Does hope morally vindicate faith?

  • Anne JeffreyEmail author


Much attention in philosophy of religion has been devoted to the question of whether faith is epistemically rational. But is it morally and practically permissible? This paper explores a response to a family of arguments that Christian faith is morally impermissible or practically irrational, even if epistemically justified. After articulating the arguments, I consider how they would fare if they took seriously the traditional notion that genuine faith is always accompanied by Christian hope. I show how the norms of hope regulate Christian faith in such a way that it does not involve, and certainly does not entail, the morally and practically problematic attitudes and behaviors with which it is associated.


Faith Hope Bigotry Self-deception Tolerance 



I am grateful to Max Baker-Hytch, Matthew Benton, Michael Bergmann, Rebecca Chan, Dustin Crummet, Liz Jackson, Gideon Jeffrey, Jeff McDonough, Carl Mosser, Mark Murphy, Sam Newlands, Michael Rea, Allison Krile Thornton, and Ted Warfield for comments on an earlier draft of this paper. I also received valuable feedback from audiences at the Notre Dame Center for Philosophy of Religion Spring 2016 Workshop, Notre Dame’s Food for Thought lecture, and the Hope and Optimism Midpoint Collaboratory Conference. I owe gratitude to the guest editors, Dan Howard-Snyder, Daniel McKaughan, and Rebecca Rice for organizing the publication of this special issue of the journal. This project was made possible through a generous Grant from the John Templeton Religious Trust; the views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of the trust.


  1. Aquinas. (1947). In Fr. J. Kenny (Ed.), Summa theologica. New York: Benzinger Brothers edition.Google Scholar
  2. Augustine. (1887). Enchiridion on faith, hope, and love. In P. Schaff (Ed.), Nicene and post nicene fathers (J. F. Shaw, Trans., Vol. 3). Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co.Google Scholar
  3. Augustine (1888). Sermons on the new testament. In P. Schaff & K. Knight (Eds.), Nicene and post-nicene fathers (R. G. MacMullen, Trans., Vol. 6). Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co.Google Scholar
  4. Babić, J. (2004). Toleration versus doctrinal evil in our time. Journal of Ethics, 8(3), 225–250.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bashour, B (2013). Immoral Beliefs. Ratio, 26(3), 299–309.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bergmann, M., & Kvanvig, J. L. (2015). Religious disagreement and rational demotion. In J. L. Kvanvig (Ed.), Oxford studies in philosophy of religion (Vol. 6, pp. 21–57). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bernier, M. (2015). Task of hope in kierkegaard. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bovens, L. (1999). The value of hope. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 59, 667–681.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bowlin, J. R. (2006). Tolerance among the fathers. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics, 26(1), 3–36.Google Scholar
  10. Buchak, L. (2012). Can it be rational to have faith? In Jake Chandler & Victoria S. Harrison (Eds.), Probability in the philosophy of religion (pp. 225–247). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Buchak, L. (2014). Rational faith and justified belief. In T. O’Connor & L. F. Callahan (Eds.), Religious faith and intellectual virtue (pp. 49–73). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Buchak, L. (2017) Reason and faith. In W. J. Abraham & F. D. Aquino (Eds.), The oxford handbook of the epistemology of theology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Chignell, A. (2013). Rational hope, moral order, and the revolution of the will. In E. Watkins (Ed.), Divine order, human order, and the order of nature (pp. 197–218). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Chrysostom. (1888). Homily 46 on matthew. In P. Schaff (Ed.), Nicene and post-nicene fathers (G. Prevost & M. B. Riddle, Trans., Vol. 10). First series. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co.Google Scholar
  15. Ciarrochi, J., & Heaven, P. C. L. (2012). Religious values and the development of trait hope and self-esteem in adolescents. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 51(4), 676–688.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Clifford, W. K. (1879). The ethics of belief. In L. Stephen & F. Pollock (Eds.), Lectures and essays. London: Macmillan and Company.Google Scholar
  17. Cooper, T. D. (2003). Sin, pride, & self-acceptance: The problem of identity in theology & psychology. Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press.Google Scholar
  18. Cooper, A. G. (2012). Hope, a mode of faith: aquinas, luther and benedict XVI on hebrews 11:1. Heythrop Journal, 53(2), 182–190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Dawkins, R. (1993). Viruses of the mind. In B. Dahlbom (Ed.), Dennet and his critics. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  20. Decety, J., Cowell, J. M., Kang, L., Mahasneh, R., Malcolm-Smith, S., Selcuk, B., et al. (2015). The negative association between religiousness and children’s altruism across the world. Current Biology, 25(22), 2951–2955.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Dennett, D. C. (2007). Breaking the spell: religion as a natural phenomenon. New York: Penguin.Google Scholar
  22. Dougherty, T. (2014). Faith, trust, and testimony. In T. O’Connor & L. F. Callahan (Eds.), Religious faith and intellectual virtue (pp. 97–123). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Harris, S., & Nawaz, M. (2015). Islam and the future of tolerance: A dialogue. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hebblethwaite, B. (2010). The christian hope. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Howard-Snyder, D. (2013). Propositional faith: What it is and what it is not. American Philosophical Quarterly, 50(4), 357–372.Google Scholar
  26. Human Rights Campaign Staff. (2016). Teach your children well? In Human rights campaign blog. Retrieved from
  27. Hume, D. (1947). In N. Kemp Smith. (Ed.), Dialogues concerning natural religion (2nd ed.). Edinburgh: Nelson & Sons.Google Scholar
  28. Hume, D. (2007). In T. Beauchamp. (Ed.), The Natural History of Religion. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  29. Jones, P. (2006). Toleration, recognition and identity. Journal of Political Philosophy, 14(2), 123–143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Jordan, J. (2006). Pascal’s wager: Pragmatic arguments and belief in god. Oxford: Clarendon Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Jordan, J. (2013). Pragmatic arguments and belief in god. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy. Retrieved from
  32. Kadlac, A. (2015). The virtue of hope. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, 18(2), 337–354.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Kvanvig, J. L. (2015). Oxford studies in philosophy of religion. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Lamirande, E. (1975). Church, state, and toleration: An intriguing change of mind in Augustine. Villanova: Villanova University Augustinian Institute.Google Scholar
  35. Martin, A. M. (2013). How we hope: A moral psychology. Princeton: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. McKaughan, D. J. (2013). Authentic faith and acknowledged risk: Dissolving the problem of faith and reason. Religious Studies, 49(1), 101–124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Mill, J. S. (1977). On liberty. In J. M. Robson (Ed.), Collected works of J.S. Mill (pp. 260–267). Toronto: University of Toronto Press.Google Scholar
  38. Niebuhr, H. R. (1974). Reflections on faith, hope and love. Journal of Religious Ethics, 2(1), 151–156.Google Scholar
  39. Olivier, O. P. B. (1963). Christian hope (P. Barrett, Trans.). Westminster: The Newman Press.Google Scholar
  40. Peels, R. (2010). The ethics of belief and christian faith as commitment to assumptions. Religious Studies, 46(1), 97–107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Pieper, J. (1997). Faith, hope, love. San Francisco: Ignatius Press.Google Scholar
  42. Ramsey, W. M. (2013). Bigotry and religious belief: Bigotry and religious belief. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, 94(2), 125–151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Sabl, A. (2009). The last artificial virtue: Hume on toleration and its lessons. Political Theory, 37(4), 511–538.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Streminger, G. (1989). Religion a threat to morality: An attempt to throw some new light on Hume’s philosophy of religion. Hume Studies, 15(2), 277–293.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Trabbic, J. G. (2011). Can aquinas hope ‘that all men be saved’? The Heythrop Journal, 57(2), 1–22.Google Scholar
  46. Vallier, K. (2013). Can liberal perfectionism justify religious toleration. Philosophical Studies, 162(3), 645–664.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Wall, S. (1998). Liberalism, perfectionism and restraint. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Wall, S. (2006). Liberalism, perfectionism and restraint. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  49. Walzer, M. (1997). The politics of difference: Statehood and toleration in a multicultural world. Ratio Juris, 10(2), 165–176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Philosophy DepartmentUniversity of South AlabamaMobileUSA

Personalised recommendations