The Elimination of Natural Theology
ABSTRACT: The dispute between fideists and rationalists seems intractable since those who argue for faith alone claim that they are offended by the use of reason in religion. The advocates of reason claim that they are equally offended by the appeal to faith. This dispute may be resolved by showing that those who rely on faith may be seen as engaging in an experiment of living, so they can become part of a rational experiment without having to alter their practice; in contrast, those who use reason to justify religion can be seen as addressing a spiritual need. From an evangelical point of view, it would be wrong to disparage the mathematician’s use of the mathematical proof of God’s existence (such as Gödel’s). Wittgensteinian objections to natural theology can be met by showing that the use of reason in religion is distinct from the general kind of philosophical speculation to which Wittgenstein rightly objected. Those who claim that one must already have faith in order to seek understanding successfully can be answered by showing that their claim can be tested empirically only when there is a robust practice of natural theology among those who do and do not have a prior faith. There is reason for thinking religion should be subjected to a more rigorous scrutiny than used in secular matters.
For the purposes of this paper, opinions on the right relationship between faith and reason may be organized as:
1. pure fideism = enter into no discussion regarding the rationality of religion.
2. ratiocinative fideism = avoid the practice of natural theology, but provide a rational defense of such avoidance.
3. conditional rationalism=accept a rational scrutiny of religion but only under certain conditions
- Anselmian conditions=reason works properly only for those who have faith.
- Jamesian conditions=we have, with good reason, a right to believe more than is justified by the received canons of rationality
- Butlerian conditions = (i) for all practical purposes, it is sufficient to reply to objections to religion; it is not necessary to provide positive arguments. (ii) for all practical purposes, it is sufficient to provide probabilistic arguments, it is not necessary to provide demonstrative arguments.
- integrative rationalism = consider religion an integral part of the whole enterprise of rational inquiry and accept the following:
(A) All claims with religious content and all religiously motivated actions and practices are subject to the same kind of rational scrutiny and evaluation as any other claim or form of behavior i.e., the religious and the secular are at parity as far as the jurisdiction of reason is concerned. By contrast, pure fideists reject (A) without comment; ratiocinative fideists reject (A) but attempt to explain their rejection, and conditional rationalists refuse to accept (A) until the kind of rational scrutiny to which religion is to be subjected is...