A Public God

A Public God: Natural Theology Reconsidered

Neil Ormerod
Copyright Date: 2015
DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt9m0swq
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  • Book Info
    A Public God
    Book Description:

    Natural theology is a philosophical site that is hotly debated and controversial—it is claimed by Roman Catholics, Protestants, and Evangelicals as a crucial vantage point for the intersection of theology, philosophy, science, and politics, while it is, simultaneously, strongly contested by some theologians, such as those influenced by Karl Barth, as well as some philosophers and scientists, especially of the new atheist variety. This volume steers through these troubled waters, arguing for reclamation of a natural theology that withstands the challenges from within and without the Christian tradition and accrues to a vital public and political witness. Drawing on Bernard Lonergan’s notions of intellectual and moral conversions and contemporary scientific findings, it engages with key assertions from the new atheists to highlight their tensions and inconsistencies, while putting forward a positive proposal for a form of natural theology that is public, contextual, and political; engaging in publically accountable discourse; drawing on our contemporary scientific and social context; and aware of the political ramifications of undertaking the project of natural theology.

    eISBN: 978-1-4514-6983-7
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt9m0swq.1
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt9m0swq.2
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-xii)
    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt9m0swq.3
  4. 1 Natural Theology as Contextual, Political, and Public
    (pp. 1-26)
    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt9m0swq.4

    At its most basic, natural theology is about the “God question,” that is, the question of the existence and attributes of a presumed divine being. As a “natural” theology, it does not seek to draw upon any particular religious tradition or revelation (which, after all, would be circular), but rather works from some account of human reasoning, with a degree of public accountability, in dialogue with the other products of (nonreligious) human reasoning. While I am a Christian and Catholic theologian, this is not a work in Christian or Catholic theology per se, though it does rework themes drawn from...

  5. 2 God, Proof, and Reason
    (pp. 27-52)
    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt9m0swq.5

    In the first chapter, we explored the question of how we might think of the natural theology project. Central to that project is the task of seeking to prove the existence of God. Yet one of the often-unexplored questions around this task is the very notion of proof itself. What does it mean to “prove” something? Proof often depends on a number of factors—the shared background meanings of those listening, the presentation of evidence, the use of reasoning, and so on—that move us from uncertainty to a conclusion to which we feel rationally compelled to assent. Further, we...

  6. 3 Intellect, Reason, and Reality The Beginning of Intellectual Conversion
    (pp. 53-78)
    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt9m0swq.6

    In the previous chapter, I considered two accepted contemporary paradigms for knowing and proving (mathematics and science), noted their similarities and differences, and proposed a third paradigm, a metaphysical paradigm, more as a heuristic anticipation rather than an existing fact. In particular, I suggested that Lonergan’s notion of intellectual conversion is the key issue in the development of any such metaphysical paradigm. Without it, or something very much like it, it is almost impossible to untangle any real distinction between physics and metaphysics.

    In this chapter, we shall explore this issue further, tracing a number of issues that arise in...

  7. 4 Consciousness, Spirit, and God
    (pp. 79-104)
    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt9m0swq.7

    As I have argued in this work, natural theology always has a context, a cultural setting within which it seeks to operate. One of the major issues facing a contemporary natural theology is the question of subjectivity/consciousness/self-awareness that was raised in the previous chapter.¹ Here we face a paradoxical situation, in which scientific reductionist accounts of consciousness want to reduce it to a mere epiphenomenon, reflective of lower-order brain states. Indeed, this reductionism pervades all claims to the “objectivity” of science, as if science itself occurs independent of the subjectivity of the scientists who produce it. Subjectivity is written out...

  8. 5 Morality, Responsibility, and God
    (pp. 105-128)
    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt9m0swq.8

    So far, I have mainly discussed intelligibility and reasonableness, intelligence and reason, and meaning and truth, but have said little about the good and issues of ethics and morality. In a sense, my primary interlocutors have been those who promote the supposed disjunction between science and religious belief, so the focus has remained on how intelligence and reason, which lie at the heart of the scientific enterprise, lead naturally to the God question through the recognition of the intelligibility and contingency of our universe. This contingency is revealed in the fact that no scientific theory is self-verifying; the movement from...

  9. 6 God and Politics
    (pp. 129-152)
    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt9m0swq.9

    One of the inescapable aspects of the debate initiated by the new atheism is the place of religion in the public square. Much of the heat, if not light, generated by the debate is caused by the background of 9/11 and the specter of Islamic radicalism seeking to establish sharia law and Islamic theocratic states around the world. This is particularly evident in the title of Christopher Hitchens’s bookGod Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, with its none-too-subtle reference to a basic Islamic statement of faith, “God is great.”¹ Christianity, too, contains elements that would be happy to...

  10. 7 God and the Problems of Pain, Suffering, and Evil
    (pp. 153-176)
    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt9m0swq.10

    We now come to the final and most difficult topic to deal with in any natural theology: the problems of pain, suffering, and evil. For many people, these are the knockdown arguments against the traditional understanding of God as benevolent, omniscient, and omnipotent. In the light of human suffering and evil, either God is not good (because God does nothing to address the problem), or if God is good, God is not omnipotent (because the problem remains). Or perhaps God does not know, in which case God is not omniscient.

    And the problem is rarely just a philosophical one. Underneath...

  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 177-184)
    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt9m0swq.11
  12. Index
    (pp. 185-196)
    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt9m0swq.12
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 197-197)
    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt9m0swq.13