Search Results for: Kevin Timpe

God, Heavenly Freedom, and Evil: A Further Response To Pawl and Timpe

Timothy Pawl and Kevin Timpe have offered a reply to my criticism of their libertarian solution to the so-called “Problem of Heavenly Freedom” – the problem of reconciling the impeccability of the redeemed in heaven and a libertarian view of freedom.

In this paper, I present a response to the most important points of their rebuttal. I argue that they have undermined neither my defense of the compatibilist solution to the Problem of Heavenly Freedom nor my criticisms of their libertarian solution.

The full-text of this paper is available for FREE by clicking here.

Free Will and the Stages of Theological Anthropology

Learn more about this Routledge Research Companion to Theological Anthropology and this chapter contribution!

The principal object of this chapter is to explore the role of free will in the context of theological anthropology. Specifically, we address the relation of human freedom to the progression through the various stages of theological anthropology: status integritatis, status corruptionis, and status gloriae. We begin by contrasting compatibilism and incompatibilism and their respective abilities to account from human freedom. In the theological realm, compatibilism states that human’s action may be freely chosen even if God also determines that same act. In contrast, incompatibilism claims that the existence of free will is incompatible with determinism.

The first stage of theological anthropology that we address is status integritatis. This is the state of humans before sin. Because they are created in the image of God, they are moral agents and, as such, have free will. Traditional Christian thought has held that freedom in this stage is a two-way power; it can be used either in alignment with God’s will, or against it. One approach to an incompatibilist account of human freedom is as follows. For God to create a universe that contained moral good, he would have to create that universe with the possibility for moral evil as well. Because God does not, according to the incompatibilist’s view, determine how agents use their free will, sin becomes a possibility if he gives creation free will. However, because those agents have not lost original righteousness (because they have not yet sinned), it is also possible for them to not sin. Compatibilists often explain human sin, given that God could have determined that humans never freely sin, by using a version of the greater good defense. Here, sin is necessary for some greater good (e.g., incarnation, atonement). On this view, God determines agents to sin in order to bring about that greater good.

Like the status integritatis, in the status corruptionis, humans have the ability to sin. This state comes, however, after the loss of original righteousness. As such, human agents in this stage are no longer oriented toward the good of alignment with God and are in bondage to sin and death. As such, without some grace beyond the grace of nature, humans in the status corruptionis are unable to freely choose the good. Christian tradition supports the claim that free agents in this stage cannot initiate movement toward the good of alignment with God. Instead, God must bestow a unique grace upon the agent in order for that agent to choose a good. In both compatibilist and incompatibilist views, the ability to sin in the status corruptionis has the same provenance as it does in the status integritatis. Compatibilism has an easier time explaining how humans can freely make or fail to make a choice, since it allows God to determine them without undermining their freedom. But, we argue, even on a libertarian account of free will, there is nothing that prevents agents from being both freely able to sin and not freely able to choose the good. Because of the impact of sin upon the individual, a unique grace will be needed for the agent to will the good.

The final stage of theological anthropology is the status gloriae, the stage in which the redeemed are unable to sin. The truth of compatibilism would again allow for an easy defense of this stage: if God can determine how agents use their free will, then God can determine that the redeemed in heaven only direct their free will toward the good and never sin. Incompatibilism seems to have a harder time accounting for the status gloriae: if the redeemed are unable to sin, it would seem that their free will is constrained in some important way. We suggest that one possible libertarian approach is to argue for the agent’s own moral character being the constraining factor. As long as that agent’s moral character is freely formed, and thus an internal rather than external constraint, it need not count against her being free. The libertarian can also argue that a person is only free to choose some option if she sees a reason to choose that option. On this view, the redeemed would have perfected their character so that they perfectly understand their reasons for acting (and not acting), can weigh those reasons perfectly, and would never act contrary to those reasons. It would be possible, then, that the redeemed see no reason to sin, and thus cannot freely choose to sin.

Many of these issues are treated at greater length in Timpe’s Free Will in Philosophical Theology (Bloomsbury 2013). Those interested in these issues should also look at Stewart Goetz’s Freedom, Teleology, and Evil (Continuum 2011). There are considerable literatures relating human freedom to heaven and hell; perhaps the best place to start is Jerry Walls’ Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory: Rethinking the Things that Matter Most (Brazos 2015). We hope that further work will explore philosophical issues of the Incarnation for how it relates to human freedom, as well as the related issue of deification that one finds in various Christian traditions.

In Memoriam, Lynne Rudder Baker (1944-2017)

In light of news of Lynne Rudder Baker’s passing, Evangelical Philosophical Society President, Angus Menuge, offered the following reflection:

Lynne Rudder Baker (1944-2017) was a remarkably original, courageous, and clear-headed Christian philosopher who stands as a role-model for anyone aspiring to excellence as a Christian scholar and teacher. Her first book, Saving Belief, is still the best sustained critique of eliminative materialism and was an inspiration to my own work in philosophy of mind. Lynne’s most innovative contribution was the constitution view of persons. This view accepts the irreducible reality of persons as intentional beings with a first-person perspective and offers an alternative to substance dualism in its account of the Christian teachings of the incarnation and resurrection. Lynne’s last book, Naturalism and the First-Person Perspective, is a standing challenge to naturalism that deserves to be widely discussed for years to come. Students, colleagues, friends, and her husband Tom, will dearly miss her.

Since her passing, various philosophers and former students have also expressed their memories of Lynne and tributes to the value of her work. A common theme articulated by many: Lynne Rudder Baker was overwhelmingly ‘smart,’ ‘elegant,’ ‘generous,’ and ‘kind.’

At the time of her death, Professor Lynne Rudder Baker was Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. In 2005, she achieved the rank of Distinguished Professor of Philosophy. Lynne started teaching at UMass. in 1989.

The contributions and significance of her work extended to various areas of philosophy, including metaphysics, philosophy of mind, philosophy of religion, and epistemology.

Just a few weeks ago, the American Philosophical Association announced that Baker would give the 2018-2019 Patrick Romanell Lecture, focused on the topic of “Philosophical Naturalism.” The chair of the selection committee said,

Lynne Rudder Baker has been a leading contributor to the literature on philosophy of mind, metaphysics, and philosophical theology for more than forty years. One of the many important themes that she has explored in her work concerns just what naturalism is committed to, and what it is that naturalists can and cannot account for.

Of her books, the UMass. Memoriam reads:

Lynne’s first book, Saving Belief: A Critique of Physicalism, presented a defense of the importance of intentional notions against eliminitivists, such as the Churchlands, whose stark metaphysics would rob the world of intentionality, but, at the same time, argued that the legitimacy of intentional notions does not depend on their finding a place in some successful cognitive science, as many then, and now, would have it.  The pragmatic metaphilosophy which underlay this view was brought into sharp focus in Lynne’s second book, Explaining Attitudes: A Practical Approach to the Mind.   In Persons and Bodies: A Constitution View, Lynne made explicit her distinctive metaphysical views about the intimate relationship between a person and that person’s body, avoiding both the perils of various forms of reductionism, and the excesses of an extravagant dualism.  The Metaphysics of Everyday Life: An Essay in Practical Realism extended Lynne’s pragmatism to questions about the metaphysics of ordinary objects.  And Lynne’s latest book, Naturalism and the First-Person Perspective, presents a striking challenge to naturalism, arguing that the very fact that we are capable of thinking of ourselves from a first-person point of view cannot be captured within a naturalistic worldview.  This is an extraordinary body of work, presenting an utterly distinctive set of views on topics of the first importance.

It is believed [though not yet confirmed] that Baker was working on a forthcoming book with Mario De Caro and Fiona Ellis. In April 2016, all three participated in an international conference [at Gregorian University in Rome] on “Nature and Naturalism” (including presentations by Andrew Pinsent and Steven D. Smith). Lynne’s presentation was published in July 2017 in Philosophy [Royal Institute of Philosophy], titled, “Naturalism and the Idea of Nature.”

In 2012, she gave a keynote address explaining her defense of Anselm’s “ontological argument for God’s existence.”


In the pages of Philosophia Christi, the peer-reviewed journal of the Evangelical Philosophical Society, her work related to naturalism, mind-body dualism, and philosophy of religion was cited, consulted, appraised and critiqued. For example, Kevin Timpe published a 2004 response to Baker’s 2013 Faith and Philosophy article [“Why Christians Should Not Be Libertarians: An Augustinian Challenge”], titled, “Why Christians Might be Libertarians: A Response to Lynne Rudder Baker” (Philosophia Christi, vol. 6, no. 2).

Earlier this year, Biola University’s Center for Christian Thought hosted an exchange between Lynne Rudder Baker and Dean Zimmerman:

In 2001 Lynne participated in the Gifford Lectures [she contrasted “first-person knowledge and third-person understanding to scientific knowing”]. Her Gifford bio page indicated that was a member of Grace Episcopal Church in Amherst. Writing for, in January 2017, Baker wrote the following in light of her lead question, “What does philosophy of religion offer to the modern university?”

Granted, I didn’t teach philosophy of religion in relation to history or culture. Analytic philosophers, myself included, teach philosophy of religion as a series of logical puzzle cases: Can God make a stone so heavy that he couldn’t lift it?  Or perhaps as religious epistemology: is there any good reason to believe in a deity? Or perhaps as genealogy: Why did religion (considered generically) arise?  I now see these approaches, which are followed by many analytic philosophers, as misleadingly reductive. 
Although I would not teach philosophy of religion by draining the life and particularity out of religions, I do recognize that there is a distinctively philosophical place for religions in the university curriculum–a place that would benefit students raised in a consumerist culture that leaves people with the emptiness of routine work and the endless quest for diversion. (Pascal was on the mark when he excoriated lives focused on diversion.)
Philosophy of religion could play a signal role in helping university students understand reality as a domain-independent whole: What difference would it make if there is any reality beyond the spacetime universe, beyond the particular domains of the sciences—any reality that comprehends the cosmos as a whole? The aim of philosophy of religion could be to bring reflection to unreflective ideas of reality, and to teach students to be still and to reflect on their own lives. We are all going to die–and that includes you and me; what bearing does that fact have on how we live? 

. . .

If we do conceive of the cosmos as an ordered whole, it can be argued that we have resulting obligations to the environment and to future generations; global questions about human beings as such; and about animals as such. We should also consider anti-human implications of advances in technology. These matters are illuminated by arguments in the philosophy of religion.
Another deep question arising from thinking about the world as a whole is this:  What is natural–as opposed to artificial or cultural? What is it to act according to one’s nature? Do human beings have a natural or divine right to be delivered from murderous harm? What is the purpose of government? Is there a common good? What is the relation between fact and value? (Hume has held the stage on this question far too long.)  
Philosophy of religion may ask metaphysical questions that blossom out into social, political and ethical  questions. What is justice? If others are starving, does justice require depriving oneself to the point of self-harm? Philosophy of religion may also argue about war and its justification, and poverty and its alleviation. Are hierarchies justifiable? Even though such questions may be answered with no appeal to religion, it seems arbitrary—given the influence of religions in the world—to rule out religions as contributing to answering them.
. . . .

The philosophy of religion stubbornly explores the Big Questions: Does life have purpose beyond individual choice? Are living people responsible for the evil of the past? Why can we not learn from the past? Is there any remedy?
Traditionally, much of philosophy of religion has concerned itself with the existence of God, but in truth, the area is much broader and encompasses almost all domain-independent questions. 
Philosophy of religions ranges over all the domains of the particular sciences. It is one of the highest achievements of the human intellect to think about these matters. As ancients Greeks said, we throw away these questions to our peril.
Broadening one’s perspective in light of these questions of what is ultimate is what university education is all about. So, I think that philosophy of religion that attends to such questions undoubtedly has a place in the university curriculum.

The Research Companion to Theological Anthropology

In recent scholarship there is an emerging interest in the integration of philosophy and theology.

Philosophers and theologians address the relationship between body and soul and its implications for theological anthropology. In so doing, philosopher-theologians interact with cognitive science, biological evolution, psychology, and sociology. Reflecting these exciting new developments,

Edited by EPS members, Joshua Farris and Charles Taliaferro, the Research Companion to Theological Anthropology is a resource for philosophers and theologians, students and scholars, interested in the constructive, critical exploration of a theology of human persons.

Throughout this collection of newly authored contributions, key themes are addressed: human agency and grace, the soul, sin and salvation, Christology, glory, feminism, the theology of human nature, and other major themes in theological anthropology in historic as well as contemporary contexts.

From the dozens of contributions in this single volume resource, we highlight some of the contributions, along with further resources for study.

A Brief Sketch on Courage

An Ongoing Series of Sketches from the Contributors of Being Good: Christian Virtues for Everyday Life, co-edited by Michael W. Austin and R. Douglas Geivett (Eerdmans, 2012). More info can be found at

Using the thought of Thomas Aquinas, this chapter on courage explores similarities and differences between heroic or ‘action-adventure’ models of courage and the virtue of courage as exemplified in the person of Jesus Christ.

Courage is the virtue concerned with standing firm against fear for the sake of some good that we love. When faced with danger, we typically react with a “fight” or “flight” response—reactions Aquinas calls “daring” and “fear.” If we lack sufficient daring and give in to fear, we can fall prey to the vice of cowardice. For example, in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books, character Peter Pettigrew is a coward because he betrays his best friends to save his own skin. While it is right and good to value our own lives, the courageous person recognizes that this is neither the greatest nor the only good. Peter’s case shows us that courage is necessary for a flourishing life, even if that life involves risk, difficulty, and self-sacrifice. He stays alive, to be sure, only to live on as a morally deformed person whose relationships of love have been destroyed by fear.

Courage requires training the passions of fear and daring to serve the good. This virtue mobilizes daring to attack what threatens (aggression) and moderates fears that might otherwise prompt us to give way under threat (endurance). Thus it can be expressed in two ways. Courageous aggression is called for when we are strong enough to overcome. Courageous endurance, by contrast, is needed when we stand in a position of weakness: either we cannot overcome the threat with force or our own power, as the aggressive person does, or we cannot escape without betraying the good to which we must remain faithful.  In these cases, endurance is the only means of holding firmly to the good we love. To picture the paradigmatic act of endurance, Aquinas offers us the example of the Christian martyr, whose sacrifice imitates (in part) the courageous sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The martyr endures even the greatest threat (death) for the sake of her greatest love (God).  Thus her love for God must be stronger even than her fear of death. Her courage is grounded in power of love, not her own physical strength or ability to overcome evil. As Augustine says, “Courage is love enduring all things for the sake of the Beloved.”

Fictional characters illustrate the different expressions of courage and its opposing vices. The heroes of American action-adventure films typically valorize courageous aggression. The independent and self-sufficient protagonist typically relies on his own strength in order to safeguard what’s good. But the shadow side of this model of courage is a temptation to an idolatrous kind of self-confidence, in which we deny our dependence on God’s power and trust our own power instead, and in which we forget that love is the type of power God wielded in the face of ultimate evil. The United States’ unprecedented military, technological, and economic power, and its cultural value of autonomy make us more vulnerable to this temptation than we might suspect. In the Harry Potter books, heroes like James, Sirius, and Harry himself engage in many noble acts of courageous aggression, while Voldemort illustrates the dark side of human power taken to its furthest extreme. Voldemort loves only himself and his own life; therefore he fears death above all else. His resulting prideful quest is to conquer death and become invulnerable by maximizing his own power—in a word, by becoming God-like.
In the climax of the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry and his mother Lily show us a contrary picture of Christlikeness, a picture of courageous love for another whose power is even stronger than the fear of death. In a fictional echo of the cross, Harry pursues the way of self-giving love, not the way of selfishly wielded supernatural power: he puts away his wand (symbolizing his own power) and lays down his life for his friends (John 15: 13). His mother’s love sustains him and his friends surround him—a picture of the communion of the saints. His vulnerability stands in stark contrast with Voldemort’s quest for invulnerability; Harry is a mere teenager, and his mother is an unarmed woman. Their courage is born of their love for others; they stand firm even in death, faithful to that good. As such, they offer us a picture of courage as endurance, and a model of Christian love for God.

Rather than unreflectively endorsing a restricted masculine ideal of human physical strength and ingenuity, or encouraging us toward an idolatrous reliance on human power, the Christian conception of courage reminds us of the power of love, a power made possible, even made perfect, in weakness.

Future issues, inquiries, and projects:

How do the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love transform our understanding and practice of the other moral virtues?

How can we develop of practices and communities of practice that encourage conceptions of distinctively Christian virtues, even when this is counter-cultural?

How is courageous endurance a more inclusive model than heroic aggression, from a feminist perspective? Are there also dangers here: for example, how should morally appropriate cases of self-sacrifice be distinguished from unhealthy and abusive models, especially within church culture?