Now I'm getting the chance to read books I didn't have time for before. Think of me whenever you see the slogan "So many books, so little time!" Now I've got the time. Cheers, Fred.
Between Faith and Doubt: Dialogues on Religion and Reason
- Book Type:
John Hick (1922-2012), a world-renowned philosopher of religion, taught in the U.K. and the U.S. and lectured in many countries. His Gifford lectures – An Interpretation of Religion – received the Grawemeyer Award for new religious thinking. (For his books I’ve read, click on his name.)
Here is the summary from my paperback’s back cover: “This book takes the form of a dialogue between the philosopher of religion John Hick and someone – anyone – who is a religious skeptic or is somewhere between faith and doubt. Neither of them is dogmatic and their discussion is honest and fair. It covers a range of questions, including:
• Can God’s existence be proved?
• Is religious experience authentic, particularly in the light of modern neuroscience?
• Can there be a good God, or a friendly universe, when there is so much pain and suffering?
• Can there be a life after death?
Between Faith and Doubt also includes some fascinating autobiographical revelations of Hick’s evangelical conversion and subsequent development to much more liberal beliefs; of being involved in a heresy trial; of being in an earthquake; of his own powerful religious experience; and of witnessing a materializing séance.”
This book’s Amazon.com website is
The book’s Table of Contents, which can be read online by using the option Click to LOOK INSIDE, lists the titles of the 15 dialogues between John (Hick) and his well-informed but skeptical (imaginary) friend David. Ch. 10 – Implications for Christianity – brings in another character, Grace, described as an ‘ordinary churchgoing Christian’. In his dialogue with her, he informs her of many things of which she wasn’t aware – so John lays the groundwork for her to attain the important first steps towards spiritual maturity. Grace was unusually receptive (for an ‘ordinary churchgoing Christian’) to John’s discussions about aspects of Christianity of which she was poorly informed. But since she is Hick’s creation, I think he gave her the open and inquiring mind that any philosopher/theologian hopes to be speaking to. All too often they speak to those with dogmatic closed minds.
The first six pages of the 12-pp Ch. 1 – Defining the Issue: Naturalism vs. Religion – are available online. I highly recommend reading these pages, for they give you the style of the discussions between John and David. Since the book’s brief Preface is not available online, I give it here – it is repetitive of some of the back cover’s summary, but I prefer to read John Hick’s own words:
“This short book is meant for you if you are highly skeptical about religion, but not ready to dismiss it entirely, or if you are somewhere on the spectrum between faith and doubt. It consists in a series of dialogues between an imaginary person, David, and someone else, John – me – who does believe, on the basis of religious experience, that there is a higher reality beyond the physical and the human.
“The dialogues deal with the big questions facing us all. Is there any good reason to believe in God? Or is God a delusion? And what exactly do we mean by God? If not the traditional God of the churches, is there ‘something there’ in addition to the material universe of which we are a part? Are the occasional unusual ‘peak’ moments which many people have experienced momentary glimpses of a larger spiritual environment? Is it rational to trust such experiences? If so, what does this show us about the meaning of life? And about what happens after death? In each case both sides of the argument are presented by David and John.
“In the dialogues I have sometimes referred to my own experiences during quite a long life – not only moments of compelling religious experience but also the experience of encountering other religions, of being in an earthquake, of being the subject of a heresy trial, of witnessing materialization mediumship.
“Some readers may be tempted to skip Dialogues 8 and 9 on neuroscience, thinking that they may be too technical. But I hope that they will resist the temptation and at least look at these pages, for the technical terms are translated into plain English and the information there is in fact rather interesting and the issues very important.”
Although I had already read all of the topics covered by John Hick in this book, I was very happy to read them again in this rather abbreviated dialogue style in this delightful little book. I give it my highest rating of five stars, but I add to that by saying: “Think six stars!”