Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
TrinJ 20:2 (Fall 1999) p. 233
Thomas D. Senor, ed. The Rationality of Belief and the Plurality of Faith: Essays in Honor of William P. Alston. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1995. 291 pp. $42.50.
Although largely unnoticed by society at large, one of the more dramatic shifts in the academic culture of the late twentieth century is the change within the academic philosophical community in perspectives on Christian faith. Modern philosophy in the West, especially since the challenges posed by David Hume and Immanuel Kant two hundred years ago, has been largely critical of Christian belief, and in the earlier part of this century it was aggressively hostile toward any kind of metaphysics. The assault upon theism found its most vigorous expression in the enormously influential movement of Logical Positivism, culminating in the 1940s and 50s in the pompous declaration that all talk of God was quite literally meaningless—thereby causing some theologians to scramble about frantically in creative efforts to appease their critics and salvage their calling. Yet by the 1970s, Logical Positivism was itself a thoroughly discredited philosophical movement and, much to the surprise of the academy, the 1980s saw a remarkable resurgence of philosophy of religion, so that it is today one of the most flourishing and vigorous branches of philosophy. Many of the leading philosophers in the Anglo-American tradition today, teaching in some of the most prestigious institutions, are outspoken Christians. Philosophical journals regularly carry articles applying the tools of analytic philosophy to religious epistemology, as well as discussion of classical theological issues such as the incarnation, divine revelation, the atonement, the divine attributes, etc. (see Kenneth Konyndyk, “Christianity Reenters Philosophical Circles,” Perspectives [November 1992] 17-20. In recent years, two volumes of “testimonies” by Christian philosophers have appeared. See God and the Philosophers [ed. Thomas V. Morris; New York: Oxford University Press, 1994] and Philosophers Who Believe [ed. Kelly James Clark; Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1996]). While the extent of the recent changes should not be exaggerated (there are, after all, still plenty of atheists in the American Philosophical Association) there clearly has been a massive shift in the ethos of academic philosophy.
Many factors were involved in this renaissance of philosophical theology, but no one has been more influential in shaping this turn-around than Professor William W. Alston. Now in his late seventies, Alston has had a long and distinguished academic career, teaching philosophy for twenty-two years at the University of Michigan before moving on to Princeton, the University of Illinois, and then to Syracuse University in 1980. His many writings...
Click here to subscribe