Book Reviews

Book Review: “Philosophical Foundations of a Christian Worldview” 2nd Edition by J.P. Moreland and William Lane Craig

A work of the size and scope as J.P. Moreland and William Lane Craig’s massive Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview is daunting, so readers will want to know if it is work going through. The short answer to that question is that yes, it is, so long as one reads the work–like any other–with a critical eye.

The book is broken up into six parts: Introduction, Epistemology, Metaphysics, Philosophy of Science, Ethics, and the Philosophy of Religion and Philosophical Theology. Each section is full of definitions and lengthy philosophical outlines arguing for the positions Craig and Moreland hold. They attempt to stick to a largely “mere” Christianity, though at times they stray from a vision that is as broad as possible. For example, regarding the debate over the soul, Moreland and Craig fall staunchly into the dualist camp, to the extent that a physicalist theory of mind from a Christian perspective isn’t even considered. Regarding the science-faith question, the authors argue lengthily against any perspective which would hold to methodological naturalism and seem to align most closely with ID theory. For a theory of time, the authors push for an A-theory of time, which later impacts their doctrine of God by making God temporal post-creation and undermines the notion of divine simplicity.

Yet even those who take issue with the positions the authors hold will continue to benefit from interacting with their views. For example, interacting with their arguments about God and time would be a great exercise whether one believes God is temporal or atemporal.

I did, however, find the choices of subjects related to philosophical theology to be particularly interesting. The first two sections make arguments related to the Trinity and the Incarnation, which are both definitional to the notion of a “Christian.” The third, however, is about the Atonement, and quickly (613) states that “an essential, and indeed central, element of any biblically adequate atonement theory is penal substitution” and then go on to say “More than that, penal substitution, if true, could not be a merely subsidiary facet of an adequate atonement theory, for it is foundational to many other aspects of the atonement, such as redemption from sin, satisfaction of divine justice, and the moral influence of Christ’s example” (613-614). I was quite surprised by this–especially the latter statement–because there are entire theories of atonement based around these aspects. Thus, for example, the Example Theory of the atonement is entirely based upon the notion that Christ is an example and would therefore give us all kinds of moral influence. Interestingly, the fourth doctrine addressed is that of Christian particularism–the notion that salvation is in Christ alone. I tend to agree that no orthodox Christian would deny this, but it is interesting to see that Craig and Moreland seem to equate belief in, say, universalism with a denial of particularism, though to my knowledge most of the 19th century Christian universalists affirmed particularlism but held to universal salvation through Christ. Craig and Moreland go on to state that views like annihilationism “are rather difficult to square with the biblical data” (632) even though, in my experience, annihilationists almost always go straight to the biblical text to support their views (see, eg. numerous passages that equate hell with death or destruction). Again, it seems odd in a book that tends to go towards “mere” Christianity to pick views that are at issue and then exclude all others.

Many readers will want to go straight to the book for arguments about the existence of God, and Moreland and Craig do not disappoint. In the two chapters on the topic, the authors summarize huge swathes of philosophical arguments for the existence of God, along with answering many objections. Like the rest of the book, this is done in summaries of longer arguments, but readers will still get much of use out of this section.

Though I’ve skimmed through many portions of the book, I’d like to focus a little bit on Christology and the discussion of what Craig elsewhere calls Neo-Apollinarianism.  I was curious to see if the 2nd edition of the book would modify this position in critical ways to avoid the pitfalls of his previous position, but it seems it does not. The argument is made that “Apollinarianism achieved a genuine incarnation that… is no more implausible than the soul’s union with the body” (597). The problem was that it failed to unify body with mind in Christ. Thus, the authors propose making the divine Logos the mind of Christ, among other things (603ff). This seems to me–and many others–to punt the problem by still making it such that the Incarnated Christ does not have the totality of human nature, for the mind is from the divine nature. Simply calling it the “Logos” does not smooth over the problem of making the human nature effectively mindless without the divine. Because this Christology does not give Christ a human mind, as Gregory of Nazianzus said, “That which was not assumed was not saved” (glossing a bit). This seems an incomplete Christ.

Moreover, the discussion on the Lutheran view of Christology (a view that I as a Lutheran ascribe to) rather strangely condemns Lutherans for confusing the natures of Christ by teaching the communication of the attributes. Such a blithe dismissal seems wrongheaded, unless Moreland and Craig wish to further deny that the Incarnate Christ was incapable of divine activity. Alas, such misunderstanding of Lutheran positions are not uncommon.

With Philosophical Foundations for a Christian WorldviewMoreland and Craig have provided a truly impressive contribution to Christian philosophy of religion that will serve as a starting point for many an engagement with a huge number of topics. At some points, the authors take contentious positions, and it is unfortunate that they endorse a non-standard Christology. Thus, readers should read the work with a critical eye, treating it as a practice of interaction on a high level with a number of philosophical ideas related to Christianity.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of the book for review by the publisher. I was not required to give any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.


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About J.W. Wartick

J.W. Wartick is a Lutheran, feminist, Christ-follower. A Science Fiction snob, Bonhoeffer fan, Paleontology fanboy and RPG nerd.


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