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1. Philosophia Christi: Volume > 15 > Issue: 2
Craig J. Hazen Editor’s Introduction
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symposium on ramified natural theology
2. Philosophia Christi: Volume > 15 > Issue: 2
Angus Menuge Guest Editor’s Introduction
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3. Philosophia Christi: Volume > 15 > Issue: 2
Richard Swinburne The Probability of the Resurrection of Jesus
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God has major reasons for intervening in human history by becoming incarnate himself—to identify with our suffering, to provide atonement for our sins, and to reveal truths. Given there is at least a significant probability that there is a God, there is at least a modest probability that he would become incarnate and live a life and provide teaching appropriate to one who sought thereby to realize these goals. Jesus lived and taught in the appropriate way. If it was God incarnate who did so live and teach, he would need to show us that it was God who had done so, and so could be expected to put his signature on that life and teaching by a super-miracle, such as the Resurrection. So there is a modest prior probability in advance of considering the direct historical evidence of the Resurrection, to expect that it would happen to someone who lived and taught as Jesus did. Jesus is the only person in human history about whom there is significant evidence both that he led the appropriate kind of life, and that his life was culminated by a super-miracle. So we do not need too many witnesses to the empty tomb or too many witnesses who claimed to have talked to the risen Jesus, to make it probable that Jesus did indeed rise. We do have some such witness evidence, which it is very improbable would occur (in connection with someone who led the appropriate sort of life) unless the Resurrection occurred. In consequence it is overall very probable that the Resurrection occurred.
4. Philosophia Christi: Volume > 15 > Issue: 2
Robert Greg Cavin, Carlos A. Colombetti Swinburne on the Resurrection: Negative versus Christian Ramified Natural Theology
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We consider the impact of negative natural theology on the prospects of Christian ramified natural theology with reference to Richard Swinburne’s argument for the Incarnation and Resurrection. We argue that Swinburne’s pivotal claim—that God would not allow decep­tive evidence to exist for the Incarnation and Resurrection—is refuted by key evidence from negative natural theology. We argue, further, that Swinburne’s argument omits dominating items of evidence of negative natural theology which seem to critically weaken the probability of the Incarnation and Resurrection. Negative natural theology thus serves as a formidable obstacle to Christian ramified natural theology.
5. Philosophia Christi: Volume > 15 > Issue: 2
Richard Swinburne Does God Permit Massive Deception?
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This is a response to Cavin and Colombetti’s paper criticizing a claim of mine elsewhere, that God would not permit anyone to deceive the world by manufacturing evidence which made it probable that Jesus was God incarnate when that was not so. I analyze four different cases of A allowing B to hold a false belief, and I argue that only two of them constitute deception by A, one being “straightforward” deception and the other “tacit” deception. What I should have claimed earlier is that God would not deceive us (either straightforwardly or tacitly) on this matter, including doing so by permitting someone else to manufacture deceptive evidence.
6. Philosophia Christi: Volume > 15 > Issue: 2
Rodney Holder Why We Need Ramified Natural Theology
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Traditionally, knowledge of God has been considered to arise from two sources: (a) our innate human capacities of reason and intuition, and (b) special divine revelation. The former is the subject of natural theology and the latter of systematic or dogmatic theology. In this article I argue that this rigid distinction should be dispensed with, both because of the need to respond to the criticisms of atheists that religious beliefs are not grounded on evidence, and because different religions make different and contradictory claims to truth. Thus, what is purported to be revelation needs to be evaluated on commonly accepted criteria of rationality. Such criteria will exclude both a priori religious assumptions, so as to avoid circularity, and a priori atheistic assumptions, so as to avoid excluding what is being investigated by fiat. The project of evaluating specific Christian claims in this way, such as the resurrection of Jesus, is what has been dubbed “ramified natural theology.”
7. Philosophia Christi: Volume > 15 > Issue: 2
Hugh G. Gauch, Jr. The Methodology of Ramified Natural Theology
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Ramified natural theology concerns arguments for or against distinctively Christian theism, using only our natural endowments of reason and sense perception, without appealing to the authority of divine revelation. Before ramified natural theology’s arguments and evidence can be evaluated properly, first its methodology must be clear, impartial, settled, and effective. This paper defends three theses regarding methodology. First, ramified natural theology and science share the same core methodology, namely, the PEL model, specifying that conclusions about the world require three resources: Presuppositions, Evidence, and Logic. Second, ramified natural theology, especially when implemented with the PEL model, provides a suitable methodology for investigating miracles. Third, despite methodological differences, there is a fruitful synergy between natural and revealed theology. Ramified natural theology has its own intrinsic importance, and yet its full value emerges from its synergy with revealed theology.
8. Philosophia Christi: Volume > 15 > Issue: 2
Timothy McGrew, John M. Depoe Natural Theology and the Uses of Argument
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Arguments in natural theology have recently increased in their number and level of sophistication. However, there has not been much analysis of the ways in which these arguments should be evaluated as good, taken collectively or individually. After providing an overview of some proposed goals and good-making criteria for arguments in natural theology, we provide an analysis that stands as a corrective to some of the ill-formed standards that are currently in circulation. Specifically, our analysis focuses on the relation between the truth of the premises and the conclusion of an argument. In addition to providing a clearer account of what makes an argument good, our account provides a positive role for “weak” arguments, especially within cumulative case arguments in ramified natural theology.
9. Philosophia Christi: Volume > 15 > Issue: 2
Lydia McGrew Probabilistic Issues Concerning Jesus of Nazareth and Messianic Death Prophecies
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While one strand of ramified natural theology focuses on direct evidence for mira­cles, another avenue to investigate is the argument from prophecy. Events that appear to fulfill prophecy may not be miraculous in themselves, but they can provide confirmation, even substantial confirmation, for a supernatural hypothesis. I examine the details of a small set of passages from the Old Testament and evaluate the probabilistic impact of the occurrence of events surrounding the death of Jesus of Nazareth that appear to fulfill these prophecies. The hypothesis under consideration is M—that Jesus of Nazareth was the prophesied Messiah. Using Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53, historical evidence concerning the death of Jesus, and background evidence concerning Roman and Jewish history and culture, I estimate a cumulative Bayes factor of 2.5 × 107 in favor of M from the fact of Jesus’s crucifixion and four further details concerning his death. Independent confirmation of M is pertinent to the prior probability of miraculous claims such as the claim that Jesus rose from the dead. The examination of Jesus’s putative fulfillment of prophecy thus is an example of an objective treatment of the religious context of a miracle which makes a given putative miracle something other than an isolated and arbitrary wonder.
10. Philosophia Christi: Volume > 15 > Issue: 2
Travis Dumsday Ramified Natural Theology in the Context of Interdenominational Debate
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“Ramified natural theology” can be defined as natural theology employed in the service not of general theism but of some particular theistic tradition. Examples of ramified natural theology in the Christian tradition include Anselm’s philosophical arguments for the incarnation, Pascal’s use of biblical prophecy to defend the deity of Christ, the use of contemporary miracle reports to substantiate the efficacy of prayer to Christ, and so forth. In the Christian context we normally think of ramified natural theology being used to argue in favor of the claims of so-called mere Christianity over and against those of other religions or metaphysical naturalism. But historically they have also been prominent in debates between Christian denominations. It is this latter usage that I wish to explore here. I argue that the use of ramified natural theology in interdenominational debate is both unavoidable and entirely proper. I also ask which denomination(s), if any, are most likely to benefit from this usage.
11. Philosophia Christi: Volume > 15 > Issue: 2
David Baggett, Ronnie Campbell Omnibenevolence, Moral Apologetics, and Doubly Ramified Natural Theology
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Taking seriously Richard Swinburne’s distinction between “bare” natural theology and “ramified” natural theology, this article contends that the moral argument for God’s existence helps to flesh out distinctively moral aspects of God’s character, reflective of and resonant with a specifically Anselmian concept of God (involving the conjunction of deliverances of both classical theism and biblical revelation). This article argues that the project of ramified natural theology not only helps distinguish the Christian conception from other theisms, it also helps to clarify important distinctions made among Christians concerning their understanding of God, resulting in an argumentative strategy we call “doubly ramified natural theology.”
12. Philosophia Christi: Volume > 15 > Issue: 2
William Lane Craig Propositional Truth—Who Needs It?
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On a deflationary view of truth the truth predicate does not ascribe a property of any explanatory significance to statements. The truth predicate is merely a device of semantic ascent, by means of which we talk about a statement rather than assert that statement. Such a device is useful for blind truth ascriptions to statements that we cannot explicitly state. Such a view is compatible with truth as correspondence and so does not imply postmodern antirealism, since statements directly asserted are descriptive of the world as it actually is. Getting rid of propositional truth has the advantage of ridding us of abstract truth-bearers that are uncreated by God.
13. Philosophia Christi: Volume > 15 > Issue: 2
R. Scott Smith William Lane Craig’s Nominalism, Essences, and Implications for Our Knowledge of Reality
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William Lane Craig has claimed that Platonism is incompatible theologically with Christian theism in that it undermines God’s aseity. He develops three main objections to Platonism, as well as his own nominalist theory of reference, for which he draws from philosophy of language. However, I rebut his arguments. I argue that, unlike on Platonism, his view will not preserve a real essence of intentionality. Without that, his view undermines our abilities to know reality. As an implication, I also will highlight the importance methodologically of approaching this issue from the primacy of the ontology of knowledge, not philosophy of language.
14. Philosophia Christi: Volume > 15 > Issue: 2
Richard B. Davis, W. Paul Franks Against a Postmodern Pentecostal Epistemology
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In this paper we explore the idea that pentecostalism is best supported by conjoining it to a postmodern, narrative epistemology in which everything is a text requiring interpretation. On this view, truth doesn’t consist in a set of uninterpreted facts that make the claims of Christianity true; rather, as James K. A. Smith says, truth emerges when there is a “fit” or proportionality between the Christian story and one’s affective and emotional life. We argue that pentecostals should reject this account of truth, since it leads to either a self-refuting story-relativism or the equally problematic fallacy of story-ism: favoring one’s own story over others without legitimate reason. In either case, we contend, the gospel itself is placed at risk.
15. Philosophia Christi: Volume > 15 > Issue: 2
James S. Spiegel Moral Heresy: Belief, Behavior, and Ethical Orthodoxy
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The classical Christian creeds generally address historical and metaphysical issues, such as the Trinity and the work of Christ. These doctrines are commonly construed as definitive of Christian orthodoxy or right belief. But are there behavioral standards that are essential to Christian living? If so, are beliefs about such matters as crucial to the faith as the creedal points? I introduce the concept of “moral heresy” as an ethical-doxastic category (in contradistinction to the ethical-behavioral category of “immorality”), which may be useful as a conceptual tool in addressing these questions. There are potentially serious implications here for how Christians should approach some critical issues of our time, particularly regarding sexual ethics.
16. Philosophia Christi: Volume > 15 > Issue: 2
Daniel Breyer Molinism, Freedom, and Luck
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This article argues that Molinism faces an intractable objection. This is the Luck Argument, which begins with a dilemma: either counterfactuals of freedom have truth-makers or they do not. Molinism faces insurmountable problems no matter which horn of the dilemma it accepts. As a result, Molinism cannot account both for divine foreknowledge and for human freedom. If it accounts for one, it sacrifices the other.
philosophical notes
17. Philosophia Christi: Volume > 15 > Issue: 2
Ross Inman Gratuitous Evil Unmotivated: A Reply to Kirk R. MacGregor
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In his article “The Existence and Irrelevance of Gratuitous Evil,” Kirk R. MacGregor has argued that the Christian theist need not demur at the existence of gratuitous evil. In fact, we are told that Christian theists have ample philosophical, theological, and biblical evidence in favor of the existence of gratuitous evil. In this brief note I examine both the general structure of his argument as well as several of his more central arguments in favor of gratuitous evil and the compatibility of such evil with Christian theism.
18. Philosophia Christi: Volume > 15 > Issue: 2
Erik Baldwin Putting Uninstantiated Human Person Essences to Work: A Comment on Davis and Craig on the Grounding Objection
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In “Ducking Friendly Fire: Davison on the Grounding Objection,” William Lane Craig responds to a statement of The Grounding Objection articulated by Scott Davison in “Craig on the Grounding Objection to Middle Knowledge.” According to Davison, unless we have an explanation of true counterfactuals that makes reference to actual human persons in specific situations we lack an adequate explanation of how counterfactuals of creaturely free­dom could possibly be true. Drawing from and elaborating on Edward Wierenga’s response to the Grounding Objection in “Providence, Middle Knowledge, and the Grounding Objection,” I formulate and motivate a view that satisfies the plausible requirement that the grounds for God’s knowledge of true counterfactuals of creaturely freedom are actually existent things while eschewing Davison’s implausibly strong requirement that the things in question must be specific human persons in specific situations. I conclude that, contrary to Davison, facts about uninstantiated human person essences can do at least some of the relevant explanatory work.
19. Philosophia Christi: Volume > 15 > Issue: 2
John C. Peckham Providence and God’s Unfulfilled Desires
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This note addresses the issue of divine providence by engaging the representative po­sitions exhibited in Zondervan’s Four Views of Divine Providence in light of the question, Does God always get what he wants? After briefly surveying and evaluating the implications of the determinist, openness, and Molinist responses as portrayed in Four Views, the essay concludes that an indeterminist perspective that affirms both human freedom to do otherwise than God desires and God’s exhaustive foreknowledge provides the most adequate response to the question such that, whereas God’s desires are sometimes unfulfilled, he will certainly accomplish his all-encompassing and omnibenevolent providential purpose.
20. Philosophia Christi: Volume > 15 > Issue: 2
Ben Waters Methuselah’s Diary and the Finitude of the Past
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William Lane Craig modified Bertrand Russell’s Tristram Shandy example in order to derive an absurdity that would demonstrate the finitude of the past. Although his initial attempt at such an argument faltered, further developments in the literature suggested that such an absurdity was indeed in the offing provided that a couple extra statements were also shown to be true. This article traces the development of a particular line of argument that arose from Craig’s Tristram Shandy example before advancing an argument of its own that attempts to fill in the relevant gaps so as to yield a new argument for the finitude of the past.