“Thinking God: An Essay in Rational Theology”
taught by Prof. Dr. Holm Tetens (FU Berlin)
February 24th – 26th 2015
The masterclass is based upon Holm Tetens’ recent book “Gott denken. Ein Versuch über rationale Theologie”. It will be organized by the Institute for Philosophy of Religion at the Munich School of Philosophy in cooperation with Katholische Akademie in Bayern.
Further information concerning application can be found here (in German).
Trent’s interesting post about evil and hiddenness has reminded me of the following draft that I wrote some time ago:
The problem of evil challenges theism by raising the following question: if God is omnipotent and omnibenevolent, why is there evil in the actual world? Theists have proposed many responses to the problem, such as the free will response, the soul-making response, the greater good response, and so on. Whether any succeeds has been debated for hundreds of years.
Suppose now, for the sake of argument, that there is a successful theistic response to the problem of evil explaining the reason, call it X, that God has to allow evil. Unfortunately, this does not end the story because the existence of X raises a new question: If God is omnipotent and omnibenevolent, why does He not tell us that X is the reason that He has to allow evil? A state of affairs in which we remain puzzled by not being told by God that X is the reason that He has to allow evil seems to undermine the existence of an omnipotent and omnibenevolent God. Let us call this the ‘second-order problem of evil’.
Suppose, for the sake of argument, that there is a successful theistic response to the second-order problem of evil explaining the reason, call it Y, that God cannot tell us that X is the reason that He has to allow evil. Unfortunately, this does not the end the story because the existence of Y raises a new question: If God is omnipotent and omnibenevolent, why does He not tell us that Y is the reason that He cannot tell us that X is the reason that He has to allow evil? A state of affairs in which we remain puzzled by not being told by God that Y is the reason that He cannot tell us that X is the reason that He has to allow evil seems to undermine the existence of an omnipotent and omnibenevolent God. Let us call this the ‘third-order problem of evil’.
And so on, ad infinitum.
What does this observation teach us? First, it teaches us that theists who think that they have found a successful response to the problem of evil should beware of overconfidence; such a response raises new challenges for them. Second, it encourages theists to investigate a link between evil and God’s hiddenness. The only plausible explanation, if there is any, that God does not prevent evil, does not tell us X is the reason that He has to allow evil, does not tell us Y is the reason that He cannot tell us that X is the reason that He has to allow evil, and so on, appears to be that God has to remain hidden from us; that is, God has to avoid any form of interaction with us which suggests His existence. We can see this clearly by showing that the above infinite regress does not arise for the problem of divine hiddenness, despite the fact that the problem of divine hiddenness is structurally parallel to the problem of evil. Suppose that there is a successful theistic response to the problem of divine hiddenness explaining the reason, call it Z, that God has to remain hidden from us. Unlike the case of the problem of evil, the existence of Z does not raise the following second-order question: If God is omnipotent and omnibenevolent, why does He not tell us that Z is the reason that He has to hide Himself? If there is any valid reason that God has to hide himself then He cannot tell us that that is the reason because by telling it to us God would fail to hide Himself from us. This seems to indicate that there is a link between the problem of evil and the problem of divine hiddenness and that theists might be able to stop the infinite regress of the higher-order problems of evil by appealing to God’s hiddenness. Conversely, it might be that the higher-order problems of evil cannot be resolved without first resolving the problem of divine hiddenness.
The BSPR’s Eleventh Conference: Divine Hiddenness
Oriel College, Oxford, Thursday 12th through Sunday 13th September
Saturday 12th will focus on the legacy of Richard Swinburne in honour of his 80th birthday.
Richard Swinburne (Oxford), Stephen R. L. Clark (Liverpool), Sarah Coakley (Cambridge), Trent Dougherty (Baylor)
Call for Papers:
The problem of the “Hiddenness of God” has been explored in analytic philosophy of religion in recent decades mainly as an issue of theodicy and providence: if God wishes to make Godself transformatively available to humans, why does God not do so more obviously and openly? Many, such as Russell and, more recently, Schellenberg, have taken this to be an argument against theism.
There is however also a deeper ontological issue at stake, that of the apparently intrinsic divine transcendence of God as creator. What philosophical sense can be made of a God who is (it is said) utterly unknowable in ‘essence’ but equally utterly available ‘in energies’, grace and revelation? Is there anything to be gained by a comparison with modern cosmological speculation here? We know what ‘dark matter’ does (namely, pull visible baryonic matter into stars and galaxies) but not what it is.
There is also an epistemological problem, with echoes in other (non-religious) spheres. We may hope one day – though perhaps without much reason – to know the nature of ‘dark matter’, whereas – we are told – God is forever incomprehensible. How – as Hume enquired – does an incomprehensible divinity differ from an equally incomprehensible, non-divine, origin? How does “God does it” differ from “we can never know what does it”?
Papers are invited which probe these philosophical issues from different directions, in connection with Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu or classical pagan traditions, both ancient and modern, and from the perspective of abstract metaphysics and epistemology. The theodicy question in the earlier discussion need not be neglected, but should be considered in the light of the metaphysical and epistemological issues already named.
Please send abstracts either in the body of an email or as a .doc file (no pdfs) of a maximum of 250 words to me (Victoria.Harrison@glasgow.ac.uk) by the end of March 2015. Unfortunately, it will not be possible to consider abstracts that exceed the word limit or that are submitted after the closing date (allowance being made to colleagues in other time zones).
Final versions of accepted papers will be due one month before the conference begins.
Preference will be shown towards papers that are on the theme of the conference. Time and space at the conference will be limited, so we shall have to be selective, even allowing for the fact that we plan to run parallel sessions and request people presenting papers to keep to half-hour slots.
In order to keep to the tight timetabling required to permit participants to hear (the whole of) as many papers as possible, papers should take ideally fifteen minutes and an absolute maximum twenty minutes to deliver, leaving ten minutes or so for discussion.
I am delighted to announce that Nick Trakakis (ACU) and Paul Franks (Tyndale) will be Visiting Research Fellows at Ryerson University in Toronto in 2014-2015. They will participate in a research project, entitled “Theism: An Axiological Investigation”, that is supported by a generous grant from the John Templeton Foundation. For details, see: www.ryerson.ca/~kraay/theism.html.
We are delighted to present this exciting virtual issue of Philosophy Compass articles, dealing with the Meta-Philosophy of Religion. The four articles below have been specially selected by the editor of our Philosophy of Religion section, Yujin Nagasawa, and will be available for free for the next six months, until October 2014. You can read the Editor’s Introduction and article abstracts below.
On behalf of Klaas Kraay:
I am writing to solicit applications for a Research Fellowship in the Philosophy of Religion to be held during the 2014-2015 academic year.
This fellowship is funded by a generous research grant (from the John Templeton Foundation) entitled “Theism: An Axiological Investigation”.
The successful applicant will either receive a stipend/salary of $45,000 CAD, or funds for teaching release.
Junior, mid-career, and senior philosophers are all welcome to apply.
For details, please visit the project website: http://www.ryerson.ca/~kraay/theism.html
Applications are due on February 28, 2014.
To celebrate the publication of the 50th volume of Religious Studies in 2014, and the 50th anniversary of the founding of the journal in 1965, the University of Leeds is hosting a conference, sponsored by Cambridge University Press, on 25th – 27th June, 2014. Invited participants include: Pamela Sue Anderson, Peter Byrne, Victoria Harrison, Brian Leftow, Graham Oppy, John Schellenberg, Stewart Sutherland, Richard Swinburne, and Keith Ward.
The afternoon of 26th will be set aside for submitted short papers, and these are now invited. Abstracts of around 250 words, accompanied by a short CV, should be sent by e-mail attachment to the Editor, Prof. Robin Le Poidevin, email@example.com, no later than 31st January, 2014.
On behalf of Klaas Kraay:
I am delighted to announce that Dr. Richard Davis (Tyndale University College) and Dr. Myron A. Penner (Trinity Western University) will be Visiting Research Fellows at Ryerson University (Toronto, Canada) during the 2013-2014 academic year. These Fellowships are part of a research project entitled “Theism: An Axiological Investigation”, which is funded by a generous grant from the John Templeton Foundation. For more information about the project, and about these Fellows’ research, see: http://www.ryerson.ca/~kraay/theism.html .
The British Society for the Philosophy of Religion
Tenth Conference: Atheisms
11th-13th September 2013
Oriel College, University of Oxford
In order to secure your place at the conference please submit your booking form (http://www.thebspr.org/conferences.html) and payment as soon as possible to the Secretary at the address below. Bookings can be accepted up to the 21st August; however in the event of your cancelling your booking a refund of the services you have booked will be available only until 5th August.
Dr Andrew Moore
Regent’s Park College
Pamela Anderson (Oxford)
Stephen R. L. Clark (Liverpool)
Robin Le Poidevin (Leeds)
- Zain Ali, Faith, Philosophy and the Reflective Muslim
- Yujin Nagasawa (ed.), Scientific Approaches to Philosophy of Religion
- Istvan Aranyosi, God, Mind and Logical Space: A Revisionary Approach to Divinity
- Eric Steinhart, Your Digital Afterlives
- Gregory Dawes and James Maclaurin (eds.), Cognitive Science and Religion
- Trent Dougherty, The Problem of Animal Pain: A Theodicy for All Creatures Great and Small
- Aaron Rizzieri, Pragmatic Encroachment, Religious Belief and Practice
Yujin Nagasawa (University of Birmingham, UK)
Erik Wielenberg (DePauw University, USA)
Palgrave Frontiers in Philosophy of Religion is a long overdue series which will provide a unique platform for the advancement of research in this area. Each book in the series aims to progress a debate in the philosophy of religion by (i) offering a novel argument to establish a strikingly original thesis, or (ii) approaching an ongoing dispute from a radically new point of view. Each title in the series contributes to this aim by utilising recent developments in empirical sciences or cutting-edge research in foundational areas of philosophy (such as metaphysics, epistemology and ethics). The series does not publish books offering merely extensions of or subtle improvements on existing arguments. Please contact Series Editors (firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com) to discuss possible book projects for the series.