Chapter 7: Paradigms in Religion
In chapter 4 above it was proposed that the data of religion are experiences and events which are interpreted by imaginative models. As scientific models lead to theories by which observations are ordered, so religious models lead to beliefs by which experiences are ordered. Beliefs, like theories, can be propositionally stated and systematically articulated. But can religious beliefs be tested against human experience, as scientific theories can be tested against observations? Are there any criteria for the assessment of religious beliefs?
In the first section of this chapter the influence of interpretation on experience in religion is explored, paralleling the discussion of the influence of theory on observation in the previous chapter. Then the debate over the falsifiability of religious beliefs is appraised in the light of our conclusions about falsifiability in science. Section 3 examines the role of commitment to religious paradigms, understood as traditions transmitted by historical exemplars. Thereafter some distinctive problems of religious belief are taken up: the character of religious faith, the problem of transcendence and the status of metaphysics. The final section is concerned with criteria of assessment and their limitations.
1. The Influence of Interpretation on Experience
Positivist authors since Hume have held that experience starts from the passive reception of momentary, disconnected, uninterpreted sense-data. Experience, for the positivist, is the private, subjective awareness of sense qualities produced by physical stimuli from the external world. It should be evident that this is a theory of experience, rather than a description of human consciousness. I would advocate an alternative theory ‘which identifies primary experience with pre-reflective awareness of the flow of living activity in the interaction of organism and environment. It is a product of something encountered and a being capable of apprehending and interpreting that encounter. In a growing child, the distinction of self and world arises gradually because of his selective interest and responsive activity. The being who experiences is an active agent in the world, not a passive recipient of data. The contributions of subject and object, in this view, are complex and never totally separable.1
Our experience is not purely subjective, since we cannot make of it what we will. It is at least in part a ‘given’ which we are powerless to alter, a demand upon us to which we must conform. We respond as beings participating in a wider world. But experience is not purely objective, for it is qualified by the memories, feelings and concepts of the experiencing subject. Perceptual error and illusion warn us that the senses can be deceptive. We learn to discriminate according to the reliability with which our expectations are confirmed as we act in the world, and we compare our judgments with those of other persons responding to a common world.
There is, in short, no uninterpreted experience of the sort which the positivist posits. We don’t simply see; we ‘see as’. In the act of perception, the irreducible ‘data’ are not isolated patches of colour or fragmentary sensations, but total patterns in which interpretation has already entered. Our experience is organized in the light of particular interests. Language itself also structures our experience in specific ways. Conceptual presuppositions are transmitted by culturally-provided words which give form to experience. What we count as ‘given’ depends on our conceptual framework and the interests which it serves. The positivist’s quest for the certainty of an incorrigible foundation for knowledge cannot be satisfied. No sense-datum statement is free of conceptual commitments that might subsequently need revision. The distinction between experience and interpretation, like that between observation and theory in science, is relative and context-dependent.
I respond to a table, not to a set of sense-data. Relations, connections, transitions and changes are as much part of my experience as patches of colour. There is continuity and cumulative identity both in what is experienced and in the one who experiences, rather than a sequence of disconnected impressions. There is also a social context of experience which the positivist theory leaves out; critical comparison of judgments depends on interaction with others, as we saw in the case of science as a community of enquiry. The diversity of dimensions of experience arises jointly from the capacities of things encountered to sustain a diversity of relationships and from the diversity of purposes which I have in confronting them. I respond to the table as an object of use, of’ beauty, of value, etc.; it has a variety of capacities and contexts and I have a variety of purposes and ways of looking at it.
With this brief introduction, let us reflect on the two basic types of experience which were described in Chapter S above. Numinous encounter is characterized by awe, reverence, mystery and wonder. There is a sense of being grasped and laid hold of, and a conviction that one’s response is evoked.2 This pattern, we saw, is typically associated with worship and with personal models of the divine. Mystical union, on the other hand, is characterized by joy, serenity and peace. The mystic speaks of the unity of all things and the loss of individual identity. He practices meditation and tends to use impersonal models.
While the descriptions of their experiences given by mystics in various cultures have much in common, the attempts to specify that which evokes the experience diverge more strongly. In Vedanta Hinduism the interpretive framework is monistic and pantheistic; the goal is union with the impersonal absolute, which only in popular piety is represented in personal forms. Mysticism in the Judaeo-Christian tradition usually receives a theistic interpretation; the gulf between the human and the divine is transcended but not denied. The self is said to be united with, but not totally obliterated by, the infinite. A historical development from polytheism to monotheism has occurred in many world religions, accompanied by -~ a weaving together of mystical and numinous strands, but there are -notable exceptions. Therevada Buddhism is agnostic about the object of contemplation; nirvana is the disclosure of a spiritual state, not a personal God, though it does transcend the categories of natural existence.
Ninian Smart maintains that the difference between these accounts lies in the way the experience is interpreted rather than in the experience itself. He recognizes that there is no descriptive language which is doctrinally neutral. But higher-level descriptions employ concepts of high ramification’ which derive their meaning from a complex system of doctrinal statements. ‘The higher the degree of ramification, the less is the description guaranteed by the experience itself, and the more other ideas are presupposed.’ Relatively unramified lower-level descriptions can be given, however, which do not employ the terminology of developed doctrinal systems, and at this level there is greater agreement among mystics of diverse traditions.3
But is religious experience definite enough to be even remotely comparable to scientific data? Observations in science, though never free from interpretation, are reproducible within a scientific community because the observation-procedures are reliable, the events being studied are lawful, and the phenomena are publicly accessible. Proponents of conflicting theories, as I argued, can retreat to a level of observation-statement whose theoretical assumptions are not at issue. Religious experience, by contrast, seems variable, elusive and private; it is influenced by emotions and feelings and by individual temperament and life history. To be sure, typical experiences are reproducible in particular religious communities, but the latter are usually more restricted in scope than particular scientific communities. And while there may be greater agreement among ‘lower-level’ descriptions of religious experience than among doctrinal interpretations, there remains considerable diversity even among the former.
If there is no uninterpreted experience, there can be no immediate religious knowledge, no ‘self-authenticating’ awareness of God, no incorrigible intuition for which finality can be claimed. For when interpretation is present there is always the possibility of misinterpretation, especially through wishful thinking which reads into experience more than is warranted. Nor can there be any certain inference from experience to a being who is its independent cause. The sense of confrontation, encounter, and unexpectedness are no guarantee of the existence of a source beyond us. The mystic’s vision cannot certify the reality of its object. Any verbal statement about such experiences employs conceptual structures which are culturally conditioned. People describe religious experience in conformity with the historic tradition to which they belong.
The key question is whether in religion the data exercise any cant rol at all on the interpretation. There is a tendency for any set of basic beliefs to produce experiences which can be cited in support of those beliefs, which are then self-confirming. Interpretive ideas influence the believer’s expectations; a suggestible person may experience what he has been taught to experience. Interests and commitments profoundly influence the religious life of individuals and communities. With some interpretive assumptions, worship would suffer or cease; with others, corporate sensitivity and concern for worship would be heightened. As in art and literature, the participant’s capacity for response influences the range and depth of his experience.
Ronald Hepburn maintains that a theist and an atheist can have identical experiences and yet interpret them differently. Even proponents of a naturalistic philosophy, he maintains, can undergo profound numinous experiences.4 But I wonder whether the atheist’s expectations may not influence his openness to such types of experience and diminish the seriousness with which he will take them Mystical experience would tend to become a psychological curiosity to which little significance is attached. Could the contexts in which such experiences occur be sustained in isolation from any religious tradition ~ Would the necessary personal involvement be encouraged if they were understood to disclose nothing beyond man’s own inner life?
It may be objected that by stressing religious experience I have made a naturalistic interpretation inescapable. Hepburn and other have noted that reports of religious experience resemble psychological reports. The statement ‘I feel sad’ is unfalsifiable; but it is immune to falsification only because it makes no claims about the world. Munz holds that all religious language is a symbolization of feeling-states, an expression of psychological attitudes. J. H. Randall and Santayana take religious images to be symbols of man’s ideals and inner experience.5 Does a concern for religious experience lead inescapably to such subjective views?
It should at least be clear that we are not forced on logical grounds to reduce statements about God to statements about human experience. The assertion ‘God exists’ does not mean ‘men have religious experiences’. I pointed out earlier that the meaning of theoretical terms in science is not derived from observations alone. Statements about unobservable molecules cannot be reduced to statements about observable pressures and volumes. Similarly, even if observations of behaviour provide evidence for statements about another person’s mental state, behavioural terms do not express exhaustively the meaning of mental terms. ‘John is generous is an assertion about his intentions as well as his actions. The positivist identification of ‘meaning’ with ‘method of verification’ must be rejected in each of these cases. The reduction of statements about God to statements about religious experience is as unnecessary as the reduction of statements about material objects to statements about sense experience.
I would conclude that interpretive belief are brought to religious experience as much as they are derived from it. There is a greater influence in religion than in science ‘from the top down’: from paradigms, through interpretive models and beliefs, to experience. But the influence ‘from the bottom up’, starting from experience, is not totally absent in religion. Although there is no neutral descriptive language, there are degrees of interpretation. Therefore religious beliefs, and even paradigms, are not totally incommensurable. There can be significant communication between paradigm communities. One cannot prove one s most fundamental beliefs, but one can try to show how they function in the interpretation of experience.
If we turn from numinous and mystical experience to events in the world, the data are more objective, but here also there is the possibility of alternative interpretations. In Chapter 4 above, Wisdom’s discussion of ‘seeing as’ and Hick’s analysis of ‘experiencing as’ were mentioned. In a similar vein Anders Jeffner has pointed out that human nature, the history of mankind, and events in the world offer to us ‘ambiguous patterns’ and ‘uncertain gestalts’ which can be experienced in more than one way. He acknowledges an interpretive element in all experience; especially in looking at the universe as a whole ‘the facts of life can fall into different patterns’. Metaphors and indirect sentences ‘evoke and express one of the possible experiences of ambiguous objects’. There is no neutral data which can resolve such ambiguities, for alternative interpretations systematically influence the way we experience the world.6
Does not this very ambiguity of the evidence count against theism? Would we not expect a personal God to have revealed himself more clearly? John Hick maintains that, on the contrary, a God who respects human freedom would not overwhelm us with indubitable evidence. If God wants our voluntary response and freely-given love, he must safeguard our autonomy and allow for a variety of interpretations of the world, rather than coercing and dominating us by revealing himself more directly. He veils himself to protect our independence, and his actions leave room for our uncompelled decision.7 It might be added that the classical arguments (cosmological and teleological) may not be conclusive as proofs of the existence of God, and yet may be conducive to an experience of awe and wonder which is amenable to theistic interpretation.
We can deny that God is an immediate and uninterpreted datum in experience, as many mystics have held, without going to the opposite extreme of saying that God is inferred without being experienced, as defenders of the teleological and cosmological arguments have often held. To make God a hypothesis to be tested or a conclusion of an argument is to lose the experiential basis of religion. In my view God is known through interpreted experience of three kinds: religious experience, patterns in the world, and particular historical events (Chapter 8 below). Our knowledge of God is like knowledge of another self in being neither an immediate datum nor an inference.
Another self is not immediately experienced; it must express itself through various media of language and action which we interpret. Yet we do not merely infer tha+~ another self is present; as a precondition for taking words and gestures as expressions of purpose and intention we must already understand ourselves to be dealing with another self.8 Members of a religious community similarly understand themselves tobe dealing with God; such an understanding is so basic that it may seem almost as much a part of interpreted experience as encounter with another self. Yet many persons today do not understand themselves to be dealing with God. Because of the diversity of interpretations, I have used the phrase ‘interpreting as’ in the contemporary religious context in preference to Hick’s phrase ‘experiencing as’, while recognizing that the difference is one of emphasis only. I will return to the comparison of knowledge of God and other selves at a later point.
2. On The Falsifiability of Beliefs
We ask now whether religious beliefs in the interpretation of the pattern of events in the world are falsifiable. Widely divergent answers have been given in the Great Falsification Debate touched off by Antony Flew. Flew’s article starts from Wisdom’s parable, to which I referred earlier, concerning the explorer who finds a clearing in the jungle and asserts: ‘Some gardener must tend this plot.’ When no gardener is ever seen, the man qualifies his assertion: ‘But perhaps he is an invisible gardener.’ In similar fashion, says Flew, theists so qualify every statement about God that it is unfalsifiable and hence is ‘no longer an assertion at all’. Theism is a victim of ‘the death by a thousand qualifications’.
Flew closes his essay with the much-debated challenge:
Now it often seems to people who are not religious as if there was no conceivable event or series of events the occurrence of which would he admitted by sophisticated religious people to be a sufficient reason for conceding ‘There wasn’t a God after all’ or ‘God does not really love us then’ I therefore put to the succeeding symposiasts the simple question, ‘What would have to occur or to have occurred to constitute for you a disproof of the love of, or the existence of, God?’9
Flew makes the specification of falsifying conditions a criterion for meaningful assertions. It might better be taken as a criterion for factual assertions, since, as pointed out earlier, the equation of meaning with verifiability or falsifiability has been widely criticized. With this emendation, Flew can be taken to assert that a sentence is factual only if it is incompatible with some possible empirically identifiable state of affairs. If it is not in principle falsifiable by observations, it asserts nothing factually. Flew’s challenge, then, is for the theist to specify the occurrences which would, as he puts it, ‘constitute a disproof of’ statements about God’s love or existence.10
In response to this challenge some authors have replied that the criterion of falsifiability is not applicable to religious statements. They have developed further Wittgenstein’s conviction that there are a variety of languages serving a diversity of human purposes and needs. Science is not the norm for all languages. Thus D. Z. Phillips construes theology as a conceptually autonomous language-game with its own rules. Evidence can be assessed only within a given linguistic framework; no external justification is needed or possible. Worship in particular is not a means to some other end, nor is it vindicated by its results. Religion is a practical ‘form of life’ with its own independent language and logic.11
According to Phillips, all criteria are internal to a language-using community. Diverse conceptions of’ rationality and intelligibility are determined by diverse linguistic frameworks. Indeed, what is taken to constitute reality will vary according to the universe of discourse. Assessment can occur within a linguistic frame, but the latter cannot itself be assessed. In adopting a religious form of life one’s standards are transformed; what once was called failure may now be called success. Believer and unbeliever don’t play the same game or appeal to the same criteria.
In the previous chapter I maintained that the choice among paradigms would be completely arbitrary if they were incommensurable and if there were no shared criteria. A similar objection can be raised against Phillips’ avowal that all criteria are internal to particular religious communities. I have argued that religious traditions do make conflicting truth-claims; they do not merely offer ‘different pictures which regulate personal life’. If religion were a self-contained language-game, it would be impervious to philosophical criticism, isolated from all other intellectual disciplines, and irrelevant to other areas of man’s life. Moreover, the complete isolation of religious language would not be compatible with the extensive use of analogies drawn from other languages which I have earlier described. Is there not also more variety in the uses of language within a given religious community than Phillips’ account portrays? Finally, no communication among different religious communities would be possible if the language of each were self-contained. The price of immunity to falsification would be the impossibility of discourse among adherents of diverse paradigms.12
Another type of response to Flew’s challenge is to grant that there is no decisive falsification but to hold that evidence does count for and against religious beliefs. Basil Mitchell tells the now-familiar parable about a partisan who has met a stranger in the resistance movement during an enemy occupation; later the Stranger appears to be working for the enemy, but the partisan is convinced that the Stranger is really loyal. Whereas the explorer in Wisdom’s parable was speculatively curious, Mitchell’s partisan is personally involved; he has to act and his decisions have life-and-death seriousness. His belief is based on the initial evidence of personal encounter with the Stranger, and he does have a plausible explanation for the anomalous behaviour (the Stranger may want to secure information from the enemy).13 Mitchell seems to be well on the way towards meeting Flew’s challenge.
But could an accumulation of negative evidence lead the partisan to a reversal of his judgment? No, says Mitchell, for his commitment to trust the Stranger is an ‘article of faith’ rather than a ‘provisional hypothesis’:
‘God loves men’ resembles ‘the Stranger is on our side’ (and many other significant statements, e.g. historical ones) in not being conclusively falsifiable. They can both be treated in at least three different ways: (1) as provisional hypotheses to be discarded if experience tells against them; (2) as significant articles of faith; (3) as vacuous formulae (expressing, perhaps, a desire for reassurance) to which experience makes no difference and which make no difference to life.
The Christian, once he has committed himself, is precluded by his faith from taking up the first attitude: ‘Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God’. He is in constant danger, as Flew has observed, of Slipping into the third. But he need not; and if he does, it is a failure in faith as well as in logic.14
Mitchell says that ‘pain and suffering do count against the assertion that God loves man’ but they do not ‘count decisively’ for the person who has committed himself to belief in God. Mitchell thus partially satisfies Flew’s demand: there is evidence for and against religious beliefs. But he seems to concede Flew’s crucial point: no amount of evidence could lead to the abandonment of religious beliefs which are ‘articles of faith’.
Others have gone further in meeting Flew’s conditions. Crombie and Hick say that pointless and irredeemable suffering would count decisively against the assertion that God is merciful.15 They acknowledge, however, that only in the hereafter could we determine whether suffering is irredeemable; reference to ‘the world to come’ specifies conditions for verification in principle, but not in practice. Howard Burkle, on the other hand, says that the total pattern of evidence now available, for and against, does count decisively:
Within such a framework contradictory evidence can count decisively against in two senses. (1) It can contribute to a total pattern of negative evidence tending to falsify and obligating the believer to dissent if the evidence grows strong enough. Here evidence is decisive as part of a whole. . . (2) It can function as the piece of evidence that completes the tendency towards decision and precipitates dissent.16
While I am in agreement with Burkle’s conclusion, I would want to go further than he does in questioning Flew’s challenge itself. Let us now examine it in the light of my remarks in the previous chapter.
First, the demand for the specification of falsifying conditions seems unreasonable, since it cannot be met by scientific theories, especially those of great generality. We have seen that no ‘crucial experiment’ can be specified in advance for deciding with finality between two comprehensive theories. One hypothesis alone cannot be tested against one piece of empirical evidence. Rather, a whole network of concepts and assumptions is tested at once. Discordant data can be accommodated by modification of auxiliary hypotheses or ad hoc adjustments, or they can be set to one side as anomalies. The kind of ‘qualification’ to which Flew objects occurs frequently in the history of science (though one might legitimately object if they added up to ‘a thousand qualifications’).
Second, empirical evidence is nevertheless not irrelevant. Phillips seems to accept Flew’s contention that all statements fall into two classes: (1) empirical statements whose falsifying conditions can be specified, and (2) nonempirical statements to which evidence is irrelevant. But if the conclusions of the previous chapter are correct, most components of science fall somewhere between these two extremes. There is increasing resistance to falsification as one moves from simple laws to limited theories, comprehensive theories, paradigms and finally metaphysical assumptions. Yet at none of these levels, I have urged, can an accumulation of counter-evidence be completely ignored. If a religious tradition is thought of as analogous to a research tradition, the cumulative weight of evidence cannot be dismissed.
Third, comprehensive systems of belief are not falsified by discordant data but replaced by promising alternatives. In the absence of alternatives, modifications can usually be made in accepted interpretive frameworks. In discussing the overthrow of comprehensive scientific theories, I intimated that we should picture not a two-way confrontation of theory with falsifying data, but a three-way confrontation of rival theories with a body of data of varying degrees of susceptibility to reinterpretation. In the religious case, some forms of atheism may start as purely negative protests against theism rather than as positive endorsements of an alternative position; but as soon as systematic reflection is attempted, atheism develops its own naturalistic beliefs and its own interpretation of religious experience. Abandoning one set of fundamental beliefs thus involves at least implicit acknowledgment of possible alternatives, even if one reserves judgment about them.
Fourth, there are no rules for choice between paradigms but there are criteria independent of particular paradigms. Past research traditions and future research programs are not verified or falsified, I have said, but assessed by a variety of criteria which are not paradigm-dependent. Yet the application of the criteria is not unambiguous and is a matter of individual judgment. There are no rules which determine when to abandon an accepted research tradition. I will in a later section propose that there are likewise criteria but not rules for the assessment of religious paradigms; reasons for or against abandoning a tradition can be given.
Religious beliefs, in short, are highly resistant to falsification, but the cumulative weight of evidence does count decisively for or against them in the long run, in comparison with alternative interpretations. Men do and should modify or abandon their beliefs in the light of their experience. The theist can try to meet a weaker but more defensible form of Flew’s challenge. He can admit that theistic belief would be unreasonable in the absence of the kinds of experience listed earlier: mystical and numinous encounter, reconciliation, key historical events, order and creativity in the world. The theist must also be able to provide some kind of account of the counter-evidence, such as evil and suffering, as we shall see. If evidence were irrelevant, there would be no way of detecting illusion, and beliefs would be totally incorrigible.
The view I am advocating may be clarified by distinguishing it from the position advanced in a recent response to Flew by John F. Miller. Both science and religion, he maintains, are based on ‘first-order principles’ which cannot be falsified:
As in religion with its first-order non-falsifiable statements, nothing is allowed to count against these important first-order scientific principles which have been discussed (causality, determinism, the principle of the rectilinear propagation of light, the law of the conservation of energy). Therefore, religion and science are logically similar in this respect: both have within their conceptual frameworks or world-views non-verifiable principles of a first-order status which are principles in accordance with which inferences are drawn and evidence is adduced.17
The examples that Miller provides are somewhat diverse, but none of them seems to me totally unfalsifiable in the absolute sense which he claims. To be sure, the principle of conservation of energy was preserved in the face of discordant data by ad hoc amendments such as the postulation of the neutrino, as I have noted. But a prolonged accumulation of anomalies or ad hoc amendments would, I believe, have brought about reformulations of the principle itself or qualification of its universality. All physicists do not assume that the principle of determinism must hold in the atomic domain, as I indicated in Chapter s above; Miller bases his case for quantum determinism largely on Planek’s writings, which represent a minority position among scientists and philosophers today. In general, Miller adopts a more ‘subjective’ view of science than I have advocated. He says that ‘science is a picture preference’ in which ‘we choose to see the world in a particular way’; our conceptual frameworks determine ‘the evidence’, not vice versa. Science and religion, he concludes, are ‘logically similar’ in that the ‘first principles’ of both are unfalsifiable.
In a reply to Miller, King-Farlow and Christensen go to the opposite extreme, asserting that science and religion are similar because both are in principle falsifiable. ‘This will involve accepting analogies between theological statements and so-called hypotheses, insofar as the latter are propositions held and put forward in a somewhat tentative spirit with a view to explaining what we experience. These authors urge an attitude of great tentativeness, tolerance and openness, which they identify with the acceptance of the falsifiability of even one s most basic beliefs. They hold that ‘falsifiable theism’ can meet Flew’s challenge.18
Norman Siefferman, on the other hand, replies to Miller by making a strong contrast between falsifiable scientific statements and unfalsifiable religious ones -- much as Flew himself might have done. Siefferman claims that in science, but not in religion, a conflict between theory and observation leads directly to falsification. ‘Since the conservation law was formulated from empirical evidence, it can be falsified by it.’19 This, too, strikes me as an over-simplified account of the process of assessment in science as well as in religion.
My complaint with all three of these analyses is that they treat ‘falsifiability’ and ‘unfalsifiability’ as absolute and mutually exclusive categories. I have urged that even within science there are degrees of resistance to falsification, with paradigms and metaphysical assumptions most resistant but by no means totally invulnerable in the long run to cumulative empirical evidence. I would assign scientific paradigms a position near the middle of the ‘falsifiability’ spectrum -- not at the extreme of ‘objectivity’ or ‘falsifiability’ as King-Farlow and Christensen as well as Siefferman assume. Religious paradigms I would assign towards the ‘subjective’ or ‘unfalsifiable’ end of the spectrum, because of the influence of interpretation on experience -- but not at the extreme of ‘subjectivity’ (in the sense of immunity to evidence) which both Miller and Siefferman assume. Thus in comparing science and religion on a spectrum of degrees of resistance to falsification, I can point to both similarities and contrasts -- whereas those who use only two boxes, labeled ‘falsifiable’ and ‘unfalsifiable’, have no option but to view science and religion either as similar (assigned to the same box, whichever it is), or contrasting (assigned to different boxes). I believe that recent work in the philosophy of science here casts significant light on the protracted debate about falsifiability in religion.
3. Commitment to Paradigms
Let us now examine more closely some parallels between commitment to a religious paradigm and commitment to a scientific paradigm, understood as a research tradition transmitted by key historical examples or exemplars. First we may recall the importance of the community of scientists interacting over a period of time. Neither religion nor science is an individual affair. Religion is corporate; even the contemplative mystic is influenced by a historical tradition. No one adheres to science or religion in general; the initiate joins a particular community and adopts its modes of thought and action.
Next, crucial historical events are central in the transmission of a tradition. Newton’s work in mechanics served as exemplar for classical physics. The key events remembered by a community help to define its self-identity. Kuhn seems to hold that the exemplars are edited and perhaps idealized versions of historical accomplishments which appear in textbooks, rather than the actual historical events themselves. Events in the lives of Moses, Buddha and Christ play somewhat similar roles in the self-definition of religious communities. It is the edited narratives in the scriptures and the often idealized ‘lives of saints’ which are influential -- though here the attempt to recover authentic history is itself religiously significant, despite the limits of such an endeavor (biblical criticism, the quest for the historical Jesus, etc.). Furthermore, religious traditions, unlike scientific ones, are often totally and explicitly organized around the memory of their historical exemplars as individual persons. Particular aspects of their lives serve as norms for the community’s life and thought.
I have discussed elsewhere the status of events in history which are taken by a religious community to be revelatory.20 I cited the view of several theologians that there is no uninterpreted revelation; we are given not revealed propositions, but a human record of historical events understood to have involved both man and God. The locus of God s action is not the dictation of an inerrant book, but the lives of individuals and communities. Revelatory events are recognized today by their ability to illuminate present experience; the special event enables us to see what is universally present. The past provides clues for the interpretation of the present; particular points in history disclose the powers at work throughout history. The exemplars of a religious community are thus more determinative of its ongoing life than those of a scientific community, as we will see in the next chapter.
It is sometimes said that the commitment characteristic of religion contrasts with the tentativeness of science. We have noted Mitchell’s contention that religious beliefs are ‘articles of faith’, not ‘tentative hypotheses’. But the contrast is not as great if religious traditions are compared with research traditions rather than with scientific hypotheses.21 In the previous chapter I concluded that the scientist does have a commitment to a tradition and legitimately sticks to it with considerable tenacity, exploring its potentialities rather than abandoning it too readily. It will be recalled that for Lakatos this commitment is a deliberate methodological decision; the ‘core’ of a program is treated as unfalsifiable, in order to develop its ‘positive heuristic’. In Kuhn’s account, which seems to me more plausible, the commitment arises from the scientific community’s unconscious assumptions, which influence all its ways of thinking.
Lakatos’ view of scientific commitment as a deliberate methodological decision might be compared with voluntarist views of religious faith. William James speaks of ‘the will to believe’; a person must act as if religious beliefs were true in order to live out their positive possibilities. F. R. Tennant refers to the sustained effort of the will required in any voyage of discovery; religious faith, he says, is like the deliberate decision to undertake and carry through a research project.22 Again, in the interests of practical effectiveness a man may resolve to act decisively, even when the evidence is incomplete; perpetual suspended judgment would paralyze action. I wonder, however, whether religious faith can be adequately represented as a purely pragmatic methodological decision. I suggest that, as in the scientific case, there are ontological commitments present in religion; in the absence of concern for the truth of one’s beliefs, the path would be open to the arbitrary adoption of useful fictions. William James himself acknowledged that he should have spoken of ‘the right to believe’ rather than ‘the will to believe’, for he was aware of the danger that wishful thinking can restrict one’s openness to new evidence.
In religious faith there are of course distinctive attitudes which are not present in commitment to a scientific tradition. In the biblical view, faith is personal trust, confidence and loyalty. Like faith in a friend or faith in a doctor, religious faith is not ‘blind faith’, for it is closely tied to experience. But it does entail risk and vulnerability in the absence of logical proof. Marriage is ‘a venture of faith’, not simply because its success is not predictable, but because it requires trust and self-commitment. Biblical faith is also ‘faithfulness’ and ‘fidelity’. But all of these attitudes presuppose beliefs; one cannot trust God unless one believes he exists. As H. H. Price has shown, ‘belief in’ a person is both an expression of attitudes and an affirmation of beliefs about him (‘belief that’); it is not reducible to either personal attitudes or propositional beliefs alone.23
Participation in a religious tradition also demands a more total personal involvement than occurs in science. Religious questions are of ultimate concern, since the meaning of one’s existence is at stake. Religion asks about the final objects of a person’s devotion and loyalty, for which he will sacrifice other interests if necessary. Too detached an attitude may cut a person off from the very kinds of experience which are religiously most significant. Reorientation and reconciliation are transformations of life-pattern affecting all aspects of personality, not intellect alone. Religious writings use the language of actors, not the language of spectators. Religious commitment, then, is a self-involving personal response, a serious decision implicating one’s whole life, a willingness to act and suffer for what one believes in.
Is there in religion an absolute commitment which makes evidence irrelevant? Is total trust compatible with self-criticism and acknowledgment of the possibility of error? To the believer, disbelief may appear to be ‘faithlessness’, disloyalty and personal betrayal. ‘True faith’ is shown by complete trust even in adverse circumstances. Job could say, ‘Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.’ St Paul could proclaim that ‘neither death nor life . . . nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (Rom. 8.39). Such passages express the conviction that even the personal experience of evil is not incompatible with religious faith. But does this imply that beliefs have no experiential basis or that they are immune to criticism?
I would submit that religious commitment can indeed be combined with critical reflection. Commitment alone without enquiry tends to become fanaticism or narrow dogmatism; reflection alone without commitment tends to become trivial speculation unrelated to real life. Perhaps personal involvement must alternate with reflection on that involvement, since worship and critical enquiry at their most significant levels do not occur simultaneously. It is by no means easy to hold beliefs for which you would be willing to die, and yet to remain open to new insights; but it is precisely such a combination of commitment and enquiry that constitutes religious maturity.24
If faith were simply the acceptance of revealed propositions or assent to propositions, it would be incompatible with doubt. But if faith means trust and commitment, it is compatible with considerable doubt about particular interpretations. Faith does not automatically turn uncertainties into certainties. What it does is take us beyond the detached speculative outlook which prevents the most significant sorts of experience; it enables us to live and act amid the uncertainties of life without pretensions of intellectual or moral infallibility. But it does not give us wisdom or virtue transcending the limitations of human existence. Doubt frees us from illusions of having captured God in a creed; it calls into question every religious symbol. We are dislodged from all the attempted securities on which we rely, including certainties of belief.
Self-criticism is called for if we acknowledge that no church, book, or creed is infallible, and no formulation is irrevocable. The claim of any human institution or theological system to finality must be questioned if we are to avoid absolutizing the relative. The prophets of all ages have reserved their harshest criticisms for their own religious communities. The distinctive character of commitment to a religious paradigm in short does not exclude critical reflection. In Chapter 8 below we will look further at the nature of the Christian paradigm.
4. Distinctive Problems of Religious Belief
I wish next to take up some possible objections arising from distinctive features of religious belief. First, can beliefs used in the interpretation of experience say anything about transcendence? Can models drawn from the finite world ever give more than a finite God who would not be a fitting object of devotion and worship? Can experience tell us about that which lies beyond experience?
In answering such objections, we must distinguish among meanings of transcendence. God is variously said to transcend (1) human thought, (2) human experience, (3) space and time, and (4) the world. Concerning the first, which is a form of epistemological transcendence, it is not illogical to say that God can be partially but not exhaustively represented in human thought.25 If God were totally incomprehensible, or if the idea of God were self-contradictory, no intelligible statement about him could be made. One cannot conceive of the inconceivable, or worship a completely unknowable X. But one can acknowledge that models are not literal pictures, and that concepts are limited and culturally conditioned. Similarly it is not inconsistent to say that God is partially known through human experience but is not simply a dimension of experience. I indicated earlier that such an assertion is not unlike the assertion that electrons are known through observations but are not themselves observable. We can then say that God transcends thought and experience without implying that he is totally unknowable. The numinous experience of mystery and awe lends support to just this combination of ideas.
God is also said to transcend time. The idea of God as ‘timeless’, in the sense of static, unchanging, and unrelated to the temporal world, accords with neither biblical religion nor the process metaphysics which I would defend. But if God is ‘everlasting’ (Whitehead), I see no inherent theological or philosophical difficulties in such temporal transcendence. Transcendence of space is more problematic, but it would not be inconsistent to hold that God is everywhere present but lacks the spatial predicates of observable objects, such as size and location, which specify spatial limits. It would not be self-contradictory to believe that God is infinite, even though one could not encounter him in his infinity. Even in mathematics there are infinite sets (e.g. the real numbers) which can never be experienced as a totality.26
The most important question, then, is what it would mean to say that God transcends the world. Absolute transcendence would mean that God is totally independent of the world, a self-sufficient being unaffected by the world. A more limited transcendence, however, is compatible with divine immanence, namely the freedom of both God and the world to be themselves and yet to participate in each other in reciprocity. God and world could be inseparable but not identical. Evil and moral ambiguity in the world prevent us from identifying it with God. Grace and reconciliation are experienced as a power not our own; holiness is confronted as judgment over against us.
I will later suggest that God’s creativity is immanent throughout the cosmic process, not an intervention from outside. God as the creative spirit and the ultimate order which makes process possible is the supreme power on which all things depend for their existence, but this is a power which evokes the response of the creatures, not an omnipotent predetermination which would deny their freedom. Transcendence, then, is not primarily priority in space and time (God as outside or before the world) but priority in status and role, in freedom and everlasting purpose, in holiness and righteousness.
Our knowledge of other selves provides at least partial analogies for several of these types of transcendence. We ascribe to another person a non-observable self which transcends our direct experience of his body and behaviour. Selfhood is not fully describable by the attributes predicated of objects in space and time.27 A person is an agent as well as an activity, a center of thought, intentionality and decision, who can reveal himself to us in deliberate communication. But knowledge of another person is mediated through his body and behaviour. In the following chapter I will ask whether an agent without a body is conceivable, or whether we should think of the world as in some sense God’s ‘body’. In that context I will examine distinctions between the language of ‘actions’ and the language of events.
I will note here, however, that the same empiricist assumptions which exclude the existence of God also lead to inadequate views of the self. Hume, for example, maintained that all we are aware of are separate ideas and impressions. The self he said, is a bundle of perceptions, formed from a succession of discontinuous sensations passively received. There is no enduring self as an active agent, according to Hume. For Ayer, the self is an abstract logical construction from sense experience. Ryle, in turn, wants to reduce all language about selves to language about behaviour. I will be maintaining, on the contrary, that the language of selfhood is distinctive. But this does not require the adoption of the mind-body dualism which Ryle attacks -- nor, correspondingly, is a God-world dualism the only alternative to naturalistic reductionism.
In addition to these objections to the idea of transcendence, there are objections to the metaphysical systems in which religious beliefs are usually embedded. I have said that religious beliefs are relevant primarily to the interpretation of religious experience, patterns in the world and revelatory events in the life of communities. Beyond this, such beliefs are applicable to other personal and social life-situations; the data to which they direct attention are pre-eminently -the experiences of active selves in decision -- in love and hate, joy and tragedy, life and death, justice and injustice. But religious beliefs also provide a wider interpretive framework; they yield clues for a coherent view of diverse types of experience. They contribute to over-all metaphysical systems which claim to provide categories for the interpretation of all reality. Metaphysics is a sort of large-scale language-map integrating and unifying many different types of language, including those of science and religion.28 But three kinds of objections have been raised:
1. Metaphysical systems yield no predictions. They seem to be even -more difficult to falsify than religious beliefs. In contrast to research programs in science, they do not lead to the prediction of particular novel phenomena, even ‘in the long run’. For the metaphysician has tried to take all the major types of phenomena into account, and no radically new types are likely to occur. With only one universe as data, no comparisons are possible. However, I have suggested that although the metaphysical assumptions associated with scientific paradigms are extremely resistant to falsification, they are subject to some control through changes in theories and paradigms. Similar remarks could be made about the metaphysical assumptions in religious traditions. The assumptions are elaborated in metaphysical systems which are not proved or disproved, but are modified under the pressure of experience or replaced by alternative systems.
Thus I cannot accept E. D. Klemke’s suggestion that religious assertions are unfalsifiable ‘absolute presuppositions’. He cites R. G. Collingwood’s definition of metaphysics as the study of presuppositions which cannot be verified or falsified, such as ‘every event has a cause’. Klemke thinks that the theologian, instead of trying to defend the statement ‘God exists’, should ask, ‘What are the results within human experience of presupposing that God exists ?‘29 But if we explore the results not only for action but also for thought, and especially for the interpretation of experience, then the implications of differing fundamental assumptions can be compared (unless, with Kant, it is held that there is a unique set of a priori presuppositions for all thought). Metaphysical assumptions, then, are not unrelated to empirical evidence, even though they yield no predictions.
2. The God of metaphysics is not the God of religion. It may be objected that the God of metaphysics is a theoretical construction produced by a speculative interest, not the object of devotion of a worshipping community. As I have presented it, however, metaphysics is a second-order reflection on experience -- not identical with experience but not totally divorced from it either. Commitment and personal involvement, I have urged, need not exclude reflective enquiry. No sharp distinction between ‘religious’ and ‘metaphysical’ attributes of God can be made; only a God with certain kinds of attributes is an appropriate object of worship. Theologians who claim to eschew metaphysics may be only disguising their own metaphysical assumptions. Yet this objection can serve as a reminder of the temptation for abstract speculation to divorce itself from concrete human experience.
3. Metaphysical systems distort the diversity of experience. In attempting conceptual unity in an all-inclusive system of thought, the metaphysician tends to over-systematize. The danger here is that the conceptual framework developed in one area of experience will be artificially imposed on another area. It is partly in response to this danger that linguistic analysts have defended the autonomy of diverse language-games. I have urged, however, that because man searches for coherence, and because his various languages refer to a common world, we cannot rest content with a multiplicity of totally unrelated language-games.
But our goal must be modest, devoid of the pretensions of grandiose system-building; any conceptual synthesis must be treated as partial and tentative. Human experience is indeed diverse, and each field of enquiry must have considerable autonomy. Metaphysical categories should allow for pluralism and variety. The connection of either science or religion with any metaphysical system should be flexible enough that the integrity of each field can be respected. Metaphysics is not a kind of super-science, since it must take into account other disciplines as well. But neither is it a super-theology imposing its framework on other fields of enquiry.
5. Criteria of Assessment in Religion
Before analyzing criteria for cognitive claims, which have been our main concern in this chapter, we should look for a moment at possible criteria for non-cognitive functions. One such criterion is the ability of a religious tradition to fulfil social and psychological needs. Desirable social goals might include group unity, community stability and social harmony. Among psychological goals are self-understanding, maturity, and integration of personality. Religious faith may allay anxieties and impart a significant direction to an individual’s life. Some authors have tried to derive an objective list of human needs from scientific analysis of man’s nature; the fulfillment of such needs could then provide neutral criteria for assessing religious paradigms. It is dubious, however, whether formulations of such needs, and of their relative importance, can be made without value judgments which are culturally conditioned.
The results of religious beliefs in human life may also be judged by ethical criteria. ‘By their fruits ye shall know them.’ Religions could be assessed both by their professed ideals and by their capacity to inspire lives of compassion, creative love, and the enhancement of human relationships. William James claimed that religious experience is a source of moral power, inward peace, and saintliness. At the theoretical level, coherence among ethical values is supported by beliefs about the nature of reality and the destiny of man. More significantly, at the practical level, motivation to sustain action is a product of personal transformation and reorientation as well as commitment to a world-view. Religious beliefs can be judged by the ethical norms they uphold and their effectiveness in motivating ethical action.
Such ethical criteria are, of course, paradigm-dependent. Creative love and integration of personality are ideals endorsed by some traditions more strongly than others. There is an inescapable circularity in any attempt to assess the criteria of assessment. Criteria for non-cognitive functions are indeed internal to particular ‘language-games’ and relative to particular communities. The goals of the life-affirming Western tradition cannot be assumed in evaluating the pragmatic results of Eastern philosophies of life, for instance. We must turn, then, to the cognitive beliefs which are presupposed in these non-cognitive uses, even though the latter are in practice more important in the life of the religious community.
We ask, then, whether criteria for religious beliefs might parallel those for scientific theories. In any system of thought simplicity is desirable (e.g., minimum number of independent assumptions and conceptual categories); but it is seldom a major consideration in either science or religion. Coherence involves both internal consistency (the absence of contradictions) and systematic interrelatedness (the presence of connections and implications between statements). But supporting evidence is the most important criterion. Religious beliefs must give a faithful rendition of the areas of experience taken to be especially significant: religious and moral experience and key historical events. But they must also adequately interpret other events in our lives as active selves. Hence extensibility of application (fruitfulness) can be listed as an additional criterion. Finally, comprehensiveness in the coherent ordering of diverse types of experience within a systematic metaphysics is desirable, though, in my opinion, secondary to other criteria.
But in the choice between paradigms, the application of these criteria is even more indirect, ambiguous and debatable in religion than in science. Variations in individual judgment as to the relative weight which should be given to various criteria are more pronounced; some people seek systematic coherence above all else, while others stress adequacy to experience. Theravada Buddhism is remarkable for its simplicity, but perhaps at the price of comprehensiveness, since numinous experience and worship are less strongly represented than in other religions. Hinduism and Christianity include a richer interweaving of many strands, but at the price of simplicity. Among traditions there are also divergent convictions as to which types of experience are most significant. Between competing religious traditions there seem to be fewer common assumptions and less clear-cut common data than there are between competing scientific traditions, even during a scientific revolution.
In particular, religion lacks the lower-level laws which are characteristic of science. The terms of such laws are relatively close to observations, their theoretical components are not in dispute, and they are relatively vulnerable to falsification by counter-instances. These laws often survive scientific revolutions or undergo qualifications so that they can be retained under a restricted range of conditions; but sometimes newly formulated laws are historically important in the overthrow of a dominant paradigm. The absence of such laws in religion severely limits the extent to which data can exert some control over higher-level theories and paradigms. Statements which appear to be ‘laws’ (such as ‘Sincere prayer will be answered’) are too vague, and the terms are too elastic, for any precise application.
There are no rules for deciding when to abandon a paradigm in science, but an eventual consensus emerges -- even though there may be rival paradigms for protracted periods, and no paradigm can be considered permanent. The emergence of consensus in religion seems an unrealizable goal. There are differences in cultural context which are intertwined with religious beliefs; hopefully any future global civilization will preserve considerable cultural diversity, and with it, religious pluralism. Among adherents of competing scientific paradigms there are common goals, standards and procedures, but among different religious communities such common methodological assumptions are seldom found.
In sum, each of the ‘subjective’ features of science mentioned in the previous chapter is more evident in the case of religion: (1) the influence of interpretation on data, (2) the resistance of comprehensive theories to falsification, and (3) the absence of rules for choice among paradigms. Each of the corresponding ‘objective’ features of science is less evident in the case of religion: (1) the presence of common data on which disputants can agree, (2) the cumulative effect of evidence for or against a theory, and (3) the existence of criteria which are not paradigm-dependent. It is clear that in all three respects religion is a more ‘subjective’ enterprise than science. But in each case there is a difference of degree -- not an absolute contrast between an ‘objective’ science and a ‘subjective’ religion.
There are several reasons for stressing that in religion there are at least minimally present such ‘objective’ features as common experience, relevant evidence and common criteria. First, if it is true that an accepted paradigm is not falsified but replaced by an alternative, then the possibility of assessing a religious paradigm must in practice be compared with the possibility of assessing alternative religious or naturalistic paradigms -- regardless of what the possibility of assessment in science may be. The most that one can expect of any set of beliefs is that it will make more sense of all the available evidence than alternative beliefs. The choice is not between religion and science, but between theism; pantheism and naturalism, let us say, as each is expressed in a particular historical tradition. No basic beliefs are capable of demonstrable proof. A set of beliefs must be considered as an organic network of interrelated ideas.
Second, the self-criticism of one’s own basic beliefs is possible only if there are criteria which are not totally paradigm-dependent. Every person has such basic beliefs; the choice is not whether to hold them but which ones to hold. Decision and action express implicit if not explicit affirmations. Better, then, to hold beliefs critically than uncritically, even if there is ambiguity and risk in any such process of evaluation.
Third, communication between paradigm communities is impossible unless they partially share a common language. If there is no core of shared terms and no experiences common to both communities, their assertions are ‘incommensurable’ and no genuine discussion can occur. The further presence of shared criteria greatly enhances the fruitfulness of the interaction. I would maintain that persons in diverse traditions can appeal to facets of each other’s experience and can discuss together their interpretive frameworks. Intelligible reasons can be offered, rather than arbitrary ‘leaps of faith’.
The explorers in Wisdom’s parable can converse. They confront together a common situation, in which each traces the patterns that he finds significant. Each underlines distinctive features whose cumulative effect has impressed him. As when literary critics evaluate a play, there are both data and criteria held in common which make possible a rational discussion even among those whose conclusions differ. There are no proofs, but there are good reasons for judgments which are not simply matters of personal taste or individual preference.
Fourth, critical reflection is not incompatible with religious commitment. The center of religion is worship -- not the acceptance of an interpretive hypothesis but the acknowledgment of that which is worthy of devotion. The necessity of personal involvement and the limitations of metaphysical speculation have been repeatedly emphasized. But these distinctive characteristics of religion need not exclude an attitude of self-critical questioning in the search for a truth beyond individual preference. As with the scientist, a commitment to honesty in the pursuit of truth is prior to commitment to a particular paradigm.
1. See, for example, John Dewey, Experience and Nature, Open Court Publishing Co. 1929; John E. Smith, Experience and God, Oxford University Press 1968. The theory of experience outlined here is indebted to American pragmatism, Gestalt psychology, and process philosophy.
2. See note 6 in chap. 4 above.
3. Ninian Smart, ‘Interpretation and Mystical Experience’, Religious Studies, vol. I, 1965, p.75.
4. Ronald Hepburn, Christianity and Paradox, C. A. Watts Co. and Humanities Press 1958; also his ‘Religious Experience’ in P. Edwards (ed.), Encyclopedia of Philosophy, vol. 7. See also C. B. Martin, Religious Belief, Oxford University Press and Cornell University Press 1959; William Hamilton, ‘Questions and Answers on the Radical Theology’, in J. L. Ice and J. J. Carey (eds.), The Death of God Debate, Westminster Press 1967.
5. Peter Munz, Problems of Religious Knowledge, SCM Press 1959; J. H. Randall, The Role of Knowledge in Western Religion, Beacon Press 1958.
6. Anders Jeffner, The Study of Religious Language, SCM Press 1972, pp. 45, 116, 125.
7. John Hick, Faith and Knowledge, 2nd ed. chap. 6.
8. See John E. Smith, op. cit., pp. 52, 84.
9. Antony Flew, ‘Theology and Falsification’, in A. Flew and A. MacIntyre (eds.), New Essays in Philosophical Theology, SCM Press 1955, pp. 98-99.
10. Flew’s position is defended by e.g. Kai Nielsen, ‘On Fixing the Reference Range of "God"’, Religious Studies, vol. 2, 1966, p.1 and Contemporary Critiques of Religion, Macmillan 1971. See also J. Kellenberger, ‘The Falsification Challenge’, Religious Studies, vol. 5, I969, p.69; reply by Flew, op. cit., p.77, and Kellenberger’s rebuttal, op. cit., p.243.
11. D. Z. Phillips, Faith and Philosophical Enquiry, Routledge & Kegan Paul 1970, chaps 1-5.
12. See F. Michael McLain, ‘Analysis, Metaphysics, and Belief’, Religious Studies, vol. 5, 1969, p.29.
13. Basil Mitchell, ‘Theology and Falsification’, in Flew and MacIntyre (eds.), New Essays.
14. Ibid., p.105.
15. Ian Crombie, ‘Theology and Falsification’, in Flew and MacIntyre, op. cit.; John Hick, Faith and Knowledge.
16. Howard Burkle, ‘Counting Against and Counting Decisively Against’, Journal of Religion, vol. 44, 1964, p.227; see also Paul Clifford, ‘The Factual Reference of Theological Assertions’, Religious Studies, vol. 3, 1967, p. 339.
17. John F. Miller III, ‘Science and Religion: Their Logical Similarity’, Religious Studies, vol. 5, 1969, p. 454.
18. John King-Farlow and William N. Christensen, ‘Faith-and Faith in Hypotheses’, Religious Studies, vol. 7, 1971, p. 113.
19. Norman Siefferman, ‘Science and Religion: A Reply to John F. Miller’, Religious Studies, vol. 6, 1970, p.28 I.
20. Barbour, Issues in Science and Religion, pp .229-236.
21. See William Austin, ‘Religious Commitment and the Logical Status of Doctrines’, Religious Studies, vol. 9, 1973, p. 39.
22. William James, The Will to Believe, Longmans, Green & Co. 1921; F. R. Tennant, Philosophical Theology, Cambridge University Press 1930.
23. H. H. Price, ‘Belief "In" and Belief "That"’, Religious Studies, vol. i, I965, p.’.
24. This paragraph and the following one are developed more fully in Issues in Science and Religion, pp. 226 ff.
25. See R. N. Smart, ‘Myth and Transcendence’, The Monist, vol. 50, 1966, p.475.
26. Lawrence C. Becker, ‘A Note on Religious Experience Arguments’, Religious Studies, vol. 7, 1971, p.63.
27. Ian Ramsey makes this point frequently, e.g. Religious Language, chap. I. See Donald Evans, ‘Ian Ramsey on Talk about God’, Religious Studies, vol. 7, 1971, pp. 125, 213.
28. Ian Ramsey, Religious Language, pp. 59f.; also Religion and Science, SPCK 1966, pp. 73f. For other views of the relation between religion and metaphysics, see Ian Ramsey (ed.), Prospect for Metaphysics; Frank Dilley, Metaphysics and Religious Language, Columbia University Press i964; James Richmond, Theology and Metaphysics, SCM Press 1970.
29. E. D. Klemke, ‘Are Religious Statements Meaningful?’, Journal of Religion, vol. 40, 1960, p.27; R. G. Collingwood, An Essay on Metaphysics, Oxford University Press 1940.