Is Christianity anti-intellectual? Is it irrational to believe in God or that the Bible is His perfect Word? Here is a list of ten world-class philosophers who are both unashamed Christians and professional intellectuals.
As Nancy R. Pearcey records, Christianity has enjoyed a comeback in academic philosophy circles in America:
Christians now fill graduate programs, occupy key teaching positions, and write important books in the field of analytic philosophy. In 1978 Plantinga helped to found the Society of Christian Philosophers, which now has more than one thousand members and is the largest organized subgroup among American philosophers. As Quentin Smith observes, in other fields, Christians typically compartmentalize their religious convictions from their scholarly work out of fear of committing academic suicide. But “in philosophy, it became, almost overnight, ‘academically respectable’ to argue for theism.”
The influx of Christians into philosophy has even attracted the attention of the popular press. In 1980 Time magazine ran an article titled “Modernizing the Case for God.” It once seemed, the article said, that God had been chased out of heaven by Marx, banished to the unconscious by Freud, and driven out of the empirical world by Darwin. But today, “God is making a comeback.” The most intriguing thing is that this is not happening in churches among ordinary churchgoers “but in the crisp intellectual circles of academic philosophers, where the consensus had long banished the Almighty from fruitful discourse.” Many of today’s brightest philosophers are Christians, and they’re using the best resources of analytic philosophy to argue in defense of theism.
In short, philosophy is being de-secularized. (Saving Leonardo, p. 171)
I have included below some helpful resources by each of the respective philosophers. At the end of the article are links to two further resources for further research.
Firstly, it is important to note that this list is far from exhaustive. All of the philosophers I have chosen to survey are “contemporary” insofar as they were active during the late 20th century and/or the 21st century. Except for one (Norman Geisler), all of them were still alive at the time of writing.
All of the below philosophers have taught at the university level or hold at least one doctorate. More importantly, however, they have made significant contributions to their academic fields.
All of these names are orthodox Christians; they are boldly living out the words of 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (AMP):
For though we walk in the flesh [as mortal men], we are not carrying on our [spiritual] warfare according to the flesh and using the weapons of man. The weapons of our warfare are not physical [weapons of flesh and blood].
Our weapons are divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying sophisticated arguments and every exalted and proud thing that sets itself up against the [true] knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought and purpose captive to the obedience of Christ…
As C.S. Lewis (arguably one of the finest minds of his era) put it:
“Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered.”
While philosophy is not the be-all and end-all of the Christian life, it is encouraging to know that so many Christians are being faithful to God’s calling in their area of life.
1. William Lane Craig, PhD, University of Birmingham, PhD, University of Munich
Craig is best known for his defence of the Kalām Cosmological Argument for the existence of God which, in its propositional form, runs like this:
Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
The universe began to exist.
Therefore, the universe has a cause.
Moreover, Craig argues that one can establish the nature of this “cause” by way of conceptual analysis. Hence, on the basis of the conceptual analysis, he makes the following argument:
The universe has a cause.
If the universe has a cause, then an uncaused, personal Creator of the universe exists who sans (without) the universe is beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless and enormously powerful.
Therefore, an uncaused, personal Creator of the universe exists, who sans the universe is beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless and enormously powerful.
“Perfect as a textbook yet excellent for lay readers, this updated edition builds a positive case for Christianity by applying the latest thought to core theological themes. J. Gresham Machen once said, “False ideas are the greatest obstacles to the reception of the gospel” – which makes apologetics that much more important. Wanting to engage not just academics and pastors but Christian laypeople and seekers, William Lane Craig has revised and updated key sections in this third edition of his classic text to reflect the latest work in astrophysics, philosophy, probability calculus, the arguments for the existence of God, and Reformed epistemology. His approach – that of positive apologetics – gives careful attention to crucial questions and concerns, including: the relationship of faith and reason, the existence of God, the problems of historical knowledge and miracles, the personal claims of Christ, and the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus.”
Alongside his philosophical research into epistemology (the study of knowledge), Plantinga has defended the existence of God in various ways.
Most notably, he defends a form of what is known as the ontological argument, a curious argument by which it is possible to demonstrate the existence of God merely via the possibility of such a being existing.
A being has maximal excellence in a given possible world W if and only if it is omnipotent, omniscient and wholly good in W; and
A being has maximal greatness if it has maximal excellence in every possible world.
It is possible that there is a being that has maximal greatness. (Premise)
Therefore, possibly, it is necessarily true that an omniscient, omnipotent, and perfectly good being exists.
Hence, (by axiom S5) it is necessarily true that an omniscient, omnipotent and perfectly good being exists.
Therefore, an omniscient, omnipotent and perfectly good being exists.
When explaining the ontological argument to my university religious studies class, my atheist philosophy lecturer said that most people reject the argument, but he admitted that no one seems to be able to show how it fails.
Moreover, Plantinga has developed and defended what is known as the Evolutionary argument against Naturalism. Intriguingly, this argument proposes that evolution and naturalism are contradictory and cannot be believed at the same time.
“Leading Christian philosopher Alvin Plantinga probes into what is meant by claims that Christian belief is irrational, and argues powerfully against the claims of the ‘new atheists’. He also refutes several supposed ‘defeaters’ of Christian belief – pluralism, science, evil and suffering. In his widely praised Warranted Christian Belief (Oxford, 2000) Alvin Plantinga discussed in great depth and at great length the question of the rationality, or sensibility, of Christian belief.
In this book Plantinga presents the same ideas in a briefer, more accessible fashion. Recognized worldwide as a leading Christian philosopher, Plantinga probes what exactly is meant by the claim that religious — and specifically Christian — belief is irrational and cannot sensibly be held. He argues that the criticisms of such well-known atheists as Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens are completely wrong. Finally, Plantinga addresses several potential “defeaters” to Christian belief — pluralism, science, evil and suffering — and shows how they fail to successfully defeat rational Christian belief.”
Currently, Habermas is the Distinguished Professor of Apologetics and Philosophy and chairman of the department of philosophy and theology at Liberty University. While he is a qualified philosopher, most of Habermas’ work has consisted in demonstrating the credibility of Jesus’ resurrection.
“In 2004 philosopher Antony Flew, one of the world’s most prominent atheists, publicly acknowledged that he had become persuaded of the existence of God. Not long before that, in 2003, Flew and Christian philosopher Gary Habermas debated at a Veritas Forum at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Habermas, perhaps the world’s leading expert on the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus, made the case for rational belief on the basis of the reliability of the evidence. Flew argued for alternative understandings of the evidence presented.
For two-and-a-half decades Flew and Habermas have been in friendly dialogue about the plausibility of the resurrection and the existence of God. This book presents the full content of their third and final debate, as well as transcripts of the Q and A session with the audience afterward. Also included are a 2004 conversation between Habermas and Flew shortly after Flew’s much-publicized change of position, as well as editor David Baggett’s assessment and analysis of the full history of Habermas and Flew’s interactions.”
While he debated numerous non-Christians on God’s existence, Christian ethics and other aspects of Christian thought, Geisler’s work extended well beyond just the philosophical.
For example, he participated in numerous in-house debates with other Christians. Furthermore, Geisler is known for his magisterial three-volume Systematic Theology.
Particularly outstanding is Geisler’s work on Biblical Inerrancy, something that he stringently affirmed throughout his life. Geisler passed away in 2019.
“All worldviews, including atheism, require faith. Believing anything requires some degree of faith, even if many adherents don’t want to think so. I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist argues that Christianity requires the least faith of all because it is the most reasonable. In a logical, readable, non-technical, engaging style, Norman Geisler and Frank Turek lay out the evidence that the truth about reality is knowable, that God exists, and that the Bible is reliable. In this valuable aid for those interested in examining the reasonableness of the Christian faith, doubters of all sorts will find their objections answered and Christians will find their confidence in the faith strengthened.”
In a fascinating conversation with prominent atheist Bart Ehrman, Swinburne outlined logical Christian responses to the problem of evil. What struck me about the conversation was how analytic and sensible (almost heartless) Swinburne’s responses sounded in light of the more emotional appeals of Erhman.
This puts the lie to any suggestions that the problem of evil constitutes a downright logical problem with Christian thought.
“Richard Swinburne presents a substantially rewritten and updated edition of his most celebrated book. No other work has made a more powerful case for the probability of the existence of God. Swinburne gives a rigorous and penetrating analysis of the most important arguments for theism: the cosmological argument; arguments from the existence of laws of nature and the ‘fine-tuning’ of the universe; from the occurrence of consciousness and moral awareness; and from miracles and religious experience.
He claims that while none of these arguments are deductively valid, they do give inductive support to theism and that, even when the argument from evil is weighed against them, taken together they offer good grounds to support the probability that there is a God. The overall structure of the discussion and its conclusion have been retained for this new edition, but much has been changed in order to strengthen the argumentation and to take account of Swinburne’s subsequent work on the nature of consciousness and the problem of evil, and of the latest philosophical and scientific writing, especially in respect of the laws of nature and the argument from fine-tuning. This is now the definitive version of a classic in the philosophy of religion.”
Considered by many to be the preeminent living Catholic philosopher, Peter Kreeft holds a PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and is a professor of philosophy at both Boston College and The King’s College.
Both prolific and respected, Kreeft’s works include many apologetic works. For example, A Refutation of Moral Relativism, Handbook of Christian Apologetics and Letters to an Athiest.
Moreover, on his website, he includes an article entitled “Twenty Arguments for God’s Existence” in which he summarises various arguments in support of Christianity that he considers convincing.
Besides his positive reasons for God’s existence, Kreeft also strongly contends with supposed arguments against His existence. For instance, in 2013, he gave a talk on the question “Would a Loving God Allow Evil and Suffering?”
Alongside his philosophical and apologetic works, Kreeft has written many works on practical Christian living and theology.
“Here is a concise, informative guide for anyone looking for answers to questions of faith and reason. Peter Kreeft and Ronald K. Tacelli have condensed their popular Handbook of Christian Apologetics, summarizing the foremost arguments for major Christian teachings and offering compelling responses to the most common arguments put forward against Christianity.
In this book you’ll find answers to questions about faith and reason the existence of God creation and evolution predestination and free will miracles the problem of evil Christ and the resurrection the reliability of the Bible life after death heaven and hell salvation and other religions objective truth The Pocket Handbook of Christian Apologetics is the place to begin for people with questions about Christianity.”
Instead, he adopted beliefs that had been held in “explicit contempt” by both “the philosophers responsible for his professional training, and his colleagues in the philosophy department” where he taught.
Besides defending God’s existence, Van Inwagen has also written on topics as diverse as miracles, the problem of evil and the resurrection. Between 2010 and 2013 he was also the President of the Society of Christian Philosophers.
“The problem of evil has challenged religious minds and hearts throughout the ages. Just how can the presence of suffering, tragedy, and wrongdoing be squared with the all-powerful, all-loving God of faith? This book gathers some of the best, most meaningful recent reflections on the problem of evil, with contributions by shrewd thinkers in the areas of philosophy, theology, literature, linguistics, and sociology.
In addition to bringing new insights to the old problem of evil, Christian Faith and the Problem of Evil is set apart from similar volumes by the often-novel approaches its authors take to the subject. Many of the essays pursue classic lines in speculative philosophy, but others address the problem of evil through biblical criticism, the thought of Simone Weil, and the faith of battered women and African American slaves. As a result, this book will interest a wide range of readers.”
Before his doctorate, Moreland studied both theology (at Dallas Theological Seminary) and chemistry (at the University of Missouri); he also served as a bioethicist.
As a prolific writer, Moreland has contributed to almost one hundred books. Due to his scientific background, his research interests often examine materialistic arguments against the existence of the soul.
While at the University of Southern California, Moreland studied for his PhD under Dallas Willard, then professor of philosophy at USC.
Himself a committed Christian, Willard specialised in phenomenology and spiritual formation and impacted a generation of Christian thinkers.
“Rigid adherence to scientism-as opposed to a healthy respect for science-is all too prevalent in our world today. Rather than leading to a deeper understanding of our universe, this worldview actually undermines real science and marginalizes morality and religion.
In this book, celebrated philosopher J. P. Moreland exposes the self-defeating nature of scientism and equips us to recognize scientism’s harmful presence in different aspects of culture, emboldening our witness to biblical Christianity and arming us with strategies for the integration of faith and science-the only feasible path to genuine knowledge.”
While he has a strong interest in philosophy, Walls also engages with other apologetic, theological and inter-denominational issues. For example, he has defended the fact that Jews, Muslims and Christians worship different “Gods”.
Walls has also written on heaven, hell and a protestant view of purgatory. Moreover, he has heavily criticised the Christian soteriological perspective of Calvinism.
“Moral arguments for God’s existence have undergone something of a resurgence in recent years. For quite a while they were out of vogue for a variety of reasons, but recent advances in the philosophy of language and philosophical and natural theology have reinvigorated moral apologetics. This is the first book to consolidate these gains into one coherent treatment, which will rigorously demonstrate to a wide readership how effectively various objections to moral apologetics have been answered.
The authors show how strides in answering the problem of evil, the Euthyphro Dilemma, and epistemic vacuity and arbitrariness challenges to theistic ethics make possible a compelling cumulative moral argument that can greatly contribute to the rational case for God’s existence–and God’s goodness. The authors hope to reach a readership of not just philosophers, apologists, and theologians, but bright college students up through graduate school and beyond. Christians and non-Christians alike, those interested in apologetics, moral theology, atheology, and morality and religious ethics should find the book a significant contribution to their field.”
10. Alexander Pruss, PhD, University of British Columbia, PhD, University of Pittsburgh
While he has conducted significant philosophical work, Alexander Pruss’s first doctorate was actually in mathematics. Currently, he is the director of graduate studies in philosophy at Baylor University.
Beyond Christian philosophy, Pruss has also defended Christian sexual ethics in his book One Body: An Essay in Christian SexualEthics.
In a popular short video, Pruss questioned Dr Craig on his cosmological argument, drawing on his mathematical expertise and philosophical training to do so.
I find this exchange encouraging as it constitutes two incredibly capable Christian thinkers refining each other’s thinking through respectful discourse (Proverbs 27:17). It demonstrates just how much depth there is to Christian philosophy today and how capable the Christian philosophical movement has become.
“Actuality, Possibility and Worlds is an exploration of the Aristotelian account that sees possibilities as grounded in causal powers. On his way to that account, Pruss surveys a number of historical approaches and argues that logicist approaches to possibility are implausible. The notion of possible worlds appears to be useful for many purposes, such as the analysis of counterfactuals or elucidating the nature of propositions and properties. This usefulness of possible worlds makes for a second general question.
Are there any possible worlds and, if so, what are they? Are they concrete universes as David Lewis thinks, Platonic abstracta as per Robert M. Adams and Alvin Plantinga, or maybe linguistic or mathematical constructs such as Heller thinks? Or is perhaps Leibniz right in thinking that possibilia are not on par with actualities and that abstracta can only exist in a mind, so that possible worlds are ideas in the mind of God?”
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