Philosopher and theologian, William Lane Craig, has frequently made reference to the turn of events in philosophy over the past 40 years.  What was once a very secularized field has been “invaded” by theists.  As evidence of this phenomenon, consider what atheist philosopher, Quentin Smith, had to say in the journal Philo:

By the second half of the twentieth century, universities and colleges had been become in the main secularized. … Analytic philosophers (in the mainstream of analytic philosophy) treated theism as an antirealist or non-cognitivist world-view, requiring the reality, not of a deity, but merely of emotive expressions…. The secularization of mainstream academia began to quickly unravel upon the publication of [Alvin] Plantinga’s influential book on realist theism, God and Other Minds, in 1967. It became apparent to the philosophical profession that this book displayed that realist theists were not outmatched by naturalists in terms of the most valued standards of analytic philosophy: conceptual precision, rigor of argumentation, technical erudition, and an in-depth defense of an original world-view. … [T]oday perhaps one-quarter or one-third of philosophy professors are theists, with most being orthodox Christians. … God is not “dead” in academia; he returned to life in the late 1960s and is now alive and well in his last academic stronghold, philosophy departments.[1]

In other words, the intellectual respectability of theism was resurrected.  Theism was rational after all (even if [as Quentin thinks] it is ultimately false), and formed a beachhead against secularism in university philosophy departments.  What I find interesting, however, is the response of naturalists.  According to Smith

the great majority of naturalist philosophers react by publicly ignoring the increasing desecularizing of philosophy (while privately disparaging theism, without really knowing anything about contemporary analytic philosophy of religion) and proceeding to work in their own area of specialization as if theism, the view of approximately one-quarter or one-third of their field, did not exist. … [N]aturalist scientists…are so innocent of any understanding of the philosophy of religion that they do not even know that they are innocent of this understanding, as it witnessed by their popular writings on science and religion.[2]

And again,

If each naturalist who does not specialize in the philosophy of religion (i.e., over ninety-nine percent of naturalists) were locked in a room with theists who do specialize in the philosophy of religion, and if the ensuing debates were refereed by a naturalist who had a specialization in the philosophy of religion, the naturalist referee could at most hope the outcome would be that “no definite conclusion can be drawn regarding the rationality of faith,” although I expect the most probable outcome is that the naturalist, wanting to be a fair and objective referee, would have to conclude that the theists definitely had the upper hand in every single argument or debate.[3]

Be sure, this is not because Smith thinks theists have the better arguments.  On the contrary, he is persuaded that naturalism is the true ontology.  But he recognizes that 99% of naturalists are so ignorant of the philosophy of religion that they would not be able to refute the arguments.  I have found this to be true of many naturalists.  They continue to speak as if theism requires an irrational, blind leap of faith into the dark, and continue to present tired-old arguments against theism as if those arguments have not been answered by theists both past and present.  They are unaware of those responses, because they do not engage the philosophy of religion with the same rigor that theists engage philosophical naturalism.

Furthermore, because most naturalists ignore philosophers of religion, they are also unaware of the fact that theistic philosophers have defeated their arguments for naturalism, and thus ignorant of the fact that their belief in naturalism is not justified (at least until they are able to undercut or rebut those defeaters).  As Smith notes, “They may have a true belief in naturalism, but they have no knowledge that naturalism is true since they do not have an undefeated justification for their belief.”[4]

While Smith is concerned about the recent turn of events in philosophy, I find it reason to rejoice.  It is a testimony to the intellectual credibility of the Christian faith.  Religious faith does not require a commitment of the will in the absence (or in spite of the) evidence, but rather is a persuasion based on reasonable knowledge.  Christians need not fear philosophy; we need only avoid the false philosophies of men (Colossians 2:8).  As C.S. Lewis once said, “Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered.”


[1]Quentin Smith, “The Metaphilosophy of Naturalism,” Philo, 4:2 (2001); available from http://www.philoonline.org/library/smith_4_2.htm; Internet; accessed 07 January 2009.

[2]Ibid.

[3]Ibid.

[4]Ibid.

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