July 03, 2019

Norman Geisler, Christian Apologist Extraordinaire, Dead at 86

Just two months into retirement Norman Geisler died Monday at age 86. See here. He will be missed. He was quite the accomplished apologist having influenced a generation of evangelical apologists, including William Lane Craig, who was my mentor for my Th.M. degree in the Philosophy of Religion, when I studied at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDS) from 1982-85. you can think of this progression, from Geisler to Craig to me! Actually there were two evangelical thinkers who had a good deal of influence on Craig, Geisler and Stuart Hackett, whom I also studied with at TEDS. The biggest influence on me was James D. Strauss. [Click here to see a photo of Strauss with Craig and me in 1985.]

You can hear Geisler's story of how he became a Christian in an interview with Justin Brierley on the Unbelievable program in 2008. Listen to it here beginning at 16:40.

While I didn't study with Geisler he tried to convince me I was wrong to leave the faith in a series of back and forth emails in 2007. He read my magnum opus Why I Became an Atheist, and recommended it using these words:
A thoughtful and intellectually challenging work presenting arguments that every honest theist and Christian should face.
Below you can read William Lane Craig's indebtedness to Norman Geisler (seen on the Reasonable Faith Facebook page):
IN MEMORIAM

NORMAN GEISLER

It was with a genuine sense of loss that I learned the news of Norman Geisler’s death. He played a pivotal role in my life. I first met Dr. Geisler when he came over to Dekalb from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School to speak for Inter-Varsity at Northern Illinois University on the problem of evil. I was impressed by his rational argumentation. Having graduated from Wheaton, I knew that I wanted to attend seminary, but at the same time I didn’t feel called to the pastorate, so the M.Div. didn’t seem the appropriate degree for me. But I learned that Dr. Geisler was spearheading a new program for an M.A. degree in Philosophy of Religion. This seemed tailor-made for me. I did not have an undergrad degree in philosophy, however, so to get into the program I had to qualify by scoring high enough on the Gradate Record Exam in philosophy. So I studied in my spare time all the next year and scored high enough to be admitted to the Trinity program in the fall of 1973. I spent the next two years under Dr. Geisler’s tutelage. That provided the crucial stepping stone for doctoral work in philosophy with John Hick in England. Dr. Geisler was thus the critical link in the chain for me.

I bear his imprint. He gave me a strong appreciation for the history of philosophy, which has served me well. Most importantly, however, he convinced me of the need for a robust natural theology. This emphasis was and continues to be somewhat out of the “norm” (no pun intended) for Christian philosophers, but those of you who know my work will realize how indelibly Norm Geisler stamped me with his mark. I never embraced his Thomism, but I fully embraced his emphasis on the value and cogency of arguments for God’s existence. I owe him an enormous debt of gratitude.

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