Friday, February 13, 2015

Toward A New Paper on the Natural Knowledge of God

Since recently I've been putting my more finished pieces on my Huffington Post blog, I thought I'd offer in this blog a more unfinished, academic fragment, a theologia viatorum, as it were. Here goes:

Is there natural knowledge of the Triune God who reveals?

Lake Tahoe offers an easy answer to this question
The question I intend to address is not whether the attributes of God can be known through natural theology (which I define as systematic reflections on the Deity without recourse to special revelation). Instead I am asking whether one attribute of the Triune God is that this God acts in self-revelation so that all human beings have some natural knowledge of God. 

Since this natural knowledge is so broad, I might also call it "transcendence." Instead of a natural theology, this might be termed a “theology of nature” (with Ian Barbour) or better “the natural knowledge of God” (Wolfhart Pannenberg). The latter term better fits my purposes.

Here then is my proposition, set in the clearest terms I can find: it is in God’s nature to reveal, and this fact creates the natural knowledge of God.

This focus implies some negatives. I am not seeking to prove God’s existence. Natural knowledge of God is not a proof for God. Instead I am elaborating on the implications of belief in the Triune God who reveals.
I am also not, like Alvin Plantinga, emphasizing the importance of evidence or rationality for belief in God, which is certainly a critical question. I am pursuing the question of whether God is known, in some way, to all human beings
As a related issue, I am particularly interested in how this knowledge applies to the health of the church and to what degree the natural knowledge of God can be enhanced by the natural sciences. Cognitive science, for example, has discerned common structures in human cognition that lead to religious faith.

So my argument is disarmingly simple: If the church confesses that God takes the initiative in revelation, then it is consistent to discover that God has acted in self-revelation so that human beings have some natural knowledge of God. The character of that natural knowledge is what I want to unfold in the paper I'm working on.

What do you think?

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