Item description for Concise Encyclopedia of the Philosophy of Religion, A by Anthony C. Thiselton...
Overview Explore the theories and thoughts of a variety of theologies---from agnosticism to Zen---with this wide-ranging compendium. Over 300 entries identify key thinkers, terms, arguments, and themes. An indispensable resource for students and others seeking information and clarification on particular individuals or ideas. Includes a helpful chronology and an index of names. 344 pages, softcover from Baker.
Publishers Description With over three hundred entries and subentries on everything from agnosticism to Zen philosophy, this authoritative encyclopedia from one of the world's most renowned theologians explores all the major themes in the philosophy of religion. Entries identify key thinkers, terms, arguments, and ideas. The volume also features a helpful chronology and an index of names. This encyclopedia was shaped by years of student feedback. Anthony Thiselton asked students what themes, thinkers, and problems in philosophy of religion they found most stimulating and where they needed help, clarification, and explanation. The resulting volume will help other students navigate their studies with greater ease. It is also a handy reference for those seeking quick access to information on a particular person or concept.
Citations And Professional Reviews Concise Encyclopedia of the Philosophy of Religion, A by Anthony C. Thiselton has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
Library Journal - 06/01/2005 page 178
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Anthony C. Thiselton is professor emeritus of Christian theology at the University of Nottingham, England. His many other books include The Hermeneutics of Doctrine, A Shorter Guide to the Holy Spirit, and two acclaimed commentaries on 1 Corinthians.
Anthony C. Thiselton has an academic affiliation as follows - University of Nottingham, UK.
Reviews - What do customers think about Concise Encyclopedia of the Philosophy of Religion, A?
A great tool for expanding your knowledge of ideas Jan 7, 2008
I love to use encyclopedias like this to gain a quick introductory nugget of information about a topic. Thiselton gives me 300+ words in the very specific field of "Philosophy of Religion".
This is a tool. Read systematically through specialized encyclopedias like this, especially in fields of study that you normally do not travel and you will gain a broader knowledge of the world of ideas.
A sampling of the entries: "Arguments for the existence of God" (2.5 pages) "John Hick" (2 pages) "Nagarjuna" (1 page... and don't try to tell me you already know who Nagarjuna is) "Post-mortal existence of the self" (3.5 pages) "time" (1 page) "Zen philosophy (1/2 page)
Of course, the strength of any book is whether the author knows the subject matter and is good with the pen in explaining the material. Thiselton shines in both.
Good, if limited, introduction, but not encyclopedic Apr 24, 2006
It may come as a surprise to some that religion, in particular Christianity, has a philosophy--that is, a closely argued intellectual underpinning. How rigorous and convincing this philosophy is might be discerned through a careful reading of Professor Thiselton's book.
First, let me note that the book is mostly about Christianity. Thiselton makes some attempt at including other religions, especially Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, and Buddhism, but unfortunately the pertinent entries are, on the one hand far too "concise" to be helpful, and on the other reveal that Thiselton is, as he admits, not an expert on these subjects.
In the main entry on Buddhism ("Buddhist philosophy") for example, Thiselton writes, "Consciousness is not understood as a stable individual consciousness in the sense held by Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, Descartes, and Locke." Instead it is "transitory" and subject to "continuous change." Modern (or probably I should say "postmodern") cognitive science would agree that our consciousness is transitory and continuously changing, yes; but this misses the point of Buddhism. In Buddhism it is better to say that the self does not exist and consciousness is an illusion.
Thiselton also writes that "nirvana" is the "extinction of all unproductive or worldly desires." This is not quite correct and again misses the point. Nirvana is the extinction of ALL desire, "productive" or otherwise.
To my mind, the great empiricists of the Enlightenment, especially David Hume, more or less buried the idea that Christianity could be justified in a logical sense. This was long before Nietzsche declared that God was dead and before Marx opined that "religion is the opiate of the people." Nonetheless I think it is interesting to read the historical arguments put forward by the great minds of Christianity, especially Thomas Aquinas, St. Augustine, Descartes, etc., and even William Paley, famous for his watchmaker argument for the existence of God. Equally interesting is the retort and refinements from great thinkers like Hegel, Kant, Kierkegaard and others.
At times Thiselton's prose gets a bit beclouded and at other times more than a bit mealymouthed. Consider this (he's talking about the controversy over Darwin's The Descent of Man): "It is arguable that a certain narrowness and brittleness on both sides about the incapacity of empirical data to arbitrate on the uniqueness of human personhood as bearing the divine image added confusion rather than light." (p. 90) Uh...could it be that he is saying that no amount of empirical data is going to prove that we are made in God's image?
While there is no entry on "intelligent design" or on "design" (or on "creationism," for that matter), Thiselton follows theologian Frederick R. Tennant who wrote that "gradualism of construction is in itself no proof of the absence of...design." Thiselton adds, "Design may be seen in the provision of necessary conditions for the emergence of designed effects by whatever route." (p. 91) In other words, Darwinian evolution is part of God's design. Furthermore, there is always a Designer regardless of how evolved His designs! It is hard to argue with that, and I won't. I also like to have my cake and eat it too.
Thiselton's bias often insinuates itself into the text. For example he writes that Islamic philosopher Ibn Sina "underlined the implausibility of an infinite chain of contingent causes, in contrast to the more reasonable explanation that behind all finite causes stood the One Necessary Being, who is neither caused nor contingent." (p. 117) To say that Ibn Sina "underlined the implausibility" is to suggest that the implausibility is somehow established. It isn't. To my mind, at least, the "infinite chain" is no more or no less implausible than the idea of a "Necessary Being. "
Although somewhat of a skeptic myself, I like Thiselton's witty retort to scepticism: "if sceptics deny the possibility of knowledge, how do I know that I cannot (with more exploration) know?" (p. 276) Indeed there is no certainty in this life. We have only a choice of something that seems more likely or something that seems less likely.
I also like Thiselton's statement that "God...is not an 'object'; still less an object in space and time." (p. 121) That coincides nicely with my idea of God.
Although my bias about the nature of religion is at odds with that of Professor Thiselton, I nonetheless recommend this concise introduction to the philosophy of religion for undergraduates studying religion. I use the word "introduction" because this book is quite a ways from being encyclopedic, and should more properly be entitled something like "A Concise Compendium of Christian Religious Philosophy with Critiques."
One final point: religion is a slippery subject. Especially tricky is the idea of God. Whenever you find yourself talking about God to someone, always be sure that you and that person have the same or a similar definition of God. Thiselton provides a nice introduction to the various ideas and definitions of God in the entry, "God, concepts and 'attributes' of" on pages 118-123. He puts the small quotes around the word "attributes" because as mentioned above his idea of God is outside of time and space and therefore cannot have attributes in the usual sense of the term.
Concise, Erudite, and Accessible Feb 14, 2006
Anthony C. Thistleton is one of the rare thinkers of our generation that has the ability to extend their knowledge over a vast array of philosophical and theological topics, and yet maintain the ability to keep them in focus and synthesize them for the edification of others. His past works, which include Two Horizons in Hermeneutics, its sequel New Horizons in Hermeneutics, and the NIGTC commentary on 1 Corinthians, are all themselves examples of the scholarly level of Thistleton's work, and his latest, A Concise Encyclopedia of the Philosophy of Religion is no dissapointment.
Containing several hundred entries, including (but, of course, not limited to) entries on thinkers such as Riceouer, Barth, Derrida, Foucoult, Pannenberg, Moltmann, Heidegger, Hegel, Feuerbach, Fichte, Aquinas, Augustine, Lyotard, Plantinga, Scotus, and Freud, and entries on various topics such as Evil (e.g. Theodicy), Causality, Contingency, Demythologization, marxist critique of religion, hermeneutics, postmodernism, The Five Ways of Aquinas, etc...
Thistleton is especially strong in areas of explaining post-modern thinkers and hermeneutics, but quite adept in all other areas (except, perhaps, his explanations of eastern philosophies, which he admits is not his strong area, but are nonetheless sufficient for their purpose, and do not seem excessively truncated when compared to the other articles)
The cross-referencing of the articles makes it especially easy, not only to see the interrelations between thinkers and schools, but is a helpful tool for organization that makes accessing the information a snap.
The only critique I have of this book is a problem that I have of encyclopedias of philosophy and theology in general, that because of the territory covered, the amount of depth in each article is limited. On some occasions also, Thistleton despite his careful indexing or definition of terms in other areas, sometimes uses vocabulary particular to the thinker that he is explaining without expounding on the specific meaning of the term. This is rare, however, and often if the term is not specifically defined, it's usage is made clearer by the context in which it is presented.
This book will be an invaluable asset to all students studying theology and philosophy, and is a key asset, especially as an auxillary source.
For a fuller reference, I recommend Audi's Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, which has multiple contributors and fuller individual articles, albeit with much less emphasis on specifically Christian schools and terms.
A meticulous compilation of theological terms, notable historical figures, belief systems, logical terminology, and much more Nov 9, 2005
Written by a research professor of Christian theology, A Concise Encyclopedia Of The Philosophy Of Religion is a meticulous compilation of theological terms, notable historical figures, belief systems, logical terminology, and much more. Arranged in alphabetical order, entries range from "agnosticism" and "Aristotle" to "via negationis/via negativa" and "Wittgenstein, Ludwig Josef Johann". Entries are nether excessively lengthy nor overly brief; each one succinctly summarizes its topic in plain terms lay readers can appreciate. A Concise Encyclopedia Of The Philosophy Of Religion strives to leave all bias at the door, and present a multitude of extremely divergent ideas in as unbiased and evenhanded a manner as possible. Highly recommended as a reference and resource especially for lay readers and novice to intermediate students of religious philosophy.
Helpful, timely resource for students and teachers Jun 28, 2003
Anthony Thiselton is a well known name in evangelical circles for his extensive work in contemporary hermeneutics and exegesis through titles such as "New Horizons in Hermeneutics" (1992), "Two Horizons" (1980), and the more recent "The First Epistle to the Corinthians" (2000; New International Greek Testament Commentary Series). Thiselton's most recent work is a compendium of his insights into major figures and trends within contemporary hermeneutical, theological and philosophical thought. And students of these contemporary issues will not be disappointed with the timeliness and depth of the topics covered.
"A Concise Encyclopedia of the Philosophy of Religion" is precisely that; an encyclopedia containing over 300 entries and sub-entries relevant to any informed discussion of philosophy of religion. In addition to the classic figures generally present in such discussions, Thiselton brings to the table all those others who are just as relevant and crucial to contemporary discussions. Although it is more than tempting to list all the names covered by Thiselton, I will list only a few I was quick to look up: Austin, Ayer, Barthes, Bergson, Chisholm, Derrida, Hartshorne, Henry, Husserl, Levinas, Malcolm, Plantinga, Quine, Swinburne, Whitehead, and Wolterstorff.
All of Thiselton's articles are cross-referenced to allow you to find other topics related to your inquiry within the encyclopedia. He also intentionally explains "virtually every unfamiliar technical term, and will introduce unfamiliar thinkers". This is an excellent resource for students and laymen. I have used this frequently while writing papers or to gain refreshed insight into the thought of a particular figure mentioned in my other readings.
This book can be recommended for students of theology and philosophy, and will be of particular interest to those pursuing contemporary theology, hermeneutics, postmodern theology, historical theology, and philosophy of religion. The book's intent is to provide a contemporary, up-to-date textbook for university level students in these fields. Thus it may prove helpful to teachers striving to expose their students to these same issues.