School of Historical and Philosophical Studies - Theses

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    An examination of an argument of E.L. Mascall's in The Christian universe
    Hughes, David John Malcolm ( 1977)
    E.L. Mascall's book The Christian Universe was chosen as as a basis for this thesis because the argument he presents there is a distinctively modern attempt to provide a justification for religious belief. Although it is not merely a reiteration of the traditional arguments, it is deployed in the same way to provide grounds for belief in God. While not dismissing or discounting the value of recent work done in clarifying uses of language in religious contexts -- indeed, the methods and fruits of linguistic and conceptual analysis have been employed in interpreting and assessing the force of Mascall's argument -- there remains the substantial question of whether engaging in religious discourse finally has any point. The impetus to investigate this problem - and thus Mascall's attempt to answer the problem - was gained from an article by- H.E. Root ("Beginning All Over Again," Soundings, A.R. Vidler (ed.), C.U.P., London, 1966). In it be upbraids Christian theologians who . suppose, they can justify their beliefs by reference to revelation. He points out that unless they can give a more appropriate reason for what they believe "there are no grounds for believing that a Christian scheme is preferable to some non-Christian one" and the choice between "Christianity and some other religion (or note) becomes arbitrary, irrational, even trivial" (p.13). There are no easy solutions to this old problem of justifying belief in God. It is significant even to make a small advance in understanding what could provide such a justification. In treating Mascall's argument attention has been paid to the distinct notion, implied there, that the 'usefulness' of the belief -- the function it performs in satisfying the human need for sense and meaning in life -- is a basis, or part of a basis, for asserting that there is such a God, To treat grounds for belief in this way provides a. new insight into theistic argument.