30 December 2002

Society of Christian Philosophers

I'm told that the Society of Christian Philosophers (SCP) is the largest society of American philosophers after the American Philosophical Association itself.

Over the years the SCP has sponsored a number of different programs by which the Christian faith might gain greater visibility in discussions of philosophy on the global scene. For instance, at the end of January there will be a conference on "God and Physical Cosmology" held at the University of Notre Dame with philosophers, theologians, and cosmologists from the US, Britain, and Russia.

One particularly fruitful series of conferences has been held in China over the past several years. The latest SCP newsletter reports on some of the details of this past year's conference held at Tsinghua University involving a team of nine philosophers from various universities in China and eight members of the SCP from various universities and colleges in the US. The topic was the relationship between morality and religion.

The conference involved both formal presentations of papers and responses from both sides as well as a more informal time for Chinese graduate students to ask questions of the Americans.

As John Hare (of Calvin College) reports it, several of the Chinese philosophers gave presentation that addressed "the need for God or faith or the tanscendent to support the moral life." There apparently was a significant interest in Kant on the part of the Chinese and the relationship between his universal ethics and a "global ethic" drawn from a consensus among world religions. The Chinese philosophers were, of course, well aware of Kant's view of God as a postulate of practical reason.

The Chinese students asked a number of interesting quetsions about America, God, faith, the future of religion, feminism, the events of September 11, and so on. They also prevailed upon the philosophers in a request for a song, in response to which the American panel sung "Amazing Grace."

Hare comments that this was a good opportunity to hear one's own views in a new context as they listened to the Chinese philosophers discussing the Gospel, in a context of scholarly expertise and good will. I think it is great to see Christian philosophers engaging their expertise and their faith in a context where the Gospel message needs to be heard.