Swinburne's argument from religious experience

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In philosophical theology [1] Swinburne's argument from religious experience is presented as an empirical argument from experiences of God to the existence of God. The possibility of an empirical (scientific) support for a philosophical theological concept represents a relatively new breakthrough in the field of philosophical theology.

Christian philosopher Richard Granville Swinburne (1934 - ), a convert to the Orthodox Church, is one of the foremost current philosophers of religion [2] and perhaps the most significant proponent of argumentative theism today. Richard Swinburne's work has raised the level of discussion in the philosophy of religion by the introduction of technical sophistication and rigour. In The Existence of God (1979, 2004) Swinburne argues that certain religious experiences support the hypothesis that God exists.[3] In Chapter 13 of The Existence of God, in which he presents the argument from religious experience, various possible special considerations are reviewed and he argues that they do not work in general against religious experiences that seem to be of the presence of God.

Swinburne appeals to what he calls the "principle of credulity" in support of the argument from religious experience as evidence for the existence of God. The principle of credulity states that if it seems to a subject that x is present, then probably x is present. He maintains that it is reasonable to believe that the world is probably as we experience it to be. Unless there is some specific reason to question the validity of a religious experience, we ought therefore to accept that it is at least prima facie evidence for the existence of God. The main question, from Swinburne’s point of view, is what degree of probability the existence of God has, based on other relevant evidence besides religious experiences. If this probability is greater than "very low", and if the probability of the existence of God is, for example, "low but not very low", then the evidence against the existence of God is insufficient to outweigh the force of religious experience. Swinburne believes that the evidence for and against God, setting aside religious experiences, makes the existence of God about as probable as not, 50/50, or ½. Swinburne expresses his evidence numerically, in logical terms. Using P for probability, h to stand for the proposition that the God of traditional theism exists, e for the empirical evidence contained in the premise of the argument, and k for background knowledge, the claim is that, for each of these arguments, the empirical evidence, e, that it appeals to is such that
P(h/e and k) > P(h/k). —The probability (P) of the hypothesis of the existence of God (h) based upon/given the empirical evidence (e) for God and background knowledge (k) is a greater probability (>) than the probability (P) of the hypothesis of the existence of God (h) solely based upon/given background knowledge alone (k)—without the empirical evidence for God.
Arguments from ontology, cosmology, teleology (purposeful design), consciousness, morality, providence, and miracles show that God's existence is not improbable. Swinburne rules out their force as deductive arguments (since denying the existence of God involves no apparent contradiction within any description of the universe), and assesses the value of each one in terms of its inductive explanatory power. He places great stress on looking at all the arguments together. He concedes that in no case does any single argument by itself show that God's existence is more probable than not. In other words, he says that he favors a cumulative approach. Swinburne argues that religious experience tips the balance of probability in favor of God's existence. From this it follows that we should rely on religious experience to conclude that the probability of God's existence in philosophical terms is greater than ½, greater than 50/50.

Swinburne claims that the probability that the apparent experience of x is veridical [4] is increased if either the experience is forceful (The Existence of God, page 265) or others have similar experiences (page 263). That x is more probable than not ( > 50/50, or > ½) means the probability of x (in logical notation P(x)) is greater than or equal to .6, so the conclusion thus entailed by Swinburne's logic is [P(x) ≥ .6] by modus ponens.

The eight classic philosophical arguments from ontology, cosmology, teleology, consciousness, morality, providence, miracles, and religious experience are interesting and have been the subject of (sometimes quite heated) discussion among philosophers for centuries. However, most religious people do not defend their beliefs using any philosophical rhetoric at all. Most people will defend their religious belief based upon their own experiences and what they regard as the reliable testimony of others.

There is no lack of commentary on and criticism of Swinburne's argument from religious experience. He is readily perceived as an honest professor whose evident concern is not to look good but to seek the truth, and for this he deserves respect as a philosopher, however controversial. Of all his many important contributions to philosophy, the one for which he is most likely to achieve lasting fame is his empirical argument for the existence of God. The Existence of God is a book which some believe will become a classic in its field even more for its courageous honesty in espousing and defending to the hilt his deepest beliefs and convictions, regardless of whether they are currently in vogue. Swinburne subsequently wrote a more accessible account of his arguments for the existence of God in Is There a God? (1996), and published an even more straightforward account in his paper "The Justification of Theism" (Truth Journal, Leadership University website, 2002).

[Further clarification and explanation of Swinburne's argument follows below, drawn from multiple sources, including a bibliography and external verifying links online.]

Contents

The Existence of God

Richard Swinburne's The Existence of God (1979) is the second part of a trilogy, collectively delivered originally as the Wilde Lectures at the University of Oxford in 1976-77, beginning with The Coherence of Theism (1977) and concluding with Faith and Reason (1981).

The first edition of The Existence of God was published in 1979, and has been hailed as something of a modern classic. It was a tour de force when it was first published, and has been made even more sophisticated. A new edition was published in 1991, but without any substantial change in the main text. In the 2004 second edition, Swinburne has revised several chapters, added notes, and also made minor changes throughout the book. However, as the author himself says in his preface, the main strategy, major claims, and overall plan of the book remain the same.

The Existence of God weighs up arguments for and against the claim that there is a God. In his preface to the second edition of The Existence of God Richard Swinburne declares that this second volume of his trilogy on the philosophy of theism "is the central book of all that I have written on the philosophy of religion" (Swinburne, 1979, Second Edition 2004, page v).

The overall aim of the book is to argue for the claim that the proposition "God exists" is more probable than not, or, more technically, in philosophical terms, the probability that God exists is greater than ½, greater than a 50/50 proposition. After some preliminary discussion of the nature of inductive arguments and the nature of explanation, Swinburne describes this hypothesis, arguing that the hypothesis that God exists is "simple" in roughly the same sense that many successful scientific theories have been "simple", in not being belabored with complicated presuppositions or assumptions that seem arbitrary, or cry out for further explanation (what is called an "elegant" hypothesis, possessed of scientific precision, neatness, and simplicity [5]). For Swinburne, this is an important claim because, as he argues, hypotheses which are simple have a higher "prior probability" than hypotheses which are not simple. (See Occam's razor.) The prior probability of an hypothesis is the probability we would assign it from our background knowledge before judging it against the evidence given to us in our experience of the world (evidence from experience for or against it). Furthermore, Swinburne argues that the hypothesis that God exists is vast in its explanatory scope. Since God is conceived as infinite, omnipotent, and omniscient, the resulting conclusion is that, for anything and everything that happens anywhere and any time in the universe, we may conceivably refer to God as the ultimate explanation. As history is replete with examples of human beings sensing the presence of God with them to guide them, theism also explains individual religious experience.

Swinburne utilizes an inductive method of argument to make his case for the existence of God. Historically, Swinburne points out, phenomena such as the existence of the universe and individual religious experience have served as starting points for philosophers to argue for the existence of God. These philosophical arguments share a common structure.

A phenomenon that can be observed by everyone is evaluated.
The observed phenomenon is out of the ordinary and is not to be expected in the normal course of life unless God exists.

This logical mode of argument is used in science, philosophy, and history (modus ponens, modus tollens).

The argument from religious experience as demonstration and as evidence

The type of religious experience most often discussed in the context of arguments for the existence of God is that of a person having an intense inner experience which that person takes to be God communicating directly.

In its strong form, this argument asserts that it is only possible to experience that which exists, so that the phenomenon of religious experience demonstrates the existence of God. People experience God, therefore there must be a God.

In its weaker form, the argument asserts only that religious experiences constitute evidence for God’s existence.

Defense of the religious experience argument

The weaker evidential form of the argument from religious experience has been defended by Swinburne with an appeal to what he has identified as two principles which, in his view, make it reasonable to accept that such experiences do come directly from God, and consequently demonstrate that God exists.

These are what Swinburne calls the "principle of credulity" and the "principle of testimony".

The Principle of Credulity

Swinburne invokes a principle of credulity in defense of his appeal to religious experience as evidence for the existence of God—namely, that we should trust appearances unless we have reason not to. Someone that believes they are having an experience of God should regard it as so unless they have good reasons to doubt it.

Swinburne describes this principle as follows: "I suggest that it is a principle of rationality that (in the absence of special considerations) if it seems (epistemically) to a subject that x is present, then probably x is present," in which an epistemic seeming is one that serves as a basis for the subject to believe that the apparent object of the seeming exists and is as it seems to be (Existence of God, 254).

Initially he defines a "religious experience" as one "which seems (epistemically) to the subject to be an experience of God…or some other supernatural thing" (Existence of God, 246). But he then goes on to say that the person who veridically [4] experiences God will "in the very general sense…perceive God", and talks "of such awareness of God as a perception without implying that the awareness is necessarily mediated by any of the ordinary senses" (Existence of God, 247).

He shows that we readily apply the Principle of Credulity to beliefs about the world around us based upon apparent memories and sense experiences so as to avoid scepticism: "And if it is all right to use it for other experiences, they need a good argument to show that it is not all right to use it for religious experiences" (Existence of God, 254). Swinburne says that, generally, it is reasonable to believe that the world is probably as we experience it to be. He maintains that the way things seem is good grounds for belief about the way things are. Unless we have some specific reason to question a religious experience, then, therefore, we ought to accept that it is at least prima facie evidence for the existence of God.

✦ The principle of credulity states that if something appears to be the case, then, in the absence of contradictory evidence, it should be taken to be the case: if it seems (epistemically) to a subject S that x is present, then probably x is present. By the expression "seems (epistemically)" Swinburne means that the subject S is inclined to believe what appears to S on the basis of his or her present sensory experience. If it seems to a subject that x is present, then probably x is present. So, if God seems to be the cause and the object of a religious experience, then, as long as it cannot be proved that God is not behind the experience, it should be accepted that the experience is genuinely of God.

The Principle of Testimony

Swinburne's principle of testimony proposes that, "Other things being equal,[6] we think that what others tell us that they perceived, probably happened" (Existence of God, 271). Other things being equal, ceteris paribus we think that what others tell us they apparently perceived probably was apparently perceived by them—and this will suffice as justification for acceptance of their testimony. Normally, other things are in fact equal, since there is no good evidence that all those who have reported having apparent perceptions of God are untrustworthy.

✦ The principle of testimony states that we should believe what someone tells us unless there is a good reason not to. So, if someone claims to have had a direct experience of God, then, knowing them to be otherwise truthful people, we should accept what they say.

See Evidence, Credibility and Hearsay.[7]

Swinburne's "cumulative" approach: The theistic hypothesis is more probable than not

Swinburne believes that we live in a world in which it is very difficult to decide whether or not God exists. In the presence of evil it seems very unlikely that God does, but it is even less likely that the world as it is came about without having a creator and designer. For Swinburne the key reason for this thinking is the fact that so many people have religious experiences, the reality of which, according to his principles of credulity and testimony, we should accept. In a godless world religious experiences would not happen.

As he puts it, his basic conclusion is, "On our total evidence, theism is more probable than not." He does not consider only arguments based on religious experience alone, but also a number of other approaches including the cosmological, design and moral arguments. When considering Swinburne's approach, it is clear that he places great significance on looking at all the arguments together; in other words, he favors a cumulative approach. This is important to his argument.

The classic arguments taken together with lesser known arguments for God's existence

The proposition "God exists" is shown in the first of his three volumes, The Coherence of Theism, to be at least "not demonstrably incoherent" as a proposition. In The Existence of God (2nd edition), Richard Swinburne presents a careful and systematic case for the existence of God. His purpose in this middle volume is to demonstrate that the proposition "God exists" is more probable than not. Swinburne defends this claim by analyzing several arguments for the existence of God, quickly ruling out their force as deductive arguments (since denying the existence of God involves no apparent contradiction within any description of the universe), and assessing the value of each one in terms of its inductive explanatory power. After arguing that theism is at least intrinsically probable due its explanatory simplicity—an intentional, infinite, and omnipotent being provides the most simple explanation for existing phenomena—Swinburne ultimately concludes that the arguments he considers to be significant for the existence of God collectively support the proposition that theism is more probable than not. The arguments are presented as bits of empirical data, each of which increases a bit the probability of the hypothesis that God exists (with the exception of the Problem of Evil, which he believes decreases a bit the probability).

Up until chapter 13, in which he presents the argument from religious experience, he appears to be making a cumulative case for the existence of God being probable, based on an assembling of the premises of many probabilistic arguments that severally appeal to a wide range of evidence. Swinburne completely avoids any a priori attempt to prove God's existence, such as the Ontological Argument. He then goes on to formulate, in masterly fashion, several of the classic arguments for God's existence, as well as some lesser known arguments. These arguments proceed in order from more general aspects of the world, namely, that there is a world at all, its existence, that it displays widespread law-like uniformity and simplicity in its governing laws and theories, its order, to more specific aspects of the world: the fact that there exist organisms and—in particular—conscious ones, that human consciousness exists; the fact that men have great opportunities for freely co-operating in gaining knowledge and shaping the universe, that humans have an opportunity to provide for themselves and others; that history displays certain meaningful patterns, including the apparent existence of miracles, the fact that there is testimony regarding miracles; and the fact that many religious people purportedly experience God. These arguments are

the Cosmological Argument,
the Teleological Argument,
the Argument from Consciousness,
the Argument from Morality,
the Argument from Providence,
the Argument from Miracles, and finally
the Argument from Religious Experience.

In each case, he concedes that the arguments taken together do not deductively prove that there is a God. He also concedes that in no case does any single argument by itself show that God's existence is more probable than not.

These inductive arguments are supposed to make the hypothesis of the existence of God roughly a 50/50 proposition:

"...it is something like as probable as not that theism is true, on the evidence so far considered. However, so far in this chapter, I have ignored one crucial piece of evidence, the evidence from religious experience." (Existence of God, 341)

The argument from religious experience is supposed to put the hypothesis of theism over the top, making the hypothesis probable, and more probable than not:

"...unless the probability of theism on other evidence is very low, the testimony of many witnesses to experiences apparently of God suffices to make many of those experiences probably veridical. That is, the evidence of religious experience is in that case sufficient to make theism overall probable." (Existence of God, 341)

According to Swinburne, so long as the evidence from the nature of the universe and from the nature of human life (other than religious experiences of humans) is sufficient to make the probability of theism greater than "very low" then that is enough to get the argument from religious experience off the ground and boost theism to being more probable than not.

Basic principles of experience, memory, and testimony

The epistemological argument from religious experience is based on three principles concerned with experience, memory, and testimony:

Experience

"...(in the absence of special considerations), if it seems (epistemically) to a subject that x is present (and has some characteristic), then probably x is present (and has that characteristic)..." (Existence of God, 303)

Memory

If it seems to a subject that in the past he perceived something or did something, then (in the absence of special considerations), probably he did. (Existence of God, 303)

Testimony

"...(in the absence of special considerations) the experiences of others are (probably) as they report them." (Existence of God, 322)

Cumulative evidence

Many people have on many occasions throughout human history reported having had a religious experience in which it seemed (epistemically) to them that God was present. Based on Swinburne’s principle concerning testimony, it is probable in each case (where there was an absence of special considerations concerning testimony) that the reported experience did occur, and that, in each of those cases of the experience in which it seemed (epistemically) to the subject that God was present (where there was an absence of special considerations), God was probably present.

First, Swinburne settles on the more modest claim that, in each case (not counting the argument from religious experience), the evidence confirms or increases the probability of God's existence. In other words, the hypothesis that God exists is higher given the evidence (for example, that the world exists, that it exhibits order, etc.) than it would be if the evidence were otherwise (if the world did not exist; if there were no order, etc.).

He then builds a cumulative case designed to show that all of the arguments together make it plausible to believe that God's existence is, at the very least, not improbable, that is, not less than ½, not less than 50/50.

Finally, he argues that religious experience tips the balance of probability in favor of God's existence. In expounding the argument from religious experience, he makes ample use of what he calls the principle of credulity, which says that unless we have some reason to suspect or reject an experience, we should take that experience as veridical. And, since he has already shown that God's existence is not improbable even without religious experience, he suggests that it follows that we should rely on religious experience to conclude that the probability of God's existence is greater than ½, greater than 50/50.

The argument from religious experience is of crucial importance in Swinburne's philosophical theology. Without the argument from religious experience, he considers the combined weight of the other arguments as not rendering the theistic hypothesis very probable. But the argument from religious experience combined with these other arguments makes theism more probable than its rival atheistic hypotheses.

Two apparent categories of religious experience

Philosophical theology observes that religious experiences appear to fall into two categories:

1. An experience with religious significance in a religious context, for example, an act of worship, the act of worship in a religious setting, a setting such as a religious building.

2. A person’s experience of some power or presence, an experience of something beyond oneself, people's experience of a presence beyond themselves.

Religious experiences tend to be of something "out of the ordinary". Often there is a problem in trying to explain the experience in everyday language. Religious experiences provide insight into something other than the everyday, material world. Hence, it is difficult to verify a religious experience to oneself and to others.

Despite there being experiences which are experienced by everyone (for example, hunger, cold, fatigue...etc.) religious experiences tend to be unique and limited to a few:

an experience which can be described using everyday language (for example, a dream);
an experience which cannot be described using everyday language (for example, a mystical experience);
a conviction that God has been experienced in some way despite lack of material evidence.

Religious experiences are said to be "God given" compared to ordinary experiences which are available to anyone.

Five different types of religious experience

Richard Swinburne defines and classifies five different types of religious experience in which people claim to experience God:

Public experiences (two types)

1. Perceiving a perfectly normal phenomenon (for example, a sunset) or a normal event interpreted in a religious way, such as seeing the face of the Virgin Mary on the moon.

2. Perceiving a very unusual public object, witnessing a very unusual event with others, such as the resurrection of Jesus (by which he means the objective fact of the resurrection, seeing Jesus alive after he died, not the event itself. 1 Corinthians 15:5-8)

Private experiences (three types)

3. A private experience which may be explained using normal language, for example, the Angel Gabriel appearing to Mary.

4. A private experience which may not be explained using normal language, for example, mysticism. 2 Corinthians 12:1-4

5. An ongoing impression of a presence based upon no specific experience—just a sense that God is guiding one’s life. 23rd Psalm

Are religious experiences perceptual?

Both types of argument from religious experience, public and private, assume that religious experiences are a type of perceptual experience, a type of experience in which the person having the experience perceives something external to them, not self-generated, not an hallucination, not a delusion.

Numerous persons, on the basis of apparent experiences of God, take it that God exists. The experiences of these persons are described in a way that does not entail the existence of their apparent object, called an "internal description" by Swinburne. He claims that "all arguments from religious experience must be phrased as arguments from experiences given internal descriptions" so as not to beg the question (Existence of God, 245). To accept the reports of others to have had certain internally described experiences, appeal need not be made to Swinburne's Principle of Testimony—"Other things being equal, we think that what others tell us that they perceived, probably happened" (Existence of God, 271). Appeal is made instead to an a priori presumptive inference rule, the "Principle of Credulity", which renders it prima facie probable that the apparent object of religious experience, God, exists, an inference which can be defeated only if our background knowledge makes it very improbable that God exists. And it is here that Richard Swinburne's highly intuitive cumulative case is appealed to for the purpose of defeating this lone possible defeater, thereby rendering it probable without qualification that God exists. Thus, Swinburne's overall inductive argument for the existence of God is as follows:

(1) For any person S and any object x, if S, on the basis of an apparent experience of x, takes it that x exists, then prima facie it is probable that S 's experience is veridical and thereby x exists. (Principle of Credulity)

(2) If any person S, on the basis of an apparent experience of God, takes it that God exists, then prima facie it is probable that God exists. (From (1) by universal instantiation [8])

(3) Numerous persons, on the basis of apparent experiences of God, take it that God exists. (Premise)

(4) Prima facie it is probable that their experiences are veridical and thereby God exists. (From (2) and (3) by modus ponens)

(5) That it is prima facie probable that their experiences are veridical, and thereby the claim that God exists can be defeated only if it is significantly more probable than not that God does not exist. (Premise)

(6) The cumulative argument shows that it is not significantly more probable than not that God does not exist. (Premise)

(7) It is probable without qualification that their experiences are veridical, and thereby God exists. (From (3), (4), and (5))

The prima facie probability that the principle of credulity bestows upon perceptually based beliefs is subject to various sorts of possible defeating conditions—conditions that lower the probability that the experience is veridical and thus lower the probability that its apparent object therefore exists. A defeating condition is really a flunked test. It is essential that there be possible defeaters, for otherwise it would be meaningless to speak of prima facie justification. Swinburne lists four generic defeating conditions:

(i) the subject or conditions under which the apparent perception was made are of a sort that have proved to be unreliable;
(ii) there is inductive evidence that it is not possible for the subject to have perceived what he or she claimed to perceive;
(iii) background evidence shows that very probably the apparent object was not present; and
(iv) there is evidence that the apparent object probably was not part of the cause of the perception.

Immediately upon stating the principle of credulity, he instantiates it with religious experiences: "From this it would follow that, in the absence of special considerations, all religious experiences ought to be taken by their subjects as genuine, and hence as substantial grounds for belief in the existence of their apparent object—God" (Existence of God, 254)

Critics of the argument from religious experience

Traditionally critics of the argument from religious experience have maintained that it is a fallacy to argue from a psychological experience of x to x; to argue, for example, from the fact that it appears to you that God is present to the probability that God is present. See Confirmation bias. It is a fact that not all reported perceptual experiences are psychological, or self-generated. See Testify and Witness.

The argument from religious experience as veridical for the existence of God

Swinburne treats the argument from religious experience as a verifying argument for the existence of God, but only under certain conditions in which its veridical force is not strongly challenged. While Swinburne's overall aim is to establish that the probability that God exists is greater than one-half, he does not want the probability to be too high, for he fears that this would necessitate belief in God on the part of whoever accepts the argument, thereby negating the accepter's freedom to choose not to believe. "If God's existence, justice, and intentions became items of evident common knowledge, then man's freedom would in effect be vastly curtailed" (page 245). Swinburne also believes that an ontological argument would do even greater violence to the traditional Christian view of God as wanting men to come to know, love, and obey him of their own free will.[9]

It is reasonable here to ask if Richard Swinburne wants people to come to God. He appears to have a defective view of free will in naively believing that a truly irrefutable argument with incontrovertably supporting evidence could not be freely rejected and dismissed by an opponent who did not want to accept it—a Skeptic who uses circular reasoning. Compare James 2:19—even demons believe in God.

See Acts 6:10 and 18:28. Compare Luke 14:23 ("compel them") and 21:15. Christian arguments present an inescapable logic and wisdom which cannot be refuted. Swinburne prefers to present his argument so that his opponents can more easily escape.

Two operative principles at work

In the argument from religious experience Swinburne sees two operative principles at work.

First, religious experiences are evidentially forceful to the one having them due to the principle of credulity, which says "that apparent perceptions ought to be taken at their face value in the absence of positive reason for challenge." (Existence of God, 275)

Second, others who do not have religious experiences can still attribute evidential force to them due to the principle of testimony, which says that reports are generally trustworthy and that credibility increases as reports increase. (Existence of God, 273-274)

Therefore, if the existence of God "is not already on other evidence very improbable" (Existence of God, 291), the "evidence of religious experience is in that case sufficient to make theism over all probable." (Existence of God, 291) Swinburne allows the argument from religious experience to push all the evidence toward the establishment of overall probability as long as the evidence is not too strongly opposed to such probability.

Defense of the central truth claim common to Christianity, Judaism and Islam

Swinburne contends that the claim for the existence of God or theism is central to Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. He is, therefore, attempting to make a case for what he regards as a truth claim common to all three religions. The book mainly considers the arguments in favor of the existence of God, but it does devote one chapter to the most serious argument, in Swinburne’s view, against his thesis, namely, the problem of evil: Theodicy. The only argument against the existence of God treated in The Existence of God is the argument from the existence of evil. Swinburne suggests that the existence of evil does not refute the existence of God since it might be good for God to allow evil and suffering in order to provide "opportunities...for performing good actions and deepening knowledge." (page 216) Swinburne's treatment on this issue is undeniably controversial and stirs up a desire for rebuttal. He does not mention the prevalence of evil as one of the primary consequences of the Fall of man. See Genesis 2:16-17 Genesis 3:17-19 Genesis 4:10-15 Wisdom 2:23-25. Swinburne sees the presence of evil as part of the Original Design of God, necessary for human freedom and growth.[10]

This is in stark contrast to the Christian doctrine that true human freedom is not the choice between good and evil, but the choice to freely will the good and having the power and resources available to strive to effect it. Many respected Catholic apologists define freedom not as the ability to do whatever one wants in life (which is how most would define it), but rather as the ability to do what one ought to do. (See Romans 7:14-24.) True freedom removes the roadblocks to doing good, and thus the person is free to do what he should. In contrast, Libertarians say that genuine free will means that our choices are free from the determination or constraints of human nature and free from any predetermination by God. Libertarians generally defend the ideal of freedom from the perspective of how little one is constrained by authority, i.e., how much one is allowed to do (also referred to as negative liberty). This ideal is distinguished from a view of freedom focused on how much one is able to do (also called positive liberty). They maintain that all "free will theists" hold that libertarian freedom is essential for moral responsibility, reasoning that it cannot properly be called a free choice if our choice is determined or caused by anything, including our own desires to do good or evil. In this view, moral responsibility always means that one could have done otherwise. Libertarian freedom is, therefore, the freedom to act contrary to one's nature, predisposition and greatest desires. In contrast to Catholicism, to Libertarianism, and to the view of Richard Swinburne, Christian Reformed theology primarily denies human free will.[11]

Swinburne's rationale for believing in God's existence

Why believe that God exists? Swinburne answers this question by arguing that God is the best hypothesis to explain most of what human beings experience. The existence of God is the most satisfactory explanation for the fact of the universe, the operation of general laws of nature, the evolution of human beings, the opportunity to develop human character, the historically trustworthy report of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the claims many people have made through history that God has encountered and guided them. The case for the existence of God is a cumulative one based upon observable phenomena and human experience.

The probability of the existence of God in terms of numbers

In terms of numbers, Swinburne's argument for the degree of the probability of the existence of God, can be summarized as follows:
That x has a very low probability means the probability of x P(x) is greater than 0 AND the probability of x P(x) is less than .2
[P(x) > 0 AND P(x) < .2]
That x has a low (but not very low) probability means the probability of x P(x) is greater than or equal to .2 AND the probability of x P(x) is less than .4
[P(x) ≥ .2 AND P(x) < .4]
That x is about as probable as not ( = 50/50, or = ½) means the probability of x P(x) is greater than or equal to .4 AND the probability of x P(x) is less than .6
[P(x) ≥ .4 AND P(x) < .6]
That x is more probable than not ( > 50/50, or > ½) means the probability of x P(x) is greater than or equal to .6
[P(x) ≥ .6]

Let u be the evidence in the premises of the arguments from the nature of the universe.
Let h be the evidence in the premises of the arguments from the nature of human life (except for religious experiences).
Let r be the evidence of religious experiences (including testimony of alleged experiences that seemed to be of the presence of God).
Let g be the hypothesis that God exists.

Swinburne’s argument in The Existence of God can be logically summarized this way:
Premise 1. P(g|u & h) ≥ .4 AND P(g|u & h) < .6
Premise 2. IF P(g|u & h) ≥ .2 THEN P(g|u & h & r) ≥ .6
Therefore:
3. P(g|u & h & r) ≥ .6
Premise (1) entails that P(g|u & h) is greater than .2 and thus that P(g|u & h) is greater than or equal to .2, which is the antecedent of the conditional claim in premise (2 IF P(g|u & h) ≥ .2 THEN P(g|u & h & r) ≥ .6), so the conclusion is thus entailed by modus ponens.

Swinburne's works justifying and explaining cardinal Christian doctrines

Swinburne rejects philosophies that deny the possibility of metaphysical reality and theologies that have no place for reason. In his opinion unconvincing philosophical assumptions and models of the universe originating in Hegel, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Sartre, and especially Kierkegaard, for whom, from Swinburne’s point of view, the choice of world-view is a very irrational matter, influenced many of the theological systems created by European continental theologians in the middle of the twentieth century. Swinburne’s body of work is characterized by minimal engagement with contemporary theology.

In essence, Swinburne’s intellectual project is apologetic in nature and addresses three basic themes:

(1) engaging theoretical science,
(2) justifying theism, and
(3) justifying and explaining central Christian doctrines.

His primary aim is to demonstrate that Christian belief is plausible and probable in the contemporary world. He wants to communicate with a secular audience in terms that it finds intelligible without sacrificing traditional Christian theological beliefs. Swinburne draws upon the tradition of analytic philosophy to approach the central claims of Christian belief.

His early books—The Coherence of Theism, The Existence of God, and Faith and Reason—constitute a trilogy and develop a sequence of ideas. The first volume considers what it means to claim that God exists and argues that it is coherent to suppose that God exists, the second evaluates the evidence for the probability of God’s existence, and the third volume examines the relationship between faith and reason. More recently, Swinburne has produced a tetralogy of philosophical theology that justifies and explains cardinal Christian doctrines. The four volume series consists of Responsibility and Atonement (on human beings as moral creatures, sin, forgiveness, and the meaning of the cross), Revelation (on how God communicates with human beings), Providence and the Problem of Evil (on theodicy), and The Christian Idea of God (on the uniquely Christian doctrines of the Trinity and Incarnation). Swinburne has also examined what it means to be human in Personal Identity, the theory of knowledge in Epistemic Justification, and the probability of Jesus’ resurrection in The Resurrection of God Incarnate.

Apparent perception as prima facie justification for believing God exists

Swinburne's inductive argument, above, (1) through (5) for the existence of God is (again) as follows:
(1) For any person S and any object x, if S, on the basis of an apparent experience of x, takes it that x exists, then prima facie it is probable that S's experience is veridical and thereby x exists. (Principle of Credulity)
(2) If any person S, on the basis of an apparent experience of God, takes it that God exists, then prima facie it is probable that God exists. (From (1) by universal instantiation)
(3) Numerous persons, on the basis of apparent experiences of God, take it that God exists. (Premise)
(4) Prima facie it is probable that their experiences are veridical and thereby God exists. (From (2) and (3) by modus ponens)
(5) That it is prima facie probable that their experiences are veridical, and thereby the claim that God exists can be defeated only if it is significantly more probable than not that God does not exist. (Premise)

Consider Swinburne's inductive argument for the existence of God (4)—

prima facie it is probable that their experiences are veridical and thereby God exists.

Since there is no mystery as to how (4) follows from (2) and (3) by modus ponens, we can skip to (5)—

that it is prima-facie probable that their experiences are veridical, and thereby the claim that God exists can be defeated only if it is significantly more probable than not that God does not exist.

(Again) Swinburne lists four generic defeating conditions:

(i) the subject or conditions under which the apparent perception was made are of a sort that have proved to be unreliable;
(ii) there is inductive evidence that it is not possible for the subject to have perceived what he or she claimed to perceive;
(iii) background evidence shows that very probably the apparent object was not present; and
(iv) there is evidence that the apparent object probably was not part of the cause of the perception.

Swinburne's argument for (5) consists in attempting to show for each of the four generic defeaters (i–iv) that the only way in which they could apply to religious experiences, given the actual facts about such experiences, is if it could be shown that it is significantly more probable than not that God does not exist.

To demonstrate that if S 's apparent perception of x gives S a prima-facie justification for believing that it is probable that x exists, thus giving a prima-facie justification for anyone to believe likewise, then appeal need be made only to the weaker version of the principle of testimony. Swinburne spells this out as holding that "if e is evidence for h" [evidence in the premises of the arguments from the nature of human life], "this is a relation which holds quite independently of who knows about e" (Existence of God, 260). The subject of the experience is more certain of its occurrence than the hearer who must take the subject's word for it, and thus, as Swinburne points out, there is some small decrease in the probability of the proposition relative to the hearer over what it has relative to the subject—"if S reports that it seems (epistemically) to S that x is present, then that is reason for others also to believe that x is present, although not as good reason as it is for S if in fact he is having the experience which he reports" (Existence of God, 274).

The four generic defeater tests applied to religious experiences

i. reliable claim

The test set for religious experiences by defeater (i) requires that "Most religious experiences are had by men who normally make reliable claims, and have not recently taken drugs" (Existence of God, 265). And this test is in fact passed by most religious experiences. It is unclear how their reliability in "normal" cases, such as making claims based on ordinary sense experience, has any relevance to their competence or ability to have veridical non-sensory perceptions of God. The cases are too unlike, because we can specify what constitutes a normal perceiver and standard conditions for sense experience but not for religious experience, a point that Swinburne himself emphasizes (see Existence of God, 262 and 269). God is a supernatural being who freely decides upon whom to bestow grace by making himself an object of their experience. What Swinburne really does is to argue that religious experiences cannot run afoul of (i) because the test it poses is conceptually inapplicable to them.

ii. the claim is true

Defeater (ii) requires that normally claims based on religious experience are true. But the only way in which it could be shown that religious experiences fail to satisfy this requirement is "If there was a good proof of the non-existence of God.... But the point here is that the onus of proof is on the atheist; if he cannot make his case the claim of religious experience stands." The prima-facie probability it bestows on the claim to have perceived God is yet to be defeated.

Swinburne also considers another way in which the veridicality of religious experiences might be impugned—by appeal to the conflicting claims that are made on the basis of religious experiences within different religious traditions, representing these claims as mutually inconsistent and contradictory. Swinburne's strategy is to argue that the extent of the conflict has been exaggerated, and that for the most part these claims can be shown to be compatible, since God could choose to present himself under different guises to persons who are in different cultural circumstances.

However, Swinburne does not seem to consider the possibility that the most striking of the apparent differences in claims of religious experiences within different religious traditions could be due to opposing demonic manifestations and phenomena, which sceptics also reject. Compare 1 Corinthians 8:5, 1 Corinthians 10:20, 2 Corinthians 11:14, Galatians 4:8 and 1 John 4:1.

See Demon, Ghost, Magic, New age movement, Occultism, Paranormal, Possession, Spiritism, Thelema, Theosophy, Voodoo, Witch.

iii. God was present

The requirement set by defeater (iii) would be flunked by religious experiences only if it could be shown that very probably God was not present to be perceived, and so the subject could not have perceived him. But if there is a God, he is everywhere. He is only not present if he does not exist. So to use this challenge, you have to prove that very, very probably there is no God, and, as stated above, the onus is on the atheist to do so (Existence of God, 269). The prima-facie probability that apparent perceptions of God are veridical is not defeated by the fact that most other perceivers fail to have similar experiences, the reason being the above stated one that we do not know that all persons with certain equipment and concepts could be expected to have experience of God, if he was there… the fact that there are no obvious disconfirming observations (no observations of the absence of God) which could be made, has the consequence that the original perceptual claim is, on its own, somewhat less evidence of the existence of God (Existence of God, 269). But it does not lessen the claim so much that it becomes less than one-half [ < 50/50], and thus its initial claim to being prima facie probably true is not defeated. Swinburne is showing that some potential defeating test is conceptually not applicable to religious experiences. A critic would say this raises doubt about their cognitivity.[12]

iv. God was the cause

Swinburne holds that if theism is true, religious experiences cannot run afoul of defeater (iv), which requires in this case that they be caused by God. God is the ultimate cause of everything, and moreover is omnipresent, not in the sense of being physically present everywhere, which would make him an enormous cosmic organism, but in being able to bring about effects at any place, including a perception of himself by those upon whom he bestows this grace. "If there is a God, any experience which seems to be of God, will be genuine—will be of God" (Existence of God, 270). Thus, religious experiences pass the test imposed by (iv) with flying colours, assuming theism. If the prima-facie probability that this experience bestows on the existence of God is to be defeated, the onus again is on the atheist to show that it is significantly improbable that God exists.

To see how he justifies his strong demand, readers must begin with Swinburne's generic account of defeater (iii) that the apparent object x of S 's experience wasn't present or existent. "It has to make it very improbable that x was present if it is to outweigh the force of S 's experience sufficiently for it to remain more probable than not that x was not present" (Existence of God, 261). Because religious experiences have an apparent object that is qualitatively remote from the subject's past experiences and do not admit of the possibility of disconfirming experiences, Swinburne lowers his demand on the defeater so that it need show only that it is significantly more probable than not that God does not exist, rather than very probable. "But for these qualifications, I would have concluded that a religious experience apparently of God ought to be taken as veridical unless it can be shown on other grounds that very, very probably God does not exist" (Existence of God, 270).

According to the Principle of Credulity, an apparent experience of x renders it prima facie probable that x is present, subject to challenge by certain defeaters. Both a metaphysical and an epistemological requirement for being a perceptual experience can be extracted from this. The metaphysical condition requires that the apparent object of the experience admits of the possibility of "objective" existence, meaning that it can exist unexperienced, independently of any perceiver, and is capable of being the common accusative [13] (cause of the effect) of different perceptions. The epistemological condition requires that the experience admit of the veridical-unveridical distinction by appeal to background defeaters or tests. This resembles the scientific requirement of falsifiability.

Swinburne obviously thinks that religious experiences are subject to the agreement test, for he counts agreement among different observers as confirmatory of the veridicality of their religious experiences (Existence of God, 263).[14]

A summary of Swinburne's arguments from miracles and religious experience

Richard Swinburne points out the fact that there are many reports of occasional miraculous events, events which violate laws of nature. Some of these reports are apparently false, spread by unreliable witnesses. He uses the word "men" in the classic sense of meaning "human beings", male and female, generically, as individual members of the species "man" (homo sapiens). When men have claimed to see others levitate (float on air) or recover instantaneously from some disease, some of these reports are just false. But sometimes, when men have reported correctly some very strange event, although it seemed to be a violation of natural law, it was not. Magnetism might once have seemed miraculous to some people, but it is a perfectly orderly scientific phenomenon.

But laying aside all such cases, Swinburne suggests that a residue of apparently well-authenticated highly unusual events apparently contrary to laws of nature, but such as a God would have reason for bringing about (for example, a spontaneous cure of cancer in answer to much prayer) is veridical evidence. And there is the supreme reported miracle—the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. In The Existence of God Swinburne declines to discuss the historical evidence for the Resurrection (or any other reported miracle). His only point is that in so far as there is good historical evidence of the physical resurrection of Jesus, it is evidence of the occurrence of an event which quite clearly violates the laws of nature and so calls for an explanation different from the scientific. Theism is able to explain these and the most general phenomena of science and more particular historical facts, but it is also able to explain our own individual religious experiences. To many people throughout history and today it has seemed at different moments of their lives that they were aware of God and His guidance.

It is a basic principle of knowledge that we ought to believe that things are as they seem to be, until we have evidence that we are mistaken. If you say the contrary, "never trust appearances until it is proved that they are reliable", what would show that appearances were reliable, except more appearances? As people must trust their five ordinary senses, so it is equally rational for them to trust their religious sense. An opponent may say, "people trust their ordinary senses (for example, sight) because it agrees with the senses of others: what they claim to see others claim to see; but their individual religious sense does not argue with the senses of others, who don't always have religious experiences at all, or have the same kind of experience." It is important to realize that the rational individuals apply the principle of credulity before they know what other men experience. They rightly trust their own personal senses even if there is no other observer to check them. If another observer reports that he seems to see what you seem to see, you thereafter have to remember that he did so report, and that means relying on your own memory of how things seem without present corroboration. Religious experiences often do coincide with those of many others in their general awareness of a power beyond ourselves guiding our lives. If some do not have these experiences, even when these experiences coincide with the experiences of others, this suggests that they are blind to religious realities, just as one person's inability to see colors does not show that the many who claim to see colors are mistaken, only that this individual is color blind.

It is basic to human knowledge of the world that we believe things are as they seem to be in the absence of positive evidence to the contrary. Someone who seems to have an experience of God should believe the experience, unless evidence can be produced that this belief is mistaken. And it is another basic principle of knowledge that those who do not have an experience of a certain type ought to believe many others when they say that they do, that is, in the absence of evidence of mass delusion.

The significance of Swinburne's conclusions

Swinburne's case for the existence of God is a cumulative one. He claims that the existence and continued operation of God (normally through the laws of nature, but sometimes setting them aside) can explain the whole pattern of science and history, and also men's most intimate religious experiences. There is enough evidence to support the hypothesis that the existence of God is more probable than not.

Swinburne subsequently wrote a more accessible account of his arguments for the existence of God in Is There a God? (1996), and published an even more straightforward account in his paper "The Justification of Theism" (2002).

No matter what one makes of Swinburne’s conclusions, the work does succeed in pushing individual philosophers and students to consider what it would mean for the proposition "God exists" to be deemed a probable as opposed to demonstrable proposition, a subtle but important distinction that really does change the nature of how arguments for the existence of God might be treated.

The Ontological Argument, The Cosmological Argument, The Teleological Argument, The Consciousness Argument, The Moral Argument, The Providence Argument, The Miracles Argument: These are interesting arguments and have been the subject of discussion among philosophers for centuries. However, most religious people do not defend their beliefs using any philosophical rhetoric at all. Most religious people will defend their belief based upon their experience and the reliable testimony of others.

What is missing from Swinburne's arguments is the concomitant conclusive obligation (duty) to directly and personally acknowledge God, to worship and serve God. Isaiah 45:22 Micah 6:8 Mark 16:16 Romans 2:4-11

The argument of Jesus Christ

Mark 16:14 multiple translations He upbraided them for their incredulity and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen him.

John 7:16-18 Douay-Rheims He that seeketh the glory of him that sent him, he is true, and there is no injustice in him. (truthful testimony)

John 7:17 multiple translations Anyone who wants to do the will of God will know whether My teaching is from God.

John 8:47 multiple translations Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.

John 15:22 multiple translations If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin.

The argument of Jesus Christ for the existence of God is wholly intuitive. See Romans 1:19-21 Light has come into the world, and men love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil.

Experiences of the absence of God: a negative principle of credulity

Critics maintain that Swinburne's argument from experience is neither compelling nor adequate to prove the existence of God, and that it can equally be used by atheists as a negative argument to disprove God's existence. See Skeptic.

Response: Atheist Michael Martin

Atheist Michael Martin has criticised Swinburne’s use of the principle of credulity. If, as Swinburne suggests, experiences are generally to be treated as veridical, as accurately representing the world, then this allows an argument from the absence of religious experience to be constructed. An atheist who experiences the absence of God can argue, using the principle of credulity, that the world is probably as this experience represents it as being: godless. For any person S and any hypothetical object x, if S, on the basis of an apparent null experience of x, takes it that x does not exist, then prima facie it is probable that S 's experience is veridical and thereby x does not exist (a Negative Principle of Credulity). If an atheist as a test, or in extremis,[15] prays to God to give evidence of God's existence and nothing happens, and the atheist takes it from this null experience that God does not exist, then prima facie it is probable that the atheist's experience is veridical and thereby evidence that God does not exist. Arguments from religious experiences to the existence of God can thus be met with arguments from atheist experiences to the non-existence of God, a negative principle of credulity. What will result will, presumably, be a tie, other things being equal.

The negative principle of credulity argument is an example of the obvious fallacy of an Argument from silence and the Black-swan fallacy. It is a form of sarcastic ridicule of Swinburne's principle of credulity and a classic example of a specious argument.[16] "The absence of evidence does not constitute evidence of absence."

See Burden of proof.

Swinburne's response: Invalid application of the principle of credulity

However, this last response of proposing a negative principle of credulity disregards the reported experiences of former atheists whose own unexpected personal experiences of God have persuaded them to convert to theism. Against the Negative Principle of Credulity Swinburne responds by arguing that this negative principle of credulity is false. Swinburne carefully states his positive principle of credulity, "if it seems to a subject that x is present, then probably x is present", so that it does not apply to experiences of absences. He rejects the negative principle, "if it seems to a subject that x is not present, then probably x is not present". This negative principle, he suggests, would only be a good one in cases where it is reasonable to believe that if x were present then the subject would experience x. There is no reason, however, to suppose that if God existed then the atheist would experience him, and so the negative principle of credulity does not apply to atheists' experiences of the absence of God.

The Principle of Credulity says that we should trust the deliverances of experience, unless we have a reason to doubt their validity. Sceptics would argue that religious experience is the result of wishful thinking or projection. It seems to them very plausible that even if God did not exist, people would still be inclined to imagine that there is a God and even imagine that they are having experiences of God, when in fact their experience is not veridical. So sceptics suggest that perhaps the Principle of Credulity should be restricted in those cases where wishful thinking is, a priori, a very plausible explanation for why someone might have a certain experience, and that perhaps the tests and checking procedures for a religious experience should be more rigorous than in other cases. Thus the theory that religious experience is delusionary would also explain some of the vast differences which different religious people claim to have in their "experience" of God, namely, that people "experience" what they want to experience.

This is the sceptic's logical fallacy of cherry picking. If an atheist had an experience of God, the committed atheist could freely dismiss it afterward as an aberrent psychological experience having no objective external reality. This is the fallacy of Solipsism.

Religious experiences rejected as evidence by many other thinkers

Swinburne’s attempts to show that religious experiences can be accepted as evidence for the existence of God have been rejected by many other thinkers. For example, the British philosopher Anthony Flew argues that a religious experience, which by its nature must be personal and subjective, cannot be used to give us objective information. Peter Vardy [17] maintains that the principles of credulity and testimony may apply to day-to-day events, but the claim to have had a direct experience of God is so extraordinary that people are entitled to be more sceptical and to require greater levels of proof. Another reason some people are sceptical of the claim that religious experiences demonstrate that God exists is that such experiences can be held to have very natural explanations. Freud argued that certain types of religious experience represent the attempt of unhappy people to recreate the first months of life when the universe was nothing but ‘I’ and life was a blissful unity. He called this the oceanic feeling. Also, sociologists suggest that religious experiences play a key role in societies that are insecure and threatened, as demonstrated by the visions of the children in former Yugoslavia during the 1980s and 1990s.

But having shown that people readily apply the Principle of Credulity to beliefs based upon apparent memories and sense experiences so as to avoid scepticism, Swinburne states: "And if it is all right to use it for other experiences, they need a good argument to show that it is not all right to use it for religious experiences" (p. 254).

Richard Swinburne's observation on sceptical rejection of the validity of anecdotal evidence on the principle of testimony parallels other researchers' similar rejection of a priori dismissals of evidence by the PseudoSkepticism Movement.[18] Pseudo-Skeptics are fond of repeating one of their Gospel laws, "anecdotal evidence is invalid" to dismiss any and all paranormal experiences they deem to be impossible. This includes testimonials from credible reliable people.[19]

Former atheists' experiences of God and their testimony

Against the objection by many thinkers who reject the argument from religious experience as valid evidence for the existence of God, many former atheists have testified to unexpected religious experiences they could not dismiss in which they personally encountered God and in response wholly embraced theism.[20]

Profile: Information on Richard Swinburne

Richard G. Swinburne is an Orthodox Christian philosopher and theologian and Emeritus Nolloth Professor of the Philosophy of the Christian Religion, University of Oxford. He is a convert to Orthodox Christianity.

Richard Swinburne was born on December 26, 1934 at Smethick, Staffordshire. He attended school at Charterhouse before entering compulsory national service in the Royal Navy. While in naval service he became an interpreter of Russian.

Upon completion of his national service, Swinburne entered Oxford University as an undergraduate in 1954. His studies included philosophy, politics, and economics. He graduated in 1959 with a B.Phil. in philosophy. During the following years, Swinburne, with the aid of two research fellowships, became devoted to learning about the history of the physical and biological sciences and developing a philosophy. Having intended to be ordained in the Church of England, he attended St. Stephen's House, Oxford, an Anglican theological college. After obtaining the University Diploma in Theology, Swinburne devoted himself full-time to philosophical work and abandoned his plans for ordination.

In 1963, Swinburne accepted a position as lecturer in philosophy at the University of Hull. During the following years he pursued the feeling that a true metaphysical system, that he considered the Christian system of theology to be, must be based on the achievements of the sciences. Over the following years his thoughts were presented in a long series of books and publications. His first book, published in 1968, was Space and Time, followed by An Introduction to Confirmation Theory.

In 1972, he became Professor of Philosophy at the University of Keele. During the next twelve years he published his trilogy on philosophy of Theism: The Coherence of Theism (1993, revised 1997), The Existence of God (1979; 2nd edition, 2004), and Faith and Reason (1981; 2nd edition, 2005). During the period of 1982 to 1984, Swinburne presented in the Gifford Lectures his thoughts on the relation of mind and body. Over the following decades Swinburne continued to publish his work.

In 1985, he became Nolloth Professor of the Philosophy of Christian Religion at Oxford. In 1992, he was made a fellow of the British Academy. Over the following decade he was a visiting professor overseas at many American and other universities, as well as publishing his tetralogy on Christian Doctrines. In 1995, he became a member of the Orthodox Church. In 2002, he retired from the Nolloth Chair and has devoted himself to producing second editions to his many works.

Honors

Emeritus Nolloth Professor of the Philosophy of the Christian Religion, University of Oxford

Emeritus Fellow of Oriel College, Oxford

Fellow of the British Academy.

Interests

All the central questions of philosophy.

The meaning and justification of the central claims of Christianity.

Education

1952 Open Scholarship in Classics to Exeter College, Oxford.

1954-7 Undergraduate at Oxford, reading for B.A. in Philosophy, Politics and Economics obtained with First Class Honours in 1957.

1957-9 Read B.Phil in Philosophy at Oxford.

1958-61 Fereday Fellow, St. John's College, Oxford.

1959-60 Read Oxford Diploma in Theology obtained with distinction in 1960.

1961-63 Leverhulme Research Fellow in the History and Philosophy of Science, University of Leeds.

1960-1963 Research Fellowships devoted to learning science and the history of science.

Appointments

Lecturer (1963–69), and Senior Lecturer (1969–72), in Philosophy, University of Hull.

Visiting Associate Professor of Philosophy, University of Maryland, 1969-1970.

Professor of Philosophy, University of Keele, 1972-85.

Nolloth Professor of the Philosophy of the Christian Religion, University of Oxford, 1985-2002..

Visiting Professorships and Named Special Lectureships

1975-78 Wilde Lecturer in Natural and Comparative Religion, University of Oxford.

1977 Forwood Lecturer in the History and Philosophy of Religion, University of Liverpool.

1980 Marrett Memorial Lecturer, Exeter College, Oxford.

1981 Special Lecturer (in Theology), University of London.

1982 Distinguished Visiting Scholar, University of Adelaide.

1983 Theology 'Faculty' Lecturer, University College, Cardiff.

1982-84 Gifford Lecturer, University of Aberdeen.

1987 Visiting Professor of Philosophy, Syracuse University, Spring Semester.

1987 Edward Cadbury Lecturer, University of Birmingham.

1990 Wade Memorial Lecturer, St Louis University.

1992 Indian Council for Philosophical Research, visiting Lecturer.

1992 Dotterer Lecturer, Penn State University.

1997 Aquinas Lecturer, Marquette University.

2002 (March )Visiting Professor of Philosophy, University of Rome (La Sapienza).

2002 (November) Visiting Professor of Philosophy (Kaminsky Lecturer), Catholic University of Lublin.

2003 (Spring Semester) Visiting Professor, Divinity School, Yale University.

2003(Fall Semester) Visiting (Collins) Professor of Philosophy, St Louis University.

2006 Paul Holmer Lecturer, University of Minnesota

2008 Lawson Lecturer, Stetson University

2009 Forwood Lecturer, University of Liverpool

2013 Sophia /Forum Lecturer, Azusa Paciific Uniiverslty,

2014 Gilbert Ryle Ledturer, Trent University (Ontario).

Bibliography and Cited Works (Selected List)

Books

The following books marked * have an entry in Oxford Scholarship Online, featuring an abstract of each book and the full text of each chapter.

Swinburne, Richard.

. 1968. Space and Time. London: MacMillan and Co.

. 1971. The Concept of Miracle. London: MacMillan and Co. Second Edition 1981.

. 1973. An Introduction to Confirmation Theory. London: Methuen.

. 1977. The Coherence of Theism. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Revised Edition 1993. Oxford: Clarendon Press.* (part 1 of his trilogy on Theism)

. 1979. The Existence of God, Oxford: Clarendon Press. Revised Edition 1991. Oxford: Clarendon Press.* Second Edition 2004. Oxford: Clarendon Press. (part 2 of his trilogy on Theism)

. 1981. Faith and Reason. Oxford: Clarendon Press.* Second Edition 2005. Oxford: Clarendon Press. (part 3 of his trilogy on Theism)

. 1984. Personal Identity. (With Sydney Shoemaker) Oxford: Blackwells.

. 1986. The Evolution of the Soul. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Revised Edition 1997. Oxford: Clarendon Press.* ISBN 0-19-823698-0. (1997 edition online)

. 1989. Responsibility and Atonement. Oxford: Clarendon Press.* (part 1 of his tetralogy on Christian Doctrines)

. 1991. Revelation. Oxford: Clarendon Press.* (part 2 of his tetralogy on Christian Doctrines)

. 1994a. "Intellectual Autobiography" in Reason and the Christian Religion: Essays in Honour of Richard Swinburne. Edited by Alan G. Padgett. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

. 1994b. The Christian God. Oxford: Clarendon Press.* (part 3 of his tetralogy on Christian Doctrines)

. 1996. Is There a God? Oxford: Oxford University Press.

. 1997. Simplicity as Evidence of Truth, The Aquinas Lecture

. 1998. Providence and the Problem of God. Oxford: Clarendon Press.* (part 4 of his tetralogy on Christian Doctrines)

. 2001. Epistemic Justification. Oxford: Clarendon Press.*

. 2003. The Resurrection of God Incarnate. Oxford: Clarendon Press.*

Most Recent Books

. 2007. Revelation (second edition), Oxford University Press.

. 2008. Was Jesus God? Oxford University Press.

. 2013 Mind, Brain, and Free Will, Oxford University Press.

Papers

The Justification of Theism

For the Possibility of Miracles

Spiritual autobiography

Internet Resources

Richard Swinburne’s home page at the University of Oxford. The site includes a comprehensive list of his books and articles. Several papers in pdf format are also available including a response to Richard Dawkins’ criticisms in The God Delusion.

The Justification of Theism is a concise, simplified version of The Existence of God written by Richard Swinburne for the LeaderU website.

Swinburne on the Gifford Lectures website for his 1982-1984 lectures: The Evolution of the Soul

A detailed review of Is There a God? by Gert Korthof

Richard Dawkins dismisses Swinburne’s Is There a God?

Richard Swinburne, "The Vocation of a Natural Theologian," in Philosophers Who Believe, Kelly James Clark, ed. (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1993), pp. 179-202.

Critical assessments

Padgett, Alan G., Editor. 1994. Reason and the Christian Religion: Essays in Honour of Richard Swinburne. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Colin Brown, Miracles and the Critical Mind (Exeter: Paternoster/Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1984), pp. 180–184.

Keith M. Parsons, God and the Burden of Proof: Plantinga, Swinburne, and the Analytic Defense of Theism (Buffalo: Prometheus, 1989).

Nicholas Wolterstorff, Divine Discourse: Philosophical reflections on the claim that God speaks (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995).

References

  1. See the following:
  2. See the following:
    "Richard Swinburne, one of the most distinguished philosophers of religion today..."
    • "Richard Swinburne is an icon of rational theism. He has been praised as being 'perhaps the most significant proponent of argumentative theism today' and 'one of the foremost rational Christian apologists'." —Gabe Czobel, "An Analysis of Richard Swinburne's The Existence of God (2010)" (at infidels.org). Czobel footnotes as sources of these two cited opinions the brief biography preceding Richard G. Swinburne, "The Justification of Theism" (Truth Journal, Leadership University website, 2002), and the brief biography of Richard Swinburne prepared for "The Origin of the Laws of Nature and the Existence of God" panel discussion sponsored by the John Templeton Foundation, respectively.
  3. The Existence of God, by Richard Swinburne (Author) Oxford University Press; 2nd edition (June 3, 2004). 376 pages. ISBN 978-0199271689 ISBN 0199271682.
  4. 4.0 4.1 "veridical" —truthfulness, corresponding to reality; "veridically" —truthfully, actually, corresponding to reality:
  5. See Inside Higher Ed. Serena Golden's July 14, 2010 Review of Ian Glynn's new book, Elegance in Science: The Beauty of Simplicity (Oxford University Press). Glynn is a physiologist with a passion for a concept not usually associated with his field: elegance. Specifically, its application and relevance across a wide range of scientific disciplines, from physiology to physics, astronomy to neurology.
  6. Ceteris Paribus
  7. See also TheFreeDictionary.com "anecdotal evidence"
  8. Merriam-Webster.com "instantiate"
    Dictionary.com "instantiation"
    Oxford Dictionaries.com "instantiate"
  9. This is in stark contrast to the argument of St. Paul in Romans 1:18-22 and Acts 17:30. Compare John 3:19-21, Matthew 13:15 and Wisdom 13:1-9. Even if the probability that God exists is absolutely established beyond doubt, and his existence, justice and intentions become items of evident common knowledge, the Bible testifies that man's freedom would not be curtailed in any way: many individuals could still freely turn away, and even now "they are without excuse". See Psalms 2:1-3 and Deuteronomy 30:19. Swinburne effectively, and unnecessarily, compromises, even sabotages, the potential strength of his evidential argument for God's existence, by not wanting the probability to be "too high". He has in this way chosen to not persuade. He thus intentionally makes his supportive evidence for the existence of God weakened and more easily dismissable, giving opponents of the argument the excuse that "it is not sufficiently compelling nor adequately convincing". Swinburne would do better to adopt the strategy of St. Paul 2 Corinthians 10:5. See Titus 2:15 and 2 Peter 3:9.
    See especially the fact that Jesus gave no opportunity to his opponents to plead ignorance John 15:22 multiple versions.
    See also Fallacy of invincible ignorance and Atheism and arrogance.
  10. Richard Swinburne, "The Problem of Evil"
  11. Catechism of the Catholic Church CCC Part Three: Life in Christ. Section One: Man's Vocation, Life in the Spirit. Chapter One: The Dignity of the Human Person. nn. 1730—1748
    n. 1733. The more one does what is good, the freer one becomes. There is no true freedom except in the service of what is good and just. The choice to disobey and do evil is an abuse of freedom and leads to "the slavery of sin."
    Compare
  12. "cognitivity", roughly "accuracy of perception". See the following:
    Dictionary.com "cognition" (dictionary.reference.com)
    The Philosophy of Cognitive Science (mind.ucsd.edu)
    Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Embodied Cognition (iep.utm.edu)
    Cognitivity Paradox: An Inquiry Concerning the Claims of Philosophy, By John Lange (books.google.com) page 74.
  13. "accusative" See
  14. Examples of agreement among observers discussed at Catholic Online: Apparitions and Appearances (catholic.org)
  15. Oxford Dictionaries definition: "in extremis"
    Merriam-Webster definition: "in extremis"
    TheFreeDictionary definition: "in extremis"
  16. TheFreeDictionary.com. "specious argument" definition
    Dictionary.com "specious" definition.
  17. A biography of Peter Vardy (Philosophy Lecturer, Author) (en.over-blog.com)
  18. Scientific Committee to Evaluate PseudoSkeptical Criticism of the Paranormal SCEPCOP. Exposing the Fallacies and Disinformation of the PseudoSkepticism Movement — Characteristics of PseudoSkeptics vs. True Skeptics: Comparison Chart
  19. Scientific Committee to Evaluate PseudoSkeptical Criticism of the Paranormal SCEPCOP Exposing the Fallacies and Disinformation of the PseudoSkepticism Movement — Dismissing Anecdotal Evidence as Invalid.
  20. See the following

External links

Swinburne's argument from religious experience

Articles on Richard Swinburne

Gifford Lectures: Biography Closer to Truth (from wikipedia:Richard_Swinburne)