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The Philosophy of Religion of Alexander Campbell

J. Caleb Clanton

Publication Year: 2013

Well known for the important role he played in the American Restoration Movement, Alexander Campbell was one of the most respected and influential religious figures of 19th-century America. Although Campbell’s legacy as a religious leader and theologian has been widely acknowledged and documented, his contributions as a philosopher of religion have been largely neglected. The Philosophy of Religion of Alexander Campbell reintroduces readers to Campbell as a philosopher of religion and explores the philosophical basis for the views underlying his religious movement. It begins with a highly readable discussion of Campbell’s role in antebellum American religion and proceeds to an exploration of his philosophical influences. J. Caleb Clanton then reconstructs, explains, and evaluates Campbell’s philosophy of religion. He critically examines Campbell’s unique, revealed-idea argument for the existence of God—that is, if God did not exist, we could not form the distinct idea of God. Clanton goes on to explore Campbell’s defense of miracles, including the resurrection of Christ, and his responses to the problem of evil and the problem of divine hiddenness. The final and most speculative chapter collects and synthesizes from scattered writings Campbell’s view on morality and religion— namely that there is no morality without God—which has proven difficult to defend on philosophical grounds. With this book, the author makes a unique and important contribution to the literature of the Stone-Campbell movement. Clanton presents Campbell’s views strictly in philosophical terms and evaluates them from a philosophical perspective without regard to religious apologetics. In doing so, he illuminates previously unexplored dimensions of Campbell and his work, both historically and theologically, and clearly validates Campbell’s inclusion in contemporary discussions of the philosophy of religion.

Published by: The University of Tennessee Press


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xi

I will never forget my first encounter with W. David Baird, that great Oklahoman dean who recruited me to Pepperdine University in 2007. Toward the end of our negotiations, he squeezed my hand, looked me square in the eye, and with all the gravity in the world said, “Barton W. Stone and Alexander Campbell are calling you...

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Chapter 1. Campbell the Philosopher and His Philosophical Influences

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pp. 1-23

Alexander Campbell (1788–1866) was a man of extraordinary status in his day. His contemporaries would not have been surprised to learn that while traveling on a speaking tour in Europe in 1847, he carried a letter of introduction in which Henry Clay, the former secretary of state, described him as “among the most eminent...

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Chapter 2. The Revealed-Idea Argument for the Existence of God

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pp. 25-58

Francis Bacon once famously said that “a little philosophy inclineth man’s mind to atheism; but depth in philosophy bringeth men’s minds about to religion.”1 Alexander Campbell held a similar view. He thought that, done poorly, natural theology can push a person toward atheism, or least skepticism; but done properly,...

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Chapter 3. From Theism to Christian Theism: On the Arguments from, for, and against Miracles

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pp. 59-88

In addition to explaining the origin of the idea of God, the revealed-idea argument demonstrated the existence of God, or so Campbell believed. But that, for him, was far from enough. He wanted also to show the truth of Christian theism in particular. In fact, at times he seems to have been even more opposed to simple deism...

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Chapter 4. On the Problem of Evil and the Problem of Divine Hiddenness

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pp. 89-117

Unlike many Christians over the years, Campbell took seriously the philosophical challenges posed by atheists and religious skeptics; he did not think a Christian could simply dismiss or ignore them. Neither did he think that they are easily addressed. It did not surprise him when in 1826, for example, he received a letter from...

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Chapter 5. On Revelation, Divine Commands, and Morality

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pp. 119-147

One of the central and recurring themes in Campbell’s philosophy of religion is the importance of divine revelation. In fact, his reliance on divine revelation is what most distinguished him from the deists and natural religionists of his day. He argued that divine revelation is what gives us the very idea of God in the first...

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pp. 149-154

Alexander Campbell did something significant. As one of the main figureheads of a religious movement that would eventually attract millions of followers, he stepped up to the task of giving a serious philosophical case for many of the views around which his religious movement sought to promote unity. Although many...


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pp. 155-183


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pp. 185-201


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pp. 203-207

E-ISBN-13: 9781572339835
E-ISBN-10: 1572339837
Print-ISBN-13: 9781572339460
Print-ISBN-10: 1572339462

Publication Year: 2013

OCLC Number: 843880931
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Philosophy of Religion of Alexander Campbell

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Subject Headings

  • Campbell, Alexander, 1788-1866.
  • Religion -- Philosophy.
  • Christian philosophy.
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