Book Reviews

Review of God, Evolution, and Animal Suffering: Theodicy without a Fall by Bethany N. Sollereder

Sollereder, Bethany N. God, Evolution, and Animal Suffering: Theodicy without a Fall. New York, NY: Routledge, 2019, pp. 202, $48.95, paperback. Bethany Sollereder (PhD, Exeter) is a systematic theologian and postdoctoral fellow in the Faculty of Theology and Religion at the University of Oxford.  She writes on theodicy, animals, interpretations of Genesis, and science and religion. Sollereder’s outstanding book asks how “a good and loving God [can] create through an evolutionary process involving such suffering, death, extinction, and violence” (p. 4).   It is not a defense of Christian theism in light of the violence of evolutionary history, but an exploration of ways to understand the God-world relation in light of what is so baffling about evolution. Taking a line from Christopher Southgate, she explains her project “arise[s] out of protest and end[s] in mystery” (p. 4). Blending an account of love borrowed from Aquinas and an Open Theist take on divine action, Sollereder tells a creative, complex, and at turns, mystifying story. She argues the disvalue of evolutionary suffering is a necessary byproduct of God’s generous gift of being to creatures and refusal to ‘micromanage’ (p. 183) the trajectory of any individual or species’ growth and development.  Furthermore, no disvalue is beyond the…

Review of An Introduction to Theological Anthropology: Humans, Both Creaturely and Divine by Joshua R. Farris
Book Reviews , Featured , Philosophy , Theology / October 12, 2021

Farris, Joshua R. An Introduction to Theological Anthropology: Humans, Both Creaturely and Divine. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2020, 336, $29.99, softcover. Joshua R. Farris (PhD, University of Bristol) is Executive Director of Alpine Christian School and former assistant professor of theology at Houston Baptist University. Farris has edited and written numerous works on anthropology, making him ideally suited to pen an introduction to theological anthropology. While questions of anthropology continue to dominate contemporary discussions within and without the church, the academic resources providing both introductions and specialized focus lag. This makes Farris’s Introduction to Theological Anthropology a welcome source. Farris covers all the major areas in theological anthropology, expanding beyond what is typically found in overtly theological material or overtly philosophical material. He writes as a sort of bridge between theology and philosophy, engaging the questions, topics, and ideas from both disciplines in a single volume. There are chapters on human identity and ontology (e.g. materialism vs. substance dualism vs. hylemorphism, etc.), human origins, the imago dei, free will, original sin, Christological anthropology, culture (e.g. race, disability, and work), gender and sexuality, the afterlife, and the telos of humanity. Each chapter attempts to provide a high-level summary, explaining the various…

Review of Divine Humility: God Morally Perfect Being by Matthew A. Wilcoxen
Book Reviews , Philosophy , Theology / June 28, 2021

Wilcoxen, Matthew A. Divine Humility: God Morally Perfect Being. Waco, Texas: Baylor University Press, 2019, pp. 227, $39.95, hardback. Matthew A. Wilcoxen is an Associate Rector at Church of the Resurrection in Washington DC. He earned his PhD in Systematic Theology from Charles Sturt University, Australia. In Divine Humility, Matthew A. Wilcoxen asks why humility has not always firmly been considered one of God’s eternal attributes in the Christian tradition. Honouring their theological achievements, this book visits the work of St. Augustine, Karl Barth and Katherine Sonderegger and puts them to work answering some of the tradition’s oldest and newest questions. Chapter 1 introduces the task at hand through the question of how (or if) the metaphysical attributes of the divine being can relate to his divine subjective moral attributes. It begins with a concise critique of Heidegger’s Onto-theology and his influence in certain strains of contemporary theology. Wilcoxen highlights existentialism’s dependence on the very enlightenment principles it tried to rebel against while preparing for itself a “conflict of traditions” (p. 10), which additionally estranged it in part from its “rival tradition of inquiry, Christian Theology” (p. 11). Instead, Wilcoxen takes an analytic approach to be more conducive for returning to…

Review of The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say About Human Origins by Peter Enns
Book Reviews , Old Testament , Philosophy / June 28, 2021

Enns, Peter. The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say About Human Origins. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2012. xx+172 pp. $14.99. Is there a conflict between evolutionary theory and the Christian reading of Genesis 1–11? Peter Enns (Ph.D., Harvard University), Abram S. Clemens Professor of Biblical Studies Eastern University, writes The Evolution of Adam to answer this very question. Enns’ premise in the book not that Adam evolved but that Christian thinking about the historical Adam should evolve because of two key ideas: “(1) scientific evidence supporting evolution and (2) literary evidence from the world of the Bible that helps clarify the kind of literature the Bible is––that is, what it means to read it as it was meant to read” (xiii). The argument for Enns’ perspective of the historical Adam is laid out in two parts. The first part of Enns’ book in “Genesis: An Ancient Story of Israelite Self-Definition” (chapters 1–4) address the story of the history of Israel, and the section part “Understanding Paul’s Adam” (chapters 5–7) examines Paul’s perspective of the historical Adam. Enns’ concludes with “nine theses” pp. (137–148). Chapters 1–4 approach the historical Adam’s issue through a historical-critical perspective, which…

Review of The Nature and Promise of Analytic Theology by Crisp, Arcadi, and Wessling
Book Reviews , Philosophy , Theology / June 10, 2021

Crisp, Oliver D., James M. Arcadi, and Jordan Wessling. The Nature and Promise of Analytic Theology. Leiden: Brill, 2019. vi + 104 pp. €70.00/$84.00. Ever since the publication of the edited volume, Analytic Theology: News Essays in the Philosophy of Theology, which formally launched the analytic theology movement in 2009, questions and confusions remain as to what exactly analytic theology (AT) is. Not only do scholars from various disciplines take issue with the qualifier analytic in AT, a number of them doubt that AT can even be called theology (e.g., Martin Westerholm, “Analytic Theology and Contemporary Inquiry,” International Journal of Philosophy and Theology 80, no. 3 [2019]: 230–54). After ten years of various attempts at definition, Oliver Crisp as the co-founder of the movement, together with some of his A-Team, James Arcadi and Jordan Wessling, once again take up the task of restating and clarifying a definition in their The Nature and Promise of Analytic Theology. In writing this brief, yet substantive monograph, Crisp et al.’s ultimate aim is not simply to respond to some common misunderstandings to AT; rather they aim to highlight how AT has been operating and developing in the past and how it can contribute further to…

Review of The Eternal Covenant: Schleiermacher on God and Natural Science by Daniel James Pedersen

Pedersen, Daniel James. The Eternal Covenant: Schleiermacher on God and Natural Science. Berlin/Boston: Walter de Gruyter, 2017, pp.xli+187, $114.99, hardback. The focus of this work is the “eternal covenant” between the Christian faith and natural science that is commended in the work of Friedrich Schleiermacher. As the introduction rehearses, two interpretations of this proposal have dominated the literature: a “separationist model”, in which there is a rigid demarcation of the disciplines, and an “accommodation model”, in which the Christian faith always has to accommodate advances in natural science. But Pedersen considers both models flawed: not only do they fail to account for the terms “eternal” and “covenant”; they also fail to consider that the “eternal covenant” is not so much a methodological proposal as a carefully argued conclusion, undergirded by “a host of claims and commitments supported by argumentation” (p. 12). To demonstrate this latter position is the principal task which this book sets itself, and its proving ground is Schleiermacher’s major work in Christian dogmatics, Christian Faith. The ultimate starting-point for all Schleiermacher’s claims and commitments in Christian Faith is, famously, the feeling of absolute dependence. Crucially, however, Pedersen observes that these claims and commitments can be held on…

Review of Divine Omniscience and Human Free Will: A Logical and Metaphysical Analysis by Ciro De Florio and Aldo Friderio
Book Reviews , Philosophy , Theology / March 22, 2021

De Florio, Ciro and Aldo Friderio. Divine Omniscience and Human Free Will: A Logical and Metaphysical Analysis. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Frontiers in Philosophy of Religion, 2019, pp. 264, $80, Hardcover. The problem of divine foreknowledge and human free will exists at the impasse of two seemingly independent, yet, arguably mutually exclusive propositions: that God has foreknowledge of future contingents and that human beings possess libertarian free will. Roughly stated, if God knows at some past time (say, the creation of the world) that tomorrow I will drink coffee for breakfast, then, when tomorrow arrives, it seems that I am not free to do anything other than drink coffee (call this the foreknowledge dilemma). In their recently co-authored book, Divine Omniscience and Human Free Will, philosophers Ciro De Florio and Aldo Frigerio highlight an often overlooked aspect of the foreknowledge dilemma, namely, the metaphysics of time, arguing that solutions to the problem that do not account for the nature of time often are found wanting. Thus, the authors’ primary goal is not to provide a solution to the problem; rather it is to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of the most common solutions in light of differing metaphysics of time. The book consists…

Review of Scientism: The New Orthodoxy by Williams and Robinson
Book Reviews , Philosophy , Theology / January 22, 2021

Richard N. Williams and Daniel Robinson. Scientism: The New Orthodoxy. New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2016. 208 pages. $42.95. As anyone in the academy will admit, the natural sciences have been extraordinarily successful. That success translates over into wonderful (even if sometimes dreadful) technological innovations: the light bulb, GPS, laptops, transportation, iPhones, vaccines, atom bombs, television, the Internet, the plane, telescopes, et al. The list is long and growing. The methods of science appear to be so powerful that some thinkers begin to ask themselves the following questions. What if one needs the sciences to really know anything at all? What if other disciplines have been using methods that do not lead to knowledge? Why is it that the sciences have a marked history of measurable progress that the other disciplines do not have (and if they do have it, why does it take so long, and why is it so small and inconsequential?)? If the methods of science have been this powerful, why are not such methods used in all domains of inquiry? Thus, if the sciences are the only way to have real knowledge of the nature of reality, then other disciplines seem to have two choices: either gradually go…

Review of But What About God’s Wrath? The Compelling Love Story of Divine Anger by Kevin Kinghorn with Stephen Travis
Book Reviews , Philosophy , Theology / January 14, 2021

Kinghorn, Kevin (with Stephen Travis). But What About God’s Wrath? The Compelling Love Story of Divine Anger. Downer’s Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2019, pp. 157, $18.  Kevin Kinghorn (DPhil, Oxford) is Professor of Philosophy and Religion at Asbury Theological Seminary. He has authored The Decision of Faith: Can Christian Beliefs Be Freely Chosen? (T&T Clark, 2005) and A Framework for the Good (Notre Dame, 2016) along with numerous articles and book chapters. While this book is written by Kinghorn, he acknowledges extensive dependence on the Biblical exegesis work of Stephen Travis (PhD, Cambridge), which is why Travis is referenced on the title page. The issue of God’s wrath is a practical point of contention in contemporary theology, as it has been throughout the history of Christian theology. In But What About God’s Wrath? Kinghorn seeks to defend the thesis that God’s wrath is a pattern of action of God “pressing on us the truth” of our sinfulness rooted in his love for all humanity (see p. 92). Kinghorn attempts to accomplish this in two ways. First, he provides a philosophical argument beginning with biblically and philosophically reasonable theological commitments for the conclusion that “God’s wrath is entirely an expression of…

Review of Plantingian Religious Epistemology and World Religions: Prospects and Problems by Baldwin and McNabb
Book Reviews , Philosophy / November 12, 2020

Baldwin, Erik and Tyler Dalton McNabb. Plantingian Religious Epistemology and World Religions: Prospects and Problems. London, UK: Lexington Books, 2019, pp. 315, $95, hardback. Baldwin and McNabb’s Plantingian Religious Epistemology and World Religions is the first in-depth assessment of the prospects of extending Alvin Plantinga’s strategy for defending the epistemic rationality of Christian belief to other religious contexts. To this end, the authors engage representative positions in Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Daoism, Judaism, and Islam for determining which, if any, are able to sustain something at least analogous to the Plantingian religious epistemological model. This project is important in light of the well-known Pandora’s Box objection to Plantinga’s religious epistemology: some are weary of Plantinga’s theory if just any proponent of any major world religion can employ it to congratulate themselves for having epistemically rational religious beliefs. The book is structured in four parts. The first introduces and defends the main outlines of Plantinga’s religious epistemology; the second evaluates select eastern religions in their capacity for integrating that epistemology; the third evaluates Judaism and Islam with respect to the same question; and the fourth engages the aforementioned Pandora’s Box problem. Ultimately the authors conclude that, while the Abrahamic religions have resources for…