Concluding Thoughts For Chapter 2

Here are the concluding thoughts from chapter 2 of my book Unapologetic: Why Philosophy of Religion Must End:

        Anselm of Canterbury’s key theological contributions for philosophical theology highlight what reasonable people see as the need for philosophy of religion to end. He holds a preeminent place among the best philosophical theologians the church ever produced. And yet, as we’ve seen, even among one the best of the best there’s nothing here but rhetoric without substance based on his faith, and the social climate of his day. His best contributions didn’t solve anything. Almost no one accepts his atonement theory today. His idiosyncratic perfect being conception was based on nothing more than special pleading on behalf of his parochial western concept of god. His ontological argument does not work either. Further, we’ve found that when Anselm’s perfect being is compared to the biblical god Yahweh and his supposed son, it doesn’t make any sense nor can it be reconciled. So the only reason to study Anselm seems to be one of historical curiosity. Anselm’s key contributions did not advance anything since we are no closer at getting to objective knowledge about anything than we would be if he never wrote a thing. When it came to the history of philosophy he made no contributions that furthered understanding, the very thing he sought to do.
          Karl Barth, considered one of the greatest theologians of the last century who rejected natural theology with a big fat “Nein”, argued Anselm’s ontological argument was based in a faith seeking understanding, not one that leads to any logical conclusion that his God existed. Anselm did not seek to “prove” the truth of the Christian faith, Barth argued, but to understand it.[i] Anselm’s ontological argument for God’s existence in chapter 2 of the Proslogion, comes after asking God for help in understand his faith in chapter 1. There he prays, “I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, – that unless I believed, I should not understand.” Then just before developing the argument in chapter 2 Anselm prays, “Lord, do you, who do give understanding to faith, give me, so far as you know it to be profitable, to understand that you are as we believe; and that you are that which we believe.” So while there is disagreement about what he was doing, Anselm at least tacitly acknowledges his argument comes from faith rather than leading to faith. And that’s exactly what we find. The ontological argument depends on his Christian faith which seeks to understand what he already believes about his parochial god. There’s a recognized informal fallacy here. It’s called special pleading. 
          Philosophers of religion who have dealt with Anselm’s argument and developed their own versions of it, such as Norman Malcolm, Charles Hartshorne and Alvin Plantinga should take note. They don’t know their own theology. Or, perhaps more correctly and importantly, they fail to realize that they’re doing the same thing Anselm honestly admitted doing, special pleading
What we’re led to conclude is that the problem of philosophical theology stems from faith. If faith is trust then there is no reason to trust faith. Anything based on faith has lower probabilities to it by definition. Christian pseudo-philosophers do no more than build intellectual castles in the sky without any solid grounding to them. There doesn’t seem to be any good principled reason for not getting fed up with the pretend game of faith with its ever receding theology.  

[i] Karl Barth, Faith Seeking Understanding: An Introduction to Christian Theology (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1991), p.14.