Talbot’s MA Philosophy Program Celebrates 20 Years

Co-founder Scott Rae shares history of philosophy program

May. 10, 2012 By Ashleigh Fox

Twenty years ago, Scott Rae and J.P. Moreland co-founded the philosophy program at Biola’s Talbot School of Theology with a main concern to “equip people to engage in a world of ideas in an academic setting, a local church, on college campuses and other environments.” Friday, April 28 marked the program’s 20th anniversary.

To mark the occasion, Scott Rae, professor and chair of the Philosophy of Religion and Ethics department gave an interview to offer an inside look at the past, present, and future of the program.

What inspired the birth of Biola’s philosophy program?

J.P. Moreland’s and my main concern was equipping people to engage in a world of ideas in an academic setting, a local church, on college campuses and other environments. We wanted to offer a grad program in philosophy that would equip people to go on to a Ph.D., go back to pair with a church ministry, teach in a community or Christian college, be in a pastoral position at a local church, and a variety of other things. About two years after we started, Doug Geivett joined us and provided a lot of the formative leadership for the program and enhanced our reputation in academic circles within the first 10 years.

What are the biggest changes or improvements you have seen over the past 20 years?

We have added additional faculty, enabling us to take on more students. When the philosophy program began, we could fit faculty and students around a large dinner table; early on we used to have a Christmas party at my house but have lost the ability to do that. The university has been very supportive of bringing new faculty in for the program, as we have brought in three new faculty members since 1992. We are now up to about 80-90 students. We have had as many as 130 at one time, but that was a little too heavy for our amount of faculty to service all of them to our utmost potential. Another large change was the addition of the Talbot building for our department, which is a wonderful facility.

Why is 20 years worth celebrating?

We hold a Talbot Philosophical Society Graduate conference annually and have been doing it for some time. This year, students presented papers, alumni commented on the papers, and we had two plenary speakers, Daniel Bonevac and Robert Koons, who are professors of philosophy at the University of Texas in Austin, come down to interact with the students. The banquet [honoring the philosophy program’s 20 year anniversary] was in conjunction with the conference. We featured four alumni representing typical areas of ministry for our philosophy program – teaching at a Christian high school, leading a parachurch group with Campus Crusade, a pastor and a professor. They spoke about the work they are doing and how the program prepared them for these areas.

Are there any future plans or improvements coming for the philosophy program?

In conjunction with our annual Talbot Philosophical Society Graduate Conference, the program celebrated 20 years with a banquet. We had four alumnus that represented our four main areas of ministry – teaching at a Christian high school, leading a parachurch group with Campus Crusade, a pastor and a professor. They spoke about the work they are doing and how the program prepared them for that.

We would like to have more of a global influence. It has become more challenging to bring students from overseas to study here. We are thinking of ways to have more of a global impact. We have a member of our graduates ministering in other parts of the world and have many who are preparing for Ph.D.’s and are en route back to those countries.

So far, we have placed about 140 students into Ph.D. programs and around 50 of those have jobs at universities, teaching in places like Cal Poly – San Luis Obispo, Pepperdine, Purdue, Auburn, Texas A&M, Air Force Academy, community colleges all over America, and more. We also have many getting their pastorates and several are pairing with church organizations such as Ravi Zacharias and Campus Crusade. We are encouraged by where we are, but are still moving forward in our accomplishments.

Scott Rae is chair and professor of the philosophy of religion and ethics department at Biola’s Talbot School of Theology.

Written by Ashleigh Fox, Media Relations Intern. For more information, contact Jenna Bartlo, Media Relations Coordinator, at 562.777.4061 or at jenna.l.bartlo@biola.edu.

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