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The Predicament of Belief: Science, Philosophy, and Faith 1st Edition

7 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0199695270
ISBN-10: 019969527X
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Editorial Reviews


One cannot fail to admire the unfailing lucidity of the writing, the plangent honesty of the exploration, and the authors untiring determination to consider every direction in which the argument may take them. Neil Spurway, ESSSAT News & Reviews

About the Author

Philip Clayton is Ingraham Professor at the Claremont School of Theology and Professor of Religion at Claremont Graduate University. Holder of a joint PhD in Philosophy and Religious Studies from Yale University, he has held guest professorships at Harvard University, the University of Cambridge, and the University of Munich. He is author or editor of some twenty books and close to 200 articles in philosophy, theology, and the religion-science debate. His Oxford publications include Mind and Emergence: From Quantum to Consciousness, The Re-emergence of Emergence (co-edited with Paul Davies), and the Oxford Handbook of Religion and Science.

Steven Knapp is the sixteenth president of the George Washington University in Washington, DC, where he is also a professor of English. Before assuming his current position in 2007, he served as dean of arts and sciences and then as provost of the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland; before that, he taught English literature at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of two books and author or co-author of numerous articles and lectures on literature, literary theory, philosophy, and religion. Dr. Knapp earned his bachelor's degree at Yale University and his master's and doctoral degrees at Cornell University. Outside the academy, he has been active in a wide range of community and religious affairs.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (December 31, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019969527X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199695270
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 0.5 x 5.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #403,062 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Philip Clayton is the Dean of Claremont School of Theology and Provost of Claremont Lincoln University. He also holds the Ingraham Chair at CST. Clayton earned a joint PhD in Religious Studies and Philosophy from Yale University and has held visiting appointments at Harvard University, the University of Cambridge, and the University of Munich. He has published over 20 books and hundreds of academic and popular articles.

Over the course of 25 years of teaching and researching, Clayton's interests migrated gradually from philosophy through the science-religion debate to constructive theology. Explanation from Physics to Theology: An Essay in Rationality and Religion (Yale 1989) and several dozen articles explored similarities and differences in how knowledge and explanations function across the disciplines. The Problem of God in Modern Thought (Eerdmans 2000) and a series of accompanying articles explored the fall and rise of theistic metaphysics in the modern era. Clayton then moved into a variety of leadership positions in the international debate on the science-religion relationship, including Principal Investigator of the Science and the Spiritual Quest program. He has been an outspoken advocate for multi-cultural and multi-religious approaches to the field. Clayton has written or edited over a dozen books in this field and spoken on the topic in almost every continent. Recent works include Adventures in the Spirit (Fortress 2009), In Quest of Freedom (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht 2009), The Predicament of Belief (Oxford 2012, with Steven Knapp), and Religion and Science: The Basics (Routledge 2012).

A series of events precipitated the most recent turn: leading the Ford Foundation grant "Rekindling Theological Imagination" with Marjorie Suchocki; lecturing around the country on emergent Christianity; organizing the "Theology After Google" event; and launching the "Big Tent Christianity" movement with Brian McLaren, Tony Jones, Tripp Fuller, and others. Transforming Christian Theology: For Church and Society (Fortress 2009) argued that seminaries should help prepare Christian leaders for an unheralded transformation in the church, which has already begun in our culture. Soon thereafter the invitation came to help lead Claremont School of Theology as it becomes the Christian member of an interreligious consortium of schools known as Claremont Lincoln University. The offer was too tempting to refuse.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Miami Reader on January 12, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
If you like to think about your religious faith, this is the book for you. For many, it will be a difficult read because it contains philosophical and theological concepts that are difficult to understand and are not always fully explained within the text itself. Does faith seem impossible in a scientific age? This book takes this question and deals with it forthrightly. Question that you may have had about your faith but were afraid to ask and no one else was talking about are explored in this book. If you are willing to be opened minded and stretch your mind, I highly recommend this book.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By PH Bible Student on January 12, 2012
Format: Hardcover
The authors present the most serious obstacles to traditional Christian belief: 1) science, 2) problem of neglect/evil, 3) religious pluralism, 4) uniqueness of Jesus, and 5) resurrection of Jesus. Then, after laying out the most salient reasons for doubt, they go on to propose possible solutions--solutions which sometimes, though not always, involve significant reinterpretation of more traditional Christian claims and understandings.

I especially like the way they proceed from the more general claims, for which strong reasons for belief can be adduced, and then use these well supported general claims as a springboard for moving into the less secure realm of more particular claims.

Intelligent people from Mainline Protestant groups will be especially interested in this book, along with free thinkers from other traditions (Catholic, Orthodox, Evangelicals). Leaders within all traditions should read this book.

The book would probably appeal to evangelicals more if the authors could have found some stronger solution for the sovereignty of God. As it is, they adopt a "not even once" non-interference solution to the problem of neglect/evil, and this tends to reduce God's sovereignty almost to the vanishing point. I think they could have used the "not-even-once" solution to the matter of why God doesn't set aside the autonomy of creation for the purpose of reducing this-worldly suffering, while still allowing God to exercise sovereignty for other purposes. The autonomy of creation could be still be preserved despite God's (relatively rare) sovereign acts if those acts were mostly limited to particular people group(s) at crucial moments in history (and unrelated to any arbitrary reduction of this-worldy suffering).

At any rate, as long as you're not too worried about the loss of divine sovereignty, or as long as you have your own solution to the problem of neglect/evil, you will probably find this book useful and thought-provoking.
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24 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Oliver G. on December 6, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I sympathize very much with Philip Clayton's and Steven Knapp's goal to get religion out of the churches into real modern life - and to reconciliate it with the scientific world view. Clayton is not only theologist, but also an important philosopher. An important influence upon Clayton's thinking is the late English theologist and biochemist Arthur Peacocke's attempt to build a bridge between christian faith and science, called Emergentism-Naturalism-Panentheism. Naturalism means explaining the world as an orderly whole of its own, without need of transcendent "support" oder supernatural intervention. Emergentism is about the natural evolution of the world that is a real evolution, without reducing everything to its building blocks or beginnings - that is, an evolution where at times real novel features of the world "emerge", most importantly life and consciousness. Clayton's contribution to the emergentist scientific world view is his most important accomplishment as a philosopher.

Panentheism is the view that everything is in God. The Christian version of it, that Philip Clayton as a theologian defends, is problematic, because it attempts to bring the naturalistic-emergentist world view together with the Christian doctrine of theism, a doctrine invented by the so-called Church Fathers, some philosophers roughly from the second and third century AD, canonized at the First Council of Nicaea in 325 AD as the natural philosophy inspired by God. Theism says that God is outside of and essentially different from the world. How can this fit together with the world being inside of God?
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By cbinpdx on April 10, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Fusing elements of process theology, emergentist philosophy and contemporary science, Clayton and Knapp construct a plausible argument for belief in a panentheistic "ultimate reality" (UR) that is "not less than personal" and then propose five possible "minimalist" Christian interpretations of this reality. These range from one that sees Christ as merely an example of godly living, to one that sees him as a doorway (perhaps the only one, perhaps not) into participation with the UR in humanity's ongoing spiritual development, and finally to one that approaches evangelical claims in its view that Jesus himself remains personally present in the UR and thus relationally available to believers. Of course, even this most robust view of Christianity remains thoroughly modernist and will not appeal to those who hew to biblical literalism - the authors do not address, for example, the question of the atonement, the virgin birth, the apocalypse, Heaven and Hell, or other traditional doctrines that rely wholly or mainly on supernaturalist presumptions (they do offer several possible interpretations of the resurrection, none of them literal). Conversely, those who are firmly grounded in naturalistic theologies will likely be uncomfortable with how far the authors are willing to go to accommodate traditional Christian belief, particularly when they suggest that the UR is omnipotent but voluntarily self-limiting - rather than inherently limited - in its ability to create and/or intervene in creation (thus breaking with Hartshorne and and other leading process thinkers).Read more ›
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