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Skepticism, pluralism, and the presence of God.


In writing about the presence of God in this essay, I assume a rather thorough skepticism about comprehensive worldviews, whether those worldviews are grounded in philosophical, theological, or other approaches. I take quite seriously, however, human experiences that are often described as experiences of the "presence" of God. I include within these experiences those that are at the root or beginnings of great communal theistic religions, such as Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. These may be described as originative or foundational experiences, since a long history of human worship and understanding of God traces back to each of them. I am also interested in alternative experiences that are sometimes described as experiences of God, such as the "higher power" experienced by some people in twelve-step programs, and I am very interested in individual experiences of God that may either be inspired by originative experiences or be at significant variance with dominant religions.

An even more inclusive discussion might explore the relation in Hinduism between the absolute God Brahman and the more accessible Gods, such as Shiva or Vishnu. In this paper, I distinguish between the primordial reality and the reality of a presence. It would be interesting to explore whether these categories are relevant to the Hindu pantheon. In Islam, the Sufis are perhaps the most relevant group in a discussion of God's presence. Buddhism is a very complex matter, in this respect. Only Jainism seems to lack a contact point with God's presence. As William Dalrymple puts it, the Tirthankaras one sees "in [Jain] temples represent not so much a divine presence as a profound divine absence." (1) However, this essay will be developed with Western monotheism in mind. My most compelling examples will be from communities and individuals with Jewish and Christian roots.

I will explore here concrete, even intimate descriptions of the presence of God, accounts developed within both communities and individual lives. I will also explore fairly abstract philosophical issues to provide a vocabulary and a possible context for interpreting these reported experiences or moments of awareness. However, I do not commit to any definitive interpretation. Several themes will recur in this essay: (1) One can take very seriously human awareness of a liminal or divine "presence," even while maintaining a noncommitted or skeptical stance toward final theories of "everything" or any definitive or inclusive metaphysics. (2) Ecumenical discussion is best served by hearing the various accounts of divine presence, without committing to any particular meta-interpretation of those accounts. An appropriate stance can combine deep interest in and care about narratives of presence with a skeptical view of human ability to know it all. (3) My approach is pluralistic in several ways. Obviously, it is open to narratives of presence from many religious traditions, both individual and communal. Also, my view takes seriously the pluralism of the crucial concept of "personhood." Since persons have privacy as well as presence (and, if God is personal, God has both deep privacy and available presence), there is always a differentiation of personal beings from one another, each of which has an unknowable privacy. Finally, suggestions about any ultimate reality must allow for a possible pluralism of irreducible realities. There may not be a single One including and grounding all lesser realities. The experience of presence may be irreducible, but not the only finality. Even a concept of space must allow for personal, pluralistic space, with pluralistic spaces defining the relation of God and finite persons.

The six sections of this essay involve distinct topics and different styles and resources. They might be thought of as six courses in a tasting menu. Somewhat less metaphorically, they are six vignettes in search of a God. (2) The variations in my approach correlate with a God who, I claim, appears intermittently. In these earliest paragraphs and at a few subsequent times, I try to provide some connective tissue, so that these six approaches do not become arbitrary.

Rather than beginning with the views of well-known philosophers and theologians, it may be of value to note a somewhat unusual, not-very-well-known monotheistic faith. The Friday Apostolic Church is centered in Zimbabwe, with about 100,000 adherents. I choose to begin here for two reasons: (1) Though many religious traditions seek to create an awareness of the presence of God, the Friday Apostolic Church is unique in having an apparently exclusive focus on or awareness of God's presence. It excludes anything that, in other traditions, might mediate God's presence (such as sacraments) but that might also occlude an awareness of God's presence. (2) It is a tradition that is probably unfamiliar to many religious scholars, in comparison with Jewish, Roman Catholic, Orthodox, or major Protestant traditions. The uniqueness and unfamiliarity of this tradition will help us focus on the presence of God and exclude other ecumenical issues.

The preoccupation of this church is with encouraging an immediate "live and direct" awareness of the presence of God. Though it is a Christian church, it does not allow or encourage the reading of the Bible. Biblical texts can only record what happened in the past; they are not themselves "live and direct." Worship services are held outdoors in a clearing, rather than in a constructed place of worship. There are no sacraments. The overriding concern is to move away from material representations in order to clear the ground for an immediacy of experience. The focus is on the immateriality of God's presence. Healing services are central to the gatherings for worship. A prophet speaks, and the people sing, usually unaided by musical instruments or hymnbooks. The human voice, whether spoken or sung, is the critical means of presence. The crucial thing about the voice is that it is there and present, then it is gone. There is no material remainder. Recordings of the prophet's words or of the music are not encouraged and usually not allowed. A voice is present, then absent. (3)

The originating Prophet was Johane Masowe, who experienced God's presence in the 1930's. He adopted the name Johane Masowe ("John of the Wilderness") since he identified with and claimed to be John the Baptist. Despite a powerful experience of God, he stumbled for some years as he tried to understand what his message and method were to be. As his approach began to resolve itself, he centered on the immediate presence of God without any material intermediary. Other prophets came along, more or less in this tradition, but with theological and practical differences. A related group, for instance, is the Saturday Apostolic Church.

In Matthew Engelke's brilliant anthropological analysis of this movement, A Problem of Presence, one appreciates the struggles of its followers to find their own way in the thickets of faith. There is a vocabulary or language that goes with this approach. People "inhabit" the language or way of speaking that goes with this community. "Mutemo" describes the way in which followers become immersed in or enveloped by the faith that God is immediately present. One's emotions, way of interpreting the ups and downs of life, way of treating others, and everyday language are all part of the knowledge and the law that are implied by the presence of God. (4) Of course, secular atheists also have a favored vocabulary and way of looking at things, so one senses quickly their more general worldview after listening attentively for a bit. We all "read" one another, picking up clues from a few phrases. People choose their vocabulary to strengthen or support others in a similar explanatory system, whether that system is atheism or the Friday Apostolic Church.

Despite the effort to avoid what Engelke called the "thingification" of the experience of God, it is possible to go "off track" with this approach. Prophets speak the words that can embody the presence of God, but they are frail humans who can become greedy or lustful or manipulative. Sometimes the community is tempted to build something, even build something that might seem beneficent to many of us, such as a hospital. One can be distracted by "things," including body stiffness, even in the midst of worship. It is possible for singers or speakers to call attention to themselves, rather than to the presence of God. Vigilance is required to live in mutemo, a way that is constantly open to the presence of God. (5)

One thinks, of course, of the worship of Quakers, who focus on long periods of silence, rather than singing or speaking, as the way to be in God's presence. Many Christian churches focus on the Bible as critical for knowing God's presence. Others emphasize sacraments as a way of entering into the "real presence" of God. The debate on the means of representation, or re-presentation, divides believers, but all seem to be seeking a presence. (6)

"Presence," as I use it here, is a term that has meaning within the more inclusive category of persons or the personal. On the human level, we speak of a person's presence to another person and, at other times, we sense that a person is not really present. Presence is not a "thing" in the way that a human being is, among other things, an object. The presence of a person always includes the possibility of that person's absence, even while the human being is physically there. A person may be present to another person, while absent from a third person in the same group. People may disagree as to whether a given person is "really" present. In this intense meaning of presence, ambiguity is built into the very nature of things.

Most adherents of the Friday Apostolic Church have some knowledge of the Bible, since in many cases they were members of other Christian communities at some earlier point. Therefore, a certain amount of biblical knowledge circulates in the community. Some biblical language is built into the language that inhabits the community. Engelke speculated about the outcome for the community if children grow up without any biblical training. Will biblical vocabulary disappear from the community? Will it still be possible to make a point by referring to a biblical person or event? How will one then be able to identify the Friday Apostolic community as Christian? The major worship services of the community take place on Friday, since that is the day on which Jesus died, but that of itself presupposes a certain amount of biblical knowledge. (7)

The point, of course, is that it is impossible to have the presence of God without the possibility of the absence of God. It is impossible totally to avoid "things" in the effort to experience the presence. Though the human voice is not as material a thing as something seen or felt or tasted, it does have physical qualities. Prophets can go "off track." Some kind of consensus needs to prevail to sustain a community of presence, which implies some common knowledge or agreement. The presence of God is inherently ambiguous.

The oddity of the idea of God is that humans seek the presence of God even though there is no object there known as "God." What believers experience is a presence, but they also often, perhaps most often, experience an absence. Engelke wrote that "one of the central dynamics of Christian thought is the paradoxical understanding of God's simultaneous presence and absence." (8) Christians believe that Christ "allows for--indeed, he is--proximity to the divine." Though Christ is, for some people, "the answer" to the problem of God's presence, with Jesus's own absence from the world, "the answer becomes conditioned by an absence." (9)


The Friday Apostolic Church provides an example of an intense focus on God's presence. It is necessary to shift gears at this point to develop some categories and terminology. American philosopher Paul Weiss can be helpful at this point. (1) Weiss was always a pluralist, working with several "ultimates," as he sometimes called them. He might have four ultimates or he might have five, as his thought unfolded, but he never thought there was only one ultimate explanation. (2) Weiss was very interested in "privacy" as an important aspect of reality. He sometimes used the term more widely than I do, according some kind of privacy to each ultimate, but his focus on the importance of privacy is relevant. (3) Weiss tried to deal with the actuality of important human fields such as art, sport, education, and religion. It is not possible simply to deduce from a more general metaphysics how actual practitioners of art or sport approach their work. Here, I will try to stay close to the ways humans actually experience God. (4) Weiss developed a unique view of "theological space," which I borrow for my own purposes. (5) Weiss endorsed the thought that there were two major approaches to God, the central concern of this particular section (though Weiss's own views of God differ). Indeed, all of the hints borrowed from Weiss are forms of pluralism, whether speaking of God, space, or persons.

Weiss suggested that two different senses of God are recognized by humans: (a) the all-encompassing, primordial or ultimate God, who is the final explanation of all things; and (b) God as God who is actually present and experienced in human history. As he pointed out, each of these senses is given many names. As examples of one meaning, he offered "ultimate Being," "God beyond God," and "the Hidden God." Examples of the other sense include "the God of Israel," "the Savior," and "Jesus Christ." This other God "is the direct object of a religious encounter in experience, faith, worship and revelation. The two divine realities are related as ground and consequence, whole and subdivision, being and role (persona). Their unity is sensed by the mystic and explicated by the systematic philosopher." (10)

My focus here is on the second usage, the God who is encountered and experienced in human life. Rather than "ground and consequence, whole and subdivision," a person and that person's presence provide the model. This sense of God as presence is not something that explains everything; rather, it is something that needs to be explained. It is an experience that heals a person, rather than concluding an argument. It can create a community of worship that is different from a community of philosophers. It offers a God who is not simply a duplication of the God offered by philosophers. This God is likely to be more eccentric, not nearly so smoothed out, more disturbing and also more comforting than is the "ultimate" God. I will refer to these two understandings as "the primordial God" and "the present God."

We need to know why God matters in the first place before engaging in philosophical reflection on God. Writing of Anselm's ontological proof of God's existence, Norman Malcolm made this point:
   At a deeper level, I suspect that the argument can be thoroughly
   understood only by one who has a view of that human "form of life"
   that gives rise to the idea of an infinitely great being, who views
   it from the inside not just from the outside and who has,
   therefore, at least some inclination to partake in that religious
   form of life.... This inclination can hardly be an effect of
   Anselm's argument, but is rather presupposed in the fullest
   understanding of it. (11)

Malcolm borrowed the expression "form of life" from Ludwig Wittgenstein. What Malcolm and Wittgenstein called a "form of life" seems to be similar to what the Friday Apostolics call mutemo. I would be surprised if many of the Apostolics have heard of the ontological argument. They provide, however, a good example of the mutemo that might also interest us in developing a more philosophical framework.

It is possible to integrate the perspectives of the two Gods. Malcolm, for instance, has made a case for the ontological argument for the existence of God, defined as a being than which no greater can be conceived. In most accounts of this view, God is described by such terms as "omnipotent," "omniscient," and "omnipresent." However, Malcolm's own conclusion takes a fresh, more concretely religious, turn. He described the experience of guilt. "One requires a forgiveness that is beyond all measure, a forgiveness 'a greater than which cannot be conceived.' Out of such a storm in the soul, I am suggesting, there arises the conception of a forgiving mercy that is limitless, beyond all measure. This is one important feature of the Jewish and Christian conception of God." (12) The thought of a greatest conceivable forgiveness is very different from the thought of omnipotence. It is not a trait deduced from the definition of God. Rather, it comes out of living a "form of life," being immersed in a way of life so that one experiences an extraordinary forgiveness. Malcolm suggested a way in which an understanding of the primordial God and the present God might perhaps cohere with one another.

These two views are apparent as early as the first two chapters of Genesis, with its two creation accounts and its two views of God. One God, Elohim, is the God who creates by mandate, who is the ultimate explanation of all things, even light and darkness. The other God, Yahweh, is localized, focused on humans, interactive with humans, and experienced by humans. One God is elegant and primordial. The other God has immediacy, even rawness. Early on, a third perspective, that of the priests who redacted the Torah, held that the two views were both necessary and compatible. (13)

The philosophically defended God is an attempt rationally to articulate and defend an understanding of God as the ultimate source or foundation of all other things. The other sense is of God as a reality experienced by humans throughout history and often by individuals in their own lives.

I am not convinced that the God of philosophical tradition is the same as the God experienced in human struggle. I prefer to use a more neutral term for the ultimate reality. Perhaps it can be called the Primordial or the Urgrund, the ultimate foundation of all things. If we want to make a certain kind of point about the Urgrund, then we might use the term "God." If we want to make a different sort of point, the term "Abyss" is often used (or other terms such as Void, Darkness, Emptiness, Desert, or Nothingness). I am skeptical that humans know whether God or the Abyss is the more accurate description. Perhaps we need to use both terms to capture the richness and complexity of the Urgrund. The two--God and the Abyss--help define one another. Both are shrouded in mystery. H. Richard Niebuhr wrote, "This reality, this nature of things, abides when all else passes. It is the source of all things and the end of all. It surrounds our life as the great abyss into which all things plunge and as the great source whence they all come. What it is we do not know save that it is and that it is the supreme reality with which we must reckon." (14)

Obviously, there is no such "thing" as an Abyss. People who use the term seem to be suggesting that the ultimate state of affairs, as it theoretically might be experienced by humans, is a dizzying, meaningless oblivion. Abyss is a metaphor for the human relation to the Primordial. The crucial issue for humans may be the attitude one takes toward the Primordial. Perhaps faith should not be interpreted as "belief" in the existence of either the primordial God or the Abyss. In this instance, "faith in" may be more profoundly understood in the sense of "trust in" the ultimate mystery.

It might be helpful to compare my distinction with a similar suggestion that is prevalent in process theology. Process theology offers an inclusive speculative cosmology or metaphysics, including God's two natures. It claims that God has two natures: (1) God's primordial nature in and of itself; and (2) God's consequential nature, the consequence of there being a world to which God is related. However, God's consequential nature is not precisely aligned with what I intend as the specific, experienced, historical God encountered in human life and at the root of the great monotheistic religions. Process theology's consequential nature of God is focused on God's experience of the world (the entire world in all its details), rather than on the occasional experience by specific humans of God. My distinction of the primordial God and the experienced, present God differs from the dipolar God of process thought. They presuppose two different frameworks.

It is always debatable what a particular, unusual experience of God might mean, so faith offers its support to the validity or meaningfulness of such an experience. Most of the great monotheistic religions have roots in an original and originating experience or apprehension of God. Later followers have faith (in the sense of "belief') in Mohammed's Night of Power and Excellence, when he was commanded to recite the inspired words of God: "Recite: In the Name of thy Lord who created ..." (15) The experience was of "a revelation revealed," one that cannot be debated because it was directly experienced. (16) Jesus' transfiguration and baptism experiences are described as being accompanied by the presence of the Spirit and an affirmative voice from heaven (Mk. 1:9-11, 9:2-8). (17) Jeremiah is described as one addressed by the word of God (Jer. 1:4-10). Isaiah's powerful vision in the Temple begins, "I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and his train filled the temple" (Is. 6:1-8). The faithful believe these examples point to truthful, valid, revelatory experiences of God. It is debatable how a modern historian might describe what "actually" happened on these archetypal occasions, but it seems clear that something powerful and significant happened on these various occasions, leading to outbursts of history-changing energy.

To say that significant differences exist among Judaism, Christianity, and Islam might serve as a classic example of an understatement, but there are also recognizable continuities among the three understandings of God. Each of them is based on originative, foundational experiences at the root of each religion. Surely, the powerful origins and developments of these religions provide evidence that humans experience in a very raw way the startling presence of a reality they call God (or such names as Yahweh, Abba, or Allah). There may be reductive explanations of these experiences (though I am attempting a very modest development of an affirmative context for them), but it seems obvious that they stand in need of some kind of explanation. They cannot simply be ignored.

It is also possible for later individuals to have their own encounters with God. It is not surprising that individuals often interpret their own experiences through a vision of God inherited from earlier, archetypal experiences in their traditions. Thousands of spiritual memoirs, diaries, autobiographies, and other genres narrate a personal struggle with the presence of God. Such themes as joy, healing, and empowerment permeate these accounts. I will mention briefly two interesting recent accounts.

Doris Grumbach had one powerful experience of God as a twenty-seven-year-old woman, a mother of two. Sitting alone on the steps of her house, "I was filled with a unique feeling of peace, an impression so intense that it seemed to expand into ineffable joy, a huge delight." (18) At the time, she was not particularly religious, leaning toward a Marxist account of religion. Nonetheless, she "identified, without a moment's doubt, Whose presence it was I was experiencing. I cannot account for this certainty; I only know I was sure." (19) In her account, she had never doubted the validity of that experience, but she also never experienced it again. She has spent significant periods of her life since then in communal prayer and then, having despaired of that approach, in solitary prayer. Her assumption seems to be similar to a thought she quotes from Thomas Merton: "Prayer means yearning for the simple presence of God." (20) The reader profits from her account of this journey, but her immersion in prayer never seems to have yielded a similar experience.

Karen Armstrong's story is different. She entered a convent at age seventeen to prepare for becoming a nun. Her hope was to experience God. "I had wanted to be filled with God, transformed by a holiness that would bring me a fuller and more satisfying existence." (21) It did not turn out that way, however, and she re-entered the secular world a few years later, becoming increasingly skeptical of religion. Years later, however, in a subway station, she had an experience. "Suddenly--at last--all the conflicting pieces of the pattern seemed to fuse into a meaningful whole. I had entered a new dimension of pure joy, fulfillment, and peace: the world seemed transfigured, and its ultimate significance--so obvious and yet quite inexpressible--was revealed. This was God." (22)

After blacking out, she was diagnosed a couple of hours later; she had suffered an epileptic seizure. "Even God, for whom I had searched so long, was simply the product of a faulty brain, a neurological aberration. I went to bed that night in despair." (23)

Over the years, continuing to work as an interpreter of human religions, she was able to come to a different perspective. Her exposure to Judaism, with its emphasis on community and practice, with less focus on belief, opened her to other possibilities. Her encounter with Islam, with its very literal submission to God in the prostration of prayer, added a dimension. Practical involvement in community and social-justice activities became important. Though nothing like her earlier experience has recurred, she now lives with an awareness of God's presence, an awareness of "intense, transcendent" meaning.

Sometimes people have a much milder level of experience. One might hesitate to claim that the experience is of God as such. People develop a way of looking at things that coheres with their faith, tradition, inherited experiences, and perhaps their own personal experiences. This is similar to what Malcolm described as a "form of life." One may then have an experience that coheres with and seemingly confirms this way of looking at things. One might, for instance, read Gerard Manley Hopkins's poem "Pied Beauty." (24) There is astonishment at the reminder of how many things are "dappled" or "pied" or "freckled" or "stippled" in our world. One is astonished at how many words in the English language define and play with this doubleness in life. Perhaps one might experience a joy in the beauty, playfulness, and pairing off that goes on in creation. One might even have a quiet inner doxology within one's deeper being, a brief moment of praise. Such things happen to people. These might be called "confirmatory" experiences. They are not "proofs" of God, not even "arguments," certainly not direct experiences of anything numinous. But they have a power; they are what happens when one lives a certain "form of life" or mutemo. I call them

"confirmatory" because they are seen as confirming an overall understanding of God in which God is present in human life.

When a person wants to speak to another person about the presence of God, the appropriate language is usually not philosophical argumentation. With regard to the presence of God in a pluralist reality, one does not present "proofs." One might engage in "sharing," "witnessing," or "inviting." One person might share his or her experience with another person. A person might witness to a tradition about God in a certain faith community. One might even invite another person to attend a worship service or to go to a twelve-step program or to take a hike in the outdoors.


Traditional views assume that, when we talk about God's presence, God is present at every point of physical space. This omnipresence in physical space seems to be presupposed by the claim that God is actively influencing events at every point of space (or knows every event or entity wherever it may be). There is, however, a crucial difference between omnipresence and presence. No human ever experiences God's omnipresence. The presence of God, on the other hand, is a surprising and intense experience by humans of God, an experience people often seek and from which they sometimes flee.

Omnipresence is not a simple generalization from the idea of God's presence. It is a deduction from particular ideas of a primordial God. The two concepts of omnipresence and presence are at home in different conceptual frameworks or, we might say, two different conceptual spaces.

Presumably, the opposite of omnipresence would be the "omniabsence" of God. It is not clear what that might mean other than a claim for atheism. "Omniabsence" of God would mean the nonreality of God. Yet, if we begin by speaking of the presence of God, it is quite possible also to speak of the absence of God. The play of presence and absence in our awareness of God is, in fact, characteristic of human experience. This mode of language allows us to get at important issues.

"Space" is a metaphor used in many contexts. We speak of artistic space, personal space, internet space, or theatrical space. Each of these uses has its own particular logic, similar to but different from the space explored by physicists.

Weiss wrote of "theological space" as the appropriate context for describing human religious experience. It is in theological space that humans and God interact. It is theological space that allows a single cosmos for God and humans. This is not some pseudophysical space but the unique space in which God and humans are aware of one another. Weiss acknowledged that "most theologians would rebel" against this perspective. Most people assume there needs to be a neutral, common space for God and the world to interact. However, for Weiss theological space is where "that living and accumulated history of the adventures of God and the world" take place. (25)

Theological space is convoluted in a very different way than theatrical space or physical space. Weiss has suggested that it is through theological space that Milton had Satan be hurled headlong. Perhaps his most helpful statement is that in theological space the "measure is not inches or miles but the degree of communication and mutual concern achieved." (26) It is necessary to explore human experience of God in order to get a sense of the shape of theological space. "We have only a faint glimmer of the nature of contorted theological space--but to judge from the accounts of careful students of religious experience, it has sharp dips and surprising bends, easing the progress towards God for a time only to slow it up at another, or sometimes even bringing it to a sudden and momentary halt."(27)

Though Weiss did not mention this particular source of support, it seems that Jesus' parable of the two men who went to pray involves a very similar vision of theological space. One man went and stood by himself in a conspicuous place, thanking God that he was not sinful the way others were. The other man, "standing afar off," simply prayed for mercy. It was this man who was approved by God (Lk. 18:10-14). It is not the physical geography of the Temple that matters here. When Jesus describes the positioning of the two men, he clearly is speaking of their position in theological space. Their relation to God is at stake. People are often not where they think they are in theological space.

Weiss did not return to this theme in his later writings, but I find his thoughts here very suggestive. When we begin with a "top down" approach (this very phrase being itself a spatial metaphor), we assume that God is present at every point of physical space. But, if this is true, it must be true by definition, since no human ever experiences space in this way. The idea of "theological space" allows us to explore the actual religious experience of humans as they seek and struggle with God. Theological space is more compatible with a pluralist approach to God, allowing for ultimate or significant modes other than God. One can explore how God relates to other significant events or entities in theological space, without making vast assumptions about how God is or is not present throughout reality.

This view of God as present has overtones of a Moebius strip, so that there is a kind of dizziness associated with locating God, who is often somewhere else, coming to us from a surprising angle, often on "the other side" of things in theological space.


If we are to take seriously human experience of the presence of God, it is necessary to explore what we mean by a "person" or the "personal." Presence, in the intense way I mean it, is an experience that persons have of one another. It is a relationship that goes on in the "space" between those persons, rather than the physical space that defines them as objects. In the previous section, we examined the kind of "space" that would define the presence of God. Again, Weiss can help with understanding the meaning of "person."

Weiss wrote of the privacy of beings, even of the privacy of modes of being. Each constituent of reality has its own privacy, its way of being within reality. Privacy reaches its most intense form in persons. It is privacy that gives persons intrinsic dignity. A deep interiority defines each person, giving the person dignity or intrinsic value. (28) Such terms as "person," "privacy," and "dignity" are familiar in both law and ethics. (29) The privacy of a person affords that person an inner life that, in many ways, is more important than the vicissitudes of the outer life. Privacy creates an impenetrable barrier to other beings and a mandate that privacy should not be breached. Inner privacy places restraints on any violation of that privacy. It offers richness of experience. It grounds the person's dignity, an intrinsic or basic worth. It opens a radically different dimension of reality and places limits on others. Weiss's work encourages us to think in a more ontological way about these themes. It is privacy that insures a pluralism of persons. (30)

Privacy has a polar relationship with presence. Though there is an interiority that cannot be trespassed or revealed, it is possible for a person to be available to other persons, to offer his or her presence to others. There exists a constant movement between privacy and presence in the lives of persons.

In law and ethics, personhood and privacy are in process, constantly being redefined. Privacy and presence distinguish persons from objects. Personhood is what ethicists would call a "thick" concept, combining aspects of factuality and dimensions of value. (31) They are terms that are rich in both descriptive and evaluative ways. To call someone a person is to describe certain facts and also to imply certain value judgments. To say that a person has privacy is both to describe a distinctive inwardness or interiority and also to ascribe a value to that privacy, which is not to be violated. The word "dignity" comes closer to being a purely evaluative term, but a being has dignity because of its privacy. In the same way, "presence" is a thick term. Some descriptions can warrant language about presence, but it is also highly evaluative.

At this stage of human knowledge, I would err on the side of doing no harm, when deciding which entities are persons. I hold an expansionist view of personhood. Human beings are clearly persons, but I do not rule out describing some forms of nonhuman animal life as personal. I would not deny the possibility of persons that are very different from human beings, whether on other planets or in an angelic realm. The concept of personhood does not have exact edges. No definition is possible that will resolve the tough cases. I do not know, for instance, if living human beings ever reach a point where their personhood no longer exists.

Some may say that the higher animals are important steps in a spectrum but should not be considered persons as such. In this view, only humans are persons in the full sense of the word. That may be. However, we have no way of knowing that other interpretations are not closer to the truth. For instance, perhaps the primordial or present God is the definitive Person. Perhaps angels are also persons, but not in the definitive way (with ultimate privacy, ultimate dignity, ultimate presence) that characterizes God. And, humans may themselves be merely "important steps in a spectrum."

The polarity of subject and object or subjectivity and objectivity is very different from the issue of privacy and presence. In the intense sense I have in mind, "presence" is what can take place between two persons. A person is present to another when that person is attentive to, interested in, and caring about the other person. When both persons are present, the issue is one of intersubjectivity. To say that one person is an object to the other's subjectivity is to miss the point.

It is not clear that anything is ever merely an object to a person. Dividing the world into subjects and objects is a mistake from the beginning. In the twentieth century, such thinkers as Thomas Kuhn, Michael Polanyi, and Karl Popper drastically shifted our understanding of scientific knowledge. Science is not merely a matter of experimentation on quantitative objects. (32) Kuhn taught us to see all scientific knowledge as organized by "paradigms," so that profound changes in science are not marked simply by new quantitative data. They are "paradigm shifts." As chemist and philosopher Polanyi puts it, all knowledge is, in the last analysis, personal knowledge. The idea that the world is an accumulation of quantifiable objects, investigated by experimental or scientific methods, is a relic of an earlier mechanistic philosophy of science. Science itself is an exercise in intersubjectivity, dependent on the community of scientists. There are personal passions and judgments, tacit knowledge, trust, and consensus that go into our knowledge of the world. Knowledge will "always remain personal." (33) Along similar lines, philosopher Popper noted that "scientific objectivity can be described as the intersubjectivity of the scientific method." (34)

Though Polanyi's, Popper's, and Kuhn's studies are the classic works in this rethinking of our knowledge of the world, recent books continue this emphasis. Jimena Canales's A Tenth of a Second explores what has become known as the personal equation. The basis is the idea that humans can perceive or experience the world only in units that are (approximately) a tenth of a second long. A film needs to project more than ten frames a second in order to creation the illusion of fluid motion, rather than a jerky sequence of still pictures. This "personal equation" became crucial as science increasingly needed to measure in much more precise units. For instance, the development of astronomy was influenced by the difficulty of measuring enormous distances with precision, since the personal dimension of experience and reaction time limited the accuracy that was possible. Many value assumptions (including racist assumptions about the speed with which various human groups could respond) went into the attempt to eliminate the personal from science. Research into the personal equation led to research into such things as the speed with which information could move through the human nervous system. Today, intersubjective consensus in the community of scientists is a key criterion of "objectivity."

"Presence," in the sense in which I am using the term, is primarily a description of intersubjectivity. It is art, even more than science, which perhaps offers the richest comparisons to an exploration of the "presence" of God. It is not unusual for artists and critics to speak of the "presence" of a piece of art. (35) In The Object Stares Back, James Elkins has given many examples of times when we do not simply look at an indifferent object; the object seems to bear witness to something, to demand something from us. He wrote: "There is ultimately no such thing as an observer or an object, only a foggy ground between the two.... what really takes place is a 'betweenness' (for lack of a better word): part of me is the object, and part of the object is me." (36) Some artists, such as Botticelli, painted themselves into scenes, often looking out at the viewer, forcing an interaction across space and centuries. While Adam and God are preoccupied with one another on the ceiling, on a lower level of the Sistine Chapel, Botticelli looks directly at us. The artist Aldwyth often builds eyes into her works, including a collage of thousands of artists' eyes, collected from portraits and self-portraits and photographs, looking out at us, forcing us to see ourselves as being examined by these artists. She is trying to suggest something that cannot be said explicitly, just as I write of a "presence" that interacts with us. W. J. T. Mitchell wrote of these issues in his What Do Pictures Want? (37) suggesting that pictures want something from us, not merely to be there for our purposes.

As I have become more aware of this aspect of things, I am no longer able to walk around looking at my yard, without being aware that, as soon as I step outside the door, my yard is looking at me. Squirrels, birds, rabbits, and garden snakes either become very still, or they flee. Smaller beings, too, such as butterflies and worms and ants, note my presence. The grass yields to my step, both cushioning me and being shaped by me.

What images are available for a "presence" without a person "behind" it or "grounding" it? Art sometimes works with a suggestive presence. Not as well known as his paintings of fruit on a table or of mountains, artist Paul Cezanne drew items of clothing thrown casually on chairs or hung carelessly on hooks. Items of clothing tend to take on signs of the person who habitually wears them. There are worn places; the fabric tends to be reshaped around the contours of the person. The person is not there but, nonetheless, is still present in the garment. A haunting thought always is whether the person will ever come back. Perhaps someone took off a jacket, threw it on a piece of furniture, and had a heart attack, dying before ever returning. These drawings of items of clothing are haunting; the viewer's mind creates stories. This is what happens when there is a presence, but the person who is present is not there.

Ecumenical work can fruitfully focus on plural accounts of God's presence, both communal and individual, both originative and confirmative. We can examine and share the various forms of life that seem to foster awareness of God's presence. We do not need to arrive at any consensus about the ultimate nature of things in order to share our accounts of God's presence. Our style of conversation should be one of "testimony" or "witnessing," rather than one of argument or debate. Though we do not need metaphysical agreement, conceptual clarification can be helpful. "Presence" has its deepest meaning in the context of personhood. Presence and inwardness play off one another in a polar way, giving substance to the thought of personhood. If God is personal, then God's deep inwardness is the mystery of God's being; God's presence is the polar gift that God offers to us. There are parallels in both science and art that confirm that our world is one of presence and intersubjectivity. The personal interaction of God's presence and finite persons takes place in a realm better described as theological space, rather than astronomical space. We turn to a few remaining issues that must be discussed if we are to mark off the conceptual space we need for discussing the presence of God.


If we focus on the present God, as I do in this essay, different philosophical issues come into play than when the focus is on the primordial God.

A. The One and the Many

In many views of God, God is uniquely the one who unifies the many. In traditional theism, God creates all things ex nihilo, so God is the one creator of all other things. (38) In panentheistic views, God is all-inclusive. God includes all other beings within the divine reality, both creating the being of all things and also being influenced by and created in the divine consequent nature by all things. The polarity of the one and the many is useful in understanding just about everything--from aesthetic unity, organic biological unity, a system of philosophy, a work of art, or capitalism to the very meaningfulness of a universe. In many theistic views, God is uniquely the primordial One who unifies all the many realties.

Reflection on the present God, however, requires a different philosophical logic than reflection on the primordial God. The present God, experienced in human history, is one reality among many. This God is a significant factor in human life but requires a pluralist explanatory system. The whole point of a pluralistic approach is that there are several crucial explanatory features (in our experience), not merely one. We cannot rule out the possibility that there may be, in the last analysis, one final monolithic explanation of all things or even that the best name for this singular ultimate may be "God," but we have no way of knowing that.

There are several possible ways of relating the primordial God and the present God. (1) The primordial God may be personal, and the present God is the way the primordial God is known in human history. To speak of the primordial God as personal is to say that there is an interiority or privacy at the deepest, primordial level of things. If the primordial being is personal and deeply interiorized, it may also be available as a presence, experienced by finite persons. (2) The primordial God may not be best described as "personal." The mystics may be on the mark in questioning personalistic language about God. God is no-One and no-Thing. Nonetheless, the primordial God grounds and generates the present God, as it does all things. (3) The Primordial is not best described as God. The Primordial is a state of affairs or several states of affairs (since the Primordial may itself be pluralistic). Some people might describe this state of affairs as "abyssal." The present God is illusory. A reductionist interpretation of the human experience of God is more accurate than theistic interpretations. (4) The Primordial is not God. However, the God experienced in human history as present is a significant factor in human history (as are other factors in a pluralistic universe). Some interpretation or explanation more satisfying than current reductionisms and current theisms is needed. (5) There are, of course, other possible explanations of the relationship. For instance, it is logically possible that the Primordial is a malevolent force, more satanic than divine. In today's literature, this thesis is often a sarcastic comment by atheists, suggesting that, if there is a God, that God must be malevolent.

The first four views I have spelled out strike me as quite possible, and they have thoughtful defenders today. The fourth view is underrepresented. I find it very interesting, leaving open the possibility of skepticism about our ability to know much about the primordial nature of things, yet allowing for the serious exploration of the presence of God.

I propose beginning with the human experience of the presence of God in all its variety. Most major views of God point back to an originating, archetypal encounter with God's presence, whether God is called Vishnu, Yahweh, Abba, or Allah. Followers influenced by an archetypal encounter can often have their own experiences of the presence of God, which are recognized as such because they have heard accounts about what such an experience might be like. We are then still free to expand this core understanding to stronger claims (about creation, for instance) and to a more philosophical interpretation. This progression is, in fact, the pattern that reflection about God has actually followed. Humans have not historically begun with a philosophical interpretation of God and then hoped to have some kind of religious experience. Rather, the experience is the motivating factor. Philosophical interpretations offer an explanation of things. Religious experiences of God offer something that needs to be explained.

We can expand outward from experience of the present God (or dig deeper, rise higher, or whatever other spatial metaphor seems appropriate). The important point is the direction of the movement. Instead of beginning with a primordial God, making deductions from that, then hoping to arrive at a God somewhat like the God of the great monotheistic religions, one can move in the opposite direction. One can begin with the God known in "the varieties of religious experience," then move toward an ultimate explanatory description. All such coherent explanatory descriptions are what Stephen Pepper has called "world hypotheses," derived from "root metaphors," any number of which can be persuasive. (39) This is in the tradition of faith seeking understanding. These issues are of great interest, but I do not believe we need to reach consensus on these issues in order to explore God's presence fruitfully.

B. Order and Process

There is a polarity of order and process (evolution, transfiguration). The world we know is not utter chaos. We are able to know something about it because there is enough order in things that we can categorize things. We think in terms of patterns and structures, yet the world is in process or evolving. Things we could not have remotely dreamed about emerge. Scientific theories of evolution help explain some aspects of this transfiguration, but transfiguration is a much more inclusive vision. One cannot describe one's own life without using categories of order and chaos, transfiguration and decay. For my purposes, the crucial point is that not all the key elements, explanatory factors, or things to be explained were present in the first stages of the universe (whether the first two seconds or the first billion years). Unpredictable things have emerged. In this essay, I am interested in the emergence of persons: beings of privacy and dignity, interiority and intrinsic value, presence and hiddenness. God as we know the present God may have emerged during this course of transfiguration, along with other persons. What would a personal God have been doing without other persons? The primordial God may have been busy enough during those cons, but that is all a mystery. The God of history would not have existed until there was some history.

Others have argued that the primordial God is a necessary being. God's nonreality is a self-contradictory idea. I make no claims about the Primordial. However, the God who is present in human history is clearly not a necessary being. It is possible to conceive possible worlds--and stages of this existing world--in which persons, including God, do not exist.

C. Consciousness and Cybernetics

The polarity of consciousness/cybernetic arrangement (often called the mind-body issue) is a difficult issue for a pluralistic view of the presence of God. Indeed, it raises issues for any understanding of a personal God. In human life, the mind and its material base (the body or, specifically, the brain) are integrally related. Both everyday experience and scientific research document the neural basis of consciousness. Chemical changes in the central nervous system (as simple as taking an aspirin) bring about changes in human consciousness. There are numerous fascinating parallels between what happens in the brain and what is experienced in consciousness. This has sometimes been called "explaining consciousness," (40) yet these parallels do not actually provide the understanding we seek of the existence or working of consciousness. It is possible to imagine a zombie that does exactly what we understand the human body to do but does this as a form of "artificial" intelligence. It is not actually conscious. This is sometimes called the "hard problem" of consciousness. (41) My point here is that we do not know of any human consciousness that is not intimately related to and grounded in a brain.

There is the hard problem of consciousness, but there is also a hard problem of the brain. This is why I prefer to speak of a "cybernetic arrangement," rather than of "brain." There is an arrangement of matter that grounds consciousness. We call this arrangement a brain, but many artificial-intelligence theorists point out that consciousness or thinking does not have to be grounded in hamburger, as biological tissue is sometimes flippantly described. The arrangement could be made of other materials, such as electronic arrangements. (42) One quickly gets into discussions about the possible consciousness of advanced computers. Again, my only point is that human consciousness is grounded in a cybernetic arrangement: the brain, in the case of humans.

All those who speak of God in personal terms have a problem, since it is not clear what kind of cybernetic arrangement grounds or parallels God's consciousness. It may seem arrogant to suggest that God needs a brain or cybernetic arrangement in order to be personal and conscious. Some thinkers have tried to dispense with the need for a material grounding for mind. These various forms of idealism or personalism were more convincing a century or so ago. Under any circumstances, idealism takes considerable metaphysical construction. Some thinkers have drawn on Martin Buber's vocabulary of "I-Thou" relations to suggest that humans sense the "Divine Thou," just as they can have an I-Thou or an I-It relationship with other humans. Still others have suggested that the human knowledge of God is similar to our knowledge of human "other minds." (43) Process theologians develop a panentheistic view in which the world is God's body. Many process thinkers develop a pan-experiential metaphysics, in which God includes all the experiences of the many actual occasions that make up the world process.

We do not really know all that much about how cybernetic arrangements work, despite the enormous strides of the past century. Of course, at the human level, we experience being lured in our life by certain visions or goals or images of the good. (44) There is no doubt that the idea of God has exerted great influence on human history. I also claim that the actual presence of God lures and influences humans.

My claims that God's personal presence is experienced by humans, that the great monotheistic religions were grounded in such originative experiences, and that humans continue to experience and be both healed and lured by that presence have no clear solution to the consciousness/cybernetic arrangement issue. However, it is not the specific claims I develop here (pluralism, theological space, etc.) that pose the problem. Any claim that God is personal and present (including the claim of traditional theism that a personal God created the universe ex nihilo) encounters the same problem. If we are going to use personal language, speaking of such things as privacy and presence in describing God, such issues will inevitably come to mind.


Works of fiction can sometimes serve as confirmatory visions of God. They can enrich a way of looking at things or a form of life, as other works have no doubt enriched the alternative ways in which others look at things.

A recent work, Rebecca Goldstein's improbably named 36 Arguments for the Existence of God, explores a fictional world with considerable philosophical agility. (45) Goldstein, who is trained in both philosophy and science, has written novels before that are set in academic communities, with such issues as the mind-body problem and the nature of light as themes. This is her first attempt to probe religious issues in the context of a novel. The novel is ostensibly about "proofs" of the existence of God, but in actuality it is the story of a religious community and its attempt to hold itself together in the presence of God.

In the novel, academician Cass Seltzer has achieved fame and some financial success with his own addition to the shelf of atheistic books. As Goldstein comments, such books seem to be selling even better than cookbooks or books by pets. In his book, Seltzer had argued against thirty-six different "proofs" of the existence of God. This represents many more proofs than are taught in a typical introductory philosophy of religion class, yet they are all things that a person might consider or that might be mentioned in popular books or conversations (including the proof from "the hard problem" of consciousness). Seltzer had concluded his book with an appendix listing all thirty-six proofs, summarized in brief paragraphs with both the proof and its refutation. (Perhaps some readers of this best-selling book had simply skipped to the appendix without wading through the tough stuff.) Goldstein reproduces this hypothetical appendix from a fictional, imagined book as an appendix in her own work of fiction.

To add still another meta-level, Goldstein's actual work of fiction has thirty-six chapters, each of which suggests an alternative "argument" for God. Goldstein's choice of "arguments" seems to imply a weaker, more suggestive approach than more traditional "proofs." I appreciate several of her "arguments" as philosophical fodder, as well as their imaginative use in the ongoing work of fiction. I prefer to think of her "arguments" as "confirmatory" material, aspects of life "where our universe touches the extraordinary." (46)

Goldstein's novel is not primarily about rational, philosophical approaches to God, despite her title. She has remarkable philosophical dexterity in discussing such an approach to God. However, she is primarily concerned with a specific religious community that seeks to be open to God. Her various arguments are, by turns, amusing, ironic, and insightful. One chapter (or argument) is called "Prime Numbers," and another is based on "The Overheard Whispers of Angels." The two themes are more related than might at first be suspected, suggesting that the world is more ethereal than is dreamed of in some of our philosophies. The "angel" is a delicate, sensitive young boy named Azarya Sheiner, who happens to be a mathematical genius, one who is fascinated by prime numbers. He is also the son of the head Rabbi or Rebbe of a cloistered group of Hasidic Jews, living in the fictional town of Valdener, in New York State. He is destined to inherit from his father the responsibility for this group that is adamantly trying to preserve its beliefs and its very different way of life. There are those, such as Seltzer, who are trying to give the boy opportunities out in the "real" world, including scholarships and appeals from top mathematicians at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

A sudden heart attack kills the boy's father, the head Rebbe, and a decision must be made immediately. Azarya takes over the role for which he had been groomed, choosing the needs of his community over the enticing, much more secular world that he has begun to glimpse. A few years later, Seltzer is invited back to Valdener for the traditional ceremony to celebrate the birth of the young Rebbe's own first son. The tradition renews itself. Hundreds of members of the community press toward the one place in town big enough to hold the community. The high point of the ceremony traces back through generations. An earlier Rebbe was known as "the silent Rebbe" because he did not like speaking in public. Instead, he danced, holding aloft his newborn son. And, so, the congregation sings the traditional song, sung once a generation, and Rebbe Azarya lifts his new son "to the heavens as his father had done before him, so that the Valdeners' collective heart can soar as they behold their future, and the Valdeners lift as one with his upward motion until they seem to hover several inches from the floor." (47) There is sometimes an ecstasy of the presence in communal worship. It needs to be explained and not simply explained away. The actual Friday Apostolic Church and the fictional Hasidic community in Valdener are not unlike one another.

Goldstein nicely balances the issues, so that the novel implies that the arguments are as balanced as Seltzer seems eventually to think they are. Her closing paragraph presents the state of affairs as seen by some of us:
      And if the prodigious genius of Azarya Sheiner has never found
   the solution, then perhaps that is proof that no solution exists,
   that the most gifted among us is feeble in mind against the
   brutality of incomprehensibility that assaults us from all sides.
   And so we try, as best we can, to do justice to the tremendousness
   of our improbable existence. And so we live, as best we can, for
   ourselves, or who will live for us? And we live, as best we can,
   for others, otherwise what are we? And the Valdener Rebbe holds his
   son and dances. (48)

We can live with radical uncertainty and humility about any ultimate knowledge of the primordial source of all things, yet we can also experience, as best we can, whatever mysteries come into our presence. More than ever, our world needs for people of religious faith to understand one another, to gain insight into the strengths of other approaches, to recognize the frailty and limitations of their own perspectives.

Though I use the word "presence," Pentecostal Christians often talk about the "Spirit." Roman Catholics and others center on the "real presence." Hasidic Jews speak of the divine presence as Shekinah. Hindu sacred dance offers a mode of incarnation; dancers are "seized by the gods, as they put it." (49) Dalrymple's account of the dancer Hari Das describes the sense that a God becomes incarnate in the dancer as he dons the garb and the makeup and moves into the performance that becomes more than merely a performance. (50) Interestingly, the dancers are not affiliated with the Brahmins; their performances of sacred dance are usually presented in poor or marginalized communities. These dances that seem to some people to incarnate the presence of a God are therefore also making a political or iconoclastic statement. This has been also true of the experiences of God's presence among the Hebrew prophets, in Jesus of Nazareth, and in early Islam. Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things offers a fascinating literary description of sacred dance in Hinduism, particularly the story of Kochu Thomban. (51)

While Roy's novel explores the God of small things in Hinduism, Goldstein's novel brings us into the world of Hasidic Judaism. Ecumenism can be enriched by the way literary fiction can show us facets of living faith. While this is different from the world of position papers, they all are attempts to get at a living presence.

(1) William Dalrymple, Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2010), p. 5.

(2) A playful description inspired by Luigi Pirandello's play, Six Characters in Search of an Author.

(3) Mladen Dolar, A Voice and Nothing More (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2006), pp. 52-60.

(4) Matthew Engelke, A Problem of Presence: Beyond Scripture in an African Church, The Anthropology

of Christianity (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2007), chap. 4, "Mutemo in Three Portraits," pp. 138-170.

(5) Ibid., chap. 3, "The Question of Leadership: The Friday Message after Johane," pp. 109-137.

(6) Ibid., pp. 77-78.

(7) Ibid., chap. 1, "Up in Smoke: Humility, Humiliation, and the Christian Book," pp. 46-78; and chap. 5, "Listening for the True Bible: Live and Direct Knowledge, Part I," pp.171-199.

(8) Ibid., p. 12.

(9) Ibid., p. 13.

(10) Paul Weiss, The God We Seek (Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 1964), p. 11.

(11) Norman Malcolm, "Anselm's Ontological Arguments," The Philosophical Review 69 (January, 1960): 62; emphases in original.

(12) Ibid., pp. 60-61.

(13) Jack Miles, God: A Biography (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995), pp. 25-38.

(14) H. Richard Niebuhr, Radical Monotheism and Western Culture with Supplementary Essays (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1943, 1952, 1955, 1960), p. 122.

(15) A. J. Arberry, tr., The Koran Interpreted(New York: The Macmillan Co., 1955), Sura 96.

(16) Ibid., Sum 53.

(17) Biblical quotations are from the Revised Standard Version (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1952).

(18) Doris Grumbach, The Presence of Absence: On Prayers and an Epiphany (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1998), p. 3; emphases in original.

(19) Ibid., p. 4.

(20) Ibid., p. 17.

(21) Karen Armstrong, The Spiral Staircase: My Climb out of Darkness (New York: Anchor Books, 2004), p. 187.

(22) Ibid., p. 178.

(23) Ibid., p. 179.

(24) Gerard Manley Hopkins, "Pied Beauty," in Oscar Williams, ed., A Little Treasury of Modern Poetry (New York: Charles Scribners' Sons, 1946), p. 47.

(25) Paul Weiss, "Theological Space," in Charles Hartshorne and William L. Reese, eds., Philosophers Speak of God (New York: Humanity Books, 2000), p. 318.

(26) Ibid.

(27) Ibid.

(28) Paul Weiss, Privacy (Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois Press, 1983).

(29) Rebecca Skloot, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (New York: Crown Publishers, 2010), pp. 315-328.

(30) Paul Weiss, "Lost in Thought: Alone with Others," in Lewis Edwin Hahn, ed., The Philosophy of Paul Weiss (Chicago: Open Court, 1995), p. 21.

(31) Hillary Putnam, The Collapse of the Fact/Value Dichotomy (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002), pp. 28-45.

(32) See Karl R. Popper, The Logic of Scientific Study (London: Routledge, 1959); Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1974); and Michael

Polanyi, Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1958).

(33) Jimena Canales, A Tenth of a Second: A History (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009), p. 214; quoting Polanyi, Personal Knowledge, p. 20, n.1.

(34) Ibid., p. 213; quoting Karl R. Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1950), p. 403.

(35) James Elkins, Pictures and Tears (New York: Routledge, 2001), pp. 178-181.

(36) James Elkins, The Object Stares Back: On the Nature of Seeing (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996), p. 44.

(37) W. J. T. Mitchell, What Do Pictures Want? The Lives and Loves of Images (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005).

(38) Robert Cummings Neville, "Paul Weiss's Theology," and Paul Weiss, "Reply to Robert Cummings Neville," in Hahn, Philosophy of Paul Weiss, pp. 389-414, and 415-425, respectively.

(39) Stephen C. Pepper, World Hypotheses: A Study m Evidence (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1970).

(40) Daniel C. Dennett, Consciousness Explained (New York: Penguin, 1993).

(41) See David J. Chalmers, The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory (Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 1996); and Jonathan Shear, ed., Explaining Consciousness: The Hard Problem (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2000).

(42) Paul Churchland, The Engine of Reason, the Seat of the Soul: A Philosophical Journey into the Brain (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1995).

(43) Alvin Plantinga, God and Other Minds: A Study of the Rational Justification of Belief in God (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1990).

(44) Robert Merrihew Adams, Finite and Infinite Goods: A Framework for Ethics (Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press), pp. 13-49.

(45) Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, 36 Arguments for the Existence of God. A Work of Fiction (New York: Viking Contemporaries, 2010).

(46) Ibid., p. 444.

(47) Ibid., p. 443.

(48) Ibid., p. 444.

(49) Dalrymple, Nine Lives, p. 29.

(50) Ibid., p. 43.

(51) Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things (New York: Random House, 1997), pp. 216-225.

Thomas Martin Dicken (United Church of Christ) holds a B.A. from the University of Louisville (KY); an M. Div. from Yale University Divinity School, New Haven, CT; and a Ph.D. in religious studies from Yale University (1964). He was a professor of philosophy and religious thought at Rocky Mountain College, Billings, MT, 1964-83, and served as an adjunct supervising D.Min. theses at San Francisco (CA) Theological Seminary, 1975-81. He was a visiting scholar at Cambridge University in 1971 and 1994. Ordained in 1962 by the Methodists, he was granted standing in the U.C.C. in 1983 and served as senior minister of University Congregational United Church of Christ, Missoula, MT, 1983-86; of First Congregational U.C.C., Eau Claire, WI, 1986-89; and of Plymouth Congregational U.C.C., Fort Wayne, IN, 1989-97. Now retired and living in Versailles, KY, he published Dialogues on Values and Centers of Value: Old Friends, New Thoughts (with Rem B. Edwards) (Rodopi, 2001). His most recent articles have appeared over the last decade in the Journal of Cultural and Religious Theory, the Journal of Religion, the Journal of Formal Axiology, Soundings, Religion and Literature, Ultimate Reality and Meaning, and Process Studies. He was previously published in J.E.S. in 1969.
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Date:Mar 22, 2012
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