Rational theology, an initial assumption

Either you think a proof for the existence of God is a necessary basis for a description of what he is like, or you don’t. Most Scholastic philosophy believes the first- not just it’s Aristotelian camp but also the Anselmian one. Most Analytic philosophy is in the second camp, which sees no need to base a discussion of divine attributes on a previous determination of his existence. The thought seems to be that theology only needs to determine the conceptual coherence of the various properties attributed to divinity, and it is quite another thing to raise the question whether there is any such bearer of the properties.

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1 Comment

  1. Aron Wall said,

    January 6, 2015 at 3:35 pm

    Count me in with the Scholastics on this one—to me it seems quite stupid to debate whether the divine attributes are logically consistent, without first discussing why we think God might exist in the first place.

    Suppose for example that we are trying to decide whether the property of “omnipotence” is logically consistent. We will quickly find that the answer depends on precisely how we define “omnipotent”. So which of the definitions is correct? If we have no reason to postulate an omnipotent entity, picking between these different definitions is just a logical word game.

    But if we have some actual reason to believe in God—not necessarily a reason that provides certainty, but *a* reason whether philosophical, biblical, or experiential—then we also have a criterion for deciding which defintion is more likely to be correct. We can ask why we believe God might be omnipotent in the first place, and this will naturally lead us towards a particular fleshing out of the concept of omnipotence. (One that is likely to make a great deal more sense than any of the word-puzzle definitions.)


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