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The Elusive God: Reorienting Religious Epistemology 1 Reissue Edition

3.6 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0521120081
ISBN-10: 052112008X
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Editorial Reviews


'I found The Elusive God to be the most profound and interesting work I have read in the past twenty years at the intersection of philosophy and theology. Instead of beginning with a demand for evidence of the existence of a divine being, the author argues that we should expect any intrusion into our lives of the sort that would convince us that God exists to be authoritative evidence that calls us not only to a cognitive viewpoint but also to a surrendering of our wills. The result of such an investigation is a re-conceptualization of the epistemological landscape relevant to the possibility of the knowledge of God.' --Jonathan Kvanvig, Baylor University

"*The Elusive God* ... is clearly a profound and illuminating treatment on as big an issue as issues get." --Nicholas Rescher, University of Pittsburgh

"This is an exciting thesis that merits further study and analysis." --Choice

"...important and challenging book." --John Bishop, of The University oF Auckland

"...remarkable, noteworthy volume. ...Truly, Moser has done philosophy--and natural theology in particular--an immense service by pointing us in a new, exciting direction. Indeed, his book is a must-read for every philosopher and theologian!" --Review Metaphysics

"... a substantial and challenging book on religious epistemology ... [It is] courageous, and may take some philosophers of religion by surprise ... The book pushes the boundaries, with implications for both philosophy and theology."
Milltown Studies

Book Description

This book argues that we should expect evidence of divine reality to be purposively available to humans. This lesson generates a seismic shift in our understanding of evidence and knowledge of divine reality. The result is a reorienting of religious epistemology to accommodate the character and purposes of a loving God.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 308 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1 Reissue edition (July 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 052112008X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521120081
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,352,935 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
As the subtitle says, Paul Moser's The Elusive God is a project in "re-orienting religious epistemology." One might think that this pricey tome from Cambridge University Press is apparently written for "religious epistemologists," though that is misleading. It is really addressed to anyone who takes the time to think hard about how we have (or might have) knowledge of God. While I am sure he had a general reader in mind who could be of any religious persuasion (or not of any at all), I found Moser's book to be one of the more challenging, philosophically oriented devotional (Christian) books I've ever read.

What is needed, argues Moser, is a shift from thinking "What does God have to do to prove that he exists?" to "What do I have to do to show that I am open to God existing and making claims on my life?" Or as Moser puts it the questions we are responsible for is not "Do we know that a perfectly loving God exists?" but "Are we willing to be known and thereby transformed by a perfectly loving God?"

These questions are meant to address the problem of divine hiddenness, which might take the following form: (1) If a perfectly loving God exists, then evidence of God's existence would be obvious to all; (2) Evidence of God's existence is not obvious to all; therefore, a perfectly loving God does not exist. But why think that God would make himself cognitively available to us on our terms, asks Moser? Many of us (if not all) have what Thomas Nagel describes as a "cosmic authority problem:"

"I am talking about something much deeper--namely, the fear of religion itself.
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Format: Paperback
Moser provides a convincing counterargument to Russell's claim that if God exists, he has given us insufficient evidence. He argues that we are not in a position to demand what kind of evidence God gives us. Furthermore, we should expect the kind of evidence revealed to be in keeping with the character of God.

A loving God would make his evidence available--but rejectable, in keeping with human freedom. His evidence is like a face hiding in the bushes, visible to those who are truly seeking, but "can be readily overlooked, ignored, suppressed, or dismissed by us, because it's intended by God not to coerce a will toward or against God but to be willingly received by humans. In particular, it's designed to woo or to invite us rather than to force or dominate us."

He asserts that God is not obligated to create a spectacle for simply curious or even hostile hearts, describing good reasons for him to hide himself in such cases. For instance, simple belief that God exists will not itself engender a relationship. (Everyone believed in the existence of Pres. Bush during his term but not all were happy about his authority.)

Moser claims that this certainty of God's existence rests on the conviction of the Spirit of the trinitarian God, speaking through the conscience. (At first thought, one might prefer Hanson's Zeus-like figure in the sky, but how convincing is that anyway? Could the blind see it? Could children understand the significance? Would we not wonder if it weren't simply communication from highly intelligent extra-terrestrial beings? What speaks beyond the senses, then, other than the conscience?) Unfortunately, many skeptics will likely misconstrue this as fideism.

I do have one bone to pick with Moser. He utterly eschews natural theology.
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Paul Moser has conclusive evidence that God exists. Sounds impressive, until we learn that the evidence is essentially his conscience, or rather, his guilty conscience. Moser interprets the pangs of conscience, and his reaction to them, as a god that personally communicates commands and empowers obedience, at least insofar as Moser adjusts his thoughts and behavior to conform to the perceived demands of his conscience/god.

What is this god like? It is, says Moser, a perfectly loving god. From this premise, Moser derives other attributes with an alacrity comparable to the deduction of Herr Krug's pen from Hegel's Absolute. Dozens of times throughout the book, Moser invokes the formula, "A perfectly loving god would [INSERT AN ATTRIBUTE, ATTITUDE OR ACTION]." For example:

"a perfectly loving God would work by killing attitudes obstructing life in order to bring life." (Location 420.)

"a perfectly loving God would seek to break down self-destructive opposition to God (at least in cases where there’s hope for correction), but not by means of a counterproductive direct assault." (555.)

"a perfectly loving God as creator would have a right to take a human life and thus terminate the exercise of a human will, in accordance with moral perfection." (562.)

"a perfectly loving God would allow certain kinds of pain and suffering." (1003.)

"a perfectly loving God would sometimes hide in ways that allow people to have serious doubts about God, even at times when they apparently need God’s felt presence." (2434.)

Moser never provides the reasoning by which he connects his general premise of a perfectly loving god to his conclusion of a specified attribute.
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