The Winter 2013 (vol. 15. no. 2) issue of Philosophia Christi showcases a lively discussion on the character and stature of “Ramified Natural Theology” with a lead article by Richard Swinburne. Purchase this special issue today!
To explore some foretastes of the “Ramified Natural Theology” discussion in Philosophia Christi, please also consider these online contributions:
While ramified natural theology is an exciting and newly popular area of scholarly inquiry, it is also one which can very quickly get one into theological trouble. In this article I explore the necessary theological presuppositions for various views of ramified natural theology, offering two models for the possible theological place of the endeavor. Distinctions in the theological role of ramified natural theology allow one to find an appropriate place for it in apologetic discourse, either as in reach to believers or outreach to unbelievers.
In this paper I argue that the ‘argument from miracle’ can best be understood as a powerful instance of what is coming to be known as ramified natural theology. Traditionally, it has been assumed that natural theology must eschew consideration of special revelation from God and consider only data that is available to unaided reason. This, however, is to ignore the fact that a purported revelation may include content that is empirically verifiable and thus within the purview of natural theology. Miracles are publicly observable events that cry out for an explanation. One need not come to such events already accepting the interpretation placed on them by religious believers – the Bible can be read as historical evidence rather than authoritative Scripture – but neither is one prohibited from considering whether that interpretation does indeed provide the best understanding of the events. This opens up the possibility that someone who initially does not accept theism might at once accept both the claim of God’s existence and the claim of God’s self-disclosure.
Interested readers may also want to consider the following exchange between Angus Menuge and Paul Moser on “Ramified” and “Christ-shaped philosophy”:
Paul Moser has illuminated the spiritual terrain of Christian philosophy by revealing a stark contrast between the poles of spectator natural theology and Gethsemane epistemology. In this paper, I will first suggest that Moser’s work is most helpfully viewed not as a statement about the sociological habits of Christian philosophers, but as a prophetic call to self-examination and repentance by each and every Christian philosopher. That said, I argue that between spectator natural theology and Gethsemane epistemology there does seem room for an intermediary position: a chastened natural theology which provides a lived dialectic, a “ramified personalized natural theology.” I suggest this not as a critique but as a constructive proposal for rapprochement that attempts to find a worthy place for both natural theology and an evangelistic call to a personal encounter with the living Lord.
Acknowledging the deficiency of traditional natural theology, Angus Menuge seeks an alternative in “ramified personalized natural theology.” I share his sense of the deficiency of traditional natural theology, but I raise some doubts about his proposed alternative, and suggest a more direct approach to the evidence for God.
As part of the ongoing “Christ-Shaped Philosophy” discussion with Paul Moser, this note briefly responds to two main challenges that Paul Moser makes to my suggestion that Ramified Personalized Natural Theology may constitute a third way between standard natural theology and Gethsemane epistemology. First, Moser charges that ramified natural theology is likely incoherent because ramified theology will appeal to supernatural premises. My response appeals to a forthcoming essay by Hugh Gauch (Philosophia Christi 15:2), which provides a framework in which evidence counts across competing worldviews. Second, Moser claims that the “divine personalized experience” provided by the Holy Spirit makes natural theology redundant. I appropriate Charles Taliaferro’s idea of a “golden cord,” and suggest that the evidential threads of this cord, whether natural or supernatural, provide a means by which Christ may draw us to himself.
This article is a rejoinder to Angus Menuge’s latest proposal of “a third way between standard natural theology and Gethsemane epistemology” for the Christ-Shaped Philosophy project. I contend that we do not have a stable third way, because any alternative to Gethsemane epistemology, like the arguments of traditional natural theology, neglects the distinctiveness of the evidence for the self-authenticating Christian God and does not offer a resilient defense of belief in this God. Advocates of the traditional arguments of natural theology fail to represent the ontological and evidential uniqueness of this God.
Explore the dozens of other contributions to the EPS Christ-Shaped Philosophy project.