Search Results for: R. Douglas Geivett

2008 EPS Book Symposium (Habermas, Walls, Baggett, Geivett)

Gary R. Habermas, Jerry L. Walls, Dave Baggett, and R. Douglas Geivett

Book Symposium: C. S. Lewis as Philosopher: Truth, Goodness and Beauty

Abstract: C. S. Lewis as Philosopher: Truth, Goodness, and Beauty is a new book that makes a significant contribution to C. S. Lewis studies and will be of interest to philosophers, aficionados and any who have an interst in the writings of C.S. Lewis. This book is a collection of essays presented at the 2005 C. S. Lewis Oxbridge Conference held jointly at Oxford and Cambridge Universities. Fifteen essays explore three major philosophical themes from the writings of Lewis–Truth, Goodness and Beauty. It provides a comprehensive overview of Lewis’s philosophical thinking on arguments for Christianity, the character of God, theodicy, moral goodness, heaven and hell, a theory of literature and the place of the imagination.

The Testimony of the Spirit: New Essays

In 2017, Oxford University Press published The Testimony of the Spirit: New Essays by R. Douglas Geivett and Paul K. Moser. R. Douglas Geivett is Professor of Philosophy in the Talbot School of Theology at Biola University. Paul K. Moser is Professor of Philosophy at Loyola University Chicago.

From the publisher’s description of The Testimony of the Spirit: 

The theme of the testimony of the Spirit of God is found in various Biblical writings, but it has received inadequate attention in recent theology, Biblical studies, and the philosophy of religion. This book corrects that inadequacy from an interdisciplinary perspective, including theology, Biblical studies, philosophy of religion, ethics, psychology, aesthetics, and apologetics. The book includes previously unpublished work on the topic of the testimony of the Spirit in connection with: its role in Biblical literature, an ontology of the Spirit, conscience and the voice of God, moral knowledge, religious diversity and spiritual testimony, psychology and neuroscience, community and language, art and beauty, desire and gender, apologetics, and the church and discernment. The book includes a General Introduction that identifies some key theological and philosophical topics that bear on the topic of the testimony of the Spirit, and it concludes with a bibliography on the testimony of the Spirit. The book pursues its topics in a manner accessible to a wide range of readers from various disciplines, including college students, educated non-academics, and researchers.

Conference in Honor of Dallas Willard

Dallas Willard was Professor of Philosophy at the University of Southern California from 1965-2012. He passed away in March 2013 as a result of pancreatic cancer.

Willard taught and wrote on a variety of topics, including phenomenology, epistemology, metaphysics, ethics, the history of philosophy, and philosophy of religion, with the express intention of acquiring clearly articulable knowledge concerning topics of ultimate human importance. For Willard, careful investigations into the nature of being, knowledge, the human person, and the good life were the philosopher’s principal tasks, and his own work is brimming with insights on these topics. Those insights informed not only Willard’s thought but his life. To his many students and colleagues, to whom he generously devoted his time and attention, Willard exemplifies philosophical and personal excellence. He was equally dedicated to conforming his thoughts and actions to the objective order of “the things themselves” as he was to the intellectual and personal wellbeing of those whose lives he touched. 

To commemorate his life and work, we will hold a conference in his honor on November 6-7, 2015 at Boston University.

All talks are free and open to the public. Please register here.


  • Friday, November 6: Metcalf Trustee Center, One Silber Way.
  • Saturday, November 7: Photonics Center Colloquium Room, 8 St. Mary’s Street.

Speakers: R. Douglas Geivett, Brian Glenney, Walter Hopp, Burt Hopkins, Greg Jesson, David Kasmier, J.P. Moreland, Aaron Preston, Steve Porter, Erin Seeba, Brendan Sweetman, Gregg Ten Elshoff.

For more information, please visit For questions, please direct them to Walter Hopp [; (617) 358-3620].

The conference is made possible by the generosity of the John Templeton Foundation, the Boston University Center for the Humanities, and the Dallas Willard Center.
Other Evangelical Philosophical Society commemorations of Willard’s life and work, including from presenters at the Boston conference, can be found here

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?

A Brief Sketch On Compassion

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

Compassion is in. Celebrities champion compassionate causes. Bono, U2’s lead singer, has been instrumental in bringing attention and aid to those in Africa who suffer deeply due to grinding poverty, AIDS, and unfair trade policies. Other celebrities such as Julia Roberts, George Clooney, and Tom Brady have joined in this fight through their involvement with the ONE campaign.

A Christian account of compassion will focus on the sick and the poor. our moral exemplar in this regard is of course Jesus Himself, who was moved with compassion at the suffering of those He encountered in His earthly ministry (Matthew 9:35-37; Mark 6:30-44). However, compassion will also be relevant to our relationships with family, friends, and others who are perhaps suffering in other ways.

Many of us tend to think of compassionate actions as good things to do, but not in the sense that we are morally required to do them. We often think of compassionate acts, especially as they relate to the poor, as supererogatory acts of charity.[1] My claim is that exemplifying the virtue of compassion in our everyday lives is a matter of justice, rather than an optional matter of charity. The basic reason that compassion is an obligatory matter of justice, apart from the biblical injunctions, is that human beings have great value as image-bearers of God. Genesis 1:27 states that humans are created “in the image of God”, but what does this mean? A variety of answers have been given to this question, but for our purposes, it is enough to point out that being made in God’s image means that we are God’s representatives, and that we are representational of who God is.[2] We are free, relational, morally responsible, self-conscious beings. We reflect and represent who God is as human persons made in His image. God is the locus of ultimate value, and we, as human beings created in His image and to reflect His character, share in that value. This has important implications for ethics generally, and the virtue of compassion specifically. Given that all human beings are made in the image of God, all human beings possess a basic dignity, a fundamental value such that they have a conditional right to have their basic needs met.[3] Hence, in some contexts, especially when a person’s basic needs are at stake, showing compassion is an obligatory matter of justice rather than an optional matter of charity. Or so I believe.

Interestingly, the term “compassionate” has a verb form. Bishop Joseph Butler (1692-1752) was an influential British pastor, theologian, and philosopher, and his writings still receive the attention of philosophers today. In a sermon on compassion, Butler observes that when we

rejoice in the prosperity of others, and compassionate their distresses, we, as it were, substitute them for ourselves, their interest for our own; and have the same kind of pleasure in their prosperity and sorrow in their distress, as we have…upon our own.[4] 

This quotation from Butler is pregnant with meaning and insight, but note how he speaks of compassion. We are to compassionate the distresses of others. True compassion includes assisting others who are in distress.[5] For Butler, as for Christ, compassion necessarily involves action.

As an action that we engage in, compassion often involves sacrifice. Perhaps it requires that we give up some of our comfort, our time, or our talent. As Butler pointed out, it involves taking the distress of others to be as significant as our own distress. As such, it involves a turning away from what philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) called “the dear self”.[6] We often find self-love at the bottom of much of our actions that otherwise appear to be morally right. This can also be true regarding acts of compassion. However, even if this is descriptively true of human beings and our motives, this does not count against the claim that we ought to act out of a genuine and unselfish concern for others. Nor does it entail that we shouldn’t seek to take the flourishing of others to be as or more important than our own. This is demanding, to be sure, but it remains within our reach, not only as we seek to alleviate the distresses of the poor and the sick, but also those closest to us.

Further Work: Questions:

  • The claim that compassion is in some sense a duty, or that others have a right to our compassion at least sometimes, is controversial. What arguments for and against such a claim are there, expanding on the suggestion above that human dignity as bearers of the image of God justifies such a claim?
  • How do we engage in self-deception which undermines compassion? What sorts of practices at the individual and community level foster the development of compassion?
  • In what ways is compassion relevant to the parent-child relationship? Marriage? Friendship? Employer-employee? Teacher-student? Believer in Christ-non-believer?

Michael W. Austin

Eastern Kentucky University

A Brief Sketch On Zeal

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

Many are reluctant to identify zeal as a virtue. This is understandable, as zeal is frequently abused and easily confused. Acts of terrorism and brands of “Crusader zeal” shape our understanding of what it is. As a result, we tend to see zeal as vicious rather than virtuous, and to regard the actions of ‘zealots’ as universally bad. But is there something wrong with zeal as such?

The answer of this chapter is “no.” In fact, we argue, zeal is a good trait of character, a virtue. Certainly, some forms and expressions of zeal are bad and need to be condemned. But Scripture and history indicate that there is far more to the story. Jesus himself is lauded for zealously stewarding the purposes of God, and, in New Testament passages of particular ethical importance, Paul and Peter explicitly commend zeal for Jesus’ followers. Later Christian luminaries like William Wilberforce and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. embodied zeal in working for justice and equality in their day. In these and other cases, zeal plays a crucial role in the morally excellent character and behavior of God’s people.

In this chapter, we develop a conception of zeal as a virtue, both theologically and philosophically, beginning with an account of zeal as reflected in Scripture. In Romans 12, which we examine in particular detail, the ethical framework in which zeal is commended is teleological in the classical sense: an orientation toward the pursuit of good (what is supremely valuable and excellent) as an end (telos) that is “perfective” of the agent. In fact, Paul strikingly casts God’s will in classically teleological terms (v. 2), as the good, pleasing, and perfect object of pursuit. In light of the strenuous difficulty of pursuing this good, a passionateresponse is required: zeal.

Understood within the context of Romans 12 and other passages, however, such a response has clear parameters; it is rationally guided by an accurate, transformed vision of reality, and motivated by and oriented toward love. We define biblical zeal, on this basis, as a disposition to pursue what is good – rationally, fervently, and diligently, motivated by and expressed in love.

We refine this conception by analyzing zeal’s opposing vices. On the one hand, our pursuit of what is good goes bad when it is excessive, to the tune of fanaticism, and/or when it is misdirected – with respect to the end sought, the means employed, or both. These forms of “bad zeal” give zeal its bad reputation; in reality, however, they are competitors to zeal, properly understood. Opposing zeal on the other hand is a disposition where passionate pursuit of what is good is deficient – the vice of sloth, one of the “seven deadly sins.” This latter condition, in our view, is the more common failure among followers of Jesus (like us) these days. To glorify God and grow in Christlikeness, we need zeal.

Like other virtues, zeal needs to be cultivated. In this chapter, we make a number of suggestions for developing zeal, including Sabbath rest, meditation on God’s goodness, community, the Holy Spirit, and practical acts of service.

But there is far more to this underrated and misunderstood virtue than we are able to develop here. For the reader who is properly zealous for zeal, several themes merit yet further exploration. Here are three suggestions, as a start. First, zeal tends to be associated with extraordinary passion and action. But feats that call for such response are rare. We need greater understanding of how zeal may be reflected and developed in the context of ordinary action as well.

Second, as with other considerations of action and virtue, whether ordinary or extraordinary, we need a mature and robust picture of the role of the Holy Spirit in the development and expression of zeal. What does cooperating with the Holy Spirit involve in this case? How do we understand his agency in relation to ours? Where do our actions, such as practicing spiritual disciplines, fit into the process of cultivating zeal? Zeal is an important part of the morally praiseworthy life for followers of Jesus, but the ultimate source of biblical zeal (and other virtues) is God, not us. We err when we try to generate such passion in our own efforts rather than let such passion be fanned into flame by the Spirit (Romans 12:11).

A final area for further consideration concerns how we might ally zeal with the other virtues – particularly courage. Biblical zeal helps renew our mind and align our will to fervently pursue the purposes of God. But hindrances and challenges dot the way; courage is needed to overcome and continue in passionate pursuit. How then do courage and zeal relate to each other – conceptually, biblically, developmentally? There is plenty of room here for fruitful interdisciplinary work between philosophers, theologians, and psychologists.

David Horner & David Turner

Biola University

On Open-Mindedness

Jason Baehr, Associate Professor, Loyola Marymount University, offer the following contribution in an ongoing series of sketches from 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

On Open-Mindedness

Many Christians are wary of open-mindedness. They worry that it amounts to a kind of intellectual wishy-washiness, cowardice, or foolishness. But these misgivings about open-mindedness betray a misunderstanding of its basic nature and structure. In its most basic form, open-mindedness is a willingness and ability to transcend a certain way of thinking in order to “take up” or “take seriously” some distinct way of thinking. And it is rooted in or flows from a “love” of epistemic goods like knowledge, truth, and understanding.

When conceived of in this way, Christians have good reason to think of open-mindedness as an intellectual excellence or virtue. It comports well with the value that the Old and New Testaments place on truth and wisdom. It is obviously useful in the context of education and in “intramural” theological disputes. And it fits well with—and indeed may be required by—the kind of neighbor-love, enemy-love, and humility that Christians are called to by Jesus himself.

A question remains whether Christians should be open-minded about matters pertaining to their own Christian faith. Arguably they should, since the alternative would amount to being intellectually dishonest. That said, there limits on the sort of open-mindedness that can reasonably be expected of Christians. For instance, they can be expected to, say, modify or give up one of their Christian beliefs only if, from a settled, all-things-considered perspective, the evidence demands it.

Becoming open-minded is not a matter of direct or immediate choice. Rather, it requires intentionality, placing oneself in certain environments and avoiding others, self-reflection, and, for the Christian in particular, a rich and meaningful spiritual life.

Issues for further inquiry:

  1. The chapter provides some indication of when or with respect to what beliefs or ideas it is appropriate to be open-minded. But much more could be explored and said along these lines. For instance, exactly what considerations govern when an exercise of open-mindedness would be intellectually virtuous and why?
  2. It is fairly obvious that many Christians could do a better job of being (appropriately) open-minded in the context of public debate or discussion with persons with whom they disagree. Here as well it can be asked: when, in the context of public debate, is open-mindedness called for? How can and should it be balanced with other virtues like intellectual courage? And what exactly would greater open-mindedness look like in this context? The articulation of some guiding principles on these matters would be illuminating and practically beneficial.
  3. There is something paradoxical about the idea that a person might have distinctively Christian reasons for altering or even giving up one of her Christian beliefs. For it looks as though, once she gives up the belief, she might lose the very reasons she had for doing so! On the other hand, it seems unreasonable (for reasons discussed in the chapter) to think that Christians should only be open-minded about their non- or a-Christian beliefs. How, then, can we make sense of these competing considerations?
Enjoy more of our ongoing series of “sketches” by going here!

A Brief Sketch On Wisdom

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

Today in American society it seems the last thing on people’s minds is wisdom. From Hollywood to Wall Street, we are preoccupied with wealth, entertainment, and social status.  And even where wisdom is generally acknowledged as a noble aim, genuine devotees of this virtue are rare.  Yet the biblical exhortation to wisdom is clear, as the proverb says wisdom is “more precious than rubies” (Prov. 8:11).  But what exactly is wisdom?  What is it about this trait that makes it so valuable?  And what practical steps can one take in order to become wise?  Is it a matter of simple dedication in study, or are there other things involved in the attainment of wisdom?  In my chapter I address each of these questions.

Generally speaking, wisdom is a kind of practical moral insight.  So it appears to be both a moral virtue and an intellectual virtue.  For the wise person has knowledge of what is the best conduct in particular situations, and this knowledge is manifested in good conduct.  So you might say that wisdom is a sort of “governing” virtue that is necessary, to some degree, for the development of all other virtues. This is why wisdom is especially important and perhaps why we find such a strong biblical emphasis on it.

How does one become wise?  Is it just a matter of study and cognitive reflection?  While we usually think in terms of beliefs determining behavior, Scripture suggests that the causal dynamic runs the other direction as well.  The Old Testament wisdom literature tells us that God makes wise the simple and grants understanding to those who humble themselves (see Psalm 19:7, Psalm 25:9, Prov. 1:4, and Prov. 11:2).  And some New Testament passages underscore the critical role of behavior when it comes to belief formation (e.g., Rom. 1:18-32, Eph. 4:18-19).

Alvin Plantinga has provided some insights regarding how vice undermines wisdom.  He notes that cognitive faculties are like any other aspect of human beings, in so far as they were designed for a purpose (to form true beliefs) and that they function properly only under certain conditions.  Like any physical organ, such as lungs or eyes, cognitive processes can malfunction because of corrupting influences.  And moral vice, such pride, resentment, or the habitual indulgence in perverse behavior, is a major cause of cognitive malfunction.  In other words, sin compromises a person’s capacity to form true beliefs, particularly regarding moral and spiritual matters.

Psychological studies have shown that, when faced with a conflict between their personal beliefs and behavior, people will often reconcile this conflict by changing the way they think about their behavior.  Rather than alter their conduct, they will take the less demanding route and search for some way to rationalize it.  This response is almost always unconscious, which of course makes for a morally insidious dynamic in contexts involving vicious behavior.  These moral-psychological insights appear to confirm the Apostle Paul’s remarks in Romans 1:18-32 where he describes how wicked behavior leads to futile thinking.

So sinful behavior undermines the quest for wisdom.  But on the positive side, virtuous living leads to wisdom.  By living rightly we diminish the corrupting impact of sin on the mind.  Consequently, our cognitive processes can function properly, and we are more likely to form true beliefs about moral and spiritual issues.  So those who faithfully obey God will grow wiser, just as Scripture tells us.

While Plantinga and others have done some helpful work in exploring the negative dynamics of moral psychology when it comes to cognition, more work needs to be done to understand the positive impact of virtuous living.  What are the specific moral-psychological causal dynamics involved?  What role might the spiritual disciplines (e.g., prayer, fasting, sacrifice, etc.) play in maximizing cognitive health?  And what specific implications might there be here for Christian educators and scholars, for whom proper cognitive function is especially critical?

James S. Spiegel
Taylor University

A Brief Sketch On Love

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

A philosophy of love is defended in which love has two aspects.  The most important is beneficent love, which is when the lover desires the good or well being of the beloved.  The second aspect of love is unitive love, the desire of the lover to be united with the lover.  In responding to some cases when it appears that a person may love someone too much, it is argued that true love cannot be in excess.  In other words, you cannot love a person too much –especially if the love is truly beneficent.  It is further argued that the love of another requires some self-love, and while it may be good to love the love of another, this is very dangerous.  It would mean that if the beloved withdraws her love, the object of love no longer exists.

Belief in a loving, Triune God offers an enhanced, richer understanding of love and its endurance than in a secular context.  Some of the pressing issues that Christians face in thinking about love (some, but not all of which are addressed in the chapter) is the primacy of agape (selfless or unconditional love) versus loves that are particular (the love one has for one’s spouse or child rather than a stranger).  When is impartial love to be preferred to particular loves (for example, in a Christian community is it important to love others impartially or is and when is preferential treatment good)?  When should love be unconditional?  Is love usually a response to value (the good of the beloved) or can love in some way create value?  Is love under your control?

Some Christian philosophers today (Richard Swinburne, Stephen Davis) believe that the three highest loves are self-love, love of another, and the love of two for a third, and they see this (following the philosopher Richard of St. Victor) as part of the glory of God as Triune.  I believe they are right and am working on an account of love that would fill out this position.  If you enjoy the chapter, you might check out a book I wrote on love called: Love. Love. Love. And Other Essays (Cowley Press, 2005).  The title comes from the last essay in which I relate the last three words my father told me when he died at the age of 95; he held my hand and said “Love. Love. Love.”

Charles Taliaferro

St. Olaf College