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EPS Blog

This is the blog area for the Evangelical Philosophical Society and its journal, Philosophia Christi.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Interview with Chad Meister: Introducing Philosophy of Religion (part one)

We are pleased to interview Chad Meister about his recently released Introducing Philosophy of Religion (Routledge, 2009). Chad is the Director of the philosophy program at Bethel College (Indiana) where he has been teaching philosophy for the past decade. Among other hats that he wears, Chad is one of the book review editors for Philosophia Christi.

What is the overall aim of this textbook?

The aim of this textbook is to help students and others reflect philosophically on important religious ideas, including religious diversity, concepts of God/Ultimate Reality, arguments for and against the existence of God, problems of evil, science and faith, religious experience, the self, death and the afterlife.

What is unique about your content, approach, intent, and scope for this introduction to philosophy of religion?

This book covers a broad array of topics—some of which are not typically covered in philosophy of religion texts but are nonetheless important in contemporary discussions—including non-Western conceptions of Ultimate Reality and conceptions of the self, reincarnation, and karma. Unlike other works I’ve done, I am not arguing in this book for any particular positions which I may personally hold. I attempt to be as fair and impartial as possible, and to provide arguments and evidences for each position.

Here is a quick overview of the chapter titles and main objectives:

Chapter 1: Religion and the Philosophy of Religion

  • Describe what is generally meant by the terms philosophy, religion, and philosophy of religion
  • Access an extensive philosophy of religion timeline
  • Explain religious realism and non-realism and note prominent adherents of each
Chapter 2: Religious Diversity and Pluralism
  • Describe several central elements of five major world religions
  • Explain six different philosophical approaches to religious diversity
  • Clarify five fundamental criteria for evaluating religious systems
  • Expound on some important reasons for manifesting religious tolerance with respect to the various traditions
Chapter 3: Conceptions of Ultimate Reality
  • Elucidate some major differences between Eastern and Western views of Ultimate Reality
  • Provide a concise summary of Hindu Absolutism and Buddhist Metaphysics
  • Present five attributes of the traditional concept of the God of theism and some challenges to them
Chapter 4: Cosmological Arguments for God's Existence
  • Explicate three cosmological arguments for God's existence and describe support for and objections to each of them
  • State scientific evidences for and against the claim that the universe began to exist
  • Concisely explain the cosmological argument for atheism
Chapter 5: Teleological Arguments for God's Existence
  • Explain three teleological arguments for God's existence and describe support for and objections to each of them
  • Expound on scientific findings which relate to alleged fine-tuning of the universe
  • Describe the intelligent design movement and arguments for and against irreducible complexity
Chapter 6: Ontological Arguments for God's Existence
  • Explain two ontological arguments for God's existence: one classic and one contemporary
  • Summarize several main objections and replies to each of these two arguments
Chapter 7: Problems of Evil
  • Classify various kinds of evil
  • Explicate the logical, evidential, and existential problems of evil and responses to them
  • Describe three major theodicies and some central objections to them
Chapter 8: Science, Faith and Reason
  • Explain three primary relationships between religion and science
  • Differentiate between rational validation and non-evidential views of religious justification
  • Understand the meaning of classical foundationalism, a reason for rejecting it, and the role of properly basic beliefs in a more recent version of foundationalism found in Reformed epistemology
Chapter 9: Religious Experience
  • Delineate three general features common to religious experience
  • Distinguish three general categories of religious experience
  • Provide reasons for and against the use of religious experience as justification for religious beliefs
  • Describe two scientific explanations for religious experience
Chapter 10: The Self, Death and the Afterlife
  • Explain four major conceptions of the self from the East and the West as well as arguments for and against them
  • Describe the doctrines of reincarnation and karma and their significance to two Eastern religious traditions
  • Expound on four arguments in favor of immortality and three arguments against it
There are a number of pedagogical features in the book and on a Routledge website dedicated to the book, including charts, diagrams, chapter outlines, objectives, timeline, glossary, PowerPoint slides, and other resources.

My hope is that students and others working through this text (along with an anthology which is relatively global in scope, such as my corresponding Philosophy of Religion Reader) will gain a broad and fairly comprehensive understanding of the field of philosophy of religion as practiced today, and that they will be enticed to further research and study on these topics.

How has your extensive experience as a professor and work as an editor of several philosophy of religion books shaped what is unique to this textbook?

Teaching at both the graduate and undergraduate levels over the past ten years has undoubtedly provided a plethora of dialectical encounters with students which proved fruitful in crafting this textbook as a dialogical work. I have also gained significant insight through various editing projects over the last few years. For example, in The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Religion (which I co-edited with Paul Copan), The Philosophy of Religion Reader (read the interview here), and The Oxford Handbook of Religious Diversity (which I am just now finishing), I have been engaged with the works of philosophers of religion from across religious and philosophical spectrums. It has been a most enlightening experience working with atheists, pluralists, feminists, Continental philosophers, and Hindu, Buddhist, and Islamic scholars. I have leaned much from them and am deeply indebted to them, and this dialogue has enriched my own thinking about a number of issues.

For more about Chad Meister, visit his website:

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