There are few names more honored in the history of the Anglican church than that of the theologian, apologist, and philosopher Joseph Butler (1692-1752), Bishop of Durham. The Analogy of Religion has long been recognized as one of the masterpieces of Christian apologetics. The deists, who were a rising force in England in the early 18th century, acknowledged the existence of a divine author of nature who had created the universe and given man a moral conscience; but they objected to the idea of special revelation, often attacked miracles, and criticized the character of God as he is revealed in the Old Testament. Butler’s response was to show that the Christian revelation, though surpassing knowledge that can be acquired from nature, is nevertheless analogous to the order of nature. Objections to the character of God on account of events recorded in the Old Testament, for example, could equally well be used against the author of nature.
Butler is a thoughtful and careful writer, and his discussion of the particular evidence for Christianity in Part II of the Analogy, though brief, shows a profound appreciation for the nature of a cumulative case argument. The work is available in multiple editions. At the end of his long life, the four-time Prime Minister of England, the Rt. Hon. William Ewart Gladstone, paid a handsome compliment to Butler by writing Studies Subsidiary to the Works of Bishop Butler (1896) [A].