Saving God...Saving WHAT?

What could possibly be the thesis of this book, coming soon from Princeton philosopher Mark Johnston? Here's the most mysterious book description I've read in a long time.

In this book (Saving God) Mark Johnston argues that God needs to be saved not only from the distortions of the "undergraduate atheists" (Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris) but, more importantly, from the idolatrous tendencies of religion itself. Each monotheistic religion has its characteristic ways of domesticating True Divinity, of taming God's demands so that they do not radically threaten our self-love and false righteousness. Turning the monotheistic critique of idolatry on the monotheisms themselves, Johnston shows that much in these traditions must be condemned as false and spiritually debilitating.

A central claim of the book is that supernaturalism is idolatry. If this is right, everything changes; we cannot place our salvation in jeopardy by tying it essentially to the supernatural cosmologies of the ancient Near East. Remarkably, Johnston rehabilitates the ideas of the Fall and of salvation within a naturalistic framework; he then presents a conception of God that both resists idolatry and is wholly consistent with the deliverances of the natural sciences.

Princeton University Press is publishing Saving God in conjunction with Johnston's forthcoming book Surviving Death, which takes up the crux of supernaturalist belief, namely, the belief in life after death.

God without supernaturalism. What? I am sufficiently mystified that I may have to read the book, which comes out in a few weeks.


Faust said...

Some kind of de facto pantheism no doubt.

What else could it be? The idea of supernaturalism seems to me to be "there is an agency (or agencies) that is seperate from our realm but which nevertheless impacts it via either the setting of the initial conditions of the natural world or through interactions with it on a regular basis."

So once you take that seperation out of there and replace it with non dualistic naturalism then if there is divinity left how could it be anything but some form of pantheism?

Jean Kazez said...

But wait, he's rejecting the "supernatural" (outside of nature), but pushing something that's "within a naturalistic framework" and "wholly consistent with the deliverances of the natural sciences." Panpsychism doesn't sound to me like it fits the bill. Hmm!

Faust said...

Well protophenomenal properties, pansychism...these are ideas which while being outlandish are certainly not in and of themselves off the table, or at least you can find property dualists like Chalmers playing around with them, and Chalmers identifies himself as a naturalist.

Whatever strategy he uses it seems its going to be highly interpretive and not exactly "scientific" in any traditional sense. I mean, if he's arguing that whatever theoretical framework he's developing is testable and that he has experimental evidence that will be something!

No it's going to involve some kind of philosophical poetization of naturalist ideas.

Anyway, you've got me curious to see what he does so I'll keep an eye on the reviews.

Faust said...

Found the Chapter listing with subtitles. I was wrong. Not pantheism: PanENtheism. But still. I was close :P