Friday, February 28, 2014

Book Write-Up: Loving God with Your Mind

Paul M. Gould and Richard Brian Davis, ed.  Loving God with Your Mind: Essays in Honor of J.P. Moreland.  Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2014.

I would like to thank Moody Publishers for my review copy of this book.  See here for Moody’s page about it.

J.P. Moreland is a Christian scholar, apologist, and philosopher.  Loving God with Your Mind is a collection of essays by scholars reflecting on his life, work, and thoughts.

Some of the essays are more difficult than others.  The three chapters about Platonism were especially challenging to me, on account of their detail, their technicality, and their usage of terms that were unfamiliar to me.  I think that I still understood the main point that they were trying to make: that there is a world beyond our natural world, as Plato said, a transcendent world of concepts that the natural world reflects.  This is more consistent with theism than with naturalism (although, as one essay in the book acknowledges, there are significant differences between Christian theism and Platonism).  A glossary in the back of the book may have been helpful to those of us who are not as advanced in the field of philosophy.

Other essays in the book covered whether human beings have a soul, the challenge of postmodernism to Christianity, how to be a virtuous learner in the information age, a defense of a classical apologetics based on reason, the abortion issue, and the meaning of true happiness.  J.P. Moreland wrote the final essay in the book.  There were arguments in the book that I found to be good, and there were times when I did not think that the authors were effectively refuting the other side (i.e., the naturalists, the postmodernists).  They did, however, refer the reader to other resources, in case the reader wanted to learn more: there is a list of Moreland’s publications in the back of the book, and Moreland referred to neuroscientists who believe that humans have a soul.  Overall, while the book does interact with contrary points-of-view, its intended audience seems to be conservative Christians, as it exhorts them on the importance of classical apologetics and the need to hold fast to certain Christian ideas (i.e., the existence of a soul, the historicity of Adam and Eve, appealing to nature to argue for God’s existence, etc.).

It interested me that the book did not focus much on arguments for the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  There was an acknowledgment in one essay that such arguments are important, since arguments for the existence of God (except, possibly, for the ontological argument) did not necessarily demonstrate that the God is the Christian God.  But there was little attempt in the book to demonstrate that the Christian revelation, specifically, is true.  J.P. Moreland in other works, however, has discussed arguments for Christ’s resurrection.

My favorite parts of the book were its more personal aspects: the anecdotes about what Moreland’s life and work meant to some of the authors, and J.P. Moreland’s struggle with anxiety and depression and his willingness to be vulnerable about this in his apologetics.  I also appreciated the book’s discussion about true happiness: how it is not us having pleasure at getting what we want, but rather is the serenity that comes from a life that is in accord with virtue.  Moreland’s discussion about spiritual disciplines was also worthwhile to read.

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