Re-taking Ground for the Gospel

by Marilyn Stewart

The second in a three-part interview with Paul Copan, professor of philosophy and ethics, and the Pledger Family Chair at Palm Beach Atlantic University, and author of numerous books on the Christian faith.

On a flight home several years ago I sat with my nose in Paul Copan’s book True for You, But Not for Me: Deflating the Slogans that Leave Christians Speechless. Near the end of the flight, the young man next to me asked me what I was reading. By the look on his face I could tell he was dying to know.

Though I don’t remember now exactly what I said, it was something like, “It’s a book about questions people ask today about faith and belief in God.” I didn’t mean to play cat and mouse, but once a schoolteacher, always a schoolteacher, and the schoolteacher in me wanted to find out just how interested he really was.

He then asked, “Well, is it good?”

I looked at him and said, “I live in New Orleans and have three children.” I didn’t make it through my next sentence before he started nodding his head. I said, “I want to be able to answer their questions about why it makes sense to be a Christian.” He was hooked when I said, “This is a great book for parents.”

Paul Copan is a scholar whose books are resources that we can put in the hands of seasoned believers, unbelievers, or believers struggling to be sure, like the young father on my flight.

After you read one of Paul’s books and become a fan, try some others: When God Goes to Starbucks, Is God a Moral Monster? or How Do You Know You’re Not Wrong? are great popular books. Visit his website to see more: www.paulcopan.com. —  Marilyn Stewart

Q:  Christianity has been marginalized in every sector of the public square. Christians are often shouted down and our values and beliefs are ridiculed. In what area(s) do you see us regaining ground first?

A: As we look at the progress Christian philosophy has made since the late 1970’s and early 80’s, the faith of many Christians has been strengthened, and outsiders to the faith have been attracted to it. We have witnessed how belief in God is being taken with greater seriousness in the academy, and there is a growing number of theists in the guild of philosophy—most of them being Christians.

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We are witnessing progress in the publication of books and journal articles in the philosophy of religion that are sympathetic to Christian theism. Indeed, a wide range of mainstream academic and university presses are producing these books.  Christian thinkers have made great inroads in presenting the reasonableness of belief in God and the credibility of the Christian faith as a robust, intellectually credible worldview.  Given the tone of hostility toward belief in God in most of Western philosophy in the 50’s and 60’s, this is quite remarkable. Some important ground is being regained here.

The God-science discussion is an ongoing, fascinating and often fruitful one, although some in the science community assume that any kind of “design” is “unscientific”—as though the insistence that there is no design were a neutral scientific statement! No, it is quite philosophical. Interestingly, modern science was begun by thinkers committed to the Bible and thus a rational (yes, designed) universe that was capable of being studied. These thinkers’ belief in the miraculous did not diminish their capacity of doing exceptional and creative scientific work. While discussions about science and design, it seems, continue to be polarized and polarizing, astrophysicists continue to discover more breathtaking, delicately-balanced conditions for the possibility of life. In addition, the evidence for the Big Bang—and thus the beginning of the universe a finite time ago—continues to mount and thus reinforce the biblical revelation, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Such evidences offer a remarkable defense of design and the power of God.  It is difficult to explain these things unless God is brought into the picture.

We are seeing the same sort of thing when it comes to the existence of consciousness.  Atheistic philosophers of mind and neuroscientists are puzzled as to how the consciousness could have emerged from unconscious matter…

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