Book Reviews

Review of Scientism: The New Orthodoxy by Williams and Robinson
Book Reviews , Featured , 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…

Review of Dysteleology: A Philosophical Assessment of Suboptimal Design in Biology by Michael Berhow
Book Reviews , Philosophy / July 8, 2020

Berhow, Michael. Dysteleology: A Philosophical Assessment of Suboptimal Design in Biology. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2019. 148 pages, $21, paperback. “Dysteleology” is a term invented by Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919) to describe the apparent suboptimal design and lack of function of biological order. Colloquially known as the “problem of bad design”, dysteleology has long been a central counterargument to the argument that biology was intentionally created by an omnipotent and perfectly good Creator. In the book, Dysteleology, philosopher Michael Berhow approaches the problem by contrasting theistic evolutionist Francisco J. Ayala’s dysteleological argument with Intelligent Design (ID) proponent William A. Dembski’s thought. The primary goal of the book is to show that dysteleology, as formulated by Ayala, fails as a counterargument against Intelligent Design. A secondary goal is to show that the project of theodicy requires a teleological worldview, and that Intelligent Design provides better support for such a worldview than Ayala’s brand of theistic evolutionism. Thus, Berhow concludes ambitiously that “If philosophers and theologians hope to develop a coherent evolutionary theodicy . . . they must appreciate the insights offered by ID advocates like Dembski” (p. 139). Berhow’s critique of Ayala’s theodicy follows familiar lines of argument from the literature….

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…