Christian theism and the problem of guilt

Conway, Robert ORCID: 0000-0003-4578-434X (2021). Christian theism and the problem of guilt. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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The phenomenon of moral guilt is a universal problem in need of explanation because when it is avoided, rejected, or denied, guilt diminishes our well-being and limits human flourishing: relationships remain estranged and unreconciled, the guilty suffer the pain of conscience, and unresolved wrongdoing ultimately means that justice is not served. Historically, various explanations of moral guilt have been proposed, some based on naturalism and others on theism. Robust explanations attempt to answer the questions of where guilt originated, how culture influences morality, and which moral standard adequately evaluates human behavior. By developing a chain argument starting from moral guilt, I propose that the phenomenon of guilt implies a theistic God with certain attributes whose existence makes better sense of our moral experience than naturalistic explanations of guilt. Limited initially to theism, I argue philosophically to show how our guilt points to a God who is personal, all-knowing, and a moral lawgiver who is good and fit to hold us accountable. I then turn to Christian theism to link this theistic God with the God of historic Christianity who, according to the biblical account, reveals himself to us and resolves our guilt by meeting our need for forgiveness and reconciliation through Christ’s atonement. If this thesis accomplishes its aim, I will have shown that the existence of guilt is much harder to reconcile in a naturalistic world than in a theistic one, and that Christian theism offers a more likely and robust account for both explaining our moral experience and resolving the problem of moral guilt. Such an account contributes to the richness of the moral argument at large by identifying the five divine attributes important to moral discourse as noted above, explores how our guilt points to the God who has personally disclosed himself to humanity, and clarifies our moral standing before God instead of relegating our guilty feelings to pure subjectivism or moral relativism.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of Philosophy, Theology and Religion, Department of Philosophy
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BD Speculative Philosophy
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BL Religion
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BR Christianity
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BT Doctrinal Theology


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