Rather than contributing a new work of natural theology, Characters in Search of Their Author is a philosophical defence of the broad task of natural theology, which takes as its starting point the assumption that some knowledge of God is attainable through ordinary means. In Part I, ‘Whatever Happened to Natural Theology?’, McInerny, a devout Catholic, provides a concise overview of the history of philosophy to demonstrate that the sceptical, atheistic starting point of most modern philosophy is not necessarily the only position and certainly not the ‘default’. While modern philosophy largely attempts to disprove God’s existence by exerting the subject, this approach is a reaction to, perhaps even a dismissal of, premodern philosophy, which issued from the common assumption of God. Grounded firmly in the thought of Thomas Aquinas, McInerny’s position in Part II, ‘The Recovery of Natural Theology’, is that centuries of theistic philosophy and religious practice indicate a pre-philosophical knowledge of God, which is common to all and serves as a perfectly valid criterion for philosophical inquiry. He argues that natural theology is only possible when the nihilistic, atheistic tendency of modern thought is revealed as bankrupt, because any meaningful discussion of God’s existence can only occur if objective truth exists.
Characters in Search of Their Author
Part I, ‘Whatever Happened to Natural Theology?’, consists of five lectures chronicling the shift within philosophical discourse from a theistic to an atheistic perspective. In the first lecture, ‘Personal Prejudice and Natural Theology’, Professor McInerny confesses that his philosophical view is grounded by his Christian belief. He argues that the philosophical enterprise always begins with certain presuppositions and that those foundational assumptions—namely, that God exists—of the Christian (or other person of faith) are of no more or less merit than those of the nonbeliever.
- Brannon Hancock, University of Glasgow