Book Reviews

Review of The Religious Philosophy of Roger Scruton edited by James Bryson
Book Reviews , 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 , 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,…

Review of Reading Kierkegaard I: Fear and Trembling by Paul Martens
Book Reviews , Philosophy , Theology / June 22, 2017

Martens, Paul. Reading Kierkegaard I: Fear and Trembling. Cascade Companions. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2017, pp. 103, $18, paperback. Paul Martens is associate professor in the department of religion at Baylor University, which, along with Martens, also employs C. Stephen Evans (department of philosophy) and Jan Evans (department of Spanish), making Baylor home to Kierkegaard scholars in three different departments and a recent hub of Kierkegaard scholarship, especially as Kierkegaards pertains to Christian Ethics. Martens has two other introductory books on Kierkegaard forthcoming, one on Works of Love in the same Cascade Companions series as Reading Kierkegaard I (hereafter, RKI), and another, presumably more general introduction to Kierkegaard in Eerdmans’ Intervention series. RKI, as its subtitle suggests, and as per the mission statement of the Cascade Companions series within which it is found, is an introduction to the writing of Kierkegaard for the non-specialist. It differs from other books in the series, however, by working as an introduction to one non-biblical book as opposed to the corpus of a Christian thinker. As such, it works like a short commentary on Fear and Trembling (hereafter F/T) with a brief introduction and conclusion that offer some ideas as to how understanding F/T…

Review of Making Sense of God: An Invitation to the Skeptical by Timothy Keller

Keller, Tim. Making Sense of God: An Invitation to the Skeptical. New York: Viking, 2016. 254 pages. $17.70. Tim Keller has served as the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan for nearly thirty years and has spent much of his ministry engaging skeptics of Christianity with both winsome humility and intellectual dexterity. Making Sense of God, which serves as an apologetic prequel to his previous book, The Reason for God, exudes the same charitable tone and rhetorical skill that those familiar with Keller’s work and ministry have come to expect. The book is a prequel in that Keller aims to present Christianity as desirable first, whereas in The Reason for God, he aims to present Christianity as rational. His basic supposition is that before a person will consider seriously whether Christianity is true, she must first want it to be true. Keller essentially argues for two broad theses. He argues in the first section of the book that “every person embraces his or her worldview for a variety of rational, emotional, cultural, and social factors” (pp. 4-5). And, he argues in the final two sections of the book that Christianity makes the most emotional, cultural, and rational sense…

Review of Idealism and Christianity, 2 volumes, edited by Farris, Hamilton, Cowan, and Spiegel
Book Reviews , Philosophy , Theology / April 11, 2017

Joshua R. Farris and S. Mark Hamilton (eds.). Idealism and Christian Theology. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2016, pp. 256, $100, hardback. Steven Cowan and James Spiegel (eds.). Idealism and Christian Philosophy. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2016, pp. 224, $100, hardback. What does idealism have to do with Christianity? In Bloomsbury’s two-volume series, editors Joshua Farris, Mark Hamilton, Steven Cowan, and James Spiegel set out to answer this question. Reflection upon Edwardsean and Berkeleyan idealism has lead them to advocate for a reevaluation of idealism’s compatibility with Christian theology. Together they have assembled a wide array of scholars whose personal commitment to idealism varies, but nevertheless each endorses a particular virtue of idealism. Since space forbids a detailed interaction with each chapter of this series, I have instead opted for a thematic summary and a meta-criticism concerning the enterprise of Christian idealism. The summary might also serve as a recommended reading plan of the two volumes, reorganized according to what I take to be the major contribution from each author. Many of these chapters do a refreshingly excellent job of writing historically informed analytic theology or philosophy, which was a chief aim of the editors of volume one. Consequently, my classification of prolegomena,…