Book Reviews

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 , Featured , 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…

Review of Knowledge, Belief, and God: New Insights in Religious Epistemology edited by Benton, Hawthorne, and Dabinowitz
Book Reviews , Philosophy / November 20, 2018

Benton, Matthew, John Hawthorne, and Dani Dabinowitz, eds. Knowledge, Belief, and God: New Insights in Religious Epistemology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018, pp. 345, $70.00. Reformed epistemology is roughly the thesis that religious belief can be justified or warranted apart from argumentation. As the editors of Knowledge, Belief, and God note, Reformed epistemology is the dominant position in the epistemology of religion (p. 3). While there has been a lot of work done in the 90s and 00s, discussing how belief in God can be properly basic, the editors aim to produce a new volume discussing recent developments within the field. The volume is broken up into the following four sections: Historical, Formal, Social, and Rational. The historical section addresses traditional problems in the field of epistemology of religion with recent developments in analytic epistemology. For example, Charity Anderson’s interesting essay applies Maria Lasonen-Aarino’s work on knowledge and defeat to Hume’s arguments against miracles. Anderson argues that a subject can possess knowledge that a miracle occurred, while her belief at the same time fails to meet the standard of reasonability. Other interesting essays in this section include Richard Cross’ essay on Scotus and Aquinas. Here, Cross discusses Scotus’ and Aquinas’…

Review of The Brain, the Mind, and the Person Within: Enduring Mystery of the Soul by Mark Cosgrove
Book Reviews , Philosophy / November 13, 2018

Cosgrove Mark. The Brain, the Mind, and the Person Within: The Enduring Mystery of the Soul. Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2018. 180 pp.  $18.00. 978-0825445262. Is there a nexus to be found between the fields of neuroscience and theology? According to Cosgrove’s short work The Brain, the Mind, and the Person Within, there is ample evidence that suggests the two fields belong together. While many introductory works on neuroscience and neurobiology are filled with technical jargon and philosophical esoterica, Cosgrove has an eye towards pedagogy without falling into the temptation of oversimplification or over-extrapolation. Over ten short chapters, Cosgrove carefully introduces and discusses the state of the question concerning the anatomy, functionality, and theology of the mind. Chapters 1 and 2 introduce the reader to the mysteries found within the studies of the brain. Glial cells and neurons make the person, but the mind is no mere combination of chemicals (p. 27 ff). According to Cosgrove, it is problematic to accept the mind as a “machine” view of the human brain. For consciousness exist in four realms: (1) Frontal Lobes (time), Parietal Lobes (meaning), Temporal Lobes (symbols), and Corpus Callosum (imagination) (p. 30–34). Chapter 3 further explores the transmitter chemicals (NE,…

Review of Flawed Perfection: What it Means to Be Human; Why it Matters for Culture, Politics, and Law by Jeffrey A. Brauch
Book Reviews , Ethics , Philosophy , Theology / November 2, 2018

Jeffrey A. Brauch. Flawed Perfection: What it Means To Be Human; Why it Matters for Culture, Politics, and Law .(Bellingham: Lexham Press, 2017). 344 pages. $15.99. Theological anthropology is a thriving area of study. Part of the reason for this growth is due to the growing studies from the brain sciences and psychology, which have and continue to raise interesting and thought-provoking implications for what it means to be human. Another reason for the growing interest in theological anthropology has to do with the growing tensions within the broader cultural conversation on what it means to be human. Jeffrey Brauch enters these discussions as a fresh voice. He argues that, at the heart of this conversation, to be human means that we are created with dignity, value, personal responsibility, but we are also marked the Fall—in other words, Flawed Perfection. Flawed Perfection is not your typical book on theological anthropology, however. It is unusual, but I mean that positively. Brauch is not integrating classical theological anthropology with one of the sciences or re-branding it with a particular philosophy. Brauch, also, is not writing, primarily, with the academic in mind. He writes with a broad audience in view. As a legal expert…

Review of Approaching Philosophy of Religion: An Introduction to Key Thinkers, Concepts, Methods & Debates by Anthony C. Thiselton
Book Reviews , Philosophy / October 30, 2018

Thiselton, Anthony C. Approaching Philosophy of Religion: An Introduction to Key Thinkers, Concepts, Methods & Debates. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2018, pp. 224, $23.99, paperback. Anthony Thiselton is emeritus professor of Christian theology at the University of Nottingham, as well as the University of Chester. Thiselton has authored numerous books in theology, spanning topics such as systematic theology, hermeneutics, and postmodernism, as well as exegetical works on various New Testament books. Thiselton’s work in theology necessarily overlaps with topics found in philosophy of religion, which occasioned his recent book in the philosophy of religion, Faith, Doubt and Certainty (2017). Thiselton’s latest work is the result of a fruitful ministry of writing and research, providing newcomers and seasoned students of philosophy a helpful resource for the key thinkers, approaches, and terms of the philosophy of religion. While readers can certainly read Approaching Philosophy of Religion from cover to cover, one does not necessarily have to do so, for it serves as a resource to be visited as research or interest dictates. Thiselton divides the book into three primary parts, though the Introduction can serve as a standalone section as well, thus giving the book four parts. In the Introduction, Thiselton…

Review of New Models of Religious Understanding edited by Fiona Ellis
Book Reviews , Philosophy , Theology / July 9, 2018

Ellis, Fiona, ed. New Models of Religious Understanding. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018, pp. 256, £55, hardback. Emerging out of research conducted by the Centre for the Philosophy of Religion in Heythrop College, London, New Models of Religious Understanding (ed. Fiona Ellis) offers reflections on a refreshing new approach to the philosophy of religion. Attempting to build bridges between the analytic and continental traditions, the contributors to this volume present a method of doing philosophy of religion which moves away from ontological and metaphysical questions about the existence and nature of God. This new approach is concerned with religious practice more than belief, the kinds of knowledge and understanding that are valuable in religious discourse, and the ways in which religious or spiritual realities might become accessible only to those who enquire after them in the right way. Religious understanding is not a matter of what we know, but of what we do, how we do it, and how what we do opens up new facets or aspects of reality to us. Despite containing contributions from eleven different authors, the book has a remarkable consistency of approach throughout; Fiona Ellis identifies two key themes in her introduction. First, the contributors…