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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Rational Defense of Theism and Basic Introduction to Philosophy of Religion
In this short book, C. Stephen Evans has done an admirable job of making the incredibly complex world of the philosophy of religion attainable to new students in this field. As such, this work would make a very helpful textbook at the introductory college level. Throughout this work, Evans does a remarkable job of defining the seemingly unending array of technical...
Published 22 months ago by Matthew Everhard

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not what I was expecting
This book is a digest of the major topics in the current study of philosophy of religion as it applies to christian theology. It contains no original source materials and is definitely written from a particular point of view rather than attempting to make an objective presentation of the topics at hand. This would probably be a fine companion to another of the...
Published 21 months ago by Collier D. Dodson, III


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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Rational Defense of Theism and Basic Introduction to Philosophy of Religion, September 28, 2012
This review is from: Philosophy of Religion: Thinking About Faith (Contours of Christian Philosophy) (Paperback)
In this short book, C. Stephen Evans has done an admirable job of making the incredibly complex world of the philosophy of religion attainable to new students in this field. As such, this work would make a very helpful textbook at the introductory college level. Throughout this work, Evans does a remarkable job of defining the seemingly unending array of technical verbiage, while giving helpful illustrations to explain their usage to the reader.

"Philosophy of religion," as a technical term, is the particular branch of philosophy which, as its name suggests, grapples with religious truth claims and beliefs through the grid of reason and logic. Among the topics covered in this book are:

the classical "proofs" for the existence of God,
the validity of religious experience,
the nature and possibility of miracles,
particular objections to theism (such as evil and the apparent contradictions of science),
and the unsettling difficulties related to religious pluralism.

Each one of these topic could easily fill an entire volume.

In this reviewer's opinion, the most helpful aspect of this work is the way that Evans fairly and evenhandedly deals with skeptics' attacks on theism. While Evans eventually does show the rationality of theism (and particularly Christianity) in each chapter, I don't think anyone could accuse Evans of attempting to deal with the skeptic's challenges unfairly or impatiently. Where he sees weaknesses in the theistic position, he does not attempt to hide them. Where he sees strengths, he likewise argues back with equal force.

No chapter of this book should be seen as an outright apologetic defense of theism in general or Christianity in particular. It is not a book on apologetics. On the other hand, Evans does his best to show over and over again that belief in God is rational, logical, and coherent in the face of a number of threats and claims to the contrary.

In his chapter on the classical proofs for God's existence, for instance, Evans does not pretend to claim that any one 'proof' would compel all rational thinkers. On the contrary, he does assert that the preponderance of the evidence points in a cumulative way towards the existence of God. Likewise, in his concluding chapter on religious pluralism, he admits that Christians in particular have appeared to be arrogant in their claims of religious exclusivity, and yet he concludes this book by acknowledging the inherent humility of Christianity, even as it regards our evangelistic mission.

In conclusion, I think three groups of readers will find this book helpful.

1) First, the student who is interesting in determining for himself whether theism in general and Christianity in particular holds any water logically and rationally; 2) secondly, the non-theist who has many skeptical reasons to deny the validity of religious faith, but who nonetheless is open to reviewing his presuppositions; and 3) finally, the pastor who is interested in presenting some of the logical basis and rationale for Christianity to his congregation in an accessible manner.

Matthew Everhard is the Senior Pastor of Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Brooksville, Florida.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Readable introduction that presents all important views, October 16, 2013
This review is from: Philosophy of Religion: Thinking About Faith (Contours of Christian Philosophy) (Paperback)
This is one of several books in the series, Contours of Christian Philosophy. Evans is the series editor. In this book he defines philosophy of religion as "critical reflection on religious belief." The book is an excellent and readable introductory survey of the most pressing questions that have arisen about religious belief. It was refreshing to have all the various points of views on things presented fairly. Though a Christian, Evans doesn't duck the difficult questions that Christian faith poses.

In the first chapter he defines the field. He specially discusses two approaches to this field: fideism and neutralism. Arguments for and against these are presented. He prefers another approach, which he calls "critical dialog." He describes this as open dialog with people of opposing points of view with a "willingness to test one's commitments." There aren't any fixed rules for this, but this approach implies a willingness to listen to other points of view and respond courteously even if firmly.

The second chapter is about how theists attempt to discuss the existence of God. He explains the approaches of natural theology. The third chapter presents the four most common classical proofs of the existence of God: ontological (about reality and being), cosmological (the existence of the universe), teleological (design), and moral. He presents some of the responses which bring out why none of them are completely satisfying to unbelievers. This chapter includes an interesting "case study" concerning divine foreknowledge and human freedom. There is also a discussion of the problems of religious language.

The fourth chapter is about religious experiences. The reality of such experiences can't be denied. But are they true encounters with God or are they just things that happen inside our heads? He establishes the case that there is no logical reason to deny that they are true encounters, although careful checks need to be in place to detect when claims are just personal subjectivity.

Chapter 5 discusses miracles and revelations. He describes the common views concerning revelation. With respect to miracles, he points out that they are not violations of the natural order, but rare exceptions. If that is accepted there is no a priori reason to deny that God, if he exists, might cause them. Careful investigation of the facts of every case is what has to settle this. Clearly, the atheist has a heavy burden of proof here because even one bona fide miraculous event would call his whole system into question.

Chapter 6 deals with the challenges of modernity and science. Nowadays there are opponents of Christianity that create the impression that religion and science are incompatible. But there is no rational reason for that to be true. Science is based on testable claims of events or phenomena within the observable universe. When scientists assert that science gives ultimate answers to all of life's questions, there doesn't seem to be any way to test that claim.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not what I was expecting, October 28, 2012
By 
Collier D. Dodson, III (Richmond, va United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Philosophy of Religion: Thinking About Faith (Contours of Christian Philosophy) (Paperback)
This book is a digest of the major topics in the current study of philosophy of religion as it applies to christian theology. It contains no original source materials and is definitely written from a particular point of view rather than attempting to make an objective presentation of the topics at hand. This would probably be a fine companion to another of the philosophy of religion books that are collections of original sources but this book is certainly not adequate to cover the field by itself.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great Overview of a Complex Topic, June 24, 2014
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I used an earlier version of this book for an introductory philosophy course, which I taught. This little book gives a very comprehensive and comprehensible overview of the area of philosophy of religion. Recommended for folks who are new to the topic or who would like a refresher on many topics in philosophy of religion.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great reading, March 17, 2014
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This review is from: Philosophy of Religion: Thinking About Faith (Contours of Christian Philosophy) (Paperback)
Not exactly my point of view, but great reading and contains thought provoking discussions of essential life issues. Great for academic exercise.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A CHRISTIAN PHILOSOPHER OUTLINES THIS SUBJECT, February 4, 2014
C. Stephen Evans is Professor of Philosophy and Humanities at Baylor University; he has also written Quest for Faith, The Historical Christ and the Jesus of Faith, God and Moral Obligation, Preserving the Person, etc. This book was first published in 1982.

He wrote, "the fideist has a valid point when he stresses the way our thought is conditioned by basic assumptions and attitudes. And surely the neutralist has a point against the fideist in stressing the value of honest, no-holds-barred, critical reflection on our commitments. How then can reason and commitment be combined? Perhaps the two can be brought into a happy if sometimes tension-filled alliance by rethinking what it means to be reasonable. Instead of seeing reason as presuppositionless thinking, suppose we view reason as a willingness to test one's commitments." (Pg. 25)

He observes, "the question which we must ask is whether the basic order of the universe, the natural laws which have operated to bring about the apparent design in nature (if evolution is true), is a brute fact. The critic of the argument will insist that no explanation can be given of why the basic laws of nature operate; they just do. The defender of the argument naturally wonders why we have laws of nature at all... the person who rejects the argument seems to be ... arbitrarily stopping the quest for an explanation... although the argument is not conclusive ... it does have considerable force if understood as an attempt to show that the hypothesis of a designer is plausible." (Pg. 66)

He points out, "One huge limitation is that natural theology still leaves us a great deal to learn about God's nature and doings. A person who is content with the meager knowledge of God gained thereby would be a person easily satisfied. A second limitation is that natural theology seems highly theoretical. It seems to lead only to beliefs ABOUT GOD; that is, propositional beliefs. On the basis of such arguments one comes only to believe that a God exists, but one does not thereby automatically acquire the kind of personal faith most religions value in speaking of faith IN GOD." (Pg. 75-76)

He admits, "Certainly not all alleged miracles are equally well attested, and Hume is probably right with respect to the great majority of purported miracles. But it is not at all obvious that his criticisms are powerful against all supposed miracles." (Pg. 114) He adds, "If God were to inspire a human being to write a book or utter some word of exhortation, it would not necessarily be obvious that a miracle had occurred... Could a reasonable person attribute a special authority to a religious revelation?... If one regards the authority as vindicated because of its overall value in making sense of the whole experience, then the decision to accept the authority would seem to be rational. Of course, if one had good reason to think that God were the cause of a revelation, then this would be an important factor in its favor." (Pg. 118-119)

He asserts, "If through religious experience and revelation one had come to know God as a loving, good being, one would have powerful evidence that God must have reasons for allowing evil, even if we do not know what those reasons are. It is, in fact, in just this sort of situation that faith is called for... Jesus' death and resurrection, while not an explanation of why God allows evil, are a demonstration that he loves his creatures to the point of suffering with them and for them, and that he will ultimately triumph over evil by turning it to good." (Pg. 139)

He acknowledges, "Our argument that it may be reasonable to decisively hold a belief for which there is good but no absolutely compelling evidence does not, of course, imply that all religious beliefs must be held in this unconditional manner... A Christian's belief THAT she has been redeemed by Jesus' life, death and resurrection may be more firmly held than any particular theory as to HOW this atonement was accomplished." (Pg. 176)

This book will be of most interest to evangelicals studying philosophy.
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3.0 out of 5 stars I found what I read to be thought-provoking., January 10, 2014
This review is from: Philosophy of Religion: Thinking About Faith (Contours of Christian Philosophy) (Paperback)
I found what I read to be thought-provoking. Here are some thoughts and summaries of portions of the book:

Religious Experience and Apologetics

When beginning their talk on religious experiences, the authors of the book Philosophy of Religion, C. Stephen Evans and R. Zachary Meanis, make a distinction between the religious dimension of experience, and special experiences that are religious. They make this distinction because certain religious convictions can act as the lens through which people view their experiences (which is different than actually having a religious experience). A simplistic definition of a religious experience is given when the authors describe it as an, “awareness of the divine.” In this book, the authors chose to concentrate their focus on theistic-type experiences. The authors described two models for understanding experience; the representational model and the model of direct realism. The representational model can best be described with the following illustration: “When a person sees a tree, what he really sees is not the actual tree but a set of images or sensations produced by his brain as a result of the appropriate sensory input. The subjective image then serves as a representation of the actual tree in the physical world.” On the other hand, the direct realism view claims that, “in cases of genuine perceptual experience, a person is directly aware of what she sees or hears.” Moving past these two models, the authors bring up the fact that many people claim to hear God speaking to them through a friend or a song, in which case the individual believes that they are experiencing God in and through something else that is experienced. The principle of credulity would lend credence to their claim, as well as other claims, though, because this principle is motivated by the assumption that experiences are normally genuine. Therefore, if someone has an experience in which it appears that God is present, then it is reasonable to believe that God really is present (unless this person’s senses are believed to be unreliable).

Miracles

The authors classify miracles under the category of a, “special act of God.” The authors do not, however, feel that miracles can universally be categorized as a “sign,” because it is entirely possible that many miracles go unnoticed by humanity. The authors spend a good deal of time stating and rebutting David Hume’s views on this subject based on his well-known work, Of Miracles. The authors write that, “It seems rash, therefore, for philosophers or others to claim dogmatically that miracles cannot happen. Miracles seem possible at least, and it also seems possible for there to be compelling evidence for their occurrence – evidence of the ordinary historical kind.” In their conclusion to their discussion on this topic, they brought up a point which I am inclined to agree with. They wrote that one’s belief or unbelief in miracles will be heavily shaped by their view of the likelihood of God’s existence, and their view of God’s nature and purposes.

The Problem of Evil

The authors state, and I agree, that the most often mentioned objection to the existence of God is something that has come to be known as the Problem of Evil. The Problem of Evil is the idea that a good being would eliminate any evil from the world as far as it is able to, yet we still see evil in the world. Because we are able to observe that there is evil in the world, God must not exist. The authors separate the evil in the world into two categories: moral evil (such as rape, murder, and social injustice) and natural evil (such as natural disasters and diseases). In essence, this argument is saying that, “the existence of evil constitutes a proof that God does not exist…the occurrence of evil and the existence of God are logically incompatible: it is a contradiction to claim both that a perfectly good, all-knowing, all-powerful being exists and that evil exists.” Other philosophers concede that an all good, all-knowing, all-powerful God could have reasons to allow for the existence of evil, however while it is possible, it is unlikely or improbable. Christians (and theists alike) tend to give one of two responses. One response, a theodicy, attempts to explain the reason why God may allow evil in the world. Another response, simply called a defense, explains that God does have reasons for allowing evil, but we do not and cannot know these reasons. The basis for these types of arguments is called a second-order good, or a, “good that logically requires the existence…of some evil in order to be realized.” Also, one could use the argument that humans have free will and could choose evil for themselves to show that a good God may not always eliminate evil, and also that an omnipotent being may not always eliminate all evil so as to avoid the loss of a greater good.

Rather than saying that the existence of evil proves that God does not exist, a new form of the argument for the Problem of Evil has developed in recent years which attacks head on the argument for the “greater good.” This is called the evidential argument, and it states that, “the existence of evil – and, more specifically, the kinds and quantity of evil that we actually find in the world – constitutes powerful evidence against God’s existence…the evil that we find renders it unlikely that God exists, and thus it provides us with good reason for not believing in God.” This argument, however, assumes that the existence of evil is pointless, and a believer could rebut this argument with the idea that not all evil is pointless. In the end, it seems that the best argument against the Problem of Evil is the idea that the human mind cannot comprehend God, and that his ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). Although evil’s existence in the world seems like a problem to mankind, those who put their trust in God have faith that there is a purpose for the evil.

Personal Faith

The authors state it well when they say that it is ultimately our faith which guides our judgments about religious questions. Because partial obedience is, in fact, disobedience, the authors propose that true faith requires the believer to commit fully to the belief system (and not just partially). As a whole, one’s personal religious belief must become one’s way of life.

When talking about an individual’s faith, the author rightly point out that everyone has a faith in something; “everyone has deep-rooted assumptions, convictions and attitudes that color what counts as evidence for him and how that evidence is interpreted.” Ultimately, the authors conclude that faith is, in essence, all of the following: “the assumptions, convictions and attitudes which the believer brings to a consideration of the evidence for and against religious truth…the commitment that is, in some cases, the outcome of this reflection…the subjective preferences of people generally, and…the specific kind of commitment which is involved in being a Christian.”
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5.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting, October 17, 2013
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This review is from: Philosophy of Religion: Thinking About Faith (Contours of Christian Philosophy) (Paperback)
I had this for a textbook. It is very easy to understand in philosophy. The author makes the content flow like a NORMAL book!
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9 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A new level of critical thinking, June 25, 2000
Evans clarifies many inconsistancies in our world view thinking to free us up to be more deliberate. His teaching on world view confusion has enabled the reader to make understandable an often blurred analysis of inclusive world views. Much confusion abounds over inclusive religious teachings that assert the "many roads" to truth perspective. Evans shows that this is surely confusion in and of itself. An inclusive world view cannot simply "borrow" truth claims from an exclusive world view to build its case.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Faith as Both Reasonable and Experiental, February 11, 2012
This review is from: Philosophy of Religion: Thinking About Faith (Contours of Christian Philosophy) (Paperback)
In this book, Evans, one of the major theorists in the integration of psychology and the Christian faith, has given us an excellent summary of the philosophy of religion that will be very helpful in explaining the Christian faith to others. His section on religious experience is especially useful in counseling. His arguments are especially applicable to the atheism of many personality theorists. His discussions on science and religion, religious language, and subjectivity and objectivity in faith apply to many areas of psychological debate.

Some might have many reservations about his definition of faith in Fowlerian terms as well as his comments about doubt. Yet all will greatly benefit from this masterful author.
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Philosophy of Religion: Thinking About Faith (Contours of Christian Philosophy)
Philosophy of Religion: Thinking About Faith (Contours of Christian Philosophy) by C. Stephen Evans (Paperback - September 15, 2009)
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