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The Coherence of Theism (Clarendon Library of Logic and Philosophy) Paperback – 11 Mar 1993


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Product details

  • Paperback: 324 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford; Revised edition (11 Mar 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0198240708
  • ISBN-13: 978-0198240709
  • Product Dimensions: 21.4 x 1.9 x 13.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 400,896 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Richard Swinburne...over the past thirty years or so, has fashioned the most sophisticated and highly developed natural theology the world has so far seen. (Alvin Plantinga, Times Literary Supplement)

About the Author

Richard Swinburne is at University of Oxford.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Dr. H. A. Jones TOP 500 REVIEWER on 19 Feb 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Coherence of Theism by Richard Swinburne, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1977, 320 ff

A Christian philosophy of God
By Howard Jones

Swinburne is an Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Oxford specializing in the philosophy of religion. He was the Nolloth Professor of the Christian Religion at the University from 1985. This is the first book in a trilogy devoted to arguing a case in favour of belief in God; a revised edition was published in 1993. The other books in the trilogy are The Existence of God and Faith and Reason.

The Coherence of Theism is set out in three parts. Part I is on Religious Language and in the first two chapters deals with what the term `coherence' means. The author then goes on to explain how other terms are used in a theological context. Part II argues the case for A Contingent God, that is, a God or `personal ground of being' whose qualities of omnipresence, omnipotence and omniscience and whose role as the source of moral obligation and creator of the universe are arrived at coherently by induction through observation of the natural world. Swinburne counters here some of the atheistic, or perhaps I should say philosophically agnostic, arguments of David Hume and Anthony Flew. Part III gives us an alternative argument for A Necessary God - that it is not by chance that there happens to be `something rather than nothing'. That is to say, the coming into existence of humankind and of the rest of the universe was not just a chance event but was in some sense directed or preordained; and that the existence of such a necessary God presupposes the qualities outlined in Part II.

This is a book of impeccable scholarship and carefully detailed argument.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Marcolorenzo TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 1 Dec 2013
Format: Paperback
Academic nonsense or academic dribble. Technical proofs within the "coherence theory of truth" discipline to prove or invalidate questions which in the final analysis give us no better understanding of what or who God is anyway. Written by someone who has dissected a whole minutia of theological arguments that he has become so analytical that the reason for doing the analysis in the first place seems to have dissapeared. The dissections read like an anatomist dissecting the wings of a bird to discover the mechanism of flight. They become mostly linguist confusions. He concludes that in the end the basic argument of the concept of the existence of God or of theistic belief as being coherent or incoherent cannot be proved, and all those theological arguments which are based on analogical sematics could only extremely rarely be proved true or false in the first place to begin with, (and this is where almost all the theological arguments lie). So why bother with this attempt? At the end of reading this book you may very likely come away feeling that a good analytical mind has wasted its time in meaningless minutia. The feeling is of a technician x-raying a painting of Velasquez etc. to understand what Velasquez's art is all about or somesuch idea. This work makes you think that certain modes of thinking and analysis are useless for trying to obtain certainty about certain concepts or beliefs and will never lead to an understanding of the most absolute of concepts as God. Thank God one could say that the holy sanctuary of the divine realm is protected from such meaningless analysis.Read more ›
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 6 reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Superb! 26 Aug 2007
By A. Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Richard Swinburne came highly recommended to me. Yet, after reading this book, I can say that he has greatly exceeded my expectations. I found Swinburne's argumentation to be clear, concise, and in many cases interesting. But not easy. There were several parts of his book which I had to read, and re-read, in order to fully understand his line of thought, which I expected.

Swinburne's task is to discover whether or not Theism is coherent. He concludes that it (probably) is. He doesn't argue that it's true per say merely that the Theist can not be charged with holding incoherent views. The book is split into three separate sections. In the first, Swinburne goes about defining what it means for something to be `coherent' and `incoherent.' He argues that a statement is incoherent if it entails a self-contradictory statement. He also argues that the easiest way to find a statement to be coherent is if that statement entails another statement which is coherent. He spends the rest of section 1 describing religious language--i.e. whether language describing God is used equivocally, univocally, or analogously. Throughout the book Swinburne maintains that we can describe God using words (such as "love" and "good") in their `mundane' senses without (always) appealing to analogy.

In section 2, Swinburne argues for a `contingent' god. He looks at eight different characteristics that Theists have typically used to describe God--an omnipresent spirit, free and creator of the universe, omnipotent, omniscient, perfectly good, a source of moral obligation, eternal, and immutable. He goes through each and argues first, that such notions are in fact coherent, and second such notions can be successfully defended against critiques. The bulk of the book takes up this portion. Perhaps what I found most interesting was how he indicated how several of these characteristics (for example, omnipotent and omniscient) entailed other characteristics (omnipresent spirit).

In the final section, Swinburne argues for the notion of a necessary being. He first lists different criteria for something to be necessary. Then he sees how these criteria apply to God's existence, and God's possession of these characteristics. He concludes that in order for a Theist to express what he normally expresses when saying that "God exists" the Theist must use some terms in a slightly analogous way. And since, it's not clear which terms are being analogously, and to what degree the question of coherence cannot (ultimately) be removed from the question of whether or not Theism is true. All in all, I highly recommend Swinburne's book as a fascinating read and a great defense of the coherency of theism.

This book is the first of his trilogy, the next book being "The Existence of God" and concluding with "Faith and Reason."
12 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Tremendous! Philosophers will read this eventually! 12 Jun 2001
By Glenn B Siniscalchi - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Swinburne's book is essential reading. I originally bought the book to see how he deviates away from the Thomistic doctrines of Analogy. I was very glad to see that his tough minded philosophical explications of God-Talk are defensible without much fallback to analogy(or from what he says). From my perspective, Swinburne is tops in the Philosophy of Religion.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Greatness 26 Aug 2011
By Cornell - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Swinburne hits a home run on this classic, as he takes intellectualism to a new level. I've never seen a better explaination for Omnipotence and Omniscience then what is in this book.

Swinburne goes over the basics, and shows why it is coherent to take a theistic approach
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
A Christian philosophy of God 6 July 2012
By Dr. H. A. Jones - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The Coherence of Theism by Richard Swinburne, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1977, 320 ff

Swinburne is an Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Oxford specializing in the philosophy of religion. He was the Nolloth Professor of the Christian Religion at the University from 1985. This is the first book in a trilogy devoted to arguing a case in favour of belief in God; a revised edition was published in 1993. The other books in the trilogy are The Existence of God and Faith and Reason.

The Coherence of Theism is set out in three parts. Part I is on Religious Language and in the first two chapters deals with what the term `coherence' means. The author then goes on to explain how other terms are used in a theological context. Part II argues the case for A Contingent God, that is, a God or `personal ground of being' whose qualities of omnipresence, omnipotence and omniscience and whose role as the source of moral obligation and creator of the universe are arrived at coherently by induction through observation of the natural world. Swinburne counters here some of the atheistic, or perhaps I should say philosophically agnostic, arguments of David Hume and Anthony Flew. Part III gives us an alternative argument for A Necessary God - that it is not by chance that there happens to be `something rather than nothing'. That is to say, the coming into existence of humankind and of the rest of the universe was not just a chance event but was in some sense directed or preordained; and that the existence of such a necessary God presupposes the qualities outlined in Part II.

This is a book of impeccable scholarship and carefully detailed argument. It is difficult therefore for me to give any further meaningful detail in a short review such as this. Perhaps, to give potential readers more idea of the overall style and content, it will suffice for me to repeat what Robert Merrihew Adams said of the book in his review for the Wiley-Blackwell philosophical journal Noûs: `Swinburne treats every subject with philosophical rigor and an expositional clarity that makes his work accessible to any educated reader'. This is not an easy read but the book is academically challenging and stimulating for anyone who is agnostic about the God of western theology and who is prepared to meet the challenge of philosophical argument.

The Miracle of Theism: Arguments For and Against the Existence of God
Images of Eternity: Concepts of God in Five Religious Traditions

Howard Jones is the author of The Thoughtful Guide to God
The Coherence of Theism 30 Jan 2013
By Spellman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I found this work to be a fascinating treatsie on the coherence of theism. That being said, I took issue with his analysis of the characterisitcs God would neccessarily have as part of his nature and his divergence from the same analysis of Thomas Aquinas. Swinburne is keen to point out the importance of the use and the meaning of language in communicating the concept of theism so that it may be understood precisely and be found coherent by readers or listeners. An approach using inductive reasoning is pointed out as an importantant step as no argument can be made on behalf of theism from direct evidence. The sticking point for me came with Swinburne's descriptions of God's main characteristics; omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence. Specifically, he limits God's omniscience of logical necessity for him to be a perfectly free being, have made man with free will. He finds this consistent with God's situational reactions described in the OT. Aquinas however, does not place limits on God's omniscience and describes him as outside of time, thus knowing all things at all times instantaneously. Swinburne is careful in his conclusions to point out that like Aquinas, he believes no intellect can know God fully. This leaves any description of God's characteristics a matter of conjecture, for which I believe Aquinas has the upper hand.
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