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on October 12, 1999
I understand why Swinburne closes this volume with some "dissatisfaction," because it is a very brief distillation and summary of his much more detailed work elsewhere and it does, as he readily admits, invite any number of critical replies he does not have room to address. Nevertheless this volume is a good introduction to his thought.
Be warned: the God of Swinburne's "natural theology" does not quite have all the attributes one expects in the God of traditional theism. His God is not, for example, "eternal" (in the sense "outside of time altogether," though he is "everlasting"), nor (therefore) does He have full foreknowledge of what His creatures will do, nor is He sovereign over moral law.
Swinburne's basic idea is that although no particular argument clinches the case for God, several arguments together render His existence altogether more likely than not. And, according to Swinburne, He provides an explanation for scientific law in the sense that His existence explains why there are such laws at all.
In this work, written as a popular reply to Richard Dawkins and Stephen Hawking, Swinburne boils down his arguments to the bare minimum and aims to present them readably to a popular audience. He does it well, though the interested reader is referred to his other work for details.
He is probably at his least convincing in dealing with theodicy and the problem of evil. But other reviewers have already commented on that, so I'll say no more about it here.
All in all, if you are looking for an introduction to Swinburne's thought, this book is an excellent choice.
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on September 23, 1999
As an open-minded atheist, I must say this book wasn't bad. It got me thinking...however, I don't think that because of the astonishing complexity of our universe, it necessarily reveals one, immortal God. Swinburne's book was difficult to grasp at times, but I hung in there and didn't worry about some of those parts.
The fact that he says our complex universe essentially purports the theistic God is completely false and incoherent. The universe is compatible with polytheism, deism, and a finite being. The cosmological argument for the theistic God is severely flawed. Anyways, I found Swinburne insightful and wonderful. His exceptional work has been brought to my attention in some senses.
He is by far my favorite xian philosopher. I hope to enjoy some of his other critiques on xianity inasmuch as I enjoyed this one. I think that Richard Dawkins is really awesome. Swinburne didn't do a very good job of refuting Dawkins. There were some obvious gaps in Swinburne's refutations.
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on December 22, 1997
In "Is There a God?" Swinburne seeks to provide a less sophisticated version of the case for theism which appears in his classic "The Existence of God" (1979). While accomplishing his task with great brevity, I concur with the previous reviewer that this book may not be accessible to the lay audience. Swinburne's arguments are characteristically erudite and will require considerable attention on the part of readers.

Although this book may not acheive its intended success in the mass market, I consider it an excellent introduction to Swinburne's work. From that standpoint, "Is There a God?" may be used as a primer to his more substantial scholarly writings.

In this present title, Swinburne's first ("God"), third ("The Simplicity of God") and sixth ("Why God Allows Evil") chapters are particularly noteworthy. His two-page epilogue summarizes with great clarity one's responsibilities should theism be true.

--David A. Frenz
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on October 8, 2001
It is entirely possible that I am hopelessly bound to enjoy Swinburne's book. After all, he arrives scientifically at "theistic" conclusions that I already believe in by way of faith alone. At any rate, I tried to distance myself from religious presuppositions and read the book in as "unbiased" a fashion as I could. Swinburne's conclusions seemed to be very REASONABLE. I liked this excerpt, from chapter 4: "It is extraordinary that there should exist anything at all. Surely the most natural state of affairs is simply nothing: no universe, no God, nothing. But there is something. And so many things. Maybe chance could have thrown up the odd electron. But so many particles! Not everything will have an explanation. But the whole progress of science and all other intellectual enquiry demands that we postulate the smallest number of brute facts. If we can explain the many bits of the universe by one simple being which keeps them in existence, we should do so - even if inevitably we cannot explain the existence of that simple being."
In a limited way, Swinburne's work responds to many ideas postulated in books such as Richard Dawkin's "The Blind Watchmaker" (1986) and Stephen Hawking's "A Brief History of Time" (1988)... books which carry the suggestion that there is no God who is in any way involved in the sustaining of the universe. Swinburne's special field of expertise is in Philosophy of Religion, and as such, he is able to show us that "it is not a rational conclusion to suppose that explanation stops where science does". He presents a convincing argument that theism is the best explanation for the conformity of nature to formula, and the vast, all pervasive temporal order that characterizes the known universe. Why is there a universe AT ALL? Why is there ANY life on earth? HOW is it that discoverable scientific laws operate in the universe? Reading this book will help you to consider that perhaps the best answers to these questions can be offered by someone who allows for the existence of God.
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