I teach a course on an Introduction to Philosophy of Religion. For that course, our main text is Philosophy of Religion: An Anthology, edited by Louis Pojman and Michael Rea. As a primer, it’s an excellent introduction to the subject, with over 70 foundational and contemporary articles on various aspects of philosophy of religion. I’ve decided to post about the various articles in this volume, as well as provide some thoughts on how these themes might interact with Mormon theology (usually one post per article; we’ll see how far I get). This will be a combination of summary and lecture notes, for the most part. For anyone interested in baseline academic discussions about Christian religious thought (especially if you’ve never read any philosophy of religion before) I hope you’ll find these informative. If you’re already familiar with these topics, your contributions and commentary are welcome. As Mormons, we’re more susceptible than others to ignorance regarding philosophical and theological traditions since for various reasons we are largely disconnected from the broader Christian tradition. It’s good, I think, to be better informed about Christian theology and philosophy of religion in general, both as a means of interfaith dialogue as well a potentially rich source of religious knowledge that we might productively apply to how we think about our own beliefs.
I’ll begin with articles dealing with the basic concept of God, then move on to these themes:
Classical theistic attributes
Traditional arguments for the existence of God
The problem of evil
Death and immortality
Faith and reason
The above is what’s known as an “analytic” approach to philosophy of religion: treating ideas and concepts thematically and systematically. This is typically an Anglo-American approach to philosophy, utilized primarily in Britain and the United States. By contrast, a “continental” approach to philosophy is a style that engages thinkers, texts, and traditions from the European continent (usually France and Germany), and focuses more on specific texts and thinkers rather than themes. Personally and professionally I have been drawn more to the continental approach, but I do have experience with the analytic approach, and it’s the approach I use in my intro classes, since I think it’s more conducive to introducing philosophy to students for the first time. Nearly the entire anthology is analytic in this way, though I’ll touch on continental thinkers and texts as I think about them in relation to the subjects I post on.
Feel free to ask questions or contribute to the subject matter in the comments. I’ll begin by putting up the first post tomorrow and will try to follow up with another one every few days.
Also, by way of pointing out some texts on how Mormonism interacts with philosophy and theology in a broad way:
James E. Faulconer, Faith, Philosophy, Scripture
Blake Ostler, Exploring Mormon Thought: The Attributes of God
David Paulsen and Donald Musser, Mormonism in Dialogue with Contemporary Christian Theologies
A text I edited and published last year: Mormonism at the Crossroads of Philosophy and Theology: Essays in Honor of David L. Paulsen