"Signs for a People Who Reason": Religious Experience and Natural Theology


  • Amber Griffioen University of Konstanz




Religious Experience, Natural Theology, Mavrodes


In this paper, I examine various philosophical approaches to religious experience and natural theology and look at some ways in which the former might be relevant for the latter. I argue that by thinking more about oft-overlooked or -underemphasized understandings of a) what might constitute religious experience and b) what functions natural theology might serve, we can begin to develop a more nuanced approach to natural theological appeals to religious experience — one that makes use of materially mediated religious experience to develop a natural theology more sensitive to the varieties of experience of lived religion “on the ground”


Alcoff, L. M. 2005. Visible Identities. Race, Gender, and the Self. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Alston, William P. 1993. Perceiving God. The Epistemology of Religious Experience. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Baharuddin, Azizan. 2000. The Significance of Ṣūfī-Empirical Principles in the Natural Theology and Discourse on Science in Islam. Islamic Studies 39 (4): 613–632.

Brown, David. 2004. God and Enchantment of Place. Reclaiming Human Experience. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Bush, Stephen S. 2012. Concepts and Religious Experiences. Wayne Proudfoot on the Cultural Construction of Experiences. Religious Studies 48 (1): 101–117.

Cates, Diana Fritz. 1997. Choosing to Feel. Virtue, Friendship, and Compassion for Friends. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press.

Coakley, Sarah. 2009. Dark Contemplation and Epistemic Transformation. The Analytic Theologian Re-Meets Teresa of Avila. In Analytic Theology. New Essays in the Philosophy of Theology, 280–312 (ed. by O. Crisp & M. Rea). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

De Cruz, Helen & De Smedt, Johan. 2015. A Natural History of Natural Theology. The Cognitive Science of Theology and Philosophy of Religion. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Draper, Paul. 2002. Seeking But Not Believing. Confessions of a Practicing Agnostic. In Divine Hiddenness. New Essays, 197–214 (ed. by D. Howard-Snyder & P.K. Moser). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Evans, C. Stephen. 1985. Philosophy of Religion. Thinking About Faith. Downers Grove, Ill., U.S.A.: InterVarsity Press.

—. 2010. Natural Signs and Knowledge of God. A New Look at Theistic Arguments. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

—. 2011. Religious Experience and the Question of Whether Belief in God Requires Evidence. In Evidence and Religious Belief, 37–51 (ed. by K.J. Clark & R.J. VanArragon). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Farennikova, Anna. 2013. Seeing Absence. Philosophical Studies 166 (3): 429–454.

Forman, R. K. 1997. The Problem of Pure Consciousness. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Goris, Harm. 2012. Angelic Knowledge in Aquinas and Bonaventure. In A Companion to Angels in Medieval Philosophy, 149–186 (ed. by T. Hoffmann). Leiden: Brill.

Griffioen, Amber L. 2017. Overview: Religious Experience and Divine Action. Forthcoming entry for the Digital Humanities Project on “Special Divine Action” (ed. Andrew Pinsent). https://sda.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/sda/ (site in development).

Hendry, George S. 1980. Theology of Nature. Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press.

Hick, John. 1984. The Philosophy of World Religions. Scottish Journal of Theology 37 (2): 229–236.

—. 2006. The New Frontier of Religion and Science. Religious Experience, Neuroscience and the Transcendent. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

James, William. 2004. The Varieties of Religious Experience. A Study in Human Nature. Introduction and Notes by Wayne Proudfoot. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Luhrmann, Tanya M. 2012. When God Talks Back. Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God. New York: Vintage Books.

Mavrodes, George I. 1970. Belief in God. A Study in the Epistemology of Religion. Washington, D.C.: University Press of America.

McGrath, Alister E. 2008. The Open Secret. A New Vision for Natural Theology. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Nasr, Seyyed Hossein. 2007. The Garden of Truth. The Vision and Promise of Sufism, Islam’s Mystical Tradition. New York: HarperOne.

Otto, Rudolf. 1958. The Idea of the Holy. An Inquiry into the Non-rational Factor in the Idea of the Divine and its Relation to the Rational. Trans. by J.W. Harvey. London: Oxford University Press.

Pannenberg, Wolfhart. 1993. Toward a Theology of Nature. Essays on Science and Faith. Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press.

Plantinga, Alvin. 1980. The Reformed Objection to Natural Theology. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association 54: 49–62.

—. 2000. Warranted Christian Belief. New York: Oxford University Press.

Proudfoot, Wayne 1985. Religious Experience. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Rea, Michael. 2009. Narrative, Liturgy, and the Hiddenness of God. In Metaphysics and God. Essays in Honor of Eleonore Stump, 76–96 (ed. by K. Timpe). New York: Routledge.

Schleiermacher, Friedrich. 1999. The Christian Faith. Trans. by H.R. Mackintosh. London: T & T Clark.

Smart, Ninian. 1965. Interpretation and Mystical Experience. Religious Studies 1 (1): 75–87.

Stace, Walter T. 1961. Mysticism and Philosophy. London: Macmillan.

Sudduth, Michael. 2009a. Revisiting the ‘Reformed Objection’ to Natural Theology. European Journal for Philosophy of Religion 2 (2): 37–62.

—. 2009b. The Contribution of Religious Experience to Dogmatic Theology. In Analytic Theology. New Essays in the Philosophy of Theology, 214–232 (ed. by O. Crisp & M. Rea). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Swinburne, Richard. 2004. The Existence of God. (2nd ed.). Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Taves, Ann. 2009. Religious Experience Reconsidered. A Building Block Approach to the Study of Religion and Other Special Things. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Turner, Denys. 2005. Faith, Reason, and the Existence of God. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Visser, Sandra & Williams, Thomas. 2009. Anselm. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Wynn, Mark. 2009. Towards a Broadening of the Concept of Religious Experience. Some Phenomenological Considerations. Religious Studies 45 (2): 147–166.

—. 2012. Re-Enchanting the World. The Possibility of Materially-Mediated Religious Experience. In Theology, Aesthetics, and Culture. Responses to the Work of David Brown, 115–127 (ed. by R. MacSwain). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

—. 2013. Religious Experience and Natural Theology. In The Oxford Handbook of Natural Theology, 325–339 (ed. by R. Re Manning). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Yadav, Sameer 2016. Mystical Experience and the Apophatic Attitude. Journal of Analytic Theology 4 (1): 17–43.




How to Cite

Griffioen, Amber. 2017. “‘Signs for a People Who Reason’: Religious Experience and Natural Theology”. European Journal for Philosophy of Religion 9 (2):139-63. https://doi.org/10.24204/ejpr.v9i2.1937.