New and Forthcoming Books (August 2011)

Since books are part of the life-blood of apologists and philosophers, I wanted to highlight a few new and upcoming ones here.  This isn’t a comprehensive list by any means, but hopefully it will alert you to some new titles you may want to add to your library or wish list.  I’ll try to post similar lists on a regular basis. 

* Evidence and Religious Belief – Edited by Kelly James Clark and Raymond J. VanArragon. Oxford University Press. July 2011.

  • Brand-new work in the hot topic of philosophy of religion
  • Features essays by leading scholars in the field
  • Addresses the crucial question of the role of evidence in religious belief
  • Explores a range of contemporary arguments that push the debate in new directions
  • Will interest theologians as well as philosophers

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* Thomas Aquinas on God and EvilBrian Davies. Oxford University Press.  August 2011.

“Brian Davies offers the first in-depth study of Saint Thomas Aquinas’s thoughts on God and evil, revealing that Aquinas’s thinking about God and evil can be traced through his metaphysical philosophy, his thoughts on God and creation, and his writings about Christian revelation and the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation.”

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* Destiny and Deliberation: Essays in Philosophical TheologyJonathan Kvanvig. Oxford University Press. December 2011.

“Jonathan Kvanvig presents a compelling new work in philosophical theology on the universe, creation, and the afterlife. Organized thematically by the endpoints of time, the volume begins by addressing eschatological matters–the doctrines of heaven and hell–and ends with an account of divine deliberation and creation. Kvanvig develops a coherent theistic outlook which reconciles a traditional, high conception of deity, with full providential control over all aspects of creation, with a conception of human beings as free and morally responsible. The resulting position and defense is labeled ‘Philosophical Arminianism,’ and deserves attention in a broad range of religious traditions.”

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Philosophy Word of the Day — Omnipresence

“The attribute of being present everywhere, motivated by biblical claims such as Psalm 139:7-9.  God’s omnipresence is not defined physically or spatially.  Since God is not a spatial or material being, God cannot be physically present at every point in space.  Rather, God exercises God’s powers and goodness in all places at every moment.  God is spacelessly present everywhere.

“By contrast, pantheism maintains an identification between God and everything else, so it may be said that everything is God and God is everything.  Panentheism is the view that God is the soul of the universe.  God’s soul enlivens the whole universe as the human soul enlivens the body.  The overwhelming majority of the Christian traditions reject both of these views.”

— Kelly James Clark, Richard Lints, James K. A. Smith, 101 Key Terms in Philosophy and Their Importance for Theology, 62.

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Philosophy Word of the Day – Religious Language

The term “religious language” refers to statements or claims made about God or gods. Here is a typical philosophical problem of religious language. If God is infinite, then words used to describe finite creatures might not adequately describe God. For example, is God good in the same sense that Kofi Annan is good? This difficulty challenges us to articulate the degree that attributes used for finite beings can be used for God and what these attributes mean when they describe God. The ambiguity in meaning with respect to the terms predicated of God is the “problem of religious language” or the “problem of naming God.” These predications could include divine attributes, properties, or actions. Since the doctrines of the divine in Eastern religious traditions differ radically from the doctrines of the Abrahamic traditions, the problem of religious language has not been accorded much attention in Eastern philosophy.

The problem of religious language also provides a challenge for philosophers of religion. If there is no adequate solution to the problem of religious language, large discussions in the domain of philosophy of religion will also be rendered unintelligible. For example, philosophers of religion debate the nature of divine foreknowledge and human freedom. These claims about God would be rendered unintelligible if human speech about God is impossible. Thus, the problem of religious language is a philosophical problem that must be solved in order to provide a framework for understanding claims about God in both the house of worship and the academy. (Continue)

(Via Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

One helpful way to address this problem is understanding our language about God analogically, as suggested by Thomas Aquinas.

“For Aquinas, God is known by analogy with the creation.  Claims to possess univocal knowledge (terms applying identically) of God are always false according to Aquinas, since our knowledge of God is always limited, finite, and mediated through the natural order.  God may only be seen in the reflection of the creation.  Humans may use words about themselves (e.g., good) and try to apply them to God, but they must not forget the radical differences between themselves and God.  The difference between the goodness of humans and the goodness of God is the difference between the finite and the infinite.  This does not render our knowledge of God null and void.  It merely reminds us that the creature and the Creator are vastly different even if they are also similar in some respects.”

“Thomas Aquinas” in 101 Key Terms in Philosophy and Their Importance for Theology, Kelly James Clark, Richard Lints, and James K. A. Smith (Westminster John Knox, 2004), 7.

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