Posts Tagged ‘Pardi’

Postmodernizing Religion

May 25th, 1997

by Paul Pardi

Religion often has been seen as a necessary balance to the stiff, cold, conclusions given to us by science. Whereas science tells us what the world is, religion tells us what the world means. However, since the enlightenment, religion has, for many, lived in a tension: religious believers are concerned that the object of their faith is “true” yet see the rationalist approach to religion with its deductive proofs for God’s existence and rigid, analytic approach to doctrine as a bane to religious belief and practice. When thinkers like Hume and Kant showed these “proofs” to be inadequate, religion either fell on hard times or survived under the auspices of an irrational activity called faith. The post-Enlightenment period certainly has not been easy on religion but is religious belief destined to be either irrational or irrelevant? Enter postmodernity.

Many philosophers of religion see the adoption of some strain of postmodern thought as a valuable return to the ineffable quality of religion that was lost in the modern period. Releasing God from the shackles of the modernist, logic-chopping philosophy enhances faith and encourages devotion. In this sense some see postmodern thought as a welcome friend to religion. The postmodern epistemology seems to serve as a fine bedfellow for faith in a transcendent being. James Turner in his penetrating *Without God, Without Creed* concludes his historical analysis of the rise of atheism in Western culture with the following insight: “The crucial ingredient, then, in the mix that produced an enduring unbelief . . . boiled down to a decision to deal with modernity by embracing it—to defuse modern threats to the traditional bases of belief by bringing God into line with modernity. Put slightly differently, unbelief emerged because church leaders too often forgot the transcendence essential to any worthwhile God. They committed religion . . . *intellectually* to modes of knowing God fitted only for understanding this world.”

In fact the religious mind has been skeptical for some time of attempts to make God the conclusion of a syllogism or logical proof or scientific discovery. Most conservative believers of any religion would not claim to have come to faith in God by way of some argument. These same believers also, when asked why they believe, would not cite a list of evidences justifying their beliefs. On the face of it, it appears that postmodern epistemology justifies what the religious believer wants to claim: the most important truths are not based upon evidence, reason, and logic but upon experience and community. Thus, under the postmodern epistemology, religion moves out from under the scientistically-bent modernist label “irrational” to the postmodern “non-rational.” For many religious persons, the latter is much better than the former. J. Bottum concludes an article for *First Things* by highlighting a distinct value postmodernity provides to the Catholic apologist, “There is perhaps a use we might make of the postmodern in apologetics, for the collapse of modernity may allow believers to speak once again about God without defensiveness or self-consciousness.”

As with most issues in philosophy, not everyone sees the outlook for the union between postmodern epistemology and religious belief with the same optimism. One immediate question that comes to mind is this: has the postmodern epistemology changed the nature of religious belief or has religious belief always rejected what Alan Padgett calls “linear, scientific thinking” and thus finds the postmodern epistemology a welcome and long-awaited friend? Philosophers of religion now are wrestling with these questions. Interestingly however, this debate doesn’t have two sides but three. There are those who adopt the postmodernist epistemology and see a clear application of that epistemology to religion. As an example of an implementation of this approach, the University of Chicago Press has an intriguing series dealing with postmodernism and religious belief. Their 21 volume collection entitled the *Religion and Postmodernism Series* edited by Mark C. Taylor (who recently released his fourth contribution to the series entitled, *About Religion : Economies of Faith in Virtual Culture*) covers a variety of topics from a somewhat narrow range of authors (including the eminent Derrida himself).

On the other side are those that are highly critical of this union. As might be expected, the criticisms surface not on the marriage itself but on the postmodern epistemology in particular. Of course, it naturally follows that if the postmodern epistemology is vacant, one certainly does not want to marry it to religious belief. *Postmodernism and Christian Philosophy* edited by Roman T. Ciapalo critically examines these very issues. The general consensus of the anthology is that postmodernism is generally a negative influence on Christian thought. Similarly. St. Mary’s College in Twickenham, England will be discussing the viability of the relationship between religion and postmodern epistemology in their conference entitled *Religion and the Cultures of Postmodernity: Quests for Meaning in a Fragmented Age* in June of 2000. On a more popular level, a group called The Crossroads Project is promoting a book by Dennis McCallum entitled *The Death of Truth*. They held a conference with the same title that addressed issues surfaced in the book. McCallum sees postmodernism largely as having a negative influence on culture despite the inadequacies of a pure modernist worldview.

Somewhere in the middle of this debate (and probably most in keeping with the postmodern spirit) are those that see both negatives and positives in the postmodern approach to knowledge and thus in it’s application to religion. The University of Indiana Press has released two back-to-back titles dealing with the subject of postmodern thought and religion in its *Indiana Series in the Philosophy of Religion*. Merold Westphal (who has done his own share of writing on Kierkegaard and Hegel and serves as General Editor of the series) edited *Postmodern Philosophy and Christian Thought* which deals with the new challenges postmodernity brings to the Christian idea. Similarly *God, the Gift, and Postmodernism*, edited by John D. Caputo and Michael J. Scanlon sympathetically treats the discussion between postmodern theology and the postmodern epistemology putting Derrida and theologian Jean-Luc Marion into dialog.

As I read the introductions to these books and skimmed the chapters, I found that the authors were less concerned with getting a set of “facts” before the mind of the reader and more concerned with constructing images. Communicating factual information, seems to imply rigidity of thought and a one-way, author-to-reader monologue. These authors seem more interested not in telling the readers what to believe as true, but in creating images that are more ideologically fluid and “dialogical.” Still, the books represent a position that holds, for the most part, that postmodern thinkers like Derrida have it right (whatever that might mean) and the project of these volumes is to explore how notions like deconstruction and the “hermeneutics of finitude” might apply to religion.

I asked philosophers Dr. C. Stephen Evans and Dr. Merold Westphal about this movement in philosophy of religion towards postmodernity. I asked Dr. Evans if he saw postmodern philosophy to be a friend or a foe of religious belief. He said, “I am inclined to say both friend and foe. Obviously, it is a friend in unmasking Enlightenment rationalism and its attacks on the rationality of faith. But it is an enemy in undermining respect for objective truth and developing suspicion about ‘metanarratives.’” He sees postmodern philosophy’s biggest aid in that it tears down religious epistemic hubris and opens the door for a more “perspectival” understanding of knowledge given the human condition (which, under the Christian framework, is a state of sinfulness and depravity). On the other hand, “The most damaging aspect is that it can lead to a loss of faith in truth and in the human capacity to know anything, and this in turn leads to a loss of conviction, a pluralistic ‘tolerance’ of everything.” he said. “What we need is an understanding of our finitude and sinfulness that does not despair of the possibility that there is a truth to be known and that we can at least approximate that truth in part.” Evans captures the essence of what many philosophers of religion are trying to do, at least in the West, in evaluating the application of postmodern philosophy to religious systems.

Westphal was a bit more optimistic about postmodernism’s influence on religion. In fact Westphal indicates that postmodernism surfaces a commonality among the major religious systems of the world. He stated, “The great monotheisms, Jewish, Christian, and Islamic, have insisted that God is ultimately unfathomable, ineffable, mysterious, beyond the capacity of created intellects to comprehend. This is a joint reflection on the nature of God as infinite and on the nature of human understanding as finite. Postmodern epistemology is an analysis of the finitude of human understanding on its own terms, without reference to creation or the Creator. But there is an agreement about the inability of human knowledge to grasp totality, infinity, the ultimate.” Westphal affirms that providing this sense of our own epistemic finitude is one of the most auspicious functions of postmodernizing religion. He’s quick to point out, however, that in accepting that finitude, postmodernism may take us too far. “The danger, to which both secular postmodernists and theistic thinkers are sometimes prone, is to assume that if we cannot have everything we cannot have anything, that the only alternative to absolute knowledge, fully adequate (perfect mirror) to its object is cynical nihilism.” Westphal appears to want to caution against this. This is a common *festina lente* that theists tend to apply to the postmodern project vis-à-vis their secular counterparts.

One more important observation needs to be made. One does not have to dig very deeply to see the close affinities postmodern philosophy has with much of Eastern thought, particularly Eastern *religious* thought. Whereas systems like Buddhism and Daoism tend to embrace what appear to the western mind to be contradictions (in the form of, for example, a koan) in an attempt to train the mind to live with contradiction, the postmodern mind isn’t so radical. Postmodernism tends to apply interpretive lenses to contradictions and thus make the contradictions less, well, contradictory. Hegel’s patrimony here is obvious (a fact which makes me think Schaeffer’s observation that modern Christianity’s woes are due primarily to Hegelian thought came three decades too early; Schaeffer may turn out to be more correct than any of his commentators realized). Interestingly there does seem to be some movement on bringing Eastern religious thought and postmodern philosophy together. A paper by Ian W. Mabbett called “Naagaarjuna and Deconstruction” attempts to demonstrate just this. Speaking of Naagaarjuna and Derrida he writes, “Eastward and westward: opposites meet. Perhaps the apostle of the Middle Way and the prophet of infinite deferral have something in common.”

For my own part, being the modernist that I am, I find the notion of a postmodern religion both disturbing and largely incomprehensible. Still, if I were to make a prediction I’d say that a postmodern religious system, like much of Kant’s writings, is just obscure enough that at the end of the day, many philosophers of religion and theologians will find it irresistible.

Philosophers’ War Over the Soul

May 25th, 1997

by Paul Pardi

Recently, in an op-ed piece for Newsweek magazine, George Will roundly criticized Princeton philosopher Peter Singer for holding to a form of utilitarianism that allows him to deny that humans have intrinsic dignity and value and that, in some cases, killing a newborn could be morally justified. In the same vein as Singer, philosopher and professor of psychology at MIT Steven Pinker argues that personhood probably is a degreed notion having to do with possessing “morally significant traits” like memories and a sense of community; traits that “immature neonates don’t possess . . . any more than mice.” His conclusion: perhaps newborns aren’t truly persons and the immorality of taking their lives isn’t as clear-cut as some moral philosophers pretend it is.

Certainly one of the main themes in the philosophy of religion regarding immortality and personhood is that of deciding what to do with the soul. Should the soul end up in the intellectual discard pile along with phlogiston and witches or does the soul actually exist? Much of the current thinking on this subject focuses on this question. At first this may seem like an issue for philosophers of mind rather than for philosophers of religion. Actually, the issue concerns both. The philosopher of mind is interested in determining the ontological question: Does the soul exist? The philosopher of religion is interested in the implications of that ontology. In addition to moral implications, there are theological ones as well. For example, If we have no soul, then it is hard to make sense of the idea of immortality, yet immortality is a core tenet of most religious belief. As William James once noted, “Immortality is one of the great spiritual needs of man. The churches have constituted themselves the official guardians of the need . . .”

So there are two issues that concern the philosopher of religion. First there is the ontological question of whether or not there actually is a soul. Second, there are the moral and theological (and one might say anthropological) implications of the answer to that question. The apparent tension that exists between the current work being done in philosophy of mind and religious teaching seems to be constituted by a disparity between the “hard facts” of science that tell us that we’re nothing more than our bodies and brains, and religious dogma that seems to go contrary to that claim. For religion in the West, much of the religious teaching on the soul and the afterlife comes from a revelation from God (such as the Bible). In much of Eastern thought, the idea of immortality constitutes a fundamental principle upon which the entire religious structure is based. Boston University has been looking at solutions from both sides of the divide. For the past year, the university’s philosophy department has been examining this issue in its Institute for Philosophy and Religion. The title of this year’s program is “If I Should Die: Life, Death, and Immortality. Some of the titles of upcoming seminars are, “If I Should Die Before I Am Awakened: Buddhist Reflections on Death” and “Is There Life After Death? Where Are The Dead?” by Jürgen Moltmann.

Taking the lead from the current trend in philosophy of mind, many philosophers of religion are opting to dissolve the tension between the soul and the body by getting rid of the soul and translating “soul talk” into body or brain talk. They accept the current scientific thinking on mind-brain reduction and then argue that revelation claims are completely compatible with that thinking. A recent book edited by a team of theologians and philosophers at Fuller Seminary entitled Whatever Happened to the Soul? by Fortress Press (this book recently was reviewed in the current issue of the journal Philosophia Christi) does just that. In light of the current trend toward materialist views of consciousness, this book does not have anything new to offer regarding the ontological status of the mind. It does, however, have a lot to say about how one ought to understand religious claims regarding the soul and the afterlife in light of that trend. (Another novel approach to this problem was taken up recently by Australian philosopher Peter Forrest in his God Without the Supernatural by Cornel University Press.)

More traditional philosophers of religion balk at this approach. Many of these thinkers hold to some form of substance dualism. First, they argue that if we reject the idea of a substantial, immaterial soul, many aspects of the mind and personal identity simply cannot be explained adequately. Second, it becomes very difficult to understand the idea of an afterlife without talking about it in terms of a soul. Two new books argue against reductive materialism and for forms of substance dualism in just this way. William Hasker’s latest, The Emergent Self also from Cornell (part of the Cornel Studies in the Philosophy of Religion series) attempts to argue for a form of dualism (which he calls “emergent dualism”) while still recognizing “the critical role of the brain and nervous system for mental processes.” Whereas the Fortress book tends lean much more heavily on the side of mind to brain reduction, Hasker seeks to preserve the more traditional role for the soul while taking into account the recent discoveries in brain research. Given the newness of the book, Hasker’s contribution has not been adequately evaluated as to its viability as a player in the discussion.

The second book, Body and Soul: Human Nature and the Crisis in Ethics  by J.P. Moreland and Scott Rae (due out in March by InterVarsity Press) takes a more traditional view and defends a substance dualist view of the soul. The first part of the book, treated by Moreland whose particular strength lies in metaphysics and philosophy of mind, deals with the important metaphysical questions related to this issue. In the second part, ethicist Rae teases out the implications of the view for bioethics. Recently there has been a rash of articles and reviews that, like Moreland and Rae, call into question the viability of a purely materialistic view of the mind. William A. Dembski in the Catholic journal First Things, “Are we spiritual machines?” in an article with that title. Similarly, Matt Donnelly, in the most recent issue of Books and Culture entitled an article with the question, “Is Science Good for the Soul?” in which he explores the recent (what he calls) monist-dualist debate.

Western thinkers aren’t the only philosophers and theologians dealing with these questions. For example, Robin Cooper has written a book on Buddhist thought and its compatibility with recent brain research called The Evolving Mind: Buddhism, Biology, and Consciousness. The issues that are raised in Buddhist thought vis-à-vis Christian theology are markedly different. In a review for the Catholic University of America, Charles Jones wrote, “As one might expect, the resonances and tensions that emerge from the juxtaposition of Buddhism and modern science differ markedly from those that arise from the current struggles to position science within a Christian theological framework.” The point here is that the tensions that exist between modern science and traditional views on the body and soul cross religious traditions and the east-west boundary.

Which side will end up winning the favor of the academy is tough to answer. As far as philosophy of religion goes, there does seem to be a trend towards more traditional thinking regarding the soul and afterlife. This is true in spite of the opposite view dominating philosophy of mind. Given that the majority of thinkers historically have held to the existence of both a soul and an afterlife, this may be one area where philosophers of religion would be wise to refrain from too quickly abandoning their roots.

Is (Belief in) God Dead?

May 25th, 1997

by Paul Pardi

Most philosophers of religion do not believe that the traditional deductive “proofs” for God’s existence work. Many that do believe they work do not see them as formal proofs but as inductive arguments that make a cumulative, probabilistic case. Does this mean that the business of defending religion (formally known as apologetics) is dead? To the contrary, in certain circles, apologetics is an active area of study for philosophers of religion. In fact, it is hard to find a philosopher of religion writing today who is not concerned with the subject at one level or another.

Yet despite the current prominence of the discipline, the formal task of what philosophers of religion today have come to know as “defending of the faith” actually is a rather late development. The short story goes something like this. Before the enlightenment, the idea of defending belief in God against atheistic argument was rather unheard of. Instead, formulations of logical proofs or the culling of historical and scientific evidences was part of a larger programme of developing a well-rounded theology. Rarely did anyone think that proofs were necessary in order for one to have a rational faith. In fact the idea that one would need to depend on arguments for belief in God was foreign to the mainline, pre-enlightenment philosophers who thought about the matter.

When Locke, Kant, and Hume came on the scene ostensibly destroying the formerly stalwart ideological fortresses with their bifurcation of reality and skeptical view of knowledge, God’s existence, as well as other religious truth claims, came under attack. Unfortunately for many, a result of the enlightenment attack on certainty undermined the force of the theistic “proofs” and the reliability of the scientific and historical evidence (at least qua evidence). Almost immediately, these rational defenses of God’s existence became passé at best and at worst were considered fallacious or rationally unacceptable. The reaction of many theists was to attack directly the Enlightenment thinking and develop a rationalistic counterattack that had the theistic proofs at its core. Out of this came the formal discipline of apologetics—the project of rationally defending the existence of God. Under this project, the proofs and evidences that formerly served as a support to faith now came to ground it.

For many believers and philosophers however, faith continued despite the attack on the proofs. As I already mentioned, pre-enlightenment theism never really relied on the proofs as a ground for faith anyway. There was a difficulty though. Though pre-enlightenment theism didn’t rely on the proofs, they did play an important supporting role to faith. The average believer’s attitude towards formal arguments for God’s existence was like the typical American mindset towards the US judicial system: my daily freedom doesn’t depend upon my knowing it but its nice to know its there if I ever need it. When post-enlightenment thinkers dismantled the formal proofs, many believers decided to devalue them altogether (epistemically speaking) and take a more “experiential” approach to grounding belief in God. To push the judicial analogy one step further, the new attitude was like the attitude of one who rejects the court system after finding out that all the United States Justices are on the Mob’s payroll. The term “fideist” or “existentialist” has been applied to the most radical forms of this movement though on the average, these terms would be too drastic. Philosophy of religion then entered the post-enlightenment, post-modern era with God’s existence largely being grounded either by strict evidentialism or by rejecting evidentialism and appealing to personal conviction based on leaps of faith. These two approaches have dominated apologetics up to the present time. Recently, however, many philosophers are returning to the pre-enlightenment approach to apologetics (a move which, in no small part, is due to a rejection of the enlightenment epistemology).

Even so, the Enlightenment has had a significant effect on apologetics and all three approaches have significant characteristics that mark them as post-Enlightenment. First, they are focusing less on ontology and more on epistemology. That is, philosophers are becoming more concerned with defending the belief that God exists than with rationally proving God existence per se. The difference is subtle but important. In the not so distant past, one would be inclined to ask and answer the question, “Does God exist?” Presently we’re more apt to hear the question framed as, “Is it more reasonable to believe that God’s exists than that He doesn’t?” The changing nature of public and philosophical discourse may be part of the reason this shift may have occurred (discussed below). After all, apologetics is, by definition, a defense ad populum. If one’s apologetic does not reach the minds of the ones to whom the apologetic is aimed it is entirely ineffective as a defense. The second main trend is that of trying to wed a strong evidentialist approach to the more existential one by attempting to demonstrate the rationality of the apologetic system even if the apologetic itself isn’t rationalistic. For example, Reformed apologists are working on arguments that attempt to that one’s experiences of God are veridical and therefore provide an adequate ground of rational belief in God.

I’m concerned here with highlighting apologetic trends as they apply to theism in general and not a particular religion like Christianity or Islam. However it is significant to note that much of the good work in apologetics is being done in the context of a particular religion. For example, Zondervan just released Five Views on Apologetics that discusses five evangelical Christian approaches to defending belief in God. Another example can be found in the scholarship of the Catholic Church. The Pope’s latest encyclical demonstrates the church’s continued commitment to evidentialism. His Fides et Ratio is garnering attention from all Christian denominations both Catholic and Protestant. It is a fine work and upholds the commitment to the integration of the spiritual life with the life of the mind. (For a Reformed evaluation of the encyclical, see the Books and Culture special article, “Faith and Reason.”)

Still, many philosophers of religion working in the field of religious epistemology and apologetics are concerned with the rationality of theistic beliefs. This type of apologetics provides a foundation for the work being done at the level of a specific religious system. This past spring, the University of Aberdeen focused its International Gifford Conference on natural theology. Natural theology attempts to develop a philosophy of religion and theology apart from any revelation claim. The Conference, titled, “Natural Theology: Problems and Prospects,” featured papers by theists and non-theists alike.

Probably the most creative work being done in the evidentialist camp falls under the rubric known as “Design Theory.” Berkely law professor Phillip E. Johnson (author of the widely read, Darwin on Trial; Johnson’s latest book, The Wedge of Truth, is directed against naturalism and was just published by Intervarsity Press) is spearheading this “movement.” In the United States, The Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based think-tank, has pooled together some of the top minds doing work on the subject. The fellows of the Institute’s “Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture”, which include Michael J. Behe, William A. Dembski , and Stephen C. Meyer, have been writing on a wide variety of topics and speaking all over the country promoting design as a theory of explanation. In November, CRCS will be hosting a conference at the venerable Yale University entitled, “Science and Evidence for Design in the Universe.” This conference, like the “Design and its Critics” conference recently held at Concordia University, will be a forum for presentations on both sides of the question.

Interestingly, the arguments of design theorists like those mentioned above are not given under the auspices of an apologetic per se (though their work does include some apologetic work). That is, these philosophers are not arguing that their conclusions entail that belief in God is more reasonable than not. Rather, they are arguing for design as a theory in and of itself. For example, Demski’s now famous The Design Inference barely mentions theism in the entire monograph. The goal of the book is to describe ways in which design could be detected in events. However, or so the thinking goes, if one buys the system’s conclusions then theism isn’t too far off. At the very least, accepting design in the universe certainly makes theism more reasonable than not. This example brings to the fore the subtle shift in the way apologetics is being done. Though this certainly does not represent the entire evidentialist field, it does I believe represent an important direction evidentialist apologetics is taking.

A second way philosophers have defended belief in God has gotten an ideological boost in recent days from postmodernism. This second approach might be considered the antithesis of evidentialist apologetics. I will call this approach “deconstructionist” apologetics (I’m loathe to use that term because of the baggage it carries but I do think it is the best term for this position). The idea is that the rationality of belief in God is not dependent upon beliefs being formed in the mind of a would-be believer by way of evidence or, in some cases, even an act of God. Rather a religious belief is rational because the believer made a choice to believe based on what she loves and hates. Some of the spin-offs, I believe, of this fundamental epistemology are religious pluralism. Much of the recent work by John Hick, D.Z. Phillips and some of the process philosophers like Hartshorne, and on the more postmodern side, Jean-Luc Marion and John Caputo (and one might even include here Cornel West).

Some readers may find it odd that I’m suggesting that a person like Hick or Caputo is doing apologetics. It is odd in the sense that these philosophers are not intentionally attempting to present a defense of theistic belief. However if one considers that the project of folks like Hick and Caputo is to place religious belief within a modern, scientific, pluralistic framework and make it “fit,” it becomes clear that they are seeking to rescue religious belief from irrationality or irrelevance. In that sense, they are constructing an apologetic.

It should be clear that this approach is the terminus ad quem of the move away from a metaphysical or ontological apologetic to an epistemological one. If, for example, someone like Hick can show that all religious belief just is an affective movement towards “the real” then perhaps the religious believer really isn’t all that different from the inquisitive scientist who is seeking to discover the nature of the universe. Religious belief then becomes much more “rational” than it would be if we took all that talk about a real, transcendent person seriously. So, whether religious belief is viewed merely as a language game, a private narrative, or an internal longing for something transcendent, it becomes protected from the criticisms of non-religious epistemology (it becomes irrelevant whether or not there really is a God as construed by orthodox religions). Religion becomes isolated from the rest of one’s noetic structure and thus is not subject to the rationality constraints of it. This claim itself becomes a defense of religious belief. For an excellent overview of the developments taking place in this space, see David G. Kamitsuka’s new book, Theology and Contemporary Culture published by Cambridge (especially chapters 2 and 3).

The third approach to doing apologetics incorporates, very broadly, some features of the first two approaches. The third approach agrees with the deconstructionists in that enlightenment-style rationalistic evidence and philosophical argument are not viewed as necessary to ground belief in God and to make it rational. However, it also holds that this approach to belief —rejecting evidentialism— itself is rational and presents arguments and evidence in an attempt to argue for that conclusion. Most of the philosophers, Alvin Plantinga, Nicholas Wolterstorff, and William Alston being the most prominent, who are developing ideas in this area are doing so under the auspices of Reformed epistemology. (The version of Reformed epistemology I discuss here is not the only version. C. Stephen Evans is developing a version of Reformed epistemology along Kierkegarrdian lines that is seeking to be sensitive to postmodern concerns. See my WHiP article “Postmodernizing Religion”).

Where these philosophers differ from the deconstructionists is in the fact that they believe religious knowledge is objective knowledge. That is they hold that religious belief actually is of something real. They differ from the evidentialists in that they deny that belief in God has to come by way of evidence and argument. Rather, believe in God, like other types of belief (e.g. beliefs formed by perceptual experience) can be formed by an internal function or by way of an act of God or a combination of both. For example, thinkers in the Calvinist tradition hold that belief in God is formed by way of  a capacity of soul that is designed to detect God. When formed in this way, the belief is both immediate and rational.

Plantinga’s latest opus, Warranted Christian Belief, is already receiving much critical attention and is an apologetic in the truest sense. In it, Plantinga does three major things. First he argues that all of the arguments against the rationality of God fail. He examines the critiques of Kant, Freud, Marx, and looks at postmodern critiques and attempts to show why their critiques of religious belief don’t work. Second, he painstakingly develops the notion of a sensus divinitatus—a divine sensor—that allows a human being to directly detect and form belief in God. He draws on the rich Christian tradition found in folks like Calvin, Saint Thomas, and Jonathan Edwards. Finally, after establishing the rationality of theism, he argues for the rationality and superiority of the Christian religion specifically. Though the book primarily is a discourse in religious epistemology, it serves as a staunch defense of the rationality of belief in God and is aimed and “defeating defeaters” for that belief. This is a paradigmatic example of the return to the pre-enlightenment philosophy.

It seems to be the nature of human beings to want to provide reasons for believing the things most dear to them even if those beliefs turn out to be irrational or just plain false. Given that philosophers tend to be among the more inquisitive, I think its fairly safe to say that apologetics will continue to be a dominate discipline within philosophy of religion for the foreseeable future. In philosophic years, that’s millennia.