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In Defense of Natural Theology: Review

09/14/2011

In Defense of Natural Theology seeks to respond to David Hume’s still popular criticisms of natural theology, while at the same time sketching a positive case for theism.

Part one, which consists of 5 chapters, is primarily descriptive, and even includes a chapter in support of Hume’s arguments. Part two, consisting of the remaining 9 chapters, navigates through Hume’s thoughts on a variety of proofs of God (cosmological, teleological, moral, consciousness).

The book certainly succeeds in responding to and criticizing some aspect’s of Hume’s philosophy. For example, Hume’s apparent support of positivism’s verification principle is correctly shown to be self refuting. Unfortunately, many of the responses fall short, leaving the cumulative case for theism unsubstantiated. Douglas Groothuis, for example, struggles painfully to force omnipotence and omniscience into a finite act of creation ex nihilo. Paul Copan argues against Hume’s views on morality, but even if he is successful in those arguments, he fails to coherently show how God is a reasonable explanation, not addressing the many serious objections to a God based morality. J.P Moreland spends nearly his entire chapter attacking the coherence of naturalistic explanations of consciousness, while doing nothing to show how supernatural explanations can possibly be successful, constituting an argument from ignorance. Upon close examination of each chapter of the book, similar flaws of over reaching the evidence or creating false dichotomies consistently arise.

Overall, In Defense of Natural Theology provides a reasonable description and response to many Humean arguments, but it may be overly ambitious, ultimately failing to provide a successful case for theism.

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