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Lecture on Anselm

Lecture on Anselm - Some thoughts on Faith and Reason It...

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Some thoughts on Faith and Reason It may seem odd for someone who has grown up in the context of a faith tradition—a church, a synagogue, or mosque—to even question the existence of God and especially to subject the existence of God to a rigorous philosophical test or proof. “How absurd!As though the existence of God could be proven one way or another!”, we might say. But, for better or worse, this is the venture of natural theology. The idea that the existence of God could be proven independent of sacred scripture and the faith traditions that they are a part of has long been an aspiration of the philosophical mind. By my calculations, serious reflection on the philosophical proof for the existence of God begins with the Ionian philosopher Xenophanes of Colophon (c. 570-475 b.c.e.) who argued that the conventional polytheism of the Greeks and surrounding peoples were false and that God is a single, non-anthropomorphic deity:“One God, greatest among gods and men, in no way similar either in body or in thought” The presocratic philosophers were largely concerned with explaining the origin and nature of the physical universe in terms that were proto-scientific and materialistic. Moving away from the Orphic and Hesiodic Theogonies, a distinctively philosophical account of nature began. This brand of speculation continued through Plato (428-348 b.c) and Aristotle(384-322 b.c.)in the fifth and fourth centuries b.c.. In Plato, the idea of the Good—of a source of pure being from which all terrestrial beings received their being (in a kind of trickle down theory) may be understood along these lines, even though Plato doesn’t refer to the form of the Good as “God”. The epithet “God” is used in the twelfth book of Aristotle’s Metaphysics to describe the unmoved mover. Here God is described as a prime mover who is the unmoving cause of all celestial and terrestrial motion, “fully actual” and lacking nothing. This purely philosophical conception of God, as in Xenophanes, bore little resemblance to the anthropomorphic polytheism of ordinary Greek religious life. The tension between a purely philosophical conception and a more conventional set of religious beliefs was set. The emergence of Christianity in the west followed upon the coattails of very robust philosophical schools that had emerged in the late republic. Neo-platonism, typified by the philosopher Plotinus (205-270 a.d), expressed the core idea that there was a “one”
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