Item Details

The (Overwhelming) Improbability of Classical (and Christian) Theism

Issue: Vol 25 No. 1 (2017)

Journal: Essays in the Philosophy of Humanism

Subject Areas: Philosophy

DOI: 10.1558/eph.32240


In the analytic Philosophy of Religion, much ink has been spilt on the existence of some sort of supernatural reality. Such work is usually done by theists; those that find classical theism to be probably true. It is my contention that theism (and especially Christian theism) is unjustly privileged by many in the field (including non-theists), even when supernaturalism has been – competently or incompetently – argued for. As such, I present a series of challenges for the theist, finding them to be insuperable at present. The first such challenge concerns the challenge of polytheism. Polytheism is often very casually overlooked on the basis that monotheism is ‘simpler’. Recognising that such simplicity is not necessarily truth-conducive, I argue that polytheism, as a catch-all hypothesis, ought to be preferred. The second challenge proceeds from an assumption not only of supernaturalism, but also of monotheism. There are infinitely many monotheistic alternatives to theism, which can be conceived by simply tweaking the typical attributes of God. Again, simplicity is typically appealed to, and again found to be unhelpful. Furthermore, there are the deistic alternatives to consider also, many of which are seemingly more probable than theism. Finally, I consider the pantheistic god models, deciding that pantheisms are generally more robust and make fewer ad hoc assumptions about the world. As an aside, I concisely discuss the difficulties in moving from theism to Christian theism, which includes an argument against miracles, and a brief explanation of the increasing trend of questioning Jesus’ historical existence.

Author: Raphael Lataster

View Full Text

References :

Ali, Ahmed Farag, and Saurya Das. 2015. “Cosmology from quantum potential.” Physics Letters B 741(1): 276279.

Avalos, Hector. 2015. The Bad Jesus: The Ethics of New Testament Ethics. Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix.

Bilimoria, Purushottama. 2012. “Why Is There Nothing Rather Than Something? An Essay in the Comparative Metaphysic of Nonbeing.” Sophia 51(4): 509530.

Carrier, Richard. 2014. On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason For Doubt. Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix.

Copan, Paul, and William Lane Craig. 2014. Creation Out of Nothing: A Biblical, Philosophical, and Scientific Exploration. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker.

Craig, Edward, ed. 2013. Concise Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. London: Routledge.

Craig, William Lane. 2008. Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics. Third Edition. Wheaton, IL: Crossway.

———. 2010. On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision. Colorado Springs: David C. Cook.

———. 2011. “Defining “God.” Reasonable Faith.

———. 2015. Reasonable Faith. “Does the Vastness of the Universe Support Naturalism?”

Crossley, James G. 2015. Jesus and the Chaos of History: Redirecting the Life of the Historical Jesus. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Cusack, Carole M. 2010. Invented Religions: Imagination, Fiction and Faith. Farnham: Ashgate.

De Cruz, Helen. 2014. “Cognitive Science of Religion and the Study of Theological Concepts.” Topoi 33(2): 487497.

———. 2016. “Results of my survey on natural theological arguments.”

DeGeneres, Ellen. 1995. My Point... and I Do Have One. New York: Bantam.

Droge, Arthur J. 2009. “Jesus and Ned Ludd: What’s in a Name?” Caesar: A Journal for the Critical Study of Religion and Human Values 3(1): 2325.

PhilPapers. 2009. “The PhilPapers SurveysAll Respondents.”

———. 2009. “The PhilPapers SurveysPhilosophy of Religion.”

Gager, John G. 1974. “The Gospels and Jesus: Some Doubts about Method.” The Journal of Religion 54 (3): 244272.

Göhner, Julia, Marie I. Kaiser, and Christian Suhm. 2008. “Is Simplicity an Adequate Criterion of Theory Choice?” In Richard Swinburne: Christian Philosophy in a Modern World, edited by Nicola Mößner, Sebastian Schmoranzer and Christian Weidemann, 4760. Berlin: De Gruyter.

Hartney, Christopher. 2014. Review of There Was No Jesus, There Is No God: A Scholarly Examination of the Scientific, Historical, and Philosophical Evidence & Arguments For Monotheism, by Raphael Lataster. Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review 5(1): 171174.

Keith, Chris, and Anthony Le Donne, eds. 2012. Jesus, Criteria, and the Demise of Authenticity. London: T&T Clark.

Korbmacher, Johannes, Sebastian Schmoranzer, and Ansgar Seide. 2008. “Simply False? Swinburne on Simplicity as Evidence of Truth.” In Richard Swinburne: Christian Philosophy in a Modern World, edited by Nicola Mößner, Sebastian Schmoranzer and Christian Weidemann. Berlin: De Gruyter.

Kosso, Peter. 1992. Reading the Book of Nature: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Krauss, Lawrence Maxwell. 2012. A Universe from Nothing: Why There is Something Rather Than Nothing. New York: Free Press.

Lataster, Raphael. 2013. “Bayesian Reasoning: Criticising the ‘Criteria of Authenticity’ and Calling for a Review of Biblical Criticism.” Journal of Alternative Perspectives in the Social Sciences 5(2): 271293.

———. 2014. “The Fourth Quest: A Critical Analysis of the Recent Literature on Jesus’ (a)Historicity.” Literature & Aesthetics 24(1): 128.

———. 2015a. “The Gospel According to Bart: The Folly of Ehrman’s Hypothetical Sources.” Paper presented at the Annual Conference of the Australian Historical Association, Sydney, Austrailia. July 7.

———. 2015b. “Questioning the Plausibility of Jesus Ahistoricity Theories — A Brief Pseudo-Bayesian Metacritique of the Sources.” Intermountain West Journal of Religious Studies 6(1): 6396.

———. 2016. “It’s Official: We Can Now Doubt Jesus’ Historical Existence.” Think 15(43): 6579.

Law, Stephen. 2011. “Evidence, Miracles and the Existence of Jesus.” Faith and Philosophy 28(2): 129151.

———. 2010. “The Evil-God Challenge.” Religious Studies 46(3): 353373.

Naylor, Grant. 1989. Red Dwarf: Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers. London: Penguin.

Oppy, Graham Robert. 2006. Arguing about Gods. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Philipse, Herman. 2012. God in the Age of Science?: A Critique of Religious Reason. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Plantinga, Alvin, and James F. Sennett. 1998. The Analytic Theist: An Alvin Plantinga Reader. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.

Pleše, Zlatko. 2006. Poetics of the Gnostic Universe: Narrative and Cosmology in the Apocryphon of John. Leiden: Brill.

Rowe, William. 1979. “The Problem of Evil and Some Varieties of Atheism.” American Philosophical Quarterly 16(4): 335341.

Schilbrack, Kevin. 2014. Philosophy and the Study of Religions: A Manifesto. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

Sobel, Jordan Howard. 2004. Logic and Theism: Arguments for and against Beliefs in God. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Sober, Elliott. 2005. “The Design Argument.” In The Blackwell Guide to the Philosophy of Religion, edited by William Mann. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.

Swinburne, Richard. 2000. “Reply to Grünbaum.” British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 51(3): 481485.

Swinburne, Richard. 2004. The Existence of God. 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

———. 2005. “Second Reply to Grünbaum.” British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 56(4): 919–925.

———. 2010. Is There a God? Revised ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Theissen, Gerd, and Dagmar Winter. 2002. The Quest for the Plausible Jesus: The Question of Criteria. Translated by M. Eugene Boring. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.

Tobia, Kevin Patrick. 2016. “Does religious belief infect philosophical analysis?” Religion, Brain & Behavior 6(1): 5666.

van Fraassen, Bas C. 1980. The Scientific Image. Oxford: Clarendon.

Wells, H.G. 2012. The Time Machine. London: Penguin.

Wielenberg, Erik J. 2010. “Sceptical theism and divine lies.” Religious Studies 46(4): 509523.