Kelly James Clark One of the Recurring Research Proposal

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Kelly James Clark

One of the recurring questions in any study of religion is how humans can believe in God without proof of His existence. Some philosophers have determined that such a belief is irrational and argue against the existence of God. They instruct that human beings should not believe in anything that they cannot prove. Other philosophers disagree, and give evidence of God's existence as support for why humans should believe in the existence of God. Finally, some other philosophers go even further, suggesting that human beings should believe in God, without regard to proof or evidence of God's existence. Kelly James Clark is one such philosopher, and his essay, Without evidence or argument: A defense of reformed epistemology, outlines the reasons that he believes that faith is sufficient for a belief in God.

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Research Proposal on Kelly James Clark One of the Recurring Assignment

Clark begins his essay with a series of hypothetical scenarios, designed to challenge why people believe certain things and what type of evidence people would need to change their long-held beliefs. While he gives examples about non-religious items, Clark's first truly thought-provoking questions involve the writings of other philosophers, specifically David Hume, and W.K. Clifford, both of whom insist that people's beliefs should be evidence-based. In fact, Clark points out that Hume actually believes that the belief "in an all-loving, omnipotent God is inconsistent with the evil that there is in the world. Given the fact of evil, God cannot exist." (Clark, unknown). When confronted with such philosophies, Clark then goes on to ask how the reader would respond to those issues. He presents different possible reactions. His first hypothetical reaction is for people to become temporarily agnostic, and begin searching for proof of God's existence. His second hypothetical reaction is for people to give up their belief in God because they agree with Hume that the concepts of God and evil are irreconcilable. His third hypothetical reaction is for people to remain faithful in God, despite a lack of evidence, even in the face of counterevidence. In fact, "it is the position of Reformed epistemology (likely the position that Calvin held) that belief in God, like belief in other persons, does not require the support of evidence or argument in order for it to be rational." (Clark, unknown).

Next, Clark goes on to critique the enlightenment demand for evidence. He begins by discussing Clifford's claim that it is always wrong for anyone to believe anything on insufficient evidence. Clark holds that Clifford's universal demand for evidence cannot meet its own demand. He allows that Clifford allows people to use as evidence beliefs acquired through sensory experience and beliefs that are self-evident, such as those acquired through logic or mathematics. Using that evidence, Clark maintains that it is impossible to prove that it is wrong, always and everywhere, for anyone to believe anything on insufficient evidence. Clark says that as finite beings it is impossible to meet such a demand, because many of the beliefs held by people do not meet Clifford's strict demand for evidence, because human beings do not constantly test their beliefs. He then goes on to use examples of what he means. For example, Clark states that, having never been to Paraguay, he has not had the sensory experience of being in Paraguay and logic and mathematics do not dictate that there is a Paraguay, therefore his belief that there is a Paraguay does not meet Clifford's requirements for evidence. In fact, Clark states that most of his personal beliefs are based on information that he learned from teachers, rather than from personal observation. Clark concludes by stating that since people do not have the time to test all of their beliefs, they cannot meet Clifford's demand for evidence, and therefore cannot be obligated to do so.

Clark then goes on to explain that, even with sufficient time, people would not be able to meet Clifford's demand for evidence. Earlier in his essay, Clark references the philosophical puzzle describing the impossibility of proving the existence of other human beings. Using this, he states that a great deal of human belief is based on faith, not on evidence or argument. Therefore, Clark maintains that humans have to rely on the cognitive faculties which produce other beliefs. Therefore, Clark believes that reasoning must start somewhere, and that it is impossible to reason when one is required to provide evidence for every belief, because there is no essential truth to use as a building block. He concludes with the idea that, because one must take some unproveable things as essentially true, one may as well start with the belief in God.

Clark believes that humans have been given cognitive faculties that produce certain beliefs to be used as the cornerstone of reason. "The kinds of beliefs that we do and must reason to is a small subset of the kinds of beliefs that we do and must accept without the aid of a proof...We, in most cases, must rely on our God-given intellectual equipment to produce beliefs, without evidence or argument, in the appropriate circumstances." (Clark, unknown). He then goes on to ask whether it is reasonable to believe that God created human beings with a cognitive faculty which produces belief in God without evidence or argument, and cites three reasons why it is rational for a person to do so. First, he states that most people do not have the opportunity or ability to access theistic arguments, which he takes as a reason that the demand for evidence cannot be a requirement of reason. He states that the "demand for evidence is an imperialistic attempt to make philosophers out of people who have no need to become philosophers." (Clark, unknown). He also states that even philosophers do not describe their journeys to God as being based on theistic arguments. Next, Clark states that God has given humans an awareness of God that is not dependent on theistic arguments. He states that it "is hard to imagine that God would make rational belief as difficult as those that demand evidence contend." Instead, he relies upon statements such as those by Calvin, which suggest that humans are equipped with a natural instinct for divinity, a truth which God has implanted within the mind. Finally, Clark states that belief in God is more similar to belief in a person than belief in a scientific theory. He states that the scientific approach is inadequate when applied to personal relations, because human relations demand trust, commitment, and faith. Because a relationship with God has the same demands, he goes on to conclude that a relationship with God is similar to a relationship with a person, so that it cannot be addressed in a scientific manner.

Clark makes it clear that he is not arguing that a belief in God cannot be based on evidence or argument. On the contrary, he does acknowledge that some theistic arguments provide evidence of God's existence. However, he believes the provided evidence is non-coercive, because the theistic arguments are not powerful enough to persuade all rational creatures. On the contrary, he states that rational people could rationally reject the theistic proofs. He also believes that, while people may have a natural knowledge of God, this has been overlaid by sin, so that coming to a belief in God requires on to remove the effects of sin on their minds. He believes that theistic arguments may prove useful in that process. However, he provides a short list of a variety of non-scientific means by which a person can come to God to demonstrate that people do not need theistic arguments in order to have personal religious revelations. He believes that "humility, not proofs, seems more appropriate to the realization of belief in God." (Clark, unknown). Therefore, he encourages the reader to pay more attention to how people actually acquire beliefs; a process that he feels reveals much about one's cognitive equipment. Doing so, he has come to the conclusion that rational people may rationally believe in God without evidence or argument.

Clark goes on to examine the biblical basis for Reformed epistemology, but concludes that Scripture "woefully underdetermines most any philosophical position." (Clark, unknown). What Clark means by that is that "there is not sufficient inescapable evidence to lead us invariably to one conclusion over another; the data do not determine a particular conclusion." (Clark, unknown). Therefore, it may be impossible to ever determine the answers to some of the basic philosophical religious questions, such as the extent of God's power, whether God feels pain, etc. In addition, he believes that Scripture does not provide ample support for an apologetic approach, because Scripture does not contain sufficient unambiguous evidence to support any particular apologetic approach. For example, though Yahweh provides proof of himself to the Hebrews, there is nothing in the Bible to suggest that rational people must have proof of God before believing in God, therefore, Clark maintains that the Bible cannot support an evidentialism stance. In fact, he states that Scripture… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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