When was the last time you saw dozens of people lining up for a philosopher’s autograph? That’s what happened in the sprawling basement of a Marietta, Georgia, megachurch after Alvin Plantinga spoke there during a 2010 “Apologetics Conference.” And most of the attendees weren’t even philosophy students. They were teenagers, housewives, mothers and fathers—all excited about philosophy.
For his part, Plantinga didn’t appear entirely comfortable with all the attention. But, the truth is, he brought it on himself.
In the late 1970s, Plantinga and his former teacher William Alston helped to found the Society of Christian Philosophers (SCP), a sub-group of the American Philosophical Association. The SCP had lofty ambitions. It set out to restore the stature of expressly Christian philosophizing within the often antireligious philosophical establishment. Plantinga had already led the charge, publishing a series of papers and books that stood up for religious belief using cutting-edge techniques that philosophers had recently developed in modal logic and epistemology. At least among analytic philosophers of religion, Plantinga’s impact was enormous. A field once dominated by a handful of atheists has given way to a critical mass of articulate, rigorous theists.
Schneider briefly recounts the history of the SCP, including the event that lead evangelical philosopher William Lane Craig to part ways with it. Instead Craig began pouring “his energy into the Evangelical Philosophical Society—what had been a smaller, less dynamic organization founded in 1977.” To learn more about the influence that Plantinga, Craig and their respective societies have had on contemporary Evangelical thought, read Schneider’s full essay here. For more on evangelical Christianity in the 21st century see our recent series on the new evangelicals.