Saturday, February 07, 2009

Book Review: Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview by William Lane Craig and J. P. Moreland

Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview by William Lane Craig and J. P. Moreland can be described as masterful. At over 600 pages, this volume is obviously not intended for light reading, but for serious, in-depth study. Craig and Moreland are precise, detailed, and thorough in this comprehensive introduction to philosophy. It should be noted that this book, although an introduction to philosophy, might not be the best first book one reads in the subject. A less cumbersome introduction to philosophy for the beginner may be Geisler and Feinberg’s Introduction to Philosophy.

The authors introduce this book with a methodical presentation of logic and argumentation, which includes symbolic and modal logic. Formal and informal fallacies are described and the foundation is laid for the tools of philosophy and clear thinking. What follows is a philosophy textbook in five sections: epistemology, metaphysics, philosophy of science, ethics, and philosophy of religion.

In reviewing a book of this size, this reviewer will only offer reflections on particular elements of personal interest in each of the five sections. In Part II: Epistemology, of note would be Craig and Moreland’s presentation and critique of skepticism, as well as a chapter on religious epistemology. The authors offer a number of helpful points regarding the presumption of atheism and an overview of Plantinga’s reformed epistemology.

In Part III: Metaphysics, the authors cover general ontology, dualism, free will vs. determinism, and personal identity and life after death. Of note here is the excellent chapter on dualism and physicalism, with very detailed critiques.

In Part IV: Philosophy of Science, the authors present a number of helpful chapters, including scientific methodology, the integration of science and theology, and philosophy of time and space. This section is very interesting, as some of these elements, particularly the chapter on the philosophy of space and time, are not normally covered in a Christian philosophy textbook. Many will find the chapter regarding the integration of science and theology helpful in light of the common misconceptions in this area.

The next section dealing with ethics covers the general scope of the topic from a Christian point of view. This section, while being thorough, was fairly short. One item of interest would be the included strategies for defending the existence of moral absolutes.

Finally, in Part VI: Philosophy of Religion and Philosophical Theology, Craig and Moreland conclude by covering arguments for the existence of God, the coherence of theism, the problem of evil, creation and miracles, and Christian doctrines such as the trinity, the incarnation, and Christian particularism. In the chapters on the existence of God, the authors stick to the presentation of four main arguments: the cosmological, teleological, axiological, and ontological arguments. It is not their goal here to provide a historical overview of the arguments, or to present every version of each. Instead, they offer the strongest forms of each of these arguments in use widely today.

In summary, Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview is a phenomenal book that provides a comprehensive resource for the serious student. It may be difficult to find a superior work in Christian philosophy.


Haecceitas said...

I agree that this is a great book. There's no more than one criticism that I have. I wish they could have integrated a bit more background from the history of philosophy to their discussions of various topic. I do like their focus on the best arguments in more contemporary debates, but at least one has to get some supplemental reading (Geisler & Feinberg would be a good first step, as you mentioned) if one wants to get at even the most basic stuff about historical backgrounds.

Brian said...

Yes, I agree.

warrantedbelief said...

I am currently going through this book! It sure is a great read.

Anonymous said...

I just started going through this book and it looks great. One question I have that may be covered later in the book. They say, "For an argument to be a good on, it is not required that we have 100% certainty of the truth of the premises..." They go on and say the premise only needs to be more probable then it's contradiction. The question I would have is how is it possible that you can know what is more probable? Since knowledge is interlaced together, one little ignorance in knowledge can throw any probability calculation out the window. In other words, we need to know everything before we can know for sure what the probability of something is. Of course, if we know everything, knowing the probability of something is kind of useless. I hope I made sense. I should ask them about it. I am enjoying the book, and even more so with this apparent "problem". I like not agreeing with the writer of a book more than if I agreed with everything.

Brian Auten said...

how is it possible that you can know what is more probable?

It might be more helpful to say "what is more plausible?", as probabilities are not the issue here.

Also, keep in mind, this is appropriate when dealing with deductive arguments. In a deductive argument, if the premises are true the conclusion is inescapable. So a good deductive argument is one where the premises are more plausible than their negations. Probability does not come into play in deductive arguments.

Inductive arguments are ones where the strength of the premises increases the probability or likelihood that the conclusion is true.

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