A Reader in the Philosophy of Religion: Select Topics

Key works on specialised philosophy of religion topics:

As my title would indicate the topic of the intersection of theology and philosophy is what is covered here. As such it is a massively broad and complex category, with tens of thousands of titles to consider. The philosophy of religion has to do with God, his existence, his nature, his relation to creation, his relation to evil, and so much more.

Those not put off with more daunting terminology will know that things like metaphysics, ontology, epistemology, ethics and other areas are covered here. In the history of Western thought both theologians and philosophers have wrestled with these weighty topics.

The books covering all this are far too many to even consider presenting a brief reading list. And just think of one massive subsection in this area: theodicy, or the problem of evil and suffering. How can a loving and wise God coexist with these things? A brief bibliography on this I have already posted: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2011/09/21/readings-in-theodicy/

So here I want to focus on just three other specialist areas within the broad field of the philosophy of religion. They are: God and time; divine impassibility; and divine immutability. Because the last two so very much overlap, I will present them together. I will offer a very short definition of each, and then list a number of volumes that I consider to be especially useful on those subjects.

God and time

There is so much ground that can be covered here. Just how do we understand God and his relationship to time? Is God in time or outside of time? Is God a temporal being, or an atemporal and/or supratemporal being? How do we understand eternity? Is God in an eternal now? How does an eternal God relate to a time-bound creation? Is divine foreknowledge compatible with human freedom? What about Molinism and ‘middle knowledge’?

Very briefly, the traditional Christian view has been that God has created both time and space, and therefore God is outside of both. But God is both transcendent and immanent, and therefore he can and does interact with both. Still, many questions arise as to how a non-physical being can interact with a physical world. And how can an eternal God interact with a temporal world. The 17 volumes offered here look in some detail at these and related questions.

Beilby, James, ed., Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views. IVP, 2001.
Craig, William Lane, The Only Wise God: The Compatibility of Divine Foreknowledge and Human Freedom. Wipf and Stock, 1987, 2000.
Craig, William Lane, Time and Eternity. Crossway Books, 2001.
Craig, William Lane, What Does God Know? Reconciling Divine Foreknowledge and Human Freedom. Wipf & Stock, 2023.
Cullman, Oscar, Christ and Time. SCM, 1962.
Deweese, Garrett, God and the Nature of Time. Ashgate Publishing, 2004.
Erickson, Millard, What Does God Know and When Does He Know It? Zondervan, 2003.
Ganssle, Gregory, ed., God and Time: Essays on the Divine Nature. Oxford University Press, 2002.
Ganssle, Gregory, ed., God and Time: Four Views. IVP, 2001.
Hasker, William, God, Time and Knowledge. Cornell University Press, 1989.
Helm, Paul, Eternal God. Clarendon Press, 1988.
Padgett, Alan, God, Eternity and the Nature of Time. Palgrave Macmillan: 1992.
Picirilli, Robert, God in Eternity and Time: A New Case for Human Freedom. B&H, 2022.
Pike, Nelson, God and Timelessness. Schocken Books, 1970.
Rice, Richard, God’s Foreknowledge and Man’s Free Will. Bethany House, 1985, 1980.
Roy, Steven, How Much Does God Foreknow? IVP, 2006.
Tapp, Christian and Edmund Runggaldier, eds., God, Eternity, and Time. Ashgate, 2011.

Divine impassibility and divine immutability

These two areas are not just closely related to each other but to the above section as well. The two main issues are these: immutability (does God change?) and impassibility (does God experience ‘passions,’ does God suffer, does God change in his emotional state?). Many of these books arose when the openness theologians came to the forefront a few decades ago. For a fuller but older bibliography on that movement – with both pro and con works – see here: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2006/12/13/everything-you-wanted-to-know-about-free-will-theism/

And of course there are thousands upon thousands of books on God in general: his nature, his attributes, his person, his works, and so on. Many of these books will have chapters on impassibility and immutability. See a short listing here of these more general works: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2013/01/16/recommended-reading-on-the-doctrine-of-god/

The books presented below focus primarily on these two matters, offering biblical, theological and philosophical discussions and assessments. Here then are 27 (of many) volumes that offer much of use in these debates. It will be noted that various perspectives on these issues are included here.

Image of All That Is in God: Evangelical Theology and the Challenge of Classical Christian Theism
All That Is in God: Evangelical Theology and the Challenge of Classical Christian Theism by James E. Dolezal (Author) Amazon logo

Baines, Ronald, et. al. eds., Confessing the Impassible God: The Biblical, Classical, & Confessional Doctrine of Divine Impassibility. Reformed Baptist Academic Press, 2015.
Barrett, Matthew, None Greater: The Undomesticated Attributes of God. Baker, 2019.
Castelo, Daniel, The Apathetic God. Wipf & Stock, 2009.
Creel, Richard, Divine Impassibility: An Essay in Philosophical Theology. Cambridge University Press, 1995.
Dolezal, James, All That Is in God: Evangelical Theology and the Challenge of Classical Christian Theism. Reformation Heritage Books, 2017.
Dolezal, James, God Without Parts: Divine Simplicity and the Metaphysics of God’s Absoluteness. Pickwick, 2011.
Frame, John, No Other God: A Response to Openness Theism. Presbyterian and Reformed, 2001.
Fretheim, Terence, God and World in the Old Testament: A Relational Theology of Creation. Abingdon, 2005.
Fretheim, Terence, The Suffering of God: An Old Testament Perspective. Fortress Press, 1984.
Huffman, Douglas and Eric Johnson, eds., God Under Fire. Zondervan, 2002.
Keating, James and Thomas Joseph White, eds., Divine Impassibility and the Mystery of Human Suffering. Eerdmans, 2009.
Kurtz, Ronni, No Shadow of Turning: Divine Immutability and the Economy of Redemption. Mentor, 2022.
Lamb, David, The Emotions of God. IVP, 2022
Lister, Rob, God Is Impassible and Impassioned: Toward a Theology of Divine Emotion. Crossway, 2012.
Matz, Robert and A. Chadwick Thornhill, eds., Divine Impassibility: Four Views of God’s Emotions and Suffering. IVP, 2019.
Moltmann, Jurgen, The Crucified God. Fortress Press, 1973, 2015.
Oord, Thomas Jay, Open and Relational Theology: An Introduction to Life-Changing Ideas. SacraSage Press, 2021.
Orr, Brian, A Classical Response to Relational Theism. Pickwick, 2022.
Renihan, Samuel, God without Passions: A Primer. Reformed Baptist Academic Press, 2015.
Renihan, Samuel, ed., God without Passions: A Reader. Reformed Baptist Academic Press, 2015.
Richards, Jay, The Untamed God: A Philosophical Exploration of Divine Perfection, Simplicity, and Immutability. IVP, 2003.
Ware, Bruce, God’s Greater Glory. Crossway, 2004.
Ware, Bruce, God’s Lesser Glory. Crossway Books, 2000.
Ware, Bruce, Their God is Too Small. Crossway Books, 2003.
Ware, Bruce, ed., Perspectives on the Doctrine of God: Four Views. B&H, 2008.
Weinandy, Thomas, Does God Change? St. Bedes, 1985.
Weinandy, Thomas, Does God Suffer? University of Notre Dame Press, 2000.

It should be noted that a few of the books I mention here I have elsewhere done full reviews of. They include:



Case study

If all of the above is leaving you a bit dazed and confused, you might want a more down to earth example of what is being discussed here. Consider the question of whether God changes – an issue covered in most of the books listed above. The Bible says throughout that he does not. And yet, some passages seem to indicate that he does – at least in relation to his creation.

A classic case in point would be God telling Jonah that he is going to destroy Nineveh in 40 days. Jonah (after a shaky start) goes there and calls on them to repent – they do, and judgment is averted. God had relented or changed his position on their judgment (see Jonah 3:10).

So does God change then or not? Well, I discuss this in various places, such as here: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2024/03/26/does-god-repent-and-change-his-mind/

Classic theism has always put it this way: God in his very being, his nature, and his character does not and cannot change. He is ontologically immutable. But God in his relations with us can and does change. He is relationally mutable.

As Bruce Ware for example puts it: “It seems clear that God’s relational mutability is in many cases simply an expression of his ethical immutability. That is, because God is faithful to his promise, when the moral situation of his creatures changes, his faithfulness to his own pledge and promise requires that he change in appropriate ways in relation to them.” (2004, p. 143)

Sometimes we read in the philosophy of religion about a “Cambridge change” as distinguished from a real change. This means (in this case) that a change has taken place, but not a change in God. Consider this example: On August 19, 1971, Bill became a Christian. Before that date, we could not say of God that he was believed in by Bill. After that date we could say that he was. A change has taken place, but not a change in God.

So in a sense God had ‘changed’ in relation to Nineveh. But often prophetic warnings are conditional in nature. If a person – or nation – repents, the promised judgment will not occur. But bear in mind as well that Nineveh was eventually judged by God (see the book of Nahum). So in another sense God did do what he had warned about.

These then are some of the things that theologians, philosophers and ordinary Christians consider in this field of the philosophy of religion. What is discussed and debated may seem at times to be abstract and obtuse matters that we need not concern ourselves with, but they do very much have to do with the God we love and serve, and with how we understand him and his word.

So for those of you who are so inclined, happy reading. You will find much of value in the books offered here.

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