Over the past sixty years, within the so-called analytic tradition of philosophy, there has been a significant revival of interest in the philosophy of religion. Various factors have contributed to this revival.1 One of the most important has been the wane of logical empiricism and the corresponding growth and flourishing of speculative metaphysics that has taken place over roughly the same period of time. The wane of logical empiricism made room for more serious exploration of the epistemology of religious belief; the growth of speculative metaphysics made room for more serious theorizing about the nature of God and about the coherence of and systematic relations among various theological doctrines. Whereas non-analytic philosophy has largely pushed theological reflection in an apophatic direction,2 recent analytic philosophy has witnessed a great deal of substantive theoretical work on the epistemology of religious belief, on the metaphysical underpinnings of various traditional religious doctrines, and a lot else besides.
The development of contemporary philosophy of religion has in some ways resembled the development of twentieth-century philosophy of science. Earlier works in the latter field tended to focus on questions about the nature of science, theory choice, laws of nature, and the like—questions that could be answered without much specialized knowledge of particular sciences and that pertained more or less to all of them. Later work became progressively more interdisciplinary. We now have interdisciplinary sub-disciplines, like the philosophy of physics—areas of inquiry which take as their focus concepts, theories, and
* I would like to thank the Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts at the University of Notre Dame for financial support that assisted in the production of this volume. I am also grateful to Luke Potter for helping me to assemble the manuscript and secure the permissions. Portions of this essay overlap parts of my paper, 'The Trinity', in Thomas P. Flint and Michael Rea (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Philosophical Theology (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), and also parts of chapter 3 of Michael Murray and Michael Rea, An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008). I am grateful for those publishers for permission to use the material.
1 For discussion of some of the most important factors, see Nicholas WolterstorfV 'How Philosophical Theology became Possible within the Analytic Tradition of Philosophy', in Oliver D. Crisp and Michael Rea (eds.), Analytic Theology: New Essays in the Philosophy of Theology (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008).
2 On this, see e.g. the introduction and the essays by Sarah Coakley and Nicholas Wolterstorff in Crisp and Rea (eds.), Analytic Theology.
problems in particular sciences rather than in the sciences in general. Likewise, in the early days of the revival of philosophy of religion, there was an overwhelming tendency to focus on topics about religion (or about theism) in general that could be addressed with little or no special theological background. The main issues pertained to the rationality of religious belief, particular arguments for and against the existence of God, the possibility of religious discourse, and the coherence and compossibility of traditional divine attributes. In more recent years, however, philosophers of religion have turned in a more self-consciously interdisciplinary direction, focusing (for the most part) on topics that have traditionally been the provenance of systematic theologians in the Christian tradition.
Notably, philosophers of science very shortly saw the value of branching into a variety of interdisciplinary endeavours. Thus, we have not just philosophy of physics, but philosophy of biology, philosophy of chemistry, and so on. So too, many of us hope that philosophers of religion will branch more consciously and in greater numbers into Jewish philosophical theology, Islamic philosophical theology, and other such fields. But for now, the primary interdisciplinary sub-field of analytic philosophy of religion has been Christian philosophical theology.
For purposes of these two volumes, I have selected six topics in philosophical theology to represent the field—four that have occupied a very prominent place in the literature, and two that are of vital importance but which have been comparatively and curiously neglected. The first four topics are the doctrine of the trinity, the doctrine of the incarnation, divine providence, and the resurrection of the dead. The remaining two topics are the doctrine of the atonement and divine revelation and the inspiration of scripture. The topics of providence, resurrection, and scripture arise in all three of the major theistic religions— Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. For this reason, they are introduced and discussed together in Volume II. The topics of trinity, incarnation, and atonement arise exclusively in Christian philosophical theology (since they all pertain centrally to the person and work of Jesus). These are treated together in the present volume and introduced, in turn, in each of the remaining three sections of this essay.
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