The Christian God

The Christian God

The Christian God

The Christian God

Synopsis

What is it for there to be a God, and what reason is there for supposing him to conform to the claims of Christian doctrine? In this pivotal volume of his tetralogy, Richard Swinburne builds a rigorous metaphysical system for describing the world, and applies this to assessing the worth of the Christian tenets of the Trinity and the Incarnation. Part I is dedicated to analyzing the categories needed to address accounts of the divine nature--substance, cause, time, and necessity. Part II begins by setting out, in terms of these categories, the fundamental doctrine of Western religions--that there is a God. After pointing out some of the different ways in which this doctrine can be developed, Swinburne spells out the simplest possible account of divine nature. He then goes on to clarify the implications of this account for the specifically Christian doctrines of the Trinity (that God is "three persons in one substance") and of the Incarnation (that God became incarnate in Jesus Christ). Swinburne finds that there are good reasons to believe the Christian additions to the core Western idea of God. The Christian God builds upon Swinburne's acclaimed previous work to form a self-contained text which will no doubt become a classic in the philosophy of religion.

Excerpt

My book The Coherence of Theism was published in 1977. In it I sought to distil from the tradition of Western religious thought a coherent account of what it is for there to be a God. The present work also has this as part of its aim; and the account which it develops is not (except in one respect) significantly different from that of the earlier work. However, half this book is devoted to fundamental metaphysical prolegomena--the nature of substance, cause, time, and necessity--which received very inadequate treatment in the earlier work. By contrast, the issue of religious language, also of considerable importance for a correct view of this matter, gets little treatment here in view of my discussion of it there. I do however take for granted here the results of The Coherence of Theism with respect to the need for some analogical use of words (in the way described there) in our talk about God. In The Christian God, I move quite quickly over the central issue of the Coherence of Theism, discussing it only in Chapters 6 and 7. I move thus quickly because I seek to develop here my account of the divine nature so as to expound the two claims, peculiar to Christianity, about that divine nature--that God is 'three persons' (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) 'in one substance', and that one of those persons (the Son) became incarnate at a particular moment of time as a human being, Jesus Christ.

I am concerned with giving a coherent account of the meaning of these further claims; and examining what grounds we could have, given that there is a God, for supposing them to be true. There are, I believe, arguments of pure reason in favour of the necessary truth of the doctrine of the Trinity. There could not be such arguments in favour of the doctrine of the Incarnation; since that doctrine says that God voluntarily chose to become incarnate, it could not be shown that he had thus to become incarnate. But there could be arguments of pure reason showing that God had good reason to become incarnate and so was quite likely to do so. But such . . .

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