Search Results for: Angus Menuge

Alvin Plantinga Announced as Templeton Prize Laureate

The Evangelical Philosophical Society (EPS) is thrilled to celebrate and honor Alvin Plantinga as the 2017 Templeton Prize Laureate.

A longtime friend, mentor, and instructor to hundreds of EPS members and a contributor to the Society’s journal, Philosophia Christi, Alvin Plantinga has significantly strengthened the plausibility of theism and religious epistemology within academic philosophy.

Since the 1960s, “Alvin Plantinga recognized that not only did religious belief not conflict with serious philosophical work,” said Heather Dill, president of the John Templeton Foundation, “but that it could make crucial contributions to addressing perennial problems in philosophy.”

The Templeton Prize, currently valued at about $1.4 million, “honors a living person who has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery, or practical works,” according to the Prize’s website.

“More than one generation of evangelical philosophers is in Alvin Plantinga’s debt,” observes EPS President Angus Menuge. “He showed that Christian thinkers with a serious commitment to biblical theology can do rigorous, analytic philosophy at the highest level. He showed them how to present a coherent Christian worldview as a compelling alternative in a marketplace of ideas dominated by secularism.”

Long held captive by secularizing and naturalizing assumptions about knowledge, fields like philosophy of religion now experience a post-secular turn. “Plantinga started the thaw that de-secularized the academic discipline of philosophy,” says Menuge, “and he encouraged theists everywhere to think through the implications of their faith.”

“I am honored to receive the Templeton Prize,” Plantinga said. “The field of philosophy has transformed over the course of my career. If my work played a role in this transformation, I would be very pleased. I hope the news of the Prize will encourage young philosophers, especially those who bring Christian and theistic perspectives to bear on their work, towards greater creativity, integrity, and boldness.”

With more than a dozen books authored or edited and some 150 articles published, Plantinga’s work is not only prodigious but evidence of his thoroughness and concentration. His vision-casting “Advice to Christian Scholars” has been anthologized, cited and quoted many times over by those within and beyond the philosophical guild.

Some of Alvin Plantinga’s contributions with the EPS include the following:

Exemplifying the approach of his own life and work, Plantinga says that “Christian commitments ought to be integrated into one’s whole body of belief; they are central to one’s whole intellectual structure, in fact, it is the basis of it. In that regard, to be integral, is to have belief in God not separate from one’s other beliefs but integrated into them, perhaps the basis of them.”

Founded in 1974, the Evangelical Philosophical Society (EPS) is an organization of professional scholars devoted to pursuing philosophical excellence in both the church and the academy. Interested laypersons can join as full, associate, or student members. The EPS holds a national meeting each year in conjunction with the conference held by the Evangelical Theological Society and the American Academy of Religion/Society of Biblical Literature, along with regional meetings with the American Philosophical Association. The EPS journal, Philosophia Christi, is a scholarly publication (Summer and Winter) advancing discussion about a variety of topics that are of interest to the philosopher and to the philosopher of religion. Moreover, recent EPS web projects include: “Christ-shaped Philosophy” project, “Christian Philosophers in the ‘Secular Academy'” project, the “Academic Disciplines, Faithfulness, and the Christian Scholar” project, and “Philosophical Discussion on Marriage and Family Topics” project.

Third Annual Concordia Apologetics Conference

Cultures in Collision: Faith and a Fractured World

March 3-4, 2017

Concordia University, Wisconsin

In a fractured world of religions and worldviews that oppose Christ and the Gospel, how can a Christian respond? This conference aims to serve pastors, lay people, and youth by informing them about the interaction between today’s world and the Christian faith. It also seeks to encourage them as they stand firmly on Christ, the true Word and sure Foundation.

Plenary speakers include Alvin Schmidt and Roland Cap Ehlke and breakout presentations by EPS members Angus Menuge and Kevin Voss, and many others


Concordia Wisconsin Campus
12800 N Lake Shore Drive
Mequon, WI 53097

Register online, or visit the conference website for more information.


Web Project: Philosophical Discussions on Marriage and Family Topics

Instructions for Submitting a Paper Proposal

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

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

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

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

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

Deadline: TBD by the project coordinator

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

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


Find this Project interesting? See these other EPS Web Projects

Potential Paper Topics

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

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

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

Papers may wish to interact with this literature:

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

Papers may wish to interact with this literature:

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

Papers may wish to interact with this literature:

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

Papers may wish to interact with this literature:

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

Papers may wish to interact with this literature:

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

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

Papers may wish to interact with this literature:

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

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

Papers may wish to interact with this literature:

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

Papers may wish to interact with this literature:

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

Concordia University Announces the First Annual UCPO Apologetics Conference

Have you ever wanted to develop a
stronger foundation for your faith?
You are invited to attend the first-ever
Concordia Apologetics Conference!
This conference will feature two
world-renowned Christian apologists
(defenders of the faith) as the main
speakers.The conference will also
include CUW’s own professors of
philosophy, all of whom are
prominent Christian thinkers, as they
speak on various aspects of
apologetics. Join us as we learn why
we can Hold Fast to our faith!

Guest Speakers:

  • Dr. Gary Habermas
  • Mr. Craig Parton

Faculty Speakers:

  • Dr. Angus Menuge
  • Dr. Ronald Ehlke
  • Mr. Brad Ellis
  • Rev. Dr. Gregory Schulz
  • Rev. Dr. Keven Voss

For more information, please visit:

For registration information, please visit:

Download flyer here.

The 2015 European Leadership Forum

Dear fellow Christian philosophers and apologists,

Are you a philosopher based in Europe? Do you know any
European evangelical philosophers? Would you like to connect them to a network
of European evangelical philosophers? We need your immediate help in letting
them know about the possibility to attend the 2015 European Leadership Forum.
The Forum conference will be held 30 May- 4 June in Wisla, Poland. The Network
will be led by Evangelical Philosophical Society member Bruce Little.

I was
able to attend the 2014 European Leadership Forum, and I highly recommend it to
others. I have attached a blog post that I wrote after returning from the
Forum last year.

Keep in mind these important points:

This Network is European in its vision and content. It is being spearheaded by
the European Leadership Forum, and it is not an American outpost.

2. In
order to keep the European Philosophers Network active, we need participants.
So, we need your prompt assistance in getting the word out to your European
evangelical friends/contacts who have a philosophy degree (masters or doctorate)
or are at least in the second year of an undergraduate philosophy program.

3. The Network is designed to be a working philosophical conference
with eight original, accessible papers. Participants agree to read all
eight papers and responses before attending the Forum to be able to actively
engage in discussion.

4. This year’s programme will include
interdisciplinary discussions with scientists, apologists, and theologians.

Current philosophy students will automatically receive a scholarship covering
part of the conference fees.

I’ve provided a

link to the announcement,

which contains the application and conference details. Please pass this, as well
as the PDFs of the
2015 Philosophers Network speaking program and the
blog post on to your European philosopher and apologetics friends. All
questions should be directed to Kevin Saylor at

Thank you for your help in sharing this valuable opportunity with our
European brothers and sisters.

All best wishes,
Dr. Angus Menuge

The EPS at AAR/SBL 2014 Meeting

The EPS is pleased to host two sessions at the 2014 meeting of the AAR/SBL at the San Diego Convention Center (111 W Harbor Drive, San Diego, CA 92101).

Session #1: “Finding the Theistic Foundations of Morality”

Date and time: Saturday, November 22, 7:00 – 10:00 PM

Room: Hilton Bayfront-300B

Chair: Paul Copan (Ph.D), Palm Beach Atlantic University

David Baggett (Ph.D), co-author of Good God: The Theistic Foundations of Morality (OUP)

Steve Dilley (Ph.D), editor of Darwinian Evolution and Classical Liberalism (Lexington)

Scott Smith (Ph.D), author of In Search of Moral Knowledge: Overcoming the Fact-Value Dichotomy (IVP).

Angus Menuge (Ph.D), editor of Legitimizing Human Rights: Secular and Religious Perspectives (Ashgate).

Session  #2: “Punishment and Christian Love”

Date and time: Sunday, November 23, 7:00 – 9:30 pm

Room: Hilton Bayfront-300B

Chair: Gregory Bock, Ph.D., Walters State Community College 

“The Emerging Ethics of Restorative Justice: The Moral Vision of Howard Zehr and the Contemporary Theological Understanding of Justice”

Yutaka Osakabe, Ph.D.(candidate), University of Aberdeen

“Communicating Tough Love: Christian Love and a Communicative Theory of Punishment”

Jeffrey Cervantez (Ph.D), Crafton Hills College, and Gregory Bock (Ph.D), Walters State

“Doing (Reprobative) Justice by Forgiving the Impenitent”

Chad Bogosian (Ph.D), Grand Canyon University

“Justice and Love: The Moral Underpinnings of Just Retribution”

Daryl Charles (Ph.D), John Jay Institute

Interview with R. Scott Smith: In Search of Moral Knowledge

In this interview, R. Scott Smith discusses the implications of his latest book, In Search of Moral Knowledge (IVP Academic), including how the Enlightenment has shaped our thought-patterns and how a common taproot has animated both ‘postmodern epistemology’ and ‘philosophical naturalism’:

In Search of Moral Knowledge is born out of your own teaching experience. What are you called to teach graduate students in the foundational areas that your book also addresses?

I wanted to give grad students (and upper division undergrads, too) a good handle on the crucial factors affecting us in ethics today. I wanted to give a good grounding in moral theory, before we turn to address our many applied ethical issues today.

Ever since I studied with J.P. Moreland, I realized the importance of understanding morals in terms of metaphysical and epistemological issues. E.g., how we come to know which moral properties (principles, virtues) are valid depends upon what kind of thing they are metaphysically. Yet, for a lengthy time now, in western academia, we have suffered a breakdown in knowledge. How can we make good on our various claims? This is nowhere seen more than in ethics, and religion and theology. Yet, as I came to see while studying with Dallas Willard, this breakdown in epistemology is due fundamentally to a breakdown in metaphysics. Specifically, I think it is due to a loss of essences, including universals. We simply cannot know any universal moral truths if there are no universals. And if there are no universals, then we are left with just particulars, including our many particular claims in ethics and religion, which is exactly how many people see things today.

So, how do we make good on our various moral claims (not to mention religious ones), especially in today’s pluralistic setting(s)? 

Many have proposed their answers, yet very few people get down to what I think is the root problem – i.e., a metaphysical one about the rejection of essences, with its enormous theological implications. And, not just any epistemology will allow us to have knowledge, or so I think. I think our abilities to have knowledge of reality depend upon the reality of essences and our being a unity of body and soul.

If the various philosophical and cultural/historical moves rejected essences and instead embraced permutations of nominalism, and these led to a breakdown in being able to make good on our various moral theories and claims, then we need to revisit those moves, to see to what extent they are justified. And, perhaps we need to recover an earlier view that had been rejected. This is why, having seen Willard’s example, I think we need to understand these moves made in the history of ethics (and epistemology, metaphysics, and theology).  For what if those earlier moves were mistaken? We need to examine them, to see just what we ought to conclude, to understand how (and why) we ought to live now.

In this, I think we should find that the Christian God, and Christianity, understood as embracing essences, a robust body-soul dualism, and universals, is the best explanation for what morals are, and how we can know them. So my book serves also as a full-blown argument for the existence of the Christian God.

In recent years, you’ve published two other books that have some overlapping interest with your new book: Virtue Ethics and Moral Knowledge (Ashgate, 2003) and Naturalism and Our Knowledge of Reality (Ashgate, 2012). In general, how does In Search of Moral Knowledge extend the argument that you’ve developed in these other books?

In Search of Moral Knowledge updates my understanding and assessment of the postmodern turn from Virtue Ethics, particularly in the works of Alasdair MacIntyre and Stanley Hauerwas. In the earlier book, I understood their views more along the lines of how we construct our “worlds” by how we use language in our respective “forms of life.” I based that view on MacIntyre’s understanding of how concepts are embodied in the social world, and how Brad Kallenberg expressed a Wittgensteinian view as language and world being internally related. However, in light of a letter from MacIntyre, and a separate critique from James K.A. Smith, I came to see the “postmodern turn” more along the lines as Jamie states it; i.e., that everything is interpretation. So, I update and alter my earlier understanding, and then I assess that “new” understanding.

My assessment of naturalistic ethics in In Search of Moral Knowledge is an extension of my overall argument in Naturalism and Our Knowledge of Reality. In Naturalism, I argued that on the basis of the ontology of naturalism, we cannot know reality. In the new book, I summarize and apply that argument to naturalism and ethics, to help show that the fact side of the fact-value dichotomy is false.

Sometimes accounts of ‘postmodern epistemology’ simply begin with a ‘linguistic turn’ in philosophy. But part of your contribution to this discussion has been to show how the ontology and epistemology of philosophical naturalism has been influential here. Why should someone understand the conditions and contours of postmodern epistemology from the standpoint of philosophical naturalism as a historically developed set of a ideas?

There is at least one reason why the virtue ethics of Aristotle and Aquinas has had great staying power. In Virtue Ethics, and here, too, I try to show that a metaphysical view that has no place for essences will undermine virtue ethics. At least in terms of historical development, I think postmodernism is a further development in the same overall trajectory of naturalism, and even nominalism. I do not think there is room for essences on any of these views, and postmodernism now takes that stance and applies it to words and their meanings. Derrida, and Dennett and Quine too, realize that without essences, there is no “deeper fact” to what a text means; it simply points on, beyond itself. It leaves the meaning of a text as just a matter of interpretation, without any definitive stopping point. This is due fundamentally to a loss of any place for essences.

In Part One of the book, you offer a “short history of Western ethics.” What do you find to be the most consequential ways for how the “the Enlightenment period” has shaped the fact-value dichotomy?

In that overall period, several factors came together. There had been a series of events in history and science, such that science came to be seen as the paradigm of how we have knowledge. There was great pressure and impetus (especially in the states) for theology to be done scientifically. Along with that emphasis came the stress upon empirical methodologies to give us knowledge. Plus, ontologically speaking, the view was becoming more commonplace that the universe (and humans) are mechanisms.

While not necessarily entailing a denial of the reality of immaterial entities (God, souls, mental states, essences, universals, etc.), these emphases also fit with Bacon’s scientific method, in which he focused on just material and efficient causes, not formal or final ones. These views were worked out in that period along with empiricism (the view that all knowledge comes by way of the five senses) and nominalism (the view that there are no universals, but only particulars, and so without essences, it seems). These views helped set the stage for the rise of naturalism.

So, the view of science that we have inherited from the Enlightenment’s influences (and some before then) have led us to understand scientific knowledge (which is the basis for the facts we know) in terms of empirical methods, and that is often understood in terms of an ontology that is devoid of immaterial realities. Or, if they exist, we cannot know them as such – they play no role in our having knowledge. And without essences, morals and spiritual claims to knowledge really are but particulars, not universals, and subjective, not objective.

In terms of ‘idea grip,’ as Dallas Willard would say, can we really ‘overcome’ the fact-value dichotomy without overcoming some significant ideas from the Enlightenment? 

I do not think we can without doing what you suggest. To help overcome the fact-value dichotomy, several factors will be necessary, I think. In part, it will involve refuting the fact side, that knowledge uniquely comes by way of the sciences. Thus, scientism is one such idea, whether in a strong or weak form, that will need to be repudiated. Another key will be to show that there is more to what is real than what is empirically observable (due to the loss of essences from naturalism and nominalism).

We also need to show that we can, & often do, have knowledge in ethics (and religion, theology). But I think this two-pronged approach will require a refutation of naturalism and anti-essentialism, including nominalism. This book, along with my Naturalism and Our Knowledge of Reality, are attempts to do just that.

Lately, though, I have been bringing in more lines of thought, including the effects of the “split” upon evangelicals, especially in the states. Our evangelical predecessors in the 1800s and thereafter placed a strong emphasis upon having knowledge of objective truths in all aspects of life by “common sense,” which was thought simply would confirm Scripture. Objective truth was preferred over the subjective, which is a deep legacy of the Enlightenment.

Now, knowledge is important, in that, as J.P. Moreland has said many times, Christianity is a knowledge tradition. We need knowledge, but we need that in conjunction with an intimate relationship with Jesus. That is, we are to live in a deep heart and mind unity with Him, with His heart and mind. His word is to abide not only in us, but we also are to abide in Him (Jn 15:5). We are to love Him with all our being – including both our minds and our hearts. But the “split” discourages and even undermines that unity. By stressing knowledge of reality as the desired goal, while relegating ethics and religion to the realm of the subjective, the “split” undermines the relational aspect of Christianity, instead pressing us to understand the Christian life along the lines of knowledge of objective truths, yet abstracted from a deep, intimate relationship with Him.

So, in western cultures, where we tend to see ethics and religion as personal, subjective, and a matter of opinion, Christians, having been influenced by the “split,” often tend to see their relationship with Jesus as something to be based on believing (& obeying) objective truths. But while that appeals to the mind, it does not necessarily (or easily) touch the heart. That is, it is all too easy for Christians to live out of their “heads” than out of both their minds and their hearts. Yet God wants us to be deeply united with both His heart and mind. If we are not deeply abiding in Him, in relationship with Him (which, out the very nature of relationships, must involve many subjectivities), then we will tend to not be truly abiding in Him. But that is a disaster, for then we will tend to be living in our own strength, not His; and apart from Him, we can do nothing (Jn 15:5). To the extent we live in our own self and strength, we will undermine the fullness of His Spirit in us, and we also will give room to the influences of Satan in our thoughts and hearts. I think a grave danger we face as western Christians today is to value knowledge over relationship with Jesus, even though in Him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col 2:3), and we have been given the mind of Christ (and access directly thereto, 1 Cor 2:10-16).

Not only that, He wants our hearts and minds to be deeply united within ourselves, lest we live as bifurcated individuals. God wants us to be whole, well-integrated people, who do not live merely out of just either our hearts or our minds. If we go to seed on the mental, we can know all sorts of truths, but without hearts of compassion, love, kindness, and even power. In that way, we may have knowledge of truth, but not in its fullness. If we tend to emphasize the heart over the “head,” we can value experience at the expense of knowledge, but that too can lead to all sorts of errors. We need both mind and heart unity – in ourselves, which comes from Him, and with Him. (I think this also dovetails closely with reading and practicing God’s written word (Scripture), and listening to His voice, in relationship with Him.)

If moral knowledge is best accounted for by an ‘essentialist’ framework., how can a post-/anti-/non- essentialist view of knowledge, persons, and morality, etc. motivate/justify their claims? 

There are various ways thinkers have advocated for ethics to be based on such frameworks, whether that be Hobbes, Hume, Kant, Bentham, Mill, Rawls, Korsgaard, or naturalists, relativists, or postmoderns. Some, for instance, try to shift knowledge to be a matter of something we have from a particular standpoint, or context, as with MacIntyre or Hauerwas. Knowledge then becomes a matter of what we know from our situated standpoints.

What I think is interesting is that in each of these cases and people I just listed, none of them have any place (or use) for essences, or universals. All embrace, or presuppose, nominalism. Yet, they too have to try to come up with some way(s) to account for moral “phenomena,” such as 1) human life involves morality, however that is to be understood; and 2) there are various morals we all seem to know, such as justice and love are good, and rape and murder are wrong. In the cases of these various theorists, how we know what is moral trades upon how they have defined what kind of things morals are. So, they have to come up with some ways to know these and other facets of morals that will square with nominalism. In some way or another, since there are no essences on such views (or, at least, they play no role in them), these views must be forms of constructivism. Without an essence, there is no defining quality, thereby leaving morals up to us. (And that’s a major reason why I think the fact-value split is so attractive to us; it allows us to think we can live out Gen 3:5 – that we can be like God, defining good and evil, and even reality.)

How does the Christian tradition provide ‘resources’ for overcoming the fact-value dichotomy?

Despite some attempts to conceive (or reconceive) the Christian tradition along nominalist, physicalist, or postmodern lines, I think all these fail, for a number of reasons I have raised in this book, my Naturalism book, and other essays. I think Christianity is best understood as supporting substance dualism, the existence of irreducible mental properties, and universals. (On the latter, see also my essay in Philosophia Christi 15:2). I think this enables us to make sense of many, many important facets of reality, along with Scripture’s claims. E.g., I think that because concepts are universals, many people literally can have the same concept in mind. Because there are essences, there is a fact of the matter of what I meant when I wrote this book, or this sentence. Not just any interpretation goes.

There also can be facts of the matter of the nature of the fetus, the infant, and even the elderly. If there are essences, like humanness, which is instantiated in particular souls, there can be intrinsic properties, like moral worth. I see that as being grounded in our bearing (metaphysically) the image of God. Also, due to the reality of a universal human essence, God the Son really could take on a fully human nature (yet without sin), and thus be able to substitute for us and atone for our sins.

Indeed, if there are universals, there really can be universal morals. And if we all share in a common human nature (as image bearers), then these morals can apply to each of us. Plus, universals as just abstract entities that exist as brute facts (Plato’s view, e.g.) does not really explain why these morals apply to us, or why we should obey them. But their being grounded in God’s character does accomplish that.

Moreover, due to this common human nature, there are some morals we all know to be so, whether by general revelation (such as in Rom 1, 2), or Scripture. There also are some spiritual truths we know – such as that God truly exists (which we may suppress). If so, then there are facts to be known in these areas, and the “split” is false.

R. Scott Smith is Associate Professor of Ethics and Christian Apologetics, Biola University. Previously at, Naturalism and our Knowledge of Reality was discussed by Paul Gould and EPS President Angus Menuge.

Darwinian Evolution & Classical Liberalism: Theories in Tension

Book Précis

Charles Darwin and John Locke continue to exercise extraordinary influence from the grave. The former birthed a revolution in biology which has persisted to the present day, the latter fomented a revolution in political philosophy which reasserts itself in every contemporary iteration of “individual rights.” Darwin’s theory is widely taken to be the unifying theory in modern biology; apparently nothing in biology makes sense except in light of his view. And Locke’s classical liberalism, developed in diverse ways, has had a profound influence on an array of thinkers, from the Founding Fathers of the United States to the members of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. Collectively, Darwin and Locke tell human beings where they have come from, what they are, and how they ought to live with each other. The combined legacies of these men could hardly be more powerful.

Nonetheless, too little attention has been directed to the interplay of their ideas. The Darwinian vision, it seems, has direct implications about human nature, mental capacities, and moral obligations, a point Darwin made with striking clarity in The Descent of Man (1871). The classical liberal vision, developed by Locke and others, also has direct implications for these same areas—it portrays human beings with very specific dispositions, moral duties, and intellectual abilities. While some people unreflectively assume that evolutionary science and classical liberalism fit seamlessly, their relationship is both complex and contentious. Moreover, because Western culture has been so significantly influenced by evolutionary science and classical liberalism, the relationship of these visions—whether complementary or conflicting—is of profound importance to the coherence and vitality of prominent strains of the Western tradition.

Darwinian Evolution and Classical Liberalism takes up the task of examining the relationship between this duo, analyzing political, philosophical, ethical, economic, anthropological, and scientific areas of ferment. Early chapters focus on classical thinkers like John Locke and Adam Smith, while later chapters provide analyses of present-day classical liberals, focusing especially on F.A. Hayek, Thomas Sowell, and Larry Arnhart, the most prominent advocates of ‘contemporary’ classical liberalism.

Thematically, the volume falls into three parts. Part I examines foundational matters, arguing that Darwinism and classical liberalism hold incompatible visions of morality, human nature, and individual autonomy. This section also contends that the free market’s spontaneous order is fully compatible with a teleological (or non-Darwinian) view of the universe. Part II turns to contemporary applications, contending that Darwinism and classical liberalism are at odds in their views of (or implications about) limited government, vital religion, economic freedom, and the traditional family. This section also argues that, since its inception, Darwinism has attenuated core tenets and values of classical liberalism and Western civilization.

Part III of the volume contains alternative views to those in the first two parts, adding critical diversity to the book. Respectively, these chapters hold that Darwinian evolution simply has little to say about classical liberalism; an evolutionary account of human volition is fully compatible with the individual choice presupposed in classical liberalism; and evolutionary naturalism, unlike religious alternatives, provides a strong foundation for freedom, morality, and the traditional family.

Chapter Samples

  1. Stephen Dilley, “Pax vel Bellum? Evolutionary Biology and Classical Liberalism.” (PDF)
  2. Angus Menuge, “Darwinian Conservatism and Free Will.”
  3. John G. West, “Darwinism, Economic Liberty, and Limited Government.”
  4. Jay W. Richards, “On Invisible Hands and Intelligent Design: Must Classical Liberals also Embrace Darwinian Theory?
  5. Logan Paul Gage, “Darwin Knows Best: Can Evolution Support the Classical Liberal Vision of the Family.”
  6. Richard Weikart, “A History of the Impact of Darwinism on Natural Rights and Bioethics.”
  7. Michael J. White, “An Historical Afterword.”

Benefits of the Book

  1. The volume is interdisciplinary, drawing on a wide array of areas, including political philosophy, evolutionary biology, economics, philosophy of mind, ethics, metaethics, philosophical anthropology, sociobiology, social & political conservatism, American history, and the like.
  2. Parts of the volume examine the relationship between Christian theism and the crucial tenets of the classical liberal tradition, including individual rights, limited government, the free market, private property, and the separation of powers.
  3. Much of the book addresses evolutionary naturalism’s prospects of grounding classical liberal ideals such as individual rights, limited government, the free market, private property, free will, and the role and value of the traditional family.
  4. The volume explores in detail the moral, social, political, economic, anthropological, mental, and familial implications of (neo) Darwinian theory.
  5. The book contains competing perspectives, including those who reject the compatibility of Darwinian evolution with classical liberalism, as well as those who think otherwise.

Future Directions for Study: a Brief Meditation 

In my view, there is a great need for Christian philosophers—especially those who are readers of Philosophia Christi—to ‘expand their tents,’ so to speak, by branching out into areas underemphasized by the recent renaissance in Christian philosophy. In particular, Christian philosophers adept at metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of religion, and the like ought to consider the concrete implications of their broader Christocentric philosophy for ‘applied’ areas like social, political, economic, and legal philosophy. Unfortunately, the project of ‘Christian philosophy’ often seems to be (perceived as) limited to the ‘usual suspects’ perennially analyzed in philosophy of religion, such as the problem of evil. Yes, the problem of evil ought to be examined with care, but so should the problems created by the application of harmful ideas upon citizens in the United States and elsewhere.
I realize that my suggestion may sound like an unwelcome invitation for Christian philosophers to enter the culture wars. I also recognize that writing and publishing on applied areas does not typically carry the prestige of breaking new ground in metaphysics or epistemology. I realize, too, that some Christian philosophers may find they have greater credibility with their secular colleagues insofar as they remain (professionally) aloof from anything that smacks of theologically-illuminated economics, politics, and the like. These are all worthy concerns. I certainly agree that we are to be as shrewd as serpents, innocent as doves. But abandonment of the public square by some of the Church’s best and brightest minds is also undesirable—as is leaving the public square to thinkers whose intellectual life is riddled with secular ideologies. Expanding into applied areas ought to be considered thoughtfully and prayerfully by Christian philosophers, especially readers of Philosophia Christi, so many of whom have deep Christian minds.
In my estimation, the Church is quite scattered in its understanding and appraisal of ideas critical to our society, including ideas like the proper scope of religious liberty, outcomes of the free market, role of government, content of individual rights, and the like. Christian philosophers can play a vital role in helping laypeople in the Church think systematically about the way distinctly Christian theology and anthropology illuminate, expand, or reconceive these key elements. In my anecdotal experience, I’ve found that otherwise intelligent and thoughtful lay Christians often lack a systemic way of linking their knowledge of Scripture and theology to their positions on social, political, and economic issues. The result is that their positions are ideologically fragmented and only dimly reflect a Christ-centered foundation.
So what is my recommendation for future lines of research? In a nutshell: Christian philosophers who are doing great work in metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of religion, philosophy of mind, and the like ought to consider engaging social, political, economic, and legal philosophy. Doing so with their trademark rigor would serve the academy, Church, and common good. It turns out that Christ died to redeem more than just analytic philosophy.
To learn more about the contributions of Darwinian Evolution and Classical Liberalism: Theories in Tension (Lexington Books, 2013), click here for a fuller discussion at the EPS website. Readers are also encouraged to take advantage of a 30% discount when purchased through Rowman and Littlefield’s website (Lex30Auth14 – this discount expires 12/31/2014).

International Academy of Apologetics, Evangelism and Human Rights

Join Angus Menuge, EPS President and editor of Legitimizing Human Rights, for an opportunity to study in France and learn to defend historic biblical faith in an increasingly secular age devoid of a solid basis for human rights.

The sessions of the International Academy are from July 8-19, 2014.

This is a worthwhile opportunity for apologetics and interdisciplinary-minded scholars and Christian organizational leaders.

Information about costs, eligibility and lodging are all available through the Academy’s website,