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Alvin Plantinga takes break from Philosophy, starts rock band.

September 25, 2012

Calvin College: The evangelical intellectual world has been in shock over the recent announcement that Christian philosopher Alvin Plantinga, author of God and Other Minds and Warranted Christian Belief, has taken time off from his research and writing in order to form a rock band.

This is not the first time in recorded history that major Christian thinkers have done similar things. Tooth and Nail Record’s back catalogues list offerings from David and the Five Smooth Stones, “Country” Tom Aquinas, and Soren Kierkegaard and his Earthquakes, while Keith Green’s duet with Francis Shaeffer on “Mamas Don’t Let Your Baby’s Grow Up To Be Cowboys” became a cult hit in Reformed circles. Yet  Plantinga’s announcement about his musical endeavors has drawn raised eyebrows from many in the intellectual Christian community. Calvin College released a statement saying that it was “surprised and perturbed” by Plantinga’s decision. Tim Keller called it “confusing,” Merrold Westphal says “I don’t think this is something that Plantinga should do,” and Mark Noll was seen standing in a corner muttering something about Six-Day Creationists.

The rock band, Alvin and the Chip Monks, is Alvin Plantinga’s first and only musical endeavor, though there are rumors about a bootlegged duet with Nicholas Wolterstorff on “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” Those expecting soft-rock music in the vein of Michael W. Smith will be unpleasantly surprised: the band’s publicist describes their music as “a raucous blend of punk, ska, and grunge littered with soaring choruses,” while Plantinga himself says, “It sounds a lot like the classics, you know, The Clash, Hot Water Music, The Melvins, Minor Threat. Black Flag is fantastic, one of my all-time favorites. I get some newer stuff in there too–I like some Jimmy Eat World, a little Gaslight Anthem, heck, even some Botch. Heavy, man.” For those concerned that the aural content may be too overwhelming, Plantinga notes that the special edition of Alvin and the Chip Monks’ self-titled debut contains a bonus acoustic disc featuring covers of Tom Waits, Nirvana, Johnny Cash and The Smiths.

While the album is slated to arrive on iTunes next week, advance reviews have been mixed. Peter Kreeft says, “I’m pretty sure that this album confirms that Plantinga is a Nominalist,” while noting that it provides him ideal background music for working on his next book, Socrates Meets Alvin Plantinga. Independent Music critic Stacy Leigh Fairchild raved that “Plantinga’s first record is the shot in the arm that Christian rock music desperately needs,” but fellow critic Jonathan Lippowitz called the band “A boring and cliched blink-182 rip-off.” [Editor’s note: it was later discovered that Lippowitz was not describing Alvin and the Chip Monks, but was actually describing blink-182]

In the Reformed Hardcore community, many view Plantinga’s work as derivative. “Plantinga is just too mainstream,” said John Calvin Maines of Sovereign Lord Presbyterian and Reformed Church. “He’s pretty much taken the old stuff and turned it into radio-friendly pop.” Those in the Reformed Hardcore community tend to hold up the work of supergroup Van Tillian, which consisted of Cornelius Van Til on vocals, Rousas John Rushdoony on drums, Gary North on bass, and shredder Greg Bahnsen on guitars, as the gold standard for punk music. “If you listen to the old Van Tillian records,” says Maines, “You start to realize that, man, these guys could have been as big as Black Flag or The Refused. This stuff was great.”

Nicholas Wolterstorff has declined to comment.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 2, 2012 2:24 am

    On the floor laughing during this post. “If you listen to the old Van Tillian records,” says Maines, “You start to realize that, man, these guys could have been as big as Black Flag or The Refused. This stuff was great.” This is so true. Had the same thought more than once. They could have been as big as The Refused. With lyrics like, “I’ve got a bone to pick with Clarkian-Calvinism . . . and a few to break!” they were so close to topping Billboard charts.

    • October 2, 2012 6:57 am

      You should have heard their song “Epistemological Self-Consciousness Breakdown.” David Grohl once said that it was fiercer than any Minor Threat song.

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