Last week, the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) approved a new Master of Arts in Philosophy at Southwestern Seminary. The 48-hour degree, approved by Southwestern trustees during their meeting last fall, consists of 11 credit hours of theology and ministry studies and 37 credit hours of philosophical studies.

Ross Inman, assistant professor of philosophy, says that with the approval of this degree, Southwestern is “strategically positioned among evangelical seminaries to equip men and women to better articulate and defend the truth, goodness and beauty of the Christian worldview within the present cultural milieu.” Paul Gould, chair of Southwestern’s philosophy and cultural studies division, affirms this sentiment.

“Our culture is confused when thinking about God, the world and the self,” he says. “Many in the church are, too. God is using philosophy—traditionally understood as the handmaiden to theology—to help others see that Christianity is true and satisfying. We believe that our new M.A. in Philosophy will play a crucial role in raising up a generation of Christian philosophers who will show the brilliance and beauty of Jesus and the Gospel within the church, the academy and the world.”

Before trustees voted to approve this degree last fall, Southwestern President Paige Patterson explained why a theological seminary would teach philosophy. “Everybody is a philosopher,” he said. “The question is, are you a good one or a bad one? … We are committed to having good philosophers and to making good thinkers and philosophers out of our people.”

Patterson added that Southwestern has multiple faculty who specialize in this field and are making “monumental contributions” to discussions on such matters as the problem of evil, the existence of God, and evidence for Jesus’ resurrection. This program, therefore, will utilize their expertise to the benefit of students.

Following trustees’ approval of the degree, the proposal was submitted to ATS, Southwestern’s accrediting agency. As of last week, ATS has officially approved the program, meaning that the M.A. in Philosophy is now a fully accredited degree. Students can begin enrolling in the program this fall.

“For the last 12 years, the College at Southwestern has trained up a generation of Baptists who have spent extensive time reading both the Bible and the history of Western thought,” says Mark Leeds, Southwestern’s registrar. “Many of the graduates from that program have gone on to study ministry at the master’s level, but another segment has expressed a desire for further study in philosophy that will equip them for deep thinking on matters of philosophy and faith. The Master of Arts in Philosophy will afford those students and others an opportunity to develop knowledge and skill in that discipline.”