An Interview With Reformed Philosopher, Doug Groothuis

Dr. Doug Groothuis, professor of apologetics and philosophy at Denver Seminary, was gracious enough to allow us to interview him for the blog. As none of us have a face for video (Dr. Groothuis notwithstanding), we decided to do the interview and post it here. For those not in the know, Dr. Groothuis has recently published his magnum opus, a textbook on Christian Apologetics. And given the exemplary recommendations it’s getting, (J.P. Moreland called it the “go-to text in the field) we thought it’d be a good idea to arrange an interview with the good Doctor. For more information on Groothuis, check out his blog, twitter, and homepage. But, most importantly, go buy the book.

1. Many people are unaware of your background. Could you please give us a short biography of your life? (E.g. education, family, vocation, interests)

I have a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Oregon (1993) and have taught at Denver Seminary since 1993. I am married to author and editor, Rebecca Merrill Groothuis. Besides philosophy, theology, and social analysis, I am interested in the history and philosophy of art, particularly painting and jazz.

2. When did you first become introduced to reformed theology and what difficulties did you have, if any, in accepting the doctrines of grace?

I took a class at an OPC church in the early 1980s on The Westminster Standards. This was the turning point for me, along with reading parts of Calvin’s Insitutes and Reformed writers such as Gordon Clark, R.J. Rushoony and Greg Bahnsen. (However, I am not a theonomist.) J.I. Packer’s work was helpful as well, particularly Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God.

3. Can you share with us a bit about the influence that R.K. Macgregor Wright, author of No Place For Sovereignty, has had on you?

I was already a confirmed Calvinist (at least with respect tot he theology of culture and predestination) when I read this book. However, it helped me deal with some passages that Arminians claim support their view. I was impressed with the book, which is why I endorsed it.

4. How do you think Reformed convictions ought to express themselves in apologetic method? Should Calvinists only use a particular argument? Or only make defensive arguments? Can they appropriate arguments and methods from other traditions, or are they too compromised to be useful?

That is a rather complex question. To my mind, no Calvinist doctrine entails presuppositionalism, as the Van Tillians claim. I address this in Christian Apologetics. Total depravity does not extinguish the knowledge of God through general revelation, which serves as the epistemic basis for the argument of natural theology. Moreover, strong Calvinists such as R.C. Sproul support a non-presuppositional approach to apologetics. I do, however, accept the basic force of the transcendental argument for God’s existence, and use it in chapter 18 of my new book. However, I think this is one argument among many for the truth and rationality of the Christian worldview.

5. How do you understand Reformed theology’s teaching on natural revelation, and how does your understanding impact your view of natural theology?

See chapter 17 of my book.

6. Are there any important contemporary apologetic challenges that you think Reformed theology has the best ability to respond to? Are there any that you think Reformed apologists will have (or are having) more difficulty with than other traditions?

The Reformed view of Providence really answers the problem of evil better than Arminianism or openness theology, both on the philosophical and pastoral level.

7. What works, theological and philosophical, have been the most influential for you in terms of intellectual development and sanctification?

The corpus of Francis Schaeffer has been very influential, even though he was not a professional philosopher as I am. Carl Henry’s God, Revelation, and Authority, 6 vols., was also like a seminary education in itself, especially combined with a summer course I took from him in 1981. Blaise Pascal is also a constant companion.

8. What works can we expect from you in the future?

I hope to continue to teach, preach, and write as long as possible. I am not sure what my next book will be, but it may be on lament.