Review of Chad Meister’s ‘Introducing Philosophy of Religion’ (2009)

Theologian and philosopher of religion Chad Meister’s book Introducing Philosophy of Religion (2009) offers an excellent introduction to the philosophy of religion and will surely be of great benefit to all its readers interested in the subject.

A strength of Meister’s book is that it is fairly extensive and introduces readers to several major areas in contemporary philosophy of religion. We find helpful discussions on the arguments for the existence of God. These include the cosmological, teleological, and ontological arguments. One argument that is strikingly missing here and that probably should have been included is the moral argument. This argument is also popular with theists and has invited much response and interrogation by skeptics. Also omitted are arguments from consciousness that have also been formulated by reputable contemporary philosophers (e.g. J. P. Moreland, Richard Swinburne).

We also encounter arguments against God’s existence such as from the problem of evil and suffering, and science (e.g. scientism). Further, there is a philosophical engagement with death and the afterlife, some of which centers on the problem of personal identity. Meister dedicates a chapter to analyzing religious experience. He offers various arguments that theists (Richard Swinburne, etc.) have used to employ subjective religious experience as evidence for God and the truth of the experiences themselves. 

The most helpful part of Meister’s book is that he breaks down the arguments into syllogisms. This is considerate because it lays bare the logic of the argument in premises and allows the reader to see where skeptics dispute arguments for or against belief in God. These engagements with the arguments come from both contemporary and historical thinkers. Several influential contemporary philosophers, as well as more recent ones of the twentieth century, are introduced (Alvin Plantinga on the ontological argument, William Craig on the Kalam cosmological argument, etc.). We also engage the thought of historical thinkers like David Hume, Blaise Pascal, Anselm, and many more. As such, Meister offers a decent purview of the philosophy of religion as it has developed historically and continues in the present. 

Another strong point in Meister’s book is the author’s impartiality. Meister simply presents the arguments and responses as they have been formulated by diverse thinkers. His intent is not to misrepresent arguments or downplay certain aspects. He fairly stipulates the arguments and the responses and counter-responses. Introducing Philosophy of Religion could have been written by an atheist or a theist and a reader would not know. This is a good thing.

Minus a handful of spelling errors, Introducing Philosophy of Religion is a well-polished title deserving a read. It is missing some important engagements with certain arguments but is largely excellent with the content it does engage. 

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