Presenting a reasonable faith in an age of unreason…

Craig--Wm Lane

It is an unlikely story in an unlikely publication.


The story is unlikely since it’s about a Christian philosopher.  Except in a small subset of evangelicalism, Christian philosophers are rare indeed!  And among secular philosophers, the idea of a Christian philosopher is a contradiction, something of an oxymoron.


The Chronicle of Higher Education is an unlikely publication to run a story about an evangelical philosopher.  It is the leading source of news, information and job listings for those in the college and university community. 


To their credit, the Chronicle did an evenhanded job in profiling philosopher and apologist William Lane Craig:  “The New Theist:  How William Lane Craig became Christian philosophy’s boldest apostle.”  Here are a few highlights—the entire article is linked below.


On debates with the New Atheists:


During a sold-out debate with New Atheist author Sam Harris at Notre Dame in 2011, “Harris called Craig ‘the one Christian apologist who seems to have put the fear of God into many of my fellow atheists.’”


On Craig’s current professional life (as the holder of two earned doctorates, one in philosophy and one in theology):


Well-publicized atheists like Dawkins and Harris are closer to being household names than William Lane Craig is, but within the subculture of evangelical Christians interested in defending their faith rationally, he has had a devoted following for decades. Many professional philosophers know about him only vaguely, but in the field of philosophy of religion, his books and articles are among the most cited. And though he works mainly from his home, in suburban Marietta, Ga., he holds a faculty appointment at Biola University, an evangelical stronghold on the southeastern edge of Los Angeles County and home to one of the largest philosophy graduate programs in the world.


On the revival of Christian philosophy:


Significant cracks in [the secular] consensus [in philosophy] didn’t begin appearing until the 1960s and 1970s, especially thanks to the work of Alvin Plantinga, a young philosopher who leveraged the cutting-edge modal logic and epistemology of the time to argue that Christian belief wasn’t so manifestly unreasonable as his predecessors had claimed. Along with his lifelong friend Nicholas Wolterstorff, who has spent much of his career writing and teaching at Yale, Plantinga engineered a stunning revival of philosophy in a Christian key, largely through the vehicle of the Society of Christian Philosophers. Following his lead, many more philosophers became braver about articulating Christian faith in arguments, and together they’ve amassed an arsenal more formidable than many outsiders, whether professional philosophers or laypeople, realize.


On the graduates of Biola’s philosophy/apologetics program:


Along the narrow basement hallway that was home to the Biola philosophy master’s program when I sat in on Craig’s class in 2011, there was a map of the United States on the wall. On it were labels with the names of universities you’ve heard of—Notre Dame, Cornell, Rutgers—and some you probably haven’t. The labels were fastened by pins in three colors. Blue signified alumni enrolled in doctoral programs. Red meant programs where alums had been accepted, and yellow meant where they held full-time teaching jobs. There were several more pins in the Atlantic Ocean: Oxford, King’s College, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.


On the vision of Biola’s philosophy/apologetics program:


“My goal is for Christian theism as a worldview to be articulated cogently and persuasively in the academy,” says Scott Rae, an ethicist who co-founded the master’s program in the early 1990s. The purpose of the program was not simply to train evangelical Christian students for evangelical Christian schools, but to send those students off to doctoral programs, and eventually professorships, at leading secular universities. “We figured if we ended up with 30 or 40 students, and maybe we sent 20 of them to Ph.D.’s before we retired, that’d be awesome,” Rae added. “The thing just snowballed.”


The program’s other founder, J.P. Moreland, was already in high demand as an author and speaker on apologetics, in addition to being a philosopher of mind. Rae and Moreland invited William Lane Craig to join their team, though he comes to the campus only for brief, intensive courses in the fall and winter. Before long they were attracting more than 100 master’s students at a time (including women, generally, in only single digits); as many as 150 have continued on to further graduate work. Despite having only a handful of faculty, perhaps no philosophy master’s program in the English-speaking world enrolls so many students and, even if by that measure alone, few can claim to be so influential in shaping the next generation of analytic philosophers.


On making a difference in the academy and the culture:


In a now-decade-old lecture, “Advice to Christian Apologists,” Craig outlined his view of the university as “the single most important institution shaping Western culture.” He argued that it’s a lot easier for people throughout the society to accept Christ as their savior if Christianity appears reasonable in higher education, if the academic conversation takes it seriously, and if there are Christian professors to serve as role models. The Biola master’s program is thus a strategic intervention designed to resound everywhere.


“In order to change the university, we must do scholarly apologetics,” he reasoned. “In order to do scholarly apologetics, we must earn doctorates. It’s that simple.”


Nathan Schneider ends his Chronicle article, “The New Theist,” with this assessment of Craig’s philosophical and apologetics project.


Philosophy was never supposed to be a narrow discipline, fortified from the argumentative swells of the agora by specialization and merely professional ambitions. That was for the Sophists whom Socrates regaled against. Philosophy was supposed to serve the polis, to educate and embolden its young, to raise up leaders. Whether one likes their preconceived conclusions or not, today it is evangelical Christians, with William Lane Craig in the lead, who are doing so better than just about anyone else.




The rest of “The New Theist:  How William Lane Craig became Christian philosophy’s boldest apostle” can be found here.  More on William Lane Craig, his writing and his ministry, Reasonable Faith, can be found here.




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