Friday, April 3, 2009

Kalb on TLS

James Kalb, author of The Tyranny of Liberalism, kindly reviews The Last Superstition over at his blog. I thank him for his comments, but would want to clarify a couple of points. First, it’s not Christianity per se the truth of which I argue for in the book, but rather the truth of certain praeambula fidei or “preambles” of the Christian faith, namely the existence of God, the immortality of the soul, and the reality of the natural moral law. (To be sure, I do think that there are compelling arguments for the truth of Christianity specifically, but making that case would take another book.) And while I do hold that faith often involves (in Kalb’s words) “the habit of standing by views that are demonstrably correct in the face of nonrational temptations to abandon them” – this is, as I argue in TLS, what we do when we continue to trust in the goodness of God in the face of evil – I would not say that that is all there is to faith. In the strict theological sense, faith is an assent to truths known to be divinely revealed, and which could not be known other than through divine revelation (e.g. the Trinitarian nature of God). Part of what I wanted to emphasize in the book is that (contrary to the usual caricature) faith does not involve an ungrounded will to believe; though it involves trusting in what divine authority has revealed, the claim that such-and-such really has been revealed is nevertheless something for which rational arguments should (and, in the case of the central claims of Christianity, can) be given. But precisely because that which is “taken on faith” in this way cannot be known directly through philosophical arguments, it is bound to be more mysterious to us than that which can be directly known in that way. So, I agree with Kalb that we should avoid too rationalistic an account of the object of faith – my point was rather that the act of faith is still perfectly rational.


  1. It's strange that so many people (both admirers and detractors) seem to want to shove TLS into the niche of 'Christian Apologetics'. That's not what TLS is, Ed comes right out and says that's not what it is, etc.

    One thing I really appreciate about Ed's approach is that I think a belief in God in the broad sense - a basic, vague theism - is of dire importance to Christianity. Meaning that it's important to have a (rational, natural) belief in God before taking the intellectual step of belief in Christianity. Ed does a great job of showing the basic rationality of that broad belief, and I hope more people realize how important that particular step is.

  2. Dr. Feser, I've heard you state before that you think "that there are compelling arguments for the truth of Christianity specifically, but making that case would take another book." Since I enjoyed TLS so much, a "sequel" of sorts as you describe would be much welcomed. Do you have any plans to write such a book in the future?

  3. Nothing to do with Kalb but thought you might be interested in the (short) comment at

  4. Anonymous at 1:11,

    Yes, in my view the right approach to Christian apologetics doesn't begin with Christianity at all, but starts by showing that naturalism isn't even in the running. The existence of God, the immateriality of the mind, and the natural law -- or some variation on these ideas, anyway -- are the deliverances of sound philosophy, and form the background of any further investigation. Only then do we get to the really serious and interesting stuff: Is it a purely philosophical theism we should go with? If so, which? Or is some purportedly revealed religion true? If so, which one? Naturalism is two steps removed from the truth. The serious contenders for our allegience are Platonism or neo-Platonism, Aristotelianism, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, etc.


    Yes, I do. But when? That I don't know yet.

    Anonymous at 8:00,

    Thanks, I'll take a look.

  5. Off topic: as you know Craig debated Hitchens today, but the videos are not in youtube yet.

    Anyway, look at this brief video where Hitchens appeared at a debate panel at the Christian Book Expo with other panelists like William Lane Craig and other Christian thinkers.