A Guide to Philosophy and Christian Faith
- ISBN: 9780802875471
- Published By: Eerdmans
- Published: April 2020
Loving Wisdom: A Guide to Philosophy and Christian Faith by evangelical Christian philosopher Paul Copan is the extended and revised second edition of the same book published in 2007. With it, the author seeks to provide “a guide to Christian philosophy that engages with the biblical story or metanarrative and with texts of Scripture” (xi). The book is divided into thirty-two chapters, distributed in five parts (only the last four are numbered).
“Preliminaries on Philosophy and Faith” (chapters 1-6) is an excellent introduction to doing philosophy as a Christian that takes into consideration methodological, epistemological, exegetical, anthropological, and even existential questions. The section aims to set forth the foundations of Copan’s arguments for the possibility and preferability of philosophy from a Christian perspective.
Part 1, “God” (chapters 7 to 14), discusses the triunity, attributes, and knowability of the God of the Scriptures, as well as offers arguments against relativism. It is only here that the reader learns that Copan’s theological and philosophical point of view is Molinist, a philosophical way to understand the compatibility of divine providence and creaturely freedom by positing a “middle knowledge,” so called because it stands between God’s knowledge of necessary truths and his knowledge of his own will. This part of the volume has several perplexing sections (to be sure, these flaws are not necessarily entailed by the author’s specific philosophical approach just described). The most egregious ones have to do with Copan’s disagreements with some of the divine attributes as understood by classical Christian theism (broadly intended), such as simplicity, immutability, and impassibility.
More specifically, Copan objections are outdated and answered in the existing literature, but he rarely—if ever—acknowledges or references this. There is sufficient evidence to support this in the absence of both engagement and references to some of the major proponents of classical Christian theism such as, for instance, Eleonore Stump, Brian Leftow, and Paul Helm. Even simply simple reference to positions differing from the author’s would have made the presentation more balanced and complete, Philosophically, it is interesting to note how Copan’s defense of God’s omniscience (according to which God does not need to directly experience sin in order to know it, 78-80) could possibly be used, with some adaptations, against Copan’s own claims (according to which, assuming creation, it’s impossible for God to be timeless and knowing tensed facts 74-76). That said, the reader that will find Molinism to be plausible will find in this part a good case for the rationality of Christian theism, and the reader who does not find Molinism to be plausible can still gather constructive insights for both philosophical theology and apologetics.
Part 2, “Creation” (chapters 15 to 22), contains some of the classical arguments for the existence of God. Copan argues that the biblical worldview is the one that makes the most sense—it can better account for reality in all its human and non-human aspects. Taken together, this part can also be considered a lengthy attack against naturalism. Part 3, “Fall” (chapters 23 to 28), discusses what are arguably the most difficult doctrines of Christianity, namely, the existence of both evil and a good God, primal and original sin, and eternal punishment. Part 4 (chapters 29 to 32) follows the same line as the previous part, although the topics are more positive. Here, Copan expounds on other pillar doctrines of Christianity: the incarnation, the cross of Christ, Christian particularism, and the soul-body relationship. The volume ends with an afterword and with discussion questions.
The book is well written, and its arguments clearly developed, which make Copan’s volume accessible to beginners. Those already sympathetic to the author’s specific evangelical positions will certainly benefit from reading this book. Additionally, Christian theists who disagree with some of the author’s positions will find in this volume a large amount of valuable material, helping them refine their philosophizing within the Christian faith. Finally (and naturally), Copan’s work will also benefit the honest unbeliever who, even if they disagree with Copan’s conclusions, will find insights that will help navigate our age of convenient relativism and shallow naturalism.
Marco Barone is an independent scholar.Marco BaroneDate Of Review:August 29, 2023