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The Problem of God in Modern Thought
Philip Clayton

0802838855 Retail Price: $39.00
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Format: Paperback, 123pp.
ISBN: 0802838855
Publisher: Publisher
Pub. Date: 2003

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About the Author
Table of Contents
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The last few decades have seen a remarkable renaissance in philosophical theology among professional theologians and within neighboring disciplines. At the same time, we are also witnessing a new interest in "spiritual questions" on the part of many who would in no way consider themselves to be theologians and, further, might not even label themselves as theists. In the excitement of this period of rebuilding and searching for new models, it becomes increasingly important not to neglect the context for modern thought about God. We may criticize modern assumptions about the divine, but we ignore them at our peril. Any theology that is to be credible in the modern (or postmodern) intellectual world must understand how and why the notion of God became a problem.

This outstanding study by Templeton Prize-winning author Philip Clayton reconstructs and evaluates the steps by which the concept of God became a problem in modern thought. Clayton shows that this development has its roots in Descartes's break with the medieval tradition, in Leibniz's failure to build a modern metaphysics of perfection, in Kant's reduction of God to a regulative concept, and in the increasing power of the Spinoza tradition as it met the challenge of German idealism and became incorporated into it. These developments provide the backdrop against which theology's prospects today can be assessed.

However, while modernity raised serious, perhaps insurmountable problems for the "perfect being theology" of the medieval period, the question of God remained a deep and abiding concern in many of the great modern philosophical systems. Clayton shows how key thinkers of the modern period continued to wrestle with the concept of God as "infinite" and "perfect" and to make fresh proposals for understanding the divine. The sophisticated models of God developed by Descartes, Leibniz, Spinoza, Fichte, and Schelling, among others, are presented, analyzed, and constructively applied to contemporary philosophical theology. Clayton's penetrating work reveals the resources that modern thought continues to offer to philosophical theologians. Ultimately, he finds in the narrative of modern thought about God strong support for panentheism, the new theological movement that maintains the transcendence of God while denying the separation of God and the world.


"The Problem of God in Modern Thought offers a new approach to the history of metaphysics in modern philosophy based on the most recent research into the thought of the leading figures from Descartes to Schelling. It takes its cue from the recent French interpretation of Descartes as the founder of a new approach to philosophical theology. This book is the most comprehensive account of the modern history of philosophical theology that presently exists."
—Wolfhart Pannenberg

"This study, already laureled in its German version, accomplishes a veritable breakthrough in philosophical theology. Philip Clayton rescues the discipline from a stagnant epistemology and returns it to its native metaphysical ground. His imaginative reinterpretation of major modern thinkers, his careful analysis of seldom examined theological notions, and his comprehensive philosophical erudition give this work the stature of a classic."
—Louis Dupré

"Having set forth the case for panentheism as the most appropriate model for the God-world relationship in God and Contemporary Science, Clayton here investigates panentheism’s historical antecedents in modern philosophy from Descartes to Schelling. Especially valuable is his critique of the classical notion of divine infinity; he asks whether God cannot be both infinite and finite at the same time. Using the resources of Spinoza, Lessing, and the German Idealists, especially Schelling, Clayton points the way to a contemporary solution to some of the enduring problems in modern philosophical theology. In particular, he underscores the need for a radical rethinking of the classical God-world relationship if one is to truly endorse the notion of panentheism."
—Joseph A. Bracken, S.J.


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About the Author

Philip Clayton is Professor of philosophy and chair of the Department of Philosophy at the California State University (Sonoma). He is also the author of Explanation from Physics to Philosophy: An Essay in Rationality and Religion (Yale) and the Templeton Prize–winning book God and Contemporary Science (Eerdmans).

Table of Contents


  1. Toward a Pluralistic Theology

  2. Introduction: Skepticism and Metaphysics
    The Regulative Starting Point for Metaphysics, and Beyond

  3. Beyond the Cogito: In Search of Descartes's Theology of the Infinite

  4. Introduction
    The Methodological and Scientific Writings
    The Foundations of Descartes's Theology in the Meditations

  5. On the Very Idea of an Infinite and Perfect God

  6. Intuiting the Finite, Intuiting the Infinite
    On Thinking an Infinitely Perfect Being
    The Concept of an Infinite Being
    The Concept of a Perfect Being
  7. Leibniz: Reaching the Limits of a Metaphysics of Perfection

  8. Introduction
    Establishing the Context
    An Analytic Reconstruction of Leibnizian Theology
    Leibniz between Atomism and Monism
    Conclusions: The Perfection Argument against Atomism
    Beyond Perfection?
  9. Kant's Critique of Theology and Beyond

  10. Kant's Critique of Metaphysics
    Regulative Ideas after Kant
    Theistic Metaphysics after Kant?
    Kant on God and Infinity
    Kant's Concepts of "Part and Whole" and "Space and Time"
  11. On Using Limit Notions: First Steps after Kant

  12. Introduction
    The Crisis of Knowledge in Metaphysics
    Toward a Theology of Limit Notions
    Fundamental Limit Notions
    God as Limit Notion


  13. The Temptations of Immanence: Spinoza's One and the Birth of Panentheism

  14. Spinoza's Ethics
    Three Early Critics
    Spinozism as Constructive Theology: The "Spinoza Dispute"
  15. EXCURSUS: Limits of Divine Personhood: Fichte and the Atheism Dispute

  16. Fichte and Spinoza
    The Atheism Dispute
    Fichte's Later Philosophy
  17. Beyond the "God beyond God": Schelling's Theology of Freedom

  18. Tillich's Debt to Schelling
    Schelling's Theory of God
    Change in God
    Duality in God
    Infinity, Potentiality, and the Goodness of Creation
    Toward a Theistic Metaphysics of Freedom
    The Personality of God and the Limits of Philosophy


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