Monday, April 08, 2019

My intellectual development

Having been a Christian blogger and apologist, this might be a good time to say something about my intellectual development and predilections:

• I never pursued an academic career because that requires a field of specialization, and my interests are too varied to sacrifice. Moreover, I think my wide-ranging interests enrich my apologetic resources. 

• Everything I care about ties into Christian theology. All my varied interests tie into Christian theology. That provides a unifying principle. I don't have a fallback position. I can't detach Christianity from what matters. I have no positions independent of Christianity. It's Christianity all the way down. All my positions in ethics, metaphysics, and epistemology are guided by or grounded in Christian theology. 

• I backed into apologetics to answer other people's questions rather than my own. However, there came a point in life where it was helpful having that in reserve.

• I think naturalism is a recipe for moral nihilism, existential nihilism, and epistemic nihilism. As such, naturalism is a backstop against apostasy because there is no alternative to Christian reality.  

• Because apologists influence each other, apologetics can get stuck in a rut. It becomes too stereotypical and repetitive. One thing I've tried to do is to explore neglected lines of evidence for the Christian faith, thereby broadening the evidential basis for Christianity. 

• I became a Calvinist for what at the time were inadequate reasons. However, I made the right call. My initial understanding of Calvinism was formed and informed by reading Warfield and Cunningham. Paul Helm has also been useful over the years. 

• Although freewill theism has produced a number of eminent thinkers, I just can't take it seriously as a solution to the problem of evil. And the God of freewill theism is a smaller God than the God of Calvinism. Not the greatest conceivable being. 

• As a young Christian I explored Catholicism, but I was always too Bible-centered to find Catholicism satisfactory. Aesthetically I identify with the high-church tradition but theologically I identify with the low-church tradition. 

• Correspondence with Greg Bahnsen, John Frame, Vern Poythress, and William Young served as sounding boards in the initial formulation of my theology. 

• I'm basically a classical theist, although I reject Thomistic simplicity 

• I prefer exegetical theology and philosophical theology to historical theology

• I prefer metaphysics to epistemology

• I prefer the principle of plenitude to the principle of parsimony 

• I prefer rationalism to empiricism. I like philosophical and scientific thought-experiments. However, the empiricist emphasis on sense knowledge is a salutary corrective to the rationalist derogation of sense knowledge. 

• I subscribe to the Medieval exemplarist tradition

• I find symmetries interesting, especially reflection symmetries, crystallography, tessellation, infinity mirrors, Pachelbel's canon, &c. The Trinity is the paradigm symmetry. Reality is ultimately complex rather than simple. 

• I'm an indirect realist. To that extent, I'm a scientific antirealist. Appearances all the way down. Layered appearances. In that regard, divine revelation is necessary to provide an intersubjectival check on sensory perception. 

• The philosophy of time is an interest of mine 

• John Ruskin and Christina Rossetti are side interests

• Historic thinkers I find stimulating include Anselm, Berkeley, Descartes, Leibniz, Newman, Philoponus, and Pascal.

• Recent thinkers I find stimulating include Robert Adams, Dembski, Geach, Gödel, David Lewis, Le Poindevin, Thomas Nagel, Plantinga, Pruss, Poincaré, Josh Rasmussen, Sheldrake, van Fraassen, van Inwagen, Van Til. 

• I often correspond with Greg Welty, Paul Manata, James Anderson, Tim and Lydia McGrew

• When I was younger I used to think ethicists were philosophers who lack the acumen to do metaphysics, or aging philosophers who lost their intellectual edge. However, I developed a greater appreciation for ethics as I came to view it in a broader existential light: what makes life meaningful. 

• Favorite theistic proofs:

Argument from miracles

Argument from numbers

Argument from counterfactuals

Argument from truth (Aquinas)

Argument from logic

Argument from reason (Rasmussen)

Argument from contingency (Leibniz)

Evolutionary argument against naturalism

Pascal's Wager


  1. Thanks for this Steve. Your work has been an incredible blessing in my life, for many years.

  2. Replies
    1. He's a useful critic of naturalism.

    2. I recently listened to his dialogues with Mark Vernon and enjoyed them. Odd but plenty that is worth keeping in mind when reading Scripture, IMO.

  3. Steve Hays is a major part of my intellectual development.

    1. Everytime I have a theological question, or an exegetical dificulty, I read biblical commentaries and stuff, and in the end I'm like "let's see what Steve has to say about that passage". He is my final arbiter. I'm no catholic but, in practical terms [practical terms!] he is my autoritative interpreter of the Bible...hihihi... Just kidding...

  4. If you don’t mind answering Steve, what is your vocation?

    1. If you mean "vocation" in the traditional sense of feeling that God is calling someone to a particular role in life, I don't have a vocation. I don't have a subjective sense of divine leading.

      I write lots of stuff in the field of ethics, apologetics, and culture wars because there's a need for it and I have a knack for it. Much of what I write is out of duty rather than personal interest.

    2. Your response is interesting but I just meant what’s your day job? :)

    3. Steve is a trust-fund baby, but does occasionally consult on lucrative large-scale domino cascade projects.

    4. I thought I paid off Gadbois to keep my Green Arrow background a secret, but he took the hush money and ratted me out me anyway. My cover is blown forever.

    5. No worries - as we all know, calvinists are naturally sneaky and duplicitous. "Steve" will have a new alias in no time.

    6. Life on the lam. Every night I sleep in a different motel to stay one step ahead of the Arminian hitmen.

    7. With the speed that you post here I figured you for the Flash over GA.

    8. I don't think the Flash can think that way fast. I mean, I don't know if he is intellectually productive too, only in physical tasks.
      I think Steve is more like Dr. Manhattan, that can multiply itself.

      BTW, Steve, I think the hitman for Marvel are far more numerous than the arminian hitmen. But I digress.

      BTW², Watchmen was illustrated by Dave Gibbons. Maybe he is that guy David Gadbois, with a typo. Hmmm. Already been acused of pseudonimity, Steve might be, indeed, a superhero. Who knows? He has the power to have a day with 36 hours...

  5. Very interesting stuff!

    Do you have any political influences?

    What do you think of Plantinga's cover version of the ontological argument - is it apologetically viable?

    What's the issue with Thomistic simplicity? Actually I think you might've blogged about this around the time you were discussing Feser.

    1. I've written a lot about Thomistic simplicity. It's in tension with divine freedom. A poor fit for the Trinity. It erases the distinction between justice and mercy, which is essential to Calvinism.

      I like Plantinga's modal ontological argument. Ironically, he's become skeptical about his own argument, but it's championed by others (e.g. Maydole, Szatkowski).

    2. The question of political influences would take considerable introspection for me to disentangle.

    3. Thanks for your replies!

      I just brought up political influences because I perceive you to be a Buckley guy somewhat.

    4. As a young man I watched Buckley, but at that time I was a Democrat. My parents were Democrats, although my mother later switched parties.

      Frame's triperspectivalism is a useful tool for ethical analysis. Gordon Wenham makes some helpful observations in Story as Torah: Reading Old Testament Narrative Ethically.

  6. Thank you for all your work, Steve. It's very much appreciated. I've been reading Triablogue since around 2010-2011, and without fail it's the first blog I check in on. I've learned much from you, and I appreciate that. You're the kind of guy I'd love to sit down with, share a nice bottle of wine and talk theology, philosophy and politics, picking your brain here and there as we go.

    Much love from Blighty!