Search Results for: Tyler McNabb

EPS at AAR/SBL: Erik Wielenberg’s Robust Ethics: Theistic Responses

Monday, November 20, 7:00-10:00 PM
Marriott Copley Place – “Falmouth” (Fourth Level)

Erik Wielenberg offers his “Godless Normative Realism” as an alternative to theistic accounts of moral realism. In this session, several theists engage Dr. Wielenberg’s view and objections to theistic moral realism.


William Lane Craig (Biola University and Houston Baptist University).

Mark Murphy (Georgetown University).

Tyler McNabb (Houston Baptist University).

Adam Johnson (Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary).

Responding: Erik Wielenberg (DePauw University).

[EPS members can register for the AAR conference as a “related scholarly organization”].

Philosophia Christi Discusses Erik Wielenberg’s “Robust Ethics”

Enjoy digital-only access to the journal!

The Winter 2018 issue leads with an important symposium that evaluates the “Godless Normative Realism” thesis of Erik Wielenberg.

Adam Lloyd Johnson: “Introduction to the American Academy of Religion Panel Forum on Erik Wielenberg’s Robust Ethics”

Erik Wielenberg is the most important contemporary critic of theistic metaethics. Wielenberg maintains that God is unnecessary for objective morality because moral truths exist as brute facts of the universe that have no, and need no, foundation. At times his description of these brute facts make them sound like abstract objects or Platonic forms. At the American Academy of Religion’s annual meeting in Boston in November of 2017, we organized an Evangelical Philosophical Society panel to discuss Erik Wielenberg’s book Robust Ethics: The Metaphysics and Epistemology of Godless Normative Realism. All five papers presented there are included in this journal. 

William Lane Craig: “Erik Wielenberg’s Metaphysics of Morals”

Focusing on Erik Wielenberg’s metaphysic of morals, I argue that his moral Platonism is, given the presumption against the existence of abstract objects, unmotivated. Moreover, Godless Normative Realism is implausible in light of the mysterious causal relations said to obtain between concrete objects and moral abstracta. His appeals to theism in order to motivate such causal connections is nugatory. If Wielenberg walks back his moral Platonism, then his metaphysics of morals collapses and Godless Normative Realism becomes explanatorily vacuous. 

Tyler Dalton McNabb: “Wile E. Coyote and the Craggy Rocks Below – The Perils of Godless Ethics”

William Lane Craig has defended the following two contentions: (1) If theism is true, we have a sound foundation for morality, and, (2) If theism is false, we do not have a sound foundation for morality. Erik Wielenberg rejects (2). Specifically, Wielenberg argues that naturalists have resources to make sense of objective moral values, moral duties, and moral knowledge. In response to Wielenberg, I defend Craig’s second contention by arguing that Wielenberg’s theory fails to robustly capture our moral phenomenology as well as make intelligible robust moral knowledge. 

Mark C. Murphy: “No Creaturely Intrinsic Value”

In Robust Ethics, Erik Wielenberg criticizes all theistic ethical theories that explain creaturely value in terms of God on the basis that all such formulations of theistic ethics are committed to the denial of the existence of creaturely intrinsic value. Granting Wielenberg’s claim that such theistic theories are committed to the denial of creaturely intrinsic value, this article considers whether theists should take such a denial to be an objectionable commitment of their views. I argue that theists should deny the existence of creaturely intrinsic value, and that such a denial is not an objectionable commitment of theism. 

Adam Lloyd Johnson: “Fortifying the Petard – A Response to One of Erik Wielenberg’s Criticisms of the Divine Command Theory”

Erik Wielenberg argued that William Lane Craig’s attack against nontheistic ethical models is detrimental to Craig’s Divine Command Theory (DCT) as follows: Craig claims it is unacceptable for ethical models to include logically necessary connections without providing an explanation of why such connections hold. Yet Craig posits certain logically necessary connections without providing an explanation of them. Wielenberg concluded that “Craig is hoisted by his own petard.” In this paper I respond to Wielenberg’s criticism by clarifying, and elaborating on, the DCT. I will attempt to provide a preliminary explanation for the logically necessary connections included in the DCT. 

Erik J. Wielenberg: “Reply to Craig, Murphy, McNabb, and Johnson”

In Robust Ethics, I defend a nontheistic version of moral realism according to which moral properties are sui generis, not reducible to other kinds of properties (e.g., natural properties or supernatural properties) and objective morality requires no foundation external to itself. I seek to provide a plausible account of the metaphysics and epistemology of the robust brand of moral realism I favor that draws on both analytic philosophy and contemporary empirical moral psychology. In this paper, I respond to some objections to my view advanced by William Craig, Mark Murphy, Tyler McNabb, and Adam Johnson.

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Plantingian Religious Epistemology and World Religions: Prospects and Problems

In 2018, Lexington Books released Plantingian Religious Epistemology and World Religions: Prospects and Problems in the Studies in Comparative Philosophy and Religion series, by Erik Baldwin and Tyler Dalton McNabb. Erik Baldwin teaches at Indiana University, Northwest. Tyler Dalton McNabb is assistant professor of philosophy at Houston Baptist University.

From the publisher’s description of Plantingian Religious Epistemology and World Religions

To what extent can non-Christian religious traditions utilize Plantinga’s epistemology? And, if there are believers from differing religious traditions that can rightfully utilize Plantinga’s religious epistemology, does this somehow prevent a Plantingian’s creedal-specific religious belief from being warranted? In order to answer these questions, Baldwin and McNabb first provide an introduction to Plantinga’s religious epistemology. Second, they explore the prospects and problems that members of non-Christian religions face when they attempt to utilize Plantingian religious epistemology. Finally, they sketch out possible approaches to holding that a Plantingian’s creedal-specific religious belief can be warranted, even given believers from other religious traditions who can also rightfully make full use of Plantinga’s religious epistemology.

Enjoy these interview segments on Reformed Epistemology with Tyler McNabb from Capturing Christianity:

Debating Christian Religious Epistemology

In 2020 Bloomsbury Academic will publish Debating Christian Religious Epistemology: An Introduction to Five Views on the Knowledge of God, edited by John M. DePoe and Tyler Dalton McNabb. John M. DePoe is Academic Dean of the Schools of Logic and Rhetoric at Kingdom Preparatory Academy, USA. Tyler Dalton McNabb is Post-Doctoral Fellow at the University of Macau, Macau.

From the publisher’s description of Debating Christian Religious Epistemology:

What does it mean to believe in God? What passes as evidence for belief in God? What issues arise when considering the rationality of belief in God? 

Debating Christian Religious Epistemology introduces core questions in the philosophy of religion by bringing five competing viewpoints on the knowledge of God into critical dialogue with one another. 

Each chapter introduces an epistemic viewpoint, providing an overview of its main arguments and explaining why it justifies belief. The validity of that viewpoint is then explored and tested in a critical response from an expert in an opposing tradition. Featuring a wide range of different philosophical positions, traditions and methods, this introduction: 

  • Covers classical evidentialism, phenomenal conservatism, proper functionalism, covenantal epistemology and traditions-based perspectivalism 
  • Draws on MacIntyre’s account of rationality and ideas from the Analytic and Conservatism traditions 
  • Addresses issues in social epistemology 
  • Considers the role of religious experience and religious texts 

Packed with lively debates, this is an ideal starting point for anyone interested in understanding the major positions in contemporary religious epistemology and how religious concepts and practices relate to belief and knowledge.

Readers may also be interested in a 2016 article that co-editor McNabb wrote (with Erik Baldwin) for Philosophia Christi, the peer-reviewed journal of the Evangelical Philosophical Society, wherein he discussed “Reformed Epistemology and the Pandora’s Box Objection.” Moreover, in 2018, DePoe wrote for the journal about “Evaluating the Evidential Impact of Religious Disagreement.”

Become a subscriber to Philosophia Christi or a member of the Evangelical Philosophical Society (includes annual print subscription)!

New “Religious Epistemology” Volume for Cambridge Elements Series

In 2018, Cambridge University Press published Religious Epistemology, in the Elements in the Philosophy of Religion series, by Tyler Dalton McNabb. Tyler is assistant professor of philosophy at Houston Baptist University.

From the publisher’s description of Religious Epistemology: 

If epistemology is roughly the study of knowledge, justification, warrant, and rationality, then religious epistemology is the study of how these epistemic concepts relate to religious belief and practice. This Element, while surveying various religious epistemologies, argues specifically for Plantingian religious epistemology. It makes the case for proper functionalism and Plantinga’s AC models, while it also responds to debunking arguments informed by cognitive science of religion. It serves as a bridge between religious epistemology and natural theology.

Enjoy “Philosophical Street Preaching” video from Capturing Christianity

Interview with Michael Austin on Humility and Human Flourishing

Oxford University Press is set to release Humility and Human Flourishing from Michael Austinthe newly elected President of the Evangelical Philosophical Society. In the below interview, Michael talks about his latest book and the importance of further philosophical and theological work to be done on humility as a virtue integral for human flourishing.

What is Humility?

In short, humility is “proper self-assessment” and “a self-lowering other-centeredness”. I analyze it in much more detail, of course. To do so, I employ Robert Adams’ notion of the modularity of virtue. So in terms of what will be true of the humble person, I discuss several cognitive, emotive, and active modules of humility, as follows:

(C1) The humble person possesses self-knowledge with respect to his virtues, vices, and limitations, both personal and qua human person.
(C2) The humble person knows that God deserves the credit for her salvation, talents, abilities, accomplishments, and virtues.
(C3) The humble person believes that he ought to have a prima facie preference for the satisfaction of the interests of others over the satisfaction of his own interests.
(C4) The humble person will not conceive of human beings in a hierarchical manner in light of their equal inherent dignity and worth as image-bearers of God.
(C5) The humble person is properly concerned with how others perceive her.
(E1) The humble person has a prima facie preference for the satisfaction of the interests of others over his own.
(E2) The humble person is motivated to act by her love for God and for the sake of his kingdom.
(A1) The humble person will be disposed to obey God.
(A2) The humble person will be disposed to engage in self-sacrificial actions for the good of others.

There is a lot here, but this is the account of the humble person that I offer as a Christological account of this moral virtue in such a person. The account is grounded in philosophical reflection and analysis, classic and contemporary theology and biblical studies, and some recent empirical work on this virtue. Reading the above, one might wonder about how I individuate humility from other virtues. For that, you’ll have to read the book!

With that account in mind, how is a philosophical-theological account of Humility integral to an account of Human Flourishing?

There are many ways, but one that stands out is that humility is a virtue that is central in and essential for rightly relating us to God, others, and to the good, the true, and the beautiful in creation and God’s kingdom. On a Christian account of human flourishing, humility is rational, benefits its possessor, and is conducive to individual and social flourishing. Given the historical skepticism of thinkers such as Hume and Nietzsche, and contemporary thinkers like Tara Smith, it is important to defend humility’s status as a moral virtue as part of a larger case for the rationality and goodness of the Christian moral life, insofar as humility is an essential aspect of such a life.

How did this project come about for you?

I was reading Erik Wielenberg’s Value and Virtue in a Godless Universe, where he discusses a naturalistic account of the virtue of humility but also some of what C.S. Lewis thought about it. I thought Lewis was partially right, but realized that in both popular and scholarly literature, there are many inaccurate or truncated views about the nature of humility. So that got me into the topic and just 8 short years later my work resulted in this book!

That’s interesting. What did you discover about this topic that most intrigued you?

I constructed my initial account of the virtue, as I noted above, employing philosophy, theology, and biblical studies. I was fascinated to find that the operational definition of this trait that is used by many psychologists corresponds to my account. This helped my work substantially. For example, some of the ways in which I respond to Hume’s criticisms of humility’s status as a virtue make use of this excellent work in psychology on the virtue of humility.

What have you found to be so distinct about a Christian account of humility?

For me what is most distinct from a Christian perspective is that humility is primarily an interpersonal virtue. The current naturalistic versions of humility on offer construe it as a self-regarding virtue, and several Christian accounts follow suit. While humility does have self-regarding elements, including a knowledge of our limits and other kinds of self-knowledge, that is not the heart of the virtue. The picture we get from examining the Scriptures is that it is primarily other-regarding; it is about putting the interests of others ahead of one’s own, as the gospels and Philippians 2:1-11 make clear that Jesus himself habitually did. So my initial concerns about construing humility as merely self-knowledge, a knowledge of one’s limits, turned out to be confirmed by not only an in-depth scriptural analysis of humility, but of what many have thought about this trait over the centuries. This means that humility is a robustly action-guiding virtue, and is relevant to a variety of issues in applied ethics as well as spiritual formation. I discuss how this is so in the book.

Your project is engaged in ‘analytic moral theology.’ What do you find distinct about that approach and why does it matter?

It is distinct insofar as it involves approaching theological topics where moral concerns are central, with the ambitions of an analytic philosopher: prizing particular intellectual virtues, using the analytic style of discourse, seeking clarity, and using the other tools of analytic philosophy. This is not the only method that we should use, but it is one that brings some underutilized tools to bear on Christian moral theology. I discuss this in more detail in the book, and consider several objections to it. One desired result of this kind of work is that it helps us acquire moral knowledge that we can then apply as we see fit. In this sense, it is quite practical. In short, to seek to grow in and exemplify humility, it helps to know what it actually is!

The book ends with a reflection on John 13. How is Jesus brilliant on ‘humility and human flourishing.’

First and foremost, Jesus is brilliant on these topics because both his teaching and his life exemplify humility and human flourishing. In the foot-washing we see his brilliance and humility on display. He offers us a way out of our own crippling egoistic pride, not only by lighting the way, so to speak, but by enabling us to be transformed by his grace into the freedom that humility can deliver.

Given the contours of your book, what do you recommend for further philosophical-theological work to be done by Christians in this area?

I think more work should be done on other virtues and a general Christian account of flourishing, by Christians. Then, we need to translate this scholarly work into more popular forms so that the picture of the good person and the good life that we see in Christ is made concrete, specific, and attainable by those who humbly depend on him for doing seeking to experience and embody God’s goodness. As Dallas Willard argued, we need a curriculum for Christlikeness. My view is that the evangelical segment of the Christian church in the United States is in desperate need of a moral reformation, with the pursuit of knowing and loving God at the center of our lives, in tandem with a true transformation of character. Otherwise, the movement will die out, and rightly so. It is up to Christian scholars to work in moral theology, offering insights related to both theory and practice. I’d like to see what happened with philosophy of religion and apologetics resources in the past 30 years also happen in the moral realm. We need popular-level resources for how to grow that are grounded in excellent scholarship, but also aimed at becoming, as C.S. Lewis said, “little Christs.”

You can learn more about Michael Austin’s work by visiting his personal website. Additionally, the Winter 2018 issue of Philosophia Christi will feature a symposium discussion on Erik Wielenberg’s “Godless Normative Realism” as an alternative to theistic accounts of moral realism, with responses from William Lane Craig, Tyler D. McNabb, Mark C. Murphy, Adam L. Johnson, and with a final reply by Wielenberg. Subscribe today!