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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The Missing Links — May 15, 2011

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  • Audio of the 2010 debate between Christopher Hitchens and Dinesh D’Souza at Notre Dame.  The video is here.
  • The blog of the recently formed Christian Apologetics Alliance is up and running.  You can follow us on Twitter as well.  If you’re on Facebook and a student of apologetics, you can search for our name and request to join the Facebook group.
  • Alvin Plantinga’s recent Bellingham Lectures on the topics of  God and Evolution:  Where the Conflict Really Liesand “Does Science Show That Miracles Can’t Happen” can be viewed online here.  It’s not clear whether both lectures are included on the video or only one, but the running time of two hours, 22 minutes seems long for a single talk.
  • I love this video.  Your favorite characters from Star Wars quoting Jean-Paul Sartre. : )
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The Missing Links — March 7, 2011

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  • Alexander Pruss, professor of philosophy at Baylor, writes on “Eight Tempting Big-Picture Errors in Ethics,” such as “Sometimes you should do the wrong thing” and “Some areas of life are exempt from morality.” Other papers by Pruss are available here.
  • Insightful non-Christian critique of the new atheists at ABC Australia. “The militant atheist bandwagon – driven by Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris and Dennett – continues to paint their theist opposition as irrational simpletons who favor superstition and myth over reason and science.”
  • The top philosophy journals according to a poll of 36,000 contributors.  The top 10 are:
  • 1. Journal of Philosophy
    2. Philosophical Review
    3. Philosophy & Phenomenological Research
    4. Nous
    5. Mind
    6. Ethics
    7. Philosophical Studies
    8. Synthese
    9. Philosophy & Public Affairs
    10. Analysis


Philosophy Word of the Day — Aquinas’ Philosophical Theology

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“In addition to his moral philosophy, Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) is well-known for his theological writings.   He is arguably the most eminent philosophical theologian ever to have lived.  To this day, it is difficult to find someone whose work rivals Aquinas’ in breadth and influence.  Although his work is not limited to illuminating Christian doctrine, virtually all of what he wrote is shaped by his theology.  Therefore it seems appropriate to consider some of the theological themes and ideas that figure prominently in his thought.

“The volume and depth of Aquinas’ work resists easy synopsis.  Nevertheless, an abridged description of his work may help us appreciate his  philosophical skill in exploring God’s nature and defending Christian teaching.  Although Aquinas does not think that philosophical reasoning can provide an exhaustive account of the divine nature, it is (he insists) both a source of divine truth and an aid in exonerating the intellectual credibility of those doctrines at the heart of the Christian faith.  From this perspective, philosophical reasoning can be (to use a common phrase) a tool in the service of theology.

“An adequate understanding of Aquinas’ philosophical theology requires that we first consider the twofold manner whereby we come to know God:  reason and sacred teaching.  Our discussion of what reason reveals about God will naturally include an account of philosophy’s putative success in demonstrating both God’s existence and certain facts about God’s nature.  Yet because Aquinas also thinks that sacred teaching contains the most comprehensive account of God’s nature, we must also consider his account of faith—the virtue whereby we believe well with respect to what sacred teaching reveals about God.  Finally, we will consider how Aquinas employs philosophical reasoning when explaining and defending two central Christian doctrines:  the Incarnation and the Trinity.” (continue article)

— Shawn Floyd at the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

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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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Would Christ Have Come Even If Man Had Not Sinned?

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“[T]he primary purpose of the Incarnation, according to the Christian creeds, was ‘for us and for our salvation.’  However, philosophically minded theologians have given some thought to the wider implications of that ‘for us.’  One way of doing so is to ask, as Austin Farrer did, whether Christ would have come even if the human race had never sinned.  Farrer’s answer was a categorical yes.

Christ would still have come to transform human hope, and to bring men into a more privileged association with their Creator than they could otherwise enjoy.  For it is by the descent of God into man that the life of God takes on a form with which we have a direct sympathy and personal union.

. . . [Richard] Swinburne expresses some doubt as to whether there are strong arguments allowing us ‘to say what God would have done under certain unrealized circumstances,’ but he does consider a number of reasons, over and above the soteriological ones, why God might well become incarnate.  Incarnation would manifest divine solidarity with God’s creatures; it would demonstrate the dignity of human nature; it would reveal the nature and extent of God’s love for his personal creatures; it would exemplify an ideal human life; and it would provide uniquely authoritative teaching.  A sixth reason, based on God’s willingness to subject himself to suffering and evil, spells out the themes of solidarity and love . . . ”

— Brian Hebblethwaite, Philosophical Theology and Christian Doctrine, 70-71.

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Philosophy Word of the Day – Divine Immutability

Divine immutability, the claim that God is immutable, is a central part of traditional Christianity, though it has come under sustained attack in the last two hundred years.  This article first catalogues the historical precedent for and against this claim, then discusses different answers to the question, “What is it to be immutable?”

Two definitions of divine immutability receive careful attention.  The first is that for God to be immutable is for God to have a constant character and to be faithful in divine promises; this is a definition of “weak immutability.”  The second, “strong immutability,” is that for God to be immutable is for God to be wholly unchanging.

After showing some implications of the definitions, the article focuses on strong immutability and provides some common arguments against the claim that God is immutable, understood in that way.  While most of the historical evidence discussed in this article is from Christian sources, the core discussion of what it is to be strongly immutable, and the arguments against it, are not particular to Christianity. (Continue)

(Via Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

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