Search Results for: Bruce Little

Why Greater-Good Theodicies Fail: Interview with Bruce Little (part one)

We recently interviewed Bruce A. Little, Professor of Philosophy of Religion at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS). Bruce is also a member of the Executive Committee of the EPS, and Director of the  Center for Faith and Culture at SEBTS. In part one of two of our interview below, Bruce talks about his latest book God, Why This Evil? (Hamilton Books, 2010), and his view about how and why “greater-good theodicies” fail.

How long have you been thinking about “problem of evil” issues?

The problem of evil has been an important issue for me for 20 years or more.

How were you drawn into this area?

Well, as you may know, I was a pastor for 30 years and it was in the pastorate that I wrestled with this issue up close.  People and Christians in particular  needed questions answered because often their world had been turned upside-down. Most often they were faithful men and women of God and they were trying to make sense out of some very difficult situations in either their lives or the lives of those they loved. So, this issue has never been just a theoretical matter—it was a struggle at the deepest existential and theological level.

Why this area?

As a pastor, I found suffering the most difficult issue to answer within the Chrsitian context. When a member came into the office, she was not just a problem to be solved, she was a human being who was in the midst of extreme emotional pain (and sometimes physical pain). She needed a word of healing and comfort. This was no time to use fancy religious phrases and give some kind of false assurance that everything would be okay. Over the years I think I have encounter some of the most difficult heart-wrenching episodes of suffering known to humanity. On the one hand I was committed to being biblical and at the same time understanding and helpful—I came to believe those were not mutually exclusive notions for the Christian. I had a counseling ministry for about 15 years within the church context and one encounters some very difficult situations .

How does your work on the problem of evil relate to your other interests in apologetics, philosophy and theology?

Let me begin with theology. I think the problem of evil touches almost every major doctrine in the Christian Faith. I teach a course titled “The Problem of Evil” hear at SEBTS and every semester students are amazed to see how this issues touches so many other Christian doctrines. Questions are raised that involve a discussion of creation, salvation, sovereignty, providence, love, omniscience and so forth.

As for philosophy, I think being able to think philosophically about this issue is very important as it helps to get the discussion to use the right categories and to avoid logical mistakes. For example, in the many discussions I have had on this issue I find people want to argue from what God might do with evil and suffering to explain why He allowed the evil. To me that is a logical mistake. Christians, in particular, fail to see the real issue.

The problem is not why there is evil in the world (that is answered clearly in the Bible), but how God is morally justified in ALLOWING  so much evil, especially the suffering of little children which appears to be totally gratuitous, all of this in light of the fact that He is Lord over His creation.  Beyond that, there are some deep philosophical questions that deal with the coherence of theism itself.

Regarding apologetics, the problem of evil continues to be the strongest defeater of the claim that God exists—at least that is how I see it. Christians need to provide an appropriate response to this question without being subversive to other important doctrines in the Christian.  I think Mackie raised some legitimate questions in this area as has William Rowe. Because I often lecture in universities in Eastern and Central Europe, I am confronted by atheists who argue against God using the argument from evil. Here are people who do not believe the Bible so we must find ways to respond to their objection on other grounds.

Suppose that a classical Christian theology of original sin is not merely a source of Christian belief but considered a source of knowledge about reality; indeed, knowledge about what is real about evil in the world. What difference should that make in discussions about theodicy?

Of course the doctrine of original sin does have something to say about the reality of man’s condition in the present state. If we take this seriously, it tells us that man as a true human being often makes very bad choices and the consequences of the choices are real. This gives us the REASON why there is so much suffering in the world—I do not mean to say that it is the only reason, but surely a reason for much of the evil the world.  That is to say, evil is the result of human beings using their power to choose to make some very bad decisions that often spell pain not only for themselves but for others as well.

However, we must understand that that is not the primary question for a theodicy. A theodicy deals with the question of why or how is God morally justified in ALLOWING so much evil which is often intense and unequally distributed. In addition there is the question of why God allows the children to suffer. After all, if God is all-loving and all-powerful as well as all-knowing, it would seem logical to conclude that this world should look a lot better than it does at present — or so goes the argument.

A theodicy zooms out and looks at the larger picture, the picture given to us in the doctrine of creation to show that there are other God designed values that govern God’s interaction with His creation. I would say these other values are tied to the fact man is made in the image of God and in order for him to be free to be truly human, the order of creation must make this possible. For the Christian, our hope is in the Cross of Christ and His coming Kingdom. This is when the issue of sin and suffering will be banished from the environment of the redeemed and that is our Hope.

One of the major contributions of your book is the challenge that you present to so-called “greater-good theodicies.” We’ll cover that below and you’ve already begun to hint at it, but now I’d like to know what you think about the development of greater-good theodicies. What’s the historical context for developing these theodicies?

It seems clearly that Augustine puts forth the foundation for the greater-good theodicies. I think in part, Augustine was right when he said that is was better to have “a runaway horse than a stone.” His point was that it was better to have moral agents with creaturely freedom than not even if that creaturely freedom was used to go against God. It is his idea that God would only allow that evil into this world from which He could bring about a great good or prevent a worse evil that I question. The latter of course is, as I see it, without any merit. How would we know that a worse evil had been prevented since it never obtained—I am of the opinion man cannot know counterfactuals. Therefore, I think this idea is pure speculation. I think the former part lacks either biblical or evidential support. Of course that would be a much larger discussion that we have space for here, but it is an important part for rejecting the greater-good theodicy.

What are the common features that motivated the development of “greater-good theodicies”? development?

First, I believe all the best intentions are involved as Christians realize we must have an answer. Let me say, the problem of evil is a most difficult issue and I would readily admit that so I do not want to leave the impression that I have answered everything.  I would say existentially that Christians have been motivated by the best of intentions and an intuitive desire to give God honor, however, I am not sure that is what turns out to be the case. Theologically, I believe it is the view of God’s sovereignty that motivates the greater good justificatory framework.  It is a view that, in some cases at least, when taken to its logical conclusion teads to a very deterministic view of reality.  In general I would say that the idea that God is truly sovereign (that is as they apply that notion) leads them to conclude that meticulous providence requires that everything must have a purpose. If God is in control, then everything that  happens, happens for a purpose. In the greater-good theodicy, that purpose is the greater good. Personally, I think that holding to a orthodox view of sovereignty does not require that conclusion. That is a a case I try to make in the book.

How do the contemporary examples of the greater-good scheme develop? How do they compare/contrast to the thinking of Augustine, Aquinas and Leibniz on this matter?

Most develop on the foundation of Augustine’s thinking in terms of the greater good being the moral justification for God allowing evil to continue in His creation. However, not all take Augustine’s view of creation. For example, John Hick holds to the same view as Irenaeus. The difference here is how is named as the greater good—soul making. Others hold to some form of soul-making, but not to Irenaus’ view of creation. I would say that what we have seen over the last 50 years is an attempt to define what the greater good would be.

So, the difference is primarily in how the greater-good is defined, that is, what is the good. Understand, that when Christian’s make the claim that the evil happens for some great good, then the logical question is: “what is the good?” So, mostly that has been the work of contemporary theodicies. Of course that is not true of  all theodicies as one can think of Gregory Boyd’s theodicy—Satan and the Problem of Evil. One of the contributions made by Leibniz, at least in my view, was the idea that this is the best of all possible worlds. I know that not everybody wants to accept that, but I think it is an important piece in any theodicy. I do not want to appear to be saying that no one has done good work in the area of theodicy, just because they forward the greater-good justificatory framework. I have benefited much in reading other theodicies even if I do not agree with the basic premise. So, I am grateful to all who have contributed to this ongoing discussion.

What do you see are the main reasons why greater-good theodicies fail?

I think the greater-good theodicies fail in several ways.

First is that it seems to me that they make God responsible for evil. If the evil is allowed by God in order for a particular good to obtain, we must ask ourselves a couple questions. One would be, is the good that comes from the evil necessary to God’s plan? If it is, then the evil is also necessary which seems to me to lead directly to God planning evil. In fact, without the evil, a good necessary to the plan of God could not obtain. If we say that the good is not necessary to the plan of God, then we have the question still of why God allowed it. If it is the plan of God that the good obtain, we should ask is it possible for the good to obtain by some other means which does not require the evil. This would seem to lead to the conclusion that the evil is most arbitrary on God’s part. If the good is not necessary to the plan of God, then the greater-good explanation has lost is major premise. 

A second problem is that of social justice. If God permits the evil to bring about a good (which is necessary to the plan of God), then how do we explain the commands in the  Bible for believers to stand against evil. If the evil is stopped, then so is the good which means by obeying God we actually thwart the plan of God. For example, consider the matter of abortion. Since abortion is a reality and I would say an evil, we must conclude (under the reasoning of the greater-good) that God has allowed it for some good. If we stop the evil, we prevent the good.  If one argues that the good is that Christians stand against the evil, what is the answer when Christians do not stand against the evil and it continues unabated?  One can apply the same reasoning to slavery in the US.

A third would be how to determine how much good is necessary in order to justify the evil? How would that be measured and here I know of no cosmic scale that would serve such a purpose. It seems that it would follow that if good comes from evil the greater the evil the greater the good. Why should one not argue then that it is better to have a lot of evil than not have any evil, in fact, evil now results in good, so evil is good at least instrumentally. If good is measured in that fashion, good is relative. Something in all of this strikes me as being convoluted. It is similar to the argument of Romans 6 where Paul asks if we should sin that grace might abound. His answer is God forbid.

Fourth (there are other reasons I think the greater-good fails, but these four will be enough for now), the greater-good seems to place the Christian in the position of showing the good that obtained from the evil (an inductive approach). In fact, as I said earlier, that is what many are attempting to do which I find very unconvincing as a support for the greater-good theodicy. This is especially true with such evils as Stalin’s slaughter of upwards to 60 million people. If the good is always larger than the evil, then surely no one should have missed the good, but alas it is not so as we cannot point to any sizable good in that case. The greater-good denies that any evil/suffering is possibly gratuitous, that all evil/suffering has a purpose which is some greater good. If this is so, then we should be able to show the evidence that supports the claim. This I think cannot be done and hence undermines the greater-good explanation. Of course, I think if we could find a verse in the Bible that states this to be the case, then we should accept the greater-good. However, I am unconvinced that any such verse can be found. I want to be clear here, I am not saying that God never brings good out of evil, but that is entirely different from saying that that is the moral grounds on which he allowed the evil. Further, I would say that in those cases that God does so in spite of the evil, not because of the evil.

Part two of our interview can be found here. You can learn more about Bruce Little by visiting his website

Bruce Little on the Francis Schaeffer Papers

We recently interviewed Bruce A. Little, a member of the Executive Committee of the EPS and professor of philosophy of religion at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, about the recent collection of Francis Schaeffer papers that are now under SBTS’s stewardship. Bruce is also the author of Francis Schaeffer: A Mind and Heart for God (P&R Books), and most recently, God, Why This Evil? (Hamilton Books).

Broadly speaking, what is in this collection that philosophy and apologetics readers of Schaeffer could find interesting?

Well, I think everything. We have the personal correspondence, articles he wrote, notes for all his books and films, clippings with notations, tapes of the Friday night discussions at L’Abri and sermon notes. The material came in 85 boxes and two file cabinets. All of this gives insight into the thought life of Francis Schaeffer. I have been rather broad here, but we have just received the physical collection and there has not been time to go through everything, but it is my conviction that everything we have has relevance to understanding Schaeffer’s apologetic ministry—in one way or another.

What are the plans for this collection at the Center?

The library at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary has assumed the responsibility for this collection in terms of housing and preparation. I still remain the director of the collection.  Southeastern is involved in all this work which is a great blessing as the seminary is assuming the entire financial burden for this.  Everything is to be digitized and in some cases transcribed. Once this is done, and everything is indexed, the collection will be ready for examination as part of our archival collection for purposes of scholarly research. None of it will be published as Schaeffer did not want that to happen and that is written into the contract we have with the Francis A. Schaeffer Foundation. Also, I want to be clear. At this time we only have custodianship for the material, not ownership. Ownership belongs to the Francis A. Schaeffer Foundation. There are conditions in the contract under which one day it could become the property of Southeastern.

How did this collection come to be housed at the L. Russ Bush Center for Faith and Culture, for which you are the director.

Two years ago this November the Center organized a conference on Francis A. Schaeffer. It was the first conference ever just on Schaeffer—or so I am told. One of the speakers was Schaeffer’s son-in-law Udo Middelmann who is the president of the Francis A. Schaeffer Foundation. It is the Foundation that has the legal ownership of the material This conference was the beginning of a relationship with the Middelmanns, but never as a way of having the Schaeffer material come our way. In fact, I did not even know that such material existed until I had a conversation with Udo and Deborah, a conversation they initiated. Of course we are honored that they would entrust these materials to us as preservers and custodians. We see this as something for the entire evangelical world, not just Southern Baptist.

Much has been written on Francis Schaeffer, some true, some untrue, some known, some speculated. How do you see this collection of unpublished materials contributing to both (a) knowledge of Schaeffer’s thinking and life and (b) his influence on twentieth-century evangelicalism

I think the significance cannot be overstated for those who have a serious interest in Schaeffer and 21st century apologetics. We all know that personal correspondence is large in understanding the thinking of an individual such as Schaeffer. As you say, a lot has been said about Schaeffer, some of which is founded on fact and others simply conjecture. This collection, I believe will be able to set the record straight for those interested in knowing the truth about his theology and his apologetics which are obviously interrelated.

In your estimation, what are the top three lessons that evangelical philosophers, apologists and theologians can learn from Schaeffer?

I am not sure I am good at making the judgment that these are the top three, but they are, if not the top three, on a very short list for that honor.

The first was his view of man: as Schaeffer says,  “I want to add here that evangelicals have often made a serious mistake by equating the fact that man is lost and under God’s judgment with the idea that man is nothing—a zero. . . . . . There is something great about man, and we have lost perhaps our greatest opportunity of evangelism in our generation by not insisting that it is the Bible which explains why man is great.” I think this is enormous for apologetics. It makes the work of apologetics more than argument making and gives a human face which I find is often lacking in our apologetics today.

The second was his belief that Christianity was not just about going to heaven, it was about reality. So he was confident that when people tried to live against the way the world is it would push back at them. For Schaeffer, only Christianity could answer the questions of life in a way that was consistent with reality. Schaeffer would allow people to give him the best explanation they had and then he would should that that explanation failed to explain the way reality was ordered. He would have called this work, pre-evangelism. This approach to natural revelation I believe is extremely useful, especially in today’s philosophical climate.

The third was his insistence that the hallmark of Christianity is love and holiness. The first deals with the spirit in which we engage the unbeliever and the other with one’s personal life. Too often those of us with the truth tend to be something less than loving as we engage the unbeliever, we tend to be paternalistic and defensive. Furthermore, often we do not listen carefully or honestly. Schaeffer’s love for humanity as that which is made in the image of God spoke volumes to Schaeffer and how he engaged the unbeliever apologetically. I think we can learn from this.

You can learn more about Little’s Center at SEBTS by visiting their website here.

Creation-Order Theodicy: Interview with Bruce A. Little (part two)

Below is part two of our interview with Bruce Little, Professor of Philosophy at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, a member of the Executive Committee of the EPS, and Director of the  Center for Faith and Culture at SEBTS. Bruce talks about his latest book on the problem of evil and  why  his “Creation-Order” theodicy is preferable to “greater-good” theodicies.  Part one can be read here.

As an alternative to greater-good theodicies, you argue for a “Creation-Order” theodicy. What is that?

The Creation-Order theodicy zooms out as it were and places the particular of evil/suffering in the context of creation. I think one can make the point from Genesis 1-3 that God not only decided what to create, but also established the rules (both physically and morally) by which He would interact with His creation. This provides a larger narrative in which to understand the problem of evil (other things as well, but we are dealing with evil here). What this means is, that God has restricted the manifestation of some of His attributes when interacting with His creation so that humanity could function as true humanity and history would be something more than a piece of theater. I would suggest that it is as in the Incarnation where there is a self-imposed limitation in the expression or manifestation of certain attributes. That means that when attempting to explain a particular act of evil/suffering that we consider there are other values that restrict the full expression of God’s attributes in that situation—this is a situation in creation.

What are its strengths compared to the weaknesses of great-good theodicies?

Well, I think the strength is that it allows for gratuitous evil without that evil counting against the moral perfections of God. I remember Ronald Nash in his book Faith and Reason saying that if it could be shown that gratuitous evil as a realty and not merely apparent that this would tip the scales in favor of the theist. Maybe I have not done that, but I have attempted to do it. All I am saying is that if it is possible that gratuitous evil exists, that it does not count against God’s moral perfections. If this is so, then Nash is right, the power is taken from the atheist’s argument. His argument has been (at least in a majority of cases involving evidential argument) where is the good. What if, we did not have to defend that position and hence not required to show the good. It does seem to me that this would be of real value.

Theodicies have different explanatory powers to them. But which theodicy might be more conducive to pastoral care and leadership; helping people to reckon with and be responsible with the reality of evil in their ordinary life.

I have found the approach in expressed in the Creation Order theodicy to be most helpful. We live in a fallen world, it is very messy and ugly at times. As Solomon said in Ecclesiastes life is not fair. So in suffering we do not look for some good, but we look to God—look to God who is the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort (2 Cor 1:3-4) whose grace is always sufficient (2 Cor 12:9). I always found that Christians were caught in some tension when told that God allowed this for some greater good. If God allowed my baby to be killed, then there is a emotional resistance to look to that God for help. I know people have tried to do this, but I have often dealt with the personal aftermath of it all. Now there is much more that could be said here that might balance out some of what I have said but I will leave it there. I might say, that there is a difference between a testimony (what God did for me in my suffering) and a  theodicy (why God allowed the suffering).

How has this study been significant to your own formation, whether as a pastor, theologian, professor, etc?

It has been extremely significant to me in all areas as you mention. Because I do think it is the most troubling issues for both Christians and non-Christians. If we say that Christianity is a superior worldview and answers the questions of life better than any other worldview, but we do not have a consistent answer for the problem of evil we have  failed to deliver on our claim.

As I mentioned earlier, it has freed me to look to God in the sufferings of humanity for his mercy, comfort, and grace and not try to find some good for myself or others as the moral justification for the suffering. It has given me a view of God which I think is consistent with the biblical view, that is, God often enters into my suffering with me. I do not know how to express this as clearly as I should without risk being misunderstood.

I think, however, God weeps for us in our suffering and his promise to us is that there is a Day coming when all of this shall be passed because of the work of Christ on the Cross. He is not indifferent nor is He distant in my suffering. His promise is not that some good will come, but that His mercy, comfort, and grace are always available. It is that this evil has happened, not because God does not have the power or inclination to stop it, but there are our values in creation that must be respected. They must be respected because God respects the moral freedom He has given to humanity so that they can be true humanity, so that history can be something more than a piece of theater. God actually interacts and responds to the choices of humanity and that is a value that cannot be quickly overturned just to make life here a little more comfortable.

How would you like to see problem of evil discussions progress in light of your book’s contribution?  

I would hope that people would critically interact with the Creation-Order theodicy to see if it meets its burden of proof. If not, to find other ways to make the same point. If that fails, then we should probably give up this idea that gratuitous evil is real and not only apparent and that it does not count against the moral perfections of God.

You can learn more about Bruce Little by visiting his website

The 2015 European Leadership Forum

Dear fellow Christian philosophers and apologists,

Are you a philosopher based in Europe? Do you know any
European evangelical philosophers? Would you like to connect them to a network
of European evangelical philosophers? We need your immediate help in letting
them know about the possibility to attend the 2015 European Leadership Forum.
The Forum conference will be held 30 May- 4 June in Wisla, Poland. The Network
will be led by Evangelical Philosophical Society member Bruce Little.

I was
able to attend the 2014 European Leadership Forum, and I highly recommend it to
others. I have attached a blog post that I wrote after returning from the
Forum last year.

Keep in mind these important points:

This Network is European in its vision and content. It is being spearheaded by
the European Leadership Forum, and it is not an American outpost.

2. In
order to keep the European Philosophers Network active, we need participants.
So, we need your prompt assistance in getting the word out to your European
evangelical friends/contacts who have a philosophy degree (masters or doctorate)
or are at least in the second year of an undergraduate philosophy program.

3. The Network is designed to be a working philosophical conference
with eight original, accessible papers. Participants agree to read all
eight papers and responses before attending the Forum to be able to actively
engage in discussion.

4. This year’s programme will include
interdisciplinary discussions with scientists, apologists, and theologians.

Current philosophy students will automatically receive a scholarship covering
part of the conference fees.

I’ve provided a

link to the announcement,

which contains the application and conference details. Please pass this, as well
as the PDFs of the
2015 Philosophers Network speaking program and the
blog post on to your European philosopher and apologetics friends. All
questions should be directed to Kevin Saylor at

Thank you for your help in sharing this valuable opportunity with our
European brothers and sisters.

All best wishes,
Dr. Angus Menuge

Join a New Philosophical Network in Europe

EPS friends, here’s a special note from EPS President Paul Copan: 

Dear fellow Christian philosophers and apologists, 
Do you know any European evangelical philosophers? We need your immediate help in connecting them to the Philosophers Network in Europe—and to submit papers (by 1 March 2012) or, at the very least, just to attend the conference near Budapest, Hungary (19-24 May 2012). A number of philosophers from the Evangelical Philosophical Society are lending support to this endeavor: William Craig, Scott Smith, Douglas Groothuis, and Bruce Little. (I myself am looking forward to speaking at this forum the following May). 
Keep in mind these important points:
  • This Network is European in its vision and content. It is being spearheaded by the European Leadership Forum, and it is not an American outpost.
  • This year–indeed, this month–is crucial for forming this continent-wide Network. If nothing materializes this year, then this effort will be not be revisited for a good while. So we need your prompt assistance in getting the word out to your European evangelical friends/contacts who have a philosophy degree (masters or doctorate).
  • In addition to the philosophy, this effort there will be an apologetics Network that is developed as well. What is crucial as that we have as many European evangelical philosophers and apologists as possible attending May 2012 meeting.
I’ve included the relevant information below, but this information is available as an attachment to pass on to your European philosopher and apologetics friends.  The other file gives specific information about the May conference in Eger, Hungary.  All paper submissions and any questions should be directed to Kevin Saylor at>.

Thank you for your help in this important kingdom endeavor.

All best wishes,

Paul Copan
EPS President

New European Philosophical Network

Dear fellow Christian philosophers and apologists, 
Do you know any European evangelical philosophers? We need your immediate help in connecting them to the Philosophers Network in Europe—and to submit papers (by 1 March 2012) or, at the very least, just to attend the conference near Budapest, Hungary (19-24 May 2012). A number of philosophers from the Evangelical Philosophical Society are lending support to this endeavor: William Craig, Scott Smith, Douglas Groothuis, and Bruce Little. (I myself am looking forward to speaking at this forum the following May). View the program here.
Keep in mind these important points:
  • This Network is European in its vision and content. It is being spearheaded by the European Leadership Forum, and it is not an American outpost.
  • This year–indeed, this month–is crucial for forming this continent-wide Network. If nothing materializes this year, then this effort will be not be revisited for a good while. So we need your prompt assistance in getting the word out to your European evangelical friends/contacts who have a philosophy degree (masters or doctorate).
  • In addition to the philosophy, this effort there will be an apologetics Network that is developed as well. What is crucial as that we have as many European evangelical philosophers and apologists as possible attending May 2012 meeting.
I’ve included the relevant information below, but this information is available as an attachment to pass on to your European philosopher and apologetics friends.  The other file gives specific information about the May conference in Eger, Hungary.  All paper submissions and any questions should be directed to Kevin Saylor at>.

Thank you for your help in this important kingdom endeavor.

All best wishes,

Paul Copan
EPS President

President’s 2008 Year-end Recap

Dear EPS friends,

It was a joy to see many of you at our
EPS annual meeting in
Providence last month.  Each year I eagerly anticipate making
that pre-Thanksgiving pilgrimage to EPS for the stimulating papers
and conversation, the Christian fellowship, and the opportunity to
serve together with many of you at our annual

We have many reasons for rejoicing in what God is doing within
the EPS.  Let me mention a few of them.

  • At this time last year,
    Philosophia Christi
    were down considerably due to an outdated, inefficient website.
     As many of you know, back in 2005 I had begun discussions to
    spearhead a plan to completely upgrade our website. Chad
    Meister, Scott Smith, Joe Gorra, Craig Hazen, and others worked
    long and hard on this project alongside our new webmaster Lenny
    Esposito.  Finally, in October 2007, our sharp-looking,
    efficiently-working, cutting-edge website was launched.  In one
    year, we have received over 500 new subscriptions (now over
    1,570) – with fifty more were added at our recent apologetics
    conference.  What a marvelous difference this year has
  • Earnestly Contending, our sixth annual
    , took place in Smithfield, RI in conjunction with the
    EPS’s annual meeting. This conference drew nearly 800
    attendees�an excellent showing for New England. During that
    weekend, forty pastors were expected to attend a luncheon to
    receive encouragement and practical training in promoting the
    role of apologetics in local churches.  Well, over 110 showed
    up! In fact, the pastors’ response was so positive that we’re
    planning on hosting these luncheons every year.  And how
    encouraging that over 100 attended the various youth sessions. 
    Bill Craig, who takes the lead in organizing the conference each
    year called Earnestly Contending "among the top three
    conferences we’ve held so far!"  The host church pastor,
    Rev. Steve Boyce, said that all the initial reports he’s
    received "have been just rave reviews!"  Thanks to Bill and to
    Pastor Steve and his volunteers at the Worship Center for
    helping to bring all of this together.
  • After the
    apologetics conference, Bill Craig, Gary Habermas,
    Jim Sinclair, and I were able to sit down for over two hours
    with a couple of atheists who had crashed the party.  It
    was an excellent time of discussion and building relationships
    with them. One of them wrote a note to me afterwards, mentioning
    that the conference was "excellent" and that, despite our
    philosophical differences, "there is just something irresistible
    and winsome about Christian friendship."
  • Chad Meister has helped coordinate another international outreach
    effort scheduled for next fall at Hokkaido University in Japan. 
    For health reasons, though, Chad is stepping down as EPS vice
    president and as international outreach coordinator, but I want to
    thank him heartily for his energy, resourcefulness, wisdom, and
    graciousness. Please pray for him as well as this upcoming venture.

While we’re on the topic, I’d like to say thanks to Stewart
Kelly, Bob Stewart, Rich Davis, and Bob Larmer for their service on
the EPS executive committee, and we welcome four new members to our
EC: Jeremy Evans, Craig Mitchell, Bill Dembski, and Bruce Little.

Again, as I recently wrote, I would ask you to support the EPS
with your prayers and financial gifts.  Indeed, God is at work
in and through the EPS!  May we remain faithful co-laborers
with him in a remarkable movement that he has wrought!
Advent blessings to you all!

Paul Copan,
EPS President

Gordon R. Lewis (1926-2016), an Integrative Theologian

Last night we received notification of the passing of noted evangelical philosopher and theologian, Dr. Gordon R. Lewis:

Gordon R. Lewis, went to be with the Lord on June 11, 2016. He was born November 21, 1926 to Fred C. Lewis and Florence Winn Lewis in Johnson City, New York. He was married to Doris Berlin in 1948. She passed away in 1999. He married Willa Waddle in 2001. He is survived by Willa Waddle Lewis, Nancy & (Alan) Carter, Cindy & (Jim) Clark, and Scott Lewis, five grandsons Halden & (Ginny) Clark, Caleb & (Marlys) Clark, Daniel & (Ashlie) Clark, David & (Kaci) Clark, and Ian Carter, eight great-grandchildren and a niece and nephews.

After graduating from Johnson City High School in 1944, Gordon studied at Baptist Bible Seminary in Johnson City, New York, earned a BA at Gordon College in Boston and an MDiv at Faith Seminary in Wilmington, Delaware, where he was a student pastor of People’s Baptist Church. While teaching at Baptist Bible Seminary in Johnson City from 1951-1958, he earned an MA and Ph.D in philosophy at Syracuse University.

He and his family moved to Denver, CO in 1958 when he joined the faculty of Denver Seminary as Professor of Theology and Philosophy. He retired from full-time teaching in 1993. He also served as interim pastor in several churches and helped start Foothills Fellowship Baptist Church where he was currently a member and senior elder.

During a sabbatical in 1973, he taught at Union Biblical Seminary in India. He interviewed national and missionary leaders in several Far Eastern countries on similarities and differences of the eastern and western mind. He published seven books and many articles in academic journals. His major work, co-authored with colleague Dr. Bruce Demarest, is Integrative Theology in three volumes, published by Zondervan in 1996. It presents a distinctive method to help people to discover truth when facing conflicting claims in a diverse world.

The memorial service for Professor Gordon Lewis will be held at Denver Seminary Chapel, June 15, 2016 at 2:00 p.m. Donations may be given to “The Gordon Lewis Centre for Christian Thought and Culture“, c/o Denver Seminary, 6399 S. Santa Fe Drive, Littleton, CO 80120

Dr. Lewis’s work included contributions that spanned into areas of theology, apologetics, and spirituality. In apologetics, perhaps he was most known for his survey handbook, Testing Christianity’s Truth Claims: Approaches to Christian Apologetics (1980). In at least article form, he wrote about issues of biblical infallibility and spirituality, and sometimes both, such as when discussing the value of propositional revelation for spiritual formation.

Serving as both past presidents of the Evangelical Theological Society and the Evangelical Philosophical Society, along with his tenure as a theology, philosophy and apologetics professor at Denver Seminary, his leadership shaped both “minds” and “hearts,” of both scholars and practitioners alike. Gordon Lewis earnestly sought to enable disciples of Jesus to be learners of Bible, Theology, and Apologetics. Philosophy, including his own training and that of the discipline, was a servant not a colonizer of this endeavor.

My own encounter with Dr. Lewis’s work began with his Integrative Theology, and that was also the first time, in 1998, that I was significantly exposed to the work of “contemporary evangelical theology.” Lewis and Demarest’s work molded my first impressions of how evangelical theology could done in such a rigorous, faithful and fruitful way. I thank my friend and professor, Michael Gurney, for exposing me to Lewis’s work as a result of his Introduction to Theology course at then Multnomah Bible College. Lewis and Demarest’s work sought to bring the many “tongues” of historical, biblical, systematic, apologetic and practical theology to sing together as “one voice” on crucial questions of theology.  

Integrative Theology sought to “equip the equippers.” Lewis was not content for the work of theology to be simply left and limited to the seminary classroom or left only for the professional(ized) theologian, philosopher or apologist. His Decide for Yourself: A Theological Workbook is evidence of that intent. Originally published in 1970 by Intervarsity Press, it sought to equip younger Christians, and indeed future leaders of the church in the U.S. In a particular way, Lewis did theology as apologetics and world-and-life view formation; a demonstration of the truthfulness and livability of Christianity as a body of knowledge, wisdom and understanding. As he wrote in the Preface of Decide for Yourself,

Jesus Christ calls his followers to a disciplined life – morally and intellectually. Lord of our minds as well as our hearts, he challenges us to grow, not in grace only, but also in knowledge.

And then from Integrative Theology, we have an extension of the above point applied to the task of doing theology:

Developing a theology that relates biblically revealed truth to humanity and nature is not an elective for Christians who believe in the Lord of all, but a requirement. God knows, sustains and gives purpose to all that is. God provides a focal point not only for our limited personal experiences or special interests but for all thought. The question for Christians is not whether they will relate all their fields of knowledge to God’s purposes, but whether they, as stewards of God’s truth, will do so poorly or well.

In a 2006 article for Philosophia Christi, titled, “Jesus’s Uses of Language and their Contemporary Significance,” he concluded his paper with this prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank you for having spoken to us in these last days through the effective relationships and true affirmations of your Son. Thank you, Lord Jesus, for lovingly witnessing to the truth the Father gave you, even unto death. Thank you, Spirit of truth, for raising up the members of the Evangelical Philosophical Society to witness, as Jesus did, to loving relational fellowships grounded on loving propositional revelation, even unto death. Amen.

May God bless the influence, stewardship and leadership of Dr. Gordon R. Lewis!

Recommended EPS-ETS Panel Discussion (WEDNESDAY): Election

Systematic Theology: Sovereignty & Election

3:00-6:10 pm
Marriott – Room: Pacific J

3:00-3:40 pm
Bruce A. Little
(Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary)
God and Gratuitous Evil

3:50-4:30 pm
Kevin D. Kennedy
(Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary)
Theories of Election and Paul‘s Objections in Romans Chapter 9

4:40-5:20 pm
Michael E. Erickson
(Capital Bible Seminary)
Christ’s Universal Atonement and God‘s Sovereign Election: The Trinitarian Role Distinction

5:30-6:10 pm
Dennis W. Jowers
(Faith Evangelical College and Seminary)
A Theological Case Against the Principle of Alternate Possibilities