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W. Jay Wood
Copyright Date: 2011
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    The first part of the book addresses the epistemological concerns, focusing on arguments for and against the claim that theism is rationally justifiable. These include discussion of cosmological arguments, the ontological argument, the argument from design, and the moral argument for God's existence. Metaphysical questions about God's nature, in particular God's knowledge and power, and the nature of religious experience constitute the second part of the book. Epistemological and metaphysical questions are shown to be related since, if the concept of a God perfect in wisdom, power, and goodness is incoherent, it cannot be reasonable to believe that God exists. Throughout his discussion Wood draws on the most recent writings in the field as well as classic arguments and offers readers a clear, balanced, and incisive analysis of the core philosophical arguments for the existence of God. The book equips readers with the necessary understanding of issues in natural theology that will enable them to tackle more specialized and complex questions in the philosophy of religion.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-9466-1
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-[vi])
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    Suppose there is a personal being perfect in wisdom, power and goodness, who created the world and sustains it in existence from moment to moment, and that your highest flourishing in this life and the next depends on your being rightly related to this being. In short, suppose that God exists. This, in a nutshell, is what theists profess the world over: a belief that unites the great monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. If theism is true, it is a matter of incalculable weightiness, which partially explains why theism has been of perennial interest to philosophers. Two questions...

  4. 1 Design arguments
    (pp. 13-36)

    We begin our study of natural theology with design arguments, not because they are logically prior to the other arguments for God’s existence, but because they are grounded in so common and widespread an experience – that of beholding the complexity, grandeur and apparent design of the world around us. How many of us have cast a heavenward glance at the star-studded sky on a spectacularly clear night and been moved to the thought “surely this could not have come about by sheer accident, but must be the work of some supernatural being”? Or, for those whose wonder is moved...

  5. 2 Cosmological arguments
    (pp. 37-50)

    We have looked at a sampling of arguments, all of which claim that the world’s organization, or the functioning of its parts, can best be explained as the handiwork of God. Opponents of such arguments deny that supernatural agency must be invoked; they believe we have perfectly rational and, perhaps, superior explanations that rely solely on natural laws and processes. The cosmological argument for God’s existence does not focus on the world’s organization, but on its very existence. The question can be put succinctly: why is there something rather than nothing? At first glance, three options present themselves for explaining...

  6. 3 The ontological argument
    (pp. 51-64)

    The teleological and cosmological arguments arise out of commonplace experiences of a contingent world that displays order. The ontological argument, by contrast, is purelya priori, which is to say, it is not grounded in everyday experience but arises from reflection alone. In a nutshell, it claims that if one truly understands the concept of God and what it is for God to be perfect, one must acknowledge that he exists, for a truly perfect being could not lack existence and still be perfect. As we will see, it is one of the more abstruse arguments in the philosophical repertoire,...

  7. 4 The moral argument for God’s existence
    (pp. 65-96)

    We have surveyed a trio of famous arguments for God’s existence, the teleological, cosmological and ontological arguments, which their most ardent proponents offer as “proofs” of God’s existence. Many theists see these arguments in less exalted terms, perhaps as offering good reasons for thinking that God exists but not as decisive proofs that settle the issue of God’s existence once and for all. Even if the arguments thus far surveyed are sound, they suffer other limitations. The teleological and cosmological arguments suffer potentially from the “gap problem”, while the ontological argument suffers from a lack of cogency: no one is...

  8. 5 Religious experience and cumulative case arguments
    (pp. 97-132)

    In 1654, eight years before his death, the brilliant French mathematician, scientist and philosopher Blaise Pascal had a powerful religious experience that lasted two hours and has come to be known as “the night of fire”. From roughly 10.30pm to 12.30am, Pascal claims to have encountered God. Ever the scientist, Pascal attempted to write down what was happening to him during the experience. What he managed to write down is as follows:


    “God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob,” not of the philosophers and of the learned.

    Certitude, certitude, feeling, joy, peace.

    God of Jesus Christ.


  9. 6 Religious belief without evidence
    (pp. 133-154)

    We began this book by considering the evidentialist objection to religious belief. The objection, as you will recall, insists that all beliefs – with religious beliefs as no exception – must enjoy the support of adequate evidence if we are to believe them rationally. Most evidentialists insist that one not only have evidence, but also that one see how and to what degree one’s evidence supports the target belief. In the light of this requirement, it is quite plain how the evidentialist’s demand is congruent with the natural theologian’s practice of forming arguments for God’s existence, whose premises and strength...

  10. 7 The problem of suffering
    (pp. 155-186)

    John Rawls, author ofA Theory of Justice, arguably the most influential treatment of the subject in the twentieth century, grew up a faithful Christian. His Christian convictions were fully on display in his undergraduate thesis at Princeton University, titled “A Brief Inquiry Into the Meaning of Sin and Faith”. His ardent faith foundered, however, by what he experienced as a soldier during the Second World War. Rawls (as so many others) was particularly troubled by the Holocaust. “How could I pray,” wrote Rawls, “and ask God to help me, or my family, or my country, or any other cherished...

  11. 8 The nature of God
    (pp. 187-222)

    If God exists, one is naturally led to ask what sort of being is God. Theists and non-theists alike have a stake in posing the question. Theists, of course, have in interest in knowing the central object of their devotion. Christians, for instance, claim that the highest state of heavenly beatitude consists in “seeing God face to face”, of “knowing as we have been known”. In hisProslogion, Anselm of Canterbury prays to God: “Lord, You give understanding to faith, grant me that I may understand, as much as You see fit, that You exist as we believe You to...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 223-226)

    The debate concerning God’s existence, like many debates in philosophy – the success of sceptical arguments, the nature of time, the moral permissibility of war and scores of examples like them – is a matter on which the best philosophical minds disagree. Partisans of both sides can be found who present and defend their arguments with rigour and sophistication, find these arguments compelling and at the same time seem to have a clear understanding of their opponents’ views. From this we can, I think, derive several lessons. One obvious lesson is that this debate, like most debates in philosophy (indeed,...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 227-236)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 237-246)
  15. Index
    (pp. 247-250)