Research

My paper “The Passibility of God: A Plea for Analogy” is forthcoming in Faith and Philosophy.

My general project is to defend the coherence and reasonableness of a radically transcendent conception of God, one on which we are unable to say anything true about God’s positive and intrinsic properties except by analogy. As one key part of this project, my dissertation defends the view that we can only speak analogically of God against a crucial objection raised by William Alston: that unless analogical claims are reducible to non-analogical ones, they are effectively empty of content. I respond to this objection by proposing an account of religious language which isn’t vulnerable to such criticisms. One key element of my solution is that we must understand claims about God not as isolated analogical assertions of the form “God is similar to x,” but rather as claims which serve to construct complex analogical models of God. Drawing on the recent profusion of literature on scientific models, I demonstrate that analogical models can serve to describe an element of reality in a way that is both theoretically contentful and practically action-guiding way without being reducible to non-analogical descriptions. It is thus possible for a thoroughly analogical theology to serve as the basis for a robust religious worldview and way of life.

One question I am currently working to address is whether anyone could ever be rationally justified in believing such a theology. Appealing to irreducible analogy in formulating claims about God raises additional difficulties for any subsequent attempt to justify those claims. For example, an argument for God’s existence based on evidence of an intelligent designer seems to break down if we specify that God is not really an intelligent designer, but is merely similar to one in respects we are unable to specify. I have argued the only possible way an irreducibly analogical theology could be justified is on the basis of testimony from a trustworthy authority–i.e., supernatural revelation. But it is not immediately obvious how this could work.