Phillip E. Johnson, known as the “Godfather of intelligent design,” passed away on November 2. Johnson, a law professor at University of California, Berkeley and author of Darwin on Trial, was instrumental in establishing Biola University’s Torrey Honors College.

“Echoes of Phillip Johnson's influence will long resound at Biola University, especially through our Torrey Honors College and in the lives of so many who were the beneficiaries of his graciously shared intellect, wisdom and virtue,” said Biola President Barry H. Corey. “He is owed an inestimable debt for the rigor and significance of his scholarly contributions, illuminating the way for generations of thoughtful Christians.”

Founded in 1996, Torrey Honors College, formerly known as Torrey Honors Institute, is Biola’s undergraduate honors program, which prioritizes theological education and formation through the reading of great books, group discussion, and one-on-one faculty mentorship.

“Johnson heard the idea of Torrey Honors and how Biola University was the only place fit for such an odd thing as a great text program,” said John Mark Reynolds, the founder of Torrey Honors. “He got it right away, added wisdom, and found the right partners to help fund early days. Since then there have been few weeks I have not benefited from his wisdom. He loved Torrey, Biola, and the generations of students who visited him.”

Torrey Honors students would take trips to Berkeley to visit Johnson and learn from him at his home. Johnson is the author of two books on evolution and naturalistic philosophy for the general reader, Darwin on Trial (2nd ed., 1993) and Reason in the Balance (1995). He frequently lectured and wrote on subjects relating to science, philosophy, and religion.

In 2004, Biola established the Phillip E. Johnson Award for Liberty and Truth to honor his life and work. He was the award’s first recipient. The award recognizes Johnson’s pivotal role in advancing understanding of design in the universe by opening up informed dissent to Darwinian and naturalist theories of evolution.

Johnson also influenced Talbot School of Theology’s Master of Arts, Science and Religion program, having a personal impact on the program’s director, Biola Professor of Physics John Bloom.

“Phil helped us focus on the right questions: 'Whatever the details, was God involved in creation or did mindless particles come together to make us? What conclusion does the actual evidence support?' Sometimes we don’t see the forest for the trees: Phil reminded me to focus on the big picture,” said Bloom in a recent Christianity Today article on Johnson’s life.

In 2008, Johnson was given an honorary degree at Biola’s fall commencement ceremony (pictured above).

Read more about Johnson’s life in an article written by Fred Sanders, associate director of the Torrey Honors College, published on The Gospel Coalition.

Learn more about Torrey Honors College.

Learn more about the Master of Arts, Science and Religion program.

Written by Jenna Loumagne, assistant director of media relations and strategic communications. Contact Jenna at (562) 777-4061 or