Kaufman and Hick

Alvin Plantinga

in Warranted Christian Belief

Published in print February 2000 | ISBN: 9780195131932
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199867486 | DOI:
Kaufman and Hick

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Many contemporary theologians hold that there are profound problems in the very idea that we can refer to and think about a being characterized in the way Christians characterize God; in this chapter, I consider the claims of two such thinkers, Gordon Kaufman and John Hick. Roughly, Kaufman's position (in his early work) appears to be the following: the term “God” may or may not have a real referent, but if so this real referent transcends our experience and hence is something to which our concepts don’t apply; the term “God” does, however, have an available referent, which is a human construction. I examine and reject this view, as well as some of Kaufman's claims about the function and utility of religious language. I then examine and attempt to clarify John Hick's position that there is an unlimited and transcendent being, the Real, which is “the noumenal ground of the encountered gods and experienced absolutes witnessed to by the religious traditions,” and which is such that only our formal concepts and our negative concepts apply to it. I argue that although this position (or one close to it) may manage to avoid incoherence, Hick gives us no good reason to think that we cannot predicate of God such positive, nonformal properties as wisdom, knowledge, love, and the rest.

Keywords: Christian belief; God; Hick; Kaufman; religious language; transcendence

Chapter.  16763 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Religion

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