Gary R. Habermas, Jerry L. Walls, Dave Baggett, and R. Douglas Geivett
Book Symposium: C. S. Lewis as Philosopher: Truth, Goodness and Beauty
Gary R. Habermas, Jerry L. Walls, Dave Baggett, and R. Douglas Geivett
Book Symposium: C. S. Lewis as Philosopher: Truth, Goodness and Beauty
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 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.
President of the Evangelical Philosophical Society
Pledger Family Chair of Philosophy and Ethics
Palm Beach Atlantic University
Professor of Philosophy and religion
Taylor University (Indiana)
Distinguished Professor of Philosophy
Talbot School of Theology
Professor of Comparative Religion
Research Professor in Philosophy
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Professor of Philosophy
Concordia University (Wisconsin)
Assistant Professor of Philosophy
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Distinguished Professor of Philosophy and Chair of the Department of Philosophy and Theology
Director of the L. Russ Bush Center For Faith and Culture
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Associate Professor of Religion and Philosophy
Bethel College, Indiana
Associated Professor of Philosophy and Theology
New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary
Professor and Chair
Department of Philosophy
University of New Brunswick
President, Confident Christianity
President, Come Reason Ministries
We are pleased to offer EPS online readers some exclusive comments by Dr. Gary R. Habermas on the life of Professor Antony Flew, who died on April 8, 2010. Habermas is the Distinguished Research Professor and Chairperson in the Department of Philosophy and Theology at Liberty University.
In the next issue of Philosophia Christi (Summer 2010), Dr. Habermas will offer an extended reflection on the life of Flew and his friendship with him. In the meantime, we encourage you to consider these comments by Habermas:
In terms of his total body of work, Antony Garrard Newton Flew was arguably the most able philosophical apologist for atheism–ever. His major works such as God and Philosophy and The Presumption of Atheism are witnesses to his systematic treatment of relevant subjects. We studied his works in our philosophy classes. He was a giant. So it was no surprise that, in recent years, he made the headlines worldwide after announcing that he had come to believe in the existence of God.
In spite of his age—87 years—his life came to a conclusion all too soon. I was much saddened to hear that Tony Flew had died on April 8. It’s not that I hadn’t expected it. I had just spoken at length to his wife only three days beforehand and learned that he was not doing well; his death was expected soon. When the time came, I realized anew that I had lost a close friend. It wasn’t so much his “conversion” from atheism. After all, we had maintained very friendly contact for almost twenty years before that occasion. I would have felt similarly had he remained an atheist. Only time will tell the final impact of his life and publications.
Gary R. Habermas
In 2004, Philosophia Christi was privileged to publish an exclusive and extensive interview between Habermas and Flew, which can be read here. The year before, Ashgate published the Does God Exist: The Craig-Flew Debate book, which commented on and further developed the 1998 debate between Antony Flew and former EPS President William Lane Craig.
And then 2006, Flew and his wife came to Southern California to receive the Philip E. Johnson Award for Liberty and Truth at Biola University (Biola is also where the editorial and subscription management office of Philosophia Christi is housed). The award event caught the eye of Richard Dawkins in his 2006 bestseller, The God Delusion, for which he suggested that Biola was taking advantage of Flew. Flew later reviewed (2008) Dawkins’ book in Philosophia Christi, and closed his review with these words:
… as to the suggestion that I have been used by Biola University. If the way I was welcomed by the students and the members of the faculty whom I met on my short stay in Biola amounted to being used then I can only express my regret that at the age of 85 I cannot reasonably hope for another visit to this institution.
Finally, in 2007, Habermas reviewed There is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind, which can be read here.
Habermas and Flew debated about the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, such as in their 1987 Did Jesus Rise from the Dead? The Resurrection Debate and then in their 2005 Resurrected? An Atheist and Theist Dialogue. For videos of these and other debates between Flew and Habermas, visit www.garyhabermas.com.
Further coverage about Flew’s life and work can be found here:
We are nearly at press with the next issue of Philosophia Christi.
In our 10:2 (Winter 2008) issue, there are several important contributions to enjoy. Highlights below.
Highlights in the Winter 2008 issue
In ‘Flew Speaks Out: Professor Flew Reviews The God Delusion‘ Professor Antony Flew responds in trenchant terms to what he calls ‘that monster footnote [concerning Flew on page 82] to what I am inclined to describe as that monster book’ The God Delusion (Bantam, 2006).
According to this new article by the 85 year old ex-atheist, published July 19th 2008 by UCCF’s excellent apologetics website www.bethinking.org, Richard Dawkins is ‘a secularist bigot’.
The fault of Dawkins as an academic, says Flew: ‘was his scandalous and apparently deliberate refusal to present the doctrine which he appears to think he has refuted in its strongest form.’
Flew’s 2004 announcement that at the age of 81, after a noted professional lifetime of atheism, he had come to believe in the existence of God, really set the cat among the pigeons. Ad hominem accusations of hedging his bets with respect to an afterlife that Flew (under the influence of Gilbert Ryle) still doesn’t believe even theoretically possible were bandied about by ill-informed detractors such as British humanist’s Roy Hattersley and Richard Dawkins. Indeed, at a recent conference on the resurrection in London, Flew stated (before a mainly Christian audience) from a platform shared with Professor Gary R. Habermas and Bishop N.T. Wright, that he didn’t believe in any kind of life after death, including resurrection. Hardly the words of a man who is either hedging his bets or easily swayed by Christian friends! As Flew writes in There Is a God (Harper One, 2007): ‘I do not think of myself as surviving death. For the record, then, I want to lay to rest all those rumors that have me placing Pascalian bets.’ (p. 2.)
Indeed, Richard Dawkins slings several criticisms in Flew’s direction within a large footnotes on page 82 of The God Delusion (Bantam, 2006), none of which deal with the substance of Flew’s Deism, or the philosophical arguments that persuade him thereof. Instead, Dawkins says that in his ‘old age’ Flew, whom he depreciates as not being a ‘great philosopher’ like Bertrand Russell, has adopted belief in ‘some sort of deity’. Dawkins also attacks Flew for what he calls ‘his ignominious decision to accept, in 2006, the “Philip E. Johnson Award for Liberty and Truth’, for which he notes ‘The awarding university is BIOLA, the Bible Institute of Los Angeles. One can’t help wondering whether Flew realizes that he is being used.’
Having responded in several venues to the erroneous suggestions that his change of mind is a ‘Pascalian Wager’ in the face of death, and that his book There Is a God was basically written by rather than with help from Roy Abraham Varghese, Flew now responds directly to Dawkins. (By the way, I personally read the hand-typed article sent by Flew to a mutual contact at UCCF for publication, so I hope we can leave conspiracy theories where they belong.) Flew is clearly deeply upset with Dawkins, on both an academic and a personal level, and he doesn’t mince words, accusing him of an ‘insincerity of academic purpose.’ Dawkins ‘is not interested in the truth as such,’ laments Flew, ‘but is primarily concerned to discredit an ideological opponent by any available means.’
On receiving the Philip E. Johnson award, Flew notes that: ‘Dawkins obviously assumes (but refrains from actually saying) that [being a specifically Christian institution] is incompatible with producing first class academic work in every department…’ Moreover, as to the suggestion that he was ‘used’ by Biola, Flew clearly doesn’t think the accusation worth dignifying: ‘If the way I was welcomed by the students and members of faculty whom I met in my short stay at Biola amounted to being used then I can only express my regret that at the age of 85 I cannot reasonably hope for another visit to this institution.’
Antony Flew with Roy Abraham Varghese, There Is a God (Harper One, 2007)
Antony Flew, ‘Flew Speaks Out: Professor Flew Reviews The God Delusion‘
Gary R. Habermas & Antony Flew, ‘My Prilgrimage from Atheism to Theism‘
Gary R. Habermas, ‘Antony Flew’s Deism Revisited‘
Roy Abraham Varghese, ‘Letter to the Editor, Magazine, New York Times‘
Benjamin Wiker, ‘Exclusive Flew Interview‘
Peter S. Williams, ‘A Change of Mind for Antony Flew‘
EPS leaders, Craig J. Hazen and Gary R. Habermas, have both responded to recent reports (e.g., at the NYT) about the “Gabriel Vision” tablet and whether it falsifies Christianity’s historic claim concerning Jesus’ unique resurrection from the dead.
Hazen is the founder and director of the graduate program in Christian apologetics at Biola University. His response is here.
Habermas is the Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Philosophy and Theology at Liberty University. His response is here.
Both scholars agree that the news is not disturbing to the Christian claim concerning the resurrection of Jesus.
On June 17th this summer my wife and I flew to Asheville, North Carolina, rented a car, and drove to eastern Tennessee to visit a sister I hadn’t seen for a while. The day before, my best friend in Lynchburg, where I’d lived for fourteen years, saw on Facebook that we were coming east. “Too bad you can’t swing this way,” he wrote. I agreed. Unfortunately, it had to be a quick trip, in Friday, out Monday. “But we’ll have to find a way to see each other soon,” I added, to which he replied, “Yup.”
And that was Mark Wesley Foreman’s last word to me—at least for now. The next morning his remarkable earthly pilgrimage came to an end. He died at home in his study at the age of 67. He passed quickly, no goodbye possible, but his wife of 43 years, Chris, and three daughters—Erin Foreman, Lindsay Leonard (Steven), and Kelly Croucher (Jordan)—knew Mark loved them with all his heart. He had told them many times, and they him.
Their loss is incalculable and still fresh, and they could use our continuing prayers. Likewise his grandchildren Cole, Isaac, Thomas, Penelope, and Joey; and his brothers: David (Sandra), Michael (Louise), Dana (Lisa), and Stuart (Phyllis). Born on December 18, 1954, in Lancaster, California, Mark was son of the late Donald E. Foreman and Carol A. Foreman. In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by his brothers, Scott Foreman, Paul Foreman, and Patrick “Flip” Foreman.
A humble man of prodigious accomplishments, Mark was a well-known Professor of Philosophy at Liberty University for over 33 years. He earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Music at Westminster Choir College, an achievement near and dear to his heart. Another proud milestone was earning his PhD from the University of Virginia. Mark was extremely active in community theatre, having appeared in or directed over 50 productions. Most notable were his performances as Benjamin Franklin in 1776 and Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, both roles he was born to play. He was associated with Lynchburg Fine Arts Center, Cherry Tree Players, Little Town Players, Commerce Street Theater, Wolfbane Productions, Renaissance Theatre, and Endstation Theater, where his Christian witness was always winsome, attractive, and faithful.
With crystal clarity and fluid erudition that reflected his teaching gifts, musical timing, and knack for narrative, he was also an accomplished author. He published four books, including Prelude to Philosophy: An Introduction for Christians; How Do We Know? An Introduction to Epistemology (with Jamie Dew); and (with his daughter Lindsay) Christianity and Modern Medicine: Foundations for Bioethics. A staple of the Evangelical Philosophical Society, Mark read dozens of papers through the years, joyfully occupied several leadership positions, and encouraged and affirmed so many in attendance, including my Worldview Bulletin colleague Paul Copan.
Paul shared this story about Mark: “I always appreciated Mark’s warmth and kindness over the years. For some reason, he attended any EPS session at which I presented at our annual meeting. He was always so kind in distributing my handouts to everyone in the room, though he confessed, ‘Actually, you think I’m being a servant, but it’s somewhat self-serving because doing this guarantees I get a handout in the event there are more people than handouts!’”
Among all of his accomplishments, his most prized titles were Husband, Dad, and Grandpa. Mark was completely devoted to his wife and children and cherished the time they spent together, especially during their many travels nationally and internationally (always including a Disney trip!). He loved spending time with his girls, and he considered no work more important than loving them well.
It’s a little surprising that Mark and I grew to be so close. In several ways we were opposites. He was everything I wasn’t: gregarious, ebullient, and the life of every party. He knew magic and music and movies and mischief, and somehow his infectious laughter and extroversion and my chronic introversion dovetailed, and he became a kindred spirit, more of a brother than mere friend. Three months after losing him, and I remain gutted, like so many others, yet thankful we need not mourn as those without hope and that Jesus has effected the death of death.
One summer several years back, my wife, stepson, and I were in Eaton Rapids, Michigan, and we knew Mark was planning a visit to Chicago. So we scheduled a get-together there. We drove the three hours or so in order to share a meal with him on the Gold Coast. At the time it seemed like the perfectly natural thing to do, even though, I suppose, it would have been considerably easier to see him by walking across the hall from my office to his. No regrets.
In the weeks before his death, Mark and I chatted on Facebook numerous times. He reflected about his retirement just weeks before. (Adding in his high school teaching, he taught for forty years—a biblical generation.) In our last Messenger exchange this was his final entry:
I have mixed feelings about retiring. Part of me is looking forward to not having to deal with the hassle aspect of it all: all the little hoops admin makes you jump through, students complaining about grades, etc.; but part of me is going to really miss being in the classroom. Interacting with students, helping them to see alternatives and deeper truths. I loved being a teacher. It was who I was. And now that person is gone. I will really feel it come August when everyone is going back to school and I am not. I loved my summers off but come August I always had that itch to get back and going back scratched that itch. Don’t know what will scratch it this fall.
I suspect he’s not disappointed.
After we heard the news while in Tennessee, Marybeth and I decided to take leave of my sister and drive to Lynchburg the next morning. That evening we attended a hastily arranged dinner with the old philosophy and theology department from Liberty at La Villa, the same restaurant Mark and I usually ate at on Monday evenings. For years I’d order the “Katy Special,” and did so again this night. About twenty showed up. Several brought their wives, and Mark Foreman’s wife Chris and daughter Lindsay came as well (and two of Lindsay’s kids). It was a poignant, bittersweet time of rekindling old friendships, catching up, and celebrating Mark.
We went around the circle and reminisced. I told the story of how Gary Habermas was once discussing near death experiences, and Mark quipped, “I have a near death experience every time I hear you give a paper.” And how another time I overheard Mark discussing Viagra with some fellows when he said, “If mine lasts more than four hours, I’m not just telling my doctor, I’m telling everybody!”
Mark was a marvel, and losing him was devastating and surreal. This was the guy who sang three times at my wedding and reception. Decked out in a classy tuxedo, he and his friend Sally Southall sang “The Prayer” during the wedding itself. Afterwards, simply because I asked him to, he put on a dress and did a Marilyn Monroe impression singing Happy Birthday to my dean, Emily Heady. Then, on his own initiative, he donned a different dress and wig to impersonate Karen Swallow Prior singing his own version of “Matchmaker.” Anyone who knows him will know he brought the proverbial house down. And he left us with a few priceless images seared into our brains forevermore.
Together he and I saw John McEnroe play tennis in person; we attended Phantom of the Opera in London; we toured Oxford University; we saw Shakespeare plays together in Staunton. He organized my bachelor party at the local ballpark; with friends we walked the streets of Washington, D.C. while he regaled us with tales of Watergate. I attended his dissertation defense—he had written on Gilbert Meilaender and the relevance of religious convictions in the public square. He, his family, and I shared Thanksgiving and Christmas meals more times than I remember. And for nearly fourteen years, every Monday night, we watched the most violent film playing that week after dining and talking at length over Italian food.
We shared so many conversations through the years that in retrospect they easily blend, but their cumulative effect over the years was considerable. We had occasion to discuss just about anything and everything under the sun. Including death, quite a number of times. He was the one who’d told me Robin Williams had died, and after Jerry Falwell, Sr. died, we sat in Macado’s and decompressed and processed it all for hours. Once I remember him saying, “I know some people say they want their funerals to be celebrations. I do not. I want there to be tears and wailing.”
In a sense our weekly pilgrimage constituted our shared ritual, something we came to rely on and that invariably shaped us. It really was a liturgy of sorts. Christians have always taught that there is something deeply sacramental in a shared meal, a vivid example of how we can catch a glimpse of the eternal in the everyday, the transcendent in the immanent, something sacred in the quotidian.
Mourning makes me thankful for Romans 8:26: “In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”
The loss of a dear friend like Mark is a poignant reminder of the value of people, in general, by reminding us of the value of this person in all his particularity and uniqueness. What a remarkable life Mark lived, and how exceedingly valuable he was as a human being. And of course he’s not alone. Each and every person has infinite value and dignity and worth. In “The Weight of Glory,” C. S. Lewis wrote, “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal…. It is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.” It’s just that Mark made this eminently easy to believe.
We’ll see Mark’s wife and daughter Lindsay again soon as they are planning to rent a truck and drive his remaining book collection here to Houston Baptist so the Center for the Foundations of Ethics can have them. I’m eager to see them and reminisce in person. And I can hardly wait to see Mark again, which is possible because the gospel really is gloriously good news, because God is a God of perfect love, and because love is more powerful than death.
And he already told me the first thing he’ll say when we meet again: “Let’s eat.”
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial contributions be made in Mark’s name to Little Town Players, 931 Ashland Ave, Bedford VA 24523, or Commerce Street Theater, 1022 Commerce Street, Lynchburg, VA, 24504.
To hear Mark’s inimitable voice, here’s a song he sang in 1989.
A picture of Foreman looking awesome (and me awkward):
From the publisher’s description of Humility, Pride and Christian Virtue Theory:
Humility, Pride, and Christian Virtue Theory proposes an account of humility that relies on the most radical Christian sayings about humility, especially those found in Augustine and the early monastic tradition. It argues that this was the view of humility that put Christian moral thought into decisive conflict with the best Greco-Roman moral thought. This radical Christian account of humility has been forgotten amidst contemporary efforts to clarify and retrieve the virtue of humility for secular life. Kent Dunnington shows how humility was repurposed during the early-modern era-particularly in the thought of Hobbes, Hume, and Kant-to better serve the economic and social needs of the emerging modern state. This repurposed humility insisted on a role for proper pride alongside humility, as a necessary constituent of self-esteem and a necessary motive of consistent moral action over time. Contemporary philosophical accounts of humility continue this emphasis on proper pride as a counterbalance to humility. By contrast, radical Christian humility proscribes pride altogether. Dunnington demonstrates how such a radical view need not give rise to vices of humility such as servility and pusillanimity, nor need such a view fall prey to feminist critiques of humility. But the view of humility set forth makes little sense abstracted from a specific set of doctrinal commitments peculiar to Christianity. This study argues that this is a strength rather than a weakness of the account since it displays how Christianity matters for the shape of the moral life.
Enjoy this 2015 presentation by Kent for the “Intellectual Humility Capstone Conference”:
For more on this topic, see EPS President, Mike Austin’s latest book and author interview, along with Ross Inman’s (Philosophia Christi Editor) 2017 paper, “On the Moral and Spiritual Contours of the Philosophical Life.”
For a limited time, enjoy a 20% discount on the hardcover version of The Blackwell Companion to Substance Dualism [until September 31, 2018, go to Wiley.com, and enter code CSD19 in check-out, or purchase at Amazon for same discount (as of today)].
To learn more about this significant volume, browse the Table of Contents, read the Introduction, enjoy the Summer 2018 issue of Philosophia Christi [which includes many of the same Companion contributors], and enjoy a number of engaging video interviews with contributors to The Blackwell Companion to Substance Dualism [recorded in late 2017 at the EPS conference in Providence, Rhode Island].
In addition, despite ill health, Lynne Rudder Baker kindly invited Jonathan Loose to her home prior to the conference and gave, according to Loose, what turned out probably to be her last interview on her work.
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