I first read about this book nearly nine years ago, in an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education about the John Templeton Foundation:
In the 1960s and 70s, while the atheistic straitjacket of logical positivism was loosening, smart, young Christian philosophers like Alvin Plantinga and Nicholas Wolterstorff began crafting new ways of defending Christian faith from the deliverances of the latest epistemology and modal logic. They formed the Society of Christian Philosophers to help coddle their conversations and cultivate successors, and they ascended to chairs in eminent departments—Plantinga at Notre Dame, Wolterstorff at Yale. Soon, thanks to them, the world of analytic philosophy that was once decidedly hostile to religious believers became significantly less so. More science-savvy students soon followed suit, crafting their own sophisticated defenses of faith in terms of physics, neuroscience, and biology. Michael Murray, who earned his Ph.D. at Notre Dame, has played a part in this, including as editor of a 1998 book, Reason for the Hope Within, which triumphantly summarizes the fruits of the renaissance so as to equip lay Christians to defend their faith.
I clipped that article and finally got around to ordering the book on an interlibrary loan and and reading it — and I’m glad that I did. It’s a uniformly excellent anthology, and indeed I plan to buy it.
In the book’s opening chapter its editor, Michael Murray, says (3) its aim is to give the late twentieth-century church a chance to look in on the discussion of apologetic matters “that has been unfolding in the arena of academic Christian philosophy. In doing this, we hope that this book will act as a primer for an apologetic for the church as it enters the third millennium.” Alvin Platinga and Peter Kreeft are among those thanked in the book’s acknowledgments (viii). The former, in his foreword, emphasizes the youth of the contributors (xii). The editor’s introduction (xvi) warns that this book is not an easy read (he might have cited, in particular, the appendix of chapter 3). The index is only six pages long, which is rather surprising for a book of this length and depth. It’s interesting, by the way, that there is no entry there for “Islam” or “Muslim” or “Mohammed”; there is a chapter devoted to “Eastern Religions” that discusses Hinduism and Buddhism.
It’s hard to summarize an anthology, and that task is made even harder here, when the selections are all so good, with so many insights that it is impossible to quote them all without writing a book-length review.
You can scroll down and read the table of contents here but, to save you the click, here are the sixteen chapters and their authors: “Reason for Hope (in the Postmodern World)” by Michael J. Murray; “Theistic Arguments” by William C. Davis; “A Scientific Argument for the Existence of God: The Fine-Tuning Design Argument” by Robin Collins; “God, Evil, and Suffering” by Daniel Howard-Snyder; “Arguments for Atheism” by John O’Leary-Hawthorn; “Faith and Reason” by Caleb Miller; “Religious Pluralism” by Timothy O’Connor; “Eastern Religions” by Robin Collins; “Divine Providence and Human Freedom” by Scott A. Davison; “The Incarnation and the Trinity” by Thomas D. Senor; “The Resurrection of the Body and the Life Everlasting” by Trenton Merricks; “Heaven and Hell” by Michael J. Murray; “Religion and Science” by W. Christopher Stewart; “Miracles and Christian Theism” by J.A. Cover; “Christianity and Ethics” by Frances Howard-Snyder; and “The Authority of Scripture” by Douglas Blount.
Just three short additional notes:
- In chapter 2 on “Theistic Arguments” (by William C. Davis), I liked the sidebars throughout the chapter, which would summarize a particular apologetic argument, and then conclude with a couple of sentences on its “Greatest Strength” and then a couple of more sentences on its “Greatest Weakness.”
- Chapter 7 on “Religious Pluralism” (by Timothy O’Connor) concludes (181), “In the present climate of opinion, the first task for the contemporary Christian apologist in making the case for Christianity is precisely to convince those he engages of the untenability of this pluralist attitude.”
- Chapter 11 on “The Resurrection of the Body and the Life Everlasting” (by Trenton Merricks) prompted this thought: It’s interesting to think about how our resurrected selves will be different from our present earthly selves, not just physically but also mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. (I now have a post on that.)