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Classic Text #2

The Art of Religious Communication

Joseph Kupfer

Joseph Kupfer is a philosopher teaching at Iowa State University. He writes frequently in aesthetics, which deals with issues of art and beauty.

Kupfer appears to be writing this paper both for philosophical colleagues and ordinary folks. Much of the philosophical literature about religion involves attempts to prove the existence of God or to deny the strength of those proofs. It may be that intelligent religious people just wanted to have a solid proof to present to others who may doubt. Yet the history of rational theism (belief in God) has much more to it than that. God is traditionally taken to be the very source of all order in the universe. That God provides all of creation with an intelligent and purposive design is part of many faiths. An irrational God would not qualify for what most religious philosophers have been concerned with. Thus, rationality or order is an essential aspect of God. That is, if God is the source of all order, then God must be connected to every rational system (mathematics, logic, law, etc.) Because of this, religious thinkers have wanted to close the gap on our conceptualization and establish the very idea God as the fundamental case of rationality. To do this they need to provide a rational line of thought that leads straight to God. Proofs and arguments have been the currency of rationality.

Some philosophers have come to question whether religious faith is open to rational investigation at all. Kierkegaard (1813-1838) is one such philosopher. Joseph Kupfer seems to be another. Kupfer examines the role of rationality in faith and compares it to another form of thought and communication, the artistic. In order to understand this at all it is necessary to understand what is meant by rationality and the artistic and how they are different.

It takes a careful and patient reader to appreciate the threads of argument that run throughout work. In reading this work, keep the following questions in mind:

  • What does Kupfer mean by rationality? What examples does he give? Think of some more and account for why they are rational.
  • What does it mean to say that God is transcendent?
  • Does God's transcendence clash with rationality? How?
  • What does the poetic approach seek to do? How is that different from the rational approach?
  • Is Kupfer's article rational?

It may be valuable for you to browse some related resources. This is not a fixed assignment (the Kupfer paper is). Rather, these are resources that can assist in connecting with the key ideas and in finding examples of them in practice. Please let us know how these resources do or don't help.

Joseph Kupfer

Introduction to Faith and Reason
Notes on their relations.

Image: A Journal of the Arts and Religion

Kierkegaard

Have look at some efforts to rationally base religious belief:

From Relativism and Skepticism to Truth and Certainty Josef Seifert
"As there is no supernatural faith without nature, as there is no knowledge of Christ without some fundamental experience of the nature of things and of man, so the task of working towards the foundations of Christian faith also implies eminently the task of reason and of philosophy to clarify the natural foundations of any truth and knowledge."

A Scientist Reflects on Religious Belief
Allan Sandage
"The findings of reason must agree with the truths of scripture, else the God who gave us both has deceived us with one or the other still rings true. If there is no God, nothing makes sense."

 

 

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