Bringing God back from the dead
Eyebrows were raised when the prestigious Templeton Prize for progress in religion – previous winners included the Dalai Lama, Jean Vanier and Mother Teresa of Calcutta – was awarded to a relatively obscure American philosopher. A fellow philosopher explains the significance of his work / By John Haldane
Half a century ago, Time magazine published its first text-only cover; three red words on a black background: “Is God Dead?” The implied answer was “Yes” or “Probably”. For while 97 per cent of the US population claimed to believe in “God”, among the thinking classes religious belief was being abandoned. Among philosophers it was widely held that religious claims were nonsensical, or that religious belief was irrational, as unwarranted or as incompatible with the recognition of evil.
But amid the encircling gloom, a few lights were growing that would illuminate and re-energise Christian philosophical apologetics. The unlikely setting was a small Dutch Calvinist undergraduate college in Michigan, and the main figures were two contemporaries (born in 1932) who had studied there and since returned via Yale to be professors. One of those was Nicholas Wolterstorff, the other was Alvin Plantinga.