Doing Theology as a Servant of Jesus (11): Some Thoughts on Theology, Philosophy, and Science

Many of the most formative moments of my life occurred during college (waaaayyy back in the mid 90s). I had just recently truly embraced Christ and had begun to realize the moralism and self-righteousness that had blurred my spiritual and theological vision. During those years, I began to realize that, if the gospel is true, then it is relevant to absolutely every realm of thought. More to the point, I began to realize that it is relevant to disciplines such as philosophy and science, which have often been held up as the rational ideals and cultural authorities for any civilized person. In the first centuries of the church’s existence, philosophy held the position of “cultural authority” (for many people), while in the past several centuries, science has held that position (for many people). In fact, when Christians do theology publicly, the elephant in the room usually is “the sciences.” Perhaps no subject has been so sharply divisive over the past centuries. One thinks of Galileo’s persecution at the hands of the Catholic and Protestant churches, of the divisive nature of the Scopes monkey trials, and of the acrimony that sometimes exists today between theologians and scientists.

In light of the robust presence of philosophy and science in our cultural spaces, and in light of the contributions that have been made by philosophers and scientists, this installment (together with the next two installments) argues that theologians benefit from dialogue with philosophers, scientists, and those who work in other fields of learning. In such encounters, how should theologians view the fruits of philosophy, science, or some other discipline, especially if the practitioners with whom they interact are not believers and do not take into account the teaching of Christian Scripture?

Levels of Reflection:

Before tackling the notions of philosophy and science separately (in the next two blog installments), first we must provide a conceptual map relating those disciplines to Scripture, biblical theology, worldview, and systematic theology. Craig Bartholomew and Michael Goheen provide such a map.[1] In their view, Scripture is the inspired Word of God. Biblical theology is the study of Scripture which conceives of and articulates Scripture as a unified and coherent narrative which is the true story of the whole world. Worldview consists of the basic beliefs drawn from the biblical narrative, in interaction with a particular culture’s basic beliefs.[2] Systematic theology and Christian philosophy both arise from Scripture, biblical theology, and worldview. They, like worldview, are abstractions from the biblical story. Other disciplines (e.g. the arts, the sciences, business, economics) arise from Christian philosophy and systematic theology, drawing upon them as they study the particulars of their own creational reality.

The larger model, therefore, has five tiers:

Scripture (God’s Word written)

Biblical Theology (the story of the Bible)

Christian Worldview

Christian Philosophy & Systematic Theology

Other Disciplines

They further explain this model by means of an analogy, comparing knowledge with a tree.[3] In this analogy, the roots of the tree are “faith,” or the direction of the heart. All humans practice faith, either in God or in idols. The base of the trunk is biblical theology, providing the foundation and trajectory for the growth of the tree. The main body of the trunk is a Christian worldview, which in turn has two main branches, namely, systematic theology and Christian philosophy. Growing from those two main branches are further branches, which represent the special sciences, the various disciplines which each have their own creational integrity. In this view of things, Christian theology and Christian philosophy stand side-by-side in the search for truth. Neither discipline seeks to build its knowledge independent of God’s revelation. Both disciplines arise from the biblical narrative and its attendant Christian worldview, and therefore find themselves in a healthy and fruitful dialogue and partnership with one another.

[1] Michael Goheen and Craig Bartholomew, Living at the Crossroads: An Invitation to Christian Worldview (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008), 26-28.

[2] Goheen and Bartholomew, Living at the Crossroads, 27.

[3] Craig Bartholomew and Michael Goheen, Liberating Christian Philosophy (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, forthcoming 2012), chs. 1-2.

Book Notice: “Taking Christian Moral Thought Seriously” by Jeremy Evans

It has been said that the title of philosopher is easily earned by anyone with a credibly furrowed brow who speaks, writes, and otherwise publicly bloviates about the big, big questions. It has also been said that philosophy departments are full of pervicacious malaperts who overestimate their own brilliance, gazing condescendingly on the ignorant masses who believe in such fantasies as the virgin birth and resurrection.

Not so at Southeastern, where our faculty are not only wickedly smart and well-credentialed but also faithful men of the Word. Jeremy Evans (Associate Professor of Philosophy at SEBTS) is one of those men and the editor of a new book, Taking Christian Moral Thought Seriously: The Legitimacy of Religious Beliefs in the Marketplace of Ideas (B&H Academic). Addressing the place of Christians and Christian arguments in the American public square, Evans argues that none of the founding documents of the United States represent a strict separation of church and state. As such, “there is a social interest in not hindering the free exercise of religion, part of which includes allowing religious persons to be full participants in the domain of ideas in the American marketplace” (1).

The aim of the book, therefore, is to foster discussion among Christian and non-Christian scholars on the reasonableness of the Christian worldview. To achieve this goal, Evans gathered the keen insights of fellow philosophers and ethicists on critical moral and philosophical issues such as the death penalty, abortion, and creation care. The level of Christian discourse on these and other issues will go a long way to furthering the reasonableness of the Christian worldview in the domain of ideas in the American marketplace. Such is the burden of this book.

The Essays and Authors are:

“A Critique of Public Reason” by James Noland
“Pluralism, Toleration, and the Corruption of the Youth” by Kent Dunnington
“The Significance of Religious Disagreement” by John DePoe
“Two Dialogues on the Philosophy of Science” by John Ross Churchill
“Reframing the Abortion Question” by James Noland
“Assessing the Death Penalty” by Allen Gehring
“Creation Care” by David Graham Henderson

Taking Christian Moral Thought Seriously will be a tremendous help to college and graduate students in philosophy and ethics. More broadly, it will be a stimulating read for any Christian interested in one or more of the issues addressed and, more importantly, how one ought to think about and address such issues in his or her own context.

For those of our readers who are seeking the “action points” or “pastoral application” of this blog, my suggestions are: (1) sign on to Amazon and purchase the book immediately, (2) consider coming to study under Dr. Evans at the bachelor’s, master’s, or Ph.D. level.

An Invitation to Study Philosophy at Southeastern

It has been said that the title of philosopher is easily earned by anyone with a credibly furrowed brow who speaks, writes, and otherwise publicly bloviates about the big, big questions. It has also been said that philosophy departments are full of pervicacious malaperts who overestimate their own brilliance, gazing condescendingly on the ignorant masses who believe in such fantasies as the virgin birth and the resurrection.

Not so at Southeastern, where our faculty are not only wickedly smart and well-credentialed (PhDs from Oxford, Texas A&M, U. Texas, and, ahem, Southeastern Seminary), but also faithful men of the Word. For those of you interested in studying ministry in general, or philosophy and apologetics in particular, we invite you to Southeastern to study critical thinking, logic, apologetics, history of philosophy, epistemology, metaphysics, and various other mind-bendingly exciting topics. At Southeastern, you will have the opportunity to study with professors such as:

Jamie Dew (Ph.D., Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; Ph.D. candidate, University of Birmingham) is Assistant Professor of History of Ideas and Philosophy and is the author of Science and Theology: An Assessment of Alister McGrath’s Critical Realist Perspective (Wipf & Stock), co-editor with Norman Geisler and Chad Meister of God and Evil (forthcoming, IVP), and co-author with Mark Foreman of How do We Know? (forthcoming, IVP). His specialties lie in philosophy of religion, the history of philosophy, and epistemology. He is currently working on a second Ph.D. in religious epistemology at the University of Birmingham, England. Jamie is also a senior pastor and the father of two sets of twins.

Jeremy A Evans (Ph.D., Texas A&M University) is Associate Professor of Philosophy and is the author of Evil and Essential Christian Beliefs (forthcoming, B&H Academic), the editor of Taking Christian Moral Thought Seriously: The Legitimacy of Christian Moral Thought in the Marketplace of Ideas (forthcoming, B&H Academic), co-editor with fellow SEBTS prof Heath Thomas and Paul Copan of Old Testament Holy War and Christian Morality (forthcoming, InterVarsity Press), and has published articles in Philosophia Christi. His areas of specialization are in Philosophical Theology and the Philosophy of Religion. Jeremy is the father of four children and is a senior pastor. One gets the suspicion that Dr. Evans could tie half his brain behind his back and still be sharper than the atheist ideologues he so often antagonizes.

Steve Ladd (Ph.D., Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) is Associate Professor of Theology and Philosophy. Dr. Ladd’s expertise lies in the realms of logic, rhetoric, and metaphysics. He is a student favorite in our college’s History of Ideas seminars.

Bruce Little (Ph.D., Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) is Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Bush Center for Faith and Culture and is the author of God, Why this Evil? (Hamilton Books), A Creation-Order Theodicy: God and Gratuitous Evil (University Press of America), the editor of Defending the Faith and Engaging Culture: Essays in Honor of Dr. L. Russ Bush (Broadman & Holman), and Francis A Schaeffer: A Mind and Heart for God (P&R Publishing) and co-author of several works, many in Russian, with Dr. Felix Lazarev, Chair of the Department of Philosophy at Tavricheskiy National University in Simferopol, Ukraine. His areas of specialization include the problem of evil, logic and argumentation, and epistemology. Dr. Little is known for being a master teacher, wearing a bowtie, and speaking in a northern Maine accent. One sometimes hears students refer to him as Dr. Dapper.

Ivan Spencer (Ph.D., University of Texas at Arlington) is Associate Professor of History and Philosophy and author of The Christology of Liberation Theology. His areas of specialization include the history of ideas, liberation theology, and classic literature. Dr. Spencer is a student favorite in the college’s History of Ideas seminars, and is known for roasting, grinding, and brewing his own coffee beans.

Gregory A Welty (D.Phil., Oriel College, University of Oxford) is Associate Professor of Philosophy. His Ph.D. dissertation is entitled “Theistic Conceptual Realism: The Case for Interpreting Abstract Objects as Divine Ideas.” He is the author of articles in Southwestern Journal of Theology and Calvinism: A Southern-Baptist Dialogue (B&H), and numerous book reviews. His areas of specialization include the philosophy of religion, the coherence of theism, theistic arguments, and the relation between God and abstract objects. Dr. Welty is new to Southeastern’s campus, but has already made an impression with his sharp mind and ready wit.

The Bachelor of Arts in Christian Studies and Theology is a double major which introduces students to the study of God and man. Students read great works of theology, literature, history, philosophy, and political theory and interact with them from a Christian perspective. Additional courses allow students to tailor this program toward graduate work in Philosophy or Philosophy of Religion. The College also offers the Bachelor of Arts in Christian Studies with a minor in Apologetics, equipping the student to defend the Christian faith, emphasizing theology, philosophy, logic, and communication skills.

The M.A. in Philosophy of Religion prepares students to have an effective voice in the public square through an advanced study of historical and contemporary philosophical/theological issues relevant to the study of religion (e.g., religious pluralism, the problem of evil, the relationship between faith and reason). The M.Div. with Christian Apologetics is designed to train men and women to present cogent and winsome arguments for the truth of the Christian faith. The Th.M. in Theological Studies with a concentration in Philosophy equips post-M.Div. students who want to enhance their theological training, either for preparation for doctoral study or as an advanced degree for service in the church. Students can take the thesis or non-thesis tracks under the supervision of a professor in the area of Philosophy.

The Ph.D. in Theological Studies with a concentration in Philosophy of Religion prepares students to teach the philosophy of religion and other related courses to college or seminary students, and to write at the scholarly level about the history, study, and praxis of philosophy.

We invite you to study with our Philosophy faculty in the B. A., M.A., M.Div., Th.M., or Ph.D. programs of Southeastern. For more info visit our website ( or and check out the Admissions and Academics links.