Philosophy Of Faith
The Philosophy of Faith is the exploration and advocacy of faith from the point of view of secular philosophy (and other secular disciplines).
The Philosophy of Faith
At risk of over-simplifying, faith is a willingness to interpret the world beyond the bare facts of science and with an element of trust, or hope. One might say that it is, in two words, metaphysical optimism.
There are two major questions about faith:
Is faith good?
That is, is it good for psychological health? Is it good for society? Does it help us lead better, more fulfilling, more ethical lives?
Is faith true?
That is, what is the relationship between faith and truth? Many assume faith directly contradicts evidence or truths, but that depends on how one defines evidence, and it is quite possible (probably, APFers might say) that faith is closer to the truth than alternatives.
The Philosophy of Faith asks these questions, with a focus on secular perspective and framing.
The Philosophy of Faith doesn’t necessarily (or exclusively) argue from the basis of theology, sacred texts, doctrine, or even religious habit or experience.
Instead, it focuses on examining the nature of faith, the history of faith, the psychology of faith, and the ethical, epistemological, and metaphysical dimensions of faith from secular perspectives.
The Philosophy of Faith, insofar as it (self-critically) advocates for faith to secularists, does so on secular terms, with secular criticisms and concerns at the forefront.
The Philosophy of Faith deftly maneuvers traditional bounds between “religion” and “non-religion. It helps individuals and societies chart flourishing paths.
Dr Stefani Ruper received her PhD from the University of Oxford’s faculty of theology and religion in 2020.
Stefani grew up without religion and always thought it was for stupid and weak people. While finishing a BA in the sciences in 2010, Stefani realised that she had prided herself on open-mindedness her whole life while simultaneously dismissing the most cherished beliefs of 99% of people who had ever existed. She enrolled in the Boston University School of Theology and received her MTS in 2014, then continued with her doctoral studies at Oxford.
Throughout all of this, Stefani learned the value of religion, of belief, of practice, and of faith. Eventually she began walking a path of her own. But she also realised that when most religious people and advocates talk about faith, they use language and ideas that just don’t get through to secular audiences.
For example, in a debate between an atheist and a theologian, if the theologian talks about the importance of certain laws in Scripture without first showing why reading Scripture is epistemically justifiable, the argument is going to land on deaf ears. Religious apologists constantly put the cart before the horse, so to speak. Assumptions and concerns about why and how to engage faith (Christian, or otherwise) must be addressed before diving into deeper theological depths.
Stefani believes that one of the most powerful ways to help secular people find what Tim Mawson calls existential repletion is to talk about faith using secular language and addressing the specific concerns of secular people.
The Association of the Philosophy of Faith is a network of scholars who work on advocating – while critically examining – faith with secular tools.
Dr Stefani Ruper founded the Association when she realised that there’s a major disconnect between how people understand and talk about faith from the inside and how people understand and talk about faith from the outside.
If faith is to help us survive and thrive in these uncertain times, we need to be able to talk about it across the divide between the religious and the secular. We need to really understand and engage secular concerns, and with secular language.
Doing this isn’t at all talking down at secular audiences – it’s across. All cultures and philosophies have their own concerns, norms, and ways of speaking and hearing.
The Association is open to all scholars across all fields. The APF focuses on Christianity but isn’t limited to it exclusively, insofar as faith may best be understood as metaphysical optimism, or a commitment to trusting God, however construed.
The Association of the Philosophy of Faith is a network of scholars who share resources, chat, collaborate, and learn from one another.
This “learning” means two things:
1) CONTENT. We learn from one another’s content – so, philosophers can learn about the research projects of other philosophers, or of historians, cultural theorists, etc.
2) METHOD. We learn from one another’s communicative experiences and expertise. For example, someone who has experience talking about holy books or prayer to secular audiences can share about what language or arguments they found most conducive to dialogue/growth; or someone even with abundant YouTube expertise can help others with that.
We host talks and conferences on these topics, but some of our greatest strength comes simply from our informal networking and ability to help scholars find one another, lean into one another’s skill sets, and help one another walk paths of mutual flourishing.
Here’s a small selection of our faves for understanding faith, options for belief, the moral implications of faith, and the modern context.
A Secular Age
History & Philosophy