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Christian Belief in a Postmodern World: The Full Wealth of Conviction [Paperback]

By Diogenes Allen (Author)
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Item description for Christian Belief in a Postmodern World: The Full Wealth of Conviction by Diogenes Allen...

In examining the current intellectual revolution that is now taking place, Diogenes Allen shows how Christianity and Christian belief are being supported by philosophical and scientific principles. In CHRISTIAN BELIEF IN A POSTMODERN WORLD, his presentation progresses from the possibility of God to the need for God to the experience of God's grace, demonstrating the nature of faith as a legitimate and reasonable basis for religious conviction. Allen carefully explains how the existence of an ordered universe acts as a witness (not proof) to God's existence, leading thoughtful people to serious consideration of the witness of the Bible. This book offers insights into the nature of faith, the experience of God's presence, and the interface between science and religion and is especially helpful to those struggling with Christianity's place in a world of religious pluralism.

Publishers Description

This book provides a philosophical argument for the reasonableness of Christian faith in today's world. Diogenes Allen shows how Christian belief is now being supported by scientific and philosophical principles--perhaps for the first time in 300 years.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Westminster John Knox Press
Pages   252
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.12" Width: 5.98" Height: 0.64"
Weight:   0.85 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jan 1, 1989
Publisher   Westminster John Knox Press
Edition  New  
ISBN  0804206252  
ISBN13  9780804206259  

Availability  91 units.
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More About Diogenes Allen

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! DIOGENES ALLEN is Stuart Professor of Philosophy at Princeton Theological Seminary. He teaches widely in both Presbyterian and Anglican churches, and is the author of a number of books on the spiritual life.

Diogenes Allen currently resides in Princeton.

Diogenes Allen has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Seabury Classics S

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1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Christian Living > General
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Christian Living
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Theology > Apologetics
5Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Religious Studies > Science & Religion

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Reviews - What do customers think about Christian Belief in a Postmodern World: The Full Wealth of Conviction?

Well-written, clear, interesting, thought-provoking, but with flaws  Apr 15, 2008
Diogenes Allen Christian Belief in a Postmodern World:
I am a very amateur reader of philosophy and theology.
In terms of academic difficulty, I suspect this book is classified as beginner++, intermediate--.
I liked this book. It is an interesting, illuminating, and thought-provoking. Why only three stars then? Two reasons. For each reason, if you disagree with my view, you may add one extra star to the review!
1. Allen is "thin" as a scientist in parts. His uncritical acceptance of macro evolution is a weakness. Consider p81: "Darwin's theory of natural selection more or less explained how very complex forms of life arise from much simpler forms". Darwin's theory does no such thing, and is also greatly flawed in its assumption that the basic building blocks of life are simple. They are not. There are myriad philosophical and scientific problems with Darwin's theory, and I think he (Allen) could have easily avoided these controversial avenues -- they are not central to his thesis and detract from it.
2. Allen is theologically thin in parts too. Most disastrously in the chapter entitled A Christian Theology of Other Faiths (a chapter whose inclusion in this book strikes me as unnecessary anyway.) Having concluded his argument for the reasonableness of faith in God general, and faith in Christ in particular, he then attempts to provide a framework for Christians to interact with other faiths, using as his basis, Simone Weil's philosophy. (Allen is something of an authority on Simone Weil who was apparently not in favor of Christian evangelism/conversion). He describes her opposition to Christian missions and her view that "to convert a person from one religion to another is like asking him or her to address God in a foreign language" (p196). As if that is not bad enough, he follows up by saying "I do not know how serious an objection this is". He has in the space of a few sentences cut away the mission of Christ on earth to turn people's hearts and minds to the God of Truth. If it is so wrong to call people to change their ways, the incarnation of Christ, and the challenge of Christ's message to repent ("to turn"), the clear emphasis of his earthly teaching, are wrong according to Weil and Allen. Jesus may as well have stayed in heaven, or simply come to earth, suffered and died without issuing the challenge to change. The Jews after all had the law and the prophets, and everyone else their own particular religion/views. Quoting Weil in this way, and following it up with a lame kind of "who knows?" response did not impress me, particularly juxtaposed with the opening theme of the book "truth" and theistic truth at that [see below]..

For these two general reasons, I have marked this book down. But this is a good book from an interesting writer.

I have always been somewhat skeptical of Simone Weil, both as a person and a thinker. But Allen softened my attitude somewhat and I appreciate his explanations of her thoughts on suffering.

Allen is right on from the introduction: "Why should I go to church," someone once said to me, "when I have no religious needs?" I had the audacity to reply, "Because Christianity's true.". He then summarizes the failure of the Enlightenment in terms of the failure of science and philosophy to disprove or discount the possibility of God; the failure of the Enlightenment to establish morality based on reason; the failure to deliver "progress" - solutions to racism, social bondage, vulnerability to nature; and its faith that knowledge is inherently a force for good. This belief is in serious question.

Having set the scene, he discusses a thinking person's response to the claims of Christianity, the need [and reasonableness] for "initial faith" (the faith that turns us into seekers), the nature of faith, truth, and knowledge, building on Austin Farrer's 4 domains of truth (1.scientific/abstract, 2.actual people/things 3.values 4.religion). In seeking certain types of knowledge (e.g. scientific), we naturally desire to remove from the equation our own "hearts"/values, using our intellect only -- "disinterested seekers" he calls it [p96]. But we are also rational agents who act, aspire, suffer, seek well-being and seek answers to do with our very selves - we cannot impose artificial "disinterested" barriers when considering these questions.

In speaking of religion and the external world, he speaks of the two books of God - the Book of Nature and the Book of Scripture. His chapters on the history of science and the relation of science to faith are interesting: "The rise of science is one of the great puzzles of history...why did science not arise in ancient India, Egypt, China..." [p24]. He provides useful background information on the famous Church v Galileo controversy, a chestnut that is regularly dredged up to "prove" the hopeless myopia of religious "superstition" contrasted with the glorious suffering of science [aka truth]. The facts of the controversy present a more complex picture of the protagonists than is popularly acknowledged.

With regard to science, Allen deals with the "God of the gaps" idea - that we invoke God to explain things about the universe that we don't understand [gaps in our knowledge]. That as science progresses, these gaps shrink and disappear, and correspondingly God disappears and becomes less relevant. Allen's response: Science is concerned with the members of the universe and the relations between them. Since God is not a member of the universe, the presence [or not] of our understanding on these matters has no bearing on the question of God. Also, even if we attain 100% knowledge of the universe, the questions as to [a] its existence [b] in its particular form, will be no more clearly answered. He then deals with the question of the existence of the universe and its order as pointers to God, useful discussion on Kant's Hume's arguments against the cosmological argument.

With respect to the Book of Scripture, Allen draws attention to our human-ness - that we are not as-it-were robotic processors of data but people. He draws in Weil's thoughts on beauty and our reaction to it, our recognition of it; of the suffering in the universe caused by its function, and its "indifference" to us that causes us as people to search outside of the universe for answers. Allen then discusses the Christian faith response and the witness of Scripture; included in this is the religious foundation of morality and justice. A good way to test our love for justice: "to heartily desire that the consequences of the evil we do fall directly and solely on ourselves". And we recoil from that, causing us to look to a higher level for relief. This leads to the discussion concerning the grace of God and God's goodness in spite of these afflictions. Again Allen leans on Weil's thinking.

So drawing it all together, Allen ties up the ends in his chapter "The Reasonableness of Faith", again arguing against Hume and Kant and exposing the shortcomings of reason, and introducing the "sociology of knowledge" - that is, we are socially acclimatized to accept or reject what is "knowledge" [a la Kuhn / Structure of Scientific Revolutions]. Faith and Reason are not contradictory, but faith (Christian faith) allows us to leap from the order of the mind to the order of the heart. "We leap because we recognize the reality of the domain of the heart, not because there is a shortage of evidence" [p145]. In the chapter Reason and Revelation, Allen argues that since God's intentions are revealed to us through human beings rather than e.g. science, history is more important than philosophy and science. He goes on to discuss this in Divine Agency in a scientific world. How does God who, is outside of the universe that operates on causual laws, act within it? Allen shows that human agency cannot be accounted for in scientific laws (e.g. science can describe the characteristics of a rolling billiard ball and
make predictions about it -- but not if human agency suddenly sticks out a hand and stops the ball or deflects it.) Also, science cannot explain motive and there are whole areas of activity that require personal explanations to explain causes. God can act in the universe in a similar way, and the existence of natural laws in no way inhibit or disprove this.

There's a lot more that could be said. Space does not permit, but I hope you have had an accurate taster of this book.

Stylistically, Allen has a habit of providing summaries of the argument so far. Personally I found this helpful. Other readers might find him guilty of unnecessary repetition.

Conclusion: Interesting, worth reading, but with some weaknesses. I enjoyed it. I will read more of his work. This is my first attempt to summarize a philosophical book. Mighty hard work it is too. I nevertheless trust that you derive some benefit from my review!!
Most informative Christian philosophical book I've ever read  Jun 13, 1998
Allen has put together one of the most important Christian philosophical works of the twentieth century. His explication and argument of the Christian faith in a postmodern world is a must read for Christians and non-Christians alike. I highly recommend it!!!!!

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