Christian Philosophy At The End Of The 20th Century

Alvin Plantinga





My assignment is to reflect on the condition and prospects of Christian philosophy at the end of the 20th century. Now most philosophers don't even get to comment, prophetically, on the turn of a century; we get to comment on the turn of a millennium!

The last philosopher to be able to do that was probably Gerbert of Aurillac, who died in 1003. (Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, his views on the turn of the millennium have not been preserved.) So why wasn't our symposium given a grander title: 'Christian Philosophy at the End of the Second Millennium!', or 'Christian Philosophy at the Dawn of the Third Millennium'? Of course I realize that my talk will be just one more in a flurry of speeches, papers and declarations greeting the new millennium . We will no doubt hear much about how man (and woman) has now finally come of age, or since we have already been hearing that for the last 60 years or so, really come of age. There will be strident claptrap about how third millennial men and women can no longer believe this or that, how Christian faith belongs to an earlier and simpler time, and so on. There will be earnest calls to take up our responsibilities as third millennial people: given what science or Rorty have taught us we whip our noetic structures into proper third millennial shape. In American philosophy there is a technical term for all such declarations and calls and other claptrap: we call it 'baloney'. I shall not take part in this man-has-now-come-of-ageism, or as-we-now- knowism or other baloney. Still, one hopes we do learn things as we go along; and we can sensibly ask how things stand with Christian philosophy now, on the threshold of a new century, and even a new millennium.

I want to ask first what this century has brought for Christian philosophy; then I will propose a sort of typology for Christian philosophy, briefly evaluating our present condition with respect to each of the main areas of the typology; and along the way I shall issue an occasional obiter dictum as to what, as it seems to me, we Christian philosophers ought to do next. Given time constraints, what I say, of course, is bound to be ludicrously inadequate. I would like very much to take the time to demonstrate in detail how what I say would have to be ludicrously inadequate, but of course that would itself take a good deal of time, thus making what I have to say even more ludicrously inadequate.

1. Christian Philosophy and the 20th Century

Well, how has the 20th century treated Christian philosophy? As you may have noticed, the 20th century includes many different temporal segments and has occurred at many different places; and things have gone differently in these different place-times. I shall speak mainly of Christian philosophy in the Anglophone world; I just don't know enough about how it has gone in German, French and Dutch philosophy to speak at all authoritatively. Johan can tell you much more about that than I can. I shall also leave out of account 20th century developments in Catholic and Thomist philosophy; otherwise my subject would be genuinely unmanageable. The main positive development in Christian philosophy during the first half of our century must surely be the work of the man whose 100th birthday we are presently celebrating.

Dooyeweerd's work was comprehensive, insightful, profound, courageous, and quite properly influential. It isn't necessary, however, for me to sing the praises of Dooyeweerd to this audience: that would be carrying coals to Newcastle, or corn to Iowa, or maybe cheese to Gouda. Let us simply note the sheer size of Dooyeweerd's accomplishment, remembering that it took place in a context going back to Abraham Kuyper and indeed back all the way to Bonaventura, Augustine, and Tertullian. On the other hand, the main negative development during that same period, and in Anglo-American philosophy, would certainly be logical positivism and allied streams of thought. According to positivism, characteristically Christian utterances do not so much as have the grace to be false: they are cognitively meaningless, sheer nonsense--disguised nonsense, to be sure, but nonsense nonetheless. The harrowing vicissitudes of positivism and its verifiability criterion of meaning are an instructive and oft-told story; I will not add another telling; but I am afraid it must be admitted that the response of Christian thinkers to it was not, on the whole, an edifying spectacle.

By now logical positivism has retreated into well-earned obscurity; but what has taken its place? Not one, but rather, in hydra fashion, two equally nasty phenomena. Out of the frying pan into the fire. First, note that logical positivism is just a special if specially noxious case of a broader positivism--a line of thought that elevates science and scientific knowledge at the expense of more important kinds of knowledge such as knowledge of God and knowledge of how to live properly before him.

But that broader positivism is itself a manifestation of a still broader perspective we can call 'perennial naturalism'. Christian philosophers since Augustine's great work De Civitas Dei (The City of God), have seen human history as a sort of arena for a contest or struggle: a struggle, says Augustine, between the Civitas Dei, on the one hand, and the Civitas Mundi on the other. I think Augustine is right; but at present, at the end of the 2nd millennium, the Civitas Mundi is divided into two dukedoms--or since we are talking cities and not kingdoms, two precincts or boroughs. One of these is the perennial naturalism I just mentioned. This is a basic perspective on the world, a fundamental way of thought that goes back to Epicurus, Lucretius, Democritus and others in the ancient world, but finds much more powerful and explicit expression in the modern and contemporary world. Naturalism is perhaps the dominant perspective or picture among contemporary Western intellectuals; its central tenet is that there is no God and nothing beyond nature. Human beings, therefore, must be understood, not in terms of their being image bearers of God, but in terms of their commonality with the rest of nature, i.e., nonhuman nature. The things we think distinctive about ourselves--religion, morality, love, scholarship, humor, adventure, politics--all must be understood in natural terms, which in our day means evolutionary terms. An astonishing number of contemporary scholarly projects, both inside and outside philosophy, are explicit or implicit attempts to understand one or another area of human life in naturalistic terms: think, for example, of sociobiology, and think of contemporary materialistic cognitive science--a many-sided, far flung project involving many different disciplines and thousands of scholars all over the Western world. Perennial naturalism, while it has been present for quite some time in the English speaking philosophy, has in the last quarter century or so taken an increasingly aggressive and explicit stance. And what we have in philosophy, as one head of the post-positivistic hydra, is a proliferation of efforts to give naturalistic accounts of various philosophical topics and phenomena: there is naturalistic epistemology, conceived as the attempt to understand knowledge from a naturalistic point of view, there are naturalistic accounts of intentionality and aboutness, of morality, of teleology and proper function, of language, of meaning, of thought, or much more. The naturalism that underlies and gives birth to these projects is quite as opposed to Christian ways of thinking as was logical positivism, and perhaps more dangerous because more plausible.

I said the Civitas Mundi (City of Man), is divided into two precincts. The second head of that post-positivistic hydra is connected with the second precinct of the Civitas Mundi: I shall call it 'Creative Anti-realism'. Here the basic claim or idea is not that we human beings are just one more kind of animal with a rather unusual means of survival, but that we are actually responsible for the basic lineaments, the fundamental structure and framework of the world itself. Like perennial naturalism, creative anti-realism goes back to the ancient world, back at least to Protagoras's dictum "Man is the measure of all things, of the existence of things that are, and of the non-existence of things that are not. . ." (Theaetetus 152 A). But, also, like perennial naturalism, creative antirealism has received much more compelling formulation in the modern and contemporary world. The story begins with Immanuel Kant. His basic idea in his monumental first Critique, the Critique of Pure Reason, is that the fundamental categories that characterize the world in which we live are imposed upon that world by our noetic activity: they do not characterize that world as it is in itself. Such features of the world as space and time, substance-property structure, number, modality, and even truth and existence are not to be found in things in themselves. They are rather to be found in the 'things for us', they are contributed to the world; these structures are there as a result of our noetic or intellective activity. According to an older way of thinking, God's knowledge is creative: according to this more recent Kantian way of thinking, it is our knowledge that is creative. I realize that it is extremely difficult to give a clear but accurate summary of Kant's thought here in three sentences. Indeed it is extremely difficult to give a clear but accurate summary of Kant's thought in three hundred sentences, or three hundred pages. That is because Kant's thought, in the first critique, does not lend itself to clear and accurate summary at any length; as far as I can see it contains deep ambiguities and confusions. Still, the understanding of Kant just outlined has been both historically influential, and intimately connected with the second precinct of the Civitas Mundi.

I believe that the thought of the first Critique, at least understood as above, is incompatible with Christianity. For the things we know are essentially such that they display subject-property structure; it is not as if a horse, say, or the sun, could have existed but not been an object with properties. There really isn't any alternative available to horses or stars. If so, however, then the horse in question, as well as the sun, owes its existence to us: it could not have existed apart from our noetic activity. From this perspective, then, it is not God who has created the heavens and the earth, but we ourselves--or at any rate God could not have done it without our help. We can reach the same conclusion by a much quicker route: existence is one of the categories of the understanding, a structure we human beings impose on things. But if so, then if it weren't for our noetic activity, there wouldn't be any things that exist. Indeed, since the things that exist are the only things there are, if it weren't for us and our conceptual activity, there wouldn't be or have been anything at all, no dinosaurs, stars, mountains, trees or electrons. In fact, on this way of thinking, we owe our own existence to our categorizing activity, a thought that can easily induce a sort of intellectual vertigo. But then an implication of this way of thinking is that it is we who have created the heavens and the earth, not God. As a matter of fact, taken strictly, this strand of Kant's thought would apply to God as well; if the category of existence is a merely human category we impose upon things, if things fall under or into this category only because of our noetic activity, then the same would be true of God Himself. He, too, in a stunning reversal of roles, would owe his existence to us.

Creative anti-realism, taken neat and globally, is clearly incompatible with Christianity. Indeed, taken neat it is, I think, incompatible with everything, because it is incompatible with itself, inconsistent. Of course Kant himself did not take creative anti-realism globally and neat. Neatness is not a Kantian category; no doubt that is part of his charm. And no doubt there are restrictions of Kantian creative anti-realism that are compatible with Christianity, and that ought to be explored as among the possibilities as to how things are. But the second head of the post-positivistic hydra is not creative anti-realism taken neat: it is instead a spin-off or dialectical consequence of it. For suppose we begin by thinking that it is we human beings who are responsible for the way the world is; it is we ourselves that form or structure the world in which we live. Then it is an easy step to the thought that we do not all live in the same world. The Lebenswelt of Richard Rorty or Jacques Derrida is quite different from that of Herman Dooyeweerd or C. S. Lewis; and each of those is wholly different from that of Bertrand Russell or Carl Sagan. It is then tempting to take the next step: that we live in different worlds, that there simply isn't any such thing as the way the world is, the same for each of us. Instead, there is my way of structuring reality (by choice or language, or whatever), your way, and in fact many different ways. There is no such thing as the way the world is, and no such thing as truth, objective truth, the same for each of us whether we know it or not. Instead, there is what is true from my perspective, in my version, in the world as I've structured it, what is true from your perspective, in your version, in the world as you've structured it, and so on. My beginning students at Calvin used to tell me, sometimes, after I proposed an absolutely conclusive argument for some thesis or other, that while my thesis was certainly true for me, it wasn't true for them. At the time I thought that a peculiarly sophomoric confusion: the very idea of 'truth for you' as opposed to 'truth for me', if it is not an inept way of speaking of what you believe as opposed to what I believe, makes no sense. But the fact is this confusion, as I then thought of it, is an expression of contemporary relativism, a way of thought as widespread as it is lamentable.

There is another and very contemporary way to arrive at this same relativism. As we are often told nowadays, we live in a post-modern era; and post-modernists pride themselves on rejecting the classical foundationalism that we all learned at our mother's knee. Classical foundationalism has enjoyed a hegemony, a near consensus in the West from the Enlightenment to the very recent past. And according to the classical foundationalist, our beliefs, at least when properly founded, are objective in a double sense. The first sense is a Kantian sense: what is objective in this sense is what is not merely subjective, and what is subjective is what is private or peculiar to just some persons. According to classical foundationalism, well-founded belief is objective in this sense; at least in principle, any properly functioning human beings who think together about a disputed question with care and good will, can be expected to come to agreement. Well-founded belief is objective in the sense that it doesn't depend upon what is specific to only some of us as opposed to the rest of us. But well-founded belief is objective in another sense as well: it has to do with, is successfully aimed at, objects, things, things in themselves, to coin a phrase. Well-founded belief is often or usually adequate to the thing; it has an adequatio ad rem. There are horses, in the world, and my thought of a given horse is indeed a thought of that horse. Furthermore, it is adequate to the horse, in the sense that the properties I take the horse to have are properties it really has. That it has those properties--the ones I take it to have-- furthermore, does not depend upon me or upon how I think of it: that horse has those properties on his own account, independent of me or anyone else. My thought and belief is therefore objective in that it is centered upon an object independent of me; it is not directed to something I, as subject, have constructed or in some other way created.

Now what is characteristic of much post-modern thought is the rejection of objectivity in this second sense--often in the name of rejecting objectivity in the first sense. The typical argument for postmodern relativism leaps lightly from the claim that there is no objectivity of the first sort, to the claim that there is none of the second. As you have no doubt noticed, this is a whopping non sequitur; that hasn't curbed its popularity in the least. Classical foundationalism, so the argument runs, has failed: we now see that there is no rational procedure guaranteed to settle all disputes among people of good will; we do not necessarily share starting points for thought, together with forms of argument that are sufficient to settle all differences of opinion. That's the premise. The conclusion is that therefore we can't really think about objects independent of us, but only about something else, perhaps constructs we ourselves have brought into being. Put thus boldly, the argument does not inspire confidence; but even if we put it less boldly, is there really more of substance here? In any event, by this route too we arrive at the thought that there isn't any such thing as a truth that is independent of us and our thoughts. The idea seems to be that objectivity in the first, Kantian sense, necessarily goes with objectivity in the second external sense, so that if our thought isn't objective in the first sense, then it isn't objective in the second sense either. And what has happened within at least some of so-called post-modernism is that the quite proper rejection of the one--a rejection that would of course have received the enthusiastic support of Kuyper and Dooyeweerd-- has been confused with the rejection, the demise of the other--an idea that Kuyper and Dooyeweerd would have utterly rejected. However arrived at, it is this relativism that is the second head of the postpositivistic hydra. Clearly this head of the hydra is no more receptive to Christian thought than the positivistic head it replaced. Contrary to what I used to think, it is vastly more than a mere confusion; it is instead a more or less willful rejection of something that lies very deep in Christian thought. Clearly one of the deepest impulses in Christian thought is the idea that there really is such a person as God, who has established the world a certain way: there really is a correct or right way of looking at things; this is the way God looks at things. Furthermore, things are the way God sees them for everyone, quite independently of what they might think, say, or wish. It is not the case that people can escape being desperately and irremediably wrong about God just by virtue of failing to believe the truth about him.

An example of relativism is the sort of thought associated with Richard Rorty; he is said to think of truth as what our peers will let us get away with saying. I say this thought is associated with Richard Rorty: people say he says this, but I haven't read precisely this in his work. Never mind; even if he doesn't say precisely this, some of his followers do. And of course it exemplifies the sort of relativism I'm speaking of. My peers might not let me get away with saying what your peers let you get away with. For in the first place we might have different peers, and there is no reason to think your peers coordinate and synchronize their activities with mine. But even if we had the same peers, there is no reason to think they would have to let you and me get away with saying the same things: perhaps they think I am a bit unduly prickly and are consequently more indulgent towards you than towards me. Therefore what is true 'for you' need not be true 'for me'. Presumably, furthermore, the truth can change: what my peers will let me get away with saying about the Peloponnesian war today, for example, might be different from what they let me get away with saying about it yesterday. This way of thinking has real possibilities for dealing with war, poverty, disease, and the other ills our flesh is heir to. Take AIDS, for example, about which there has been great recent concern: if we all let each other get away with saying that there just isn't any such thing as AIDS, then on this Rortyesque view it would be true that there isn't any such thing as AIDS; and if it were true that there is no such thing as AIDS, then there would be no such thing. So all we have to do to get rid of AIDS, or cancer, or poverty is let each other get away with saying there is no such thing. That seems a much easier way of dealing with them than the more conventional methods, which involve all that money, energy, and time.

Similarly, consider the Chinese authorities who murdered those students at Tiananmen Square and then compounded their wickedness by bald-faced lies, claiming they'd done no such thing. From a Rortian point of view, this is a most uncharitable way to think about it. For in denying it ever happened, they were merely trying to bring it about that their peers would let them get away with saying it had never happened, in which case it would have been true that it never happened, in which case it would never have happened. So the charitable thought here, from a Rortian point of view, is that the Chinese authorities were only trying to bring it about that this terrible thing had never happened: and who can fault them for a thing like that? The same goes for those Nazi skinhead types who claim there was no holocaust and that Hitler and his cohorts were as gentle as lambs and never harmed anyone; they too should charitably be seen as trying to see to it that those terrible things never did happen. And in your own personal life, if you have done something wrong, lie about it, try to get your peers to let you get away with saying you didn't do it; thus bringing it about that in fact you didn't do it, and carrying in its train as an added bonus that you didn't lie about it either.

So these are the hydra heads that have sprung up to replace logical positivism. The first, perennial naturalism, is particularly rampant in the sciences and among those who nail their banners to the mast of science. The second runs riot in the humanities, in literary studies, film studies, law, history, and to some degree in the human sciences. But both are dead opposed to Christian thought; both are wholly inimical to it; both are its sworn enemies. And one important task of the Christian philosopher--that is, of the Christian philosophical community--is consciousness raising: pointing out that there is this conflict, and testing the spirits. There are a thousand intellectual projects that find their roots in these ways of thinking; we Christians and our children are often heavily influenced by these projects; they are unavoidable because of their widespread dominance; and they often corrupt and compromise the intellectual and spiritual life of the Christian community. It is our task as Christian philosophers to pay careful and determined attention to the way in which such projects are related to Christian thought.

2. Christian Philosophy. But in waxing thus hortatory, I am getting a bit ahead of myself. I should like now to turn more directly to my assignment, which was to say something about how I see the accomplishments and tasks of Christian philosophy at this point in our history; this will be connected with the above exhortation. The first thing to note, of course, is that there are several different parts, several different divisions to Christian philosophy. As I see it, there are essentially 4 different divisions: apologetics, both negative and positive, philosophical theology, Christian philosophical criticism, and constructive Christian philosophy. The philosophers of the Christian community have done better by some of these, during our century, than by others. Suppose we briefly take them each in turn.


A. Apologetics.

Apologetics comes in two varieties: negative and positive. We'll start with the first.

1a. Negative Apologetics

Roughly speaking, negative apologetics is the attempt to defend Christian belief against the various sorts of attacks that have been brought against it: the argument from evil, for example, or the claim that science has somehow shown Christian belief wanting. But isn't the very idea of apologetics, whether negative or positive, contrary to the basic Reformed insight of Kuyper and Dooyeweerd? If all thought has religious roots, then the thing to say about attacks on Christianity is just that they too have religious roots--non-Christian religious roots; thus they do not require an answer. Faith cannot reason with unbelief: it can only preach to it. Perhaps in a world where the wheat and the tares were more clearly separated and more thoroughly articulated something like this would be right. But our world is not such a world. In our world there are people who are moving in opposite directions, but nevertheless occupying some of the same places. And the places they occupy are not abstract types. It is the part of Calvinism to hold that Christians are not complete; they are in process. John Calvin, himself no mean Calvinist, points out that believers are constantly beset by doubts, disquietude, spiritual difficulty and turmoil; "it never goes so well with us," he says, "that we are wholly cured of the disease of unbelief and entirely filled and possessed by faith." (Institutes III, ii, 18, p.564 ) . It never goes that well with us, and it often goes a good deal worse. There is an unbeliever within the breast of every Christian; in the believing mind, says Calvin, "certainty is mixed with doubt". (No doubt the proportions differ for different people and for the same person at different times.) But then objections brought by the atheologians--the Freud's, Marx's and Nietzsche's, the Flew's, Mackie's and Nielsen's--these objections can and do trouble the Christian community and need to be answered. And that is, in part, the function of negative apologetics: to refute such objections, thus removing one kind of obstacle to the spiritual peace and wholeness of the Christian community. Of course negative apologetics can also be useful for those who are not in the Christian community, but perhaps on its edges, perhaps thinking about joining it. And it is can also be useful for those who are not on the edges but adamantly opposed to the Christian truth; perhaps once they really see just how weak their arguments really are, they will be moved closer to it.

Well, how has negative apologetics fared during our century? Reasonably well, I think, but not as well as one might hope. What sorts of considerations and objections really do trouble thoughtful Christians, students and others? No doubt several, but among the more important, during our century, I think, have been (1) the positivistic claim that Christianity really makes no sense, (2) the argument from evil, which is a sort of perennial concern of Christian apologetes, (3) the heady brew served up by Freud, Marx, Nietzsche and other masters of suspicion, and (4) pluralistic considerations: given that there are all these different religions in the world, isn't there something at least naive and probably worse, in doggedly sticking with Christianity? Positivism, the first of these four, has by now crawled back into the woodwork; but I am sorry to say Christian apologetes cannot claim much of the credit. Far too many Christian philosophers were thoroughly intimidated by the positivistic onslaught, suspecting that there must be much truth to it, and suggesting various unlikely courses of action. Some thought we should just give up; others said, for example, that we should concede that Christianity is in fact nonsense, but insist that it is important nonsense; still others proposed that we continue to make characteristically Christian utterances, but mean something wholly different by them, something that would not attract the wrath of the positivists. This was not a proud chapter in our history, but since positivism is no longer with us, we shall avert our eyes from the unhappy spectacle and move on. Turning to the second item on the list, there has been a good deal of work on the argument from evil, and in fact it is now, as opposed to 40 years ago, rather rare for an athelogian to claim that there is a contradiction between the claim that there is a wholly good, all powerful, all knowing God, on the one hand, and the existence of evil on the other.

This is due in large part to the efforts of Christian philosophers. Those atheologians who now press the argument from evil must turn instead to the probabilistic argument from evil: given all the evil the world contains, it is unlikely, improbable that there is a wholly good, all powerful and all knowing God. This argument is much messier, much more complicated, and much less satisfactory from the point of view of the objector. In other ways, however, this probabilistic argument is more realistic and perhaps more disturbing. Christian philosophers-- William Alston and Peter van Inwagen, for example--have done good work here, but much remains to be done. Christian philosophers haven't done as well, I think, in defusing the sorts of objections offered by those masters of suspicion--Freud, with his claim that religious belief stems from a cognitive process aimed at psychological comfort rather than the truth, Marx and his claim that religious belief really results from cognitive malfunction consequent upon social malfunction, and Nietzsche with his shrilly strident claims to the effect that Christianity arises from and results in a sort of weak, sniveling, envious and thoroughly disgusting sort of character. There are many who do not accept the details of what any of these three say, but nonetheless entertain the sneaking suspicion that there is something to these charges and something like them might be true. Christian apologists must forthrightly and honestly address these doubts and these arguments, although in fact argument is hard to find in these thinkers. Finally, pluralist objections too trouble many Christians, especially Christian academics and others who are acutely aware of some of the other major religions of the world. This is something of a new or revitalized worry for the Christian community; as a result we have just begun to work. But I venture to predict that these pluralist objections will loom large in the next segment of our adventure as Christians.

1b. Positive Apologetics

The twentieth century in the west has not been hospitable to positive apologetics. Reformed thought has concurred in this lack of hospitality: it is rather characteristic of Reformed Christian philosophy to view theistic arguments with suspicion, and to some degree with good cause. But as my minister said the other day, everything is context. One may offer theistic arguments because you think that without them belief in God would be unjustified or unwarranted; this is what Reformed thought has always adamantly opposed. But it doesn't follow that theistic argument is without value, or that the Christian thinker shouldn't engage in it. After all, John Calvin himself was not always inhospitable to rational arguments on these topics. Consider his attitude towards rational arguments for the reliability of Scripture. He argues first that our confidence in the Scripture ought not to depend upon such arguments, even though good arguments of this sort, he thinks, are available. Rather, our confidence, when things are going as they should, will depend upon the Internal Testimony of the Holy Spirit. Still there remains a role for those arguments to play: Conversely, once we have embraced it [Scripture] devoutly as its dignity deserves, and have recognized it to be above the common sort of things, those arguments--not strong enough before to engraft and fix the certainty of Scripture in our minds--become very useful aids (I, viii, 1, p. 82).

This topic of course deserves a paper all to itself: but perhaps what Calvin has in mind, put briefly, is this. First, theistic arguments can obviously be of value for those who don't already believe, they can move them closer to belief, and can bring it about that belief in God is at any rate among the live options for them. Only God bestows saving faith, of course, but his way of doing so can certainly involve cooperation with his children, as in preaching and even argumentation. But second, theistic arguments can also be useful for believers. Calvin notes that believers struggle constantly with doubts; in this life, he says (as we saw above), "faith is always mixed with unbelief" and ". . . in the believing mind certainty is mixed with doubt. . . " (Institutes III, ii, 18, p. 564). At times the truth of the main lines of the Gospel seems as certain and sure as that there is such a country as the Netherlands; at other times you wake up in the middle of the night and find yourself wondering whether this whole wonderful Christian story is really anything more than just that: a wonderful story. Theistic arguments can be helpful here. Perhaps you accept (as I do) an argument to the effect that there could be no such thing as genuine moral obligation if naturalism were true and there were no such person as God; but perhaps it is also obvious to you that moral obligation is real and important; these thoughts can help dispel the doubt. Perhaps you think, as I do, that there could be no such thing as genuinely horrifying evil if there were no God; but you are also convinced that the world is full of horrifying evil; again, these thoughts can dispel the doubt. Perhaps, more abstractly, you think there could be no such thing as propositions, the things that are true or false, that stand in logical relations and that can be believed or disbelieved, if there were no such person as God; but you also find yourself convinced that there are such things as propositions; again, this thought can dispel the doubt, increase your confidence and repose. How has positive apologetics (which I shall think of as just the effort to develop and provide theistic arguments) fared in the 20th century? On the whole, I think, not well. Some Thomists have thought themselves committed to Thomas's view that the existence of God is provable, but they haven't for the most part thought that they could produce the arguments. Perhaps the major work of natural theology of the century is contained in the first two volumes of Richard Swinburne's trilogy: his books The Coherence of Theism and The Existence of God. These have been influential, and there is much to be said for them. There have also been other arguments: for example, a contemporary version of the moral argument has been developed by George Mavrodes and Robert Adams. But much more can and should be done.

There are really a whole host of good theistic arguments, all patiently waiting to be developed in penetrating and profound detail. This is one area where contemporary Christian philosophers have a great deal of work to do. There are arguments from the existence of good and evil, right and wrong, moral obligation; there is an argument from the existence of horrifying evil, from intentionality and the nature of propositions and properties, from the nature of sets, properties and numbers, from counterfactuals, and from the apparent fine tuning of the universe. There is the ontological argument, but also the more convincing teleological argument, which can be developed in many ways. There is an argument from the existence of contingent beings, and even an argument from colors and flavors. There are arguments from simplicity, from induction, and from the falsehood of general skepticism. There is a general argument from the reliability of intuition, and also one from Kripke's Wittgenstein. There is an argument from the existence of a priori knowledge, and one from the causal requirement in knowledge. There are arguments from love, beauty, and play and enjoyment, and from the perceived meaning of life. There are arguments from the confluence of justification and warrant, from the confluence of proper function and reliability, and from the existence, in nature, of organs and systems that function properly. (So far as I can see, there is no naturalistic account or analysis of proper function). These arguments are not apodictic or certain; nevertheless they all deserve to be developed in loving detail; and each of them will be of value both as a theistic argument, and also as a way of thinking about the relation between God and the specific sort of phenomenon in question. I believe Christian philosophers of the next century (not to mention the remainder of this one) should pay a great deal more attention to theistic argument.

B. Philosophical Theology

A second element of Christian philosophy: philosophical theology. This is a matter of thinking about the central doctrines of the Christian faith from a philosophical perspective; it is a matter of employing the resources of philosophy to deepen our grasp and understanding of them. Philosophical theology, of course, has been the stock-in-trade of Christian philosophers and theologians from the very beginning; think of Augustine's great work on the Trinity, for example. At present, this enterprise is faring rather well, perhaps even flourishing; the last few years have seen a remarkable flurry of activity in philosophical theology as pursued by Christian philosophers. There is important work on the divine attributes: for example, the classic Stump-Kretzmann work on God's eternity, Wolterstorff's work on God's everlastingness and his arguments against divine impassability. There is Brian Leftow's fine pair of books Time and Eternity and Divine Ideas, and Edward Wierenga's The Nature of God. There has been excellent work on divine simplicity over the last 15 year--probably more work, in Anglo-American philosophy, at any rate, than there had been during the preceding 150 years--as well as on God's action in the world and the central doctrines of Original Sin, Incarnation, and Atonement. There has been fine work on freedom, foreknowledge, and middle knowledge. Of course not everyone is unreservedly enthusiastic about this work; some theologians seem to harbor the impression that philosophical theology as pursued by contemporary philosophers is often unduly ahistorical and uncontextual. Sometimes this arises from the thought that any concern with the above topics is ahistorical; those topics belong to another age and can't properly be discussed now. That seems to me historicism run amok; but no doubt some of this work could profit from closer contact with what theologians know. Still, the theologians don't seem to be doing the work in question. I therefore hope I will not be accused of interdisciplinary chauvinism if I point out that the best work in philosophical theology, in the English speaking world and over the last quarter century, has been done not by theologians but by philosophers.

C. Christian Philosophical Criticism

We come now to Augustinian Christian philosophy more precisely and narrowly so-called. This has two parts: Christian philosophical criticism, on the one hand, and, on the other, constructive Christian philosophy. That isn't a good name for it; I shall call it instead 'positive Christian philosophy'. First, Christian cultural criticism. There is a great deal to be said here, and little space to say it; fortunately I have already said some of what needs to be said in pointing to Augustine's view of hum an history as an arena for a contest between the Civitas Dei and the Civitas Mundi. In our day and in the west, the second comes in two divisions; so in our day there are fundamentally three basic pictures, three fundamental and fundamentally religious perspectives on ourselves and our world: Christian theism, perennial naturalism, and creative anti-realism with its attendant relativism. But Augustine added another profound and seminal idea, an idea that flowered much later in the work of Kuyper, Dooyeweerd, Harry Jellema and others: scholarship, intellectual endeavor, science in the sense of Wetenschap is inevitably involved in these perspectives. Intellectual activity has religious roots. Science and philosophy are not neutral with respect to the contest between these perspectives: they are ordinarily expressions of them. Most siz eable scholarly projects, to the extent that they are pursued with depth and insight and fulness, are in the service of one or another of these perspectives.

Here we need to emphasize two things: (1) these perspectives, these ways of thinking are indeed contrary to Christian thought, and (2) they dominate much of the intellectual culture we all live in. But this brings in its train real problems for the Christian community. For it is inevitable that our thought, our spiritual life, our responses to the world and to God should be influenced, colored, perhaps corrupted by these ways of thinking. To the extent that this is so, our intellectual and spiritual lives will be characterized by a lack of integrality, of wholeness, of being all of one piece. We ourselves and our students and our children will be pulled in different directions, will be inclined to take for granted, unthinkingly assume, ways of thought and ways of looking at the world that don't fit at all well with the Christian faith to which we are committed. It is therefore of the first importance that Christian philosophers engage in Christian philosophical and cultural criticism. This is true, of course, not just for philosophers, but for Christian intellectuals generally and especially for Christian intellectuals working in the humanities and the human sciences.

But here we are concerned specifically with philosophy. We must take a careful look at the various projects and research programs we encounter: how are they related to Christianity? And we find, I think, that an astonishing proportion of them, when we examine them closely, spring out of the soil of perennial naturalism or creative antirealism. I don't have the space here to give anything like a properly representative sample: let me just call your attention, then, to contemporary philosophy of mind. In the United States, philosophy of mind is really one part of a larger project that includes cognitive science, in particular certain parts of psychology, computer science, artificial intelligence, certain developments in epistemology, and more. It is thus an enormous project that involves several different disciplines and thousands of scholars. And it is fundamentally materialist in origin: its aim is to understand the basic phenomena of mind--intentionality or aboutness, consciousness, qualia, affect, and the like--in materialistic and naturalistic terms. Now how should the Christian community think about this project? How does it fit in with the fact that God, who is not a material object, has knowledge (knows each of us), intentionality (he thinks about his creatures), affect (he loved the world so muc h that he sent his only begotten son to suffer and die, thereby redeeming us), and so on? Can Christian philosophers properly and in good conscience join these projects? What if anything can we learn from them? What stance should we take towards them? To continue with the example, in contemporary philosophy of mind there is what is called 'the problem of intentionality'. Well, what is this problem? Intentionality is aboutness; and our thought, obviously enough, is fundamentally characterized by intentionality or aboutness. We can think about things of a thousand different sorts; we can think about things far removed from us in space and time; we can think about the Big Bang, quarks, the parting of the Red Sea, and God himself. The so-called problem of intentionality is really the question of how to understand this, how to make sense of it, from a materialist perspective. If this way of thinking is fundamentally right, then a belief or thought will have to be a material process of some sort, that being the only kind there is. But how can a material process, a transaction among a group of neurons, say, be about something? How could it be about the Big Bang, or dinosaurs, or quarks, or the parting of the Red Sea, or God? What in those neurons or in what happens to them would make it the case that they are about those things? This is a tough problem, and my guess is that there really isn't much of anything to say here. The serious materialist, in the long run, will just have to say, with John Searle, "Well, some material objects or processes just do have this mysterious property of aboutness and that's all there's too it. Case closed." As Darwin's bulldog, T. H. Huxley once said, the brain secretes thought like the liver secretes bile. The only alternative I can see is to follow the eliminative materialists: according to them there really isn't any such thing as aboutness, intentionality, at all. Thinking in terms of aboutness or intentionality, so they say, is an error; it is really a relic of a prescientific way of thought, or perhaps of an early and very primitive kin d of science.

These are the alternatives, and a pretty grim pair they are. But is this "problem of intentionality" a problem for the Christian thinker? Should she join in on this project, writing her dissertation on it, and taking for granted the way the problem is put? I suggest not, or at least normally not. She should instead point out that this is a problem only for someone who is a materialist about minds; the Christian needn't be, and in my opinion shouldn't be. But then the very appellation "the problem of intentionality", like in another context the appellation "the problem of other minds", is not a neutral label; it betrays a materialist perspective, but not from just any perspective, and in particular not from a Christian perspective. This is of course just one example, and a clear and unambiguous example. There will be dozens of other examples (and many of them will not be unambiguous). There are many projects in philosophy of language that have naturalistic roots, and others that have their roots in creative anti-realism. There are attempts to understand all the various varieties of human phenomena- -morality, religion, love, humor, knowledge and the like--from a naturalistic point of view; there are also naturalistic attempts to come to terms with mathematical reality and numbers, propositions, properties and states of affairs from a naturalistic perspective. Similarly, there are an enormous number of projects in philosophy that originate in creative anti-realism; and of course there are many projects of mixed parentage. It is the job of the Christian philosophical community to carefully study these projects, claims and positions, so that their relationship to Christian ways of thought is made evident. And this is not important just for Christian philosophers, but for the spiritual health and welfare of the Christian community.

D. Constructive Christian Philosophy

I come finally to the fourth and last division of Christian philosophy, constructive Christian philosophy. This is, I think, clearly the most difficult of the four; it requires more creativity and intellectual suppleness, more insight and discernment than we can easily muster. But it is also in some ways the most important. And I'd like to emphasize that it is important to do this, not merely talk about how we ought to do it, how we might do it, what the best way of doing it might be, what will happen if we do it, what will happen if we don't, and so on. An occupational hazard of academics is just that: talking about things, even things that are themselves essentially a matter of thinking and talking, instead of actually getting in there and doing them. That would be serious error: we must do it, and not merely talk about it. But what is it I say we must do? Here the aim is to consider the various questions philosophers ask and answer, and to answer these questions from an explicitly Christian or theistic perspective, taking advantage, in attempting to answer them, of all that we know, including what we know as Christians. I said above that there are philosophical problems Christians won't be attracted to: the problem of how to understand intentionality from a naturalistic perspective, for example. On the other hand, and at another level of generality, there are questions that philosophers of all persuasions try to answer: how shall we understand morality, art, religion, humor, abstract objects, science? What is knowledge? What is meaning; how do terms get meaning, and what do they have when they have it?

Do we think in terms of properties that we predicate of objects, or does thought and speech go on in some other way? How far does human freedom extend? What is freedom? These and a thousand other topics are among the topics the Christian philosophical community should address, and address from a distinctively and unabashedly Christian point of view. At one level, therefore, the Christian philosopher shares concerns, questions and topics with his non- Christian colleagues. But he answers those questions differently, and, at another level, answers different questions. We might say (to coin another phrase) that the Christian philosopher must be in the world, but not of the world. And this can be a cause of perplexity; it makes it hard to know just how to proceed; it gives us a hard row to hoe, or to change the metaphor, a faint trail to follow, with many opportunities for going wrong and winding up in a thicket. We are to be in the world: what this means, in this context, is that at certain levels we are engaged in the same philosophical projects as everyone else. We want to know how to understand ourselves and our world; this means we want to understand the topics just listed. But we are not of the world; this means that our way of understanding these things will inevitably differ from that of those who don't share our basic commitment to the Lord. These differences may sometimes be subtle, and of course may vary widely from area to area. Let me give an example. (This example, embarrassingly, is from my own work; I cite it only because I am rather familiar with it, not because I am prepared to make claims as to its importance.) A question that has been with us since Plato's Theaetetus is this: how shall we think about knowledge?

What property or quality is it that distinguishes knowledge from mere true belief? Whatever it is, suppose we call it 'warrant'. In 20th century Anglo-American epistemology, the dominant answer to the question 'What is warrant?' has been in terms of justification; and justification, in turn, has been construed deontologically, in terms of rights and obligations, permission and duties. On this tradition, what distinguishes knowledge from mere true belief, from a lucky guess, e.g., is the believers being justified, being within her epistemic rights, having fulfilled her cognitive or epistemic duties, having flouted no noetic obligations. This idea gets its inspiration in an enlightenment conviction that we have an epistemic duty to think critically about the traditional beliefs we have inherited. Perhaps we do have such a duty (and then again perhaps not); but it is easy to see that construing warrant as justification can't possibly be right. That is just because you might be doing your best, be doing your duty to the uttermost, but still, by virtue, e.g., of cognitive malfunction, be forming beliefs in such a way that they have little or no warrant for you. Descartes' madmen thought they were gourds: pumpkins, perhaps, or summer squash. These beliefs of theirs had no warrant; but there is no reason to think they were moral delinquents. Perhaps they were doing their level best. Clearly this is the wrong place to look for warrant. Where should we look instead? We should begin, so I suggest, with creation: the idea that we have been created by God and created in his image. This image consists in several properties, but one way in which he made us like him is in our ability to hav e true belief and knowledge. We know much: we know about our immediate environment, about the past, about the far reaches of the universe, about our own interior lives, about morality, about modality, and about God himself. If he has created us to do these things, then he has given us the means to do so--powers or faculties that are employed and exercised in our knowing. And the basic way to think about knowledge, I suggest, is this: a belief constitutes knowledge when it is produced by those faculties functioning properly in us, when they are subject to no dysfunction, are not diseased, are working the way God designed them to work. This is a first approximation: further conditions are needed. In particular, we must add that the production of the be lief in question is governed by a bit of the design plan that is aimed at the production of true beliefs, rather than the production of beliefs aimed at, for example, survival, or comfort, or the possibility of loyalty and friendship. We must also add, finally, that the design plan is a good one, and that it is functioning in an environment sufficiently similar to the environment for which our faculties were designed.

I believe this account of knowledge (properly fleshed out) is closer to the truth than any of the others currently on offer. And it is closer to the truth in part because of features that are not really available to nontheistic views. In particular, the notion of proper function, I believe, can't be accommodated within a naturalistic way of thinking about the world; that is because it essentially involves teleology, and at bottom, teleology in nature requires a creator who intends to accomplish certain ends or aims, and fashions his creation accordingly. Despite this incompatibility with unbelief, it might be that such an account will be attractive not just to Christians but to others as well. Perhaps the fact is, for example, that no account of knowledge that doesn't involve the notion of proper function will in fact be successful. By this I don't mean merely that no such account will commend itself to believers in God; I mean no such account will be satisfactory from anybody's perspective. Suppose we stop a moment and look into this a bit more fully.

Those who don't share our commitment to the Lord are in transition, just as we are. As Calvin says, there is unbelief within the breast of every Christian; but isn't there also belief within the breast of every non-Christian? The antithesis is of course real; but at any time in history it is also less than fully articulated and developed. The City of God stands opposed to the city of the world: sure enough: but we all live in God's world, and those in the City of the World are subject to the prompting s and blandishments of our God-given natures, of the Sensus Divinitatis, and of the Holy Spirit. Were the two cities completely formed and articulated, they could have little intellectual commerce or contact with each other. The believer would see the w orld a certain way, or perhaps in one of a certain range of ways; the unbeliever would see it quite differently, and feel no unease or discomfort in seeing it his way. But the cities, and the citizens therein, are not completely formed and developed. Thus, for example, in the final analysis (so it seems to me) current forms of anti-theism have no place for the notion of truth. Naturalism does not, because naturalism has no room for the sorts of things that fundamentally are true: propositions and thoughts. And creative anti-realism doesn't either, since it has no room for the notion of a way things are independent of our cognitive and linguistic activities. Still, there is such a thing as truth, and it is intimately connected with God. There is such a thing as the way the world is; there are such things as thoughts and propositions, and these things are true or false. Furthermore, we are all, believer and unbeliever alike, created by the Lord. Despite the ravages of sin, we are all still in epistemic touch with the world for which he created us, still oriented towards the reality he has designed us for. It is therefore extremely difficult for any human being to give up such notions as truth and knowledge; it takes great energy and determination. Consequently there is a constant internal tension in unbelieving thought. It is at this very point that our contributions to the philosophical conversation can be attractive and useful to those who don't share our commitments: attractive, because of these fundamental human inclinations towards the notions of truth (and knowledge, and a host of other notions), and useful, because such an account, insofar as it really d oes depend upon notions not available to the naturalist, can serve as a sort of implicit theistic argument, perhaps creating the very sort of confusion and turmoil in which the Holy Spirit works.

So we contribute to the human philosophical conversation, but make our own distinctive contribution, a contribution that must be integral in the sense that it does not compromise basic Christian commitments, and does not compromise with ways of thinking that comport ill with Christian thought. But there is another way in which we are in but not of the world. A Christian epistemologist will of course give an account of the basic cognitive faculties with which the Lord has created us: perception, memory, moral knowledge, reason (the faculty of a priori knowledge and belief), sympathy or Einfuhlung (whereby we understand the thoughts and feelings of another), testimony (whereby we learn from others), induction (whereby we learn from experience), the ensemble of processes involved in scientific knowledge, and all the rest. So far, we might say, our account is in the world, in that the naturalist will want to give an account--perhaps a very different account--of all or some of the very same things. And, as I say, I think the resources of the Christian scheme of things provides the means for a good account of many departments of this capacious establishment for which satisfying accounts are not available in naturalistic ways of thinking. But there is still more, and by virtue of this more a Christian epistemologist will not be of the world. For of course she will also want to think about other kinds of knowledge, kinds of knowledge that are of great, perhaps maximal importance to us as Christians: knowledge of God, knowledge of the great truths of the Gospel, as Jonathan Edwards calls them, knowledge of how we can have access to our only comfort in life and in death, and knowledge of how we can achieve our chief end of glorifying God and enjoying him forever. A Christian epistemologist will keep her eye on these things as she develops his epistemology. She will want to develop an epistemology that fits these things especially well; she won't be satisfied with an account onto which these things have to be grafted as ill-fitting afterthoughts. Here she may, once more, diverge from her unbelieving colleagues, who will see all of this as a manifestation not of knowledge but of superstition and error; here she is .

A main feature of the epistemology just sketched is that it involves faculties or powers or cognitive processes. We have these faculties or processes by virtue of creation, and it is by virtue of their operation that we form beliefs and acquire knowledge. As I say, an account of this kind essentially involves teleology, and hence essentially involves our being creatures, created and designed by the Lord. But it also enables us to see both that our knowledge of God and of the great truths of the gospel is really just a special case of knowledge generally, and how that knowledge is integrated with the rest of our knowledge. We have two distinct kinds of knowledge to consider here: our knowledge of God, on the one hand, and our knowledge of the great truths of the Gospel on the other. There is the knowledge of God we have by virtue of our created nature, and also the knowledge of God and his special work of salvation that we get from Scripture, from God's speaking to us. There is what we know by general revelation, and also what we know by special revelation. Of course there will be deep and intimate connections between these two: after all, the God we know by nature is the principle actor in the sublime drama of salvation. They are nonetheless distinct kinds of knowledge. Had Adam and Eve not sinned, they would have had knowledge of God, but no knowledge of the great truths of the gospel. This knowledge of God would have come by way of a faculty or process whereby they formed the relevant beliefs. That process or power or faculty was part of their increated cognitive equipment, in this way on a par with memory, perception, reason and sympathy; it remains a part of our cognitive economy, although it has been dimmed and distorted by sin. Since we (or at any rate some of us) are Calvinists, we might as well call this process by its right name: the sensus divinitatis. But our original parents did indeed fall into sin. By a process of which we have no clear grasp, this led to a kind of corruption of our nature, including our cognitive nature. But it also led to an epistemic gift of magnificent proportions. In the first place, their sin plunged them and their posterity into a different epistemic state, one in which our natural, increated knowledge of God, while still present, was wounded; this knowledge was obscured by the smoke of our wrong doing, both the smoke res ulting from my own personal sin, and from the wound the sensus divinitatis itself sustained.

Here we confront the noetic or epistemic effects of sin at their most radical and harmful. But secondly, the Lord took dramatic action to enable us to be reborn, regenerated, to regain our lost relationship with him, to live once more the way he intended us to. He both provided this way back to health, and also speaks of it to us, telling us about it, enabling us to learn about it and to know what we need to know to gain its benefits. How does this speaking work? By way of the Scriptures: but how does it happen that we believe the Scriptures? Here too, then, there is something like a faculty or process at work; only this time the process in question is not part of our natural, increated epistemic equipment. It is instead a special and supernatural work of God. Once again we must call this work by its proper Calvinist name: it is the internal testimony of the holy spirit. I say we should call these things by their proper Calvinist names; but the fact is here and elsewhere Calvin, despite his fulminations against what he calls the 'Papists' with their 'Popery' and 'Popish Idolatry', is not far at all from Thomas Aquinas. And here I must make a parenthetical remark. Calvin and his 18th century follower Jonathan Edwards are among my highest ranking heroes; but their attitude towards Catholics is far from emulable. Detesting the Anabaptists, furthermore, was always a really bad idea; it disfigures the otherwise warm and gracious character of the Belgic confession. Fortunately, in my communion, anyway, we are no longer enjoined to take that hateful stance. We Christians have real enemies in the contemporary world; we do not need to fight each other. Indeed, the unedifying spectacle of Christians at each others' throats is in part responsible for our present enemies, by being in part the cause of modern apostasy. Close parenthesis.

According to Calvin, the chief work of the holy spirit in us is the production of faith. And faith, he says, is a kind of knowledge: "a firm and certain knowledge of God's benevolence toward us, founded upon the truth of the freely given promise in Christ . . .(III, ii, 7, p. 551).

Return to the epistemology I briefly sketched above: from that vantage point, calling faith a kind of knowledge need be neither merely figurative nor hyperbole. For this belief in God's benevolence towards us, in his sacrificial activity on our behalf, is produced in us by a cognitive process functioning properly in the kind of environment for which God designed both it and us; the production of this belief, furthermore, is according to a design plan successfully aimed at truth. The conditions for warrant are therefore met; if the belief in question is indeed firm and certain, this belief will constitute knowledge in the original and univocal sense. Of course what remains to be worked out here is enormous. How exactly is the internal testimony of the holy spirit related to the sensus divinitatis? Does it restore the latter to its pristine function? If not, does this occur suddenly, or via a long process? And doesn't it also do much more, in convincing us of the great truths of the gospel? What other cognitive or epistemic consequences result from the work of the holy spirit? And exactly how does sin fit in? The account of knowledge speaks of faculties functioning properly; can faculties damaged by sin function properly? If not, is there any knowledge? Or, if the workings of some of these faculties is at least partly restored through regeneration, is there any merely natural knowledge? Are all damaged, or only some? Are all those damaged, damaged to the same extent? Consider, for example, epistemic probability. Epistemic probability, as opposed to objective probability, is a matter of what a rational, i.e., properly functioning person would think in certain circumstances. More precisely, the epistemic probability of a proposition or belief, relative to an epistemic situation (roughly speaking, other beliefs together with current experience) is a matter of how firmly the belief in question would be held by a rational, properly functioning human person in the epistemic situation in question.

But of course sin and its effects throw a monkey wrench into this machinery. We are inclined to gauge the rationality of a given belief relative to a given set of circumstances by thinking about what we or someone wiser than we would think in those circumstances; but if the operation of our faculties is compromised by sin, this procedure is at best tenuous and chancy. In this connection we circle back to an item of apologetics: the probabilistic argument from evil. According to the best versions of th is argument, a properly functioning human being who is fully aware of the horrifying evils the world contains will be disinclined, or less inclined, to believe that the world is in fact under the control of a wholly good, all powerful, and all knowing per son. It is therefore a defeater, and a powerful defeater for theistic belief. But is this correct? What, in fact, would a wholly rational person, i.e., someone all of whose cognitive faculties were functioning properly, i.e., someone with a properly functioning sensus divinitatis, think, confronted with the evils our world contains? Presumably she would have an intimate, detailed, vivid and explicit knowledge of God; she would have an intense awareness of his presence, glory, goodness, power, perfection; she would be as convinced of God's existence as of her own. She might therefore be puzzled by the existence of this evil in God's world, but the idea that perhaps there just wasn't any such person as God would no doubt not so much as cross her mind.

Does it follow that the existence of horrifying evil is not for us a defeater, not even a defeated defeater, not even a defeater at all, of theistic belief? A second set of questions: according to Calvin, faith is this sure and certain knowledge of God's benevolence towards us, . . . "both revealed to our minds and sealed to our hearts by the Holy Spirit". Revealing and sealing: what is the difference betw een these two? Mere belief is not enough; it must be sealed to the heart. Is this sealing a matter of religious affections, as Jonathan Edwards suggests? If it is, do these affections themselves contain a cognitive, intentional element? According to the epistle of James, the devils believe, and they tremble. Is the difference between the redeemed Christian and the devils a matter simply of affections, in that the Christian loves the Lord, is heartily thankful for these gracious truths, and commits himself to living in and for the Lord, while the devils take a very different affective stance? Or does the believer know something the devils don't, something of the loveliness, graciousness, beauty, holiness, amiability of the Lord, none of which the devils grasp? What is the relation between cognitive processes and affective processes, in an older terminology, between intellect and will, in knowledge of God?

Another set of questions in the same neighborhood: William James, that cultured, sophisticated New England Victorian gentleman, notes the throbbing elements of longing, yearning, desire, eros in the writings of Teresa of Avila, looks down his cultivated nose, and finds all that a bit, well, tasteless, a bit declassò. Sniffs James, ". . . in the main her idea of religion seems to have been that of an endless amatory flirtation . . . between the devotee and the deity. . . . But here the joke is on James. The Bible, in particular the Psalms but not only the Psalms, is full of expressions of that longing, yearning, Sehnsucht. This erotic element in true religion is deep, obvious, and often noted. How is this kind of eros related to other kinds of eros? Freud thought religious eroticism a distorted and illusory reflection of sexual eros, which he thought the basic driving force in human nature. But perhaps Freud characteristically had things just backwards. Perhaps it is sexual desire and longing that is a sign of something deeper: perhaps it is a sign of this longing, yearning for God, we human beings achieve when we are graciously enabled to reach a certain level of the Christian life. Bernard Williams scoffs that heaven would be pretty boring; and Michael Levine suggests that friendship with God could be fairly interesting, but doubts that it would be "supremely worthwhile". But perhaps these reactions are as immature as that of a 10 year old child upon first hearing of the pleasures of sex: could it really match marbles, or chocolate? And here too, what we need to know is how affect and intellect work together; is this longing, this yearning for God, a knowledge of God? Or merely a desire for a knowledge of God? Does affect add something co gnitive or epistemic to intellect here? How is affect related to intellect, in knowledge of God? Is sin at bottom a disorder of affect? Is it a sort of affective psychosis, a madness of the will? These are some of the questions: of course there are many more. My point has not been to catalogue all the questions, but to illustrate a way in which the Christian philosopher is in but not of the world.

The Christian epistemologist offers an account of knowledge, thus joining a human project with roots that antedate Christianity. But if she does things right, she will not automatically accept currently popular accounts; she will offer one of her own, one that arises naturally out of her Christian way of thinking about the world. This account should be superior to those offered by naturalists, and may also seem so to others, even to nontheists, thus serving as something like a theistic argument. Her account will of course be designed to fit and ill uminate the kinds of knowledge we all have in common: perception, memory, reason, and the like; she is thus in the world. But it will also be designed and perhaps specially designed to fit and illuminate kinds of knowledge her unbelieving compatriot will dismiss: our knowledge of God, of the great truths of the Gospel, and of how to appropriate the latter for our own lives; she is thus not of the world.

These are some of the ways in which the Christian philosopher will be in but not of the world. There is still another way, perhaps the most important way, one that a Christian philosopher neglects at great peril. For a Christian philosopher is first of all a Christian and only secondarily a philosopher. Her philosophy is her specific way of working out her vocation as a Christian; but then to be a proper Christian philosopher, she must be a proper Christian. This means that all of her thought and activity will be shaped and formed by the traditional ways in which we Christians try to make progress in the Christian life: prayer, Bible reading, taking part in the sacraments, associating with other Christians for fellowship and edification. Those who neglect these things are cutting off the source and root of their being as Christian philosophers.

By way of conclusion: Christian philosophy at the end of the 20th century is doing rather well along some dimensions, less well along others. And of course its work of properly relating to the Civitas Mundi is never done: as the latter constantly changes, so must the Christian response. But the Christian philosophical community must also offer its own accounts of the main philosophical topics and concerns. Herman Dooyeweerd made a determined and powerful effort to do precisely this: for that we are thankful. We must continue in the spirit of his work, offering our own accounts of these areas. This task is challenging, formidable, difficult, frustrating; it is also fascinating, beguiling, fulfilling. Most of all, it is the service we Christian philosophers owe to the Lord and our community.

I commend it to you.



This article may also be found within the Virtual Library of Christian Philosophy.


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