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October 10, 2011

Arthur F. Holmes '50 M.A. '52 (1924-2011): Influential Christian Philosopher

Arthur Holmes

Dr. Arthur F. Holmes, a noted Christian philosopher who inspired generations of Wheaton College students and the broader Christian community through his thoughtful scholarship, died Saturday, October 8. He was 87.

Holmes, who left his native England to study at Wheaton College, completed bachelor's and master's degrees in Bible and theology at Wheaton in 1950 and 1952. Holmes earned a Ph.D. in philosophy from Northwestern University in 1957. He began teaching theology and philosophy at Wheaton in 1951, while completing his graduate studies, and invested his entire professional career at Wheaton. He served as chairman of the Philosophy Department for several decades, among many other roles, and continued to teach occasionally even after his retirement in 1994. Holmes was designated Alumnus of the Year for Distinguished Service to Alma Mater in 1978.

Holmes authored several influential articles and books that encouraged a broad understanding of and commitment to the task of distinctively Christian scholarship. His courses taught students to think systematically and deeply as Christians about human thought and experience.

"The Christian, of all people, we have observed, has good reasons for believing in truth," he wrote in All Truth is God’s Truth (Eerdmans, 1977). "He has good reasons for believing it to be universal and unchanging, and good reasons for being concerned about the unifying truth of a biblical worldview. He has good reasons also for emphasizing sound logic, for testing what he hears by rational means. And he has good reasons for doing this in whatever field he is engaged. For all truth is God’s truth, and the believer is called to attest to it by both his life and his thought."

Other seminal works included The Idea of a Christian College; Contours of a Worldview; Ethics: Approaching Moral Decisions; War and Christian Ethics; Fact; Value and God; Shaping Character; and Building the Christian Academy. A frequent speaker on the campuses of other colleges, Holmes' influence was national and international. He provided formal and informal inspiration and encouragement to Christian philosophers, vastly expanding the number of Christians in the discipline.

"It would be hard to think of anyone who has had a greater impact on Christian higher education than Arthur Holmes," said Dr. Philip Ryken, President of Wheaton College. "Everywhere I go, college and university leaders mention his book The Idea of a Christian College as foundational to their thinking about faith and learning."

"Wheaton College will long remember Art Holmes as the complete Christian philosopher: a careful scholar, a rigorous thinker, a wise mentor, a warm friend, and a champion for the integration of faith and learning," Ryken continued.

In a chapel address he gave at Wheaton in the 1960s, Holmes spoke about his vision for rigorously educating a large group of philosophy majors from Wheaton and other Christian colleges who could affect the world of ideas. He believed that, no matter a student’s major or eventual profession, having a Christian perspective that integrated faith and learning was critical.

Dr. W. Jay Wood, Chair of the Department of Philosophy, said Holmes will be remembered for the way he mentored students, and for the way he challenged evangelicals to explore the relationship between Christianity and the full spectrum of the arts and sciences.

"Arthur influenced an entire generation of evangelicals to think deeply and seriously about the life of the mind, and his influence endures in the lives of his many students who carry his teaching into their various careers and callings," Wood said. "We who worked alongside him are grateful for his life, and that portion of it in which we shared."

Holmes was the recipient of several awards, including the 1987 Illinois Professor of the Year, presented by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education.

Holmes' survivors include his wife, Alice; his sons, Paul (Laura) and Mark (Jennifer); and six grandchildren.

A memorial service for Dr. Holmes will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday, October 23. The service will take place in Pierce Memorial Chapel, located on the southeast corner of Washington and Franklin streets in Wheaton. Following the memorial, a reception will be held across campus in Anderson Commons, located at 421 Chase Street.

The family requests that memorial gifts be directed to the Arthur F. Holmes Professor of Faith and Learning Chair at Wheaton College, 501 College Avenue, Wheaton, IL 60187.