Swinburne: On the Future of Philosophical Theology
Visiting Scholar Richard Swinburne discusses the future of philosophical theology with CCT Associate Director Steve Porter.
So the future of philosophical theology, you know there’s these movements in what’s been called analytic theology that’s trying to take the philosophical resources, and bring them more directly to bear on questions in Christian theology. What do you see as the prospects of the future of philosophical theology? What needs to be done? Are you hopeful that work will continue in this area?
Well, when Anglo American philosophers started applying the then philosophy to the Christian religion, they were first concerned with questions of meaning. What did it mean to say there is a God? Was this just nonsense? And then they became interested in arguments for the existence of God, and justification of those arguments. And then they have become, in recent years interested in arguments for particular Christian doctrines such as the Trinity, or the Incarnation, or the Resurrection, What can be said for and against?
How do these arguments work? Or whether can these doctrines too be made probable? And all that’s good, and I think they are beginning to consider certain issues of morality. There are Christian moral views which differ from those of the secular world. we need to look at how one would justify those particular views, and that is good. It’s always difficult to predict the future of a science because if you really knew the future of a science you’d know the answers as it were. You can’t predict what the next theory will be. Otherwise, you’d already have it.
So I’m a little hesitant to predict exactly where it will go. It’s got plenty more work to do on arguments and Christian doctrine. I hesitate to predict just where it will go. There’s been quite a bit of beginning to be applied of these techniques to other religions, and see how they shape up. And I hope that will continue because I think they shape up rather badly [chuckles] actually compared with Christianity.
And I think we need to bring Islam and Buddhism into the discussion, and see if they can do a bit better than perhaps initially they seem to do by way of arguments. That I think would be good, but that involves, of course, getting to know Islam a lot better than people in the West do, and getting to know Buddhism a lot better. And what certainly people in Eastern religions would say as well, we don’t go in for arguments that Buddhism is a practice, it’s not something you do, it’s not a system of belief, but an obvious counter would be it’s pretty silly sort of things to do unless it’s got, unless you’ve got any reason why it’s a good thing to do? practice this kind of way.
So, argument can start there. So that is certainly one way in which it would advance and the work of understanding particular Christian attitudes to various moral matters, not just sex, but life, abortion, euthanasia what sort of techniques of messing about with embryos are right or which sort are wrong? animal experimentation and so on, there’s a great deal of work to be done there and certainly, I would hope that would be them.