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The Coherence of Theism (Clarendon Library of Logic and Philosophy) Revised Edition

4.7 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0198240709
ISBN-10: 0198240708
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Editorial Reviews

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"Swinburne's revised edition is indeed a pleasure.... It is also good to see that [the] Clarendon Press have produced a relatively cheap paperback, for which students will certainly be grateful."--Heythrop Journal


About the Author

Richard Swinburne is at University of Oxford.
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Product Details

  • Series: Clarendon Library of Logic and Philosophy
  • Paperback: 328 pages
  • Publisher: Clarendon Press; Revised edition (April 29, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0198240708
  • ISBN-13: 978-0198240709
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 0.8 x 5.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,399,209 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Richard Swinburne came highly recommended to me. Yet, after reading this book, I can say that he has greatly exceeded my expectations. I found Swinburne's argumentation to be clear, concise, and in many cases interesting. But not easy. There were several parts of his book which I had to read, and re-read, in order to fully understand his line of thought, which I expected.

Swinburne's task is to discover whether or not Theism is coherent. He concludes that it (probably) is. He doesn't argue that it's true per say merely that the Theist can not be charged with holding incoherent views. The book is split into three separate sections. In the first, Swinburne goes about defining what it means for something to be `coherent' and `incoherent.' He argues that a statement is incoherent if it entails a self-contradictory statement. He also argues that the easiest way to find a statement to be coherent is if that statement entails another statement which is coherent. He spends the rest of section 1 describing religious language--i.e. whether language describing God is used equivocally, univocally, or analogously. Throughout the book Swinburne maintains that we can describe God using words (such as "love" and "good") in their `mundane' senses without (always) appealing to analogy.

In section 2, Swinburne argues for a `contingent' god. He looks at eight different characteristics that Theists have typically used to describe God--an omnipresent spirit, free and creator of the universe, omnipotent, omniscient, perfectly good, a source of moral obligation, eternal, and immutable. He goes through each and argues first, that such notions are in fact coherent, and second such notions can be successfully defended against critiques. The bulk of the book takes up this portion.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I found this work to be a fascinating treatsie on the coherence of theism. That being said, I took issue with his analysis of the characterisitcs God would neccessarily have as part of his nature and his divergence from the same analysis of Thomas Aquinas. Swinburne is keen to point out the importance of the use and the meaning of language in communicating the concept of theism so that it may be understood precisely and be found coherent by readers or listeners. An approach using inductive reasoning is pointed out as an importantant step as no argument can be made on behalf of theism from direct evidence. The sticking point for me came with Swinburne's descriptions of God's main characteristics; omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence. Specifically, he limits God's omniscience of logical necessity for him to be a perfectly free being, have made man with free will. He finds this consistent with God's situational reactions described in the OT. Aquinas however, does not place limits on God's omniscience and describes him as outside of time, thus knowing all things at all times instantaneously. Swinburne is careful in his conclusions to point out that like Aquinas, he believes no intellect can know God fully. This leaves any description of God's characteristics a matter of conjecture, for which I believe Aquinas has the upper hand.
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Format: Paperback
Richard G. Swinburne (born 1934) is Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Oxford; he has written many other books such as Is There a God?, The Existence of God, Faith and Reason, Was Jesus God?, etc.

He wrote in the Introduction to this 1977 book, "this book... is concerned solely with the central core of theistic belief, that God exists, that there is a God. It is not concerned primarily with whether this belief is true or with whether we can know that it is true or with whether we can know it to be true, but with the prior questions of what it means and whether it is coherent... It will, however, reach the conclusion that the question of the coherence of the belief that there is a God cannot altogether be separated from the question of the truth." (Pg. 1)

He admits, "If the terms in the definition of God are to be understood in the analogical senses I cannot prove for certain that claims that there exists such a God are or are not coherent. I can only indicate the considerations which are relevant to showing their coherence or incoherence. My main conclusion will be that we only have good grounds for supposing such claims coherent if we have good grounds for supposing them true. Whether we do have such grounds is a question that lies outside the scope of this book." (Pg.
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Format: Paperback
The Coherence of Theism by Richard Swinburne, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1977, 320 ff

Swinburne is an Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Oxford specializing in the philosophy of religion. He was the Nolloth Professor of the Christian Religion at the University from 1985. This is the first book in a trilogy devoted to arguing a case in favour of belief in God; a revised edition was published in 1993. The other books in the trilogy are The Existence of God and Faith and Reason.

The Coherence of Theism is set out in three parts. Part I is on Religious Language and in the first two chapters deals with what the term `coherence' means. The author then goes on to explain how other terms are used in a theological context. Part II argues the case for A Contingent God, that is, a God or `personal ground of being' whose qualities of omnipresence, omnipotence and omniscience and whose role as the source of moral obligation and creator of the universe are arrived at coherently by induction through observation of the natural world. Swinburne counters here some of the atheistic, or perhaps I should say philosophically agnostic, arguments of David Hume and Anthony Flew. Part III gives us an alternative argument for A Necessary God - that it is not by chance that there happens to be `something rather than nothing'. That is to say, the coming into existence of humankind and of the rest of the universe was not just a chance event but was in some sense directed or preordained; and that the existence of such a necessary God presupposes the qualities outlined in Part II.

This is a book of impeccable scholarship and carefully detailed argument. It is difficult therefore for me to give any further meaningful detail in a short review such as this.
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