Search Results for: Paul K. Moser

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:

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Spiritual Songs and Biblical Wisdom

This essay proposes that distinctively Christian poetry (“psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs”) could provide compelling models for what Paul Moser has termed “Christ-Shaped Philosophy.”

In this brief space, I consider the aesthetic veiling of Biblical wisdom in poetic form, both in the special revelation of scripture and in the general revelation of post-Reformation British verse.

The poetry penned by Christ-shaped men and women, from George Herbert to Anna Barbauld, does not necessarily oppose the glimpses of truth conveyed through the argumentative prose of classical Greek philosophy or continental natural theology, but appeals more strongly to the heart as well as to the mind. It thus more closely follows the speech acts of Christ himself, and so could inform the style as well as practice of Christ-Shaped Philosophy.

The full-text of this contribution is available for FREE by clicking here.

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

God, Evidence and the Will

Thomas Nagel, an atheist philosopher at New York University said something very revealing in his book The Last Word:
In speaking of the fear of religion, I don’t mean to refer to the entirely reasonable hostility toward certain established religions and religious institutions, in virtue of their objectionable moral doctrines, social policies, and political influence. Nor am I referring to the association of many religious beliefs with superstition and the acceptance of evident empirical falsehoods. I am talking about something much deeper–namely, the fear of religion itself. I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that (Oxford Univ. Press, 1997), 130-131.
Nagel seems to be speaking for many when he reveals what the root problem is—an unwillingness to acknowledge God’s lordship in his life. Note too how Nagel admits that a lot of smart people he knows are believers, which makes him very uncomfortable.
Let me mention another book that addresses the will in relationship to God and the available evidence. Christian philosopher Paul Moser’s book The Elusive God (Cambridge University Press), or from his 2008 EPS plenary paper, directs us to the need to consider the role of the will and “perfectly authoritative purposively available evidence” from God. Moser, with whom I have had the pleasure of co-editing The Rationality of Theism (Routledge) has been writing for some time on the dangers of cognitive idolatry and mere “spectator evidence” for God that fails to engage the will. We can easily treat discussions about God with non-believers as mere armchair theorizing rather than a topic of potentially life-altering significance. Notice the priority of the will in Jesus’ words in John 7:17: “Whoever chooses to do his will shall know whether my teaching is from God or whether I speak on my own.”
Sometime ago I spoke at an open forum at the University of South Carolina on “God’s Existence and Why It Matters.” Below is a list of questions I raised at the beginning of my talk. I spoke of evidence, but I also addressed the topic of human need for outside assistance (“grace”) and that God has taken initiative in the person of Jesus to identify with us in our broken human condition and to bring us into a filial relationship with God. In my talk, I pointed out the deep interconnection of God, the will, and evidence. Here are some of the questions I raised to start the conversation:
  • Could it be that I am looking at the evidence for God in the wrong way—like the duck-rabbit scenario? Perhaps God seems hidden from humans because we aren’t paying attention or because we don’t want God’s authority “interfering” with our lives or because we’ve determined the height of the bar over which God must “jump”?
  • If a good God exists, what would God’s goals be? If God exists, what does God have to do with me?
  • If a good, perfectly authoritative God exists, am I willing to acknowledge my unworthiness to receive this God’s grace? Do I make demands of God (“if God exists, then he ought to put on a display of divine pyrotechnics”) rather than ask, “What demands does God have on me?
  • Do I have a right to demand evidence of God if I am unwilling to go undergo personal transformation?
  • Am I open to evidence for God in whatever form it comes—or do I insist that evidence must be a certain way?
  • Does my will have anything to do with my actually benefiting from evidence?
  • If God exists, how would this impact my life? Is it possible to intellectually believe God exists but my life to remain unchanged by knowing this intellectual fact? What’s the point if my life remains unchanged and self-centered rather than God-centered? What’s the point of evidence if I’m not willing to be transformed by the reality of God?
  • Does God want more than just an acknowledgment of his existence? What if God wants an I-you relationship with individual humans?
  • What kind of an attitude does truth-seeking require? Does the fact that people want to disprove evidence for God actually reveal an attitude of non-truth-seeking?
  • Is it possible that some people might hate God all the more as one piece of evidence for God is stacked on another? Is it possible for me to believe God exists and still hate God (James 2:19)?
  • Can my will interfere with God’s goals for me—to relate to me and to change me from being self-centered to being God-centered and other-person-centered? Are we willing to do what a loving God wants for me so that I might find out what life really is?
  • Must God leave us unavoidable evidence before I believe—or might he leave me avoidable evidence that reveals whether I am genuinely truth-seeking?
  • Wouldn’t it be a strange God who made no demands on us or who didn’t care if we had our way over against God’s?
What if accessing relationship-producing evidence is like that of tuning a radio dial to seek out universally—but not necessarily immediately available dismissible armchair evidence?
God isn’t interested in just changing our beliefs. He’s interested in changing *us*! A loving, authoritative God made us to relate to us. Are we willing to receive evidence on God’s terms?
These are some of the themes in Moser’s thought-provoking book. Whatever one thinks of Moser’s views on, say, natural theology, he is surely right to direct us to the centrality of the will and to the very goal of God’s self-revelation—namely, to reveal God personally to human beings so that we might experience intimate, personal knowledge of God through his Spirit, by whom we cry out, “Abba! Father!”

William P. Alston, 1921-2009

The EPS honors the life and work of Christian philosopher Dr. William P. Alston, who died on September 13, 2009.

Below is an obituary received from Valerie Alston, Dr. Alston’s beloved wife. And a personal tribute from Paul Copan, President of the Evangelical Philosophical Society. We welcome further personal and professional appreciations about Dr. Alston’s life and work. Please submit your comments to this blog post (see below).

William Payne Alston

William Payne Alston, 87, died September 13, 2009, at the Nottingham Residential Health Care Facility in Jamesville, New York. He was born November 29, 1921 in Shreveport, Louisiana.

In 1942, Bill received a Bachelor of Music degree from Centenary College. During WWII, he served in an Army Band stationed in California. While in the service, he became interested in philosophy, and after his discharge from the Army, he entered the Graduate Program in Philosophy at the University of Chicago. His Ph.D. work led to a position at the University of Michigan, where he taught philosophy for twenty-two years and established himself as an important American philosopher. He then moved to Rutgers University and, later to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In 1980 he joined the faculty at Syracuse University where he completed his fifty-year career teaching and writing about philosophy. He was best known for his work in the philosophy of language, epistemology, and the philosophy of religion. He published several books and over 150 articles. His many Ph.D. students play a major role in philosophy today. He was founding editor of the journals Faith and Philosophy and Journal of Philosophical Research.

Bill received the highest honors of his profession. He has been President of the Central Division American Philosophical Association, the Society for Philosophy and Psychology, and the Society of Christian Philosophers. His international travel included trips to the Vatican as part of an eight-year project on “God’s Actions in the World in the Light of Modern Science,” sponsored by the Vatican Observatory. He was a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, and he received Syracuse University’s Chancellor’s Award for Exceptional Academic Achievement.

He is survived by his wife of 46 years, Valerie Alston; a daughter, Ellen (John) Donnelly of Wayne, NJ and grandchildren, Patrick & Anna Donnelly; step-children, Marsha (Gary) Dysert of Charlotte, NC, James (Nancy) Barnes of Toledo, OH, Kathleen (Blair) Person of Troy, MI; four step-grandchildren and three great step-grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at St. Paul’s Cathedral on November 2, 2009 at 11:00 a.m. Fairchild & Meech are in charge of arrangements.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral, 310 Montgomery Street, Syracuse, N.Y. 13202.


A personal tribute to William P. Alston, from Paul Copan, President of the Evangelical Philosophical Society

On September 13, 2009, Christian philosopher William P. Alston died at the age of 87. Alston wrote prolifically on a wide range of topics in the philosophy of religion—from the problem of evil to divine action to the Spirit’s indwelling to divine foreknowledge and human freedom. Alston’s groundbreaking work is particularly noteworthy in the areas of defending meaningful religious language and articulating an epistemology of religious experience. Other significant contributions include his rigorous defense of truth in realistic terms (“alethic realism”) and of metaphysical realism.

I first heard of Bill Alston when I was a philosophy student at Trinity Seminary in Deerfield, Illinois in the mid-1980s. (I was a student of Drs. Stuart Hackett and William Lane Craig back then.) During this time, I began subscribing to the Society of Christian Philosophers’ journal, Faith and Philosophy. I was aware that Alston and Al Plantinga had helped launch the SCP—a momentous achievement whose time had finally come and for which Christian philosophers everywhere will be ever grateful.

During my studies at Trinity, I had my first exposure to Alston’s writings. The very first Alston piece I read was his essay “Divine-Human Dialogue and the Nature of God” (Faith and Philosophy, January 1986). I not only appreciated the topic he tackled; I marveled that a sophisticated philosopher would give a questionnaire to adults at his church, asking them, “Do you ever feel that God speaks to you? (Not necessarily in audible words. The question could be phrased: do you ever feel that God is communicating a message to you?)” Alston tallied the results: Yes-17; No-2. Thus began my great appreciation and respect for Alston’s insight and exceptional scholarship as well as his personal devotion as a Christian.

After my studies at Trinity, I had the opportunity to meet Alston in 1988 at a Society of Christian Philosophers conference at Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts. He was one in an impressive line-up of presenters, which included Richard Swinburne, George Mavrodes, Stephen Evans, Nicholas Wolterstorff, Eleonore Stump, and Marilyn Adams along with biblical scholars Anthony Thiselton and the late James Barr. A few of these presented papers made their way into the Faith and Philosophy October 1989 issue.

Years later, I wrote a book review of Thomas Morris’s God and the Philosophers (Oxford University Press 1994) for The Review of Metaphysics (June 1997). Alston’s autobiographical chapter gave me further insight into his experience with God personally—even speaking in tongues—through the influence of charismatic Christians. Alston discussed his attraction to the Christian community through the love he had experienced within it: “my way back [to Christ] was not by abstract philosophical reasoning, but by experience—experience of the love of God and the presence of the Spirit, as found within the community of the faithful” (p. 28). Alston has served as a model of rigorous philosophical thought as well as a deep experience of God by His Spirit. His experience reminds us that the gospel is powerful in a holistic sense: it not only has explanatory philosophical power, but it has the power to transform lives and meet the deepest of human needs.

Back in 2002/2003, I had the privilege of working with Alston on a book project. With Paul Moser, I coedited The Rationality of Theism (Routledge), and Bill led off with the superb essay, “Religious Language and Verificationism.” He concluded his piece by calling the Verificationist Criterion to be “but a paper tiger, in philosophy of religion as elsewhere.” He added, “It poses no threat to the apparently obvious truth that talk of God contains many statements about God that have objective truth-values—whether we can determine what they are or not.”

I am honored to have learned from and worked with this notable philosopher and, even more significantly, a brother in Christ and a partner in the gospel.

Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.


Other remembrances about Alston can be found here:

For further info, see Daniel Howard-Snyder’s helpful bibliography of Alston’s scholarly work (since 2006) and Daniel’s 2005 biographical entry in the Dictionary of Modern American Philosophers.

We welcome personal and professional appreciations in honor of Dr. William P. Alston. Please submit your comments to this post!

Interview with Chad Meister: Introducing Philosophy of Religion (part two)

We continue our interview with Chad Meister about his Introducing Philosophy of Religion. In this part, Chad shares with us about he teaches philosophy and how philosophy of religion has influenced other areas of philosophy.

What are some lessons that you’ve learned over the years about how to teach philosophy of religion?

My overall pedagogical methods in the classroom have changed significantly over the last ten years or so, and this is especially true in upper level undergraduate philosophy courses such as philosophy of religion. Here are what I consider to be some significant lessons for teaching philosophy of religion (or any undergraduate philosophy course). Some of these lessons I gleaned from pedagogy researcher Ken Bain:

  • Students are not typically familiar with many, if not most, of the central topics and ideas discussed in the field, nor are they familiar with how the topics are typically approached. So rather than focusing on one or two main issues, or reading one or two primary sources, I find it helpful to first introduce them to a number of relevant topics and then to hone in on several key ones. For their assigned papers, then, I give them the opportunity to choose one or two issues with which to spend a good deal of time over the course of the semester.
  • I usually begin class with an excellent question (a question that is meaningful to the student)—that is, with a BIG question. So I generally create at least one major question for each class period and write it on the board or in PowerPoint. For example, I might ask, “What is John Hick’s pluralistic hypothesis, and what are some reasons you have for agreeing or disagreeing with it?” The lecture/discussion will generally, then, focus on this question.
  • As Ken Bain notes, a recent Harvard study of the most successful students included two key elements in the classroom: tough classes and the opportunity to try, fail, get feedback, etc. separate from a grade. I believe creating assignments, such as short papers on a central theme, that allow students to work on a topic, turn in the assignment, receive comments, and re-work the assignment are effective means. These early papers receive no grade, but the final product (a longer paper including research and reflection from the earlier shorter ones) does.
  • Students need to have some control over their own education. For papers, I offer students multiple topics from which to choose, or I allow them to pick a subject related to their major or area of interest.
  • As many of the great ancient Greek philosophers understood, one of the most helpful ways of acquiring knowledge and being transformed by it is seeing it modeled by a respected mentor. So, for example, I invite students over to my home regularly to discuss issues in that environment and work to develop respect by the “younger” students for the more advanced ones. I even encourage their involvement in an official mentoring program at the college where students and faculty mentor others, and I mentor a number of the philosophy majors myself. There should be regular collaborative efforts between students, so I have them work together in small groups on projects both in and outside of class. When appropriate, I have the “advanced” students help/mentor the “newer” ones. Especially for the philosophy majors, I try to create an environment where we are growing together and encouraging one another as a community of learners.
  • Students must believe that their own work will really matter (though it may be quite basic at this stage), so I have individual meetings with them to discuss their paper topics. I encourage them to focus on a theme that is significant—both to them and to the field at large—and explain why what they are doing is philosophically significant. Furthermore, I offer them the opportunity as a class to craft a journal—one structured very much like a professional philosophy journal, but with other features that make it more fun and exciting for undergraduates (for example, including timelines, glossaries, even a comics section!). This has been a very productive, collaborative kind of project which, in one case, we published. I also encourage students to work toward writing publishable papers (and to try to publish them if they are of that quality) and to attend conferences where students and others are presenting papers. It is oftentimes in these kinds of contexts where the significance of their own work can be more fully appreciated.

How has philosophy of religion work influenced other fields in philosophy?

There is a long story to be told here, but I’ll try to keep this brief. There is a fascinating symbiotic relationship among those doing work in the various fields of philosophy you mention and work being done in philosophy of religion. Consider first a brief account (one probably quite familiar to many readers) of the resurgence of philosophy of religion over the past century with respect to work done in epistemology, metaphysics, and philosophy of language.

Philosophy, especially within the analytic tradition, emphasizes precision of terms and clarity of concepts. Religion, however, is often imprecise and veiled in mystery. This imprecision was challenged in the mid-twentieth century with the rise of logical positivism. Logical positivists used a principle of verifiability to reject as meaningless all non-empirical claims; only the tautologies of mathematics and logic, along with statements containing empirical observations or inferences, were considered meaningful. Many religious statements, however, such as claims about the transcendent, are neither tautological nor empirically verifiable. So certain fundamental religious claims and beliefs (such as “Yahweh is good” or “Atman is Brahman”) were taken by the positivists to be cognitively meaningless utterances. Positivism became a dominant philosophical approach and for a time, for this and related reasons, philosophy of religion as a discipline became suspect.

The philosophical tide began to turn, however, in the latter half of the twentieth century with respect to religious language. Many argued that the positivists’ empiricist criteria of meaning were unsatisfactory and problematic. Due to the philosophical insights on the nature and meaning of language provided by the later Ludwig Wittgenstein, the rise of a pragmatic version of naturalism offered by Willard Quine, and other factors, logical positivism quickly waned. For these reasons, along with the exemplary work of such analytic philosophers of religion as Alvin Plantinga, Richard Swinburne, John Hick, and others, by the 1970s discussions about religious (and metaphysical and ethical) concepts were revived and soon became accepted arenas of viable philosophical and religious discourse.

Since that time, philosophy of religion has become a burgeoning field. For example, two leading philosophy journals today—Philosophia Christi and Faith and Philosophy—are primarily focused on issues in philosophy of religion. In addition, two of the largest (if not the largest) subgroups within the American Philosophical Association are the Evangelical Philosophical Society and the Society of Christian Philosophers. Furthermore, one could cite countless examples of recent work that integrates other fields of philosophy with philosophy of religion, or philosophy of religion work which has influenced other fields. Consider just a few fine examples (with apologies for the many other fine examples which are not included):

The list goes on and on. Those doing work in philosophy of religion have indeed made great strides in influencing other fields in philosophy over the past fifty years, and there is no indication of its waning any time soon.

More about Chad Meister can be found at his website.

Yahweh Wars and the Canaanites

Paul Copan

Philosophy and Ethics
Palm Beach Atlantic University
Palm Beach, Florida

Of the various Old Testament (OT) ethical issues, Yahweh’s command that Israel kill the Canaanites strikes us as the weightiest. In this issue of Philosophia Christi, Wes Morriston and Randal Rauser highlight this theme in reply to my
earlier essay, “Is Yahweh a Moral Monster?”[1]
I am grateful for their comments and for the opportunity to respond to the key questions
they raise. Since their objections overlap somewhat, I shall simply list and respond
to the major concerns as I see them. In doing so, I shall touch on the contributions
made by comrades-in-arms, Clay Jones and Joseph Buijs, whose supportive essays also
appear in this issue.[2]

1. Incorrigibly Wicked?

Morriston challenges the claim that the Canaanites were really that
wicked or that they were incorrigibly so and thus deserving God’s judgment:
“the evidence of incorrigible wickedness is nonexistent.”[3]
However, Clay Jones’s essay documents and reinforces my point that this was indeed
a wicked people. God was willing to wait over 400 years because “the sin of the
Amorite was not yet filled up” (Gen. 15:16). In Abraham’s day, no reason yet existed
for dispossessing them. The land was not ready to “vomit them out” (Lev. 18:25).
Only after Israel’s lengthy enslavement in Egypt would the time finally be ripe
for the Israelites to enter Canaan�”because of the wickedness of these nations”
(Deut. 9:4�5).[4]
Meredith Kline reminds us that the judgment on the Canaanites is an “intrusive phenomenon”
of eschatological ethics into the period of common grace, anticipatory of a final
judgment when God finally establishes justice on a cosmic scale.[5]

Now, I am not arguing that the Canaanites were absolutely the worst
specimens of humanity that ever existed, nor am I arguing that the Canaanites were
the worst specimens of humanity in the ancient Near East (ANE). However, the evidence
adduced by Jones sufficiently reveals a profound moral corruption, and we are not
surprised to read that they are ripe for divine judgment in keeping with God’s
salvation-historical purposes. Nor are the Canaanites uniquely singled out for divine
judgment in the Scriptures; prophetic oracles abound concerning Yahweh’s threats
of judgment on nations that had also crossed the moral threshold. Furthermore, we
should not think that God no longer judges nations today�even if we may not be able
to determine this precisely.[6]
However, I shall say no more on this topic but shall let Morriston direct any remaining
objections to Jones!

2. Morally Culpable?

Morriston wonders if the Canaanites were really “morally culpable.”[7]
After all, they were just practicing their religion, which was passed on to them
from the previous generation. Surely the Canaanites “deserve . . . enlightenment
about the true nature of God and about His requirements for human beings.”[8]
However, history shows that nations and civilizations have been capable
of moral reforms and improvements. This suggests that humans are not necessarily
cut off from all moral ideals and insights through general revelation to help improve
upon what was handed down to them. Furthermore, a passage such as Amos 1�2 suggests
that moral “enlightenment,” though suppressed, was available to Gentile nations
surrounding Israel. There, God threatens judgment against the nations surrounding
Israel not because they were merely “practicing the religion of their parents,”
but because they stifled compassion, suppressed their conscience, and carried out
particularly heinous acts. They should have known better. The Canaanites were “disobedient”
(Heb. 11:31)�a term indicating a moral awareness of wrongdoing but a refusal to
turn from it.[9]
Paul affirms that those without special revelation still have the capacity (through
conscience) to distinguish right from wrong (Rom. 2:14�15). Paul’s point is nicely
illustrated in the appendix to C. S. Lewis’s Abolition of Man: moral codes
of many cultures across the ages are strikingly similar at key points�honoring parents,
being faithful in marriage, not stealing, not murdering, not bearing false witness,
and so on.[10]
Furthermore, despite their immersion in Canaanite ways, Rahab and her family (Josh.
2) are a clear sign that other Canaanites could have preserved their lives if
they had humbled themselves before Israel’s God, who had convincingly delivered
his people from Egypt with signs and wonders and demonstrated his reality and surpassing
greatness (Josh. 2:9�11).

Speaking of Rahab, we can reject Morriston’s claim about what the text “plainly”
says (that Rahab was being “prudent rather than pious”). Joshua’s literary strategy,
in fact, devotes much attention to Rahab’s responsiveness to Yahweh, including
her assisting the spies (chapter 2). In chapter 6, the number of words mentioning
her and her family’s being spared (86 words) are roughly the same as those devoted
to describing Jericho’s destruction (102 words)�an indication of Yahweh’s willingness
to receive any who turn to him.[11]
Contrary to Morriston’s charge that Rahab would “sell out her own city in order
to save her own skin,”[12]
she simply realized that God was with the Israelites, and she aligned herself with
reality. Rahab is no more “selling out” than those Germans disenchanted with Hitler
who joined the Allied cause.

Rahab’s embracing Yahweh and finding salvation illustrates the theme of Exodus
34:6: Yahweh’s gracious, compassionate character extends salvation to all and relents
from judging, whether Canaanite or�much to Jonah’s dismay�Ninevite (Jon. 4:2) or
those from any “nation” that “turns from its evil” (Jer. 18:7�8). Yahweh desires
that the wicked turn rather than die (Ezek. 18:31�32; 33:11). And when Israel and
Judah reached a point of no moral and spiritual return (“until there was no remedy”),
God judged them severely (2 Chron. 36:16; cp. 2 Kings 18:11�12; 1 Chron. 5:23).

Yahweh’s ban (herem), then, was not absolute. Carrying out herem
did not entail the refusal of mercy, as we see in Rahab’s case. The possibility
of salvation was not a violation of the ban.[13]

3. Standards for Irredeemability?

Rauser objects to the killing of the “wicked Canaanites” since “we have no guidelines
to determine when a culture is irredeemable.”[14]
Rauser’s point calls to mind Israeli psychologist Georges Tamarin’s 1966 study
involving 1,066 schoolchildren ages eight to fourteen. Presented with the story
of Jericho’s destruction, they were asked, “Do you think Joshua and the Israelites
acted rightly or not?” Two-thirds of the children approved. However, when Tamarin
substituted “General Lin” for Joshua and a “Chinese kingdom 3,000 years ago” for
Israel, only 7 percent approved while 75 percent disapproved.[15]
So, though we condemn the killing of an ethnic group when carried out by Nazis or
Hutus, Israel seems to get a pass when doing the “same thing” to the Canaanites.

Rauser suggests that we need something more than mere mortal assessments regarding
a culture’s ripeness for judgment. Such matters are too weighty a matter for humans
to judge. Indeed, these determinations ought to be left up to God�namely, special
. And this is precisely what we have! In John Goldingay’s words,
“It takes a prophet to know whether and how a particular war fits into Yhwh’s purpose.”[16]

4 Ethnic Cleansing and Genocide?

Both Rauser and Morriston utilize the term “genocide,” and Rauser mentions “ethnic
cleansing.” However, ethnic cleansing suggests a racial hatred, which just is
not behind the injunctions to kill Canaanites. Consider how Rahab and her
family were welcomed into the Israelite fold. Visions of ethnic and moral superiority
are not part of the picture.[17]
In the Mosaic Law, Yahweh repeatedly commands Israel to show concern for strangers
and aliens in their midst (for example, Lev. 19:34; Deut. 10:18�19), since the Israelites
had been strangers in Egypt. Moreover, prophets later view the nations once singled
out for judgment (for example, the Jebusites�a Canaanite people [Deut. 7:1]) as
the ultimate objects of Yahweh’s salvation. For example, in Zechariah 9:7, the
Philistines�on whom God pronounces judgment in 9:1�6�and the Jebusites (who came
to be absorbed within the fold of Judah) are both to become part of God’s redeemed
“remnant.” This theme is reinforced in Psalm 87, where the Philistines and other
enemies are incorporated into the people of God.[18]

Yahweh’s evident concern for the nations in the OT hardly supports a Gentile-hating,
arrogant ethnocentrism. Rauser notwithstanding, the Israelites did not determine
themselves to be the in-group, who in turn demonized the out-group and then destroyed
them. Yahweh pointedly reminds his people that their taking the land is not due
to their intrinsic superiority (“right�eousness,” “uprightness of heart”), but because
of the “wickedness” of the Canaanites. Indeed, the Israelites are “a stubborn people”
(Deut. 9:4�6).

5. Herem and Human Sacrifice?

Regarding the Hebrew term herem (“ban,” “dedication to destruction”),
Rauser correctly observes the religious dimension to Israel’s wars. Indeed,
this was true of ANE wars in general�sacred or holy endeavors.[19]
Israel’s defeating its enemies was an indication that Yahweh the “warrior” (Exod.
15:3) was ruler over all the nations and their gods. Is Rauser correct, though,
in claiming that the slaughter of all men, women, and children was a “religious
act of worship“?

Not quite. Susan Niditch’s study, War in the Hebrew Bible, affirms
that the “ban” in the early texts (for example, Deut. 20) refers to the total destruction
of warriors and the consecration to God of everything that was captured:

The dominant voice in the Hebrew Bible condemns child sacrifice
as the epitome of anti-Yahwist and anti-social behavior . . . . the dominant voice
in the Hebrew Bible treats the ban not as sacrifice in exchange for victory but
as just and deserved punishment for idolaters, sinners, and those who lead Israel
astray or commit direct injustice against Israel.[20]

Furthermore, Hess contends that human sacrifice to Yahweh was not behind
herem; no evidence in the early texts suggests this.[21]
Contra Morriston, there is a “subversive attitude to human sacrifice” in
the OT. According to Hess, there is “little suggestion that war is an act of human
sacrifice to a god who demands it.”[22]

Now, Morriston suggests that certain passages, if not implicitly endorsing the
acceptability of human sacrifice, seem to diminish divine displeasure towards it.

The first is 2 Kings 3:27, where Mesha, king of Moab, (apparently) sacrifices
his firstborn son on the wall of Kir Hareseth (in Moab), after which the Israelite
army withdrew. Morriston’s suggestion is mistaken here for several reasons. First,
it is at odds with what the author of Kings declares in subsequent passages (cp.
2 Kings 16:3; 17:7; 21:6). Second, the Mosaic Law clearly condemns child sacrifice
as morally abhorrent (Lev. 18:21; 20:2�5; Deut. 12:31; 18:10). Third, the word
fury (qetseph)is wrongly assumed to be divine wrath.[23]
Its cognate is used elsewhere in 2 Kings, clearly referring to human fury
(5:11; 13:19). Fourth, typically, commentators suggest several plausible interpretations�and
Morriston’s is not one of them! (i) Perhaps there was fury against Israel
among the Moabites because their king Mesha, forced by desperation, sacrificed his
son (in order to prompt Moab’s renewed determination to fight).[24]
(ii) Another possibility is that the Israelites were so horrified or filled with
superstitious dread�which came “upon Israel” (RSV)�at this human sacrifice that
they abandoned the entire venture.[25]
(iii) A final alternative is that because of Mesha’s failed attempt to break through
the siege (perhaps to head north for reinforcements), he was still able to capture
the king of Edom’s firstborn son, whom he sacrificed on the wall, which demoralized
Edom’s army. Their “wrath” ended the war because they withdrew from this military
coalition of Israel, Judah, and Edom.[26]

What of Jephthah’s rash vow and sacrifice (Judg. 11:30�40)? While some strongly
argue against the claim that Jephthah literally sacrificed his daughter,[27]
most OT scholars believe the text asserts this.[28]
Let us then assume the worst-case scenario. Morriston informs us that Jephthah the
“Judge of Israel . . . would surely have known” that child sacrifice was wrong and
that it was because of such acts that Yahweh judged the Canaanites. Why then this
human sacrifice?

Morriston too hastily concludes that Israel assumed human sacrifice as morally
acceptable before Yahweh. We can apply Morriston’s statement to Samson. As a “Judge
of Israel,” he “would surely have known” that touching unclean corpses and consorting
with prostitutes were forbidden by Yahweh. Precisely because we are talking about
the time of the Judges, Morriston should be all the more cautious in suggesting
what he does.

But didn’t “the Spirit of the Lord” come on Jephthah (Judg. 11:29)? Yes, but
we should not take this as a wholesale divine endorsement of all Jephthah did�no
more so than the Spirit’s coming on Gideon (6:34) was a seal of approval on his
dabbling with idolatry (8:24�7)�or Ehud (3:26), for that matter.[29]
Yes, these “Judges of Israel” would “surely have known” this was wrong. Indeed,
“the Spirit of the Lord” came upon Samson to help Israel keep the Philistines at
bay (14:6, 19; 15:14). Yet his plans to marry a Philistine woman, cavorting with
a prostitute, and getting mixed up with Delilah all reveal a judge with exceedingly
poor judgment! (No doubt there is a moral in here somewhere about how God often
works despite humans rather than because of them!)

The theology of Judges emphasizes the nadir of Israelite morality and religion�with
two vivid narratives at the book’s end to illustrate this (chapters 17�21). In
light of the repeated theme “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (17:6;
21:25; cp 2:10�23), we could say that Morriston is expecting too much moral uprightness
from characters in a book depicting Israel’s moral nosedive. Not only did the Mosaic
Law clearly prohibit child sacrifice�something known to the judges; Scripture itself
reminds us that not all behavioral examples in Scripture are good ones (cp. 1 Cor.
10:1�12). We do not have to look hard for negative exemplars in Judges of Israelites
in the moral basement. No explicit statement of Yahweh’s obvious disapproval is

6. Total Annihilation and “Bludgeoning Babies”?

(a) “All that breathes.”

I observed in my previous essay that the language of total obliteration (“all
that breathes”) is an ANE rhetorical device, an exaggeration commonly associated
with warfare. For example, in Deuteronomy 2:34 (“we captured all his cities at that
time and utterly destroyed the men, women and children of every city. We left no
survivor.”) and 3:6 (“. . . utterly destroying the men, women and children of every
city”), we come upon what is a standard expression of military bravado in ANE warfare.
In 7:2�5, alongside Yahweh’s command to “destroy” the Canaanites is the assumption
they would not be obliterated�hence the warnings not to make political alliances
or intermarry with them. That is, we have stock ANE phrases referring to a crushing
and utter obliteration in my earlier article, but
this is what Goldingay calls “monumental hyperbole.”[30]
After all, the books of Joshua and Judges themselves make clear that many inhabitants
remained in the land.[31]
“While Joshua does speak of Israel’s utterly destroying the Canaanites, even these
accounts can give a misleading impression: peoples that have been annihilated have
no trouble reappearing later in the story; after Judah puts Jerusalem to the sword,
its occupants are still living there �to this day’ (Judg. 1:8, 21).”[32]

OT scholar Richard Hess has written on the Canaanite question, offering further
insights on the entire discussion.[33]
(Following Hess here, I shall present “Scenario 1,” which argues that the Canaanites
targeted for destruction were political leaders and their armies rather than noncombatants
Hess’s research has led him to conclude that the ban (herem) of Deuteronomy
20:10�18 refers to “the total destruction of all warriors in the battle,”
not noncombatants.
But does not Joshua 6:21 mention the ban�”every living thing in it”�in connection
with “men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys”? The stock phrase
“men and women [lit. �from man (and) unto woman’]” occurs seven times in the OT�Ai
(Josh. 8:25); Amalek (1 Sam. 15:3); Saul at Nob (1 Sam. 22:19 [only here are children
explicitly mentioned]); Jerusalem during Ezra’s time (Neh. 8:2); and Israel (2
Sam 6:19 = 2 Chron. 15:3). Each time�except at Nob, where Saul killed the entire
priestly family, save one (1 Sam. 21:20)�the word “all [kol]” is used.
Hess contends that “the phrase [�men and women’] appears to be stereotypical for
describing all the inhabitants of a town or region, without predisposing the reader
to assume anything further about their ages or even their genders.”[37]

(b) The military forts of Jericho and Ai.

As we look specifically at Joshua’s language concerning Jericho and Ai, it appears
harsh at first glance: “They devoted the city to the Lord and destroyed with the
sword every living thing in it�men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys”
(6:21); and again, “[t]welve thousand men and women fell that day�all the people
of Ai” (8:25).[38]
As we shall see below, this stereotypical language describes attacks on military
forts or garrisons�not a general population that includes women and children. Jericho
and Ai were military strongholds guarding the travel routes from the Jordan Valley
up to population centers in the hill country. That means that Israel’s wars here
are directed toward government and military installments. So the mention “women”
and “young and old” turns out to be stock ANE language that could be used even
if “women” and “young and old” were not living there
. The language of “all”
(“men and women”) at Jericho and Ai is, in Hess’s words, a “stereotypical expression
for the destruction of all human life in the fort, presumably composed entirely
of combatants.”[39]
The text just does not require that “women” and “young and old” must have
been in these cities.

The term “city” (�ir) reinforces this theme.[40]
Regarding Jericho, Ai, and other cities in Canaan, Hess writes: “we know that many
of these �cities’ were used primarily for government buildings, and the common
people lived in the surrounding countryside.”[41]
Archaeological evidence points to the lack of civilian populations at Jericho, Ai,
and other cities mentioned in Joshua. That “cities” were fortresses or citadels
is made all the more clear by an associated term, melek (“king”), which
was used in Canaan during this time for a military leader. What
is more, the battles in Joshua do not mention noncombatants (women and children).
Hess adduces inscriptional, archaeological, and other such evidences that Jericho
was a small settlement of probably 100 or fewer soldiers. This is why all of Israel
could circle it seven times in one day and then do battle against it.[42]
So if Jericho was a fort, then “all” those killed therein were warriors�Rahab and
her family being the exceptional noncombatants dwelling within this militarized
The same applies throughout the book of Joshua. All of this turns out to be quite
the opposite of what many have been taught in Sunday school classes!

(c) Rahab in a tavern.

What, then of Rahab? She was in charge of what was likely the fortress’s tavern
or hostel rather than a brothel, though these were sometimes run by prostitutes.[44]
Such overnight places for traveling caravans and royal messengers were common during
this period.[45]
The Code of Hammurabi (�109) parallels what we see in Joshua 2: “If conspirators
meet in the house of a tavern-keeper, and these conspirators are not captured and
delivered to the court, the tavern-keeper shall be put to death.” As Moshe Weinfeld
notes, such reconnaissance missions were a “widespread phenomenon in the east.”
Such an innkeeper’s home would be “the accustomed place for meeting with spies,
conspirators, and the like.” In light of such potential security threats, the Hittites
prohibited the building of any such inn or tavern near fortress walls.[46]

We could add here, contra Morriston, that the author of Joshua goes
out of his way to indicate that no sexual liaison took place: the spies “stayed
there” (2:1)�not “stayed with her,” which would imply something sexual.
Consider Samson, by contrast, who “saw a harlot, and went in to her” (Judg. 16:1).
The OT does not shrink from using such language; we just do not have any sexual
reference here. Rather, as observed above, the book of Joshua depicts Rahab as a
true God-fearer. Yes, such taverns in the ANE would draw people seeking sexual pleasure,
but this just does not apply to the Israelite spies, who visited there because it
was a public place where they could learn about the practical and military dispositions
of the area and could solicit a possible “fifth column” of support.[47]

(d) Israel’s warfare methods.

When we examine Israel’s warfare, we should consider a number of features that
help minimize the notion that Israel’s army consisted of bloodthirsty, maniacal
warmongers. First, the aftermath of Joshua’s victories are featherweight descriptions
in comparison to those found in the annals of the major empires of the ANE�whether
Hittite and Egyptian (second millennium), Aramaean, Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian,
or Greek (first millennium).[48]
Unlike Joshua’s brief, four-verse description of the treatment of the five kings
(10:24�27), the Neo-Assyrian annals of Asshurnasirpal (tenth century) take pleasure
in describing the atrocities which gruesomely describe the flaying of live victims,
the impaling of others on poles, and the heaping up of bodies for display.[49]

Second, a number of battles that Israel fought on the way to and within Canaan
were defensive: the Amalekites attacked the traveling Israelites (Exod. 17:8); the
Canaanite king of Arad attacked and captured some Israelites (Num. 21:1); the Amorite
king Sihon refused Israel’s peaceful overtures and attacked instead (Num. 21:21�32;
Deut. 2:26); Bashan’s king Og came out to meet Israel in battle (Num. 21:3; Deut.
3:1); Israel responded to Midian’s calculated attempts to lead Israel astray through
idolatry and immorality (Num. 31:2�3; cp. Num. 25 and 31:16); five kings attacked
Gibeon, which Joshua defended because of Israel’s peace pact with the Gibeonites
(Josh. 10:4). Furthermore, God prohibited Israel from conquering other
neighboring nations: (i) Moab and Ammon (Deut. 2:9, 19); (ii) Edom (Deut. 2:4; 23:7)�despite
the fact that Edom had earlier refused to assist the Israelites (Num. 20:14�21;
cp. Deut. 2:6�8).

Third, all sanctioned “Yahweh battles” beyond the time of Joshua were
defensive ones, including Joshua’s battle to defend Gibeon (Josh. 10�11).[50]
Of course, while certain offensive battles take place in Judges and under David
and beyond, these are not commended as ideal or exemplary.[51]

(e) “Driving them out.”

We should carefully note the language of “driving out” and “thrusting out” the
Canaanites (Exod. 23:28; Lev. 18:24; Num. 33:52: Deut. 6:19; 7:1; 9:4; 18:12; Josh.
10:28, 30, 32, 35, 37, 39; 11:11, 14) or “dispossessing” them of their land (Num.
21:32). “Driving out” is not at all the same as the “wiping out” or “destroying”
passages found in these same contexts. Upon examination, the former references are
three times as numerous as the latter.[52]
When a foreign army might pose a threat in the ANE, women and children would be
the first to remove themselves from harm’s way�not to mention the population at
large: “When a city is in danger of falling,” observes Goldingay, “people do not
simply wait there to be killed; they get out. . . . Only people who do not get out,
such as the city’s defenders, get killed.”[53]
Jeremiah 4:29 suggests this:

At the sound of the horseman and bowman every city flees;
They go into the thickets and climb among the rocks; Every city is forsaken, and
no man dwells in them.

Hess draws the following conclusions: “There is no indication in the text of
any specific noncombatants who were put to death.” Indeed, the “justified wars”
of Joshua “were against combatants.”[54]
We read in Joshua (and Judges) that, despite the “obliteration” language, there
are plenty of Canaanite inhabitants who are not “driven out” but rather are living
in the areas where Israel has settled. Joshua himself refers to “these [nations]
which remain among you” (Josh. 23:12�13; cp. Josh. 15:63; 16:10; 17:13; Judg. 2:10�13).
The process of driving them out would be a gradual one, as even Deuteronomy 7:22
anticipates and is reaffirmed in Judges 2:20�23.[55]

Israel’s occupation of Canaan involved not simply military activity, but also
infiltration and internal struggle.[56]
In my previous article, I note that the text of Deuteronomy 7:2�5, Joshua, and Judges
suggests that we have the language of (i) obliteration as well as (ii)
acknowledgment of Canaanites as future neighbors. Goldingay comments that
Israel knew how to read Torah: “It knew it was not to assume a literalistic understanding”
of destroying the Canaanites. That is, Moses did not mean for this to be taken literally.
Rather, as Goldingay notes, “Israel was to dispossess the Canaanites and destroy
their forms of religion and have nothing to do with them.” That is, Israel took
this “totally destroy” command metaphorically or hyperbolically�which reflected
the ANE language of bravado and exaggeration in warfare.[57]

To summarize, we should distinguish between two central aspects of the Canaanite
question. On the one hand, herem includes stereotypical language of “all”
and “young and old” and “man and woman”�even if women and children are not present.
So far as we can see, herem is carried out in particular military/combatant
settings (with “cities” and “kings”); this specific combatant scenario could well
apply in the Amalekite case (1 Sam. 15). In these limited settings, herem
is thoroughly carried out (involving even livestock [for example, 1 Sam. 15:9, 14])�though
it allows, and hopes for, exceptions (for example, Rahab). The sweeping language
which appears to involve only combatants is truly all-inclusive here. On the other
hand, evident in Deuteronomy�Judges is the clearly exaggerated ANE language of utter
obliteration and total destruction. These hyperbolic references to “totally destroy[ing]”
run on parallel tracks with regular mention of many remaining Canaanite inhabitants
after the “total destruction” (for example, Judg. 1). Additionally, we should take
seriously the many references of “driving out” the Canaanites, to clear away the
land for habitation, which does not require killing. Civilians would flee when their
military strongholds were destroyed and no longer capable of protecting them.

(7) Inefficient Means?

Morriston raises an “embarrassing” question: “Assuming that God’s desire to
destroy the Canaanite religion by destroying the Canaanites was a legitimate one,
why would He choose such an inefficient means of accomplishing this aim?” God could
have easily removed them from the scene and avoided this “spectacularly unsuccessful”
plan of allowing idolaters to remain in Israel’s midst. Wasn’t the point of killing
Canaanites to prevent Israel’s being pulled down spiritually and morally?

Too much theological weight should not be given to some efficiency criterion�that
God is the being than which nothing more efficient can be conceived! Indeed, what
theological reason compels us to assume that God must necessarily operate with maximal
Germanic efficiency? Just as God is not hot and bothered that a small planetary
speck would be home to all the universe’s inhabitants (while the rest of the cosmos
is uninhabited and uninhabitable), so God takes plenty of time and utilizes ostensibly
less-than-efficient means to accomplish his purposes. For example, he gets the ball
rolling with a barren, elderly couple�Abraham and Sarah�and chooses to work through
a stubborn and rebellious nation. Perhaps we should think in terms of sufficiency
rather than efficiency. In fact, this alleged embarrassment may actually
indicate historical reliability rather than legendary fabrication; perhaps we can
appeal to the “criterion of embarrassment” as an indicator of historicity/authenticity!

So why didn’t God make sure that none of the Canaanites was left to lead Israel
into idolatry? God was working through often-inefficient processes to accomplish
his salvation-historical ends, which did not require killing every last Canaanite,
but ensuring that they were sufficiently driven out so as not to be an
undermining spiritual and moral threat while Israel developed as a nation.[58]

Israel’s failure to drive out this threat and destroy Canaanite religion indeed
brought mixed results, and they paid for their compromises with an Assyrian captivity
of the northern kingdom and then a Babylonian captivity of the southern (for example,
2 Kings 17:7�41; 2 Chron. 36:15�21)�despite regular prophetic warnings and periodic
kingly reforms. The theological and moral threat of foreign religion, however, did
not so damage Israel as to eradicate its monotheism and covenantal awareness that
would emerge with greater force in the wake of the Babylonian captivity. By the
first century AD, a theological stage had been sufficiently set through the preservation
of Israel’s scriptures and national historical identity, the restoration of the
temple and cultus, heightened messianic expectations, dedication to monotheism,
and so on. Despite Israel’s compromises and rebellions over the centuries, Jesus’s
arrival on the scene came “in the fullness of time” (Gal. 4:4). “Efficient”? Not
self-evidently so. Sufficient? Certainly.

(8) Precedent-setting?

Rauser raises questions about the killing of the Canaanites as setting a negative,
brutal precedent for the nation of Israel. As a general response, one could cite
Goldingay here: “the fate of the Canaanites is about as illuminating a starting
point for understanding First Testament ethics as Gen 22 [Abraham’s binding of
Isaac] would be for an understanding of the family.”[59]

Here I would affirm Buijs’s nuanced discussion of the alleged harm of religion.
He makes the salient distinctions asking whether “religion is indeed the cause�or
even a cause�of harmful acts” and whether “religion is exclusively
harmful or at least more harmful than beneficial in its individual and
social consequences.”[60]

Beyond this, let me offer two more specific responses.

First, the killing of the Canaanites was sui generis, limited to this
particular period of time of Joshua and shortly thereafter, after whose time Israel’s
warranted battles (“Yahweh wars”) were defensive. That the (rhetorical)
language of obliteration was not intended to be precedent-setting is clear from
Deuteronomy 20, which applies herem to cities in the land (20:16�18)�not
cities far away. In the former case, we are not talking about genocide or ethnic
cleansing, but a kind of corporate capital punishment that was deliberately
limited in scope
and restricted to a specific period of time.
Was Israel’s warfare in Canaan precedent-setting? In Goldingay’s words, “Saul
does not seek to devote the Philistines and David does not seek to devote the surrounding
peoples whom he did conquer. Neither Ephraim nor Judah took on Assyria, Babylon,
Persia, or the local equivalents of the Canaanites in the Second Temple period.”
He adds that Deuteronomy and Joshua do not set a pattern that “invites later Israel
to follow, or that later Israel does follow.”[61]

Second, what is puzzling is that professing Christians (during the Crusades,
for instance) inspired by the killing of the Canaanites to justify their actions
completely ignored Jesus’s own kingdom teaching.[62]
Yet Jesus had informed Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were
of this world, My servants would be fighting” (John 18:36). Again, “all those who
take up the sword shall perish by the sword” (Matt. 26:52). On the other hand, we
can confidently say that, precisely because of their commitment to Christ’s kingdom
not being of this world, the Amish and Mennonite people would most certainly not
appeal to Canaanite-killing passages to engage in atrocities. The difference is
that some professing Christians are far more obviously consistent in applying Jesus’s
teaching than others. Buijs’s point that we ought to distinguish the “revelatory
root of religion” from “its human appropriation in a religious tradition” is well-taken.[63]

(9) A Default Position (“Scenario 2”).

Readers will observe a slight shift in my approach to the Canaanite question,
thanks in large part to the further input of Richard Hess’s and John Goldingay’s
recent work. However, what if “Scenario 1” (above) fails? What if it turns out that
women and children actually were the explicit objects of herem
by Yahweh’s command�even if we allow for hyperbole in phrases such as “everything
that breathes”? I discuss the possibility of this alternative below.

(a) “Psychologically and spiritually shattering.”

Rauser and Morriston raise questions regarding the psychological damage done
to combatants who brutally kill women and children (for example, the My Lai massacre).
Now Rauser describes killing the Canaanites in Scenario 2 as a “morally praiseworthy”
act. Certain acts may be just (for example, a just war), but describing such involvement
as “morally praiseworthy” is misleading. As Confederate general Robert E. Lee affirmed,
“It is well that war is so terrible; otherwise we should grow too fond of it.”[64]
Rather, theologian John Stott’s wording regarding the killing of the Canaanites
is apropos: “It was a ghastly business; one shrinks from it in horror.”[65]
If babies were involved, surely this was a grim task.[66]
Yet the killing of the Canaanites was deliberately temporary and sui generis.
Furthermore, in the ANE, warfare was a way of life and a means of survival�a
situation in which combatant and noncombatant were not always distinguished. This
fact, in combination with the hardness of human hearts (Matt. 19:8) and human
moral bluntedness in the ANE
would likely render such actions considerably less psychologically damaging for
the Israelite soldier.

(b) The context of God’s goodness, enemy love, and overarching

As mentioned earlier, God’s overarching goal is to bring blessing and salvation
to all the nations, including the Canaanites through Abraham (Gen. 12:3; 22:17�18;
cp. 28:13�14). This sweeping, outsider-oriented, universally-directed covenant is
utterly unique among ancient religious movements.[68]
Yes, for a specific, relatively short, and strategic period, God sought to establish
Israel in the land, simultaneously punishing a wicked people ripe for judgment.
During this time, God was certainly willing to preserve any who acknowledged his
evident lordship over the nations, which was very well known to the Canaanites (Josh.
2:8�11; 9:9�11, 24; cf. Exod. 15:14�17; Deut. 2:25). Even Israel’s sevenfold march
Jericho, each circumambulation serving as an opportunity for Jericho to evade the
ban, was sadly matched by Jericho’s sevenfold refusal to relent and acknowledge
Yahweh’s rule.

Furthermore, God’s difficult command regarding the Canaanites as a limited,
unique salvation-historical situation
is comparable to God’s difficult command
to Abraham in Genesis 22 (a passage Morriston mentions in connection with human
sacrifice, which we discussed earlier). Behind both of these harsh commands, however,
are the clear context of Yahweh’s loving intentions and faithful promises. In the
first, God has given Abraham the miracle child Isaac, through whom God has promised
to make Abraham the father of many. Previously, he saw God’s provision when he
reluctantly let Ishmael and Hagar go into the wilderness�with God reassuring Abraham
that Ishmael would live to become a great nation. Likewise, Abraham knew that God
would somehow fulfill his covenant promises through Isaac�even if it meant that
God would raise him from the dead. Thus Abraham informed his servants, “we will
worship, and then we will come back to you return” (Gen. 22:5 [NRSV]; cp. Heb. 11:19).[70]
With the second harsh command regarding the Canaanites, Yahweh has already promised
to bring blessing to all the families of the earth without exclusion (Gen. 12:1�3;
22:17�18). As previously observed, God is in the business of eventually turning
Israel’s enemies into his friends and incorporating them into his family. As Abraham
said of Isaac, it is as though ancient Israel could confidently say of its enemies
like the Assyrians, Egyptians, and Canaanites (Isa. 19:25; Matt. 15:22):  “we
will worship together” (cp. Isa. 2:3). So while we have troubling exceptions in
each of these scenarios, these should be set against the background of Yahweh’s
enemy-loving character and worldwide salvific purposes.

Similarly, though blameless yet severely afflicted, Job received no clear answer
to his questions, but he did receive assurances of God’s wisdom, which far surpasses
ours. He learned that God’s character is trustworthy and his presence sufficient,
even when we remain baffled in the face of unanswered questions.

In Jonah’s day, God did not punish the Ninevites�to the great disappointment
of Jonah, who knew that this is the sort of thing Yahweh does�he loves
his (and Israel’s) enemies: “I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God,
slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity”
(Jon. 4:2; cf. Exod. 34:6).

Jesus, who sees himself as the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets (Matt.
5:17), affirms that the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob is one who loves his enemies
and calls on us to imitate this complete love (Matt. 5:43�48). We even see God commanding
enemy-love in the OT�to show concern for the alien and stranger and enemy (for example,
Exod. 23:4). The “Canaanite exception” is a glaring one in the midst of many affirmations
of Yahweh’s lovingkindness and concern for his own enemies. To affirm Buijs’s
general point, we can say that Jesus himself does not view the killing of the Canaanites
to be an intrinsic tenet or permanent norm for Christians.

Scriptures attest to divine love, but also judgment: “Behold then the kindness
and severity of God” (Rom. 11:22). Paul Moser observes:

It would be a strange, defective God who didn’t pose a serious cosmic authority
problem for humans. Part of the status of being God, after all, is that
God has a unique authority, or lordship, over humans. Since we humans aren’t God,
the true God would have authority over us and would seek to correct our profoundly
selfish ways.[71]

Despite Morriston’s reference to C. S. Lewis’s “wise words” about God’s “gradual
and graded self-revelation,” he hardly negates Lewis’s assertion that “Aslan” is
not “safe.” Elsewhere, Lewis commends “the obstinacy of faith.” He asserts that
trust in a personal God (as opposed to a mere proposition) “could have no room to
grow except where there is also room for doubt.” Lewis goes so far as to say that
love involves trusting a friend beyond the evidence�even, at times, against such
evidence. He reminds us that we should give the benefit of the doubt to a friend,
even if the friend may display seemingly puzzling and uncharacteristic behavior.
For example, if a trusted friend pledges to meet us somewhere but fails to show
up, which of us “would not feel slightly ashamed if, one moment after we had given
him up, he arrived with a full explanation of his delay? We should feel that we
ought to have known him better.”[72]
Just so.

As with Job, the full picture is not always available. We are not necessarily
in the best cognitive position to discern God’s purposes.[73]
We may find ourselves left with a puzzling gap between what we clearly know of God
and what seems to be a harsh exception (assuming here that Scenario 1 is false).
Having tasted and seen that the Lord is good (Ps. 34:8), we should deal with such
questions in the context of a loving, compassionate, and just personal God who has
the long-term good of even his enemies in mind. Yet we have excellent reason for
thinking that Scenario 1 is correct and that we do not need to resort to the default

For references to this article,
click here.

Interview with Chad Meister: Philosophy of Religion Reader

We interviewed Chad Meister, Vice President of the Evangelical Philosophical Society, about his recently released Philosophy of Religion Reader (Routledge, 2007).

Chad, you are a seasoned observer and contributor to philosophy of religion work. Give us a sense for how this field in philosophy has blossomed over the last 50 years or so.

The field of philosophy of religion has exploded in recent years. In some ways this is a surprising phenomenon, for in the mid-twentieth century, with the rise of logical positivism, discussions of religious matters were basically relegated to Bible and religion departments. With the demise of positivism, and the work of such first-rate philosophers as Alvin Plantinga and Richard Swinburne, philosophy of religion was resurrected. There is now widespread interest in the philosophical reflection on religious issues, and this is evident in the growing number of articles, monographs, companions, journals, and anthologies dedicated to the field. It is perhaps right now one of the “hottest” areas of philosophy.

As you know there are different philosophy of religion anthologies available today. What makes your selections unique? What sort of contribution are you trying to achieve with this anthology?

In the past, most philosophy of religion anthologies focused exclusively on Western theistic issues such as arguments for and against God’s existence, religious language, morality, the nature of God, and so forth. While much work in the field is still Western and theistic in nature (and these are indeed yet productive and fertile times for engaging in such issues), religious parochialism is unwarranted, and the discussion is now beginning to swing in broader directions. There are rich traditions of philosophical thought in non-Western and non-theistic religions, and as the world community has globalized in myriad ways in recent decades, such interaction, engagement, and expansion should be reflected in philosophical and religious publications as well. So besides traditional Western issues (including such recent ones as intelligent design and open theism), I have also included in my reader non-theistic perspectives of ultimate reality and their responses to evil, religious experience, and death and the afterlife. I have also included some of the recent trends which are often ignored in anthologies such as feminism in philosophy of religion and religion and the environment. In addition, I wanted this work to be a useful reader and guide for students, so I included a significant number of pedagogical tools (as I note below). I don’t think any reader/anthology on the market has as many student aids.

I’m finishing up a textbook that is designed to be used along with this reader, and it is scheduled to be published yet this year. Many of the central issues included in the reader (both Eastern and Western) are also addressed in this textbook. Another good introductory textbook that would work well in tandem with this reader is Reason and Religious Belief by Michael Peterson, William Hasker, Bruce Reichenbach, and David Basinger (Oxford University Press, 2003, 2008).

What was it like to produce this anthology? Can you briefly walk us through why you wanted to do this anthology? Were there guidelines/principles that you followed to help decide what to include vs. what to exclude from this volume?

I was invited by the publisher to craft the reader and the corresponding textbook. I strongly suggested that they be more global than most of the readers and texts in print since this more accurately reflects current trends and research interests in the field. The publisher agreed and allowed me to move in this direction. In terms of the entries, I wanted to include classic and contemporary pieces – both Eastern and Western – that have (or I believe will) stand the test of time as major works in philosophy of religion.

Producing this volume was a lot more work than I anticipated. Not only did I read through all 63 essays several times before submitting them to the publisher (all 700 pages of them), I also wrote section introductions, introductions and reflection questions for each essay, and annotated further readings for every essay. I also wrote a glossary of technical terms and compiled an extensive, three-column index. Just thinking about that project makes me tired!

Anthologies are a wonderful occasion to consider where a discussion has gone and where it might go. Are there areas of philosophy of religion that remain underdeveloped for one reason or another? Where might some fruitful research yet occur in light of the trajectory of the field?

As I mentioned above, most of the philosophy of religion readers and anthologies published in the past few decades have focused almost exclusively on a handful of issues. These are no doubt fundamental and timeless topics. However, the field is now much broader than this, and there is much work to be done in engaging with Eastern thought, continental and feminist studies, religious diversity and comparative religion. Furthermore, studies in philosophical theology (which is often taken to be an area within philosophy of religion) is beginning to blossom, and I believe the next several years will reflect much new and exciting work in these areas.

Can you identify any emerging philosophy of religion leaders who are doing some important work today?

There are a number of scholars who are emerging leaders in the different areas of philosophy of religion. I’ll mention just a few who come to mind: Michael Rea (philosophical theology), Robin Collins (fine-tuning argument for God), Paul Griffiths (religious diversity), Sarah Coakley and Pamela Sue Anderson (feminist philosophy of religion), Paul Copan (ethics and the moral argument for God), Daniel Howard-Snyder and Paul Draper (problem of evil), Paul Moser (divine hiddenness), Jerome Gellman (religious experience and mysticism), and Charles Taliaferro (coherence of theism, among others).

You do work in philosophy of religion and Christian apologetics. These two areas are interrelated. What might professional philosophers of religion learn from apologetics ministries? Conversely, what might apologetics ministries learn from professionals in philosophy of religion?

Apologetics ministries are typically focused on questions and concerns which are immediately relevant to the culture. For example, many such ministries have been responding recently to the works of Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Daniel Dennett, as these new atheists are having a significant influence on the culture. Tackling some of the philosophical and moral challenges raised by the new atheists would certainly be a worthy endeavor for professional philosophers of religion. Thankfully, some have. Bill Craig and I, for example, have brought together about a dozen philosophers (as well as a few theologians and biblical scholars) to take on these new atheist challenges in a forthcoming book we are co-editing.

Apologetics ministries are also addressing some important questions that have not been on the forefront of philosophy of religion studies in recent years. For example, religious rites comes to mind. With the liturgical renewal currently occurring in many contexts, such as in the emergent church movement, it would behoove philosophers of religion to reflect on such questions as What is a religious rite? Why have religious rites been neglected in recent philosophy of religion? How important are such rites in the practice of religion? Charles Taliaferro has begun to tackle these questions, but much more philosophical work needs to be done here.

Apologetics ministries can learn much from philosophers as well. For example, the rigorous philosophical work that’s been done on a few key apologetics issues has been quite impressive in recent years. As a case in point, consider the remarkable works of Alvin Plantinga and Eleonore Stump on the problem of evil. Many apologists do not realize that now even most atheist philosophers agree that the logical problem of evil has been forcefully rebutted – so much so that leading atheist philosophers no longer focus on it but have moved on to the evidential problem instead. Reading journals like Philosophia Christi would also benefit apologists as many apologetics-related issues are regularly addressed in the journal by leading philosophers of religion.

Chad Meister is the Director of the Philosophy Program and Associate Professor of Philosophy at Bethel College. More information about Chad’s speaking and writing can be found at