Voluntarist views of faith



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VOLUNTARIST VIEWS OF FAITH.

  • F.R. TENNANT.
  • “THE FAITH VENTURE.”

He said : “belief in God becomes reasonable if the idea of God be found indispensable for the explanation of the totality of our scientific knowledge about the individual mind.”

  • He said : “belief in God becomes reasonable if the idea of God be found indispensable for the explanation of the totality of our scientific knowledge about the individual mind.”
  • Class discussion :
  • What did he mean by this? Break it up into sections and jot down some notes.
  • Faith is defined as “willing adventure” that plays a part in all discoveries. It reaches the “ideally possible.”
  • Belief is defined as that which is “concerned with fact or actuality.”
  • Class discussion :
  • What’s the difference between faith and belief?
  • What has this to do with a voluntarist view of faith?

FAITH IN RELIGION AND SCIENCE.

  • A hypothesis is needed in both.
  • Both need to make this hypothesis real/actual by acting on it.
  • “Every machine of human invention” has come about this way.
  • Both, therefore need the “faith venture.”
  • Without this venture nothing new would be discovered.
  • Columbus’ discovery of America is given as an example.
  • There is no guarantee that this “faith venture” will be guaranteed. It involves risks.
  • But, a discovery is only made if risks are taken.
  • So, Religion and Science are similar in the need for this “faith venture.”
  • QUESTIONS.
  • Suggest a hypothesis for both. (point 1.)
  • What must then be done in point 2?
  • Using “adventure” as a clue, write a few sentences on what taking the “faith venture” may mean for both. (point 4.)
  • Why do you think Tennant used Columbus as an example? (point 6.)
  • What risks may be involved in both? (point 7)
  • Write a paragraph to sum up why Religion and Science are similar in the “faith venture.” (point 9.)
  • What has this to do with the Voluntarist theory of faith?

VOLUNTARIST VIEWS OF FAITH.

  • W. JAMES.
  • THE WILL/RIGHT TO BELIEVE.

KEY WORDS FOR JAMES.

  • INCLUDE THESE IN AN ESSAY
  • PRAGMATIC.
  • GENUINE OPTION.
  • LIVING.
  • FORCED.
  • MOMENTOUS.
  • PASSIONAL.
  • HOMEWORK.
  • Research the words on the left in relation to James’ work.
  • Write a paragraph on each, saying what part they play in his Voluntarist view of faith.

JAMES IN CONTEXT.

  • The sceptic W.K. Clifford said that :-”It is wrong everywhere, always and for anyone to believe on the basis of insufficient evidence.”
  • QUESTION.
  • Do you agree or disagree ? Say why.
  • James accuses Clifford of risking loss of truth rather than chancing error.
  • James says that no conclusive evidence will ever arrive, so Religious faith cannot be just a matter of the intellect. We simply must decide.

ERROR ?

  • Whatever our decision, yes, no or undecided, there is the chance of error.
  • We also risk loss of truth.
  • The decision cannot be made on intellectual grounds.
  • So, one is justified in deciding on PASSIONAL” grounds.

WHAT DOES “PASSIONAL” MEAN ?

  • Hopefully, you did the homework and you know!
  • It is the emotional side of our nature that we can base our decisions on.
  • That is, decide according to what best fits with our hopes, fears and so on.
  • James says that this “passional” decision will then be the one which is the most PRAGMATIC(practical) for our own happiness and satisfaction.

AN EXAMPLE TO USE IN AN ESSAY :

  • IS THERE LIFE AFTER DEATH?
  • What is the most pragmatic decision ?

JAMES’ ANSWER.

  • This is a genuine option, which is living, forced and momentous(see research.)
  • The decision cannot be made on intellectual grounds.
  • So, we “lawfully may” make our decision on “passional” grounds.
  • If believing in life after death is the most pragmatic decision for me, that is, what best fits with my “passional” nature , then this belief is justified.
  • This is more pragmatic for me than believing that there is no life after death.

WHAT IF I REMAIN IN DOUBT ?

  • This is still a “passional” decision . He says that being in doubt would be more pragmatic than not believing in life after death, but not as pragmatic as if there was a belief in life after death.
  • QUESTION.
  • Which of the 3 options do you think is the most pragmatic ? Say why.

HOW DOES JAMES DECIDE?

  • He says that a religious person still gains satisfactions here and now. This comes from believing that there is a life beyond.
  • An atheist or agnostic does not expect a life beyond and so does not gain satisfaction from that in this life.
  • A believer will die expecting a life beyond and will not know if s/he is wrong. So, it is more pragmatic for me to believe in it.
  • Therefore, I “WILL TO BELIEVE” that the religious hypothesis is true. I will also live as though it is true.
  • Although religious belief does not come through empirical means, we can get empirical confirmation of the religious belief.
  • How? We can see the positive effects of religion an a person’s life.
  • To those who are not willing to make that decision he would say “live and let live” and “go in peace.”

JAMES CONCLUDED HIS “WILL TO BELIEVE” ESSAY WITH A QUOTE FROM 19TH CENTURY AUTHOR, FITZ JAMES STEPHEN :

  • “In all important transactions of life we have to take a leap in the dark.... If we decide to leave the riddles unanswered, that is a choice; if we waver in our answer, that, too, is a choice: but whatever choice we make, we make it at our peril. If a man chooses to turn his back altogether on God and the future, no one can prevent him; no one can show beyond reasonable doubt that he is mistaken. If a man thinks otherwise and acts as he thinks, I do not see that any one can prove that he is mistaken. Each must act as he thinks best; and if he is wrong, so much the worse for him.
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We stand on a mountain pass in the midst of whirling snow and blinding mist through which we get glimpses now and then of paths which may be deceptive. If we stand still we shall be frozen to death. If we take the wrong road we shall be dashed to pieces. We do not certainly know whether there is any right one. What must we do? ' Be strong and of a good courage.' Act for the best, hope for the best, and take what comes. . . . If death ends all, we cannot meet death better.”

  • We stand on a mountain pass in the midst of whirling snow and blinding mist through which we get glimpses now and then of paths which may be deceptive. If we stand still we shall be frozen to death. If we take the wrong road we shall be dashed to pieces. We do not certainly know whether there is any right one. What must we do? ' Be strong and of a good courage.' Act for the best, hope for the best, and take what comes. . . . If death ends all, we cannot meet death better.”

QUESTION.

  • Work through the previous quote word by word, sentence by sentence.
  • Explain why James chose this quote to end his work. How does it “fit” with his “will to believe” theory of faith ?
  • Pass your answer to another member of the class and take someone else’s answer. What can you add to their work?
  • Have they found something you didn’t ? Add it to yours.

VOLUNTARIST VIEWS OF FAITH

  • B. PASCAL.
  • HIS WAGER/BET.

WHERE CAN WE USE PASCAL?

  • In your A2 work, Pascal can be used in questions concerning “theories about the nature of faith” and also in questions that ask “whether faith is more valid if based on reason or revelation.”
  • Let’s look at his Wager......

KEY WORD : PRUDENCE.

  • A dictionary defines this as “cautious”, “discretion”, “foresight”, “careful management of resources”, “consideration of your own interests” and so on.
  • So, Pascal is saying that it is prudent to wager that God exists.
  • Why ?....

IT IS PRUDENT BECAUSE..

  • It is impossible to prove or disprove God’s existence(this is a clue to his views on reason.)
  • So, he suggests we make a wager that God exists, which he says is a far more prudent/sensible wager than atheism.
  • Why ?...

I BELIEVE THAT GOD EXISTS

  • God does exist God does not exist
  • Eternal life Nothing happens
  • Clearly, believing is the only “bet” that allows you to gain anything.

I DO NOT BELIEVE THAT GOD EXISTS

  • God does exist God does not exist
  • Eternal damnation Nothingness
  • Clearly, not believing does not allow you to gain anything. In fact, if God does exist, you positively lose( a lot !)

SO, THE BEST BET..

  • If we presume God exists and live life as if there is a God, there is no gain, but, there is no loss.
  • If life has been lived as though there is a God(positive life), then there is a win-win situation.
  • However, if we live as if there is no God, if there isn’t, no gain but no loss.
  • Live life as if there is no God, if there is, look out !
  • So, the prudent wager is to live life as if there is a God.

USEFUL LINKS FOR ESSAY QUESTIONS.

  • It is interesting to note that Pascal is saying atheism is unreasonable as it is not a safe bet.
  • Whereas, Kierkegaard says the exact opposite; it is because faith is “risky” that it gains it’s value.

PASCAL’S GOD.

  • Pascal’s God is the God of the Bible, the God of the theologians.
  • It is not the God of the philosophers.
  • Question.
  • What does this mean for his views of revelation and reason ?

GOD OF THE BIBLE.

    • This God is loving, guiding, 3 in one(trinity) and so on.
    • The God of the philosophers is Prime Mover, First Cause and so on.

IMPLICATIONS.

  • He rejected Natural Theology(using reason to “discover” God.)
  • Hence, his classic quote “the heart has reasons the mind never thought of.”
  • We should “Hear God”. This is an allusion to God’s revelation.
  • Question
  • What do his quotes tell you about his views on reason and revelation?

Revelation and the “wager.”

  • Although faith is not based on reason it is still “reasonable.”
  • This is because the results of the wager show that it is more prudent to believe than to not believe.
  • So, accepting God’s revelation is by far the best bet !


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