Search Results for: Paul Copan

On Biblical Ethics: Interview with Paul Copan

EPS philosophers very often seek to address all areas of philosophy and theology, including issues of theoretical, biblical and practical ethics.

Paul Copan recently co-authored Introduction to Biblical Ethics with author (and Paul’s former professor), Robertson McQuilkin.

In a EPS web interview, Paul talks about the value of biblical ethics, the book project, and how to live faithfully in a pluralistic society.

On Biblical Ethics: An Interview with Paul Copan

EPS philosophers very often seek to address all areas of philosophy and theology, including issues of theoretical, biblical and practical ethics. Paul Copan recently co-authored Introduction to Biblical Ethics with author (and Paul’s former professor), Robertson McQuilkin. In this EPS web interview, Paul talks about the value of biblical ethics, the book project, and how to live faithfully in a pluralistic society.

What is “biblical ethics”

My coauthor and I use the specific term “biblical ethics” rather than “Christian ethics.” One key reason for this is that the New Testament itself routinely appeals to virtues, behaviors, and duties highlighted in the Old Testament. The moral heart of the New Testament—even the Sermon on the Mount—isn’t as “radically new” as many think. For example, the Beatitudes very clearly echo the language of Isaiah 61—righteousness, brokenness, mourning, being comforted, rejoicing, possessing the land. Jesus, who came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets, was not coming up with a revolutionary moral ideal. And the apostle Paul is standardly referring back to the Old Testament, though shaped by the Christ-event; when Paul says that “all Scripture” is profitable for our conduct (2 Tim. 3:6-17), he is referring to the Old Testament.

How does Jesus shape biblical ethics?
Christ’s Incarnation, life, death, and resurrection notwithstanding, Christ does not give much new ethical content. True, food laws, circumcision, temple sacrifices, and special days don’t characterize the people of God any longer. However, the command to love one’s enemies is found in the Old Testament (Prov. 25:21-22), and loving God and loving others as the moral heart of the Old Testament is repeated throughout the New. Rather, our spiritual lives, social relationships, and moral/virtuous living are shaped by God’s stepping into history in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. While the Old Testament people of God were called to love, Christ appeals to his own example in commanding love: “Love one another as I have loved you” (Jn. 13:34). Our giving is to be shaped by the self-sacrifice of Christ’s incarnation (2 Cor. 8-9); he gladly became poor for our sakes, and this self-emptying is to shape our own giving through sacrifice, generosity, and cheerfulness.
The formation of the people of God is core to the biblical narrative. How does that shape biblical ethics?
To more clearly understand our calling to live before God as restored priest-kings and thus living faithful lives before God (which includes living and doing “biblical ethics”), we must understand two New Testament motifs: First, as the second Adam (or “new man”), Christ is the truest or the archetypal human being who redeems and restores fallen humanity. Second, Jesus (with those who follow him) is the new Israel—the new people of God. As a faithful Israelite, Jesus comes out of Egypt, is tested in the wilderness, calls twelve new “tribes” (apostles) to be a new people, and experiences the exile of the cross. That is, Jesus lives out Israel’s story as the obedient Son that the ancient people of God failed to be, fulfilling Israel’s and also humanity’s vocation before God. In doing so, he creates a new covenant people united through his death and resurrection.
In these two motifs, we see a new creation(a restored humanity of priest-kings) and a newexodus (creating a new people freed from the enslaving powers of sin, death, Law, and the flesh); these new realities give new shape, identity, and inspiration to the new people of God. Biblical ethics centers on the restoration of our calling as the new Israel to be a “kingdom of priests” or a “royal priesthood” (priest-kings) through Christ (1 Pet. 2:9; cp. Ex. 19:6), through whom we will reign upon the earth at Christ’s return—thus fulfilling humanity’s original calling in Genesis 1.  
How did this book develop?
My coauthor, Robertson McQuilkin, had been president of Columbia International University and my professor when I was a student there; he had been the original author of the first two editions of the Introduction. The book in its pre-published form was a textbook for my biblical ethics class there, and it had an influence on my thinking about ethics and theology. I greatly appreciated McQuilkin’s nuanced and careful approach to biblical ethics. For example, he discussed ethical hierarchies as well as the permissibility of, say, deception in the face of criminal activity or warfare—exceptions not merely abstracted from philosophical principles but emphasized in Scripture itself.
Our friendship continued over the years, and McQuilkin contacted me about possible leads for coauthoring and revising the book for a third edition. I said that this was a project that interested me, and the significantly revised version brings together our strengths—biblical studies, theology, ethics, philosophy.
How might this co-authored book serve ethics readers?
The book serves ethics readers by anchoring this discipline not in philosophical ethical theories, but in the biblical text, showing the remarkable ethical texture of the biblical narrative and teachings. This includes the foundational reality of the triune God and his making humans in his image as well as the narratival, salvation-historical context of biblical commands, and the moral significance of the Christ-event—his incarnation, teaching, ministry, atoning death, and bodily resurrection.
To Christian philosophers, you seem to suggest that simply analyzing ethical systems is not enough when doing work in ethics. What does your book encourage?
The book serves philosophy by showing how the gospel shapes our ethical thinking; it sets the Christian philosopher on a different cross-shaped pathway. True enough, the Christian philosopher can greatly profit from the study of various ethical systems—even affirming some of their features to varying degrees—without compromising his commitment to Christ. However, Christ-shaped philosophy will lead us to challenge various philosophical ideas. For example, Aristotle’s ethic points away from grace(according to Aristotle, one should never be in anyone else’s debt) and away from humility (we detect a certain pride and even pomposity in Aristotle’s “excellent” man); the gospel is all about receiving God’s grace in Christ and humbly submitting to God and to others.  Furthermore, the Bible presents a rich tapestry of ethical thought in the context of narratives, parables, sermons, epistles, proverbs, and divine commands. Unlike ethical systems like utilitarianism, social contract theory, virtue theory, Kantianism, and the like, we see all of their emphases in the Bible; the Bible takes such perspectives into account to offer a broader, richer ethical outlook rather than reducing all ethical thinking to consequences, virtue, or the like.
Systematic theologians often seek biblical applications and entailment. In some sense, this book could be a handy compliment to a systematic theology.

Yes, the book serves theology by offering an ethic rooted in the biblical text, following a number of lines of biblical theology (e.g., Christ as the new Adam and true Israel), the theme of our kingly/priestly status and vocation redeemed and restored in Christ, who has made us a “kingdom of priests” who will “reign upon the earth.” It discusses themes important for theology, such as the implications of the Trinity for ethics and for community; it examines various attributes of God (e.g., God as humble) that have a bearing on how we are conduct our lives. And theologians, who typically appreciate systematization, can benefit from some of our discussion of common themes—law, love, sin, etc.—as well as from the philosophical engagement of themes in biblical ethics.

What is distinct about the book’s approach when doing biblical ethics?
One chief distinctive is this—being anchored in the biblical text. The book offers numerous philosophical—though still accessible—reflections with ample practical applications on themes such as abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality/gay marriage, bioethics, pornography, dating, marriage, parenting, economics, just war/pacifism, and the like. Yet we coauthors try to listen carefully to the biblical text and thoroughly engage it. We try to draw out just how rich a source of ethical reflection the biblical text is. 
Do you neglect discussion of ethical systems?

No, and a second distinctive is that the book includes an accessible discussion of prevalent ethical systems (relativism/situation ethics, social contract theory, utilitarianism, Kantianism). We note where they overlap with the biblical ethical picture—and where they depart from it. 

Can readers catch a vision for practices in Christian formation in this book?
Yes, the book—as thick as it is!—has an additional feature of being very practical. How do I take steps in becoming more virtuous?  How do I deal with temptation? What are the pitfalls of dating, and how can I cultivate mental purity in sex-saturated society? It also offers a number of apologetical insights to help believers address moral challenges to their faith.
Is there something distinct about the structuring of the book?
The book begins by discussing love, law, sin, virtue/vice, but then it moves to the broader themes of loving God and loving others. At its core, it is structured around the Ten Commandments (loving God—commandments 1-4; loving others—commandments 5-10). The book also covers material not often found in similar titles. It discusses the relationship of the church and state, the Christian in society, ethical issues on which Christians disagree, divine guidance on matters not revealed in Scripture.
You sometimes disagree with your co-author, Robertson McQuilkin. The book’s lack of uniformism yet unity seems like a distinctive.
Indeed, we coauthors disagree on various matters, and so each of gives his own vantage point. We address topics like the Sabbath (Sunday, or fulfilled in Christ?), alcohol consumption (discouraged, or biblically encouraged within limits?), the complementarian/egalitarian discussion, capitalism and socialism (a “plague on both houses,” or the free market appropriated with important ethical cautions—a system that has helped hundreds of millions create wealth and come out of poverty?), and so on. And we complement each other with the mutually-reinforcing strengths each of us brings to the book.
Any other distinctives?

Yes, these come to mind: Robertson’s late wife, Muriel, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and so Robertson stepped down from his university presidency to care for her. Some of his reflections on his care for her are in this new edition. Also, I address in detail certain ethical issues found in Scripture—namely, “slavery” in the Bible (in the Old Testament, it is like indentured servitude or being a “worker” for someone) as well as the dominant question of God’s command to drive out the Canaanites. These topics and other Old Testament themes reflect work done in my other writings: Is God a Moral Monster? (Baker) and (with Matthew Flannagan), Did God ReallyCommand Genocide? (Baker).

Which areas of biblical ethics seem under-addressed by self-identified evangelical theologians and philosophers?

There are certainly many Christian ethicists from various traditions and disciplines who have done fine, wide-ranging work for our generation—for example, Oliver O’Donovan, Nigel Biggar, Stanley Grenz, Gilbert Meilaender, Glen Stassen, Jean Bethke Elshtain, Robert George, Stanley Hauerwas, Francis Beckwith, Max Stackhouse. With new challenges emerging—from technology to terrorism to sexual ethics—we are seeing many thoughtful Christians rising to incisively and eloquently address them. What is sometimes lacking, though, is a distillation of the academic discussions in order to make them more accessible to a widely Christian audience—what McQuilkin’s and my book has attempted to do.

What is the role of the Spirit when ‘doing’ biblical ethics?

The gift of the Spirit is, of course, the mark of the new covenant people of God. The Spirit, who communicates the presence of Jesus to the believer, enables obedience from the heart (Jer. 31; Heb. 8). God’s people are no longer marked by circumcision, kosher laws, Sabbath-/holy day-keeping, and national identity. Indeed, one could have these markers, but they were inadequate without faith and the Spirit’s empowerment. So while some Israelites had the Spirit of God or were temporarily empowered by the Spirit, many Israelites died in unbelief (Heb. 3:16-18). Not so with the new people of God. Every member of the “new Israel”—Jew and Gentile in Christ—is marked by the Spirit of God, who transforms our thinking (Rom. 12:2). He also enables us to become more like the second Adam (the “new man”) in our character, both as individual believers and as the body of Christ (2 Cor. 3:18; Gal. 5:22-23; Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10).
Practically, how does this get worked out?
Prayerand trust in God prepare the soil for the Spirit to work in our lives and to bear fruit through them. While there are “cardinal” or “pagan” virtues such as prudence and self-control, which can often be cultivated by unbelievers, for the believer these virtues are given fresh, powerful inspiration by the Spirit through Christ’s own example, character, and work. What’s more, the “theological virtues” of faith, hope, and love are distinctively Christian, as they are shaped by the Incarnation, life, death, resurrection, and promised second coming of Christ and carried forward by God’s Spirit.

You say that perhaps ‘traditional religion’ could be understood “as a deeply embedded heart-commitment that is (a) comprehensive, (b) identity-shaping and (c) of central importance” (17). How might we account for ‘traditional religion’ as a moral-spiritual tradition of knowledge and wisdom? How does it ‘fit’ with (a)-(c)?

This threefold description of “traditional religion” (taken from Paul Griffiths) actually accounts for more than just religion; it actually describes the idea of a “worldview” more generally. So this could include atheism or naturalism as well.

However, in speaking of “traditional religion” as “a moral-spiritual tradition of knowledge and wisdom,” we emphasize that all truth is God’s truth.  While Christ is the embodiment of divine wisdom and knowledge, wisdom and moral knowledge in traditional non-Christian religions like Islam or Buddhism still reflect God’s common grace at work in the world. Such truths are not saving truths, however, but they do ultimately point to Christ, who is the truth and the fullness of God’s wisdom. As with Paul at Athens, we should not dismiss such insights, but we can affirm that these display God’s own self-revelation–particularly in Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col. 2:3); thus, to see Christ is to see God the Father (John 14:9).  

In our book, we note that any person’s view of the State and its role will not be neutral but will flow from a worldview with its assumptions about authority, citizenship, society, human nature, and the good. Moreover, the notion of a “secular State” is itself a myth; the State’s legislation and goals will also reflect a certain view of authority, citizenship, society, human nature, and the good.  So we must, first, recognize and name this reality rather than falling into the sacred-secular dichotomy. We should also challenge the foundations of an arrogantly presumed State authority since authority is ultimately given by God (Jn. 19:11). Such authority is neither free-floating in metaphysical mid-air, and anyone in a position of authority must has a duty to humbly serve the common good. Finally, the church is to be the prophetic voice and the conscience in any nation. God’s primary agents in the world are his people who are called to be salt, light, and doers of good deeds—to be a faithful presence wherever they reside.
How might we think about ethical disagreement from a biblical ethics perspective?

One maxim that applies both to Christian communities and also to Christians within a pluralistic society is this: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” Wherever possible, Christians should work with one another to strengthen the church—in worship, the faithful proclamation of the word, in community, and evangelism—and they should be a faithful presence in the communities where God has placed them. Even if they disagree about the nature of the Lord’s Supper and baptism, Christians can band together, say, to help support and rebuild New Orleans in the wake of Katrina—or help women contemplating abortion, or resist society’s sexual slippage by promoting sexual purity and Christ-honoring patterns of relating to one another.

What do you see as a biblical vision for living faithfully in a pluralistic society?
In a pluralistic society, we see plenty of disagreement about political and social policies, but also in the very worldviews we hold. Yet being honorable citizens of a nation is a biblical imperative for us. The book of Acts shows how Christians can be the best of earthly citizens. We should, insofar as it depends on us, live at peace with all people (Rom. 12:18) and pray for those in authority over us (1 Tim. 2:1-4). As citizens of heaven, we must speaking the truth in love, using our prophetic voice to challenges societal injustices and abuses. As citizens of earth, we should set the tone for good citizenship by taking three “Rs” seriously: (1) protecting and promoting the basic rightsof all persons, who are divine image-bearers; (2) taking seriously our responsibility as citizens to promote the good; and (3) showing respect to all in conversation, relationships, and political discourse. Despite disagreements of all sorts, tolerance and civility in an age of angry, polarizing political discourse are incumbent upon all Christian citizens.

Is God a Moral Monster? An Interview with Paul Copan

We recently interviewed Paul Copan, President of the Evangelical Philosophical Society, about his new book, Is God a Moral Monster: Making Sense of the Old Testament God (Baker, 2010). The book has already been heralded by both Old Testament scholars, theologians and philosophers as a leading title in this important discussion. Paul has also written on this topic in Philosophia Christi, which can be read here and then here.

How did you become interested in thinking and writing about Old Testament ethics? In a nutshell, what are you trying to accomplish with this book?

A lot of atheists say that Christians don’t read the whole Bible, and at least in North America (where even professing Christians are increasingly biblically illiterate), this often seems to be the case.  In an era when pastors like to “go topical” in their sermons to try to make the Scriptures “practical,” what often gets lost is the equipping of Christians to think deeply about the whole of Scripture.  So, many of them are ill-equipped to respond when skeptics challenge them to interpret some of the strange-sounding levitical laws or seemingly bizarre ancient Near Eastern themes.  Again, pastors and Christian leaders contribute to the problem by avoiding such texts and preaching on the more straightforward or comfortable-sounding texts.

As I began (in high school) the habit of through the Bible starting in high school, I myself found a number of Old Testament passages that were difficult to understand.  They seemed to present a somewhat baffling and even troubling worldview with its purity laws and taboos, its harshness, its “patriarchy”—let alone servitude (“slavery”) and warfare.

Over the years I have sought to better understand this slice of the ancient Near Eastern world and context out of which the Messiah would come.  As I have spoken on university campuses, students have increasingly raised questions regarding troubling Old Testament passages, and I found that accessible resources for a lay audience on this theme were glaringly absent.  As one trained in both philosophy and biblical and theological studies, I thought I had something to contribute to the discussion I started to write about these themes in books like That’s Just Your Interpretation, How Do You Know You’re Not Wrong? and When God Goes to Starbucks (all with Baker Books)—not to mention journal articles in Philosophia Christi.  This eventually led to a full-blown treatment of key Old Testament themes in the book Is God a Moral Monster?  Given the strong commendations from Old Testament scholars like Christopher Wright, Gordon Wenham, and Tremper Longman, I find my thinking confirmed that this book has a special niche to fill.

As I have indicated, I wanted to make the available scholarly research on difficult (or obscure or misunderstood) Old Testament ethical topics accessible to a lay audience.  And I don’t want to shy away from the troubling passages that critics—especially New Atheists like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens—routinely accuse Christians of doing.

How do the various parts of your book achieve your thesis?

While I can’t cover all the territory I would like in this book, I try to address the range of topics that are most pressing and most frequently raised by the critics.  Part I deals with the phenomenon of the New Atheists and their arguments—and their case against the “Old Testament God.”  In fact, as you can see in the table of contents below, I use their quotations as my chapter headings!  In Part II, I deal with issues related to the nature of God: Is God narcissistic?  Why should God get jealous?  How could God command Abraham to sacrifice Isaac?

Part III looks at life in the ancient Near East and how Israel’s laws look in comparison to those of other ancient Near Eastern cultures.  I maintain, first, that while many of Israel’s laws are not ideal (human hard-heartedness is part of the problem, as Matthew 19:8 indicates), they are generally a significant humanizing improvement over other ancient Near Eastern cultures.  God meets his people where they are—with their embedded, fallen moral and social patterns—but he challenges them to greater moral and spiritual heights.  Then I go on to address topics like Israel’s kosher and purity laws, its civil laws and punishments, the treatment of women in Israel, slavery (or better “servitude”) in Israel (and I extend the discussion to include the New Testament), then finally the question of Canaanite “genocide” (which it most certainly is not!) and of whether “religion” produces violence.

In Part IV, I argue that the biblical God serves as the basis for objective moral values and that atheists borrow the metaphysical grounding for human dignity and rights from a theistic worldview in which God makes human beings in his image.  Finally, I refer to the role of Jesus Christ as the fulfiller of the Old Testament, who illuminates the Old Testament and puts it into proper perspective.  Moreover, his followers, when living consistently with his teachings, have actually made a remarkable moral impact on the world which scholars in both the East and the West, both Christian and non-Christian, acknowledge.

What was the most surprising find that you discovered in your extensive research for this book?

Surprising—and yet not surprising—is the fact that the more deeply I dug into understanding the ancient Near East, the more the biblical text made sense and the more favorable it looked in comparison to other relevant texts in the ancient Near East.  For example, the strong bravado and exaggeration typical of ancient Near East war texts (“leaving alive nothing that breathed”) was used even when lots of the enemy were left standing and breathing!  What’s more, Israel’s warfare—directed at non-combatants in citadels or fortresses (“cities”)—is tame in comparison to other ancient Near Eastern accounts of, say, the Assyrians.
As far as servitude (“slavery”) goes, this was voluntary and contractual rather than forced (unless Israel was dealing with, say, hostile foreign POWs who might be pressed into service to cut wood and carry water).  Yet Israel’s laws prohibited (a) kidnapping, (b) returning runaway (foreign) slaves to their masters, and (c) injuring servants.  If these three Mosaic regulations were observed during by Western colonial powers, slavery would not have emerged and the nineteenth-century history of the United States would have looked much different.

How does your book’s thesis and contribution relate and differ from your other work? I see new and long-standing “Copan themes” being woven together in this book. Can you elaborate?

Yes, that’s right.  I pick up on themes sketched out in previous work I’ve done.  I expand on previously-discussed topics of the Law of Moses being a more humanizing law code than those of the surrounding nations, but still less-than-ideal. While I add much more material on the Canaanite question and address the topic of religion and violence, I much more fully develop my discussion of servitude in Israel, kosher/purity laws, and Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac.  In previous writings, I didn’t explore patriarchy and the treatment of women or polygamy and concubinage.  What’s more, I take pains to unpack specific “troubling texts” and discuss them in light of their linguistic and cultural contexts.  I think that, thanks to many biblical scholars, I have landed on some helpful responses to a number of perplexing texts.

To what extent does a theology/philosophy of human wickedness factor into this discussion? For example, if someone thinks that human beings (whether ancient or contemporary) are not prone toward acting wickedly how would that affect their understanding of divine justice and goodness?

In the West, we are particularly jaded when it comes to sexual sin; so Yahweh’s condemnation of temple prostitution (religiously-sanctioned adultery), incest, or bestiality are commonly shrugged off as insignificant and even petty.  Many critics fail to see the corrupt influence of Canaanite religion, which encouraged incest, bestiality, and adultery—after all, these deities engaged in such acts themselves!  Not surprisingly, the moral apple doesn’t fall far from the theological tree.  I argue that God was not concerned with destroying Canaanites—just Canaanite religion.  In my discussion of divine jealousy, I point out how Richard Dawkins dismisses God’s jealousy as petty.  Yet he ignores the profound marital language bound up with God’s covenant with Israel and the true pain God feels when his people run after other deities and/or put their trust in political alliances with other nations (idolatry).  Don’t look to the New Atheists to give an accurate portrayal of divine justice and goodness—or of human wickedness.

How and why is the question, “Is God a Moral Monster?” an apropos question for New Atheists? How is this question situated in their arguments against God’s existence? How does it contribute to their often-repeated claim that “religion causes evil?”

Well, one of the New Atheists, Richard Dawkins, did come up with the “moral monster” portion of my book title!  Richard Dawkins himself narrated a BBC documentary on religion as “the root of all evil.”  With insufficient biblical insight, he cites passages from the Old Testament to make God appear tyrannical.  The New Atheists routinely assume that by quoting such biblical texts, this is a slam-dunk proof for God’s non-existence.

Ironically, Dawkins’s own book River Out of Eden affirms that in a universe of selfish genes and electrons, there is no good or evil—just blind, pitiless indifference.  How can he make such a metaphysical jump to damn “religion”?  He can only criticize God by appropriating the moral resources available within theism rather than naturalism.

One of the points I make in the book is that the New Atheists will readily criticize “religion” (how vague is that term?!) as the wellspring of evil (e.g., Crusades, Inquisition).  Of course, who says this is consistent with the spirit of Jesus?  Yet these New Atheists typically turn a blind eye to the horrific atrocities committed in the name of atheism (think Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot—100 million murders represented right there).  Daniel Dennett has even tried to explain away Stalin as a “religious-like” figure!

Your book is detailed with issues of biblical theology, exegesis, ancient Near Eastern laws, ancient Israel’s laws, in addition to a broader philosophical-theological argument that you make in defense of “the Old Testament God.” Philosophy colleagues working on the problem of evil may wonder why all the attention with so many historical-cultural particulars? Can’t this question, Is God a Moral Monster? be sufficiently handled by some sort of neat, philosophical discussion?

As someone who has written extensively on the moral argument, I find that increasingly naturalistic moral realists like Louise Antony, David Brink, or Walter Sinnott-Armstrong will incorporate these Old Testament “problem passages” into their arguments against God as the source of objective moral values and human dignity and rights.  This can be a kind of monkey wrench thrown into the “engine” of the moral argument for God’s existence, and I don’t think that theists can ignore these emotionally-laden criticisms.

You spend three important chapters dealing with the OT account about the divine command to kill the Canaanites. Tell us about how that killing figures into the claim that God is a “moral monster.” What are some of the common mistakes/myths that readers of this account sometimes make when dealing with this incident? What is often under-appreciated or under-recognized in this discussion?

Critics use loaded language—“genocide” or “ethnic cleansing”—when referring to the Canaanites.  This is far from the truth.  Intermarrying with the Canaanites isn’t a problem (cp. Rahab, who married into Israel); it’s idolatry.  Moreover, I follow Richard Hess, who makes a strong case that non-combatants were not targeted and that one should not take the sweeping language of the ancient Near East (“man and woman, young and old”) to suggest this.  I can’t go into details here, but one could use this kind of language, even if women and children were absent.

Note too the heavy emphasis on “driving out” or “dispossessing” the Canaanites; this is different from destroying; this gets little attention by the critics.  I also mentioned earlier that the “cities” like Jericho or Ai were military installations to protect the civilian populations in the hill country; non-combatants typically didn’t live there.  You might have a tavern-keeper like Rahab, but that was atypical.  I’ve already addressed the hyperbolic bravado in the ancient Near East; leaving alive nothing that breathed doesn’t mean leaving alive nothing that breathed!

So those are a few of the topics I try to address.

I am trying to think of the last time that I’ve seen so many biblical scholars – let alone Old Testament biblical scholars – endorse a book by a Christian philosopher.  Your topic and thesis have been welcomed by high-profile members of that community of scholars. What might this suggest to you about the need and importance for doing (where possible) interdisciplinary work as a philosopher?  What might that look like? What are some areas that could benefit from such interdisciplinary support?

Yes, I’m very pleased to have so many strong endorsements from such a line-up of reputable Old Testament scholars.  (I have chuckled at some critics who have asserted that I am not qualified to write in these areas of biblical studies and related areas—yet I’ve gotten such resounding recommendations from experts in these fields!)  This book serves as a good reminder of the need for ongoing engagement between philosophy and biblical studies or theology.  I have appreciated Christian philosophers such as Alvin Plantinga, Eleonore Stump, Peter van Inwagen, (the late) William Alston, Stephen Evans, and Stephen Davis who have brought their philosophical expertise to bear on biblical texts and theological themes—whether we’re dealing with miracles and divine action, evolution and design, the problem of evil, or the historical Jesus.

Alvin Plantinga has encouraged Christian philosophers to bring their resources to bear on the life of the church; we must share the wealth with our brothers and sisters in the pew so that they can benefit from our research and reflection.  Is God a Moral Monster? is one such resource that I pray God will use to build up the church and to offer a reasoned defense to the critic.

Among theist and non-theist philosophers of religion, the question, “Is God a Moral Monster?” has received increased academic attention in places like Philosophia Christi or the recent conference at Notre Dame. What do you make of this attention? Is it directed by, or an extension of, particular assumptions, conditions or patterns of thought? Where would you like the academic discussion to go given the contribution of your work?

I’m so pleased that the topic of Old Testament ethical issues is receiving such high-profile attention!   This is all the more important given the times in which we live.  The era of the presumed dominance of a biblical worldview is past, and this means we can’t simply count on a high view of Scripture generally held in today’s culture; we must increasingly and more rigorously defend biblical authority in the marketplace of ideas with skill and insight.

I myself am co-editing (with Jeremy Evans and Heath Thomas) a forthcoming book on Old Testament holy war from an interdisciplinary perspective—philosophers, biblical scholars, theologians, and ethicists.  I’m teaming up with Kiwi philosopher/theologian Matthew Flannagan on a couple of essays on Canaanite warfare; Matt has done excellent philosophical work on divine commands and the Old Testament text.  He and I were on a dynamic panel discussion recently at the Society of Biblical Literature in Atlanta entitled, “Is Yahweh a Moral Monster?”

I do hope that my new book will inspire Christians to delve more deeply into the Old Testament text.  The more I have done so, the more enriched my faith has been and greater has been my appreciation for the message of the Old Testament.

Dr. Paul Copan is the Pledger Family Chair of Philosophy and Ethics at Palm Beach Atlantic University in Florida. You can learn more about Paul by visiting his website.

Update Letter from EPS President Paul Copan

Dear EPS friends,

It has been an exciting season for the Evangelical Philosophical Society! We continue to host and sponsor national and regional conferences, mature our web presence through a first-class website, and increase our Philosophia Christi subscription numbers. Please tell your friends, librarians, and colleagues about our first-time subscriber discount. If your library does not yet subscribe to Philosophia Christi, let them know about our discount, which amounts to a $50 savings. More on this below!

EPS Conferences

We are pleased to have regional conferences that continue to do well.  I
recently attended the Greer-Heard Forum in New Orleans, which ran concurrently
with an EPS regional conference. As is his custom, our own Bob Stewart pulled
together a superb conference. The Forum’s exchange between Bart Ehrman and Dan
Wallace on textual criticism was highly engaging. (You can check out Ed
Komoszewski’s assessment of the dialogue at his Parchment and Pen blog entitled
"Friday Night
". For the official NOBTS summary of the dialogue, see Gary D. Myers,
08: Top scholars debate reliability of the New Testament at NOBTS forum
April 16, 2008..

Next year’s Greer-Heard will feature Harold Netland, a faithful EPS member,
and Paul Knitter on "Religious Pluralism." Last month at Trinity Seminary, both
of them undertook their first round in this genuine religious dialogue-rather
than the all-too-typical lowest-common-denominator version. Harold wrote in an
email, "The exchange was very gracious and irenic, but also pointed and direct.
I think it was good for students to see that two people can disagree radically
on these issues without getting ugly and treating the other inappropriately."
(You can read an edited transcript of their discussion
here.)  Such events are just a
sampling of what many EPS philosophers are engaged in throughout the year. May
we prayerfully support and encourage one another in these efforts! And I hope
many of you can make Round Two in New Orleans next year.

This November many of us will be attending the EPS annual meeting in
Providence, RI.  It will be good to catch up with you then.  EPS vice
president Chad Meister tells me that many fine paper proposals have come in, but
he and his colleagues at Bethel College await word from ETS regarding room
allocations.  Bill Craig, who is spearheading the annual apologetics
conference (also in Providence) tells me that plans are moving ahead nicely. (By
the way, Bill Craig and I, who co-edited Passionate Conviction, are now co-editing
the next B&H book taken from our annual apologetics conference-with another
great lineup of contributors, including Charles Taliaferro, Stew Goetz, Bob
Stein, Craig Evans, David Hunt, Victor Reppert, and Mark Linville.) We look
forward to another fine array of speakers at this conference, which will be a
particularly exciting and strategic meeting, as it will be our first in the
fairly unchurched region of New England. Chad Meister has also put together a
wonderful session at this year’s American Academy of Religion conference in
November (Chicago, IL). The topic is on "Religious Diversity." Paul Moser
(Loyola University, Chicago) will present on "Religious Exclusivism" and Keith
Yandell (University of Wisconsin-Madison) will present on "The Diversity of
Religious Experience." The respondent will be by Paul Knitter (Union Theological
Seminary). May God use our efforts there to produce much fruit!

EPS Website & Philosophia Christi Subscriptions

As you all know, our website is looking sharp, attracting more and more
subscribers -wow, have we come a long way!  Since October 2007, when our
new website was launched, subscriptions have been steadily rising (1-2 per day). 
For our current 10:1 issue (Summer 2008), we are mailing Philosophia Christi to
1400+ subscribers-to over 200 libraries and 1200 to individuals. This represents
a huge jump from just six months ago, and we have every reason to believe these
numbers will continue to increase throughout the rest of the year and beyond. 
Having an upgraded, cutting-edge website has directly contributed to a high
renewal rate.  Joe Gorra, Scott Smith, Craig Hazen, Lenny Esposito, and
Chad Meister have all labored mightily to make this happen. Our hearty thanks to
them once again!  Efforts in marketing (which includes blogging at the
website, promoting among acquisition librarians at the American Library
Association, etc), offering subscription incentives, and improving our
subscription management database have all helped contribute to our growth.

Please help us spread the word about Philosophia Christi and its importance
for library collections, philosophy and theology departments, scholars,
undergraduate and graduate students, pastors, and friends. Please let people
know about our first-time subscriber discount:

$30 = the current issue + 2 year subscription (4 issues).

This extraordinary deal with not be available for long! Take advantage of
this discount by
subscribing here or calling 562-906-4570 (10-5pm, PST).

Let’s continue to pray diligently that as we all "plant" and "water," the
Lord will continue to bring the growth to advance His kingdom.  May we
remember that we are co-laborers with God, who can effectively use these
marketing tools and this marvelous technology-but may we not trust in them! 
As Craig Gay reminds us in The Way of the (Modern) World, technological advance
not only tends to depersonalize life, but can easily obscure and diminish our
sense of dependence on God.  Whether we’re presenting papers, giving
lectures, engaging in debates, writing books, or defending the Christian faith
with a non-Christian friend, let us humbly rely on God in prayer with full,
grateful hearts.

It is a joy to stand together with you all in "the defense and confirmation
of the gospel."

Warmly in Christ,

Paul Copan
EPS President

Interview with Paul Copan: Is Yahweh a Moral Monster?

We interviewed Paul Copan, President of the Evangelical Philosophical Society, about his forthcoming article in our Summer 2008 issue of Philosophia Christi (10:1). Paul is also the Pledger Family Chair of Philosophy and Ethics Palm Beach Atlantic University (West Palm Beach, FL)

His Philosophia Christi article is titled, “Is Yahweh a Moral Monster? The New Atheists and Old Testament Ethics.”

Who are the “new atheists” and what makes them new?

The new atheists include Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens – the “Four Horsemen,” they’ve been called. Perhaps because of the fading Judeo-Christian cultural consensus or worldview in our culture, they have been emboldened to take on a new stridency and, in some cases, even anger and hostility. God is “not great” (Hitchens) and a “monster” (Dawkins). (Dan Dennett strikes me as more even-handed. I’ve met him and have enjoyed cordial conversation with him, and we’ve contributed to a forthcoming book with Fortress Press, which I mention later.)

One feature many critics acknowledge about the new atheists is that their case against God tends to be fairly flimsy and not very tightly argued at all. In his book I Don’t Believe in Atheists (New York: Free Press, 2008), Chris Hedges writes of Harris’s book The End of Faith: “His facile attack on a form of religious belief we all hate, his childish simplicity and ignorance of world affairs, as well as his demonization of Muslims, made the book tedious, at its best, and often idiotic and racist” (2). Though Hedges shares the new atheists’ disgust – as do I! – with “the chauvinism, intolerance, anti-intellectualism and self-righteousness of religious fundamentalists” (3), he believes that their confidence in reason and science is profoundly misplaced and their optimism about human nature and utopian visions is equally misguided.

Hedges says that we should carefully distinguish between religious values or certain religious figures and religious institutions: “Religion, real religion, involved fighting for justice, standing up for the voiceless and the weak, reaching out in acts of kindness and compassion to the stranger and the outcast, living a life of simplicity, cultivating empathy and defying the powerful” (5-6). I think that if Christians took “real religion” (or, as James 1 says, “true religion”) seriously, many of the points made by the new atheists would be greatly weakened.

Why should thoughtful religious persons pay attention to what the new atheists are claiming?

These new atheists are getting quite a bit of attention with their claims that God and science conflict or that Christianity (or “religion”) is bad for people. They are rhetorically effective and happen to be churning out best-sellers, influencing the minds of many. Yes, the new atheists have plenty of critics. For instance, atheist philosopher of science Michael Ruse writes that Dawkins’s argumentation in the God Delusion “makes me embarrassed to be an atheist.” Many critics of the new atheists see them as strident. But this hasn’t prevented a lot of people from taking the new atheists very seriously.

How should theists listen to these claims?

I think that theist and atheist alike should listen fairly and even-handedly to them. The reader should sort out legitimate arguments from the anger, the rhetoric, the anecdotal and ad hominem argumentation, the exaggerated claims (such as the God-science conflict), the red herrings and caricatures (e.g., all Christians are young-earth creationists), and so forth.

Christians of course, need to be well-grounded in their faith, being able to graciously respond to some very legitimate questions the new atheists raise. (Indeed, many Christians themselves have grappled with questions that about the Old Testament’s harshness and, in places, inferior moral standards that are permitted because of human hard-heartedness). Christians must also be clear-minded and discriminating about what in Scripture is normative and what is not, about what is enduring and what is temporary, of what springs from human sin and what is rooted in the character of God.

Christians also should carefully guard what is articulated in the Declaration of Independence – that all humans “have been endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” We are experiencing a crisis in the West as to what our moral foundations are. If God does not exist who has made human beings and thus nature’s mindless, valueless processes have produced us as merely advanced animals, then such a crisis of moral foundations will only deepen.

What appears to be the main claim(s) of the new atheists when it concerns Old Testament ethics?

The main claims of the new atheists are these: (1) They see the “Old Testament God” as mean-spirited, cruel, capricious (e.g., God’s command to Abraham to kill his son, God’s permitting slavery or commanding the killing of the Canaanites). (2) They consider moral standards and practices in the Old Testament to be repugnant and strange (e.g., Lot’s daughters having sex with their drunken father out of a desire to have children). (3) These new atheists make the faulty inference that to be thoroughly biblical means embracing the death penalty for adulterers or idolaters and, further that the Mosaic Law is the presumed enduring moral and legal standard for all nations. (4) The new atheists point out that we can know moral standards without needing to appeal to Scripture.

Why would the new atheists be interested in “Old Testament ethics” and the “Old Testament God”?

If the character of “the God of the Bible” can be rightly questioned, then one has all the more reason for rooting the standard of objective goodness in something natural rather than supernatural. Attacking Old Testament ethics appears to be the best way of making quick work of dismissing God altogether.

What sort of reasons and evidences are presented by the new atheists when they offer support for their main claim(s)?

The new atheists appeal to science, history, and reason/philosophy to make their case for a decent world without God. They seem unaware of how the Christian faith helped give birth to modern science and early on shaped the philosophical assumptions that scientists – theistic or atheistic – utilize today. The new atheists downplay the remarkable cultural/moral influence the Christian faith has played in the West, and they overplay horrors committed in the name of Christ while underplaying the destructive role of atheistic ideologies in the twentieth century. Finally, the new atheists are remarkably out of touch with, say, sophisticated theistic arguments for God’s existence. Their arguments against God tend to be very superficial (bordering on village atheist argumentation that is often ad hominem or hasty generalization) and often naively tout science as the arbiter of truth, following in the barren footsteps of their positivistic forebears.

Your Philosophia Christi article claims to offer a “nuanced response to the new atheists.” Please briefly explain your response and why you take it to be significant to this discussion.

The new atheists are skillful rhetoricians. They commonly use one-liners, distorted descriptions, and emotional zingers to make their points. They generally do not give an accurate, well-rounded picture of Old Testament ethical questions, but they score a lot of rhetorical points with many readers. I’m trying to respond to this strategy with more nuanced description and reasoning to put such criticisms in proper perspective. While I am not here responding in kind rhetorically, I want to give adequate, well-researched material that others can utilize in response to the new atheists’ witty, but weak, argumentation on Old Testament ethics. I hope to write a fuller treatment on Old Testament ethics that is more popularly accessible.

In the “Final Thoughts” section of your article, you offer three final claims against the new atheists. Please summarize them and say how they compliment your “nuanced response.”

First, the new atheists reject the very theistic foundations that have made modern science possible, that have shaped the direction of the West’s moral progress, and that stand as the basis of human rights and dignity. Theism affirms humans have value because they have been made in the image of God. A supremely valuable being – not valueless, mindless processes – has endowed us earthly creatures with dignity and value. To get rid of God is to get rid of the kinds of values that these new atheists would like to affirm.

Second, the new atheists assume that theocracy or a nation ruled directly by God is the ideal when in actual fact a theocracy is simply one of several developments in Israel’s history. Indeed, the Old Testament itself looks beyond ethnic Israel as the true people of God to an interethnic, international body of believers who are the true Israel in Christ.

Third, as I noted earlier, the new atheists assume that the Old Testament proclaims and enduring moral standard for all nations for all time. However, we can rightly agree with Daniel Dennett, who thanks “heaven” that the numbers of those who believe this are dwindling!

So we can side with the new atheists on these last two points but without jettisoning God’s moral authority over humankind.

Can you recommend any other Christian responses or resources about the new atheists?

One can gain a lot from looking at Alister McGrath, The Dawkins Delusion?; John Haught, God and the New Atheism; John Lennox, God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God?; David Marshall, The Truth Behind the New Atheism; Francis Collins, The Language of God (to some degree); Dinesh D’Souza has debated new atheists such as Christopher Hitchens and Daniel Dennett (available at Youtube). See also Alister McGrath’s interaction with Daniel Dennett in The Future of Atheism: Alister McGrath and Daniel Dennett in Dialogue, ed. Robert Stewart (Fortress Press, forthcoming) – a book to which I have contributed on the topic of “Naturalism, Theism, and the Foundations of Morality”; and, as previously mentioned, Chris Hedges, I Don’t Believe in Atheists (though responding to the new atheists from a distinct vantage point).

If Christians are to effectively respond to new atheist challenges, can you offer recommendations and encouragement in this area?

I have tried to take seriously these sorts of challenges. My popular-level books True for You, But Not for Me, That’s Just Your Interpretation, How Do You Know You’re Not Wrong? and When God Goes to Starbucks have attempted to address many Old Testament ethical topics (and lots more!) in user-friendly, accessible ways. I’m working on another book that tackles Old Testament ethical issues specifically, again at a popular level.

In general, I would say that Christians need to be well-informed about their faith and its robust intellectual strength as well as common challenges to their faith. This will require turning off the TV and doing research and deeper thinking. We must also help equip the next generation of Christians to be more thoughtful about their faith rather than presuming upon the fading Judeo-Christian heritage that many Christians in our culture seem to cling to. Although the church throughout the world is growing dramatically, the church in North America is facing great challenges from within and without.

Along these lines, Christians need to see that much of the criticism directed toward the church stems from deeper problems such as hypocrisy, judgmentalism, anti-intellectualism, and a host of other concerns. I would recommend David Kinnaman’s helpful corrective, the book unChristian (Baker) – an excellent wake-up call to the church.

More of Paul Copan can be found at his website: He blogs at Parchment & Pen and recently posted “The Moral Indignation of Richard Dawkins.”

Philosophia Christi Winter 2012: Paul Moser’s Religious Epistemology

The very next issue of Philosophia Christi has now mailed! If you are not a current member/subscriber, you can become one today by purchasing here.

This packed issue leads with a resourceful discussion on Paul K. Moser’s religious epistemology, with contributions by Katharyn Waidler, Charles Taliaferro, Harold Netland and a final reply by Moser. This journal contribution not only extends interest and application of Moser’s epistemology but also compliments the EPS web project on “Christ-Shaped Philosophy”.

We also feature interesting work in philosophical theology, including how one might understand “friendship with Jesus” (Michael McFall), the scope of divine love (Jordan Wessling), and how one’s view of original sin relates to a broad free-will defense (W. Paul Franks).

Other significant article contributions address criticisms against Plantinga’s conditions for warrant (Mark Boone), the latest in cosmology and arguments for God’s existence (Andrew Loke) along with further challenges against “central state materialism” (Eric LaRock).

Readers will not want to miss J.P. Moreland’s critique of Thomas Nagel’s Mind and Cosmos along with the critique of Christian physicalism by Jonathan Loose. Michael Austin provides a helpful philosophical account of the virtue of humility in light of social science considerations, and Amos Yong critically assesses “relational apologetics” in a global context.

Finally, this issue features book reviews by William Lane Craig, James Stump, Paul Copan, James Bruce and Jason Cruze about books related to the latest on science and theology, cosmology, metaethics, and ethics of abortion. 

See all the articles included in this issue by clicking here.

2008 EPS Papers (Copan)

Paul Copan

“With Gentleness and Respect” – and a Few Other Things: Suggestions and Strategies for Christian Apologetics

Abstract: Apologetics is the art and science of defending the Christian faith. Thus, this paper will discuss both (a) much-needed attitudes that apologists should cultivate and (b) helpful approaches and strategies for Christian apologetics. Some of these points will (should!) be self-evident to the apologist – a gracious, loving demeanor; a listening ear; a spirit can discern between smokescreens and true “seeker” questions. In terms of strategies, the paper offers advice regarding potentially contentious issues such as inerrancy, creation vs. evolution, the burden of proof, and the role of natural theology (thin vs. thick theism), and so forth.

Copan’s Apologetics Book Reviewed by Publishers Weekly

Publisher’s Weekly reviewed Paul Copan’s When God Goes to Starbucks: A Guide to Everyday Apologetics (Baker Books). The is set to be released August 1st.

Here are just some of the important review remarks:

“an excellent and comprehensive resource to help Christians contend with controversial questions about their faith.”

“Copan writes eloquently and respectfully on social and moral themes …”

“… Copan does not flinch from a biblical stance and delineates each problem with exemplary thoroughness.”

“Copan’s skillful approach to apologetics provides ample information on hot-topic themes”

Paul was recently interviewed about whether human beings are “hard-wired for faith.”

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.”