Credible Faith

Review of J. P. Moreland and William Lane Craig (editors), The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology

William Lane Craig and J. P. Moreland (eds.), The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009. pp. xiv + 683. ISBN: 978-1-4051-7657-6.
This review or something like it was published in The Expository Times. With an October 2011 email, Paul shared much of this review with his supporters.

Text Publication: October 2011

Author(s): Paul Larson

This work presents eleven essays on significant subjects in natural theology. Contributions include Charles Taliaferro on objections to the project of natural theology, Alexander Pruss on the Leibnizian cosmological argument, four objections to cosmological arguments, the principle of sufficient reason, and nonlocal causal principles, William Lane Craig and James Sinclair on the Kalam cosmological argument, Robin Collins on a teleological argument from cosmological fine-tuning, J. P. Moreland with an argument from consciousness, Victor Reppert's argument from reason, intentionality, mental causation, and the psychological relevance of logical laws, Mark Linville with a moral argument, Stewart Goetz with an argument from evil, Kai-Man Kwan's argument from religious experience, Robert Maydole with an ontological argument, and Timothy and Lydia McGrew with an argument from the resurrection of Jesus.

The description of arguments in this volume as "representative of the best work being done in the field today" (p. xiii) is accurate. Argumentation is highly analytical, frequently dense, and unwaveringly rigorous. Contributors demonstrate familiarity with contemporary arguments and their modern and older proponents and engage those arguments at length, in addition to providing a positive program for the broader issue in question. Although a level of knowledge beyond that of the normal college educated individual is at times assumed (such as, for example, in Maydole's heavy use of symbolic logic), generally essays provide lucid exposition of relevant topics so that partially uninformed readers can follow an argument. Exposition, though, is frequently compact and mentally demanding, especially for non-experts. The volume, though usually clear, is more concerned with rigorous and academically defensible argumentation than ease of the layman, and in that respect it excels considerably.

The book itself is quite large, owing to the thoroughness of individual treatments. Pruss, for example, spends more than thirty-four pages of his approximately seventy-seven page contribution on his discussion related to the principle of sufficient reason. This size is typical, with seven of the eleven principal essays being over fifty pages in length; were it not for the large page sizes, the page counts would have been even higher. As demonstrated by Pruss' The Principal of Sufficient Reason: A Reassessment (Cambridge, 2006), his essay is at least partly a condensation, something that, even in its thoroughness, has bartered comprehensiveness for space. In this regard, Pruss is typical of other contributors who have written on their topic elsewhere at length.

In the end, the size and the rigorous and highly analytical approach of this work would probably be an obstacle for most of the non-philosophical public, and for professors looking for a course textbook on philosophy of religion. The first result goes with the nature of the work and of the public, and the second, though perhaps necessary given practical considerations, would be a loss for students. This book is one of the best one-volume treatments, both in quality and breadth, of natural theology and areas in philosophy of religion. The publisher and editors should be commended for spearheading such an important work.

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