Philosopher bares his soul in campus talks
By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau
Dr. J.P. Moreland, a prominent Christian philosopher, spent Tuesday and Wednesday at Grand Canyon University speaking to faculty and students in a series of talks that were as deep as they were crowded.
The culmination of his visit, part of the Integration of Faith, Learning and Work initiative at GCU, was Wednesday night, when Howerton Hall was overflowing with people listening to Moreland’s thoughts about the mind and the soul. Moreland doesn’t mince words in his step-by-step rebuttal to claims by neuroscientists that question the soul’s existence.
“This is a conversation that essentially takes two different worlds — he’s taking the scientific claims, the things that are coming straight out of neuroscience, and he’s basically coming in under them and talking about the metaphysical foundations, the worldview foundations,” said Dr. Jason Hiles, dean of the College of Theology. The dominant claims in the secular arena have to do with the purely physical, and what he’s saying is, ‘That’s not the full story.’ He’s going head-on with the secular academy.
“This is a guy who in his discipline is just phenomenal. What he’s doing within his discipline is what he’s challenging the faculty and the students to do, which is to engage and to do it at the highest levels. In his case, that means to engage as a philosopher but as a Christian philosopher. It ties it all together pretty nicely.”
Moreland, a distinguished professor of philosophy at Biola University in La Mirada, Calif., also spoke the night before to students at theGathering. His subject: “The Importance of Loving God with the Mind.”
Earlier Wednesday, he was at Ethington Theatre for two faculty sessions before having dinner with the executive team. President/CEO Brian Mueller was again in attendance Wednesday night.
“I’m blown away,” Moreland said. “The day went very well. I met a lot of sharp faculty, a lot of sharp students and the school strikes me as a solid place that’s trying to make a difference.”
Asked how his message fits in with GCU’s, Moreland said, “I think that this fits in in the sense that this is an expression of the same values that I hold, and I want to come in alongside and weigh in and help a little bit. I’m going to be looking to you guys to be stirring the waters and making a difference, too, over the years. We’re teammates, the way I see it.”
Moreland’s speaking style is remarkably down-to-earth despite the complexity of his subject matter (which is intentional, he said, because he understands the importance of context). He frequently weaved in everyday examples and poignant stories to illustrate his points.
For example, after listing reasons why every human being has a soul, he explained the dependence between the brain and the soul with this analogy: “When you’re in a car, you depend on it. When you are out of the car, you no longer depend on it.”
And Moreland made it clear that his mission is to run neuroscientists’ findings off the road.
“Neuroscientists can’t prove anything about the soul,” he said. “I will give you reasons to believe that consciousness is in the soul, not the brain.”
Contact Rick Vacek at 602-639-8203 or firstname.lastname@example.org.