The Elusive God, Chapter 5: The Aftermath
August 19, 2009 — 14:44

Author: Kevin Timpe  Category: Books of Interest  Comments: Off

This final chapter of Moser’s The Elusive God serves as both a summary and a guide for applying the ideas developed earlier in the book.  As with the volume as a whole, Moser emphasizes the volitional role we play in coming to have evidence of God’s perfectly loving and noncoercive redemptive purposes. 

Much of what Moser says is, I think, something that most Christians would agree with quite easily: the importance of finding and knowing God, the ways in which life is a gift, how eternal life is received rather than earned, the impact of death, that our only hope to escape death requires something outside of ourselves, the difference btween self-interestedness and the vice of selfishness, etc….   And there is much that I like here (such as his discussion of faith as a disposition to trust God).  But, in what is (perhaps unfortunately) standard philosophical fashion, I’ll focus on what’s unclear or potentially problematic.

A central theme here is that the “truth indicators that constitute evidence need not be arguments” (244); furthermore, it seems that Moser thinks of these indicators in a non-propositional way altogether, more along the lines of what Eleonore Stump calls ‘second-person experiences’.  Surely Moser is right to say that “divine-human interpersonal interaction in direct firsthand knowledge of divine relvation” is central (245).  But I think that Moser should grant (perhaps he does grant–it’s not clear to me) that propositional beliefs, and natural theology in particular, can help us decide whether such second-person experiences are veridical or not.  If I have an experience of what I think is a direct encounter with God, say of an Abrahamic sort to kill my son Jameson, I’d want to test that experience in light of what I know about the nature of God before deciding to obey it.  (This is particularly true if we take seriously, as Moser does, the ways in which sin can distort our thinking.  More on this in a bit.)  If I should “willingly ‘fall into the abyss of God’s incomprehensibility'” (246), I ought to make sure that it is God’s incomprehensibility that I am falling into–and beliefs will be an essential aspect of making this judgement.

(More below the fold…)


 On the whole, I think that most if not all libertarians, as well as many compatibilists, would agree that as a result of God’s essentially all-lovingness, He must promote non-coercive loving relationships with humans insofar as coercion suppresses the will.


Following on some earlier comments, I’m unclear who the targets of Moser’s criticisms are supposed to be.  On 242, for example, Moser writes that there is “a kind of elusive noncoercive ebidence that philosophers and others have overlooked or ignored” and that focusing on this evidence “should move us beyond philosophical parlor games to issues that truly matter” (emphases added).  It’s not clear to me who the target of these comments is supposed to be.  Furthermore, there has been, it seems to me, a fair bit of discussion of the noetic effects of sin.  I think a wonderful example is Westphal’s “Taking St. Paul Seriously: Sin As an Epistemological Category,” in Christian Philosophy , ed. Thomas Flint (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1990), but it also comes up in Plantinga’s warrant trilogy (not to mention Augustine!) and is the primary focus of Moroney’s The Noetic Effects of Sin: A Historical and Contemporary Exploration of How Sin Distorts Our Thinking.  Perhaps Moser simply means that this line of thought hasn’t been explored widely enough?

Furthermore, it would be nice to see Moser engage Christian materialist accounts of human nature in order to defend the claim that “given materialism, we will no longer be persons after our death, even if our bodily remains persist for a while, and thus there is no lasting hope for us, regarding our future as persons” (250).  Granted, on the previous page, Moser says he’s talking about “materialism, or physicalism, about all real objects or individuals” (249, emphasis added).  But ruling out this kind of materialism does not entail materialism about human persons is false, and much of his discussion of death seems to suggest that he rejects even this version of materialism.

Here endeth the post.