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- DEFENDING ANALYTIC PHILOSOPHY OF RELIGION
But given that the contributors to Crisp and Rea avowedly aim to convince non-analytic opponents that analytic philosophy of religion is valuable, and given that they deploy some intense anti-Kantian rhetoric while pursuing that aim, and given the further assumption that non-analytics are hostile to analytic philosophy in no small part because they are in such thrall to Kant—given all that, I would expect some serious analytic firepower directed at showing just why Kant is so clearly wrong.
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We get nothing of the sort. In any event, I wish one of the authors had pointed us toward some good analytic arguments against interpretation universalism. Space prohibits me from discussing the Handbook or the two readers in detail, but I will briefly touch on two key areas of interest—the divine attributes and the doctrines of the trinity and the incarnation—before discussing a third, philosophical assessments of Biblical studies, in more detail.
The Handbook includes six chapters on the divine attributes: simplicity and aseity necessary self-existence , omniscience, atemporality, omnipotence, omnipresence, and moral perfection. It is just this kind of project that invites charges of ontotheology from the more continentally inclined.
Much analytic work on the divine attributes is highly detailed and technical, but collectively, it shows tremendous virtuoso—the payoff for better or worse of analytic precision. The body of work discussed in these chapters also explains why classical theism is still taken very seriously by analytic philosophers when it has been discarded by many theologians. The overwhelming philosophical consensus is that some set of the classical divine attributes is mutually consistent, which means that there is a coherent classical account of God's nature.
Lively disagreements remain, however, about whether God is outside of time altogether and therefore about whether God changes, and therefore about whether God suffers , and about whether God is metaphysically simple. The twin doctrines of the trinity and the incarnation have been the objects of intensive research in recent philosophical theology. In both cases, the perennial challenge is to provide coherent formulations of these seemingly paradoxical doctrines. Arguably, the philosophical vocabulary and logical machinery of contemporary analytic metaphysics is especially well suited to this challenge.
With respect to the incarnation, the Crisp reader is especially valuable, since it contains three major essays by Eleanor Stump, Thomas Flint, and Peter Forrest that, respectively, present Thomist, Molinist, and kenotic accounts of the incarnation Crisp Both readers contain essays by Thomas V. Morris, whose Metaphysics of God Incarnate which defends a two-minds account of the incarnation continues to set the agenda for analytic Christology Contemporary theologians may or may not be pleased to learn that powerful logicians are working away, testing rival versions of the classical doctrines of Christianity for logical coherence, but I do not really expect analytic work on the divine nature, the trinity, and the incarnation to find its way onto the theological agenda.
For the most part, this is just as it should be. Other than that, however, theologians are certainly under no obligation to start trying to solve logical problems alongside analytic philosophers. Let both sides do as they desire. Behold: comity. Here philosophers do things like examine the authority or inspiration of the Biblical texts, defend pre-critical ways of reading the Bible, and affirm the historical reliability of the New Testament accounts of the life of Jesus. They also find and indict unjustified metaphysical assumptions and failures of reasoning among practitioners of the academic discipline of historical-critical Biblical studies.
In the Rea reader, essays discuss the nature of revelation Swinburne , what it means to say that the Bible is inspired by God Abraham and Craig , and how we should weigh the authority of individual Biblical passages versus the canon as a whole Keller, Sundberg, Wolterstorff Rea vol. The final three essays debate whether Christians can rationally reject certain conclusions of historical-critical Biblical scholarship when they conflict with traditional Christian faith Stump and Plantinga say yes; Fales says no; Rea vol. The Crisp reader features another essay by Plantinga arguing that Christians are not required to bracket their faith when interpreting the Bible not even when they act as academic Bible scholars , an essay by Stephen T.
Davis claiming that when we say that the Bible is true we mean to say that God speaks to us in the Bible, and an essay by Wolterstorff arguing that sometimes but by no means always we distort the Biblical revelation altogether when we focus too much on whether the Bible is true. It also contains an essay by Paul Helm on infallibility Crisp Stump juxtaposes Raymond Brown's commentary on the empty tomb narrative of the Gospel of John with a twelfth-century Easter play, the Visitatio Sepulchri.
As Biblicists do, Brown slices and dices the gospel text into different sources and traditions. Yet Stump uses the Visitatio to argue that Brown's conclusions about the text are a product of his questionable methodological presuppositions and are not actually justified by historical evidence at all.
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Stump is both a first-rate philosopher and a subtle reader of texts, and I found her essay stimulating. Collectively, these essays on scripture amount to a near total departure from the norms of academic Biblical studies. It is tempting to dismiss them as arrogant, thinly disguised fundamentalism, but that would be a mistake. To do so would be to miss out on some bracing arguments. At worst, the direct, full-speed-ahead vigor of analytic argumentation often has the virtue of forcing one to revisit one's own thinking. Analytic philosophers often do not take for granted things that everyone else does take for granted.
I have heard this statement quoted approvingly many times.
It captures the sort of sentiment that academics often accept without question, as an unarticulated background belief about what it means to be appropriately modern. But Plantinga points out that as a descriptive empirical claim, Bultmann's assertion is obviously false lots of people understand contemporary physics very well and still have traditional religious beliefs and as a normative philosophical claim that modern science is incompatible with traditional Christianity, it is radically undersupported by argument Rea vol 2: Of course, Bultmann's remark may nevertheless rest upon good philosophical arguments that he himself did not formulate explicitly.
But surely it is not Plantinga's job to formulate those arguments. It is the job of someone who agrees with Bultmann. In the religious studies academy, analytic philosophical theology stands interestingly athwart the two warring tribes of theology, on the one hand, and the scientific study of religion on the other. Indeed, regardless of what one thinks about its substantive conclusions, the very existence of philosophical theology complicates some sterile debates in the field of religious studies.
Philosophical theology cannot be written out of the academy at the level of method, at least not in the usual way. The constitutive boundary in the academic study of religion falls between the religious insider and the scholarly outsider, theorized as the boundary between theology and the study of religion. In recent years, continental philosophers and postmodern theologians have tried to blur that boundary by appealing to various consequences of the supposed demise of the modern episteme. The key claim is that in our postmodern situation, we recognize that Enlightenment-style universal reason is but one discourse among others, that no discourse can claim universality, and that the particular discourse that is theology is as legitimate as any other.
In response, scholars who advocate a sharp distinction between theology and the study of religion find themselves defending, if not quite disengaged reason, at least the scientific status of all genuine academic work in religious studies Wiebe That is, whether they accept or reject various claims about postmodernity, opponents of postmodern theology continue to criticize it for failing to live up to the proper canons of rational inquiry in the academy.
But down the hall from the department of religion, we find another discipline, philosophy, with sterling academic credentials and its own methodological norms, norms that do seem to legitimate exactly the practice that our own opponents of theology will not countenance—namely, the practice of making and assessing truth claims about God. Consider, for example, the career of Syracuse philosopher William P. He also wrote Perceiving God , which defended the rationality of religious belief It would be laughable to assert that Perceiving God is not really philosophy, more laughable still to assert that it is not even a legitimate academic work.
Now consider that Alston also wrote articles that are even more directly about God. Should we call this philosophy or theology?
Theology Essay | Bartleby
Suppose it is theology and suppose we agree that theology is not legitimate academic work. How would one ever defend that result? It would be a good thing if more scholars of religion—and especially theologians—read analytic philosophy. Moreover, theologians who want more scholars of religion to read theology ought to agree. So also scholars of religion who want more theologians to read Marxist and Freudian critiques, or wrestle with non-Christian religions, or with social scientific approaches to religion.
And for the same reasons, too—there are good arguments there, arguments worth taking seriously, even if one ultimately rejects them. We profit intellectually when we engage with the interdisciplinary other. This is a truism of the religious studies academy, itself inherently interdisciplinary. So too with the analytic other. Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University's objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide.
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Aquinas, Philosophy, and Theology
Oxford Academic. Google Scholar. Cite Citation. Permissions Icon Permissions. Crisp and Rea Though it is a generalization that admits of many exceptions, Wolterstorff is correct that analytic philosophers are no longer primarily in the business of analyzing concepts or assessing the meaning of ordinary language.
Wolterstorff's essay is therefore a useful corrective to those who continue to identify analytic philosophy with linguistic analysis—or worse, with logical positivism. Analytic style notwithstanding, it is pretty hard to imagine, say, John Caputo writing anything like that. Crisp and Rea 19 Analytic philosophers of religion, it must be said, do not accept these Kantian restrictions on knowledge. Richard Rorty is widely read in religious studies, but he is not regarded as a mainstream figure by analytic philosophers themselves.
So much the better for Rorty, one might say. Fair enough—my only point is that reading Rorty does not give one an accurate picture of post-Quinean analytic philosophy. Similarly, Wittengenstein's influence on mainstream analytic philosophy, including analytic philosophy of religion, has dwindled to almost nothing. Here I single out Stump's fine essay, which argues there are truths that can be known through narrative, which cannot be known through analytic philosophy.
See William J.
DEFENDING ANALYTIC PHILOSOPHY OF RELIGION
They certainly criticize the academic discipline of theology, often harshly e. In the interest of space and to avoid confusion, I am simplifying and slightly altering Rea's account here without I hope departing from its main point. Kripke is probably the single greatest influence on contemporary analytic philosophy. The fact that he is nearly unknown outside of analytic circles is a real shame. A relevant parallel would be analytic philosophers who have never read Heidegger or never heard of Levinas. This talk of metaphysical theorizing about God will cause many theologically trained readers to worry about ontotheology.
I return to this issue below. Rauser draws on Harry Frankfurt's essay On Bullshit and argues that Sallie McFague's view of theology as persuasive metaphor and Jurgen Moltmann's view of theology as perpetual conversation both reduce theological discourse to bullshit.