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Kaufman and Hick


Our subject is the de jure question about Christian belief: the question whether it is rational, or reasonable, or rationally justifiable, or intellectually defensible to accept such belief. A previous question, as we saw in the last chapter, is the question whether there is any de jure question about Christian belief or, indeed, any de facto question either. Christian belief is belief, among other things, in the existence of God. And Christians believe that God is infinite: unlimited with respect to such important properties as knowledge, wisdom, goodness, and power. They also believe that God is transcendent: distinct from the created universe, in no way dependent on it, and such that it is dependent on him. Finally, they assume that it is possible to refer to God, talk and think about him, address him in prayer, and worship him. Many contemporary theologians, however, apparently believe that these ideas are excessively naive: they hold that there are profound problems in the very idea that we can refer to and think about a being characterized in the way Christians characterize God. In particular, they seem to believe that Immanuel Kant gave us excellent reason to be (at best) extremely suspicious of such naively realistic ways of thinking about God or religious language. As we saw in the last chapter, however, there is really nothing in Kant to suggest that in fact we can’t think or talk about God. More generally, it is exceedingly hard to see how to construct an argument—an argument for the conclusion that we cannot refer to and think about God—from materials to be found in the work of Kant. Of course that doesn’t show that no such argument can be found: but if one can be found, it is, I should say, up to those who think there is one to produce and develop it.

In this chapter, I shall pursue this question into the present: if Kant gives us no reason to accept this conceptual agnosticism, do contemporary theologians (or writers in religious studies) do so? I choose two representatives: Gordon Kaufman and John Hick.

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