Winter 2023 (volume 25, no. 2)

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Ross D. Inman

Editor’s Introduction

Symposium On Religious Experience, Divine Causation

Bradley N. Seeman

Symposium on Harold Netland’s Religious Experience and the Knowledge of God

At the 2022 national meeting of the American Academy of Religion, the Evangelical Philosophical Society sponsored an exchange between Harold Netland, Jim Beilby, Doug Geivett, and Dolores Morris around Netland’s 2022 book, Religious Experience and the Knowledge of God. I briefly orient readers to the resulting Philosophia Christi symposium by saying a few words introducing Harold Netland and some key themes in his argument that a “critical trust” approach to religious experience offers modest—but significant—epistemic support for Christian belief and practice.

Harold A. Netland

Précis: Religious Experience and the Knowledge of God

Religious Experience and the Knowledge of God is concerned with questions about the degree to which and the ways in which religious experiences, especially theistic experiences, can provide epistemic support for Christian beliefs. I adopt a critical trust approach to religious experiences and argue that, with appropriate qualifications, it can be reasonable for someone to believe that he or she has had a veridical experience of God and that this can provide some evidential support for certain Christian claims.

Dolores G. Morris

Experiencing the World as Godless

In Religious Experience and the Knowledge of God, Harold Netland advances a critical-trust approach to religious experience. This approach raises important questions about what Michael Martin has called “negative religious experiences.” Netland responds by attacking Martin’s “negative principle of credulity,” but I argue that Netland’s response can be undermined if we take negative religious experiences not as experiences of God as absent, but as experiences of the world as godless. On this understanding, there is no need for a negative principle of credulity; the ordinary principle still applies and puts pressure on Netland’s response. I then raise concerns with Netland’s “argument from fulfilled expectations,” even as part of a cumulative case argument. Ultimately, I propose that careful attention to the impact of Christ on our Western moral framework might help to resolve both concerns.

Douglas Geivett

Seemings and Defeat by Disagreement in the Case of Religious Experience – Comments on Harold Netland’s Book Religious Experience and the Knowledge of God

Exploiting the resources of phenomenal conservatism, Harold Netland has offered a “critical-trust” approach to assessing the veridicality of religious experience and to ascertaining its evidential force in relation to Christian theistic belief. I suggest that, if we give seemings carried in religious experience their epistemic due, it may turn out that religious experience is practically universal and that the potential defeat of justification for religious belief by disagreement among purported epistemic peers is itself defeated by the private character of seemings in the religious experiences of believers.

James Beilby

The Implications of Religious Peer Disagreement for Religious Epistemology – A Response to Harold Netland

In Religious Experience and the Knowledge of God, Harold Netland offers a helpful, balanced approach to the epistemology of religious experience. The value of Netland’s volume notwithstanding, I offer a critique of Netland’s claims regarding the identification of epistemic peers, the epistemic implications of religious peer disagreement, and the viability of the demand for additional evidence as a response to instances of peer disagreement.

Harold A. Netland

Experiencing God and Religious Disagreement – A Rejoinder

There is much in the responses by Dolores Morris, Doug Geivett, and Jim Beilby with which I fully agree. But here I try to clarify a few issues and to identify points where we might simply disagree. I focus on the issue of those who experience the world as godless (Dolores); broadening the definition of religious experience (Dolores and Doug); suggested revisions of the argument from fulfilled expectations (Dolores); and especially the vexing questions associated with epistemic peer disagreement (Jim and Doug).

Symposium on Philosophical Essays on Divine Causation

Keith Hess

Divine Causation – God Acts with Good Reasons

This essay introduces Philosophia Christi’s symposium on the book, Philosophical Essays on Divine Causation, edited by Greg Ganssle. A short review of each essay in the symposium follows. A call is given for Christian philosophers to take divine causation into account while doing research in their primary area of philosophy. These updated and expanded essays were first presented in a more limited form at the 2023 Pacific Division Meeting of the American Philosophical Association.

Angus J. L. Menuge

Causation, Creaturely and Divine – Some Metaphysical Issues

A biblical approach to reconciling God’s sovereignty with creaturely responsibility should avoid the extremes of global occasionalism and completely autonomous creatures. This paper evaluates the standard intermediary solutions offered by conservationists and concurrentists. It argues that while each contributes insights which a satisfactory account should retain, none is fully adequate. Even Leibniz’s sophisticated response, which accounts for providence, miracles, and moral responsibility, unacceptably abridges creaturely power to implement decisions. My alternative proposal seeks to explain how creatures can retain full responsibility for their actions even though God reserves the right to override creaturely power with His greater power.

David A. Vander Laan

What Efficacious Divine Action Need Not Be – Or How to Split an Atomic Action

Arguments concerning divine conservation and concurrence often assume that actions of certain descriptions would be superfluous if God were to perform them, and it is then concluded that God does not perform such actions. In particular, it often seems that atomic actions cannot be the result of cooperative activity between God and creatures since there is no apparent way to divide the labor between the two. However, the actions that are atomic in one model of divine action may not be atomic on another. On fine-grained models there may be unexpected prospects for nonredundant divine action.

Gregory E. Ganssle

Causation and Divine Agency

God’s regular causal activity is traditionally held to include his creation of the world, his conserving all created things in being and his concurrence with the causal activities of finite causes. Divine causation requires that God is an agent. In this paper, I apply E. J. Lowe’s view of human agency to God. This application requires certain adjustments. Lowe takes it that when a person acts for reasons, these reasons are lacks of some kind. I argue that his account can apply to God if we think of the reasons for God’s action as connected to purposes rather than to needs.

Joel Archer

Miracles, Causation, and Critical Biblical Scholarship

Most historical Jesus scholars agree that Jesus was regarded by his contemporaries as a great miracle worker. However, many of these same scholars deny that they can pronounce on the truth of the miracle stories as historians. There are at least two arguments for this position. One is based on an alleged empirical constraint on historical practice, which excludes divine causation. The other argument is rooted in the presumption that it is anachronistic to impose modern understandings of miracles on ancient authors. I argue that both objections are unsuccessful.


Paul K. Moser

We Have the Mind of Christ – Religious Epistemology Transformed

Religious epistemology can benefit from the widely neglected perspective of the apostle Paul that humans can “have the mind of Christ.” This article considers whether humans can apprehend divine reality, if only partly, from a divine vantage point. Perhaps humans then can apprehend the reality and goodness of God in a salient manner, thereby gaining a vital perspective on ultimate reality. The article aims to identify the viability of a “God’s-eye standpoint” for humans in “the mind of Christ.” It contends that this standpoint draws from influential volitional and affective traits of God’s personality, including “the fruit of the Spirit.”

Drew Smith

The Problem of Necessitism

In his 2013 monograph Modal Logic as Metaphysics, Timothy Williamson develops and defends a view he terms necessitism. According to necessitism, everything that exists does so necessarily (alternatively, necessarily everything is necessarily something). I demonstrate that necessitism is incompatible with the conjunction of two doctrines rooted in the broadly Nicene tradition: God’s metaphysical sovereignty and freedom. First, I exposit and formalize the two doctrines in question. Next, I expound Williamson’s theory of necessitism. Third, I demonstrate the formal incompatibility of the conjunction of the two doctrines with necessitism. Finally, I conclude with reflections on the implications of this incompatibility.

Thomas Duttweiler

Seemings, Virtue, and Acquired Contemplation

Sarah Coakley, drawing on the insights of John of the Cross, has recently argued that God may have redemptive moral and epistemic purposes in remaining hidden from people during a “dark night of the soul,” and that experiences of spiritual darkness can be taken as a mode of religious experience. In this paper, I explore what sort of epistemic model of religious experience is needed to underwrite Coakley’s argument. I argue that one influential externalist model—that of William Alston—is unsatisfactory, and advance in its place an internalist, phenomenal conservative approach bolstered by considerations from responsibilist virtue epistemology. I argue that such an approach can much more satisfactorily accommodate contemplative experiences than can that of Alston and thus can buttress Coakley’s response to the problem of divine hiddenness.

Book Reviews

Andrew Hollingsworth

Classical Theism: New Essays on the Metaphysics of God, ed. Jonathan Fuqua and Robert C. Koons

Joshua R. Farris

Who Are You, Really?, Joshua Rasmussen

James N. Anderson

Contemporary Arguments in Natural Theology: God and Rational Belief, ed. Colin Ruloff and Peter Horban

Christopher Michael Cloos

Divine Holiness and Divine Action, Mark C. Murphy

Michael W. Austin

Fallenness and Flourishing, Hud Hudson


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