God & Nature

Religion, Reason, & Community

Lesson Objectives

Appreciate the role that reason (ie. philosophy) has had in Western religion

Understand how Euthyphro's Dilemma helps shape Natural Theology

Understand four different classic responses to Euthyphro's Dilemma

Appreciate the utility that Natural Law theory has had in legal discussions

Understand Aquinas' Seven Basic Goods found in his Natural Law Theory

Appreciate the road Europe took from Religious to Secular Law

Key Terms

Euthyphro's Dilemma

Horns (of an Ethical Dilemma)

Divine Command Theory

Aquinas' Theory of Natural Law

Aquinas' Seven Basic Goods

Natural Theology

Religion & Philosophy

• The 3 major religious traditions of the West are Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. All claim a belief in God. One who believes in God is a theist.

• As the Western religions developed, some theists sought to provide reasoned (ie. philosophical) arguments for their theological claims

• This set of theological claims is known as Natural Theology

Religion before Natural Theology

• Israel: ancient Jewish thought centered on revelation — not philosophy

     • The Torah offers no rational arguments for God

     • Jewish covenant isn't concerned w/ convincing/converting others

• Greece: Meanwhile, the first Greek philosophers began to seek answers to metaphysical questions backed by reason, not tradition

• After the Hebrew Bible, Alex the Great conquers much of the world

     • Israel then comes under Greek 'cultural influence' (ie. Hellenism)

Religion & the Greeks

• Christianity develops in the historical encounter between the Hellenized Jews of Israel and the occupation of the Greek & Roman empires

• Christian texts (eg. Paul (a Roman), the Gospels, etc) are rife with Greek philosophy (eg. John 1 - "In the beginning was the Logos...")

• While the Early Church Fathers worked tirelessly in philosophy,

the religion takes a turn in the 6th century, when the Christian Emperor Justinian closes Plato's Academy in 529. Herein begins the Dark Ages.

Religion & the 7th Century Turn

• The advent of Islam begins in Arabia in the early 600s

• While Christendom had tired of their old, dusty books from ancient Greece, the early Muslims (who had no similar libraries) loved them!

• Islam became the West's guarantor of Greek philosophical texts

     • Persia, the Middle East, & North Africa thrive in these centuries

     • Islamicate philosophy profoundly influences Jewish philosophy

• Islamic philosophers like the Persian Avicenna lay the groundwork for much of the later development of the Western philosophical tradition

• As described later in this section, Christendom will regain a broad interest in philosophy in the 13th century, with thinkers like St. Aquinas