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Cognitive Science and the Natural Knowledge of God

Author(s): Adam Green

Source: The Monist, Vol. 96, No. 3, Naturalizing Religious Belief (July, 2013), pp. 399-419
Published by: Oxford University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/42751259
Accessed: 15-03-2017 21:07 UTC

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Cognitive Science and the
Natural Knowledge of God


Rather than being in inherent conflict with religion or operat

planes that do not intersect, the cognitive science of religion (C
be used to renovate a religious understanding of the world. CSR
one to reshape the perspectives of Aquinas and Calvin on the n
knowledge of God. The Christian tradition affirms that all huma
have available to them some knowledge of God. This claim has e
cal import and thus invites scientific investigation and clarific
CSR-inspired lens allows one's theological reflections to mov
paradigms that focus on the cognitive reach of a domain-general
of human thought to a paradigm focused on different ways of re
another person. The case study of the natural knowledge of Go
sented here models a productive way of relating CSR and re
perspectives from within a faith tradition.

In discussing the import of the cognitive science of relig

it is easy to gravitate to such topics as whether CSR 'expl
away' or undercuts the grounds for religious belief. When t
evolves in this manner, the role of the religious person easily
that is highly defensive in nature. It should be uncontroversial
use material in CSR as part of an overarching argument that
religion. It should be only slightly less uncontroversial that u
this way is itself worthy of some critical attention (cf. Schlos
2009; Visala 2011; Van Slyke 2011). Whether employing the t
nitive science is inimical to religion, however, depends not j
readily one can use it to try to undercut religious belief but a
whether there is any other way to use insights garnered from
The exception to the dialectic of attack and defense that
the CSR literature is Kelly Clark and Justin Barrett's ex

"Cognitive Science and the Natural Knowledge of God" by Adam Green,

The Monist, vol. 96, no. 3, pp. 399-419. Copyright 2013, THE MONIST, Peru, Illin

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whether the cognitive sc

Calvin's sensus divinitatis, a
in God (Clark and Barrett 2
effect, ask whether some
mapped onto the terrain of
In this essay, I want to ex
move. I want to ask whethe
Can we take insights in CSR
a way that lends insight sp
operating inside a faith tra
theology and the notion of
helps one develop a theolog
of God in terms of differen
trasts markedly with the r
Calvin on explicating the na
or vices of whatever domain
possible. To the extent that
theological domain, I take t
clusion that bringing the c
need not militate against re

1. Social Cognition and the

In examining the extranat
a common feature comes to
with what are called "min
Ramble 2001; Boyer 2001, 5
counterintuitive agents are
expectations about agents w
number of exceptions are o
tant and, therefore, attention
may be less detectable than
tuitive agents only have a li
from our usual conception o
to communicate to others. T
gods, ancestors, witches, li
they are all counterintuitiv
place them on a continuum

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dhism, as it is practiced on the ground, tends to be very m

with how one relates to special agents (Sloan 2004, 68-84)
The preoccupation of religion with agents is good new
tive approach to studying religion because there is much
about social cognition. One of the things we know is that
social cognition need not be tied to the sort of abstract, r
of thinking employed in philosophy. High-functionin
autism and persons with Asperger's syndrome, for instan
adept with thinking in terms of systems and yet be prof
when it comes to social cognition. In fact, a prominent t
holds that the autistic condition is one of having a str
towards systemizing to the neglect of empathy (Baro
Moreover, when complex problems can be tackled in the
this is not necessarily because abstract, pseudophilosop
has found a way to impose itself in the social domain. On
when it comes to solving puzzles of logic or probability, th
dence that we are naturally bad at these problems unless th
social terms (cf. Cosmides [1989] and discussion of th
McCauley [2011, 55-57]). Our brains typically become
social information in a way that is rarely if ever achieved
of thinking (for overviews of the relevant developmenta
Reddy [2008]; Hobson [2004]).
The idea within Christian theology that there is a natu
of God intersects with the empirical findings of CSR in a
forward manner. The natural knowledge of God is suppo
knowledge of the divine that is available to all persons w
for special revelation. If CSR finds a cross-cultural patter
supernatural is conceived, one ought to ask whether this
what the natural knowledge of God is supposed to consist
posits that some specialized cognitive systems deal wit
nomena, one ought to consider what it would be for the na
of God to be underwritten by such cognitive architectur
this way is rendered the more germane to theological enqu
dency in figures as diverse as Aquinas and Calvin to develo
the natural knowledge of God by reference to either the
vices of philosophical reason. Consequently, it is worth o
an overview of what kind of cognition CSR invokes in its

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religion with which we can

Calvin and the role of philo
The most basic form of so
to traffic in social informa
Without the ability to parse
social cognition would be
that it is easy for patterns
present even if the stimuli
straightforward way to a
Heider and Simmel [1944])
the presence of agency com
One can readily imagine t
detection would help one av
a little paranoid than to be
Early efforts in CSR to revi
seized on such findings to s
are buttressed by or even
agency detection device or
in Barrett [2000]). It is not
would argue, that depiction
tions of beings that are ver
which we interact. The go
should be a strong biologica
erful agents that can either d
between that biological imp
It would be a mistake, ho
experiences of extranatural
disposal, and religious expe
comparatively rare. More c
world that suggests to one
ordering. Children eviden
(Kelemen 2004). They appea
into artifacts, which human
icate to the creative work o
the pointiness of a rock
endowed with a specific pu
appear in adulthood (Kelem

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and Johan De Smedt have argued that the same bias towa
thinking that children evidence makes its presence known
appeal of both cosmological arguments and arguments fr
God's existence (De Smedt and De Cruz 2011; De Cruz
2010). This disposition of the human mind involves soc
that a human is not merely disposed to view items in the
a purpose but as having been given a purpose, i.e., by some
or designer.
The tendency to see purpose in the world is not restricted to the
design of things, however, but also extends to explanations of why things
happen. If one's ontology includes agents that are able to do things that
normal agents can't, then one will often have to ask whether the events in
one's world could have been caused intentionally. Whether something
good or bad happens to someone, one has to ask whether it could have
come about due to the intentions of an extranatural agent. Such social rea-
soning is common enough amongst human agents. If one's coworker gets
a promotion instead of oneself, one will at least entertain what the reasons
of one's employer could have been and whether those reasons could have
included some ill will towards oneself. If one's ontology includes power-
ful and hard to detect agents, one will be drawn to ask what they may be
doing in one's environment and why. Scott Atran posits that religious
thinking makes use of a predator-protector-prey schema (Atran 2002,
51-79). One tries to identify not only what extranatural agents there are
but whether these agents are protectors or predators and whether there is
anything one can do to stay on the good side of these agents.
One might also think of the relevant background being a version of
the social dominance hierarchy one finds in primate groups as well as in
other social animals (Wilkins 2012). The socially dominant individual can
impose his will on any conflict in the 'pack' and, ultimately, the socially
dominant individual has a motive for keeping relative peace in his pack.
In this sense, so long as one does not see oneself or the dominant individ-
ual as being miscast in the dominance hierarchy, one can expect one's
pragmatic interests to coincide in fruitful ways with those of the dominant
individual. One might, of course, want to enhance or fortify one's position
in the hierarchy, but that's consistent with the dominant individual playing
a pivotal role in securing whatever measure of wellbeing one currently
enjoys. Given the dynamics of a dominance hierarchy, one would expect

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the class of actions that pro

dominant individual to inclu
privilege in the pack.
The predator-protector-p
the social dominance hierarc
it is that the gods might be
culturally, the social min
substantially. This is especia
as we will see, the natural k
posed to have some moral im
of the moral code. Divine c
nological imperative, but th
with policing moral codes
45-55). Furthermore, an imp
tures is how one behaves to
moral norms are enforced i
tion of stabilizing that h
occupying the slot of the s
moral role in the life of th
that either harm or benefit
the gods or other extranatu
moral agents. The social mi
ence and doings of agents
particular interests embedd
the gods are good candidate
tors if things go very wrong
Not all religious systems
minimally counterintuitive
have teachings that militate
of religion that one gets t
existence of very counter
supernatural. Instead, CSR
agential form of religion ar
One of the interesting find
rectness" (Sloan 2004) or
theologian" (Boyer 2001, 283

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to predict what elements a religion may have, it also helps

ways in which popular religion tends to deviate from form
instruction as well as the way one's unreflective religious b
in tension with one's considered theological beliefs.2
For example, a study by Justin Barrett and Frank Keil
show that, with minimal prompting, one will encode a stor
a way that deviates from official teachings in the directio
agency (Barrett and Keil 1996; see also Barrett 1998). F
subject might recall a story as if God can only do one thing
located at one place at a time, even though the story itself d
itly put things in a theologically incorrect way. An exp
generate this effect even if the subject has read a theolog
doctrinal statement before doing the memory task.
Although we can learn more complex concepts, especial
help of literacy and institutionalized religious instruction,
much for us to revert to minimally counterintuitive conce
natural to conceptualize the gods as superknowing, superp
morally interested. It takes special cognitive support, howe
the concept of the trinity or to grapple with traits such as
peculiar to the classical conception of God in the Platonic
traditions. Even when we come to understand these more involved con-
ceptions of the divine, we will not necessarily employ them in everyday
religious reasoning. Popular religion and religions cross-culturally show a
pull towards a pragmatically relevant superagent or a set of such agents.
The question for Christian theology is how a pragmatically relevant super-
agent could relate to the traditional notion that there is a knowledge of
God had by all persons independent of any special revelation.

2. Aquinas and Calvin on the Natural Knowledge of God

In the Christian theological tradition, there is a long history of affirm-
ing that some knowledge of God is possessed by all human beings. Such
knowledge, however, is supposed to be limited or corrupted in a way that
makes room for revelation to have a special role. The touchstone for this
doctrine is the first chapter of Paul's letter to the Romans, which claims
both that God's "invisible attributes are clearly seen" in general but that
humans' "foolish hearts were darkened." Thus, there is supposed to be

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something positive and some

human beings to gain knowle
ologians have explicated the
knowledge in different ways
in particular, as fountainhea
about the natural knowledge
negative aspects of this kno
Despite their differences,
common is in tension with t
subserved by social cognition
thought. Interestingly, both
example that allows one to
aspects of the natural know
helpsus to understand what
of God in general, and, for
what gets in the way of and
general, namely the vanity of
Aquinas affirms that the c
exemplified in philosophy, r
tion is required to go fart
particular provides an accura
response to the question wh
Aquinas replies that sacred d
ifies the relationship:

But sacred doctrine essentiall

not only so far as He can be k
knew Him - "That which is k
1:19) - but also as far as He
others. (Aquinas ST, la, Ql, A

Aquinas claims that the ph

what reason can lay hold of
phy exemplifies is identifie
Romans 1. Consider also w
vice of curiosity and disting

The study of philosophy is in

the truth which the philosoph
as stated in Romans 1:19. (ST

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Once again then, Aquinas associates the truths that ph

reach about God with Romans 1. The claim is not necessa
philosophers can have such knowledge. In his commentary
Romans, Aquinas claims that what is at issue in Romans 1
known about God by men through reason" (Lect 6, set 11
one must suppose that philosophy is associated with R
Summa because it is being identified with the skillful
human reason. Qualifying the importance of philosophy
knowledge of God by relating it to human reason in gener
such knowledge available to all human persons. Aquinas is
of the need for revelation resides in the inaccessibility o
God obtained using reason alone.

It was necessary for man's salvation that there should b

revealed by God besides philosophical science built up by
Firstly, indeed, because man is directed to God, as to an end
the grasp of his reason. . . . Even as regards those truths ab
human reason could have discovered, it was necessary that
taught by a divine revelation; because the truth about God
could discover, would only be known by a few, and that after
with the admixture of many errors. (ST la, Ql, Al)

Aquinas does affirm that there is some innate sense o

tence that is universal, but he associates it with the univ
happiness la Aristotle.

To know that God exists in a general and confused way is im

nature, inasmuch as God is man's beatitude. For man natura
piness, and what is naturally desired by man must be naturall
This, however, is not to know absolutely that God exists; just
someone is approaching is not the same as to know that Pet
ing, even though it is Peter who is approaching; for many
imagine that man's perfect good which is happiness, consist
others in pleasures, and others in something else. (ST la, Q2

God is, in fact, that in which humans can find happine

ing happiness, humans desire God. This is a far cry from
God as either an extranatural agent or an unmoved move
it looks like the natural knowledge of God with real cogn
Aquinas, is gotten through the philosophical use of reaso
ing the unmoved mover involves greater insight into Go
dreaming about riches and pleasures.

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Aquinas, then, has a notio

associatesthis knowledge w
to do philosophy. The tru
those captured by the Gree
clearly in some tension wit
a species of social cognition
domain-general character t
John Calvin, one might thi
God more consonant with t
Calvin would likely take
view of the pre-reflective
mation of the circumscribe
innate sense of the divine is
divine, and it is a human be
for discerning the divine na
losophy is not the pathway
Calvin, but rather the exam
that degree of natural kn
Calvin, God outfits everyon
God, especially in the evide
however, is a kind of blin
instinctual knowledge of th
In the Institutes, Calvin si
best illustrates the blindness
grapple with heavenly myst

Bright, however, as is the ma

his immortal kingdom in the m
dull are we in regard to these
them. . . . Even when under
the natural world], we imme
fictions, and so by our vanit
differ from each other, in th
liar error; but we are all alike
the one living and true God
minds, but affecting the nob
larly acute. How lavishly in t
betrayed their stupidity and
whose absurdities are of a st

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Plato, the soberest and most religious of them all, lose himself
globe? What must be the case with the rest , when the leaders
have set them an example, commit such blunders, and labour
lucinations ? (Calvin, Institutes , bk I, ch. 5, 65-66; italics adde

Like water gushing forth from a large and copious spring, im

of gods have issued from the human mind, every man givin
license, and devising some peculiar form of divinity, to meet
... I say nothing of the rude and illiterate vulgar; but among th
who attempted, by reason and learning, to pierce the heavens,
ful disagreement! The higher any one was endued with genius
he was polished by science and art, the more spurious was
which he gave to his opinions. All these, however, if examined
will be found to be vain show. (Ibid, 66)

For Calvin, philosophy is the example of a human

attempt to know God on her own, using her own natural re
Aquinas who affirms the goodness and accuracy of philoso
circumscribed domain, Calvin sees the works of the ph
indicative of human vanity and the squandering of man
endowment.4 After laying out the shortcomings of the
Calvin begins the very next section as follows.

Hence we must hold, that whosoever adulterates pure religion

be the case with all who cling to their own views), makes a d
the one God. No doubt, they will allege that they have a diffe
but it is of little consequence what they intend or persuade
believe, since the Holy Spirit pronounces all to be apostate
blindness of their minds, substitute demons in the place of G

Calvin, then, is very far from Aquinas 's comparatively rosy

sophical contemplation.5 6
Though insufficient to give a fully nuanced view of
knowledge of God in the rich worldviews of either author,
going to establish that both Aquinas and Calvin use th
philosophy and the philosopher as important tools in thin
natural knowledge of God. For both thinkers, philosophy
par excellence of the best that human reason can aspire to
with theological truths without special divine aid. For Aqu
phy is associated with the truths to which unaided hum
attain, and, for Calvin, the best that unaided human reason
nessed to by the work of the philosophers, is empty idolatr

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That both Aquinas and Ca

philosopher as such prominen
that, historically, Christian
philosophical tradition. What
however, is that taking philo
an account of the natural kn
terizing the religious impulse
Simply put, most religions an
develop their picture of the w
sophical tradition. In the nex
which the insights of CSR al
inherited from Aquinas and
perspectives on the natura
helpful paradigm shift from
to a focus on different ways

3. Transposing the Distinctio

From a CSR-perspective, ph
achievements. Philosophy and
dependent on literacy and on
vation of expertise in the co
religious impulse of human b
spread. Furthermore, from
enmeshed with the social m
Though doctrines and practic
religion and this superstruct
contradict natural religion, d
scaffolding. To borrow term
201 1), religious cognition tha
be "maturationally natural" a
cognition will at best depend
It is odd, then, to associate
the vices that occlude this kn
as philosophical reasoning. Th
similarity to the classical con
Aristotelian traditions that A
create an average conception

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beings in which human beings have believed, the result wou

atemporal, simple unmoved mover but one or more superpow
knowing agents that are in some way or another concern
practical affairs. To understand what truths about God huma
be innately disposed to grasp, it would be more productive to
latter conception aligns with God as one takes him to be reve
tradition rather than how the God of the philosophers measur
tradition. One could maintain with Aquinas that the philosoph
one way of using natural resources to acquire knowledge abo
even so, it will be a little-travelled route compared to the one
the social mind.
Similarly, there is something untoward about affirming that philo-
sophical reasoning is a good example of how and why natural means fall
short when it comes to knowing God. One could grant Calvin his analy-
sis of the shortcomings of the philosophers without coming away with an
explanation of why it is that the natural knowledge of God that all people
are supposed to have is limited or occluded. Most people have not had the
privilege of studying philosophy or indulging in protracted reflection
about divine realities. From a CSR perspective, the average person does
not spend much time trying to "pierce the heavens" with reason and thus
whatever problems beset the average individual are not likely to be the
problems that attend such an enterprise.
The average person across history has been concerned with very con-
crete and pragmatic problems like whether the harvest will be spoilt,
whether a disease will be fatal, what is going to happen when he dies, and
whether there is any protection available for him from the greed and
malice of others beyond his own vigilance and strength. Vanity could be
humankind's big obstacle to natural knowledge of God. If so, however, it
has to manifest itself in a very different way than it does in philosophy to
have the sort of scope that Calvin means it to have, and identifying the
way in which philosophers may fall short does not give us a ready means
of discerning how vanity is supposed to be manifesting itself in the very
different concerns of the average person.
From a CSR perspective, one should expect that whatever natural
religion gets right and whatever problems it has should both have to do
with the social mind. Social cognition is not accomplished by a purely
domain-general power of thought. It is specialized and can diverge from

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the sort of competencies tha

that what religions tend to ha
and in the deviations from o
the social mind, one should
One can make a beginning
much of the Christian trad
God, paying attention to wh
CSR. The first chapter of P

For the wrath of God is rev

unrighteousness of men . . .
in them .... For since the crea
clearly seen . . . even His e
without excuse, because, alth
as God, nor were thankful,
foolish hearts were darkened
changed the glory of the inc
ible man and birds and four
1:18-22; NASB)

With the state of play in

there are at least five thin
passage is universal in appli
apply to only a subset of hu
any unique features of a
awareness of what is not
emphasis on tracking the p
the effects they leave behin
Third and perhaps more in
senting the content of what
God's having a position of r
after noting that people
passage proceeds to unpack
suggestive of Atran's pre
emphasis on the social dom
least a powerful agent who
that should elicit respect an
section, it is not hard to im
social dominance could take

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Fourth, the moral failure that is diagnosed is one of ing

failure to honor God as God. Both vices and their matched virtues are
essentially social. The failure is not due to having a higher opinion of
one's unaided powers of reason than is warranted so much as it is a kind
of slight against an agent that rightly outranks one and has acted as one's
benefactor. From a CSR perspective, what is interesting about the vices
chosen is that they can be readily made sense of in terms of navigating a
social dominance hierarchy with a protector/benefactor at the top, and,
within that schema, it only makes sense that the reaction of the socially
dominant individual will correspond to what the passage opens with,
wrath. Even someone who is only aware of God's power and position of
authority should be in a position to be unsurprised by such a reaction
given the social dynamics.
Fifth, there is an expectation that the awareness of the invisible
Christian God will be mixed up with thoughts of various kinds of crea-
tures, including creatures like us. Thus, there is supposed to be something
right and something wrong about the representations of the divine we
form, and what's wrong is supposed to be a tendency to import creaturely
characteristics as a direct consequence of failing to relate to God with the
appropriate social emotions. The passage conveys an expectation of
anthropomorphism and 'zoo-morphism'. Tracking the existence of an
invisible benefactor standing behind the order in one's world is supposed
to be right, and thinking of this benefactor in humanlike and animal-like
terms is where things are supposed to be going wrong.
There is a great deal of resonance, then, between the picture of reli-
gion one gets in the cognitive science of religion and the principle source
text in the Christian tradition for thinking about the natural knowledge of
God. Reading the passage through a CSR lens also suggests a way of
thinking about the positive and negative aspects of natural knowledge of
God different from that of Aquinas and Calvin. When what one has in
mind is a domain-general power of thought, it is tempting to think that the
essential difference between natural knowledge of God and revelation
consists in cognitive reach. On Aquinas 's picture, human reason can reach
certain lower-shelf truths about God, but only a metaphysically bigger
entity can hand down other, more lofty truths. On Calvin's picture, truths
about God's nature are out of the reach of human reason in general, and
trying to get at them through reason is an act of hubris borne of misun-

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derstanding just how small on

social mind at the fore allows
nitive reach to one focused on
Social cognition can be en
one could call a relational m
mental mode involves pursuing one's private ends in a social
environment. Social cognition in a relational mode, in contrast, takes as
its end the facilitation of some relational state between oneself and
another. Human infants exhibit shared attention in both modes from very
early. When they develop pointing behavior, for instance, between nine
and twelve months of age, some of it is intended to direct its caregiver
toward an object that it wants, but one also sees pointing in the service of
sharing an experience of an object (the difference between imperative and
declarative pointing is noted at least as early as 1975 [Bates, Camaioni,
and Volterra 1975]). In contrast, there is a debate over whether other pri-
mates do anything like what human infants do when infants point for the
sake of sharing. As Michael Tomasello notes, comparing the pointing
behavior of apes with that of human infants, "apes do not produce, either
for humans or for other apes, points that serve functions other than the
imperative/requestive function" (Tomasello, Carpenter, and Liszkowski
2007, 717). Among creatures that do sometimes point, pointing in order to
share is the more rare and distinctively human phenomenon, and pointing
in an instrumental mode is the more basic and phylogenetically wide-
spread behavior.
I want to suggest that, from a 'faith-seeking-understanding' perspec-
tive, a way to make sense of the natural knowledge of God is as follows.
Human beings have the wherewithal to sense that there is at least one
invisible, superpowerful agent who accounts for the order in one's envi-
ronment and is a morally interested benefactor. Instead of taking up
relational attitudes like gratitude or joy towards this agent or class of
agents, however, human beings tend to take up social cognition vis--vis
invisible agency in an instrumental mode.
Whether the interests of the gods and human beings will correspond
becomes an open question if one is concerned with one's own private,
pragmatic ends instead of relationship with the gods for its own sake. One
must divert one's attention to cultivating the involvement of the gods in
bringing about ends that the gods might not otherwise share and to pro-

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tecting oneself from others manipulating the gods at one's ex

doing, thinking about the gods becomes even more similar to
thinks about any other powerful agent as one co-opts backg
mation and schemata from other instances of practical reason
powerful agents. Although background information and
inform social cognition in a direct relational mode, this mod
a premium on prediction and control and more of an emphasi
ness to receiving whatever the other agent wants to convey.
This trend toward instrumental social cognition is at odds
ing well to the deity that Christianity posits, who has n
partisanship, and a perpetual desire for relationship with hum
its own sake. From the perspective of the insider in the Christian
"man's chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever"
minster catechism famously says, and there is somethin
ludicrous about trying to manipulate the God the tradition en
all, as work within CSR points out, puzzles arise for the not
tionary prayer precisely because of how odd it is to think th
engage in activity that would make the Christian God do goo
He would otherwise not do (cf. Boudry and De Smedt 201
one's mind vis--vis the Christian God in an instrumental m
to betray a deep lack of understanding about the nature of
secure and beneficial relationship one could have with h
should be unsurprising that a tendency to diverge from a re
instrumental mode of social cognition would have negati
repercussions in this case.
We can say, then, that, through a CSR-inspired lens, the
thing to be said about the natural knowledge of God is that it tra
tant features of the divine such that it puts one in a position
the relevance of certain relational responses, namely, those th
a socially dominant benefactor and protector. The negative th
that human beings have a tendency to foreground our privat
interests and, in so doing, to move from a relational mode
nition vis--vis the divine to an instrumental one. In so d
beings have a tendency to import schemata that correspo
earthly creatures and are ill-fitting in the case of God. We, in
from treating God like a benefactor to be honored to treatin
potential tyrant to be feared and manipulated.

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Thinking of matters with

that the old way of think
Calvin is partially correct.
intimate relationship that o
outside. Relationship should
tion or to be told things
Moreover, whether it be fi
Aquinas and Calvin's favored
edge of God into this social
A CSR-inspired relationa
coheres well with element
Calvin. Aquinas, for instanc
supernatural (ST Ha, Q5, A3
of goodness in the beatific
tion is one of disorder in t
goods are prioritized at the
on Aquinas 's view, genuine
being something that inher
virtues for Aquinas are rela
the relata (ST IIa, Q62, A 1
thought, it would make sen
a relationship with the divi
pear once genuine relations
the natural knowledge of
pattern of perfection being
In book one of the Institut
edge of God is restricted in

I am not now referring to th

selves lost and under curse
Mediator. I speak only of tha
mere course of nature would
Since, then, the Lord first ap
a Redeemer in Christ, - a tw

Calvin specifies that the n

can only get us some of the
hend. Others require a cert

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made possible through the redeeming work of Christ. Th

in his work a commitment to the idea that the sort of r
with the divine correlates with what facts one is able to know about God.
Natural knowledge is more indirect, having largely to do with being able
to tell that there is a creator, while revelation furnishes a way of knowing
God that is more inherently relational. Thus, the account given here could
cohere with Calvin's duplex cognitio Dei.
In conclusion, I take the foregoing discussion to show via case study
that, rather than being inherently inimical to religion, the cognitive
science of religion can actually be used as a tool when doing theology
from within the perspective of a faith tradition. It can, in effect, help to
clarify religious doctrine from the inside. I have not shown, of course, that
this is the only or best use of the cognitive science of religion, and I have
not treated the subject matter within that growing field in anything
approaching an exhaustive manner. It could be that some parts of CSR are
more inherently antireligious than those canvassed here. I take it,
however, that, to the extent that my case study is successful, it helps to
show that there are multiple uses to which one might put the content in
this field, some of which may even enhance a religious understanding of
the world.8

Adam Green

Azusa Pacific University


1 . Although he might have some quibbles with the prominence given to soci
tion in this summary of the field, the pragmatic dimension of religion and
reasoning comes across especially powerfully in Sorensen (2007). For Sorense
and rituals are primary and the social dimension of religion is secondary to the
control the world through magic.
2. The discussion of "theological correctness," "theological incorrectne
related terms can be concerned with the relationships within a person or betwee
and authorities in a religion. Conceptually, it is easy to see that these two divis
vary independently of one another. For example, there could be a perfectly integ
vidual who endorsed her own, more intuitive version of the doctrines advoca
religious authorities, or someone could recognize no religious authority while
internal division between one's unreflective and reflective theological comm
thank Justin Barrett for drawing my attention to this point.

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3. Stephen Chanderbhan has po

Contra Gentiles where Aquinas ma
that the divine has certain social c
related to the natural knowledge
4. It is worth noting that Calvi
when he is discussing things other
bk 2, ch. 2, 226-27).
5. It should be noted, though, t
system for the use of philosophi
done as a means of edifying thos
6. Calvin's commentary on Rom
sages from the Institutes. See, f
7. See Pinsent (201 1) for an int
8. The author would like to tha
derbhan for thorough comments o
by the generous funding of the T


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