Review – Oxford Handbook of Philosophical Theology

Harry J. Gensler of John Carroll University gives a helpful and sometimes humorous review of the new Oxford Handbook of Philosophical Theology.  One of my favorite quips: “the logical positivists of old must be rolling over in their graves!”


Thomas P. Flint and Michael C. Rea (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Philosophical Theology, Oxford UP, 2009, 609pp., $150.00 (hbk), ISBN 9780199289202.

This book has 26 essays by different authors, mostly from the standpoint of orthodox Christian faith but using tools from analytic philosophy, on topics like revelation, God’s omnipotence, providence, the trinity, and Islamic philosophical theology.

Part 1, which has four essays, treats theological preliminaries and emphasizes the sources of Christian theology. In the first essay, Richard Swinburne discusses revelation. While Christians generally regard the Bible as God’s word, there are problems in taking all of it literally. For example, one part of the Bible urges the extermination of the Canaanite people, while another part advocates non-violence, and Genesis, if taken literally, clashes with modern science. Early Christian thinkers like Origen and Augustine were aware of the apparent contradictions and cautioned against an exclusively literal reading; Augustine suggested that we not take a passage literally if it clashes with purity of life or soundness of doctrine. But why take the Bible as God’s word at all? Swinburne argues that we can know God’s existence from nature and that the Bible fits exceptionally well with how God could be expected to act. He contrasts this view with that of Plantinga, who argues that Christian beliefs are warranted if they are produced by a process put into us by God in order to lead us to the truth. (Continue)

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