Swinburne on the Existence of God

I was in fact searching for another paper (“The Informed Universe and the Existence of God” by John Haught, actually a chapter of an edited volume), when I stumbled upon this paper (link to pdf below) by Swinburne. There’s no reference to date or place, unfortunately, but the text offers an interesting read. Although I have some reservations about evidences for the existence of God, in particular for a personal God, as Swinburne offers in this paper, I do agree with one remark he makes:

(…) the abandonment of the ancient project of natural theology by so many parts of the Christian tradition. That was unfortunate – for Christianity (and every other theistic religion) needs natural theology.

My main problem with the argument that the universe offers proof for the existence of a personal God, such as Swinburne develops in this paper, is that I believe such argument risks doing a kind of ‘reverse engineering’: reading the concept of God you have in mind into the structure of the universe. I do believe you can use the word ‘God’ to refer to what is in fact ineffable: the ultimate cause and continuous ground for the universe. But that is still far from personal concepts of God, as used in Christianity (or other religions).

That is not to say that a personal concept of God is false. You could, I believe, use Swinburne’s ‘Principle of Testimony’ to argue for the validity of personal God-concepts within particular religious traditions. Or, even better, you could integrate such concepts in the deep history of these traditions. And that brings me to the point where I definitely agree with Swinburne’s paper: we need a natural theology, a theology that takes the natural origins of religion into account.

The Existence of God

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