International Society for Science & Religion - Library Project

The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Religion

edited by Chad Meister , Paul Copan

Introductory Essay by Philip Clayton

For decades, collections of essays have served to introduce students and other scholars to the field called “philosophy of religion”. Especially in the mid- and late-20th century, when Anglo-American or “analytic” philosophy dominated, these collections defined the field. Invariably they were focused on the Christian tradition, and often they were explicitly and exclusively Christian. Standard topics included the nature of knowledge about God; the “big three” arguments for the existence of God (the ontological, cosmological, and teleological arguments), along with arguments from morality and religious experience; objections to the existence of God, especially from the problem of evil; theodicies, that is, ways to “justify” God in the face of evil; philosophical analyses of the attributes of God; and sometimes an analysis of religious experience and mysticism.

Of late, these anthologies have begun to include some reference to other religions and to the long history of philosophical reflection about religious questions. This evolution coincides with the increased prominence of comparative religious studies and the new discipline of comparative theology.

The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Religion represents the best available one-volume introduction to the philosophy of religion. The volume opens with seven chapters on the different kinds of philosophical issues that arise across the world’s religions. In addition to the five religions that are inevitably included, the editors have included chapters on African religions and Chinese religions. Some common themes notwithstanding, reading these seven chapters reveals how different the conceptual issues are that have preoccupied philosophers in different religious traditions.

The next section of the book includes ten chapters on important historical figures. Here Hindu, Jewish, and Muslim figures are included, as is Friedrich Nietzsche, the crucial atheist voice at the end of the 19th century. Part III examines the topic of religious diversity in a series of six well-written articles by some of the leading figures in this field (e.g., John Hick on religious pluralism and Louis Dupré on mysticism among the world’s religions). Harold Netland offers helpful reflections on inclusivism and exclusivism; and Michael Levine, author of an excellent book on pantheism, analyzes non-theistic conceptions of the divine.

The central sections of the book explore core categories in traditional philosophy of religion: seven chapters on the attributes of God, six chapters on arguments for God’s existence, and six chapters on objections to the existence of God. Specifically Christian concepts of God are reserved for Part VIII, which helps to distinguish explicitly Christian concerns from more generic concepts of God.

Readers unsure of the difference between philosophy of religion and philosophical theology are directed to Part VII. Here, for example, Pamela Anderson presents postmodern theology and John Cobb defends process theology. A set of three chapters contrasts Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant theologies. The volume closes with seven chapters devoted to specific topics in the field that have received much attention of late, including feminism, religious naturalism, and a chapter on religion and science by Mikael Stenmark.

This is an excellent overview for anyone wishing to explore the fields of philosophy of religion and philosophical theology. It also serves as a foundational text for many of the more specific books on religion and science found elsewhere in this Library.