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Reason for the Hope Within Paperback – December 28, 1998
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"As an attempt to present contemporary philosophy of religion in a manner accessible to the layperson, Reason for the Hope Within is an unqualified success. The prose is clear and the authors take care to define philosophical concepts."
"The book succeeds admirably in making philosophy accessible, and in applying philosophical reasoning to some difficult questions. It has the great merit of taking reason, hard questions, and particularly its readers, with great seriousness."
"The editor of this collection of essays contends that the standard works in seminary apologetics have become dated in light of contemporary developments in analytical philosophy. The contributors, up-and-coming 'Christian philosophers,' ambitiously seek to rehabilitate the discipline of apologetics by restoring its philosophical respectability. At the same time, the authors self-consciously craft their arguments so that lay Christians will find them comprehensible. . . Even those who disagree here and there will benefit from reflecting on the rigorous analyses that the contributors provide."
Religious Studies Review
"The volume would work nicely in an introductory philosophy of religion class as a supplement to primary texts."
International Philosophical Quarterly
"This collection of essays, mostly by young philosophers, aims to close the gap between academic philosophizing and practical apologetics, by making the fruits of the former accessible to believing non-philosophers. . . . Eschewing the popular apologetics ideal of the 'knockdown argument,' the contributors present both arguments and counter-arguments in sufficient detail to give the reader some appreciation of the depth and subtlety of the issues at stake, even while keeping their treatments remarkably free from the jargon of the profession."
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It is true that Christian apologetics needs more of the above approach. Apologists, especially in my tradition, haven't been known for their philosophical sophistication, just their theological sophistication. Theologians haven't always been known for the clarity in which they express their ideas. But, philosophers, though known for clarity and precision in thought, haven't always been known for their theological sophistication. The best apologist will master both fields.
Sometimes it's "the thought that counts." That's why I gave the book 4 stars. It's a laudable goal. But I felt how I feel with most U.S. Olympic baseball or basketball teams. The "Dream Team" is always the team I would have dreamed up! But, what cha gonna do? At least they represent your country. So you cheer for them. A few of the guys are really good, but you wonder why the other guys were included. Maybe they had a friend on the Olympic committee. Perhaps their uncle is in the mob, makes the committee an offer they can't refuse. Perhaps some of the better players turned down the offer to play for their country. Whatever it is, we still cheer for the team, even though we would have rather it been a bit different. That's how I felt with this book.
Ch. 1 Michael Murray does a good job placing the apologetic situation within the postmodern context. He argues, correctly in my view, that there are some good things we can learn from the postmodern way of thinking. One is in the determinative role presuppositions play in how we assess the "evidence." But, granting this, we still don't capitulate to relativism. There is one true set of facts, and one true set of presuppositions that best interprets the facts. Best makes them intelligible.
Ch. 2 William Davis presents theistic arguments. He follows one main thread through the chapter, that leads to a best explanation type argument. Interspersed through the chapter are various inset boxes containing other arguments not included in the main thread he follows. Overall he attempts to show that there are many a argument for theism, but he ultimately comes down saying that an experience of God is the best stuff a believer has to rest her beliefs on. Arguments may strengthen this experience, but it ultimately comes down to the work of the Holy Spirit.
Ch. 3 Robin Collins presents the "fine-tuning argument for God's exist. This argument boils down to the findings of science that indicate that our universe is fine-tuned to support life. The percentages are very small. If the explosion of the big bang had been differed in strength by as little as one part in 10 to the 60th power, life wouldn't be possible, if the nuclear force that binds protons and neutrons together had been stronger or weaker by 5%, life would be impossible, if the electromagnetic force had been slightly stronger or weaker, life would not have formed. The conclusion is that the best explanation of these fine-tuning facts is that the universe had to have been designed. Collins looks at a few of the major competing theories and responses, concluding that they fail for various reasons.
Ch. 4 was one of my favorites. Daniel Howard-Snyder looks at God, evil, and suffering. He presents what is known as the "skeptical theist" response to some evidential arguments from evil. The gist is that we are in no position to move from "I can't see how God has a good reason for this evil," to the conclusion "therefore, God has no good reason for this evil." Howard-Snyder calls this inference the "noseeum inference." That is, it moves from "noseeum" to "thereisnun" (I take credit for that latter name!).Howards-Snyder presents various reasons for why this thesis doesn't hold in the case of judging the infinite plan and motives of God. The field is simply to large for us to say with any confidence at all that we have looked at enough of the field to draw a conclusion about the whole field. In my view, the skeptical theist argument is a fantastic weapon to have in your theodicy arsenal.
Ch. 5 John O' Leary-Hawthorn presents arguments for atheism, breaking them up into two parts: Lack of evidence for theism and character of theists. The book could have done without this chapter. I found it to broad, and over generalized. Besides that, I don't find the "free will" argument to be a successful theodicy (for the Divine Silence argument, grouped under category one), or in accord with the teaching of the Bible.
Ch. 6 Caleb Miller discusses faith and reason. I found much to agree with in this chapter. Miller invokes much of Plantinga, but his analysis of when faith and reason "clash" were inadequate. He also doesn't give proper due to the traditional tripartite definition of faith when he parses out the different understandings of "faith" as used in the Christian community.
Ch. 7 is on religious pluralism by Timothy O'Connor. This was another excellent chapter in the book. O'Connor shreds the arguments the pluralists use, verging on overkill! He repeatedly points out that the pluralist must employ self-excepting argumentation to make his case. Pluralism is ultimately self-defeating.
Ch. 8 is Collins' second, it is on eastern religions. This chapter is another gem. Though it was an admittedly short introduction and critique of two eastern religions, Hinduism and Buddhism (and their various explications). Collins presents a brief overview of the various schools, critiques them, gives their responses to the critiques, and then critiques the responses. This chapter should be enough to whet your whistle as to how you can critique eastern philosopher. This is especially pertinent given our times. Oprah and other are constantly pushing an eastern/new age view of the world. For one, you will be able to show how they don't necessarily stand in line with the eastern teachers. Secondly, to the extent that they do, you will be able to undermine their arguments - especially since most Americans are unthinking sheeple who vomit out whatever they read by Tolle et al. Thirdly, supplement Collins's arguments with the works of Peter Jones on Gnosticism and new age thought, and you'll be able to mop up this popular way of thinking sweeping across America. (IMO, Islam should have been addressed in this book too. I know a couple chapters that could've been dropped to fit that study in.)
Ch. 9 Scott Davidson discusses providence and human freedom. He wants to hold to a somewhat strong view of providence and yet libertarian freedom. He opts for Molinism. This chapter was just okay, not earth shattering, and not free of problems (especially for this Calvinist!).
Ch. 10 Thomas Senor looks at the trinity and the incarnation. I do not hold his views on these matters. He claims that all he needs to do is offer a possible model whereby those doctrines are rendered coherent and then he's done his job. I disagree. Not only must the model be coherent, it must be orthodox. Regarding the Incarnation, he claims that kenotism is problematic but still offers a coherent picture, so it may work. Or, one might like Morris's two-minds Christology. Though better than kenotism, that view is unsuccessful too. See the book Paradox in Christian Theology by James Anderson for reasons why this is so. As to the Trinity, Senor advances social trinitarianism. As I believe the orthodox statement teaches a numerical identity between the hypostasis and the ousia, I reject the social trinitarian model as heterodox.
Ch. 11 is on the resurrection of the body and life everlasting, by Trenton Merricks. I thoroughly enjoyed this chapter, even though Merricks is a Christian physicalist and I am a dualist. The chapter was provocative and his position clearly presented. His arguments against dualism didn't stand, and his answer to those arguments is actually worse than what the dualist can say. I can't say more because I'd want to type too much and I'm already running out of remaining characters.
Ch.12 is Murray's second and it is on heaven and hell. Murray argues that the Calvinist picture is troublesome and briefly dismisses it, he then tries to argue for an eternal hell against Universalist arguments. I think orthodox Arminians meet their match in the Universalist. Since I don't hold to Murray's view on agency, or his view on hell, I was not excited with this chapter. It's not just because I disagree. I liked Merricks's chapter and I heartily disagree with him. Not only do I disagree with Murray, the arguments weren't particularly impressive.
Ch. 13 is a good little chapter on religion and science by W. Christopher Smith. Smith presents some good presuppositionalist insights on the "science religion" debate.
Ch. 14 was on miracles and Christian theism by J.A. Cover. I was unimpressed with this chapter. I do not share Cover's view of miracles or providence or "natural law."
Ch. 15 discusses Christianity and ethics by Frances Howard-Snyder. I was not excited about this chapter either. Howard-Snyder's ethic was too minimal and her exegesis in some places was horrible.
Ch. 16 on the Authority of Scripture by Douglas Blount was descent. Blount argues that it is reasonable to believe in inerrancy and that the Bible's say-so can be a good basis to base beliefs on. I wouldn't agree with him on everything, though.
Sorry for the brevity of the last few chapters . . .
1) The motivating concept overarching these works is that of locating the proper role of apologetics. The value of this guiding principle could hardly be overstated, as seldom as it is broached among apologetic writers, who all too often leave tacit their background assumptions as to what, *precisely*, they take their arguments to be accomplishing. Michael Murray, in the opening essay, sets the tone at the outset with his eschewing of the "sledgehammer apologetics" of such as Schaeffer and Sproul. The alternative set out is an extremely wise and circumspect approach that knows the limits of reason and doesn't try to overextend it. Whatever that approach sacrifices in rhetorical effect, it more than makes up for in humility and authenticity.
2) The authors are professional philosophers with all the best thought and scholarship on their chosen topics at their fingertips, plus the discipline of clarity and precision that comes with contemporary analytic philosophy. But they're writing explicitly with the non-philosopher in mind, so are careful to apply the clarity and precision of their discipline without being at all technical or complex. The result is a serious no-BS zone, but a readily accessible one.
I don't know where you'd find either one of the above elsewhere, so to have a compendium with BOTH the aforementioned is just priceless. The results are uniformly excellent and helpful, with the notable exception of John O'Leary-Hawthorn's "Arguments for Atheism," which I found almost useless. The whole thing amounted to "Well, that's just what would be expected from someone without the gift of faith." (That's almost verbatim.) It's almost as if an atheist went "undercover" to write a exceptionally weak contribution to an apologetics volume.
That one only sticks out like a sore thumb because the rest of it is so good. Highlights for me included:
Daniel Howard-Snyder - "God, Evil, and Suffering" (extremely helpful in understanding the issues; some angles on the Problem of Evil I hadn't heard before)
Timothy O'Connor - "Religious Pluralism" (I said this book steers clear of "sledgehammer apologetics," but O'Connor really does give what I would regard as a flat-out refutation of they're-all-right Pluralism)
Trenton Merricks - "The Resurrection of the Body and the Life Everlasting" (a Christian physicalist shows that accepting orthodox Christian truth in no way requires substance dualism, and in fact dualism may even be unBiblical, if anything)
Frances Howard-Snyder - "Christianity and Ethics" (the Euthyphro dilemma examined and defused)
Douglas Blount - "The Authority of Scripture" (from a theologian: how and why we get such an idea; as simple and robust as Plantinga's "properly basic" notion)
I hope you find it as valuable and edifying as I did.