Saturday, August 27, 2016

Matthew Franck reviews Taking Rites Seriously: Law, Politics, and the Reasonableness of Faith

On June, 24, 2016, over at Public Discourse, Matthew Franck published a review of my latest book, Taking Rites Seriously: Law, Politics, and the Reasonableness of Faith (Cambridge University Press, 2015). Dr Franck is the Director of the William E. and Carol G. Simon Center on Religion and the Constitution at the Witherspoon Institute, as well as Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Redford University.

I am happy to report that he agrees with the book's central thesis, namely, that judges and legal scholars often misunderstood, misrepresent, and in some cases, caricature, the epistemic status of religious beliefs. He does, however, have reservations about my critique of Intelligent Design in chapter 6, though it doesn't surprise me. That is one part of the book where I thought I would get the most push back from some fellow travelers.

He concludes his review with these words: "But this is a small reservation about an excellent book, written with admirable clarity, and amply demonstrating the compatibility—indeed the happy and mutually fulfilling companionship—of faith and reason, even and especially in matters of public life."

You can read the entire review here.

Taking Rites Seriously Wins Prestigious American Academy of Religion Book Award

I am not only pleased, but honored and humbled, to announce that my book, Taking Rites Seriously: Law, Politics and the Reasonableness of Faith (Cambridge University Press, 2015) has been chosen to receive the American Academy of Religion's 2016 Book Award for Excellence in the Study of Religion in the category of Constructive-Reflective Studies. According to AAR's August 22, 2016 press release: "The awards honor books of distinctive originality, intelligence, creativity and importance; books that affect decisively how religion is examined, understood, and interpreted. For more information, please see Awards will be presented at the AAR’s 2016 Annual Meeting in San Antonio, Texas, on Sunday, November 20, 2016, at 7:30 PM."

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Elected Vice President and President-Elect of the American Catholic Philosophical Association

I am honored and humbled to report that I was informed this morning by Professor Mirela Oliva, National Secretary of the American Catholic Philosophical Association (ACPA), that "the voting members of the [ACPA] have elected you Vice-President/President-Elect. Congratulations." She goes on to write: "[Y]our term as Vice-President will begin at the conclusion of this year’s Annual Meeting and it will last until the conclusion of next year’s Annual Meeting. So you will be Vice President at the 2017 Meeting. At the end of that meeting, you will assume the duties of President and will remain in that position for one year. So your presidential meeting will be the 2018 Meeting."

When I think of the stature of not only the ACPA's prior presidents but also its most accomplished members, I do not exaggerate when I say that I am honored and humbled by this news.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Waco Tribune-Herald: all the news that's printed to fit.

My colleague, Elizabeth Corey, was quoted in an April 9 story in the Waco Tribune Herald. Here's how the reporter presents it: 

In an Oct. 28 online article, Baylor Honors Program Director Elizabeth Corey wrote, “Christian schools should think long and hard . . . before they sign their souls over to the secular rule of diversity officers.”
Because that didn't quite sound like Elizabeth, I went back to the original piece to see what actual words are in place of the ellipses.  Here's what I found: "Christian schools should think long and hard about exactly what kind of diversity they wish to promote before they sign their souls over to the secular rule of diversity officers." (missing words in bold)

That changes things a bit, doesn't it? 

Monday, March 28, 2016

The Courses I'll Be Teaching Next Fall at the University of Colorado, Boulder

In February I was offered and accepted the position of Visiting Professor of Conservative Thought and Policy at the University of Colorado, Boulder for the 2016-2017 school year. My home institution, Baylor University, has graciously permitted me to take a one-year leave of absence.

I will be teaching two courses in the Fall and two in the Spring. Here is my Fall schedule:

PHIL 4010: Single Philosopher: Aquinas
TR 11:00-12:15
Here's the philosophy department's description of the course: "This is a special team-taught course, led by Professor Robert Pasnau, a leading historian of medieval philosophy, and Visiting Professor Francis Beckwith, a prominent Catholic moral philosopher. We will work our way through the central ideas of Aquinas's philosophy, beginning with his conception of human nature, followed by his account of human happiness, the nature of God, and his theory of natural law." I am honored to be team-teaching this course with such an accomplished scholar.

PHIL 1600: Philosophy and Religion
TR 8:00-9:15 am
The official university description reads: "Philosophical introduction to some of the central concepts and beliefs of religious traditions, focusing particularly on the question of the existence of God and on the relation between religious beliefs and moral beliefs. Approved for arts and sciences core curriculum: ideals and values." My plan is also to cover some issues of faith, reason, and public life, questions I've addressed in my most recent books, Taking Rites Seriously: Law, Politics, and the Reasonableness of Faith (Cambridge University Press, 2015), Politics For Christians: Statecraft and Soulcraft (InterVarsity Press, 2010), and Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice (Cambridge University Press, 2007). Of course, we will be examining differing perspectives, including those critical of the views I defend in my works.

Because I accepted the CU offer after the official Fall 2016 schedule had already been published, the second course, "Philosophy and Religion," does not appear on the published scheduled, though one can register for the course if one is a CU student.

So, if you are a CU student and are interested taking either one of these course, I hope you would consider signing up for either one.

I am looking forward to my year at CU.

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]