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Christian philosophers from across the nation and one foreign country gathered at Brigham Young University this week to debate the nature of God and religiosity.

During the conference, which ends today, 33 philosophers presented papers on topics ranging from the nature of time and eternity to Christian pacifism. This is the first gathering of Christian philosophers in the Intermountain region, according to David L. Paulsen, BYU philosophy professor and conference organizer.George I. Mavrodes, a professor at the University of Michigan and society president, gave the keynote address Thursday. Mavrodes analyzed a movement in philosophy to identify "the Gods above Gods," where God is seen as not a being among other beings, but rather "being itself."

Mavrodes argued that the movement to identify a supertranscendent being may result in such high Gods being deemed irrelevant to religious life and experience. Or, higher beings may become inseparable from lower Gods. In either case, the search for supertranscendent beings may undermine religiosity, he said.

Other special guests scheduled to speak at the conference were Eleanor Stump of the University of Notre Dame, who discussed Thomas Aquinas' comments on Job and the nature of evil, and Norman Kretzman of Cornell University, who discussed experiential awareness of God and how it contributes to religious belief as portrayed by William Alston in the book "Perceiving God."

Andrew Cripps, Simon Fraser University, spoke about a new view of how an eternal God is related to time. Under this new view, "God is timelessly eternal prior to creation and temporally eternal at and subsequent to creation."

The Society of Christian Philosophers was founded in 1978 to explore implications of Christian faith in all aspects of life. The society also allows participating philosophers to state their Christian commitments in a way that satisfies rational and academic scrutiny, Paulsen said.

The group has 1,200 members, including 43 in the Intermountain region. Membership is open to anyone who describes himself/herself as a Christian and a philosopher.