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Cowan Chronicles

Steve Cowan is a Professor of Philosophy and Apologetics. Dr. Cowan dedicates this blog to the discussion of current events, philosophical and theological issues, and any other topic that may be of interest to his friends, family, and students.

Updated: 2018-03-06T01:56:43.491-06:00


The X-Files and Philosophy is Here!


The latest volume in the Open Court Philosophy and Pop Culture series is out: The X-Files and Philosophy. I contributed the lead article, "Why Scully Is Usually Wrong."

Here's a link

New Round in the Debate on Heavenly Freedom


My latest counter-response to Timothy Pawl and Kevin Timpe on the Problem of Heavenly Freedom has just been published on the website of the Evangelical Philosophical Society. Here is the link:
God, Heavenly Freedom, and Evil

My book on Idealism and Christian Philosophy available for pre-order!


James Spiegel and I just turned in the manuscript for our new book on Berkeleyan Idealism and Christian Philosophy. It is available for pre-order at Bloomsbury's website:



I'm sorry that I haven't blogged in a while. Life has gotten busy and complicated in recent months. But I do plan to finish my postings of the "Precious Remedies" soon, and I have some other things to share that I hope you will find interesting.

Precious Remedies against Satan's Devices - Part 5


Device 5: By presenting God to the soul as One made up all of mercy. In other words, Satan sometimes intimates that God is only a god of mercy and not holiness or wrath. Thus, since there is nothing whatsoever to fear from God, one may sin with impunity.

For remedies consider that.. .
1. It is the sorest of judgments to be left [by God] to sin upon any pretense whatsoever. The idea is that the worst judgment in this life is for God to leave us in our sin and the Holy Spirit not resist our sin in our consciences.
2. God is as just as he is merciful.
3. Sins against mercy [i.e., taking it for granted] will be the greatest and sorest judgments upon men.
4. Though God's general mercy is over all his works, yet hsi special mercy is confined to those that are divinely qualified--to those that love him and keep his commandments, who trust him, hope in him, and fear him.
5. The saints now glorified regarded God's mercy as a most powerful argument against, and not for, sin.

Precious Remedies against Satan's Devices - Part 4


Device 4: By showing to the soul the best men's sins and by hiding from the soul their virtues, their sorrows, , and their repentance.

For remedies consider that. . .
1. The Spirit of God records not only the sins of the saints, but also their repentance.
2. The saints did not make a trade of sin.
3. Though God does not disinherit his sinning people, He punishes them severely.
4. God has two main ends in recording the falls of his saints: (1) to keep those who fall through weakness and infirmity from fainting, sinking, and despair under the burdens of their sins; and (2) that the falls of the saints serve as landmarks to warn others who stand to take heed lest they fall.

Precious Remedies against Satan's Devices - Part 3


Device 3: By extenuating and lessening the sin. Satan often tells us that the sin we are tempted to commit is only a small one, or one that our circumstances somehow mitigate its seriousness.

For remedies consider that. . .
1. Sin which men account small brings God wrath on men.
2. Giving way to a less sin makes way for the committing of a greater sin.
3. It is sad to stand with [against] God for a trifle.
4. Often there is most danger in the smallest sins.
5. The saints have chosen to suffer greatly rather than commit the least sin.
6. The soul can never stand under the guilt and weight of sin when God [impresses it] upon the soul.
7. There is more evil in the least sin than in the greatest affliction [because even the least sin was laid upon Jesus at the cross].

Precious Remedies against Satan's Devices - Part 2


Of those devices Satan uses to draw people to sin...

Device 2: By painting sin with virtues colors (i.e., by disguising sin as something good. E.g., "covetousness" as "thriftyness"; drunkenness" as "good fellowship."

For remedies consider that...
1. Sin is nonetheless vile for being so painted.
2. The more sin is so painted the more dangerous it is.
3. We ought to look on sin with that eye with which we will soon see it [at God's judgment].
4. Sin cost the lifeblood of the Lord Jesus.

Precious Remedies against Satan's Devices - Part 1


Thomas Brooks divides Satan's devices (schemes, wiles) into several different categories.  The first category is "Satan's devices to draw the soul to sin." These are ways, that is, that Satan works to get people to break God's law. Under this category, Brooks discusses 12 specific "devices:

Device 1: By presenting the bait and hiding the hook.
The idea here is that Satan shows us the pleasures that can be derived from sin, but obscures from us the "wrath and misery" that follow from committing sin.

For remedies, consider that . . .
1. We ought to keep at the greatest distance from sin and from playing with the bait.
2. Sin is but a bitter sweet.
3. Sin will usher in the greatest and the saddest losses.
4. Sin is very deceitful and bewitching.

Precious Remedies Against Satan's Devices


I have long believed that one of the best books ever written in the area of the doctrine of sanctification, and particular on the mortifying of sin in the believer's life, is the work by the puritan Thomas Brooks, Precious Remedies against Satan's Devices (available from Banner of Truth). Lately, in my own personal devotions, I have been drawn back to this book, re-reading it as a help in my own (feeble) pursuit of holiness. And I have decided, as part of that process, to post the main points of Brooks's treatise on this blog. Hopefully, at least once or twice a week, I will post one of the "devices" (schemes, wiles) of Satan that he uses to lead people into sin that Brooks discusses, along with the biblical "remedies" that Brooks recommends.  It will be more or less just an outline of Brooks's book, but I hope that it benefits readers nonetheless and perhaps encourages them to go out and read the whole book for themselves.

In the introduction, Brooks takes the reader to 2 Cor. 2:11, where the Apostle states, "We are not ignorant of his [i.e., Satan's] devices" (ESV: "designs"; NASB: "schemes"). The idea is that Satan has his devices, his tricks, his ways of leading people (even believers) astray into sin.  And, Paul says, we are not ignorant of those devices--at least we shouldn't be, because the Bible explains his devices.  And, what's more, the Bible provides us with divinely revealed remedies to those devices--that is, means by which can avoid the snare of those devices and avoid sin.  Other relevant texts that Brooks cites to prove his point are Eph. 6:11; 2 Tim. 2:26; and Rev. 2:24.  All of these, in different ways, speak of Satan's desire and method to ensnare us in sinful rebellion against God, and of the importance of learning from Scripture how to resist Satan's influence.

I hope you will join me in this exploration of Brooks's marvelously helpful book.

In Defense of the Bible in print


My new book (co-edited with Terry Wilder) has at last been released.  In Defense of the Bible has first-rate contributions from first-rate scholars responding to all of the major challenges to biblical authority.  Here is the link to the publisher's website:

Article on 1 Cor 10:13 and Libertarianism


In 1 Cor 10:13, Paul writes that God provides Christians with a "way of escape" when they face temptations. In a recent article in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (JETS)(, Paul Himes, a Ph.D. student at Southern Seminary, argues that this text implies that Christians, when they face temptations to sin, have libertarian freedom (i.e., the ability to do otherwise). I have written a response to Himes that has just been published in the same journal. I argue that this text, understood in context and in light of other New Testament texts, does not teach a libertarian view of freedom but a compatibilist one (one consistent with determinism). I have posted a pdf of the article on my Wordpress site at this address:

In fairness, I should mention that Himes makes a response to my critique in the same issue of JETS. In a future blog post, I plan to answer his response.

Audio Book Available


I'm not sure why I didn't know this before, but I just discovered that one of my books, Who Runs the Church? 4 Views on Church Government, is now available as an audio book.  I have to say, it's kinda cool to hear someone reading my own book to me--yes, I know, VERY narcissistic!  Anyway, here's the link:

Article Published on Free Will in Heaven


For those who might be interested, my paper, "Compatibilism and the Sinlessnees of the Redeemed in Heaven," has just come out in the journal Faith and Philosophy (October 2011 issue). In this paper I argue in defense of the claim that a compatibilist view of freedom is the best explanation for why the redeemed in heaven are incapable of sinning.

If Ron Paul Were President in 1941...


Ron Paul touts himself as a "non-interventionist" in his foreign policy. He believes that we should have few if any military bases in foreign countries, that we should have few if any defense treaties with other countries, and that we should not involve ourselves in any military conflicts unless we are directly attacked. This means no military interventions like Kuwait, Iraq, Kosovo, etc. It means we should not have troops in South Korea and definitely should not bother to help the South Koreans defend themselves against any North Korean invasion. That's their business not ours.

For all those out there who are enamored with Ron Paul and his foreign policy, I ask you to consider some implications of his views. Specifically, I ask you to imagine what would be the case if Ron Paul had been President of the U.S. in 1941 when the U.S. (in actual history) was attacked by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor and subsequently entered into World War II. Think about it: If Ron Paul had been President in 1941. . .

  • China would probably still be under Imperial Japanese occupation.

  • The Philipines would still be under Imperial Japanese occupation.

  • Some of the Aleutian Islands in Alaska would still be under Imperial Japanese occupation.

  • Korea, Burma, and most of SE Asia would be under Imperial Japanese occupation.

  • Australia would very well have been invaded by Imperial Japan and would still be under its occupation.

  • Nazi Germany would still exist and would still be occupying most of continental Europe and problably Russia too and possibly Great Britain.

  • Nazi Germany would still occupy most of North Africa and would likely have extended its rule to Palestine and other parts of Arabia.

Ron Paul supporters might object to all this by saying, "Wait a minute! Paul does believe in military responses to agression against the United States. Japan attacked the U.S. Navy at Pearl Harbor. And then the Nazi's declared war on us. So, Paul would not have objected to our participation in World War II." However, this response falters on the fact that if Ron Paul were President in 1941, we would not have had any naval or military bases in Pearl Harbor for the Japanese to attack in the first place! And even if we had military bases in Pearl Harbor, the Japanese would not have attacked us given Paul's non-interventionist policies. They would have gone about their business and invaded the Philipines, Australia, etc., and not had to worry about our naval fleet in Pearl Harbor.

Ron Paul's foreign policy would have been naive and dangerous then (not to mention cruel), and it's naive and dangerous now.

Christian Hedonism Challenged


I just ran across this very insightful critique of Piper's Christian hedonism by Reformed philosopher and theologian Paul Helm. Though Piper's views on this emphasize some elements in Christian theology and living that have been sadly neglected and that we should recapture today, I have never been able to get past the feeling that he has gone too far. Helm offers a much-needed corrective. I hope all the Piper fans out there will read Helm's blog with an open mind.

Women's Subordination Revisited


The latest issue of the philosophy journal Philosophia Christi features an exchange between egalatarian Adam Omelianchuk and myself over my 2009 article "The Metaphysics of Subordination: A Response to Rebecca Merrill Groothuis." As you might guess, Omelianchuk argues that I have failed to adequately defend the coherence of the distinction complementarians make between woman's equality of being/value and subordinate function. I respond that he begs the main question, primarily through the use of an obscure and undefined notion of "ontological inferiority." I'll let the reader decide who is right. I invite comments by those who have read all three articles.

Scooby Doo and Philosophy


Because my son loves it and gets me to watch it with him, I have become a pretty ardent fan of the Scooby Doo cartoons and movies over the last couple of years. So I was much intrigued when I heard about a blog by David Leonard that brought out some connections of Scooby Doo to some aspects of my chosen profession, philosophy. Though I might quibble with a few points, it is very interesting reading. Most of all, it should remind us that philosophical/worldview ideas permeate every aspect of our culture, even kid's cartoons. David Leonard's blog post is on the website of the MacLaurin Institute at this address:

Thor -- Reluctant Messiah


I just saw the new Thor movie. I really liked it. Not my favorite superhero moview, but still worth seeing. I am sure that other bloggers will notice some of the same themes and ideas in the film that I'm about to mention, and will probably explore them more fully. Nevertheless, I want to make my own observations before reading what others have to say.

What struck me most about the storyline is the almost unmistakable parallel with Philippians 2:5-11. Not a perfect parallel, mind you, but a parallel nonetheless. According the the Apostle Paul, the Second Person of the trinity, Jesus, was fully divine and had every right to "grasp hold" of his divine prerogatives. He was/is the king of all creation. Yet, out of deference to the Father's will and for love of humanity, he did not grasp hold of his divine privileges, but humbled himself and took on human flesh. He bacame a man, and even humbled himself to the point of dying on a cross for the salvation of the human race. As a result, the Father has now highly exalted Jesus to his former status as the divine king, even giving him the "name that is above every name."

Now think about the Thor movie (spoiler alert!). Unlike Christ, Thor (Chris Helmsworth), the thunder "god," is arrogant and egotistical. He thinks his father Odin is foolish and that he can do a better job as king of Asgard. Up to this point, Thor is anything but a parallel to Christ. But to teach him a lesson, Odin banishes Thor to the Earth and "empties" him of his god-like powers. Thor becomes a man. Though unwillingly, Thor experiences, like Christ, a kenosis and an incarnation. He takes on the humble status of a human being. In the course of the film, Thor comes to realize that there are bigger and better things to live for than himself and that he doesn't necessarily have all the wisdom that he thought he did. And when his evil brother Loki sends a giant, flame-throwing robot to earth in search of Thor and which threatens humanity, Thor sacrifices his life (yes, he dies!) to save the human race. In giving his life, Thor even pleads with Loki to take his life instead of the humans' lives. So, in Thor, we interestingly have the motifs of kenosis/incarnation as well as a substitutionary death. Then, of course, follows resurrection and exaltation. In response to Thor's new-found humility, Odin gives Thor back his life and his "divine" status, returning to him his famous hammer, Mjolnir, which allows him to go on to defeat Loki. Not only this, but before he leaves the Earth, Thor promises his human love-interest (Natalie Portman) that he will return to Earth after he defeats Loki. As events would have it, though, the technology that would allow Thor to return are destroyed in the battle and the movie ends with both Thor and his human friends on Earth wondering when (and if) he will make his return--though all are hopeful.

So, ironically, what we have in Thor is the story of a pagan, Norse god, re-telling the Christian story of the incarnate God dying for the fallen human race, rising again to achieve victory over the forces of darkness, and ascending into heaven, from whence we eagerly anticipate his return. It's kinda funny (and actually gratifying) where the gospel turns up these days!

Resurrection Debate


I will be participating in a debate on the resurrection of Jesus on April 4, 2011, at Cedar Grove Baptist Church in Leeds, Alabama. A great lead-up to Easter! I'd appreciate prayers and your attendance if possible.

Apologetics Conference on Islam



The Third Annual Apologetics Resource Center/Southeastern Bible College Apologetics Conference is scheduled for January 28-29, 2011. This year's theme is Islam and Christianity: In the Balance. The conference will feature former Muslim, David Nasser, and a dialogue with the imam of the Birmingham Mosque. For more information and to register, visit the ARC website:

Review of "Salvation and Sovereignty"


My review of Ken Keathley's recent book, Salvation and Sovereignty: A Molinist Approach, was just published in the journal , Themelios. You can access it here:

Debate on the Problem of Evil


This past Monday I had the privilege of participating in a debate on the question, "Why does a good God allow evil and suffering?" The debate was held at the University of Montevallo, Alabama, sponsored by the Christian Ministries Association there. My opponent was Dr. Michael Patton, philosophy professor at U Montevallo. I believe that the debate was very civil, and we had a good exchange of views. I don't think it's appropriate to try to declare any official winner of such events. As in any formal debate, both sides scored some points. I'm satisfied if the audience came away with a better understanding of the issues under discussion and of the various arguments that may be offered by both sides. If it leads people to think more deeply about the question of God's permission of evil, that's a good outcome. If helps to strengthen the faith of believers and causes unbelievers to question theirs, that's even better. For what it's worth, though, I think I was able, with God's help, to make a good and convincing case that God allows evil to bring about a greater good and that the existence of inexplicable evils in the world is no strong evidence against God's existence. For all who were present, especially my students and friends from Southeastern Bible College and Birmingham Theological Seminary, I want to say thank you! For your further perusal and for the benefit of those who couldn't be there, I have pasted my opening remarks below.Opening StatementA Debate on “Why Does a Good God Allow Evil and Suffering?”University of MontevalloNovember 8, 2010On August 30, 2005, Americans watched in horror as the storm surge of hurricane Katrina broke several levies that kept water out of New Orleans and 80 percent of the city was flooded. Many people there lost their lives and tens of thousands were left homeless. In February, 2005, John Evander Couey, a convicted sex-offender, snuck into the home of nine-year-old Jessica Lunsford of Homosassa, Florida, and kidnapped, raped, and murdered her. If God—a being who is all-powerful and all-knowing—exists, then he could have prevented all of these terrible events. And since he is supposedly all-good, we might well think that he would prevent these things. So how could an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good being stand by and allow such evils? Some have found the paradox of evil to be unsolvable. For example, the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus threw up his hands in despair of solving it, asking, “Is he [i.e., God] willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then is he impotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Whence then is evil?”The Greater Good DefenseThroughout the centuries, theists—those who believe in God—(especially Christian theists) have offered what I take to be an adequate answer to the problem of evil. Speaking very generally, the answer has been that God has a morally sufficient reason for allowing evil. Now there have been several candidates for what might constitute God’s morally sufficient reason. I don’t have the time to discuss the pros and cons of all of the proposals. So let me just tell you what I think is God’s reason for allowing evil and then elaborate on it. God allows whatever evils exist in his creation in order to bring about a greater good. Historically, this is known as the Greater Good Defense (GGD). Somewhat more formally, GGD states thatGod allows an instance of evil E only if E is necessary to bring [...]

Dante's Inferno Meets Lewis's Great Divorce


Just finished a very intriguing sci-fi novel: Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, Inferno. These are my favorite sci-fi writers. They still claim the fame of the best sci-fi novel of all time, The Mote in God's Eye. In this one, they tell the story of a man, John Carpenter, who dies and wakes up in hell.--and hell is precisely as described in Dante's famous "Inferno." At first, Carpenter thinks he's been kidnapped by aliens who are playing a very cruel joke on him. It only slowly dawns on him where he really is. Guided by, of all people, Benito Mussilini, Carpenter tries to make his escape from hell--down the same route taken centuries before by Dante himself (Yes, Dante's Divine Comedy is a true story!!!--in the novel, that is).

I won't give away the rest of the story, but it was a fun read (though sometimes very dark). In an editorial by the authors at the end of the book, they specifically state that they are trying to tell a story that combines Dante's geography of hell with C.S. Lewis's theology (as described in his The Great Divorce). This made the book all that more intriguing to me, given that Niven and Pournelle are well-known mainstream sci-fi authors. Though both Dante's and Lewis's theology are a bit skewed biblically, I think they (esp. Lewis) have some valuable things to teach us. And I was delighted to see that Niven and Pournelle had learned some of the lessons, and are teaching them to others through this very good novel. Read it!!

On the Mosque at Ground Zero


Though I personally oppose the building of the mosque near ground zero that has been in the press of late, John Mark Reynolds at Scriptorium Daily has a very interesting contrary take on the issue that I think is worth conisidering. A key comment from his post reads:

Americans instinctively oppose the 9/11”mosque,” because we don’t see fair
play from the Muslim world. We must overcome this justifiable irritation,
allow it to be built, and then trumpet our demands for equal treatment using
it as an example.

Read the whole post here.