Does Religious Experience Have an Expiration Date?
April 12, 2013 — 20:51

Author: Kenny Pearce  Category: Religious Belief  Tags: , , , ,   Comments: 6

A fairly common position in philosophy of religion is that religious experience can provide justification for religious belief of a sort that cannot be transmitted by testimony. (We here use the term ‘religious experience’ non-factively; that is, we leave open the possibility that these experiences might provide misleading evidence.) This is not necessarily to deny that testimony of religious experience can provide evidence in favor of religious belief; it is just to say that, no matter how credible the testimony, this won’t provide the same sort of justification as actually having the experience oneself. Often it is thought that at least some mystics gain justification which is not only different in kind than the justification that can be got by testimony, but greater in degree. (I use the term ‘mystic’ to refer to anyone who has religious experience; I take it that this group is far larger than just the famous mystical writers and those directly influenced by them.) On this view, no matter how much testimony of religious experience from sincere, apparently sane, people one collected, this could never add up to as strong a reason for belief as that possessed by (say) Julian of Norwich on account of her experiences.


Problems for the standard view of an everlasting God
November 9, 2009 — 9:48

Author: Alexander Pruss  Category: Concept of God Divine Providence Open Theism  Tags: , ,   Comments: 32

The standard view of an everlasting God is that God has existed in time for an infinite amount of time and will continue to exist for an infinite amount of time, and a finite amount of time ago, creation sprang into being. Thus, God existed a year ago, a billion years ago, a trillion years ago, and so on. (I think, though I shall not argue for this here, that if one denies God’s atemporality, one should adopt the standard view on pain of believing something theologically much worse, such as that God has a finite age or that creation is infinitely old. So if the standard view of everlastingness is false, then God is not atemporal.)

I shall talk of the universe springing into being a finite amount of time ago rather than its’ being created a finite amount of time ago, to disambiguate between the time of the cause (God’s act of creating) and the time of the effect (the universe’s springing into being).

Problem 1 (Augustine’s problem): Why did God wait this infinite amount of time before the universe sprang into being, rather than, say, making the universe spring into being a hundred years earlier? Augustine records the old chestnut that God was busy preparing a hell for those who ask such questions. His own answer that time began with the universe’s springing into being is not available to the defender of the standard view. One might take a relational view of time on which the question does not make sense–the world where God create a hundred years earlier is the same world. Only a B-theorist can say that, and not every B-theorist can.

Problem 2 (Deliberation and omniscience): Suppose God at t0 is deliberating what should spring into being and when it should do so. But God being omniscient already knows what will spring into being and when it will do so. How can one deliberate over what one already knows?