Religion Under the Lens
"Truth Commissions and Judicial Trials" in The Provocations of Amnesty (New Africa Books: 2003) p. 69-70.
The agents of atrocities have a self-interest in keeping their acts invisible, buried, and publicly forgotten. The Nazis meant to plough under every death camp, and Himmler once consoled his SS cohorts that, while the German public would never know the full scope of their service to racial cleansing of the nation, they should always take pride in their work. In South African torture cells, the torturers taunted their victims with the prediction that, just as no one could hear their present screams, no one would remember them in the future either. The moral damages of amnesia are multiple: to victims, whose final indignity in survival or in death is to have their suffering forgotten; to perpetrators, whose moral health cannot be restored without confrontation of their immorality; and — not least — to a public that has every prudent self-interest in knowing enough about an evil past to be put on alert against its repetition.
Norman Geisler and Winfried Corduan (Wipf and Stock: Jan 2003).
Is there any basis in reality for a religious experience? Is there any basis in reason for belief in God? Is it even possible to speak meaningfully of a transcendent being? And how does one account for evil? The authors answer these questions, representing the four most important issues in the philosophy of religion, in a comprehensive way and "form the perspective of classical theism." They support this position with in-depth argumentation, taking into account both classical and contemporary writers. ~ Wipf and Stock
Michael Peterson, William Hasker, Bruce Reichenbach, and David Basinger (Oxford University Press: November 2002), 326 pages.
What is the status of belief in God? Must a rational case be made or can such belief be properly basic? Is it possible to reconcile the concept of a good God with evil and suffering? In light of great differences among religions, can only one religion be true? The most comprehensive work of its kind, Reason and Religious Belief, now in its third edition, explores these and other perennial questions in the philosophy of religion. Drawing from the best in both classical and contemporary discussions, the authors examine religious experience, faith and reason, theistic arguments, the problem of evil, Reformed epistemology, miracles, and religious language. They also treat subjects not often included in competing texts, such as process theism, religious pluralism, religion and science, and the relationship between religion and morality. The third edition retains the engaging style and thorough coverage of previous editions and also takes into account the latest contributions in the field by such thinkers as Plantinga, Alston, Martin, Murphy, Dembski, M. Adams, and Swinburne. Integrating a variety of perspectives, it adds a chapter on the openness of God debate, several sections on feminist concerns, and frequent comparisons of how Eastern religions compare with Western theism. A sophisticated yet accessible introduction, Reason and Religious Belief is ideally suited for use with the authors' companion anthology, Philosophy of Religion: Selected Readings (OUP, 2000). ~ Product Description
Raymond Martin and Christopher Bernard, eds. (Jul 18, 2002), 581 pages.
God Matters is a state-of-the-art, accessible anthology of the major issues in philosophy of religion. Its accessibility is due to its mix of classic readings and brand new readings about contemporary issues, commissioned specifically with an undergraduate student in mind. These commissioned readings make the difficult concepts of contemporary philosophy of religion easy to understand, and are complemented by key excerpts from more technical philosophers' writing on the same subjects. The result is an engaging, comprehensive reader that introduces students to the most important ideas in classical and contemporary philosophy of religion, to the most important thinkers, and even to excerpts from the key texts in which these thinkers presented their groundbreaking theories. ~ Product Description
Louis P. Pojman, 4th ed. (Wadsworth: May 7, 2002), 592 pages.
This textbook/anthology maps out the major controversies and key positions in the philosophy of religion. The traditional arguments for the existence of God are presented and critiqued (one is tempted to say, refuted), as is the argument from religious experience. The book then moves on to those other, equally thorny, problems — evil, the attributes of God, miracles, revelation, death, and immortality. Chapters also consider the relationship between faith and reason (currently a trial separation, with visitation rights), scientific and religious perspectives on evolution, the possibility of religious pluralism, and the connection between religion and ethics. The historical heavyweights are well represented, with excerpts from Aquinas, Hume, Anselm, Kant, James, Freud, Leibniz, Augustine, Plato, Russell, Pascal, Wittgenstein, and Kierkegaard. ~ Booknews
William Lane Craig, ed. (Rutgers: Mar 1, 2002), 634 pages.
This important new book is a combined anthology and guide intended for use as a textbook in courses on philosophy of religion. It aims to bring to the student the very best of cutting-edge work on important topics in the field. The anthology is comprised of six sections, each of which opens with a substantive introductory essay followed by a selection of influential writings by philosophers of religion: -Religious Epistemology (by Kevin Meeker, Department of Philosophy, University of South Alabama) deals with the rationality and warrant of theistic belief. -Existence of God (by William Lane Craig, Philosophy Department, Talbot School of Theology) presents the cosmological, teleological, axiological, noological, and ontological arguments for the existence of God. -Coherence of Theism (by William Lane Craig, Philosophy Department, Talbot School of Theology) covers the divine attributes of necessity, eternity, omnipotence, omniscience, and goodness. -Problem of Evil (by Timothy O'Connor, Department of Philosophy, Indiana University) treats both the internal and external challenge posed by evil to theistic belief. -Soul and Immortality (by J. P. Moreland, Department of Philosophy, Biola University) explores the substantiality and immateriality of the soul and the implications for life after death of the body. -Christian Theology (by Michael Murray, Department of Philosophy, Franklin and Marshall College) handles problems posed by the Trinity, incarnation, atonement, damnation, and prayer. Presenting a sympathetic view of the topics it treats, Philosophy of Religion provides an ideal resource for studying the central questions raised by religious belief. Features · A combined anthology of readings and guide to the subject · Focuses on contemporary issues in the philosophy of religion · Emphasis placed on the Christian tradition · High quality introductions to each section provide a survey of each topic · Cutting-edge readings chosen by specialists.
Ravi Zacharias (Thomas Nelson : February 2002), 208 pages.
In a world with so many religions—why Jesus? In his most important work to date, apologetics scholar and popular speaker Ravi Zacharias shows how the blueprint for life and death itself is found in a true understanding of Jesus. With a simple yet penetrating style, Zacharias uses rich illustrations to celebrate the power of Jesus Christ to transform lives.Jesus Among Other Gods contrasts the truth of Jesus with founders of Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism, strengthening believers and compelling them to share their faith with our post-modern world.
B. Netanyahu (New York Review of Books: September 2001), 1424 pages.
The Spanish Inquisition was responsible for one of the fiercest repressions in human history. It fused the triple evil of a police state, a totalitarian ideology, and racial persecution. Its terrible reverberations have been felt in our own century, and are likely to be felt in the next. Yet for all its notoriety, its origins have never been fully explored or clearly understood before now. What caused this monstrous attack upon Spain's so-called "conversos" — the Christian descendants of the Jews who had been forced to convert during the anti-Semitic riots that swept across Spain at the end of the fourteenth century? Were the thousands of conversos who died at the hands of the Inquisition in fact secretly still Jews, only pretending to be good Christians, as the inquisition charged and as most scholars continue to believe? In this magnum opus, B. Netanyahu shows us that this claim is groundless. After a lifetime of research in long-unexamined Spanish sources, he reveals that at the time of the Inquisition, almost all conversos were in fact full-fledged Christians, and that the few Judaizers among them had dwindled into insignificance. The vast machinery of the Inquisition could not have been founded to kill a dying movement. What, then, was its purpose? The Origins of the Inquisition answers this question definitively. By examining Spanish anti-Semitism from its origins, Professor Netanyahu demonstrates that the brutal anti-converso movement that led to the Inquisition was the same one responsible for the massacre of Jews in Spain in 1391 and the ensuing mass conversion of Spanish Jews (at sword-point) to Christianity. The rapid rise of the conversos to high royal offices (higher, even, than those attained by their Jewish forefathers) made them the target of the same forces that had persecuted the Jews. It was to remove the conversos from their influential positions, and to prevent their intermarriage with the Spanish people, that they were accused of being secret Judaizers and members of a "corrupt" race that would "pollute" the Spanish blood. This was the first time that extreme anti-Semitism was wedded to a theory of race — a union that would dramatically affect the course of modern history. Steering the reader through the labyrinthine politics of Church and State in fifteenth-century Spain, Professor Netanyahu develops his startling thesis within the context of a careful consideration of Spanish culture and society. The conversos, like their Jewish ancestors, were intimately linked with the Spanish monarchy, and, unlike the Jews, also with the Papacy, but by the end of the fifteenth century, both Church and State left their erstwhile allies to the mercy of the Inquisition. As Professor Netanyahu brilliantly shows, the Spanish sovereigns let the coversos be attacked in order to distract the outraged city masses and their leaders from turning against the royal establishment itself. "The Origins of the Inquisition" is a seminal work that will alter our understanding of the Spanish Inquisition and its place in the history of anti-Semitism, of Spain, and of Europe. Its is required reading for anyone who wishes to understand one of history's darkest movements, the terrible shadow of which persists to this very day. ~ Midwest Book Review
C. S. Lewis (Harper SanFrancisco: Feb 2001), 304 pages.
This book by CS Lewis was probably his most philosophical work. As such, it is not a light read at all and would probably prove difficult for beginners who have not been exposed to heavily philosophical material. But for those who want a highly intellectual philosophical discussion of the possibility of miracles, this book is certainly worthy of one's attention. There are a number of strengths to this book which continue to make the book solidly relevant better than forty years after the revised edition came out. Lewis cuts to the heart of the matter very quickly in asserting that rejection of miracles apriori is a common attitude that at its core, is anti-intellectual. Attempts to base rejection of miracles on probabilities, as Hume tried to do, are philosophically untenable and require a betrayal of basic realities that are universally accepted. Lewis then systematically dismantles the worldview that tends to most cradle apriori miracle rejection, naturalism. He compellingly shows that naturalism is a worldview that cannot stand up to philosophical scrutiny. Key to Lewis's presentation is his argument that naturalism can be demonstrated to be false in its complete rejection of supernaturalism merely by the reality of reason. Logic and reason of the mind, by themselves, are supernatural acts that cannot be explained or accounted for in nature, as naturalism demands. Supernaturalism, according to Lewis is not only possible, but pervasive since the act of logical thinking itself is supernatural in origin. ~ J.F. Foster at Amazon.com
Kai Nielsen (Prometheus Books: January 2001), 350 pages.
Nielsen (philosophy, U. of Calgary) presents a defense of naturalism as the most reasonable way to view humans place in the world. His naturalism is an atheistic and humanistic philosophy, but it is not a scientific or value-free one. He articulates a naturalistic explanation of the functions of religion and argues that truly understanding religion necessitates disbelief. He argues that a consistent atheism does not "rob life of its significance or make social and political commitment arbitrary." After explaining the theory he explains arguments for and against the theory as propounded by various other philosophers, most notably the work of Wittgenstein, which he believes to be the most serious philosophical challenge to secular naturalism. ~ Product Description
Carol Zaleski on Dualism said...
First Things 105 (August/September 2000): 36-42.
As for dualism, much has been said of the violence it does to our unity as psycho-physical creatures, but this is questionable. Multiplicity and disunity are as strong a feature of our existence as psychosomatic unity. We are legion, as the demons say. It is a marvel that all our different parts work together. At best, we are a symphony; but the second violins have quarreled with the wind section, and as we age these quarrels increase. Why should it surprise us if at death the soul separates from the body? Separating is the order of our lives as we tend toward death. If a man's jowls can sink down while his brow stays up, why can't his soul rise up when his body sinks down? All of our flesh is being pulled downward by the gravity of the grave; every day our skin is sloughing off cell by cell; at each stage of life we slough off the skin of a previous stage; and at death we lose what was left of those skins. Perhaps that will be the chance to emerge as the person one was meant to be.
Carol Zaleski on the Afterlife said...
First Things 105 (August/September 2000): 36-42.
Although social surveys indicate that roughly 80 percent of Americans believe in life after death, it is a belief cherished against the grain of perceived official skepticism; and among academically trained religious thinkers, one finds a greater measure of skepticism than in the population at large. For many, immortality is not a matter for reasoned debate, but is simply ruled out of play, along with guardian angels and statues that weep. It is taken for granted, as if it were a premise accepted by all reasonable people, that no one seriously believes in Heaven, Hell, or Purgatory, in the life of the soul, the resurrection of the body, or the personality of God as the concrete realities they were once imagined to be.
His cursory sketch of the subject and his observations on Plantinga's unique and peerless contributions are an interesting introduction to the field and its leading spokesperson. Several of Plantinga's articles are available online. For a fuller synopsis of his life and work, consider reading The Analytic Theist.
Kelly James Clark (Broadview Press: March 2000), 600 pages.
The recent revolution in the philosophy of religion has led to a dramatic and profound reconsideration of theistic arguments, the problem of evil, the rationality of religious belief, and the concept of God. This new anthology contains the best of both classical and contemporary sources. It includes a range of well-known selections together with a variety of pieces that are rarely anthologised; several are published here for the first time. The collection maintains a balance between the challenging and the accessible. In all, the book includes over 50 selections in seven sections; each section opens with an introduction by the editor. Particularly noteworthy are the inclusion of material on such issues as God's suffering and petitionary prayer in the section on philosophical theology, and the inclusion of feminist perspectives. Though focusing on the Christian tradition, the anthology also includes a section on Asian Philosophy of Religion. ~ Product Description
What Can We Reasonably Hope For? A Millennium Symposium. First Things 99 (Januray 2000): 31-33
I suppose that God Himself is doing just fine, but His earthly defenders are on the ropes, and it's our own fault. Religion deservedly comes in for more criticism in its failures than does science, because genuine religion claims for itself the ability to know what's true, whereas genuine science claims for itself only the ability to quantify the probability of a thing being wrong. (Bad science and bad religion simply swap roles, the former proclaiming Truth, the latter worshiping Doubt.) Religion's bête noire is the fact that a genuine truth arrogantly asserted — that is, without so much as a moment's consideration that it might be false — is a most pernicious kind of falsehood, far worse in its effects on the humane than a flat mistake. It's a matter of modesty. It never uses the term, but science itself is a method to insure modesty of claims (however arrogant its practitioners). Religion, on the other hand, speaks constantly of the virtues, and then, on the whole, displays them with no greater consistency than does any other human institution.
Philip Yancey on Hell said...
"The Encyclopedia of Theological Ignorance" in Christianity Today (September 6, 1999), pg. 120
Still, I must insist that the most important question about heaven and hell — who goes where, whether there are second chances, what form the judgments and rewards take, intermediate states after death — are opaque at best. Increasingly, I am grateful for that ignorance and grateful that the God who revealed himself in Jesus is the one who knows the answers.
Curtis L. Hancock and Brendan Sweetman (Sharpe, M.E. Inc.: March 1998), 245 pages.
This book contains a thorough and balanced series of dialogues introducing key topics in philosophy of religion, such as: the existence and nature of God, the problem of evil, religious pluralism, the nature of religious experience, immortality, and the meaning of life. A realistic cast of characters in a natural setting engages in a series of thought-provoking conversations; the dialogue format of these conversations captures typical student attitudes and questions concerning religious belief; allows comparison of important themes throughout the dialogues; encourages the interjection of insights, observations, questions, and objections; and introduces related points when they would naturally arise, instead of relegating them to a later chapter. As well as presenting a detailed and probing discussion, each dialogue includes a list of key terms, a set of study questions, and a bibliography - all of which make this an excellent text for courses in philosophy of religion and introductory philosophy classes. ~ Product Description
B. Netanyahu (Cornell University Press: January 1998), 272 pages.
One of the world's foremost scholars in the fields of Spanish and Jewish medieval history, B. Netanyahu revolutionized accepted belief concerning the causes of the Spanish Inquisition in his magisterial volume of 1995, The Origins of the Inquisition. Locating that origin not in the supposed persistence of Judaism among the New Christians but in a concession the kings were forced to make to powerfully anti-Jewish popular sentiment, he radically altered the whole landscape of Hispano-Jewish studies. Toward the Inquisition is another major contribution to this historiographic revolution. Made up of seven of Netanyahu's essays, published over the last two decades and collected here for the first time, it further illuminates Jewish and Marrano history from the mid-fourteenth century to the end of the fifteenth century. The essays throw light on such long-obscured phenomena as the rise of the Nazi-like theory of race which harassed the conversos for three full centuries, or the abandonment of Judaism by most conversos decades before the Inquisition was established. ~ Product Description
Faces in the Clouds: A New Theory of Religion (Oxford University Press: 1996), p. 178.
'But if oxen (and horses) and lions.... could draw with hands and create works of art like those made by men, horses would draw pictures of gods like horses, and oxen of gods like oxen.... Aethiopians have gods with snub noses and black hair, Thracians have gods with grey eyes and red hair.' Like many later critics of anthropomorphism, Xenophanes evidently did not question the gods themselves but only their human attributes. Later Western writers think the Greek gods especially anthropomorphic, but gods in many other religions are equally so.