Friday, February 5, 2016

Cambridge releases UK/European edition of my new book, Taking Rites Seriously: Law, Politics, and the Reasonableness of Faith

Yesterday, February 4, Cambridge University Press released the UK/European edition of my new book, Taking Rites Seriously: Law, Politics, and the Reasonableness of Faith.  Here's a brief description of the book from the publisher:
Taking Rites Seriously is about how religious beliefs and religious believers are assessed
by judges and legal scholars and are sometimes mischaracterized and misunderstood by those who are critical of the influence of religion in politics or in the formation of law. Covering three general topics – reason and motive, dignity and personhood, nature and sex – philosopher and legal theorist Francis J. Beckwith carefully addresses several contentious legal and cultural questions over which religious and non-religious citizens often disagree: the rationality of religious belief, religiously motivated legislation, human dignity in bioethics, abortion and embryonic stem cell research, reproductive rights and religious liberty, evolutionary theory, and the nature of marriage. In the process, he responds to some well-known critics of public faith – including Brian Leiter, Steven Pinker, Suzanna Sherry, Ronald Dworkin, John Rawls, and Richard Dawkins – as well as to some religiously conservative critics of secularism such as the advocates for intelligent design
If you want to read more about the book--including the table of contents and an excerpt, go to the book's website

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Carl Henry's Quandary

"Carl Henry's Quandary" is the title of the article I contributed to the Fall 2015 issue of the Journal of Christian Legal Thought (JCLS), which was just recently released online. The issue is devoted to assessing a mid-1960s private disagreement between the late Evangelical theologian, Carl F. H. Henry, and the future president of Fuller Theological Seminary, the philosopher Richard Mouw.  The disagreement arose over an article that Henry and commissioned Mouw to write for Christianity Today, where Henry served as editor at the time. As the JCLT special issue editor, Thaddeus Williams, describes it in the opening article:
Mouw wanted to rouse the dosing church in America to engage the social evils of the day with more political clarity and verve....Henry...offered Mouw an instructive critique. According to Henry, individual Christians may engage the political process by endorsing specific policies; whereas the church as an institution should stick to declaring the general principles of a biblical worldview as they relate to socio-political issues, while stopping short of explicit public policy endorsements. For Henry, the institutional church
can and should voice negative verdicts on bad policies, but lacks the “mandate, jurisdiction, or competence to endorse political legislation or military tactics or economic specifics in the name of Christ.”

Mouw “grudgingly accepted what [he] considered a less-than-fully satisfactory compromise arrangement,” while remaining convinced that “the church could rightly say a bold ‘yes’ to specific policy-like solutions.” Forty-three years later all of that would change. In January of 2010, Christianity Today [CT] published Mouw’s updated reflections under the humble and candid title, “Carl Henry Was Right.” Why did Mouw, over the course of four decades, come to side with Henry in placing specific policy endorsements beyond the purview of the institutional church’s mission and mandate? Was Carl Henry right? [notes omitted]

Friday, January 22, 2016

Roe v. Wade at 43: Critiques and Reflections

Today, January 22, 2016, is the 43rd anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Roe v. Wade (1973), the opinion that declared abortion a constitutional right.  Over the years I've published several online analyses of Roe v. Wade and its logic:

"Abortion and Human Equality." Interview in National Review Online (22 January 2014)

"Roe at Forty, Part 1: The Court's Failure to Address the Unborn's Moral Status," The Catholic Thing
(4 January 2013)

"Roe at Forty, Part 2: The Court's Two Unwarranted Stipulations," The Catholic Thing (4 January 2013)

For those looking for a more extensive critique of Roe, in chapter 2 of my 2007 book, Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Against Abortion Choice (Cambridge University Press), I offer a detailed analysis of Roe and some subsequent Supreme Court opinions on abortion.

Although I do not critique Roe in my most recent book--Taking Rites Seriously: Law, Politics, and the Reasonableness of Faith (Cambridge University Press, 2015)--it includes a chapter relevant to some of the philosophical and legal issues central to the abortion debate: "Personhood, Prenatal Life, and Religious Belief." 

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Tump's "Freedom Kids" and Obama's "Children of Change": What Do They Tell Us?

This video, featuring the Trump-supporting "Freedom Kids," has received a lot of attention and ridicule online:

In 2008, this video, featuring Obama-supporting "Children of Change," received a lot attention and ridicule online:

Both videos, though cringe-inducing, express legitimate longings on the part of certain segments of the American populace. Our political leaders and opinion writers ignore these sentiments at their own peril.  A presidential candidate who can tap into these deep yearnings in a way that is intelligent and respectful while being assertive and non-abrasive will win the White House.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Why Muslims and Christians Worship the Same God - Part II

That's the title of my most recent contribution to The Catholic Thing (TCT), which was published online this morning. It is a follow-up to my December 17, 2015 TCT piece,"Do Muslims and Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God?"  The occasion for writing the original essay was the controversy surrounding Wheaton College (IL) professor, Larycia Hawkins, who put on administrative leave for publicly claiming that Christians and Muslims worship the same God. Earlier this week Wheaton began termination proceedings against the professor. 

This is how today's piece begins
On December 17 on this page I addressed the question of whether Muslims and Christians worship the same God. I gave the same answer given by Vatican II, and by the
Catholic Church since the Council: yes. Muslims and Christians do worship the same God, even though Islam holds an imperfect understanding of the divine, since it denies Christ’s divinity and thus, by implication, God’s triune nature. 
As the Church declared in Nostra Aetate (1965): “[Muslims] adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men. . . .Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet.” 
This argument prompted several critical replies, almost exclusively from non-Catholic Christians, including distinguished thinkers such as Albert Mohler, Andrew Walker, Matthew Cochran, and Peter Leithart. (To say nothing of a raft of outrage from TCT readers.) Each, with differing emphases, correctly documents what Christians believe are the inadequacies of Muslim theology given how God has progressively revealed himself through history as taught in Scripture. I do not dispute this point; it is actually consistent with my argument. Let me explain. 
The Church’s view rests on the distinction between “general” and “special” revelation. The former concerns those truths about God that can be known through unaided human reason; the latter, those truths about God known only through Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and/or the Holy Spirit speaking through the magisterium. (Many Protestants also accept this distinction, though they only include Scripture under the category of special revelation). 
In order to better grasp this distinction, let’s consider an argument for the existence of a Creator God offered by the Persian Muslim philosopher, Al-Ghazali (1058-1111 AD): the “Kalam Cosmological Argument.” It figures prominently in the work of Evangelical philosopher and apologist William Lane Craig. He summarizes the argument in this way:

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Carl Trueman selects Taking Rites Seriously as one of his top 4 books of 2015

Over at Reformation 21, the website for the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, theologian Carl Trueman lists my new book, Taking Rites Seriously, one of the top 4 books of 2015.  Here's Professor Trueman's list:
R. Kent Hughes and Douglas Sean O'Donnell, The Pastor's Book (Crossway). This book is an extremely helpful handbook on all aspects of the pastoral task.

Francis J. Beckwith, Taking Rites Seriously: Law, Politics, and the Reasonableness of Faith (Cambridge). Given the growing pressure on religious freedom, it is important for Christians to understand how the law works, both institutionally and culturally. These connected essays by Frank Beckwith are superb.

Roger Scruton, Fools, Frauds, and Firebrands: Thinkers of the New Left (Bloomsbury). I
read everything I can by Scruton. Witty, learned and always very helpful. Any man who can speculate as to whether there is more to Habermas's theory of communicative action than 'his inability to communicate it' is well worth reading.

P J O'Rourke, Thrown Under the Omnibus (Atlantic Monthly). My Christmas holiday reading. A fat selection of the best writing of one of the funniest political and cultural commentators around.
Carl Trueman holds the Paul Woolley Chair of Church History and is professor of church history at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. He writes regularly for the First Things blog, First Thoughts, and hosts the podcast, Mortification of Spin
Me, Carl Trueman, and the Mortification of Spin team--
Aimee Byrd, Todd Pruitt, and Alicia Elaine Ward--in Atlanta last November