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Plantinga wins Templeton Prize for theism in academic philosophy

28 April 2017

Templeton Prize / John Harrison

Making a serious option: Dr Alvin Plantinga

Making a serious option: Dr Alvin Plantinga

THE winner of the 2017 Templeton Prize is Professor Alvin Plantinga, an American philosopher praised for making belief in God “a serious option within academic philosophy”.

Dr Plantinga, the 47th winner of the £1.1-million prize, is the John A. O’Brien Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at the University of Notre Dame, where he taught for 18 years until retiring in 2010.

The president of the John Templeton Foundation, Heather Templeton Dill, said that his scholarship had made theism “a serious option within academic philosophy”.

“When Dr Plantinga began his career in the late 1950s, most academic philosophers deliberately rejected religiously informed philosophy,” she said at the announcement on Tuesday. “But, early on, Dr Plantinga defended a variety of arguments for the existence of God, marking the beginning of his efforts to put theistic belief back on the philosophical agenda. . .

“[He] recognised that not only did religious belief not conflict with serious philosophical work, but that it could make crucial contributions to addressing perennial problems in philosophy.”

Professor Plantinga’s publications include God, Freedom, and Evil (1974), in which he set out a “free-will defense” against claims that the existence of both God and evil are logically incompatible, and Warranted Christian Belief (2000), which explored “whether it is rational, reasonable, justifiable, and warranted to accept Christian belief”. Later works have considered the relationship between — and compatibility of — scientific and religious belief. He has described the work of New Atheists as “poor philosophy masquerading as science”.

Responding to the award, Professor Plantinga said that the field of philosophy had “transformed over the course of my career. If my work played a role in this transformation, I would be very pleased. I hope the news of the prize will encourage young philosophers, especially those who bring Christian and theistic perspectives to bear on their work, towards greater creativity, integrity, and boldness.”

Born in Michigan in 1932, Professor Plantinga is the son of a Dutch Calvinist professor, Dr Cornelius Plantinga. Press materials recalled how, as a student at Harvard, he experienced a “close-to-rapturous experience of being in the presence of God”, which gave him “the fortitude to continue the pursuit of his faith amid contrary opinions that he can now accept as purely academic exercises”.

Professor Plantinga’s brother Cornelius, Jr, is also a theologian, and his brother Leon is a well-known musicologist.

The Bishop of Kensington, Dr Graham Tomlin, who is President of St Mellitus College, said that Dr Plantinga was “one of the foremost Christian philosophers in the world today, known for building a rigorous case for the validity of intuitive faith, not as opposed to knowledge but as a certain kind of knowledge”.

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