativizing of current ones, in other words, the problem of existence and of change. The core of Novitas Mundi is composed of a two-part "Reflection on the History of Being": Part I is an analysis of the effect made on the form of scientific philosophy by the event of Christian faith. Aristotle, the sacra doctrina of Thomas Aquinas, and their relationship with the modern thinkers, Descartes, Kant, Hegel, and Kierkegaard are examined in this section. In Part II the history of the idea of time befits the scale of a prospective analysis of the limits essential to the modern enterprise. Augustine, Leibniz, Husserl, and Heidegger become the major figures dealt with here, and there is an explicit depiction of the relationship of the phenomenologists to Kierkegaard and Hegel. With this summary critique of being and time, Leahy takes on the form of future thinking, a thinking without self in Foundation. He manages this remarkable feat by critiquing binary logics of Boole and Pierce, proposing a ternary logic where no term is an absolute nothing. This move is with great precision and logical sophistication drawn out for us. In many ways this work reinvigorates the theological idea and necessity of the Trinity. It also provokes important parallel ideas from classic Buddhist thought, generally the debates between the yogacarains, who defined a threefold logic in order the account for selfless consciousness and to refute the imputed extremism of the madhyamika, classically based upon the twofold dialectic of Nagarjuna. Though these connections with nonwestern thought are not recognized. Leahy's threefold logic has zero, not as nothing but as place holder, unuum, as possible being and one as actual being. This move provides a profound reinvention of the geometra of late antique neopythagorean and Jewish Kabbalah number and letter theory, in that the symbolic intervention of the signs themselves offer valid commentary upon the structure of absolute consciousness, that is selfless consciousness. However Leahy takes pains to remove himself from these traditional formulations, yet his own evidence reconfirms many of the traditional procedures and insights. Leahy invents a somewhat selfless thinking by taking the absolute seriously and effectively in a way that no philosopher has done since Hegel. This philosophical theology, Robert C. Neville says "is wild, but extraordinarily competent...truly brilliant work. Here we have a thinker who has used the resources of the Western tradition to think genuinely new and profound thoughts."

Contents for FOUNDATION


Critique of Absolute Contingency

Critique of Absolute World-Consciousness

1. Thought beyond Nietzsche: Foundation Itself

2. Ex nihilo the Angelic Word Totality Itself

3. Metanomy: The Quality of Being Itself

4. Revolutionary Metanoesis: Foundation of Society Itself

The Unity of the New World Order

1. The Law of Absolute Unity

2. Six Theorems Concerning the New Logic and Mathematics that Provide the Logical base for the Nothingless Fibonacci Sequence, the Geometric and Arithmetic Series, and Fermat's Last Theorem

3. The Geometry of the Infinitely Flat Structure of the Universe: The Logic of Rigid Structures

4. The Infinite Logical Lattice: The Direct Predictor of Rigidity in Grids

5. Transformation of World Consciousness: The New Atonement

6. Theorem Concerning the Natural Numbers, 1,784, and 82944, Factors of (9!/45)"superscript 2"

7. Theorem Concerning the Sets of Twenty-Two and Eight Natural Numbers whose Integral Products Equal Unit and Multi-Unit Fractions of Themselves the Denominators of which are Primary Digits of the Number System

Absolute Perception

1. American Thought and the New World Order

2. The Beginning of the Absolutely Unconditioned Body

The New Beginning

1. America after Death: The Universality of God's Body

2. To Create the Absolute Edge

3. The New Beginning: Beyond the Post-Modern Nothingness

Appendix: The De Trinitate of Augustine and the Logic


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