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Is There a God? [Paperback]

Richard Swinburne
2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 Feb 1996
Is There a God? offers a powerful response to modern doubts about the existence of God. It may seem today that the answers to all fundamental questions lie in the province of science, and that the scientific advances of the twentieth century leave little room for God. Cosmologists have rolled back their theories to the moment of the Big Bang, the discovery of DNA reveals the key to life, the theory of evolution explains the development of life... and with each new discovery or development, it seems that we are closer to a complete understanding of how things are. For many people, this gives strength to the belief that God is not needed to explain the universe; that religious belief is not based on reason; and that the existence of God is, intellectually, a lost cause. Richard Swinburne, one of the most distinguished philosophers of religion of our day, argues that on the contrary, science provides good grounds for belief in God. Why is there a universe at all? Why is there any life on Earth? How is it that discoverable scientific laws operate in the universe? Professor Swinburne uses the methods of scientific reasoning to argue that the best answers to these questions are given by the existence of God. The picture of the universe that science gives us is completed by God.

Product details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (1 Feb 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0198235453
  • ISBN-13: 978-0198235453
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 12.9 x 1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,023,799 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"With audacity, [Swinburne] yields nothing to modernity that cannot withstand rigorous philosophical analysis. An essential purchase for seminaries and graduate schools."--Religious Studies Review

Book Description

A leading philosopher of religion addresses the religion/science debate --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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First Sentence
My topic is the claim that there is a God, understood in the way that Western religion (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam) has generally understood that claim. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A brief case for theism 23 Dec 1997
By A Customer
In "Is There a God?" Swinburne seeks to provide a less sophisticated version of the case for theism which appears in his classic "The Existence of God" (1979). While accomplishing his task with great brevity, I concur with the previous reviewer that this book may not be accessible to the lay audience. Swinburne's arguments are characteristically erudite and will require considerable attention on the part of readers.

Although this book may not acheive its intended success in the mass market, I consider it an excellent introduction to Swinburne's work. From that standpoint, "Is There a God?" may be used as a primer to his more substantial scholarly writings.

In this present title, Swinburne's first ("God"), third ("The Simplicity of God") and sixth ("Why God Allows Evil") chapters are particularly noteworthy. His two-page epilogue summarizes with great clarity one's responsibilities should theism be true.

--David A. Frenz
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A nice piece of religious philosophy 14 Feb 2008
My approach to this book is a little different to most, and hopefully I'm not going to get instantly voted unhelpful like most of the reviews of this book.

Basically I should start off by admitting that I find the conclusions of this book implausible. From a philosophical perspective Swinburne begins by shooting himself in the foot 'My topic is the claim that there is a God, understood in the way that Western religion (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam) has generally understood that claim', the problem that raises for the religious philosopher is that the gods of the Abrahamic religions come with lots of other tie in clauses. He would perhaps have been better off disassociating his argument from particular religions. It's clear he's got an agenda, indeed he ends the book with a basic appeal to the reader to get on with worshipping.

However, the reason I started reading this book was that its larger brother was on my metaphysics reading list (i'm an undergrad philosophy student), but unavailable in the library. And when I put aside considerations of his bias it turns out that his core arguments are actually quite stimulating. I particularly like his conception of god as a single substance, it adds a nice new interpretation to the argument of first cause. Sure it doesn't in any logical way lead to a belief in a present, theistic conception of God, but present theistic gods aren't really what philosophy of religion is about. Philosophy is about constructing and deconstructing rational argument, Swinburne does construct a good rational argument and therefore gives me all the enjoyment of deconstructing it. I would basically therefore recommend it to those who want a good example of modern philosophical thought on the existence of god.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Uneven Book of Natural Theology 3 Mar 1999
By A Customer
Swiburne writes clearly and his arguments for God's existence are interesting and suggestive. In the end, though, they come down to the notion that God is the "simplest" explanation for things we observe in the natural world. It was never clear how postulating the existence of something unlike anything else in experience could be a "simple" explanation of the world. Maybe it's "simpler" just to take the existence of the world as an unexplained fact, a mystery. The discussion of why God allows pain and suffering is the weakest part of the book and is almost a parody of traditional theodicy. At one point in his discussion of animal suffering, Swinburne argues that forest fires aren't necessarily bad for animals because they give them an opportunity to escape danger, which he regards as a "significant intentional act." Since "significant intentional acts" are goods things, it follows that forest fires could be good for animals. This sounds like a joke but Swinburne was serious. The reader wondering why God allows suffering would be better advised to read the book of Job.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Thorough and Convincing Argument 17 Dec 2013
By Sam
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
In this work Swinburne presents a condensed account of his much longer argument for the existence of God, as contained elsewhere. His argument, as well as his style of presentation, are to be commended.
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Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Whilst I do not necessarily agree with the views of Swinburne, the book is fabulous, well written, accessible and has served well for supplementing and further explaining the course I was studying. In addition it was also useful to quote within the exams, as much of the material is relevant to both the theology and philosophy AQA courses.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good for what it is 15 Jan 2011
By Chloe
Although I found his philosophical arguments unconvincing, Swinburne writes eloquently a good exposition of the freewill defence. His logic deserves an attempt to understand it. He thankfully does not attempt to impose his views on others, but only to explain his philosophical position, unlike other writers (both theist and atheist) on this topic; this can only be a good thing. As he says himself, this is merely an introduction to his thinking, so I would recommend reading his other books for better justification for his conlucions.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Nothing original, obvious flaws 16 Aug 2012
Before this book, there was no valid and sound argument for the existence of a theistic god. There still isn't one.

Swinbourne begins by defining what he means by "god", and even here some fallacies are apparent - he somehow goes from his god's "perfect freedom of will and omniscience" to omnibenevolence by conflating moral good/best with good/best action in terms of a goal and assuming, circularly, that the god's goal is goodness.

In Chapter 2, "How We Explain Things", a demarcation is drawn between impersonal and personal explanations (though why personal explanations should be considered for natural phenomena is not addressed). The simplicity of his god as an explanation is brought up, along with Occam's Razor, not realizing that he's glomming his god onto pre-existing scientific principles - "natural + god" is LESS simple than "natural".

Two chapters follow based upon a rather egregious logical error: "if my god exists, we would expect X; we see X, therefore my god exists." No. No, no, no. This is called "affirming the consequent".

If I have the flu, then I have a sore throat.
I have a sore throat.
Therefore, I have the flu.

is equivalent. What he needed to do, and didn't, was to show that if his god DIDN'T exist, we would NOT expect X (humans and consistency of nature are the examples he uses, but there are many others).

There is a brief discussion of theodicy (which counters a point I never bother making - "how can a good god allow suffering?"), followed by an analysis of religious experiences and mircales. This last chapter, more than anything, is the reason for my one-star rating.
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