Philosophers Who Believe
The Literature of Confession
In 1980, Time magazine reported a remarkable renaissance of religious belief among philosophers:
God? Wasn't he chased out of heaven by Marx, banished to the unconscious by Freud and announced by Nietzsche to be deceased? Did not Darwin drive him out of the empirical world? Well, not entirely. In a quiet revolution in thought and arguments that hardly anyone could have foreseen only two decades ago, God is making a comeback. Most intriguingly, this is happening not among theologians or ordinary believers ... but in the crisp, intellectual circles of academic philosophers, where the consensus had long banished the Almighty from fruitful discourse. Now it is more respectable among philosophers than it has been for a generation to talk about the possibility of God's existence. 1These philosophers have developed their theories against the rising tide of strict empiricism, using "a kind of tough-minded intellectualism." Who are these tough-minded intellectuals, and what has led to their return to Christian belief and philosophy?
It would be difficult to overestimate the increase in anti-Christian sentiment among professional philosophers since the time of the Enlightenment. Yet in spite of the march of unbelief, a substantial number of prominent intellectuals has reclaimed intellectual ground for belief in God. This "quiet revolution" has been led by Alvin Plantinga, described in the Time article as "the leading Protestant philosopher of God." Battles have been fought and won at Oxford, Cambridge, Yale, Toronto and Calvin College by a mighty host of powerful and creative thinkers.
All of the contributors to this volume enjoy international reputations for their contributions to the discipline of philosophy and for their distinctly Christian approach to philosophy. A visit to any university library or bookstore will reveal the monumental and respected advancements that these thinkers have made. These distinguished scholars hold or have held positions of importance at the greatest institutions of higher learning in the world and have been accorded the prestige and honors that their significant contributions merit.
But the contributors to this volume are distinguished in more ways than one. They are distinguished not only as thinkers at the top of their discipline, but as robust Christians in a field that until recently was scarcely marked by religion of any sort. Those not of a Christian persuasion who read these autobiographical essays may be struck that such estimable intellectuals publicly confess faith in Jesus Christ. The Christian reader, on the other hand, will notice immediately that these writers represent a wide range of Christian thought (Protestant and Catholic) and many different points in the spiritual pilgrimage. As one might expect among philosophers, the writers don't always agree with one another. For that reason and others, the purpose of this book can hardly be to endorse everything said by every writer in the collection. The purpose of telling these stories is instead to demonstrate and exemplify the importance of basic Christian faith-what C. S. Lewis called "mere Christianity"-in the lives and work of several leading philosophers.
The contributors are Mortimer Adler of the Institute for Philosophical Research, Stephen Davis of Claremont McKenna College, Basil Mitchell of Oxford University, Terence Penelhum of the University of Calgary, Alvin Plantinga of the University of Notre Dame, Nicholas Rescher of the University of Pittsburgh, John Rist of the University of Toronto, Richard Swinburne of Oxford University, Frederick Suppe of the University of Maryland, Nicholas Wolterstorff of Yale University and Linda Zagzebski of Loyola Marymount University. 2
The rising tide of empiricism was thought to sound the death knell of religious belief. Some declared that a God beyond the sensible cannot be known, and others more radically claimed that any talk of God is just nonsense. Among intellectuals an increased dependence on science has seen the waning of religious belief. Nietzsche, Freud and Marx contended that religious belief is nothing but the product of subtle yet powerful processes of self-deception. These combined forces of modernism had put Christian philosophers on the defensive-virtually all of their efforts in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s went to the defense of the meaningfulness of religious language and the defense of belief in God-and sent most of them into silent retreat. But in this age of scientific imperialism the contributors to this volume have powerfully argued that God-talk is meaningful and that God can indeed be known. Yet beyond this, philosophy has seen a renaissance both of belief in God and of the development of a positive Christian philosophy. Why is it that Christianity has once again become a live intellectual option among philosophers?
One important influence on this revival was the founding of the Society of Christian Philosophers in April 1978 at the Western Divisional meeting of the American Philosophical Association in Cincinnati, Ohio. At the urging of William Alston of Syracuse University, a prominent philosopher of language who had recently returned to the Christian fold, a letter went out from Alvin Plantinga, Robert and Marilyn Adams of UCLA, Arthur Holmes of Wheaton College, George Mavrodes of the University of Michigan, and William Alston to spark interest in a society to provide fellowship and encouragement of philosophical reflection on issues of concern to the Christian community. The society has since grown to over one thousand members and is the largest single-interest group among American philosophers. It meets regularly at the three divisional meetings of the American Philosophical Association and supports annual regional meetings. In 1984 the society initiated its own scholarly journal of philosophical reflection on matters of Christian belief, Faith and Philosophy, which is prized for the analytical rigor, originality and diversity of its articles.
A second major factor in the revival of Christian philosophy was the presentation, publication and subsequent discussion of Plantinga's "Advice to Christian Philosophers," his inauguration speech at the assumption of the John A. O'Brien Professorship of Philosophy.3 Plantinga challenged philosophers not to be Christians who were incidentally philosophers, but to be Christian philosophers: to follow out their Christian commitment in all areas of philosophy. By this he meant that Christians were to develop Christian philosophy independently of the great secular bastions of philosophy; Christians must attempt to understand, develop, systematize and extend the beliefs of their own, Christian, community.
This radical call to independence suggests that Christians can carry out their own agenda and not have it set by philosophers with fundamentally different presuppositions. The Christian's calling is primarily to be faithful to the believing community and not to the problematic set by the programs of the secular university, which often are diametrically opposed to Christian belief. As Plantinga writes, "they fit in badly with a Christian or theistic way of looking at the world." The Christian has as much right to start from Christian assumptions as secular thinkers have to start from the assumption of naturalism. The Christian need not always be on the defensive, and may start with Christian beliefs and theorize on the basis of them. The philosophical and Christian boldness of Plantinga's address engendered an immense flowering of Christian philosophy in the subsequent decade. Significant and acclaimed work has been done on such diverse topics as prayer, God's suffering, the problem of evil, the Incarnation and atonement, the Trinity, Scripture studies, emotions and virtues, social theory, forgiveness, religious pluralism, the doctrines of heaven and hell, God and time, the nature of probability and mathematics, and the rationality of religious belief. Christian philosophers, no longer constrained merely to defend their use of religious language or to prove the existence of God, have boldly and powerfully expanded into significant areas of deeply Christian concern unfettered by the constraints of modern secular thought. Let me consider in some detail the accomplishments of three of the contributors: Basil Mitchell, Richard Swinburne and Alvin Plantinga.
Mitchell's philosophical career can be seen as a constant struggle against the reigning orthodoxy of logical positivism and linguistic analysis. Both of these philosophies limited themselves to the empirical world and considered meaningless any talk of worlds outside of the senses. Thus ethical talk, such as "Murder is wrong," and religious talk, such as "God loves us," were considered simply absurd or mere expressions of feelings. Logical positivism finds its roots in the philosophy of the great empiricist and skeptic, David Hume. Hume contended that all knowledge was limited to what can be learned either directly from the senses or by reflection on this sensory input. So if something cannot be sensed-like God-it cannot be known. Logical positivism goes beyond this by setting limits on what can be sensibly said, not merely on what can be known; it takes a position on what makes language meaningful. A statement is meaningful, the logical positivist claims, only if it can be verified by immediate sense experience. This, as one might imagine, greatly restricts the domain of meaningful assertions. Since God is by definition intangible, assertions about God cannot be verified by immediate sense experience and, therefore, are considered absurd utterances.
Logical positivism began in the early 1920s in an informal discussion group in Austria called the Vienna Circle. The original members, led by physicist Moritz Schlick, included mathematicians, physicists, sociologists and economists but no professional philosophers. United by their passionate dislike of the metaphysical-the realm beyond the experienceable, physical world-the group developed a unified philosophy that embraced science and attempted to destroy philosophy. Although there was a great deal of disagreement, there was an initial impulse to accept the verification theory of meaning, that a statement is meaningful only if it can be verified conclusively by immediate experience. This pivotal principle was simply unjustifiable philosophical imperialism that, in the end, could not survive critical scrutiny.
Although logical positivism would die a well-deserved death in the sixties and seventies, it swept Anglo-American philosophy and theology; indeed theologians capitalized upon the "discoveries" of logical positivism in the infamous Death of God movement (in reality, at least among philosophers, it was really logical positivism that was dead). It would be difficult to imagine an intellectual atmosphere more hostile to belief in God than that found at Oxford in the forties and fifties. And that is where Mitchell was trained and taught. His response was the courageous (because unfashionable) publication of The Justification of Religious Belief--a novel approach to the rational justification of belief in God. Mitchell argued that belief in God ought to be justified more like the accumulation of a variety of evidence when making a judgment about the meaning of a literary text or determining an event of history. Such "cumulative case" arguments are more like the judgments that we typically make in our lives-we carefully study the preponderance of available evidence and then make our best judgment concerning the best explanation of the evidence. This commonsensical yet rational approach to the justification of belief in God has influenced countless students of philosophy.
Richard Swinburne, the premier rational apologist of our era, developed, in a very formal fashion, a cumulative case argument for the existence of God. He felt it his calling to respond rationally and not retreat in unreason from the logical positivist attack on theism. Logical positivism was doomed from the outset. Its proponents proved incapable of stating the verification principle in any way that made itself meaningful. If the verification principle itself were true, for it to be meaningful it must be verifiable through sense experience. But it is a philosophical claim of the sort that it was intended to eliminate, and it cannot be verified by experience. By its own standard, then, it is a piece of gibberish; the verification principle is self-referentially inconsistent.
It also had a further troubling defect: it could not justify the essential claims of science that it so cherished. Think about those scientific entities that are central to science but cannot be conclusively verified by experience-protons, neutrons, quarks, the centers of stars, the DNA molecule and so forth. None of these theoretical entities can be observed. Thus, the verification principle would render meaningless any assertions concerning these entities.
Swinburne contends that a more tenable version of verificationism is possible-one that does not depend on conclusive verification by immediate observation. Rather, the proper method of rational inquiry is to support beliefs with evidence or arguments. This is the method of both science and metaphysics, according to Swinburne. Swinburne's unique contribution to the rational defense of theism is his attempt to bring the canons of scientific rationality to bear on religious belief. If belief in God is an explanatory hypothesis, then it can be justified rationally in much the same way as one would justify belief in electrons or gravity. Swinburne contends that science is incapable of explaining the existence and design of the universe, hence it is appropriate to seek a personal explanation-one in terms of the goals and powers of a person. Since God desires an arena for the significant moral and spiritual development of free human beings, he provides a perfectly adequate and rational (but not infallible) explanation of the existence and design of the universe. The existence of God is a simple hypothesis that leads us to expect these otherwise infinitely unexpected phenomena. Swinburne has also used his powerful intellect in much-discussed defenses of Scripture, the atonement, the nature of God and the existence of the soul.
Alvin Plantinga is perhaps best known among philosophers for his penetrating analyses of the problem of evil and the rationality of religious belief. From the time of the Ancients it has been alleged that there is an incompatibility between an omniscient, omnipotent and wholly good God and the fact of evil. Plantinga's "free will defense" demonstrates that this contradiction is only apparent and that the existence of evil does not logically disprove the existence of God. This project is virtually universally acknowledged as successful by theist and nontheist alike.
Plantinga constructs an argument from evil for the existence of God as well. Naturalism is the reigning philosophy that denies the existence of anything supernatural or beyond nature; all that exists is matter and energy in their many manifestations. In a naturalistic worldview there are no deep moral values; indeed the natural world (matter in motion) is the world of facts, and is indifferent to morality. Hence, the simple judgment that there is evil implies that there is some deep value that is being violated; but naturalism cannot countenance such values. If there is evil, Plantinga argues, there is an ultimate source of value. If the main alternative worldviews under consideration are theism and naturalism, evil weighs heavily in the direction of theism.
With respect to belief in God, Plantinga contends that one does not need arguments or evidence for that belief to be rational. You can imagine what a ruckus such a view has caused among philosophers who prize arguments above all else. Indeed, the reigning orthodoxy since the Enlightenment has been that in order for belief in God to be rational it must be supported by arguments or evidence. This demand for evidence, which Plantinga calls "evidentialism," has developed into the evidentialist objection to belief in God-the claim that belief in God must be supported by evidence to be rational and that there is not sufficient evidence for the existence of God. Plantinga rejects the evidentialist objection for four reasons. First, there is evidence for the existence of God. Second, this demand for evidence presumes a misguided theory of rationality that is self-referentially inconsistent (if one accepts it, one is irrational by its own standards) and that excludes cases of clearly rational beliefs. Third, belief in God is more like belief in other persons than belief in a scientific theory (for which there is clearly a demand for evidence). Finally, he has developed his own theory of rationality, or warrant, which is better suited to how human beings actually acquire beliefs. He recognizes how little we would be able to believe if we were under the tyranny of the demand for evidence; but since we have so many clearly justified beliefs, they must be acquired in some other manner. Plantinga argues that they are most often acquired by cognitive faculties that produce beliefs immediately, that is, without recourse to or need of arguments or evidence.4
All of the thinkers in this volume have made impressive contributions to their disciplines. Few graduate students in this country have not worked carefully through Suppe's history of the philosophy of science of the past century; Suppe's current work on scientific theories will be recounted in the history of the next century of philosophy of science. John Rist has focused on the long-neglected late Ancient and early Medieval periods of philosophy; Rist's writings have helped bring this important era, scorned and ignored because of its love of metaphysics, back into the modern era. Mortimer Adler's voluminous writings and tireless efforts on behalf of a classical education have helped revive the emphasis on the "Great Books" in higher education; his philosophical work is perhaps surpassed by his involvement in The Paideia Project, an educational reform program for the restoration of general liberal education in our schools and universities. Linda Zagzebski is a young philosopher whose recent work on divine foreknowledge and human freedom has been much discussed of late.
The work of Stephen Davis ranges from philosophy to theology. He has written on such diverse topics as the nature of God, the resurrection, hell and the inspiration of Scripture. Terence Penelhum's acclaimed writings in many ways parallel his journey toward faith; his research on skepticism, religious belief and faith in the Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment eras reveals a passionate struggle for rational faith. As a writer and an editor, Nicholas Rescher has made an indelible mark on philosophy; in addition to his many and diverse books on virtually every major area of philosophy, Rescher has long edited prestigious scholarly journals. Nicholas Wolterstorff is known for his uncanny ability to master a new discipline in a very short period of time and then to write about and make a genuine contribution to the discipline. His innovative work on philosophical theology has led to invitations to deliver the distinguished Wilde Lectures at Oxford and Gifford Lectures at the major universities of Scotland.
The grapplings with faith and reason in an accessible manner by people of prodigious intellect provide encouragement for those struggling with their faith-these intelligent people have struggled with belief in God and come out on the side of God. Given the general hostility to theism within academic philosophy, there is a tremendous opportunity for important witness by esteemed Christian philosophers. Within departments where there are Christian members, a different climate has been created wherein students who were repressing or hiding spiritual struggles, questions or concerns are welcome to discuss matters of faith with someone they respect. As Suppe notes in his essay, both students and professional philosophers have asked contributors to this volume: "Tell me about your faith. Since I respect you as a philosopher I have to treat very seriously the fact that you are a believer."
Although Christian philosophers have attained to the highest scholarly level in their discipline, little attention has been paid to the actual generation, development and sustenance of their beliefs. Philosophers are often considered calculating devices, devoid of a psychology, sociology or personal story; yet psychological and sociological factors have played crucial roles in the faith development of professional philosophers. I know of a young philosopher who did his graduate work at a university well known for its hostility to theism; indeed, he wrote his dissertation under a professor who was a self-professed evangelist for atheism. This atmosphere had a negative effect on this person's faith. Shortly after graduate school he attended an American Philosophical Association meeting and noticed Alvin Plantinga walking down a hall; he desperately wanted to speak with him and be told (or just feel) that his Christian beliefs were acceptable, but he was afraid to approach him. Eventually he did meet and speak with Plantinga, which was crucial to reestablishing his faith. It is important to many Christians that they be part of a believing community that includes respected intellectuals.
I recently spoke with a friend who was moved by a comment that William Alston had made in an article on religious experience; Alston indicated that he prayed to God on his knees and that God had spoken to him and told him to work in Christian philosophy. Ostensibly the article was a sophisticated and complicated defense of the view that such experiences do not require philosophical justification for their rational acceptance. But the person with whom I spoke was astonished-not by the philosophical arguments but by the fact that a famous philosopher prayed on his knees. Having felt uneasy about his own devotion, the comment was liberating. Respected Christian philosophers are not only models of Christian philosophy, they are models of how thinkers can be Christians.
The Literature of Confession
"Thou hast made us for thyself and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee." So exclaims St. Augustine in the most famous quotation from The Confessions, the greatest of all spiritual autobiographies. The topic of his spiritual autobiography is set from the beginning: finding rest in God. More deeply it is about the God in whom St. Augustine finds rest. He writes of this extended prayer that it
praise[s] the righteous and good God as [it] speaks either of my evil or good, and [it is] meant to excite men's minds and affections toward him. At least as far as I am concerned, this is what [it] did for me when [it was] being written and [it still does] this when read. What some people think of [it] is their own affair; but I do know that [it has] given pleasure to many of my brethren and still does So.5Spiritual autobiography produces a salutary effect both in its author and in its readers. Self-reflection provides an occasion for becoming aware of God's mysterious and providential grace in the details of one's life; what at the time may have seemed serendipitous happenstance, in recollection through the eyes of faith is recognized as divine providence.
What then is a confession but a profession of the goodness and mercy of God? The dual meaning of confess includes admitting one's moral and spiritual deficiencies as well as acknowledging the grace of God. The occasion of recounting one's sins therefore becomes an opportunity to praise and give thanks to God for his compassion. Confession, as opposed to a boastful recounting of one's experiences, involves a loathing of one's past and a sense of need and gratitude toward God for divine forgiveness; it is the publican giving voice to his plaintive cry: "God be merciful to me, a sinner." Rather than making sin seem exciting and glorifying it, confessional writers describe its odious effects-both the degradation of character as vice eclipses virtue as well as the dehumanization caused by others through willful abuse and neglect.
Although writers of spiritual autobiographies have been deeply involved in sins, both in the giving and receiving, the details are typically spared. One need only include that which makes a necessary contribution to the spiritual dynamics, and the details may be safely excised. Tolstoy in his spiritual autobiography, Confession, reduces an extremely sordid past into a single, powerful paragraph:
I cannot recall those years without horror, loathing and heart-rending pain. I killed people in war, challenged men to duels with the purpose of killing them, and lost at cards; I squandered the fruits of the peasants' toil and then had them executed; I was a fornicator and a cheat. Lying, stealing, promiscuity of every kind, drunkenness, violence, murder-there was not a crime I did not commit; yet in spite of it all I was praised, and my colleagues considered me and still do consider me a relatively moral man.6While he includes every kind of sin, he rightly omits the specifics.
One may observe in the literature of confession that the authors have known every sin and temptation common to humankind. This makes their experiences universal and manifests the universal nature of temptation; the power of good confessional literature is that it speaks for every person. St. Paul writes of his mysterious thorn in the flesh and thereby allows each of us to fill in the thorn-in-the-flesh blank for our own life. St. Augustine speaks for all when he prays, "Grant me chastity ... but not yet." St. Augustine and St. Paul have written confessions that could be mine; I understand their need for redemption precisely because they are speaking for me.
Of course the literature of confession has power only if it is honest, even about the lifelong battle with wickedness and doubt. One may be rightly suspicious of spiritual writings that facilely turn famous Christians into saints. C. S. Lewis often lamented that people considered him better than he really was because they viewed him through the lenses of his (triumphalist) writings. Lewis was so clever that he could make it seem totally contrary to reason to doubt the existence of both heaven and Narnia. The misleading impression of Lewis's personal virtues could have been easily remedied if his spiritual autobiography had extended beyond his conversion. Only his brutally honest confessions of doubt and anger with God upon the suffering and death of his wife in A Grief Observed reveal Lewis for the moral and spiritual mortal that he really was. No glib theodicies suffice when Lewis becomes the sufferer; he curses God, calling him a cosmic sadist and divine vivisectionist. Curiously A Grief Observed, his most authentic writing, was published under a pseudonym. One most fully understands the Christian Lewis in this book, not in his earlier autobiography or his other writings.
Although a novel, Frederick Buechner's Godric, a compelling spiritual biography of an English pirate who converted to Christianity and was later declared a saint (this much of the story is true), is an honest confession of the lingering power of sin. Buechner's imaginative genius is displayed in his attempt to understand what it must have been like to be transformed from lascivious pirate to reluctant saint. In those days, as Kierkegaard writes, faith was a project for a lifetime. How is one actually set free from one's lusts to genuine and willing obedience to God? For Godric, it was not without a lifetime of kicking and screaming. Godric does not characterize the Christian life as a single dying with resurrection to new life once and for all, but rather he exclaims: "As a man dies many times before he's dead, so does he wend from birth to birth until, by grace, he comes alive at last."7 As a very old man Godric wistfully reflects on the power of the old self over the new self: unable even to lust, he wishes that he still could. He describes his state:
How I rage at times to smite with these same fists I scarce can clench! How I long, when woods are green, to lark and leap on shanks grown dry as sticks! Let a maid but pass my way with sport in her eye and her braid a-swinging, and I burn for her although my wick's long since burnt out.... So ever and again young Godric's dreams well up to flood old Godric's prayers, or prayers and dreams reach God in such a snarl he has to comb the tangle out, and who knows which he counts more dear.8Confession is the story of the old self being made new, again and again, by the grace of God.
The Bible itself is a treasure trove of confessional literature. Job, for example, in the midst of his anger with God--his intense desire to have his day in court with God as defendant and job as prosecuting attorney--can still proclaim: "For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at last he will stand upon the earth; and tho worms destroy my body, yet in my flesh shall I see God."9 The Psalms contain confession of every variety: pious profession of faith, anger that God seems unjust and absent, confession of sin, expressions of gratitude toward God for being steadfast in love and slow to anger, praise of God for his mighty works, pleadings with and cajolings of God, false praise, and so forth. In the painfully honest Psalms we see into the very heart of the authentic religious believer. "Why dost thou hide thy face? Why dost thou forget our affliction and oppression?" (Ps 44:24 KJV). Wake up, God, the psalmist screams, and come to our rescue. Although Jeremiah, the weary prophet, confesses his anger with God ("O, Lord, thou hast deceived me, and I was deceived; thou art stronger than I, and thou has prevailed"-20:7), he returns to God and places his trust in him. Yet Jeremiah chafes against the divine inscrutability and curses the day he was born. And it is in St. Paul's sober yet fleeting confessions that we see him as a fellow pilgrim, and not merely a divine vehicle of doctrine, struggling as we along the way.
It takes more than honesty to construct a powerful and enduring spiritual autobiography. The story and the life remembered must be interesting. It must appeal to universal sins, temptations, needs, desires and struggles. And in order to avoid egotism and interest only to its author, its subject matter must ultimately be God. In the best, there is an intermingling of the personal and the intellectual. While reflecting on what makes life worth living, Tolstoy wanders about in the "forest of human knowledge," discussing with alacrity and clarity the worldviews of the great philosophers and the Wisdom literature of the Bible. There is an ease with which great autobiography engages the most compelling and profound human questions in an insightful and illuminating manner.
In this collection, Plantinga moves from the mentioning of specific tragedies to people he has known to a discussion of the problem of evil. After recording the effect of the cries of the oppressed in South Africa and Palestine, Wolterstorff discusses the notion that the Bible is a book about justice. Penelhum laments being in the Christian minority among philosophers as well as being painfully cognizant of apparently rational alternatives to theism. And Swinburne's essay is primarily intellectual-recounting the chief influences on his development as the premier rational apologist for the Christian faith of our era.
The content of each essay is both personal and philosophical (no writer was to present a philosophical treatise). Indeed, the essays are primarily personal. Let me mention a few examples. Fred Suppe discusses his struggles growing up under the tyranny of a sadistic father. Alvin Plantinga reminisces about the church camps that he attended as a youth and about Sunday school, and he admits to being an insufficiently attentive husband. Nicholas Rescher mentions his doubts about God's existence. Terence Penelhum discusses the struggles he faces being both a philosopher and a Christian. John Rist traces his childhood development. Basil Mitchell wistfully remembers how, a young man, he unexpectedly wept on the eve of a world war. Nick Wolterstorff describes the impact of losing a son in a mountain-climbing accident.
The reader is invited to enjoy the confessions contained within this collection. May each reader treat them as St. Augustine treated his--a prayer of thanksgiving to God who manifests his providential care in the various circumstances of our lives. May you find in each essay some reflection of your life as seeker, Christian, pilgrim, questioner, thinker, struggler, doubter and most important as a sinner in need of grace. May the prayers of these philosophers prod you to cry out: "Lord, hear my prayer." As Augustine urges of his confessions, may we see the depths from which we cry to God: "For nothing comes nearer to your ears than a confessing heart, and a life grounded in faith ."10
Kelly James Clark
1. April 7, 1980.
2. Although under 20 percent of professional philosophers are women, a substantial number of women were invited to contribute to this project.
3. Published in Faith and Philosophy 1, no. 3 (1984): 253-71.
4. For a discussion of Plantinga's views on the problem of evil and the rationality of religious belief see Kelly James Clark, Return to Reason (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1990), pp. 57-91, 118-58.
5. The Retractations 2.6 as found in Augustine: Confessions and Enchiridion, ed. And trans. Albert C. Outler (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1995), p. 24.
6. Leo Tolstoy, Confession, trans. David Patterson (New York: Norton, 1983), p. 18.
7. Frederick Buechner, Godric, (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1980), p. 99.
8. Buechner, Godric, p. 40.
9. Job 19:25-26. The interpretation of this passage is widely disputed. Does the Redeemer mentioned here refer to God or to something like a defense attorney who will vindicate him against the accusations of God? Or is it a statement of faith, that in spite of his lack of understanding of divine justice, he trusts that God in his Redeemer and , in the end, he shall see God? Either interpretation makes a profound contribution to honest confessional literature.
10. Augustine, The Confessions, bk. 2 chap.3.