This month we asked 10 rabbis, philosophers, and teachers a single question: What books would you recommend to someone seeking intellectual ammunition for his belief in 1) the existence of G-d? and 2) the divinity of the Bible? Their answers follow:
Radical Then, Radical Now by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks (published in America as A Letter in the Scroll). In it he argues that the Torah has a view of the individual and of power structures that is radically different than anything that existed in the ancient world. His claim is that there are just too many leaps, too many new ideas that would have been counter-intuitive for any one person or group to happen upon them – especially since, taken as a whole, they seem to serve no particular interest group.
— Rabbi Joshua Berman, professor of Bible, Bar-Ilan University
1) One needs to become aware of the arguments for and against the existence of G-d from someone who knows logic and the probability calculus, so the best book of that kind – even though I don’t agree with all its conclusions – is Logic and Theism by Jordan Howard Sobel.
2) Believing the accounts in the Bible requires some sort of argument for miracles, which raises two matters. One is the myth that there is some sort of powerful philosophical argument by David Hume against the credibility of miracle reports. My book, Hume, Holism, and Miracles, tries to show that there is no such powerful argument, as does John Earman’s Hume’s Abject Failure.
The other issue – if there’s no philosophical problem – is historical: Did the Sea of Reeds actually part? etc. The best book to read on this subject is A Survey of Old Testament Introduction by Gleason Archer.
— David Johnson, professor of philosophy, Yeshiva University
Usually people think math is difficult and faith questions are easy. But the opposite is true: with some effort, any high school kid can handle math, but faith questions have been dealt with for millennia by the greatest minds. The problem is that faith is not spoken about, and therefore there are faith crises. Like certain important limbs in the body, the crisis of faith is not felt until it begins to ache.
I don’t recommend Maimonides for this purpose, as his works are too complicated. These books, however, may suit: 1) Kuzari by Rabbi Yehuda Halevi, 2) Chovot HaLevavot (Duties of the Heart) by Rabbenu Bechayei, and 3) Iggrot Tzafon (The Nineteen Letters) by Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch.
— Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, world-famous author and thinker
Three books about the existence of G-d come to mind: 1) There Is a God by Anthony Flew, a famous philosopher who wrote one of the most important articles in the 20th century defending atheism, but later in life changed his mind and became a believer. This brief book explains why.
2) God and the Philosophers, edited by Thomas Morris, a collection of essays by noted philosophers explaining how they reconcile faith and reason, and why they believe in G-d.
3) Gerald Schroeder’s The Hidden Face of God, which argues for the existence of G-d based upon scientific evidence.
— Rabbi Moshe Sokol, professor of Jewish Philosophy and dean, Lander College
I am not sure that “intellectual ammunition” is what we should be after, as if we were inquiring as part of some intellectual war. Intellectual wars with others about these issues are rarely productive, and for those who are at war with themselves, books are not usually the answer.
But for those who are concerned about whether their emunah is intellectually responsible, I would recommend Alvin Plantinga’s Warranted Christian Belief – a philosophical tour de force – and the section of Plantinga’s Where the Conflict Really Lies that addresses Scripture scholarship. I should emphasize, however, that neither is directed at a philosophical novice.