Religious Naturalism Today

Zygon 38 (1):111-116 (2003)
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Abstract

Three questions are addressed. First, concerning the definition of naturalism, I accept the characterization by Rem Edwards (1972) but insist on a materialist or physicalist interpretation of these features. Second, the distinctive characteristic of my religious naturalism is an argument that although a theological position based on a physicalist ontology is constrained by physicalism, the ontology itself does not dictate theological content. Theological content can break free of ontology if this content is valuational rather than ontological. Such a valuational theism becomes possible when Rudolf Bultmann's and Fritz Buri's method of existentialist interpretation is wedded to Henry Nelson Wieman's naturalist conception of God. The knowledge of God in events of grace, therefore, is rooted in moments of creative transformation that are themselves always transformative. This approach makes possible a better approach to the problem of objectivity than Bultmann could achieve. Third, concerning the chief issues facing religious naturalism today, I argue that religious naturalists should more forthrightly confront the issue of ontological materialism and that the most pressing issue concerns thinking out more fully the religious or theological content to be ascribed to such a position after the nature of naturalism is resolved.

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