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The Coherence of Theism$

Richard Swinburne

Print publication date: 1993

Print ISBN-13: 9780198240709

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0198240708.001.0001

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(p.v) Preface to Revised Edition

(p.v) Preface to Revised Edition

The Coherence of Theism
Oxford University Press

The Coherence of Theism, first published in 1977, was concerned with the meaning and coherence of the claim that there is a God. It proved to be the first volume of a trilogy on theism—The Existence of God (1979) on the worth of arguments for and against the existence of God, and Faith and Reason (1981) on the relevance of arguments to religious faith.

While remaining in full sympathy with the general approach and main conclusions of the book, I have come——in the course of subsequent writing——to change or clarify my views on several relatively minor matters, and these changes and clarifications are incorporated into this revised edition. I have amended my account of omnipotence in Chapters 9 and 14 so as to make it clear that it allows for the impossibility of God committing suicide. I have amended my account of omniscience in Chapter 10 so as to allow for the fact (which I denied in 1977) that there are propositions which can only be known by certain persons at certain times, and so as to allow for the fact that God does not normally ‘bind the future’. I have amended certain passages in which I discuss moral issues in order to make clear the difference within the realm of the morally good between the obligatory and the supererogatory, a difference which I now believe to be very important for morality. Finally, and most importantly, I now believe that an argument given in 1977 towards the end of Chapter 12 to the effect that there can only be one personal ground of being, i.e. one God, is fallacious. There can be more than one such if they are related to each other in a certain sort of way, viz., in the way in which Christian theology represents them as related in the Holy Trinity. I do not discuss this ( matter fully in the revised Chapter 12, but merely refer to the possibility; I expect to treat it more fully in due course.

Apart from the above amendments, The Coherence of Theism is virtually unchanged and seems to me to give a correct account of the nature of the God whose existence was affirmed in The Existence of God. At the end of the 1977 Introduction, I expressed the need for theology to return to the standards of clear and rigorous argument characteristic of some earlier centuries. It is good, fifteen years later, to be able to record the emergence, within Anglo‐American philosophy, of a small genre of philosophical theology satisfying that need, and having an influence within theology and philosophy generally.

R. G. S.