This book offers a rationale for a new ‘ramified natural theology’ that is in dialogue with both science and historical-critical study of the Bible. Traditionally, knowledge of God has been seen to come from two sources, nature and revelation. However, a rigid separation between these sources cannot be maintained, since what purports to be revelation cannot be accepted without qualification: rational argument is needed to infer both the existence of God from nature and the particular truth claims of the Christian faith from the Bible. Hence the distinction between ‘bare natural theology’ and ‘ramified natural theology.’
The book begins with bare natural theology as background to its main focus on ramified natural theology. Bayesian confirmation theory is utilised to evaluate competing hypotheses in both cases, in a similar manner to that by which competing hypotheses in science can be evaluated on the basis of empirical data. In this way a case is built up for the rationality of a Christian theist worldview.
Addressing issues of science, theology and revelation in a new framework, this book will be of keen interest to scholars working in Religion and Science, Natural Theology, Philosophy of Religion, Biblical Studies, Systematic Theology, and Science and Culture.
Table of Contents
1 Theology as a Scientific Discipline: The Place of Natural Theology and Ramified Natural Theology
2 Reason and Religion: The Rôle of Natural Theology
3 Natural Theology and Modern Cosmology: The Cosmological and Design Arguments
4 Moving on from Natural Theology: Why We Need Ramified Natural Theology
5 Pascal’s Pensées and Butler’s Analogy: Foreshadowing Ramified Natural Theology
6 The Rationality of Belief in Miracles
7 Ramified Natural Theology and Evidence for Christian Claims about Christ: Jesus’ Miracles
8 Jesus and Prophecy
9 Ramified Natural Theology in Action: Outline of the Argument for the Historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus
10 On the Third Day he Rose Again: Bayesian Methodologies Applied to the Resurrection of Jesus
11 Towards a Fuller Picture: The Fruits of Ramified Natural Theology
Rodney Holder was Course Director of The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, Cambridge, UK, before retiring in 2013, and is a Fellow Commoner of St Edmund’s College, Cambridge. He has published widely in the fields of science and religion and natural theology including the book Big Bang, Big God: A Universe Designed for Life? (2013) and articles in peer reviewed journals such as The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, Theology and Science, and Philosophia Christi.
"Probabilistic natural theology is the production of arguments from the most general features of the universe to the probable existence of God. Ramified natural theology is the production of probabilistic arguments from historical evidence of a kind recognisable by atheists as well as religious believers, for the truth of doctrines about how God has acted in history. The detailed application to ramified natural theology of the probability calculus, and in particular of Bayes’s theorem, is a very recent development in philosophy of religion, to the details and power of which Rodney Holder introduces readers in this book. It helps us to see just how similar to those of any other historical argument, are some arguments from the New Testament (considered merely as an ordinary historical document) and other historical evidence to the conclusion that Jesus Christ rose from the dead on the first Easter day. Holder explains well the background of the past two centuries of theological scepticism towards rational discussion of this topic, a rational discussion which is crucially needed both by Christians and their opponents in today's world." - Richard Swinburne, Emeritus Nolloth Professor of the Philosophy of the Christian Religion, University of Oxford
"At a time when religious faith is often dismissed as private and irrational, Dr Holder powerfully and incisively argues for the complete rationality of Christian belief. This book demands our attention." - Roger Trigg, Senior Research Fellow, Ian Ramsey Centre, University of Oxford
"Distilling decades of deep reflection on the consonance between the natural sciences and religious commitment, Rodney Holder develops with remarkable clarity and care a potent cumulative case for theism in general and for Christian theism in particular. Few thinkers combine scientific expertise and philosophical acumen as effectively and effortlessly as the author of this book." - James Orr, University Lecturer in Philosophy of Religion, Faculty of Divinity, University of Cambridge
"Rodney Holder builds logically upon centuries of natural theological tradition since Thomas Aquinas to offer this new extended argument for a ‘ramified natural theology’ in science and religion. […] With its systematic structure and comprehensive detailing, the volume serves as a veritable education and an interesting exercise in this type of theological enterprise. […] Experimentation with concepts and their methodologies, like natural theology and in this volume ramified natural theology, is precisely the kind of activity in which science and religion scholarship ought to be involved." – Shaun Henson in Science & Christian Belief
"Arguing from a historic basis of the scriptures is, of course, not new. What is more innovative is to combine this with a consideration of natural theology, and to use a common analytical technique such as Bayesian theory to assign overall probabilities to the truths of central Christian beliefs. […] Even without the Bayesian aspects, this book is useful in collecting together quite a lot of material that is relevant for presenting the Christian faith. […] It can be well recommended for theological libraries and researchers in the area" - Peter J. Bussey in Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith
"In this significant work, Rev Dr Rodney Holder utilises Bayes’s theorem to rationally analyze the probability that specific historical, revelatory claims of Christian faith are true. […] This engaging work is an outstanding contribution to the field of ramified natural theology, with prodigious scope, reflecting the author’s multi-disciplinary expertise. I highly recommend it to analytical theologians, those examining the compelling documentary evidence for Christian faith, and to anyone interested in the history of natural theology." - David E. Watkis in Faith&Thought