Top critical review
Angels on Pin Heads Stuff
on 13 December 2015
Professor Ward is, generally, a voice of sanity in the field of Christian theology so a riposte to Dawkins from his pen should be worth reading. In fact I was rather disappointed with this attempt to burst the new atheist bubble. It is definitely not a book for the interested general reader. It is ‘angels on the head of a pin’ stuff – abstruse philosophising about necessary beings and contingent universes, probability functions and possible multiverses.
Ward puts forward two main arguments for God (ignoring many of the traditional ‘proofs’) – that God is the best ultimate explanation for the universe and that various personal experiences support the reality of transcendent values. For Ward, God as the final, timeless cause of the cosmos is either a necessary or an impossible concept. The basis of objective morality in duty and love arising from the nature of a wholly good god who created out of a desire to realise a range of intrinsically valuable potentialities means that behaving morally is never in vain.
The conclusion is that the ‘God hypothesis’ (the belief that a personal creator best explains the nature of existence) is probably true – provided that you accept that such a god is possible in the first place (and if you don’t then it isn’t). Theoretical and practical certainty is only possible if the truth of idealism as opposed to materialism is already accepted and that truth can never be completely certain.
This is not the sort of stuff the average pew-warmer or enthusiastic amateur evangelist can readily turn into a telling response to their sceptical friends! It is not really the knockout blow that theists might have hoped for. Nor is case presented comprehensive. This is partly because of the general nature of the discussion (it tries not to be about any particular version of God) but there are too many atheist arguments that are simply ignored. The discussion of visions, art and personal experience seems particularly weak given that there is no way to distinguish the ‘genuine’ inspiration from the fraudulent in that sphere. Other reviewers have detailed some of the other major faults with the reasoning presented by Prof. Ward.
Ward is, I think, essentially correct in what he says (in so far as I understand it!). Conscious purpose probably is at the heart of objective reality and there is good, if not absolutely, compelling evidence to support that claim. The problem with this book is not so much that it is difficult but that it is too abstract and philosophical for what appears to be its intended audience.