Search Results for: Stephen Davis

Stephen Davis on Rational Faith

In November 2016, Veritas Books published Rational Faith: A Philosopher’s Defense of Christianity, written by Stephen T. Davis, the Russell K. Pitzer Professor of Philosophy at Claremont McKenna College. From the publisher’s description:

Why believe in God? If God exists, why doesn’t he eliminate suffering and evil? Does evolution disprove Christianity? Can religion be explained by cognitive science? People have grappled for ages with these kinds of questions. And many in today’s academic world find Christian belief untenable. But renowned philosopher Stephen Davis argues that belief in God is indeed a rational and intellectually sound endeavor. Drawing on a lifetime of rigorous reflection and critical thinking, he explores perennial and contemporary challenges to Christian faith. Davis appraises objections fairly and openly, offering thoughtful approaches to common intellectual problems. Real questions warrant reasonable responses. Examine for yourself the rationality of the Christian faith.

Redemption, the Resurrected Body, and Human Nature

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

In answer to the question, “What us human nature?”, we might ask: What are the essential properties of being human? Is being embodied one such property? The answer you give will depend both on your metaphysics (e.g., whether you are a dualist or a physicalist) and your theology (e.g., whether you think there will be an “interim period” between your death and the general resurrection).

A distinction must be made between minimal dualism, expansive dualism, and the anthropology that most Christians have held. It is based on dualism, and thus affirms that human beings can for a time exist as disembodied souls, but also holds that human beings, in their most complete and perfect form, are embodied persons, and will be so in heaven. Those bodies will be transformed “glorified” bodies and in them we will see God.

For Further Study

  • Which counts for more in deciding on a Christian anthropology, philosophical or theological considerations?
  • How exactly does a glorified body differ from an ordinary earthly body?
  • What exactly is the beatific vision?

Keith Ward: On a Reformulation of Trinitarian Doctrine

20% off key titles from Cambridge University Press until February 28, 2017!

Cambridge University Press recently published Christ and the Cosmos: A Reformulation of Trinitarian Doctrine (2015) by Keith Ward.  Ward is Professorial Research Fellow at Heythrop College, University of London and Fellow of the British Academy. From the publisher’s description:

The concept of the ‘social Trinity’, which posits three conscious subjects in God, radically revised the traditional Christian idea of the Creator. It promoted a view of God as a passionate, creative and responsive source of all being. Keith Ward argues that social Trinitarian thinking threatens the unity of God, however, and that this new view of God does not require a ‘social’ component. Expanding on the work of theologians such as Barth and Rahner, who insisted that there was only one mind of God, Ward offers a coherent, wholly monotheistic interpretation of the Trinity. Christ and the Cosmos analyses theistic belief in a scientific context, demonstrating the necessity of cosmology to theological thinking that is often overly myopic and anthropomorphic. This important volume will benefit those who seek to understand what the Trinity is, why it matters and how it fits into a scientific account of the universe.

The Winter 2016 issue of Philosophia Christi (vol. 18, no. 2) will feature a unique symposium on Christ and Cosmos, with a lead article by Keith Ward, followed by responses from Richard Swinburne, Stephen Davis, Tom McCall, William Hasker, Dale Tuggy and many others. The critical interactions will not only interest those who track philosophical discussions on the trinity, but will interest readers eager to understand the implications of the doctrine of the trinity for other areas of philosophy and theology. In addition to this first-time symposium, the Winter issue includes the latest critiques of philosophical naturalism, Reformed Epistemology, along with insightful reviews of books in philosophy, theology and apologetics.

Subscribe/Renew today! All EPS members receive an annual journal subscription with their membership, along with access to the annual meeting.

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

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.

2024 Annual Meeting Panel Discussions

In addition to dozens of sessions on individual paper presentations at the annual meeting, come enjoy several EPS interested discussions throughout EPS and ETS programming. Consider joining the following sessions:

Wednesday, November 20th:

  • 10:10 AM – 11:40 AM: “God and Political Power.” Panelists include: Stephen Wolfe (Princeton University), Tyler Dalton McNabb (Saint Francis University), Kevin Vallier (Bowling Green State University).
  • 1:00 PM – 4:10 PM: “Practicing the Presence of God.” Moderator: Robert Garcia (Baylor University). Panelists include: J. P. Moreland (Biola University), Juliana Kazemi (Baylor University), Fred Aquino (Abilene Christian University), Kristen Irwin (Loyola University Chicago), and Paul Rezkalla (Baylor University).
  • 1:00 PM – 4:10 PM: “Natural Law and the Shape of Christian Ethics: Prospects, Promises, and Perils.” Moderator: Jason Thacker (Boyce College). Paper presentations from, and discussion with, Dennis Hollinger (Gordon Conwell), David VanDrunen (Westminster Seminary California), and David Haines (Bethlehem College & Seminary).

Thursday, November 21st:

  • 8:30 AM – 11:40 AM: “Book Panel Discussion: Transformed into the Same Image: Constructive Investigations into the Doctrine of Deification.” Moderators: Paul Copan (Palm Beach Atlantic University) and Michael Reardon (Canada Christian College). Includes various papers and panel discussion from Copan and Reardon, Carl Mosser (Independent Scholar), Ben Blackwell (Westminster Theological Centre), Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen (Fuller Theological Seminary / University of Helsinki), Brian Siukit Chiu (Biola University), and Fred Sanders (Biola University).
  • 8:30 AM – 11:40 AM: Gender as Love: Dialoguing with Fellipe Do Vale.” Moderator: Daniel Hill (Baylor University). Includes papers and discussion from Gregg Allison (Southern Baptist Theological Seminary), Dustyn Elizabeth Keepers (Baker Academic Publishing), Christopher Woznicki (Jonathan Edwards Center at Gateway Seminary), Kirsten Sanders (Independent Scholar), and Fellipe do Vale (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School).
  • 9:20 AM – 11:40 AM: “Atonement and the Death of Christ: A Symposium” with William Lane Craig (Biola University), Oliver Crisp (University of St. Andrews), Joshua Thurow (University of Texas San Antonio), Jonathan Rutledge (Harvard University), Danielle Jansen (University of St. Andrews), and Aaron Davis (University of St. Andrews).

Friday, November 22nd:

  • 8:30 AM – 11:40 AM: “Origin of the Soul: A Conversation.” Moderator: Ronnie Campbell (Liberty University). Panelists include: Joshua R. Farris (Ruhr-Universität Bochum), Bruce L. Gordon (The Saint Constantine College / Discovery Institute), Joanna Leidenhag (University of Leeds), William Hasker (Anderson University), James T. Turner (Anderson University).
  • 8:30 AM – 11:40 AM: “It’s Not the End of the World: Putting Elections in Theological Perspective.” Moderator: Vincent Bacote (Wheaton College). Panelists includes: Luke Bretherton (Duke Divinity School), Fellipe do Vale (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School), Mark McDowell (Reformed Theological Seminary), Kaitlyn Schiess (Duke Divinity School).
  • 2:00 PM – 5:10 PM: “The Ballot and the Bible: Dialoguing with Kaitlyn Schiess on the Use of Scripture in American Politics.” Moderator: Ryan Peterson (Talbot School of Theology). Panelists include: Malcolm Foley (Baylor University), Miranda Cruz (Indiana Wesleyan University), Preston Sprinkle (Theology in the Raw), Kristen Deede Johnson (Western Theological Seminary), and Matthew Anderson (Baylor University).
  • 3:00 PM – 6:10 PM: “Design Writ Large: Design Arguments, Design Detection, and Natural Theology.” Moderator: John Bloom. Panelist include: William Dembski (Discovery Institute), David Haines (Bethlehem College and Seminary), Douglas Axe (Biola University), Bruce L. Gordon (The Saint Constantine College / Discovery Institute).
  • 3:00 PM – 6:10 PM: “Cancel Culture, Freedom of Speech, Religious Freedom, and the Gospel: Dealing with Difference in a Pluralistic World” with various papers and panel discussion from Darrell Bock (Dallas Theological Seminary), Eric Patterson (Regent University), John Hartley (Rivendell Institute), and C. Donald Smedley (Rivendell Institute).

Join the EPS membership today for as low as $25/yr and receive an annual subscription to the Society’s peer-reviewed journal, Philosophia Christi.

Remembering Keith Yandell’s Contributions to Philosophia Christi

Members of the Evangelical Philosophical Society mourn the loss of friend, colleague, and teacher, Keith E. Yandell (b. 1938), who passed away on April 28th.

Since the 1960s, Keith’s dozens of articles and books have addressed multiple areas of philosophy, including issues in philosophy of religion, metaphysics, epistemology, philosophical anthropology, and Christian engagement with religious diversity and eastern religions. According to an announcement of his passing made by the Society of Christian Philosophers, Keith’s wife, Sharon, said that Keith “enjoyed most of all teaching and mentoring the many students he had in a 45 year career at UW-Madison and as an affiliate professor for several years at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.” Additional remembrances are posted at Keith’s Facebook page. See also reflections from Thomas McCall and Harold Netland.

Within Philosophia Christi, the peer-reviewed journal of the Evangelical Philosophical Society, Keith’s papers were published on issues of metaphysics and philosophical theology, an appraisal of Plantinga’s religious epistemology, Hasker’s “emergent dualism,” an assessment of new interpretations of Kant’s philosophy of religion, and critiques of pluralist accounts of religions and religious diversity.

For example, in 1999, and in the inaugural issue of Philosophia Christi, Keith wrote on “Ontological Arguments, Metaphysical Identity, and the Trinity.” In this article, Keith seeks “to explore some accounts of the necessary and sufficient conditions of metaphysical identity” and their implications for “Anselmian and non-Anselmian views of the Christianity trinity” in order to argue that “if one is a Christian trinitarian theist, then – given certain plausible claims – one should reject the view that God has logically necessary existence” (83). His paper, as in much of his work, toggled between issues of metaphysics and philosophy of religion.

In 2000 (vol. 2, no. 2), Keith participated in a book symposium on William Hasker’s The Emergent Self, which also included contributions from Nancey Murphy, Stewart Goetz, and a reply from Hasker. Keith’s article – “Mind-Fields and the Siren Song of Reason” –  attends to “powers attributed to matter by emergent dualism amount to this: when suitably configured, it generates a field of consciousness that is able to function teleologically and to exercise libertarian free will, and the field of consciousness in turn modifies and directs the functioning of the physical brain.” The article goes on to illuminate the ‘pretty severe tension’ “between the apparently mechanistic character of the physical basis of mind and the irreducibly teleological nature of the mind itself,” such that “the siren song of Cartesian dualism once again echoes in our ears” (183).

In the following year (vol. 3, no. 2), Philosophia Christi featured a book symposium on Alvin Plantinga’s Warranted Christian Belief, which included a paper from Keith – “Is Contemporary Naturalism Self-Referentially Irrational?” and also contributions from Douglas Geivett and Greg Jesson, Richard Fumerton, Paul Moser, and a reply from Plantinga. Keith’s paper offers a multi-point reflection on Plantinga’s argument, leaving the reader to ponder ‘how bad’ is the contemporary naturalist’s argument if Plantinga’s argument is correct?; it “depends not only on [Plantinga’s argument] being valid and having true premises, but on what exactly it does to a view to show that it supports the conclusions that one cannot rationally accept it.” Keith wonders, “Is this like a car having a little scratch on its fender, or like the motor’s parts having been fused by heat?” (356).

In 2007, Keith’s paper, “Who is the True Kant?,” was part of a book symposium on Kant and the New Philosophy of Religion (vol. 9, no. 1); the symposium was guest edited by Chris Firestone and with additional contributions from John Hare, Stephen Palmquist, Nathan Jacobs, Firestone and Jacobs, and Christophe Chalamet. Keith’s article renders a more cautious, as opposed to an optimistic view of the ‘new wave’ interpretations of Kant. “I take Kant, among other strengths, to be incapable of making uninteresting mistakes, which – if you think about it – is a very high compliment” (81).

Keith returned to issues of metaphysics and philosophical theology in a 2009 article (vol. 11, no. 2)  co-authored with Thomas McCall, titled, “On Trinitarian Subordinationism.” In that paper, McCall and Yandell analyze “the claim that the Son is necessarily subordinate to the Father” in order to argue “that there are no good reasons to hold such a view but that there are strong reasons to reject it” since such arguments “often rest upon fundamental misunderstandings of the theological issues at stake, their arguments from Scripture bring important—but flawed—metaphysical assumptions into the exegesis of biblical texts, and their own proposal is either hopelessly mired in contradiction or entails the direct denial of the full divinity of the Son” (339).

Additionally, in that same 2009 issue of the journal, Keith contributed to a symposium guest edited by Chad Meister and that focused on philosophical and theological issues of “Religious Diversity,” which also included papers from Paul Moser and Paul Knitter. Keith’s paper – “Religious Pluralism: Reductionist, Exclusivist, and Intolerant?” –  addresses the idea that religions differ in significant ways and also critiqued the idea that “Religious Pluralism is often taken to define the only unbiased, rational, and acceptable approach to the diversity of religions.” Keith goes on to say that “the Pluralist route is anything but unbiased or rational” and that rather than “being the only acceptable approach, it should be flatly rejected” (275).

Finally, in 2011 (vol. 13, no. 2), Yandell contributed to one more Philosophia Christi symposium, and this time centered on “God and Abstract Objects,” guest edited by Paul Gould, with additional contributions from Richard Davis and William Lane Craig. Keith’s article – “God and Propositions” – focuses the discussion this way: “Arguments that necessary existence is a perfection, and God has all perfections, assume that Necessitarian Theism is true, and hence consistent. Thus they do not provide reason to believe that Necessitarian Theism is true. Nonnecessitarian (‘plain’) theism is on a philosophical par with Necessitarian Theism and can accommodate abstract objects all the while avoiding theological and philosophical refutation” (275).

The above is but a microcosm of Keith Yandell’s faithful work. Keith’s mind, wit, prose, and rigor will surely be missed. Important areas of philosophy – e.g., issues in philosophy of religion – are better because of his leadership.

Learn more about Philosophia Christi, or subscribe today for as low as $25/yr (EPS membership includes a print subscription to the journal).

The Research Companion to Theological Anthropology

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

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

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

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

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

Web Project: Philosophical Discussions on Marriage and Family Topics

Instructions for Submitting a Paper Proposal

Purpose: For scholars interested in ethics, theology, and philosophy work on ‘marriage and family’ topics, we invite carefully-honed papers that advances discussion of any of the below areas of the Potential Paper Topics.

If you are interested, please contact our project coordinator and editor Michael Austin (info below). Michael is seeking to coordinate all potential contributors and their topics for this endeavor. When you pitch your possible contribution, please provide the following:

  • Your name, institution and contact info.
  • Title and description of your proposal (e.g., 100 words).
  • Reasons for how your contribution will help advance the purpose of this project.

We are looking for papers that a) argue for a perspective on a marriage and family topic, or b) casts a vision for more work to be done in a particular area or c) offers a literature review and assess what seems to be ‘under-developed’ work.

Length: 1,500 to 2,000 total words (minimum). You are welcome to work with the Project Editor on length issues.

Deadline: TBD by the project coordinator

Project Coordinator and Editor
Michael Austin
Eastern Kentucky University
Department of Philosophy

Priority will be given to those papers that offer a perspective on questions and problems that especially hone in on what have been ‘under-represented’ in this theme for Christian philosophers. Please seriously consider developing paper topics with the below examples in mind. We encourage papers that will be of interest not only to the ethics scholar but also to the epistemologist, metaphysician, theologian, etc.


Find this Project interesting? See these other EPS Web Projects

Potential Paper Topics

Developed by Michael Austin (Eastern Kentucky University) & Joe Gorra (Veritas Life Center).

Much has been addressed by Christian philosophers on questions related to bioethics, reproductive technologies, and so on. But some under-represented ‘marriage and family’ topics include the following:

Philosophy and Interdisciplinary Issues in Marriage and Family Studies: If philosophy and theology are understood as ‘second-order’ disciplines, how might they contribute to the work and contributions of ‘first-order’ disciplines like sociology, psychology, economics, cultural studies and their accounts of marriage and family? How might ideas and images shaped by these disciplines enable and clarify the work done by philosophers and theologians? We strongly encourage contributions from Christian philosophers who have understanding of the ‘meta-‘ issues involved with philosophy’s contribution to interdisciplinary discussions. We also encourage Christian non-philosophers to propose papers that are attentive to philosophical issues and concepts that converge with their discipline and areas of expertise. Co-authored proposals from philosophy and non-philosophy scholars are welcomed.

Papers may wish to interact with this literature:

Ethics of religious upbringing of children: how to share, model, and influence our children for Christ in ways that honor God and respect them as well. Defenses of the morality of a Christian upbringing in the face of challenges at a popular level (e.g. Dawkins and “child abuse” claims) as well as at the scholarly level. How might philosophical accounts of ‘harm’ and ‘interest’ (of children, parents, etc) contribute to clarifying what is often a legally vague idea of ‘Acting in the best interests of the child.’

Papers may wish to interact with this literature:

Metaphysics of the Family: What is a family? What are the necessary and sufficient conditions for a family, on Christian theism? What biblical, theological, and philosophical data are relevant to this question? How important is genetics or biology to this definition? Or what value is there with respect to a biological connection of some sort between parent and child? Who is a father or a mother? How might a vocational account differ from strictly a biological account? How might we reflect upon ‘step-parenting,’ ‘foster-care parenting’ and ‘surrogate parenting’ in light of Christian theological accounts of adoption and hospitality of God? How might we think about the nature of parenting and family in light of the genetic modification of children and the technological possibilities of creating babies from three or more parents? And what implications do our answers to these questions have for the current cultural debates about same-sex marriage and same-sex parenting? From a political philosophy standpoint, what are strong, non-religious arguments for why a ‘secular state’ has an interest in protecting the family?

Papers may wish to interact with this literature:

Metaphysical and Epistemological issues in Gender, Sexuality and Identity: What are necessary and sufficient conditions for defining ‘gender,’ ‘sexuality’ and ‘human identity’? On what basis are such distinctions drawn? In what sense and on what basis are these terms considered social constructions? ‘Self-identification’ of one’s experience as x, y, or z often populates studies in this area. Is this knowledge from a first-person perspective? Is it simply one’s construal? How might we understand the ‘authority’ of such claims relative to the authority of tradition, history, social institutions, etc.

Papers may wish to interact with this literature:

Moral-Spiritual Formation of the Family: How does this occur, for both parents and children? What theological and philosophical resources can we bring to bear on this? How can parents be intentional about such formation for themselves and their children in the family? What does the Bible have to say that is relevant to such questions? And what do psychology, sociology, and other disciplines have to contribute to this? Is virtue formation and spiritual maturation in a family interconnected with being the roles of a mother and a father? What is the role of ecclesial communities in such matters of formation? Does the ‘Christian family’ exist primarily for the interests of the ‘household of faith’?

Papers may wish to interact with this literature:

  • For ‘ethics and family’ treatments, see Julie Rubio, Family Ethics: Practices for Christians (Georgetown University Press, 2010); Michael W. Austin, Wise Stewards: Philosophical Foundations of Christian Parenting (Kregel Academic, 2009).
  • For some work on the vocation of the family, see Gene Edward Veith and Mary J. Moerbe, Family Vocation (Crossway, 2012).
  • For recent article examples on philosophy and spiritual formation integration, see from the (Fall 2014) Journal of Spiritual Formation and Soul Care, Steve Porter, “A Call to Philosophy and Spiritual Formation” (248-257), and “Philosophy and Spiritual Formation: From Christian Faith to Christian Philosophy” (258-269); and also from JSFSC’s (Spring 2014), see Brian Brock, “Discipleship as Living with God, or Wayfinding and Scripture,” 22-34.

Non-Religious Arguments for Marriage and the Family: What are the opportunities and limitations for using ‘natural moral law arguments’ in public and pluralistic contexts? Are such arguments mostly useful for ‘consoling the faithful’? How are ‘secularists’ compelled by such arguments, if they are compelled at all? How might such arguments be retooled in light of changing plausibility structures in Western societies, which increasingly view Christian accounts of marriage and family to be contestable and not believable? How might sociological, psychological and economic reasons and evidences be more persuasive to most secularists than natural law arguments?

Papers may wish to interact with this literature:

Moral Vision of Flourishing ‘Families’ in a Pluralistic Society: Culturally speaking, the experience of marriage and family is no longer a homogenous kind of experience in Western societies. Increasingly, we have ‘pluralist’ accounts recognized by law, legitimized by cultural pressures, and encouraged by various social institutions.

Drawing from Christian Social Thought, how might Christians envision a society that attends to our differences, even contradictions, regarding marriage and family flourishing? Is such a society possible? What conditions or values should shape how we are bound together? How might Christians think societally about such issues like ‘gay adoption,’ government assistance for unwed mothers, illegal immigration and deportation of parents, youth incarceration and single-parent homes, etc? What society should be built by Christian thought and leadership influence given the particularities of our cultural moment? We encourage constructive responses that seek to minister to each person made in the image of God, and seeks to uphold the social order.

Papers may wish to interact with this literature:

‘Health,’ ‘Well-Being,’ and ‘Holiness’ of Marriage and Family: Innumerable scientific studies have been written about the health and happiness of individuals, their family and affects on society. ‘Health,’ though, is usually given a reductive account: a scientific or medical question about an organism. Similarly, ‘happiness studies’ usually assume a psychological account about someone’s mental outlook on life. Is there a thicker account of ‘health’ and ‘well-being’ that includes but is not reduced to the hard or soft sciences? Moreover, Christians have historically understood marriage and family as sacred or holy, set apart for the glory and purposes of God’s work in the world. Is there ‘health’ and ‘well-being’ entailed by that sacred, perhaps even ‘sacramental vision’ of marriage and family? How might we recapture a more holistic understanding of eudaimonia as a collective, relational phenomenon, in family, church and state.

Papers may wish to interact with this literature:

Please consider becoming a regular annual or monthly financial partner with the Evangelical Philosophical Society in order to expand its reach, support its members, and be a credible presence of Christ-shaped philosophical interests in the academy and into the wider culture!