Sophia Forum Welcomes Alvin Plantinga

by Brandon Hook

Evolution—some Christians cringe at the sound of it. But is evolution really at odds with the Christian faith? Should Christianity adhere to evolutionary psychology? Should Christians develop their own science?

This year’s Sophia Forum lectures, hosted by APU’s Department of Theology and Philosophy, addressed these questions and more with speaker Alvin Plantinga, Ph.D., a leading figure in contemporary analytic philosophy.

The Sophia Forum aims to promote Christian philosophy and pay tribute to those who significantly contribute to the field. Each spring, the forum invites one prominent Christian philosopher to give two lectures. On Feb. 16 and 17, Plantinga delivered his lectures to APU and the broader Azusa community in Munson Chapel.

Plantinga received a Ph.D. from Yale University and taught philosophy at Notre Dame for 28 years. He has edited and written 14 books and published more than 130 articles in various philosophical journals. Plantinga is most known for his impact on Christian thought as it pertains to science.

David Woodruff, Ph.D., professor of philosophy at APU, was excited to invite such a prominent figure in modern philosophy.

“Plantinga has had probably an inestimable impact on Christian philosophy,” Woodruff said. “He has been a leader within the philosophical community outright, but he’s used that position to forward and develop Christian philosophers. To honor people who perform such a service is one part of the aim of the Sophia Lectures. The other aim is to forward the practice of Christian philosophy at APU and the broader Azusa community.”

Woodruff hopes students took advantage of the opportunity to hear and accept the challenge of a talk by a philosopher of Plantinga’s caliber.

“One of the things I hope they got out of it was having the opportunity to hear someone of Plantinga’s caliber talk,” Woodruff said. “We always love it when [students] are inspired to think on their own about some of the issues. And I’d like for them to be challenged about the role that science plays in how we think about our religious views.”

On the first night, Plantinga argued that Christianity, consisting of the fundamental doctrine of the creeds of the early Church, is not at odds with evolution. On the contrary, naturalism, a quasi-religion, is in conflict with evolution.

In his second lecture, Plantinga posited that evolutionary psychology assumes particular assertions the Christian does not necessarily need to adhere to.

Junior psychology major Katie Shore found the lectures beneficial.

“I really liked [Plantinga’s] main point,” Shore said. “Christians shouldn’t be expected to explain their beliefs on the basis of methodological naturalism. We have a basis of theological assumptions that the secular world doesn’t believe. He’s saying we don’t have to scrap our beliefs of God and those assumptions in building our worldview. Most philosophers are trying to prove those assumptions, rather than proving things based on them.”

Shore believes Christian philosophers and scientists alike need to move forward.

“We don’t need to spend all of our time on the defense in the secular world,” Shore said. “We’ve done the work—it’s time to move forward. I liked his first lecture because it was an offensive front to secular philosophy.”

For more information on Plantinga’s thoughts about Christianity and science, check out his latest book Science and Religion: Are They Compatible?