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Hugo Meynell and the Christian Doctrine

Hugo Meynell’s book is a clear example of the growing interest in apologetics. Meynell considers four common objections to Christian doctrine, the belief in God is morally irrelevant; that there is no reason to believe in the special claims of Christianity over those of non-Christian religions. Meynell, also says no sense can be made of the doctrines of Incarnation, Atonement, and the Trinity and that Christian doctrine about life after death is based upon an indefensible view of the nature of human persons-and shows to his own views that these remarks can be met. It should be noted that Meynell on the prior assumption that God exists. This is not because Meynell takes that assumption to be indefensible or incapable of demonstration; it is rather that the existence of God is not his topic in this book.Meynell’s strategy in his chapter on the relevance of theism, he begins by arguing that belief in God does have specifically moral effects upon those who have. It enables us to act upon our beliefs about what it is right for us to do, and enables us to correct our pressing and depressing tendencies toward self-deception and self-interest. And he then argues that philosophical challenges to this view of the relations between theism and right action fail. The principal challenge he has in mind is the claim that Socrates’ question in the Euthyphro-whether the gods love what is good because it is good, or whether what they love is good merely because they love it- cannot be answered. The main point of the chapter is not that theists are better people than atheists. It is concluded that theists do not agree to abandon their belief that theism is relevant to moral beliefs and actions.Meynell…

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…stressing is Meynell’s apparently blithe ignorance of the best recent constructive work by Christian philosophers on topics of central concern to him. In addition to those I mentioned in the first paragraph of this review, Meynell should take some account of the work of such as Robert Adams, Bill Wainwright, and Bill Alston. Engaging and using their work would have supported and improved his.But these are cavils. Meynell’s work is full of intellectual energy, is a delight to read, and argues for theses that are largely true. And it is written by a man who can use the word “forsooth” with panache and can appeal to P. G. Wodehouse in the context of a discussion of the Trinity. What more could one want?

Paul J. Griffiths is Associate Professor in the Divinity School and in the Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago.

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