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Faith, Reason and the Existence of God [Hardcover]

By Denys Turner (Author)
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Item description for Faith, Reason and the Existence of God by Denys Turner...

The proposition that the existence of God is demonstrable by rational argument is doubted by nearly all philosophical opinion today and is thought by most Christian theologians to be incompatible with Christian faith. This book argues that, on the contrary, there are reasons of faith why in principle the existence of God should be thought rationally demonstrable and that it is worthwhile revisiting the theology of Thomas Aquinas to see why this is so. The book further suggests that philosophical objections to proofs of God's existence rely upon an attenuated and impoverished conception of reason which theologians of all monotheistic traditions might wish to reject. Denys Turner proposes that on a broader and deeper conception of it, human rationality is open to the 'sacramental shape' of creation as such and in its exercise of rational proof of God it in some way participates in that sacramentality of all things.

Citations And Professional Reviews
Faith, Reason and the Existence of God by Denys Turner has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
  • Christian Century - 10/04/2005 page 40

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Cambridge University Press
Pages   292
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9" Width: 6" Height: 0.81"
Weight:   1.32 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Apr 1, 2010
Publisher   Cambridge University Press
Edition  New  
ISBN  0521841615  
ISBN13  9780521841610  

Availability  95 units.
Availability accurate as of May 25, 2017 08:37.
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More About Denys Turner

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Denys Turneris Horace Tracy Pitkin Professor of Historical Theology, Yale University."

Denys Turner was born in 1942 and has an academic affiliation as follows - University of Cambridge University of Birmingham Yale University Conne.

Denys Turner has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Cistercian Studies
  2. Negativity in Western Christian Mysticism

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Theology > Apologetics

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Reviews - What do customers think about Faith, Reason and the Existence of God?

Clarifying and constructive  Aug 24, 2006
In "Faith, Reason and the Existence of God," Denys Turner offers a fascinating discussion of reason's capacity to know that God exists. Arguing against those who would deny on theological or philosophical grounds that the existence of God may be rationally demonstrated, Turner argues that an enriched understanding of reason and a properly conceived Christian faith provide no reason to reject the possibility of a rational proof of God. In so arguing, however, Turner does not offer support for a rationalistic confidence that the human mind (whether aided by faith or not) can grasp God. On the contrary, Turner suggests that, in reasoning towards the existence of God, reason encounters the limits of its powers. While establishing that "God exists," reason also establishes that it cannot begin to understand the meaning of "God" or even the meaning of "exists" as a notion applied to God. Thus, in suggesting that reason may know that God exists, one need not make the "onto-theological" error of supposing that God is a "being" in the same category as other beings and therefore a possible subject of metaphysical investigation. Indeed, any legitimate proof of God's existence (which begins with the question, "Why is there anything rather than nothing?") demands that God, as the creator of all that is, be categorically incommensurable with all that we may see and know, whether through metaphysics or any other discipline.

By arguing that "to prove the existence of God is to prove the existence of a mystery," Turner squarely adopts the position of Thomas Aquinas. Or at least that is what he claims he is doing. Thomas's views on reason and the significance of his cursory proofs of God's existence (the famous "five ways") have recently been the subject of much revisionist interpretation, with several authors (including John Milbank and Cathryn Pickstock of the "Radical Orthodoxy" school) suggesting that Thomas did not actually believe that reason could establish the existence of God without implicitly appealing to the beliefs of faith. Such interpretations seek to extricate Thomas from a theology that domesticates God by making God an object of human reason. But according to Turner, Thomas needs no rescuing. For Thomas, a God whose existence is rationally demonstrable does not imply a God that is rationally graspable. The proofs of God's existence (which, Turner rightly insists, were understood by Thomas to be rationally valid demonstrations not dependent on faith) represent not the triumph of reason, but reason's discovery of its own severe limitations. While establishing that there must be a cause for all of the contingent things that make up this world, reason also establishes that this cause must be categorically incommensurable with the world of contingent things, and is thus something that utterly escapes our experience and understanding.

Thomas's exposition of analogical predication, which is a major focus of Turner's book, is meant to show how a proof may be valid even when we do not know what the terms of the conclusion ("God exists") mean. The logic of the proof compels us to affirm that God exists, but also that this existence is unlike any other existence we know. For example, if God's existence is not contingent (a conclusion required by Thomas's "third way"), then it is not possible for God not to exist. But we do not know what such necessary existence could really mean, since nothing in the universe that we know and understand seems to have such necessary existence. Thus the word "exists" in the proof's conclusion is not univocally identical to our understanding of the word "exists," but neither is it purely equivocal. Rather, when we affirm that "God exists," the word "exists" stands in an analogical relation to our own conception of existence, such that the proof possesses logical integrity (it does not rely on equivocation) while leading to a conclusion whose meaning we cannot grasp. According to Thomas, analogy defines the grammar of all theological language. Every affirmation (not just the affirmation of God's existence, but including affirmations such as "God as good") employs terms that stand in analogical relationship to the way the terms are normally employed and understood. This analogical grammar of theology naturally leads to a healthy coexistence of "kataphatic" and "apophatic" theology. Kataphatic theology, which makes positive affirmations about God ("God is wise," for instance), affirms the non-equivocity of theological language; God's wisdom stands in real relation to wisdom in the created world, even if we do not understand the nature of that relation. Apophatic theology, which denies predicates of God (e.g. "God is not wise, at least in any sense of the word `wise' that we can understand."), affirms the non-univocity of theological language, and thus the irreducible mysteriousness of God.

In drawing our attention to the analogical character of theological language, Turner emphasizes both the rationality and mystery inherent in theological thought and exploration. Reason is not sacrificed in our affirmation of God's existence, since philosophical logic can say true things about God by means of analogy. But in theology reason is also humbled, finding itself powerless to shed light on the dark territory into which the ultimate questions (why is there anything at all?) have led it. Turner thus reaches back to the medieval period in order to recover a middle way between overconfident rationalism, which offers us an idol in its attempt to make God understandable, and various fideistic alternatives, which impoverish faith by denying its rational component. Whether or not Thomas provides a satisfactory solution to today's debates on faith and reason, Turner convincingly shows that Thomas has much to offer us as we seek to navigate these debates.

Many have criticized the kind of apophatic theology that Turner seeks to recover on Christological grounds, suggesting that an uncompromising emphasis on God's ineffability is at odds with the Christian idea that Jesus Christ is God incarnate, and that God can be understood by looking to Christ and knowing him. But in one of the most important sections of the book, Turner argues that rigorous apophatic theology is not at odds with orthodox Christology, but is actually essential to it. Properly conceived apophatic theology emphasizes that God is not different from creatures merely in quantity or degree, but is categorically different from creatures. Thus, God's wisdom is not like human wisdom only without limit (expanded to an infinite degree); it is, rather, a different kind of wisdom altogether. The only reason that we can still truly say that "God is wise" without equivocating is because God's wisdom stands in a relationship to creaturely wisdom as its source and cause. Since a cause must be sufficient for its effects (i.e. something without qualities greater or equal to creaturely wisdom could not cause creaturely wisdom to exist), this connection between creator and creature provides the analogical basis for the affirmation "God is wise." Were we to deny this apophatic insight, and suggest that God's wisdom is conceptually the same as human wisdom but without limits, the notion of incarnation would be hopelessly irrational. To be God would entail having infinite wisdom, while to be human would entail having finite wisdom. Because nothing can be (within the same dimension) both infinite and finite, Christ's being both God and man would seem to be impossible--either Christ has infinite wisdom and is not human, or he has finite wisdom and is not divine. But by affirming that God's wisdom is categorically different from human wisdom, apophatic theology leaves room for the possibility of incarnation. God's wisdom is not human wisdom writ large; it is something altogether different. There is no contradiction, therefore, in God's possessing both human and divine wisdom. The categorical incommensurability between creature and creator allows the creator to become a creature without logical contradiction. Far from being inimical to orthodox Christology, proper apophatic theology provides the grounds for its possibility. Apophatic theology essentially ratchets up the mysteriousness of God, undermining any human presumption to be able to perceive in the incarnation a contradiction. Appreciating more fully God's ineffability, we are freed to affirm without reservation that Jesus is indeed fully God and fully human.

Turner's book contains many virtues, the greatest of which is his clarity of thought and presentation. Readers who have been frustrated by confusing (and perhaps confused) discussions of such topics as onto-theology, analogical predication, or apophatic theology will likely be refreshed by Turner's ability to succinctly and clearly describe a point of view and the issues that are at stake. In addition, while the book remains focused on a single guiding question, Turner's exploration of this question leads him into provocative discussions of numerous other topics (which turn out to be related to the question at hand), including philosophy of language, Christian apophatic theology, Christology, the eucharist, and even the nature of music as a kind of rationality. While the book is not recommended for someone new to contemporary theology and philosophy, the reader who has some familiarity with contemporary "postmodern" theology but finds much of it abstruse or even muddled will likely find this volume to be a clarifying, constructive, and delightful read.

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