Book Reviews

Review of A Little Book for New Scientists by Reeves and Donaldson
Book Reviews , Featured , Philosophy / August 22, 2017

Reeves, Josh A. and Steve Donaldson, A Little Book for New Scientists. Downers Grove, IVP Academic, 2016, pp. 141, $12.00, paperback. A book title by an evangelical publisher purporting to provide help for scientists immediately raises questions in today’s overheated world of Christianity in relation to science. But this is precisely the purpose of this truly little blue book (7 x 4 x ½ inches). And for such a small work, the authors do a remarkably good job of at least pointing out to us the right questions. The authors teach that the scientist can expect felicitous surprises (e.g., opportunities for mission and ministry) as well as trials for their Christian faith (e.g., science-religion conflicts). The latter can lead to intellectual crisis for Christians. So the authors state: “The primary purpose of this book, then, is to help Christians studying and practicing in the sciences to connect their vocation with their Christian faith” (p. 13). The authors, who teach at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, are well-qualified to write such a book. Reeves serves as a project administrator in the university’s Center for Science and Religion (CSR), managing the New Directions in Science and Religion project. Donaldson, who co-founded the…

Review of God Over All: Divine Aseity and the Challenge of Platonism by William Lane Craig
Book Reviews , Featured , Philosophy / August 17, 2017

Craig, William Lane. God Over All: Divine Aseity and the Challenge of Platonism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016, pp. 242, $80.00, hardback. God Over All is an expansion of William Lane Craig’s 2015 Cadbury lectures. A more in depth volume on God and abstract objects is forthcoming with Springer Publishing. This work then can be considered as a succinct summary of Craig’s research on the topic. Given that this is the case, we should judge this work in light of the aforementioned context. Craig begins the volume by defining the problem of God and abstract objects. The idea is something like this: Classical theism sees God as a se, that is, God does not exist through another or from another; instead it is he who is responsible for all of reality (p. 1). And yet, if Platonism – the thesis that there are abstract objects which are eternal and immaterial – is true, God would not be a se. Craig gives the following as an example of why this would be the case: Consider the cluster of divine attributes which go to make up God’s nature. Call that nature deity. On Platonism, deity is an abstract object existing independently of God,…

Review of Four Views on Christianity and Philosophy edited by Gould and Davis
Book Reviews , Featured , Philosophy / August 15, 2017

Gould, Paul M. and Richard Brian Davis, eds. Four Views on Christianity and Philosophy. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2016, pp. 240, $19.99, paperback. Perhaps reflecting the influence of his colleague, Rudolf Bultmann, Martin Heidegger makes what at first seems a curious statement in a 1927-28 lecture entitled “Phenomenology and Theology”: “there is no such thing as a Christian philosophy” (in The Piety of Thinking, James G. Hart and John C. Maraldo, eds. [Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1976], 21). For Heidegger, philosophy examines the most basic of human pursuits (the question of Being) while all other disciplines (including theology) examine various aspects of Being. Some in the Society of Christian Philosophers may disagree, but Heidegger is basically correct—if by Christian philosophy one means a philosophy that differs in kind from other alleged types of philosophy. Philosophy, though, properly understood, is not a set of beliefs or method of analysis that is susceptible to qualifying titles such as “Christian,” or “atheistic,” or Buddhist.” This is not to say that one who is a Christian may not philosophize differently from one who is an atheist, or a Muslim, or a Buddhist. The practitioner changes while the practice does not—or, at least, it should not….

Review of The Religious Philosophy of Roger Scruton edited by James Bryson
Book Reviews , Featured , Philosophy / August 10, 2017

Bryson, James, ed. The Religious Philosophy of Roger Scruton. New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2016, pp. 273, $114.00, hardback. In 2016 Roger Scruton, eminent British philosopher and writer, was knighted by Queen Elizabeth on her birthday. Sir Roger, recognized for his accomplishments in philosophy, teaching, and public education, was at the apotheosis of career spanning decades where he wrote and lectured on topics ranging from aesthetics, art, politics, and natural conservation. Surprisingly, there has been very little academic literature about Sir Roger’s writings, even less about his religious views. Given that he has written works on both religion and church life, this absence is glaring. It was to a great surprise that I noticed The Religious Philosophy of Roger Scruton. Originally conceived as a conference on Scruton’s writings, the work is a collection of papers presented on Sir Roger’s religious philosophy. The collection is well-thought out and organized clearly. The book itself is divided into four parts, each with essays devoting their time to exploring various areas of Scruton’s work. Part I is an exploration of Scruton’s writing on religion, Part II attempts to dive into the influences that shaped Scruton and his writing. Part III explores Scruton’s defense of art,…

Review of Alternative Concepts of God: Essays on the Metaphysics of the Divine edited by Backareff and Nagasawa
Book Reviews , Philosophy , Theology / August 8, 2017

Buckareff, Andrei A. and Yujin Nagasawa, eds. Alternative Concepts of God: Essays on the Metaphysics of the Divine. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016, pp 299, $51.80. The renaissance of philosophy of religion in the 20th Century brought with it an in-depth exploration of the metaphysics of theism. Other alternatives to theism have been explored such as pantheism and panentheism. Yet, these alternative models of God have not been given the same level of attention as theism in contemporary philosophy of religion. The collection of essays in Alternative Concepts of God seeks to provide readers with non-theistic explorations of the metaphysics of God. Each essay is well written, and the scholarship is fairly solid. However, most of the essays do not offer alternative conceptions to a theistic understanding of God in any significant depth. For example, Karl Pfeifer’s paper, “Pantheism as Panpsychism,” spends more time developing panpsychism than it does articulating pantheism. The connection to pantheism is not altogether clear as it seems that a theist could easily adopt panpsychism without endorsing pantheism. Andrei A. Buckareff develops a powerful argument for thinking that God must have spatial location; however, he does not develop this model of God in any depth….

Review of Structure and the Metaphysics of Mind: How Hylomorphism Solves the Mind-Body Problem by William Jaworski
Book Reviews , Philosophy / August 3, 2017

Jaworski, William. Structure and the Metaphysics of Mind: How Hylomorphism Solves the Mind-Body Problem. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016, pp. 362, $85.00, hardcover. William Jaworski advances a unique take on an ancient metaphysical notion to solve the most confounding problems in the Philosophy of Mind. In Structure and the Metaphysics of Mind: How Hylomorphism Solves the Mind-Body Problem, Jaworski’s modest aim is to “…show that hylomorphism deserves a place at the table alongside more familiar theories such as nonreductive physicalism, emergentism, and Russellian monism” (p. 314). This goal is achieved. The first five chapters of the text may be taxing for the beginner scholar, as they focus on metaphysically abstract questions like the problem of universals, the nature of structure, powers, and puzzling questions in mereology. Nonetheless, the payoff in the subsequent chapters is a lucid and original hylomorphic theory of mind which can provide compelling responses to a wide variety of problems physicalist theories of mind face. Hylomorphism, for the uninitiated, is the position that among the basic constituents of reality are matter (ὕλη) and form (μορφή), or as Jaworski prefers, structure. Jaworski argues that, “A worldview that rejects hylomorphic structure… is a worldview that lacks a basic…

Review of The Hiddenness Argument: Philosophy’s New Challenge to Belief in God by John Schellenberg
Book Reviews , Featured , Philosophy / July 27, 2017

Schellenberg, John. The Hiddenness Argument: Philosophy’s New Challenge to Belief in God. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015, pp.xii+142, £25.00, hardback. John Schellenberg, Professor of Philosophy at Mount Saint Vincent University (Canada), brought “The Argument from Divine Hiddenness” (ADH) into the purview of academic scholarship. This (quite easy) argument goes like this: the Christian tradition depicts the ultimate well-being of human creatures as being dependent on a loving relationship with God. However, if God exists and is perfectly loving, why does not God make sure that all come to believe in Him? God’s hiddenness and the phenomenon of nonbelief seem to count against the very existence of a perfectly loving God. The hiddenness argument takes the form of a philosophical argument against theism, and much of this short book is dedicated to strengthening and defending the premises that when joined together entail the conclusion, “God does not exist”. Chapters 1 and 2 establish the philosophical groundwork for Schellenberg’s project. He provides the reader with the basic tools, explains the nature and purpose of making an argument, and what “philosophers are up to when they produce what looks like technobable” (p. 14). He further explains the key term of “hiddenness” and what…

Review of The Ashgate Research Companion to Theological Anthropology edited by Farris and Taliaferro
Book Reviews , Philosophy , Theology / July 25, 2017

The Ashgate Research Companion to Theological Anthropology. Edited by Joshua R. Farris and Charles Taliaferro. Burlington, Vt.: Ashgate Publishing, 2015. xx + 404 pp. $149.95. Anthropology is among the more complex disciplines in Christian theology. Part of what makes this discipline so complex has more to do with how one conceives of the questions—both in terms of starting points and assumptions—than it does with where one finds the answers to them. Remarkably serviceable to advanced graduate students and scholars alike, The Ashgate Research Companion to Theological Anthropology is certainly the place to start for those who want to come to terms with both the questions and answers that concern human constitution, evolutionary biology, the image of God, cognitive neuroscience, human freedom (and much more) as it relates to Christian theology. Boasting a total of twenty-seven chapters, plus the introduction, the Companion is divided up into seven main sections: 1) Methodology in Theological Anthropology; 2) Theological Anthropology, The Brain, The Body, and the Sciences; 3) Models for Theological Anthropology; 4) Theological Models of the Imago Dei; 5) Human Nature, Freedom and Salvation; 6) Human Beings in Sin and Salvation; 7) Christological Theological Anthropology. A fairly balanced ratio of chapters to sections…

Review of The Natural Sciences: A Student’s Guide by John A. Bloom

Bloom, John A. The Natural Sciences: A Student’s Guide. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2015, 127 pages, $11.99, paperback. John A. Bloom (PhD, Cornell University) is a professor of physics; chair of the chemistry, physics, and engineering department; and academic director for the M.A. in science and religion program at Biola University in California. His educational credentials make him uniquely qualified to address the relationship between science and religion as he holds not only a doctorate in physics and ancient near eastern studies, but also a masters in divinity.  Bloom has contributed to several books including Evidence for Faith: Deciding the God Question (ed. John Warwick Montgomery), and published multiple articles on early creation myths, intelligent design, and human origins.  This book is part of a series entitled “Reclaiming the Christian Intellectual Tradition,” which is dedicated to providing an examination of academic topics from a distinctly Christian perspective. The purpose of this volume is to introduce students to the natural sciences, and equip the reader with evidence that the Christian worldview provides the best grounds for scientific investigation.  Bloom’s passion, which sets the tone for the entire book, is best demonstrated by his statement that “reflecting on God’s handiwork in the world…

Review of Creatures of Possibility: The Theological Basis of Human Freedom by Ingolf Dalferth
Book Reviews , Philosophy , Theology / July 11, 2017

Dalferth, Ingolf U. Creatures of Possibility: The Theological Basis of Human Freedom. Trans. Jo Bennett. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2016. pp. xxiii+217. $29.99. Ingold U. Dalferth is a German theologian whose work is increasingly translated into English, with the result that many more readers benefit from his profound insight into the relationship between theology and philosophy. In this volume, Dalferth offers a deeply thoughtful theological anthropology that is informed by a rich, versatile reading of key sources and figures, especially Martin Luther and (somewhat between the lines) Immanuel Kant. His reflections draw upon an array of insights into particular categories of thought and doctrinal claims. His writing bears witness to a theological reading of human nature for a somewhat diverse readership. Having said this, Dalferth’s level of abstraction and his occasional oversights concerning traditions other than his own signal that there are limits to the extent to which his thought will score an impact. There are several key propositions that Dalferth makes. These seem to be the key ones: Contrary to an Augustinian doctrine of original sin, humans are creatures of possibility, not creatures who possess some deficiency or other. Contrary to certain neo-classical anthropologies of the imago dei,…