Gratitude to God

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444). This special issue belongs to the section "Religions and Theologies".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (15 August 2022) | Viewed by 27065

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Guest Editor
Department of Philosophy, Biola University, La Mirada, CA 90639, USA
Interests: virtue theory; philosophy of religion; philosophy of addiction

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

You are invited to submit a paper to a Special Issue of the journal Religions. The Special Issue is entitled “Gratitude to God”, and its purpose is to gather emerging research—philosophical, theological, and psychological—on gratitude to God. Although there is a large psychological and philosophical literature on gratitude generally, the aim of this Special Issue is to focus specifically on gratitude to God. Apart from several classical theological treatments of gratitude to God (in Aquinas, Calvin, and Barth, for example) this is a new field of research. The Special Issue invites conceptual analysis, historical or genealogical analysis, and empirical analysis of gratitude to God (as well as its attendant concepts of divine beneficence and divine gift).

Dr. Kent Dunnington
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

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Keywords

  • gratitude
  • gratitude to God
  • gift
  • reciprocity
  • debt of gratitude

Published Papers (16 papers)

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Research

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18 pages, 286 KiB  
Article
Can You Be Grateful to a Benefactor Whose Existence You Doubt?
by Tony Manela
Religions 2022, 13(12), 1155; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13121155 - 28 Nov 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1145
Abstract
Among philosophers who study gratitude, there is much disagreement about what gratitude is and when it is called for. One thesis no one has questioned, however, is the thesis that in order to be grateful to a benefactor, a beneficiary must believe that [...] Read more.
Among philosophers who study gratitude, there is much disagreement about what gratitude is and when it is called for. One thesis no one has questioned, however, is the thesis that in order to be grateful to a benefactor, a beneficiary must believe that that benefactor exists. In this essay, I lay out novel reasons to doubt this thesis, and I explore a striking implication of rejecting it: the implication that doubters of various kinds—not just religious people in periods of doubt, but also lifelong agnostics, and even some atheists—might be capable of gratitude to God. I begin by developing a hypothetical case that demonstrates people can be grateful to human benefactors whose existence they doubt. My case shows that gratitude to a doubted benefactor is consistent with hoping that benefactor turns out not to exist. I then show how my case implies that theists in periods of doubt, agnostics, and a particular kind of atheist could be grateful to God, despite a lack of belief in his existence, and despite a lack of faith in God. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Gratitude to God)
18 pages, 311 KiB  
Article
Shades of Gratitude: Exploring Varieties of Transcendent Beliefs and Experience
by Pamela Ebsytne King, Rebecca Ann Baer, Sean A. Noe, Stephanie Trudeau, Susan A. Mangan and Shannon Rose Constable
Religions 2022, 13(11), 1091; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13111091 - 11 Nov 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1538
Abstract
The study of gratitude has expanded beyond interpersonal gratitude and considers how people respond to gifts that are not caused by human agency. Given the discord between the prominent understanding of gratitude requiring the appropriate recognition of a gift to a giver and [...] Read more.
The study of gratitude has expanded beyond interpersonal gratitude and considers how people respond to gifts that are not caused by human agency. Given the discord between the prominent understanding of gratitude requiring the appropriate recognition of a gift to a giver and the increasing divergence of transcendent belief systems that do not acknowledge a transcendent or cosmic giver, we explored how people with different worldviews viewed and experienced gratitude. Transcendence does not hinge on metaphysical beliefs, but it can be experienced phenomenologically and subjectively. We conducted a case-study narrative analysis (N = 6) that represents participants from three different categories of belief systems: theistic, non-theistic but spiritual, and other. Our findings demonstrate how people link their transcendent narrative identity to their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors pertaining to gratitude. Although the theistic participants thanked God for gifts, others who experienced transcendence without a clear referent or source described responding to gratitude by sharing goodness forward. These narratives suggest that the recognition and appreciation of a gift stemming from beyond human cause may be enough to generate transcendent emotions and values that prompt beyond-the-self behaviors. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Gratitude to God)
12 pages, 263 KiB  
Article
Endurance, Acceptance, or Constitutional Gratitude: Non-Theistic and Theistic Attitudes to Suffering
by Caleb M. Cohoe
Religions 2022, 13(10), 1005; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13101005 - 21 Oct 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1401
Abstract
Against those who think that only believers in a personal God are entitled to be grateful for their existence and for reality itself (cosmic gratitude), I show that there are non-theistic views on which everything that happens is part of an overall good [...] Read more.
Against those who think that only believers in a personal God are entitled to be grateful for their existence and for reality itself (cosmic gratitude), I show that there are non-theistic views on which everything that happens is part of an overall good order, supporting gratitude toward that order’s source. However, most non-theist views that affirm reality’s goodness, including pantheism, axiarchism, and ultimism, hold that an individual’s existence has value as part of a larger whole. Some things may be bad for me but good for the whole. In such cases, acceptance is the best available positive attitude. Many versions of theism, by contrast, support constitutional gratitude, a characteristic attitude of thankfulness toward the ultimate source of goodness. Using Marilyn Adams’ distinction between global and local goods, I show how Christianity, Islam, and other theistic views that affirm a personal God who cares for the well-being of each individual as such enable constitutional gratitude. If the evils you experience will be defeated by greater goods that you personally experience, you can be grateful to God for God’s presence and plan even in suffering. Whether this attitude is more appropriate than acceptance or endurance depends on facts about reality and value. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Gratitude to God)
24 pages, 387 KiB  
Article
Is Scripture a Gift? Reflections on the Divine-Ecclesial Provision of the Canon
by Brad East
Religions 2022, 13(10), 961; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13100961 - 12 Oct 2022
Viewed by 1495
Abstract
This article investigates whether the canon of Christian Holy Scripture is properly understood as a gift and, if so, what theological implications this might entail. Following the introduction, the article has three main sections. The first section proposes an expanded grammar by which [...] Read more.
This article investigates whether the canon of Christian Holy Scripture is properly understood as a gift and, if so, what theological implications this might entail. Following the introduction, the article has three main sections. The first section proposes an expanded grammar by which to describe the production and reception of the canon in and by the church, under the superintending sovereignty of the divine will and action. The second section offers a guide to recent inquiry into “the gift” in the fields of philosophy and theology, particularly those theories that might prove useful for applying the concept of “gift” to Scripture. The third section unfolds a normative account of the Christian canon as a gift of the triune God to his people and through his people, thus making sense of the long-standing liturgical practice of responding to the reading of the sacred page in the public assembly with a cry of thanks to God. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Gratitude to God)
14 pages, 288 KiB  
Article
Giving Thanks for the Gift of Life: Karl Barth on Gratitude to God for One’s Own Life
by Matthew Lee Anderson
Religions 2022, 13(10), 959; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13100959 - 12 Oct 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1594
Abstract
This essay considers Karl Barth’s conception of gratitude to God, and the significance of being grateful for one’s own life within his doctrine of creation. I argue that Barth’s account of gratitude authorizes an affirmation of one’s own life that avoids the trappings [...] Read more.
This essay considers Karl Barth’s conception of gratitude to God, and the significance of being grateful for one’s own life within his doctrine of creation. I argue that Barth’s account of gratitude authorizes an affirmation of one’s own life that avoids the trappings of the egoistic self-love that he vociferously opposed. Additionally, I consider whether and how Barth’s conception of gratitude for our lives demands cheerfulness, or whether it adequately leaves room for the type of sobriety and lament that Beethoven exemplifies in his “Holy Song of Thanksgiving of a Convalescent to the Deity.” Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Gratitude to God)
15 pages, 233 KiB  
Article
The Distinctiveness of Christian Gratitude: A Theological Survey
by Kent Dunnington
Religions 2022, 13(10), 889; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13100889 - 22 Sep 2022
Viewed by 2089
Abstract
The positive psychology movement has increased and deepened our understanding of gratitude and its contribution to human well-being. Most of the literature to date has focused on gratitude to human benefactors, and the same has been true of philosophical analyses of gratitude. More [...] Read more.
The positive psychology movement has increased and deepened our understanding of gratitude and its contribution to human well-being. Most of the literature to date has focused on gratitude to human benefactors, and the same has been true of philosophical analyses of gratitude. More recently, scholars of gratitude have turned their attention to gratitude to God, but relatively little work has been done on the relationship between particular theologies and spiritualities on the one hand and the phenomenology and structure of gratitude on the other. This essay makes a contribution to that strand of investigation by surveying the work of six Christian theologians, each of whom make bold, sometimes cryptic, claims about the distinctiveness of Christian gratitude and gratitude to God. The essay challenges universalist assumptions about the structure and phenomenology of gratitude, including gratitude to God. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Gratitude to God)
16 pages, 474 KiB  
Article
Gratitude to God: A Unique Construct Adding to Our Understanding of Religiousness and Gratitude
by Crystal L. Park, Joshua A. Wilt and Adam B. David
Religions 2022, 13(9), 872; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13090872 - 19 Sep 2022
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1696
Abstract
In two national samples in the United States, we aimed to determine the extent to which GTG is distinct from both general gratitude and general religiousness, using statistical methods to determine (1) if GTG shows patterns of association with other variables distinct from [...] Read more.
In two national samples in the United States, we aimed to determine the extent to which GTG is distinct from both general gratitude and general religiousness, using statistical methods to determine (1) if GTG shows patterns of association with other variables distinct from general gratitude and religiousness, and (2) whether GTG predicts wellbeing above and beyond both general gratitude and religiousness. Online studies were conducted with 267 (Study 1) and 184 (Study 2) adults. Results across the two studies were consistent in demonstrating that GTG shows associations with relevant constructs that are distinct from both general religiousness and general gratitude. Further, GTG independently predicted aspects of psychological wellbeing, although findings were not consistent across all aspects. These findings indicate GTG is a unique construct warranting future research. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Gratitude to God)
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14 pages, 283 KiB  
Article
Intangible Benefactors and the Contribution of Construal Level and Attitude Accessibility in Predicting Gratitude and Expansive Emotions
by Jenae M. Nelson, Sarah A. Schnitker, Emily Williams and Jo-Ann Tsang
Religions 2022, 13(9), 866; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13090866 - 16 Sep 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1359
Abstract
We tested whether manipulating construal level would change the experience of gratitude or other expansive emotions (gratitude, awe, compassion) and negative emotions. We also examined whether construal level was correlated with the type of gratitude benefactor that participants spontaneously listed, focusing especially on [...] Read more.
We tested whether manipulating construal level would change the experience of gratitude or other expansive emotions (gratitude, awe, compassion) and negative emotions. We also examined whether construal level was correlated with the type of gratitude benefactor that participants spontaneously listed, focusing especially on God and non-theistic intangible benefactors compared to tangible human benefactors. We manipulated construal level in 265 U.S.-based CloudResearch participants to test preregistered hypotheses that high-level construals would elicit more examples of gratitude toward intangible benefactors and increase expansive emotions. We conducted additional exploratory analyses, investigating whether attitude accessibility of God as a benefactor was correlated with increases in expansive emotions. High construal level manipulation was associated with more frequently listing non-theistic intangible benefactors. Further, trait construal level predicted expansive emotions. Additionally, attitude accessibility of God as a benefactor was positively related to expansive emotions. We discuss future research possibilities to differentiate between gratitude toward tangible and intangible benefactors and the use of attitude accessibility as an implicit measure of benefactor importance. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Gratitude to God)
12 pages, 472 KiB  
Article
Personality Predictors of Gratitude to God: Examining the Roles of Positive Emotional Traits and Adaptive Relational Styles
by Joshua A. Wilt and Julie J. Exline
Religions 2022, 13(9), 839; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13090839 - 09 Sep 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1150
Abstract
Research relating personality variables to gratitude to God (GTG) is in its nascent stages, as only a few descriptive, correlational studies have been conducted on this topic. We investigated whether two kinds of personality variables—positive emotional traits and adaptive relational styles—predicted higher GTG. [...] Read more.
Research relating personality variables to gratitude to God (GTG) is in its nascent stages, as only a few descriptive, correlational studies have been conducted on this topic. We investigated whether two kinds of personality variables—positive emotional traits and adaptive relational styles—predicted higher GTG. Hypotheses linking these variables to GTG were based on a novel, preregistered conceptual framework. We also explored whether general gratitude statistically mediated these links. In a cross-sectional study of N = 698 undergraduates from the United States, participants completed self-report measures of personality predictors, situational GTG and situational general gratitude in response to a positive event, as well as trait GTG. Correlations showed strong support for hypotheses connecting GTG (situational and trait) with positive emotional traits (extraversion, optimism, vitality, self-esteem). Correlations also supported hypotheses for one adaptive relational style (agreeableness) but not others (honesty–humility, lack of entitlement, secure attachment). General gratitude was a mediator of associations between positive emotional traits and both trait and situational GTG, and general gratitude mediated associations between adaptive relational styles and trait GTG. These results provide initial evidence suggesting that positive emotional traits have consistent, direct (and indirect via gratitude) links to GTG, whereas the evidence for adaptive relational styles was more inconsistent and indirectly mediated via general gratitude. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Gratitude to God)
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14 pages, 275 KiB  
Article
Liturgical Gratitude to God
by Joshua Cockayne and Gideon Salter
Religions 2022, 13(9), 795; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13090795 - 29 Aug 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1173
Abstract
Gratitude to God is a core component of Christian liturgy; along with the countless hymns which express attitudes of thanks to God, Christian liturgy often includes acts of spoken gratitude, as well as prayers of thanksgiving. We argue that two aspects of liturgical [...] Read more.
Gratitude to God is a core component of Christian liturgy; along with the countless hymns which express attitudes of thanks to God, Christian liturgy often includes acts of spoken gratitude, as well as prayers of thanksgiving. We argue that two aspects of liturgical gratitude distinguish it from gratitude more generally. First, liturgical gratitude is always scripted, leading to the worry that those who express gratitude do so disingenuously. Secondly, liturgical gratitude is always social in some way, as our gratitude is drawn into the worship of the community of the Church. The paper provides an account of liturgical gratitude that explores these two key distinctive features. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Gratitude to God)
15 pages, 867 KiB  
Article
Gratitude to God: Brief Prompts Do Not Increase It, Wording of Questions Matters, and Belief in a Loving, Powerful, Gift-Giving God Remains Central
by Julie J. Exline and Joshua A. Wilt
Religions 2022, 13(9), 791; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13090791 - 29 Aug 2022
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1377
Abstract
When good things happen, what thoughts elicit gratitude to God (GTG)? Building on work highlighting divine attributions and appraisals, we examined whether consciously priming people to think about God would increase subsequent reports of GTG. U.S. adult participants (N = 553) completed [...] Read more.
When good things happen, what thoughts elicit gratitude to God (GTG)? Building on work highlighting divine attributions and appraisals, we examined whether consciously priming people to think about God would increase subsequent reports of GTG. U.S. adult participants (N = 553) completed an online survey asking them to describe a positive event from the past month. They were then randomly assigned to one of six conditions, five of which brought up beliefs about God or the idea that God might work indirectly through natural events. Contrary to preregistered predictions, there were no statistically significant differences between conditions on an open-ended or a Likert measure of GTG. Yet GTG reports differed dramatically between the open-ended question (only 20% of participants reported GTG) and a Likert item (81% of participants, and 93% of those who believed in God, endorsed some GTG). The most endorsed response on the 5-point Likert scale was 5, indicating that most people reported feeling extremely grateful to God. These results suggest that the methods used to assess GTG could have a major impact on conclusions about GTG prevalence. Yet, regardless of assessment method, and directly replicating earlier finding, several factors emerged as consistent GTG predictors: religiousness, belief in a loving, powerful, and generous God with positive intentions, attributing the positive event to God, feeling loved in response, and framing the event as a gift from God. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Gratitude to God)
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14 pages, 246 KiB  
Article
Thomas Aquinas on Gratitude to God
by Christopher Kaczor
Religions 2022, 13(8), 692; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13080692 - 27 Jul 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2674
Abstract
Discussions of gratitude to God characteristically presuppose some philosophical or theological framework. This philosophical and theological exploration of gratitude to God examines the topic in light of the thought of Thomas Aquinas. Unlike some treatments of Aquinas’ account of gratitude, I draw extensively [...] Read more.
Discussions of gratitude to God characteristically presuppose some philosophical or theological framework. This philosophical and theological exploration of gratitude to God examines the topic in light of the thought of Thomas Aquinas. Unlike some treatments of Aquinas’ account of gratitude, I draw extensively on Aquinas’ commentaries on Scripture as well as lesser known works, such as his sermons, to illuminate these topics rather than exclusively relying on the Summa theologiae. In the first part of this article, I focus on how Aquinas understands the virtue of gratitude to God. In the second part, I examine his account of ingratitude to God. And in the third part, I consider the difference Jesus makes in Aquinas’ understanding of these issues, including contesting the claim that “Jesus was an ingrate”. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Gratitude to God)
13 pages, 286 KiB  
Article
Gratitude to God Predicts Religious Well-Being over Time
by Philip Watkins, Michael Frederick and Don E. Davis
Religions 2022, 13(8), 675; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13080675 - 25 Jul 2022
Cited by 10 | Viewed by 2011
Abstract
The authors used a prospective design to investigate how gratitude to God predicts religious well-being over time. Gratitude to God is a central aspect of monotheistic religions, and thus may be particularly important to the religious/spiritual well-being of believers. Participants completed online measures [...] Read more.
The authors used a prospective design to investigate how gratitude to God predicts religious well-being over time. Gratitude to God is a central aspect of monotheistic religions, and thus may be particularly important to the religious/spiritual well-being of believers. Participants completed online measures of trait and state gratitude to God, along with spiritual well-being, nearness to God, and religious commitment scales over a one-to-two-month period. General well-being, trait gratitude, and the Big Five personality traits were also assessed. After controlling baseline levels, trait gratitude and the Big Five personality traits, dispositional gratitude to God at Time 1 predicted increased religious well-being, nearness to God, and religious commitment at Time 2. Although gratitude to God was significantly related to general well-being variables in cross-sectional analyses, it did not predict these variables over time. Validity data for the gratitude to God measures are also presented. The results suggest that gratitude to God is important to religious/spiritual well-being, and gratitude to God may be a critical variable for research on positive psychology and the psychology of religion/spirituality. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Gratitude to God)

Review

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8 pages, 244 KiB  
Review
Using Social Media to Assess Expressions of Gratitude to God: Issues for Consideration
by Louis Tay, Stuti Thapa, David B. Newman and Munmun De Choudhury
Religions 2022, 13(9), 778; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13090778 - 25 Aug 2022
Viewed by 1351
Abstract
With the proliferation of technology-based communication, public expressions of gratitude to God on social media have become more pervasive. At the same time, data science approaches are increasingly being applied to social media language data to assess positive human attributes. We elucidate critical [...] Read more.
With the proliferation of technology-based communication, public expressions of gratitude to God on social media have become more pervasive. At the same time, data science approaches are increasingly being applied to social media language data to assess positive human attributes. We elucidate critical considerations in assessing public expressions of gratitude to God, including language variability and comparability, degree of authenticity, machine learning language analysis, and aggregation approaches that could affect assessment accuracy. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Gratitude to God)
12 pages, 284 KiB  
Review
Building on a Solid Foundation: Conceptual Mapping Informs Schemas for Relating to God
by Lucas A. Keefer and Adam K. Fetterman
Religions 2022, 13(8), 745; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13080745 - 15 Aug 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1540
Abstract
How do individuals manage to maintain strong emotional and personal relationships with God, despite the physical (and metaphysical) challenges posed by that task? Past studies show that individuals relate to God in characteristic ways based in part on their God concepts, the ways [...] Read more.
How do individuals manage to maintain strong emotional and personal relationships with God, despite the physical (and metaphysical) challenges posed by that task? Past studies show that individuals relate to God in characteristic ways based in part on their God concepts, the ways they internally represent the nature of God. The current manuscript summarizes research suggesting that these concepts arise in part through mapping processes involving metaphor and analogy. This review suggests these cognitive processes influence the content of God concepts that ultimately determine how individuals relate to God. Future research would benefit from considering the important role that basic cognitive mapping plays in far-reaching emotional and behavioral outcomes. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Gratitude to God)
11 pages, 631 KiB  
Review
U.S. Federal Investment in Religiousness/Spirituality and Health Research: A Systematic Review
by Crystal L. Park, Jamilah R. George, Saya Awao, Lauren M. Carney, Steven Batt and John M. Salsman
Religions 2022, 13(8), 725; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13080725 - 10 Aug 2022
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1589
Abstract
Objectives: Although robust associations between aspects of religiousness/spirituality (R/S) and physical health have been established, little systematic information is available about federal funding support for this area of research. To address this question, we conducted a comprehensive systematic review and analysis. Study Design: [...] Read more.
Objectives: Although robust associations between aspects of religiousness/spirituality (R/S) and physical health have been established, little systematic information is available about federal funding support for this area of research. To address this question, we conducted a comprehensive systematic review and analysis. Study Design: Systematic review. Methods: We used the information provided by the Federal RePORTER and searched from earliest date through the end of 2018. Abstracts were included if they were an empirical study and included both a religion/spirituality variable and a health variable. Results: Our search yielded 194 grants reflecting over USD 214 million in research expenditures, with the vast majority (85%) funded by the NIH. Most common were community-based observational studies with healthy populations (70%). Nearly three-quarters (73%) of studies specifying age focused on adults, but children and adolescents were also well represented in these projects. The proportion of studies focused on racial/ethnic minorities (47%) was disproportionate to their representation in the U.S. population, which could reflect either heightened efforts to address health disparities or a view that R/S is primarily or mostly relevant to minority groups. Less than half of funded studies (41%) considered religion a central focus and publications for R/S-focused studies were less common than for non-R/S-focused studies (M = 7.0 to M = 13.3, respectively, p = 0.06). Overall funding levels appear to be declining in more recent years, although this trend was not statistically significant (p = 0.52). Many abstracts did not provide adequate details for coding. Conclusions: Overall, the present review suggests that U.S. federal funding for research on R/S and health is substantial, but most of this has only peripherally considered R/S and has yielded modest return on investment. Promising future directions include a continued focus on racial and ethnic minority populations as well as in emerging areas such as religious gratitude and compassion along with well-designed intervention trials. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Gratitude to God)
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