10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on November 22, 2010
Richard Swinburne's book, Was Jesus God?, argues on a partially a priori basis that he was indeed. At first glance, this sounds ludicrous, but the argument is actually something like this: Given that God exists and has these particular traits, it then follows that, for a variety of reasons, Jesus was God.
For example, Swinburne argues that a morally perfect, omnipotent, and omniscient God would be expected to share in our suffering and respond to it and our wrongdoing by living a human life. And this is precisely what has happened in the case of Jesus of Nazareth. If God had done such a thing, and a human prophet was also God, then we would also expect that God would confirm this via a divine signature as an endorsement of the life and teachings of that prophet. This is what we see in the resurrection of Jesus, which seems to obviously be an event that could only be brought about by God, i.e. a miracle. And given the further evidence for the historicity of the Resurrection, Swinburne states that "...even if the prior probability of the existence of God is quite a bit less than 1/4, the historical evidence will still make it more probable than not that Jesus was God Incarnate" (p. 133).
The book ends as follows:
I conclude that the fact that the later Church taught the other items of the Nicene Creed in no way detracts from the very probable truth of the central claim of the Nicene Creed (made, I have claimed, very probable on other grounds) that Jesus was God (that is, a divine person). From that it follows, since no divine person can cease to be divine, that Jesus is God (p. 170).
I enjoyed this book, though at points I was not sure what to make of it. Someone not holding Swinburne's views about religion might simply view the whole project as defective and somehow question-begging. But it surely is not the latter. There is a provocative argument here that is worth considering. If there are a priori grounds for the claim that Jesus was and is God, given classical monotheism, then this is significant for many reasons, one of which is that most arguments for this claim are historical.
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on March 4, 2014
The author is, very clearly, an expert in metaphysics and pays careful attention to all the propositions and counter-arguments as necessary. To be concise, this book provides an outstanding series of sound arguments that everyone would benefit from understanding.
6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on May 12, 2011
If there was ever a question that I had the most problem putting to rest, it was definitely the Trinity question.
Some people ask what does it matter if Jesus was God or if Jesus was the literal Son of God?
Richard Swinburne brings in the philosophical power and describes in great detail why this all makes sense. Swinburne is far beyond most philosophers in knowledge, wit and expertise so it might take a few reads, before you can clearly understand what this brilliant man is stating.
The dissection of the Nicene Creed and events before and after that is where this book really takes off. Swinburne is precise to the point of where you really open your mind and say to yourself "ah why didn't I think of that before, that makes more sense".
2 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on October 2, 2010
This book argues that Jesus is God from characteristics God. For believers, this is much more than that. It provide believer reflection in the central themes that they believe in - by stating and defining clearly what these things are, and arguing the reasons why these things shoudl or could be.
8 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on November 14, 2008
this book answers and digs through one of the paramount questions of the last two thousand years. For belivers and non-belivers alike who have ever wondered why Christians claim Jesus was God or how such a claim could be made in the first place, this book will be a helpful resource to answering one of the most interesting and infamous questions ever posed: 'Was Jesus God?'
0 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on July 29, 2013
I got this book for a theology class I will be taking this semester. I don't know anything about the content at this time.
1 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on April 20, 2013
First, let me say, this book should be read for entertainment and pleasure only; not for classes like mine is.
Second. his writing style is very poor. As a writer myself, I have to reread whole pages because I'm not understanding what he's getting at on certain points, or how he got there. That, or I'm just stupid and missing his points entirely.
That being said, the overall content of this book is pretty interesting. It'd definitely get a better rating from me if it was presented better.
18 of 100 people found the following review helpful
on September 27, 2008
How should one approach this book? It is a book about religion but it was written by an author acclaimed to be a philosophical theologian. In this book Richard Swinburne ("RS") sets out, not to preach, but to prove, a Christian assertion, namely that Jesus is God (this assertion is part of the Trinitarian doctrine although Unitarian Christians will not agree to this assertion). That being the case, this book must be approached philosophically and rationally, that is, we need to cast faith and belief aside for they lay in the domain of the church, not in the house of philosophy.
The issue or question that RS sought to answer was: "Was Jesus God" (the use of the past tense is puzzling, but of no great importance for this review)? He realised that the question makes no sense unless "God" itself is proved. He has not done that in the book (nor in his other book, "Is there a God?" 1996 Oxford University Press). He merely made assumptions that "God" exists. From such a premise, the arguments would naturally become irrelevant, and the conclusion weak and fallible (since God was assummed and not proved, the issue whether Jesus was God lost all its significance). However, it is still useful to see some of the methods he employed in the author's argument (which was largely based on assumptions and reliance on second degree hearsay evidence). In the very first page he says that he refers to God as "he" even though "God is neither male nor female." How does he know that? Do all Christians agree with his statement? It is an example of the kind of unproven assertions that the author made throughout the book. He forgot that it was Jesus who taught us to pray "Our Father who art in Heaven" he didn't say "Our Mother" or "Our Parent". RS's reasoning shows up deep flaws in his thesis. He said (pg 6-7) that humans have bodies but God does not need a body. What does the author think resurrection mean then? If Jesus were to rise bodily from the grave, then we have a situation that part of the trinity is organic body, and part of it (God) not. If Jesus did not rise bodily, then his rise to heaven was not a resurrection. He just went the same way all good Christians are supposed to go after death - in spirit.
His claims about God giving us "free will" can be challenged. There is insufficient space in this review for a full counter-argument so I shall merely pose a couple of questions that intelligent and rational minds can work out for themselves. First, why give us free will in this short human life to choose God and heaven, and then, when in heaven, deprive us of our identity and free will to choose the things we have liked all our lives - our food, our music, our spouses - everything. They will all be taken away and we will be made to no longer like them. Where's our choice then? Secondly, it seems that God himself does not have free will because if he had, then he cannot be all good since (being all powerful)he can choose to create the best possible world, that is, one without evil. A God who is all good would not have created evil of any kind, whether evil is defined as a murderous intent, or a tsunami, or an earthquake, or even cancer cells. I would not do so if I had the power; would you?
RS relied on the declarations in the Nicene Creed, but that was a compromise arrived at by the bishops in a tumultuous period in Christian history. It sought to have unity and consistency, but it was not fully successful because to this day, there are many Christians who either reject it or have very different interpretations of it from that of others. RS wrote about the "atonement" and the support he gathered came mainly from Paul, who never met Jesus and knew nothing and said nothing about the crucifixion and resurrection. Paul's letters and his own evidence came largely from the stories of others. It is hearsay upon hearsay; such evidence would be rejected as unreliable for proving any fact, let alone an important assertion of fact that Jesus is God. Even Paul's own conversion was a dubious event. He could well have been blinded by heatstroke and, having recovered, believed he was chosen by God - but that is another story.
RS then discussed the resurrection, and here the philosopher in him regressed into the theologian. He accepted the accounts in the synoptic gospels of Matthew, Luke, Mark, and John as true. In so doing, he ignored biblical scholarship that points out all the fallibilities and inconsistencies in these gospels. Even the lay reader can, if he were patient, compare the birth, death, and resurrection accounts in these gospels, and discover the inconsistencies and contradictions in them. Unless the contradictions are cleared, how can they be relied upon as a basis to answer the question posed? RS asserted that any religious revelation required "an interpreting body" which he said was "the church". At this point, only one question needs to be asked - which church? The fallibility of the Nicene Creed was exposed by RS's statement that the "Nicene Creed claims that God has provided `one holy catholic and Apostolic Church.'" He used the weak word "claims" but within a paragraph, he moved to a strong and clear acceptance of that "claim"; in other words, he accepted as true that there is one holy catholic and Apostolic Church. Not only is that statement untrue within Christendom, but the God that the Christians share with the Jews and the Muslims (Jehovah) have given them disparate church/temple/mosque with contradictory interpretations. To the Jews and the Muslims, Jesus was clearly not God. RS saw the problems of the divided church and attempted to make some excuses for it, but he did not reconcile the division with the Jews and the Muslims. How does one talk about proof and truth unless the Jewish and Muslim positions are proven untrue. It is one thing to believe them untrue because one believes his Christian faith to be true, but it is utterly different when one seeks to prove one's version true in a book like this.
These are the closing remarks of the author and leave the reader to judge if the conclusion sounds rational:
"I conclude that the fact that the later Church taught the other items of the Nicene Creed in no way detracts from the very probable truth of the central claim of the Nicene Creed (made, as I have claimed, very probable on other grounds) that Jesus was God (that is, a divine person). From that it follows, since no divine person can cease to be divine, that Jesus is God."
If this book was meant to be a critical and rational book, it must be read critically and rationally, and any judgment that the reader passes must be a judgment so arrived.
7 of 85 people found the following review helpful
on February 19, 2009
The author is no doubt an informed and learned individual, but this only goes to show that where matters of spirituality are concerned, in the chaos and ignorance which prevails at the moment, one can make any claim imaginable with hardly any fear of contradiction.
If we believe in a God, then we must attribute to Him a mastery over the known Universe. The Universe contains, at least, 70 million quadrillion stars (70 followed by 21 zeroes) around which are a total of at least that many planets, judging from our own solar system, and on which there must be uncounted life forms. In fact, if every star was a grain of sand 1mm across, there would be enough sand to cover the entire planet Earth --oceans and land masses alike -- with sand to a depth of half a metre.
Such a staggering creation could never be perceived by a human mind. The brain, complex as it is, is still incapable of conceiving on such a vast scale. How then can a human being, who we know Jesus to have been, having sisters, brothers, a mother and father, and having hunger, anger, disappointment, even fury, pain, and even despair, be capable of this kind of intelligence?
If we are saying that life itself partakes of Divinity, then all of us are equally part of God, which is just as Jesus claimed. But to manitain that a God capable of bringing this entire creation into existence should be so powerless as to have but one Son, on a tiny planet in a far flung corner of the Universe, who died after a handful of years, and then produce no other offspring, is such a childish, crude, and incredible assertion that it is a wonder anyone took the time to write, let alone publish such nonsense.