The authors make several points that are not only fascinating, but also contribute greatly to a rich conception of God. First, they rightly note that several of God’s attributes serve to enhance the others; it is suggested that one is needed in order to describe the other. They provide the illustration of God’s omnipotence and His omniscience by writing, “Arguably, a being without omniscience would have less power than one with omniscience. The attributes of God . . . form a coherent whole” (185). This insight allows the Christian to explain why it can be thought that God has the particular attributes He does.
Taliaferro and Marty are not intending to delve into every single challenge that has been or could be leveled against the coherency of God. The scope of their essay is to defend the coherency of this conception of God and His interconnected properties as they relate to six areas: “necessary existence, incorporeality, essential goodness, omnipotence, omniscience, and eternity” (185). Their goal is to show that each of these areas survives popular attempts to show logical contradiction.
For the uninitiated reader, the authors do an excellent job of explaining what it means to be logically coherent. If it is possible that some thing exists or obtains, then it is coherent (186). The person who wishes to understand whether or not the concept of God is coherent must understand both logical consistency (being free from internal contradiction) and certain metaphysical concepts, like what it means to be a person, possess certain properties, and so on.
The discussion on incorporeality is helpful as well. Incorporeality is the idea that God is not literally materially embodied. While Christ was incarnate, it was not a case of God’s being identical with a particular body. However, some philosophers object that an incorporeal agent is a “contradiction in terms” because every idea that is coherent about every agent is about a material or embodied agent, not an incorporeal one (189). The correct response is to show that while a property may be completely common (so as to be universal among all known examples), it is not necessarily the case that such a property is essential for that being.
Another interesting objection offered is that such talk about incorporeal agents is meaningless because it is not subject to scientific investigation or testing. The authors’ response is to distinguish between intentional and nonintentional explanations of events. For them, science can only concern itself with nonintentional explanations. Intentional explanations would include things such as values, designs, and purposes (whereas nonintentional explanations lack these facets) (191-93). By showing that science cannot account for intentional explanations (like the reading and writing of a book), they show that science cannot rule out a priori an incorporeal agent such as God.
Their discussion on omnipotence and the various puzzles that have been thrown at it may be the best section in the essay. They consider three sets of arguments against omnipotence, including the problem of the stone. What makes this section so good is that instead of conceding ground to the objector (by postulating that perhaps God can perform evil acts), they develop an underlying principle of God-ness that undercuts all such objections as these. They claim: “the ability to do evil is not a power that is proper to a maximally excellent being” (197). When applied in conjunction with God’s not being able to do a logical contradiction (since, like evil, it is not something to be done), the contentions that God cannot be omnipotent melt away.
Finally, their discussion about omniscience affords several answers to a couple of major objections. The first is the objection that divine foreknowledge entails that no future contingents are free. The authors argue from the symmetry of the past and our knowledge of it. They claim, quite rightly, that our knowledge of the past does not undermine the free aspect of those actions, so why would it in the future as well (198)? The next objection rests on the idea that in order to be omniscient, one must have experiential knowledge of colors, and that God, being incorporeal, could not have this experience, and thus does not know the concept of red. They challenge this assumption by stating that it is surely possible for humans to understand certain concepts without experiencing them, and so it would be for God as well (200-01).
While this was an excellent essay overall, there were a few issues that could have been treated better. First, the discussion on necessary existence is bound to confuse the average layman. This is because the authors did not distinguish between an internal critique and an external critique. Most of the section deals with why Dawkins cannot claim that the universe is necessarily existent (as God is), but the actual treatment of the following objection is short. The objection is that we can conceive of a universe without God, so that God really is not necessarily existent. The seemingly obvious reply is to state that what the objector is doing is epistemically possible (that is, for all he knows, the state of affairs of God’s nonexistence and the universe’s existence is possible), but not metaphysically so. In order to show it is metaphysically possible, the objector has to have “an argument that God’s existence may be known to be impossible” (188). While they do toss this bone, many readers are not prone to understand the thinking behind this nor the brief discussion following that focuses on conceiving of God’s existence. While I agree with their conclusions, the average reader is likely to think this is some verbal sleight of hand because of the lack of explanation.
Second, the authors’ discussion of the problem of evil was more or less waved away as a concern but not one they had space to address. While it is appreciated that the problem of evil would be an essay unto itself, surely they could have discussed some part of it or sketched a brief solution for one or two pages. To their credit, they do appeal to a couple of solutions, but these solutions are literally given in name only.
While the section on omnipotence was quite good, I thought they might have missed an extra opportunity to show why the particular objections were faulty. One such objection included “Molech,” a being that is just like God but who lacks essential goodness (196). It would seem that such a being is not even logically possible. This is because both God and Molech would be necessarily existent. Both of them would share the property of creative ultimacy. Creative ultimacy would entail that all beings are under the creative control of the one who possesses this property. It would then follow that both God and Molech possessed this property, meaning both God and Molech would be under the creative control of each other. This would mean that both God and Molech were actually contingent, and neither of them were necessarily existent. This means that, as an internal critique of coherence, Molech fails (on incoherence grounds, ironically).
Next, although they did a good job explaining coherence itself to the reader, they did have one misstep. In attempting to explain metaphysical concepts, they introduced the idea of a person without a body, claiming this “is not a bona fide possibility” (186). Why think this is so? God is a person, and yet, as a being, He is not embodied. Even if this is so, this is such a confusing example that the reader may be distracted by this element.
Finally, the discussion on God’s eternality seemed to be quite weak. While they may or may not be correct, it seemed their response to the simultaneity objection was question-begging. The objection is supposed to show that God cannot be eternal (where eternal means timeless), and yet their response is that God is not temporal (which is to say timeless, which is to say eternal). It would not help any reader struggling with the coherency of God’s eternality to resolve the issue.The essay by Taliaferro and Marty set the tone for the rest of the section on the coherence of theism. Their goal was not to answer every objection, nor was it to deal with every attribute of God. Rather, their goal was to take six of the most well known attributes of God and answer the most popular objections against their coherency. While at times their analysis seemed incomplete or even misleading, the majority of it was both well written and insightful. They did accomplish their goal quite well. This essay would be recommended for a popular audience who was mostly unfamiliar with Christian responses to these problems. It should only be used as a springboard into a deeper investigation into these issues (as I believe the authors both understood and intended).
 Thomas V. Morris, The Logic of God Incarnate (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2001), 63.
 While God the Son is surely embodied, the Triune God certainly was not.