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#377 Why Don’t I Quote More Women Philosophers or Theologians?

July 06, 2014

Hi Dr Craig

I was wondering today after binge listening your podcast if there are any women theologians or philosophers you read/quote in your arguments/works. I've listened to a great deal of your podcast and read a small handful of your work but I don't remember ever seeing you've favourably quoted or referenced a women as a peer.

I realise there is probably a great deal of institutional sexism and momentum against women in this field and there likely are few examples to draw from, but surely there can't be zero...

Please let me know of any women theologians and philosophers whom you respect and agree with

Thank you for your ministry and many varied publishing. I am a big fan of podcasts in general and yours in particular


P.S. Also, please let me know if I'm completely wrong and you quote women all the time and everyone who you quote who I don't already know of is a woman and I had no idea because you refer to them by surname.

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Dr. craig’s response


What an interesting question! I won’t respond, Dan, by insisting, “Some of my best friends are women philosophers and theologians!” The fact is, as you note, that relatively few of the philosophers and theologians whom I interact with are women. Why is that?

Well, it’s just a fact that philosophy, and Christian philosophy in particular, is a very male-dominated discipline, and those women who are working in the field may not be doing work on topics with which I’m engaged. This lack of overlap holds especially in the field of theology.

There are a few prominent female Christian philosophers, notably Eleonore Stump and Marilyn Adams, and you’ll find that I do interact extensively with them. Marilyn furnished me with her personal translations of Scotus’ work on divine foreknowledge for my The Problem of Divine Foreknowledge and Future Contingents from Aristotle to Suarez (Brill, 1988), and, as those who know her work will anticipate, I interacted extensively with her writings on Ockham’s solution to the problem. (Prompted by your question, Dan, I looked at the index of my book and found that I refer to her on over 30 pages of the book, whereas her equally eminent husband Bob gets a measly one page!)

Eleonore’s theory of divine eternity, developed with the late Norman Kretzmann, was a major topic of discussion in my work on divine eternity. So in my God, Time, and Eternity (Kluwer, 2001), the name index reveals that she is mentioned by name on 35 pages, whereas Richard Swinburne is mentioned less than half as many times and Alvin Plantinga about a third as many times. Obviously, the degree to which one interacts with the work of a given scholar is going to depend in very large measure on whether one’s research interests overlap, and that happened to be the case with respect to the topics of divine omniscience and divine eternity and the work of these two women.

Now that I think about it, the topic of divine omniscience also gave me opportunity (and obligation) to interact with the work of Linda Zagzebski on divine foreknowledge, and my study of divine eternity obliged me to come to grips with Laurie Paul’s defense of tenseless theories of truth.

Similarly, my current work on divine aseity has given me occasion to read and interact extensively with the work of two prominent female philosophers of mathematics Penelope Maddy and Mary Leng. In fact, an entire chapter of my projected book on divine aseity is devoted to Mary’s defense of pretense theory as an anti-realist approach to mathematical objects. I defend her view against possible criticisms as a very plausible position.

Still, these women are the exceptions that prove the rule. While not as scarce as hen’s teeth, female philosophers and especially Christian female philosophers are a tiny minority.

Similarly, what female philosophical theologians are there? Maybe Nancey Murphy and the late Grace Jantzen, but their work tends to be in different areas than mine. Even among historical Jesus scholars, what female exegete has done major work on the subject of Jesus’ resurrection? Paula Fredericksen has made some statements on that head, which I cite, but I, at least, am unaware of major contributions by women on this particular subject. So what can I do? If women are working in my area, I read them and interact, but if they’re not, I can’t.

Let this be a call to the distaff side of our evangelical community. We need more female philosophers and apologists. But few young women sense a calling to this vocation. As I have noted before (QoW #341), the intellectual, as opposed to the relational, approach to religion tends to be more appealing to men than to women. Just last week one of the female members of my Defenders class remarked on the preponderance of men in the class compared to another class she was attending, which was mainly women because its focus was relational. She said with a smile, “But ‘we men’ like the intellectual approach!” There are thinking women out there who can make a contribution to the field if they can see God’s calling as including them in pursuing a scholarly career.

- William Lane Craig