Continuing discussion.

EPS Blog

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

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

EPS Authors Win Christianity Today Book Awards

The major evangelical periodical, Christianity Today, recently announced their list of top books published in 2009.

For their "apologetics evangelism" award, God is Great, God is Good won first place. The book is co-edited by EPS members William Lane Craig and Chad Meister. The judges said:
Craig and Meister bring together cutting-edge essays that attest powerfully to the massive and growing evidence in favor of theism in general and Christianity in particular. Each essay responds to the charges made by the New Atheists, but this is by no means a polemical book. The writers set a high bar for reasonable, responsible discourse, and they live up to it.

For the award in "Christian living," EPS member Gregg Ten Elshof's book, I Told Me So, won first place. The judges said:
By combining philosophy, psychology, and theology with practical examples, Ten Elshof clearly shows how we all are self-deceived, and why that is detrimental to our spiritual growth. The author has written a book that is not only intriguing, readable, applicable, and thoughtful, but also a catalyst for self-examination.

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God is Great, God is Good: Interview with Chad Meister

Bethel College Philosopher Chad Meister and Biola University Philosopher William Lane Craig recently published a co-edited a response to the New Atheism. Below is our interview with Meister about their new contribution: God is Great, God is Good: Why Believing in God is Reasonable and Responsible (IVP, 2009).

How did this book come about? 

Bill Craig and I thought it was time for leading scholars in their fields to offer responses to the central challenges of the New Atheists (primarily Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, and Dennett) and to provide some of the latest research on matters related to theism and Christian faith.

How does this book uniquely demonstrate how belief in God is both reasonable and responsible?  

One of the objections to religious faith raised by the New Atheists and other critics of religion is that one must be both unreasonable and irresponsible to hold religious beliefs.  This is often a criticism rooted in a reaction to fideism—a reliance on nonrational or irrational faith.  In this book we attempt to demonstrate that faith need not be blind, unreasonable or irresponsible.  Belief in God and Christ can be grounded on reason and solid evidence.  Indeed, not only can one be warranted in holding Christian faith, but it may be much more intellectually honest and epistemically responsible —when taking into consideration the latest work in science, history, and philosophy—to be a believer than not.

Why is there sometimes a tendency in philosophy of religion literature to emphasize the “believing in God is reasonable” aspect and not so much the “believing in God is responsible” aspect?  

Historically in debates about God’s existence and religious belief, the issues centered around evidences and arguments for and against them (e.g., design arguments, cosmological arguments, historical evidences for the resurrection of Jesus, etc.).  In recent times, the New Atheists in particular have emphasized the point that religious adherents are not only basing their faith on specious evidence, but that doing so is irresponsible for an educated person in the twenty-first century.  So religious people are not only unjustified in their religious beliefs, they are also morally culpable for their religious tomfooleries.  For these critics of faith, religious beliefs are not only false, they are downright dangerous and therefore must be denounced and ultimately annihilated from the planet.  In this book, we present sixteen essays (fourteen chapters, a postscript, and an appendix) which attempt to demonstrate that believing in God is both reasonable and responsible.

Let’s talk about the contributors. You’ve got a broad range of talent from philosophers to evangelism and apologetics experts. How does this range of contributors strengthen the book’s overall presentation?

The stakeholders in these issues are extensive and include students, scholars, pastors, teachers, and scientists, among others.  In our book we have included a broad range of contributors, from theologians and Bible scholars to philosophers and experts in science.  While a single-authored work may have had a smoother flow, we chose this format in order to provide the best responses and insights available to criticisms of theism and Christian faith today.

In part one, how do the contributions by William Lane Craig, J.P. Moreland, and Paul Moser offer explanations for knowing that God exists, especially in light of the claims of atheism?  

First, there are a number of robust arguments and evidences for God’s existence, and William Lane Craig argues that Dawkins’s criticisms of the cosmological, moral, teleological, and ontological arguments are not deadly to them, nor are they even injurious.  To the contrary, in their contemporary forms these arguments (most especially the teleological argument) provide forceful reasons for believing in God.  J. P. Moreland argues that, on the Christian worldview, God possesses five aspects (consciousness, libertarian free will, rationality, a unified self, and intrinsic value), none of which fits naturally in a scientific naturalist ontology.  Paul Moser then argues that a morally robust understanding of theism is more impervious to criticism than many believe. 

In part two, how do the contributions by John Polkinghorne, Michael Behe, and Michael Murray respond to criticisms of God’s creative design of the universe?  

John Polkinghorne argues that theism offers a “vertical” story of the universe—one in which the laws of nature point beyond them to a deeper level of intelligibility.  Michael Behe presents the case that three pillars of Darwinian evolution—random mutation, natural selection, and common descent—are insufficient to explain the overwhelming appearance of design in life, notably in the elegant molecular machinery of the cell.  Michael Murray then offers a compelling argument such that even if human beings have a natural disposition toward belief in God, this in no way makes that belief disreputable.    

In part three, how do the contributions by you, Alister McGrath, Paul Copan, and Jerry Walls provide challenges to arguments against God’s goodness?  

I first note that the logical problem of evil has been decisively rebutted in recent years—a point often overlooked by critics of belief in an omnibenevolent God—and then focus my energies on atheistic accounts of morality.  I argue that two main attempts are found wanting.  Alister McGrath contends that New Atheist endeavors to demonstrate that religion is intrinsically evil are unsuccessful; in fact, such a belief is merely an article of faith held by its adherents, supported by a very selective use of evidence and a manipulation of history.  In the next essay Paul Copan tackles the thorny issue of whether God and Old Testament laws are evil, and he makes the case that atheistic moral outrage to God’s character and laws lacks the metaphysical resources for making such charges; the God of the Old Testament is clearly not the moral monster some atheists maintain.  In the final essay of this part, Jerry Walls focuses on the issue of a good God creating hell.  He argues that it is precisely because God is a God of love that some may end up in hell.

Lastly, in part four, how do the contributions by Charles Taliaferro, Scot McKnight, Gary Habermas and Mark Mittelberg contribute to the treatment of Christianity’s unique theological claims?  

Charles Taliaferro makes the claim that given certain frameworks, including one’s view of nature, history, and values, divine revelation doesn’t stand a chance.  He challenges these frameworks and offers some positive reasons for recognizing divine revelation.  Scot McKnight then examines the questions of why many of Jesus’s contemporaries didn’t recognize him as the Messiah, what their expectations were, and how they did in fact see him.  Focusing on ten observations they made, he concludes that their expectations of the Messiah were transformed by the Messiah who came.  In the next essay, Gary Habermas argues that two epistles widely recognized as being written by Paul, I Corinthians and Galatians, demonstrate that the resurrection proclamation was quite early and linked to eyewitnesses of the event.  Lastly, Mark Mittelberg closes the book’s chapters by focusing on the question of why faith in Jesus matters.  He points out that Jesus came so we could have life and have it to the full and concludes with these eternally significant words: “The God who is great and the God who is good is ready and waiting for you to come home to him.”

God is Great, God is Good brings together contributors in philosophy, theology, biblical studies, apologetics and evangelism, and the sciences. What are some other topics or areas of study where you’d like to see such collaboration?

I am currently working on several projects in which I’m attempting to bring together philosophers, sociologists, and scholars in religious studies from across the spectrum of world religions in order to address and dialogue about many of the major issues confronting us today.  These include topics such as global ethics, theodicy, violence, secularization, diversity and public education, and the environment.  As globalization increases and religious pluralism becomes more a part of Western culture, I believe such dialectic will become increasingly significant and profitable.  I’m also working on a collaborative project with Oxford University Press in which theistic and atheistic philosophers and other scholars engage in dialogue about central matters of theism and Christian faith, such as the coherence of theism, the doctrine of the Trinity, the Atonement, and the Incarnation.  An amiable exchange of ideas can be quite rewarding, and my hope is that these various venues of discourse will elevate the dialogue among those who disagree about fundamental matters of faith.

How would you like to see this book used among its readers? Give us a vision for its use.

Our hope is that the book will be read by both adherents and critics of faith.  It is written in an irenic tone—this is no polemical screed—and is the kind of work a Christian, say, could give to an atheist friend or skeptic without concern about its being unnecessarily offensive or blatantly aggressive.  It’s also a work that can be a real faith-booster for believers as it is filled to the brim with cutting-edge theistic arguments, evidences, and rebuttals to critics of God and Christianity.

Chad Meister is a Professor of Philosophy at Bethel College, Indiana. He is also one of our book review editors for Philosophia Christi. You can learn more about Chad by going to his website:

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Thomas Nagel On Intelligent Design Again

Having previously reviewed Thomas Nagel's sympathetic treatment of Michael J. Behe's argument for Intelligent Design Theory in The Edge of Evolution (Free Press, 2007), it's interesting to note Nagel's continuing interest in ID. In the recent edition of the Times Literary Supplement he names Stephen C. Meyer’s Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design as one of his books of the year. The TLS website posted a preview of Nagel’s endorsement:
Stephen C. Meyer’s Signature in the Cell: DNA and the evidence for Intelligent Design (HarperCollins) is a detailed account of the problem of how life came into existence from lifeless matter – something that had to happen before the process of biological evolution could begin. The controversy over Intelligent Design has so far focused mainly on whether the evolution of life since its beginnings can be explained entirely by natural selection and other non-purposive causes. Meyer takes up the prior question of how the immensely complex and exquisitely functional chemical structure of DNA, which cannot be explained by natural selection because it makes natural selection possible, could have originated without an intentional cause. He examines the history and present state of research on non-purposive chemical explanations of the origin of life, and argues that the available evidence offers no prospect of a credible naturalistic alternative to the hypothesis of an intentional cause. Meyer is a Christian, but atheists, and theists who believe God never intervenes in the natural world, will be instructed by his careful presentation of this fiendishly difficult problem.
As I argue in my paper 'Atheists Against Darwinism' (hosted on the EPS website), Nagel's reason for being instructed but unconvinced concerning ID is actually self-contradictory!

Signature in the Cell was previously named one of the top ten best-selling science books of the year by

Also in the TLS

I'd encourage Matthew Cobb, reviewing two recent books with a Darwinian perspective, also in the TLS - cf. 'Evolution, RNA and the power of natural selection' (December 2nd 2009) - to read Nagel on ID. Doing so might at least temper his re-cycling of stereotypes:
'although the United States is the source of some of the most rabid and well-organized forms of anti-evolutionism, it is by no means alone. In the UK, creationists and their sneaky cousins, the “intelligent design” crew, are growing in influence; Intelligent Design was given public backing in the Spectator earlier this year by Melanie Phillips, who absurdly claimed that it “comes out of science” not religion.'
You can read Phillip's article in full here, and while her description of ID isn't entirely accurate, I welcome her recognition, in agreement with Nagel, of the scientific status of ID.

Craig Debates ID

Whilst on the subject of ID, it's worth noting that William Lane Craig recently participated in his first ever public debate on the topic (cf. the official debate website here). Craig's noted debating partner was theistic evolutionist Francisco J. Ayala. The topic of debate was: Is Intelligent Design Viable?

You can watch Craig's opening speech on video; listen to the full Ayala/Craig debate and Q&A time on MP3 Audio here.

Craig stated that he is agnostic about the truth of a design inference from biology, but that he thinks such an inference is at least a viable hypothesis that should be given a place at the table, and that the attacks being made on the theory aren't sound.

Craig offers his view of how the debate went here and discusses evolution in a new podcast on Evolutionism and Skepticism. See also William Lane Craig, 'Skepticism about the Neo-Darwinian Paradigm'; 'Skepticism about the Neo-Darwinian Paradigm Re-Visited'.

Interestingly, the debate and Q&A time was moderated by Bradley Monton, an atheist philosopher of science and the author of Seeking God in Science: Atheist Defends Intelligent Design. In essence, Craig was arguing the same general thesis as Monton (although he is more positive than Monton about biology-based ID arguments), whilst being a theist rather than an atheist.

Monton has blogged on the debate here.

It's well worth reading Monton's book, and listening to his lecture defending ID: Bradley Monton, 'An Atheist Philosopher Defends Intelligent Design - Lecture'.

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Sunday, April 5, 2009

William Lane Craig vs. Christopher Hitchens

On April 4th at Biola University, William Lane Craig debated Christopher Hitchens concerning the question, "Does God Exist?" The debate was moderated by columnist, law professor, and radio host Hugh Hewitt. Both Biola's student body and the graduate program in Christian apologetics co-sponsored the debate.

Below is a basic overview of the web coverage. A helpful, summary transcript can also be found here.

Some regional and local college papers covered the debate, including the Whittier Daily, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Pasadena Star, the Daily Titan (Cal State Fullerton), and Biola's Chimes.

Perhaps the best atheist response comes from the Common Sense Atheist blog.

And some of the best theistic blog coverage and analysis can be found from Doug Geivett (Biola philosopher), Melinda Penner (apologist), MaryJo Sharp (apologist), and the Evangelical Outpost (cultural commentary).

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Monday, January 5, 2009

Byrne on Theistic Philosophers

In his recent Boston Review article, Alex Byrne seriously misrepresents the lay of the land in current Anglo-American philosophy, especially when we take the long view of the last several decades. As Quentin Smith has documented, (Philo 4/2 [2001]: 3-4), there has transpired since the late 1960s a veritable revolution in Anglo-American analytic philosophy with respect to the philosophy of religion in general and natural theology in particular. It is atheism that is in retreat and theism that is on the rise. Tangible measures of the sea change that has occurred is evident in the number of new philosophy journals devoted exclusively to the philosophy of religion, in the burgeoning market in philosophy of religion textbooks, in the demand among university students for courses in philosophy of religion, and in the percentage of graduate students in philosophy who are Christian theists. The difference between the discipline as it appeared back in the 1930s or 40s and today is like the difference between night and day. Byrne’s tendentious spin on Dean Zimmerman’s words obscures the point that outspoken, highly respected Christian philosophers are numerous today, even though many of their colleagues (like Byrne?) are dismissive of their religious beliefs.

Equally misrepresentative is Byrne’s characterization of contemporary Christian philosophers as content with “pulling up the drawbridge and manning the barricades, rather than crusading against the infidel.” Never mind the ugly militaristic imagery. Insofar as they have engaged in defensive operations, Christian philosophers have done so in order to show that the shopworn anti-theistic arguments like the meaninglessness of religious language, the vaunted presumption of atheism, the incoherence of theism, and the problem of evil are, to borrow Byrne’s phrase, “underwhelming” and do not stand up to scrutiny. Moreover, Christian philosophers certainly have gone on the offensive as well, as all of the traditional theistic arguments—cosmological, teleological, axiological, ontological—find numerous articulate defenders today (I list some in my piece in Christianity Today, July 2008, pp. 22-27).

Byrne similarly misrepresents Plantinga’s work on religious epistemology, epitomized in Warranted Christian Belief. On one level, Plantinga’s work is defensive in showing that Christian belief can be wholly rational, justified, and warranted even in the absence of arguments and that atheistic objections to the contrary all fail. On another level, however, the work is a frontal assault on atheistic naturalism, as Plantinga argues that there is no acceptable account of warrant (and, hence, of knowledge) that does not appeal to the notion of the proper functioning of our cognitive faculties, a notion best cashed out in terms of their functioning as they were designed to, and, moreover, that naturalism is rationally unaffirmable, since on naturalism our cognitive faculties are selected not for their being truth-conducive but survival-conducive, so that we can have no confidence in the truth of their deliverances—including, ironically, the truth of naturalism.

The question raised in the final paragraph of Byrne’s article is squarely addressed by Plantinga’s religious epistemology. Plantinga agrees that, for the most part, Christian theists “do not believe that God exists on the basis of any argument.” Plantinga thinks that there are, in fact, good arguments for God’s existence and has defended over two dozen of them; but he thinks they’re not necessary in order for religious belief to be justified or warranted. In that sense Plantinga concurs with Byrne that “The funny thing about arguments for the existence of God is that, if they succeed, they were never needed in the first place.” That is to say, if theistic arguments are sound, then God exists and has likely furnished us with cognitive mechanisms that yield warranted theistic belief independent of argument. But when Byrne opines, “How they know that God exists, if they do, is itself unknown,” then he has simply failed to be attentive to Plantinga’s epistemological model, for that model does explain how it is that Christian belief is warranted apart from argument. To assert otherwise is just to ignore all that Plantinga has written on the subject.

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Friday, November 21, 2008

2008 EPS Papers (Getz)

Matt Getz

God's Bootstraps: Euthyphro Generalized

Abstract: Is the good good because it is loved by the gods, or do they love it because it is good? (Euthyphro, 10a). Ostensibly, Christian theologians have found this dilemma unsavory, for accepting the first lemma makes goodness seemingly arbitrary, while the second makes goodness separate from god, and seemingly a se. In this vein, William Craig has recently attacked metaphysical (platonic) realism with regard to properties, arguing that such a position contradicts a historical understanding of God's aseity. A common response by realists to this argument is that God simply created those properties. Craig has responded with his Bootstrapping Objection: How could God have created at least some properties (e.g. being powerful) without already possessing those properties? This paper seeks to demonstrate the analogies between the famous Euthyphro dilemma and Craig's Bootstrapping objection, along with the analogous responses to them both.

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

2008 EPS Papers (Craig)

William Lane Craig

Graham Oppy on Infinity in the Kalam Cosmological Argument

* The final version of this paper appears in the Winter 2008 (10:2) issue of Philosophia Christi

Abstract: Graham Oppy's Arguing about Gods (2006) and his Philosophical Perspectives on Infinity (2005) are the most potent critique to date of the kalam-style arguments against the infinity of the past and for the beginning of the universe. In this paper, I seek to answer Oppy's criticisms of the arguments based on the impossibility of the existence of an actual infinite and of the impossibility of the formation of an actual infinite by successive addition

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

2008 EPS Papers (Jones)

Michael S. Jones

Is Cognitive Humility a Sound Foundation for Religious Tolerance?

Abstract: In his 2005 article “On Religious Diversity and Tolerance” (Daedalus, Winter 2005, 136-9) Philip L. Quinn argues that the higher epistemic status of certain moral principles favoring religious tolerance vis-à-vis the truth of any religious tradition (tolerant or otherwise) provides a universal basis for interreligious tolerance. At the 2007 EPS national conference in San Diego, William Lane Craig presented a paper titled “Is Uncertainty a Sound Foundation for Religious Tolerance.” In this paper Craig takes issue with Quinn’s position, arguing that Quinn’s religious skepticism is not warranted and that doubt is not a sound foundation for tolerance. In my paper I respond to Craig by arguing that cognitive humility is warranted, that it does not entail doubt, and that it can provide a sound foundation for religious tolerance. I will then argue that this foundation has one significant advantage over the foundation proposed by Craig: its universal applicability to all religious traditions.

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