Reply to Argument V

Consider the following three points in reply to Kant's objection to theistic natural theology.

First, what Kant thinks to be too modest an outcome in natural theology would be intolerable to many naturalists. Imagine that contemporary naturalists such as Narveson, Bagger, or Rundle become convinced that philosophical arguments "establish a highest architect of the world." This would not sit well with their central claims about the explanatory hegemony of naturalism.

A second point worth observing is that natural theology is one domain among others in which the justification of religious belief is assessed. There are extant treatments of religious belief that do not require natural theology in order for religious belief to be warranted (Plantinga 2000). Perhaps some religious believers would be uninterested in natural theology unless it can deliver a full commitment to a religious tradition, but this seems a matter for apologetics, not philosophy. In pursuing a philosophy of God, I suggest philosophers of all stripes should pursue natural theology and follow the arguments wherever they lead. More general accounts of justification and value might subsequently come into play about whether natural theology is sufficient in determining one's conviction about religious matters.

Third, while I began this chapter by noting the distinction between natural and revealed theology, that distinction has become less sharp. While a philosophical project that presupposed the authority of biblical or Qur'anic scripture would still not count as natural theology, philosophical arguments about the evidential value of religious experience now are treated in the domain of natural theology. This allows for greater material for theists and naturalists to argue for evidence that might or might not fill out a religious concept of the divine (Wainwright 1981; Davis 1989; Alston 1991; Yandell 1993; Gellman 1997, 2001). The current work on religious experience does not pass over into revealed theology so long as scriptural texts are not treated as presuppositions of inquiry.

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