On Christian Belief: A Defence of a Cognitive Conception of Religious Belief in a Christian Context

On Christian Belief: A Defence of a Cognitive Conception of Religious Belief in a Christian Context

On Christian Belief: A Defence of a Cognitive Conception of Religious Belief in a Christian Context

On Christian Belief: A Defence of a Cognitive Conception of Religious Belief in a Christian Context

Synopsis

On Christian Belief offers a defence of realism in the philosophy of religion. It argues that religious belief - with particular reference to Christian belief - unlike any other kind of belief, is cognitive; making claims about what is real, and open to rational discussion between believers and non-believers. The author begins by providing a critique of several views which either try to describe a faith without cognitive context, or to justify believing on non-cognitive grounds. He then discusses what sense can be made of the phenomenon of religious conversion by realists and non-realists. After a chapter on knowledge in general, he defends the idea that religious knowledge is very like other knowledge, in being based on reliable testimony, sifted by reason and tested by experience. The logical status of the content of religious belief is then discussed, with reference to Christianity.

Excerpt

The aim of this foreword is to prevent certain misunderstandings, first of all (briefly) about the theme of the book as stated in the title, and secondly (at some length) about several fundamental concepts with which I am concerned.

This is a book of philosophy, not of theology. I do not aim principally to defend the truth or rationality of any particular Christian belief. I aim to show that the sort of belief involved in Christianity is cognitive in nature, can be rational, and is made rational by things very like those which make other sorts of belief rational. It might be thought that for this reason the title 'on religious belief' would have been better. However, although some of my arguments could be used to defend the rationality of those other religions which claim to base themselves on God's self-revelation through scriptures - namely Judaism, Islam and the Bahai faith - there are so many arguments in the book that apply only to Christianity that it would be arrogant to claim to speak for religion in general.

In defending the rationality of Christian belief, I am defending its claim to constitute knowledge. Since it has become almost a received opinion that Christian belief is 'faith' and that faith is not the same thing as knowledge, I want to get clear some points about the various meanings of words like 'faith', 'belief' and 'knowledge', and their mutual relations. I shall be pointing out different uses of the words, but I shall also be stating how I use the words and why.

Belief

(1) I take it that the primary and central meaning of the verb 'believe' is 'regard as true'. If we say 'John believes that there is life on Mars', we would expect John to answer 'yes' to the question 'is there life on Mars?'.

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