Faith and Reason: Interview with Alan Padgett

Alan G. Padgett, DPhil (Oxford), Professor of Systematic Theology at Luther Seminary (St. Paul, MN).

In a recent email exchange with Alan Padgett, in follow-up to last summer’s Emerging Scholars Network (ESN) blog interview on Fruitful, Faithful Presence in the Academy and in exploring ESN’s “A Theology of Higher Education Project”, I learned that Alan has contributed to another InterVarsity Press (IVP) publication: Faith and Reason: Three Views (June 2014). In response I dropped him a quick reply so that we can be on the cutting edge regarding this new publication.


Tom: Alan, I’m so excited to learn about Faith and Reason: Three Views. Please share with Emerging Scholars the story behind its publication and the “view” which you advocate.

Alan:​ Tom, the editor is a friend of mine. Steve Wilkens and I have collaborated before on several philosophy writing projects, including two books with IVP on Christianity and Western Thought. Steve’s idea was to create a dialog among Christian philosophers on the ways in which a deeply committed Christian faith intersects with reason, especially the honed reasoning we use in philosophy. At his university, and at my seminary, we both find that our students struggle with this. Overall ​I am v​ery pleased by this volume, and happy to be a part of it. It should be very helpful to students and others seeking to think more boldly about this important topic for the life of the mind in Christian discipleship. ​ Steve served as the editor, and also wrote a fine concluding chapter on why Christians should see our reason as a gift, not a problem. ​It should be used in the service of God, which means a good deal more than apologetics, but involves a whole way of life.​​

Faith and Reason: Three Views edited by Steve Wilkens as part of the Spectrum Multiview Book Series (InterVarsity Press, 2014).

Tom: Please share with us a little bit regarding on how the format of the publication came about and how you anticipate it to be best used by individuals, campus fellowships, and local congregations as they engage in campus dialogue.

Alan:​ The format for the Spectrum series allows for a written dialog between competing views. We were both glad when Craig Boyd was willing to present the view that reason leads to faith, best expressed in the tradition of Thomas Aquinas. Equally exciting was the fact that Carl Rashke, an important Continental philosopher, was willing to present the view that faith is fine without Rationality (we need to put that in capitals!), found in the tradition of Martin Luther and later of Kierkegaard, the famous Lutheran philosopher from Denmark.​

I myself was happy to present the view of Augustine and Anselm, picked up much later by John Wesley, John Calvin and others, that faith leads to deeper understanding (often called “faith seeking understanding”). After we each wrote our chapters, I then wrote responses to my co-authors, and they in turn responded to my chapter.

​I know from my own time as a philosophy student at a pluralistic campus (“secular”) that students often struggle with their faith in philosophy classes. Equally true, this often happens to students in philosophy classes on Christian campuses, where they struggle with the relevance of philosophical questions, exploration and reasoning to daily discipleship. Both groups, along with anyone interested in this important topic, should find this a very helpful book. I imagine it could be used in campus ministry groups, as well as college and adult education groups in congregations. The format and readable yet academic style will provoke lots of questions and conversation!

Tom: Getting back to the big picture Alan, what three or four points do you desire every reader to take away from Faith and Reason?

Alan:​ Well, I suppose I would first want readers to see that faith and reason are in deep harmony, even when there may be a surface conflict that we need to struggle with for a time. Faith is very important for life and so also for thinking of any kind, and equally reason is not a tool of the Devil but a gift of God, to be used in service to Christ Jesus and his Reign. Finally, there is no one “right” view on this important matter among evangelical Christians; in the end each thoughtful Christian will need to work out their own views on this fundamental subject, no one of which is the right view for the historic Christian faith grounded in Scripture.​

Tom: To wrap up, please share with Emerging Scholars an encouragement regarding the value of their role in the Kingdom God and next steps in being “little Christs” on campus.

Alan:​ To be the hands and feet of God’s Reign, or “little Christs” as Martin Luther put it, is a great gift and joy. We can all do so, day by day, wherever we serve the Lord in this world. Those of us privileged to be ​students and scholars, set apart for study and learning for a time, are not disembodied minds! Our whole bodies are involved in thinking, we know that now more than ever. By placing love for God at the center of our daily life, and practicing love for our neighbors and also for ourselves, we strengthen our connection to God the Holy Spirit, who illumines our minds, energizes our bodies, and fills us with grace, that we might better participate in God’s mission all our days. Students are called to live, be, and so also to follow Christ, even as they are students. Practising the faith each day, wherever we are and whomever we are with, is important to develop into a life-habit. Be a Christian on campus, not in a glaring and obnoxious way, but with the humility of Jesus in your hearts, and God will certainly use students (sometimes even professors!) to be a part of the light of the world that is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Tom: Alan, “Thank-you!” for once again sharing your time, gifts, and insights with Emerging Scholars! May God continue to bless your academic labors on behalf of the Kingdom of God—in particular the teaching/counsel you offer to “little Christs” navigating the relationship of faith and reason in the context of higher education. To God be the glory!

Note to those who follow the Emerging Scholars Network: As previously given attention, genuine dialogue is of great importance to members of the higher education community. If you’re interested in reviewing and/or discussing Faith and Reason: Three Views over the summer, please let me know. To God be the glory!

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Tom Grosh IV

Enjoys daily conversations regarding living out the Biblical Story with his wife Theresa, four girls, around the block, at Elizabethtown Brethren in Christ Church (where he hosts the Christian Scholar Series), on campus as part of InterVarsity Graduate & Faculty Ministry (serving fellowships such as the Christian Medical Society/CMDA at Penn State College of Medicine), online as the Associate Director of the Emerging Scholars Network, in the culture at large, and in God's creation.

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