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Existential Reasons for Belief in God: A Defense of Desires and Emotions for Faith Paperback – February 23, 2011

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 188 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic (February 23, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0830838996
  • ISBN-13: 978-0830838998
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,072,559 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"We humans--most of us, anyway, most of the time--are rational, truth-seeking agents. But equally we are emotional creatures with existential needs, and we seek to meet those needs. Traditional Christian apologetics focuses on the former characteristic, offering evidence to believe that the Christian faith is true. Clifford Williams calls our attention to a second approach, one aimed at the second characteristic. Echoing thinkers such as Pascal and Kierkegaard, Williams's 'existential argument' shows that Christian faith can be justified--we may properly believe--just because faith satisfies certain existential needs. Williams develops his argument in a philosophically rich way, augmented with examples showing how for many people faith is engendered and sustained by existential arguments. Deep insights abound as Williams considers and rejects common objections to existential arguments. In the end, Williams doesn't reject evidential arguments, but urges us to pay closer attention to our emotional needs and their role in faith formation. I highly recommend this significant addition to the apologetic literature." (Garrett J. DeWeese, Professor of Philosophy and Philosophical Theology, Talbot School of Theology, Biola University)

"Clifford Williams's work is a powerful defense of the role that needs and emotions play in the formation and preservation of religious faith. Williams gives a powerful account of the way reason and emotion work together to produce a faith that is both rational and personal. Although the book is philosophically first-rate, it is written so clearly and powerfully that any thoughtful person can follow the argument. The inclusion of many personal stories gives the book added punch; Williams not only thinks about emotions but appeals to our emotions in an engaging manner." (C. Stephen Evans, University Professor of Philosophy and Humanities, Baylor University)

"Williams breathes new life into the provocative view that human emotions play a central role in legitimate belief in God. Drawing from Kierkegaard and Unamuno, he dares to portray belief in God as something much more personally robust and engaging than a mere solution to an intellectual puzzle. The book will benefit all serious inquirers regarding belief in God." (Paul K. Moser, Loyola University Chicago)

"Clifford Williams has composed an engaging, profoundly personal account of the reasons for belief in the God of Christianity. This is decidedly not a detached or merely academic work but a book that speaks directly to the needs, emotions and best thinking of its readers." (Charles Taliaferro, professor of philosophy, St. Olaf College)

About the Author

Clifford Williams (Ph.D., Indiana University) teaches philosophy at Trinity College (T.I.U.) in Deerfield, Illinois. He is the author of a number of books, including Singleness of Heart: Restoring the Divided Soul; Free Will and Determinism: A Dialogue; The Divided Soul: A Kierkegaardian Exploration; The Wisdom of Kierkegaard: A Collection of Quotations on Faith and Life and The Life of the Mind: A Christian Perspective.

More About the Author

Clifford Williams teaches philosophy at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois, and at Trinity College in Deerfield, Illinois. He graduated from Wheaton College in 1964 with a B.A. in philosophy and from Indiana University in 1972 with a Ph.D. in philosophy.

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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Jeremy Bouma on June 4, 2011
Format: Paperback
I have been doing some writing on God and belief in God for a few projects, and so I was very interested when I received a review copy of a new book by IVP called Existential Reasons for Belief in God. The book's thesis is simple, Williams contends that needs, emotions and desires are all valid parts of faith, and quite essential in many cases. This thesis is quite different from the ways I've heard belief in God presented before (you must believe intellectually in a list of facts) yet consistent with most evangelistic approaches that tap into a person's existential angst.

The author opens the book with two questions: "1) Is it legitimate to acquire faith in God solely through satisfaction of needs? 2) Does faith in God consist of emotions?" (12)

Well what do you think?

The author contends that "the ideal way to acquire faith in God is through both need and reason, and that faith should consist of both emotion and assent." (12) While Rationalists emphasize reason and Emotionalists emphasize emotion and need, Williams wants to emphasize both, especially in defending the legitimacy of acquiring faith through need, emotion, and reason.

He does so in the context of arguing eight themes:

1) Emotion and need can be trusted for faith in God as much as reason.

2) The negative assessment of emotions by some Christians is unjustified.

3) The remedy for being led astray by emotions is not to distrust emotions, but to develop the right emotions.

4) Christians should cultivate emotions as much as they do commitment and right action.

5) Having the right emotions is necessary for discovering certain truths.

6) We are not just rational animals, but emotional animals as well.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jared Totten on October 29, 2011
Format: Paperback
If you ever wanted to impress people simply by the title of the book you're carrying around, I don't think you could do much better than Existential Reasons for Belief in God by Clifford Williams. However, that same intimidating title makes your job harder if you want to encourage people to read it. (For the record, I do want to do the latter and don't want to do the former.)

I am always game for new takes and approaches to Christian apologetics, and this one certainly fits the bill. While most such books build arguments around sheer fact and reason, Williams argues that there is also good reason (no pun intended) to defend the Christian worldview on a basis of need and emotion.

He points out that some people approach religion and faith in God emphasizing reason (rationalists) while others do so emphasizing emotion and need (emotionalists). Williams argues that rather than an "either/or" approach, we should take a "both/and" approach. Even on it's face this argument makes sense because apologetic arguments based on sheer airtight reason are of no use if the subject does not care about the information or sees no need to believe or accept those arguments. As Williams says,

"My aim is to defend the legitimacy of acquiring faith through need, emotion and reason. Satisfaction of need legitimately draws us to faith, but reason must be involved in this drawing. More simply, the two basic ideas of the book are the drawing power of need and the certifying ability of reason. Need without reason is blind, but reason without need is sterile."

I find it just a little ironic that he makes his argument throughout the book on the basis of rationality, but then again, his reasons would have no power if they did not awaken a desire to respond to such reason.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Clint Walker VINE VOICE on October 20, 2011
Format: Paperback
I have to admit. I am not impartial about anything written or said by Dr. Clifford Williams. Dr. Williams my professor in my Honors Introduction to Philosophy class my freshman year at Trinity International University. He was, infact, the teacher of the first class I ever took in college. His class was wonderful. It led a friend of mine to decide he was going to major in philosophy. And it taught us all how important it was to bring together the life of the mind and the life of faith.

It is no wonder that the first book of his that I have ever gotten to read is Existential Reasons for Belief in God: A Defense of Desires and Emotions for Faith. In this fine book Williams attempts to deconstruct the dualism between Emotions and Reason, Faith and the Intellect. He specifically does this in relation to decisions of faith, arguing that there is nohting irrational or immoral about having faith decisions generated by both our intellectual and emotional lives. In fact, as responsible humans, the realities of our emotional selves and our reason-driven selves should both be factored in to making wise, true, and ethical decisions. This is especially true regarding decisions about ultimate reality.

Existential Reasons for Belief in God is very deliberate and methodical in how it makes its case. It begins by setting the scene of arguments for faith in the world of philosophy, defining terms, and familiarizing his readers with the issues that need to be addressed. Then, it makes a well-reasoned argument in favor of "existential" arguments for faith in God. Next, Dr. Williams spends several chapters addressing objections to his thesis.

In addressing objections, Dr. Williams, true to his character, does not set up straw men to knock down.
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