In recent scholarship there is an emerging interest in the integration of philosophy and theology.
Philosophers and theologians address the relationship between body and soul and its implications for theological anthropology. In so doing, philosopher-theologians interact with cognitive science, biological evolution, psychology, and sociology. Reflecting these exciting new developments,
Edited by EPS members, Joshua Farris and Charles Taliaferro, the Research Companion to Theological Anthropology is a resource for philosophers and theologians, students and scholars, interested in the constructive, critical exploration of a theology of human persons.
Throughout this collection of newly authored contributions, key themes are addressed: human agency and grace, the soul, sin and salvation, Christology, glory, feminism, the theology of human nature, and other major themes in theological anthropology in historic as well as contemporary contexts.
From the dozens of contributions in this single volume resource, we highlight some of the contributions, along with further resources for study.
Purpose: For scholars interested in ethics, theology, and philosophy work on ‘marriage and family’ topics, we invite carefully-honed papers that advances discussion of any of the below areas of the Potential Paper Topics.
If you are interested, please contact our project coordinator and editor Michael Austin (info below). Michael is seeking to coordinate all potential contributors and their topics for this endeavor. When you pitch your possible contribution, please provide the following:
Your name, institution and contact info.
Title and description of your proposal (e.g., 100 words).
Reasons for how your contribution will help advance the purpose of this project.
We are looking for papers that a) argue for a perspective on a marriage and family topic, or b) casts a vision for more work to be done in a particular area or c) offers a literature review and assess what seems to be ‘under-developed’ work.
Length: 1,500 to 2,000 total words (minimum). You are welcome to work with the Project Editor on length issues.
Deadline: TBD by the project coordinator
Project Coordinator and Editor
Eastern Kentucky University
Department of Philosophy firstname.lastname@example.org
Priority will be given to those papers that offer a perspective on questions and problems that especially hone in on what have been ‘under-represented’ in this theme for Christian philosophers. Please seriously consider developing paper topics with the below examples in mind. We encourage papers that will be of interest not only to the ethics scholar but also to the epistemologist, metaphysician, theologian, etc.
Much has been addressed by Christian philosophers on questions related to bioethics, reproductive technologies, and so on. But some under-represented ‘marriage and family’ topics include the following:
Philosophy and Interdisciplinary Issues in Marriage and Family Studies: If philosophy and theology are understood as ‘second-order’ disciplines, how might they contribute to the work and contributions of ‘first-order’ disciplines like sociology, psychology, economics, cultural studies and their accounts of marriage and family? How might ideas and images shaped by these disciplines enable and clarify the work done by philosophers and theologians? We strongly encourage contributions from Christian philosophers who have understanding of the ‘meta-‘ issues involved with philosophy’s contribution to interdisciplinary discussions. We also encourage Christian non-philosophers to propose papers that are attentive to philosophical issues and concepts that converge with their discipline and areas of expertise. Co-authored proposals from philosophy and non-philosophy scholars are welcomed.
Ethics of religious upbringing of children: how to share, model, and influence our children for Christ in ways that honor God and respect them as well. Defenses of the morality of a Christian upbringing in the face of challenges at a popular level (e.g. Dawkins and “child abuse” claims) as well as at the scholarly level. How might philosophical accounts of ‘harm’ and ‘interest’ (of children, parents, etc) contribute to clarifying what is often a legally vague idea of ‘Acting in the best interests of the child.’
Metaphysics of the Family: What is a family? What are the necessary and sufficient conditions for a family, on Christian theism? What biblical, theological, and philosophical data are relevant to this question? How important is genetics or biology to this definition? Or what value is there with respect to a biological connection of some sort between parent and child? Who is a father or a mother? How might a vocational account differ from strictly a biological account? How might we reflect upon ‘step-parenting,’ ‘foster-care parenting’ and ‘surrogate parenting’ in light of Christian theological accounts of adoption and hospitality of God? How might we think about the nature of parenting and family in light of the genetic modification of children and the technological possibilities of creating babies from three or more parents? And what implications do our answers to these questions have for the current cultural debates about same-sex marriage and same-sex parenting? From a political philosophy standpoint, what are strong, non-religious arguments for why a ‘secular state’ has an interest in protecting the family?
Papers may wish to interact with this literature:
For exemplary theological and philosophical accounts of love in various dimensions, see Dietrich von Hildebrand, The Nature of Love (St. Augustine Press, 2009)
For philosophical and social science accounts, see the Summer 2014 (vol. 28, no. 3) issue of The Family in America: A Journal of Public Policy, especially these articles: Michael Pakaluk, “The Family the Origin of Political Society”; Edwin E. Gantt, Richard N. Williams, and Emily Reynolds, “Meaning and Ontology in Family Science”; Sarah-Vaughan Brakman, “Who is a Parent?”
Metaphysical and Epistemological issues in Gender, Sexuality and Identity: What are necessary and sufficient conditions for defining ‘gender,’ ‘sexuality’ and ‘human identity’? On what basis are such distinctions drawn? In what sense and on what basis are these terms considered social constructions? ‘Self-identification’ of one’s experience as x, y, or z often populates studies in this area. Is this knowledge from a first-person perspective? Is it simply one’s construal? How might we understand the ‘authority’ of such claims relative to the authority of tradition, history, social institutions, etc.
Moral-Spiritual Formation of the Family: How does this occur, for both parents and children? What theological and philosophical resources can we bring to bear on this? How can parents be intentional about such formation for themselves and their children in the family? What does the Bible have to say that is relevant to such questions? And what do psychology, sociology, and other disciplines have to contribute to this? Is virtue formation and spiritual maturation in a family interconnected with being the roles of a mother and a father? What is the role of ecclesial communities in such matters of formation? Does the ‘Christian family’ exist primarily for the interests of the ‘household of faith’?
For some work on the vocation of the family, see Gene Edward Veith and Mary J. Moerbe, Family Vocation (Crossway, 2012).
For recent article examples on philosophy and spiritual formation integration, see from the (Fall 2014)Journal of Spiritual Formation and Soul Care, Steve Porter, “A Call to Philosophy and Spiritual Formation” (248-257), and “Philosophy and Spiritual Formation: From Christian Faith to Christian Philosophy” (258-269); and also from JSFSC’s (Spring 2014), see Brian Brock, “Discipleship as Living with God, or Wayfinding and Scripture,” 22-34.
Non-Religious Arguments for Marriage and the Family: What are the opportunities and limitations for using ‘natural moral law arguments’ in public and pluralistic contexts? Are such arguments mostly useful for ‘consoling the faithful’? How are ‘secularists’ compelled by such arguments, if they are compelled at all? How might such arguments be retooled in light of changing plausibility structures in Western societies, which increasingly view Christian accounts of marriage and family to be contestable and not believable? How might sociological, psychological and economic reasons and evidences be more persuasive to most secularists than natural law arguments?
Moral Vision of Flourishing ‘Families’ in a Pluralistic Society: Culturally speaking, the experience of marriage and family is no longer a homogenous kind of experience in Western societies. Increasingly, we have ‘pluralist’ accounts recognized by law, legitimized by cultural pressures, and encouraged by various social institutions.
Drawing from Christian Social Thought, how might Christians envision a society that attends to our differences, even contradictions, regarding marriage and family flourishing? Is such a society possible? What conditions or values should shape how we are bound together? How might Christians think societally about such issues like ‘gay adoption,’ government assistance for unwed mothers, illegal immigration and deportation of parents, youth incarceration and single-parent homes, etc? What society should be built by Christian thought and leadership influence given the particularities of our cultural moment? We encourage constructive responses that seek to minister to each person made in the image of God, and seeks to uphold the social order.
‘Health,’ ‘Well-Being,’ and ‘Holiness’ of Marriage and Family: Innumerable scientific studies have been written about the health and happiness of individuals, their family and affects on society. ‘Health,’ though, is usually given a reductive account: a scientific or medical question about an organism. Similarly, ‘happiness studies’ usually assume a psychological account about someone’s mental outlook on life. Is there a thicker account of ‘health’ and ‘well-being’ that includes but is not reduced to the hard or soft sciences? Moreover, Christians have historically understood marriage and family as sacred or holy, set apart for the glory and purposes of God’s work in the world. Is there ‘health’ and ‘well-being’ entailed by that sacred, perhaps even ‘sacramental vision’ of marriage and family? How might we recapture a more holistic understanding of eudaimonia as a collective, relational phenomenon, in family, church and state.
Please consider becoming a regular annual or monthly financial partner with the Evangelical Philosophical Society in order to expand its reach, support its members, and be a credible presence of Christ-shaped philosophical interests in the academy and into the wider culture!
Since July of 2010, you’ve been blogging at the website for Psychology Today. But you are a professor of philosophy. What gives?!? Aren’t professionally-trained philosophers supposed to stay within the corridors of academe and just write for professional and specialized publications? I am kidding, of course. But, seriously, how did this writing opportunity for Psychology Today come about?
This one came out of the blue. I received an email from one of the editors at Psychology Today asking if I would consider becoming a blogger at their site. The invitation was based on my work in popular philosophy. I have another work in the popular philosophy genre that will be published in March, in Wiley-Blackwell’s Philosophy for Everyone series on Fatherhood, which I co-edited with Lon Nease. The publisher had contacted Psychology Today about this book, and from there I received the invitation. I wasn’t aware of it, but the Psychology Today website has quite a few people blogging, including not only psychologists, but also philosophers, other academics, and popular writers on a very wide variety of topics.
Your blog is headlined as “Ethics for Everyone: Moral wisdom for the modern world.” Indeed, you are covering a variety of topics: from the challenges of Facebook too understanding what lust is. I notice that you don’t exclude your topics to just typical (if not, predictable) ethical issues (perhaps, e.g., whether war is just or whether abortion is immoral, etc). Why is that? What might the diversity of topics suggest about how a Christian philosopher can serve in public spaces like your work at your blog?
I made a fairly conscious decision to emphasize topics related to everyday ethics, rather than the standard fare one might find in an applied ethics anthology. While it is very important for Christian philosophers to engage the topics you mention, and I do so occasionally on my blog, I think that many people in our culture are starved for moral wisdom that can be applied to their everyday concerns of work, family, school, and individual character.
While Christianity is not merely an ethical system, it has a significant and essential ethical component. Those who are not believers in Christ can still benefit by what I write, of course, insofar as they can embrace and apply some of the content to their lives without embracing the theological foundation. Moreover, I think that such work in public spaces serves as a unique form of apologetics, insofar as the moral wisdom on offer that is grounded implicitly and sometimes explicitly in the Christian worldview actually works. It leads to a better and more fulfilling life. When this happens, and people are able to connect the dots, the plausibility of Christianity is increased. For some, this might be more significant than the classic arguments of natural theology, because the truth is born out more directly in the experiences of their daily lives.
Which topics have been most commented on? Why? What might it indicate?
What has it been like to write as a Christian in this environment? What does that mean to you? Moreover, what are the top lessons that come to mind (so far) about what it means to be a Christian philosopher in this environment? How are you growing?
It has been a very positive experience for me, trying to take the things I think about as an academic and put them out in a popular form for the general public. I’m taking the skills I’ve developed in my work on the pop philosophy books and transferring them to the blogosphere. One lesson that has been reinforced is that to communicate effectively requires foregoing the use of philosophical jargon without sacrificing depth. This is sometimes a difficult tension, but learning how to do this has helped me to grow as a writer and hopefully been beneficial to readers.
One thing that has become very apparent to me is the prominence among many of the bloggers of both scientism in general and a form of physicalism about the human mind in particular. A recent post by another blogger talked about “competing neurons” as a way to understand the tension many experience between their sexual desires and morality. The claim is that this is not a matter of character, but rather of different parts of the brain in conflict. I’m not even sure what it means for neurons to be in conflict. However, while there are many posts written by others that I disagree with, I am being pretty selective about the posts I respond to by other bloggers on the site. When I do publish a response, I seek to disagree in a charitable way rather than to engage in the abrasive form of dialogue that is so ubiquitous on the web. Many Christians feel the need to respond to everything they disagree with, but sometimes the better approach is not to be reactive in this way in every case. I’m trying, over time, to cultivate and communicate a certain moral view of the world and human nature that I believe is theologically and philosophically sound.
As far as my own personal growth, I’ve written a lot in recent years about the connections between sports and character. Recently I started playing soccer again in a league for old people, and I’ve had opportunities to seek to apply my views to my own life. For example, the past two games I’ve played in have presented opportunities for my growth in humility. This has been a bit painful, but a good reminder that there are so many ways to grow in virtue or descend into vice in sports. This is also true of the rest of our lives. My hope is that my blogging will encourage and equip many to embrace opportunities for moral growth.
Your “Bluegrass Ethics Consulting and Education” (great title, by the way) is, no doubt, another extension of your “ethics for everyone” vision. Let’s talk a little about that. It reminds me of the Morris Institute of Human Values. Why did you start this consultancy? How has it shaped you has a writer and professor? What opportunities has it provided you that writing and teaching have not?
Starting this consultancy was inspired by several things, including the model of the Morris Institute. I also realized that, as far as I can tell, no such thing exists in this region of Kentucky, even though we are only 20 miles south of Lexington where the University of Kentucky is located. Also, when philosophical concepts, especially those related to logic and ethics, are presented to people in a clear and understandable manner, they see the connections with their own lives. I have done a little bit of speaking for the Kentucky Humanities Council around the state on moral issues, and while the turnout has been small, the people eat it up. I wanted to expand the reach of this type of work. So far, I’ve only met with a local physician a couple of times, but I’m working now on a plan to inform businesses and other organizations about this resource, with the hope that some further opportunities will arise. This is just one more way to permeate the culture with goodness, truth, and beauty.
Do you have any models of other philosophers (Christian or otherwise) who wrote or who are writing to serve a non-academic readership with their philosophy expertise and training? If so, what do you find encouraging/compelling about them as a model?
As I mentioned, the work of Tom Morris has been one model that has been influential for me. Many other Christian philosophers, such as J.P. Moreland, Scott Rae, Doug Geivett, Jim Spiegel, and Paul Copan are good models of this sort of work. Also, much (not all, of course) of the work done in the different philosophy and popular culture works that have been edited by William Irwin is quite good insofar as it communicates important ideas in clear, concise, and relevant ways.
There are two extremes to avoid in this type of work. Some philosophers treat a chapter or a book that is intended for a popular audience as if they are writing a journal article, and these are two very different animals. This is not because one is necessarily easier, but rather the aims are different and many people are just unable to get out of the mode of writing for a scholarly audience, perhaps because that is the only type of audience they have ever addressed in their writing. The other danger is trying too hard to be relevant and dumbing down the material you are discussing. The best popular philosophers are able to combine clarity, relevance, wisdom, and creativity in their work.
You have a growing series of books in practical or applied philosophy that you have edited and contributed to (including some like the forthcoming Coffee – Philosophy for Everyone: Grounds for Debate, which looks to be especially delectable!) I can’t help but noticing that the features and phenomena of one’s “ordinary life” are the advantage points from where philosophical reflection is motivated and done in this series. That’s beautiful! To me, it has something of a good-of-creation value to it. So, I got to ask you, what difference does it make to the health of philosophical reflection when our philosophizing is not routinely attentive to ordinary life but mainly or mostly caught-up in a preoccupation with highly specialized, academic topics.
I love the conceptual and analytical bent of much of contemporary philosophy. However, I also think that in order to be a good steward of the education and resources I’ve been blessed to have at my disposal, I ought to take some of the fruit of that scholarly reflection and make it available and accessible to those outside of the academy. In my own life, in order to avoid hypocrisy and seek genuine human flourishing, when possible I try to take the tools of philosophy and put them to work. If we are not at least sometimes philosophizing about ordinary life, especially as Christian philosophers, then we are missing something crucial not only for ourselves, but for those we can serve via our vocation as Christian scholars. And our philosophical reflection will benefit because we won’t be merely solving philosophical puzzles for the sake of puzzle-solving, but rather seeking wisdom and depth of insight.
What does writing for Psychology Today or doing your series of books on “Philosophy and x” suggest to you about how Christian philosophers should be trained, developed and formed?
We must be trained to write well. Those who are educating and mentoring Christian philosophers need to put a premium on this ability. My own professors at Talbot School of Theology did this with excellence. They were demanding, and I still rely on that training as I write for both scholarly and popular audiences today. Learning the craft of philosophical writing has helped my writing in these other venues. We also need to be countercultural in the academic context, insofar as we must resist succumbing to the elitist values that are so prominent. It is of course very valuable to publish a paper in one of the best philosophy journals, but writing for Atlantic Monthly or Christianity Today is no less important from a kingdom perspective. Each kind of work is important, in its own way. It’s too easy to take on by osmosis the disdain for popular-level work that many contemporary philosophers exhibit. So perhaps Christian philosophers should be trained not only to write for other philosophers, but also for a more general readership. Some may do much more of one than the other, but we ought to be able to do both. Finally, I think that we need to take Aristotle’s words to heart, from the Nicomachean Ethics: “Since, then, the present inquiry does not aim at theoretical knowledge like the others; for we are inquiring not in order to know what virtue is, but in order to become good, since otherwise our inquiry would have been of no use.” I would only amend this by saying that we want theoretical knowledge, and we seek it not only for its own sake but also for the sake of becoming good.
Since about 2001, I have been championing among various folks and institutions the idea that while the last few decades has enjoyed “a renaissance in Christian philosophy” what we now need (in addition to that good work) is a “translation revolution.” By that, I mean, we need a fresh generation raised-up of Christian philosophy influencers (among others) who have their ear to the ground in the scholarly discussion but who are listening for the sake of translating to non-academic arenas. What do you think about that? Do you have some encouragement to share for this endeavor?
I wholeheartedly agree, and I like that phrase “translation revolution”. In my position as a professor at a public university, I find that my students who are atheists have been influenced by people like Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris, but there are no Christians with the same sort of prominent influence among Christian students. We have people who are responding to the new atheists, doing the type of translation work you mention, but there are so many other areas in which such work is needed. Most of it, as far as I can tell, is focused around questions of God’s existence and other issues in philosophy of religion, as well as bioethics. This is crucial, but we need people who have scholarly credibility that are doing this sort of translating on a whole range of issues connected with the realm of value, including political, social, and personal ethics. We need the scholarly foundation and the vision and ability to translate it in non-academic venues. I’ve tried to do this by developing a Christian philosophy of the family that I believe is superior to the new ideologies of the family and is also grounded in sound biblical, theological, and philosophical scholarship (see my most recent book with Kregel, Wise Stewards). We need to develop a well-crafted political philosophy and communicate it with excellence. We need more of this kind of thing in business ethics, ethics and technology, and sports ethics, to name just a few areas of inquiry in need of more translation work. There is so much out there that can help people to live better and more fulfilled lives, and so much potential for doing further work with these goals in mind, that it would be a shame if no “translation revolution” occurs. This is a crucial way to continue to build the kingdom of God in ourselves and those whom we serve in our vocation.