John Whittaker on rational proofs of God’s existence

The impression that one gets from most philosophers of religion is that religious conversions might be, and perhaps should be, brought about by the justification of God’s existence on rational grounds. To me this ideal of evidentiary justification seems so far removed from the actual life of believers that those who defend it seem almost hopelessly out of touch. It is true that they have many powerful slogans on their side: ‘a rational belief is a well-grounded belief,’ ‘it is a moral failure to believe something on the basis of insufficient evidence,’ etc., etc. And so none of us should be surprised by the well-meant desire of such philosophers to square religious belief with this ideal. Yet these philosophers fail to notice that the very character of religious beliefs is altered when they are represented as hypotheses before the bar of what passes for reason. The point of those beliefs is lost as they are realigned with the evidence of natural theology or with the arguments of abstract philosophy. ‘Maybe their point is lost,’ they may say, ‘but it can be reinstalled at a later time; what matters is that philosophers have found a way of justifying religious beliefs according to the standard ideal of a rational conviction.’ But the religious point of these beliefs cannot be reinstalled at a later time. Or if it is, the means by which this is done render the philosophical proofs beside the point.

from “Can a Purely Grammatical Inquiry be Religiously Persuasive?” in Philosophy and the Grammar of Religious Belief, (St. Martin’s Press, 1995), 352.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s