Trajectories in Philosophy and Apologetics

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:

If this transfer of goods from the ivory tower to the pew continues (and it shows every sign of gathering momentum rather than abating), then the next major revival of evangelical Christianity, as strange as it may sound, may well come through the intellectual re-engagement of the church, as her people discover sound arguments for Christian faith and answers to the objections lodged against it -- and so, strengthened by the conviction that Christianity is not just "true for them" but objectively true for all, become emboldened, winsome, and intelligent witnesses for Christ in a decaying culture.

Paul Copan is professor of philosophy and ethics at Palm Beach Atlantic University in Florida and the current president of the Evangelical Philosophical Society. He is the author and editor of many books, he maintains a lively website, and he blogs regularly at Parchment and Pen. Look for Dr. Copan's forthcoming book in January, Is God a Moral Monster? Making Sense of the Old Testament God (Baker).

William Lane Craig is the Research Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology in La Mirada, CA, and he is the founder of the religious nonprofit ministry, Craig has authored or co-edited over thirty books, dozens of journal articles and he most recently published a beginner's introduction to apologetics, titled, On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision (David C. Cook Publishers, 2009).

8/4/2010 4:00:00 AM
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