Consider all. Test All. Hold on to the good.

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Faith + Reason

Matthew C. Bagger on Preferring Naturalistic Explanations

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We can never assert that, in principle, an event resists naturalistic explanation. A perfectly substantiated, anomalous event, rather than providing evidence for the supernatural, merely calls into question our understanding of particular natural laws. In the modern era, this position fairly accurately represents the educated response to novelty. Rather than invoke the supernatural, we can always adjust our knowledge of the natural in extreme cases. In the modern age in actual inquiry, we never reach the point where we throw up our hands and appeal to divine intervention to explain a localized event like an extraordinary experience.

Academic Integration and the Christian Scholar

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Thoughtful Christians are agreed that an important component of Christian scholarship is the integration of faith and learning, as it is sometimes called. Because Christians are interested in the truth for its own sake and because they are called to proclaim and defend their views to an unbelieving world and to seek to live consistently with those views, it is important for members of the believing community to think carefully about how to integrate their carefully formed theological beliefs with prominent claims in other fields of study. As St. Augustine wisely asserted, "We must show our Scriptures not to be in conflict with whatever [our critics] can demonstrate about the nature of things from reliable sources."1 However, the task of integration is hard work and there is no widespread agreement about how it is to be done generally or about what its results should look like in specific cases. In what follows, I shall do three things to contribute to the integrative enterprise: 1) describe the relation between integration and spiritual formation; 2) discuss current integrative priorities for the Christian scholar; 3) analyze the epistemic tasks for and models employed in integration.

Reason for the Hope Within

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This book should be required reading for every thinking Christian. The articles are very engaging and informative. Each contributor deals with a certain philosophical and/or theological issue from the problem of evil to divine action and human freedom. It is a compilation of some of the choice young Christian philosophers and apologists currently writing and researching. This title is a fresh assessment of some fairly thorny issues that have been discussed for centuries. Michael J. Murray (co-editor with Eleonore Stump for the book titled Philosophy of Religion: The Big Questions) is the editor, while great thinkers such as Alvin Plantinga (who wrote the forward), J.P. Moreland (Scaling the Secular City), William J. Wainwright (editor of Faith and Philosophy), and Kelly James Clark (Return to Reason) endorse the book. While the book anticipates that the reader already has a background knowledge in the areas covered, nonetheless, each article is so well articulated that the reader will either gain a better understanding or be able to develop a data base to launch them into further investigation. Thus, this work is a must for anyone interested in the areas of Philosophy of Religion and Christian Apologetics. ~ T.B. Vick at Amazon.com

Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics

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The Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics by Norman L. Geisler is the ultimate one-volume reference for Christians who seek meaningful responses to criticisms of their faith. Geisler, a professor of theology and apologetics at Southern Evangelical Seminary, is the encyclopedia’s sole author. His previous books — Answering Islam and When Cultists Ask — help qualify Geisler to respond to a wide range of challenges to Christian belief. And this encyclopedia covers almost every conceivable philosophical challenge to Christianity, from "Agnosticism" to "Zen Buddhism." It also summarizes the key points regarding oft-challenged Christian doctrines and beliefs ("Adam, Historicity of," "Virgin Birth of Christ"). Each article is cleanly written and clearly organized. Indeed, Geisler’s greatest talent is for logical thinking. Whether he is considering Jesus’ view of the Bible or the tenets of Deism, he writes with confident assurance, so that no reader will feel lost. ~ Amazon.com

John Paul II on Relativism and Knowledge

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This has given rise to different forms of agnosticism and relativism which have led philosophical research to lose its way in the shifting sands of widespread scepticism. Recent times have seen the rise to prominence of various doctrines which tend to devalue even the truths which had been judged certain. A legitimate plurality of positions has yielded to an undifferentiated pluralism, based upon the assumption that all positions are equally valid, which is one of today’s most widespread symptoms of the lack of confidence in truth. Even certain conceptions of life coming from the East betray this lack of confidence, denying truth its exclusive character and assuming that truth reveals itself equally in different doctrines, even if they contradict one another. On this understanding, everything is reduced to opinion; and there is a sense of being adrift. While, on the one hand, philosophical thinking has succeeded in coming closer to the reality of human life and its forms of expression, it has also tended to pursue issues — existential, hermeneutical or linguistic — which ignore the radical question of the truth about personal existence, about being and about God. Hence we see among the men and women of our time, and not just in some philosophers, attitudes of widespread distrust of the human being’s great capacity for knowledge. With a false modesty, people rest content with partial and provisional truths, no longer seeking to ask radical questions about the meaning and ultimate foundation of human, personal and social existence. In short, the hope that philosophy might be able to provide definitive answers to these questions has dwindled.

Fides et Ratio: On Faith and Reason

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Encyclical letter from Pontiff John Paul II to the bishops of the Catholic church on the relationship between faith and reason. Faith and reason, teaches John Paul, are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth — in a word, to know himself — so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves.

The Place of Religiously Informed Scholarship in the Contemporary Academy

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My presentation today has its origins in some conversations that George Write [Professor of Political Science, University of Wisconsin–Superior] and I have had about the potential role of faith-based perspectives in philosophical theorizing and in academic research programs generally. Our conversations began as a discussion about the emergence of what is regarded as distinctively Christian philosophy within the philosophical mainstream in the late 20th century. While those outside of philosophy are often surprised, shocked (horrified?) to hear of such developments, it is truly old news for those in philosophy.

Tim Garrett on Tertullian and Reason

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Contemporary theologians who deny the rationality of Christian belief often quote Tertullian’s statement that the crucifixion should be believed because it is absurd. He also said the fact of the Resurrection is certain because it is impossible. But these statements must be understood from the context of Tertullian’s own life and work. He himself utilized elements of Greek philosophy and logic that he believed to be compatible with Christian belief. The major emphasis in his writings was to contrast the coherence of Christianity with the inconsistency of his heretical opponents. When he does speak of the absurdity of Christian belief, he is actually referring to the unlikelihood that any human mind could conceive of God’s redemptive plan. Like C. S. Lewis, he was convinced of the truth of the gospel by the very fact that no human being could possibly concoct such a story as is presented in Scripture. Certainly the Jews could not; the claim of Christ that He was God in the flesh was blasphemous to many of them. Nor could the Greeks create such a story; for them, the material world was inferior to the divine realm. God could not possibly assume human flesh in their philosophical reasoning. But for Tertullian, this was compelling evidence that the gospel is true! The religious and philosophical systems contemporary with the advent of Christianity would have prevented any human from simply making up such a fantastic tale. He concluded that the gospel had to originate in the mind of God himself.

Dallas Willard on Doubt and Teaching

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We [must] listen carefully to those we teach. We encourage every question, and we make it clear that dealing honestly with questions that come up is the only path to a robust and healthy faith. We will never “pooh-pooh” difficulties, or take any problem with anything less than utter seriousness, or direct the slightest reproach or shame on anyone for having questions and doubts. When we don’t honestly know what to say at the time, we will just say so. We will go away and find an answer through study, conversation, and prayer.

J.P. Moreland on Faith

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Throughout church history, theologians have expressed three different aspects of biblical faith: notitia (knowledge), fiducia (trust), and assensus (assent). Notitia refers to the data or doctrinal content of the Christian faith. Assensus denotes the assent of the intellect to the truth of the content of Christian teaching. Note that each of these aspects of faith requires a careful exercise of reason, both in understanding what the teachings of Christianity are and in judging their truthfulness. In this way, reason is indispensable for the third aspect of faith — ducia — which captures the personal application or trust involved in faith, an act that primarily involves the will but includes the affection and intellect too.

J.P. Moreland on Academic Accomodation

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Unfortunately, I have seen too many Christian thinkers who have a certain texture or posture in life that gives the impression that they are far more concerned with assuring their academic colleagues that they are not ignorant fundamentalists than they are with pleasing God and serving His people. Such thinkers often give up too much intellectual real estate far too readily to secular or other perspectives inimical to the Christian faith. This is why many average Christian folk are suspicious of the mind today. All too often, they have seen intellectual growth in Christian academics lead to a cynical posture unfaithful to the spirit of the Christian way. Fidelity to God and His cause is the core commitment of a growing Christian mind.

Ethical Egoism and Biblical Self-Interest

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The Old and New Testaments contain a number of passages that in some way or another associate moral obligation with self-interest in the form of seeking rewards and avoiding punishment. Thus, Exod 20:12 says “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.” Jesus tells us to “seek first His kingdom, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you” (Matt 6:33). On another occasion he warns his listeners that at the end of the age “the angels shall come forth, and take out the wicked from among the righteous, and will cast them into the furnace of fire; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt 13:49-50). Paul states his ambition to be pleasing to the Lord “for we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds. (II Cor 5:10).

J.P. Moreland on Belief

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It is unproductive to try to believe something beyond your grounds for believing it and dishonest to act as if you believe something more strongly than you do. Overbelief is not a virtue. For example, I am far from certain on many Christian beliefs I hold. I lean toward the view that the days of Genesis are vast periods of time and not literal twenty-four-hour periods. But about two days of the week I flip-flop and accept the literal view. Based on my study, I cannot convince myself either way… Other beliefs of mine have grown in certainty over the years — that God really exists, for example. We should be honest with ourselves about the strength of our various beliefs and work on strengthening them by considering the issues relevant to their acceptance.

Philosophers Who Believe

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Eleven American, British, and Canadian philosophers contributed to this collection of essays, addressing the theme of their practice of Christianity. Both the Roman Catholic and various Protestant traditions are included here, but the majority of writers are affiliated with or have been influenced by the philosophy staff at Calvin College and Seminary, Grand Rapids, Michigan. Alvin Plantinga, Mortimer Adler, and John Rist number among the authors, all of whom write well and many of whom write compellingly. However, an overall lack of clear audience focus — some are writing for scholars, some for the convinced, some as though they were addressing the callowest undergraduates — calls into question the usefulness of the volume as a whole. The best place for this in the library may be where undergraduate students browse for relaxation or inspiration. ~ Library Journal

Love Your God With All Your Mind

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Prepare Your Mind For Action. The mind plays an important role in Christianity. Unfortunately, many of us leave our minds behind when it comes to our faith. In Love Your God with All Your Mind, J. P. Moreland presents a compelling case for the role of the mind in spiritual transformation. He challenges us to develop a Christian mind and to use our intellect to further God’s kingdom through evangelism, apologetics, worship, and vocation. "This exploration into the mind of evangelical Christianity is one of the most courageous books of our time. In language that is thoroughly erudite but compassionate, theological but practical, and scriptural but entirely relevant to today, the author presents the deeper significance of Paul’s plea to the Christians at Phillipi: ‘Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus. ‘". ~ From the Publisher

A Realist Conception of Truth

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One of the most important Anglo-American philosophers of our time here joins the current philosophical debate about the nature of truth with a work likely to claim a place at the very center of the contemporary philosophical literature on the subject. William P. Alston formulates and defends a realist conception of truth, which he calls alethic realism (from “aletheia,” Greek for “truth”). This idea holds that the truth value of a statement (belief or proposition) depends on whether what the statement is about is as the statement says it is. Although this concept may seem quite obvious, Alston says, many thinkers hold views incompatible with it — and much of his book is devoted to a powerful critique of those views. Michael Dummett and Hilary Putnam are two of the prominent and widely influential contemporary philosophers whose anti-realist ideas he attacks. Alston discusses different realist accounts of truth, examining what they do and do not imply. He distinguishes his version, which he characterizes as “minimalist,” from various “deflationary” accounts, all of which deny that asserting the truth of a proposition attributes a property of truth to it. He also examines alethic realism in relation to a variety of metaphysical realisms. Finally, Alston argues for the importance — theoretical and practical — of assessing the truth value of statements, beliefs, and propositions. ~ Product Description

In Defense of Miracles

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Geivett and Habermas have collected some of the best available scholars around today to present a case for the actions of God in human history. The book begins with David Hume’s work on miracles along with a response from Antony Flew (the eminent Humean scholar). Then, a barrage of Christian philosophers and theologians tackle the issue of miracles in each chapter. Some of the chapter titles include – “Defining Miracles” (Richard Purtill), “Miracles and the Modern Mind” (Norman L. Geisler), “History and Miracles” (Francis J. Beckwith), “Recognizing a Miracle” (Winfried Corduan), “Science, Miracles, Agency Theory, & the God-of-the-Gaps” (J.P. Moreland), “The Evidential Value of Miracles” (Douglas Geivett), “Miracles in the World Religions” (David K. Clark), “The Incarnation of Jesus Christ” (John S. Feinberg), “The Empty Tomb of Jesus” (William Lane Craig), “The Resurrection Appearances of Jesus” (Gary R. Habermas), and more.

Judith Hayes on Miracles

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If a plane crashes and 99 people die while 1 survives, it is called a miracle. Should the families of the 99 think so?

David James Duncan on Christianity

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Personally I’m not sure just who or what Christ is. I still pray to him in a pinch, but I talk to myself in a pinch too — and I’m getting less and less sure there’s a difference. I used to wish somebody would just tell me what to think about Him. Then along came Elder Babcock, telling and telling, acting like Christ was running for President of the World, and he was His campaign manager, and whoever didn’t get out and vote for the lord at the polls we call churches by casting the votes we call tithes and offerings into the ballot boxes we call offering plates was a wretched turd of a sinner voting for Satan by default. Mama tried to clear up all the confusion by saying that Christ is exactly what the Bible says He is. But what does the Bible say He is? On one page He’s a Word, on the next a bridegroom, then He’s a boy, then a scapegoat, then a thief in the night; read on and he’s the messiah, then oops, he’s a rabbi, and then a fraction — a third of a Trinity — then a fisherman, then a broken loaf of bread. I guess even God, when He’s human, has trouble deciding just what He is.

God and the Philosophers

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Twenty professional philosophers tell how they combine intellectual rigor with religious commitment. Although most of the great philosophers have believed in God, argues Morris , many Americans today reckon that religion and reason are diametrically opposed. With this collection of essays, Morris assembles a cross section of scholars who effectively challenge this assumption. In brief chapters, the philosophers touch on themes such as their upbringing, conversion or religious development, and the ideas and thinkers who have most influenced them (Immanuel Kant, William James, and C.S. Lewis are among the most often mentioned). The general tone, however, is more personal than scholarly. We are treated to insights into the connection between spiritual life and the love of learning, as well as discussions of more obvious philosophical problems such as the nature of objectivity and the rational grounds required for religious assent. Eleanore Stump offers a moving account of how confrontation with the problem of evil can cause us to seek, rather than reject, God. Peter van Inwagen questions the basic assumptions of the Enlightenment, which he believes continue to distort our view of religion. David Shatz speaks of the dual program of Torah and secular studies at New York’s Yeshiva University and of the intense relationship between religion and study in Orthodox Judaism. Morris lets his authors speak for themselves, without attempting to draw together what has been said. Although he provides a broad spectrum of Christian viewpoints, some readers will regret the absence of Islamic and Buddhist perspectives and of any discussion of the classical syntheses of faith and reason, such as that of St. Thomas Aquinas. The honesty and humanity with which these controversial themes are treated make for attractive reading. ~ Kirkus Reviews

Philosophical Apologetics, the Church, and Contemporary Culture

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Moreland defines what he calls philosophical apologetics as "a philosophical activity which has as its goal (or perhaps as its result) the increasing or maintaining of the epistemic justification of a Christian world view in whole or in part." Moreland surveys several varieties of philosophical apologetics and makes the case for philosophy as an essential and specially placed discipline for the effective integration of theology with other sources of knowledge claims. Finally, Moreland suggests several practical ways in which Christians can interact persuasively with the world of ideas that undercut the plausibility and relevance of Christian ideas in contemporary culture. ~ Afterall

Proper Confidence

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Looking to end the divisive conflict tht has raged between Christians who attack each other either as “liberals” or as “fundamentalists”, Newbigin gives a historical account of the roots of this conflict in order to begin laying the foundation for a middle ground that will benefit the Christian faith as a whole and allow Christians to unitedly proclaim the gospel in a pluralistic world. “A masterful demonstration of the bankruptcy of secularism and all forms of Christian accommodation to it.” ~ Books and Culture “This is an important book for pastors and teachers serving in church settings where the temptation to soften the scandal of the cross is present or where the good news, for all its outward acceptance, is thought (deep down) to be a source of embarrassment…. The book is beautifully written, a powerful statement of faith in God, whose incarnation has changed the nature of human life forever and whose call to the church cannot be altered by the temptation to believe that the human being is the center of the universe.” ~ Princeton Seminary Bulletin

Faith and Criticism

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Faith and Criticism addresses a central problem in the church today — the tension between traditionalists and progressives. Traditionalists want above all to hold fast to traditional foundations in belief and ensure that nothing of value is lost, even at the risk of a clash with “modern knowledge.” Progressives are concerned above all to proclaim a faith that is credible today, even at the risk of sacrificing some elements of traditional doctrine. They are often locked in uncomprehending conflict. Basil Mitchell argues that, not only in theology but in any other serious intellectual pursuit, faith and criticism are interdependent. A tradition which is not open to criticism will eventually ossify; and without faith in some established tradition criticism has nothing to fasten upon. This interdependence of faith and criticism has implications for society at large. Religious education can be Christian without ceasing to be critical, and a liberal society can espouse Christian values. ~ Product Description

On Christian Scholarship

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Our general question is: how can our university be a proper Catholic or Christian university? What would such a university be like? This question is a really tough one in three ways. First, as Chuck Wilber and others have pointed out, we have no contemporary 1 models here. We can’t look at Princeton (much as we love and admire it), to see how they do things, as a pattern for us. Indeed, the truth is just the reverse. One lesson to be learned from George Marsden’s talk last time is that Princeton is in an important way a failed project: at one time it was or aimed to be or continues to be a Christian university, just as we do; that aim, sadly enough, was not accomplished. Hence we can’t take Princeton as a model; instead, we must try to learn from its mistakes. Second, if what we want is a Catholic or Christian university, we must, as Nathan Hatch pointed out, dare to be different, to pursue our own path, to take the risks involved in venturing into unmapped and unexplored territory. That isn’t easy; there are enormous pressures towards conformity. (But it is our university, after all, and we don’t have to follow the common herd.) And thirdly, this is a multifarious, many-sided question; it has to be thought about in connection with graduate education as well as undergraduate education; we must think about the need for the kind of conversation mentioned by Craig Lent — both about the need for such a conversation, and about the appropriate topics; we have to think about curricula, about relationships with other universities aimed in the same direction as we, as well as about relationships with universities aimed in different directions; we have to think about how all this bears on hiring policies; we must think about these things and a thousand others.