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8 Works 390 Members 3 Reviews

About the Author

James K. Dew Jr. teaches the History of Ideas and Christian Philosophy at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and pastors a church in Wake Forest, North Carolina.

Works by James K. Dew Jr.


Common Knowledge



Well... I'm going against the trend to score this book high because, while it's a reasonable introduction to epistemology, the authors' self-confessed Christian bias is its greatest weakness. When the authors stay away from areas not particularly contentious from a Christian perspective (whatever that is, given the diversity of Christian perspectives) it's reasonably balanced in presenting various options in response to the questions the book addresses. And the authors definitely try to be fair. However, when the book gets to the question of divine revelation, it is inadequate in my opinion. The authors briefly touch on the issue of other religions claiming to have supernatural revelation, but they very quickly move to a narrow Christian focus which describes a common apologetic argument in defence of the authority of the Christian scriptures. There are very significant and contentious issues around a claim that one religion has direct knowledge from “God”. Maybe I'm asking too much of an essentially Evangelical survey of epistemology. My hope is that any reader, including Christian readers, will also explore some of these issues by seeking out introductory texts on epistemology that come from a variety of views.… (more)
spbooks | 1 other review | May 15, 2014 |
How do we know what we think we know? Dare we claim to know anything at all about God, or can we speak only about what we believe? Is it time to throw up in our hands and give in to postmodernism?

Don’t buy this book looking for an argument for the existence of God. That’s not the focus. This is a very good introduction to epistemology, with only a light Christian tint. Until the final pages, little is said about knowledge of God, and when we do get to the topic of divine revelation (for that is our primary means of knowing anything about God), the argument for why the Bible story of Jesus is reliable history is unfortunately too brief to be helpful.

Instead, the book hopes to introduce its readers to the philosophy of epistemology–that is, the study of the nature and limits of human knowledge. Dew and Foreman are both associate professors of Philosophy. They start out with the long-standing definition of knowledge as Justified True Belief (JTB), provide a few counter arguments to show the inadequacy of that definition, and then lead into some of the deeper issues. What is truth? Where does knowledge come from? Do we really need justification? How and why do we believe? Does “revelation” count as knowledge? (This may be the most important question in the book for Christians.) And how certain can we be?

These topics are deeper than they sound, but you don’t need any background in philosophy to follow the discussion. If the book sounds dry, it’s not. I confess an interest in this discipline, because it’s not uncommon at all for two people to claim to know contradictory facts, judging themselves to be 100% certain of their knowledge, which only highlights how fallible we humans are. When the topic turns to religion, we affirm our “knowledge” with even more certainty.

In the end, certainty is less attainable than we imagine, and not as necessary as we might think. Most of the really interesting things we believe are things that we could possibly be wrong about.

Strongly recommended especially if you are new to the topic.
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DubiousDisciple | 1 other review | Mar 18, 2014 |
Wherever you turn, evil rears its ugly head. This book is the case for God in a world filled with pain, and it makes for a sober read.

Meister and Dew have collated a series of essays about the problem of evil, with noted theologians—twenty one in all—examining the issues through several different lenses. It’s an interesting collection, with a myriad of different tones … some aggressive (the New Atheists get put in their place), some philosophical, one almost apologetic. While there are differences of opinion, all essays are by evangelical Christians, so the presentation is admittedly one-sided.

There are two basic types of evil discussed in this sort of debate: natural and moral. Hurricane Sandy is an example of natural evil, while Hitler is an example of moral evil. The question is, what sort of loving, omnipotent God would allow either?

To these two, I would add a third type, because it is what disturbs me most: eternal damnation. I was glad to see this topic addressed as well, and glad to see it included in a discussion of evil. Seldom do I see apologists really do justice to the utter horror of the word “eternal.”

I’ll award a special thumbs up to those articles that I found most captivating:

* James K. Dew Jr. does a good job of laying out a brief historical review of the dilemma of evil.

* James Spiegel discusses “soul-making theodicy,” the argument that suffering is good for us, and it led me to some interesting research in the Bible.

* Chad Meister questions whether the “hiddenness” of God is an evil, and while the whole topic leaves me a bit nauseous, it opened my eyes to the way many Christians think. Many are genuinely baffled at why God does not reveal himself to everybody.

* Gregory E. Ganssle argues that the existence of evil not only fails to disprove God’s existence, but provides evidence for Christianity! I didn’t see that one coming!

* Two essays at the end are interesting, on Intelligent Design and the role of evil in evolution, though they are in conflict with one another. One is by known ID proponent William Dembski, and one by Karl W. Giberson teamed with Francis S. Collins.

* Finally, there is a transcript of a debate in the final pages of the book between a believer (William Lane Craig) and an atheist (Michael Tooley), which fails to inspire … the two miss each other like ships in the dark. I did chuckle, however, at Tooley’s argument that if Jesus were truly raised from the dead, it was surely by the evil Old Testament Yahweh whom Jesus worshipped rather than by “God,” the all-good, omni-everything being, Christians today worship. Who else would resurrect someone as vindictive as Jesus? I’m sure that went over well!
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DubiousDisciple | Jan 29, 2013 |

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