What is the current state of Christian philosophy in the secular university and the culture more generally? Is Christian philosophy considered an oxymoron? Or has belief in God enjoyed a renewal in academic settings, and if so, what accounts for that? We’ll answer these questions and more with our guest , our philosophy colleague Dr. Greg Ganssle. We’ll also talk about how Talbot’s MA Program in Philosophy, 30 years going as of 2023, has tried to advance the state of Christian philosophy in the academy and the culture.
Greg Ganssle is Professor of Philosophy at Talbot. He earned a Master of Arts in Philosophy from the University of Rhode Island in 1990. He earned his doctorate in philosophy from Syracuse University in 1995, where his dissertation on God's relation to time won a Syracuse University Dissertation Award. In addition to publishing nearly three dozen articles, chapters and reviews, Greg has edited two books, God and Time: Four Views (IVP, 2001) and God and Time: Essays on the Divine Nature (Oxford, 2002 – with David M. Woodruff). Greg is also the author of Our Deepest Desires: How the Christian Story Fulfills Human Aspirations (IVP, 2017), Thinking about God: First Steps in Philosophy (IVP, 2004) and A Reasonable God: Engaging the New Face of Atheism (Baylor University Press, 2009). Greg was part-time lecturer in the philosophy department at Yale for nine years and a senior fellow at the Rivendell Institute at Yale.
>> What is the current state of Christian philosophy in the secular university in specific and in the culture more generally? Is Christian philosophy considered an oxymoron? Is belief in God enjoyed a renewal in academic settings? And if so, what accounts for that? To answer those questions and more today with our philosophy colleague, Dr. Greg Ganssle, current chair of the Talbot MA in philosophy program. Greg, welcome. So good to have you with us.
>> Thanks, great to be here.
>> Great. I'm your host, Scott Rae. Now, just forget that. Let's just start. Greg, you spent 20+ years serving graduate students and faculty at Yale with Cru, formerly Campus Crusade for Christ. What was that like representing Christ in a culture existed at Yale during those 20 years?
>> Well, actually, we had a great time. I was serving with a think tank called the Rivendell Institute that we invented because we were looking at a different way of doing campus ministry. We were trying to engage the academic terrain of a secular university as well as mentor Christians, and hold forth the gospel in the context where we can. We found the context at Yale to be, in some sense, fairly friendly to conversations about the things of God. And so it wasn't openly hostile, or anything like that. Now, of course, there's plenty of disagreement about issues, but if you're interested in philosophy, you're used to disagreement anyway.
>> Now, you also taught as a regular adjunct faculty in the philosophy department at Yale for many years. How were you received there as an outspoken Christian?
>> Well, it was about 10 years, most of the semesters for 10 years. I was a part-time lecturer, and I taught a variety of courses, mostly in a freshman program that is kind of a great books program called Directed Studies, and I taught in the philosophy track. I had a great deal of support from the philosophy department, and everybody knew that I was a Christian and that my main job was campus ministry. But I had done my PhD and people saw me give lectures, and I had a lot of enthusiasm for my participation in the program.
>> So, Greg, during your years at Yale, 20+ years, what changes did you see on the campus there with regard to belief in God or generally in the gospel specifically?
>> Well, I think there were trends that went in two opposite directions. Some trends went towards the opening of more opportunity for Christianity in the university, and other trends went in the other direction. For example, when we moved to New Haven, there were basically two churches that took the Bible really seriously that were close to the university. By the time we left, maybe there were half a dozen, and people
>> Oh, wow.
>> had planted churches. There was a vineyard church planted by doctoral students at Yale University, and it's still flourishing. And so there was much more of a robust Christian community that developed over those years. Now, in the other direction, the rise of certain social issue pressures became increasingly difficult. And to be honest, there's been a lot of changes even since I've been gone from Yale in terms of how difficult the environment can be.
>> So what types of issues were generally the most contested?
>> Well, we had to be very careful talking about sexuality. In fact, we decided we weren't gonna make issues of those things in any of our public discussions. Now, if we were asked, we were very honest about our position, but we weren't going to put that front and center because we were trying to build common ground and get the conversation about the gospel into the arena of the university. So you have to be shrewd, as Jesus said, and careful about which things you pick up as a public discussion.
>> Now, if you had a student, maybe son or daughter who's like, "Hey, Dad, I wanna go to Yale and study philosophy or a school like Yale," would you be enthusiastic and say, "Hey, you're gonna get balanced perspectives," and try to guide 'em now that you've been at Biola? Would there be some serious pause and concern about some of the ideas that are coming through?
>> I don't think there'd be any more serious pause than any other secular place.
>> Sean: Okay.
>> The key for a student who wants to follow Jesus surviving and thriving in a secular university is to get deeply involved in campus ministry, whether it's Cru or InterVarsity, because you need to surround yourself with peers that are gonna help you engage your environment with the gospel. And if a student is willing to do that, then I would be enthusiastic about the philosophy program at Yale. There are some believers lurking about, and you have people who are fairly sympathetic as well as people who think Christianity's crazy, but are generally fair in their assessment. I'm sure there are other instructors that probably are more biased against Christianity than we would like them to be, but not more than any other department in the university. I think philosophy as a whole tends to be much more even keeled than some of the other social sciences.
>> Sean: Yeah.
>> So yeah, I mean, that sort of gets us to the question I wanted to raise here from the 35,000-foot level. How would you characterize the state of Christian philosophy today?
>> Well, I think the state of Christian philosophy is very, very good. And this has been a trend as you know that's been going on for decades. And there were kind of seeds sewn in the 60s by some very good philosophers in the secular academy that continued to bear fruit. And groups like the Evangelical Philosophical Society, the Society of Christian Philosophers have emerged and attracted believers into the field of philosophy. So that not only are there probably more Christians in philosophy today than at any time in the past 150 years, that has a rub off effect of people who have Christian colleagues and begin to think that it's not wildly irrational to be a Christian. So I think the state of Christian philosophy is very good. It keeps getting better. There are some top philosophers that are strong believers and yet are doing the kind of work that gets respect across the field. And we have benefited from that in our graduate education, we all studied with some of these people.
>> When I was an MA phil student, I remember there was an atheist, and I'm thinking it was Quentin Smith, but I could be mistaken, who said there's this renaissance in philosophy, and it's the Christian renaissance. It's the last vestige of Christian thought anywhere is how I remember the idea. I think it's been a couple decades since that. How would you assess that statement now in terms of philosophy and just Christian thought as a whole in our culture?
>> Yeah, that was Quentin Smith, and I remember that, and I remember Bill Craig's response was, "It's not the last vestige, this is a foothold for the gospel in the university."
>> Sean: Yes.
>> And I actually think Bill was right about that.
>> Sean: Wow.
>> Because the renaissance of Christian philosophy has begun to spill over into other academic disciplines. The discipline of American religious history very quickly began to expand among believers. But now even fields like sociology and philosophy of science, there are just more believers going into different fields, literary studies. And so what happened in philosophy is beginning to sow seeds in some of these other places. So I think Quentin was right, but he kind of looked at it as kind of the last gap.
>> Sean: He did, yeah. [laughs]
>> Rather than this is actually a foothold and a seed for the future.
>> So Greg, how do we account for this renaissance as you described it, and I think that's an accurate term. This renaissance in Christian philosophy that's taken place over the last 20, 30 years.
>> Well, I think it's a couple of factors. One in 20th century analytic philosophy, which is the philosophy that dominates the English-speaking world. In the middle of the 20th century, it was dominated by a movement called logical positivism, which thought that certain questions were simply meaningless. And these were questions in philosophy of religion, but also ethics and metaphysics. Well, logical positivism died the death it deserved starting probably in the 50s, and it left a vacuum. And all of a sudden, philosophers began to think, "I can do metaphysics. I can do substantive ethics with all the tools of analytic philosophy." And all of these fields began to have their own renaissance, and one of which was philosophy of religion. And that, of course, attracted Christian thinkers into philosophy. Now, Christian thinkers don't only do philosophy of religion. Now, we have them doing ethics and metaphysics and epistemology, and all of these different fields. So part of what made the way for this was movements happening within philosophy itself. Then there were some leaders who began to attract really good graduate students. People like Alvin Plantinga, Nicholas Wolterstorff, William Austin, who is my advisor,
>> Sean: Wow.
>> and Dallas Willard. And so really smart Christians got attracted to philosophy because of people like this. And so it had kind of a reinforcing effect. And now I think people aren't surprised. People in the academy aren't surprised about Christian philosophy. It's just kind of part of the furniture that they encounter.
>> So it's really interesting that this movement started in the 60s, which is still kind of in the wake of the Death of God movement when people would've suggested the opposite. Now, we've come a long ways, but Christian philosophers are still, in my understanding, a minority in the philosophical world as a whole.
>> Greg: Oh, absolutely.
>> You would agree with that?
>> Greg: Yes.
>> How is Christian philosophy or Christian philosophers viewed by the rest of the academia today, the philosophical world?
>> I mean, I think there's probably a great variety. Philosophers who do good work tend to be respected. We had a graduate student from our program. He went off to Penn, University of Pennsylvania to do his PhD. And when I bumped into him, he said, "Nobody cares that I'm a Christian." We are just doing philosophy together. And it's not a barrier at all. I'm sure there are other people who kind of have biases and hostilities, but I think outside of the academic arena, people expect the level of hostility to be very high, when I found it wasn't that high. You do good work, you admit your beliefs, and people are fairly accommodating.
>> So, Greg, I suspect that at this point in our conversation, some of our viewers are thinking to themselves, "You know, I'm not a philosopher. I could barely spell metaphysics. I don't know what epistemology is. I do know what ethics is." But I think they might be thinking, "Why should I care about this broader movement in Christian philosophy in the university and in the culture at large? So what would you tell them in response to that?
>> That's a good question. I think there are lots of reasons to care. One, I think we can be encouraged. We can be encouraged that God is doing things in places that maybe we're not even thinking about. And God is at work in academic institutions, and that's just encouraging because the kingdom of God is real, it's alive, and it is going to continue to grow. But there are other ways that philosophy is important to the general culture. One is that philosophers are very, or I should say, way upstream in cultural influence, because the ideas that shape the people who are going to make our television shows, the people who are going to set business agendas, those ideas mostly are coming out of certain academic disciplines, and philosophy is one of them. So the better able we are to influence philosophy for the good, including for the gospel, the better able we are to influence the rest of culture.
>> I remember my son who's a graduate of Biola's film school, he used to say that ideas go from philosophy to art, and then to film and television.
>> Yeah, that's why he spent an extra year. After he graduated, spent an extra year taking courses in philosophy and in art history in order to help solidify his foundation as a filmmaker.
>> I think that's a great strategy. And the arts have a tremendous... They're like a crowbar, they can open things that other disciplines can't open. And so to pool the kind of thinking that philosophy can train you to do with the ability to produce really good art is just a great combination.
>> Scott, I've shared this with you, but my wife, I really remember my wife from third grade.
>> So she's seen me through high school, college here at Biola, the master's program, the philosophy department, and my doctorate. And she says, looking at my life, she's like, that MA phil program when I did it was just the greatest spiritual and just life change for me in that season. I loved it. It's my 10th year here at Talbot in the apologetics program. My second year, I saw that you were hired to come to the MA phil program, and having read your works and knowing your ministry, was absolutely thrilled, thought this is a perfect fit. But why did you choose to leave a place like Yale as prominent and significant as it is, come here at Talbot to join the philosophy faculty?
>> Well, there were two major reasons that influenced us. It was a hard decision. One is Yale had made some budget rearrangements such that I couldn't teach anymore. And I remember the acting chair of the department who's a thoroughly secular philosopher called the dean and argued on my behalf.
>> Sean: Wow.
>> And said, "We've gotta have Ganssle teaching," but they couldn't do it. And I found that when I wasn't in the classroom, my sense of ministry calling began to erode. And I realized teaching was a central part.
>> Sean: That's what you love, yeah.
>> What I'm called to do.
>> Sean: Yeah.
>> And the other thing is, as I get towards the later years, which will remain numberless for our discussion, [Sean laughs] I take it that my role is turning more towards coaching the next generation. And so this is what the MA program at Talbot does better than anywhere else, is to help raise up, train, and coach a new generation of Christian scholars. So I was very excited to be a part of that.
>> Well, I totally agree, and in the fruit of that in many ways. So you teach in the MA phil program. You and J.P. Moreland started this 30 years ago. If I'm not mistaken, this spring marks 30 years of the program.
>> Right, spring of 2023.
>> Spring 2023.
>> 30th year of our MA in philosophy.
>> Tell us a story of starting it.
>> I mean, I can't believe it's been 30 years, but yeah, J.P. Moreland had been a long time friend. I've known him since our years together at Dallas Seminary. We taught at Cruz International School of Theology together. Then we both sort of went our separate ways. I went into the pastorate for a while. J.P. went to a church, and then to Liberty. I came back, I found my way to Talbot by the providence of God, and was talking to J.P. about what a great environment it was. And basically, he said, "Hey, can I come too?"
>> laughs: Sounds like J.P.
>> It is so typical. But our current dean at the time had grown for restless in wanting to start something at the graduate level in philosophy. And so when J.P. came, we just said, "Hey, we wanna start this." And our dean at the time, he said, "You've got three years to make a go of it. And if it's not solvent at the end of three years, I'm pulling the plug on it." And so we were out speaking everywhere we could trying to sell the program. I mean, we were trying. I mean, anybody who would listen to what we were trying to do, we tried to get in the fold. And we figured, "If we ended up with 30, 40 students, and had maybe 10 or 20 students going for PhDs, and maybe got a couple of people with teaching positions in state universities, we'd praise the Lord, call it a huge win, and be totally satisfied." What we didn't realize is the wave and the providence of God, the wave that we were riding was just cresting at that time. And we recognized that no other seminary that we were aware of had a program in philosophy that was training people to do philosophical work that could get them into state university, PhD program, and get them jobs in those same state universities. We knew there was one school in the Midwest that had closed their program several years before that. We became a huge beneficiary of that in that one of our visiting faculty was now available to us, William Lane Craig.
>> Sean: Oh wow.
>> Became available to us.
>> Sean: That's great.
>> But the reason we started this was really pretty simple. We just said, "We want to do what we can to reclaim lost intellectual real estate in the university." And we said, "The best way we know of to do that is to give our MA students as rigorous in education as we could to prepare them to be the best read and the best prepared students in the doctoral programs that they were headed into, so that they could end up having competitive applications for teaching positions in those same state universities."
>> One of the revolutionary things that I noticed, I was early in my doctoral work at Syracuse when the program was launched. And of course, I kept watching it from afar. But what was revolutionary is that you launched a department. Many seminaries would hire one philosopher and that person would teach apologetics, philosophy, and wind up teaching theology. But by starting with a department, you were able actually to give a master's degree that had a full range of preparation. And to be honest, at that time, nobody was doing that. Now, various other schools, mostly populated by our graduates are launching these guys to-
>> That's right, that's right.
>> We wanted for the longest time to have competitors because the harvest is plentiful, but the workers were pretty few and far between at the time. And we couldn't understand why no other seminary was willing to sort of jump into the game with us. We desperately wanted another school on the East Coast and a school in the Midwest to do this, so that our folks wouldn't have to come all the way across the country and relocate. Remember, this was before anything was online.
>> That's right, that's right.
>> And so now, our program is now completely online too. So we have students all over the world who are enrolled in the program, taking it online.
>> So that was 1993, and that was the year before I started at Biola. Kind of a cool context. We've talked about how there were no other seminaries or Christian schools doing this. What did you guys try to do differently from other programs in philosophy, maybe in the secular world?
>> Yeah, there were a couple things. One thing that we were really clear about is that our graduates, they needed to know the Bible, and they needed to know theology well. And we had noticed that the theologians that we had all studied under in seminary were sort of classically trained systematic theologian, and not particularly trained in philosophy. And they left a lot of questions unanswered. And it wasn't fair to require them to answer those 'cause they hadn't been trained to do that. And so we wanted to bring a philosophical bent to theology that we thought had been... At least it was missing in our own theological education. That was one I think really important element 'cause we did not want a bunch of philosophers running around who couldn't integrate their philosophy with their Christian faith. But the second thing is we really wanted to give attention to their spiritual life, and to their formation. And this was before Talbot required any courses.
>> Sean: Yeah.
>> I take it you didn't take any
>> Sean: Yep.
>> during your time in the program, 'cause we just hadn't started that yet. And so a lot of the spiritual formation that we did came in the context of classes in metaphysics and epistemology and ethics. I remember one of our grads, I remember him saying, he remarked after he'd finished the program, he said, "The times in my life that I have felt closest to God were when I was studying metaphysics."
>> And I thought, "If that's true..." And he's not an exception, I don't think he was. I think we were doing something right at the time. And those were the two because we didn't wanna see people well trained in philosophy going into these environments with their spiritual life being a mess, and their marriages coming unraveled. That didn't serve the cause of the gospel. And so we were torn quite a bit between requiring what we knew they had to learn to do what we wanted them to do, but also recognizing that they probably needed to get bees and seeks every once in a while to keep their marriages intact. And to my knowledge, we've had a handful of casualties along the way, but not very many. It's been very encouraging to see how few spiritual casualties we've had that we've come across along the way.
>> People talk about that stuff more now, but going back to the 90s and early 2000s, people were not, so you guys were way ahead of the game working that in. Now you may have answered this, but anything else you saw within the program that was different from how secular universities, non-Christians would approach and do philosophy.
>> I think, well, the integrated aspect of it. I think the graduates of this program, well, part of it was who was attracted to the program. Many of the people coming in, especially in the first decades, had years of ministry experience. And so they were older, they were mature. And this helped, I think, launch the program. So the graduates were holistic people. They knew how to take care of their families. They knew how to set priorities, and they went off to PhD programs, and they knew how to work hard. I think it's still the truth that our graduates are just very well prepared.
>> Sean: I agree.
>> And we hear this from people at these schools.
>> Yeah, we hear this pretty regularly that among their graduate student colleagues that they enter with, they're the best prepared, best read, and most broadly read because our folks have read the philosophical naturalists, they've read the physicalist, they've read the moral relativists. And it's much more rare that their colleagues in these departments have read Alvin Platinga and Bill Craig, and some of these other folks that we consider to be staples, but they're often not aware of them.
>> I think 20 years ago, there was the banquet for 20 years. And I think that's the one that I had a chance to speak at.
>> I remember well.
>> And I remember you saying that this program started specifically to get graduates into PhD programs. But if I remember correctly, about half of the graduates are in some kind of parachurch ministry, maybe a Cru, teaching Bible Christian schools, being pastors. So half have gone the academic route, and maybe half have gone kind of a different direction. Maybe talk about just some of the fruit, whether it's specifically in academia or other areas over the past three decades.
>> Well, maybe I'll start with the numbers. Last time we checked, and this was probably a year or so ago. Over the past 30 years, we've sent over 200 of our graduates into PhD programs.
>> At places all over the country to some of the most prestigious PhD programs in the world. And we've also sent 'em to Europe. And usually, there's usually one or two people a year we send to doctoral programs in theology where they specifically want to do, they wanna teach theology, but with the benefit of this rigorous philosophical background, which I think makes them super well equipped to teach theology. At last count, we have roughly 75 of our graduates in teaching positions in secular universities.
>> Sean: Wow.
>> And those range from Cal State schools. In fact, we have three of our grads at Cal State Sacramento. Russell DiSilvestro is a department chair.
>> Sean: Great.
>> He recruited another one of our grads to join him as a colleague, Chong Cho. She has still has the most stellar letter of reference I've ever read. [Sean laughs] She was a lawyer by training. Her letter of reference was from the chief justice of the California Supreme Court.
>> Wow, that's impressive.
>> Because she clerked for one of the appeals courts, a nice circuit court of appeals. And then they have also hired one of our grads to be one of their regular adjuncts. And then we have graduates who've taught at Texas A&M. We have two at the Air Force Academy.
>> Sean: Very cool.
>> One of our grads, a female student, has taught ethics and philosophy courses for the military at the Pentagon. Just places we've never imagined people getting into. I've got 'em teaching community colleges. What we didn't realize too was that almost all of our grads who went on to PhD programs had really significant teaching lows to undergrads when they were doctoral students. So we've had our grads who have been teaching at Georgetown, at Notre Dame, at the University of Texas, Colorado. I mean, all of these state universities, they taught for two, sometimes three years teaching undergrads. And they've come back and they say, "I've had the freedom to talk to people about my faith. I can be open about it. I've led my undergrad students to Christ." It's been thrilling to listen to them talk about their impact. So that's some of the numbers.
>> That's amazing, yeah.
>> And we've had other folks, they go back to campus ministry. Super well prepared. He taught in a Christian high school for a while. We've had others who teach in just public high schools. One of our grads years ago started a philosophy club at a public high school in Whittier here in the area.
>> He's one of my classmates.
>> This thing has flourished.
>> In fact, another one of our grads who taught in Irvine has been communicating with us over the last few years. She's developed two electives in philosophy that she's offering. And it turns out she was the English teacher that my youngest son had when he was a high school student. [Sean laughs] And so it's just been thrilling to see what a lot of these folks are doing. And some of 'em are pastors, and we've maintained all along that if we lose the battle for ideas in the local church, we've lost.
>> Kinda end of story. And what we accomplished in the culture probably doesn't matter much, if we lose that battle to the local church. So we encourage our folks, we've got people who are college pastors, associate lead pastors who are bringing their training. And this is why I think the Talbot education in general, that gives them a really solid grounding in Bible and theology. I think really equips somebody pretty well to serve on a church staff too.
>> Great, what's some of the fruit that you've seen from the program?
>> Well, everything that Scott's talking about, I've seen with the students that I've been around. We have quite a few who are entering analytic theology, which, as a name of a field, is quite new. I think the term was coined maybe a dozen years ago. And there are some programs in the UK that are specializing in this where it's kind of a philosophical approach to theology. And they're doing very well. In fact, one of them was startled to find one of our alums on the faculty of one of these programs.
>> Sean: Wow.
>> And so in terms of the academics, we continue to send students into very good PhD programs, and they continue to wind up teaching. But we've seen a lot go into parachurch. So the ministry,
>> Sean: Yep.
>> Ratio Christi, for example, is an apologetics ministry for secular colleges. And it's heavily populated with our alums. And in fact, Corey, the president, often comes and recruits.
>> That's Corey Miller, not Barry Corey.
>> Not Barry Corey, yes. Corey Miller, the president of Ratio Christi. Barry Corey might come and recruit also, but that would be
>> Scott: He might, yeah.
>> for something else. And so the service in parachurch and church ministry is astronomical. But there's also been an increasing, and you have more experience with this, emergence of Christian classical schools where it's not just a Christian high school that has a curriculum, something similar to a normal public high school, but they build a curriculum around reading the important books of Western civilization. So we have a recent graduate who's now starting his doctoral program in philosophy, who was teaching Aristotle and Kierkegaard and Nietzsche at the Christian Classical School. And his students were reading the Great Works.
>> Sean: It's amazing.
>> And I was a guest lecture on Nietzsche in his class. And these students were all over the ideas of philosophy. So I think that's a place that many of our graduates are gonna find a fruitful ministry.
>> Sean, we could talk about the impact that our students are making, and the impact of the program on their lives, but it's probably better if we hear from some of our grads themselves. And so we've got some clips from a handful of our grads. So they're talking about their experience in our program and what they've been able to do as a result of that. So for our viewers, listen in while we hear from some of our grads.
>> What I learned at Talbot, both through classes and the academic side as well as the social side, really gave me a depth, not just for vocation, if you're thinking vocation as sort of this is my job, my role in life, what I'm doing, but also, in my marriage, in raising children, definitely in the church. Realizing that philosophy in a way feels like a dying art or a dying field in that people just don't really wanna engage on the deeper questions. Defining terms is huge. It seems simple, but I'm a PhD candidate in Holocaust and genocide studies. And when I very first started the program, there's a number of other disciplines that are highly represented in the field, history and sociology and anthropology, which is understandable and very, very helpful, but those are all descriptive disciplines. And with philosophy being more normative, I brought something to the table that actually no one in my cohort, and I don't know if there's been anybody in the program, to my knowledge where I'm attending, that actually comes from a philosophy background. And so to be able to say, "Well, we know that this happened, but why are we saying that it's wrong? Or what is it that gives humans rights?" So those sorts of things being skilled in metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, logic, all of those courses really helped to deepen and better integrate my thinking and my ability to explain, or my ability to better understand people. A lot of times, we talk past each other 'cause we're using the same terms, but we are not operating on the same definitions. Also, understanding things like personhood, what gives someone personhood. And for example, abortion is a very highly emotional topic, but how many people are really going, "Let's back up a little bit and talk about what is personhood? When does personhood begin? What gives someone personhood? Or moving more and more into AI, is that going to be personhood?" So the skillset that Talbot gave me, I thought was valuable then. My life is so different now from having gone there.
>> My time at Talbot really helped prep me for doctoral work. I didn't really know, but when I transitioned, I went to University of Colorado at Boulder, and it was just an easy transition. In fact, in some ways, the workload was lighter. I'm not doing prices all the time, which we had to do a lot of back in the late 90s, was really good. But I felt really equipped to write. Yeah, I mean, it was just... Yeah, it was a smooth transition. So the coursework was manageable for me, and in some ways easier 'cause I had fewer classes. I even remember looking at the exchanging papers with some of my students that started at the same time as I did at CU Boulder. And some were really good, and some, they weren't that good. And mine would've been like that without my time at Talbot. So it prepared me to write. And I think this is something that stuck out to me in grad at CU Boulder, and then in my work since 2004 at Eastern Kentucky University is I often would pray, as I think it was J.P. suggested, just that the results of my work couldn't be explained by just my work, my talent, my abilities. And I've seen that in the classroom and my research, in relationships with people, and loving students when it's not easy to love a student. So yeah. And it really, I mean, form me as a husband, father, friend, just making Christ central to my work and my life.
>> Two more questions. Would love both of you to weigh into this. Scott, what are some of the challenges the program has faced over the years that have just felt difficult to overcome?
>> Well, I think I'd say there's two of them mainly. One I think was the result of our early success. Because we had more students than we knew what to do with in the early days. I mean, we tapped out at probably 160 students, and we were having sections with 50 or 60 'cause we didn't have the faculty yet, and not enough folks had finished their PhDs to come back and join us. And so we were just scrambling like Matt to try and take care of and properly equip the students that we had. And we took a lot of grief for having that many students because some of the places we were sending PhDs for PhDs were saying no because they didn't think there was any way that we could possibly be effectively training
>> Sean: Wow.
>> that many students.
>> Sean: Wow.
>> So the other one I think came in the aftermath of the Great Recession in 2008 and nine. That was a brutal time for higher education. And most of the academic departments that had PhD granting programs cut their financial aid to the bone. And most of our grad students, our viewers may not be aware of this, but most of our grad students who go on to do a doctorate in philosophy didn't pay tuition. And they had a teaching assistantship or a fellowship that gave them a fairly generous monthly stipend, probably not enough to live on, but it was a really good start. Those all basically went out the window.
>> Sean: Wow.
>> In the aftermath of that. And actually, a handful of doctoral programs that we had sent people to really good ones actually closed down. It was super disappointing. And it probably took five, six, seven years for that level of funding to come back.
>> Sean: Wow.
>> And so we had to be much more realistic with our students who were headed toward the academic route. If they were not headed there, then that's a whole different ballgame. And especially if they had families and people who are depending on them financially, just to say, "Look, the job market is really, I mean, it's always been tough, but now it is really tough." And so just make sure that this is what God's calling you to do, and that's something that you think is just a great idea to do with your life. Make sure this is something God's calling you to. 'Cuz if He genuinely is, He will find a way, He will find a place, and it will get done. But that was a really challenging time because before that, our best students would get accepted to at least a half a dozen programs each. And they have their pick. And for about five years after that, our best students maybe were getting into one place.
>> Sean: Wow, that's significant.
>> It was real. Yeah, it was a much tougher challenge to do that. And I'm grateful that by that time, we had established a vision for our grads to do other things besides the academic route because that really dried up for a while. I don't think that's as true today, but the academic route is still very challenging. It's a hard career to do, if you get an opportunity, we're all living a dream, and a lot of our students would love to be living the same dream. But it's different than when we were applying for jobs.
>> Yeah, I mean, I can reiterate that fact. At the top schools, they'll get 300 applications for 10 spots, and the school will accept 10, hoping five will come. And so the odds are pretty bad. And to get your students kind of on the top of the list is challenging. Now, we've still been able to do that, especially with our best students. I think another challenge for us is that there's a sense of, I don't know if this is global, I mean, or national, but there's a little bit of a loss of momentum among thinking Christians about the importance of philosophy.
>> Sean: Interesting.
>> Some of this is good because other fields are being more talked about. And we want what's happened in philosophy to flow over, so smart believers, believers who are sensing a call to the academy or to integrating academic thinking with ministry are going into and coming out of other disciplines. But as a result, I think there are fewer really well prepared students for our program. And I'm just beginning to observe this, we still get some excellent, excellent students, and very challenging to be in the classroom with them. I'm not sure if there isn't kind of a trend among evangelical Christianity that is still latently anti-intellectual, and even though the life of the mind in the church I think has gotten much better
>> Sean: I agree.
>> in the last 30, 40 years and continues. So I think there might be one track that keeps getting better, and one track that could be a negative impact on the kinds of things that we're trying to do.
>> Well, I think these trends can go together simultaneously.
>> Greg: Yeah.
>> It's not impossible. That's really helpful. Last question though, as we think about the next 30 years of the program, whatever that may be, what are some of the aspirations and goals, big or small, you'd love to see?
>> Well, I think, I wanna continue to do what we can to populate the academy, to be salt and light, and to establish what I would call strategic beachheads in different universities around the country. The aspiration, I think, for the future is to do more of this internationally.
>> Oh, that's great.
>> And to have some of these beachheads be established in different countries. We've had a handful of our folks came from different countries and gone back to their countries to do work at the university or in non-profits, in parachurch ministry, things like that. I think that my next aspiration is to see the program really expand internationally. And I think that's gonna take some work on our part to do a better job of equipping our grads to address the kinds of issues that we may not know anything about at this point that are coming up in other countries and other parts of the world.
>> Any thoughts you have
>> just moving forward goals for the program?
>> I think that's right. I think the mission of the gospel is global. It's not just English-speaking. And we have attracted some great international students. Our online presence allows that to accelerate. I have a student in South Korea and a student in Hong Kong on my online early modern philosophy class. And we could almost never have reached them without the online presence. So I think that's going to be part of the horizon. And then the other is to stay faithful, faithfully teaching, faithfully shepherding, faithfully pouring into the next generation. It might seem like it's the same thing, but it's the same thing with different people every year. We keep getting new people we pour into, and we train and we equip. And as we populate the church and the culture and the academy with deeply rooted followers of Jesus, then that's the kingdom of God emerging. And so I'm very excited about the future.
>> Well, we love having you here, an amazing edition, even though it's been eight years.
>> Yeah, thanks.
>> I definitely commend your writings to our viewers. Your book on "Our Deepest Desires," it's brilliant. And we've talked about that. Scott, we can talk about numbers benefiting from the program, but I'm a living example. I've told you this, it was hugely formative to me. I am grateful for my training in philosophy, so appreciate your efforts and it's-
>> Well, we are grateful for your work. You're doing us proud.
>> Well, thanks. [laughs]
>> I assure you.
>> Wanna wrap us up? Bring us home?
>> Yeah, well, we are delighted that you've been a part of this conversation. If you have an interest in hearing more about our MA in philosophy, talbot.edu/maphil is the place to look. This is also available on audio for the podcast. So we hope you that you'll subscribe. If you're not a subscriber, hope you'll subscribe and be a regular listener to the audio version of the podcast as well. So we're delighted you can be a part of this. We're celebrating our 30th anniversary of the program in the spring of 2023. We'd appreciate your prayers for the ongoing faithfulness and impact of our program going forward. Thanks for joining us today. [instrumental music]