For a well-organized and concise presentation of 50 philosophical ideas, 30-Second Philosophies: The 50 most Though-provoking philosophies, each explained in half a minute is worth reading and having around for a quick review and a handy reference (for Christians too). The title is more of a catchy, rather than an accurate, description of the book. The “30-second explanations” can take more than that time to read, of course–if you’re thinking about what you read–and there are side notes to expand on the explanations. In addition, for each section in the book there is both a glossary and a profile of the chosen exemplary philosopher. There is some introductory material and a resources section in the back as well.
It is very nice indeed that the book is divided into subject sections, instead of the philosophies being presented in either a chronological or alphabetical list. The sections are: “Language & Logic,” “Science & Epistemology,” “Mind & Metaphysics,” “Ethics & Political Philosophy,” “Religion,” “Grand Moments,” and “Continental philosophy.”
Seeing as this blog is to view things from a Christian perspective, I will opine on the “Religion” section. “30-Second Philosophies” may be a good book for a Christian to have as a basic learning tool and reference, but it is not friendly to Christian beliefs. This is no surprise, since most philosophers today are materialistic* in their beliefs and thinking (Hasker 2006). In this section Thomas Aquinas is profiled and the following philosophies are presented: “Aquinas’ five ways,” “Anselm’s ontological argument,” “Epicurus’ riddle,” “Paley’s watchmaker,” “Pascal’s wager,” and “Hume against miracles.”
As might be assumed, ending the religion section with an (old) argument against a major theology isn’t a good sign toward a positive view of Christian philosophy and thought. Each of the sections negatively criticizes Christian philosophers and theological ideas; for example, the author(s) makes a flat-out claim that the ontological argument is false, and elsewhere implies that God is false or silly since He didn’t make us all simply virtuous. The “obvious solution” of making us only virtuous would have meant no problem of evil would have sprung up. Here the author ignores the concept of actual free-willed beings, since in materialism there can be no true free will.
Regarding the Ontological Argument, please see the Sennett/Plantinga source below, which contains a chapter on the argument. In that chapter (which is basically reproduced here), Plantinga goes through the history of the argument and provides a final and valid restatement of it (Plantinga is a professor of philosophy emeritus at The University of Notre Dame). Secondly, regarding the problem of evil, the reader might like to view the William Lane Craig article provided in the Sources and Recommendations section. There is no shortage of Christian writings on this subject, since, as Craig wrote,
“The problem of evil is certainly the greatest obstacle to belief in the existence of God. When I ponder both the extent and depth of suffering in the world, whether due to man’s inhumanity to man or to natural disasters, then I must confess that I find it hard to believe that God exists. No doubt many of you have felt the same way.”
I did not write of all the criticisms the authors had for Christian philosophy in “30-Second Philosophies,” but you are encouraged to check them out and seek the answers. If you can imagine someone picking up this book and only reading the summary explanations and criticisms, then you will get an idea of what the average person or student thinks. You can find this level of knowledge and thinking all over the internet (and no doubt in our more physical interactions), and it would behoove us to know more and have legitimate and current counter arguments and answers.
* This link will lead you to a subscriber view only article. To see the whole article without being a subscriber, do a browser search and click on the link for “What is Materialism?” by Michael Philips.
Sources and Recommendations
Beilby, James K., editor, For Faith and Clarity: Philosophical Contributions to Christian Theology (BakerAcademic 2006).
Evangelical Philosophical Society (and Philosophia Christi).
Hasker, William. “Philosophical Contributions to Theological Anthropology,” in For Faith and Clarity (Beilby 243-260).
Kreeft, Peter J. “C.S. Lewis’s Argument from Desire,” in G.K. Chesterton and C.S. Lewis: The Riddle of Joy (William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. 1989, 249-272).
Sennett, James F., editor, The Analytic Theist: an Alvin Plantinga reader (William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. 1998).