Summa Lovin’

What does the world need? More theological parody songs, that’s what. So on behalf of the Oriel Theology community, please enjoy this Aquinas-based homage, sung to the tune of “Summer Nights,” from Grease.

Does anyone write songs about Scotus?

Summa loving
Happened so fast.
Summa loving,
I think it will last.

Read a book, great as can be!
But not one book, more like sixty-three!

A summary of all theology,
it contains all the deepest insights!
Well oh well oh well oh oh—
Tell me more, tell me more:
does he prove God exists?
Tell me more, tell me more:
can detached souls subsist?

You won’t believe it— God has a son!
He lives in hypo-static union!
He died for us, in order to save.
He rose and then walked out of his grave.

A summary of all theology,
it contains all the deepest insights!
Well oh well oh well oh oh—
Tell me more, tell me more:
what’s his doctrine of grace?
Tell me more, tell me more:
how can God have a face? [ST 1.12.11]


I grew colder, as I learned man’s last end.
Predestination? Lord, I thought we were friends.
But then Aquinas explained it to me.
God’s causation doesn’t make you un-free!

Well oh well oh well oh oh—
Tell me more, tell me more: what’s the natural law?
Tell me more, tell me more: can he account for the Fall?

A summary of all theology, which contains all the deepest insights!
Well oh well oh well oh oh—


Blogging my book: on norms of rational inquiry

As my co-bloggers know, I am writing a book on analytic theology and the academic study of religion. I’d like to use the blog to solicit comments and feedback to help me work through some things I’m thinking about. Right now, I’m thinking about the norms of rational inquiry that should be operative in a contemporary university, and how they pertain to theology. A concrete example will make clear what I mean.

Suppose you think that theology—by which I mean constructive, Christian theology*—is not a legitimate academic subject, and that it has no place in a modern “secular” university. What would you make of William Hasker’s recent book Metaphysics and the Tri-Personal God? (Previously and very ably discussed on the blog by Ed Brooks here and here.)

Although much of the argument is straightforwardly philosophical, Hasker also offers his own constructive proposal about how best to understand the doctrine of the Trinity, and the book advertises itself as a work of theology, not philosophy. He explicitly says that the argument of the book depends on the following assumptions:

  • God revealed himself in Jesus of Nazareth
  • The New Testament is a broadly reliable guide to the life and ministry of Jesus, including his resurrection
  • Divine providence guided the early church in its formulation of the trinitarian creeds

These are explicitly Christian assumptions. I take it that someone who denies that theology is a legitimate academic subject would also deny that a legitimate academic research project could begin from these assumptions. I disagree, and I am trying to formulate a response.

At root, I disagree with the hypothetical theology-hater because I myself think these assumptions are true. I also take it that a university is a community of scholars engaged in rational inquiry aimed at truth and at the production of knowledge. So whatever else it does, a university should foster lines of inquiry aimed at truth or knowledge and discourage lines of inquiry that are not aimed at truth or knowledge.

That’s clear enough, but it isn’t very helpful. It doesn’t give us a criterion by which we can recognize whether a given line of inquiry really is aimed at truth and the production of knowledge, but that question is exactly what’s at stake in the debate over the academic status of theology.

I’m trying to formulate a plausible, defensible criterion or a principle that would allow Hasker’s assumptions to count as the basis of a legitimate academic research project, but that wouldn’t allow just anything whatsoever. So, to subvert a Dawkinsian trope: I’d like a principle that makes room for explicitly religious reasoning in the university that also disallows, say, reasoning on the basis of astrology, phrenology, etc.

Here is one candidate: academic inquiry should begin only from assumptions that are known to be true . This seems far too restrictive to me.

No doubt a popular candidate would be some kind of evidentialist claim like: academic inquiry should begin only from assumptions well-supported by evidence . There is a lot to be said for this claim, though I would not want to restrict “evidence” just to empirical evidence, and it would not be easy to spell out a non-question-begging alternative sense.

Another alternative would be to go negative: Academic inquiry should not begin from assumptions that are demonstrably false. We could further spell out “demonstrably false” as something like: internally inconsistent, inconsistent with other claims known to be true, or empirically falsified by the best current science. This is a kind of “innocent until proven guilty” principle. I think everyone would agree that academic inquiry should not begin from demonstrably false assumptions, but is this principle restrictive enough?


(*I should also say that I’m mainly interested in Christian theology myself, but presumably any such principle would allow many other forms of religious reasoning too.)

The Beginnings of Religion

Oriel Theology is a house with many rooms, and not all of them are occupied by people doing analytic philosophical theology. Have a look at this contribution from Oriel DPhil student Peter Gent, originally posted on Oriel’s excellent arts and culture blog, The Poor Print.

Source: The Beginnings of Religion

I’ve sometimes wondered, if I were hit by lightning, would I too get superhuman powers? Every time it rains or thunders, I find safe cover—most would say wisely—not hiding under a tree or standing in the middle of an open field, so I am not likely to know. I did once get stuck in the mountains of China with a group of students I was semi-responsible for as an unexpected lightning storm crashed around us. We found shelter and waited out the storm. Nothing happened.

But I imagine it differently. What if a meta-event had occurred in which said superpower were unlocked.

I imagine myself there. Reborn. Eyes glowing and hair on edge. With new vision, suddenly seeing every fork and twist of the future, and lightning bolts emanating from my hands on command. There I would stand, Oxford gown streaming in the wind, ready to go forth as a night angel, sent by God to cleanse the world.

Or maybe, more likely, drooling. Unable to remember my name.

I do actually want to make a point, though, for this is putatively a story about religion.

What if in addition to seeing forks in the future, one were to self-fashion a steak knife and carve up bits of that futuristic vision, package it neatly and distribute it to those seeking religious comfort? What if one were to monetise this endeavor. Or even if not so crass, what happens when one eventually gives in to the adoration of those who follow your every word, seeing you as speaking on behalf of the deity. I think it would go to your head. It would go to mine.

The thing is, many people report having religious experiences. I do not believe that the persistence of religion is simply because we are wired to believe.

We lack adequate tools, ways of knowing, and hermeneutical concepts to make sense of religious phenomena. We don’t know who is lying, who is confused, who is retelling hearsay, and who saw what, or if anyone saw anything.

Power relations, self-interest, leaky and unstable memories, poor transmission rates. These sorts of things make making sense of religion a near impossible task.

Thomas Kuhn’s work, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, seems helpful here. Religion, like science, is ultimately about making sense of – and finding our place in – the universe. Contemporary work on religion is in what Kuhn called a pre-paradigmatic state, where lack of a working model or theory creates crisis for those trying to interpret observations.

‘The pre-paradigm period’, wrote Kuhn, ‘is regularly marked by frequent and deep debates over legitimate methods, problems, and standards of solution, though these serve rather to define schools than to produce agreement.’[1]

Sounds like theology and religious studies. But I have hope. If there is human experience, there is a human mechanism behind it. Mechanisms can be studied and understood. This is not to argue for a reductionist approach to the humanities, but rather that if there is experience there is an explanation.

And it may indeed be that all religious experience has a purely natural mechanistic origin. Advances in neuroscience, physics, or whatever may one day make sense of what people have felt or known or maybe only thought they knew.

Or maybe not; perhaps God, if God exists, is simply non-observable. To observe the God would be to make the universe become undone and collapse in on itself along with all we love. But even if this non-observability of God were true, we could still one day have a new paradigm, a new way to observe, or at least to understand why we cannot observe.

Until then it’s all wide open.

[1] Thomas Kuhn. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, fourth edition, University of Chicago Press (2012), p. 48.

Quodlibetal Questions 1.2 ‘Does God Suffer?’

My next question comes from the great Rob Saler, who asks ‘What are some right and wrong ways to think about the question of whether God suffers or not?’

I like that this question asks about different ways of approaching the issue of whether God suffers, rather than just for my view about the answer. I expect my own views will not be too hard to discern, though.

Let’s start with some resources that I think are less than helpful.

(1) The Bible

(Best to get this one out of the way first…) The Bible does not really give us any direct answers to the question of whether God suffers, and the biblical evidence, such as it is, is compatible with a variety of rival views. To be sure, there are many passages to which we can appeal for proof-text purposes: passages that portray God as changing his mind (e.g., Ex 32:14) or attribute to God various emotional states (e.g., Judges 2:18 in which he is said to be “moved to pity” by the “groaning” of his people).

Such passages do not really settle the issue, however, because—as ever—the Bible does not interpret itself. We still have to decide whether they should be read literally, or whether they express metaphors or poetic anthropomorphisms, like those passages that describe God as having hands. Moreover, advocates of impassibility make a decent case that the overall picture of God that we find in the Bible—the transcendent, sovereign, all-powerful, free Creator—entails an impassible God: God does not suffer with his creatures precisely because he is not one of his creatures. This is not biblical theology by proof-text, but it is still biblical theology. In summary, it is possible to find Biblical evidence that supports both sides of the question, and so the Bible does not help us make much progress in answering it.

(2) The theology of Jürgen Moltmann

Among modern Christian theologians, Moltmann has perhaps done the most to shift the theological consensus toward the idea that God suffers. I want to read Moltmann with charity, and I certainly find some parts of The Crucified God to be very moving. It definitely resonates with many people, and that reaction is something I would like to take seriously. But I also find in Moltmann very little in the way of argument, and even less in the way of clear-eyed reflection on the theological consequences of his views.

Moltmann’s critique of classical theism should be unpersuasive to anyone who has studied patristics. His concerns about twentieth-century ‘protest atheism’ are not inapt, but it is far from clear how positing a suffering God would really addresses them. He is right—profoundly right— to say that the death of Jesus on the cross should be the center of all Christian theology, but he elucidates this truth in a way that owes more to Hegel than to St Paul. The net result is a panentheistic doctrine of God that lacks both the theological virtues of orthodox Christian theism and the metaphysical virtues of Whiteheadian process theism.

(N.B. to the 2015-16 Finalists: You still have to read Moltmann.)

(3) Overly anthropomorphic worries about divine indifference

I suspect that a lot of people are motivated to say that God suffers because they find human indifference in the face of suffering to be monstrous. There is a strong tendency to assume that a God who cannot suffer would be just as monstrous as a human being who does not suffer. Nobody wants an indifferent, callous God, or a God who does not love those who cry out in need. This feeling is very natural, but sometimes we don’t give enough attention to all the ways in which God must be very different from human beings.

Human suffering is mediated by human bodies. It comes with specific cascades of hormones and is associated with specific brain states. Because God does not have a body, we already know that God cannot suffer in the same way that humans do. Similarly, human suffering is typically colored by (if not caused by) fear and uncertainty, but presumably a sovereign creator God would not be fearful or uncertain, and so again could not suffer in the way that humans do.

Human beings are limited in ways that God is not, because no human being is the sovereign, almighty creator. For precisely this reason, a God who cannot suffer must be something altogether different from a human being who does not suffer. Divine impassibility is not just human indifference writ large.

Now I turn to some better ways of thinking about whether God suffers.

(4) Reflection on the nature of God

One’s views on impassibility need to be consistent with one’s broader views about what God is like. (You can read this as a point about metaphysics or as a point about theology.) Someone who holds that God suffers needs to be prepared to give up on quite a lot of the traditional Christian doctrine of God. For instance, one would have to give up on any strong doctrine of omnipotence and omniscience. (Roughly, my thought here is that a God who has the power to bring about any state of affairs that he wishes and who knows how all future states of affairs will turn out is not able to experience the kind of fear, regret, and uncertainty that are necessary conditions for genuine suffering.)

To come at the matter from the opposite direction, someone who takes it as a basic axiom that God suffers might well be led to endorse process theism, and I think that move would also make sense. Or, relatedly, someone who takes himself to have good reasons for embracing process metaphysics also has good reason to think that God suffers. I find the process theologian much more coherent and persuasive on divine suffering than the putatively orthodox theologian who wants to stick fairly closely to traditional orthodoxy but still wants to say that God suffers. One thing that we can learn from Moltmann is that it is very difficult to make small changes to the orthodox doctrine of God without forcing major changes that one may or may not want.

(5) Reflection on the nature of love

It should be a bedrock claim that God is love, and we should give up on impassibility long before we should give up on the claim that God that loves us. If it is correct to say, with Moltmann, that that which cannot suffer cannot love, then we must affirm that God suffers. So one important dimension of this question is about what it means to love. Is it true that human love implies openness to suffering? If so, is that an essential fact about human (or created?) love as such, or is it contingent on the fact that we live in media res, after the fall and before the eschaton? And even if it is true than human love implies openness to suffering, is that also true of divine love? If not, then what exactly do we mean when we say that God loves us?

(6) How do you sit with Chalcedon?

For Christians, reflection on divine impassibility should properly begin with reflection on the traditional doctrine of the incarnation. Whatever its other merits, Chalcedonian Christology is also meant to answer our worries about divine impassibility. It aims to identify the crucified man Jesus of Nazareth with the divine Logos, on the one hand, while insisting that the Logos cannot suffer, on the other. The doctrine of the two natures of Christ, along with the traditional affirmation of the communicatio idiomatum lets us say that God suffers as a man while denying that God suffers as God.

Here I think we should ask two questions. First, does this Christology make sense? And, second, does it address our worries about divine indifference? If what we want is a God who suffers along with us, who experiences abandonment and loss and pain, then plausibly what we want is a God who suffers human suffering. This is exactly what Chalcedon gives us.

If Chalcedon makes sense, then, the question to ask is: what would God suffering as God give us that God suffering as a man does not?

Quodlibetal Questions 1.1 ‘Do Jews, Christians, and Muslims worship the same God?’

(For more on our series of Quodlibetal Questions, see here.)

The first question that I will tackle comes via the Oriel Theology Facebook page: ‘Do Jews, Christians and Muslims worship the same God even if some have some false beliefs about God?’ I think the answer is yes. The line I would take is that Jews, Christians, and Muslims intend to worship the same God, and their intention is enough to fix the reference of their acts of worship so that they all pick out the same God.

It seems to me that the question of whether Jews, Christians, and Muslims worship the same God resolves into the question of whether their acts of worship refer to the same God, so I think this is mainly a question about the theory of reference. (Mainly but not entirely—there are theological issues too, and we might also need a distinction between ‘minimal worship’ and ‘proper worship,’ as I discuss below.)

Suppose you and a friend are at a party and you see a man across the room who is drinking what appears to be champagne from a champagne flute and who appears to be wearing a nice watch. You say to your friend “That guy drinking champagne has a nice watch!” Now suppose your friend happens to know that the guy in question is drinking water, not champagne, from his flute. What if your friend then says to you “Ha! No one over there is drinking champagne! As a result of your false beliefs, your expression is empty and you have not referred to anyone at all!”

Your friend is being a jerk. You did refer to the man. You had a false belief about him, to be sure, but it was a false belief about him, that guy, the guy to whom you successfully referred. Philosophers will know that there is a large (analytic) literature about the theory of reference. I am somewhat familiar with that literature, and my views more closely align with theories of direct reference and the causal theory of naming. But I think the key determinant of reference is a speaker’s intention.

I think something analogous is going on with Jewish, Christian, and Muslim acts of worship. The Christian insists that God is triune, which the Jew and the Muslim deny. The Muslim insists that God revealed the Koran to Mohammed, which the Christian and the Jew deny. The Jew insists that God requires certain ritual acts which the Christian and the Muslim do not perform. And so on. There is a great deal of overlap among the three Abrahamic religions when it comes to the concept of God, but a great deal of difference too.

Nevertheless, they all worship the same God because they all intend to worship the one God of Israel. The first proto-orthodox Christians took themselves to have learned something surprising (very surprising indeed) about that same God— that he has a Son, who is also fully divine. They did not think that their God is a different God altogether. (Well, Marcion thought that, and so did some other gnostic Christians but that doesn’t actually complicate the point I’m making here.) Likewise for Muslims, mutatis mutandis. Jews, Christians, and Muslims intend to refer to the same God and so they do, notwithstanding the fact that (depending on what God is really like) some or all of them have a lot of false beliefs about that God.

The line I’m taking also explains why, intuitively, many people would say that Greco-Roman polytheists, or monotheists in non-Western traditions do not worship the same God as Jews, Christians, and Muslims. They do not intend to, and so they don’t.

Here is a potential counter-example to my view. What about a case like the following? Suppose that Bob intends to worship the God of Israel in the form of, say, a golden calf. He builds a statue himself, bows down to it, and says “Yep. This right here is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and that’s the God that I intend to worship!” Does he succeed in worshipping the same God as Jews, Christians, and Muslims?

I’m prepared to say that he does, at least in some circumstances. Those circumstances are unlikely to obtain, because the relevant intention is transparently self-undermining and so is very unlikely ever to be formed. Someone who really, truly, intends to worship the God of Christians, Jews, and Muslims will rarely be able to really, truly, intend to direct that act of worship at something he himself constructed. (“This thing I myself made just now is also the very God that spoke to Moses from the burning bush…”). But I’m willing to say that someone who sincerely does form that intention succeeds in worshipping God, notwithstanding his massively false beliefs about God.

This is where the distinction between proper or full worship and minimal worship might be needed. We should not infer from the fact that Jews, Christians, and Muslims all worship the same God that they all worship God to the same degree, or in the right way, or in the fullest way. Nor, obviously, should we infer that all three religions are equally salvific or equally true. The position that I have taken is compatible with a variety of views on those questions.

A final story: When I was a child, I read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I don’t remember how old I was, but I was very young. I was able to read it with pleasure, but I didn’t recognize that it was a Christian allegory. (In fact, that didn’t happen until I was embarrassingly old.) When I finished, I thought Aslan was pretty awesome— WAY better than Jesus, and way better than the God we talked about in Church. One day, semi-guiltily, I decided to worship Aslan—you know, just to see what would happen—and so I said a little prayer to him.

By my present lights, I did not pray to the Christian God, or to Christ, even though in a certain sense Aslan is meant to be Christ, or at least to represent Christ. (I’m sure there are additional complexities about fictional characters, but let’s leave them out.) The reason that I did not pray to Christ is that I did not intend to. I explicitly thought Aslan was a different God, and I explicitly said a little prayer to that God rather than to the God my family worshipped on Sundays.

Reader, I was a tiny idolator. Thanks, C.S. Lewis!

Quodlibetal Questions I: Bill Wood

In the medieval university, masters would sometimes engage in a special form of disputation, the “quodlibetal question.” (That’s basically fancy medieval speak for “ask me anything.”) According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

quodlibetal questions, (quodlibet = any whatever) differed from ordinary disputations in that they were open to the broader public… The questions were not set by the master but could be posed by any member of the audience and without any prior notice to the master who would determine the question. These questions might reflect contemporary controversies or might be designed to pose a question that brought to the fore a difficulty for the particular master of whom it is asked because of his other stated views.

For a while now I have been mulling over the possibility of running a quodlibetal questions lecture course. (I like the challenge.) Recently co-blogger John Ritzema made the excellent suggestion that the blog should periodically host quodlibetal questions. Eventually, we hope to make this a regular feature in which scholars from outside Oriel, and even outside Oxford, take questions from the blog’s readership. But things have to start somewhere, and they might as well start with me.

So: ask me anything! Well, any reasonably academic question, anyway… You can ask questions in the comments to this post, or on the Oriel Facebook page. After a few days, I will pick about five questions and then respond to them with successive posts on the blog.

On Watson, Williams, and Wood

It was pretty sneaky of Ed to post his Summa contra Bill when he knew that I was at a wedding, traveling internationally, and unable to reply. And then he tried to play the Pascal card against me too! Unbelievable! But seriously, it is an honor to receive such extensive, thoughtful and respectful disagreement, and I hope that I can repay it in kind.

As I understand him, Ed claims that any argument for the existence of God necessarily purports to identify God using definite descriptions like “first cause” or “necessary being.” This project is doomed to fail, however, because our fallen wills and disordered loves prevent us from giving a clear meaning to such descriptions. We will falsely give our descriptions decontexualized, ideal meanings and fail to recognize that they are in fact products of social and contextual forces that are themselves shot through with the sin and self-deception of the fall. Moreover, the definite descriptions we use to pick out God will not really be definite at all. They will inevitably be ambiguous, and might pick out things other than God. The overall idea, I take it, is that fallen people in fallen societies can only have fallen concepts. And we cannot use our fallen concepts to establish the existence of God.

The first point I want to make in response is that much of Ed’s reply is aimed at making a general case for why a Pascalian or a Wittgensteinian ought to resist natural theology. But my own post was in the specific context of Williams’ first chapter, where I took Williams to be endorsing the Wittgensteinian-Thomist line on natural theology. (I stand by that interpretation of Williams, at least on the basis of Chapter One.) On that line, once again, the arguments of natural theology function as apophatic gestures that point to something beyond our worldly concepts, contexts and experiences without describing or capturing that something, and so they avoid the idolatry that infects more traditional forms of natural theology.

My questions were specifically directed at someone who would accept this alternative conception of natural theology but insist that it is somehow radically different from the more traditional kind of natural theology practiced by some philosophers of religion. That is the claim with which I disagree. I did not take myself to be arguing against any and all forms of Wittgensteinian opposition to natural theology, or to Barthian opposition (which is different again), or to people who just think the arguments of natural theology are unsound.

In that light, consider the following easy-peasy version of the cosmological argument.(Pretend it’s a more sophisticated version, if you like.)

(1) Everything that begins to exist has a cause of its existence.
(2) The universe began to exist.
(3) Therefore, the universe has a cause of its existence.
(4) Call that cause ‘God.’

On the Wittgenstein-Thomas line, we should interpret this argument as bringing about a shift in context from (2) to (3). Although we begin with claims about intra-worldly, physical causes in (1) and (2), when we shift to (3) we are talking about a completely different sense of “cause” and therefore a completely different sort of causal agent. In (4), we stipulatively name that agent “God.” We haven’t really described God, because the term that we apply to God (“cause”) is not given a univocal meaning. We don’t learn anything about God except that in some non-standard, unspecified sense of the word “cause,” God is the cause of the universe. This is very apophatic.

Now consider a stereotypical philosopher of religion interpreting the same argument. How would his interpretation differ? I think he would likely insist on a univocal meaning of “cause” that encompasses both physical and non-physical causation. (Something like ‘C is a cause of E just in case C brings it about that E occurs.’). We would then interpret (4) as: “Call ‘God’ that which brings it about that the universe occurs (or begins to exist.)” Is that interpretation really so different from the W-T interpretation? I admit that it is slightly less apophatic. Very slightly: we have identified the meaning of a single additional word that we apply to God. Does that extra bit of semantic legerdemain constitute the difference between apophasis and idolatry? I don’t see how.

As a result of (1) – (4), the philosopher of religion is entitled to affirm exactly one proposition about God: “God brings it about that the universe occurs.” The W-T theologian , for his part, is only entitled to affirm “God causes the universe in some unspecified sense of the word cause.” But wouldn’t the W-T theologian also wish to assert that “God brings it about that the universe occurs”? This proposition seems entailed by the doctrine of creation, after all. I don’t see how any Christian, including the W-T theologian, could say that it is false or idolatrous.

As a result of (1) – (4), we still don’t know anything else about God, and just to be crystal clear, even though we do know the meaning of the word “cause,” in (4), we still don’t know how divine causation “works” or how it differs from non-divine causation. We haven’t obtained any robust knowledge about God, or “captured” God with our concepts, and the way in which we have “described” God is so thin as to be almost formal.

And here I would just say, in summary fashion, that a general theory of meaning on which we are not allowed to affirm that the word “cause” could have the same sense in (1) and in (4) is not plausible as a theory of meaning. And a theology so apophatic as to prevent us from saying that God brings it about that the universe occurs is too austere to be genuinely Christian.

If we want to say any more than that, and if we want to specify further the concept of God with which we are working, we will have to rely on something other than the argument given in (1) – (4). And it is here that Pascalian considerations properly enter the picture.

I appreciate Ed’s Pascalian points, and in fact I agree with them, but I don’t think they tell against natural theology in quite the way that he does. In my view, our fallen wills, biased beliefs, and tendencies toward prideful, self-deceptive reasoning don’t prevent us from giving a clear meaning to “cause” in (1) – (4), and they do not render the argument in (1) – (4) unsound. (It might still be unsound for other reasons, of course.)

Rather, Pascalian considerations about our fallen nature count against the arguments of natural theology in two other ways. First, they make it highly likely that one will not assent to the premises or accept the conclusions of an argument for the existence of God, even if those premises are true and the argument is sound. (Precisely because we are fallen, we don’t want to believe that God exists.) Second, Pascalian considerations make it highly likely that when we do try to specify further the concept of God with which we are working, we will do so in false, self-deceptive, and idolatrous ways. As Ed correctly points out, a claim like (4) it compatible with a wide variety of false conceptions of God. But that is the case precisely because the content of (4) is so minimal. Worries about idolatry and so forth enter the picture after the arguments of natural theology have done their work, not before.

In fact, on Pascalian grounds, I would say that hostility to natural theology is itself a sign of the fall. (Take that, Karl Barth!) “Men despise religion. They hate it and are afraid it may be true,” writes Pascal (L12/S46). Or elsewhere: “The proofs lie before their eyes, but they refuse to look” (L428/S682).