Search Results for: Scott Rae

Center for Christian Thought: An Interview with Director Gregg Ten Elshoff

I recently interviewed Gregg Ten Elshof about Biola’s Center for Christian Thought. Currently, Gregg is the Director of the Center, and chairperson of the undergraduate philosophy department and Associate Professor of Philosophy at Biola.

Gregg has been a contributor to Philosophia Christi, and the author of various works in metaphysics and epistemology, including more recently, the award-winning book, I Told Me So: Self-Deception and the Christian Life (Eerdmans, 2009).


The Center for Christian Thought (CCT) is a fairly new institutional endeavor at Biola University. It’s branded as “An important opportunity for scholars. An important resource for society.” There seems to be an  interesting dynamic at work here about how Biola views the good of “Christian knowledge work”. Can you tell us about that in light of the mission of the Center?

The Mission of CCT is to be a forum where leading Christian thinkers from around the world will gather for up to a year at a time to research and discuss significant issues of our day – with the goal of making valuable contributions to the academy, the church, and the broader culture.

The idea driving the Center is that we can serve our world by creating an environment conducive to the best possible Christian scholarship on important issues and then working hard to communicate that scholarship to folks wrestling with real issues.

What sort of work will CCT do? How will it do it?

At the heart of CCT is a yearly residential Fellowship program. Each year there will be a theme and a multidisciplinary collection of residential fellows working on a set of focal questions related to that theme. These Fellows will meet weekly to present their work-in-progress and receive critical feedback from one another. This is a unique opportunity for Christian scholars from around the world to engage in sustained, collaborative multi-disciplinary work with Christians who approach things from a variety of perspectives.

Moreover, CCT will work with its Fellows to translate their work to a variety of non-academic audiences. The website will have a growing collection of “4-views” papers from Christians with different perspectives on important topics. It will collect short video interviews with thought leaders. It will host pastors’ lunches to equip Christian leaders with cutting-edge Christian thought. It will host conferences for academic and non-academic audiences. And more besides.

How has your passion for Christian scholarship been cultivated over the years? Who do you see as models for the vocation of a Christian scholar?

In my early 20’s my teachers at Biola (Doug Geivett, JP Moreland, Scott Rae and others) communicated to me a vision for careful Christian research in the context of community and intellectual friendship. They also helped me to see the power of ideas and the shaping influence of academic institutions. If we want to change the world for Jesus, we’ve got to get Christian ideas discussed and taken seriously in the institutions responsible for safeguarding, developing, and disseminating knowledge.

In my later 20’s and 30’s, Dallas Willard provided for me a model of careful philosophical work combined with penetrating analysis of the Christian life. In many ways, I learned how to follow Jesus into my vocation from Willard. I’m still learning from him. From a greater distance, I’ve been challenged by folks like Alvin Plantinga, Nicholas Wolterstorff, and (especially) Paul Moser who refuses to leave Jesus and the Scriptures behind – even as they have found their way in and out of mainstream discussion in philosophy.

Why this Center at Biola?

Biola is nicely situated to bring together evangelical thought and concerns with the thought and concerns of a broader swath of Christianity. Biola is a trusted voice within evangelicalism. But there is here – increasingly, I think – an intellectual environment conducive to dialogue with folks from other streams of Christian thought.

In my general estimation, there seems to be a dearth of scholarly, evangelical resources that can model how an “evangelical view” on a topic can do “work” with a) other relevant bodies of knowledge (religious and non-religious); and especially b) other “competing views” on a topic. Will the Center seek to help remedy this “problem” in some way? If so, how?

If we want to sharpen the evangelical voice – if we want to produce the very best evangelical scholarship and find an ear for it beyond evangelical publics, we must get the brightest evangelical scholars in conversation (sustained collaborative conversation – not just the sort of conversation that happens at a 2-day conference event or a debate) with their non-evangelical counterparts. Even better if we can help evangelical scholars into intellectual friendships with their non-evangelical counterparts. CCT will facilitate sustained conversation and (if all goes well) budding intellectual friendships that transcend the evangelical/non-evangelical distinction.

Let’s also talk about the rest of the current leadership team for the Center. Working with you are Associate Directors Tom Crisp and Steve Porter. I can’t help but notice that all of you have philosophy backgrounds and teach philosophy. What’s that all about? How might a philosophy background strengthen the focus and vision of this multi-disciplinary Center.

Well, we (here) are all well aware of the fact that philosophy is, at least in part, a second-order discipline. We make it our business to think about the other disciplines and how they relate. So philosophers are (or can be) naturally suited to the task of integration. But what draws this team together isn’t a common interest in philosophy. Rather, we share a vision for the kind of collaborative work that the Center tries to facilitate. It has been my privilege (I wish there were a stronger way of putting that) to be caught up in Christian intellectual friendship with Steve and Tom for a lot of years now. I can’t imagine (honestly – I’ve tried and can’t) two better people to host our Fellows and guide them into the kind of collaborative Christian thinking we’ve got in mind for the Center.

A wonderful Fellowship is in the works for 2012 with Plantinga and Wolterstoff. Tell us about that endeavor and the kind of scholars that should seriously apply for this unique opportunity at the Center.

The theme for the spring 2012 semester will be “Christian Scholarship in the 21st Century: Prospects and Perils.” Questions to be addressed include: What is Christian Scholarship? Why is it important? What are its proper aims and methods? What challenges does it face? Whom does it serve and how?

In some ways, we’re asking the question for this first semester, “What should a Center like this give it’s energies to in the years to come?” It really is going to be fantastic. Our Fellows will have the opportunity to participate in a two-week seminar with Professors Alivn Plantinga and Nicholas Wolterstorff at the beginning of the term. Plantinga and Wolterstorff will return at the end of the semester to interact with the Fellows’ work in a two-day conference.

Scholars from any discipline whose projects intersect with our theme are encouraged to apply. Fellows will receive a $25,000 stipend and will have an office in the newly constructed space given over to CCT on Biola’s campus. They’ll have research assistants and a staff ready to help them translate their work to the variety of audiences we’re hoping to reach (the academy, the church, and culture more broadly). Most importantly, they’ll do their work in proximity with others approaching similar questions from a variety of perspectives. We’ll even spend some time in the mountains together.

Dallas Willard has written about “Pastors as Teachers of the Nations” in his Knowing Christ Today book. As you  know, Dallas talks about how pastors are stakeholders of a Christian knowledge tradition (among other things) and that the church is a knowledge institution. How can pastors, churches, and other non-academic publics benefit from the work of the Center?

This question is close to our hearts at CCT. We really do want to make the best of Christian scholarship available and accessible to these pastors and teachers of the nations. Our plan is to regularly host Pastors’ lunches in order to give our Fellows and others the opportunity to equip Christian leaders with biblical perspectives on the issues that matter most to their parishioners.  In addition, as you know Joe (because it was your idea), we’re considering the possibility of appointing a pastor-in-residence for each year. This will be a thoughtful and influential person in the Christian community who can be freed up to be a regular participant in the conversations and events of CCT for that year.

In at least one important respect, CCT walks a fine line. It’s not a “pure” ivory-tower think tank. It endeavors to make the very best of Christian thought accessible not only to the academy but to the Church and culture more broadly. But neither is it a clearinghouse for the popularization of existing Christian scholarship. Its residential Fellowship program endeavors to facilitate first-rate cutting-edge scholarship on the topics that matter most.

You can learn more about Biola University’s Center for Christian Thought by visiting their website at www.cct.biola.edu.

Interview with Mike Austin: “Ethics for Everyone”

Christian philosophers like Mike Austin continue to make waves not only in the academic arena but in non-academic environments as well. I recently interviewed Mike about his writing on ethics at the Psychology Today website, along with his passion to see the good of wise, philosophical reflection and insight accessible to everyone. Mike is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Eastern Kentucky University and the author or editor of various books, including Conceptions of Parenthood (Ashgate, 2007), which we chatted about here, and also he’s written Wise Stewards: Philosophical Foundations for Christian Parenting (Kregel, 2009), Running and Philosophy (Wiley-Blackwell, 2007), Football and Philosophy (University Press of Kentucky, 2008), and Cycling – Philosophy for Everyone (Wiley-Blackwell, 2010). He has also contributed to Philosophia Christi, Journal of Applied Philosophy, International Philosophical Quarterly, The Journal of Value Inquiry, Southwest Philosophy Review and many other journals and periodicals.

Since July of 2010, you’ve been blogging at the website for Psychology Today. But you are a professor of philosophy. What gives?!? Aren’t professionally-trained philosophers supposed to stay within the corridors of academe and just write for professional and specialized publications? I am kidding, of course. But, seriously, how did this writing opportunity for Psychology Today come about?
    
This one came out of the blue. I received an email from one of the editors at Psychology Today asking if I would consider becoming a blogger at their site. The invitation was based on my work in popular philosophy.  I have another work in the popular philosophy genre that will be published in March, in Wiley-Blackwell’s Philosophy for Everyone series on Fatherhood, which I co-edited with Lon Nease. The publisher had contacted Psychology Today about this book, and from there I received the invitation. I wasn’t aware of it, but the Psychology Today website has quite a few people blogging, including not only psychologists, but also philosophers, other academics, and popular writers on a very wide variety of topics.
    
Your blog is headlined as “Ethics for Everyone: Moral wisdom for the modern world.” Indeed, you are covering a variety of topics: from the challenges of Facebook too understanding what lust is. I notice that you don’t exclude your topics to just typical (if not, predictable) ethical issues (perhaps, e.g., whether war is just or whether abortion is immoral, etc). Why is that? What might the diversity of topics suggest about how a Christian philosopher can serve in public spaces like your work at your blog?

I made a fairly conscious decision to emphasize topics related to everyday ethics, rather than the standard fare one might find in an applied ethics anthology. While it is very important for Christian philosophers to engage the topics you mention, and I do so occasionally on my blog, I think that many people in our culture are starved for moral wisdom that can be applied to their everyday concerns of work, family, school, and individual character.

While Christianity is not merely an ethical system, it has a significant and essential ethical component. Those who are not believers in Christ can still benefit by what I write, of course, insofar as they can embrace and apply some of the content to their lives without embracing the theological foundation. Moreover, I think that such work in public spaces serves as a unique form of apologetics, insofar as the moral wisdom on offer that is grounded implicitly and sometimes explicitly in the Christian worldview actually works. It leads to a better and more fulfilling life. When this happens, and people are able to connect the dots, the plausibility of Christianity is increased.  For some, this might be more significant than the classic arguments of natural theology, because the truth is born out more directly in the experiences of their daily lives.

Which topics have been most commented on? Why? What might it indicate?

Far and away the post that has received the most views and comments is my “Why atheism can’t replace religion,” which I wrote in response to a post by another blogger on the site entitled “Why atheism will replace religion”. One reason this received so many comments is that a link appeared on Real Clear Religion, which brought in a lot of traffic. Apart from this unique case, the posts receiving the most attention deal with ethical issues connected to Facebook, the ways in which depressed thinking exhibits logical fallacies, and another on the tension between pursuing victory in sports and practicing virtue in that context. I think this supports my view that people are interested in the connections between ethics and daily life. In general, my posts on ethics connected to current events receive less attention. This isn’t a reason to stop posting on these social issues, but it does reveal something about the audience and their interests.

What has it been like to write as a Christian in this environment? What does that mean to you? Moreover, what are the top lessons that come to mind (so far) about what it means to be a Christian philosopher in this environment? How are you growing?

It has been a very positive experience for me, trying to take the things I think about as an academic and put them out in a popular form for the general public. I’m taking the skills I’ve developed in my work on the pop philosophy books and transferring them to the blogosphere.  One lesson that has been reinforced is that to communicate effectively requires foregoing the use of philosophical jargon without sacrificing depth. This is sometimes a difficult tension, but learning how to do this has helped me to grow as a writer and hopefully been beneficial to readers.

One thing that has become very apparent to me is the prominence among many of the bloggers of both scientism in general and a form of physicalism about the human mind in particular. A recent post by another blogger talked about “competing neurons” as a way to understand the tension many experience between their sexual desires and morality. The claim is that this is not a matter of character, but rather of different parts of the brain in conflict. I’m not even sure what it means for neurons to be in conflict.  However, while there are many posts written by others that I disagree with, I am being pretty selective about the posts I respond to by other bloggers on the site. When I do publish a response, I seek to disagree in a charitable way rather than to engage in the abrasive form of dialogue that is so ubiquitous on the web.  Many Christians feel the need to respond to everything they disagree with, but sometimes the better approach is not to be reactive in this way in every case. I’m trying, over time, to cultivate and communicate a certain moral view of the world and human nature that I believe is theologically and philosophically sound.

As far as my own personal growth, I’ve written a lot in recent years about the connections between sports and character. Recently I started playing soccer again in a league for old people, and I’ve had opportunities to seek to apply my views to my own life.  For example, the past two games I’ve played in have presented opportunities for my growth in humility. This has been a bit painful, but a good reminder that there are so many ways to grow in virtue or descend into vice in sports. This is also true of the rest of our lives. My hope is that my blogging will encourage and equip many to embrace opportunities for moral growth.

Your “Bluegrass Ethics Consulting and Education” (great title, by the way) is, no doubt, another extension of your “ethics for everyone” vision. Let’s talk a little about that. It reminds me of the Morris Institute of Human Values. Why did you start this consultancy? How has it shaped you has a writer and professor? What opportunities has it provided you that writing and teaching have not?

Starting this consultancy was inspired by several things, including the model of the Morris Institute. I also realized that, as far as I can tell, no such thing exists in this region of Kentucky, even though we are only 20 miles south of Lexington where the University of Kentucky is located. Also, when philosophical concepts, especially those related to logic and ethics, are presented to people in a clear and understandable manner, they see the connections with their own lives. I have done a little bit of speaking for the Kentucky Humanities Council around the state on moral issues, and while the turnout has been small, the people eat it up. I wanted to expand the reach of this type of work.  So far, I’ve only met with a local physician a couple of times, but I’m working now on a plan to inform businesses and other organizations about this resource, with the hope that some further opportunities will arise. This is just one more way to permeate the culture with goodness, truth, and beauty.

Do you have any models of other philosophers (Christian or otherwise) who wrote or who are writing to serve a non-academic readership with their philosophy expertise and training? If so, what do you find encouraging/compelling about them as a model?

As I mentioned, the work of Tom Morris has been one model that has been influential for me. Many other Christian philosophers, such as J.P. Moreland, Scott Rae, Doug Geivett, Jim Spiegel, and Paul Copan are good models of this sort of work.  Also, much (not all, of course) of the work done in the different philosophy and popular culture works that have been edited by William Irwin is quite good insofar as it communicates important ideas in clear, concise, and relevant ways.

There are two extremes to avoid in this type of work. Some philosophers treat a chapter or a book that is intended for a popular audience as if they are writing a journal article, and these are two very different animals. This is not because one is necessarily easier, but rather the aims are different and many people are just unable to get out of the mode of writing for a scholarly audience, perhaps because that is the only type of audience they have ever addressed in their writing. The other danger is trying too hard to be relevant and dumbing down the material you are discussing. The best popular philosophers are able to combine clarity, relevance, wisdom, and creativity in their work.

You have a growing series of books in practical or applied philosophy that you have edited and contributed to (including some like the forthcoming Coffee – Philosophy for Everyone: Grounds for Debate, which looks to be especially delectable!) I can’t help but noticing that the features and phenomena of one’s “ordinary life” are the advantage points from where philosophical reflection is motivated and done in this series. That’s beautiful! To me, it has something of a good-of-creation value to it. So, I got to ask you, what difference does it make to the health of philosophical reflection when our philosophizing is not routinely attentive to ordinary life but mainly or mostly caught-up in a preoccupation with highly specialized, academic topics.

I love the conceptual and analytical bent of much of contemporary philosophy. However, I also think that in order to be a good steward of the education and resources I’ve been blessed to have at my disposal, I ought to take some of the fruit of that scholarly reflection and make it available and accessible to those outside of the academy. In my own life, in order to avoid hypocrisy and seek genuine human flourishing, when possible I try to take the tools of philosophy and put them to work. If we are not at least sometimes philosophizing about ordinary life, especially as Christian philosophers, then we are missing something crucial not only for ourselves, but for those we can serve via our vocation as Christian scholars. And our philosophical reflection will benefit because we won’t be merely solving philosophical puzzles for the sake of puzzle-solving, but rather seeking wisdom and depth of insight.

What does writing for Psychology Today or doing your series of books on “Philosophy and x” suggest to you about how Christian philosophers should be trained, developed and formed?

We must be trained to write well. Those who are educating and mentoring Christian philosophers need to put a premium on this ability. My own professors at Talbot School of Theology did this with excellence. They were demanding, and I still rely on that training as I write for both scholarly and popular audiences today.   Learning the craft of philosophical writing has helped my writing in these other venues. We also need to be countercultural in the academic context, insofar as we must resist succumbing to the elitist values that are so prominent. It is of course very valuable to publish a paper in one of the best philosophy journals, but writing for Atlantic Monthly or Christianity Today is no less important from a kingdom perspective. Each kind of work is important, in its own way. It’s too easy to take on by osmosis the disdain for popular-level work that many contemporary philosophers exhibit. So perhaps Christian philosophers should be trained not only to write for other philosophers, but also for a more general readership.  Some may do much more of one than the other, but we ought to be able to do both.  Finally, I think that we need to take Aristotle’s words to heart, from the Nicomachean Ethics: “Since, then, the present inquiry does not aim at theoretical knowledge like the others; for we are inquiring not in order to know what virtue is, but in order to become good, since otherwise our inquiry would have been of no use.” I would only amend this by saying that we want theoretical knowledge, and we seek it not only for its own sake but also for the sake of becoming good.

Since about 2001, I have been championing among various folks and institutions the idea that while the last few decades has enjoyed “a renaissance in Christian philosophy” what we now need (in addition to that good work) is a “translation revolution.” By that, I mean, we need a fresh generation raised-up of Christian philosophy influencers (among others) who have their ear to the ground in the scholarly discussion but who are listening for the sake of translating to non-academic arenas. What do you think about that? Do you have some encouragement to share for this endeavor?

I wholeheartedly agree, and I like that phrase “translation revolution”. In my position as a professor at a public university, I find that my students who are atheists have been influenced by people like Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris, but there are no Christians with the same sort of prominent influence among Christian students. We have people who are responding to the new atheists, doing the type of translation work you mention, but there are so many other areas in which such work is needed. Most of it, as far as I can tell, is focused around questions of God’s existence and other issues in philosophy of religion, as well as bioethics. This is crucial, but we need people who have scholarly credibility that are doing this sort of translating on a whole range of issues connected with the realm of value, including political, social, and personal ethics. We need the scholarly foundation and the vision and ability to translate it in non-academic venues.  I’ve tried to do this by developing a Christian philosophy of the family that I believe is superior to the new ideologies of the family and is also grounded in sound biblical, theological, and philosophical scholarship (see my most recent book with Kregel, Wise Stewards).  We need to develop a well-crafted political philosophy and communicate it with excellence.  We need more of this kind of thing in business ethics, ethics and technology, and sports ethics, to name just a few areas of inquiry in need of more translation work. There is so much out there that can help people to live better and more fulfilled lives, and so much potential for doing further work with these goals in mind, that it would be a shame if no “translation revolution” occurs. This is a crucial way to continue to build the kingdom of God in ourselves and those whom we serve in our vocation.

You can learn more about Mike Austin by visiting his website and following his blogs (Ethics for Everyone, Philosophy of Sport, In Socrate’s Wake), and connecting with him on Twitter and Facebook.http://www.psychologytoday.com/node/44391

Christian Worldview Integration: Interview with J.P. Moreland (part one)

InterVarsity Press recently launched a Christian Worldview Integration (CWI) series of books edited by J.P. Moreland and Frank Beckwith. Education for Human Flourishing (Spears and Loomis) and Psychology and the Spirit (Coe and Hall) have already been released, and Politics for Christians: Statecraft as Soulcraft (Beckwith) will soon be released. Below is part one of two of our interview with Moreland about the series and how to think about conceptual Christian worldview integration.

Currently, what topics are covered and which authors cover the topics in the CWI series?

Paul Nelson, Scot Minnich, Christianity and Biology.
Paul Spears, Steve Loomis, Christianity and Education.
John Woodbridge, Christianity and History.
David Jeffrey, Christianity and Literature.
Francis Beckwith, Christianity and Political Thought.
Garry DeWeese, Christianity and Philosophy.
John Coe, Todd Hall, Christianity and Psychology.
Scott Rae, Kenman Wong, Christianity, Business and Economics

Timothy Muehlhoff, Todd Lewis, Christianity and Communications.

The authors for this series were hand-picked by Frank Beckwith and me precisely because they were in a position (with respect to academic training and biblical fidelity) to do a first-rate job of presenting a fresh perspective on integration and their respective disciplines.  Each author is well-regarded and well-trained in his field and is deeply committed to Christianity in general, and the Bible in particular, as a source of knowledge of reality.

How did the CWI series come about?

I have been burdened for a long time about the lack of books on the integration of Christianity and various fields that take the Bible as a source of knowledge relevant to each field.  Too often, books on integration add a Christian veneer to the information in a discipline with the result that the scriptures do no serious cognitive work in that field.   This series will not be like that.  Each book takes scripture seriously as a source of knowledge relevant to its discipline.

The “integration of faith and learning” has become a slogan, if not a fad of sorts, for many Christian intellectuals and educators. But I get the sense that “integration” as a vision and an endeavor is far more than a slogan or fad for you and this series.

The series focuses on “conceptual integration”, the attempt to blend into an intellectually satisfying worldview the knowledge claims of historic Christianity and the Bible on the one hand, and the knowledge claims of one’s field on the other hand.  I prefer the label “the integration of biblical and disciplinary knowledge-claims, not “the integration of faith and learning,” because the latter implies that the Bible is accepted by a blind act of faith and the information from one’s discipline is actual learning, i.e., real knowledge.  The series seeks to show that the Bible does not contradict what can be shown about the nature of things from extra-biblical sources, and that the Bible provided the Christian with a rich source of knowledge that can do intellectual work in one’s field.

In its best and most sincere effort, how do Christian worldview integration endeavors with academic disciplines tend to go? How does the approach of the series differ from what is typically published in this area?  

Many such efforts take an academic discipline and leave it just as it would be understood by a secular perspective and add a Christian viewpoint that is complementary to it.  While our series agrees that this is one way to do integration, our books are more willing—no, eager!—to allow for direct interaction between the Bible and a field of study, an interaction that can be mutually reinforcing or place the Bible and a claim in a field in tension.  In such cases, we urge the Christian community, following Alvin Plantinga’s advice, to show more self-confidence that is has truth and knowledge in the Bible and does not need to protect scripture from an academic field by making its claim merely complementary to that field.

Is “integration,” ultimately, a philosophical issue with bearing upon other disciplines? How should theology contribute to the conceptual work of philosophy in the area of “Christian integration”?

Part of the very nature of philosophy is to be a second-order discipline that studies the epistemology, metaphysics, concepts, and so forth of other disciplines.  Since integration is such a second-order enterprise, then philosophy is the discipline that will ultimately be involved.  This can be seen in the fact that there are numerous books on the philosophy of x (law, psychology, biology, history) which are in the field of philosophy and written by philosophers.  It is important to see that my claims here have nothing to do with turf issues; they are simply observations about the nature of philosophy vis a vis other fields of study.  The field of theology is best employed by asking theologians to provide holistic, coherent expressions of the biblical and theological data to be factored into integration.

Christian work at the intersection of the sciences is an important area of integration, especially given the authority that scientific knowledge has within Western cultures. Are the positions of “theistic evolution” and “Christian physicalism” the result of proper integration or a failure to understand genuine integration between Christian truth and other disciplines? 


In my opinion and to over simplify a bit, theistic evolution and Christian physicalism adopt the wrong approach to integration, namely, the “complementarian approach” according to which science tells us what is real, how things happened, and so forth, and theology tells us why thing happened and why it matters.  This usually amounts to giving science cognitive authority over theology such that the scientist makes his/her pronouncements and theology must adjust accordingly.  A better approach is called the “direct-interaction view” that allows both fields an equal,  interacting place at the table.  On this view, theology may, in principle, set limits on the metaphysics, etiology, and epistemology of science, requiring Christian scientists to show that the real scientific data do not require a revision of the church’s teaching for centuries.  On this view, it is usually philosophical or methodological naturalism, not the data, that require such (an uneeded) revision.

How should Christians approach, use and present the teaching of scripture when engaging in genuine integration between what the Bible claims and what is claimed by extra-biblical sources of knowledge?

They should look for areas where biblical teaching sheds light on and/or has explanatory power with respect to an extrabiblical proposition that seems reasonable to believe.  They should also seek to remove tensions between the Bible and reasonable beliefs from extra-biblical sources, and look for areas where the latter confirm the former.  In all of this, they should have Christian self-confidence that, properly interpreted, the Bible’s teachings are not just true, but can be known to be true.  Thus, they provide a source of knowledge for doing intellectual work in one’s discipline.

Does the holistic character of discipleship and spiritual formation demand integration? If so, how and why?

We live out what we actually believe in proportion to the strength of belief, and our actions shape our beliefs.  So it is important for Christian character and action that we actually believe the things we claim to believe.  Since it is likely the case that one can change or develop one’s beliefs only indirectly, it becomes important to integrate one’s Christian beliefs/knowledge-claims with reasonable beliefs outside scripture.  This leads to personal unity and integrity where one does not split off his/her Christianity from the rest of his/her beliefs, and one is the same in public as in private.

You can learn more about the IVP Christian Worldview Integration series by going hereJ.P. Moreland is the Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Biola University and Frank Beckwith is the Professor of Philosophy and Church-State Studies at Baylor University.

ETS-EPS 2019: Bioethics Sessions

EPS members contribute to various discussions in bioethics, medical ethics, and debates about physician-assisted suicide. We are very pleased to see a day-long discussion of these crucial issues at the 2019 ETS-EPS conference in San Diego.

Bioethics November 20, 9:00 AM – 12:10 PM 
33rd Floor – Pyramid Peak

Moderator: Cristina Richie (East Carolina University)

9:00 AM—9:40 AM
James Alan Branch (Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary)
Should Children Be Given Drugs to Stop the Natural Process of Puberty?

9:50 AM—10:30 AM
Eddie N. Colanter(Trinity Law School, Trinity International University)
Honor Your Parents in Bioethics: A Philosophical Critique of Familial Relationships

10:40 AM—11:20 AM
Mark B. Chapman (Trinity International University)
Visions of a New Humanity – CRISPr Babies, Transhumanism, and the Second Adam

11:30 AM—12:10 PM
Michael J. Sleasman(Trinity International University)
By the Enhancing of Our Minds: Exploring the Ethics and Practices of Brain Boosting

Bioethics: Physician-Assisted Suicide, November 20, 2:00 PM – 5:10 PM 
Second Floor – Old Town AB 

Moderator: Erik M. Clary (Oklahoma State University)

2:00 PM—2:20 PM
Erik M. Clary (Oklahoma State University)
Physician-Assisted Suicide in the United States

2:20 PM—2:40 PM
Bob Huff* (California Senate – 2008-2016)
How California’s “End of Life Option Act” Became Law

2:50 PM—3:30 PM
Ryan R. Nash* (Ohio State University)
How Physician-Assisted Suicide Impacts the Practice of Medicine

3:40 PM—4:20 PM
Scott B. Rae(Talbot School of Theology / Biola University)
Does “No” to Physician-Assisted Suicide mean “Yes” to Maximal Prolongation of Life? 

4:30 PM—5:10 PM Panel Discussion

EPS 2017: Book Discussion on “Why People Matter”

Enjoy this Panel Discussion at the Annual ETS-EPS Conference in Providence, Rhode Island, November 15-17. 

Date: Thursday, November 16
Time: 8:30 AM – 11:40 AM
Room: Omni – Providence II

“Unpacking the Book Why People Matter

Moderator: Brad Mellon (Tyndale-Europe)

8:30 AM – 9:10 AM: John F. Kilner (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School), “A Biblical Account of Why People Matter”

9:20 AM – 10:00 AM: Scott B. Rae (Talbot School of Theology), “Can Naturalism Explain Why People Matter?”

10:10 AM – 10:50 AM: Patrick T. Smith (Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary), “Can Transhumanism Explain Why People Matter?”

11:00 AM – 11:40 AM: Why People Matter: An Open Discussion John F. Kilner (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) Scott B. Rae (Talbot School of Theology) Patrick T. Smith (Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. 

Why People Matter: A Christian Engagement with Rival Views of Human Significance

In 2017, Baker Academic published Why People Matter: A Christian Engagement with Rival Views of Human Significance, edited by John F. Kilner. Kilner is the Franklin and Dorothy Forman Chair of Christian Ethics and Theology, professor of bioethics and contemporary culture, and director of bioethics programs at Trinity International University in Deerfield, Illinois. He is a senior fellow for The Center for Bioethics & Human Dignity, has authored or edited over twenty books, and has appeared on major media outlets such as NBC, FOX News, CBS, CNN, NPR, and the New York Times.

From the publisher’s description of Why People Matter:

Amid current arguments related to human life and dignity, Christians must be clear about how their faith speaks to such concerns and what other outlooks have to say. This book brings together noted ethicists–Russell DiSilvestro, David P. Gushee, Amy Laura Hall, John F. Kilner, Gilbert C. Meilaender, Scott B. Rae, and Patrick T. Smith–to make a Christian case for human dignity. It offers a robust critique of five influential alternative positions, including the emerging outlook of transhumanism, showing how a Christian view supports the crucial idea that people matter in a way other views cannot.

Recommended EPS-ETS Panel Discussion (THURSDAY): BioEthics

Multidisciplinary Theological Engagement 
with Contemporary Bioethical Issues

9:45-12:55 am
Parc 55
Room: Divisadero

Moderator
John F. Kilner
(Trinity Evangelical Divinity School)

9:45-10:25am
Richard E. Averbeck
(Trinity Evangelical Divinity School)
Wisdom from the Old Testament

Response
10:35-11:15 am
Scott B. Rae
(Talbot School of Theology)
Wisdom from Business Ethics

Response
11:25 am-12:05 pm
Stephen Greggo
(Trinity Evangelical Divinity School)
Wisdom from Counseling

Response
12:15-12:55 pm
John F. Kilner
(Trinity Evangelical Divinity School)
Bioethics and Multidisciplinary Engagement

Antony Flew’s Deism Revisited

Antony Flew's Deism Revisited


There Is a God: How the World's Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind
A
Review Essay on There Is a God

Gary
Habermas

Department of Philosophy and Theology
Liberty University
Lynchburg, Virginia


There Is a God: How the World's Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind.
By Antony Flew and Roy Abraham Varghese. New York: HarperCollins, 2007. 256 pages.
$24.95.

When preeminent philosophical atheist Antony Flew announced in 2004 that he had
come to believe in God's existence and was probably best considered a deist, the
reaction from both believers and skeptics was "off the chart." Few religious stories
had this sort of appeal and impact, across the spectrum, both popular as well as
theoretical.  No recent change of mind has received this much attention. Flew
responded by protesting that his story really did not deserve this much interest.
But as he explained repeatedly, he simply had to go where the evidence led.

Some Background

It was this last sentence, repeated often in interviews, that really interested
me. Having known Tony well over more than twenty years, I had heard him repeat many
things like it, as well as other comments that might be termed "open minded." He
had insisted that he was open to God's existence, to special revelation, to miracles,
to an afterlife, or to David Hume being in error on this or that particular point.
To be truthful, I tended to set aside his comments, thinking that while they were
made honestly, perhaps Tony still was not as open as he had thought.

Then very early in 2003 Tony indicated to me that he was considering theism,
backing off a few weeks later and saying that he remained an atheist with "big questions."
One year later, in January 2004, Tony told me that he had indeed become a theist,
just as quickly adding, however, that he was "not the revelatory kind" of believer.
That was when I heard him say for the first time that he was just following where
the evidence led. Then I remembered all the earlier occasions when he had insisted
that he was not objecting to God or the supernatural realm on a priori grounds.
I was amazed. Tony was indeed willing to consider the evidence!

There was an immediate outcry from many in the skeptical community. Perhaps Tony
Flew was simply too old, or had not kept up on the relevant literature. The presumption
seemed to be that, if he had been doing so, then he would not have experienced such
a change of mind. One joke quipped that, at his advanced age, maybe he was just
hedging his bets in favor of an afterlife!

One persistent rumor was that Tony Flew really did not believe in God after all.
Or perhaps he had already recanted his mistake. Paul Kurtz's foreword to the republication
of Flew's classic volume God and Philosophy identified me as "an evangelical
Christian philosopher at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University," noting my interview
with Flew and my "interpretation" that Tony now believed in God.[1]
Kurtz seemed to think that perhaps the question still remained as to whether Flew
believed in God. After explaining that Flew's "final introduction" to the reissued
volume had undergone the process of four drafts, Kurtz concluded that readers should
"decide whether or not he has abandoned his earlier views."[2]

In his introduction to this same text, Flew both raised at least a half-dozen
new issues since his book had first appeared in 1966, as well as mentioning questions
about each of these subjects. Included were discussions on contemporary cosmology,
fine-tuning arguments, some thoughts regarding Darwin's work, reflections on Aristotle's
view of God, as well as Richard Swinburne's many volumes on God and Christian theism.
Hints of theism were interspersed alongside some tough questions.[3]

Of course, book text must be completed well before the actual date of publication.
But several news articles had appeared earlier, telling the story of what Flew referred
to as his "conversion."[4]
Early in 2005, my lengthier interview with Flew was published in Philosophia
Christi
.[5] Another
excellent interview was conducted by Jim Beverly, in which Flew also evaluated the
influence of several major Christian philosophers.[6]

In many of these venues, Flew explained in his own words that he was chiefly
persuaded to abandon atheism because of Aristotle's writings about God and due
to a number of arguments that are often associated with Intelligent Design. But
his brand of theism – or better yet, deism[7]
– was
not a variety that admitted special revelation, including either miracles or an
afterlife. While he acknowledged most of the traditional attributes for God, he
stopped short of affirming any divine involvement with humans.

Along the way, Flew made several very positive comments about Christianity, and
about Jesus, in particular. Jesus was a first rate moral philosopher, as well as
a preeminent charismatic personality, while Paul had a brilliant philosophical mind.
While rejecting miracles, Flew held that the resurrection is the best-attested miracle-claim
in history.[8]

It is against this background that we turn to the latest chapter in the ongoing
account of Antony Flew's pilgrimage from ardent atheism to deism. Further clarifying
his religious views, especially for those who might have thought that the initial
report was too hasty, or suspected incorrect reporting, or later backtracking on
Flew's part, the former atheistic philosopher has now elucidated his position.
In a new book that is due to be released before the end of the year, Flew chronicles
the entire story of his professional career, from atheism to deism, including more
specific reasons for his change. Along the way, several new aspects have been added.

Antony Flew's Influence

Signifying his change of view, the cover of Flew's new book cleverly reads,
"There Is No God," but the word "No" is scribbled out and the word "A" is handwritten
above it. Flew terms this work his "last will and testament," noting that the subtitle
"was not my own invention" (1).[9]
The contents are nothing short of a treasure trove of details from Flew's life,
including his family, education, publications, and interactions with many now world-famous
philosophers, not to mention the long-awaited reasons for his becoming a deist.

The volume begins with a preface written by Roy Varghese,[10]
followed by an introduction by Flew. Part 1, "My Denial of the Divine," contains
three chapters on Flew's previous atheism.

The book opens with a reverberating bang. Varghese's eighteen-page preface sets
the tone for much of the remainder of the text. He begins with the breaking news
in late 2004 of Antony Flew's newly-announced belief in God. Varghese then notes
that

the response to the AP story from Flew's fellow atheists
verged on hysteria. . . . Inane insults and juvenile caricatures were common in
the freethinking blogosphere. The same people who complained about the Inquisition
and witches being burned at the stake were now enjoying a little heresy hunting
of their own. The advocates of tolerance were not themselves very tolerant. And,
apparently, religious zealots don't have a monopoly on dogmatism, incivility, fanaticism,
and paranoia. (vii – viii)

Varghese ends by stating that, "Flew's position in the history of atheism transcends
anything that today's atheists have on offer" (viii).

This last comment serves as an entree to two of the more interesting arguments
in the book. Considering Flew's impact in the history of modern atheism, Varghese
argues initially that, "within the last hundred years, no mainstream philosopher
has developed the kind of systematic, comprehensive, original, and influential exposition
of atheism that is to be found in Antony Flew's fifty years of antitheological
writings" (ix). He then considers the contributions to atheism produced by well-known
philosophers such as A. J. Ayer, Bertrand Russell, Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus,
and Martin Heidegger. Varghese finds that none of these scholars "took the step
of developing book-length arguments to support their personal beliefs" (x).

More recent writers are also mentioned, among them Richard Rorty, Jacques Derrida,
J. L. Mackie, Paul Kurtz, and Michael Martin. While they might be said to have contributed
more material on behalf of atheism, "their works did not change the agenda and framework
of discussion the way Flew's innovative publications did" (x).

But Flew's writings like "Theology and Falsification" ("the most widely reprinted
philosophical publication of the last century" [vi – vii]), God and Philosophy,
The Presumption of Atheism, and other publications set the philosophical
tone of atheism for a generation of scholars. Along with Flew's many other books
and essays, one could hardly get through a contemporary philosophy class, especially
in philosophy of religion, without being at least introduced to his theses.

Varghese also raises a second crucial topic in the history of twentieth-century
philosophy – Flew's relation to logical positivism. Many works treat Flew's ideas,
especially those in "Theology and Falsification," as a more subtle, analytic outgrowth
of positivism. Sometimes it is thought that Flew attempted to refurbish a less dogmatic
application of the discredited verification principle, popularized by Ayer's
Language, Truth, and Logic
.[11]

However, Flew did not interpret his essay in this manner. In 1990, he explained
his thinking that logical positivism made an "arrogant announcement" that sought
to rule out theology and ethics in an a priori manner. The resulting discussion
had often become stagnated. Flew wanted to provide an opportunity for the free discussion
of religious issues: "Let the believers speak for themselves, individually and severally"
(xiii – xiv).

In an article in 2000, Flew explained that his purpose in first reading the paper
at a meeting of C. S. Lewis' Socratic Club, was that "I wanted to set these discussions
off onto new and hopefully more fruitful lines."[12]
In another interview that I did with Tony in Oxford in 2005, Flew attested that
he saw his essay as slamming the door on positivism at the Socratic Club. He attests
that the purpose of his essay "was intended to simply refute the positivistic stance
against religious utterances. It succeeded in that, but then its influence spread
outside of Oxford."[13]

These two topics – Flew's influence on the philosophical atheism of the second
half of the twentieth century and his purpose in first presenting his essay "Theology
and Falsification" – are key chapters in the life of this major British philosopher.
Varghese does well to remind us of Flew's influence. As he concludes, it is in
this context that "Flew's recent rejection of atheism was clearly a historic event"
(xi).

Flew then begins the remainder of the book with an introduction. Referring to
his "conversion" from atheism to deism, he begins by affirming clearly that, "I
now believe there is a God!" (1). As for those detractors who blamed this on Flew's
"advanced age" and spoke of a sort of "deathbed conversion," Flew reiterates what
he has said all along: he still rejects the afterlife and is not placing any "Pascalian
bets" (2).

In a couple stunning comments, Flew then reminds his readers that he had changed
his mind on other major issues throughout his career. He states, "I was once a Marxist."
Then, more than twenty years ago, "I retracted my earlier view that all human choices
are determined entirely by physical causes" (3).

The Making of an Atheist

Part 1 ("My Denial of the Divine") consists of three chapters, intriguingly titled,
"The Creation of an Atheist," "Where the Evidence Leads," and "Atheism Calmly Considered."
This material is simply a delightful read, consisting of many autobiographical details
regarding Flew's career and research, along with many enjoyable as well as amusing
anecdotes.

In chapter 1, Flew reviews his childhood and early life. This includes detailed
references to his father: an Oxford University graduate, with two years of study
at Marburg University in Germany, who had become a Methodist minister very much
interested in evangelism, as well as a professor of New Testament at a theological
college in Cambridge. It was from his father that Tony learned, at an early age,
the value of good research and of checking relevant sources before conclusions are
drawn.

Flew even stated in some of his atheist publications that he was never satisfied
with the way that he had become an atheist – here described as a process that was
accomplished "much too quickly, much too easily, and for what later seemed to me
the wrong reasons." Incredibly, he now reflects on his early theism that changed
to atheism: "for nearly seventy years thereafter I never found grounds sufficient
to warrant any fundamental reversal" (12 – 13). Nonetheless, it was an aspect of
the problem of evil that affected Tony's conversion to atheism. During family travels
to Germany, he witnessed first hand some of the horrors of Nazi society and learned
to detest "the twin evils of anti-Semitism and totalitarianism" (13 – 14).

Chapter 1 also includes accounts of Flew's basically private education at a
boarding school along with his years at Oxford University, interspersed with military
service during World War II, as well as his "locking horns with C. S. Lewis" at
Socratic Club meetings. He was present at the famous debate between Lewis and Elizabeth
Anscombe in February, 1948 (22 – 4). Flew also met his wife Annis at Oxford. For
all those (including myself) who have wondered through the years about Tony's incredible
notions of ethical responsibility, he states that while he had left his father's
faith, he retained his early ethics, reflected in his treatment of Annis before
their marriage (25 – 6).

In Chapter 2 ("Where the Evidence Leads"), Flew reflects on his early tenure
as "a hotly-energetic left-wing socialist" (33), and narrates his early philosophical
interests: parapsychology, Darwinian social ethics and the notion of evolutionary
progress, problems with idealism, and analytic philosophy. More details on the Socratic
Club introduce some of the philosophical reactions to Flew's "Theology and Falsification,"
along with his writing of his epic God and Philosophy, his "systematic argument
for atheism" (49). Flew discusses reactions from Richard Swinburne, J. L. Mackie,
and Frederick Copleston. His conclusion today, as Tony has told me on several occasions,
is that God and Philosophy is "a historical relic," due to changes in his
thinking which arose from other's response to his writing. These changes are set
forth in this volume (52).

Flew also discusses in chapter 2 his well-known volumes The Presumption of
Atheism
and Hume's Philosophy of Belief. Philosophical reactions are
recounted from Anthony Kenny, Kai Nielson, Ralph McInerny, and especially Alvin
Plantinga, whose thoughts Flew calls, "By far, the headiest challenge to the argument"
of the former volume (55). The chapter concludes with Flew's changes of mind regarding
some of Hume's ideas, plus his holding and then abandoning compatibilism (56 –
64).

Ending his section on his atheism, Flew's third chapter is "Atheism Calmly Considered."
Here he notes a number of his debates and dialogues over the years, both public
and written, with Thomas Warren, William Lane Craig, Terry Miethe, Richard Swinburne,
Richard Dawkins, and myself. Two conferences are also mentioned. The first ("The
Shootout at the O.K. Corral") occurred in Dallas, Texas, in 1985 and featured four
prominent atheistic philosophers, playfully called "gunslingers" (Flew, Paul Kurtz,
Wallace Matson, and Kai Nielson) dueling with four equally prominent theistic philosophers
(Alvin Plantinga, Ralph McInerny, George Mavrodes, and William Alston). The second
conference at New York University in 2004 notably included Scottish philosopher
John Haldane and Israeli physicist Gerald Schroeder. Here Flew stunned the participants
by announcing that he had come to believe in God (74).

There Is a God

The second half of the book consists of the long-awaited reasons for Flew's
conversion to deism, titled "My Discovery of the Divine." It includes seven chapters
on Flew's religious pilgrimage, along with the nature of the universe and life.
Two appendices complete the volume.

"A Pilgrimage of Reason" (chapter 4), is the initial contribution to this section.
In this essay, Flew chiefly makes the crucial point that his approach to God's
existence has been philosophical, not scientific. As he notes, "My critics responded
by triumphantly announcing that I had not read a particular paper in a scientific
journal or followed a brand-new development relating to abiogenesis." But in so
doing, "they missed the whole point." Flew's conversion was due to philosophical
arguments, not scientific ones: "To think at this level is to think as a philosopher.
And, at the risk of sounding immodest, I must say that this is properly the job
of philosophers, not of the scientists as scientists" (90).

Thus, if scientists want to get into the fray, they "will have to stand on their
own two philosophical feet" (90). Similarly, "a scientist who speaks as a philosopher
will have to furnish a philosophical case. As Albert Einstein himself said, "�The
man of science is a poor philosopher'" (91). Flew ends the chapter by pointing
out that it is Aristotle who most exemplifies his search: "I was persuaded above
all by the philosopher David Conway's argument for God's existence" drawn from
"the God of Aristotle" (92).

The fifth chapter, "Who Wrote the Laws of Nature?" discusses the views of many
major scientists, including Einstein and Hawking, along with philosophers like Swinburne
and Plantinga, to argue that there is a connection between the laws of nature and
the "Mind of God" (103). Flew thinks that this is still a philosophical discussion.
As Paul Davies asserted in his Templeton address, "science can proceed only if the
scientist adopts an essentially theological worldview," because, "even the most
atheistic scientist accepts as an act of faith the existence of a lawlike order
in nature that is at least in part comprehensible to us" (107). The existence of
these laws must be explained. Flew concludes that many contemporary thinkers "propound
a vision of reality that emerges from the conceptual heart of modern science and
imposes itself on the rational mind. It is a vision that I personally find compelling
and irrefutable" (112).

Chapter 6 ("Did the Universe Know We Were Coming?") discusses fine-tuning arguments
and the multiverse option as another angle on the laws of nature. Among the opponents
of the multiverse option, Flew lists Davies, Swinburne, and himself, in part because
it simply extends the questions of life and nature's laws (119). Regardless, Flew
concludes, "So multiverse or not, we still have to come to terms with the origins
of the laws of nature. And the only viable explanation here is the divine Mind"
(121).

Chapter 7 ("How Did Life Go Live?") continues what Flew insists is a philosophical
rather than a scientific discussion of items that are relevant to God's existence.
He discusses at least three chief issues: how there can be fully materialistic explanations
for the emergence of life, the problem of reproduction at the very beginning, and
DNA. Although science has not concluded these matters either, they are answering
questions that are different from the philosophical issues that Flew is addressing
(129). Flew concludes by agreeing with George Wald that, "The only satisfactory
explanation for the origin of such �end-directed, self replicating' life as we
see on earth is an infinitely intelligent Mind" (132).

In the title of chapter 8, Flew asks, "Did Something Come from Nothing?" In spite
of our twenty years of friendship, I was still not prepared to see Tony developing
and defending a cosmological argument for God's existence! In an essay published
back in 1994, Flew had raised questions about David Hume's philosophy and its inability
to explain causation or the laws of nature (139). Then, works by philosophers David
Conway and Richard Swinburne convinced him that Hume could be answered on the cosmological
argument, as well. Buoyed by these refutations of Hume, Flew was now free to explore
the relation between a cosmological argument for God's existence and recent discussions
regarding the beginning of the universe. Flew concludes that, "Richard Swinburne's
cosmological argument provides a very promising explanation, probably the finally
right one" (145).

In chapter 9, "Finding Space for God," Flew begins with his long-time objection
to God, that a concept of "an incorporeal omnipresent Spirit" is incoherent
– something
analogous to talking about a "person without a body" (148). But through the 1980s
and 1990s, theistic philosophers in the analytic tradition enjoyed a renaissance.
Two of these, David Tracy and Brian Leftow (who succeeded Swinburne at Oxford),
answered Flew's questions. Flew now concedes that the concept of an omnipresent
Spirit outside space and time is not intrinsically incoherent (153 – 4).

In "Open to Omnipotence" (chapter 10), Flew summarizes that his case for God's
existence centers on three philosophical items – the origin of the laws of nature,
the organization of life, and the origin of life. What about the problem of evil?
Flew states that this a separate question, but he had two chief options – an Aristotelian
God who does not interfere in the world or the free-will defense. He prefers the
former, especially since he thinks the latter relies on special revelation (156).

Closing the main portion of the book with some further shocking comments, Flew
states, "I am entirely open to learning more about the divine Reality," including
"whether the Divine has revealed itself in human history" (156 – 7). The reason:
Everything but the logically impossible is "open to omnipotence" (157).

Further, "As I have said more than once, no other religion enjoys anything like
the combination of a charismatic figure like Jesus and a first-class intellectual
like St. Paul. If you're wanting omnipotence to set up a religion, it seems to
me that this is the one to beat!" (157; see also 185 – 6). He ends the chapter a
few sentences later: "Some claim to have made contact with this Mind. I have not
– yet.
But who knows what could happen next? Some day I might hear a Voice that says, �Can
you hear me now?'" (158).

Two appendices close the book. The first is an evaluation of the "New Atheism"
of writers like Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Sam Harris. The author of the
first appendix, Roy Varghese, argues that "five phenomena are evident in our immediate
experience that can only be explained in terms of the existence of God" (161). These
five are rationality, life, consciousness, conceptual thought, and the human self,
each of which is discussed. Varghese concludes that by arguing from "everyday experience"
we are able to "become immediately aware that the world of living, conscious, thinking
beings has to originate in a living Source, a Mind" (183).

The second appendix is an essay on the self-revelation of God, written by New
Testament theologian N. T. Wright, with brief responses by Flew. Wright argues very
succinctly that Jesus existed, was God incarnate, and rose from the dead (187 –
213). Flew precedes this treatment by commenting that though he does not believe
the miracle of the resurrection, it "is more impressive than any by the religious
competition" (186 – 7). Flew's final reflection on Wright's material is that it
is an impressive argument – "absolutely wonderful, absolutely radical, and very powerful."
In the end, Flew remains open to divine revelation, since omnipotence could act
in such a manner (213).

Comments

As I have indicated, Flew's new book was a delightful read. This especially
applies to the many autobiographical details. The intersection of his life with
some of the best-known philosophers in the previous half century was nothing short
of exhilarating.

It will be no surprise to anyone who has followed my published debates or dialogues
with Tony that the clarification found in this volume was more than welcome. For
one thing, many of his comments here were also made in our published dialogue in

Philosophia Christi
. Most of all, this book should clear up the rumors as
to the nature of Tony's "conversion." He indeed believes in God, and while from
the beginning rejecting special revelation along with any religious affiliation,
his view of God's nature is otherwise quite robust. Indeed, his deism includes
most of the classical theological attributes. Further, Flew is also clear several
times that he is open to special revelation. As Tony told me just recently, he "won't
shut the door" to the possibility of such revelation or even to hearing a word from
the Deity.[14]

Of course, I predict that various skeptics will still have profound problems
with the book's content. They will not be satisfied with its proclamations. I can
only imagine the nature of the complaints. If I am right about this, it may even
confirm further Varghese's charge of the vociferous nature of this community's
response to the original announcement (viii). If Varghese is also correct that Flew
had produced the most vigorous defense of philosophical atheism in the last century,
a guess is that some skeptics are still stung by the loss of their most prominent
philosophical supporter.

I would like to have seen further clarification on a few issues in the book.
For instance, it would have been very helpful if Tony had explained the precise
sense in which he thought that "Theology and Falsification" was an attempt to curtail
the growth of positivism. That has remained unclear to me. I, too, was taught that
the article was a defense of an analytic position that only softened the force of
the positivistic challenge.

Another potential question surrounds Tony's excellent distinction between giving
philosophical as opposed to scientific reasons for his belief in God. However, a
discussion or chart that maps out the differences between the two methodological
stances would have been very helpful. Philosophers are used to these distinctions.
But I am sure that others will think that Tony is still providing two sorts of arguments
for God: Aristotle plus scientific arguments like Intelligent Design scenarios.

As Tony has said several times in recent years, he remains open to the possibility
of special revelation, miracles like Jesus's resurrection, and the afterlife. In
this volume he also continues to be very complimentary towards these options. I
cannot pursue further this topic here. While mentioning evil and suffering, I did
wonder about Tony's juxtaposition of choosing either Aristotle's deism or the
free-will defense, which he thinks "depends on the prior acceptance of a framework
of divine revelation" (156). It seems to me that the free-will defense neither asks
nor requires any such revelatory commitment. So I think that it could be pursued
by a deist, too. If so, that is one more potential defeater to the evil and suffering
issue. I will leave it here for now.