The Existence of God and the Faith-Instinct

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.



Publication Date



Susquehanna University Press


Cranbury, NJ




Table of Contents

Preface, 11.

Chapter 1. The Existence of God, 17.

Special Problems in Proving the Existence of God, 19.

Cosmological Arguments, 21.

Arguments from Biological Evolution, 23.

Special Significance of DNA in Current Debates, 27.

Philosophical Analysis of the Issues, 30.

The Infinity Problem in Cosmology, 31.

The Problem of "Chance" in Evolution, 34.

Subjective Approaches to God's Existence, 38.

Using Revelation as an Aid, 41.

God as existence, 41.

Chapter 2. The Problem of Evil, 45.

Natural Evils, 49.

Planetary Geological and Meteorological Events, 49.

Biological Disorder and Violence, 51.

Moral Evils, 54.

Natural Congenital Suffering, 56.

A World without Pain and Suffering?: Some Reflections, 57.

Theodicy and the Problem of Evil, 58.

Theological Considerations, 61.

Implications of the Incarnation, 63.

Chapter 3. The Characteristics of God, 64.

Clarification of God's Characteristics in the History of Philosophy, 65.

Implications of Some Contemporary Approaches, 66.

Using the Old Testament as an Aid, 68.

Using the New Testament, 69.

Divine Predilection for the Lowly (Continued), 69.

Credo Quia Absurdum, Reconsidered, 71.

God as Love, 72.

Chapter 4. Faith, 75.

Common Meanings, 75.

Religious Faith, 76.

Faith, as Construed in Major Ancient Eastern Religions, 76.

Faith, as Construed in Judaism, 77.

Faith in Christianity, 78.

Multiple Meanings of Faith in Christianity, 80.

The Nature of Faith, 81.

The Source of Faith, 82.

The Characteristics of Faith, 86.

The Effects of Faith, 88.

Chapter 5. The Faith-Instinct, 90.

The Problem of Human Instincts, 90.

Philosophical Underpinnings for the Concept of a Faith-Instinct, 92.

The Augustinian Theological Underpinning, 93.

The Faith-Instinct: The Thomistic View, 94.

Ontological Implications of the Faith-Instinct, 96.

The Form and Content of Faith, 96.

Theological Importance of the Faith-Instinct, 98.

Empirical Aspects of the Faith-Instinct, 99.

Seckler's Conclusions, 100.

Chapter 6. Faith-Proper and Improper Objects, 102.

Problems of Coordination in Faith, 104.

Unsatisfactory Objects of Faith, 104.

Proper Objects of Religious Faith, 106.

God as Object, 106.

The Kingdom of God as Object of Faith, 110.

Eternal Life as an Object of Faith, 114.

Chapter 7. The Wider Orbit of Faith in the World, 118.

The Problem of Salvation for All, 118.

The Salvation of the Non-Evangelized: Seckler's Solution, 123.

The Faith Instinct as a Potentia Obedientialis, 124.

Alternative or Substitute "Materials" for Faith, 127.

Christianity and the Relation to the "Outer Perimeters" of Faith, 128.

Faith and False Prophets, 131.

The Necessity of Miracles, 135.

Putting Oneself in the Shoes of Atheists, 139.

Bibliography, 141.

Index, 147.

Publisher Link

The Existence of God and the Faith-Instinct