(CEN) Paul Richardson reviews Richard Swinburne’s new book ‘Are We Bodies or Souls?’

Richard Swinburne is a leading philosopher of religion who has played a major role in making a case for Christian belief. As well as writing academic books on the existence of God, the coherence theism, the atonement and the nature of faith and many other topics he has also written a number of more accessible popular books such Is There a God?, The Resurrection of God Incarnate, and Was Jesus God? A practising member of the Eastern Orthodox Church, he deserves to be hailed as one of the greatest living apologists for Christianity.

The soul has long been of interest to Swinburne. The Evolution of the Soul appeared in 1986 and recently he has written Mind, Brain and Free Will. This new book represents an attempt by Swinburne to present his views on the soul in a more accessible way. It is not always easy going but it is worth the careful attention it demands. Swinburne is a strong advocate of substance dualism, arguing that the soul can exist without the body but the body cannot exist without the soul, and he claims this point of view can appeal to atheists as well as to religious believers.

Discussing religious beliefs, he agrees that it is logically possible a soul could become attached to a new body as in re-incarnation but argues the evidence for this is not strong enough. He alludes to Christian and Islamic belief that souls continue after death and are joined to new or revived bodies but declines to discuss this.

What Swinburne does provide is a robust and slightly modified version of Descartes’ argument and a refutation of the idea that mental events are no more than events in the brain….

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Posted in Apologetics, Books, Theology

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