The current paper studies and analyzes the book “The Existence of God” written by Richard Swinburne. The author of the book is the perfect representative of the rational theism that was argued to be the serious proponent of contemporary argumentative theism. In the end of the 20th century, there was a new wave of uprising of the New Atheism, which gave the new push to the series of religious discussions that were all connected to the basic issues of God’s existence.
Within the book, Swinburne, as the philosopher in science and the authoritative figure within the sphere of inductive logic, develops his own methodology for the assessment of the competing hypotheses considering the issues of God’s existence. It is necessary to underline that the author focuses on the Bayesian approach, or the Bayes’ Theorem, with the concentration of the conditional probability and methods of intrinsic probability, confirmation theory and simple hypotheses.
Moreover, the author pays attention to the question of probabilities and the deductive and inductive arguments, trying to decrease the usage of mathematical quotations. All this makes the research extremely complex and deep, fully representing the full observation of issues with the attention to all the basic aspects of theories and hypotheses within the problem of God’s existence.
The book is the specific representation of Swinburne’s signature positions with the revealed unique methodological research. The book has consternated in the questions that represent special interest of theological specialists and researchers, as well as the New Atheists and their opponents that seek for the information considering the question of the existence of God and the argumentation of the claim.
The book is deep and interesting, with the specific ideas and hypotheses and the unique position of the author that has interesting argumentation and support. The development of thoughts within the book gives the ability to analyze the issue by oneself. Therefore, it is a perfect example of the modern theology that is necessary to be studied and researched.
The first approach used within the book is the question for probabilities. The author provides the series of arguments that support the theory of God’s existence giving the impression of intelligence and honesty. This type of theism is not highly valued, although it gives the broad observation of the required evidence that is closely connected to the topic.
Swinburne gives the initial quarter of his book to the presentation of theory of probability and logic, as this will be his main tool within the research. There are also a few moments mentioning the idea of God’s existence within this part of the book, as it is the so-called preparatory material, the base for the ongoing hypotheses presentation, evaluation and argumentation.
When the author gets to the main idea, he starts with the intrinsic probability and explanatory power of theism as the strong beginning of his research. He also presets the series of classical arguments, such as teleological, cosmological and historical argument, the arguments of morality and providence, the experience of miracle and religion and arguments from consciousness. All this formed the bright and colorful observation of the issues with the accents made on the different aspects of the problem.
Finally, in the second part of the appendices, Swinburne discussed the contemporary argument of the universe fine-tuning, as this modern approach has gained the real popularity within the society that has been followed by the specific reports within mass media, inspired by the new theory.
The author underlines his own view, considering the new approach as the ones that strongly supports and enhances the probability of God’s existence. As the experienced specialist, Swinburne does not seek the absolute proof for the hypothesis. Therefore, he collects the number of weaker arguments, which he claimed to be less strong supporters for the hypothesis, although all of them in complex make the idea of God’s existence more probable than not. Swinburne here divides the arguments into three main categories:
- Deductive arguments
- P-inductive arguments
- C-inductive arguments
The first group denotes to the arguments that make final conclusions certain, in case all the premises are accepted. These arguments, like the Holy Grail, are extremely difficult to oppose or come by. The second group represents inductive arguments that confirm the hypothesis on some particular way, although they do not make it absolutely certain. P-inductive arguments make the final conclusion more probable than not.
Therefore, the C-inductive arguments, on the other hand, are even weaker than the second ones, and they are only making the conclusion a little but more probable than it otherwise would have been, without any strong support. These arguments can be seen as the main evaluation criteria, as they give us the ability to see whether the basic arguments represented within the book are strong, objective, reasonable and trustworthy.
The strong support of the main ideas, arguments and evidence is the way to evaluate theories and ideas of the author, his research and analysis of the issue. It is also important to underline that the author, as any experienced scientist and specialist within the serious number of scientific spheres, also provides examples from different sciences, such as physics, biology, history, chemistry, etc.
Within the book, Swinburne immediately states the main thesis of his research. It can be found in the Introduction and is extremely important for the general understanding of the whole work, “to reach a conclusion about whether on balance the arguments indicate that there is a God or that there is not’" (Swinburne 1). At the end of the book the author provides an answer, although it is necessary to mention that the main argument of the book is sober and measured. Despite the fact that the author uses a clear methodology within the book, that is the perfect support for the objective and argumentative observation of the issues, the length of the book goes against his own desire for the simplicity.
Therefore, it can be seen that the book has not fully achieved its main goal. The probabilistic arguments used by the author through the book make the accent on the claim that simple hypotheses have more changes to be true. This argument is used to evaluate more complex arguments as less probable and, therefore, give them less attention and value. In this area, the book suggests the possibility of God’s existence, supported by simpler arguments.
Also, the main idea is used as the major argument, as the idea of God’s existence works of the simplification of everything in the world, the existence of the whole universe and everything within it. The position of the author is interesting, although not that strong as the arguments that are provided within the book are not strong enough to be true. Since the arguments that do not mention with the official version of the God’s existence question have to be really strong and properly supported to conquer the beliefs of the bigger part of the society.
As a person with certain beliefs and considerations, I want to underline that my own experience does not truly mention with the arguments proposed by the author within the book, although I find them interesting and important to analyze.
The book provides the broad observation of the issues connected with the question of God’s existence. The perfect methodology sued by Swinburne give the ability to fully observe and analyze the key arguments, as well as it is possible to see less strong notions. This demonstrated the weak side of the probability of God’s existence, as the author does not seek for the absolute truth in his research, as he understands that the absolute truth cannot be found within such a complex issue.
The book is the perfect answer to the tendencies that can be seen within the theological groups and the rest of society, with the uprising of the basic questions, considering the existence of God, the existence of the entire universe and the purpose of life.
The New atheists, that began to develop their viewpoints in the end of the 20th century, have also been the moving force for the development of the proper argumentation of the idea of the existence of God - the main idea of the research. The perfect methodology with division of the key arguments is the perfect base for the arguments evaluation of the whole research and the author’s argumentation. The series of complex arguments are considered to be weak and not supporting the main idea.
Therefore, the serious number of the major proofs that are widespread with the contemporary society are considered to be unreliable and over evaluated. The general characteristic that can be given to the book is that it demonstrates all characteristics of the rational theism, and the theological views.
Swinburne, R. (2004). The existence of God. UK: Claredon Press.