Top Shelf Book Recommends with Gary Michuta

by Gary Michuta January 12, 2018

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Which books belong on the top shelf of your apologetics library? I’m Gary Michuta and welcome to top shelf book recommends, where you get to peak at which books populate the top shelf of my library.

Today, more than ever, we have a flood of solid defenses of the faith rolling off the presses, and one area of apologetics that has received an infusion of solid resources is in the area of theistic or natural apologetics.  So our top shelf book recommend for today comes from that category.  It's a new book written by philosopher Edward Feser and it’s called Five Proofs for the Existence of God.  Now, many of you may already be familiar with Dr. Feser's other works such as his book on scholastic metaphysics, Aquinas, and probably most notably The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism.  But it’s Feser’s five proofs that has made it to my top shelf book recommends, simply because it's solid, it's clear, and I think it's innovative, in that it introduces the reader to more than just your typical five ways of St. Thomas. 

So you’re probably asking yourself, well what are those ways that he covers?  Well let me tell you.  First, he tackles the Aristotelian proof for the existence of God, arguing from potency and act.  Then he tackles the Neoplatonic proof which was put forward by the pagan philosopher Plotinus, which deals with composition and simplicity.  I very much appreciate that section. I thought it was a very interesting approach and it might even be one of my favorite approaches now.  He deals with the Augustinian proof using abstract objects and showing how they’re ultimately anchored in a divine intellect.  The Thomistic proof, which deals with essence and existence.  And finally the Rationalist proof, which focuses on the principle of sufficient reason and arguing from that to a necessary cause.

Dr. Feser also dedicates two chapters to what's commonly misunderstood about the aspects of the theistic case for God.  One chapter he deals with the nature of God and His divine attributes, and the other chapter with seven common objections to natural theology in general.  Now throughout his book, Feser does a nice job striking a good balance between giving enough examples so as to provide an adequate illustration of important ideas, but not so much that the reader forgets what the original idea was, or what it's trying to describe. Or put another way, he gives enough examples so that those who are familiar with philosophy can quickly understand what he’s getting to, but not so much that the informed reader will get bored.  This is not an easy balance to strike, but I think he does so masterfully throughout the book.  He also does an excellent job clarifying and simplifying these arguments.   If anyone has ever attempted to read Plutonis or Leibnitz, you’ll appreciate Dr. Feser's work in this regard.

Another feature I really appreciate about this book is that, he is very familiar with objections and interacting with anti-theistic arguments.  He shows a real appreciation of opponents and he takes aim at some of the worst misunderstandings, misrepresentations, errors commonly posed to the proofs for the existence of God.  Particularly, I think he does an outstanding job drilling down on one of the most common errors which is the misrepresentation that Aquinas's proofs argue that everything has a cause  And what he does here is, he doesn’t just deal with it on a philosophical level, but using an essay written by W. Norris Clark, traces the historical roots of this argument, or this error.  So this Russell-Hume straw man position or error has spread like an infection throughout anti-theistic argumentation. So I believe Frazier deserves credit for not only exposing this error for what it is, but also tracing for us the historic pedigree of this error, so we can find out where exactly things went wrong.

He does a fine job interacting with common objections and this also is perhaps one of the few drawbacks of this book.  Dr. Feser tries to eliminate straw man arguments to address common objections as the work goes on.  So, as he’s dealing with each proof for the existence of God there is, maybe by design, a repetition of the same objections being addressed and re-addressed.  Another small fault is that, and I think it's because he is quite ambitious, sometimes I think he is a little bit too daring trying to address everything, for example, the objection of the problem of evil.  Quite frankly that needs to be addressed in a book length defense, it really can't be treated with a few paragraphs.  So in that way, the book does suffer a little bit but on the other hand, you know, you have got to hand it to him for at least trying to address these problems.  Overall, I think this is a great book.  It's solid and it’s definitely a force to be reckoned with in the area of theistic or natural apologetics.  I definitely place this book in the must have category for every person who is serious about learning and defending the faith.  Feser’s book is published by Ignatius press and is available online.  So until next time, I’m Gary Michuta,  thank you for watching.

Gary Michuta
Gary Michuta


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