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Philosophy professor receives C.S. Lewis Book Prize

September 21
04:32 2012

By Linda Nguyen
Staff Writer

It’s not Narnia, but C.S. Lewis is involved.

Dr. C. Stephen Evans, professor of philosophy and humanities, was awarded during the fall the C.S. Lewis Book Prize for his book “Natural Signs and the Knowledge of God: A New Look At Theistic Arguments.”

The C.S. Lewis Book Prize is a $15,000 award from the University of St. Thomas in Saint Paul, Minn., give to the best recent book in religious philosophy written for a general audience.

Dr. Michael Rota, project director of the St. Thomas Philosophy of Religion project, wrote in an email to the Lariat, that Evans’ book along with 23 other books were nominated by publishers.

It was required that the books were about the philosophy of religion or philosophical theology.

Only books published since 2007 were eligible for the prize. This is a one-time award.

“It was a big surprise,” Evans said. “After I had learned that I won, I remembered vaguely that my publisher had nominated the book for this maybe a few months ago, but I had totally forgotten. It was totally out of the blue.”

Evans said his book is written on the idea there are natural signs that point to God’s reality and, as a result, gives people a way to resolve the argument between the long tradition of giving arguments for God’s existence, called theistic arguments, and a more recent view about the natural knowledge of God.

“I tried to show that both sides are right because there is a natural knowledge of God that is made possible by what I call ‘natural signs,’” Evans said.

Evan said he claims in his book that if there is any natural knowledge of God, it would satisfy two principles which he calls Pascalian constraints.

The first principle is the wide-accessibility principle, which says if there is a natural knowledge of God, it would be widely available and widely accessible.

The second principle is that the natural knowledge of God is easily resistable because God doesn’t want to force humans to have a relationship with him.

“I tried to show that natural signs meet both of these constraints,” Evans said. “A sign is something you can read. You don’t have to be really intelligent to read a sign, but at the same time, if you choose not to read it or look at it or maybe you don’t have the skill to interpret it properly or you don’t want to interpret it properly, you can resist the sign.”

Dr. Todd Buras, associate professor of philosophy, wrote a review about the Evans’ book titled “Signs & Wonders” that was published in the September/October 2012 edition of Books and Culture journal.

“The book is really important, I think, for the way in which it draws a lot of things together,” Buras said. “It draws together work in the human sciences about the origins of religious beliefs and the philosophy of the justification of religious beliefs.”

Buras said one of the best things about Evans’ book is that it’s accessible to people outside philosophy students because it is written in a way that people from any discipline can read and understand it.

“It’s a great read and very accessible and full of very important ideas,” Buras said.

Buras said he wrote the review of the book to draw attention to it.

“The book really draws from a lot of sources,” Buras said. “It has important things to say not just about philosophy but also how we take the cognitive science of religion and how we interpret those results.”

Buras said one of the best things about Evans’ book is that it’s accessible to the regular person — not just scholars of philosophy.

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