After taking a Philosophy of Religion class this semester, I decided to read through a different intro book than the one we were assigned for class toAfter taking a Philosophy of Religion class this semester, I decided to read through a different intro book than the one we were assigned for class to see how it compared. Personally, I thought this book was better than the one we read in class (for me at least) because it seemed to be aimed more at a basic understanding of the topic on an academic level whereas Thinking about God: First Steps in Philosophyseemed to leave the reader a little less informed. I would definitely recommend the other book for someone in a church wanting a basic understanding of the how to approach their beliefs on a philosophical level, but for a class, I felt that this was more effective and informative. At times, Evans writs in such a way that someone new to the field may not know what's going on, so it didn't get a five star rating. Nonetheless, it was worth going thorough, and I plan to recommend it to my professor. ...more
(Adapted from a longer review submitted for class) The question of how postmodernism will impact the church is one that has troubled theologians and la(Adapted from a longer review submitted for class) The question of how postmodernism will impact the church is one that has troubled theologians and laymen alike for several decades. Although many have rejected then ideas of postmodernism outright, some people, such as Dr. John Caputo, have begged the church to embrace this controversial rejection of modernism. In his work, Dr. Caputo not only advocates that Christians should conform to postmodern philosophy, but also that even Jesus embraced deconstruction in His actions and teachings.
Through relating postmodernism to the social gospel, Caputo advocates for the church to deconstruct how it operates in much the same way that he feels Christ did. Caputo instructs the reader to reject the conservative "right wing" Christian perspective through the process of deconstructing the church culture that has been built up and has choked out the radical love that should be intrinsic to those in the Kingdom of God.
Although Caputo expects the reader to take his work as an academic text, it falls far short of this goal until halfway through the work (at which point it becomes at best acceptable). Dr Caputo feels the insatiable urge to draw political lines in a way that not only fails to support his presuppositions but also that manages to bully a straw man of his opposition. In fact Dr Caputo cannot even get one page into the first chapter before he belittles the ambiguous “Right” (19). Although I even agree with Caputo on some of his ideas, his petty slander and rhetorical banter - which he considers critique - of the right wing position is obnoxious even to a moderate, surely swaying few outside of his own political camp. Quite honestly, if it had been a conservative writing the statements that Caputo makes in his first three chapters I would expect liberals to tear that author to shreds.
On top of the straw man arguments, Caputo's early chapters are riddled with informal logical fallacies. Caputo makes numerous tu quoque, red herring, ad populum, post hoc, and appeal to authority arguments that I caught in my quick read-through of the text. For example, in one sentence Caputo attempts to demonstrate how letters can be corrupted by saying that the original text, “…may get lost…or altered or misquoted over several centuries (which has happened to the Scriptures),” (47). Where someone would expect justification for such an obscure parenthetical claim as this, Caputo gives no more than an endnote in which he cites not only a portion, but the entire book of Misquoting Jesus by Bart Ehrman as his infallible source for such a weighty assumption, leaving the reader with no more than an appeal to authority as justification for his statement (142). One of his most pointed arguments on the topic of abortion is that conservatives are just as wrong for preemptive strikes in battle and supporting capital punishment as liberals are for supporting abortion (113). In fairness to Dr Caputo he does present abortion as despicable – a necessary evil of sorts – and as a shade of gray instead of merely supporting it as acceptable, but one would expect such tu quoque arguments to be recognized as such in a philosophical work if presented at all. One interesting observation the text is that at one point the author even asserts that he is writing this book philosophically and proclaims himself to be a philosopher. Right after making this claim, he tacks on, “…you may have noticed!” (117). Dr. Caputo seems to be a brilliant and distinguished professor, and I desire not to question his intellect, his character, or his status as a philosopher. Ignoring this self-proclamation of status and critiquing his arguments alone for fairness to the author, Dr. Caputo's book fails to present an overall argument that is either logically valid or that even attempts to be objective or fair to his opposition.
I think that Dr. Caputo had something worth saying, but it did not come out well. Once he stopped attacking his opponents on nearly every page and started making actual arguments at around chapter four, the book proved valuable. Even though they still had numerous fallacious arguments, Caputo’s last three chapters proved to be closer to the level one would expect in an academic text. Where Caputo feels that deconstruction is the answer, I think he goes too far in his conclusions, and I believe that his Gospel has been neutered by Schleiermacher. I personally feel that Caputo's idea of deconstruction in the context of Christianity has a lot in common with the idea of repentance from hardheartedness and hypocrisy, and that being the case, one could simply argue that the church just needs to repent of its blatant ignorance of social issues in the world around it and leave out the whole deconstruction idea altogether. But this surely would not support Caputo's political goals which seem so crucial to the text; therefore, we have received a work that leans heavily on a controversial philosophy in order to divisively oppose those who disagree with its political presuppositions. Nonetheless, many of his concerns on social justice issues are very legitimate concerns that should be addressed. If Dr. Caputo wants to convince his opposition, however, he must change his tactics, for even those on the fence find many of his statements to be nothing more than bitter and biased ramblings....more