The Reformulation of the Question as to the Existence of God

Part of the American University Publications in Philosophy book series (MNPL, volume 29)


This essay attempts to indicate the current status, within one frame of reference, of the question as to the existence of God. It is undertaken because the current reformulation of this question seems quite neglected in philosophical discussion, yet would change radically the nature of the issues to be discussed. The central theme of the paper is that Professor Paul Tillich reformulated this problem so as to transform the entire discussion as to the existence of God. But more importantly, it is argued that his reformulation itself has been challeged so as to throw in doubt God’s existence in the only significant sense that Tillich would allow. It is the contention of the paper that this challenge establishes the most recent locus of the discussion between contemporary philosophical naturalism and modern theism, has received little elaboration, and poses a new set of problems to which philosophy of religion must speak to be relevant on the contemporary philosophic scene. Traditional philosophy of religion usually dealt with the problem of the existence of God by discussing the possibility of the existence of some Being which was not reducible to the finite subject or to the natural world. Arguments for and against such a reality were continually offered. This tradition in philosophy of religion continues even in recent analytic philosophy with discussions of verifiability and falsifiability.


Phenomenological Analysis Current Reformulation Philosophical Anthropology Ultimate Concern Spiritual State 
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  1. 1.
    Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology, Vol. 1 (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1951), P. 211. Unfortunatey, many seem to interpret Tillich as if he were writing about that God who first exists and then demands that one should be ultimately concerned about Him, in spite of Tillich’s specific denial of this intention.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    For a further discussion of this point see Harold A. Durfee, “The Relationship Of Philosophy, Theology, And Religion,” The Journal Of Religion, 32 (1952), pp. 188–197.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    See James Luther Adams, Paul Tillich’s Philosophy Of Culture, Science, Religion (New York: Harper & Row, 1965), p. 222.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Tillich, op. cit., p. 216.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Adams, op. cit., p. 219.Google Scholar
  6. 6a.
    Strangely enough there are suggestions of this objectification even in D. M. Brown, Ultimate Concern (New York: Harper & Row, 1965).Google Scholar
  7. 6b.
    James Luther Adams, Paul Tillich’s Philosophy Of Culture, Science, Religion (New York: Harper & Row, 1965), p. v, vi, 49.Google Scholar
  8. 7.
    Sidney Hook, The Quest For Being (New York: St. Martin’s, 1961), p. 141.Google Scholar
  9. 8.
    Ibid., p. 226.Google Scholar
  10. 9.
    John H. Randall Jr. Nature And Historical Experience (New York: Columbia University Press, 1958), p. 157.Google Scholar
  11. 10.
    Ibid., p. 199.Google Scholar
  12. 11.
    Adams, op. cit., pp. 222–223.Google Scholar
  13. 12.
    For a naturalistic analysis of the religious function see John. H. Randall, Jr., The Role Of Knowledge In Western Religion (Boston: Starr King, 1958), Chapter 4.Google Scholar
  14. 13.
    This critique of absolute “starting points” involves, for Randall, a serious critique of empirical epistemologies which have constantly interpreted “experience” itself as such a firm starting point. See John H. Randall, Jr., Nature And Historical Experience, pp. 9–10. The elimination of final contexts also places drastic limitations upon the analysis of Being. See Herbert W. Schneider, Ways Of Being (New York: Columbia University Press, 1962).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, Dordrecht 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The American UniversityUSA

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