Wednesday, June 20, 2012


The conclusion that the author has emphatically generated through the rigors of his arguments is negative: theology cannot stand intellectually as a metaphysical discipline, since it cannot satisfy the requirements of the canons of respectability as being embodied in the scientific reasoning. 

Is this conclusion justifiable?

There are several observations that have to be made on different levels of the arguments proffered by the Nicholaos Jones, the author of the paper, in the hope of answering the question.

First, the paper does not treat the respectability of theological methods of interpreting theological questions in the area of hermeneutics, but the respectability of these methods in answering metaphysical questions. It is the attempt made by some epistemologists in acquiring a place for theology in metaphysics through satisfying the criteria that made scientific reasoning respectable. Of the metaphysical question where the central problem lies is the following: Does God exist? To the author, it is not falsifiable due to the reason that theology treats the existence of God as immune to refutation.

Insofar as metaphysics in its most general sense concerns itself in its understanding and explicating the fundamental questions of being and the world, there is already an overlap of theology and metaphysics. Theological investigations treat questions that concern on two domains: the temporal and transcendental as far as questions of being is concerned. Also, theology is concerned of an entity whose being is treated higher than the scientific method can measure and justify. The tendency to delimit the questions to the verifiable is to narrow the world of metaphysics as such to the sphere of experience and quantifiable.

In the history of philosophy and with the advent of empirical science, metaphysics has since been judged against the rules of verifiability, and this has shifted metaphysics toward the domain of the non-empirical.

Therefore, the definition of respectability should not be encapsulated within the margins of the methodology of science, since metaphysics does not constitute itself by this delimitation but it surpasses this constricted definition.

Secondly, modern scientific method has come to be accepted as “arbiter of respectable reasoning” and is measured according to these two frameworks of understanding its methodology and epistemology: falsificationism and evidentialism. The first framework says that “its claims about the world are falsifiable: For every scientific claim, there is a logically possible circumstance that would count as a refutation of the claim.” While, the second is “the requirement that one’s degree of confidence in the truth of a claim be proportional to the evidence one has in support of the claim.” Therefore, for theology to become “relevantly analogous” to the criteria that justifies scientific reasoning as the standard of respectability, it has to pass the test of these two frameworks of judgment. For Nicholaos Jones, the unchangeable statement that God exists in theology alone renders theological reasoning untenably disreputable.  In this case, we have to go back to the first position, whereby theology does not fall within the limited view of reality that science imposes, and it may be viewed as warranted to appropriate faith as supplementing what is lacking of human rationality in its limited capacity on the condition that what extends beyond human reason is possibly true. Falsificationism and evidentialism can fall within theology's own methodological schema as far as faith has material substance to account for, as far as part of faith is subject to the time and space, but in the categories of being treated fully by theological investigation, science falls short.

Does this make theological reason disreputable, since it cannot refute the statement that God exists?

It is not illogical to acknowledge that there is a good reason to believe that there exists a difference between respectable reasoning and scientific reasoning vis-à-vis respectable reasoning and theological reasoning. Nicholaos Jones has delineated that “the canons modern scientific reasoning are constitutive of what it is for reasoning to be respectable”. However, within this sense, it is warranted to believe that the principle of respectability exceeds the canons of scientific reasoning and is not strictly identified solely to science. The content of what is intrinsically a respectable reasoning in itself is greater than science and cannot be hijacked by the two frameworks of the latter (falsificationism and evidentialism). It is helpful to understand what philosopher Dewi Zephaniah Phillips judgment that the statement in question – God’s existence – cannot be judged according to the logical categories of philosophy because religious belief has its own sense and meaning within its own domain. The philosopher’s job is to explicate the meaning of this belief. Science starts with a given that is already falsifiable, whereas theology presupposes the idea that God exists – that cannot be ruled out by any succeeding evidence – from which reasoning is applied for understanding. Reformed epistemologists have contended that there are properly basic beliefs which need no further help of arguments to buttress this conviction that we naturally hold. For example, seeing myself on the mirror does not need any argument to support the idea that I am seeing myself on the mirror. It is simply that seeing myself before me on the mirror warrants me to conclude that I believe that I am seeing myself on the mirror.