Houston Baptist University Prof. Tyler Dalton McNabb recently spoke at an international conference on the philosophy of religion hosted by the University of Haifa’s Department of Philosophy.
Lectures at the conference, which took place on June 13, included “A Case for a Sort of Pantheism,” “Theism and Recombination” and “Morality of Vigilantism in the Bible.”
In his talk, “From Knowledge to God,” McNabb presented his paper of the same title in which he argues that humans can only possess knowledge if a being like the Judeo-Christian God exists.
PB: How did you get into philosophy?
TDM: When I was in high school, I began to seriously question my faith. I was concerned that it wasn’t rational; I got to the point where I almost gave it up. I was just about ready to endorse atheism when I decided to Google something like, ‘proofs for the existence of God,’ and ran across messianic prophecies. I specifically remember reading Isaiah 53 and Daniel 9:24-26, and found myself convinced that Jesus was the Messiah that the Old Testament talks about. On my way to school the next day, I pulled over and I began to pray. For the first time, I felt God’s presence. I started to desire Him and His Word. I finished my senior year of high school rushing home every day to read the Bible.
The next year, I went off to a “Baptist” college. There wasn’t much about the school that was Baptist – most of the faculty were extremely liberal. It was there that my faith was attacked. I had to lean on apologetics (giving a logical case for the Christian faith) to help me formulate good responses to my professors. This is when I came across Dr. Michael Brown’s work on Messianic prophecies. I studied his series, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, and found myself deep in the apologetics world. Studying apologetics eventually lead me to study philosophy: thinking really hard about what exists and how we know what exists.
PB: How did you decide to pursue philosophy as a career?
TDM: I enjoy thinking about the following questions: Is faith rational? Can we know that God exists? Can Christian belief be warranted? How should we understand the nature of religious experience? Are there good arguments for God’s existence? If God exists, why is there evil? If God exists, why isn’t His existence more obvious?
In college, I had no idea that I could get paid to think about these questions. There is literally a subfield of philosophy called philosophy of religion (thinking really hard about the truth claims, status, and practices of religious belief), and universities will hire professional philosophers to teach classes on the subject.
PB: In layman’s terms, what is your field of study?
TDM: While my Ph.D. is in philosophy, I focus on the philosophy of religion and epistemology. Epistemology is the field that focuses on answering the following questions: What is knowledge? Do we have knowledge? What does it mean to have a rational belief? What does it mean to have a justified belief? Taking these two fields together, I like to focus on questions as they relate to whether we can know that God exists. When one combines these fields, one is doing religious epistemology.
PB: What is the importance of your specific field?
TDM: Atheism makes it difficult to make sense of moral obligations such as love, consciousness, knowledge and government authority. I think that without God, our society won’t flourish as it ought. I believe that the rise of suicide, school shootings and sexual immorality are the result, at least in part, of the rise of secularism in the West. If citizens were better equipped to answer questions about God’s existence and the merits of atheism, I think we could combat the rise of secularism and its consequences.
TDM: This was actually the first time that my wife and I left our three young children behind and took a week-long trip together. The Western Wall and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre were our favorite places to visit. When I think of Israel, especially Jerusalem, the first thing that I think of is the Western Wall. Praying at the Western Wall was a beautiful experience. And of course, as a Christian, participating in religious activity at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was special.
Prof. McNabb has co-authored a book with fellow philosopher Prof. Erik Daniel Baldwin, called Plantingian Religious Epistemology and World Religions: Prospects and Problems, due out later this year.