New Books in Philosophy, Theology, and Apologetics – May 2013

God, Freedom & Human Dignity: Embracing a God-Centered Identity in a Me-Centered CultureRon Highfield (IVP Academic, February 2013) *

Does God’s all-encompassing will restrict our freedom? Does God’s ownership and mastery over us diminish our dignity? The fear that God is a threat to our freedom and dignity goes far back in Western thought. Such suspicion remains with us today in our so-called secular society. In such a context any talk of God tends to provoke responses that range from defiance to subservience to indifference. How did Western culture come to this place? What impact does this social and intellectual environment have on those who claim to believe in God or more specifically in the Christian God of the Bible? Professor of religion Ron Highfield traces out the development of Western thought that has led us our current frame of mind from Plato, Augustine and Descartes through Locke, Kant, Blake Bentham, Hegel, Nietzsche–all the way down to Charles Taylor’s landmark work Sources of the Self. At the heart of the issue is the modern notion of the autonomous self and the inevitable crisis it provokes for a view of human identity, freedom and dignity found in God. Can the modern self really secure its own freedom, dignity and happiness? What alternative do we have? Highfield makes pertinent use of trinitarian theology to show how genuine Christian faith responds to this challenge by directing us to a God who is not in competition with his human creations, but rather who provides us with what we seek but could never give ourselves. God, Freedom and Human Dignity is essential reading for Christian students who are interested in the debates around secularism, modernity and identity formation.

God or Godless?  One Atheist.  One Christian. Twenty Controversial QuestionsJohn W. Loftus and Randal Rauser (Baker, April 2013)

Perhaps the most persistent question in human history is whether or not there is a God. Intelligent people on both sides of the issue have argued, sometimes with deep rancor and bitterness, for generations. The issue can’t be decided by another apologetics book, but the conversation can continue and help each side understand the perspectives of the other.
In this unique book, atheist John Loftus and theist Randal Rauser engage in twenty short debates that consider Christianity, the existence of God, and unbelief from a variety of angles. Each concise debate centers on a proposition to be resolved, with either John or Randal arguing in the affirmative and the opponent the negative, and can be read in short bits or big bites. This is the perfect book for Christians and their atheist or agnostic friends to read together, and encourages honest, open, and candid debate on the most important issues of life and faith.

Virtuous Minds: Intellectual Character DevelopmentPhilip E. Dow (IVP Academic, April 2013)

Templeton Foundation Character Project’s Character Essay and Book Prize Competition award winner! What does it mean to love God with all of our minds? Our culture today is in a state of crisis where intellectual virtue is concerned. Dishonesty, cheating, arrogance, laziness, cowardice–such vices are rampant in society, even among the world’s most prominent leaders. We find ourselves in an ethical vacuum, as the daily headlines of our newspapers confirm again and again. Central to the problem is the state of education. We live in a technological world that has ever greater access to new information and yet no idea what to do with it all. In this wise and winsome book, Philip Dow presents a case for the recovery of intellectual character. He explores seven key virtues–courage, carefulness, tenacity, fair-mindedness, curiosity, honesty and humility–and discusses their many benefits. The recovery of virtue, Dow argues, is not about doing the right things, but about becoming the right kind of person. The formation of intellectual character produces a way of life that demonstrates love for both God and neighbor. Dow has written an eminently practical guide to a life of intellectual virtue designed especially for parents and educators. The book concludes with seven principles for a true education, a discussion guide for university and church groups, and nine appendices that provide examples from Dow’s experience as a teacher and administrator. Virtuous Minds is a timely and thoughtful work for parents and pastors, teachers and students–anyone who thinks education is more about the quality of character than about the quantity of facts.

Holy War in the Bible: Christian Morality and an Old Testament Problem – Heath A. Thomas, Jeremy Evan, & Paul Copan, eds. (IVP Academic, April 2013).

The challenge of a seemingly genocidal God who commands ruthless warfare has bewildered Bible readers for generations. The theme of divine war is not limited to the Old Testament historical books, however. It is also prevalent in the prophets and wisdom literature as well. Still it doesn’t stop. The New Testament book of Revelation, too, is full of such imagery. Our questions multiply.

  • Why does God apparently tell Joshua to wipe out whole cities, tribes or nations?
  • Is this yet another example of dogmatic religious conviction breeding violence?
  • Did these texts help inspire or justify the Crusades?
  • What impact do they have on Christian morality and just war theories today?
  • How does divine warfare fit with Christ’s call to “turn the other cheek”?
  • Why does Paul employ warfare imagery in his letters?
  • Do these texts warrant questioning the overall trustworthiness of the Bible?

These controversial yet theologically vital issues call for thorough interpretation, especially given a long history of misinterpretation and misappropriaton of these texts. This book does more, however. A range of expert contributors engage in a multidisciplinary approach that considers the issue from a variety of perspectives: biblical, ethical, philosophical and theological. While the writers recognize that such a difficult and delicate topic cannot be resolved in a simplistic manner, the different threads of this book weave together a satisfying tapestry. Ultimately we find in the overarching biblical narrative a picture of divine redemption that shows the place of divine war in the salvific movement of God.

The Mystery of Existence: Why Is There Anything At All?John Leslie & Robert Lawrence Kuhn, eds. (Wiley-Blackwell, April 2013)

This compelling study of the origins of all that exists, including explanations of the entire material world, traces the responses of philosophers and scientists to the most elemental and haunting question of all: why is anything here—or anything anywhere? Why is there something rather than nothing? Why not nothing? It includes the thoughts of dozens of luminaries from Plato and Aristotle to Aquinas and Leibniz to modern thinkers such as physicists Stephen Hawking and Steven Weinberg, philosophers Robert Nozick and Derek Parfit, philosophers of religion Alvin Plantinga and Richard Swinburne, and the Dalai Lama.

  • The first accessible volume to cover a wide range of possible reasons for the existence of all reality, from over 50 renowned thinkers, including Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Descartes, Leibniz, Hume, Bertrand Russell, Stephen Hawking, Steven Weinberg, Robert Nozick, Derek Parfit, Alvin Plantinga, Richard Swinburne, John Polkinghorne, Paul Davies, and the Dalai Lama
  • Features insights by scientists, philosophers, and theologians
  • Includes informative and helpful editorial introductions to each section
  • Provides a wealth of suggestions for further reading and research
  • Presents material that is both comprehensive and comprehensible

Mind, Brain, and Free WillRichard Swinburne (Oxford University Press, May 2013)

Mind, Brain, and Free Will presents a powerful new case for substance dualism (the idea that humans consist of two parts–body and soul) and for libertarian free will (that humans have some freedom to choose between alternatives, independently of the causes which influence them). Richard Swinburne argues that answers to questions about mind, body, and free will depend crucially on the answers to more general philosophical questions. He begins by analyzing the criteria for one event being the same as another, one substance being the same as another, and a state of affairs being metaphysically possible; and then goes on to analyze the criteria for a belief about these issues being justified. Pure mental events (including conscious events) are distinct from physical events and interact with them. Swinburne claims that no result from neuroscience or any other science could show that interaction does not take place; and illustrates this claim by showing that recent scientific work (such as Libet’s experiments) has no tendency whatever to show that our intentions do not cause brain events. He goes on to argue for agent causation, and claims that–to speak precisely–it is we, and not our intentions, that cause our brain events. It is metaphysically possible that each of us could acquire a new brain or continue to exist without a brain; and so we are essentially souls. Brain events and conscious events are so different from each other that it would not be possible to establish a scientific theory which would predict what each of us would do in situations of moral conflict. Hence given a crucial epistemological principle (the Principle of Credulity) we should believe that things are as they seem to be: that we make choices independently of the causes which influence us. According to Swinburne’s lucid and ambitious account, it follows that we are morally responsible for our actions.

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New Books in Philosophy, Theology, and Apologetics

* Thinking About Christian Apologetics – James Beilby (IVP Academic, 2011)

“Most introductions to apologetics begin with the “how to” of defending the faith, diving right into the major apologetic arguments and the body of evidence. For those who want a more foundational look at this contested theological discipline, this book examines Christian apologetics in its nature, history, approaches, objections and practice. What is apologetics? How has apologetics developed? What are the basic apologetic approaches? Why should we practice apologetics? Countless Christians today are seeking a responsible way to defend and commend their faith. If you are one them, Thinking About Christian Apologetics is the place to start.”

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* Monopolizing Knowledge Ian Hutchinson (Fias Publishing, 2011)

“Can real knowledge be found other than by science? In this unique approach to understanding today’s culture wars, an MIT physicist answers emphatically yes. He shows how scientism — the view that science is all the knowledge there is — suffocates reason as well as religion. Tracing the history of scientism and its frequent confusion with science, Hutchinson explains what makes modern science so persuasive and powerful, but restricts its scope. Recognizing science’s limitations, and properly identifying what we call nature, liberates both science and non-scientific knowledge.”

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* The Moral Argument – Paul Copan and Mark D. Linville (Continuum, 2013)

“The Moral Argument offers a wide-ranging defense of the necessary connection between God and objective moral values, moral duties, proper function, and human rights. It presents several versions of the moral argument for God’s existence; a survey of the history of the argument, including the more recent work of Robert Adams, John Hare, John Rist, and others; an assessment of competing meta-ethical views that attempt to ground or explain ethics; a defense of moral knowledge; and an assessment of the Euthyphro Dilemma (and related objections) for any theistic conception of moral values. The book will examine—and find wanting— various non-theistic alternatives to ground or explain morality.”

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* Naturalism and Our Knowledge of Reality – R. Scott Smith (Ashgate, 2012)

“Philosophical naturalism is taken to be the preferred and reigning epistemology and metaphysics that underwrites many ideas and knowledge claims. But what if we cannot know reality on that basis? What if the institution of science is threatened by its reliance on naturalism? R. Scott Smith argues in a fresh way that we cannot know reality on the basis of naturalism. Moreover, the “fact-value” split has failed to serve our interests of wanting to know reality. The author provocatively argues that since we can know reality, it must be due to a non-naturalistic ontology, best explained by the fact that human knowers are made and designed by God. The book offers fresh implications for the testing of religious truth-claims, science, ethics, education, and public policy. Consequently, naturalism and the fact-value split are shown to be false, and Christian theism is shown to be true.”

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The Missing Links – Dec. 26, 2010

C. S. Lewis

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  • Victor Reppert shares some good insights on faith and evidence, in response to John Loftus.

 

 

 

  • C. S. Lewis “once described the giving of praise and thanks as ‘inner health made audible.’ He felt that it was the most ‘balanced and capacious minds’ who found it easiest to praise others, while it was misfits and malcontents who found it hardest to offer praise and thanks–to others or to God (Reflections on the Psalms, 94-95).” An interesting look at Lewis’s numerous thank-you notes to fans and readers at the C. S. Lewis blog.
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Consciousness Remains an Intractable Problem for Naturalism

I mentioned a few specific reasons for this in a recent post.  However, I think many people believe these objections to a naturalistic account of mind are the creation of Christian critics.  So, here are a few corroborating statements from those on the other side.

[P]hilosopher of mind . . . Ned Block . . . confesses that we have
no idea how consciousness could have emerged from nonconscious matter: “we have nothing—zilch—worthy of being called a research programme…. Researchers are stumped.”6

Berkeley’s John Searle says this is a “leading problem in the biological sciences.”7

Jaegwon Kim notes our “inability” to understand consciousness in an “essentially physical” world.8

Colin McGinn observes that consciousness seems like “a radical novelty in the universe”; 9  he wonders how our “technicolour” awareness could “arise from soggy grey matter.”10

David Papineau wonders why consciousness emerges: “to this question physicalists’ ‘theories of consciousness’ seem to provide no answer.”11

If, however, we have been made by a supremely self-aware Being, then the existence of consciousness has a plausible context.

6. Ned Block, “Consciousness,” in A Companion to the Philosophy of Mind, ed. Samuel Guttenplan (Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 1994), 211.
7. John Searle, “The Mystery of Consciousness: Part II,” New York Review of Books (Nov.16, 1995): 61.
8. Jaegwon Kim, “Mind, Problems of the Philosophy of,” s.v. The Oxford Companion to Philosophy, ed. Ted Honderich (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995), 578.
9. Colin McGinn, The Mysterious Flame (New York: Basic Books, 1999), 14.
10. Colin McGinn, The Problem of Consciousness (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1990), 10–11.
11. David Papineau, Philosopical Naturalism (Oxford: Blackwell, 1993), 119.

From Paul Copan, Loving Wisdom: Christian Philosophy of Religion, p. 105

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Philosophy Audio and Video on the Web – Updated

Part of "School of Athens" by Raphae...
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Given that it’s a new year, I wanted to bring this list up to date by adding resources and streamlining what was already there.  As I find more, I’ll continue to add to the collection.

If you know of other good audio or video resources in philosophy, especially philosophy of religion, please leave a comment.

(Updated January 2010)


Courses

  • ConsciousnessMP3s here – Susan Stuart, University of Glasgow
  • DeathDownload Course – Shelly Kagan, Yale
  • Existentialism in Literature & FilmiTunesFeed – Hubert Dreyfus, UC Berkeley
  • HeideggeriTunesFeedMP3s – Hubert Dreyfus, UC Berkeley
  • Heidegger’s Being & TimeFeedMP3s – Hubert Dreyfus, UC Berkeley
  • Introduction to Practical Reasoning and Critical Analysis of Argument, iTunes – Daniel Coffeen, UC Berkeley
  • Kant’s EpistemologyiTunes – Dr Susan Stuarts, University of Glasgow.
  • Man, God and Society in Western LiteratureiTunesFeed – Hubert Dreyfus, UC Berkeley
  • The Examined LifeiTunes – Greg Reihman, Lehigh University
  • Ancient PhilosophyiTunesFeedStream – David Ebrey, UC Berkeley
  • Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?YouTube –  Michael Sandel, Harvard
  • Introduction to Political Philosophy – YouTube – iTunes – Download Course, Steven B. Smith, Yale
  • Philosophy for BeginnersiTunes – Marianne Talbot, Oxford
  • Proust & PhilosophyFeed – Johns Hopkins
  • The Examined LifeiTunes – Greg Reihman, Lehigh University

Podcasts

  • Philosophy Bites iTunes Feed Web Site
    • A British podcast featuring interviews of top philosophers that delves into some essential philosophical questions — what is the meaning of life? what is the nature of reality? what is evil?, etc.
  • Philosophers’ Cafe Feed Web Site
    • Comfortable surroundings for vibrant street level discussions on burning issues of the day. No formal philosophy training required; real life experience desired. Come early, stay late. Presented by Simon Fraser University.

(HT: Open Culture)

Philosophy of Religion and Christian Ethics

Courses

  • Paul Copan’s five-session course in philosophy of religion is available free from Reclaiming the Mind Ministries.
  • Ron Nash’s History of Philosophy and Christian Thought is available at biblicaltraining.org (which has nearly an entire seminary curriculum on mp3 available to download).
  • Ron Nash’s Christian Ethics Course is also available at biblicaltraining.org.

Interviews

  • Closer to the Truth has a great collection of video interviews with Christian and non-Christian philosophers on topics in philosophy of religion.  The interviews are streaming video and don’t appear to be available for download.

Podcasts

Talks/Lectures

  • William Lane Craig’s Reasonable Faith Podcasts (iTunes) contain Dr. Craig’s commentary on issues in philosophy and theology and his answers to questions posted on his Reasonable Faith website.
  • The Veritas Forum website contains dozens of talks and debates by Christian scholars and thinkers on topics that range across every academic discipline.  Among the notable speakers are Alvin Plantinga, Dallas Willard, William Lane Craig, and J. P. Moreland.

Apologetics

Podcasts

General Philosophy

Podcasts

  • Apologetics 315 Logical Fallacies Podcasts
  • Philosopher’s ZoneRadio interviews with philosophers covering all branches of philosophy.
  • In Our TimeThis BBC radio program focuses on the history of ideas and often includes discussion of important philosophers and topics in philosophy.
  • Oxford University Philosophy Podcasts – Links to the annual John Locke lectures, the “Interviews with Philosophers” series, and Marianne Talbot’s “Philosophy for Beginners” (also linked to above).

Talks/Lectures

  • Nietzsche on Mind and Nature – These 7 lectures were given at the international conference “Nietzsche on Mind and Nature” held at St. Peter’s College, Oxford, on 11-13 September, 2009, organized by the Faculty of Philosophy, University of Oxford. (iTunes)

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Did God Mandate Genocide in the OT?

Joe Gorra at the Evangelical Philosophical Society blog gives a sneak peek of the next issue of the Philosophia Christi journal, which is due out this summer.  (If you’re not a member of EPS or don’t have a subscription, many university libraries subscribe to the journal.)  This issue features a symposium on the question, “Did God mandate genocide” in the Old Testament.  I’m sure the debate will be lively.

Joe writes,

Contributors to this discussion include: Wesley Morriston, Randal Rauser, Joseph Buijs, Clay Jones and Paul Copan.

This discussion was originally prompted by Copan’s Philosophia Christi 10:1 (Summer 2008) article, “Is Yahweh a Moral Monster? The New Atheists and Old Testament Ethics.”

Here is a snapshot of each of the contributions in 11:1 (Summer 2009).
Subscribe today!

Did God Command Genocide? A Challenge to the Biblical Inerrantist
by Wesley Morriston

Abstract: Thoughtful Christians who hold the Old Testament in high regard must at some point come to terms with those passages in which God is said to command what appear (to us) to be moral atrocities. In the present paper, I argue that the genocide passages in the Old Testament provide us with a strong prima facie reason to reject biblical inerrancy—that in the absence of better reasons for thinking that the Bible is inerrant, a Christian should conclude that God did not in fact command genocide. I shall also consider and reject the attempts of two prominent Christian philosophers to show that God had morally sufficient reasons for commanding the Israelites to engage in genocidal attacks against foreign peoples.

“Let Nothing that Breathes Remain Alive”: On the Problem of Divinely Commanded Genocide
by Randal Rauser

Abstract: In this essay I argue that God did not command the Canaanite genocide. I begin by critiquing Paul Copan’s defense of Canaanite genocide. Next, I develop four counter-arguments. First, we know intuitively that it is always wrong to bludgeon babies. Second, even if killing babies were morally praiseworthy, the soul-destroying effect these actions would have on the perpetrators would constitute a moral atrocity. Third, I develop an undercutting defeater to the claim that Yahweh commanded genocide. Finally, I argue that we ought to repudiate divinely commanded genocide given the justification this provides for ongoing moral atrocities.

Atheism and the Argument from Harm by Joseph Buijs

Abstract: One line of argument commonly lodged against religion is that it is usually or alway sharmful, individually and socially, and for that reason should be abolished from our cultural landscape. I consider two variations of the argument: one that appeals to direct harm caused by religion and another that appeals to indirect harm on the basis of attitudes instilled by religion. Both versions, I contend, are seriously flawed. Hence, this so-called harm argument fails, both as a critique of theism and as a defense of atheism.

We Don’t Hate Sin So We Don’t Understand What Happened to the Canaanites: An Addendum to “Divine Genocide” Arguments

by Clay Jones
Abstract: Skeptics challenge God’s fairness for ordering Israel to destroy the Canaanites, but a close look at the horror of Canaanite sinfulness, the corruptive and seductive power of their sin as seen in the Canaanization of Israel, and God’s subsequently instituting Israel’s own destruction because of Israel’s committing Canaanite sin reveals that God was just in His ordering the Canaanite’s destruction. But Western culture’s embrace of “Canaanite sin” inoculates it against the seriousness of that sin and so renders it incapable of responding to Canaanite sin with the appropriate moral outrage.

Yahweh Wars and the Canaanites: Divinely-Mandated Genocide or Corporate Capital Punishment? Response to Critics

by Paul Copan
Abstract: The divine command to kill the Canaanites is the most problematic of all Old Testament ethical issues. This article responds to challenges raised by Wes Morriston and Randal Rauser. It argues that biblical and extrabiblical evidence suggests that the Canaanites who were killed were combatants rather than noncombatants (“Scenario 1”) and that, given the profound moral corruption of Canaan, this divinely-directed act was just. Even if it turns out that noncombatants were directly targeted (“Scenario 2”), the overarching Old Testament narrative is directed toward the salvation of all nations—including the Canaanites.

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