Despite Bad News, Evangelical Philosophy Is Flourishing

Michael W. Austin is the president of the Evangelical Philosophical Society. He teaches philosophy at Eastern Kentucky University and his latest book is God and Guns in America.

Philosophy is vital for Christians today. It equips us to love God with our hearts and minds. It teaches us to think well and cultivate Christian character. It helps us to understand the history of the faith and the development of foundational doctrines, such as the Trinity and the Incarnation. And it enables us to engage the culture.

As C. S. Lewis put it, “Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered.” I would add that good philosophy must also exist to help us to pursue goodness, truth, and beauty, which are all grounded in the nature of our great God.

My experience studying philosophy at Talbot School of Theology continues to shape me not only as a philosophy professor, but as a member of my local church, husband, father, soccer coach, and friend. Whatever intellectual and moral virtues I possess, I owe in large part to my training in philosophy.

That’s why I was dismayed to hear that Liberty University has dissolved its philosophy department. What terrible news for the five excellent scholars and teachers who will no longer be employed as of June 30; for the students who will miss out on the transformative experience of studying philosophy at a Christian school; and for the American church, which needs more evangelicals trained in philosophy, not fewer.

Any university worthy of the name—especially a Christian one—needs philosophers to do what they do in the classroom and beyond. As Baylor University’s Francis Beckwith put it:

Liberty’s decision reflects something of a trend in higher education. Philosophy and other fields in the humanities aren’t seen by some as essential to a university education. People mistakenly think graduates in these fields are unable to find gainful employment, even though the data show otherwise, and they completely disregard the role philosophy and the humanities can play in the spiritual growth of students, regardless of their major.

As the president of the Evangelical Philosophical Society, I’m disappointed when Christians don’t see the value in the pursuit of the good, the true, and the beautiful. But I also see a picture broader than the most recent news of a department closing. While the prospects of philosophy departments are grim in some cases, evangelical philosophy is also flourishing.

There has been a renaissance in Christian philosophy since the 1960s, and evangelical philosophers have been a significant part of this movement. Christian philosophers like Alvin Plantinga, Eleonore Stump, Robert and Marilyn Adams, and William Alston were instrumental. Evangelical philosophers like William Lane Craig, J. P. Moreland, Doug Geivett, and Jerry Walls have been a part of it as well.

Now a new generation of evangelicals continues this work, both in the United States and around the world. Evangelical philosophy is flourishing at places like Biola University, Houston Baptist University, and Tyndale University, to name just a few.

Seminary students can receive a top-notch philosophical education at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Denver Seminary, or Talbot School of Theology. Palm Beach Atlantic University has just announced a new Master of Arts degree in philosophy of religion, opening in the fall of 2021.

Evangelical philosophers also publish in all areas of philosophy. The Evangelical Philosophical Society has numerous conferences around the United States every year, with hundreds of scholars and apologists in attendance. The society’s journal, Philosophia Christi, publishes excellent philosophical work by evangelicals, other Christians, and our secular colleagues.

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Source: Christianity Today