Search Results for: Crai Evans

Letter from EPS President Mike Austin

Dear Members of the EPS,

I was just reminiscing about the first time I attended an annual meeting of the Evangelical Philosophical Society. It was held in Colorado Springs, in 2001. I made the drive down with another student in my PhD program at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Four of us crammed into a hotel room to save money. I presented a paper on the argument from contingency, at the same time as William Lane Craig was speaking. I think 3 people attended my talk. At the time, the debate about open theism was raging. It was an interesting first conference, to be sure.

A lot has happened since that meeting in the EPS, the church, and the culture. One thing that has remained the same is the commitment of the EPS to our mission:

The mission of the Evangelical Philosophical Society is to glorify God through the faithful practice of philosophy, fostering a deeper understanding of God and the world he created while both encouraging and enabling Christian philosophers to engage philosophical and spiritual issues in the academy, church, and culture.

The work done by EPS members in our journal and online are important parts of our mission and vision, as are the various meetings and conferences we participate in beyond our annual meeting, such as the AAR, ETS, and APA. I’m grateful that we are a society not only of philosophers, but also scholars from related disciplines, pastors, apologists, campus ministers, and laypersons.

I would like to suggest one thing related to our mission and vision, and more importantly our faithfulness to Jesus, whoever we are and wherever we serve. We must be people of character. Not perfect people, but people of increasing Christlike goodness, “little Christs,” as C.S. Lewis so memorably put it. Our character, our relationships with family, friends, and those in our local church, the content and tone of our work and ministry, must exemplify not only boldness, as needed, but also grace, truth, humility, hope, and the fruit of the Spirit, among other things. 

All of this is the fruit of life together with fellow Christians, and of a consistent practice of the spiritual disciplines we find most helpful. When platforms seem more important than principles, when the pursuit of likes on social media undermines our spiritual formation, when protecting our image is more prized than imitating Christ, staying true to our mission and cultivating moral and intellectual virtue in a transformational union with Christ are vital.

Just something to think about as the new academic year begins.

Institutional Journal Subscriptions

If your institution does not subscribe to our journal, please consider requesting that they do so. The Library Print Subscription rate is relatively low, as these things go. You can direct the person responsible for subscriptions here or via the Philosophy Documentation Center for digital only subscriptions (includes access to back issues since 1999!).

Executive Committee Nominations

Also be on the lookout for a call for nominations for new members of the EPS Executive Committee in early October for a vote to be held in late October/early November.

EPS Annual Meeting in San Antonio

I look forward to seeing many of you at our annual meeting this year, November 14-16 in San Antonio (see here for a program draft). It’s always good to see old friends, make new ones, and learn from one another as we follow the Way, together.

A few special events at the meeting to keep in mind as you plan:

EPS Reception

Tuesday 8:30pm – 10:00pm, Lone Star Ballroom Salon C.

EPS Plenary Address

C. Stephen Evans, “Should Christians Accept a Divine Command Theory of Moral Obligations?”

Wednesday 2:10 – 3:00pm, Grand Hyatt, 2nd Floor Lone Star Ballroom DEF

EPS Business Meeting

Thursday 9:45am – 10:45 am, Convention Center Rm. 303A.

Come here what the EPS is up to, share your own thoughts, etc.

Thanks for your work for Christ and his kingdom!


Mike Austin
EPS President

Interview with Andrew Loke: A Kryptic Model of the Incarnation

Christian philosophers and theologians continue to work-out different models for understanding the complexities of the incarnation, especially in light of objections to the doctrine and fidelity to Christian tradition and witness. Andrew Loke recently published A Kryptic Model of the Incarnation (Ashgate, 2014). Andrew is Research Assistant Professor at The University of Hong Kong.

In the following interview, we discuss his ‘kryptic model’ and some of its implications in light of different approaches to the doctrine of the Incarnation. He also situates his model in light of biblical and historical theology interests. Finally, he offers some perspective on what the kryptic model might achieve among inter-religious and inter-denominational discussions.
When you stand in awe of the incarnation of Jesus Christ, what is it that most captures your imagination? Where does your mind begin to immediately wonder?

The Maker of the universe becoming a child on earth for us–what an astonishing thought! What a real historical event worthy of the greatest celebration! My mind and heart are captivated by those glorious carols which are sung every Christmas. I particularly like this line from “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”:

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel
Hark! The herald angels sing
‘Glory to the newborn King!’

Is the messianic identity and mission of Jesus the central concern of the doctrine of the incarnation? If so, is the ‘metaphysics of’ and ‘theology of’ that concern a subsidiary interest or something else? How do you see this?

The messianic identity and mission are indeed central, but the doctrine of the Incarnation also needs to be defended against the accusation of incoherence by sceptics from various traditions (Jewish, Islamic, etc.) throughout the centuries.  They have pointed out, for example, that being divine entails being omniscient and omnipotent, but the New Testament portrays Jesus as having human properties such as being apparently limited in knowledge (Mark 13:32) and power (John 4:3-6).

Many Christians have responded by saying that the Incarnation is a mystery. This is true, but the inadequacy with simply replying ‘mystery’ is that, since the Christian wants to make meaningful statements by affirming, for example, that the divine nature includes omniscience and that Jesus was apparently limited in knowledge as stated by the Scriptures, he/she must demonstrate what is meant (or what could possibly be meant) by these statements; it is not enough to claim that it is a ‘mystery’ and leave it as that. Moreover, the Christian must ensure that the explications of these statements do not result in contradictions. The problem with asserting that one can make contradictory statements about Jesus (e.g. ‘Jesus has complete awareness of everything and complete unawareness of everything simultaneously’) is that the person who makes such contradictory statements is not affirming anything about Jesus. Affirming ‘complete awareness of everything’ and ‘complete unawareness of everything’ simply cancel each other out; it is like writing something and then immediately erasing it, such that one ends up with nothing that is affirmed of Jesus.

Therefore, in order to make meaningful statements about Jesus in accordance with the Scriptures and to rebut the charge of incoherence, the Christian has to provide a model to show how concepts like omniscience and apparent limitation in knowledge can be affirmed of Jesus such that no contradiction results. The work which has been done in this area by metaphysicians and theologians can help to address the accusation of incoherence and open up conceptual spaces, so as to allow the Scriptural account of the Incarnation to be affirmed in all its glory and illuminate our understanding of God and humanity.

Systematic philosophical and theological accounts of the incarnation attempt to weigh-in on serious metaphysical, exegetical, theological and historical problems with the doctrine of the incarnation. Rigorous analysis and problematizing of issues seems to be the main approach. What are the limits and opportunities of such approach in light of the central concern of the doctrine of the incarnation?

Such an approach can be useful for clearing away the obstacles to the reception of the Messiah as God Incarnate. In particular, offering a defensible model of the Incarnation can aid our understanding of Scriptural passages relevant to the Incarnation and protect us against heretical notions. It can also be helpful for resolving longstanding interdenominational disagreements concerning the Incarnation, such as those between Chalcedonian and non-Chalcedonian churches, Dyothelites and Monothelites, and Lutherans and Reformed theologians. A review of church history shows that these disagreements are to a large extent due to neither side being able to see how the position of the other side could be possible within the bounds of orthodoxy. For example, the Reformed theologians fail to see how the Lutheran’s position on the unity of Christ’s person could avoid compromising Christ’s humanity, while the Lutherans fail to see how the reformed position on the distinction of natures could avoid compromising his unity. Hence, proposing a defensible model that would address the concerns of both sides would be very useful indeed, and further work in this area should be encouraged. However, this should be done with a clear recognition of its limitation, namely that it is not intended to provide an exhaustive description of Christ, and hence does not aim to dispel all mystery.

What are the main theses of your ‘kryptic model’ of the incarnation?

The key insight is that a divine person can refrain from utilizing his omnipotence when he carries out certain activities, such as walking to a town in Samaria. One can therefore suggest that the Son of God did this by the finite strength of his human body instead of utilizing his divine powers, hence he could experience fatigue as portrayed in John 4:3-6.

Likewise knowledge can be understood as a kind of power which one can refrain from utilizing. For example, a person might have knowledge of calculus, even though he might not be consciously thinking about calculus all the time. This knowledge of calculus can be said to be in his preconscious: when he chooses to utilize this knowledge by directing his attention to it, that is, when he chooses to consciously think about calculus, he can become aware of calculus.

Since having knowledge of a certain thing such as calculus does not require a constant conscious awareness of that thing, the knowledge of all things by a divine Person does not require a constant conscious awareness of all things by him. Thus, it could be the case that a divine Person chose to let his knowledge of all things reside in his divine preconscious at the Incarnation, and he freely chose not to utilize all of the knowledge in his preconscious, so as to consciously experience our human limitations.

Concerning Mark 13:32, it should be noted that the Greek word οἶδεν which is translated as ‘know’ means ‘to have realized, perceived, to know’; this word is often used in the New Testament in a general way, e.g. to know a person, to be able to understand/apprehend/recognize (TDNT vol.5, pp.116-119). Therefore, in view of its semantic range, in this passage οἶδεν can be legitimately rendered as ‘aware’. Thus, Mark 13:32 can be read as ‘But of that day or hour no one is aware, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.’ This reading fits the context perfectly: the disciples would be hoping that the Son would reveal to them the day of his coming, but no one can reveal what he/she is not aware. For our purposes here, it is important to note that such an unawareness of the Son can co-exist with omniscience in the same person because, as noted previously, omniscience does not require a conscious awareness of all the things known. A divine person can use his omnipotence to restrict the scope of his conscious awareness as well as the utilization of his omniscience, and in this state of self-restraint the Son was genuinely unaware of that day; it was not a sham.

What do you take to be the most salient evidence in support of your model?

The New Testament portrays Christ as having divine powers including the knowledge of all things (e.g. John 16:30, 21:17), but not utilizing them in all situations (e.g. Mark 13:32 and John 4:3-6 noted previously). His divine powers were largely ‘hidden’ (‘Krypsis’ in Greek) during the Incarnation, and only utilized on certain occasions to reveal his glory (e.g. John 2:1–11).  This is what my model postulates.

What might be the most contestable aspects of your model?

Its complexity. C. Stephen Evans told me that one standard criterion for the plausibility of a hypothesis is simplicity, and that my model fares poorly in this regard, for it seems to be much more complicated than alternative models such as the Two Consciousnesses Model and the Ontological Kenotic Model, and at times it seems as if it labours with ad hoc additions such as ‘it is possible that…’

This is an important objection, but I think it is answerable. Simplicity is a virtue and the charge of being ad hoc is valid only if all other things are equal. In this case it is not the case that all other things are equal, because alternative models such as the Two Consciousnesses Model and the Ontological Kenotic Model have significant problems which disappear on my Kryptic Model. Given this, the additions that my model makes are not ad hoc, because they help us to make sense of the Incarnation, the historical evidence for which has been defended by distinguished historians of early Christianity (e.g. N.T. Wright, Craig Keener) and eminent philosophers of religion (e.g. Richard Swinburne, William Lane Craig). Additionally, it seems that a great level of complexity in the metaphysics is only to be expected given the sheer difficulty of the idea that a person could at the same time be a human as well as the Maker of the universe, thus the kind of additions that my model makes seems warranted.

What does your model make possible and plausible that other models fail to accomplish?

My model makes it possible to affirm that Christ had a single consciousness yet retained his divine powers at the Incarnation.

The plausibility of the model can be seen when we reflect on the following train of thought. Given that the Two Consciousnesses Model would entail the difficulties that Christ could have two contradictory self-consciousnesses simultaneously and that there could be an I–Thou relationship between these consciousnesses, which implies Nestorianism, Christ could have only one consciousness. Given the difficulty (which besets the Ontological Kenotic Model) of answering whether a divine person would still be divine if he were to give up his omniscience, omnipotence and omnipresence (cf. Ps.147:4–5, Luke 1:37, Jer. 23:23–4 etc.), Christ must in some way be in possession of these properties (and this seems more consistent with Scriptural passages such as John 16:30, 21:17; Col. 1:17) but not utilizing them in all the acts that he did while he was in his incarnate state. This is what my model postulates of Christ.

In addition, my model answers other difficult questions facing the Divine Subconscious Model which have not been adequately addressed by previous versions of this model. For example, by postulating that the divine preconscious was not part of his human nature but was part of his divine nature, and that the divine nature and human nature were concrete and distinct parts of Christ, my model avoids a Monophysite mixture. Moreover, my model avoids Apollinarianism by postulating a human preconscious alongside a divine preconscious. While some recent advocates of the Divine Subconscious Model have denied Dyothelitism, I demonstrated in Chapters 5 and 6 that my model is consistent with the Dyothelitism of Maximus the Confessor.

Can you outline further work to be done by philosophers and theologians in light of your kryptic model of the incarnation?

The Incarnation is one of the central doctrines of Christian theology. It is the culmination of divine revelation, and therefore ought to determine our understanding of God and humanity. Christian theologian and philosophers working on the explication of Divine Attributes, the Doctrine of the Trinity and theological anthropology cannot afford to ignore how the Incarnation is to be understood. Working on these issues in light of this Kryptic model would involve, for example, the rejection of a strong version of divine immutability and essential timelessness, as well as the rejection of a physicalist account of human nature, as argued in Chapter 6 of my book.

Another potentially fruitful area of research concerns inter-denominational and inter-religious dialogues. Breakthroughs might be achieved by utilizing the insights provided by the Kryptic model to address the concerns and objections related to the Incarnation, which can be found in the writings of Chalcedonian and non-Chalcedonian churches, Lutheran and Reformed traditions etc., as well in the writings of Jehovah Witnesses, and Islamic and Judaist theologians etc. throughout the centuries. Hopefully, this would result in greater unity within the body of Christ, and more effective witness to the glory of the Incarnation.

A Tribute to Stuart C. Hackett (1925-2012)

Last week, Stuart Cornelius Hackett (b. 1925)—a beloved philosophy professor, friend, and brother in Christ—departed this life to go where all true believers long to be. His mental brilliance, affected in his later years by Alzheimer’s, has been restored, and he is a now a clearer thinker than anytime during earthly days.

When I began to study at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in 1985, my very first class during my first quarter—we didn’t have “semesters” then—was Hackett’s “Religious Epistemology” class. This remarkable course introduced me to rationalism, empiricism, testing truth claims, Kant and the synthetic a priori. My eyes were being opened to the larger world of philosophy, and just a few weeks into the semester I was more than sufficiently inspired to pursue an M.A. degree in philosophy of religion—in addition to my M.Div. degree. I would write my master’s thesis on “The Impossibility of an Infinite Temporal Regress of Events”—an argument Hackett resurrected from medieval Jewish and Muslim philosophy and utilized in his Resurrection of Theism. (Of course, William Craig, also a former student of Hackett’s, has been most closely identified with this theistic proof—now referred to as the kalam cosmological argument.)  Hackett’s early influence on my study of philosophy led me to dedicate my 2007 book Loving Wisdom to him.

As for the personal side of Dr. Hackett, he was quite colorful, both in personality and in his dress. He would wear brightly- and outrageously-colored, mismatched polyesters to class. One day he told us, “My wife wanted me to be sure to tell you that she does not approve of what I’m wearing today.”  In addition to sporting thick black-framed glasses, he would keep his hair quite short and his beard barely longer—perhaps ten days’ growth of stubble.  Once, when Hackett was wearing his well-worn dark overcoat in the middle of winter, someone at Trinity commented that it looked like someone had dragged him onto the seminary property off the streets of Chicago! One day in class, Stu Hackett told us, “I am often described as a weird person…I don’t know that I’m weird in an absolute sense—I mean I’m not a werewolf or a vampire or anything like that. I’m just highly individualistic.”

He was an enthusiastic teacher who would often greet us in Latin, Pax vobis cum—and then finish the reply himself—et te cum spiritu. He would cite Francis Thompson’s Hound of Heaven, telling us that we needed to move ahead with “unperturbed pace, deliberate speed, and majestic instancy.”  He was ever full of good humor—to the point that some students complained that they weren’t getting their money’s worth in class: “I’m gonna’ lay this stuff on you like one great big metaphysical egg!” Confessing that “I don’t have a Reformed bone in my body,” he summarized his credo: “I’m a whiskey Calvinist—of the five points, I can only swallow one fifth.” (His wife Joan once told me that for an entire afternoon, the Calvinist theologian Roger Nicole doggedly tried to persuade Hackett to become a Calvinist. But it was not predestined to be.)

To add to the atmosphere, Hackett would specialize in extraordinarily long, Germanic-style sentences, which called for focused vigilance so as not to lose the thread of what he was saying. To give you an idea, here is a sample sentence—yes, one sentence—taken from his book The Reconstruction of the Christian Revelation Claim:

If the very possibility of a contingent cosmos or world order is fully conceivable only through its dependence on a transcendent realm of essence and directive selection; and if the very notion of an actually infinite series of past temporal states of the temporal universe involves a self-contradiction, whether that universe is construed in mentalistic or materialistic terms; and if the pervasion of the universe by significant order or purposive adaptation is itself best explained through an operation of transcendent self-directive mind through its own operative causality—and these are the very claims that our previous arguments have defended as plausible—then the supposition that selfhood (self-awareness, conceptualization, and self-direction) could not be explained in terms of material constituents, which themselves require explanation on transcendent and essentially immaterial or spiritual grounds, seems questionable indeed (p. 110).

Dr. Hackett was a friend to so many, and we loved him, eccentricities and all. He was a dedicated follower of Christ, who would read through his Greek New Testament each year. When he retired, he began to brush up on his Hebrew so that he could resume reading the Old Testament in that language. He prayed before every class, and he would often offer words of spiritual encouragement to his students. Before he came to school each day, he prayed that if he said anything false, this teaching would simply fall to the ground and be forgotten. But if he taught what was true, he prayed that it would be forever emblazoned upon his students’ minds. (Of one of his theological opponents, Hackett said, “If that person had prayed that prayer, he would have died in utter obscurity!”)

All of us philosophy students would gather together at the Hackett home for our regular end-of-the-quarter bash—complete with Sarah Lee sweets accompanied by guitar music by our beloved professor, who would sing self-composed songs such as “Plato, dear Plato, how I love you!” Just before I graduated, someone took a picture of a group of us at his home. When I visited the Hacketts years later in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, I saw this photo underneath the glass top of his desk. His wife Joan told me that it was a reminder for him pray for us, which he did every day.

Hackett—or “Big Stu” as he enjoyed being called—taught and inspired not only me, but other philosophers and apologists, including William Lane Craig, Stephen Evans, Jay Wood, Mark McLeod-Harrison, Chad Meister, Mark Linville, Mark Mittelberg, Nicholas Merriwether, and many more. Others influenced by Hackett include the pastor and author John Piper as well as own pastor Dennis Reiter, with whom I worked in Storrs, Connecticut; they, along with many others, benefited from his philosophical teaching while at Wheaton College, where he taught alongside Arthur Holmes before he was at Trinity.

Preferring to call himself a “student of philosophy” rather than a “philosopher,” Dr. Hackett wrote several articles for professional journals such as the International Journal for Philosophy of Religion. He also authored four books: Oriental Philosophy, The Resurrection of Theism, The Reconstruction of the Christian Revelation Claim, and The Rediscovery of the Highest Good. Hackett’s Oriental Philosophy (University of Wisconsin Press) is a superb introduction to the topic (Hackett had even gone to India to learn Sanskrit as part of this writing endeavor). The latter three books are rigorous, lucid texts covering epistemology, apologetics, philosophy of religion, and ethics. They are currently available through Wipf and Stock, and I would encourage you to explore these writings of a noteworthy philosopher from a previous generation. In addition, I should mention a Festschrift in Hackett’s honor was published in 1990, The Logic of Rational Theism (Edwin Mellen Press), coedited by William Lane Craig and Mark McLeod. Hackett offered a response to these essays, which can be found at The Interactive Hackett—a website that Tim Cole, a former classmate and Hackett student, has maintained and updated over the years.

Though Hackett kept a low profile and did not receive the attention he rightly deserved, his legacy lives on through many of the students he faithfully served and taught over the years—not to mention others who have benefited from his writings. His quiet, faithful ministry reminds me of the heroine in George Eliot’s Middlemarch, Dorothea:“But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.”

Give thanks with me for Stuart Hackett’s legacy. We have been enriched, made wiser, and better equipped to be witnesses to the good news of Jesus Christ through this faithful servant. “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord…for their deeds follow them.”

Fall 2011 EPS President’s Update

Greetings, EPS Members!

My school—Palm Beach Atlantic University—is eagerly anticipating Alvin Plantinga’s coming this Sunday! He’ll be here for several days of lectures and conversations with faculty and students here. I’m reminded of the splendid time we had with him at our EPS annual meeting and apologetics conference last year in Atlanta.  

We are blessed to live in these days, being able to stand on the shoulders of philosophical giants like Plantinga. I recently received the latest issue of Faith and Philosophy (though please do keep subscribing to Philosophia Christi!) Therein, Nicholas Wolterstorff reflects on Plantinga’s remarkable career, beginning with the time they were sophomores together at Calvin College some sixty years ago. Wolterstorff notes how the today’s landscape in the philosophy of religion, metaphysics, and epistemology—so utterly different from sixty years ago—clearly evidences Plantinga’s distinctive influence.  As Christian philosophers and apologists, we are the beneficiaries of the groundbreaking, bold ideas and writings of Plantinga and Wolterstorff—and we could add many more.

Annual Meeting

Next month we look forward to gathering again, this time in San Francisco. We’ll have another influential veteran philosopher as our plenary speaker, Dallas Willard. God has used him to train a generation of philosophers, help awaken the church to the life of the mind, and remind us of the importance of the spiritual disciplines to transform character. Also at our EPS annual meeting, we have another excellent lineup of papers, and we’re grateful to Jeremy Evans as program chair for managing this so ably.

Apologetics Conference

We’ll be having our annual apologetics conference at the historic First Presbyterian Church in Berkeley. Our engaging plenary speakers include Dallas Willard, whose topic will be, “Jesus: The Smartest Man Who Ever Lived,” as well as J.P. Moreland, Craig Hazen, and Greg Koukl. We’ll have a lot of our “regulars” presenting at the breakout seminars—William Craig, Frank Beckwith, Doug Geivett. You’ll see some newer faces as well—such as Holly Ordway (a former atheist and author of Not God’s Type), the kiwi philosopher Matt Flannagan (a rising star in the sky of philosophical theology), Mike Licona (the author of a landmark book on The Resurrection of Jesus), Mike Horner (a veteran Canadian apologist), and I’Ching Thomas (an apologist who works with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Singapore). Register at We look forward to seeing you at these events—as well as at our reception on Wednesday night and business meeting on Thursday night (16 and 17 November).

AAR/SBL Meeting

And don’t forget: just following these events, the EPS will be hosting a session at AAR/SBL on Saturday, 19 November at 7:00 PM. J.P. Moreland, Angus Menuge, and Kevin Corcoran will be presenting on the matter (!) of “Prospects for Body/Soul Dualism Today.”  This should be an exciting, substantial exchange on an important topic.   Each November is a highlight in my academic year—hearing thought-provoking papers, talking philosophy into the wee hours, enjoying the fellowship of old friends, meeting new philosophical comrades-in-arms, poring over the newest (discounted!) books in philosophy, apologetics, theology, and biblical studies.   I pray this will be a time of intellectual challenge and spiritual revitalization for us all so that we may return to our places of learning, teaching, writing, and ministry to serve Christ and his kingdom more effectively.

Warmly in Christ,

Paul Copan

EPS President

Arthur F. Holmes, 1924-2011

News broke over the weekend that the noted Christian philosopher, Dr. Arthur F. Holmes, died on Saturday, October 9. He was 87. Holmes “inspired generations of Wheaton College students and the broader Christian community through his thoughtful scholarship,” observed a Wheaton College press release.

On remembering Holmes’ life and legacy, Alvin Plantinga, the emeritus John A. O’Brien Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, said at the Christianity Today blog: “Arthur Holmes was a great Christian and a fine philosopher. We Christians who value the life of the mind must thank and praise the Lord for Art and his life, and we must do our best to see that his tradition is carried on and developed.”

Below is the following statement from Paul Copan, President of the Evangelical Philosophical Society and the Pledger Family Chair of Philosophy and Ethics, Palm Beach Atlantic University

This past Sunday evening, I read the sad news of the death of the well-loved Christian philosophy professor Arthur Holmes; he had taught at Wheaton College for over four decades.  One of the two influential philosophy professors I had at Trinity Seminary, Stuart Hackett, had been a good friend and colleague of Prof. Holmes for many years at Wheaton College.  In fact, it was Prof. Holmes who helped bring Prof. Hackett out of obscurity—from a small Southern college to a highly-esteemed evangelical college, giving him a far wider influence in the Christian philosophical community.  The well-established reputation Prof. Hackett earned at Wheaton would pave the way for his coming to Trinity Seminary.  So, indirectly, I am a beneficiary of Prof. Holmes’ initiative and foresight.

I myself had the opportunity to meet and interact with Prof. Holmes personally at the annual Wheaton Philosophy conferences and as I bumped into him here and there at other philosophical gatherings.  Though I found him to be modest and unassuming, he influenced many student lives and helped contribute to the rising tide of Christian philosophers shaping this generation, including Stephen Evans and William Lane Craig. I myself have been influenced through Prof. Holmes’ writings.  When I took my first philosophy class at Trinity Seminary in the fall of 1985, “Religious Epistemology” with Prof. Hackett, we students read and dissected Prof. Holmes’ book All Truth Is God’s Truth—to our great benefit.   And during my final year at Trinity Seminary, I took a class with Dr. Carl F.H. Henry, and another of Prof.  Holmes’ books was our text—Contours of a World View. These textbooks inspired me to hunt down and read Prof. Holmes’ other works: Ethics: Approaching Moral Decisions; Fact, Value, and God; The Idea of a Christian College; Building the Christian Academy (edited); and War and Christian Ethics (edited).  All of his books are now a valuable part of my library.  They are lucidly written and insightful; indeed, they are solid resources for Christians in the liberal arts and for any believer who wants to think Christianly. 

Though Arthur Holmes has died, he still speaks through the lives of the Christian students he has influenced and the books he has written.  I commend his writings to present generation of Christian philosophy students and to all interested in more fully understanding what it means for Christ to be Lord over every facet of life.

Paul Copan
EPS President

Christianity Today’s blog reported that “Wheaton’s archives has collected some of Holmes’ chapel addresses and his papers are housed in the college’s special collections.”

Do you have any personal memories of Holmes? Any favorite Holmes-isms? How was Holmes a model for your scholarship?

Christianity Not a Source of Violence

In the wake of the recent killings in Oslo, Norway, there has been a flurry of debate over whether the accused mass-murderer, Anders Breivik, is in fact a Christian. The New York Times described Breivik as a “Christian extremist,” William Saletan at Slate has used the phrase “Christian terrorism,” and numerous other journalists and bloggers continue to use similar terms (despite the fact that the media have typically repudiated the use of such terminology regarding Islam).

Two of the strongest assertions have come from Chicago Theological Seminary professor Susan Brooks Thislethwaite in the Washington Post and University of Chicago Divinity School professor Margaret Mitchell in Sightings, the latter of which declares that “Breivik is deeply and significantly a Christian.” This is especially disappointing, since as scholars in theology and New Testament studies, respectively, Thislethwaite and Mitchell should know better. In no reasonable sense of the term can Breivik be called a Christian. As Jordan Sekulow said in a rejoinder to Thislethwaite in another Washington Post piece, “To label Breivik a ‘Christian’ requires a depraved understand[ing] of what it means to be a Christian.”

Those sympathetic with these accusations apparently reject the distinction between genuine Christians and those who merely claim to be Christians. We recognize this distinction in every other context, and so should we here. Being a Christian is not simply a matter of affirming certain propositions, as is clear from many biblical passages (e.g., Mt. 25:31-46; 1 Cor. 6:9-10; and Gal. 5:19-21). Even if Anders Breivik did affirm the deity and resurrection of Jesus (which, in fact, he denies), this would not by itself make him any more Christian than the devil himself (who presumably would affirm these truths).

Even more disturbing is the contention by Thislethwaite that there are “elements of Christianity” that actually inspire violence. Thislethwaite neglects to specify what those elements are, beyond pointing to certain problematic “interpretations” of Scripture.

Some might be tempted to justify this view by pointing to certain Old Testament passages where God commanded the killing of the Canaanites. But these are not uniquely Christian texts. Jews and Muslims also regard the Old Testament books as scripture. To properly assess a true Christian ethic of violence we must focus on Christianity’s distinguishing person, Jesus Christ, and Christianity’s distinguishing text, the New Testament. And when we do so, what do we find? A consistent ethic of non-violence. Consider the following:

    The Example of Christ – Jesus’ entire life was characterized by peace and reconciliation, earning him the moniker “Prince of Peace.”Even in the face of extreme injustice and merciless torture, he did not resist his abusers. Jesus even rebuked a disciple for resorting to violence to defend him (Mt. 26:52).

    The Ministry of Christ – Jesus consistently worked for peace and reconciliation. He declared, “blessed are the peacemakers” (Mt. 5:9) and instructed people to “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you (Luke 6:27-28). Jesus explicitly taught an ethic of personal non-violence, saying, “Do not [violently] resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also” (Mt. 5:39).

    Other New Testament Teachings – The Apostle Paul taught fellow Christians to live peacefully with others, saying, “so far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Rom. 12:18).He makes the same admonition repeatedly (see I Cor. 7:15; 1 Cor. 14:33; 2 Cor. 13:11; and 1 Thess. 5:13). Paul and Peter also expressly reject rebellion against government authorities (Rom. 13:1-3; 1 Pet. 2:13-17).

The influence of these teachings in the history of the church is well-known, including:1) significant pacifist theological traditions (e.g., the Quakers and Mennonites), 2) Christian non-violent social movements (e.g. anti-war organizations, anti-death penalty groups, and Martin Luther King’s work in the civil rights movement), and 3) Christian martyrdom, as thousands of believers have been, and continue to be, tortured and killed rather than to violently defend themselves against oppressors.

These are the facts that have been overlooked or ignored by those such as Thislethwaite who suggest Christianity inspires violence. Perhaps what Thislethwaite really wants to highlight is the fact that some madmen, most recently Anders Breivik, have warped or twisted Christian ideas to their own use in attempting to justify their violence. Well, of course this is true—and it is so obvious it is hardly worth stating. But this is a far cry from the notion that Christianity itself, as defined above inspires violence or that there could be such a thing as a “Christian terrorist.” We are deeply saddened by such a gross distortion of the moral essence of our faith—a misrepresentation so severe that it amounts to theological slander.

Rather than cast blame where it does not belong, let us instead pray for the survivors and families of the victims of the Oslo shootings and even for Anders Breivik. Let us renew our efforts to sow harmony and reconciliation instead of violence and discord in all contexts, public and private. And let us promote the New Testament ethic of peaceful living and self-giving love. In short, let us follow the example and teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ, as we work for redemption in all things.

Paul Copan, Ph.D.

President of the Evangelical Philosophical Society

Pledger Family Chair of Philosophy and Ethics

Palm Beach Atlantic University

James S. Spiegel. Ph.D.

Professor of Philosophy and religion

Taylor University (Indiana)


J.P. Moreland, Ph.D.

Distinguished Professor of Philosophy

Talbot School of Theology

Craig J. Hazen, Ph.D.

Professor of Comparative Religion

Biola Univeristy


William A. Dembski, Ph.D.

Research Professor in Philosophy

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary


Angus Menuge, Ph.D.

Professor of Philosophy

Concordia University (Wisconsin)


Jeremy Evans, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Philosophy

Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary


Gary R. Habermas, Ph.D

Distinguished Professor of Philosophy and Chair of the Department of Philosophy and Theology

Liberty University


Bruce A. Little, Ph.D.

Director of the L. Russ Bush Center For Faith and Culture

Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary


Timothy Paul Erdel, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Religion and Philosophy

Bethel College, Indiana


Robert B. Stewart, Ph.D.

Associated Professor of Philosophy and Theology

New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary


Robert Larmer, Ph.D.

Professor and Chair

Department of Philosophy

University of New Brunswick


Gregory E Ganssle, Ph.D.

Senior Fellow

Rivendell Institute


Mary Jo Sharp

President, Confident Christianity


Lenny Esposito

President, Come Reason Ministries

William P. Alston, 1921-2009

The EPS honors the life and work of Christian philosopher Dr. William P. Alston, who died on September 13, 2009.

Below is an obituary received from Valerie Alston, Dr. Alston’s beloved wife. And a personal tribute from Paul Copan, President of the Evangelical Philosophical Society. We welcome further personal and professional appreciations about Dr. Alston’s life and work. Please submit your comments to this blog post (see below).

William Payne Alston

William Payne Alston, 87, died September 13, 2009, at the Nottingham Residential Health Care Facility in Jamesville, New York. He was born November 29, 1921 in Shreveport, Louisiana.

In 1942, Bill received a Bachelor of Music degree from Centenary College. During WWII, he served in an Army Band stationed in California. While in the service, he became interested in philosophy, and after his discharge from the Army, he entered the Graduate Program in Philosophy at the University of Chicago. His Ph.D. work led to a position at the University of Michigan, where he taught philosophy for twenty-two years and established himself as an important American philosopher. He then moved to Rutgers University and, later to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In 1980 he joined the faculty at Syracuse University where he completed his fifty-year career teaching and writing about philosophy. He was best known for his work in the philosophy of language, epistemology, and the philosophy of religion. He published several books and over 150 articles. His many Ph.D. students play a major role in philosophy today. He was founding editor of the journals Faith and Philosophy and Journal of Philosophical Research.

Bill received the highest honors of his profession. He has been President of the Central Division American Philosophical Association, the Society for Philosophy and Psychology, and the Society of Christian Philosophers. His international travel included trips to the Vatican as part of an eight-year project on “God’s Actions in the World in the Light of Modern Science,” sponsored by the Vatican Observatory. He was a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, and he received Syracuse University’s Chancellor’s Award for Exceptional Academic Achievement.

He is survived by his wife of 46 years, Valerie Alston; a daughter, Ellen (John) Donnelly of Wayne, NJ and grandchildren, Patrick & Anna Donnelly; step-children, Marsha (Gary) Dysert of Charlotte, NC, James (Nancy) Barnes of Toledo, OH, Kathleen (Blair) Person of Troy, MI; four step-grandchildren and three great step-grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at St. Paul’s Cathedral on November 2, 2009 at 11:00 a.m. Fairchild & Meech are in charge of arrangements.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral, 310 Montgomery Street, Syracuse, N.Y. 13202.


A personal tribute to William P. Alston, from Paul Copan, President of the Evangelical Philosophical Society

On September 13, 2009, Christian philosopher William P. Alston died at the age of 87. Alston wrote prolifically on a wide range of topics in the philosophy of religion—from the problem of evil to divine action to the Spirit’s indwelling to divine foreknowledge and human freedom. Alston’s groundbreaking work is particularly noteworthy in the areas of defending meaningful religious language and articulating an epistemology of religious experience. Other significant contributions include his rigorous defense of truth in realistic terms (“alethic realism”) and of metaphysical realism.

I first heard of Bill Alston when I was a philosophy student at Trinity Seminary in Deerfield, Illinois in the mid-1980s. (I was a student of Drs. Stuart Hackett and William Lane Craig back then.) During this time, I began subscribing to the Society of Christian Philosophers’ journal, Faith and Philosophy. I was aware that Alston and Al Plantinga had helped launch the SCP—a momentous achievement whose time had finally come and for which Christian philosophers everywhere will be ever grateful.

During my studies at Trinity, I had my first exposure to Alston’s writings. The very first Alston piece I read was his essay “Divine-Human Dialogue and the Nature of God” (Faith and Philosophy, January 1986). I not only appreciated the topic he tackled; I marveled that a sophisticated philosopher would give a questionnaire to adults at his church, asking them, “Do you ever feel that God speaks to you? (Not necessarily in audible words. The question could be phrased: do you ever feel that God is communicating a message to you?)” Alston tallied the results: Yes-17; No-2. Thus began my great appreciation and respect for Alston’s insight and exceptional scholarship as well as his personal devotion as a Christian.

After my studies at Trinity, I had the opportunity to meet Alston in 1988 at a Society of Christian Philosophers conference at Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts. He was one in an impressive line-up of presenters, which included Richard Swinburne, George Mavrodes, Stephen Evans, Nicholas Wolterstorff, Eleonore Stump, and Marilyn Adams along with biblical scholars Anthony Thiselton and the late James Barr. A few of these presented papers made their way into the Faith and Philosophy October 1989 issue.

Years later, I wrote a book review of Thomas Morris’s God and the Philosophers (Oxford University Press 1994) for The Review of Metaphysics (June 1997). Alston’s autobiographical chapter gave me further insight into his experience with God personally—even speaking in tongues—through the influence of charismatic Christians. Alston discussed his attraction to the Christian community through the love he had experienced within it: “my way back [to Christ] was not by abstract philosophical reasoning, but by experience—experience of the love of God and the presence of the Spirit, as found within the community of the faithful” (p. 28). Alston has served as a model of rigorous philosophical thought as well as a deep experience of God by His Spirit. His experience reminds us that the gospel is powerful in a holistic sense: it not only has explanatory philosophical power, but it has the power to transform lives and meet the deepest of human needs.

Back in 2002/2003, I had the privilege of working with Alston on a book project. With Paul Moser, I coedited The Rationality of Theism (Routledge), and Bill led off with the superb essay, “Religious Language and Verificationism.” He concluded his piece by calling the Verificationist Criterion to be “but a paper tiger, in philosophy of religion as elsewhere.” He added, “It poses no threat to the apparently obvious truth that talk of God contains many statements about God that have objective truth-values—whether we can determine what they are or not.”

I am honored to have learned from and worked with this notable philosopher and, even more significantly, a brother in Christ and a partner in the gospel.

Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.


Other remembrances about Alston can be found here:

For further info, see Daniel Howard-Snyder’s helpful bibliography of Alston’s scholarly work (since 2006) and Daniel’s 2005 biographical entry in the Dictionary of Modern American Philosophers.

We welcome personal and professional appreciations in honor of Dr. William P. Alston. Please submit your comments to this post!

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

EPS Sponsored Apologetics Training in New England

Nearly 800 people came out for the
“Earnestly Contending” apologetics
conference held at New Life Worship Center
— this was a record amount of people to attend such a conference in this region.

Attendees received first-hand training from
William Lane Craig
, Paul Copan,
Gary Habermas, Craig Evans,
Daniel B. Wallace,
Greg Koukl,
Michael Rea, Michael
, and several other featured speakers, including
Brett Kunkle who spoke to over 100 youth.

And perhaps even more encouraging is that over 100 area pastors came to a luncheon
and seminar in order to better grasp the pastoral significance of apologetics training
and ministry in the local church.

There was more than just interest in apologetics and Christian worldview training
— there was downright hunger for Christian knowledge and understanding.

Some have blogged about the conference, including comments at
Stirred Neurons,

Confident Christianity
, and even over at John Loftus’

Debunking Christianity

Audio of the conference presentations will be available in early 2009. You can currently
purchase all of the audio from last year by going

Because of the generous support of our donors, the EPS
continues to make an impact regionally and nationally. Please consider making a
tax-deductible, end-of-year donation to the EPS.

Subscribe to our free e-newsletter
and stay tuned for further info about next year’s conference in New Orleans!