Search Results for: Jerry Walls

The Phantom, Notre Dame, and Fish Eyes

In late May of this year my wife, step-son,
and I—along with a group of students and faculty from my school—went on a tour to
London and Paris. It was my fourth trip to London. Before my mom died, she and I
had gone there and to Oxford twice, and then my wife and I went a year ago, when
we were actually able to spend our first anniversary amidst the towering spires
of Oxford.

Save for sharing
a brief summary of

C.S. Lewis as philosopher
, I had no official duties as chaperone on this year’s
trip, so I could relax and just take in the sights—and sites. From seeing

(with EPS vice president
Mark Foreman)
Phantom of the Opera,
to attending Evensong at St. Margaret’s next to Westminster Abbey, to visiting Oxford—an
embodiment of the nobility of the intellectual tradition, as my buddy
Jerry Walls
puts it—England was wonderful as always.

Not the food so much,
with their penchant for adding beans to every plate for inexplicable reasons and
refusing to remove fish heads before serving them—though I suppose even this is
one of England’s many charms.

was just breathtaking, its aesthetic eclipsing even that of London, perhaps because
Paris was not bombed as London was during WWII. Seeing the Notre Dame Cathedral,
my wife’s favorite stop on the trip, was nothing less than transportive. The Gothic
structure took 200 years to build, and I couldn’t help but wonder, as I stood mesmerized
before it, what sort of worldview could inspire such an accomplishment? Surely nothing
as drab and arid as materialism.

David Bentley Hart
likes to point out that what is certain is that, to this
point, most of the unquestionably sublime achievements of the human intellect and
imagination have arisen in worlds shaped by some vision of transcendent truth.

My step-son’s favorite
part of the trip was Versailles, especially the Hall of Mirrors, where World War
I officially came to an end. As a history major he was practically moved to tears
there after having been a bit of a reluctant tourist until then.

My favorite was the Louvre, and recently reading

C. S. Lewis’s

An Experiment in Criticism
proved a great help in developing my appreciation
for the experience. It’s a book I should have read much sooner, teaching us not
just how to be better and more discriminating readers, but how to appreciate nature
more, listen to music, and look at art. Really looking and listening, allowing the
literature or scenic beauty or musical performance or artwork to capture us, speak
to us, and do its magic: it takes patience to listen and look carefully enough to
penetrate appearances and see and hear what’s there beneath the surface.The paintings
I looked at spoke about the sublimity of the everyday, the importance of self-examination,
the echoes of beauty in the provincial, the intimations of eternity in the temporal.
Seemingly ubiquitous nudity in the art led to reflections on the distinction between
art and pornography—with some more help from Lewis, this time his “looking at” versus
“looking along” distinction, which can help explain the original scandal of the
ornate and risqué artwork outside the Paris Opera House.

Whenever I go to places like London or Paris
or Rome with their venerable, storied, and protracted histories, I’m always amazed
at the mixed bag those stories offer, from the ignoble to the sublime and everything
in between. I couldn’t help but think that the process of sifting through history
to learn its lessons, to bend our ear to its voices, to celebrate what’s worth commemorating
and mourn what’s worth lamenting, requires that we bring more to our examination
of history than the sensibility of a faithful chronicler.

Historians have to
choose what to accentuate from among the plethora of historical details, but as
human beings, all of us have to distinguish between the tragedies and triumphs of
the past. And history itself doesn’t provide the tools for such discernment. History
records what happened, but the rest of the humanities—most certainly including philosophy—are
necessary to separate the wheat from the chaff, the virtuous from the vicious, the
beautiful from the ugly, the kind from the cruel.

After seeing the
fifth site of a beheading or hanging, reported in perfunctory and sanguine fashion
by a tour guide treating it as casually as a gelato stand, I couldn’t help but worry
about a creeping callousness of heart. Enjoying the Jack the Ripper walking tour
as much as I did exacerbated my fears all the more, I have to confess.

Outside the British Library, where the
Magna Carta
is on display, I sat down and wrote a bit about this issue, of which this is an

When we study history without including
the necessary evaluative components, the problem seems to be not just bland
storytelling, but a narrative lacking humanity. Sometimes I think this is what
can bother me about certain tours in which abysmal human failures and tragedies
are used as punctuation marks, attention-grabbing or even entertaining aspects
of the experience. The danger of desensitization looms—only intensified by the
historical distances involved. The study of history, then, needs evaluation.
Good history needs to retain its humanity, which requires it contain a critical
stance whose force comes from beyond the confines of history alone. Good history
isn’t possible without the other humanities.

So a wonderful trip overall,
and, like everything else, great fodder for a bit of philosophical reflection. One
more of which, if I may: Going to France made me regret not keeping up with my French.
In general I wish I’d taken my language studies in the past—New Testament Greek
and French—more seriously. Learning a language, far from being a mere hoop to jump
through, is a great discipline. It requires we conform to

than it accommodate

, and going abroad
is a poignant reminder that it’s not just an academic matter. Proficiency in a language
provides a window into another culture and an opportunity for another real eye opener.

Recommended EPS-ETS Panel Discussion (WEDNESDAY): Theistic Foundations for Morality

Book Symposium: Theistic Foundations for Morality 
by David Baggett and Jerry Walls

3:00-6:10 pm
Parc 55 – Market Street
Room B3

Mark Foreman
(Liberty University)

David Baggett
(Liberty University)

Jerry Walls
(Houston Baptist University)

Paul Copan
(Palm Beach Atlantic University)

William Lane Craig
(Talbot School of Theology)

Read an EPS interview with Dave Baggett and Jerry Walls about their book by going here.

Philosophia Christi: Summer 2011 Issue

The Summer 2011 issue of Philosophia Christi should start to drop in mail boxes within the next couple of weeks. If you are not a current member or subscriber, please consider becoming one today.

There are lot’s of very interesting articles, notes and book reviews. This issue features a variety of contributions on philosophical anthropology, especially arguments for substance dualism by either arguing from or for the “self.” Contributors to this area include Dallas Willard, J.P. Moreland, Mihretu Guta. Angus Menuge also argues for how libertarian freedom hangs on a concept of the “substantial self.” Moreover, Donny Swanson challenges Nancey Murphy’s Christian physicalist conception of human distinctiveness. Jerry Walls further argues that no Christians should ever be a compatibilist. R. Scott Smith, echoing Willard’s work in phenomenology, challenges Merold Westphal and James K.A. Smith on their concepts of “finitude,” “fallenness,” and “immediacy.”

In his introduction to this issue, Editor-in-Chief Craig Hazen said of these contributions:

In these essays, clear thinking on the ‘self’ emerges as a powerful tool in demonstrating the inadequacy of philosophical naturalism.

Many further notable contributions are available in this issue, from the likes of Robert Larmer, Steve Cowan, John Warwick Montgomery, Paul Gould, and several more!

Subscribe today, and receive the Summer 2011 issue as your first issue!

God is Great, God is Good: Interview with Chad Meister

Bethel College Philosopher Chad Meister and Biola University Philosopher William Lane Craig recently published a co-edited a response to the New Atheism. Below is our interview with Meister about their new contribution: God is Great, God is Good: Why Believing in God is Reasonable and Responsible (IVP, 2009).

How did this book come about? 

Bill Craig and I thought it was time for leading scholars in their fields to offer responses to the central challenges of the New Atheists (primarily Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, and Dennett) and to provide some of the latest research on matters related to theism and Christian faith.

How does this book uniquely demonstrate how belief in God is both reasonable and responsible?  

One of the objections to religious faith raised by the New Atheists and other critics of religion is that one must be both unreasonable and irresponsible to hold religious beliefs.  This is often a criticism rooted in a reaction to fideism—a reliance on nonrational or irrational faith.  In this book we attempt to demonstrate that faith need not be blind, unreasonable or irresponsible.  Belief in God and Christ can be grounded on reason and solid evidence.  Indeed, not only can one be warranted in holding Christian faith, but it may be much more intellectually honest and epistemically responsible —when taking into consideration the latest work in science, history, and philosophy—to be a believer than not.

Why is there sometimes a tendency in philosophy of religion literature to emphasize the “believing in God is reasonable” aspect and not so much the “believing in God is responsible” aspect?  

Historically in debates about God’s existence and religious belief, the issues centered around evidences and arguments for and against them (e.g., design arguments, cosmological arguments, historical evidences for the resurrection of Jesus, etc.).  In recent times, the New Atheists in particular have emphasized the point that religious adherents are not only basing their faith on specious evidence, but that doing so is irresponsible for an educated person in the twenty-first century.  So religious people are not only unjustified in their religious beliefs, they are also morally culpable for their religious tomfooleries.  For these critics of faith, religious beliefs are not only false, they are downright dangerous and therefore must be denounced and ultimately annihilated from the planet.  In this book, we present sixteen essays (fourteen chapters, a postscript, and an appendix) which attempt to demonstrate that believing in God is both reasonable and responsible.

Let’s talk about the contributors. You’ve got a broad range of talent from philosophers to evangelism and apologetics experts. How does this range of contributors strengthen the book’s overall presentation?

The stakeholders in these issues are extensive and include students, scholars, pastors, teachers, and scientists, among others.  In our book we have included a broad range of contributors, from theologians and Bible scholars to philosophers and experts in science.  While a single-authored work may have had a smoother flow, we chose this format in order to provide the best responses and insights available to criticisms of theism and Christian faith today.

In part one, how do the contributions by William Lane Craig, J.P. Moreland, and Paul Moser offer explanations for knowing that God exists, especially in light of the claims of atheism?  

First, there are a number of robust arguments and evidences for God’s existence, and William Lane Craig argues that Dawkins’s criticisms of the cosmological, moral, teleological, and ontological arguments are not deadly to them, nor are they even injurious.  To the contrary, in their contemporary forms these arguments (most especially the teleological argument) provide forceful reasons for believing in God.  J. P. Moreland argues that, on the Christian worldview, God possesses five aspects (consciousness, libertarian free will, rationality, a unified self, and intrinsic value), none of which fits naturally in a scientific naturalist ontology.  Paul Moser then argues that a morally robust understanding of theism is more impervious to criticism than many believe. 

In part two, how do the contributions by John Polkinghorne, Michael Behe, and Michael Murray respond to criticisms of God’s creative design of the universe?  

John Polkinghorne argues that theism offers a “vertical” story of the universe—one in which the laws of nature point beyond them to a deeper level of intelligibility.  Michael Behe presents the case that three pillars of Darwinian evolution—random mutation, natural selection, and common descent—are insufficient to explain the overwhelming appearance of design in life, notably in the elegant molecular machinery of the cell.  Michael Murray then offers a compelling argument such that even if human beings have a natural disposition toward belief in God, this in no way makes that belief disreputable.    

In part three, how do the contributions by you, Alister McGrath, Paul Copan, and Jerry Walls provide challenges to arguments against God’s goodness?  

I first note that the logical problem of evil has been decisively rebutted in recent years—a point often overlooked by critics of belief in an omnibenevolent God—and then focus my energies on atheistic accounts of morality.  I argue that two main attempts are found wanting.  Alister McGrath contends that New Atheist endeavors to demonstrate that religion is intrinsically evil are unsuccessful; in fact, such a belief is merely an article of faith held by its adherents, supported by a very selective use of evidence and a manipulation of history.  In the next essay Paul Copan tackles the thorny issue of whether God and Old Testament laws are evil, and he makes the case that atheistic moral outrage to God’s character and laws lacks the metaphysical resources for making such charges; the God of the Old Testament is clearly not the moral monster some atheists maintain.  In the final essay of this part, Jerry Walls focuses on the issue of a good God creating hell.  He argues that it is precisely because God is a God of love that some may end up in hell.

Lastly, in part four, how do the contributions by Charles Taliaferro, Scot McKnight, Gary Habermas and Mark Mittelberg contribute to the treatment of Christianity’s unique theological claims?  

Charles Taliaferro makes the claim that given certain frameworks, including one’s view of nature, history, and values, divine revelation doesn’t stand a chance.  He challenges these frameworks and offers some positive reasons for recognizing divine revelation.  Scot McKnight then examines the questions of why many of Jesus’s contemporaries didn’t recognize him as the Messiah, what their expectations were, and how they did in fact see him.  Focusing on ten observations they made, he concludes that their expectations of the Messiah were transformed by the Messiah who came.  In the next essay, Gary Habermas argues that two epistles widely recognized as being written by Paul, I Corinthians and Galatians, demonstrate that the resurrection proclamation was quite early and linked to eyewitnesses of the event.  Lastly, Mark Mittelberg closes the book’s chapters by focusing on the question of why faith in Jesus matters.  He points out that Jesus came so we could have life and have it to the full and concludes with these eternally significant words: “The God who is great and the God who is good is ready and waiting for you to come home to him.”

God is Great, God is Good brings together contributors in philosophy, theology, biblical studies, apologetics and evangelism, and the sciences. What are some other topics or areas of study where you’d like to see such collaboration?

I am currently working on several projects in which I’m attempting to bring together philosophers, sociologists, and scholars in religious studies from across the spectrum of world religions in order to address and dialogue about many of the major issues confronting us today.  These include topics such as global ethics, theodicy, violence, secularization, diversity and public education, and the environment.  As globalization increases and religious pluralism becomes more a part of Western culture, I believe such dialectic will become increasingly significant and profitable.  I’m also working on a collaborative project with Oxford University Press in which theistic and atheistic philosophers and other scholars engage in dialogue about central matters of theism and Christian faith, such as the coherence of theism, the doctrine of the Trinity, the Atonement, and the Incarnation.  An amiable exchange of ideas can be quite rewarding, and my hope is that these various venues of discourse will elevate the dialogue among those who disagree about fundamental matters of faith.

How would you like to see this book used among its readers? Give us a vision for its use.

Our hope is that the book will be read by both adherents and critics of faith.  It is written in an irenic tone—this is no polemical screed—and is the kind of work a Christian, say, could give to an atheist friend or skeptic without concern about its being unnecessarily offensive or blatantly aggressive.  It’s also a work that can be a real faith-booster for believers as it is filled to the brim with cutting-edge theistic arguments, evidences, and rebuttals to critics of God and Christianity.

Chad Meister is a Professor of Philosophy at Bethel College, Indiana. He is also one of our book review editors for Philosophia Christi. You can learn more about Chad by going to his website:

Two Dozen (or so) Arguments for God: The Plantinga Project

In 2018, Oxford University Press published Two Dozen (or so) Arguments for God: The Plantinga Project by Jerry L. Walls and Trent Dougherty. Jerry L. Walls is Scholar in Residence and Professor of Philosophy at Houston Baptist University. He is the author or co-author of over fifteen books, including, most recently, God and Cosmos, with David Baggett (OUP, 2016). Trent Dougherty is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Baylor University. He is the editor or co-editor of several books, including Evidentialism and Its Discontents and Skeptical Theism. He is the author of The Problem of Animal Pain. 

From the publisher’s description of Two Dozen (or so) Arguments for God:

Thirty years ago, Alvin Plantinga gave a lecture called “Two Dozen (or so) Theistic Arguments,” which served as an underground inspiration for two generations of scholars and students. In it, he proposed a number of novel and creative arguments for the existence of God which have yet to receive the attention they deserve. In Two Dozen (or so) Arguments for God, each of Plantinga’s original suggestions, many of which he only briefly sketched, is developed in detail by a wide variety of accomplished scholars. The authors look to metaphysics, epistemology, semantics, ethics, aesthetics, and beyond, finding evidence for God in almost every dimension of reality. Those arguments new to natural theology are more fully developed, and well-known arguments are given new life. Not only does this collection present ground-breaking research, but it lays the foundations for research projects for years to come.