Book Review: Four Views on Christianity and Philosophy, by Paul M. Gould and Richard Davis, editors

Four Views on the Christianity and PhilosophyPart of Zondervan’s Counterpoints series, Four Views on Christianity and Philosophy offers wonderful insight for those interested in the interaction between Christianity and philosophy. The four contributors include one atheist (Graham Oppy) and three Christians of varying tradition (K. Scott Oliphint, Timothy McGrew, and Paul Moser). As is typical of the series, each contributor presents an essay, which is followed by a response from each of his peers. This text, however, is different from others I’ve read in the series in that it contains a rejoinder from the contributor after the responses—a welcomed addition to the template!

Conflict Model: Graham Oppy’s naturalist perspective is not surprising, and many of his finer points of argument are left to citations of outside sources due to limited space in this work. It is doubtful that readers of the intended audience will be persuaded by his arguments, but inclusion proves quite helpful for stimulating intellectual engagement. Though adamant and firm in his conviction that there is no God, his writing maintains a sense of humility (as much as can be expected from any professional philosopher) and welcomes his counterparts as part of a larger philosophical community, something I’ve found to be uncommon in these sorts of atheist vs. Christian philosophical exchanges.

Covenant Model: K. Scott Oliphint promotes God-given theology as the only true philosophy (and that it’s not philosophy because it’s God-given). Oliphint is a staunch Calvinist and, to his detriment, simply cannot move beyond Calvin. His arguments may make sense to those already indoctrinated with Calvinism, but he puts forth no real argument for his perspective, runs in circles, and fails to rightly engage with his counterparts. This is, however, a good example of this perspective on Christianity (what Oliphint believes to be true orthodoxy) and philosophy, and is thus worth wading through in order to better understand its presuppositions and blind spots.

Convergence Model: Timothy McGrew embraces philosophy as a God-given tool to help us better understand our reality and sees it as a means by which one may be brought closer to God, though not all the way. He maintains that revelation and something beyond pure reason is necessary for us to be brought into a right relationship with God (e.g., it may be reasoned demonstrated that Jesus was a real person, but to believe that he is the Son of God—and God—requires revelation beyond pure reason). Though he has not been brought over himself, even Oppy acknowledges that this bridge may bring atheists to Christianity.

Conformation Model: Paul Moser believes that using any reason or natural evidence for God is actually sinful because one can only come to God through some sort of direct revelation embodied in some sort of “experience” that he claims is the hallmark of a Christian. (McGrew notes in his response that he hopes Moser isn’t saying what he thinks he’s saying—that McGrew isn’t a Christian—because he does not share the same sort of conversion experience [218], but Moser implies at the end of his rejoinder that McGrew is not “led by God’s Spirit” [224], which amounts to placing him outside of Christ when read in conjunction with his other points.) Though distinct, the views of Oliphint and Moser may appear to be virtually identical in practice, which is why they praise each other’s perspectives with few exceptions.

In total, no contributor really recognizes his blind spots, although it is difficult when they aren’t being well noted (or noted by those who seem to be intentionally misreading them). Oppy and McGrew appear to be the most reasonable and engaging of the four, perhaps because Oliphint and Moser are paradoxically professional philosophers who believe philosophy is outside of God. I would, however, still recommend reading for anyone interested in the ongoing debate regarding Christianity and philosophy.


*I received a temporary digital copy for review from Zondervan via NetGalley.


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