Saturday, April 30, 2011

What is a Library?

"Study to show yourself approved"--The Apostle Paul.

My spies tell me that a theological library, with which I am well acquainted, is often found with "students" gazing at their laptops. Are they writing a paper on the New Testament or theology or even philosophy? No they are not. They are watching films.

Portable communication technologies have broken down the sense of sacred space, of a dedicated environment set aside for one set of purposes. Thus, people play on cell phones in church, gaze at hand-held devices during meals (so much for conviviality), and entertain themselves in a library.

Libraries are meant to be places of study, learning, and reflection. No other such places bear so many books, magazines, journals, and the like. One goes there to be there, this sanctuary for knowledge. Or so it once was.

Now libraries have been largely leveled by a mentality, a sensibility that assumes and demands that every place is a play station. Thus, I need to adjust myself to an environment according to an historic discipline. Rather, I am the environment--one that I can endless divert through my portable toys: laptops, cell phones, and the like.

Because of this intellectually-impoverished sensibility, I banned the use of laptops in my classrooms. As a professor, I can control and audit this environment, this place for teaching and learning. Sadly, I cannot exercise this authority at the Denver Seminary library. However, responsible students may choose to police themselves.

Friday, April 29, 2011


Technological modification,

Technological recrimination,
I was very sad to hear that David Wilkerson died in a car crash Wednesday evening. Rev. Wilkerson was a bold and uncompromising minister of the Gospel, who had a passionate heart for the last, the lost, and the least. I have read many of his sermons and been deeply touched and encouraged by them.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

C.S. Lewis on Humility

Thousands of humans have been brought to think that humility means pretty women trying to believe they are ugly and clever men trying to believe they are fools...God wants to bring the man to a state of mind in which he could design the best cathedral in the world, and know it to be the best, and rejoice in the fact, without being any more (or less) or otherwise glad at having done it than he would be if it had been done by another. God wants him, in the end, to be so free from any bias in his own favor that he can rejoice in his own talents as frankly and gratefully as in his neighbor's talents—or in a sunrise, an elephant, or a waterfall. He wants each man, in the long run, to be able to recognize all creatures (even himself) as glorious and excellent things. He wants to kill their animal self-love as soon as possible; but it is His long-term policy, I fear, to restore to them a new kind of self-love—a charity and gratitude for all selves, including their own. C. S. Lewis (Screwtape Letters)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

We May Have Room for This in My Forthcoming Book

Glossary for Christian Apologetics

Abduction: An argument form that trades on giving the best explanation for a state of affairs, given the appropriate criteria. This is sometimes called “the inference to the best explanation.” (Some view abduction as a form of induction; others put it in a unique category of inference.) In one sense, Christian apologetics is abductive in its overall method: it attempts to give the best explanation for reality on the basis of Christian theism.

Actual infinite: the theoretical concept a completed totality of items without limit. Used as part of the kalam cosmological argument.

Agnosticism: Pertaining to theism, the belief that one cannot be sure as to the existence of God.

Apologetics: the intellectual discipline of presenting the Christian worldview as objective true, rationally compelling, and existentially pertinent to all of life.

Compatiblism: regarding human agency, the claim that human responsibility is compatible with divine determination of the acts of human agents.

Cumulative Case Argument: A strategy of using various lines of evidence to support a conclusion. In apologetics, this method encompasses arguments from natural theology as well as historical and anthropological evidence.

Deduction: argument form whereby the truth of the premises render the conclusion true. See modus ponens and modus tolens.

Epistemology: the philosophical discipline of examining the sources, scope, and meaning of knowledge; sometimes called “the theory of knowledge.”

Ethical Relativism: the claim that moral truth is relative to the culture or to individual

Evidentialism: in apologetics, the method of arguing inductively from the facts of history (particularly that of Christ and his resurrection) directly to the truth of the Christian worldview.

Ex nihilo: Latin phrase. Out of nothing, as in “creation out of nothing.”

Fideism: The idea that religious truth claims cannot be supported by reason and evidence, but that the believer need not provide any rational support for these religious truths.

Inclusivism: The claim that while Christ is the only agent of salvation, people may be redeemed apart from a specific faith in Jesus Christ.

Induction: An argument form whereby the truth of the premises make the conclusion likely, but not certain.

Ineffability: the state of not being describable by concepts or proposition. If X is ineffable (such as the Hindu concept of Nirguna Brahman), nothing intelligible can be affirmed about X.

Intelligent Design (ID): the scientific research program that argues that certain aspects of nature are better explained on the basis of a designing intelligence than by some non-intelligent causation.

Libertarianism: concerning human agency, the claim that for human will to be free, it must be self-determining and not determined by God (or any other outside factor).

Materialism: the philosophical claim that only physical properties and entities exist. Sometimes used synonymously with naturalism.

Metaphysics: the philosophical disciplining of examining the existence and nature of things, whether God, humans, matter, etc.

Modus ponens: Latin phrase. To affirm the antecedent of a deductive argument: If P, then Q; P; therefore: Q.

Modus tolens: Latin phrase. TO deny the consequent of a deductive argument: If P, then Q; not-Q; therefore: not-P.

Natural theology: the rational project of arguing from some aspect of nature to existence of God as the best explanation for that aspect of nature; roughly synonymous with theistic arguments or theistic proofs.

Necessary Being: A being whose existence is logically necessary, i.e., God.

Nihilism: the perspective that reality is meaningless and absurd, lacking in any objective value or purpose.

Nondualism: the belief that reality is one and indivisible; synonymous with monism.

Nonrealism: the claim that there is no objective reality; all is interpretation.

Numinous experience: A religious experience of a personal, holy, and frightening being.

Ontology: the study of being; roughly synonymous with metaphysics.

Pantheism: worldview claiming that everything that exists is divine; but the pantheistic concept of deity is non-personal, not personal as is the case with Christian theism.

Particularism: A position on salvation that argues that, all things being equal, one must have faith in Jesus Christ in order to be redeemed.

Perennialism: the claim that all religions teach essentially the same thing at their esoteric core. This is usually taken to be nondualism.

Polytheism: the worldview that affirms a plurality of finite deities.

Possible world: a description of a set of facts that would make up a hypothetical world; a a maximally consistent set of propositions. The actual world is also a possible world.

Postmodernism: In relation to philosophy, a cluster of philosophies claiming that truth is relative to cultures or individuals; truth thus dissolves into language games, forms of life, and power plays.

Potential infinite: a series of entities (events, numbers, etc.) which ever increases, but never reaches an upper limit.

Principle of sufficient reason: Coined by Leibniz, roughly the idea that for any positive state of affairs there is an adequate explanation for why that state of affairs exists.

Qualia: Irreducibly subjective experiences of seeing colors, hearing sounds, tasting things, and so on; first-person events in minds not reducible to third-person descriptions.

Realism: The claim that objective reality is at least partially knowable.

Reductio ad absurdum: Latin phrase. To reduce an argument or proposition to absurdity, thus showing the original argument or proposition itself to be absurd and thus false.

Reformed Epistemology: a broad philosophical movement led by Alvin Plantinga that claims that natural theology and other forms of apologetics are not necessary for one to have a warranted belief in the Christian worldview, since one can hold such beliefs in a “properly basic manner”—that is, apart from evidence.

Religious pluralism: either the merely descriptive claim that there are several religions functioning in any given society at one time or the normative claim that all the major world religions are equally salvific. John Hick is a principle spokesperson for this view.

Specified complexity: A concept used in intelligent design arguments to indicate a state of affairs that is both improbable and specified. If something is an example of specified complexity, it is the product of a designing intelligence and cannot be accounted for by any naturalistic or otherwise impersonal causation.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Neil Postman

"Media may now be serving as a surrogate for reality, and a preferred one at that. At stadiums throughout the country, huge TV screens have been installed so that spectators can experience the game through TV because TV is better than being there, even when you are there." -Neil Postman (1979)

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.

Sunday, April 17, 2011


Note to preachers: Do not say, "Well, I'm not a theologian" or make other self-deprecating remarks about your knowledge of the Bible. You should not do this because you are either (A) incompetent if the remark is true or (B) putting on humble airs if it is false. Preach the Bible, not your own feelings.

Christianity and Philosophy

I am speaking at the Tivioli on the Auraria campus in Denver on April 19 at 7:00 PM on "Christianity and Philosophy: Strangers, Enemies, or Friends?" in room 440. Free pizza will be provided. This is sponsored by Auraria Master Plan Ministries.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Leaving Dirt Place

Please read the advertisement for Jonah Haddad's book, Leaving Dirt Place: Love as an Apologetic for Christianity, to which I wrote the foreword.

Here is something from that foreword:

"While humans speak of love, yearn for love, give love, receive love, and have their hearts broken (and break other hearts) by the manifold betrayals of love, the very fact of love is often unexplained or (worse yet) explained away by philosophies that cannot bear its bittersweet weight. Haddad, however, does not shrink from this daunting task, but rather marshals the theological and philosophical resources required to set forth a compelling case that only the Christian vision of existence can give love its proper meaning, value, and significance—even (or especially) amidst all the tears, blood, and fears of a world 'east of Eden.'"
—from the Foreword by Do
uglas Groothuis

Science Gone Wild

Here is my letter to The Chronicle of Higher Education defending Intelligent Design. Comments are closed since I know that the usual suspects will hurl their ad hominem attacks. You have to scroll down a bit to find it.

Michele Bachmann

This is the woman who should be the next President.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

McLuhan on Technology

We will eventually become the reproductive organs for "our" technologies--paraphrase from Marshall McLuhan from about 1970. Read his Understanding Media and the recent book on him by Douglas Coupland, You Know Nothing of my Work--unless you want to "sleep walk" through history (another McLuhanism), as most do.

The First Black Airmen

Although I support the federal government defunding NPR (on principle), I do, even as a conservative, appreciate some of their program, material you would not likely find elsewhere. (They are very good at covering jazz, for example.) Today's program on the first African-American fighter pilot unit, which fought in WW II was gripping. I highly encourage you to listen to it and be thankful for these brave men.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Question for Rob Bell

Mr. Bell:

From a careful reading of Love Wins, it seems to me that you affirm three logical inconsistent propositions:

1. God saves everyone, because God wants all to be saved, and God get what he wants. No one goes to hell.
2. Everyone is not saved, because God gives us freedom to rebel against him. Some go to hell.
3. We don't know whether or not everyone will be saved. We don't know if anyone goes to hell.

Since statements (1) and (2) are contradictory, only one of them can be true. If statement (3) is true, we cannot know whether statement (1) is true or statement (2) is true.

So, what do you, in fact, believe?

Douglas Groothuis

Loftus and Groothuis

Atheist John Loftus has agreed to let me make some comments after his lecture in Denver on April 29 at the Tivoli at the Auraria campus in downtown Denver. This is put on by the Metro State Atheists club.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

"Hey Physics, Get Real"

In "Hey Physics, Get Real," published in The Chronicle of Higher Education, science writer, John Horgan, rightly complains that theories in physics are getting out of control by invoking multiple universes and the like. Yet he takes the mandatory pot-shot at Intelligent Design as pseudo-science. Thus, I wrote this letter to the publication:

Dear Editor:

In his otherwise astute article “Hey Physics, Get Real,” John Horgan dismisses Intelligent Design in one sentence as “pseudo-science,” but fails to realize that the bizarre and baroque theories in physics which he rightly criticizes—those appealing to multiple universes in various forms—are invoked precisely to avoid the conclusion that our universe, given its exquisite and multi-dimensional fine-tuning, is designed. For these materialist thinkers it is better to arbitrarily multiply unlimited and undetectable multiverses—all wrought by chance—than to acknowledge one universe designed by a trans-cosmic mind. Horgan to the contrary, the appeal to one designing mind to explain our one universe is a simple, elegant, and legitimate scientific theory, since it appeals to a mass of empirical facts from which design emerges as the best explanation. This kind of reasoning--design detection through inference to the best explanation—is fruitfully employed throughout science (SETI, archaeology, forensics, cryptography, etc.), but is arbitrarily barred from ultimate explanation in physics. The design inference need not conger up alien and unknown universes to rescue an ontology of comprehensive fortuity. As such, it deserves more respect that what Horgan accords it.


Douglas Groothuis

Tuesday, April 05, 2011