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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 19 February 2011
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. 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.

Dr Howard A. Jones is the author of The Thoughtful Guide to God (2006) and The Tao of Holism (2008), both published by O Books of Winchester, U.K.; and The World as Spirit, published by Fairhill Publishing, Whitland, West Wales, 2011.

The Existence of God
Faith and Reason
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on 1 December 2013
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. Better yet, like Leibniz once said of Descartes, just assume that you must take certain things for granted without the absolute certainty you may want and get on with life, in this case with your belief in God and your prayers if you are a believer, or with your un-belief if you are an athetist. If you're interested in what Swinburne has tried to do, I suggest that you read the last 2 pages in a library. You will not have missed really much of anything and you will have saved yourself mental pain and alot of time wasted.
Quoting from Don Cupitt on the coherence argument:"Philosophers have become interested in the idea of the coherence of theism because they think it is not their business to settle questions of FACT and so they must chastely restrict themselves to more formal questions about what is and is not conceivable; questions about, not what IS so, but what must be so, what may conceivably be so, and what cannot possibly be so. This type of logicism is an appropriate method for subjests like mathematics, where meanings are clear, fixed invariable things, very precisely analysable, but in such areas as religion, morality, art and politics meanings are plainly not like that."
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