bookmark_borderWhat is Faith? – Part 7

I’m going to take a detour and temporarily set Mr. Swinburne’s characterization of the Thomist view of faith aside.  But I will continue to examine the Thomist view of faith, specifically as presented by Dr. Norman Geisler.
As Jeff Lowder has recently shown, Dr. Geisler’s case for Christianity is a failure.  IMHO Jeff won that match with a K.O. of Geisler in the very first round:
 Let’s suppose, but only for the sake of argument, that the following evidence favors theism over atheism, i.e., is more probable on the assumption that theism is true than on the assumption that atheism is true: the beginning of the universe, the design of the universe, the design of life, and the existence of the moral law. Even so, it still doesn’t follow that, all things considered, God’s existence is more likely than not. For example, it may be the case—and I think is the case—that there is other evidence which favors atheism over theism. But, if true, that entails that G&T’s [Geisler and Turek] case violates the Total Evidence Requirement and so G&T’s case accordingly fails to show that Christianity is probably true. 
Geisler’s case for Christianity was decimated by Jeff in just one paragraph-BOOM; that is the awesome power of logic.
Although Dr. Geisler’s case for Christianity fails, I appreciate his thinking about the resurrection of Jesus, especially what I have called Geisler’s Principle:
Before we can show that Jesus rose from the dead, we need to show that He really did die.        
(When Skeptics Ask, by Norman Geisler and Ron Brooks, p.120)
Based on this principle, one can also decimate William Craig’s case for the resurrection in just one paragraph, since Dr. Craig has never made a serious attempt to show that Jesus really did die on the cross.  So, despite the shortcomings of his Christian apologetics,  Dr. Geisler has some worthwhile things to say.   I am now going to turn to an article by Geisler on “Faith and Reason”, in order to become more familiar with the details of the Thomist view of faith.
Geisler is clearly a fan of Aquinas, even more than Swinburne is a fan.  In the Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (1999; hereafter: BECA), Geisler has written a fairly long and detailed article on “Faith and Reason”, and the entire article is basically an exposition of the views of Aquinas about faith and the relationship between faith and reason.  Here is how Geisler characterizes the place of Aquinas in the history of thinking about faith and reason:
 Augustine made the first serious attempt to relate the two [faith and reason], but the most comprehensive treatment came at the end of the medieval period when Christian intellectualism flowered in the work of Thomas Aquinas.            (BECA, p. 239)
I see no criticisms, objections, or reservations expressed by Geisler about the views of Aquinas concerning the relationship of faith and reason, and given that Geisler has devoted the entire article on “Faith and Reason” to laying out the views of Aquinas, it seems clear that Geisler agrees with the view of faith and reason put forward by Aquinas, or at least he sees the view of Aquinas as the best of available comprehensive treatments of this topic.
There are nine bolded subheadings in Geisler’s article on “Faith and Reason”:
1. Relation of Faith to Reason
2. Three Uses of Reason
3. Divine Authority
4. Reason in Support of Faith
5. Distinguishing Faith and Reason
6. Perfected by Love, Produced by Grace
7. The Limitations of Reason
8. Things Above Reason
9. Summary
I might skip over some of these sections, but several look interesting and significant.  The first section looks significant, so I’ll start there.
1. Relation of Faith to Reason
There is just one subheading within this section: “Reason Cannot Produce Faith.”  If that is the Thomist view, then the idea of a “purely rational faith” that I described in the previous post, would seem NOT to fit with the Thomist view of ‘faith in God’.  The comments in this section make faith seem unavoidably  irrational:
Faith is consent without inquiry in that faith’s assent is not caused by investigation.  Rather, it is produced by God.  Commenting on Ephesians 2:8-9, Aquinas contended that “free will is inadequate for the act of faith since the contents of faith are above reason. …That a man should believe, therefore, cannot occur from himself unless God gives it” (Aquinas, Ephesians, 96; unless noted, all citations in this article are from works by Thomas Aquinas). Faith is a gift of God, and no one can believe without it. (BECA, p.239)
Geisler knows more about Aquinas than I do, so I’m inclined to accept his interpretation of Aquinas, at least provisionally.  However, the quote of Aquinas here does not say anything about “inquiry” or “investigation”, so Geisler is reading something between the lines here that is less than obvious, at least to me.
I’m not sure what Aquinas means by the statement that “free will is inadequate for the act of faith since the contents of faith are above reason.”  But my guess would be that he means that we cannot simply choose to believe in the doctrines of Christianity that are beyond discovery by human reason, because such doctrines must FIRST be revealed by God to human beings (at some point in history).  If a particular true idea is undiscoverable by means of human “inquiry” or “investigation”, then that implies that human beings will never discover that true idea, at least not on their own.  The trinity is a doctrine that Aquinas believes to be true, and to be beyond the power of human beings to discover by means of reason (or Geisler would say: by means of human “inquiry” or “investigation”).
On the other hand, there is a sense in which the doctrine of the trinity IS discovered by means of human inquiry and investigation, even if Aquinas’ views about the necessity of divine revelation are correct.  If I am to believe that the doctrine of the trinity is true on the basis of the fact that the Bible teaches the doctrine of the trinity, I have to first determine whether the Bible is worthy of my trust concerning theological claims, and to determine that question, I need to determine whether there is a God and whether the Bible was inspired by God, and whether the Bible’s original contents have been preserved from corruption over the centuries.  All three of these issues require human inquiry and investigation; these issues require the use of human REASON.  Aquinas pointed to miracles as evidence that the Bible is the inspired Word of God.  But if we need evidence to determine whether the Bible is inspired by God, then we need REASON to determine whether the Bible is the inspired Word of God.
Also, it clearly will not do to appeal to the authority of the Bible in order to determine whether the Bible is the inspired Word of God.  For if the Bible is NOT inspired by God, then it has no significant authority concerning theological questions (such as “Did God inspire the Bible?”).  Appealing to the divine authority of the Bible in order to support the divine authority of the Bible is reasoning in a circle, so such an appeal has no force.
If Aquinas has in mind examples like the doctrine of the trinity being beyond the power of human investigation and inquiry, then it still seems to me that ‘faith in God’ can be purely rational and that ‘faith in God’ can be produced by REASON (on Aquinas’s view).  Belief in the trinity is based on acceptance of the authority of the Bible rather than based on a philosophical argument/proof about the details of this doctrine.  But there is still reasoning required to arrive at the conclusion that the Bible is a good and trustworthy source of theological information.
We must first determine that God exists (or at least, following Swinburne, that it is probable that God exists).  Then we must determine that the Bible was inspired by God (or at least, that it is probable that the Bible was inspired by God).  Then we must determine that the text of the Bible has been well-preserved over the centuries that have passed since it was first written down (or at least, that it is probable that the text of the Bible has been well-preserved).  All of this seems in keeping with the views of Aquinas, and all of this is a matter of REASON, of human inquiry and investigation into the existence of God, and into the inspiration of the Bible.
So, even if the trinity is a true doctrine and that no human being could ever discover the truth of the doctrine of the trinity by means of REASON without the help of divine revelation, it would still be the case that one’s acceptance of divine revelation (for example accepting the doctrine of the trinity on the basis of the authority of the Bible) would be based upon REASON, a human investigation or inquiry into questions about the existence of God and the alleged inspiration of the Bible.

bookmark_borderNot this Again!

John Mark Reynolds, Provost of Houston Baptist University, has posted an essay reasserting the old canard that atheism is the cause of mass murder. Reynolds commits all the usual fallacies of those who make this claim. For instance, though he notes that correlation is not the same thing as cause, here is what he says in his opening paragraph:

Atheistic regimes killed millions in the last century. Nobody denies this fact, though some deny atheism had much to do with the murder…Yet there is decent reason to connect the atheism with the killing. Atheism as the dominant form of thought in a state correlates very neatly with mass murder.

The argument appears to be this: “Every officially atheistic regime was murderous. Therefore, atheism is a likely cause of the murderousness of those regimes.” Despite the later cautious qualification, this argument is placed front-and-center in the opening paragraph and is repeated several times in the essay. It is a worthless argument precisely because correlation is not causation. At one time, without exception, every Christian nation routinely practiced hideous forms of torture. Would it have been right to conclude that Christianity causes torture? Now, atheism might cause murder—and Christianity might cause torture. However, without further evidence establishing a cause and not merely a correlation, such arguments prove nothing. Does Reynolds provide such evidence?
Well, he recognizes that it is hard to hang tragic consequences on atheism per se, since atheism, by itself, is not an ideology or worldview, but simply the denial of the existence of a God or gods. Atheists have been political conservatives, liberals, radicals, and libertarians. Philosophical atheists have been existentialists, logical positivists, feminists, Marxists, pragmatists, and idealists. Atheism per se says little or nothing about how we are to conduct our lives or govern a society. Further, Reynolds admits that there are many friendly atheists who would never harbor a persecuting thought. So, he singles out not just atheism, but active antitheism as the culprit. The antitheists, says Reynolds, are the ones who, “…actively dislike and work against religion. These are the atheists that have proven dangerous in power and worrisome in civil society.” So, if your next-door neighbor is a friendly atheist, there is no need to worry that he will murder you in your sleep. However, if he is a truculent antitheist, bar your door!
There has never been a society that was just antitheist any more than there has been a society that was just theist and not any particular sort. Such antitheism has always been a corollary of an overarching ideology such as Marxism/Leninism (ML). ML was not just antitheism; it was an entire counter-religion, indeed, a darker reflection of Christianity itself. Bertrand Russell pointed out the parallels between Marxism and Christianity. ML had holy prophets, Marx and Engels. It had a savior, Lenin. It had inerrant holy scriptures, the writings of Marx, Engels, and Lenin. It had a College of Cardinals, the Politburo, and a pope, the Soviet leader. The Catholic Church had the Holy Inquisition to root out heresy; the Soviet Union had the NKVD. Like Christianity, ML had an eschatology. For Christianity it is the Second Coming of Christ; for communism it is the classless society.
Both Christianity and ML claim to possess the ultimate and final capital-T Truth—Truth that can be known with such certainty that unbelief is morally and intellectually reprehensible. Any religion, theistic or antitheistic, that makes such claims will incline towards intolerance and persecution. Further, like Christianity, ML was a totalizing, all-encompassing system that demanded the complete devotion of its followers and the exclusion of all other faiths. A true communist, like a true Christian, was supposed to be faithful in all things; even your deepest thoughts and feelings are to be disciplined so that they are brought into line with orthodoxy. Freedom of thought and conscience were vigorously suppressed in both systems. Among the many similarities between the Kremlin and the Vatican was the fact that each kept lists of prohibited books. “Thoughtcrime” was odious both to Torquemada and to Stalin.
Still, Reynolds insists that it was specifically the element of antitheism that imparted the particular murderousness to those communist regimes. What argument does he give? Reynolds says that the totalitarians first became atheists and later communists:

First, the atheists of Russia, China, North Korea, Cambodia, [and] Albania came to their atheism and then picked a social and economic system compatible with their general worldview. Individuals decided traditional religion was bunk and harmful and became atheists. They sought a worldview that would fit their newfound freedom.

There are several remarkable things about this passage. First, it is presented without any semblance of evidence or documentation. It makes a sweeping claim based, apparently, on absolutely nothing. Did Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, Mao, Zhou Enlai, Deng Xiaoping, Kim Il-Sung, Pol Pot, and Enver Hoxha all, as a matter of biographical fact, first become zealous antitheists and then discover communism as the way of satisfying their antitheistic urges? Reynolds must have done a tremendous amount of scholarly digging to establish this surprising and little-known historical fact. Too bad he did not indicate some of his sources.
Suppose, for the sake of argument, that Reynolds is right and that all of the above totalitarians were vehement antitheists before they became communists. Does this show that their antitheism made them murderers? What would show that? Well, Reynolds says:

…atheism was used as a reason for persecution in all of these nations. When people tell you that you are being persecuted because you are religious, it creates a powerful presumption that religion is the reason you are being persecuted.

Once again, Reynolds’ claim must be based upon massive—but, alas, undocumented—scholarship that reveals facts unknown to other historians. Was the extirpation of religion the explicit justification given for Mao’s Cultural Revolution and the Great Leap Forward? What about the Ukrainian famine in the 1930’s or the Great Terror and purges of Stalin? Did Pravda announce that these were carried out in punishment of the religious convictions of the victims? Did antitheism motivate the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact and the subsequent partition of Poland? Were the Polish officers massacred in the Katyn Forest because of their Catholicism? Was antitheism the banner that flew over the killing fields of Cambodia? In actuality, there is no historical basis for saying that opposition to religion was the prime justification for the really infamous and heinous crimes and atrocities of communism, the ones that killed millions. If Reynolds is offering a revisionist history of those incidents he needs to provide substantial—or at least some—relevant evidence.
Under Stalin could you be sent to the Gulag for religious reasons? Sure. You could be sent to the Gulag for just about any reason. I once read about a worker on a collective farm who joked that the cows looked stupid. According to the story, he was denounced and given a ten-year sentence for demeaning Soviet agriculture. Any activity, statement, or belief judged anti-Soviet, whether religious or not, could get you shipped to the arctic to starve in a labor camp. People were certainly persecuted for their religious convictions. Likewise, geneticists who opposed Party-approved crackpot Trofim Lysenko were persecuted for their scientific beliefs. Composer Dmitri Shostakovich was threatened when his music did not meet Soviet standards. Handing out Bibles in Red Square would have gotten you in trouble, but so would distributing copies of The Wealth of Nations.
It appears, then, that Reynolds has given no historical evidence for singling out atheism, or even antitheism, as the only or even one of the main causes of the murderousness of communist regimes. Actually, the reason he seems to put so little effort into presenting credible historical evidence is that he thinks he knows a priori that antitheism is dangerous. What makes antitheism so dangerous is that, unlike Christianity, it creates its own values to serve its own purposes:

Christians are told to ‘love their enemies.’ Have they always done this? No. They have often failed, but their failure hits against an essential part of their belief system. Christians that kill or torture are denying part of Christianity. An antitheist creates his own values, so he can decide that theism is a serious enough mental illness to put theists into ‘remediation’ in mental hospitals. How many Christians were killed in psychiatric wards in atheistic states? Nobody is sure of the number, but it is in the thousands.

But this is just supporting one ancient canard with another, the old slander that atheists are free to create any values they find convenient and so face no genuine moral constraint. As Dostoevsky put it “If there is no God, then everything is allowed.” Actually, Dostoevsky had it exactly backwards. God is the greatest excuse for doing bad things that anyone has ever devised. If you want to hate some people, you can hate with a joyously clear conscience if you are sure that God hates them too. Over the ages Christians have been very adept at finding reasons for saying that God hates the same people they hate—heretics, infidels, gay people, etc. Reynolds does not approve; he says that “Christians that kill or torture are denying part of Christianity.” This is a laudable sentiment, but many of the most devout Christians would strongly disagree. Indeed, many would condemn Reynolds as a mushy sentimentalist and insist that the refusal to kill or torture in the name of Christ is profoundly anti-Christian. St. Augustine, for instance, was very clear that physical coercion should be used to compel heretics to return to the fold. Stalin would certainly have agreed with Augustine on this point.
At bottom, all efforts to tar atheism with the brush of communism are exercises in guilt by association: Communists were atheists. Communists were bad. Therefore, atheism is bad. A precisely analogous train of thought seems to occur to the deep thinkers of Al Qaida and ISIS: Crusaders were Christians. Crusaders were bad. Therefore, Christianity is bad. Biased thinking should be rejected whether it issues from a fanatical imam or from the distinguished provost of a university.

bookmark_borderEternal Accountability vs. Pascal’s Wager

I think I may have conceived of a novel response both to pragmatic moral arguments (such as Victor Reppert’s recent post about eternal accountability) and Pascal’s Wager, but I’m neither certain it is novel nor that it works.
The basic idea is that these two arguments contradict one another. To the person who is uncertain about God’s existence, Pascal says they have to place a bet on either atheism or Christianity. The risk of infinite loss (from atheism) compared to the opportunity for infinite gain with Christianity is supposed to make atheism an irrational choice. Pascal recognizes, however, you can’t just will yourself to believe theism if you’re an atheist. So he recommends going to church, etc. in an attempt to influence your beliefs. But if his advice to atheists is to act like a Christian until you actually believe Christianity, then his advice entails that atheists should act moral. So PW entails that it is irrational for atheists to act immorally.
Prudential moral arguments, however, claim that it is irrational for people to behave morally when it goes against their self-interest. Furthermore, since ‘secret’ violations of morality are at least possible if atheism is true, atheism entails that it is at least possible, for an atheist, for the demands of morality to go against self-interest . When that happens, it’s supposed to be irrational for the atheist to choose to act morally.
Herein lies the apparent contradiction: the person who runs both arguments seems to claim both it is irrational for atheists to act immoral (because it’s irrational bet on immorality) and that it is irrational for atheists to act moral when it goes against their self-interest.
Suppose I’m right and that is a contradiction. Which argument should a Christian run?  I’m leaning in favor of what I will shamelessly call Lowder’s Wager:

If God exists, it is likely that God cares more about your behavior than your beliefs. So if you’re uncertain about God’s existence, bet on moral behavior over immoral behavior.


bookmark_borderSome Thoughts on Naturalism and Morality

It is supposed, by some, to be difficult for naturalism to account for moral properties (both axiological properties like goodness and badness and deontic properties like rightness and wrongness). William Lane Craig and Paul Copan, have each argued incessantly that naturalism cannot account for moral properties. Craig has offered the following argument:

  1. If God does not exist, then objective moral value does not exist.
  2. Objective moral value does  exist.
  3. God exists.

This argument has always struck me as a paradigmatic example of an extremely unconvincing argument. I see no reason at all to believe that premise (1) is true. This is for two reasons: First, I can’t see how the existence of God is supposed to account for the existence of moral value; and second, I can’t see any reason to think that moral value cannot exist in a universe without God. The intuition that Craig (and many others) has is difficult for me to grasp. I just don’t get it.
Consider the following argument:

  1. Killing babies is horrendous.
  2. Even if God does not exist, killing babies is horrendous.
  3. So, even if God does not exist, objective moral values do exist.

This, to my mind, is so compelling as to be decisive. I do not see what the existence of God adds to the universe such that, if he did not exist, the killing of an innocent child would not be horrendous.
Suppose that God does not exist. How does that change anything about a situation in which a person is killed in an undeserved and excruciating manner? What possible reason could we have to think that God’s non-existence entails that this situation is not horrible?
In this post I am going to do my best to try to articulate the intuition behind the thought that, in a universe without God, there can be no moral value. I will then show that this intuition is completely misguided.
Here, I think, is the line of reasoning that lies behind the thought that without God, objective moral value cannot exist: If God does not exist, there is no basis for claiming that one state of affairs (or action) is better than any other. Any claim to the effect that something is better or good or bad or right or wrong is just a subjective and arbitrary preference. For objective moral value to exist, there must be some ground or foundation of this value and this foundation cannot be the merely subjective or arbitrary whim of human beings. If God does not exist, there is nothing objectively special or significant about any object, state of affairs, or action.
Often the above reasoning is supplemented with a kind of argument from incredulity concerning naturalism. On naturalism, the reasoning goes, all there is is matter and the void. Naturalism provides no basis for accounting for objective moral value. Everything, on naturalism, is the product of mindless and valueless natural laws operating on mindless and valueless physical objects. How can you get value out of that?
That, such as it is, is the best I can offer to capture this line of reasoning. I think that if you listen to or read Craig and Copan (and others) on this issue, you will not come across anything more compelling than the above (though, if you can find something more compelling, please bring it to my attention). There are presentations of the reasoning, to be sure, that are more sophisticated in virtue of making fine distinctions and so forth; but the essential reasoning remains the same.
Now, the first thought I have when I encounter such reasoning is this: How is the existence of God supposed to change any of this? How does the existence of God explain the existence of objective moral value? After all, if value depends on God, wouldn’t value just be a matter of God’s subjective and arbitrary preferences? I think that this thought, fully articulated, can be used as the basis of an argument that is devastating for the no-moral-value-in-a-godless-universe intuition. But let’s put that issue aside for now because I want to show that there is just no basis for thinking that moral value is impossible on naturalism. Indeed, the belief that there is no such basis is itself founded on a false conception of what moral value is.
I think that sometimes when people talk about the basis or ground of objective moral value, they are thinking along the lines of an analogy with the way in which macro-level physical properties are reduced to micro-level properties in physics and chemistry. For example, according to thermodynamics, the heat of a room is identical to the mean kinetic energy of the air particles in the room. In this instance, a macro-level property, the heat of a room, is reduced to a micro-level feature (average kinetic energy of a population of microscopic particles). One of the important consequences of this reduction is that it tells us that heat is nothing but mean kinetic energy. That is, on the basis of this thermodynamic reduction, we discover that heat, at a fundamental level, just is air-particle movement.
I suspect that many people have this kind of model in their mind when they demand an account of the grounding of moral value. They want to know what objective moral value really is at a fundamental level. Indeed, when you study the religious moral theories that ground moral value in God, you often find defenders of these theories utilize precisely this kind of analogy with scientific reduction. On Robert Adams’ divine command theory of moral obligations, for example, we are told that moral obligations just are divine commands, in just the same way that water just is H2O. Adams’ himself offers this analogy and I think it is very significant that he does.
According to the scientific reduction analogy, moral properties are analogous with physical properties. Goodness, badness, rightness, and wrongness, are properties in much the same way that size, shape, mass, kinetic energy, etc. are properties. The task for moral theory, on this conception, is to discover the fundamental features of reality that underlie and thus ground moral properties; just as the task of science is to discover the fundamental features of reality that underlie and account for the macro-level properties with which we are familiar through our five senses.
I think that this analogy is fundamentally misguided. Moral properties are not features of reality in the way that coolness, heat, wetness, solidity, etc. are features of reality. Morality is not concerned with a special class of properties, the moral ones. Rather, morality is concerned with a special kind of significance: moral significance.
So, what is moral significance? Well, let’s put aside ‘moral’ for a minute and just think about significance. Significance concerns mattering; when we ask what is significant we are asking what matters. And, it is clear that significance comes up in life in many different ways that are unproblematic. For example, it arises in the context of evidence. Suppose that someone you know is being investigated for a murder. Suppose that the medical examiner has determined that the victim was slashed with a large kitchen knife. You and I both know the suspect and have visited his house on many occasions. When we learn of the medical examiner’s determination as to the cause of death, you say that you are worried that our mutual friend, the suspect, might actually be guilty because you’ve noticed that he has a knife block on his kitchen counter that contains a large knife of just the type indicated by the examiner. Is this fact significant? Pretty clearly it is not. That the suspect owns a large kitchen knife is not at all significant due to the ubiquity of such knives; nearly every house on the block has such a knife and so the fact that the suspect owns such a knife can hardly be thought to be significant with respect to the question of his guilt or innocence.
Notice that this is not a matter of opinion. Nor is it a matter of subjective or arbitrary preference. It is not just that I don’t want the existence of the knife to be significant. It is insignificant in a completely objective way, regardless of what anyone thinks, wants, needs, or values.
Another example: A friend tells you that he now believes in Bigfoot because he went camping in Northern California last weekend and, during the night, he heard strange grunting sounds that were unlike anything he had ever heard before and that, after much reflection, he could not account for them. “What else could it be?” he asks. Well, once again, the evidence on offer is not significant with respect to the claim ‘Bigfoot exists.’ That your friend could not identify the noises in no way indicates that they were the noises of a North America great ape. Now, the discovery of the body of a dead, unidentified apelike creature in the North American woods would be significant, at least much more significant than the strange noises.
Once again, the claims about significance that I have made are not subjective, nor are they a matter of preference or arbitrary whim. They are completely objective. And this is an important (IMPORTANT!) point: the significance of lack or significance of a piece of evidence is not an extra, special property of the piece of evidence. That is, it is not as if the dead body has, but the sounds do not have, some special property called ‘significance.’ There is no such special property, at least not if we are thinking of properties in the sense of physical properties. Once all of the properties of the bead body are accounted for (its height, weight, color, age, bodily proportions, anatomy, etc.) there is no additional property corresponding to its significance. The significance of the body is just a matter of its being properly related to the claim ‘Bigfoot exists.’ The body is properly related to this claim in a way that the unidentified noises are not. That is what the significance of the body, as a piece of evidence for the claim that Bigfoot exists, consists of.
So, significance is not a special kind of property that is analogous to physical properties. Thus there is no reason to suppose that the significance of something has to be reduced to some basic, fundamental feature of reality. The significance of the body of a dead Sasquatch would in no way be reducible to some fundamental feature of reality, and to suggest that it must be so-reducible is to miss the point entirely. Imagine if someone gave the following argument:

  1. If God does not exist, then objectively significant evidence does not exist.
  2. But objectively significant evidence does exist.
  3. So, God exists.

Obviously this is a ridiculous argument. It is ridiculous because it has an inappropriate (one might say overly-metaphysical) understanding of evidential significance. (And, by the way, if significance in the realm of evidence did depend on God, then it would hardly count as objective since it would be a matter of God’s subjective and arbitrary preferences.) I think that, in exactly the same way, Craig’s argument (and all suggestions that naturalism cannot account for objective moral value) are based on an inappropriate (and overly-metaphysical) understanding of moral value.
Now, let’s get back to the ‘moral’ in ‘moral significance.’ What does it mean to say that something has moral significance? Well, based on what I’ve said so far, we know that it is not a matter of a thing’s having a special kind of property that is analogous to physical properties. Rather, it is to say that the thing matters. But to say that it matters morally is to say that it matters is a particular kind of way with respect to particular kinds of concerns. Morality concerns practical reason; that is, it is a matter of what we should do (deontic moral value) and what is worth pursuing (axiological moral value). This is one way in which moral significance differs from evidential significance. Evidential significance concerns theoretical reasoning, while moral significance concerns practical reasoning. The other essential feature of moral value is that moral value is (or at least tends to be) overriding. That means that moral values will override other values and other concerns in practical reasoning. Here is one example that illustrates this point: Suppose that I have a desire for some particular consumer good. Acquiring this good has value in virtue of the fact that it satisfies my desire. But suppose that acquiring that consumer good would be or would lead to a morally bad state of affairs. In that case, the moral value trumps the other concerns and thus, all else being equal, I ought not pursue that particular consume good. So as to focus on the relevant aspects here, I will choose an example that is relatively uncontroversial. Suppose I want to buy a yacht and suppose further that, just to be absolutely silly, I have the money to purchase one. But suppose that acquiring this yacht would involve morally bad states of affairs. Perhaps the production of the yacht involves the exploitation of labor or perhaps, once I buy the yacht, I will not be able to pay for the surgery that my wife needs to save her eyesight. Here is the point: to say that there are moral values is just to say that there are objects, states of affairs, and actions that, at least potentially, override my desire to purchase the yacht. In this example, pretty uncontroversially, my wife’s eyesight is more significant than my desire for a yacht. Her loss of eyesight has moral significance; it is so significant that it overrides other concerns and other interests.
So, moral significance is a matter of there being things (objects, states of affairs, conscious states, actions, for example) that have significance that tends to be overriding. Since moral value is a matter of significance, we cannot think of moral value as a special kind of property. Whether something has moral value is thus not a matter of whether it has some special property, but whether it matters in the right kind of way.
Now, with that out of the way, I want to say that there is no reason to think that moral value cannot exist on naturalism. Naturalism is the claim that the only things that exist are natural objects, natural laws, and natural properties. But ‘moral value’ is not the name of a special kind of property; rather it is the name for a special kind of mattering. Notice, first, that naturalism makes no claim about what matters; so at least prima facie, there is no contradiction involved in believing in naturalism and also believing that some things matter morally. The claim that moral value can exist on naturalism is just the claim that some natural properties or objects matter in this special kind of way. That is, some natural properties, objects, or states of affairs are significantly related to practical reason such that their significance overrides (or tends to override) other values (that is, other things that are significant or that are desired). Now, what is supposed to be the problem with this? Why are we supposed to think that nothing that is purely natural can matter in this way?
I think that pain has moral significance. And I think that pain is natural phenomenon. Why can’t pain be such that it is significant and its significance tends to be overriding? Indeed, isn’t this precisely the case? Well, suppose someone asks, “But in virtue of what is pain morally significant? In virtue of what does pain have this special status?” That is a really good question and one that we should tackle. I suppose that a more general version of it, asked in a kind of rhetorical way, might serve as the basis of a criticism of my claim that moral value can be accommodated by naturalism: “Jason, you say that moral value is just a matter of things be significant in the right kind of way. But, on naturalism, what accounts for the fact that anything has that kind of significance?”
As long as the question is not meant rhetorically, as if it is obvious that there is no answer, then it is a fine one to ask. And, I think it can be answered. But lets’ first remember that answering will not involve reducing the moral value of pain to some more fundamental aspect of reality; it will instead involve explaining why pain is significant in an overriding way (or, in general, explaining why anything is significant in this way). Now, once you formulate the question in the right way, it seems to me that it answers itself (at least for any person who has ever experienced pain). Pain just is significant; its significance is not reducible to or identical with any other more fundamental feature of reality. Rather, its significance is a matter the role that pain plays in the structure of human motivation. Pain, qua pain (or pain, all things being equal), is something that sentient creatures have a strong tendency to avoid. Sentient beings will not readily undertake activities that they know will cause themselves pain and will only do so when there is some other overriding good that the creature believes can only be acquired via the painful activity. So explaining why pain is morally significant is just a matter of explaining the role that pain plays in practical reason. Once we see that, it seems to me that it is not at all mysterious that naturalism can account for the moral value of pain specifically, and moral value more generally.
What about deontic value? Some philosophers have felt that accounting for moral obligation is the really hard problem for naturalism. In virtue of what can an action be morally required, on naturalism? Well, once again, we need to make sure that we understand the question correctly. First let’s note that moral obligations concern moral reasons and moral reasons are reasons for action. Once again, it is not a matter of actions having a special kind of property. To say that I have a moral obligation to do A is to say that I have a reason, which will tend to override other concerns, to do A. Now, can there be such reasons on naturalism? I don’t see why not. Unless there is some special reason to think that there cannot be practical reasons on naturalism, I don’t see the problem. What is it about naturalism that is supposed to rule out such a possibility?
Since this post is getting too long, I will end here and wait to see what devastating line of criticism are on offer.

bookmark_borderA Very Rough Sketch of an Objection to Quentin Smith’s Argument for Moral Realism

In his book, Ethical and Religious Thought in Analytic Philosophy of Language, Quentin Smith defends an argument for moral realism which he calls the argument from veridical seeming.

(1)  Ordinary ethical sentences and commonsense first-level moral beliefs imply moral realism (or “Moral realism tacitly seems to be true in ordinary commonsense moral attitudes”).
(2)  There are no empirical or a priori reasons to believe that first-level moral beliefs are all false.

(3)  Therefore, it is more reasonable to believe moral realism that not to believe this.
(4)  There is no reason to believe that the conjunction of (1) and (2) is a defective reason to believe moral realism.

(5)  Therefore, the belief in moral realism is indefeasibly justified.[1]

In this post, I’m going to sketch a brief objection to (4) based on what I will call “naturalistic evolution.” According to this objection, naturalistic evolution furnishes naturalistic evolutionists who are also moral realists with a defeater for their belief in moral realism, a defeater which cannot be defeated.
Let us begin by reviewing Smith’s definitions of key terms.

“moral realism” = df. “the metaethical theory that human life has an objective ethical meaning,”[2] viz., “moral facts obtain independently of whether humans believe they obtain.”[3]
“objective ethical meaning” = df. “ethical sentence have truth-value and sometimes correspond to moral facts that obtain independently of our beliefs about whether they obtain.” [4] “If human life has an objective ethical meaning, then there is a class of intrinsic goods, a class of properties and relations that possess the property of goodness.”[5]
“first-level ethical belief” = df. the belief that “something is good or evil or that something is of equal or greater value than something else, for example, that philosophical understanding is at least as valuable as aesthetic enjoyment.”[6]
“second-level ethical belief” = df. a belief “about some or all first-level ethical beliefs. The belief that ‘the intuition that the proposition that philosophical understanding is at least as valuable as aesthetic enjoyment is true does not absolutely justify belief in the proposition’ is an example of a particular second-level ethical belief, and the belief that “life is meaningful but absurd’ is an example of a general second-level ethical belief.”[7]

To Smith’s definitions I will add the following definitions (all taken from Paul Draper):

“hypothesis” = df. a proposition which we do not know with certainty to be true or false
“metaphysical naturalism” = df. the hypothesis that the universe is a closed system, which means that nothing that is not part of the natural world affects it

“genealogical thesis” = df. complex life evolved from simple life

“genetic thesis” = df.  all evolutionary change in populations of complex organisms either is or is the result of trans-generational genetic change
“evolution” = df. the genealogical thesis conjoined with the genetic thesis

The objection goes as follows. If evolution is true, then human beings have developed from non-human animals as a result of natural selection, genetic drift, etc.  As many writers have observed, evolution provides a plausible reason to expect (1) even on the assumption that moral realism is false. Theism provides a strong antecedent reason to trust the reliability of our metaethical intuitions (i.e., our second-level ethical intuitions), namely, God, as a morally perfect being, would want to ensure that all moral agents had moral intuitions which corresponded with what we might call “moral reality.” In contrast, if metaphysical naturalism is true, there is no God overseeing our development and orchestrating the course of our evolution, including the evolution of reliable metaethical intuitions. In short, “blind nature” provides us with no antecedent reason at all to believe that our metaethical intuitions are correct.
The potential unreliability of naturalistic metaethical intuitions does not prove that moral realism is false. (To suggest otherwise would be to commit the genetic fallacy by confusing moral epistemology with moral ontology.) For all the metaphysical naturalist knows, it could be the case that both metaphysical naturalism and moral realism are true. Nevertheless, a metaphysical naturalist’s belief in naturalistic evolution seems to undermine a metaphysical naturalist’s belief that moral realism is true. In other words, it could be the case that both metaphysical naturalism and moral realism are true, but if one knows the former, one cannot know the latter. At least, that’s what this objection claims.
This argument is similar to Alvin Plantinga’s famous Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism, but it has an important difference. As I understand it, Plantinga’s EAAN seeks to show that the naturalist has what I will call a ‘global defeater,’ i.e., a defeater for all of her beliefs, including her belief that naturalism is true. In contrast, the objection I’ve sketched above only claims there is a ‘local’ (or localized?) defeater, i.e., a defeater just for the belief that moral realism is true.
[1] Quentin Smith, Ethical and Religious Thought in Analytic Philosophy of Language (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997), 171-72.
[2] Smith 1997, 159.
[3] Smith 1997, viii.
[4] Smith 1997, 159.
[5] Smith 1997, 11.
[6] Smith 1997, 18.
[7] Smith 1997, 19.

bookmark_borderWhat Explains God’s Moral Grounding Power? Part II

In an earlier article, I wrote about a question for divine command metaethics, a question that I called the Moral Grounding Question.
Moral Grounding Question (MGQ): In virtue of what do God’s commands ground moral obligations? (or, in virtue of what does God have MG-power?)
In that previous post, I explained the moral grounding question and showed that it is a question that defenders of the Divine Command Theory (DCT) need to answer. I also argued that one possible answer to MGQ, namely that God has MG-power in virtue of being omnipotent, is not very promising. In this post, I will examine another potential answer to MGQ: the suggestion that God has MG-power in virtue of his authority.
While I think that you can find this view in various incarnations throughout the DCT literature, I will focus on the recent work of C. Stephen Evans, specifically his book God and Moral Obligation. While Evans does not raise the MGQ in the manner that I have, I think that it is not difficult to, on the basis of what he does say, construct the kind of answer Evans would offer.
In God and Moral Obligation, Evans defends a version of DCT that he claims is most similar to that of Robert Adams: “the kind of view that I find most attractive is the type defended by Robert Adams. Adams sees moral obligations as identical to the commands of a good and loving God, or the commands of God understood as essentially good and loving.” [1] I have written previously about Adams’ view on this blog and I will have more to say about it in a little bit.
Evans works hard to motivate this view and in the process provides an account that offers a coherent answer to MGQ. I’ll quote from a couple of relevant passages from Evans and then I’ll articulate what I take to be Evans’ answer to MGQ.

A proper social relation with God is one that requires humans to recognize the enormous debt of gratitude they owe to God, as well as the value of an on-going relation to God. Most religious believers have seen this relation to God as one in which God rightly has authority over them. This authority might be explained in various ways, as stemming from God’s ownership rights as creator, or as grounded in the gratitude owed to God for God’s good gifts, or as grounded in the goods which a relation to God makes possible. [2]

A divine command theory of moral obligations sees the relationship of creature to creator as a distinctive kind of social relationship which carries with it certain obligations, just as is the case for such purely human social relationships as parent to child. In particular, a DCT requires that God possess legitimate authority, so that his commands (or expressed requirements) establish obligations for his human creatures. But it is clear that some normative principle or principles must be the basis of this authority. [3]

From these two passages, it is pretty clear that Evans’ answer to MGQ would be in terms of God’s authority. The view is that God’s commands constitute moral obligations in virtue of the fact that God, given his status as creator and provider of goods, has the right kind of authority over his creatures. Evans recognizes that this account is subject to what he calls the “prior obligations objection.” This objection says that God’s commands can only constitute moral obligations if there is a prior obligation to obey God’s commands. Evans spends a bit of time trying (unsuccessfully, I think) to respond to this objection (pp. 98-101); in a subsequent post I will take a close look at his response. However, for the remainder of this post, I will be showing why, prima facie, an Evans-style answer to MGQ will not suffice.
To be clear, the view I am considering, which I will call the Authority Answer to MGQ (AA), is as follows:
Authority Answer to MGQ (AA): God’s commands constitute moral obligations in virtue of the fact that God has authority over his creation.
AA is not a satisfactory answer to MGQ. The reason is that AA implies that there exist deontic moral facts that are prior to God’s commands; and the existence of deontic moral facts that are prior to God’s commands is inconsistent with a divine command metaethical account of moral obligation. Let me explain these points:
AA implies something I’ll call the Authority Thesis:
Authority Thesis (AT): God has authority over his creation; in particular God has authority over created beings.
AT is a deontic principle, or at least it implies deontic claims. In particular, it implies that created beings are obligated to obey God. That it implies this is, I think, pretty obvious. After all, if created beings are not obligated to obey God, what sense can we make of the claim that God has authority over created beings? To say that God has authority over human beings is just to say that humans owe obedience to God or that humans are obligated to obey God. I cannot make any sense of the claim that God has authority over created beings that does not involve the claim that created beings are obligated to obey God (so, if you have some alternative account of the authority thesis, please let me know).
Now, AA is not consistent with a divine command metaethical account of moral obligation. This is a very important point and to help make it, I am going to rely on the work of Mark Murphy, a philosopher at Georgetown University and one of the leading experts on divine command metaethics. In his book, An Essay on Divine Authority, Murphy defines divine command metaethics as follows:

For a view to be a version of divine command metaethics—hereafter ‘DCM’—is just for it to be an attempt to explicate normative properties or states of affairs in terms of God’s commands. [4]

Murphy points out that, since there are distinct kinds of normative properties (axiological properties, deontic properties, etc.) there are more or less ambitious varieties of DCM depending on how many of these kinds of properties the theory tries to account for. Adams’ divine command theory is an account of deontic moral properties (i.e. moral obligation); it is not an account of axiological properties (goodness and badness). So Adams’ view is only moderately ambitious since it does not reduce all normative properties to divine commands. Nonetheless, it does reduce all deontic moral properties to divine commands. That is, on Adams’ view (the view that Evans claims to be articulating and defending), all moral obligations are identical to divine commands. On such a view, there are no moral obligations that are prior to divine commands. On this view, moral obligations are not grounded in a general obligation to obey God’s commands. Rather moral obligations just are divine commands. Indeed, if there is a general obligation to obey God’s commands, on Adams’ view this can only be because God has command us to obey God’s commands. But notice that there is no reason for such a command and no need for such an obligation. We are obligated to obey God’s commands, on Adams’ view, not because God has commanded us to do so, but because God’s commands just are moral obligations.
On a metaethical divine command theory such as Adams’, there is no further deontic principle upon which God’s moral grounding power depends. However, AA claims that God’s moral grounding power depends upon a further moral principle, namely AT. So, a view according to which our obligation to obey God is based on God’s authority (in other words, AA) is not a version of a divine command theory of moral obligation. Rather it is a Normative Divine Command Theory (NDCT). Here is Murphy on normative versions of divine command theory:

Normative versions of divine command theory assert that the supreme moral principle is that God’s commands are to be obeyed. The principle that God is to be obeyed is, on normative versions of divine command theory, supreme due to its status as an independent moral principle that is the source of the correctness of all other moral principles. It is independent, lacking a source in any other moral principle: the principle that God is to be obeyed is fundamental. It is the source of all other moral principles: any moral principle that binds created rational beings is to be explained in terms of the principle of obedience to God. [5]

Importantly, on NDCT, moral obligations are not grounded in divine commands but rather in the obligation to obey God. The ultimate bedrock of moral obligations is not God’s commands, but the principle that God’s commands are to be obeyed. And, of course, the obligation to obey God is not grounded in a divine command; it is true independent of any divine command. Suppose, then, that God commands that we tell the truth. In this case, on NDCT, we are morally obligated to tell the truth. But it would be wrong to say that this moral obligation is fully accounted for in virtue of the fact that God commands it. This is because the principle that we are obligated to obey God is also necessary to ground the moral obligation. Indeed, on NDCT, every moral obligation is ultimately grounded on the general obligation to obey God. So, on NDCT, God does not have moral grounding power in the requisite sense; moral obligations are not fully constituted by God’s commands. Rather his commands create moral obligation only via the moral principle that God is to be obeyed.
Here is the upshot: AA is an attempt to account for God’s moral grounding power. But if AA is true, then AT is independent of God’s commands. But if AT is independent of God’s commands, then Adam’s divine command theory is false. And if AT is independent of God’s commands, then God’s commands do not ground moral obligations; rather moral obligations are grounded in AT.
Think of it this way: On Evans’ view, in virtue of what is AT true? Either it is true in virtue of God’s commands or it is not. If it is true in virtue of God’s commands, that just means that we are obligated to obey God because God commands that we obey God. So, AT is true because God’s commands have moral-grounding power. But if so, then AT cannot account for the fact that God’s commands ground moral obligations. That is, AT does not answer MGQ since AT depends for its truth on the fact that God’s commands ground moral obligations and so cannot explain that fact. If AT is not true in virtue of God’s commands, then there is at least one moral obligation (the obligation to obey God) that is not identical with a divine command. Thus, divine command metaethics is false. In particular Adam’s version of DCT (according to which all moral obligations just are divine commands) is false.
So, AA cannot be the correct answer to MGQ. God’s authority cannot explain why God’s commands have moral grounding power. [6]
[1] Evans, C.S. (2013) God and Moral Obligation. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 26
[2] Ibid., p. 28
[3] Ibid., p. 64
[4] Murphy, M. (2002) An Essay on Divine Authority. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. p. 71
[5] Ibid., p. 6
[6] As I indicated above, Evans is aware of the problem I have identified and does try to address it. I don’t think his response is at all compelling. I will explain his response and argue that it fails in a follow-up post.

bookmark_borderPraise from Matthew Wade Ferguson

My co-author Matthew Wade Ferguson just wrote an unexpected, very much appreciated, and very complimentary blog post about my work.
He also had some comments about many Christian apologists, including Norman Geisler, Frank Turek, William Lane Craig, and C.S. Lewis. Check it out!
Also, if you’re not a regular reader of his blog, you should be.

bookmark_borderEternal Accountability

Vic Reppert recently posted this on his Dangerous Idea site under the title “Eternal Accountability”:
“I don’t think atheists appreciate the force of the doctrine of eternal accountability in restraining evil. Unless there is eternal accountability, either of the Hindu karma-birth-rebirth kind, or accountability before a monotheistic God, if we get away with it on earth, we get away with it period.”
Response: I don’t think that theists appreciate the lack of force of the doctrine of eternal accountability in restraining evil or the fact that the doctrine has often promoted evil. Criminologists tell us that it is the certainty of punishment—not its severity—that serves to deter. Thieves will be more effectively deterred by a 99% chance of a one-year sentence than a 1% chance of a 99 year sentence. If this is so, then the awfulness of hell is not so much a deterrent as the sense that one is genuinely in danger of going there. But how many people really believe that they are in danger of hell if they do something they oughtn’t? Hardly anybody thinks that hell is for him. Hell is for liberals, feminists, gays, atheists, evolutionists, secular humanists, and Democrats. You know; those other people. Let’s not forget that revolting atrocities have been—and are being—committed by people who believe firmly in eternal accountability. From Torquemada to ISIS, cruelties have been committed not only in spite of the threat of hell, but with the glorious conviction that the cruelties are sanctioned by God. It is the people whom you are righteously murdering that are going to hell. Besides, even if you do something that you know is rotten you can always repent. God will forgive you if you repent. He has to.
Also, as I say, the doctrine of eternal accountability inspires and justifies much evil. As Thomas Paine put it, “Belief in a cruel God makes a cruel man.” Truer words were never spoken. If the God you worship enforces sanctions infinitely greater than any imposed by humans, then any degree of punishment or torment that we can inflict is justifiable if it saves souls from eternal damnation. The actions of inquisitors were cruel, but they themselves almost certainly were not sadists who delighted in torture. No, torments with the strappado, rack, and stake were inflicted in hopes that temporal pains would obviate eternal ones. Further, let’s not forget that it is not only actions that can consign sinners to hell but beliefs. Those who reject certain required beliefs have ipso facto condemned themselves. But if one’s eternal fate depends on having a set of beliefs, then you had better be really, really, really sure that you have the right ones. This is why believers crave the “blessed assurance” of absolute certainty, and when the religious need for certainty far outstrips the actual epistemic certainty of the required propositions (which it does), mischief is on the way. Fanaticism is shouting that you are right so loudly that you hope that it can drown out the insistent inner worry that you are not.

bookmark_borderWhat is Faith – Part 6

I have noticed a problem of unclarity in my own thinking and writing about the Thomist view of faith.  Before I go further in discussing Swinburne’s characterization of the Thomist view of faith, I want to briefly consider the point of unclarity or ambiguity in my previous discussion of this view of faith. I have been sliding too easily over the distinction between possibility and necessity concerning the role of reasons and arguments in the Thomist view of faith.
Aquinas believes that it is POSSIBLE to base one’s belief in the existence of God on reasons and arguments.  Aquinas believes it is POSSIBLE to know that God exists on the basis of arguments for the existence of God.  But that does NOT mean that everyone who believes in God bases this belief on reasons and arguments.  The view of Aquinas is that a few people, who are intellectually sharp and who have received a thorough education in philosophy and metaphysics are able to come to know that God exists on the basis of philosophical and metaphysical reasoning about God.  But many people who are not intellectually sharp or who have not had the benefit of a thorough education in philosophy and metaphysics, believe in God and this belief is not based on philosophical and metaphysical reasoning about God.  Thus, although it is POSSIBLE  to have knowledge of the existence of God based on REASON, belief in the existence of God is often NOT based on REASON.
Aquinas thinks that there are some beliefs about the properties and actions of God that are not knowable, even by intellectually sophisticated philosophers, on the basis of REASON, on the basis of reasons and arguments that are grounded in empirical and/or conceptual facts.  For example, Christians believe that God is a Trinity, that God is three persons and yet one being.  Aquinas does not think that belief in the Trinitarian nature of God is something that can be based on REASON; one cannot prove the doctrine of the Trinity on the basis of reasons and arguments grounded in empirical and/or conceptual facts.  So, even philosophers must rely upon REVELATION from God, in order to arrive at the belief that God is a Trinity.
I have argued that when a person TRUSTS in God as a source of information and advice, that this trust is based upon beliefs about the knowledge, character, and motivations of God, and thus that this TRUST is based upon REASON.  But this inference is problematic, because in some cases beliefs about the knowledge, character, and motivations of God are NOT based upon REASON, not based upon reasons and arguments that are grounded in empircal and/or conceptual facts.   Although intellectually sophisticated philosophers can believe in God on the basis of REASON, and thus have beliefs about the knowledge, character, and motivations of God that are based on reasons and arguments grounded in emprical and/or conceptual facts, many people believe in God in a way that is NOT based on REASON, in the view of Aquinas.
Furthermore, just as it appears to be POSSIBLE but not NECESSARY to believe in God’s existence on the basis of REASON, so it would also appear to be POSSIBLE but not NECESSARY to TRUST in God as a source of information and advice on the basis of REASON, given the Thomist view of ‘faith in God’. So, it seems to me that I have over-estimated the role of REASON in the Thomist view of ‘faith in God’.
On the one hand, the Thomist view does make it POSSIBLE for ‘faith in God’ to be a purely rational thing:
Purely Rational Faith:  An intellectually sophisticated philosopher can believe in the existence of God on the basis of philosophical arguments grounded in empirical and/or conceptual facts, and that belief in the existence of God can then provide a rational basis for TRUST in God as a source of information and advice, and given further rationally-based beliefs about God having communicated certain claims (e.g. ‘God is a Trinity’), such a believer can have other additional rationally-justified beliefs about the properties and actions of God (e.g. ‘God is a Trinity’).
However, although the Thomist view allows for such purely rational ‘faith in God’, this view also allows for other ways of having ‘faith in God’ that appear to be much less rational:
Non-Rational Faith:  An intellectually unsophisticated person can believe in the existence of God without basing that belief on reasons or arguments grounded in empirical and/or conceptual facts.  Such a person might also TRUST in God as a source of information and advice on the basis of this belief in the existence of God.  But since his/her belief in the existence of God is not based on REASON, neither is that person’s TRUST in God as a source of information and advice based on REASON.  Any beliefs such a person forms on the basis of beliefs about God communicating certain claims (e.g. ‘God is a Trinity’) must therefore also not be based on REASON.
So, contrary to my previous post, it appears that the Thomist view of faith allows for the POSSIBILITY of purely rational faith, but it does NOT imply that ‘faith in God’ is NECESSARILY purely rational faith, but leaves open the possiblity that ‘faith in God’ is quite often NOT purely rational faith.