How Some Courts and Legal Theorists Misrepresent the Rational Status of Religious Beliefs
Religion & Liberty Online

How Some Courts and Legal Theorists Misrepresent the Rational Status of Religious Beliefs

While preparing for a book chapter on the topic of political philosophy and religious beliefs, Francis Beckwith “read and reread scores of court cases and academic monographs.” What he discovered is that judges and legal theorists are often embarrassingly ignorant about the rational status of religious beliefs:

The legal theorists I read all claim to be experts in law and religion, and their works appear in law reviews published by prestigious universities. And yet, I could not find in them a hint that they had even a superficial acquaintance with the vast literature on religion and rationality produced by religious (and some non-religious) thinkers (mostly philosophers) over the past fifty years.

There was no mention of Alvin PlantingaWilliam Lane Craig,Robert C. KoonsJohn HaldaneWilliam AlstonJ. P. Moreland,Brian LeftowNicholas WolterstorffLinda ZagzebskiCharles TaliaferroC. Stephen EvansDallas WillardRichard Swinburne,John PolkinghorneEleanore StumpJohn E. Hare, or N. T. Wright.

These contemporary scholars, along with scores of others, have published some of the most sophisticated and carefully wrought arguments for important aspects of the Christian faith, including the rationality of belief in God, the failure of philosophical materialism, the existence of the soul, moral realism, the incoherence of scientism, the historicity of Christ’s resurrection, and the reconciling of God and evil.

Although references to these writings were nowhere to be found in the legal articles I consulted, their authors nevertheless confidently proclaimed that all religious belief is insulated from evidence and the ordinary standards of rationality.

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Joe Carter

Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).