The Sanders Prize in Philosophy of Religion is an essay contest, run every other year, open to scholars who are within fifteen years of receiving a PhD or students who are currently enrolled in a graduate program. It is sponsored by the Marc Sanders Foundation, which offers a number of other philosophy prizes.
Mr. Thompson won the prize for his essay, “And All Shall Be Changed: Virtue in the New Creation”. Here’s an abstract of the paper:
Human mortality seems to play an important role in explaining the value of human virtues. Surely we most need the virtue of courage when our lives are endangered, we most need the virtue of justice when others’ lives are threatened, and we most need the virtue of temperance when faced with goods—like food and drink—that harm our health by overindulgence. This dependency on mortality poses a serious problem for Christian ethics. If the ultimate explanation of the value of the virtues appeals to their role in ameliorating the harms that stem from limitations like mortality, then the virtues will lose much of their value in the new creation, where those limitations are no more. In this paper, I argue that this threat is serious, and that there is no good way to solve the problem as long as we try to explain the value of the virtues by appeal to the benefits they provide in our current state. I argue that, nevertheless the Christian ethicist can give a powerful alternative explanation of the ultimate value of the virtues. The virtues are not first and foremost the dispositions that allow us to improve the broken world we live in, but precisely those dispositions necessary for enjoying ideal or perfect conditions. I survey the four cardinal virtues and argue that each turns out to be necessary to enjoy one of the principal features of the new creation. Justice is necessary for enjoying the rightful equalities and hierarchies of the new creation, courage is necessary for enjoying the full bodily presence of God, temperance is necessary to enjoy any pleasures for an eternity, and prudence is necessary to enjoy the activity of paradise.
The award for the prize-winning essay is $10,000 and its publication in Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion.
Three runners-up were recognized, as well. They are Andrew Brenner (Gothenburg) for “How to be a Mereological Anti-Realist”, Meghan Page (Loyola Maryland) for “Creativity in Creation”, and T. Ryan Byerly (Sheffield) for “Being Good and Loving God.”