Re: Paley and Pascal

From: Inge Frette (
Date: Wed Aug 29 2001 - 10:19:10 EDT

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    > Thanks for your thoughts on this. I would agree that this
    > approach can be a way of opening conversation with
    > non-Christians. Whether or not it will be effective in any given
    > situation needs to be considered.
    > But what my question was getting at was something deeper. There
    > seems to be a strong feeling that some kind of natural theology must be
    > true. It is more than just a matter of apologetic method, but almost an
    > element of personal faith commitment. Is this because people were
    > themselves brought to faith in this way and so feel instrinctively that
    > such ideas are essential to Christian faith? Or are there other
    > reasons? I could make various guesses but it would be more profitable to
    > hear the views of others.

    Hello George,
    here are some thoughts from Norway - before I go on a 1 month vacation to USA .

    I think that parts of american evangelical theology have been shaped by the
    challenges of modernism, and
    that this type of theology also has reponded to this challenge by using the
    modernistic way of thinking.
    Two important concepts here are evidentialism and foundationalism - both
    central to modernistic way of
    Evidentialism says that a belief is rational if there is sufficient
    evidence for it. An example of this
    view - found in almost every textbook on philosophy of religion - is the
    classic statement of the mathematician
    W K Clifford who stated that "it is wrong always, everywhere and for
    everyone to believe anything upon insufficient
    evidence". (of course this does not apply to the statement itself ) :-)
    Foundationalism (or more precisely classcal foundationalism) is a way of
    describing the structuring of our beliefs,
    where some beliefs are basic (not based on other beliefs) and other
    beliefs are non-basic (based on other beliefs).
    Classical foundationalism states "roughly" that a belief is basic if it is
    either self-evident or evident of the senses
    or maybe also indubitable.
    Foundationalism and evidentialism together says that a belief is not
    rational unless it is based on sufficient evidence
    and where the evidence is either a belief that is basic (self-evident or
    evident to the senses) or it is a non basic
    belief that is deduced from more basic beliefs.

    The belief that God exits is not self-evident nor evident to the senses ,
    so in order to make
    this belief rational, one has to deduce it from more basic beliefs.
    In this sense natural theology has been important for many christians
    because some of them have accepted
    the premiss that the belief that God exists is an irrationail belief unless
    there is sufficient evidence for it.
    (This could be one reason why some people give up their christian faith.)

    To the extent that some apologetic writings approach this issue in this
    way, lay people that read such
    writings will perhaps start thinking this way too.

    Anglo-american philosophy of religion has in the last 20 years discussed
    this issue in detail due to the
    contributions to the issue by prominent philosophers like Alvin Plantinga,
    Nicholas Wolterstorff and William
    Alston who have challenged both evidentialism and classical
    foundationalism. Let me add that they have
    not challenged foundationalism in general; only the classical version of it

    PS : I have one more day to go before I go on vacation. After that I will
    not be able to respond until the
    beginning of October.

    Regards from Inge

    Inge Frette
    GEOLOGICA AS Phone : +47 51 87 58 15
    P.O.Box 8034 Fax : +47 51 87 58 01
    N-4003 STAVANGER E-mail:
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