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The Coherence of Theism (Clarendon Library of Logic and Philosophy) by Swinburne, Richard (1987) Paperback
The Coherence of Theism (Clarendon Library of Logic and Philosophy) by Swinburne, Richard (1987) Paperback
by Richard Swinburne
Edition: Paperback
15 used & new from $48.62

5.0 out of 5 stars THE FIRST VOLUME OF SWINBURNE’S FAMED “TRILOGY” DEFENDING THEISM, August 26, 2015
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. 5)

He explains, “This book is designed to argue the issues with considerable rigor and thoroughness… these qualities … are needed in a context where men are familiar with any of the arguments of modern analytic philosophers relevant to these issues. They are needed too where we are trying to be a clear as possible about the meaning of the central doctrines of theism…” (Pg. 6) Later, he clarifies, “In general I have assumed in this book so far that it is one thing to show the coherence of a supposition and another to show its truth. If, unfortunately, we have to rely on an indirect argument for coherence, the only evidence we have of coherence is also evidence of truth.” (Pg. 49)

About the analogical senses of words used in theology, he states, “theology… is in no way unique in this. Science does so, and I shall shortly illustrate this from Quantum Theory. One can also readily conceive of men other than professional scientists giving words analogical senses in order to describe phenomena which evade normal description…” (Pg. 62) Later, he notes, “I shall seek to establish that some creedal claims are coherent, that others can be coherent only if words are being used in analogical senses, but that purported direct proofs that they are or that they are not coherent in the latter case, fail.” (Pg. 71)

He summarizes, “the full claim which I consider… is that there exists eternally an omnipresent spirit, free, creator of the universe, omnipotent, omniscient, perfectly good, and a source of moral obligation… we may understand the words in which it is expressed in their mundane senses… so long as ‘omnipotent’ and ‘omniscient’ are understood in ways more restricted than their etymology would suggest. If this is done, the claim is a coherent one… If, however, [a theist] insists on understanding the words in the senses other than those which I specify, I argue that the claim is not coherent.” (Pg. 98)

He suggests, “the theist’s claim that there is an omnipresent spirit who has free will and is the creator of the universe is to be understood as follows: (a) there is an individual X who is an omnipresent spirit and the creator of the universe, (b) everything that X does, X does intentionally, (c) no agent or natural law or state of the world or other causal factor in any way influences X to have the intentions on which he acts, that is to choose to act as he does.” (Pg. 145)

He argues, “So to knock theism into a coherent shape, we are faced with the choice of providing a narrower definition of ‘omnipotence’ on which being ‘omnipotent’ is compatible with being perfectly free, or choosing another word to describe the extent of divine power… modern secular understanding of the natural meaning of ‘omnipotent’ suggests that being ‘omnipotent’ is incompatible with being ‘unable to do evil’ and so suggests that we ought to describe the power of a perfectly free being by some other word than ‘omnipotent’… I suggest that… [God] is omnipotent in the following sense… he is able to bring about the existence of any logically consistent state of affairs x after t… given that he does not believe that he has overriding reason for refraining from bringing about x. Does this limitation of God’s omnipotence make his less worthy of worship? Why should it?... Why should the fact that his intentions cannot fail to be realized through interference from causal influences make him any less worthy of worship?” (Pg. 160-161)

More controversially, he asserts, “I conclude that it seems doubtful whether it is logically possible that there should be both an omniscient person and also free men; but that it is definitely logically impossible that there should be an omniscient person who is himself perfectly free---all this given the natural sense of ‘omniscient’ which I delineated [earlier]…” (Pg. 172) He explains, “there exists (now) an omnipresent spirit, perfectly free, creator of the universe, omnipotent and omniscient… The God thus postulated brings about all things which exists (or permits them to exist) and in so doing knows what he brings about and what that will lead to, in so far as he has brought about things which physically necessitate certain effects. Yet to maintain his freedom, he limits his knowledge of his own future choices.” (Pg. 178)

He states, “If morality is objective, the naturalistic account of it is correct and morality is based on a set of logically necessary truths. In one discipline… philosophy, it is as easy or difficult to reach agreed results as it is in morals. Yet there is a sufficient amount and kind of agreement over methods and results in philosophy for it to be termed an objective discipline, and its results termed true or false. Therefore morals is also –properly accounted an objective discipline and moral judgements correctly termed true or false. (Pg. 201)

He also proposes, “the theist’s only hope for maintaining the inner coherence of his claim that God is timeless and its coherence with others of his claims would be to maintain that many words are being used in highly analogical senses… although a theist would be justified on occasion in using words in an analogical sense, nevertheless too many appeals to analogical senses of words would make sentences in which the words were empty of content… the theist has no need to incorporate the doctrine of the timelessness of God into his theism. He can easily do without it and all the difficulties it brings, and rely instead on the simple and easy coherent understanding of God’s eternity which the delineated earlier.” (Pg. 221-222)

He summarizes, “The argument… has been that it is coherent to suppose that there exists eternally an omnipresent spirit, perfectly free, the creator of the universe, omnipotent, omniscient, perfectly good, and a source of moral obligation---so long as ‘omnipotent’ and ‘omniscient’ are understood in somewhat restricted senses. Such a being I have called a personal ground of being, and I have argued that there can be only one such being… If the claim of theism is simply that there exists a personal ground of being then, I believe, I have proved this claim to be coherent. However, my proof may not be accepted by all reasonable men… The only way to convince such opponents would be by yet more detailed argument, and the size of this book precludes that. Nevertheless, I hope that I may have convinced many reasonable men.” (Pg. 233)

He says, “The duty to worship… arises from a general duty to pay respect to persons of various kinds… there is another and very different reason for worship. For worship of God is public acknowledgement of his existence and rightful sovereignty. It might be urged… that there is a duty on all men to acknowledge at any rate to themselves, perhaps overtly… perhaps even publicly, their most fundamental beliefs. A man owes it to himself and to his fellows to confess his deepest convictions. If that is so then the believer in God has a duty to acknowledge this belief.” (Pg. 292)

He concludes, “In this book… We have seen the different things which can be meant when a man claims that there is a God. Some of these doctrines I have shown to be incoherent, and others to be coherent. I have also developed a doctrine… that there is a God who is miniessentially a personal ground of being… This doctrine I have been unable either to prove coherent or to prove incoherent … However, I also showed that if we had good inductive evidence for the truth of this central doctrine of theism, we would thereby have indirect evidence of its coherence… How ought the theist and atheist to regard this conclusion? … The atheist’s best hope for defeating theism lies … in attempting to show it false on the evidence of experience. The theist… must believe that his claims are coherent… But if there were a straightforward proof of their coherence, this would mean… that the claims of theism could be spelled out at greater length in sentences, the meaning of which men could grasp fully and understand completely.” (Pg. 294-295)

This book, along with the others of Swinburne’s “trilogy” (The Existence of God; Faith and Reason) are “must reading” for anyone seriously studying the philosophy of religion.


The Coherence of Theism (Clarendon Library of Logic and Philosophy)
The Coherence of Theism (Clarendon Library of Logic and Philosophy)
by Richard Swinburne
Edition: Paperback
Price: $37.23
42 used & new from $24.95

5.0 out of 5 stars THE FIRST VOLUME OF SWINBURNE'S FAMED "TRILOGY" DEFENDING THEISM, August 26, 2015
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. 5)

He explains, "This book is designed to argue the issues with considerable rigor and thoroughness... these qualities ... are needed in a context where men are familiar with any of the arguments of modern analytic philosophers relevant to these issues. They are needed too where we are trying to be a clear as possible about the meaning of the central doctrines of theism..." (Pg. 6) Later, he clarifies, "In general I have assumed in this book so far that it is one thing to show the coherence of a supposition and another to show its truth. If, unfortunately, we have to rely on an indirect argument for coherence, the only evidence we have of coherence is also evidence of truth." (Pg. 49)

About the analogical senses of words used in theology, he states, "theology... is in no way unique in this. Science does so, and I shall shortly illustrate this from Quantum Theory. One can also readily conceive of men other than professional scientists giving words analogical senses in order to describe phenomena which evade normal description..." (Pg. 62) Later, he notes, "I shall seek to establish that some creedal claims are coherent, that others can be coherent only if words are being used in analogical senses, but that purported direct proofs that they are or that they are not coherent in the latter case, fail." (Pg. 71)

He summarizes, "the full claim which I consider... is that there exists eternally an omnipresent spirit, free, creator of the universe, omnipotent, omniscient, perfectly good, and a source of moral obligation... we may understand the words in which it is expressed in their mundane senses... so long as `omnipotent' and `omniscient' are understood in ways more restricted than their etymology would suggest. If this is done, the claim is a coherent one... If, however, [a theist] insists on understanding the words in the senses other than those which I specify, I argue that the claim is not coherent." (Pg. 98)

He suggests, "the theist's claim that there is an omnipresent spirit who has free will and is the creator of the universe is to be understood as follows: (a) there is an individual X who is an omnipresent spirit and the creator of the universe, (b) everything that X does, X does intentionally, (c) no agent or natural law or state of the world or other causal factor in any way influences X to have the intentions on which he acts, that is to choose to act as he does." (Pg. 145)

He argues, "So to knock theism into a coherent shape, we are faced with the choice of providing a narrower definition of `omnipotence' on which being `omnipotent' is compatible with being perfectly free, or choosing another word to describe the extent of divine power... modern secular understanding of the natural meaning of `omnipotent' suggests that being `omnipotent' is incompatible with being `unable to do evil' and so suggests that we ought to describe the power of a perfectly free being by some other word than `omnipotent'... I suggest that... [God] is omnipotent in the following sense... he is able to bring about the existence of any logically consistent state of affairs x after t... given that he does not believe that he has overriding reason for refraining from bringing about x. Does this limitation of God's omnipotence make his less worthy of worship? Why should it?... Why should the fact that his intentions cannot fail to be realized through interference from causal influences make him any less worthy of worship?" (Pg. 160-161)

More controversially, he asserts, "I conclude that it seems doubtful whether it is logically possible that there should be both an omniscient person and also free men; but that it is definitely logically impossible that there should be an omniscient person who is himself perfectly free---all this given the natural sense of `omniscient' which I delineated [earlier]..." (Pg. 172) He explains, "there exists (now) an omnipresent spirit, perfectly free, creator of the universe, omnipotent and omniscient... The God thus postulated brings about all things which exists (or permits them to exist) and in so doing knows what he brings about and what that will lead to, in so far as he has brought about things which physically necessitate certain effects. Yet to maintain his freedom, he limits his knowledge of his own future choices." (Pg. 178)

He states, "If morality is objective, the naturalistic account of it is correct and morality is based on a set of logically necessary truths. In one discipline... philosophy, it is as easy or difficult to reach agreed results as it is in morals. Yet there is a sufficient amount and kind of agreement over methods and results in philosophy for it to be termed an objective discipline, and its results termed true or false. Therefore morals is also -properly accounted an objective discipline and moral judgements correctly termed true or false. (Pg. 201)

He also proposes, "the theist's only hope for maintaining the inner coherence of his claim that God is timeless and its coherence with others of his claims would be to maintain that many words are being used in highly analogical senses... although a theist would be justified on occasion in using words in an analogical sense, nevertheless too many appeals to analogical senses of words would make sentences in which the words were empty of content... the theist has no need to incorporate the doctrine of the timelessness of God into his theism. He can easily do without it and all the difficulties it brings, and rely instead on the simple and easy coherent understanding of God's eternity which the delineated earlier." (Pg. 221-222)

He summarizes, "The argument... has been that it is coherent to suppose that there exists eternally an omnipresent spirit, perfectly free, the creator of the universe, omnipotent, omniscient, perfectly good, and a source of moral obligation---so long as `omnipotent' and `omniscient' are understood in somewhat restricted senses. Such a being I have called a personal ground of being, and I have argued that there can be only one such being... If the claim of theism is simply that there exists a personal ground of being then, I believe, I have proved this claim to be coherent. However, my proof may not be accepted by all reasonable men... The only way to convince such opponents would be by yet more detailed argument, and the size of this book precludes that. Nevertheless, I hope that I may have convinced many reasonable men." (Pg. 233)

He says, "The duty to worship... arises from a general duty to pay respect to persons of various kinds... there is another and very different reason for worship. For worship of God is public acknowledgement of his existence and rightful sovereignty. It might be urged... that there is a duty on all men to acknowledge at any rate to themselves, perhaps overtly... perhaps even publicly, their most fundamental beliefs. A man owes it to himself and to his fellows to confess his deepest convictions. If that is so then the believer in God has a duty to acknowledge this belief." (Pg. 292)

He concludes, "In this book... We have seen the different things which can be meant when a man claims that there is a God. Some of these doctrines I have shown to be incoherent, and others to be coherent. I have also developed a doctrine... that there is a God who is miniessentially a personal ground of being... This doctrine I have been unable either to prove coherent or to prove incoherent ... However, I also showed that if we had good inductive evidence for the truth of this central doctrine of theism, we would thereby have indirect evidence of its coherence... How ought the theist and atheist to regard this conclusion? ... The atheist's best hope for defeating theism lies ... in attempting to show it false on the evidence of experience. The theist... must believe that his claims are coherent... But if there were a straightforward proof of their coherence, this would mean... that the claims of theism could be spelled out at greater length in sentences, the meaning of which men could grasp fully and understand completely." (Pg. 294-295)

This book, along with the others of Swinburne's "trilogy" (The Existence of God; Faith and Reason) are "must reading" for anyone seriously studying the philosophy of religion.


By Dietrich Bonhoeffer God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas [Paperback]
By Dietrich Bonhoeffer God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas [Paperback]
10 used & new from $25.79

5.0 out of 5 stars A COLLECTION OF BONHOEFFER'S WRITINGS FROM PRISON DEALING WITH ADVENT AND CHRISTMAS, August 24, 2015
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) was a German Lutheran pastor and theologian, as well as a participant in the German Resistance movement against Nazism. He was hung for his part in a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler. He wrote many books, such as Ethics, Creation and Fall & Temptation: Two Biblical Studies, The Cost of Discipleship, etc.

The Editor's Preface states, "This devotional brings together daily reflections from one of the twentieth century's most beloved theologians... These reflections have been chosen especially for the seasons of Advent and Christmas, a time when the liturgical calendar highlights several themes of Bonhoeffer's beliefs and teachings: that Christ expresses strength best through weakness, that faith is more important than the beguiling trappings of religion, and that God is often heard most clearly by those in poverty and distress... Much of the content of this book was written during the two years he spent in prison." (Pg. ix-x) In addition to the daily devotions, the book also contains a brief selection from another writing (sometimes from Bonhoeffer, but sometimes not) and a biblical quotation.

He states, "The Advent season is a season of waiting, but our whole life is an Advent season, that is, a season of waiting for the last Advent, for the time when there will be a new heaven and a new earth." (Pg. 2) He adds, "For the greatest, most profound, tenderest things in the world, we must wait. It happens not here in a storm but according to the divine laws of sprouting, growing, and becoming." (Pg. 4)

He says, "Silence ultimately means nothing but waiting for God's word and coming away blessed by God's word... Silence before the word, however, will have its effect on the whole day. If we have learned to be silent before the word, we will also learn to be economical with silence and speech throughout the day... what is important is never silence in itself. The silence of the Christian is a listening silence, a humble silence that for the sake of humility can also be broken at any time... In being quiet there is a miraculous power of clarification, of purification, of bringing together what is important." (Pg. 12)

He points out, "Let's not deceive ourselves. 'Your redemption is drawing near' (LUke 21:28), whether we know it or not, and the only question is: Are we going to let it come to us too, or are we going to resist it? Are we going to join in this movement that comes down from heaven to earth, or are we going to close ourselves off? Christmas is coming---whether it is with us or without us depends on each and every one of us." (Pg. 40)

He observes, "From the Christian point of view there is no special problem about Christmas in a prison cell. For many people in this building it will probably be a more sincere and genuine occasion than in places where nothing but the name is kept. The misery, suffering, poverty, loneliness, helplessness, and guilt mean something quite quite different in the eyes of God from what they mean in the judgment of man, that God will approach where men turn away, that Christ was born in a stable because there was no room for him in the inn---these are things that a prisoner can understand better than other people; for him they really are glad tidings." (Pg. 70-71)

In his final Christmastime letter to his fiancée on December 19, 1944, he wrote, "I have had the experience over and over again that the quieter it is around me, the clearer do I feel the connection to you. It is as though in solitude the soul develops senses which we hardly know in everyday life. Therefore I have not felt lonely or abandoned for one moment. You, the parents, all of you, the friends and students of mine at the front, all are constantly present to me... Therefore you must not think me unhappy. What is happiness and unhappiness? It depends so little on the circumstances; it depends really only on that which happens inside a person." (Pg. 83)

This excellent book will be of great interest to anyone studying Bonhoeffer, or theological Christmas meditations, or devotional literature in general.


By Dietrich Bonhoeffer - God Is In The Manger: Reflections On Advent And Christmas (7/31/10)
By Dietrich Bonhoeffer - God Is In The Manger: Reflections On Advent And Christmas (7/31/10)
by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Edition: Paperback
17 used & new from $18.87

5.0 out of 5 stars A COLLECTION OF BONHOEFFER'S WRITINGS FROM PRISON DEALING WITH ADVENT AND CHRISTMAS, August 24, 2015
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) was a German Lutheran pastor and theologian, as well as a participant in the German Resistance movement against Nazism. He was hung for his part in a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler. He wrote many books, such as Ethics, Creation and Fall & Temptation: Two Biblical Studies, The Cost of Discipleship, etc.

The Editor's Preface states, "This devotional brings together daily reflections from one of the twentieth century's most beloved theologians... These reflections have been chosen especially for the seasons of Advent and Christmas, a time when the liturgical calendar highlights several themes of Bonhoeffer's beliefs and teachings: that Christ expresses strength best through weakness, that faith is more important than the beguiling trappings of religion, and that God is often heard most clearly by those in poverty and distress... Much of the content of this book was written during the two years he spent in prison." (Pg. ix-x) In addition to the daily devotions, the book also contains a brief selection from another writing (sometimes from Bonhoeffer, but sometimes not) and a biblical quotation.

He states, "The Advent season is a season of waiting, but our whole life is an Advent season, that is, a season of waiting for the last Advent, for the time when there will be a new heaven and a new earth." (Pg. 2) He adds, "For the greatest, most profound, tenderest things in the world, we must wait. It happens not here in a storm but according to the divine laws of sprouting, growing, and becoming." (Pg. 4)

He says, "Silence ultimately means nothing but waiting for God's word and coming away blessed by God's word... Silence before the word, however, will have its effect on the whole day. If we have learned to be silent before the word, we will also learn to be economical with silence and speech throughout the day... what is important is never silence in itself. The silence of the Christian is a listening silence, a humble silence that for the sake of humility can also be broken at any time... In being quiet there is a miraculous power of clarification, of purification, of bringing together what is important." (Pg. 12)

He points out, "Let's not deceive ourselves. 'Your redemption is drawing near' (LUke 21:28), whether we know it or not, and the only question is: Are we going to let it come to us too, or are we going to resist it? Are we going to join in this movement that comes down from heaven to earth, or are we going to close ourselves off? Christmas is coming---whether it is with us or without us depends on each and every one of us." (Pg. 40)

He observes, "From the Christian point of view there is no special problem about Christmas in a prison cell. For many people in this building it will probably be a more sincere and genuine occasion than in places where nothing but the name is kept. The misery, suffering, poverty, loneliness, helplessness, and guilt mean something quite quite different in the eyes of God from what they mean in the judgment of man, that God will approach where men turn away, that Christ was born in a stable because there was no room for him in the inn---these are things that a prisoner can understand better than other people; for him they really are glad tidings." (Pg. 70-71)

In his final Christmastime letter to his fiancée on December 19, 1944, he wrote, "I have had the experience over and over again that the quieter it is around me, the clearer do I feel the connection to you. It is as though in solitude the soul develops senses which we hardly know in everyday life. Therefore I have not felt lonely or abandoned for one moment. You, the parents, all of you, the friends and students of mine at the front, all are constantly present to me... Therefore you must not think me unhappy. What is happiness and unhappiness? It depends so little on the circumstances; it depends really only on that which happens inside a person." (Pg. 83)

This excellent book will be of great interest to anyone studying Bonhoeffer, or theological Christmas meditations, or devotional literature in general.


By Antony Flew God & Philosophy [Paperback]
By Antony Flew God & Philosophy [Paperback]
14 used & new from $14.30

5.0 out of 5 stars A FAMED PHILOSOPHICAL ATHEIST (at the time, at least) CRITIQUES GOD-ARGUMENTS, August 22, 2015
Antony Garrard Newton Flew (1923-2010) was a British philosopher, and formerly a noteworthy advocate of atheism, until his 2004 change of mind (see There Is a God: How the World's Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind). He wrote such influential books as The Presumption of Atheism and Other (Philosophical) Essays on God, Freedom and Immortality; he also participated in debates/dialogues such as The Warren-Flew Debate on the Existence of God, Does God Exist?: The Great Debate, Does God Exist?: The Craig-Flew Debate, Did the Resurrection Happen?: A Conversation with Gary Habermas and Antony Flew, Resurrected?: An Atheist and Theist Dialogue, Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?: The Resurrection Debate, etc.

This book was first published in 1966; in 2005, Prometheus Books reprinted the ORIGINAL edition, along with a new Introduction by Flew. (Famed secular Humanist Paul Kurtz dodges the issue in his Publisher’s Foreword, stating, “it is up to the readers of his final introduction published below to decide whether or not he has abandoned his earlier views.”)

Flew states in the [original] Preface, “This book is… an attempt to present and to examine the strongest possible case for belief in God… The book later goes on to consider the best warrant which might be offered for accepting the Christian candidate as an authentic and unique revelation from that God.” (Pg. 19) He begins the first chapter, “The main purpose of the present work is to develop and to examine a case for Christian theism; and in so doing to provide an introduction to the philosophy of religion, and thus to philosophy in general… for not only do arguments about God and immortality plan an often crucial part in the writings of most of the classical philosophers; but other arguments … seem to be much more frequent in religious apologetics and counter-apologetics than in other areas of controversy.” (1.1, pg. 23)

He states, “To say that the Christian God is the Creator is to say, not only that he brought the universe into being out of nothing, but also that he is the constant and essential sustaining cause of everything within it… This precisely means that absolutely nothing happens save by his ultimate undetermined determination and with his consenting ontological support. Everything means everything; and that includes every human thought, every human action, and every human choice. For we too are indisputably parts of the universe… of which he is supposed to be ‘the Maker, and Preserver.’” (2.34-2.35, pg. 56-57)

Discussing the existence of evil, he observes, “there are many evils which it scarcely seems either are or could be redeemed in this way: animal suffering, for instance, especially that occurring before… the human period…. such pain seems nevertheless plainly a fault. If we consider, as most of us do, that---say---failure to put a grievously suffering beast out of its misery constitutes a gross defect from human decency, then it is surely inconsistent to concede that a Creator neglecting to do the same could be perfectly good.” (2.53. pg. 66)

He argues, “there seems to be no contradiction in suggesting that [God] could have ensured that all his creation always, and freely, did what they should. Our actual wickedness therefore remains intractably a major part of the evil which has to be reconciled with the thesis of creation by an infinitely good Creator… The whole issue becomes immeasurably worse if you want Hell too… When also you are bound… to concede that your God creates some creatures intending to subject them to eternal torments, of whatever sort: then your apologetic tasks is hopeless from the beginning. It is, surely, degrading even to start.” (2.57-2.58, pg. 67-68) Much later, he adds, “The objection is to an eternal life sentence of unending suffering. Such an affliction would be a frightful outrage… viewed as a supposed penalty, it must necessarily be disproportionate to any possible temporal offense; and even without taking into account that it is to be inflicted by the putative Creator upon some of his creatures.” (9.18, pg. 190)

He states the “presumption of atheism”: “The present presumption was apparently first clearly formulated as such by Strato, next but one in succession to Aristotle as head of the Lyceum. It can be seen as the fulfillment of the naturalistic tendency in the founder’s own thinking. It was this ‘Stratonician atheism’ which was received by the young Hume as an emancipating revelation… we shall, in piety, follow Bayle and Hume in using the awkward form ‘Stratonician’ as the adjective.” (3.20, pg. 79)

He points out, “It is… frequently maintained that living organisms could not have developed naturally out of matter itself lifeless; or that consciousness and intelligence cannot be the attributes of purely material things; and so on. Yet, in fact, however great the present mystery of the mechanisms involved, all the evidence we have indicates that the only life we know did originate in just this way. It is the same again with intelligence, consciousness, and the like. So far from there being a certainty that these cannot appertain to material things, the question is whether they could significantly be attributed to anything else.” (3.26, pg. 82)

He says that the Ontological Argument for God is “ a luminously illegitimate attempt to deduce actual existence from the mere definition of a word.” (4.10, pg. 89) Of the notion of a First Cause, he observes, “For whatever right we have to start this progress imposes a corresponding obligation not to stop arbitrarily… The driving force of the whole argument is that initial insistence that ‘each member of the series of causes possesses being solely by the actual present operation of a superior cause.’ Yet no reason is give why the ‘first efficient cause’ postulated in the conclusion should be thus granted exemption: being privileged to be ‘itself uncaused.’” (4.41, pg. 104)

He comments on religious experience, “whereas questions about the existence of people can be answered by straightforward observational and other tests, not even those who claim to have enjoyed personal encounters with God would admit such tests to be appropriate here… Yet if… the epistemological question … cannot be met by reference to immediate observation or other commonplace tests; then the whole argument from religious experience must collapse into an argument from whatever other credentials may be offered to authenticate the revelation supposedly mediated by such experience. (6.28, pg. 144)

He says of divine revelation, “we do not immediately know that we are, immediately confronted by God. We do not literally hear God’s words, nor read sentences which God has literally written; and, of course, nobody really supposed that we do. We read words printed by human printers, or written by pens held in human hands, and we read them in corporeal books and in manuscripts in form like any others. Or, again, what we meet is the claims of an organization visibly composed of flesh-and-blood men and women.” (8.38, pg. 179)

He critiques Pascal’s “Wager”: “What is fundamentally but instructively wrong with the whole argument is that Pascal altogether fails to take the measure of the radical agnosticism of his first premise. If the conclusion is to follow we have to assume that there is only one Hell-consigning God to be considered… From the fact that several religious systems are all incompatible with one another you may infer, only that not more than one of them can, not that one of them must, be true. No reason whatever has so far been provided for believing that any religious system is true: all may be false… Now supposing there are several such systems, each threatening unbelievers with infinite torture… For [Pascal] assumes that the tally of possible mutually exclusive, Hell-threatening systems is finite.” (9.12-9.13, pg. 187)

He concludes, “the onus of proof in this case must rest upon the proposition. If the existence of God is a fact it is quite certainly not---as the men of the Bible seem to have mistaken it to be---the sort of blindingly obvious fact which no one but a fool could possibly doubt or deny… We therefore conclude… that the universe itself is ultimate… [to] be taken as the last words in any series of answers to questions as to why things are as they are. The principles of the world lie themselves ‘inside’ the world.” (9.29, pg. 195)

Although Flew famously changed in mind about God in 2004, his earlier arguments are still of great interest for anyone studying the philosophy of religion.


Is There a God? by Swinburne, Richard [Oxford University Press, 2010] (Paperback) Revised edition [Paperback]
Is There a God? by Swinburne, Richard [Oxford University Press, 2010] (Paperback) Revised edition [Paperback]
by Swinburne
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars A CHRISTIAN'S PHILOSOPHICAL ARGUMENTS FOR GOD, August 22, 2015
Richard G. Swinburne (born 1934) is Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Oxford; he has written many other books such as The Existence of God, Faith and Reason, The Coherence of Theism, Was Jesus God?, etc.

[NOTE: page numbers below refer to the 1996 144-page paperback edition.]

He begins this 1996 book by explaining, "My aim in writing this book is ... putting forward for a wider public a short version of the positive case for the existence of God put forward in my earlier book `The Existence of God' (1979)." He summarizes his argument: "Scientists, historians, and detectives observe data and proceed thence to some theory about what best explains the occurrence of these data... Using those same criteria, we find that the view that there is a God explains EVERYTHING we observe, not just some narrow range of data. It explains the fact that there is a universe at all, that scientific laws operate within it... that we have abundant opportunities for developing ourselves and the world, as well as the more particular data that humans report miracles and have religious experiences... The very same criteria which scientists use to reach their own theories lead us to move beyond those theories to a creator God who sustains everything in existence." (Pg. 2) Later, he states, "The thesis of this book is that theism provides by far the simplest explanation of all phenomena. Materialism is not... a simple hypothesis, and there is a range of phenomena which it is most unlikely ever to be able to explain." (Pg. 41)

He cautions, "no one (not even God) can know today (without the possibility of mistake) what I will choose to do tomorrow. So I suggest that we understand God being omniscient as God knowing at any time all that is logically possible to know at that time. That will not include knowledge, before they have done it, of what human persons will do freely... I must, however, warn the reader that this view of mine... is not the normal Christian (or Jewish or Islamic) view. My view is, however, implied, I believe, by certain biblical passages..." (Pg. 8)

He also suggests, "God is thus a source of moral obligation---his commands create moral obligations. But God clearly cannot make things which are our duty no longer our duty; he cannot make it right to torture children for fun... it follows from his perfect goodness that he will not command us to do so---for it is wrong to command what is wrong. It may surprise some modern readers to suppose that a theist can allow that some moral truths are moral truths quite independent of the will of God. This is, however, an issue on which the Christian philosophical tradition has been split right down the middle..." (Pg. 15)

He points out, "It is extraordinary that there should exist anything at all. Surely the most natural state of affairs is simply nothing, no universe, no God, nothing. But there is something. And so many things. Maybe chance could have thrown up the odd electron. But SO many particles! Not everything will have an explanation. But... the whole progress of science ... demands that we postulate the smallest number of brute facts." (Pg. 48-49)

He observes, "True, God could have created humans without doing so by the long process of evolution. But that is only an objection to the theistic hypothesis if you suppose that God's only reason for creating anything is for the sake of human beings." (Pg. 62) He rejects the "multiverse" hypothesis: "there is no reason to suppose that there are any universes other than our own... Every object of which we know is an observable component of our universe. To postulate a trillion trillion other universes, rather than one God in order to explain the orderliness of our universe, seems the height of irrationality." (Pg. 67-68)

He admits, "So long as I continue to have thoughts and feelings and purposes, I have survived any operation---whatever happens to any material parts of me. So my soul is the essential part of me... Dualism is not a popular philosophical position today, but I find these arguments (of an entirely non-theological kind) in its favor inescapable." (Pg. 77) He continues, "The reluctance of so many philosophers and scientists to admit that at a particular moment of evolutionary history there came into existence, connected to animal bodies, souls with mental properties seems to me to be due in part to the fact that, if such a thing happened, they are utterly lost for an explanation of how it came to happen. But it is highly irrational to say that something is not there, just because you cannot explain how it came to be there." (Pg. 80)

He notes, "Of course thrills of pleasure and periods of contentment are good things and... God would certainly seek to provide plenty of these. But a generous God will seek to give deeper good things than these. He will seek to give us greater responsibility for ourselves, each other, and the world, and thus a share in his own creative activity... And he will seek to make our lives valuable, of great use to ourselves and each other. The problem is that God cannot give us these goods in full measure without allowing much evil on the way." (Pg. 96)

Discussing the problem of evil, he observes, "The possibility of humans bringing about significant evil is a logical consequence of their having this free and responsible choice. Not even God could give us this choice without the possibility of resulting evil." (Pg. 100) He adds, "Natural evils give to us the knowledge to make a range of choices between good and evil, and the opportunity to perform actions of especially valuable kinds." (Pg. 110)

He seemingly rejects the traditional doctrine of Hell: "limits there must be to God's rights to allow humans to hurt each other; and limits there are in the world ... provided above all by the short finite life enjoyed by humans... Unending unchosen suffering would indeed to my mind provide a very strong argument against the existence of God. But that is not the human situation." (Pg. 106-107) Later, he states, "If we seek to be good people and to know God, then we will be the kind of people naturally fitted for the vision of him in the world to come... But if we choose not to pursue goodness and God, then also God will respect our choice and give us a life without God." (Pg. 129)

He also suggests about miracles, "If he has reason to interact with us, he has reason very occasionally to intervene to suspend those natural laws by which our life is controlled." (Pg. 117) He adds, "I am, however, inclined to think that we do have enough historical evidence of events occurring contrary to natural laws of a kind which God would have reason to bring out to show that probably some of them (we do not know which) are genuine miracles." (Pg. 120) He concludes, "evidence of witnesses who claim to observe a violation of natural laws is indirect evidence of God... It the total evidence becomes strong enough, then it will justify asserting that God exists, and hence that the event in question was not merely a violation, but brought about by God and thus a miracle." (Pg. 123) He contends, "I am bound to add that in my view only one of the world's major religions can make any serious claim, on the grounds of detailed historical evidence, to be founded on a miracle, that is the Christian religion." (Pg. 125)

He concludes, "The conclusion of this book was that... there is a God. If you accept that, it follows that you have certain duties... including above all the opportunities to mold our characters and help others... God in his perfect goodness will want to make the best of us: make saints of us and use us to make saints of others... But God respects us; he will not force these things on us---we can choose whether to seek them or not. If we do seek them, there are obvious obstacles... But God has every reason in due course to remove those obstacles---to allow us to become the good people we seek to be, to give us his vision of himself---forever." (Pg. 141)

While naturally less detailed than Swinburne's more `technical' books (such as those listed above), this book is an excellent way for a more general reader to approach Swinburne's approach to the philosophy of religion. ("Traditional" Christians may be appalled by some of his opinions, however.)


Is There a God? by Swinburne, Richard 2nd (second) Revised Edition (2010)
Is There a God? by Swinburne, Richard 2nd (second) Revised Edition (2010)
27 used & new from $23.53

5.0 out of 5 stars A CHRISTIAN'S PHILOSOPHICAL ARGUMENTS FOR GOD, August 22, 2015
Richard G. Swinburne (born 1934) is Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Oxford; he has written many other books such as The Existence of God, Faith and Reason, The Coherence of Theism,Was Jesus God?, etc.

[NOTE: page numbers below refer to the 1996 144-page paperback edition.]

He begins this 1996 book by explaining, “My aim in writing this book is … putting forward for a wider public a short version of the positive case for the existence of God put forward in my earlier book ‘The Existence of God’ (1979).” He summarizes his argument: "Scientists, historians, and detectives observe data and proceed thence to some theory about what best explains the occurrence of these data... Using those same criteria, we find that the view that there is a God explains EVERYTHING we observe, not just some narrow range of data. It explains the fact that there is a universe at all, that scientific laws operate within it... that we have abundant opportunities for developing ourselves and the world, as well as the more particular data that humans report miracles and have religious experiences... The very same criteria which scientists use to reach their own theories lead us to move beyond those theories to a creator God who sustains everything in existence." (Pg. 2) Later, he states, “The thesis of this book is that theism provides by far the simplest explanation of all phenomena. Materialism is not… a simple hypothesis, and there is a range of phenomena which it is most unlikely ever to be able to explain.” (Pg. 41)

He cautions, “no one (not even God) can know today (without the possibility of mistake) what I will choose to do tomorrow. So I suggest that we understand God being omniscient as God knowing at any time all that is logically possible to know at that time. That will not include knowledge, before they have done it, of what human persons will do freely… I must, however, warn the reader that this view of mine… is not the normal Christian (or Jewish or Islamic) view. My view is, however, implied, I believe, by certain biblical passages…” (Pg. 8)

He also suggests, “God is thus a source of moral obligation---his commands create moral obligations. But God clearly cannot make things which are our duty no longer our duty; he cannot make it right to torture children for fun… it follows from his perfect goodness that he will not command us to do so---for it is wrong to command what is wrong. It may surprise some modern readers to suppose that a theist can allow that some moral truths are moral truths quite independent of the will of God. This is, however, an issue on which the Christian philosophical tradition has been split right down the middle…” (Pg. 15)

He points out, “It is extraordinary that there should exist anything at all. Surely the most natural state of affairs is simply nothing, no universe, no God, nothing. But there is something. And so many things. Maybe chance could have thrown up the odd electron. But SO many particles! Not everything will have an explanation. But… the whole progress of science … demands that we postulate the smallest number of brute facts.” (Pg. 48-49)

He observes, "True, God could have created humans without doing so by the long process of evolution. But that is only an objection to the theistic hypothesis if you suppose that God's only reason for creating anything is for the sake of human beings." (Pg. 62) He rejects the “multiverse” hypothesis: “there is no reason to suppose that there are any universes other than our own… Every object of which we know is an observable component of our universe. To postulate a trillion trillion other universes, rather than one God in order to explain the orderliness of our universe, seems the height of irrationality.” (Pg. 67-68)

He admits, "So long as I continue to have thoughts and feelings and purposes, I have survived any operation---whatever happens to any material parts of me. So my soul is the essential part of me... Dualism is not a popular philosophical position today, but I find these arguments (of an entirely non-theological kind) in its favor inescapable." (Pg. 77) He continues, “The reluctance of so many philosophers and scientists to admit that at a particular moment of evolutionary history there came into existence, connected to animal bodies, souls with mental properties seems to me to be due in part to the fact that, if such a thing happened, they are utterly lost for an explanation of how it came to happen. But it is highly irrational to say that something is not there, just because you cannot explain how it came to be there.” (Pg. 80)

He notes, “Of course thrills of pleasure and periods of contentment are good things and… God would certainly seek to provide plenty of these. But a generous God will seek to give deeper good things than these. He will seek to give us greater responsibility for ourselves, each other, and the world, and thus a share in his own creative activity… And he will seek to make our lives valuable, of great use to ourselves and each other. The problem is that God cannot give us these goods in full measure without allowing much evil on the way.” (Pg. 96)

Discussing the problem of evil, he observes, “The possibility of humans bringing about significant evil is a logical consequence of their having this free and responsible choice. Not even God could give us this choice without the possibility of resulting evil.” (Pg. 100) He adds, “Natural evils give to us the knowledge to make a range of choices between good and evil, and the opportunity to perform actions of especially valuable kinds." (Pg. 110)

He seemingly rejects the traditional doctrine of Hell: “limits there must be to God’s rights to allow humans to hurt each other; and limits there are in the world … provided above all by the short finite life enjoyed by humans… Unending unchosen suffering would indeed to my mind provide a very strong argument against the existence of God. But that is not the human situation.” (Pg. 106-107) Later, he states, “If we seek to be good people and to know God, then we will be the kind of people naturally fitted for the vision of him in the world to come… But if we choose not to pursue goodness and God, then also God will respect our choice and give us a life without God.” (Pg. 129)

He also suggests about miracles, “If he has reason to interact with us, he has reason very occasionally to intervene to suspend those natural laws by which our life is controlled.” (Pg. 117) He adds, "I am, however, inclined to think that we do have enough historical evidence of events occurring contrary to natural laws of a kind which God would have reason to bring out to show that probably some of them (we do not know which) are genuine miracles." (Pg. 120) He concludes, “evidence of witnesses who claim to observe a violation of natural laws is indirect evidence of God… It the total evidence becomes strong enough, then it will justify asserting that God exists, and hence that the event in question was not merely a violation, but brought about by God and thus a miracle.” (Pg. 123) He contends, “I am bound to add that in my view only one of the world’s major religions can make any serious claim, on the grounds of detailed historical evidence, to be founded on a miracle, that is the Christian religion.” (Pg. 125)

He concludes, “The conclusion of this book was that… there is a God. If you accept that, it follows that you have certain duties… including above all the opportunities to mold our characters and help others… God in his perfect goodness will want to make the best of us: make saints of us and use us to make saints of others… But God respects us; he will not force these things on us---we can choose whether to seek them or not. If we do seek them, there are obvious obstacles… But God has every reason in due course to remove those obstacles---to allow us to become the good people we seek to be, to give us his vision of himself---forever.” (Pg. 141)

While naturally less detailed than Swinburne's more ‘technical’ books (such as those listed above), this book is an excellent way for a more general reader to approach Swinburne's approach to the philosophy of religion. (“Traditional” Christians may be appalled by some of his opinions, however.)


By Richard Swinburne - Is There a God? (2nd Revised edition) (12.8.2009)
By Richard Swinburne - Is There a God? (2nd Revised edition) (12.8.2009)
by Richard Swinburne
Edition: Paperback
45 used & new from $13.18

5.0 out of 5 stars A CHRISTIAN'S PHILOSOPHICAL ARGUMENTS FOR GOD, August 22, 2015
Richard G. Swinburne (born 1934) is Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Oxford; he has written many other books such as The Existence of God, Faith and Reason, The Coherence of Theism,Was Jesus God?, etc.

[NOTE: page numbers below refer to the 1996 144-page paperback edition.]

He begins this 1996 book by explaining, “My aim in writing this book is … putting forward for a wider public a short version of the positive case for the existence of God put forward in my earlier book ‘The Existence of God’ (1979).” He summarizes his argument: "Scientists, historians, and detectives observe data and proceed thence to some theory about what best explains the occurrence of these data... Using those same criteria, we find that the view that there is a God explains EVERYTHING we observe, not just some narrow range of data. It explains the fact that there is a universe at all, that scientific laws operate within it... that we have abundant opportunities for developing ourselves and the world, as well as the more particular data that humans report miracles and have religious experiences... The very same criteria which scientists use to reach their own theories lead us to move beyond those theories to a creator God who sustains everything in existence." (Pg. 2) Later, he states, “The thesis of this book is that theism provides by far the simplest explanation of all phenomena. Materialism is not… a simple hypothesis, and there is a range of phenomena which it is most unlikely ever to be able to explain.” (Pg. 41)

He cautions, “no one (not even God) can know today (without the possibility of mistake) what I will choose to do tomorrow. So I suggest that we understand God being omniscient as God knowing at any time all that is logically possible to know at that time. That will not include knowledge, before they have done it, of what human persons will do freely… I must, however, warn the reader that this view of mine… is not the normal Christian (or Jewish or Islamic) view. My view is, however, implied, I believe, by certain biblical passages…” (Pg. 8)

He also suggests, “God is thus a source of moral obligation---his commands create moral obligations. But God clearly cannot make things which are our duty no longer our duty; he cannot make it right to torture children for fun… it follows from his perfect goodness that he will not command us to do so---for it is wrong to command what is wrong. It may surprise some modern readers to suppose that a theist can allow that some moral truths are moral truths quite independent of the will of God. This is, however, an issue on which the Christian philosophical tradition has been split right down the middle…” (Pg. 15)

He points out, “It is extraordinary that there should exist anything at all. Surely the most natural state of affairs is simply nothing, no universe, no God, nothing. But there is something. And so many things. Maybe chance could have thrown up the odd electron. But SO many particles! Not everything will have an explanation. But… the whole progress of science … demands that we postulate the smallest number of brute facts.” (Pg. 48-49)

He observes, "True, God could have created humans without doing so by the long process of evolution. But that is only an objection to the theistic hypothesis if you suppose that God's only reason for creating anything is for the sake of human beings." (Pg. 62) He rejects the “multiverse” hypothesis: “there is no reason to suppose that there are any universes other than our own… Every object of which we know is an observable component of our universe. To postulate a trillion trillion other universes, rather than one God in order to explain the orderliness of our universe, seems the height of irrationality.” (Pg. 67-68)

He admits, "So long as I continue to have thoughts and feelings and purposes, I have survived any operation---whatever happens to any material parts of me. So my soul is the essential part of me... Dualism is not a popular philosophical position today, but I find these arguments (of an entirely non-theological kind) in its favor inescapable." (Pg. 77) He continues, “The reluctance of so many philosophers and scientists to admit that at a particular moment of evolutionary history there came into existence, connected to animal bodies, souls with mental properties seems to me to be due in part to the fact that, if such a thing happened, they are utterly lost for an explanation of how it came to happen. But it is highly irrational to say that something is not there, just because you cannot explain how it came to be there.” (Pg. 80)

He notes, “Of course thrills of pleasure and periods of contentment are good things and… God would certainly seek to provide plenty of these. But a generous God will seek to give deeper good things than these. He will seek to give us greater responsibility for ourselves, each other, and the world, and thus a share in his own creative activity… And he will seek to make our lives valuable, of great use to ourselves and each other. The problem is that God cannot give us these goods in full measure without allowing much evil on the way.” (Pg. 96)

Discussing the problem of evil, he observes, “The possibility of humans bringing about significant evil is a logical consequence of their having this free and responsible choice. Not even God could give us this choice without the possibility of resulting evil.” (Pg. 100) He adds, “Natural evils give to us the knowledge to make a range of choices between good and evil, and the opportunity to perform actions of especially valuable kinds." (Pg. 110)

He seemingly rejects the traditional doctrine of Hell: “limits there must be to God’s rights to allow humans to hurt each other; and limits there are in the world … provided above all by the short finite life enjoyed by humans… Unending unchosen suffering would indeed to my mind provide a very strong argument against the existence of God. But that is not the human situation.” (Pg. 106-107) Later, he states, “If we seek to be good people and to know God, then we will be the kind of people naturally fitted for the vision of him in the world to come… But if we choose not to pursue goodness and God, then also God will respect our choice and give us a life without God.” (Pg. 129)

He also suggests about miracles, “If he has reason to interact with us, he has reason very occasionally to intervene to suspend those natural laws by which our life is controlled.” (Pg. 117) He adds, "I am, however, inclined to think that we do have enough historical evidence of events occurring contrary to natural laws of a kind which God would have reason to bring out to show that probably some of them (we do not know which) are genuine miracles." (Pg. 120) He concludes, “evidence of witnesses who claim to observe a violation of natural laws is indirect evidence of God… It the total evidence becomes strong enough, then it will justify asserting that God exists, and hence that the event in question was not merely a violation, but brought about by God and thus a miracle.” (Pg. 123) He contends, “I am bound to add that in my view only one of the world’s major religions can make any serious claim, on the grounds of detailed historical evidence, to be founded on a miracle, that is the Christian religion.” (Pg. 125)

He concludes, “The conclusion of this book was that… there is a God. If you accept that, it follows that you have certain duties… including above all the opportunities to mold our characters and help others… God in his perfect goodness will want to make the best of us: make saints of us and use us to make saints of others… But God respects us; he will not force these things on us---we can choose whether to seek them or not. If we do seek them, there are obvious obstacles… But God has every reason in due course to remove those obstacles---to allow us to become the good people we seek to be, to give us his vision of himself---forever.” (Pg. 141)

While naturally less detailed than Swinburne's more ‘technical’ books (such as those listed above), this book is an excellent way for a more general reader to approach Swinburne's approach to the philosophy of religion. (“Traditional” Christians may be appalled by some of his opinions, however.)


Science & Religion: From Conflict to Conversation [Paperback] [1995] (Author) John Haught
Science & Religion: From Conflict to Conversation [Paperback] [1995] (Author) John Haught
14 used & new from $20.57

5.0 out of 5 stars AN “INTRODUCTION FOR NON-EXPERTS TO THE CENTRAL ISSUES IN SCIENCE AND RELIGION TODAY”, August 13, 2015
John F. Haught is a Roman Catholic theologian and Senior Research Fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University. He has written many other books, such as God and the New Atheism: A Critical Response to Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens, Responses to 101 Questions on God and Evolution, What is God?: How to Think about the Divine, Christianity and Science: Toward a Theology of Nature, Resting on the Future: Catholic Theology for an Unfinished Universe, God After Darwin: A Theology of Evolution, Making Sense of Evolution: Darwin, God, and the Drama of Life, etc.

He wrote in the Preface to this 1995 book, “For almost twenty-five years I have been teaching a course on science and religion to undergraduates at Georgetown University. During just this one quarter of a century the cosmic landscape has dramatically shifted, and so has my whole approach to the subject. These years have witnessed, for example, fascinating debates and finally a virtual consensus about the big bang origins of the universe. During this period science has gained a fuller grasp of the chemical basis of life and the physiological aspects of mind… Do these developments have any significant religious or theological implications? I have written this book in order to set forth some responses to this question… I have written this book, then, as an introduction for non-experts to the central issues in science and religion today… although the ultimate objective of this work is conversation, I think we can begin to arrive at it only by first examining what the various parties are bringing to the table.”

In the Introduction, he adds, “you may have found, as I have, that recent scientific developments have made the idea of God no less religiously intriguing and intellectually compelling than it was before the age of science. In any case, the encounter of religion with science has generated a considerable amount of confusion. I intend this work then to be a new kind of introductory guide for those who wish to see their way through to some degree of clarity on a very complex subject.” (Pg. 7)

He states, “I see four principal ways in which those who have thought about the problem express their understanding of the relationship of religion to science. (1) Some hold that religion is utterly opposed to science or that science invalidates religion. (2) Others insist that religion and science are so clearly different from each other that conflict between them is logically impossible. Religion and science are both valid, but we should rigorously separate one from the other. This is the CONTRAST approach. (3) A third type argues that although religion and science are distinct, science always has implications for religion and vice versa. Science and religion inevitably interact, and so religion and theology must not ignore new developments in science. For the sake of simplicity I shall call this the CONTACT approach. (4) Finally, a fourth way of looking at the relationship… emphasizes the subtle but significant ways in which religion positively supports the scientific adventure of discovery. It looks for those ways in which religion, without in any way interfering with science, paves the way for some of its ideas, and even gives a special kind of blessing, or what I shall call CONFIRMATION, to the scientific quest for truth.” (Pg. 3-4)

He points out, “if theism is flawed because the God-hypothesis is unfalsifiable, then it seems only fair to ask whether scientism can itself meet the falsification test. To do so its advocates must be able to state under what conditions it could be falsified. They must actively look for ways to show that science is inadequate. Instead of doing so, however, they steadfastly ASSUME it to be true, no matter what. At least in this respect their faith in science looks suspiciously like the religion they reject for being unfalsifiable… it may not be science but SCIENTISM that is the enemy of religion… [Scientism is] a belief system that assumes, without any scientific demonstration, that science is the ONLY appropriate way of looking at things.” (Pg. 16-17)

He notes, “Physics leaves out anything that has to do with personality (features like intelligence, will, feeling, love, care, freedom, creativity, etc.); so we should indeed be very surprised, and even disappointed, if a ‘final theory’ in physics would uncover anything other than an ‘impersonal’ universe. If physics is not inherently wired to receive any personalist signals, should we wonder that none show up on its display screen? The existence of a ‘personal’ God is not an issue that science, including physics, can ever resolve. Science and religion are so radically independent that we should not expect one to shed very much light on the other.” (Pg. 32)

He states, “Our view is that faith in a personal God nourishes the trust that science silently draws upon as it makes its excursions into the unknown. Science needs to take for granted, since it cannot prove conclusively in advance, that there is a certain reliability or consistency to the physical activity in our universe. Although scientists expect it always to be surprising, they do not anticipate that the universe will ever be capricious… We have no right to expect that nature will be so predictable and reliable, but we BELIEVE that it is and that it always will be.” (Pg. 44) Later, he adds, “Finally, a strong case can be made for the view that the radical monotheism of the God-religions has provided a most favorable historical context for the emergence and flourishing of science… theism conditioned the Western mind over the course of centuries for the kind of faith in the natural order and cosmic coherence that scientists have to take with them in their work.” (Pg. 46)

He strongly rejects creationism: “‘Creation science’ … is really not science at all. It does not seriously accept the self-revising method required by true science… Creation science would not even be worth discussing were it not for the fact that its devotees stir up so much public controversy in their attempts to keep evolutionary theory out of schools and textbooks.” (Pg. 51-52) He adds, “So-called ‘scientific creationism’ is objectionable in the first place because … it refuses to look at most of the relevant data… In the second place, however, scientific creationism is THEOLOGICALLY embarrassing… It completely misses the religious point of Genesis by placing it alongside ‘On the Origin of Species’ as though the biblical text could provide a superior SCIENTIFIC account of the origin of life… To us it is religiously offensive to see the biblical text so thoroughly degraded.” (Pg. 53)

He acknowledges, “Skeptics… [will] ask how we can reconcile our ideas about a providential God with the role that chance plays in life’s evolution. This is a crucial question… in our opinion chance is quite real. It is a concrete fact in evolution, but it is not one that contradicts the idea of God… The reason is simple: love typically operates not in a coercive but in a persuasive manner… It… allows… the entire created cosmos---to remain itself, though in such a way as to imply intimacy rather than abandonment.” (Pg. 61) Later, he adds, “we are quite comfortable with the idea that a process of ‘natural selection’ is present as a constraining factor in the evolution of the earth’s biodiversity… For alongside of natural selection… there may be other creative, and less easily specifiable, factors involved in bringing about just THIS particular world.” (Pg. 64)

He suggests, “Our religious faith tells us that the same God who creates the universe also promises to save it from all its travail, suffering and death… The suffering of the innocent and the weak, highlighted so clearly by the evolutionary portrait of life, becomes inseparable from the divine eternity… For us the same God who invites the world to evolve is also intimately INVOLVED in the evolutionary process. God struggles along with all beings… so that in the end nothing is every completely forgotten or lost. (Pg. 69)

He argues, “the world of reductionism is too suffocating for us. A world in which our own feeble (scientific) minds are made the upper limit to everything is terrifyingly small… the reductionist belief system DEMANDS, in an utterly arbitrary fashion, that there shall be no aspects of reality that remain off limits to human scientific conquest. We consider this postulate too heavy a burden for us humans to bear… We do not forcefully and arbitrarily insist that reality subject itself completely to scientific reduction… We consider it both irrational and idolatrous to embrace the creed of reductionism. We need other ways of knowing… if we want to get in touch with the real substance and depth of things.” (Pg. 86) Later, he says, “The scientific sense of ‘wonder’ about cosmic origins is already incipiently religious… big bang theory… [and] the religious quest for the source of our being… are existentially inseparable… they both flow concretely from a common human concern to discover our roots. We humans are forever haunted by origins.” (Pg. 118)

He says of the “multiverse” concept, “if there were an infinite number of attempts at universes, sooner or later one of them is bound to succeed in having those special conditions that give rise to life. In such a case our own apparently improbable existence would not be so unexpected after all… Nevertheless, until actual evidence of such innumerable worlds comes forth, it seems more appropriate … that we look at the relationship of the religious doctrine of creation to the world of current scientific
Consensus.” (Pg. 105) Later, he suggests, “In the absence of any belief that the universe is the free creation of God skeptics are forced to appeal to either chance or necessity as its ‘explanation.’ They appeal to chance in the case of the multiple-worlds view and to necessity in the case of the inflationary hypothesis [of Alan Guth]. We suspect that neither of these two choices is always motivated purely by science itself.” (Pg. 134-135)

He concludes, “The fundamental unity of science and religion… is most explicitly anticipated in the approach that I have been calling confirmation. This fourth way suggests that science and religion… share a common origin in the remote and mysterious fountainhead of a simple human desire to know. Both science and religion ultimately flow out of the same ‘radical’ eros for truth that lies at the heart of our existence. And so, it is because of their shared origin in this fundamental concern for truth that we may never allow them simply to go their separate ways.” (Pg. 203)

This is one of the most interesting books on the issue of religion/science interaction and dialogue, and will be of great interest to anyone seriously studying the subject.


Science and Religion: From Conflict to Conversation 1st (first) Edition by Haught, John F. [1995]
Science and Religion: From Conflict to Conversation 1st (first) Edition by Haught, John F. [1995]
14 used & new from $45.00

5.0 out of 5 stars AN “INTRODUCTION FOR NON-EXPERTS TO THE CENTRAL ISSUES IN SCIENCE AND RELIGION TODAY”, August 13, 2015
John F. Haught is a Roman Catholic theologian and Senior Research Fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University. He has written many other books, such as God and the New Atheism: A Critical Response to Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens, Responses to 101 Questions on God and Evolution, What is God?: How to Think about the Divine, Christianity and Science: Toward a Theology of Nature, Resting on the Future: Catholic Theology for an Unfinished Universe, God After Darwin: A Theology of Evolution, Making Sense of Evolution: Darwin, God, and the Drama of Life, etc.

He wrote in the Preface to this 1995 book, “For almost twenty-five years I have been teaching a course on science and religion to undergraduates at Georgetown University. During just this one quarter of a century the cosmic landscape has dramatically shifted, and so has my whole approach to the subject. These years have witnessed, for example, fascinating debates and finally a virtual consensus about the big bang origins of the universe. During this period science has gained a fuller grasp of the chemical basis of life and the physiological aspects of mind… Do these developments have any significant religious or theological implications? I have written this book in order to set forth some responses to this question… I have written this book, then, as an introduction for non-experts to the central issues in science and religion today… although the ultimate objective of this work is conversation, I think we can begin to arrive at it only by first examining what the various parties are bringing to the table.”

In the Introduction, he adds, “you may have found, as I have, that recent scientific developments have made the idea of God no less religiously intriguing and intellectually compelling than it was before the age of science. In any case, the encounter of religion with science has generated a considerable amount of confusion. I intend this work then to be a new kind of introductory guide for those who wish to see their way through to some degree of clarity on a very complex subject.” (Pg. 7)

He states, “I see four principal ways in which those who have thought about the problem express their understanding of the relationship of religion to science. (1) Some hold that religion is utterly opposed to science or that science invalidates religion. (2) Others insist that religion and science are so clearly different from each other that conflict between them is logically impossible. Religion and science are both valid, but we should rigorously separate one from the other. This is the CONTRAST approach. (3) A third type argues that although religion and science are distinct, science always has implications for religion and vice versa. Science and religion inevitably interact, and so religion and theology must not ignore new developments in science. For the sake of simplicity I shall call this the CONTACT approach. (4) Finally, a fourth way of looking at the relationship… emphasizes the subtle but significant ways in which religion positively supports the scientific adventure of discovery. It looks for those ways in which religion, without in any way interfering with science, paves the way for some of its ideas, and even gives a special kind of blessing, or what I shall call CONFIRMATION, to the scientific quest for truth.” (Pg. 3-4)

He points out, “if theism is flawed because the God-hypothesis is unfalsifiable, then it seems only fair to ask whether scientism can itself meet the falsification test. To do so its advocates must be able to state under what conditions it could be falsified. They must actively look for ways to show that science is inadequate. Instead of doing so, however, they steadfastly ASSUME it to be true, no matter what. At least in this respect their faith in science looks suspiciously like the religion they reject for being unfalsifiable… it may not be science but SCIENTISM that is the enemy of religion… [Scientism is] a belief system that assumes, without any scientific demonstration, that science is the ONLY appropriate way of looking at things.” (Pg. 16-17)

He notes, “Physics leaves out anything that has to do with personality (features like intelligence, will, feeling, love, care, freedom, creativity, etc.); so we should indeed be very surprised, and even disappointed, if a ‘final theory’ in physics would uncover anything other than an ‘impersonal’ universe. If physics is not inherently wired to receive any personalist signals, should we wonder that none show up on its display screen? The existence of a ‘personal’ God is not an issue that science, including physics, can ever resolve. Science and religion are so radically independent that we should not expect one to shed very much light on the other.” (Pg. 32)

He states, “Our view is that faith in a personal God nourishes the trust that science silently draws upon as it makes its excursions into the unknown. Science needs to take for granted, since it cannot prove conclusively in advance, that there is a certain reliability or consistency to the physical activity in our universe. Although scientists expect it always to be surprising, they do not anticipate that the universe will ever be capricious… We have no right to expect that nature will be so predictable and reliable, but we BELIEVE that it is and that it always will be.” (Pg. 44) Later, he adds, “Finally, a strong case can be made for the view that the radical monotheism of the God-religions has provided a most favorable historical context for the emergence and flourishing of science… theism conditioned the Western mind over the course of centuries for the kind of faith in the natural order and cosmic coherence that scientists have to take with them in their work.” (Pg. 46)

He strongly rejects creationism: “‘Creation science’ … is really not science at all. It does not seriously accept the self-revising method required by true science… Creation science would not even be worth discussing were it not for the fact that its devotees stir up so much public controversy in their attempts to keep evolutionary theory out of schools and textbooks.” (Pg. 51-52) He adds, “So-called ‘scientific creationism’ is objectionable in the first place because … it refuses to look at most of the relevant data… In the second place, however, scientific creationism is THEOLOGICALLY embarrassing… It completely misses the religious point of Genesis by placing it alongside ‘On the Origin of Species’ as though the biblical text could provide a superior SCIENTIFIC account of the origin of life… To us it is religiously offensive to see the biblical text so thoroughly degraded.” (Pg. 53)

He acknowledges, “Skeptics… [will] ask how we can reconcile our ideas about a providential God with the role that chance plays in life’s evolution. This is a crucial question… in our opinion chance is quite real. It is a concrete fact in evolution, but it is not one that contradicts the idea of God… The reason is simple: love typically operates not in a coercive but in a persuasive manner… It… allows… the entire created cosmos---to remain itself, though in such a way as to imply intimacy rather than abandonment.” (Pg. 61) Later, he adds, “we are quite comfortable with the idea that a process of ‘natural selection’ is present as a constraining factor in the evolution of the earth’s biodiversity… For alongside of natural selection… there may be other creative, and less easily specifiable, factors involved in bringing about just THIS particular world.” (Pg. 64)

He suggests, “Our religious faith tells us that the same God who creates the universe also promises to save it from all its travail, suffering and death… The suffering of the innocent and the weak, highlighted so clearly by the evolutionary portrait of life, becomes inseparable from the divine eternity… For us the same God who invites the world to evolve is also intimately INVOLVED in the evolutionary process. God struggles along with all beings… so that in the end nothing is every completely forgotten or lost. (Pg. 69)

He argues, “the world of reductionism is too suffocating for us. A world in which our own feeble (scientific) minds are made the upper limit to everything is terrifyingly small… the reductionist belief system DEMANDS, in an utterly arbitrary fashion, that there shall be no aspects of reality that remain off limits to human scientific conquest. We consider this postulate too heavy a burden for us humans to bear… We do not forcefully and arbitrarily insist that reality subject itself completely to scientific reduction… We consider it both irrational and idolatrous to embrace the creed of reductionism. We need other ways of knowing… if we want to get in touch with the real substance and depth of things.” (Pg. 86) Later, he says, “The scientific sense of ‘wonder’ about cosmic origins is already incipiently religious… big bang theory… [and] the religious quest for the source of our being… are existentially inseparable… they both flow concretely from a common human concern to discover our roots. We humans are forever haunted by origins.” (Pg. 118)

He says of the “multiverse” concept, “if there were an infinite number of attempts at universes, sooner or later one of them is bound to succeed in having those special conditions that give rise to life. In such a case our own apparently improbable existence would not be so unexpected after all… Nevertheless, until actual evidence of such innumerable worlds comes forth, it seems more appropriate … that we look at the relationship of the religious doctrine of creation to the world of current scientific
Consensus.” (Pg. 105) Later, he suggests, “In the absence of any belief that the universe is the free creation of God skeptics are forced to appeal to either chance or necessity as its ‘explanation.’ They appeal to chance in the case of the multiple-worlds view and to necessity in the case of the inflationary hypothesis [of Alan Guth]. We suspect that neither of these two choices is always motivated purely by science itself.” (Pg. 134-135)

He concludes, “The fundamental unity of science and religion… is most explicitly anticipated in the approach that I have been calling confirmation. This fourth way suggests that science and religion… share a common origin in the remote and mysterious fountainhead of a simple human desire to know. Both science and religion ultimately flow out of the same ‘radical’ eros for truth that lies at the heart of our existence. And so, it is because of their shared origin in this fundamental concern for truth that we may never allow them simply to go their separate ways.” (Pg. 203)

This is one of the most interesting books on the issue of religion/science interaction and dialogue, and will be of great interest to anyone seriously studying the subject.


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