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NEW! Reason To Believe: Why Faith Makes Sense

Is religious belief reasonable? Of course the so-called New Atheists, such as Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, energetically say, "No!," Many others, including some believers, insist that faith is utterly beyond reasoned argument. Faith, they declare, is believing something that reason tells you can't be so. In this way they think they shield belief from rational criticism.

But philosopher Richard Purtill will have none of that approach to religion. In this newly updated classic work, Purtill carefully applies the power of the mind to understanding whether there is a rational basis for certain religious beliefs. His focus is on widely held Christian beliefs, although much of what he says applies also to other religious traditions. Purtill assesses the common objections to religious belief the claims that religious tenets are nonsensical, wishful thinking, the result of gullibility, immoral, or refuted by modern discoveries. Then he considers the arguments in favor of Christian belief by studying the nature of faith, of the universe, of morality, of happiness, and the world with God in it. He also scrutinizes certain beliefs involving claims of Christian revelation--the credentials of revelation, the idea of God, Jesus as God's Son, organized religion, and the last things (death, judgment, heaven and hell).
The two appendices tackle the Christian doctrine of the Atonement and the influence of certain Christian writers on the revival of Christian belief in the 20th century. An updated For Further Reading section is included.

Reason to Believe is not a work of revealed theology or religious devotion; it is a highly readable book on the philosophy of religion, aimed at the reader who wants to think seriously about religion but who doesn't know all the philosophers' and theologians' jargon and who may or may not be a committed believer.

"Sound atheists cannot be too careful of their reading, remarked C.S. Lewis. Richard Purtill gives the reason to believe that Lewis was right. Atheists will read this book at their peril. With Lewis-like lucidity, Purtill demolishes the case for atheism systematically and makes the case for Christianity with the logic of the true philosopher. In the pages of this majestic book, Christians will find their faith illuminated with the flare of a truly great thinker and communicator of ideas; atheists will discover that their unbelief flies in the face of the rationally provable foundations of reality." -- Joseph Pearce, author, The Quest for Shakespeare

"Reason to Believe is a clearly-written, philosophically rooted work that will help readers better understand and appreciate the rational nature of Christian faith, and will help them to respond to questions and challenges from skeptics. Highly recommended!" -- Carl Olson, co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax

"Richard Purtill writes with a lucidity reminiscent of Frank Sheed. The ability to show the support of faith by reason is crucial for evangelizing in today's skeptical world. As Sheed walked the common man through theology, so Purtill guides us through a philosophical reasoning of faith." -- Joe Tremblay, Veni.sanctespirit.us, "The Permanent Things in a Bookcase".

Lord of the Elves and Eldils: Fantasy and Philosophy in C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien

A fascinating look at the fantasy and philosophy of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R Tolkien. The two men were friends and fellow professors at Oxford, renowned Christian thinkers who both "found it necessary to create for the purposes of their fiction other worlds--not utopias or dystopias, but different worlds."

"Those who enjoy reading and discussing Lewis and Tolkien often encounter an impatient, even irritated, reaction from friends or acquaintances. Why read fantasies or fairy stories? Aren't such things for children? Shouldn't grown-ups read about "real life"? (One literary critic called Tolkien's trilogy a "children's story which got out of hand".) A former student of Lewis, novelist and critic John Wain, once challenged Lewis' own praise and enjoyment of fantasy.
"A writer's task, I maintained, was to lay bare the human heart, and this could not be done if he were continually taking refuge in the spinning of fanciful webs. Lewis retorted with a theory that, since the Creator had seen fit to build a universe and set it in motion, it was the duty of the human artist to create as lavishly as possible in his turn. The romancer, who invents a whole world, is worshipping God more effectively than the mere realist who analyses that which lies about him. Looking back across fourteen years, I can hardly believe that Lewis said anything so manifestly absurd as this, and perhaps I misunderstood him; but that, at any rate, is how my memory reports the incident. [1]
"Here we have very neatly the whole basis of the conflict between Lewis and Tolkien on the one hand and many modern writers and critics on the other. Wain maintains, and many moderns would agree, that a writer's task is to "lay bare the human heart". Judged by this standard, practically nothing written by Tolkien and only a few things written by Lewis carry out "the writer's task". The theory attributed to Lewis, which is a recognizable caricature of the theory developed by Tolkien in his essay "On Fairy-Stories", is dismissed as "manifestly absurd". Before discussing who is more nearly right, let us first try to understand more thoroughly the theory proposed by Lewis to Wain." -- From the Introduction<

C.S. Lewis' Case For The Christian Faith

Drawing on the whole body of C.S. Lewis' published fiction and non-fiction, as well as previously unpublished letters, Richard Purtill offers a clear, comprehensive assessment of Lewis' defense of Christianity. He examines Lewis' thinking on religion in light of contemporary thought, giving attention to such central issues as: the nature of God, the divinity of Christ, the manifestation of miracles in history, the challenge of faith, the meaning of death and the afterlife.

C.S. Lewis' Case for the Christian Faith is an excellent introduction to Lewis's best thinking on the major themes of the Christian tradition. Those who know his writing will find a new appreciation of his "Christian imagination" and a deep respect for his distinctive contribution to an understanding of Christianity.

"An ideal introduction to C.S. Lewis for the uninitiated and a fine recapitulation for those already familiar with Lewis's writings on religion." -- Booklist

"Impressive." -- Library Journal

J.R.R. Tolkien: Myth, Morality, And Religion

Here is an in-depth look at the role myth, morality, and religion play in J.R.R. Tolkien's works such as The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion--including Tolkien's private letters and revealing opinions of his own work. Richard L. Purtill brilliantly argues that Tolkien's extraordinary ability to touch his readers' lives through his storytelling--so unlike much modern literature--accounts for his enormous literary success.

This book demonstrates the moral depth in Tolkien's work and cuts through current subjectivism and cynicism about morality. A careful reader will find a subtle religious dimension to Tolkien's work--all the more potent because it is below the surface. Purtill reveals that Tolkien's fantasy stories creatively incorporate profound religious and ethical ideas. For example, Purtill shows us how hobbits reflect both the pettiness of parochial humanity and unexpected heroism.

Purtill, author of nineteen books, effectively addresses larger issues of the place of myth, the relation of religion and morality to literature, the relation of Tolkien's work to traditional mythology, and the lessons Tolkien's work teaches for our own lives.

"Richard Purtill is both a clear and commonsensical philosopher and an accomplished fantasy writer. Discovering him is like meeting Strider in the Inn at Bree: we have found a Ranger, a reliable guide through Middle-earth." -- Peter Kreeft, Author, C. S. Lewis for the Third Millenium and The Philosophy of Tolkien


The Better We Reason, the Nearer We Come to Truth | The Introduction to Reason to Believe
Why Fantasy? | From the Introduction to Lord of the Elves and Eldils
C.S. Lewis’s Case for Christianity | An Interview with Richard Purtill

The Two Lives of Richard Purtill | By Gord Wilson | June 16, 2005

For years Dr. Richard Purtill lived two lives: by day, professor of philosophy; by night, writer of pulp fiction. By day he authored textbooks; by night he spun out fantasy and science fiction pocket paperbacks. Weekdays he lectured in classrooms; weekends he was feted at fantasy conventions. When he retired from his day job, he plunged all the more into his nighttime pursuit, eventually publishing over twenty books.

The prolific professor is probably best known for his two bestsellers published by Ignatius Press: J.R.R. Tolkien: Myth, Morality and Religion and C.S. Lewis’ Case for the Christian Faith. That’s not surprising since his conversion to Catholicism in high school came largely through reading C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton. During a stint in the Army, he was stationed in England, where he met the Wards and the Sheeds, famous Catholic writers and publishers. (He’s written about this time in an essay, "Chesterton, the Wards, the Sheeds and the Catholic Revival" in The Riddle of Joy: G.K. Chesterton and C.S. Lewis, ed. Tadie and MacDonald, Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1989). In that heady atmosphere he found his calling as a writer and philosopher. After receiving his doctorate from the University of Chicago, he pursued his love of writing and teaching as Professor of Philosophy at Western Washington University, Bellingham, Washington.

By day he taught a standing room only class called "Philosophy and Fantasy," in which students read and examined books by popular fantasy and science fiction writers including Lewis, Tolkien, Charles Williams, Ursula LeGuinn, Robert Heinlein, Madeline L’Engle and others. By night he reworked the class notes into his two bestsellers for Ignatius Press, along with a third book, Lord of the Elves and Eldils: Philosophy and Fantasy in C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien (forthcoming from Ignatius Press).

He had this in common with Lewis and Tolkien: professor by day, by night author of fantasy fiction. Like them also, his authorship ranged widely, from philosophic tomes to murder mysteries: Murdercon (Doubleday Press); science fiction: The Parallel Man (DAW Books), fantasy fiction: The Kaphtu Trilogy (Author House). From apologetics (Reason to Believe, to be published by Ignatius Press) to textbooks in philosophy, ethics and religion. From entries in the Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy and the C.S. Lewis Readers’ Encyclopaedia to short stories in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, and Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy Magazine. By day he led the university’s summer sessions in Greece; by night he was a guest of honor at San Diego’s Mythcon and other fantasy and science fiction conventions.

In short, Richard Purtill is both a Catholic and a catholic writer, both a Roman convert and a wide-ranging author, which may explain his unique appeal. Retired from teaching, he is still actively writing (his latest novel, The Eleusinian Gate, is forthcoming from Author House). He is a member of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, The Author's Guild, The National Writer's Union, and The Mythopoeic Society.

Philosopher and apologist Peter Kreeft calls Richard Purtill "a clear and commonsensical philosopher and an accomplished fantasy writer." Bradley Birzer, author of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Sanctifying Myth, writes: "Purtill's intellectual and highly readable work offers an overflowing stream of brilliant insights into Tolkien the man, the author, and the Roman Catholic. One comes away from this book not only with a better understanding of Tolkien, but more importantly, with a greater grasp of truth, beauty, and Grace." Peter Kreeft continues: "Discovering Richard Purtill is like meeting Strider in the Inn at Bree: we have found a Ranger, a reliable guide through Middle-earth."

For more information, visit Richard Purtill’s official site at www.alivingdog.com.

Gord Wilson has an M.A. in English from Western Washington University, where Dr. Purtill was his philosophy professor. He has written for Campus Life, His, CCM, New Oxford Review, HM, and various animation magazines and local publications. A convert to Catholicism, he states that he followed Malcom Muggeridge, Thomas Howard, and G.K. Chesterton into the Catholic Church. Prior to becoming Catholic he was active in Campus Crusade and InterVarsity. He still enjoys contemporary Christian music and is writing a book about gospel rock.

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