To those in leadership,

We are extremely thankful for everything that God has done through the SCP, and we are also very indebted to the scholarly work of both the current President and Executive Director. In this letter, we aim not to disparage the work of the SCP or its current leadership; however, there is some concern on our part with the recent controversy surrounding Prof. Swinburne, and it is to this that we now turn.

In Dr. Rea’s recent post he points out that he is, ‘committed to the values of diversity and inclusion’ and that though the organization has ‘fallen short of those ideals before’ and will likely fall short ‘again,’ he wants to strive for these ideals going forward. This comment, whether intended or not, is harmful to his goal. Given that his apology comes as a response to a sincere Christian who politely and intellectually defends an orthodox view on sexual ethics academically, Dr. Rea’s apology makes it seem that Swinburne’s views (as well as those of anyone who would make similar arguments/comments) are in conflict with the ideals of diversity and inclusivity. Said differently, Dr. Rea’s post can be plausibly interpreted as suggesting that Swinburne’s arguments/comments made it such that, by merely stating these views in the context of an SCP conference, the SCP failed to meet the desired inclusive standards. But of course, it wouldn’t be very diverse or inclusive on the part of the SCP to disallow Swinburne or those in his line of thinking (Swinburnians) to address the topic of sexual ethics for the above reasons. And it is here where we find a tension.

We think it important to note that one needn’t share Prof. Swinburne’s views to see why Dr. Rea’s apology might accidentally stifle academic freedom by chilling the air for conservative thinkers who might otherwise feel free to defend traditional Christian understandings of sexual ethics. Given that the SCP feels the need to apologize when one of the world’s premier philosophers defends what has been the standard Christian view for two millennia, one wonders if the apology is meant to suggest that papers defending any doctrine or philosophical view that might prove offensive to someone wouldn’t be welcome at SCP conferences in the future.

Perhaps what is really at the heart of Dr. Rea’s comments isn’t that defending the traditionalist view through the SCP forum is impermissible but rather, we shouldn’t use certain trigger words like, ‘disabled.’ Viewing homosexuality as a disability should be within the bounds of reasonable dialectic. Considering Aristotelian or Thomistic terminology (or what we will call the AT view), it is easy to see why this is the case. On the AT view, we have faculties that are aimed toward certain goods. Exclusive attraction for members of one’s own sex could reasonably be classified as a disability that impairs an individual from fully realizing the good of human sexuality. Nothing seems ill-willed or malicious here. And one need not be a Christian, rather less, a conservative fundamentalist, to affirm it. Now, we don’t necessarily think that ‘disability’ language is helpful, and we acknowledge that there is some controversy related to this language. However, Prof. Swinburne should have the academic freedom to use this word as he pleases. Additionally, in the Q&A following his lecture, Prof. Swinburne made clear that when using disability language he meant something entirely value neutral along the lines of mere inability.

Maybe all of this isn’t a correct reading of Dr. Rea’s apology. Perhaps the SCP fully intends to support traditionalists presenting arguments for the moral impermissibility of homosexual sex acts. So understood, Dr. Rea’s remarks concerning the SCP’s effort to become more inclusive and diverse merely suggest that he has in mind making it clear that all persons who consider themselves Christians are welcome to present their work at SCP conferences (given their material is sufficiently good), not just traditional Christians. If this is the case, then we would like to make a respectful suggestion. We don’t think Dr. Rea’s original post aided in creating a conducive or welcoming environment to orthodox Christians who are either in line with Swinburne or are not far off from it. Because of this, we’d like it if Dr. Rea would help rectify the situation by warmly making this clarification. Upon doing this, we think that SCP will, once again, experience the unity that it deserves.

We are also concerned that Dr. Rea’s apology seems disrespectful to Prof. Swinburne.  Given that he was invited to give a plenary address, and given that he made known what subject matter he would cover by the title of his talk, it seems manifestly improper to disavow or apologize for the presentation, especially since Prof. Swinburne did not defend any view that he has not previously defended elsewhere.  Since it was no surprise that he would defend the traditional Christian understanding of sexual ethics, to issue an apology while invoking leadership authority by detailing one’s position as President of the organization suggests that the SCP is seeking to distance itself from one of the premier Christian philosophers who was invited to give this lecture. We believe that an apology to Prof. Swinburne is in order.

In the hope of Christ,

  1. Tyler Dalton McNabb (Houston Baptist University)
  2. Ben Arbour 
  3. Robert Koons (University of Texas - Austin)
  4. Christopher Tomaszewski (Baylor University)
  5. Josh Farris (Houston Baptist University)
  6. T. Allan Hillman (University of South Alabama)
  7. Joseph Shaw (University of Oxford)
  8. Tully Borland (Ouachita Baptist University)
  9. Shandon Guthrie (University of Nevada - Las Vegas)
  10. Elijah Hess (University of Arkansas)
  11. Chad McIntosh (Cornell University)
  12. Tim Hsiao (Florida SouthWestern State College)
  13. C’Zar Bernstein (University of Oxford)
  14. Paul Manata (Calvin College)
  15. Dwight Stanislaw (Holy Apostles College and Seminary)
  16. Bernard James Mauser (Southern Evangelical Seminary / Liberty University)
  17. James S. Spiegel (Taylor University)
  18. Gregory E. Trickett (Weatherford College)
  19. Douglas K. Blount (The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary)
  20. Nathan Greeley (Indiana Wesleyan University)
  21. Douglas Groothuis (Denver Seminary)
  22. James Lopez (Indiana University)
  23. Edward Feser (Pasadena City College)
  24. Jordan Bryce Botello (Southwestern Assemblies of God University)
  25. Randy Everist (University of Birmingham, UK)
  26. Gaven Kerr, OP (Newman College Ireland)
  27. Benjamin Kimmell (Florida State University)
  28. Daniel J. Hill (Chair, Tyndale Philosophy UK)
  29. Carlos Flores (UC Santa Barbara)
  30. Stephen R. L. Clark (Emeritus, University of Liverpool)
  31. Alfred J. Freddoso (Emeritus, University of Notre Dame)
  32. Byron Eubanks (Ouachita Baptist University)
  33. Carlos Parra (Tyndale University College, Canada)
  34. Roger Turner (Walters State Community College)
  35. David Talcott (The King's College)
  36. Kevin J. Quinones Vargas (Liberty University)
  37. Marco Barone (Queen's University Belfast)
  38. Tawa J. Anderson (Oklahoma Baptist University)
  39. Aaron Brooks (Florida State University)
  40. J. P. Moreland (Biola University)
  41. Greg Ganssle (Talbot School of Theology)
  42. Nimalan Kirubakaran (King’s College London)
  43. Tyrone Myers (Holy Apostles College and Seminary)
  44. Michael Potts (Methodist University)
  45. Daniel Martin (Western Michigan University)
  46. Matt Schmidt (Southern Evangelical Seminary)
  47. Garrett J. DeWeese (Talbot School of Theology)
  48. David Williams (Arizona State University)
  49. Luis Pinto de Sa (Saint Louis University)
  50. Bon Ha Gu (Columbia University)
  51. David Haines (University Laval)
  52. Sanjay Merchant (Moody Bible Institute)
  53. Andrew Harland-Smith (The University of Auckland)
  54. Keith Hess (College of Southern Nevada)
  55. Justin D. Barnard (Union University)
  56. Corey Miller (Indiana University-Kokomo)
  57. Matthew Roberts (Patrick Henry College)
  58. Bryan Smith (Houston Baptist University)
  59. Bruce L. Gordon (Houston Baptist University)
  60. Patrick Lee (Franciscan University of Steubenville)
  61. Nathaniel Helms (University of Oxford)
  62. Christopher Schimke (University of Washington - Seattle)
  63. Steven DeLay (University of Oxford)
  64. Eric George
  65. Jeffrey A. Wilcox (Bethel University)
  66. Jon Crutchfield (Houston Baptist University)
  67. Joshua Hershey (The King's College)
  68. James N. Anderson (Reformed Theological Seminary)
  69. Robert A. J. Gagnon (Pittsburgh Theological Seminary)
  70. Hendrik van der Breggen (Providence University College)
  71. Robert Sloan Lee
  72. Todd Kapitula (Calvin College)
  73. Geoff Sackett  (Reformed Theological Seminary)
  74. Pete Younger (Baylor University)
  75. Paul Helm (Emeritus, King's College London)
  76. Mark Coppenger (The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary)
  77. James Parker (The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary)
  78. L. Philip Barnes (Emeritus, King’s College London)
  79. Libbie Weber (The Fellowship of St. Barnabas)
  80. Christopher R. Pruett (Houston Baptist University)
  81. Edward P. Meadors (Taylor University)
  82. Benjamin Murphy
  83. Alan Rhoda (Christian Theological Seminary)
  84. Ken Hochstetter (College of Southern Nevada)
  85. Thomas Alberto (University of Kent)
  86. Michael Bowler (Michigan Technological University)
  87. Phil Kallberg (Holy Apostles College and Seminary)
  88. Mason Kelso (The University of Texas at Arlington)
  89. Robert Prevost (Wingate University)
  90. Christopher Bolt (Birmingham Theological Seminary)
  91. Darrin W. Snyder Belousek (Ohio Northern University)
  92. Ted Cabal (Southern Baptist Theological Seminary)
  93. John Crosby (Franciscan University of Steubenville)
  94. Eduardo Echeverria (Sacred Heart Major Seminary)
  95. Josh Blander (The King's College)
  96. Daniel von Wachter (International Academy of Philosophy, Liechtenstein)
  97. John Lamont (Australian Catholic University)
  98. Jonathan Loose (Heythrop College, University of London)
  99. Greg Welty (Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary)
  100. Robert Llizo (Houston Baptist University)

*Note: In no way, does this necessarily reflect the thoughts of any of our respective institutions.

**Note: Originally, we made reference to another keynote speaker and this should not have happened. We apologize.

To add your name to this letter, please email swinburnecontroversyscp@gmail.com using an institutional email.