Monday, April 18, 2011

Outline for Tomorrow's Talk at the Tivoli

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D. Professor of Philosophy, Denver Seminary

Christianity and Philosophy: Strangers, Enemies, or Friends?

I. Christianity, Philosophy, and Me

A. Initial exposure to philosophy in college as a nonChristian

B. Conversion and reengagement of philosophy, largely through reading Francis Schaeffer, The God Who is There (InterVarsity Press, 1968)

C. My profession as a Christian philosopher

II. Definitions: Philosophy and Christianity

A. Philosophy: the rational search for the most important truths in epistemology, metaphysics, and ethics

B. Christianity: set of truth claims about God, humanity, salvation, morality, history, and the afterlife (worldview or philosophy of life)

Creation (Genesis 1-2), fall (Genesis 3; Romans 3), redemption (John 3; Romans 1-8)

III. Christianity and Philosophy as Strangers

A. Fideism:

1. Faith as utterly different from reason

2. Items of Christian belief are alien to an impervious to claims of philosophy. Some aspects of Soren Kierkegaard’s thought.

3. Way of protecting Christian beliefs from critical evaluation

B. Against fideism

1. Bible verses used to support it fail: Colossians 2:8; 1 Corinthians 1-2

2. Scripture encourages critical thinking about biblical truth claims (Isaiah 1:18; Matthew 22:37-50; 1 Peter 3:15-17; Acts 17:16-34).

IV. Christianity and Philosophy as Enemies

A. Some secular philosophers

1. Faith as utterly different from and opposed to reason (Sam Harris, The End of Faith)

2. Faith as positive irrational, lacking in rational support (Bertrand Russell, Why I am Not a Christian)

3. No good arguments for God’s existence or Christian theism

B. Response

1. Biblically, faith and reason are not anti-ethical. See J.P. Moreland, Love Your God with all your Mind (NavPress, 1997)

2. Many biblical examples of believers in God making a case for their beliefs as true and rational (Apostle Paul: Acts 17:16-34)

3. Christians have affirmed the value of philosophy throughout history: Augustine, St. Anselm, Thomas Aquinas, Blaise Pascal, John Locke, C.S. Lewis, Alvin Plantinga, William Lane Craig (debates), J.P. Moreland, etc.

4. Resurgence of Christians in philosophy in the last thirty-five years. See Thomas V. Morris, ed., God and the Philosophers; Kelly James Clark, ed., Philosophers Who Believe. Journals: Faith and Philosophy; Philosophia Christi (well-respected philosophy journal).

V. Christianity and Philosophy as Friends

A. Against fideism (strangers) and secular philosophers (enemies)

B. Jesus as a philosopher (See Doug Groothuis, On Jesus)

1. God and the state (Matthew 22:15-23)

2. Jesus had a coherent worldview: personal theism. See On Jesus, chapters 4-7.

C. Philosophical arguments for God’s existence (Psalm 19:1-6; Romans 1:18-21)

1. Types of theistic arguments (or natural theology): ontological, cosmological, design, moral, religious experience, etc.

The argument from reason (Alvin Plantinga, Richard Taylor): one of many arguments that make up a cumulative case for the truth of the Christian worldview.

1. If materialism is true, we cannot trust our cognitive faculties because they were not designed to know the world.

2. Our cognitive capacities are basically trustworthy.

3. Therefore (a), materialism is false. By modus tolens.

4. Therefore (b), we need another worldview to support our cognitive faculties.

5. Theism supports our cognitive faculties since it claims that God designed them to know ourselves, the world, and God (Genesis 1-2; Psalm 8; 94:8-10)

VI. Philosophy and Biblical Revelation

A. Unaided reason is limited in its abilities and worldview (Colossians 2:9)

B. Biblical revelation fills in and corrects what we can know otherwise (Deuteronomy 29:29; 2 Timothy 3:15-16)

VII. Conclusion: Think Well to Pursue Truth

A. Christianity and philosophy should be friends

1. Christian worldview is rationally supportable (1 Peter 3:15-16)

2. Other worldviews are rationally insufficient (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)

B. Pursue this for yourself: ask, seek, knock (Jesus, Matthew 7:7)

Thus wishing to appear openly to those who seek him [God] with all their heart and hidden from those who shun him with all their heart, he has qualified our knowledge of him by giving signs which can be seen by those who seek him and not by those who do not.

‘There is enough light for those who desire only to see, and enough darkness for those of a contrary disposition’ (Blaise Pascal, Pensées, 149/430).


1. Francis Beckwith, et al, eds. To Everyone an Answer (InterVarsity Press, 2004). Collection of essays defending Christianity philosophically. Includes an essay by Doug Groothuis on truth.

2. Douglas Groothuis, Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Christian Faith (InterVarsity, August, 2011). Twenty-eight chapters, 720 pages.

3. Douglas Groothuis web page:

4. C.S. Lewis, Miracles. See chapter three, “The Cardinal Difficulty for Naturalism.” This argument is related to the one give above.

5. J.P. Moreland and William Lane Craig, Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview (InterVarsity Press, 2003. See especially, chapter one, “What is Philosophy?”

6. James Sennett and Douglas Groothuis, eds., In Defense of Natural Theology (InterVarsity Press, 2005). Challenges the claim that David Hume destroyed natural theology. Chapter by Groothuis.

7. James Sire, The Universe Next Door, 5th ed. (InterVarsity, 2009). Explains the idea of a worldview and compares the Christian worldview with pertinent contenders for truth.

8. John Piper, Think (Crossway, 2010). Most of this book addresses biblical passages wrongly taken to advocate anti-intellectualism.

9. Alvin Plantinga, Warranted Christian Belief (Oxford, 2000), pp. 227-240.

10. Victor Reppert, C. S. Lewis’s Dangerous Idea (InterVarsity, 2002). Develops and updates C.S. Lewis’s argument from reason.

11. Lee Strobel, The Case for a Creator (Zondervan, 2004). Presents scientific and philosophical arguments for God’s existence. See also the DVD.


Steve Ruble said...

How did you go about establishing point V.C.1.2? Not that I disagree, but it seems to me that making such a claim presupposes that there is a way to find out whether our cognitive faculties are trustworthy... which is kind of the point of the argument, right? I mean, you can't say that you know our cognitive faculties are trustworthy because you assume they were designed to know the world - that would be a rather peculiar form of justification! So there must be some evidence you think we can gather which demonstrates the trustworthiness of our cognitive faculties... but if such evidence can be gathered, what need do we have for an additional "worldview to support our cognitive faculties"? If we can make claim V.C.1.2, we must already have one!

Douglas Groothuis said...

If you are a total skeptic, the argument will not move you. But there are good arguments against total skepticism, given by Augustine, Pascal, etc.

But if you do trust your cognitive abilities, other things must be true about the world for you to so trust them. I am playing off of Plantinga's basic argument, with some help from Richard Taylor and lots of quote from naturalists who find no reason to believe that natural selection selects for truth. Here I mean Patricia Churchland, Richard Rorty, Steven Pinkar and others.

Douglas Groothuis said...

Steve Ruble said...

Well, if you decide to be a total skeptic about your cognitive abilities, no argument will move you. But most people - including me - are not total skeptics about their cognitive abilities, because there are things about the world that lead us to generally trust our cognitive abilities: most importantly, there is a usually reliable correlation between what we believe and what we experience to be the case. It doesn't, obviously, have anything to do with natural selection; it's just that we do, in fact, experience the reliability of our faculties every day. If we didn't have such experiences, that would be a defeater for belief that our cognitive faculties are reliable... but the fact that we routinely have such experiences is, trivially, a defeater for any claim that they aren't.

Given that fact, I don't see why we would need any other things to be true about the world before we could trust them. We don't even need a reason to believe that natural selection - in general - "selects for truth", since it's obvious that in our particular case it did. (Although, obviously (again), natural selection will select for belief-forming methods that correctly model the actual environment, because those belief forming methods are the only ones with a better than random chance of generating appropriate behaviors for a given pairing of desire and environment - something that Plantinga seems to have overlooked.)