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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Accessible introduction to Vital Area of Philosophy, July 21, 2004
This review is from: Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Religion (Hardcover)
Contemporary Debates in the Philosophy of Religion edited by Michael L. Peterson, Raymond J. Vanarragon (Contemporary Debates in Philosophy: Blackwell Publishers) (Paperback) Contemporary Debates in the Philosophy of Religion features newly commissioned debates on some of the most controversial issues in the field. For example: Is evil evidence against belief in God? Does science discredit religion? Is God's existence the best explanation of the universe? Is eternal damnation compatible with the Christian concept of God? Is morality based on God's commands?

This first title in Blackwell's Contemporary Debates in Philosophy series presents important philosophical issues in a stimulating and engaging manner. Twelve central questions are posed, with each question addressed by a pair of opposing essays. The debates range from vigorous disagreements between theists and their critics to arguments between theists of different philosophical and theological persuasions. Both students and scholars in the philosophy of religion will readily sense the value of rigorous debate for sharply defining the issues and paving the way for further progress.

Contributors: William R. Alston, Lynne Rudder Baker, David Basinger, Michael Bergmann, Craig A. Boyd, Peter Byrne, Stephen T. Davis, Evan Fales, Richard M. Gale, William Hasker, Paul Helm, Daniel Howard-Snyder, Janine Marie Idziak, Michael Martin, Paul K. Moser, Michael J. Murray, Del Ratzsch, Bruce R. Reichenbach, William L. Rowe, J. L. Schellenberg, Thomas Talbott, Raymond J. Vanarragon, Jerry Walls, John Worrall, Keith E. Yandell, Dean W. Zimmerman

This is the first book in Blackwell's "Contemporary Debates" textbook series. It is designed to feature some of the most important current controversies in the philosophy of religion. In the Western philosophical tradition, theism - the belief that an omnipotent, omniscient, wholly good God exists - has been the focus of much philosophical debate and discussion. Although not a living religion itself, theism forms a significant conceptual component of three living religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Moreover, beliefs within living religions - particularly beliefs of the historic Christian faith - have also occupied the attention of philosophers of religion. So, in staking out the territory for this book, we selected some issues related to classical theism and some related to Christian faith in particular.

Most Anglo-American philosophy is oriented toward the rigorous analysis of ideas, arguments, and positions - and this orientation certainly flourishes in the philosophical treatment of religion. Since the analytic approach lends itself to crisp, straightforward debate, we have made "debate" the central motif of the book. With its most notable origins in Socratic dialectic, debate is essentially the interplay between opposing positions. Each debate here is organized around a key question on which recognized experts take drastically different positions. For each question, one expert on the subject presents an affirmative position and develops his or her argument, and another presents a negative position with a corresponding argument. Brief responses are also included to allow writers to clarify further their own positions, identify weaknesses in the opposing position, and point out directions for further discussion. Each debate on a given question has a short editorial introduction, and then the following structure: affirmative essay, negative essay, reply to negative position, reply to positive position.

Teach the conflicts! We are convinced of the pedagogical value of teaching vigorous, well-argued debate for encouraging students to sharpen their own critical abilities and formulate their own points of view. The noteworthy growth and vibrancy

of contemporary philosophy of religion provide a wide range of exciting topics for debate. From this rich vein of discussion, we have chosen topics that fall into three general categories: those involving attacks on religious belief, those involving arguments for religious belief, and those involving internal evaluation of the coherence or appropriateness of certain religious beliefs. In the first two categories, the debates are waged between theists and nontheists; in the last category, the debates are largely between religious believers who differ over the implications of their faith commitments. In all, these debates provide an ideal format not simply for students but also for professional philosophers and interested nonprofessionals to explore issues in the philosophy of religion.
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