I got a phone call from philosopher of religion Robert Oakes yesterday. In the course of a lengthy chat, I mentioned my recent post on Pascal and Buber and asked him what he thought of it. Today I received the following from him by e-mail:
Very good to talk with you. Short comment on that El Stupido notion of Buber-Pascal. The idea, presumably, is that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is a proper object of worship, while the God of the Philosophers is a bloodless abstraction. But, of course, God (for the philosophical theist) is that than which a greater is metaphysically impossible. So: is a being Who is worthy of worship greater (ceteris paribus) than one who is not? Of course. End of issue, No?
An admirable instance of pithiness. Bob's argument could be extended as follows. A quintessentially philosophical definition of 'God' is the one that derives from Anselm of Canterbury: God is that than which no greater can be conceived. Borrowing the phrase 'great-making property' from Plantinga, we can say that God instantiates all great-making properties. Now being worthy of worship is a great-making property. Because no concept, idea, or abstraction is worthy of worship, it follows from the philosophical definition alone, without appeal to any (putative) revelation or anything from religion, that the God of the philosophers cannot be a concept, idea, or abstraction.
But not only that. It also follows from the Anselmian definition that nothing short of a worship-worthy being could be God. So a First Cause could not count as God for a philosophical theist who operates with the concept of God in Judeo-Christian monotheism. Within this tradition the God of philosophy is not different from the God of religion. It is the same God, but approached via discursive reason rather than via faith in revelation.