Future of Evangelicalism
Trajectories in Philosophy and Apologetics
Today this revolution is ongoing, as its pioneers pass the torch to a new generation of talented and eager Christian philosophers. Smith even estimated that one-quarter to one-third of philosophers in America are theists, most of them Christians. The Society of Christian Philosophers and the Evangelical Philosophical Society (with their respective journals, Faith and Philosophy and Philosophia Christi) are stellar examples of vibrant, growing academic societies. The recently published volumes The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology and The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Religion -- with ample contributions from evangelical Christians -- are some of the more recent instances of this turnabout.
Fortified by scientific discoveries such as the Big Bang (indicating the universe's absolute beginning) and the astonishing biofriendliness of the universe, arguments for the existence and nature of God apart from special revelation (i.e., natural theology) are being taken quite seriously in scholarly and popular discourse. Noted philosopher William Wainwright says that the current situation is different than fifty years ago: "Important philosophers are now prepared to defend arguments for God's existence. Many argue that traditional concepts of the divine are not only meaningful but are also superior to alternatives. In their opinion, classical theistic metaphysics is still viable." Since false ideas are the greatest obstacle to the reception of the gospel, as theologian Gresham Machen once argued, natural theological arguments can be preparatory for the reception of the good news: God's Spirit can use such arguments to show the plausibility of belief in God, enabling the gospel message to gain intellectual footholds where it otherwise would not.
The effects of this remarkable renaissance of Christian philosophy are now making themselves felt on the non-academic level, as popularizers and apologists distill the academic work of professional Christian philosophers and make it accessible to a laity hungering for answers to the tide of secularism they feel rising around them. Academic apologetics work has served as an important bridge between high-level philosophical discussions and the translational work of local apologetics organizations and training centers. Thanks in large part to the vision of Talbot School of Theology's graduate program in philosophy of religion/ethics and Biola's apologetics program, scores of graduates have been prepared not only for Ph.D.s in philosophy at numerous prestigious universities; many more are engaged in apologetic ministries, church leadership positions, or simply as laypersons bringing a more thoughtful Christianity to their churches and workplaces. Consider these other encouraging signs:
- the remarkable popular response to the apologetical Case books by Lee Strobel;
- high-profile debates by William Lane Craig and Dinesh D'Souza;
- the Evangelical Philosophical Society's annual apologetics conferences and other such gatherings;
- the flourishing of many ministries like RZIM (Ravi Zacharias), Stand To Reason (Greg Koukl), Reasons To Believe (Hugh Ross), and Reasonable Faith (William Craig), which are equipping laypeople here and around the world to defend the Christian faith in the marketplace of ideas;
- the trickle-down apologetic benefits of biblical scholars such as N.T. Wright, Ben Witherington, Craig Keener, Rick Hess, and Darrell Bock; and
- various other seminaries now offering masters degrees in philosophy of religion and apologetics.