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THE MATURITY OF BELIEF: Critically Assessing Religious Faith – Kevin Twain Lowery

July 20, 2017

Are we stuck at the level of comfortable traditions or childish wish-fulfilment? Beliefs held at this level cannot stand up to the challenges of modern life?

Today there is growing concern with the problems posed by dogmatic religious belief. Throughout history religion has too often been a source of contention between groups of people and has frequently stifled intellectual (especially scientific) and social progress.

Rather than abandon religious belief altogether, as some suggest, Kevin Lowery contends that the real problem is the intellectual immaturity with which religious beliefs are held. This book thus explores the nature and dynamics of religious belief, and it offers constructive criticism in order to promote the intellectual maturity of religious belief.

Rather than artificially resolving points of tension by simply dismissing particular viewpoints out of hand, as with the radical skeptics and the dogmatists, Lowery argues that intellectual maturity requires us to acknowledge the limitations of our beliefs.

However, there’s too much philosophy (though it’s a good primer for those who know little philosophy of religion) and not enough theology in this and it reflects the American scene rather then the European. And why so much emphasis on Mormons?

He knows little of the scholastics if he dismisses them as merely being interested in angels on pinheads.

And he knows little about New Testament if he believes that the ‘claims’ of Jesus in the Fourth Gospel are ipssissima verba. He also uses the outmoded term ‘higher criticism’, seemingly unaware of the different types of biblical criticism available today. Then again, his main degree was in physics and mathematics and minoring in computer science. I was surprised to discover that he had been ordained since there is hardly anything constructive in this book. There’s hardy any conclusion. There is no mentio0n of any modern theologians, e.g. Cupitt apart from one reference to Tillich.

And since when did ‘All reli­gious belief tends towards superstition to some degree,’ Any examples?

However, he rightly dismisses the simple choices offered by C. S. Lewis.

His bibliography contains writers with far more insight than his own, e.g. Fowler’s Stages of Faith.

 Section 1: How and Why we Believe

1. The Nature of Belief

  1. Moving Beyond Simplistic Concepts

Section 2: Belief in Historical Perspective

  1. Religious Belief before the Enlightenment
  2. The Early Enlightenment
  3. The Burgeoning of the Enlightenment
  4. More Recent Developments

Section 3: Constructing Belief

  1. The Basis of Belief
  2. Systematized Belief
  3. Sources of Religious Belief
  4. Subjective and Objective Sources
  5. The Four Sources
  6. Religious Authority

Section 4: Mature Belief

13. Religious Belief and Certainty

  1. Faith and Belief
  2. Cultivating Religious Intellectual Maturity

 Quotations:

The nature of religious belief in particular makes the process of intel­lectual maturity more complicated. We cherish our religious beliefs more dearly than most of our other beliefs, since religion focuses on that which we regard as sacred and ultimately meaningful. Moreover, as I indicated earlier, religion serves several important psychological functions. Among other things, it  provides us with: 1) a sense of identity and self-image; 2) a frame of reference for determining the meaning of life and its experiences; 3) a mechanism for coping with life’s problems, and especially a sense of hope; and 4) a means of either unifying us with or separating us from other people. As a result, we more quickly accept and more slowly reject religious tenets that more effectively perform these functions for us personally. Inversely, we are slow to accept and quick to reject religious tenets that hinder these functions for us personally.

Kant asserted at we cannot know things as they truly are (noumena), we can only know things as we experience them (phenomena). In other words, my ability to understand objects is limited to my ability to perceive through my senses.

Some Christian denomi­nations in the United States use their own educational institutions to grant honorary doctorates to their elected officials. Of course, they wish to honour their leaders, but it seems rather obvious that there is also a desire to make the leaders look more intellectual. In this way, dogmatists display a love—hate relationship with scholarship. In nearly Machiavellian fashion, they want to appear scholarly, but they recoil from actually engaging in critical scholarship to the extent of allowing their cherished beliefs to be questioned or placed at risk.

However, as the general population gradually became more edu­cated, this anti-intellectualism could not be sustained without dam­aging the relevance and credibility of these groups, so they started to reverse the trend. First they founded Bible colleges, then these institutions predominantly became Christian liberal arts colleges, C and now many of them are universities. There are even a select few that could be considered research universities of sorts. Nevertheless, since these traditions are dogmatic at their core, the shift has to a great extent been away from anti-intellectualism back to a controlled intellectualism.

You can download it here

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