Preface

My aim in this book is to survey and comment on recent work by Anglo-American philosophers of religion in the analytic tradition on the doctrines of the Christian creed. There are good reasons for restricting the book's scope, for the most part, to this tradition, as I trust the first chapter will make clear. The principal reason is that philosophical analysis is really no more than a tool for exploring and clarifying a set of ideas. It does not in any way attempt to impose an alien system on Christian theology. It simply takes a given subject matter, in this case, the doctrines of the creed, and examines them for their meaning and plausibility. The skills and methods of philosophical analysis have been applied to these doctrines, in the work surveyed here, chiefly in order to probe and explain their coherence. Whether or not they are true is another matter. But their truth or falsity cannot be fairly assessed until we have as clear and profound a picture as possible ofwhat it is that they are claiming to be true.

The central chapters of the book, chapters 3—7, are devoted to discussion of the way in which philosophical analysis has been applied to the five core doctrines of Creation, Incarnation, Trinity, Salvation and Eschatology (the ultimate future of creation, as Christianity envisages it). But these chapters are prefaced and supplemented by chapters on revelation and providence (or special divine action), since these themes are pervasive themes, presupposed and exemplified throughout the Christian creeds. Moreover the themes of revelation and providence have been subjected to just as much philosophical scrutiny as the core doctrines themselves by the philosophers of religion whose work is under examination here.

The great virtue of the work surveyed in this book is its clarity. I hope that, when readers see how Christian doctrine can be, and has been, scrutinized in this way, they will be encouraged to explore these matters further for themselves.

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