Before one can say one truly believes in the existence of God and the reliability of a given religion, one must seriously question where these beliefs come from and how one will interpret their fundamental instructions. While some may be content to simply rely on the basic idea that the Bible contains all instructions and proofs required, it is widely recognized that the Bible itself contains many contradictions and vague references. This makes it difficult to instill confidence in those who have somewhat shaky faith or who are attempting to gain faith. This uncertainty gives rise to numerous questions that can, on occasion, even concern those of the very faithful. Questions that often arise include concern regarding what is actually real, how we can determine the truth, what is possible for us to know and what should we believe of what we are instructed. In attempting to determine what we should do in order to adhere to our true beliefs, we must first understand what our true beliefs are and why have they taken this particular shape. Is this the truth or are we being swayed by the devil and how can we tell the difference? As unbelievers attempt to understand the Christian faith, additional hard questions come into play such as questions as to whether there even is a God and if it is possible for the human mind to comprehend what is right in the eyes of this omnipotent and timeless being. Because there remains a tremendous amount of evil in the world, continuously seeming to escalate as the corrupt become ever more powerful and the honorable seem to be few and far between, many have come to question whether God still has an interest in what occurs on Earth or whether he has abandoned it to its own evils. JP Moreland and William Lane Craig, in their book Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview, propose that the only way in which many of these doubts can be addressed is by understanding the philosophical underpinnings of the Christian worldview.
This assertion is founded upon the common objection to the Christian reasoning of ‘the Bible told me so’ as proof for the existence of God by the skeptics. Rather than providing unbelievers with a source of comfort and support, this assertion, the authors claim, tends to engender further skepticism and even ridicule among those who have not been brought up within the faith or who have strong critical thinking skills. Philosophy has tended to call into serious question many of the assertions of the Christian faith and is thus commonly considered one of the greatest enemies of the faith. While many have used this science as a means of debunking the Bible and the information it contains, the authors of this book suggest that the answers being sought are actually best answered within this realm. By examining the Christian worldview from the philosophical perspective, the Christian believer can engage in meaningful dialogue with the unbeliever and with themselves in ways that become much more satisfying to the intellectual mind. “Make no mistake about it. Ideas matter. The ideas one really believes largely determine the kind of person one becomes. Everyone has a philosophy of life. That is not optional. What is optional and, thus, of extreme importance is the adequacy of one’s philosophy of life” (11). Within the introduction, the authors make a case for the use of philosophy as a means of gaining a greater understanding of the Christian faith by tracing its history through Augustine and John Wesley as these men of religion understood the necessity of using philosophy as a means of providing more substantial grounds for discussion and understanding. However, in more recent times, religious leaders have steered away from this use as philosophy courses have been dropped from seminary school curriculums and there seems to be a genuine fear for the evils such knowledge might bring. After explaining what philosophy is, the authors provide numerous justifications for philosophy within the Christian context.
To facilitate the discussion, the book is divided into six parts, each divided into smaller chapters within the given subject area. Following the introduction, these segments include epistemology, metaphysics, the philosophy of science, ethics, and philosophy of religion and philosophical theology. The epistemology segment contains chapters entitled knowledge and rationality, the problem of skepticism, the structure of justification, theories of truth, and postmodernism and religious epistemology. Epistemology is basically the study of knowledge and the authors trace their way through how this particular branch of study relates to the Christian worldview. It would seem that this would be incompatible with religion as the former depends upon solid proofs and the latter requires absolute faith. This discussion addresses this problem and brings it all the way from its historical context into the modern age with all its confusion and complications. This is particularly important to discuss as increasing globalization has brought nations into contact with other religions and belief systems that require a more solid foundation in understanding as a means of fortifying faith. Metaphysics, of course, relates to the inner essence of things, the spirit. This segment not only provides an entire chapter devoted to explaining what is meant by the term but also examines the general ontology of metaphysics as it relates to existence, identity, reductionism, property, and substance. From here, discussions of the mind-body problem are offered as it relates to the concepts of dualism and alternatives to this idea that have been proposed in recent years. It is within the philosophical realm of metaphysics that the question of free will and determinism is addressed as is the question of what occurs after death. Much of this information is essential to an understanding of the remainder of the book, which only becomes increasingly complex as it delves into the deeper realms of where science and theology might meet.
In engaging upon the subject of the philosophy of science, the authors provide a full illustration of the scientific method upon which much of scientific thought today is based. Within this discussion, they include ideas of the realism/anti-realism debate, the integration of science and technology with philosophy, and the philosophy of time and space. This leads to the fifth major concern of the book, the question of ethics. This includes the ideas of morality and metaethics, ethical relativism, and absolutism. Finishing out this segment is an explanation and investigation into the ideas of egoism, utilitarianism, deontological, and virtue ethics. Finally, the book finishes with a segment on the philosophy of religion and philosophical theory in an attempt to blend all of these ideas together in a coherent whole. Chapters in this segment include two chapters devoted to the philosophical foundations for a belief in the existence of God, two chapters on the coherence of theism, a chapter devoted to the problem of evil, and one given entirely to creation, providence, and miracles. The book ends with three chapters on Christian doctrines. These are devoted specifically to the idea of the Trinity, the Incarnation, and Christian particularism.
The text is difficult to understand in places, primarily because of the deep foundational nature of its subject and the theoretical abstract concepts presented. Although the authors attempt to present the subject in a straightforward, easily accessible format, the subject matter itself is difficult to grasp for many people and requires a good deal of time to allow ideas to sink in and create new connections within the mind. It is helpful that much of the information presented is current theory and knowledge. This makes it easier to verify the information being presented, finding numerous discussions and investigations into the ideas presented within recent science and philosophy articles. In addition, the detail each chapter offers allows room for dissenting opinions and refutation. This makes it easier to compare what different people are saying as well as providing a context in which additional information can be sought elsewhere. This inclusion of opposing opinions provides additional credibility for the authors. Their credibility is not necessarily questioned too much, however, as both authors are well known for writing within these fields, each specializing in approximately half of the topics in the book while allowing the other to fill in the remainder. The text is particularly strong in its coverage of the modern-day philosophical issues most important to today’s Christian and its provision of the basic information required for an educated consideration of logic and philosophy. Within this context, the text provides a particularly strong philosophical foundation for a Christian worldview and thus encourages readers, whether Christian or not, to more seriously consider the basis for their beliefs.
It has already been noted that the text is difficult to read and requires additional time in order to understand the weighty concepts introduced. Only by providing additional time to allow the information to sink in and think about it can the reader gain a clear understanding of the concepts presented unless they have already had a good introduction to the basic philosophy and logic upon which this information is founded. The book has also been criticized for its almost exclusive concentration on the basics of logic and philosophy, referencing such great thinkers as Plato, Aristotle, and Descartes, but makes no reference to Jesus. Rather than presenting the reader with a comparison of some of the more well-known worldviews currently held today, the authors concentrate on a single, specific worldview, approaching Christianity from an Apologist’s point of view.