The Predicament of Belief: Science, Philosophy, and Faith

The Predicament of Belief: Science, Philosophy, and Faith

by Philip Clayton, Steven Knapp


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Does it make sense - can it make sense - for someone who appreciates the explanatory power of modern science to continue believing in a traditional religious account of the ultimate nature and purpose of our universe? This book is intended for those who care about that question and are dissatisfied with the rigid dichotomies that dominate the contemporary debate. The extremists won't be interested - those who assume that science answers all the questions that matter, and those so certain of their religious faith that dialogue with science, philosophy, or other faith traditions seems unnecessary. But far more people today recognize that matters of faith are complex, that doubt is endemic to belief, and that dialogue is indispensable in our day.

In eight probing chapters, the authors of The Predicament of Belief consider the most urgent reasons for doubting that religious claims - in particular, those embedded in the Christian tradition - are likely to be true. They develop a version of Christian faith that preserves the tradition's core insights but also gauges the varying degrees of certainty with which those insights can still be affirmed. Along the way, they address such questions as the ultimate origin of the universe, the existence of innocent suffering, the challenge of religious plurality, and how to understand the extraordinary claim that an ancient teacher rose from the dead. They end with a discussion of what their conclusions imply about the present state and future structure of churches and other communities in which Christian affirmations are made.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780199695270
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication date: 12/31/2011
Pages: 240
Product dimensions: 8.60(w) x 5.60(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Philip Clayton is Ingraham Professor at the Claremont School of Theology and Professor of Religion at Claremont Graduate University. Holder of a joint PhD in Philosophy and Religious Studies from Yale University, he has held guest professorships at Harvard University, the University of Cambridge, and the University of Munich. He is author or editor of some twenty books and close to 200 articles in philosophy, theology, and the religion-science debate. His Oxford publications include Mind and Emergence: From Quantum to Consciousness, The Re-emergence of Emergence (co-edited with Paul Davies), and the Oxford Handbook of Religion and Science.

Steven Knapp is the sixteenth president of the George Washington University in Washington, DC, where he is also a professor of English. Before assuming his current position in 2007, he served as dean of arts and sciences and then as provost of the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland; before that, he taught English literature at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of two books and author or co-author of numerous articles and lectures on literature, literary theory, philosophy, and religion. Dr. Knapp earned his bachelor's degree at Yale University and his master's and doctoral degrees at Cornell University. Outside the academy, he has been active in a wide range of community and religious affairs.

Table of Contents

Preface vii

1 Reasons for doubt 1

The modern predicament 1

Why not be agnostic? 16

2 The ultimate reality 23

The fundamental question 23

Why even ask about the ultimate? 24

The ultimacy of mind 27

From mind to agency 33

Creation and the love of others 37

The divine lure 40

3 Divine action and the argument from neglect 44

The argument from neglect 44

Responses to the argument from neglect 46

The nonlawlike nature of the mental 53

Does the problem of evil now return in a new form? 59

The eschatological dimensio 66

4 The plurality of religions 69

5 The scandal of particularity, Part I: The resurrection testimony 79

Religious pluralism and Christian revelation claims 79

Jesus as "risen" 83

Paul and the participatory theory 87

Assessing the proposal 90

6 The scandal of particularity, Part II: Jesus and the ultimate reality 93

The question of uniqueness 93

The resurrection appearances 96

Personal presence 101

"The Spirit of Christ": A Spirit-centered theory of the resurrection 106

7 Doubt and belief 111

How do we assess our beliefs? 111

Doubt, uncertainty, and Christian belief 111

Resurrection hope and the question of the Trinity 127

8 The spectrum of belief and the question of the church 136

The necessity and costs of revision 137

The life of faith 139

Theory to practice 142

Christianity today 143

Churches 145

Using Christian language in a multireligious context 149

Does it matter? 151

Notes 155

Index 179

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