Saving God: Religion After Idolatry
Princeton University Press, $45.95 hb, 201 pp
Mark Johnston’s Saving God: Religion after Idolatry is an astonishing book. Its surprise consists in its topic, style, passion, range of religious and philosophical scholarship, and its daring blend of human depth and philosophical originality. Johnston describes it as an essay that ‘gradually evolves into a sort of jeremiad’. There are plenty of complaints, and it is at times a tirade, especially in the final chapter, but the term ‘jeremiad’ does too little justice to the book’s subtlety and persuasive intelligence.
Johnston is an Australian philosopher who is currently Walter Cerf Professor of Philosophy at Princeton University. He studied philosophy at Melbourne University before doing a PhD at Princeton under the legendary Saul Kripke. He has long had a reputation as an important philosopher working in the analytic tradition on complex issues to do with philosophical semantics, philosophical psychology and metaphysics, but his output has been restricted to a succession of significant articles in learned journals and many had begun to think that the major book embodying his insights might never come. This was disappointing to those who believe, understandably, that for humanities intellectuals the book is the ultimate index to achievement. Now we have Saving God and its forthcoming companion volume, Surviving Death. For the latter we must wait and see, but the mode of the current book defies earlier expectations.