- Paperback: 272 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press (28 Sept. 1995)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0198235127
- ISBN-13: 978-0198235125
- Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.7 x 21.6 cm
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,430,277 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Christian God Paperback – 28 Sep 1995
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Like his previous works it is marked by the application of philosophically rigorous argumentation to the defence of a broadly orthodox position. This book constitutes a major contribution to philosophical thinking on the divine nature which academic theology will engage with for many years to come. (Theology.)
Like his previous works it is marked by the application of philosophically rigorous argumentation to the defence of a broadly orthodox postition...this book constitutes a major contribution to philosophical thinking on the divine nature which academic theology will engage with for many years to come. (Theology)
It is a book for those readers interested in the philosophy of religion ... With its sustained, progressive and convincing arguments the book is also the equivalent of a first-class dictionary of the terms of systematic theology and the philosophy of religion. (Methodist Recorder)
The debate about theism's self-understanding should be greatly enhanced. (Expository Times)
Swinburne's achievement - and it is no mean one - is to give a coherent contemporary account of Christian theism. (Times Higher Education Supplement)
The Christian God will offer much of interest to the analytical philosopher of religion. (Themelios)
This book is an elegant, incisive, provocative, lucid and concise masterpiece ... it should be required reading for theologians, both to show how difficult their discipline really is, and to expose the absurdity of the claim, still sometimes heard from non-philosophers, that metaphysics is finished ... the book is clear and powerful in argument. It is merciless to woolliness of thought, and it presents views which demand to be taken account of by contemporary theologians. It treats theology as a discipline demanding rigour. Much of it, Christians will surely think, is true, and all of it is worth-while and supremely well said, with the icy clarity and relentless precision that is the mark of much Oxford philosophy. For once the blurb is right: this will no doubt become a classic in the philosophy of religion. (New Blackfriars)
His argumentation is subtle and based on extremely careful groundwork, the implications of which only gradually unfold as the work progresses. (The Philosophical Quarterly)
An impressive work of sustained argumentation. Swinburne commands a very wide range of philosophical and theological ideas and never shuns hard thinking ... Swinburne's style remains crystal clear. (Religious Studies)
It must be admitted that some effort must be made to understand Christian tradition in a coherent way, and that is precisely what Swinburne does. The book is therefore much to be welcomed as a thoroughly contemporary contribution to philosophy and systematic theology. (Heythrop Journal)
Swinburne has become one of the eminent and celebrated practitioners of the philosophy of religion. Here, as in his other books, one finds an exceptionally careful, fresh, well-reasoned, and balanced exploration of fundamental human and religious issues. (Theological Studies)
In this the third volume of his magisterial series on the philosophy of Christian doctrine, Swinburne deals with belief in the Trinity and the Incarnation. ... Unfortunately, immense scholarly erudition is incompatible neither with intellectual imcompetance nor with triviality of mind; obviously it would be invidious to cite examples, but they are legion. This only serves to set in relief Swinburne's combination of philosophical power, detailed knowledge of orthodox Christian doctrine, and just appreciation of its intellectual riches, for it is as admirable as it is rare. (The Thomist)
Swinburne ... follows in this book his preferred pattern of dealing first with philosophical issues, and then applying his philosophical conclusions in a thorough, systematic and concise way to theological issues ... The Christian God is part of a series, a piece of a larger philosophical argument for the faith. However, the work is ultimately self-sufficient, and a reader with a good philosophical background or aptitude can approach The Christian God on its own terms. The book is a central work by one of the leading philosophers of religion of our day. It will be a necessary part of any college, university, or seminary library, and it will be profitably read by anyone who thinks seriously about the attributes of God and about the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation. (Ashland Theological Journal)
About the Author
Richard Swinburne was Professor of Philosophy at the University of Keele; Nolloth Professor of the Philosophy of the Christian Religion, University of Oxford, and Fellow of the British Academy. He is the author of many books on the nature and justification of religious belief, and on other areas of
philosophy including the philosophy of mind and epistemology.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Swinburne repeats a lot of material from Evolution of the Soul. He makes a number of good points on necessity and type-token identity.
With regards to theology, Swinburne begins on a promising note and defines the concept of God along these lines (which I shall denote with a number):
(1) “there exists necessarily and eternally a person (?) essentially bodiless, omnipresent, creator and sustainer of any universe there may be, perfectly free, omnipotent, omniscient, perfectly good, and a source of moral obligation” (125).
Well and good. God’s foreknowledge
(2) “God knows at each period of time all those propositions which it is logically possible that he entertain then and which if entertained by him then are true” (131).
This raises problems, so Swinburne thinks, with God’s foreknowledge of future, free human actions. So:
(2’) God has knowledge of all propositions which it is possible that he entertain at that time.
Which seems to be:
(2*) God’s free knowledge is limited by other agents’ free choices (133)
This is a highly unsatisfying conclusion. We shall offer a more substantial critique later.
Swinburne rejects the Boethian view of God and Time (though he erroneously ascribes that view to the Bible, 139). That view goes as follows:
(3) God’s simultaneous existing at any single moment, where moment is defined as instant.
However, earlier considerations (chapter 4) defined “state of affairs” as lasting for a period of time. So Swinburne reads the dilemmas “God is either sovereign for an instant, which means he is not sovereign over a state of affairs.” He clarifies the criticism:
(3’) If God brings about states of affairs, not only just merely knowing them, then his actions must precede the events themselves.
The Divine Nature
RS defines the divine nature as “pure, unlimited bodily power” able to act in all places without intermediary. God’s simple essence, therefore, is monadanic. It belongs to him in virtue of who he is, not in relation to some(thing)one else.
Convoluted section of limited value. Some good remarks on Richard of St. Victor. Perfect love involves there being someone else to whom to be generous, and also perfect loving involves a third individual, the loving of whom could be shared with a second. The Father needs a socium et condilectum (an ally and fellow-loved) in his loving.
Great discussion on the communicatio idiomata. He openly sides with Calvin. “They rob Christ of his humanity.” “Total interpenetration rules out the divided mind view which alone does justice to the New Testament” (211).
Of course Swinburne is correct, but instead of saying “divided mind,” let’s stick with the classical model of Christ having two minds (because of two natures). The concept of the divided mind, if not taken literally, comes into play in how the two minds interact.
In rejecting “Platonism” Swinburne thinks he is holding to a modified nominalism. That may be so, but he construes realism (or Platonism) as holding that abstract properties are substances, which, on his take, is absurd. He reasons that properties like wisdom have to be instantiated and not free-floating.
If wisdom is to be a substance, then yes, it has to be instantiated. But if wisdom is a universal or an essence, then it doesn’t. Swinburne also thinks that Platonism (or realism) posits the forms as independent of God (which seems an odd criticism on Swinburne's part, since he believes that the "Good" exists apart from God's command and nature). Further, if, following Maximus the Confessor, the forms collectively are the [I]Logoi[/I], and the [I]Logoi[/I] is the refracted Logos, who is Christ, then we can posit the reality of the Forms yet maintain they are not apart from God. Whether this is true or not isn't the point. It is logically coherent and serves as a rebuttal to Swinburne's nominalism.
Regarding God’s foreknowledge, Swinburne’s position in (2*) assumes that if the future is certain (and presumably, if God’s knowing it makes it certain), then it makes no sense to speak of agents’ having free choices. But even Arminians like William Lane Craig know this is a category fallacy. Certainty is a predicate of persons, of knowers. Necessity is a predicate of events known (Craig, “The Middle Knowledge View,” in Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views, 127-128). Bruce McCormack clarifies: “God’s foreknowledge gives him certainty with regard to what will happen. Whether the events God knows with certainty take place necessarily or contigently is a function of the natural and historical conditions under which they take place” (McCormack, “The Actuality of God,” in Engaging the Doctrine of God, 205).
Those are the main criticisms of Swinburne’s work. Other criticisms are minor, if more immediate. The opening section is heavy on metaphysics, which is good, but it isn’t always clear how the discussion will be relevant to his later treatment on the doctrine of God.
I would not make this my foundational book on the doctrine of God.
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