Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview

30 November 2007

J.P. Moreland and William Lane Craig are perhaps two of the best Christian philosophers and apologists writing today, and they make a great team in their book Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview. Moreland has done terrific work in philosophy of science and philosophy of mind, while Craig has great works in natural theology, philosophy of space and time, and Christian doctrine. Discussing these topics and more, Philosophical Foundations provides a broad overview of the many issues of interest to the Christian philosopher.

The book is broken down into six major sections. The first section is an introduction to philosophy, including a discussion of logic and fallacies. This section also explains the relevance of philosophy to the Christian.

The second section covers epistemology. Here, Moreland and Craig address and refute the problem of skepticism. Skepticism, in this context, refers to the view that we know either very little or absolutely nothing. This type of skepticism is incompatible with the Christian worldview, which holds that we have justified true beliefs about all sorts of truths- not the least of which is the existence of God and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This section also contains a discussion of theories of justification, which seek to explain how we become justified in our beliefs. Other than skepticism, which holds that we aren’t justified in our beliefs, there are two main views on this issue in the philosophical community. The first is called foundationalism, and it holds that some beliefs are basic and are justified apart from any evidence in their favor (for example, belief in the reality of the external world). The second is called coherentism, and it holds that beliefs are justified if they are consistent with other beliefs held by the individual. This second view leads to problems such as the plurality objection, which observes that there can be two or more equally coherent sets of beliefs that are logically incompatible with each other. Craig and Moreland defend the foundationalist view in this section against its major criticisms. This section also defends the correspondence theory of truth against postmodern, relativistic ideas. Near the end of the section is a discussion about religious knowledge, which contains a refutation of verificationism. Verificationism is the view that a sentence must be capable of being empirically verified or it is meaningless. The authors show that this view is not only too restrictive to be useful, it is also self-refuting and therefore necessarily false.

The third section is a discussion of metaphysics. In addition to a general discussion about ontology, this section also takes a detailed look at the philosophy of mind. The two main theories of mind are dualism and physicalism. Substance dualism holds that there is an immaterial mind or soul that is separate from the body, while physicalism rejects the soul and defends the view that humans are entirely physical entities. Although there are some Christian physicalists, substance dualism is in better accord with the historic Christian view. Moreland and Craig offer critiques of the major physicalist theories of mind and present a number of arguments in favor of substance dualism. This discussion leads to the topic of the nature of free will, where the authors discuss determinism, compatibilism, and libertarianism. Determinism is the view that all human actions are determined by prior conditions and therefore free will is an illusion. Libertarianism is on the opposite end of the spectrum, and it defends the idea that humans at least occasionally make choices that are entirely free. Compatibilism is the view that, though it is true that all actions are determined, humans still have free will when their actions are determined in the correct way. Finally, the authors look at the issue of personal identity and life after death. What is it that makes a person, and is it possible for a person to survive death? The authors defend the absolute view of personal identity, which basically holds that a person remains the same through change because the immaterial soul is truly the person. Therefore life after death is possible, because the soul is immaterial and can survive the death of the body.

Section four concerns the philosophy of science. Here, Moreland and Craig discuss whether scientific theories should be construed in a realist or an antirealist way. They also refute the view of scientism, which holds that science is the very paradigm of truth and rationality. Science cannot even function without certain philosophical background beliefs, and therefore scientism cannot stand on its own feet. This section also contains a fascinating discussion of time and space, where the authors argue that time and space are absolute and that the A-theory of time is true (see Time and Eternity for a further discussion).

Section five covers ethics. In this section, Moreland and Craig refute relativistic theories of ethics and attempt to demonstrate that there are at least some moral absolutes that exist independently of human opinion. Section five also contains a discussion of major ethical theories- utilitarianism, deontological ethics, and virtue theory. Utilitarianism is the view that the morality of an action depends solely on the consequences of that action. According to utilitarianism, the moral action is the one that provides for the greatest happiness for the greatest number. The authors reject this theory in favor of a combination of deontological ethics and virtue theory. Deontological ethics contends that some actions are right or wrong irrespective of their consequences in particular cases. Virtue theory contends that actions are morally correct if they are the actions that would be done by a fully virtuous person. On this theory, ethics is not about external rules, rather, it is about developing moral character. Moreland and Craig contend that virtue theory and deontological ethics both have some valuable things to say about the true nature of ethics.

The sixth section covers philosophical theology and philosophy of religion. This section starts off with a defense of some arguments for the existence of God, including the Cosmological Argument, the Teleological Argument (or, design argument), the Axiological Argument (or, the moral argument), and the Ontological Argument. Then, the authors provide a defense of the coherence of theism, contending that there is nothing logically suspect about the concept of God. This section also contains a refutation of the problem of evil and a defense of the possibility of miracles. Finally, the authors consider three difficult Christian doctrines and they offer philosophical defenses of these core doctrines. First, they discuss the Trinity and defend the possibility that there is one God in three persons. Next, they look at the Incarnation, arguing that there is nothing incoherent about Jesus Christ being fully God and fully man. Finally, they look at Christian Particularism- the doctrine that Christ is the only way to salvation.

Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview provides an excellent overview of philosophy from a Christian perspective. Given the importance of philosophy for developing and defending the Christian worldview, this book is a valuable resource and is highly recommended.


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