The Existence of God and the Faith-Instinct
Responding to the rash of books supporting a "new atheism" in recent years, some excellent rebuttals and refutations by Berlinski, Novak, Hart, Day, and others have also been published. The present book, however, is not a continuation of these critical salvos against the likes of Dawkins, Hitchens, Dennett, and Harris, but engages in a fresh reexamination of several important aspects of the "God-question," along with an exploration of the theory of the "faith-instinct"---a theory that emerges from a respectably long tradition, but in recent years has been largely relegated to the sidelines in theology and philosophy. In the first chapter, scientific, metaphysical, and theological approaches are utilized and integrated in relationship to the question of God's existence. The second chapter is devoted to the "problem of evil," differentiated into the special categories often lumped into that all-too-generic term---moral evils, natural evils, suffering as an evil. Chapter 3 concerns the obvious follow-up question concerning what sort of characteristics, personal or otherwise, we can attribute to God---going beyond the question of God's mere "existence," even if and when we are intellectually convinced of this existence. In the second half of the book, the various meanings of "faith" are considered; and the apparent discrepancy of many New Testament descriptions of faith with the conventional Catholic and Protestant concepts of faith is investigated. Some "family resemblances" of supernatural faith seem to emerge. Then a monograph by Tubingen theologian Max Seckler, Instinkt und Glaubenswille ("Instinct and the Will to Believe"), which comments on thought-provoking texts concerning a "faith-instinct" in the works of Thomas Aquinas, is considered; Seckler brings out the philosophical and theological basis for this concept, as well as its reverberations for modern theology. The theory of a faith-instinct, however, leads to the question of the proper and improper, real or substitute, "objects," of the proposed instinct. Finally, if this instinct is, as hypothesized, implanted in human nature itself, for all places and all times, what is the function of the various religions in "activating" or placing obstacles to, the activation of this instinct? How are "false prophets," who may be instrumental in redirecting or misdirecting this instinct, to be recognized? Is faith bolstered or hindered by miracles---do miracles have any important relationship to faith? The book ends with a final consideration of the probable mental outlook of the atheist confronted with claims by theists of varying persuasions.
Susquehanna University Press