Peter Kreeft

I just heard from one of my professors that Peter Kreeft, widely considered to be one of our foremost Thomistic apologists, may be joining the already marvelous distance learning faculty at Holy Apostles. I’m wondering if anyone here has taken a course from him, either live or via the 'net?

I’ve read several of his books. It would be an honor to take a course with him.

I acknowledge the exceptional greatness of Dr. Kreeft. Even so, I think he is too into rationality, as if every problem in the world could be solved if everyone were just more like a philosopher. Jesus was NOT a philosopher. Jesus was utterly unlike Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. For Jesus, the problem of each person and society was not ignorance or lack of reason, as it was for Socrates. As we all know from the Gospels, Jesus came to solve a different problem with a different solution. Jesus addresses the HEART, the WILL, the SOUL, things that the Greek philosopher only had a vague, shadowy sense of. Dr. Kreeft knows all this, of course, and more. Yet, as a professional philosopher, he sometimes leaves me cold, and sometimes seems to be part of the movement to save America and the world via REASONING and argumentation, i.e., the Culture War, and apologetics, and politics. Jesus never called for a Culture War or a political campaign to elect anyone to office or change any law. He called for the conversion of souls, one at a time, person by person, door by door, through repentance and faith. I will go even further: Most people who really study the Gospels and the rest of the Bible have NO need for classes offered by philosophers, even Catholic ones. It is all in the Gospels. It is all there in the Words of Jesus. It is all there in the Bible sitting on our shelf. We have all become too “heady,” too seeking after intellectual honors and acclaim, too way up in the Ivory Tower, while, in the meantime, the great masses of humanity remain mired down in the grip of the god of this world. 2 Corinthians 4:4: “In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” (KJV) or “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (NIV). It is no accident that the great saint Thomas Aquinas, at the end of his life, utterly abandoned all of his philosophy after having a mystical, direct experience of God, and told his companions, "All that I have written seems to me like so much straw compared to what I have seen and what has been revealed to me.” It is strange to many that his deathbed judgment on his own work has not be more appreciated by the Church.

He’s a good guy with a very gentle, soothing voice. His books helped me too. :slight_smile:

You almost sound like you are saying philosophy is useless, you don’t really think that do you? Do you think philosophy and reason has any value?

I don’t think Aquinas was renouncing his life’s work. I think he was just acknowledging the obvious truth that compared to knowing God himself and the actual experience of God, any writings about God will seem worthless by comparison. Rightly so.

But it doesn’t follow from this that philosophy and reason don’t have value. They can help strengthen believers in Christianity by giving reasons in support of believe or answering objections to it, and they can help bring outsiders into the Christian faith, like CS Lewis, Francis Collins, or Lee Strobel, who became Christians after being convinced of good reasons for belief.

I’ve read some web sites that make a convincing case that C.S. Lewis should not be regarded as a real Christian, but more like a Christianity-influenced philosopher and fiction writer. If you do some Google searches, you’ll see some clear evidence that C.S. Lewis was also into non-Christian spiritual movements such as Rosicrucianism. Lee Strobel was an agnostic lawyer whose wife was a devout Christian, and that was causing conflicts. I have no way of knowing if his conversion is sincere. I found his first book, which was just a series of brief interviews with Evangelical professors, to be very amateurish and completely unhelpful.

I know that apologetics is all the rage now. There is this idea that we can WIN our nation and the world for CHRIST by way of OVERPOWERING our enemies and adversaries with STRONG arguments. The model for all this is the boxing match. When I read the New Testament, I see nothing like a boxing match. I see something more like a man courting a woman who is willing to listen to his wooing and singing. In the Bible, Christ is called the Bridegroom and we are called the Bride. We are his spouse, his bride, individually and collectively. Now, does a man court and woo a woman with philosophy and arguing, or with poetry, song, and kindness?

Doesn’t St. Peter command us in the New Testament “always be ready to make a defense of the hope that is in you”? Doesn’t St. Paul appeal to the evidence of the universe to say that by it, men may know they existence of God? Don’t the apostles appeal to the evidence of fulfilled prophecy?

CS Lewis was certainly a Christian, no one could deny that. I mean he wrote the classic work of the 20th century defending Christianity called Mere Christianity for goodness sake. Websites that suggest he was not a Christian are just not credible. He explicitly calls himself a Christian over and over “about my own position, there is not mystery, I am a very ordinary laymen in the Church of England.” As to Lee Strobel, it’s not fair to him to suggest that he was insincere on those weak reasons you give. He wrote three books suggesting evidence for Christianity and has repeatedly said he believes it as well. Questioning his motives is simply unfounded and unfair.

That being said, I agree with you that how we use our arguments is very important. We should not try to overpower people with an avalanche of reasons. Of course, our case should always be presented politely and respectfully. But if someone asks us for good reasons to be a Christian or if there is evidence for Christianity, shouldn’t we be able to politely give such evidence?

I have been reading your posts in this thread and couldn’t resist making some comments. I think that you are quite right in insisting that philosophy and apologetics are not enough. I think we also need prayer and the works of mercy, if we want to win souls for God. That said, I do not think that neither philosophy nor apologetics is unnecessary. There are people in this world who really need them, either to prepare them for the faith (if they are unbelievers) or to reinforce their faith (if they are believers).

Our Church has many needs, as St. Paul reminds us. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are given to different people according to the diversity of ministries. Some are called to be teachers, others healers, others apostles, etc. Surely, our world needs people like Thomas Aquinas, who championed the use of reason in defending the faith, but we also need people like Mother Teresa, who showed us how charity can speak more eloquently than words. So, I think we need professors like Peter Kreeft, who seem to be gifted for teaching. But we also need people like YOU who remind us that Kreeft is not all we need, but also Jesus!

A few observations:

(1) (a) Philosophy is what it is. To say that it is too rational—not that you necessarily do–is like saying gym class is too physical.
(b) The CC encourages philosophizing according to its proper method. Some people find this fulfilling.
© The CC on innumerable occasions has promoted the philosophy of Thomas.
(d) The CC promotes the spiritual teaching of St. John of the Cross. If, according to ones calling, philosophizing were to get in the way of union with God, philosophizing should be suspended.

(2) If a RC philosopher (say Peter Kreeft) chooses to make apologetic arguments, these are also rational. That is what apologetics is: the rational defense of the faith. In order that the “submission of faith be in accordance with reason” apologetics explores “outward indications” of God’s revelation. A good reading of Dei filius from Vat I makes this clear.

(3) It is common knowledge that apologetics is not the same as evangelism proper.

(4) (a) People who are intellectually stimulated find certain objections to the faith and certain currents in contemporary intellectual culture threatening to their faith (if believers) or positive deal breakers when not countered (if nonbelievers).
(b) People who are not intellectually stimulated don’t perceive the problems. Appeals to the emotions speak sufficiently to them.

(5) I don’t know if you’ve noticed this but when one is courting a woman who is exceptionally bright it proves valuable to show her that you can meet her there too.

Newman said: “Quarry the granite rock with razors, or moor the vessel with a thread of silk; then may you hope with such keen and delicate instruments as human knowledge and human reason to contend against those giants, the passion and the pride of man.” (The Idea of a University, Discourse 5, #9)

In the same discourse he goes on: “This [philosophy] indeed is but a temporal object, and a transitory possession. . . . Yet We attain to heaven by using this world well, though it is to pass away; we perfect our nature, not by undoing it, but by adding to it what is more than nature, and directing it towards aims higher than its own.” (#10)

The CC affirms both of these assertions.

Bonus quote–

“This has been my Object, and this alone can be my Defence–and O! that with this my personal as well as my LITERARY LIFE might conclude!—the unquenched desire I mean, not without the consciousness of having earnestly endeavoured to kindle young minds, and to guard them against the temptations of Scorners, by showing that the Scheme of Christianity, as taught in the Liturgy and Homilies of our Church, though not discoverable by human Reason, is yet in accordance with it; that link follows link by necessary consequence; that Religion passes out of the ken of Reason only where the eye of Reason has reached its own horizon; and that Faith is then but its continuation: even as the day softens away into the sweet Twilight, and Twilight, hushed and breathless, steals into the Darkness. It is Night, sacred Night! the upraised eye views only the starry Heaven which manifests itself alone: and the outward beholding is fixed on the sparks twinkling in the awful depth, though Suns of other Worlds, only to preserve the soul steady and collected in its pure Act of inward adoration to the great I AM, and to the filial WORD that re-affirmeth it from Eternity to Eternity, whose choral echo is the Universe.”

[Samuel Taylor Coleridge, *Biographia Literaria, Princeton University Press, 1983., Vol. II, p. 247-8. II, Chap. 24, Conclusion.]

Wow, some great and well reasoned responses here. In general, I think I agree with much of what has been said, by everyone. Yes, “Ratio” and “Fides” go hand in hand, and I think that our recent Popes have encouraged a return to the Summa Theologica, to cite a foremost example, as a source of reasoning about our faith. And I agree that in debate with those who deny the existence of God, St. Thomas has provided some compelling argument. On the other hand, I think it’s important that we don’t lose touch with the more “Franciscan” side of our faith, as it were, the idea that we can never truly comprehend God and His workings, and must rely on faith and on loving Him, when our reason fails us.

I’m currently taking a class in Dante, taught from a Thomist perspective, and trying to maintain a balanced view of the work and its philosophical underpinnings. Dante, to me, was a true hybrid of Thomism and Franciscan spirituality, and I think that the Divine Comedy reflects his own deep thinking about how faith and reason are the two “wings” on which we can soar toward God.

Jesus is God. He came to deliver the message, perform miracles and die for our sins. His Resurrection is an indication that Christianity is true. He did not need to be a philosopher. He is God who met us half way.

The only problem I have with philosophy in apologetics is that sometimes philosophers think themselves more highly - it’s as if they have some hidden knowledge of God - a type of Gnostic appeal. There is also a sense of arrogance one occasionally picks up. I don’t however think this is a major issue. As a priest told me a while ago, sometimes the simplest people have a way of stating God’s truth that blows the best philosophers away.

[quote=user “Tenofovir”]Jesus is God. He came to deliver the message, perform miracles and die for our sins. His Resurrection is an indication that Christianity is true. He did not need to be a philosopher. He is God who met us half way.

The only problem I have with philosophy in apologetics is that sometimes philosophers think themselves more highly - it’s as if they have some hidden knowledge of God - a type of Gnostic appeal. There is also a sense of arrogance one occasionally picks up. I don’t however think this is a major issue. As a priest told me a while ago, sometimes the simplest people have a way of stating God’s truth that blows the best philosophers away.


There’s no difference as to object, b/t the dominican side of religion and the franciscan side; they simply express the same truth in different ways; after all it was aquinas who proved that it was better to love God then to know him and he proved the importance of faith.

As for the “Gnostic appeal”, everyone’s got their problems and one could easily charge the “franciscan” side of Catholicism with a danger to fideism. In any case , it is true that philosophers do have some hidden knowledge about God, inasmuch as everyone else has only beliefs about God, but in no ways has Church philosophy -which is philosophy simply -ever stated that it comprehended God and it has in fact stated the opposite. And insofar as the intellect controls the will, the philosopher is the better man because he knows more (everything being equal).

Of course, simple people can be morally better than those who know more and nothing stops them from having insights into reality that surpass philosophers, however philosophers are still the only ones who habitually make and know these insights and the true philosopher also practices what he learns, so that the more he knows, the better he becomes.

Jesus was not an anti-philosopher, what made him different was that he was a super-philosopher whose thoughts were always far above ours and even at the age of 12 he could teach the philosophers of the temple. Also, as God, he had super-eminent wisdom which is just the exemplar of what the philosopher also likes.

I have not attended a full course he taught, but I did attend a lecture he once gave on C.S. Lewis. I have read a number of his books and consider him to be an excellent teacher. You can hear some of his audio material at this link, and there are several videos of him on YouTube.

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