BA: Hello, this is Brian Auten of Apologetics315. Today’s interview is with Clifford Williams. Cliff teaches philosophy at Trinity College in Deerfield, Illinois. He is an author of numerous books, but the one we will discuss today is entitled, Existential Reasons for Belief in God: A Defense of Desires and Emotions for Faith. The purpose of this interview is to explore some of the themes in the book, and look at the role of existential arguments for belief. Thanks for joining me today, Cliff.
CW: You’re welcome, thanks for having me.
BA: Well, Cliff, before we get started, would you mind telling our listeners a bit more about and your background?
CW: I teach philosophy at Trinity College in Deerfield, Illinois, and have for the last twenty-nine years; and fourteen years before that, I taught in a college in Rochester, New York; and before that, I earned a PhD at Indiana University; and before that I went to Wheaton College, where I fell in love with philosophy and got to thinking about the ways in which philosophy and Christianity meld together.
BA: Well, I’m always curious when I speak to someone who’s into philosophy or is a philosopher, or teaches philosophy, in how they got interested, and also, what role did they think philosophy has in exploring issues of theology and also of apologetics. What are your thoughts on that?
CW: Well, I got interested in philosophy when I took a philosophy course as a Freshman at Wheaton College, and I liked it, and so I took more courses, and I liked it still, and went to graduate school. I can’t say that I went into philosophy with a mission, or with an aim, or a goal, at the time that I went into it, I just simply liked it. That’s just an historical fact. At the same time, I have more of a sense of a mission now for teaching and using philosophy. I think studying philosophy is especially useful for people in theology and apologetics, partly because of the way in which studying philosophy sharpens people’s minds, sharpens their use of words, helps them become clear and logical in their expression and argumentation. Some of us in philosophy, I think I can put this kindly by saying, we have a hard time following some theologians, and of course other philosophers as well, probably because they’re not as clear. Others trained in the analytic tradition, but I have an appreciation for what might be called, “a complemental tradition” and the issues in apologetics and theology. I think one really good combination is the person who has studied what has been called analytic philosophy who also appreciates the existential tradition in philosophy and apologetics and theology.
BA: I wonder also, as you teach philosophy and you’ve written a number of books, how you would describe your primary area or areas of interest?
CW: Well, in graduate school, I became an analytic metaphysician, which means I did a detailed analysis of metaphysical issues, in particular, the philosophy of time. Later on, I fell in love with Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche, and I love teaching Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche. And I got into issues of love and friendship, and virtues. I think my background in analytic metaphysics prepared me for thinking about virtues, and Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, and virtues, and love and friendship. Now, with this new book, I think of that as existential apologetics.
BA: I want to talk about that book, that’s the primary sort of topic we’ll be looking at today. I think that before we get started, we should kind of describe what existential means in this context for those who are kind of wondering, “What do you mean by existential or reasons for belief in God?” What’s existential or existentialism and how are you using that term?
CW: Well, existential apologetics as I’m using the term is not really existentialism. The reason I call the book Existential Reasons for Belief in God is because the idea is that I appeal to need based reasons, and I call them existential needs. Existential needs because they’re broad, they’re whole life, they’re cosmic, and I like that word cosmic as opposed to say Wednesday afternoon at three pm sort of thing. And so, that’s the only reason that I use the word existential, because it gets at the cosmic significance of the needs on which belief in God can be based.
BA: So, you’re summarizing sort of your overall goal in the book. How would you, if someone comes to you and says, “Oh, well you’ve written this book Cliff, what’s it about?” and you’ve got ten to twenty seconds to let them know, how do you actually explain that, sort of in a nutshell?
CW: I first say that the book is based on a puzzle. It comes from the question, “Is it legitimate to believe in God solely of the basis of need?” Put differently, is it legitimate to believe in God solely because you desire to do so? And the puzzle is that both the yes and no answers seem legitimate. First, the no answer. It doesn’t seem reasonable to believe something exists simply because you wanted to believe that it exists, because you desire that it exists, or that you have a longing for the existence of it. On the other hand, people have come to Christian faith on the basis of need, deep needs, longings, faint longings, strong longings, desires, emotions. And so, it seems to me that we need to think about the role of needs in the formation of faith, and the legitimacy of need in the formation of faith. So, the thesis that I want to put forward is that it is legitimate to acquire faith in God through need, but also supplemented by reason, or put differently, the ideal way to acquire faith in God is through both need and reason. And then I supplement that with the thesis that faith should consist, at least in part, of emotion, emotion and assent together form faith. And so, my project as a whole is, I want to say, “wholistic” and I want to contrast what I’m calling here an existential approach with an evidential approach. Most apologetics, frankly, all apologetics in the Protestant and Catholic tradition in the last twenty-five, fifty years, has been evidential, meaning that it appeals only to reason, to argumentation. And so, appealing to need and reason, reason and need, my project is more wholistic, and I might add at this juncture, that it fits what feminist philosophers of religion have wanted. They’ve critiqued the emphasis on reason, and what I’m doing is adding an appeal to need to reason so that it fits human nature more accurately, because we are reasoned creatures, and we are also emotioned creatures.
BA: I think that’s a good overview. It’s a little bit more than ten to twenty seconds, but I’ll forgive you on that. I think many people may have strong objections when they hear this idea that it’s justified to believe in God just based on a feeling of need or some sort of desire. So we’ll unpack that more, but you do talk in the book about needs and desires, I want to ask you what the difference is between the two and how they play their role in your overall argument.
CW: Okay, first the ten second reply to your question: the thesis of the book, the thesis that I maintain, is that it is legitimate to believe in God on the basis of need, but not solely need, need supplemented with reason. The question of how need differs from desire is a good one because I want to use them interchangeably. That’s not quite right, the difference between need and desire is that need is generally thought to be stronger, more intense, that’s how the dictionary defines it. But so far as the question of believing in God is concerned, it’s the same question, because whether you ask is it legitimate to believe in God on the basis of need, or legitimate to believe in God on the basis of desire? Because in both cases, there’s something missing in our lives, something there’s a lack that we feel, and so our question is it legitimate to believe in God to satisfy that lack? Yes, there are differences between needs and desires, but that difference doesn’t make a difference so far as my question is concerned
BA: Okay, I wonder if you could state the argument perhaps laying it out in points so that we can kind of unpack them as we go along?
CW: Yes, there is a very simply way of stating the argument as two premises and conclusions. The first premise is that we have certain existential needs, thirteen of them, and I think I want to come back and mention a few of them. Second statement is that faith in God satisfies these needs. And the third statement is therefore, we are justified in having faith in God. That’s what I call the existential argument for believing in God. It’s a very simple one, basically it comes down to the thesis that I am justified in having faith in God because I need to have that faith. It’s a little more complicated. As I mentioned because many people in talking about a need for God just simply leave it at that. But I want to unpack it, and I want to say that we have a number of needs, as I call them, existential needs, we need cosmic security, that was the one need that Freud said all religious belief is based on, but I think if we look at humans, we find a number of other needs. We need to know that we’ll live beyond the grave, and we need to know that we all live beyond the grave that’s in a state that’s free from defects of this life, that’s the second, in addition to living beyond the grave. We desire to live in a state after we die that’s full of goodness and justice. We have a need for a more expansive life, I base that on John 10:10, I have come, Jesus says, to give people a larger life. That’s sort of a translation of it. We need to know that we are loved. We have a need to love. We need meaning. We need to know that we are forgiven for going astray. And we also need to experience awe, and to delight in goodness, and to be present with those we love. I divide these thirteen into two categories: self-directed needs, and other-directed needs. Most ways of describing a need for God is put in a self-directed way, but I think we have also other-directed needs; such as, the need to experience awe, or to delight in the goodness, or to love. All of this is part of the first premise of the argument: we have all these needs. And the second premise again states that faith in God satisfies these needs. And in the third statement, the conclusion is: we are justified in having faith in God.
BA: Well, Cliff, you do make it clear in the book that one of the things you are not saying with this argument is that it proves God exists. Instead, you’re simply saying that belief in God is warranted on these grounds. Do you think that many people when they hear this would jump to the conclusion that you’re trying to prove that God exists through these sort of needs-based arguments?
CW: Well, the word proof is sort of slippery. From one perspective, all the arguments in evidential apologetics show that belief in God is warranted. But, it’s a different kind of warrant than the kind of warrant that I’m appealing to. The kind of warrant in traditional evidential apologetics is what William James called, merely logical justification; or we might say, merely logical warrant; or, we might also say, merely logical need. We have a need to be logical and find evidence, and what I want to do is to wed, to blend, that kind of need, that kind of warrant, with need warrant, or need rationality, and say that it’s legitimate to believe in God because of our needs; and also because of the logic, I want to blend those two. In need rationality, we take care of our needs. In a way it’s rational to love, in a way it’s rational to believe in something that gives us a sense of cosmic security because we’re taking care of ourselves. But, I don’t want to say that’s the only reason here, because we need to blend reason with need.
BA: One thing that comes to mind here is the question of how the word belief, or believing in God, is being used. For instance, one could say that believing that something is true would be one way, and then the other thing would be putting one’s trust in God. So, I suppose this is sort of coming from another objection, maybe one that even a Christian apologist might have, and that’s that the existential argument does not guarantee the truth. So, do you use the word belief in a sort of putting one’s trust in, even though the argument doesn’t point towards something being necessarily true?
CW: You’ve wrapped up the objection here with the question about the nature of belief. What I want to say is that believing in god is more personal than what comes through in evidential apologetics, and this is the wholistic character of what I’m calling the existential argument for believing in God. Actually, I don’t think the existential argument for believing in God works. The obvious objection is that need does not guarantee the truth. So, I think that reason needs to come in here, but not reason by itself, reason with need, and that’s connected to the question about what belief in God consists of. Belief in God does not consist, according to my way of thinking, in just assent. It consists also of emotion, and the prime emotion here is trust. But, in addition, when we satisfy these needs, these existential needs, the thirteen existential needs, we’re having emotions, and all those emotions are part of what I think constitutes Christian faith. Emotion and assent blended together in the same way in which we trust a friend. It seems to me that faith in God is a little bit like having a friend, but at the same time, I don’t want to say that God is a friend, I’m just saying that the two are alike, because when we have trust in a friend, when we have a friendship, we are using both our emotions and reason together.
BA: Well, I think that you in one of the chapters, you do answer that objection more fully, and you even lay out the objection in a syllogism: point one, we need to feel secure; point two, believing that Invisible George accompanies us wherever we go satisfies this need. Point three: therefore, we’re justified in believing that Invisible George accompanies us wherever we go. So, the objection makes the point that you might be justified in believing that Invisible George is there, but that doesn’t mean that Invisible George is. And I would think that as you’re saying there, this is why you’re coupling it with rational arguments as well that if you’re looking for truth, you wouldn’t take just this existential argument alone.
CW: Yes, you have it exactly right. I call that the Invisible George objection, and it’s the objection that believing on the basis of need does not guarantee truth. And I think that’s a fatal objection to the existential argument for believing in God. And if that’s all that could be said, I wouldn’t have gotten past page thirty-two in the book. But, it turns out that many people say that, and that’s all they say. And so, that seems to me to be dismissive of needs and emotion. And so, what I want to do is to rescue the role of needs and emotion in the role of coming to faith. It can be done by conjoining need and emotion with reason, and that’s the story that I tell. By the time you get to the end of the book, it’s a pretty big story, because I think reason is involved with need in a wide variety of ways, ways that justify the use of need in coming to faith. Not just reason, but reason, not just need rather, but need conjoined with reason.
BA: It would seem to me that have this sort of narrative in their own life, that they didn’t come to believe in God through a dry, cold process of evaluating facts and then they believe it’s true, coerced as it were by the facts, and then they put their trust in God, and then suddenly emotions follow. It seems like many of us, and I would say this would be sort of the process to some extent in my life, where there are all these needs, there are all these sorts of drawings and pulls and legitimate existential reasons to be drawn, to put trust in God, but then, there is the intellectual part of, why should I, are there good reasons? And then, upon evaluating the reasons, and being satisfied that there’s sufficient evidence that one can fully place their trust, and both the existential needs are met and fulfilled through belief in God, and the intellectual prerequisites are satisfied as well. Is that sort of…
CW: Yes, but with a twist. I think you have it right that many people come to faith in God on the basis of need, and if you’re to go to a church service as an anthropologist, you’d discover that need and emotion are appealed to. Just this morning, we were singing the song, We Are Thirsty For You Oh God, and then there’s the verse where Jesus says, come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden. That’s an absolutely explicit appeal to need and emotion. Now, here’s the twist. When I talk about reason, I’m not talking about the philosophical arguments for God’s existence; I’m not talking about biblical apologetics, the appeal to miracles, or prophecies, or the resurrection of Christ; or C. S. Lewis’s dilemma about the nature of Christ; I’m talking about the use of reason as applied to need, that’s the twist. What I call existential reasons for belief in God actually consists of reason as applied to needs.
BA: How do you mean, reason applied to needs?
CW: It’s in one of the objections. Suppose somebody says, “Well, I have a need for people to be tortured, so I believe in a cosmic torturer.” That strikes me as a fatal objection to the existential argument for believing in God, just as it stands. However, if you apply what I call the five needs criteria, it could be ruled out, and here they are. Needs must be felt by many others. In fact, they must be felt by most other people, they can’t just be my needs, or even the needs of a particular group of people. So, when somebody says, “Well, I feel a need for someone to be tortured, and so I believe in a God who kills people via hurricanes and tornados and disease, you don’t have everybody feeling that need. So, second criterion, for the need criteria, is that needs must endure, they cannot be fleeting, they can’t just be afternoon whims, but they must return again and again. And thirdly, the need must be significant. They can’t be trivial or superficial. And here’s an important one: number four, they must be part of a constellation of connected needs, each of which meets the other criteria. So, they can’t just be isolated, unconnected to any of our other needs or other parts of our character. I think the thirteen existential needs which I’ve listed are connected to the other needs, loving and being loved, awe, delighting in goodness, cosmic security, all of those connect. And then lastly, needs must be felt strongly, they cannot be ones that we can take or leave indifferently, and I think we can defend these criteria independently. I think we can say that criteria are used by personality theorists, we use them in examining circumstantial evidence presented in courtrooms, or analogs of them, and we use them in assessing reports of unusual phenomena. When needs, when ideas fit together, we say, ah, yes that makes more sense. And so, what I’m doing here is applying these five criteria, I call them the need criteria, to needs themselves, and say, we believe in God because we need to, but these are legitimate needs. And so, it is rational, we are warranted, we’re justified in believing in God. And that’s the combination of need and reason that I was referring to.
BA: Alright, well, very good. Now, I want to bring up another argument that is presented against the existential argument, and that would be that this justifies belief in just any kind of god. In other words, why should this you the Christian God, over against say Muhammad, or Krishna? Would you mind unpacking how you approach that objection?
CW: Yes, that’s a very good objection, and I realize that can be used against the existential argument for believing in God. If the argument were to stand by itself, I think the objection would be fatal to it. But again, what I would like to do is to apply reason to need, and at this point I would like to use several criteria. I would like to use the restlessness test, are we restless still when we believe in a different god? Are we satisfied fully? Here I use what I call the satisfaction criteria, again five of them: Satisfying emotions are capable of being felt by many others, satisfying emotions endure, satisfying emotions are significant, satisfying emotions are part of a constellation of other satisfying emotions, satisfying emotions are strongly felt. At this juncture, what I’d like to be able to say is that faith in the Christian God satisfies at least some of the existential needs better than does the faith or other supreme state in non-Christian religions, such as Buddhist emptiness. The reason I like to say that, one of the main reasons, is because faith in non-Christian religions does not deal with all of the existential needs, such as the need for forgiveness, or for life after death, and a state free of this life’s troubles. So, I really like to take seriously the fact that we have a wide variety of needs, and that they fit together, all of that using reason, by the way; reason not in an evidential way, in an argumentative way, but a way of testing, testing our faiths, testing our satisfactions, I should put it. Our needs, our satisfactions, the value of our satisfactions, and comparing them. I also like to be modest here. I don’t want ot claim more for this than is warranted, which is why I use the word “better than.” It seems to me that yes, people can have a certain satisfaction in other faiths, but what I want to claim is that when we investigate the matter, faith in the Christian God satisfies the needs better than those others do;
BA: Alright, well, here’s a third objection that you look at in the book, and that’s this, that not everyone feels these existential needs. Now, I don’t want to delve too deep and give too much of the content of your book away here, but briefly, how do you go about answering that? What about people who supposedly don’t have these sorts of needs?
CW: Well, that’s actually two objections wrapped up in one. Let’s suppose we take the need for meaning, probably not too many people would say that they actually feel that need, or don’t feel that need. But, I can see some people saying they don’t feel the need for awe perhaps. Or maybe someone who says, well I don’t feel the need to be loved. But let’s take that last one. Suppose somebody says I don’t feel the need to be loved, an emotional hermit for instance. We’d sort of wonder about them. But, here’s what we’d do, we’d say to ourselves that the emotional hermit could really come to feel the need for love. And if we tried, what we would do is perhaps describe love to them. We could do that through descriptions, through narratives, say, and fiction, or poetry, or the best would be to take them to people who are loving and show them what it’s like. Perhaps they’ve come from a family of origin where there hasn’t been love, and when they come into contact with love, the likelihood is that they will feel it. Again, notice I use the word likelihood here, I don’t want to claim a strong certainty about all of this, or any of this. The likelihood is that someone who’s an emotional hermit will come to feel love, and so that’s what I want to say about at least some, if not all of those thirteen existential needs, that they can be aroused. Not only that, it strikes me that some of them are latent, because we go around every day with degrees of awareness. There is what’s in our intentional circle if you wish, are fully conscious, a region of awareness. Then there’s what’s sort of in the background, and sometimes that background can be pretty submerged, but it can come out, it can come out in a number of the ways that I’ve already described. So one of the things I want to say is that feeling these needs can be aroused, that people can come to feel these particular needs. And here, I’d like to appeal both to the psychology and theology when I talk about resistance. It seems to me that resistance is operative here as well. There are reasons why we do not want to have faith in God, and this actually is a second way of thinking of the objection that you mentioned. Someone might say, well look I have those needs, those thirteen existential needs, I’ll admit that, but I just don’t find that I need faith in God to satisfy those needs. At this point, it strikes me that resistance is something that we need to uncover here. The master analysts of the human condition, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Freud, Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, the novelists and the psychologists and theological psychologists such as Augustine in book eight of Confessions, and Kierkegaard, all saw this resistance, and that needs to be set aside so that we can see that faith in God could indeed satisfy the existential needs.
BA: Alright Cliff, here’s another objection that might come up from the atheist point of view. Couldn’t one also argue their own existential case for atheism. For instance, that one has existential needs to be free from any sort of authority that would squelch their personal autonomy. Maybe they think that the list of needs and desires that you’ve laid out are different from theirs, and that on their needs, their embracing of atheism is warranted or justified. How would you look at that?
CW: Well, that’s another really good objection, and what I think it shows is that the existential argument for believing in God by itself doesn’t work, so I really concede that. I think it’s also realistic. I believe it was Thomas Nagel, a philosopher, who said that he did not want to believe in God. I’m not really sure what his reason for saying that was, but I can well imagine it was the sort of thing you just mentioned, the authority, because believing in God means that we have to submit ourselves to a cosmic being, and if a person desires autonomy, personal autonomy, or a kind of self authority, then they’re not going to want to believe in God. In fact, they’ll want to disbelieve in God. So, there you have sort of an existential reason for disbelieving in God, if you will. So, what I like to say again is that we aren’t fully justified, actually, I’ll concede to Freud and all the objectors, that we’re not justified in believing in God solely on the basis of need because of this objection and the others you’re mentioned. But again, what I want to do is to use reason on need, and I want to come up with criteria. I want to come up with a list of needs, the thirteen needs; the satisfaction criteria, the need criteria, the obstacle test, the value test, the restlessness test, all these are ways of using reason. I don’t think they’re decisive, but we do commonly use these sorts of reasons, and so when the atheist says, well I have a need for personal autonomy, I say, well, what about all the other needs, the other thirteen needs? Do you not feel any of those? Does this need for personal autonomy fit into all the other needs, the needs to love and be loved, be from needing, life of goodness beyond the grave, awe? And if the atheists says, I don’t feel any of those needs, then I go back to what I said earlier, that needs can be aroused, as we saw with the emotional hermit. So there’s a number of things here, and I also want to say that it may be that the atheist just is not convinced with this, and of course that’s true of the evidential arguments too for believing in God, those based on miracles, prophecy, philosophical arguments. If you’re going to reject the existential arguments for believing in God because people disagree with it and cannot be fully convinced, then you’re going to have to reject all of evidential apologetics. I think there is value both to evidential apologetics and to what I’m calling existential apologetics.
BA: Well, right along that line I wonder what role do you think that this argument plays in an overall cumulative case for God’s existence and belief in God?
CW: I like that question because I want to say that it plays an important role in several ways. In first place, it’s not just a need for God, there are thirteen needs I think that faith in God can satisfy, not just two or three. Sometimes you’ll see people mentioning two or three or four, the needs are connected, and that’s sort of a cumulative case idea, and so what that means is that they increase our drawing power for faith in God. Then, the cumulative case idea comes through when reason is involved in the satisfaction of existential needs. It’s not just reason by itself, it’s need. This is what I was talking about before with the wholistic conception, the feminist conception of who we are as people. We’re not just reason creatures, we’re emotion creatures, we’re need creatures, and I might say too, this gets a little controversial, when it comes to how this connects to the image of God. You’ll find in many of the traditional systematic theologies that the image of God is defined as the rational character of humans. We are like God because we are rational, God is rational. But that conception of God is just the conception of God as a mind. I’d like to think that God also has emotions, and I’d like to think part of the image of God is that we have emotions, and so we are like God in that we have minds and that we have emotions. So there’s another sense in which the existential reasons for believing in God is cumulative. It connects various parts of human nature, it connects reason and emotion. In addition, you can combine it with traditional evidential apologetics as well. You can say, look, here are the traditional reasons, the ones that foster religion, and Christian apologists have used and we’re combining all of those with an appeal to emotions and needs and desires.
BA: How would you suggest that the Christian apologist take this sort of existential argument, or if nothing else, the issues raised by it, into consideration on a practical level, and evangelism and apologetics engagement?
CW: I am imagining that evangelists often appeal to need, and what I’m doing is justifying that. It’s a little bit hard to say that evangelists should be a little bit more philosophical and justify the appeal to needs in the way in which I do in the book. That might get a little too sophisticated for say the average person. But I’d like to see at least some of that in what you’re calling apologetics engagement. Because I think needs and desires have been appealed to perhaps too uncritically, and so the atheist or the agnostic is sort of justified in saying that people believe in religion just because of their emotions. I want to say, well, there’s some truth to that, some negative truth to that, they shouldn’t appeal, believe in God, just because of their emotions, it should be emotions and reason. The ideal way to secure faith is through need and emotion. The way this book got started was, I was talking to a person who was working on a PhD in English Literature at Indiana University, his name is Ron Taylor. He said evidential apologetics just doesn’t do it for me. And I was talking to a former student who once said that evidential apologetics just were not appealing to her. So, what I want to do is supplement that, with an appeal to need, a legitimate appeal to need, a reasoned appeal to need, a wholistic appeal to need. And here I’ve mentioned the feminists before, I think that this whole project is something that feminist philosophers in religion would be satisfied with, and I think at this point they’re right. We are both emotion creatures and need creatures, and they’re fused, it’s not that we’re dichotomous, that these two are separated, but they’re fused.
BA: Well, I appreciate the work you’ve done on the book, Cliff. I want to point our listeners to it, and I’ll supply links to it on our blog post, one of the things I also like throughout the book you’ve broken out some of the chapters with testimonial contributions from those who’ve been profoundly affected in a real way by these needs and desires. I wonder on a personal level, how has authoring the book affected you?
CW: I think it has affected me, because in interviewing people I came to the conclusion that people are drawn to faith through both need and reason, and it’s not always easy to tell which is which. I think life is pretty messy, pretty complicated, and I know people would like something neat and precise, here’s the reason, here’s the need, but when you look at the stories of how people actually come to faith, what you find is that God draws people to himself through both need and reason. Sometimes it’s more need than reason, sometimes it’s more reason than need, but both are always affected, both are always part of the way in which we come to faith, just as both need and reason are part of what draws us to friends. It’s not just need, it’s not just reason, it’s sort of reason and need together, say, this is someone I like, this is someone I want to be friends with, and it’s the same way I think for God, the best way to come to faith in God, the best way to maintain our faith in God is through both need and reason.
BA: Well, thank you so much Cliff. Are there any other resources that you would want to point our listeners to before we depart?
CW: There are a number of good books yes, I’d like to mention. One of the first ones that comes to mind is Pascal’s Pensees. It strikes me that that book is a combination of traditional evidential apologetics, but I also find this appeal to need in there, the existential argument. And Thomas Morris, the philosopher, has a book called, Making Sense of it All: Pascal and the Meaning of Life, published by Eerdmans Publishing Company a number of years ago, and he had a marvelous way of describing our need. He does it via unpacking Pascal, but he’s a really good writer. And in connection with emotions, we haven’t talked too much about faith as consisting of emotion, but Matthew Elliot had a book called Faithful Feelings: Rethinking Emotion in the New Testament, where he goes through a number of New Testament and Old Testament passages and claims that emotion and feelings, as he calls them, play a more prominent role in scripture than we might initially think. A philosophical book called Reason in the Heart: A Prolegomenon to a Critique of Passional Reason by William Wainwright deals with these issues with Jonathan Edwards, William James, John Henry Newman, in a more sophisticated way, that’s published by Cornell University Press. And if you want a really long book on emotions from a philosophical standpoint, Martha Nussbaum’s book, Upheavals of Thought: The Intelligence of Emotions deals with history and nature of emotions, she’s got a wonderful chapter there on nature and compassion, how a description of compassion is objects, the nature of compassion as an emotion. And, I’d also like to recommend lastly, the works of Robert Roberts, a Christian philosopher who teaches at Baylor University has written a number of good books on emotions from a philosophical standpoint, but also a book on spiritual emotions, Christian emotions, and connecting the virtues to emotions.
BA: Well, I think that’s a great list of resources for people to continue their studies, and again, I want to point them to your book, Existential Reasons for Belief in God. Cliff, thanks so much for taking the time to do the interview.
CW: You’re welcome, and thank you for your interest and it’s been a pleasure talking to you.