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Knowledge, Action, Pluralism

Contemporary Perspectives in Philosophy of Religion

Edited By Sebastian Kolodziejczyk and Janusz Salamon

In this book, an international team of scholars from leading American, British and Continental European universities, led by Richard Swinburne, Eleonore Stump, William Wainwright and Linda Zagzebski, presents original ideas about three currently discussed topics in the philosophy of religion: religious epistemology, the philosophy of God’s action in the world, including the problem of evil and Divine Providence, and the philosophical challenge of religious diversity. The book contains echoes of all four main strands of the late 20th century philosophy of religion: Richard Swinburne’s philosophical theology, Alvin Plantinga’s reformed epistemology, John Hick’s theory of religious pluralism, and the philosophy of religion inspired by the work of the later Wittgenstein. One of the distinguishing features of this volume is that it mirrors a new trend towards philosophical cooperation across the so-called continental/analytic divide.
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Do the Results of Divine Actions Have Preceding Causes?

Extract



Daniel von Wachter

I. The divine willing view

Assume that the universe had a beginning and that that beginning was caused by God. Was there then an event that caused the beginning of the universe? More generally, if God causes an event E in the universe beginning at t, is there then an event C beginning before t which causes E? The usual answer is yes, I shall argue that the true answer is no. God can bring about events in the universe in a certain sense ‘directly’ so that they have no preceding cause.

The usual view we find, for example, in Hofmann and Rosenkrantz’s book Divine Attributes (2002):

Necessarily, if an agent, A, intentionally [...] brings about an event [...], then A performs such an action either by deciding (or choosing) to do so or by endeavoring (or willing) to do so. Thus, if God exists, then he performs actions [...] via his decisions or endeavorings. (Hoffman and Rosenkrantz 2002: 103)

The authors proceed to argue that to endeavour something is to engage in a ‘volitional activity’, and ‘a volitional activity of God would be an intrinsic change in him’ (pp. 103 f). Only things in time can change, therefore God is in time.

Richard Swinburne gives a similar argument for God being in time: God’s ‘acting must be prior to the effects that his action causes’ (Swinburne 1993: 216), because causes are earlier than their effects....

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