Tennant's Philosophical Theology

By Delton Scudder Lewis | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III AN EXAMINATION OF TENNANT'S CRITICISMS OF RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE

Summary of Tennant's Criticisms

IT is the purpose of this chapter to undertake an examination of Tennant's criticisms of religious experience and to evolve a conception of the nature and validation of religious experience as an intrinsic type of apprehension. His criticisms,1 it will be remembered, are: (1) The data of sense-experience are our only, original, underived, firsthand, immediate contact with the actual. This original objective nucleus all the profane sciences have in common. (2) Numina2 differ from sensa in lacking specific quality of the intensity of color. They have no immediately perceived, specific quality. (3) Numina are so vague and devoid of specific quality that they are connected with all kinds of objects throughout the history of religion. If all the objects which are perceived to be instinct with numinous power are actually thus endowed, then theism is refuted. If the divine power has selectively indwelt various objects, progress in theology has been made by successive denials of its actual presence in these objects. (4) Numina are so private, exclusive, and autobiographical that they cannot be constructed into common, conceptualized thought-objects as sensa or idia can be. (5) The experience of the numinous may be psychologically immediate but epistemologically it is actually proven to be mediate. This confusion of psychological and epistemological immediacy pervades all mystical and intuitionalist theology, and the majority of discussions of religious experience. (6) The experience of the numinous may be accompanied by a high degree of "certainty," but this may be simply a high degree of subjective psychological certitude and not of objective, reasonable certainty. The confusion of "certitude" and "certainty"--or of "certitude" and "probability," if complete objective certainty is impossible--also pervades most discussions of religious experience. (7) The religious experience

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1
Cf. supra, pp. 23 ff.
2
The content or data of religious experience. See below, pp. 144 ff.

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