Wednesday, February 24, 2010

This One is For Aish,, Et Al.
"In addition to the prevalent grievous misunderstanding of the nature of divinity beliefs, there presently persists an equally grievous misunderstanding of the ground on which they are believed.of the cheapest shots in the entire science/religion discussion is the one that goes: science is matter of observation and reason while religion is blind faith. I call it cheap because it is made in the face of centuries of explanations to the contrary. To cite only Christian thinkers (and only a few of them) it is contradicted by Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, and Pascal. How anyone could ignore all of them and still claim to have correctly described the Christian idea of the grounds for belief in God, I do not know. But it is done with appalling regularity by people who hold prestigious positions in major universities, some of whom have notable accomplishments in one or another science. All I can say about that is to note how often success in one area tempts those flushed with such success to proclaim (with great confidence) the most ludicrous mistakes in another area of which they know next to nothing.

So let’s get this much clear right away: there is not, and never has been, a religion on earth whose scriptures ever asked anyone to believe it on blind faith. Neither have the scriptures of any religion attempted to prove its doctrines as though they were theories. Rather, the ground that every religion has pointed to as the way to know the truth of its teachings is the direct experience of their self-evident certainty.
For that reason it is doubly absurd first to mis-describe divinity beliefs as based on blind faith, and then dismiss them as epistemically substandard unless they are proven. That makes no more sense than it would to demand of mathematics that it prove its axioms or declare them blind faith in the absence of such proof. Moreover, these twin mistakes are usually conjoined to a third, namely, the egregiously false claim that if a belief has no proof then the only alternative is that of blind faith. Many participants in the science/religion dialog have asserted this position without noticing that it would not only make the axioms of math and logic blind faith, but also all beliefs derived from normal sense perception! None of these are provable, but they are not therefore blind faith! Nor do they need proof; nothing that is believed because it is experienced as self-evident needs proof. And please notice that it will not do to reply to this last point by saying that when it comes to logic, math, and normal sense perception everyone agrees as to what is self-evidently true, whereas the disagreements over what is divine render its alleged self-evidency spurious. That isn’t even close to being correct. There are as intractable, head-butting, longstanding disagreements about axioms of math and logic as there are about divinity beliefs. What this shows is not that self-evidency is not a proper ground for belief, but that although it is often the ground (and the only ground) for a belief, it is not infallible.

Roy Clouser is professor of philosophy and religion (Emeritus) at the College of New Jersey. He holds an BA from Gordon College, a B.D. from Reformed Episcopal Seminary, and an M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. Along the way to the Ph.D. he studied with Paul Tillich at Harvard Graduate School and with Herman Dooyeweerd at the Free University of Amsterdam. In 1997 he won one of the Templeton Awards for his course in science and religion. He is the author of The Myth of Religious Neutrality (University of Notre Dame Press, revised 2005), Knowing with the Heart (IVP, 1999), and numerous articles.


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