Questioning Assumptions

Questioning Assumptions

by Tom Christenson

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Overview

Tom Christenson turns philosophy inside out in this remarkable new book. Starting with the ongoing public debate over God's existence, he approaches traditional arguments in philosophy of religion and peels back their veneers to uncover the questionable assumptions underlying each. This brief, valuable book drives the reader to reconsider how to think about the most fundamental questions that surround matters of faith and religious belief.

For Christenson, three key assumptions need unpacking: that believing is the focal act of faith; that the basic religious question is about the existence of God; and that religious language actually refers to some thing, namely God. He interrogates each for its adequacy and implications for larger questions of faith and reason. By making these assumptions explicit, Christenson explores intriguing new ways of looking at the rationality of faith.

Augmenting his analysis and critique, Christenson concludes each chapter with important questions for reflection. These questions carry through the critical stance that he asks of himself and his readers, challenging all to rethink and re-imagine whether religious faith is rational.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780800697532
Publisher: Augsburg Fortress, Publishers
Publication date: 02/01/2011
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 160
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.00(d)

About the Author

Tom Christenson is Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Center for Faith and Learning at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio. Christenson has over thirty years of college and university teaching experience and teaches courses in philosophy of religion annually. He is the author of Wonder and Critical Reflection: An Invitation to Philosophy (2003) and The Gift and Task of Lutheran Higher Education (Fortress, 2004), in addition to several published essays and articles.

Table of Contents

Preface xi

Introduction: Focusing the Question 1

The Recurring Debate: Does God Exist? 1

God versus Science: The Dawkins/Collins Debate 5

Does God Exist? Was There a Time when the Question Did Not Arise? 7

Mythos and Logos 10

Questioning the Questions 12

From the Classroom: Student Questions and Responses 13

Questions for Reflection 14

Part 1 Questioning the Philosophy of Religion

Chapter 1 Questioning Assumptions about Religious Belief 19

Assumption 1 Believing Is the Focal Act of Faith 19

A Not All Religions Are Belief-Focused 19

B Even Religions That See to Be Belief-Focused May Not Be as Much as They Seem 21

C Assuming That Faith Is Belief-Focused Narrows Our Vision 22

D Believing Is Not an Intentional Activity 25

E Believing Is Too Cognitive and Too Logo-Centric to Be the Focal Act of Faith 26

F Many Serious Thinkers Have Suggested Other Things as Being Religiously Focal 27

G The Term Believe Is Not Univocal 32

From the Classroom: Student Questions and Responses 39

Questions for Critical Reflection 42

Chapter 2 Questioning Assumptions about God's Existence 45

Assumption 2 The Basic Religious Question Is about the Existence of God 45

A God Is Not a Thing That May or May Not Exist 45

B Does God Exist? Being Fooled by a Misdirected Question 46

C Does God Exist? Being Fooled by Grammar 48

D Does X Exist? The Temptation of the Question 50

From the Classroom: Student Questions and Responses 51

Questions for Critical Reflection 53

Chapter 3 Questioning Assumptions about Religious Language 55

Assumption 3 Religious Language Is Primarily Referential 55

A Referential and Nonreferential Meaning 55

B My Son's Atheism 57

C How Is God-Language Used? 57

From the Classroom: Student Questions and Responses 61

Questions for Critical Reflection 63

Part 2 Rethinking the Philosophy of Religion

Chapter 4 Rethinking Religious Faith 67

Religion as a Way of Seeing 67

Religious Language as Parable? 73

Poetry: A Prerequisite for Faith? 74

Faith and Imagination 76

Religious Faith: An Imagination-Shaped Way of Seeing 76

Some Prejudices against Imagination 77

The Power of Imagination: Some Testimonials 81

Religious Imagination 82

Religious Faith as Experiencing-As 84

A Critical View and a Response 85

A Theory of Religious Discourse 89

From the Classroom: Student Questions and Responses 92

Questions for Critical Reflection 94

Chapter 5 Rethinking the Rationality of Faith 95

The Question of the Rationality of Faith 95

Newton's Scientific Achievement Revisited 96

The Democratic Achievement Revisited 97

The Pragmatic Examination of Religion: James, Nietzsche, Marx, and Freud 100

Some Problems with the Pragmatic Critique 107

Preliminary Conclusions 108

Fruitfulness as a Criterion? 109

Faith and the Fulfillment of the Human 113

Is Religious Faith Rational? One More Time Around 117

Some Concluding Thoughts 121

Some Implications 122

From the Classroom: Student Questions and Responses 124

Questions for Critical Reflection 126

Glossary 127

Works Cited 131

Annotated Suggestions for Further Reading 135

Index 139

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