Continuing discussion.

EPS Blog

This is the blog area for the Evangelical Philosophical Society and its journal, Philosophia Christi.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Ratio et Fides

In 2018 Pickwick Publications released Ratio et Fides by Robert E. Wood.  Wood is Professor of Philosophy in the Institute of Philosophic Studies at the University of Dallas. He has written ninety articles and eight books, his most recent being The Beautiful, the True, and the Good: Studies in the History of Thought, a collection of papers from 1966 to 2012. He is a past president of the American Catholic Philosophical Association and for twenty years was the editor of American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly.

From the publisher's description of Ratio et Fides:
In the face of growing skepticism and relativism, “believe in reason” is the central message in Pope John Paul II’s Fides et Ratio. Only by the two wings of reason and faith together can the human spirit soar. The current work, Ratio et Fides, is its philosophical counterpart. It is not a watered-down introduction but a “leading-into” the heart of philosophic thinking. Firmly rooted in the phenomenological description of an ordinary artifact, a mailbox, the book uses the principles involved in the description to examine key figures in the history of thought. We focus on three areas: the Soul, Morality, and God. We consider seven thinkers. Plato and Aristotle, who founded the tradition, were taken up by Augustine and Aquinas in developing their theologies. Descartes launched the distinctively modern tradition, culminating in Hegel’s systematic presentation of the whole Western tradition, philosophical and religious. More recently, Heidegger approached that tradition in terms of its hidden ground in the Mystery of Being, recalling us to meditative thinking as the secular counterpart to prayer. Armed with this background, students will be able to approach with profit the Fathers of the Church and major theologians and philosophers, past and recent.

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Friday, September 20, 2019

How Theology Shaped Twentieth-Century Philosophy

In 2019, Cambridge University Press released How Theology Shaped Twentieth-Century Philosophy by Frank B. Farrell. Farrell is Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at Purchase College, State University of New York. His publications include Subjectivity, Realism, and Postmodernism: The Recovery of the World in Recent Philosophy (Cambridge, 1994) and Why Does Literature Matter? (2004).

From the publisher's description of How Theology Shaped Twentieth-Century Philosophy: 
Medieval theology had an important influence on later philosophy which is visible in the empiricisms of Russell, Carnap, and Quine. Other thinkers, including McDowell, Kripke, and Dennett, show how we can overcome the distorting effects of that theological ecosystem on our accounts of the nature of reality and our relationship to it. In a different philosophical tradition, Hegel uses a secularized version of Christianity to argue for a kind of human knowledge that overcomes the influences of late-medieval voluntarism, and some twentieth-century thinkers, including Benjamin and Derrida, instead defend a Jewish-influenced notion of the religious sublime. Frank B. Farrell analyzes and connects philosophers of different eras and traditions to show that modern philosophy has developed its practices on a terrain marked out by earlier theological and religious ideas, and considers how different philosophers have both embraced, and tried to escape from, those deep-seated patterns of thought.

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Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Worldviews and the Problem of Evil: A Comparative Approach

In 2019, Lexham Press will publish Worldviews and the Problem of Evil: A Comparative Approach by Ronnie P. Campbell Jr.  Campbell (Ph.D., Liberty University) is associate professor of theology at Liberty University's Rawlings School of Divinity. He is the author of For Love of God: An Invitation to Theology.

From the publisher's description of Worldviews and the Problem of Evil
Most attempts at answering the problem of evil either present a straightforward account of the truth claims of Christianity or defend a minimalist concept of God. This book is different. Inside, you'll examine four worldviews' responses to the problem of evil. Then, you'll hear the author's argument that Christian theism makes better sense of the phenomenon of evil in the world, equipping you to reach an informed conclusion.
This book's unique approach "integrating worldviews with apologetics with theology" will give you a better understanding of the debate surrounding the problem of evil, in both philosophy and theology.
Learn to think cogently and theologically about the problem of evil and Christianity's ability to answer its challenges with Worldviews and the Problem of Evil as your guide.

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New E-Newsletter Resources Christian Worldview Readers

Our world is awash in information. Curating quality sources is an important resource to any earnest reader.  In part, that is what "The Worldview Bulletin" (WB) seeks to accomplish as a recently launched e-newsletter.

WB features articles, interviews, choice quotes, video and podcast recommendations, book discounts and previews, along with announcements about various apologetics events, and even some culture-oriented news items. While their content selection seems attuned for a thoughtful 'general public' readers of Christian worldview content, they do not shy away from promoting the occasional academic monograph, especially if deeply discounted or free.

Launched this last Spring by Christian scholars Paul Copan, Paul Gould, and Christopher Reese, WB seeks to help readers "stay informed about current ideas and issues at the intersection of culture and Christian philosophy, theology, and apologetics." 
Managing editor, Chris Reese, told me that WB was started "to address important issues in a timely fashion (much more so than you can with a book, journal article, or the like). We also wanted to try to curate some of the best resources around the Internet that we feel Christians can benefit from and need to be aware of." Reese also encourages EPS members to contribute to WB: "We welcome ideas for short articles, links to items of interest, info on conferences and events, book announcements, etc.  Anyone is welcome to email them to me."

I recently reviewed the WB archive, and was struck by the range of content and authors promoted. In addition to content by Copan, Gould, and Reese, readers will find contributions by various other EPS members and Philosophia Christi writers (e.g., Tawa Anderson, Rob Bowman, Stewart Goetz, JP Moreland, William Lane Craig), and so many more writers among various Christian apologetics and worldview training networks.

WB runs a monthly, paid subscription with original articles ($5 per month), and then also a weekly "Useful Things" e-newsletter that is for free. Subscribe today to both and check-out their archive to learn more!

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Friday, July 19, 2019

A Philosophical Primer on the Summa Theologica

In 2018 Franciscan University Press released A Philosophical Primer on the Summa Theologica by Richard J. Regan. Richard J. Regan, SJ is one of the foremost scholars on Aquinas' philosophy and the author of a wide range of scholarly and academic titles.

From the publisher's description of A Philosophical Primer on the Summa Theologica: 
What is the meaning of human life? The Summa Theologica is, in effect, Thomas Aquinas' answer to this question. With the goal of showing why human beings exist, their destiny, and how they can achieve it, Aquinas argues that human beings exist to know God, that their destiny is to enjoy the vision of him in the next life, that they need to act properly in this life in order to be worthy of their destiny, and that the Church's sacraments are the means to do so. The Summa Theologica represents a major attempt to introduce the method and principles of Aristotle into the study of Christian theology.
Intended for an educated general audience and philosophical neophytes, A Philosophical Primer on the Summa Theologica will help readers become better acquainted with Aquinas' thought, summarily expressing his positions and arguments largely in his own terms. Using an innovative format, author Richard Regan makes available in one volume a more integrated view of Aquinas' philosophy in the Summa Theologica.

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Sunday, June 30, 2019

Atheism: A Critical Analysis

In 2019, Wipf and Stock released Atheism: A Critical Analysis by Stephen E. Parrish. Parrish is a professor of philosophy at Concordia University Ann Arbor.

From the publisher's description of Atheism:
Does atheism have a monopoly on reason and science? Many think so—or simply assume so. Atheism challenges the many hidden assumptions that have led to the popular belief that atheism is the “default” position for explaining reality. Delving into the most basic and fundamental questions of existence, this thought-provoking book explains that atheism does not and cannot provide a secure foundation for thought and life. Specifically, it demonstrates that atheistic theories cannot explain the existence of an ordered universe, the conundrums of consciousness and knowledge, or why there is morality or beauty. Rather than being the result of reason, atheism is shown to be, in effect, a revolt against reason. If you enjoy pondering the most basic issues that confront us in our world today, then Atheism is the book for you.
To learn more about Parrish's work, and related to Atheism: A Critical Analysis, see his featured book, The Knower and the Known: Physicalism, Dualism, and the Nature of Intelligibility

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Sunday, May 12, 2019

William Lane Craig on The Ben Shapiro Show

In a just released interview with Ben Shapiro, Bill Craig discusses multiple issues regarding Christianity and culture, cosmological, ontological, and moral arguments for God's existence, the differences between the 'hard sciences' and philosophy, the problem of evil, and various moral issues shaping Western social-cultural contexts.
Bill Craig, President of and former President of the Evangelical Philosophical Society, opens the interview discussing the state of Christianity in public life and how Enlightenment assumptions shape our public assumptions about what it means to be 'religious' today and how we understand authority, including religious authority.

Regarding interests among 'secular universities' for seriously discussing religious belief, Craig said, "In hard sciences, and in my discipline, philosophy, I think, frankly, there is a renaissance of theistic belief, and there is a virtual revolution going on in Anglo-American philosophy right now, where Christian philosophers represent a significant and respected voice in the philosophical community. So, I find there is tremendous interest on university campuses in these topics."

On the unique claims of Jesus and His resurrection, Bill reasons this way:
Jesus' resurrection from the dead is Yahweh's public and unequivocal vindication of the man whom the Chief Priest had rejected as a blasphemer. It is the divine demonstration that these allegedly blasphemous claims are in fact true, that He was who he claimed to be. And, therefore, I follow Jesus in His conception of what it means to be the Messiah . . . The resurrection of Jesus is the resurrection of the man who claimed to be Messiah, Son of God, and Son of Man, and was crucified for those allegedly blasphemous claims. If God has raised this man from the dead, then he has unequivocally and publicly vindicated those allegedly blasphemous claims.
Regarding if the 'God of reason' alone is sufficient, why do we need revelation, whether at Sinai or in Jesus, Bill says that this can be best summarized in one word: 'Atonement.'

The latter half of the discussion with Ben Shapiro addresses various moral issues, including the Bible and slavery, homosexuality, and Bill's emphasis of how a moral argument for God's existence is crucial to debating these issues publicly.

Reflecting on his Toronto dialogue last year with Jordan Peterson, Bill affirms that he agrees with Peterson on the existence of objective moral values and meaning in life, but points out that such values for Peterson don't have a grounding, a metaphysical basis in his worldview. "I am still hopeful that he [Peterson] will come to embrace God as an objective, metaphysical reality who will provide a basis for such values and meaning in life."

The interview with Shapiro closes with Bill talking about his own experience with encountering the love of God for him, and he spoke of the "wisdom and authenticity" of Jesus' words and life as encountered in the gospels.

To learn about Bill Craig's work, go to

For as low as $25 a year, sign-up today to be an EPS member (includes print copies of the journal, access to annual and regional meetings, opportunities to present conference papers, and more!). Want to receive a digital only version of Philosophia Christi? Special EPS member and non-member pricing and access is now available for individuals via the Philosophy Documentation Center, with over 900 pieces of content to browse and search!

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Sunday, April 21, 2019

Dru Johnson on the Power of Rituals

In 2019, Eerdmans Publishing released Human Rites: The Power of Rituals, Habits, and Sacraments by Dru Johnson. Johnson is an Associate Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies at The King's College in New York City. He is an editor for the Routledge Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Biblical Criticism series, an associate director for the Jewish Philosophical Theology Project at The Herzl Institute in Israel; and a co-host for the OnScript Podcast.

From the publisher's description of Human Rites:
What are we doing when we gather around the sacraments— or when we make the same breakfast every morning? Embodying rituals, says Dru Johnson. And until we understand what we’re doing and why, we won’t know how these rituals work, what they mean, or how we might adapt them.
In Human Rites Johnson considers the concept of ritual as seen in Scripture and its role in shaping our thinking. He colorfully illustrates both the mundane and the sacred rituals that penetrate all of life, offering not only a helpful introduction to rituals but also a framework for understanding them. As he unpacks how rituals pervade every area of our lives, Johnson suggests biblical ways to focus our use of rituals, habits, and sacraments so that we can see the world more truly through them.
On February 28, The King’s College welcomed the Rev. Dr. Dru Johnson to discuss Human Rites.

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Monday, April 8, 2019

Transhumanism and the Image of God

In April 2019, IVP Academic published Transhumanism and the Image of God: Today's Technology and the Future of Christian Discipleship by Jacob Shatzer.  Shatzer is assistant professor and associate dean in the School of Theology and Missions at Union University.

From the publisher's description of Transhumanism and the Image of God:
We're constantly invited to think about the future of technology as a progressive improvement of tools: our gadgets will continue to evolve, but we humans will stay basically the same. In the future, perhaps even alien species and intelligent robots will coexist right alongside humans, who will grapple with challenges and emerge as the heroes. But the truth is that radical technological change has the power to radically shape humans as well. We must be well informed and thoughtful about the steps we're already taking toward a transhuman or even posthuman future. Can we find firm footing on a slippery slope? Biblical ethicist Jacob Shatzer guides us into careful consideration of the future of Christian discipleship in a disruptive technological environment. In Transhumanism and the Image of God, Shatzer explains the development and influence of the transhumanist movement, which promotes a "next stage" in human evolution. Exploring topics such as artificial intelligence, robotics, medical technology, and communications tools, he examines how everyday technological changes have already altered and continue to change the way we think, relate, and understand reality. Cautioning against the belief that Christians can easily direct any technology toward following Christ, Shatzer grapples with the potential for technology to transform the way we think about what it means to be human and what sort of future we hope for. By exploring the doctrine of the incarnation and its implications for human identity, he helps us better understand the proper place of technology in the life of the disciple and avoid false promises of a posthumanist vision. What sorts of practices today can help us retain the best of what it means to be human in the future?

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Monday, March 18, 2019

Jonathan Mark Threlfall on Pascal's "Anthropological Argument"

In the Winter 2018 issue of Philosophia Christi, Jonathan Mark Threlfall published the article, "The Imago Dei and Blaise Pascal's Abductive Anthropoligical Argument." Jonathan is lead pastor of Trinity Baptist Church (Concord, New Hampshire). In this EPS interview, Jonathan discusses his article and the implications of Pascal's argument.

How did Pascal argue abductively for Christianity? 
It might be helpful to begin with an explanation of “abductive reasoning.” No, it doesn’t have anything to do with kidnapping. It actually describes a common process whereby we arrive at conclusions every day. When we see a broken window and a baseball sitting among the shards of glass, we conclude via abductive reasoning that someone hit or threw the baseball through the window. Abductive reasoning asks, “What theory best explains the data we see?” Pascal is doing something similar in his argument for Christianity. He looks at the data of paradoxical human thought and behavior and asks: what theory (e.g., theological framework) best explains this data? He observed that humans crave for greatness but are unable to achieve it; and, moreover, they are exacerbated in their misery by the very idea of greatness of which they cannot rid themselves. What other theory, Pascal asks, can provide a more satisfactory explanation for these paradoxes than the explanation found in Christian anthropology—that humans were created for greatness (a relationship with God), but have fallen into misery because of their sin? Once this anthropological explanation is established, the other components of Christian belief come with it. 
Your Philosophia Christi article makes the point that the doctrine of the imago Dei never surfaces in Pascal's Pensees. Why is that, and what might that tell us about Pascal's approach? 
What we call the Pensées (French for “thoughts”) is actually a collection of fragments, some of which Pascal probably intended to turn into complete book, a defense of the Christian faith. Since he died at age 39, Pascal never finished this project. However, throughout the Pensées, it becomes apparent that he had a particular audience in mind—the sophisticated, self-satisfied skeptics of 17th-century Paris. In light of his intended audience, an appeal to a biblical concept (such as the doctrine of the imago Dei) would have made little sense. Even if Pascal had considered the relevance of the doctrine of the imago Dei, he probably would not have included it. This is because he wanted to focus on exposing the existential vulnerabilities of his readers by exegeting their perplexed minds and hearts before he exegeted Scripture. Thus, Pascal takes an anthropological approach to apologetics, occupied more with psychological analysis rather than theological exposition. 
What does a doctrine of the imago Dei 'do' for Pascal's 'Anthropological Argument'? 
The shortage of biblical and theological exposition (mentioned above) in Pascal’s anthropological argument, opens a space for further exploration. I wondered whether the Biblical doctrine of the imago Dei would weaken or strengthen Pascal’s case, whether it would point people to or away from Biblical anthropology as the best explanation for the paradoxes Pascal so persuasively presents. In my examination of the doctrine of the imago Dei, I discovered that it does strengthen Pascal’s case in two important ways. First, it provides more exegetical backing for his case that humans are a paradoxical duality of greatness and wretchedness. Second, it suggests more instances of this duality. In other words, the doctrine of the imago Dei prompts us to ask, “Where else might we see evidence that fallen humans are fundamentally conflicted due to their fallenness and imagedness?” Overall, then, the doctrine of the imago Dei fortifies Pascal’s anthropological argument by providing Biblical substantiation and practical instantiation. 
How did you come to be interested in Pascal's argument? 
I had read snippets of the Pensées, but I was especially stirred by a description of it given in Avery Cardinal Dulles’ History of Apologetics: “With extraordinary psychological insight Pascal dissects the nature of man, showing both his nobility and his wretchedness. He shows the paradoxes of the human situation, man’s foolish pride and vain imaginings, his weakness before the wild powers of nature.” This, among other things, prompted me to read the Pensées for myself. As I did, I was impressed with two things. First, Pascal’s description of the human condition left me feeling personally exposed. I felt he was shouting truths about me I hardly dared whisper to myself. Second, Pascal’s writings are decisively and radically Christocentric. Throughout the Pensées, he insists that Jesus Christ, as the God-man who wrought atonement for humanity, is the only solution to the miserable condition brought about by human sin. I found my heart stirred to more deeply adore Christ as my Savior. I decided I could not ignore such a powerful case for Christian belief. 
Have you found fruitful ways to apply Pascal's reasoning in the context of a sermon? If so, how? 
People are generally in tune with their own feelings, but they often don’t know how to interpret them. Showing them—whether believers or unbelievers—a theological explanation for their longings for greatness and feelings of misery opens an unexpected way to present the gospel. Sometimes, when addressing to unbelievers, I will say something along these lines: “Don’t you feel within yourself a void that nothing else can fill? A craving for greatness you can’t achieve? If so, have you tried to obliterate that longing? Go ahead. Try it. You can’t; for even in trying to erase it, you’re admitting it’s still there. There’s a simple explanation for this: God has put that longing in you because he created you to be so much more than you are now. He created you to enjoy a relationship with him, which is possible only through faith in Jesus Christ.” Pascal’s technique was to make skeptics hope that Christianity could be true, and then demonstrate that it is indeed true. It involves understanding the twists and turns of the human heart, which Pascal has helped me do in my own preaching and pastoring. 
When you think about Pascal's anthropological reasoning in the context of 21st century cultural conditions (at least in North America), do you find the plausibility of Pascal's argument to be mostly strengthened or weakened? 
I think that Pascal’s argument is actually more relevant now than ever before. And there are specific cultural reasons that make me think this. For one thing, Pascal points to his contemporary Parisians’ passion for entertainment as evidence that they are trying to suppress their feelings of boredom and misery. The fact that they simply cannot sit still and enjoy themselves, but instead are always occupied with a frenzy of activities (for example, gambling, playing tennis or golf, or pursuing love or politics) argues for the conclusion that they are deeply unhappy and cannot rid themselves of the desire to be happy. I think the same is true for 21st century Americans, but to a heightened degree. Through technological innovations (smartphones, movies, virtual reality, etc.) we are pushing the boundaries of what it means to pursue entertainment, diversion, and distraction. Meanwhile, we haven’t found any deeper happiness. I believe, with Pascal, that the louder we turn up the decibels of distraction, the more we will hear our cries of misery. We cannot outshout our wretchedness. Another reason I believe our culture is ripe for a Pascalian approach to persuasion is that our culture is increasingly rejecting a modernistic approach to epistemology—an approach Pascal never embraced. Whereas Descartes believed that a person can arrive at certain knowledge via pure reasoning, Pascal took a more chastened view of human reason in favor of “the logic of the heart.” This does not mean that he eschewed reason (as people often misunderstand him). It does mean, however, that he took seriously the noetic effects of the fall. Unbelievers are intractably repulsed by the offense of the cross, and proofs for Christianity may actually harden them to the gospel. In our postmodern context, therefore, I believe that a Pascalian approach would be more fruitful, in that it seeks to commend the Christian faith, not only in its rationality, but also in its goodness and beauty. 
What other work would you like to see done by Pascal scholars and Christian philosophers/apologists engaging Pascal? 
There is much potential for augmenting Pascal’s anthropological argument. I would suggest breaking this work into two areas. In the first, we need Christian social scientists and cultural anthropologists who could supply more data for the paradoxical duality of the human condition. The field of cognitive anthropology abounds with examples of human creativity, as well as the noetic effects of the fall. Ethnomusicologists might examine the evidence for the duality of greatness and wretchedness in humans’ musical achievements. The same evidence might be investigated in the areas of economic and political anthropology. In the second, we need apologists who specialize in the area of comparative religion. This is because the abductive anthropological approach argues that Christian anthropology supplies the best explanation for the human condition—better than any other religion or worldview. Transhumanism, pantheism, mysticism, Hinduism, Islam—and their myriad variations all claim a particular view of the human condition. Christian apologists may compare these accounts of the human condition with the Christian account, to demonstrate that only Christian anthropology compellingly explains and answers the full scope of the human plight. 
What books do you enjoy reading on Pascal and the topics of his Anthropological Argument (or at least those you have found resourceful)? 
Nothing replaces reading the Pensées for itself. Beyond that, I would recommend reading Peter Kreeft’s Christianity for Modern Pagans (which is a “festooning” of Pascal’s Pensées), and Douglas Groothuis’ 1998 JETS article “Deposed Royalty: Pascal’s Anthropological Argument.” An adaptation of this article appears also in his 2011 book Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith. Besides Groothuis, few others that I am aware of have seriously explored this aspect of Pascal’s work, which I believe deserves more attention among Christian apologists.
To learn more about Jonathan's work, visit

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Friday, February 15, 2019

Philosophia Christi Discusses Erik Wielenberg’s "Robust Ethics"

Enjoy digital-only access to the journal!

The Winter 2018 issue leads with an important symposium that evaluates the "Godless Normative Realism" thesis of Erik Wielenberg.

Adam Lloyd Johnson: "Introduction to the American Academy of Religion Panel Forum on Erik Wielenberg’s Robust Ethics"
Erik Wielenberg is the most important contemporary critic of theistic metaethics. Wielenberg maintains that God is unnecessary for objective morality because moral truths exist as brute facts of the universe that have no, and need no, foundation. At times his description of these brute facts make them sound like abstract objects or Platonic forms. At the American Academy of Religion’s annual meeting in Boston in November of 2017, we organized an Evangelical Philosophical Society panel to discuss Erik Wielenberg’s book Robust Ethics: The Metaphysics and Epistemology of Godless Normative Realism. All five papers presented there are included in this journal. 
William Lane Craig: "Erik Wielenberg’s Metaphysics of Morals"
Focusing on Erik Wielenberg’s metaphysic of morals, I argue that his moral Platonism is, given the presumption against the existence of abstract objects, unmotivated. Moreover, Godless Normative Realism is implausible in light of the mysterious causal relations said to obtain between concrete objects and moral abstracta. His appeals to theism in order to motivate such causal connections is nugatory. If Wielenberg walks back his moral Platonism, then his metaphysics of morals collapses and Godless Normative Realism becomes explanatorily vacuous. 
Tyler Dalton McNabb: "Wile E. Coyote and the Craggy Rocks Below - The Perils of Godless Ethics"
William Lane Craig has defended the following two contentions: (1) If theism is true, we have a sound foundation for morality, and, (2) If theism is false, we do not have a sound foundation for morality. Erik Wielenberg rejects (2). Specifically, Wielenberg argues that naturalists have resources to make sense of objective moral values, moral duties, and moral knowledge. In response to Wielenberg, I defend Craig’s second contention by arguing that Wielenberg’s theory fails to robustly capture our moral phenomenology as well as make intelligible robust moral knowledge. 
Mark C. Murphy: "No Creaturely Intrinsic Value"
In Robust Ethics, Erik Wielenberg criticizes all theistic ethical theories that explain creaturely value in terms of God on the basis that all such formulations of theistic ethics are committed to the denial of the existence of creaturely intrinsic value. Granting Wielenberg’s claim that such theistic theories are committed to the denial of creaturely intrinsic value, this article considers whether theists should take such a denial to be an objectionable commitment of their views. I argue that theists should deny the existence of creaturely intrinsic value, and that such a denial is not an objectionable commitment of theism. 
Adam Lloyd Johnson: "Fortifying the Petard - A Response to One of Erik Wielenberg’s Criticisms of the Divine Command Theory"
Erik Wielenberg argued that William Lane Craig’s attack against nontheistic ethical models is detrimental to Craig’s Divine Command Theory (DCT) as follows: Craig claims it is unacceptable for ethical models to include logically necessary connections without providing an explanation of why such connections hold. Yet Craig posits certain logically necessary connections without providing an explanation of them. Wielenberg concluded that “Craig is hoisted by his own petard.” In this paper I respond to Wielenberg’s criticism by clarifying, and elaborating on, the DCT. I will attempt to provide a preliminary explanation for the logically necessary connections included in the DCT. 
Erik J. Wielenberg: "Reply to Craig, Murphy, McNabb, and Johnson"
In Robust Ethics, I defend a nontheistic version of moral realism according to which moral properties are sui generis, not reducible to other kinds of properties (e.g., natural properties or supernatural properties) and objective morality requires no foundation external to itself. I seek to provide a plausible account of the metaphysics and epistemology of the robust brand of moral realism I favor that draws on both analytic philosophy and contemporary empirical moral psychology. In this paper, I respond to some objections to my view advanced by William Craig, Mark Murphy, Tyler McNabb, and Adam Johnson.
For as low as $25 a year, sign-up today to be an EPS member (includes print copies of the journal, access to annual and regional meetings, opportunities to present conference papers, and more!). 

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Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Winter 2018 issue of Philosophia Christi: Pascal's "Abductive Anthropological Argument"

In the Winter 2018 issue of Philosophia Christi, Jonathan Mark Threlfall's lead article addresses "The imago Dei and Blaise Pascal’s Abductive Anthropological Argument." Jonathan is Pastor of Preaching and Teaching at Trinity Baptist Church in Concord, New Hampshire.

Here's the abstract from the article:
Blaise Pascal argued abductively for Christianity by presenting Christian anthropology as the best explanation for the existential paradoxes of human greatness and wretchedness. Surprisingly, however, the doctrine of the imago Dei never surfaces in his Pensées. I argue that considerations arising from the doctrine of the imago Dei strengthen Pascal’s abductive argument by providing more details for and encompassing more instances of humans’ paradoxical duality. Specifically, the imago Dei helps explain the existential paradoxes of happiness and misery, certainty and uncertainty, and human greatness and smallness within the cosmos. Further, its explanatory scope encompasses perplexing behavior and beliefs, including Freud’s Todestriebe, false altruism, conflicting beliefs about the divine, and our search for self-knowledge.
Readers may also be interested in the special issue of Philosophia Christi on "Ramified Natural Theological" and Clifford Williams' book Existential Reasons for Belief in God and his interview at the EPS website.

For as low as $25 a year, sign-up today to be an EPS member (includes print copies of the journal, access to annual and regional meetings, opportunities to present conference papers, and more!). 

Want to receive a digital only version of Philosophia Christi? Special EPS member and non-member pricing and access is now available for individuals via the Philosophy Documentation Center, with over 900 pieces of content to browse and search!

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Friday, January 25, 2019

Humility, Pride, and Christian Virtue Theory

In 2018, Oxford University Press published Humility, Pride, and Christian Virtue Theory by Kent Dunnington. Dunnington is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Biola University.

From the publisher's description of Humility, Pride and Christian Virtue Theory:
Humility, Pride, and Christian Virtue Theory proposes an account of humility that relies on the most radical Christian sayings about humility, especially those found in Augustine and the early monastic tradition. It argues that this was the view of humility that put Christian moral thought into decisive conflict with the best Greco-Roman moral thought. This radical Christian account of humility has been forgotten amidst contemporary efforts to clarify and retrieve the virtue of humility for secular life. Kent Dunnington shows how humility was repurposed during the early-modern era-particularly in the thought of Hobbes, Hume, and Kant-to better serve the economic and social needs of the emerging modern state. This repurposed humility insisted on a role for proper pride alongside humility, as a necessary constituent of self-esteem and a necessary motive of consistent moral action over time. Contemporary philosophical accounts of humility continue this emphasis on proper pride as a counterbalance to humility. By contrast, radical Christian humility proscribes pride altogether. Dunnington demonstrates how such a radical view need not give rise to vices of humility such as servility and pusillanimity, nor need such a view fall prey to feminist critiques of humility. But the view of humility set forth makes little sense abstracted from a specific set of doctrinal commitments peculiar to Christianity. This study argues that this is a strength rather than a weakness of the account since it displays how Christianity matters for the shape of the moral life.
Enjoy this 2015 presentation by Kent for the "Intellectual Humility Capstone Conference":
For more on this topic, see EPS President, Mike Austin's latest book and author interview, along with Ross Inman's (Philosophia Christi Editor) 2017 paper, "On the Moral and Spiritual Contours of the Philosophical Life."

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Tuesday, January 1, 2019

A Vindication of Politics: On the Common Good and Human Flourishing

In 2019, University of Kansas Press will publish A Vindication of Politics: On the Common Good and Human Flourishing, in the American Political Thought series, by Matthew D. Wright. Wright is associate professor of government in the Torrey Honors Institute, Biola University, La Mirada, California.

From the publisher's description of A Vindication of Politics: 
Is politics strictly a means to an end—something that serves only the interests of individuals and the various associations of civil society such as families and charities? Or is a society’s political common good an end in itself, an essential component of full human flourishing? Responding to recent influential arguments for the instrumentality of the political common good, Matthew D. Wright’s A Vindication of Politics addresses a lacuna in natural law political theory by foregrounding the significance of political culture. Rather than an activity defined by law and government, politics emerges in this account as a cultural enterprise that connects generations and ennobles our common life.
The instrumentalist argument, in Wright’s view, does not give a plausible account of, among other things, the value of patriotism—of the way Americans revere the Founders, for instance, or love the Declaration of Independence, or idolize Abraham Lincoln. Such political affections cannot be explained by an instrumental common good. Loyalty to one’s country is not like a commitment to a telephone company. As nasty as politics can be, we hope for more from it than the quid pro quo of a business transaction. To arrive at an adequate theoretical account of why that is, Wright brings historical theory from Aristotle to Burke into conversation with contemporary theorists from John Finnis to Amy Gutmann. In A Vindication of Politics he develops a case for the intrinsic value of politics in a way that underwrites a healthy patriotism—and strongly suggests that the political common good is a critical part of what it means to be fully human.
The book offers new insight into the nature of the political common good and human sociability as well as their importance for making sense of the fundamental questions of American constitutional identity, principles, and aspirations.

Update: Enjoy this interview with Wright for the blog of the University of Kansas Press.

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Sunday, December 23, 2018

Interview with Stephanie Nicole Nordby on 'Divine Predication'

At the November EPS national annual conference in Denver, Colorado, Stephanie Nicole Nordby was awarded 'best paper' for the 2018 EPS Graduate Student Prize. The prized paper, "Divine Predication, Direct Reference, and the doctrines of classical theism," was also presented, in part, at the annual conference.

Currently, Stephanie is a scholar with the Logos Institute, in which she is pursuing a project that aims to "articulate a plausible way of understanding descriptions of God in Scripture that integrates recent work in biblical studies, theology, and philosophy of language." With Jonathan Rutledge, she is also co-host of Pogos, the podcast of the Logos Institute [iTunes; Soundcloud], and she is the lead editor for the Institute's blog, BLogos.

Enjoy the following interview with Stephanie, both as a snapshot into her overall project and as a glimpse into her sense of calling with her scholarship.

You are interested in philosophy of religion, philosophy of language and issues of analytic and exegetical theology. How did you become interested in those areas as a Christian? 
I’ve always been interested in big questions, even as a child. It wasn’t until I met my spouse, Kevin, that I began to see the value of analytic philosophy. Kevin had majored in philosophy at Chapel Hill, and it became obvious to me that his training as a philosopher contributed to his ability to think critically about things that mattered to me as a Christian: how to reason about God, interpret Scripture, and think theologically. As a result, I decided that I wanted to be trained in philosophy before I pursued my first passion, biblical interpretation. As it turned out, I fell in love with philosophy, too, along the way. The interests you mentioned are a natural marriage for me: Philosophy of religion is a field in which scholars consider what reason can tell us about God; philosophy of language looks at the relationship between language and what we know and what exists; and analytic and exegetical theology is the application of analytic philosophy and biblical exegesis to theology. 
With your studies at the Logos Institute, what are the core issues you are trying to address with your research and writing? 
Right now I am looking at a particularly interesting movement in New Testament studies, the “Early High Christology Movement.” Scholars like Richard Bauckham, Larry Hurtado, and N.T. Wright (just to name a few) made significant contributions to how we interpret the beliefs of early Christians and the authors of the New Testament. Importantly, they contend (against many in the academy) that many of the early witnesses testify to belief in a divine Jesus. However, the way in which these Christological beliefs are articulated in the early texts is significantly different (at least, superficially) from many of the Christological claims generated by the Church Fathers and historical theology. My work tries to tease out the philosophical and theological dimensions of this early high Christology in order to get a better handle on how we can best understand the claims and beliefs in the earliest witnesses to the divine Christ. 
What is the theory of divine predications and its philosophy of language that you seek to advance? 
I subscribe to a univocal theory of divine predications, an extremely unpopular view among philosophers and theologians. (Although I have some excellent bedfellows like John Duns Scotus!) That is, I hold that at least some of the words we use to describe God apply to him directly, and not only by means of analogy or metaphor. Similar to philosophers like William Alston and Paul Helm, I believe that a Kripkean theory of direct reference can help us understand how our finite, human capacity for language can enable us to univocally apply predicates to a holy God. What makes my view unique is the way in which it relies on religious experience and ordinary accounts of how we speak about things we don’t understand. An important aspect of my view is that theological language is actually not that different from our language about other real phenomena that we don’t fully understand, like the frontiers of science. 
What do you see are the benefits and challenges to your view? 
One of the biggest challenges to my view is that it forces you to take religious experience extremely seriously. The evidential merit of religious experience has faced some major challenges in the last century, and there are many philosophers and theologians who think that religious experience is either empirically useless, or else something that cannot generate meaningful speech due to the underlying epistemic limitations of religious experience. This is a challenge I’m willing to take on, though, because I think a theistic realist must take religious experience seriously. I think my view has several benefits. (Of course—that is why I’m attracted to it!) For one, it sidesteps a host of problems related to analogical predication, including apophaticism. Second, it shows how we can engage in meaningful theological speech while holding to many key doctrines of the Christian faith, such as belief in God’s transcendence and holiness. Third, I think it reflects much of how the Scriptures and early church seemed to think and talk about Jesus and God in that it treats God like he is available to human perception and speech acts, while also affirming his otherness. 
How do accounts of first-person vs. second-person vs. third-person knowledge figure into your theory? 
In one sense, first-person knowledge (or, to avoid some of the technicalities that can come with terms like ‘knowledge’ in epistemology, it might be better to speak about experience or perception) is very important for my theory. That is because (as I mentioned above) I take religious experience to be very important when it comes to the metaphysical grounding of the words we use, especially when it comes to referring to and naming God. However, as I mention in my EPS paper, the way in which we arrive at our understanding about God and the world he created is through narrative. The Scriptures, for example, often make use of stories instead of more formal theological propositions to communicate ideas about God. Linda Zagzebski points out that some objects of human experience, like the moral features of the universe, seem to be more readily understood or described when exemplified in story, and Eleonore Stump makes an argument that there is something called “second-personal knowledge” that is conveyed through narrative. I combine these positions to argue that narrative opens the door to knowledge of things that cannot necessarily be defined, or at the very least, defined in full; as a result, we can engage in meaningful speech about God’s holiness, transcendence, etc. 
How have you found the works of William Alston, Eleonore Stump and Linda Zagzebski to be significant to your philosophy and theology interests? 
These three philosophers (and I would add Nicholas Wolterstorff as well) have been incredibly influential to my work. William Alston is best known in philosophy of religion circles, perhaps, for his work on religious experience; however, I’ve found his work on religious language (most of which can be found in the collection of essays Divine Nature and Human Language) to be the most interesting of his work. While I disagree with his account of concepts, I think his work on reference was groundbreaking, especially in light of the theological climate at the time it was published. Eleonore Stump is brilliant on so many fronts, but perhaps what I most appreciate about her work is the depth of her knowledge of Scripture and the sensitivity with which she approaches the complexities of religious texts. This can be difficult to find among analytic philosophers, but Stump never fails to bring fresh perspective, such as the one I mentioned in your prior question about second person knowledge, to her treatment of the Bible. Nicholas Wolterstorff is another major influence; Divine Discourse is the first book I recommend to colleagues interested in the philosophy of Scripture. Linda Zagzebski, of course, is my most significant influence, as I had the good fortune to study under her supervision for my PhD in philosophy. Linda’s recent Exemplarist Virtue Theory is a magnum opus, in my view; in it, she deftly combines insights from ethics, metaphysics, and social sciences to contribute a truly original virtue theory. However, it was her earlier work, Divine Motivation Theory, that originally stimulated my thinking about religious language. In it, Zagzebski observes that the Imitatio Christi is underrepresented in Christian ethical traditions, and she argues for a theory of ethics that begins with considering Jesus as the divine exemplar of perfect moral features. This triggered my thinking about how we perceive, understand, and talk about Jesus’s divine features. Of course, her work on direct reference had a very influential role as well. Presently, I am lucky enough to be supervised by Oliver Crisp as I complete my second PhD in theology. I had long admired Crisp while studying philosophy, as he is a capable philosopher in addition to being a trained theologian, so his work is useful to me as a model of how to combine my analytic sensibilities with my theological project. More recently, though, I’ve been gaining an appreciation for how Crisp is a key voice for a sophisticated and traditioned Protestant theology: He manages to articulate profound reflection on theology that is accessible to the 21st century church, while still finding and preserving the best insights from the Christian tradition. 
Given your interests and understanding of the relevant literature, what do you recommend for future work, especially at the intersection of philosophical theology and how we read scripture and communicate about how we encounter God? 
I would like to see more philosophers and theologians engage with questions about the canon and interpretation of Scripture. There was a series of excellent works at the recent turn of the century by Richard Swinburne, Nicholas Wolterstorff, William J. Abraham, Paul Helm and Eleonore Stump, among others. These works, though, far from exhaust the issues that should be of interest to Christians. There is much more to be said about the authority of and objections to the canon, the meaning and nature of inspiration, and the process of biblical interpretation. Wolterstorff especially raises a host of questions about what exactly constitutes God’s speech in Divine Discourse. His arguments about appropriated speech could launch a thousand books about divine speech and speech in general! I am also very excited about the resurgence of interest in religious experience in philosophy, but I think there is more work to be done in theology and philosophy in this area. Importantly, I think that evidentialist critiques of religious experience should be reconsidered, and I’d like to see more philosophers and theologians draw on some of the interesting work on models and epistemology in philosophy of science and philosophy of mind/cognitive science.
To enjoy more work on philosophy of religion issues, become a subscriber to the journal, Philosophia Christior become a member of the Evangelical Philosophical Society [includes annual print subscription to the journal], along with many FREE articles at the EPS website.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Eleonore Stump on the "Atonement" and William Lane Craig's Reply to Stump

In 2018, Oxford University Press will publish Atonement by Eleonore Stump, as part of their Oxford Studies in Analytic Theology series. Eleonore Stump is the Robert J. Henle Professor of Philosophy at Saint Louis University. She is also Honorary Professor at Wuhan University and at the Logos Institute, St Andrews, and a Professorial Fellow at Australian Catholic University.

From the publisher's description of Atonement:
The doctrine of the atonement is the distinctive doctrine of Christianity. Over the course of many centuries of reflection, highly diverse interpretations of the doctrine have been proposed. In the context of this history of interpretation, Eleonore Stump considers the doctrine afresh with philosophical care. Whatever exactly the atonement is, it is supposed to include a solution to the problems of the human condition, especially its guilt and shame. Stump canvasses the major interpretations of the doctrine that attempt to explain this solution and argues that all of them have serious shortcomings. In their place, she argues for an interpretation that is both novel and yet traditional and that has significant advantages over other interpretations, including Anselm's well-known account of the doctrine. In the process, she also discusses love, union, guilt, shame, forgiveness, retribution, punishment, shared attention, mind-reading, empathy, and various other issues in moral psychology and ethics.
Enjoy this interview with Stump about her book:
Here's a multi-part series of clips from Stump where she articulates her view of the atonement
See also William Lane Craig's critique of Stump's critique of "penal substitutionary atonement theories"

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Saturday, December 15, 2018

Paul Franks on "Explaining Evil: Four Views"

In 2019, Bloomsbury Academic will publish Explaining Evil: Four Views by W. Paul Franks. Franks is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Tyndale University College, Canada. He has published in the Heythrop Journal, Philosophia Christi, Religious Studies and Sophia.

From the publisher's description of Explaining Evil:
In Explaining Evil four prominent philosophers, two theists and two non-theists, present their arguments for why evil exists. Taking a "position and response" format, in which one philosopher offers an account of evil and three others respond, this book guides readers through the advantages and limitations of various philosophical positions on evil, making it ideal for classroom use as well as individual study.
Divided into four chapters, Explaining Evil covers Theistic Libertarianism, Theistic Compatibilism, Atheistic Moral Realism and Atheistic Moral Non-realism. It features topics including free will, theism, atheism, goodness, Calvinism, evolutionary ethics, and pain, and demonstrates some of the dominant models of thinking within contemporary philosophy of religion and ethics. Written in accessible prose and with an approachable structure, this book provides a clear and useful overview of the central issues of the philosophy of evil.

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Friday, December 7, 2018

Plantingian Religious Epistemology and World Religions: Prospects and Problems

In 2018, Lexington Books released Plantingian Religious Epistemology and World Religions: Prospects and Problems in the Studies in Comparative Philosophy and Religion series, by Erik Baldwin and Tyler Dalton McNabb. Erik Baldwin teaches at Indiana University, Northwest. Tyler Dalton McNabb is assistant professor of philosophy at Houston Baptist University.

From the publisher's description of Plantingian Religious Epistemology and World Religions
To what extent can non-Christian religious traditions utilize Plantinga’s epistemology? And, if there are believers from differing religious traditions that can rightfully utilize Plantinga’s religious epistemology, does this somehow prevent a Plantingian’s creedal-specific religious belief from being warranted? In order to answer these questions, Baldwin and McNabb first provide an introduction to Plantinga’s religious epistemology. Second, they explore the prospects and problems that members of non-Christian religions face when they attempt to utilize Plantingian religious epistemology. Finally, they sketch out possible approaches to holding that a Plantingian’s creedal-specific religious belief can be warranted, even given believers from other religious traditions who can also rightfully make full use of Plantinga’s religious epistemology.
Enjoy these interview segments on Reformed Epistemology with Tyler McNabb from Capturing Christianity:

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Friday, November 30, 2018

New "Religious Epistemology" Volume for Cambridge Elements Series

In 2018, Cambridge University Press published Religious Epistemology, in the Elements in the Philosophy of Religion series, by Tyler Dalton McNabb. Tyler is assistant professor of philosophy at Houston Baptist University.

From the publisher's description of Religious Epistemology: 
If epistemology is roughly the study of knowledge, justification, warrant, and rationality, then religious epistemology is the study of how these epistemic concepts relate to religious belief and practice. This Element, while surveying various religious epistemologies, argues specifically for Plantingian religious epistemology. It makes the case for proper functionalism and Plantinga's AC models, while it also responds to debunking arguments informed by cognitive science of religion. It serves as a bridge between religious epistemology and natural theology.
Enjoy "Philosophical Street Preaching" video from Capturing Christianity

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The Naturalness of Belief and Theism's Rationality

In 2018, Lexington Books released The Naturalness of Belief: New Essays on Theism's Rationality, co-edited by Paul Copan and Charles Taliaferro. Paul Copan is professor and Pledger Family Chair of Philosophy and Ethics at Palm Beach Atlantic University. Charles Taliaferro is professor of philosophy at St. Olaf College.

Enjoy a 30% discount [expires: 9/1/2019] at by using LEX30AUTH18 when ordering.

From the publisher's description:
Despite its name, “naturalism” as a world-view turns out to be rather unnatural in its strict and more consistent form of materialism and determinism. This is why a number of naturalists opt for a broadened version that includes objective moral values, intrinsic human dignity, consciousness, beauty, personal agency, and the like. But in doing so, broad naturalism begins to look more like theism. As many strict naturalists recognize, broad naturalism must borrow from the metaphysical resources of a theistic world-view, in which such features are very natural, common sensical, and quite “at home” in a theistic framework. 

The Naturalness of Belief begins with a naturalistic philosopher’s own perspective of naturalism and naturalness. The remaining chapters take a multifaceted approach in showing theism’s naturalness and greater explanatory power. They examine not only rational reasons for theism’s ability to account for consciousness, intentionality, beauty, human dignity, free will, rationality, and knowledge; they also look at common sensical, existential, psychological, and cultural reasons—in addition to the insights of the cognitive science of religion.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Pascal's Wager

In 2018, Cambridge University Press published Pascal's Wager, edited by Paul Bartha and Lawrence Pasternack, in their Classic Philosophical Arguments series. Paul Bartha is Professor and Head of the Department of Philosophy, University of British Columbia, Vancouver. He is the author of By Parallel Reasoning: The Construction and Evaluation of Analogical Arguments (2010).

From the publisher's description of Pascal's Wager: 
In his famous Wager, Blaise Pascal (1623-62) offers the reader an argument that it is rational to strive to believe in God. Philosophical debates about this classic argument have continued until our own times. This volume provides a comprehensive examination of Pascal's Wager, including its theological framework, its place in the history of philosophy, and its importance to contemporary decision theory. The volume starts with a valuable primer on infinity and decision theory for students and non-specialists. A sequence of chapters then examines topics including the Wager's underlying theology, its influence on later philosophical figures, and contemporary analyses of the Wager including Alan Hájek's challenge to its validity, the many gods objection, and the ethics of belief. The final five chapters explore various ways in which the Wager has inspired contemporary decision theory, including questions related to infinite utility, imprecise probabilities, and infinitesimals.

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The Naturalness of Belief: New Essays on Theism’s Rationality

In 2018, Lexington Books published The Naturalness of Belief: New Essays on Theism’s Rationality, edited by Paul Copan and Charles Taliaferro. Paul Copan is professor and Pledger Family Chair of Philosophy and Ethics at Palm Beach Atlantic University. Charles Taliaferro is professor of philosophy at St. Olaf College.

From the publisher's description of The Naturalness of Belief: 
Despite its name, “naturalism” as a world-view turns out to be rather unnatural in its strict and more consistent form of materialism and determinism. This is why a number of naturalists opt for a broadened version that includes objective moral values, intrinsic human dignity, consciousness, beauty, personal agency, and the like. But in doing so, broad naturalism begins to look more like theism. As many strict naturalists recognize, broad naturalism must borrow from the metaphysical resources of a theistic world-view, in which such features are very natural, common sensical, and quite “at home” in a theistic framework.
The Naturalness of Belief begins with a naturalistic philosopher’s own perspective of naturalism and naturalness. The remaining chapters take a multifaceted approach in showing theism’s naturalness and greater explanatory power. They examine not only rational reasons for theism’s ability to account for consciousness, intentionality, beauty, human dignity, free will, rationality, and knowledge; they also look at common sensical, existential, psychological, and cultural reasons—in addition to the insights of the cognitive science of religion.
Enjoy a presentation with Taliaferro fro the Centre for Philosophy of Religion annual conference on "Supernaturalism and Naturalism: Beyond the Divide," June 23, 2018, at Heythrop College University of London.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Interview with Michael Austin on Humility and Human Flourishing

Oxford University Press is set to release Humility and Human Flourishing from Michael Austinthe newly elected President of the Evangelical Philosophical Society. In the below interview, Michael talks about his latest book and the importance of further philosophical and theological work to be done on humility as a virtue integral for human flourishing.

What is Humility?
In short, humility is “proper self-assessment” and “a self-lowering other-centeredness”. I analyze it in much more detail, of course. To do so, I employ Robert Adams’ notion of the modularity of virtue. So in terms of what will be true of the humble person, I discuss several cognitive, emotive, and active modules of humility, as follows:
(C1) The humble person possesses self-knowledge with respect to his virtues, vices, and limitations, both personal and qua human person.
(C2) The humble person knows that God deserves the credit for her salvation, talents, abilities, accomplishments, and virtues.
(C3) The humble person believes that he ought to have a prima facie preference for the satisfaction of the interests of others over the satisfaction of his own interests.
(C4) The humble person will not conceive of human beings in a hierarchical manner in light of their equal inherent dignity and worth as image-bearers of God.
(C5) The humble person is properly concerned with how others perceive her.
(E1) The humble person has a prima facie preference for the satisfaction of the interests of others over his own.
(E2) The humble person is motivated to act by her love for God and for the sake of his kingdom.
(A1) The humble person will be disposed to obey God.
(A2) The humble person will be disposed to engage in self-sacrificial actions for the good of others.
There is a lot here, but this is the account of the humble person that I offer as a Christological account of this moral virtue in such a person. The account is grounded in philosophical reflection and analysis, classic and contemporary theology and biblical studies, and some recent empirical work on this virtue. Reading the above, one might wonder about how I individuate humility from other virtues. For that, you’ll have to read the book!
With that account in mind, how is a philosophical-theological account of Humility integral to an account of Human Flourishing?
There are many ways, but one that stands out is that humility is a virtue that is central in and essential for rightly relating us to God, others, and to the good, the true, and the beautiful in creation and God’s kingdom. On a Christian account of human flourishing, humility is rational, benefits its possessor, and is conducive to individual and social flourishing. Given the historical skepticism of thinkers such as Hume and Nietzsche, and contemporary thinkers like Tara Smith, it is important to defend humility’s status as a moral virtue as part of a larger case for the rationality and goodness of the Christian moral life, insofar as humility is an essential aspect of such a life.
How did this project come about for you?
I was reading Erik Wielenberg’s Value and Virtue in a Godless Universe, where he discusses a naturalistic account of the virtue of humility but also some of what C.S. Lewis thought about it. I thought Lewis was partially right, but realized that in both popular and scholarly literature, there are many inaccurate or truncated views about the nature of humility. So that got me into the topic and just 8 short years later my work resulted in this book!
That's interesting. What did you discover about this topic that most intrigued you?
I constructed my initial account of the virtue, as I noted above, employing philosophy, theology, and biblical studies. I was fascinated to find that the operational definition of this trait that is used by many psychologists corresponds to my account. This helped my work substantially. For example, some of the ways in which I respond to Hume’s criticisms of humility’s status as a virtue make use of this excellent work in psychology on the virtue of humility.
What have you found to be so distinct about a Christian account of humility?
For me what is most distinct from a Christian perspective is that humility is primarily an interpersonal virtue. The current naturalistic versions of humility on offer construe it as a self-regarding virtue, and several Christian accounts follow suit. While humility does have self-regarding elements, including a knowledge of our limits and other kinds of self-knowledge, that is not the heart of the virtue. The picture we get from examining the Scriptures is that it is primarily other-regarding; it is about putting the interests of others ahead of one’s own, as the gospels and Philippians 2:1-11 make clear that Jesus himself habitually did. So my initial concerns about construing humility as merely self-knowledge, a knowledge of one’s limits, turned out to be confirmed by not only an in-depth scriptural analysis of humility, but of what many have thought about this trait over the centuries. This means that humility is a robustly action-guiding virtue, and is relevant to a variety of issues in applied ethics as well as spiritual formation. I discuss how this is so in the book.
Your project is engaged in 'analytic moral theology.' What do you find distinct about that approach and why does it matter?
It is distinct insofar as it involves approaching theological topics where moral concerns are central, with the ambitions of an analytic philosopher: prizing particular intellectual virtues, using the analytic style of discourse, seeking clarity, and using the other tools of analytic philosophy. This is not the only method that we should use, but it is one that brings some underutilized tools to bear on Christian moral theology. I discuss this in more detail in the book, and consider several objections to it. One desired result of this kind of work is that it helps us acquire moral knowledge that we can then apply as we see fit. In this sense, it is quite practical. In short, to seek to grow in and exemplify humility, it helps to know what it actually is!
The book ends with a reflection on John 13. How is Jesus brilliant on 'humility and human flourishing.'
First and foremost, Jesus is brilliant on these topics because both his teaching and his life exemplify humility and human flourishing. In the foot-washing we see his brilliance and humility on display. He offers us a way out of our own crippling egoistic pride, not only by lighting the way, so to speak, but by enabling us to be transformed by his grace into the freedom that humility can deliver.
Given the contours of your book, what do you recommend for further philosophical-theological work to be done by Christians in this area?
I think more work should be done on other virtues and a general Christian account of flourishing, by Christians. Then, we need to translate this scholarly work into more popular forms so that the picture of the good person and the good life that we see in Christ is made concrete, specific, and attainable by those who humbly depend on him for doing seeking to experience and embody God’s goodness. As Dallas Willard argued, we need a curriculum for Christlikeness. My view is that the evangelical segment of the Christian church in the United States is in desperate need of a moral reformation, with the pursuit of knowing and loving God at the center of our lives, in tandem with a true transformation of character. Otherwise, the movement will die out, and rightly so. It is up to Christian scholars to work in moral theology, offering insights related to both theory and practice. I’d like to see what happened with philosophy of religion and apologetics resources in the past 30 years also happen in the moral realm. We need popular-level resources for how to grow that are grounded in excellent scholarship, but also aimed at becoming, as C.S. Lewis said, “little Christs.”
You can learn more about Michael Austin's work by visiting his personal website. Additionally, the Winter 2018 issue of Philosophia Christi will feature a symposium discussion on Erik Wielenberg's "Godless Normative Realism" as an alternative to theistic accounts of moral realism, with responses from William Lane Craig, Tyler D. McNabb, Mark C. Murphy, Adam L. Johnson, and with a final reply by Wielenberg. Subscribe today!

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