Realism in Religion

A Pragmatist's Perspective

By Robert Cummings Neville

Subjects: Theology, Religion, Pragmatism, Philosophy Of Religion, Philosophy
Paperback : 9781438428260, 279 pages, July 2010
Hardcover : 9781438428253, 279 pages, November 2009

Table of contents

1. Theologies of Identity and Truth: Legacies of Barth and Tillich
Barth and Tillich on Theology: Narrative and System
Legacies of Narrative and System
Truth, Identity, and Authority
2. Truth in Theology
Four Roots of the Evasion of Truth, and their Antidotes
Liberal Theology as a Near Miss
Theology as Symbolic Engagement
Metaphysics for Theology
3. Realism and Contextualization
Postliberalism and Theological Inquiry
Religious Symbols: Engagement
Religious Symbols: Interpretation
All Truth Is Contextual
The Comparative Context for Religious Truth
4. How to Read Scriptures for Religious Truth
Scriptures for Engagement
Imaginative Differences
Strategies of Symbolic Interpretation
Criteria for Reading Scriptures for Truth
5. Systematic Theology in a Global Public
System and Its Public: Three Values
Truth and Realism
Minimizing Arbitrariness
Vulnerability in a Global Public
6. A Peircean Theory of Religious Interpretation
Engagement and Reference
Reference and Apophatic Theology
Meaning and Truth
7. The Contributions of Charles S. Peirce to Philosophy of Religion
The Evolutionary Weight of Religion
Contributions to Theology
Comparative Theology
The Importance of Erudition
8. Intuition: A Platonizing of Pragmatism
Intuition and Immediate Unity
A Theory of Harmony
Judgment and Interpretation
Intuition and Plato’s Divided Line
9. Whitehead and Pragmatism
The Entangled Legacies of Pragmatism and
Process Philosophy
Tensions regarding Time and Continuity
Eternity and Time
Creation, Eternity, Time, and Continuity
10. Philosophy of Nature in American Theology
Jonathan Edwards
Ralph Waldo Emerson
The Pragmatists
Alfred North Whitehead
11. Concepts of God in Comparative Theology
Conceptions of God in Comparison
Theoretical Issues in Comparison
Observations about Ultimacy
An Hypothesis about the Respect in which
Concepts of Ultimacy Interpret Reality
12. Some Contemporary Theories of Divine Creation
Classifications of Conceptions of God
Process Theology
Ground-of-Being Theologies
Piety and Conceptions of God
13. Descartes and Leibniz on the Priority of Nature versus Will in God
Texts and Arguments
Transcendence and Immanence
Tillich and Hartshorne as Descartes and Leibniz
Experience and Reason
14. The Metaphysical Sense in Which Life Is Eternal
Introduction: Immortality and Eternal Life
Time and Eternity: A Metaphysical Analysis
Eternity in the Divine Life of God
Eternity and Time in Human Life

A philosophical consideration of key religious issues from a pragmatist’s perspective.


Religion is basic to the human condition according to this philosophy of religion from a pragmatist's perspective. While pragmatist thinkers have often been cool to religious claims, Robert Cummings Neville holds that a theology of truth can emerge from this tradition. Standing against the typical nominalist view that regards religious claims as concepts or structures of language, Neville argues that there can be significant and well-tested hypotheses about what is true in religious matters. He brings this theology to bear on questions of God, divine creation, divine nature and will, and eternity. Using the work of pragmatists Peirce and Whitehead in particular to ground his philosophy of religion, Neville surveys a wide swath of twentieth-century theology and current trends, from Barth and Tillich to liberal and postliberal theology, systematic theology, concepts of God, and approaches to scripture.

Robert Cummings Neville is Professor of Philosophy, Religion, and Theology at Boston University and the author and editor of many books, including Ritual and Deference: Extending Chinese Philosophy in a Comparative Context, also published by SUNY Press.


"The remarkable and impressive stream of thought that constitutes Robert Neville's lifework flows through these pages … I suspect that most readers of Realism in Religion will experience the same admiration mingled with anticipation that I did when I turned the last page." — Michael L. Raposa, The Pluralist

"…this work is an ideal entry to Robert Neville's wide-ranging thought as a whole … Most every page is rich in detail and enormously suggestive. The work is open enough in style to invite a reader to make corrections that are true to that person's experiential contexts. Yet it is persuasive enough that most readers will find themselves carrying over much of value and importance from the text to their own understanding of religion and reality." — American Journal of Theology and Philosophy

"…a provocative book, written from a Peircean perspective, and it puts the lie to the claim that metaphysical claims and pragmatism do not mix." — International Journal for Philosophy of Religion

"This compilation of essays culled together from Neville's accomplished career offers an avenue for acquainting readers with some of his basic insights and contributions to the fields of philosophy and theology … Frequently, such compilations fail to achieve a complementary whole, but nothing could be further from the case here. Divided into three parts—realism and truth, realism in pragmatism, and realism in religion and metaphysics—each part provides the occasion for the next." — Religious Studies Review

"…Neville demonstrates great breadth of knowledge about both philosophy and theology in this work, and he develops his ideas in a creative and interesting way." — CHOICE