Book Reviews

Review of Necessary Existence by Alexander R. Pruss and Joshua L. Rasmussen
Book Reviews , Philosophy / January 27, 2020

Pruss, Alexander R. and Joshua L. Rasmussen. Necessary Existence. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018, pp. 223, $64, hardback. In Necessary Existence, Joshua Rasmussen (Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Azusa Pacific University) and Alexander Pruss (Professor of Philosophy, Baylor University) aim to defend the coherence and plausibility of the existence of a concrete being that exists of necessity, that is, a being that cannot fail to exist that can stand in causal relations (call this being “CNB” for short). While many of the ideas in the book have their origin in a series of previously published journal articles by Rasmussen, there is a great deal of new material in the book that will be of interest to those working in metaphysics and philosophical theology. The book is composed of nine densely packed chapters, each chock-full of rigorous, careful, and even-handed philosophical argumentation. A short review like this cannot possibly do justice to the clarity, creativity, and force of the philosophical arguments crafted in the book. Philosophical arguments in support of a CNB have played an important role in the history of Western philosophy, specifically as it pertains to arguments for theism. Such arguments commonly appeal to some aspect of contingent existence (events, facts,…

Review of My Story of Overcoming Anxiety and the Practices that Brought Peace by J. P. Moreland

Moreland, J. P. Finding Quiet: My Story of Overcoming Anxiety and the Practices that Brought Peace. Grand Rapids, Mi: Zondervan, 2019, pp. 220.    J. P. Moreland is distinguished professor of philosophy at Talbot School of Theology and director of Eidos Christian Center. With degrees in philosophy, theology and chemistry, Dr. Moreland has taught theology and philosophy at several schools throughout the United States. The author has numerous books, he has also served with Campus Crusade, planted two churches, and spoken at hundreds of college campuses and churches. Dr. Moreland has been recognized by The Best Schools as one of the 50 most influential living philosophers in the world (back cover). Finding Quiet (FQ) is an autobiographical testimony by Dr. Moreland about the trials and victories he has had over clinical depression which lasted for decades in his life. He writes in the Preface “The book you hold in your hands is an honest revelation of my own struggles with anxiety and depression, along with a selection of the significant spiritual, physical, and psychological ideas and practices that have helped me most. I am not a licensed therapist, and this book is not meant to be a substitute for professional or…

Review of The Hiddenness of God by Michael C. Rea
Book Reviews , Philosophy , Theology / January 6, 2020

Rea, Michael C. The Hiddenness of God. New York: Oxford University Press, 2018, 198pp., $30.00, hardcover. Michael C. Rea is Rev. John A. O’Brien Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Center for Philosophy of Religion. In this book, Rea deals with two problems induced by divine hiddenness. They are [1] the argument against the existence of God, most notably by J. L. Schellenberg; and [2] the challenge of the idea of God’s love. Rea’s approach to the issues involves two steps to respond to these two problems respectively. The first step involves two arguments to show that the hiddenness problems are based on an unfounded assumption about divine love. The first argument, in Chapter 2, is that Schellenberg’s problem is based on a concept of God which is different from and fails to target specifically Christian belief in God. For Rea, the problem of divine hiddenness is fundamentally “a problem of violated expectations” (p. 25). In Chapter 3, Rea argues that the concept of God in biblical portrayals emphasizes two key attributes, personality and transcendence, which are woven together while they are also in tension with each other. In short, we cannot understand divine love without the light of divine…

Review of Substance and the Fundamentality of the Familiar: A New-Aristotelian Mereology by Ross D. Inman
Book Reviews , Philosophy / December 19, 2019

Inman, Ross D. Substance and the Fundamentality of the Familiar: A Neo-Aristotelian Mereology. New York, NY: Routledge, 2018, 304, $145.00, hardcover. Ross Inman is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth Texas and also serves as the senior editor for the journal Philosophia Christi. He holds an M.A. in Philosophy from Talbot School of Theology and a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Trinity College, Dublin. He also completed research fellowships at the University of Notre Dame and Saint Louis University. Based upon this Inman has the necessary credentials and training to wade into the difficult waters of mereology in his book on the fundamental nature of substance. Mereology is about wholes and their parts, determining which is most fundamental to identity and existence. The typical views in mereology affirm either the whole as prior to its parts or the parts as prior to the whole. Inman, on the other hand, defends a via media thesis that at least some intermediate composite objects like people, trees, and tigers are the most fundamental objects, being substances in their own right. Rather than following Monism or Pluralism about fundamentality in whole, where either the bottom or the top of…

Review of The Greatest Possible Being by Jeff Speaks
Book Reviews , Philosophy , Theology / October 22, 2019

Speaks, Jeff. The Greatest Possible Being. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018, 175pp, $45. In The Greatest Possible Being, Jeff Speaks takes aim at critically analyzing the method of perfect being theology. Perfect being theology is a philosophical method for developing a specific doctrine of God. In particular, the method claims to guide one’s thoughts towards deriving the divine attributes. Speaks is skeptical about the ability of this method to accomplish this task. Over the course of eight chapters, Speaks offers an analysis of metaphysical, epistemological, semantic, and theological issues related to the task of perfect being theology. Speaks starts out by offering an introduction to the general idea of perfect being theology. According to Speaks, perfect being theology involves two basic steps in order to derive a specific conception of God through reason alone. The method is meant to help one identify which attributes are divine attributes. In step 1, a perfect being theologian selects a modal principle about God’s greatness. In step 2, a perfect being theologian selects a greatness condition that fits with the preferred modal principle. In these two easy steps, one should have a recipe for identifying which attributes are God’s. With regards to step 1,…

Review of Science and Secularism-Learning to Respond to a Dangerous Ideology by J. P. Moreland

Moreland, J. P. Science and Secularism – Learning to Respond to a Dangerous Ideology.  Wheaton, IL: Crossway 2018, pp. 222, $16.99, paperback. J. P. Moreland is a household name within contemporary Christian philosophy of religion, and has been one of the most important apologists for the last thirty years, particularly in terms of supporting Christianity’s compatibility with reason and natural science. This task has by necessity opposed Moreland to scientism, yet this present work is his first explicit, critical engagement with the position, building upon three decades of philosophical practice. Moreland’s Scientism and Secularism is a well-timed work which purports to dissect and criticize scientism as an ideology central to the contemporary secular West. In providing a thorough critique of scientism as an epistemological position, it also provides us with an accessible summary of the basic project of Christian apologetics as it has taken form within the framework of modern analytical philosophy, as well as an important defence of first philosophy, particularly of the epistemic primacy of philosophy in relation to the empirical sciences. The book is intended to be accessible to the interested layman, yet without unduly watering down the case being made. The work’s approachability lies both in the…

Review of The Blackwell Companion to Substance Dualism edited by Loose, Menuge, and Moreland
Book Reviews , Philosophy / August 23, 2019

Loose, Jonathan J., Angus J. L. Menuge, and J. P. Moreland, eds. The Blackwell Companion to Substance Dualism. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell Publishers, 2018, pp. 528, $159.99. In recent years, there has been an uptick of interest in the philosophy and theology of the soul. Moving beyond the disciplinary divide of philosophy and theology, there is a growing demand for interdisciplinary discussion of the soul akin to a hybrid car that runs on gas and electric. Like the gas car, there has been a flurry of philosophical critiques of physicalism/materialism with an openness to philosophical variations of the soul (e.g., After Physicalism, The Waning of Materialism). And like an electric car, there has also been several recent constructive defenses of the soul in light of broader theological considerations (e.g., Soul, Body, and Life Everlasting, The Soul of Theological Anthropology, and The Ashgate Research Companion to Theological Anthropology). There are fewer collections defending the philosophical coherence of the immaterial self (e.g., The Case for Dualism, Contemporary Dualism). It appears that The Blackwell Companion to Substance Dualism is a contribution to this smaller body of literature. It aims to offer a philosophically cogent defense of substance dualism, akin to cars running on gas, but…

Review of Faith and Humility by Jonathan L. Kvanvig

Kvanvig, Jonathan L. Faith and Humility. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018, pp. 219, $54, hardback. Jonathan L. Kvanvig is Professor of Philosophy at Washington University-St. Louis. This particular monograph came out of a project funded by the Templeton Religion Trust and the contents of Kvanvig’s Wilde Lectures, delivered at Oxford University in the spring of 2017. His work in philosophical theology expands far beyond the topics of faith and humility and includes questions of heaven and hell, a defense of Philosophical Arminianism as an alternative to Molinist accounts of divine providence, and serious reflection on the nature and possibility of omniscience. And, lest anyone might wonder what my own view of the merits of this book might be: it is excellent and a must-read for anyone working in philosophical theology. In Faith and Humility, Kvanvig first argues that faith fundamentally is a disposition in service of an ideal (i.e., a functional account of the nature of faith that allows for a wide range of cognitive and affective components). Second, he argues that the best construal of the nature of humility is as a virtue of attention, where one possesses humility insofar as one possesses the excellence of attending to oneself…

Review of The Prince of this World by Adam Kotsko

Kotsko, Adam. The Prince of This World. Stanford: California, Stanford University Press, 2017, pp. 240, $22.95, paperback. In this engaging study of the Devil, Adam Kotsko, assistant professor of humanities at Shimer College, offers a rigorous piece of political theology. Whilst making a trenchant contribution to critiques of contemporary modernity, this book will appeal to both specialists and a general audience alike. The introduction recalls the testimony of police officer Darren Wilson, who claimed to be frightened of Michael Brown, the young, unarmed black man he shot and killed. Brown was “no angel”—Wilson euphemistically positioned his victim as not just criminal, but as actively demonic. Yet, if anyone is the demon in this situation it must be the personification of racist structural violence. From somewhere has sprung “a profound theological reversal,” (p. 4) where the demonic, once the theological tool of the oppressed seeking to explain their sufferings, becomes a weapon of those who oppress. With this context, Kotsko argues that this theological discourse on the devil, the demonic and of evil emerges from a long and under-acknowledged heritage and sets himself the task of tracing the story of how this reversal has taken hold. Chapter one explores the confrontation…

Review of The Christian Idea of God: A Philosophical Foundation for Faith by Keith Ward
Book Reviews , Philosophy , Theology / December 27, 2018

Ward, Keith. The Christian Idea of God: A Philosophical Foundation for Faith. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2017, pp. 229, $32.99, paperback. Keith Ward, Regius Professor of Divinity (Oxford University) and Professor of Philosophy of Religion (University of London), launches in this book a thorough case for what he calls personal idealism. While this book builds successively on previous publications (particularly More than Matter? and Christ and the Cosmos), it explores in further depth the fruitfulness of framing the Christian faith within an idealist framework. Ward is a stern critic of materialism and in The Christian Idea of God he gives further reasons for maintaining that mind is prior to matter. The first part, “The Nature of Mind”, explores the distinctiveness of personal idealism, the epistemic priority of experience, and the objectivity of value (chapters 1-7). On this version of idealism, there is no strict separation between the universe and God; rather they form a unity, “though one in which the mental or spiritual aspect has ontological and causal priority” (p. 11). Indeed, the universe should be understood as a developing and progressing self-expression of God. But, why should we take idealism to be true and what can be said…