At the urging of the late Frederick Crosson, the Center for Philosophy of Religion was established in the fall of 1976 in order to promote, support and disseminate scholarly work in philosophy of religion and Christian philosophy. A few years later, Crosson resigned as director and Alvin Plantinga, then-John A O'Brien Professor of Philosophy, took over the directorship of the Center. In 2002, Plantinga retired as director, handing the reigns to Thomas P. Flint. Flint was director of the Center from 2002 until 2008, when he became editor of Faith and Philosophy. Michael C. Rea is the current director of the Center, and Samuel Newlands is the associate director.
In its early years, the Center pursued two kinds of projects. It held biannual conferences on topics like theology and philosophy, religion and science, and the nature of Christian scholarship. The Center also awarded fellowships to junior and senior faculty working in theology and philosophy of religion. Recently, the Center has become more prominent in promoting research initiatives in philosophy of religion and philosophical theology. In 2009, the Center received several multi-millon dollar grants from the John Templeton Foundation for use in two research initiatives. The first was on the problem of evil. The second was on analytic theology. Since then, the Center has received two additional large grants from Templeton: Hope & Optimism and The Experience Project. Funding from these grants supports interdisciplinary research in social science, philosophy, and theology, residential fellowships at Notre Dame, conferences, high quality video content, and strategic public engagement initiatives.