Faith Reason and the Existence of God

Topics: Theology, God, Philosophy of religion Pages: 40 (14887 words) Published: October 1, 2012
Faith, Reason and the Existence of God
Denys Turner
University of Cambridge


Preface Acknowledgements Part I The ‘shape’ of reason 1 2 3 4 5 6 Clarifications and issues Negative theology and natural theology The darkness of God and the light of Christ Intellect Reason and rhetoric The ‘shape’ of reason

page ix xvii

3 26 48 75 89 108

Part II Univocity, ‘difference’ and ‘onto-theology’ 7 8 9 Univocity and inference: Duns Scotus God, grammar, and difference Existence and God 125 149 169

Part III Inference and the existence of God 10 11 12 13 Analogy and inference Why anything? Refusing the question The God of reason and the God of Christ List of works cited Index 193 226 248 260 263 268 vii


This monograph is intentionally narrow in focus: perhaps some will think perversely so. Beyond offering reasons of a philosophical kind for resisting some versions of the opinion, very commonly held, that the existence of God is incapable of rational demonstration, I do no more than to give further reasons of a theological nature why Christians should think, as a matter of faith, that the existence of God is rationally demonstrable, as a dogmatic decree of the first Vatican Council says. But nowhere in this essay do I offer any argument intended as proof of the existence of God, nor do I examine from the standpoint of validity any of the arguments which historically have been offered as proofs. This is because all the issues which appear to matter theologically speaking in connection with proofs of the existence of God arise in connection with the possibility in principle of a proof, and not with the validity of any supposed proof in particular. Hence, out of a desire to stick to the point, I have resisted a wider discussion which would have distracted from it. But some will find this restraint pedantic. At least they have been warned. Also, since hardly any theologians nowadays think the existence of God is rationally provable, there will be those who wonder why I bother defending a cause quite so lost as this one. One reason for taking this trouble is that most theologians today do not so much think that the existence of God cannot be proved as seem altogether to have given up thinking about the issues involved, and simply assume – probably on unexamined arguments from Kant – the impossibility of it. Not to think a thing is not the same as thinking that it is not, and when once there is anything at all that theologians have stopped feeling the need to rethink, it is perhaps time to stop being a theologian in case it is the theology itself which has caused the thinking to stop, and to become a philosopher, or at least to ask some philosophical questions theologians should be asking for themselves. So it is in this matter more than in most. At any rate, one issue is plainly philosophical: theologians in the main seem to think the proposition to be beyond challenge that the existence of God cannot be proved, on any defensible account of rational proof. But that is a ground of logic ix



and epistemology, and the most ardent opponent of theological rationalism will have to concede that what counts for the validity of rational proof cannot itself be a matter of faith. And if upon close examination the purely philosophical issues at stake appear to intimidate the theologians on account of their technical complexity, then it is that the theologians seem happier to fall back into their own territory and rule out rational proof on theological grounds, even on grounds of faith itself, which is what they more commonly do today. And when it comes to faith, here it is proclaimed by some as if it were dogma that the existence of God is beyond rational demonstration in this sense at least, that anything you could prove the existence of could not be the true God of faith. Such theologians appear to be telling us that you can have your proof and your ‘God of reason’ if you like, so long as you...
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