Search Results for: Gregory E. Ganssle

Greg Ganssle Media on the Problem of Evil

For your next Introduction to Philosophy class, consider using this video trilogy by our own Greg Ganssle, wonderfully provided through WiPhi: Open Access Philosophy:

Part 1

Greg lays out a classic argument that God does not exist, which he calls “The Problem of Evil.” He distinguishes two versions of that argument, which are sometimes called “the deductive” and “the evidential” version. He goes into some details on the deductive version.

Part 2

Greg gives a response to the deductive version of the Problem of Evil on behalf of someone who believes that God exists. In thinking about this response, we need to think about whether God can make contradictions true, and whether God can have good reasons for allowing bad things to happen.

Part 3

Greg considers the evidential version of the Problem of Evil, and gives a response on behalf of someone who believes that God exists. This involves considering whether God might have a good reason to allow bad things to happen.

Welcome, Gregory Ganssle!

It is my joy to welcome Greg Ganssle to the EPS blog!

Greg has been longtime leader and scholar in the EPS. In my estimation, he is one of the most creative, wise, and engaging thinkers in our Society. His recent book, A Reasonable God: Engaging the New Face of Atheism (Baylor) is must-reading for anyone who cares to understand and assess the “New Atheism” (see my interview with Greg here).

Greg is Senior Fellow and lecturer at the Rivendell Institute, Yale University, a regular contributor to Philosophia Christi, and currently a member of the EPS Executive Committee.

His most recent blog posts are worth your time and interaction:

“Beyond Cognitive Dissonance”

“Existential Dissonance and Core Identity”

You can learn more about Greg by visiting his EPS web profile here.

Call for Papers: N.E. Regional Meeting of the EPS

Northeast Regional Meeting of the Evangelical Philosophical Society
April 9, 2011
Bethel Seminary of the East in Auburn, Massachusetts
In conjunction with the Northeast Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society
Theme: “A Theology of Disability and Suffering”

The Evangelical Philosophical Society will host a regional meeting at Bethel Seminary of the East in Auburn, Massachusetts on Saturday April 9, 2011. This meeting is in conjunction with the regional meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society.

Paper Proposals on this or other topics in Philosophy are due by email on January 27, 2011.
Each proposal should be approximately 300 words and include the gist of the argument of the paper. Please include name, email and institutional affiliation.

Presentations should be 20 minutes in length to allow a brief time of Q and A.

Accepted proposals shall be notified by February 14.

Email proposals to

Patrick T. Smith, Gordon Conwell


Greg Ganssle, Rivendell Institute at Yale

A Reasonable God: Interview with Gregory Ganssle

Yale University Philosopher, Greg Ganssle, recently came out with his book, A Reasonable God: Engaging the New Face of Atheism (Baylor, 2009). We interviewed him about his book and the contribution of the book’s thesis for theism-atheism discussions.

How did this book come about for you? 

When the new atheist books came out, I knew that many Christians would respond. Some of the early responses, on the web and those Harris discusses in his Letter to a Christian Nation, seemed to be as shrill as the strongest rhetoric in the New Atheists’ work themselves. I recognized that this is not the sort of response we need. I had both a philosophical concern and a pastoral concern. Philosophically, we want to take arguments seriously, reconstruct them in their strongest and most clear form, and then provide a response. Pastorally, we (Christian philosophers) must show how to engage with people and ideas we think are mistaken. It is, in some sense, part of our role to help shape the way believers engage in public discourse. Both of these concerns led me to take on the project.

What’s so “new” about the “New Atheists”?

Obviously atheism is not new. What is new about these writers is a combination of the following: first, their arguments are not merely against the truth of theism. They are also about the undesirability of being a theist. Second, they write with a strong rhetorical and polemical style. Third, they are not entering the academic discussion of the issues. This combination is new. Now it is not perfectly new. We can think of Bertrand Russell as an example of an academic philosopher who discusses religion in this non-academic and polemical way. But for the most part there is a new strategy or approach here.

Your book has been understandably praised as having a “nonconfrontational style” (Peter van Inwagen) and even a “sensible, evenhanded assessment of the strengths and weaknesses” (Dean Zimmerman). Did you intend such a tone, style, and approach? If so, why?

This tone was very important to me. First of all, as a Christian I know that my higher priority is to be charitable. In an intellectual dispute this requires that we take a careful, reasoned approach, and that we look for places where those we are engaging are getting issues right. We need to treat those we are challenging as our friends. I think there is no other way for a faithful follower of Christ to proceed. Second, as I mentioned before, there is a pastoral responsibility to show both how to engage these kinds of ideas and to show that we do not have to panic at challenges to our faith. Third, it is simply what it means to be a human being.

Was this a hard book to write, given the fact that most of the noticeable New Atheists do not tend to be philosophers (with the exception of Dan Dennett, of course)?

To be honest, the most difficult part was working through the texts and locating and articulating the arguments. Partly because this part of the process is exegetical, it is not as much fun as the actual writing. Of course, this part of the project will be part of many writing projects. It was here, though, that I almost quit. I almost quit because I wondered if another response was even needed. Many books were being published on the topic.

The writing itself went rather smoothly. I wrote the last chapter first (and it was published in Philosophia Christi as “Dawkins’ Best Argument: the Case against God in The God Delusion,” Vol 10. No. 1 (2008): 39-56.) I spent the summer of 2008 doing most of the rest of the writing. As far as tone is concerned, it was not a struggle. There is an advantage to working in a secular environment in that you are around very smart atheists all the time. This helps you internalize the sort of posture and virtues required of a believer in the world.

How does science (as a source of knowledge about reality) and its authority inform and form New Atheist claims about God’s non-existence? 

The new atheists tend to think that religious belief is incompatible with science. Dawkins is an exception in that he thinks that the God hypothesis is itself a scientific claim. What he means, I argue, is that it is a claim that has truth value and that if it is true, there ought to be the kind of evidence that is available to scientific methodologies. Since his arguments are largely philosophical, he does not think that scientific methodologies are the only ones that are appropriate for discerning the truth of the matter.

If the new atheists thought theology was a legitimate source of knowledge, they would not be atheists.

How and why does evidence, including its value, purpose, and significance, have an important role in atheist objections against theism?

Each of the new atheists might be different in this respect. The kinds of evidence they point to varies. For example, Dennett is much less concerned with the truth of atheism than with the idea that religion must be studied scientifically. By this he means that we must seek a Darwinian- type of explanation of religious belief and practice. He engages arguments for and against religious belief mostly in his early book, Darwin’s Dangerous Idea. Dawkins does not, for example, press the problem of evil because he thinks that the claim that God is good is not essential to theism. Harris does press it. Hitchens and Dawkins argue that Darwinism provides strong evidence that God does not exist.

You show that New Atheists interact with the cosmological, ontological, and moral arguments for God’s existence. What are the strengths and weaknesses of their interaction?

One thing we can learn is how difficult our job of communication is. Many of the objections they raise to these arguments are based on misunderstandings of the arguments. These misunderstandings involve both what we may call the classical versions (in Aquinas, Paley, etc) and contemporary versions. I think those atheists who concentrate in philosophy of religion, such as William Rowe, Richard Gale and Graham Oppy, are much more nuanced because they work in these arguments. Paul Draper is another example of a charitable and careful critic of theism, though he has tended to call himself an agnostic and not an atheist.

On the moral argument, they engage two points very well. These are that we need to believe in God in order to act morally and that we need to believe in God in order to know what is right and wrong. They correctly challenge both of these notions. What they do not engage, is the very question at the center of most moral arguments. This is the issue that the reality of objective moral obligations is better explained by theism than by atheistic theories of morality.

Why do New Atheists consider the Design Argument for God’s existence to be the most important?

This was a puzzle to me. Dawkins mentions that it is the only one still in use. I think they recognize that the hunch is strong that features in the world require an explanation.

What are the strengths and weaknesses for how the New Atheists treat the Design Argument for God’s existences?

I tend to think they do a good job with the big picture of Paley’s argument. Darwinism does raise a significant challenge to this one. They are less successful with the fine-tuning argument. They are quick to embrace the many worlds conjecture, though they do not consider the challenges that raises. It is as if the mere possibility that the conjecture is true undermines the whole argument.

What are Darwinian stories of religion? How do they function?

I found this part interesting. Both Dawkins and Dennett articulate some suggestions about how this kind of explanation might work. Here, they are pretty careful to explain where they are being merely suggestive. They do not claim more for their suggestions than they ought. The other interesting part is that they do not draw any conclusions from their suggestions. They do not say, “Therefore, it is probable that God does not exist.” In fact, Dennett explicitly says the Darwinian analysis of religious belief and practice is perfectly compatible with theism.

I had to ask myself about the upshot of the Darwinian stories as articulated by these writers. I concluded that there is some reason to think, though I cannot be sure about this, that both Dawkins and Dennett might mean these stories to function as a sort of Nietzschean  genealogy. In other words, these stories function to dislodge the readers’ commitment to theism, not through an argument that theism is false. Rather, the commitment is dislodged due to the presence of a plausible alternative story.

Dawkins’ “fittingness argument” is, arguably, the strongest argument among the New Atheists. What is it? How can theists respond?

Dawkins argues that the world we encounter fits better with the atheistic world-view than it does with the theistic world-view. Here Dawkins does some good work. He does not exaggerate the strength of the argument and, as I argue in the book, it does have some force. Dawkins reflects on the claim that biological life emerged and developed over a long time through Darwinism. If atheism is true, then if there is biological life, it must develop over a long time through some kind of process that is naturalistic. This is exactly what we find. If theism is true, it might be that biological life emerges and develops in the same way, but there are many other possibilities. God could bring it all into existence in one moment, or seven literal days. The fact that what we find is exactly what is required within the atheist world-view raises the probability of atheism.

I argue that Dawkins is exactly right about how these probabilities work. The fact that what we find is exactly what is required within atheism does confirm atheism.

There are two ways for theists to respond. Here I am going off what I do in the book. Theists can challenge the claim (what Dawkins calls “the fact”) that biological life actually emerged and developed through Darwinian means (including, of course, a naturalistic story about the origin of life). This approach is the one taken by those working in Intelligent Design theory. I do not raise any of this in the book because it is entirely implausible to the new atheists. To them, ID is just like young-earth creationism. It seems hopeless. It would not be wise to build a response to an argument that requires premises that seem hopeless to the very people you want to persuade. My approach might be controversial among Christians but I think there is an important principle about persuasion and the mission of the apologist.

The other way to respond, is to begin closer to the things the new atheists already believe. This is the approach I take. I can grant that Dawkins’ argument raises the probability of atheism. It does so by concentrating on one feature in the world. That is the development of biological life. There are other features, however, that are also not too controversial that point in the other direction. The four features I discuss are the fact that the universe is stable and ordered by natural laws, the fact that there are conscious beings, the fact that there is significant free agency (libertarian freedom) in the world, and the fact that there are objective moral obligations. To be sure the last two are controversial, although each of the new atheists presupposes objective moral obligations when they press moral objections to the way religious people have acted through history. The option to deny objective moral obligations is not open to them. Libertarian freedom is more controversial, though many think it is a reality.

The structure of my response is important. I do not take these four features and argue to the existence of God on their basis. All I do is show that Dawkins’ claim that the world points more clearly in the atheistic direction is false. I do think there are good arguments for God’s existence based on these features, but I do not need to develop them, since my goal is to respond to his argument.

Where do you see the discussion going between theism (especially Christian theism) and the New Atheism?

This is a good question. What I hope is that Christians begin to learn to respond more often with charity to challenges to our belief in God. I do get disturbed when some of us take pot-shots. I also hope that the public discussion of religious issues will include some of our more thoughtful representatives. I believe that this trend can come about as we continue to do good work.

How would you like to see your book used?

I’d love to see this book used as a text in philosophy of religion and apologetics courses because of the tone I tried to set. I think it could be a model. I know at least two courses that are using it.

You can learn more about Greg Ganssle by going here. Greg is also a staff member with the Rivendell Institute.

2008 EPS Papers (Ganssle)

Gregory Ganssle

God of the Gaps Arguments

Abstract: It is often the case that arguments for the existence of God are branded with the label, “God of the Gaps Arguments.” In this essay, I explore what this charge amounts to and whether it must apply to any argument for a supernatural being. My aim is to offer some ways to develop some plausible principles to sort out when theistic arguments ought to be abandoned because of this charge and when they ought not be abandoned.

Our Deepest Desires: How the Christian Story Fulfills Human Aspirations

In 2017, IVP Academic published Our Deepest Desires: How the Christian Story Fulfills Human Aspirations by Gregory E. Ganssle.  Ganssle is professor of philosophy at Talbot School of Theology at Biola University. He is the author of several books, including A Reasonable God: Engaging the New Face of Atheism [read EPS interview] and Thinking About God, and he is the editor of God and Time. 

From the publisher’s description of Our Deepest Desires:

As human beings, we are created with desires. We all long for meaningful relationships, lives that reflect goodness, engagements with beauty, and the freedom to pursue our lives with integrity. But where can our restless hearts find fulfillment for these universal longings? Philosopher and apologist Greg Ganssle argues that our widely shared human aspirations are best understood and explained in the light of the Christian story. With grace and insight, Ganssle explains how the good news of Jesus Christ makes sense of―and fulfills―our deepest desires. It is only in the particular claims of the Christian faith, he argues, that our universal human aspirations can find fulfillment and our restless hearts will be at peace.

Enjoy some of the past EPS blog posts by Ganssle, which convey some of his thinking used in Our Deepest Desires:

Web Symposium: Academic Disciplines, Faithfulness, and the Christian Scholar

What is an academic discipline? How might we think about the mission of God, the work of Christian professors and their work among the disciplines? What does it mean to think Christianly about scholarship? How might the character of a scholar shape the work of scholarship? These questions and more are addressed in this unique web symposium centered around a paper written by Paul Gould. [Readers may also be interested in an EPS interview with Gould regarding his recent book, The Outrageous Idea of the Missional Professor].

An Essay on Academic Disciplines, Faithfulness, and the Christian Scholar

by Paul Gould

This essays argues that an academic discipline is best understood as a social practice composed of guiding principles, a guiding methodology, a data set and a collective narrative (with characters, acts and various sub-stories throughout its history).

Mission takes place at the point of intersection between the dominant western stories (scientific naturalism and postmodernism) and Christianity. Within the academic discipline, these intersections are at each level: the Christian professor will utilize her own set of guiding principles and methodologies (which might or might not agree with those of the dominant story within the discipline); she will approach the data set of the discipline from her own unique point of cognitive access, which may lead her to ask a different set of questions than those who embrace the dominant story of the discipline would ask; and she will look to her own set of Christian mentors and guides within the discipline (historical and contemporary) for leadership.

As a missional professor who always has the progress of the gospel in view, she will seek “missional connections” within her academic discipline so that Christianity will be viewed as plausible and gain a hearing in the secular university and in culture. 

Scholarship and Character as a Christian Academic

by Michael Austin

This paper considers examples of how a Christian in philosophy can embrace positions within the discipline but also provide a unique and more cogent grounding for those positions. He argues that the best way of accounting for a conception of human rights based on fundamental interests can be grounded in God’s trinitarian nature. A Christian philosopher, depending on her audience, can be explicit about this ultimate grounding or she may instead produce a work of what C.S. Lewis called latent Christianity, in which the theological underpinnings exist in her mind, but are not made explicit in her argumentation.

Austin also discusses an example of how the fact that, as Gould puts it, “Christ is the source and telos of all things, including all truths that can be discovered,” can inform Christian scholarship, related to the dual nature of the Christian virtue of humility.

Finally, Austin briefly examines the importance of a robust Christian character for the Christian academic.

by Gregory Ganssle

The task of the Christian in the academy is complex. Paul Gould’s Essay includes some helpful conceptual tools.

The first helps us visualize the multiple implications of the fact that God is the prime reality. These implications open up the resources of the Gospel for thinking about the task of the scholar.

The second helps us give a more nuanced analysis of the contours of one’s academic discipline.

In this essay, Gregory Ganssle develop these tools to help make them more comprehensive, and, hopefully, even more applicable. 

A Perspective on Perspectival Factualism: Response to Paul Gould

by Richard Davis

Paul Gould’s Essay defends what he calls ‘Perspectival Factualism’ as the best approach for a Christian scholar to adopt towards her academic discipline. Richard Davis raises some questions for Prof. Gould’s proposal along with some alternative proposals. This paper also reflects Davis’s recent contribution in Philosophia Christi, where he [and Paul Franks] critique another form of perspectivalism. 


Reflection on Gould’s Model of Faith and Scholarship: Consistent, Holistic, Realistic?

by David Naugle

In this response to Paul Gould’s Essay, David Naugle mentions seven positive things he sees in his essay, including: that Gould emphasizes God’s mission and our scholarly faithfulness to it, his helpful definitions of academic disciplines, his examples of missional professors, the good Christian resources Gould uses, his boldness, and many other solid points too many to discuss.

Negatively, Naugle mentions, in summary fashion, the following points: a possible contradiction, a failure to be truly holistic in the faith-learning nexus, and finally, whether Gould’s model will lead to the transformation he seeks. Each major section is followed by summaries of various kinds.

Further Reflections on Academic Faithfulness: A Reply to Friendly Critics

by Paul Gould

In this paper, Paul Gould responds to essays by Michael Austin, Gregory Ganssle, Richard Davis, and David Naugle as they interact with his model of faith-scholarship integration as articulated in his “Essay on Academic Disciplines, Faithfulness, and the Christian Scholar.” 

Some Reflections on the Task of a Christian Scholar

The task of the Christian in the academy is complex. Paul Gould’s essay “An Essay on Academic Disciplines, Faithfulness, and the Christian Scholar” includes some helpful conceptual tools.

The first helps us visualize the multiple implications of the fact that God is the prime reality. These implications open up the resources of the Gospel for thinking about the task of the scholar.

The second helps us give a more nuanced analysis of the contours of one’s academic discipline.

In this essay, Gregory Ganssle develop these tools to help make them more comprehensive, and, hopefully, even more applicable.

The full-text of this paper is available for FREE by clicking here.

Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines, and Lord Aragorn

Dallas Willard was a magnanimous man in his vocational capacity as a professor and scholar and also in his capacity as a friend, mentor, and colleague. Greg Ganssle, a Senior Fellow at Yale University’s Rivendell Institute, discerns a vision of human greatness in Willard’s work and its convergence with Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings. Greg writes the following:

I defended my dissertation in January of 1995. Once the dust had settled, I decided to read or re-read all of the books I had put off for so many years. On my list, of course, was another trip through Middle Earth. At the same time, I read through Dallas Willard’s The Spirit of the Disciplines in my devotional time. I was struck with the convergence between Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and The Spirit of the Disciplines. Both held forth a vision of human greatness. What does it mean to be a great person? Willard led the reader through the wise practices that enabled one to put down deep roots in character. Tolkien painted a picture of character in action.

A great person is one who can live and act with patience and confidence because he both knows who he is, and he is centered on something larger than himself. For the Christian, the center is Christ. His call to us is our anchor. Our keel is deep because we draw upon the depth of his love and work in our souls. Through the habitual drawing upon his strength, we flourish. We may look strong from the outside, but it is the strength of his might.

The vision of human greatness held forth by Willard and Tolkien shines brightly when compared with the anemic pictures of greatness in our culture. A bit in Peter Jackson’s production of the Lord of the Rings makes this clear. In the first film, the character Aragorn was made to wallow in uncertainty about whether he could or would take up the task at hand. In Tolkien’s books, Aragorn never doubted and never hesitated. Why the change? I think it is because Jackson knew that the only categories contemporary viewers have for a deep person are those of overcoming self-doubt. In order to make Aragorn deep, he had to make him struggle with self-doubt. For Tolkien, it is much deeper to be a man who is confident and unwavering about one’s identity and destiny and to be patient in realizing one’s highest aspirations. Such virtues are invisible to a culture that is living in the triumph of pop-psychological entertainment.

Dallas called us to be people who do not doubt or hesitate because we are built upon the firm foundation of the work of God. He challenged us to embody those virtues that are real and visible to God, even if they cannot be seen by those around us. He blazed a trail for all of us. He pointed us towards a distant horizon, one that many of us had only glimpsed in imaginary worlds such as Tolkien’s. That horizon is not new. But every generation needs someone who can see it more clearly and point towards it more decisively.

We are all better people because of Dallas Willard’s faithfulness.