Friday, July 30, 2010

"Evangelicals ‘Crossing the Tiber’ to Catholicism: Under the radar of most observers a trend is emerging of evangelicals converting to Catholicism."

That's the title of a well-written piece authored by Jonathan D. Fitzgerald at Religion Dispatches.  Here is how it begins:
In the fall of 1999, I was a freshman at Gordon College, an evangelical liberal arts school in Massachusetts. There, fifteen years earlier, a professor named Thomas Howard resigned from the English department when he felt his beliefs were no longer in line with the college’s statement of faith. Despite all those intervening years, during my time at Gordon the specter of Thomas Howard loomed large on campus. The story of his resignation captured my imagination; it came about, ultimately, because he converted to Roman Catholicism.
Though his reasons for converting were unclear and perhaps unimaginable to me at the time (they are actually well-documented in his book Evangelical is Not Enough which, back then, I had not yet read), his reasons seemed less important than the knowledge that it could happen. I had never heard of such a thing.
I grew up outside of Boston in what could be described as an Irish-Catholic family, except for one minor detail: my parents had left the Church six years before I was born when they were swept up in the so-called “Jesus Movement” of the 1970s. So Catholicism was all around me, but it was not mine. I went to mass with my grandparents, grew up around the symbolism of rosary beads and Virgin Mary statues, attended a Catholic high school, and was present at baptisms, first communions, and confirmations for each of my Catholic family members and friends.
Continue reading>>>

Dr. Howell reinstated -

Catholic professor allowed to teach at University of Illinois campus this fall -

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Congratulations Ignatius Press!: Pope's follow-up to Jesus of Nazareth to be published by Ignatius

Here's what the press release states:
SAN FRANCISCO, July 29, 2010 – Pope Benedict XVI's second volume of "Jesus of Nazareth"--"From His Transfiguration to His Death and Resurrection"--will be published in English by Ignatius Press, according to an agreement between Ignatius Press and the Vatican's Publishing House, Libreria Editrice Vaticana (LEV). 
Slated for release in Spring 2011, the much-anticipated second volume of "Jesus of Nazareth" takes up where the first volume, Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration, left off.  
"We are eagerly awaiting Volume II because it will contain the Holy Father's reflections on the central mysteries of our faith: the Passion, Death, and Resurrection," says Ignatius Press Founder and Editor, Jesuit Father Joseph Fessio. Father Fessio is a former student of Pope Benedict. 
>>>continue reading

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Aaron Menikoff reviews Politics for Christians

Over at the Gospel Coalition, Aaron Menikoff, a Baptist pastor, has published a review of my latest book, Politics for Christians: Statecraft as Soulcraft (InterVarsity Press, 2010). You can read the review here.

Center for American Progress soon to hire Mulder and Scully as Distinguished Fellows?

Read here. For the sake of balance, I should note that conservative Michael Medved is a Big Foot believer.

Devin Rose on his conversion to Catholicism

Found this wonderful post on Called to Communion. Here's an excerpt:

....Around this same time, I learned that Catholics had seventy-three books in their Bibles. I assumed that they must have added books to the Bible, since I had already accepted the claim that Catholics “contradicted Scripture” in many ways, adding extra man-made traditions onto God’s Word. But, I soon began asking how, exactly, I knew that the Bible was composed of the particular sixty-six books that I was given. I asked the canon question and at first was blithely confident that I would find the answer from my Protestant friends. But their answers weren’t convincing–in fact, most of them hadn’t even considered the question. So I turned to the internet to find what I knew must be solid Protestant arguments for the canon. Much to my chagrin, the answers I found there were weak as well, and I began to grow uneasy.
The “answers” that Protestant apologists gave to the canon question often focused on pointing out the historical testimony that was in favor of the Protestant canon as reasons for believing it to be true. But though there is some historical testimony in favor of the Protestant canon, there is at least as much testimony for the Catholic one. (Not to mention the fact that the Eastern Orthodox Churches also accept the deuterocanonical books.) If the canon had been universally agreed upon in the Church by the early second century, perhaps it could give one certainty that that particular canon was obviously the true one, but that simply didn’t happen. Instead, for over three centuries different canonical lists were proposed and discussed in the long and winding road of the Church’s discernment of the canon. The ambiguous historical testimony regarding the formation of the canon cannot provide conscience-binding certainty for any of the different canons accepted today by the major Christian groups. I realized that my belief in the Protestant canon could not be maintained without making anad hoc claim that God protected the Church from erring as she determined which books belong to the canon, but did not protect from error anything else the Church did....
I read the writings of the Church Fathers and grew even more uneasy. Whether their teachings squared with those of the Catholic Church I did not yet know enough to confirm, but one thing I did know was that their beliefs differed significantly from my Baptist faith. For instance, the Fathers’ unanimous belief in baptismal regeneration was undeniable and disturbing because it meant that either that doctrine was true (and my symbolic-only baptismal doctrine was false) or that the Church fell into serious error in her teachings almost immediately. As I investigated more doctrines which divide Catholics and Protestants, I found that the Fathers’ writings strongly favored the Catholic positions. For every one quote that could possibly be construed as supporting uniquely-Protestant teachings, twenty more existed that were utterly incompatible with Protestantism. 
After a significant period of study and prayer, I became Catholic. Why? Because I already had placed my faith in Christ and had faith that He could and did work infallibly through fallible human beings (in the sixty-six books of the Bible I accepted at the time). “So what’s to stop Him from working infallibly through fallible human beings in other matters of the Faith? Or perhaps even in all matters of faith?” I couldn’t see anything unreasonable about that, and accepting the Catholic Church’s claim of infallibility resolved the ad hoc rationale I had accepted as a Protestant that He worked infallibly in sixty-six specific instances but in no others. (Well, to be more accurate, that He had done so sixty-seven times: in the sixty-six inspired books plus the decision about which books those were)....

Read the whole thing here.  My own thought process was very similar, as I note in Return to Rome: Confessions of an Evangelical Catholic (Brazos, 2009)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Dignity Has Greater Explanatory Power Than Does Autonomy

The following is from my recently published article in Ethics & Medicine: An International Journal of Bioethics 26.2 (Summer 2010), "Dignity Never Been Photographed: Scientific Materialism, Enlightenment Liberalism, and Steven Pinker." (endnote omitted)

According to Pinker, “[I]nformed consent serves as the bedrock of ethical research and practice, and it clearly rules out the kinds of abuses that led to the birth of bioethics in the first place, such as Mengele’s sadistic pseudoexperiments in Nazi Germany.” Although it is true that the Nazi victims were not provided with informed consent, it does not follow that the absence of that informed consent is the reason why the Nazi research was wicked.
After all, suppose we discovered that half of the Nazis’s victims had come to believe Adolph Hitler’s rhetoric and concluded that they were in fact to blame for all that was wrong with Germany. And imagine that some of them willingly became Mengele’s guinea pigs and the remaining went to the gas chambers because of their love for the Fatherland. These courses of action would be entirely voluntary, an exercise of the principle of autonomy. Yet, the reason why these people were gassed was precisely the same reason why the non-voluntary victims were gassed. A bad reason to do evil does not become less of a bad reason simply because the victim voluntarily participates in his own unjustified homicide. Replacing intrinsic dignity with autonomy actually diminishes that wrong, for it turns an intrinsic wrong into a conditional one. So, ironically, if this analysis is correct, it is autonomy and not dignity that is not a necessary condition for assessing the wickedness of these acts. Thus, it is the idea that human beings have intrinsic dignity that best accounts for our understanding of the wrongness of the Nazi atrocities.
The entire article may be downloaded here.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Deepak Chopra, self-refuted

Nice example of self-referential incoherence:

Lutheran pastor on the intercession of the saints: it's okay!

According to Mike Potemra at NRO:
At Grace & St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Manhattan today, the pastor exhorted the congregation not to be afraid to ask for the intercession of the saints in Heaven. 
Luther himself was quite devoted to the Virgin Mary, but the abuse of the cult of the saints in his time led him to encourage a new focus on recourse to Christ himself. Once an abuse is corrected, though, it’s okay to stress again the underlying truth that the abuseexaggerated in such a way as to render false — in this case, the truth that it is the proper work of Christians, in heaven and on earth, in time and out of time, to pray for one another. 
The pastor, the Rev. Martin Hauser, was very eloquent on the subject. I would just query him on one, broader point. He said that, as far as he was concerned, “the reformation is over.” If he meant Reformation-with-a-capital-R — the historic movement of the 16th century to recover the Gospel from certain very particular abuses – then that Reformation is certainly over. (A couple of years ago, I heard a Presbyterian minister in the pulpit declare that he thought the Catholics had done a better job of the Reformation at Vatican II “than we did in the 16th century.”) But if he means reformation-with-a-lower-case-R — the eternal struggle of the Christian community to live up to the challenge that their rabbi opened up for them – then that reformation will never end, this side of the Kingdom; there will never be a moment in time, be it 33 A.D., 1517, 1955, 1975, or 2575, when we can say, Now the church is perfect. Ecclesia semper, semper reformanda.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Pope Benedict XVI, "The Doctrine of Justification: From Works to Faith"

Comments from the Holy Father's November 19, 2008 General Audience in St.  Peter's Square:
The Doctrine of Justification: from Works to Faith. 
Dear Brothers and Sisters, 
On the journey we are making under St Paul's guidance, let us now reflect on a topic at the centre of the controversies of the century of the Reformation: the question of justification. How does man become just in God's eyes? When Paul met the Risen One on the road to Damascus he was an accomplished man; irreproachable according to the justice deriving from the Law (cf. Phil 3: 6), Paul surpassed many of his contemporaries in the observance of the Mosaic Law and zealously upheld the traditions of his fathers (cf. Gal 1: 14). The illumination of Damascus radically changed his life; he began to consider all merits acquired in an impeccable religious career as "refuse", in comparison with the sublimity of knowing Jesus Christ (cf. Phil 3: 8). The Letter to the Philippians offers us a moving testimony of Paul's transition from a justice founded on the Law and acquired by his observance of the required actions, to a justice based on faith in Christ. He had understood that what until then had seemed to him to be a gain, before God was, in fact, a loss; and thus he had decided to stake his whole existence on Jesus Christ (cf. Phil 3: 7). The treasure hidden in the field and the precious pearl for whose purchase all was to be invested were no longer in function of the Law, but Jesus Christ, his Lord. 

Friday, July 23, 2010

Catholic Online: "Are Lutherans Next? Lutherans Seek Full Communion with Catholic Church"

Here is an excerpt from an article by Deacon Keith Fournier:
CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic Online) -  On Tuesday, Peter Kemmether,  a married 62 year old father of four children was ordained to the Holy Priesthood by Bishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller.  Fr. Peter was granted a dispensation from the canonical discipline of celibacy attached to priestly ordination. He had been a Protestant Pastor who came into the full communion of the Catholic Church as the fruit of a sincere search for the fullness of the Christian faith. On June 6, 2010, I read a story in the Philadelphia Enquirer entitled "The Priest and his Mrs."  concerning now Fr. Philip Johnson, a Lutheran Pastor for 19 years, who followed a similar path. He was ordained for the Diocese of Camden with the same exception, under the sponsorship and invitation of Bishop Joseph Galante.  
Catholics are becoming aware of the former Anglican and Episcopal ministers who have followed the same journey home. Fewer Catholics are aware of the marvelous welcome the Church has extended to many more through the historic apostolic constitution approved by Pope Benedict XI. I have written extensively about this and recently shared my joy with our readers at the ordination of lifelong friend and pro-life hero Fr. Paul Schenck, whose ordination I had the privilege of attending last month. You can read my account here.   
I am in a dialogue with Archbishop Irl A. Gladfelter, CSP, the Metropolitan Archbishop of the  Anglo-Lutheran Catholic Church, a group of Lutherans who have embraced the Catholic Catechism and the teaching of the Magisterium.... 
Read the whole thing>>>

Monday, July 19, 2010

Bryan Cross on Ligon Duncan's "Did the Fathers Know the Gospel?"

Read it at Called to Communion here.

"Modern Moral Philosophy" by G. E. M. Anscombe

Published in the journal Philosophy in 1958, "Modern Moral Philosophy" was authored by Oxford philosopher, and devout Catholic, Elizabeth Anscombe (1919-2001). This is a tough read for non-philosophers, but it is worth mastering. For this essay correctly diagnoses so many of the problems that arise in discussions over a variety of moral questions. Read the whole thing here.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

University of Illinois students offer public support for Dr. Ken Howell

Read about it here. The story begins....

Peoria, Ill., Jul 17, 2010 / 06:52 am (CNA).- Since the news of Dr. Kenneth Howell’s dismissal from the University of Illinois became public, students have been voicing their support for the professor and making efforts to bring him back to the university in the fall.

Howell was terminated this spring from his teaching position at the university for explaining in his Introduction to Catholicism class that the Catholic Church opposed homosexual behavior because it violates natural law.

An anonymous student complained that Howell’s statements were “hate speech.” Howell was subsequently fired, however, he maintains that he was simply presenting Catholic teaching in a class on Catholic thought.

The decision has received substantial media coverage, and the university has announced that it will have a faculty committee review the dismissal. The Diocese of Peoria has also announced that it will meet with officials from the university on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, students from the university and around the country have rallied around Howell in support and defense, trying to raise awareness of his situation.

University of Illinois student Kristin DeSutter said that Howell “doesn’t deserve” to be fired for his teaching.

DeSutter was a student in the Introduction to Catholicism class this spring where Howell made the statements that resulted in his dismissal. She said that she was shocked when she heard that Howell was fired.

“He was a wonderful professor,” she told CNA. “He was very fair.”

Continue reading>>>

Douglas Groothuis on the political rift within Evangelicalism

You can find it on Patheos here.  Professor Groothuis writes:
Between Christians "Right" and "Left," there is a widening gap both relationally and ideologically. Principled Christian conservatives -- who prize limited, Constitutional government, secure borders, individual liberty, the protection of unborn human life, the traditional family, and a strong national defense -- find it difficult to accept that fellow believers would vote for a man, Barack Obama, who denies all of these things and who promised to "fundamentally transform America." We conservatives want no such thing, but rather that America should live up to its founding ideals.
We are concerned that the Christian Left often accuses us of not caring for the poor simply because we do not view the state as the primary means for their empowerment. Rather, we favor a society of opportunity over a society of entitlement, massive civil government, and excessive regulation. We want to see the energies of the church, voluntary associations, and individuals let loose as opposed to constrained by a messianic state that views itself as the primary arbiter of wealth and opportunity. We know full well that the Bible speaks much of helping "the poor and the oppressed," but we are not convinced that left-wing programs best accomplish that task and benefit society as a whole.
Having been part of the evangelical Left for a few years as a young man -- reading Sojourners regularly, as well as books by Ron Sider, Jim Wallis, William Stringfellow, and others -- I now view that approach as naïve, unworkable, and ultimately detrimental to America. While no Christian should put a human ideology above the Kingdom of God or the Bible, I find a classically conservative approach to be more biblical as well as successful historically. Statism, in all its forms, is idolatry; it robs citizens of their freedoms and consolidates an unprincipled power for itself. I look to writers such as Edmund Burke, the American founders, and, more recently, William F. Buckley (Up From Liberalism), Richard John Neuhaus (The Naked Public Square), and Francis Schaeffer (A Christian Manifesto) for inspiration on political philosophy.
The causes of the political tensions between evangelicals are, to some degree, matters of misunderstanding. Some of the causes of tension are unavoidable, however, since conservatism and modern liberalism are two very different animals. For the sake of civility and Christian charity, each side needs to make the case biblically, historically, and empirically that its ideals should win the day.
There are several others who published essays in the discussion in which Professor Groothuis' essay appears. You can read them here

Friday, July 16, 2010

Robert P. George skewers Frank Schaeffer

This was published on March 21, 2010 by Robert P. George on the Mirror of Justice blog. I think I was traveling that day and missed this absolutely delicious dissembling of Frank Schaeffer (formerly "Franky" Schaeffer, though he was still nuts then). Now, here's Robby:

"Natural Law" and "far right Reconstructionist extremism!"

Those of us working in the field of natural law theory sometimes encounter bizarre and even grotesque misunderstandings or misrepresentations of what natural law theory is all about.  (I tried to clear up some of these in my 2007 John Dewey Lecture at Harvard entitled “Natural Law,” which was published in Volume 52 of the American Journal of Jurisprudence (2007).)  Among writers for popular forums, Andrew Sullivan has produced some rather spectacular misunderstandings, but now I’ve encountered one that makes Sullivan’s errors seem minor.  It appears, as it happens, in a vicious and flailing attack on little ol’ me on the Huffington Post.  The author is someone named Frank Schaeffer. Here’s the link:

Thursday, July 15, 2010

July 15, Feast Day of St. Bonaventure

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia:
Doctor of the Church, Cardinal-Bishop of Albano, Minister General of the Friars Minor, born at Bagnorea in the vicinity of Viterbo in 1221; died at Lyons, 16 July, 1274.

Nothing is known of Bonaventure's parents save their names: Giovanni di Fidanza and Maria Ritella. How his baptismal name of John came to be changed to that of Bonaventure is not clear. An attempt has been made to trace the latter name to the exclamation of St. Francis, O buona ventura, when Bonaventure was brought as an infant to him to be cured of a dangerous illness. This derivation is highly improbable; it seems based on a late fifteenth-century legend. Bonaventure himself tells us (Legenda S. Francisci Prolog.) that while yet a child he was preserved from death through the intercession of St. Francis, but there is no evidence that this cure took place during the lifetime of St. Francis or that the name Bonaventure originated in any prophetical words of St. Francis. It was certainly borne by others before the Seraphic Doctor. No details of Bonaventure's youth have been preserved. He entered the Order of Friars Minor in 1238 or 1243; the exact year is uncertain. Wadding and the Bollandists bold for the later date, but the earlier one is supported by Sbaradea, Bonelli, Panfilo da Magliano, and Jeiler, and appears more probable. It is certain that Bonaventure was sent from the Roman Province, to which he belonged, to complete his studies at the University of Paris under Alexander of Hales, the great founder of the Franciscan School. The latter died in 1246, according to the opinion generally received, though not yet definitely established, and Bonaventure seems to have become his pupil about 1242. Be this as it may, Bonaventure received in 1248 the "licentiate" which gave him the right to teach publicly as Magister regens, and he continued to lecture at the university with great success until 1256, when he was compelled to discontinue, owing to the then violent outburst of opposition to the Mendicant orders on the part of the secular professors at the university. The latter, jealous, as it seems, of the academic successes of the Dominicans and Franciscans, sought to exclude them from teaching publicly. The smouldering elements of discord had been fanned into a flame in 1256, when Guillaume de Saint-Amour published a work entitled "The Perils of the Last Times", in which he attacked the Friars with great bitterness. It was in connexion with this dispute that Bonaventure wrote his treatise, "De paupertate Christi". It was not, however, Bonaventure, as some have erroneously stated, but Blessed John of Parma, who appeared before Alexander IV at Anagni to defend the Franciscans against their adversary. The Holy See having, as is well known, re-established the Mendicants in all their privileges, and Saint-Amour's book having been formally condemned, the degree of Doctor was solemnly bestowed on St. Bonaventure and St. Thomas Aquinas at the university, 23 October, 1257.
>>Continue Reading

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Dr. Kenneth Howell's interview on Kresta in the Afternoon

On the July 14, 2010 edition of his radio program, Kresta in the Afternoon, my friend, Al Kresta, interviews Dr. Kenneth Howell, who was recently fired by the University of Illinois as an adjunct professor of Catholic studies.  He was dismissed on the grounds that his instruction on the Catholic view on the morality of homosexual acts violated the university's policies of inclusion.  Al also interviews Jordan Lorence of the Alliance Defense Fund on the July 14 edition of Al's Ave Maria Radio program, Kresta in the Afternoon.  ADF is representing Dr. Howell.

You can listen to it here.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Tom Jones sings Bob Dylan's "What Good Am I?"

Never thought I'd see this:

It's a wonderful rendition of a terrific song. It asks a question I often ask myself

Lyrics follow....

Monday, July 12, 2010

Alliance Defend Fund representing Dr. Kenneth Howell

Dr. Kenneth Howell, as I noted here, recently lost his adjunct religious studies appointment teaching Catholic studies at the University of Illinois because he in fact had the temerity to teach Catholic studies. (A student in the course was upset that Dr. Howell offered in class and in email correspondence the natural law case against homosexual acts, explained why the Catholic Church believes that account, and that as a Catholic Dr. Howell accepted  it as well.)

I just found out, via First Thoughts at First Things, that the Alliance Defense Fund is representing Dr. Howell and has just sent a letter to the president of the University of Illinois asking that it reinstate Dr. Howell. The pdf of the letter is here.

(On the right is a cover and link to the Amazon page of Dr. Howell's latest book Ignatius of Antioch & Polycarp of Smyrna: A New Translation and Theological Commentary)

Book Recommendation: On Inoculating Moral Philosophy Against God by John M. Rist

Published by Marquette University Press in 2000, this small book (100 pages), authored by Professor John M. Rist, is the Aquinas Lecture he delivered at Marquette in 2000.  Here are excerpts from his concluding remarks:
To leave the intellectual ghetto does not mean cutting ourselves off from our intellectual roots. There is nothing more ludicrous than the Christian who, despising the Eurocentrism which some wrongly malign in his religion, engages in high-minded dialogue with exponents of other traditions without any serious knowledge of his own. In the eyes of the more honourable members of such other traditions (including the tradition of secularism) such Christians are merely sad, to the more cynical they are useful idiots.
Instead of courage in moral debate (as in moral practice), there is always the possibility of going along.... And that going along can be rationalized. If I do not get this [academic] appointment because I am counter-cultural (and Christianity is counter-cultural in our world, as in Augustine's, though not in that of Aquinas), someone much worse, from the Christian point of view, will be appointed.... I should conclude by noticing that all one is asking of the theist is that he not compromise the truth about ethics as the price of apparent success, intellectual or other. Stubbornness in itself is no virtue; knowing what cannot be compromised in a hostile environment certainly is. Otherwise Socrates would not have drunk hemlock, Thomas More would not have lost his head, and Jesus would not have been crucified. (pages 99-100)

Two August Summit Ministries summer sessions still have openings

Although Summit Ministries is about to complete the fourth of its eight two-week summer sessions, there are still openings in its last two sessions for interested students.

To be held August 8 through August 20 (session 7) and August 22 through September 3 (session 8), I will be lecturing in both sessions. I have been a lecturer at Summit since 1996 and have spoken there every summer since then.

I have been a lecturer at Summit since 1996 and have spoken every summer since then.

Other speakers at Summit include Michael Bauman, J. P. Moreland, Kevin Bywaters, Jeff Myers, and Summit's founder David Noebel.  There's still room for students who want to apply for some of the sessions. You can find out more information here.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Adjunct Religion Professor, Dr. Kenneth Howell, Fired for Catholic Moral Beliefs by the University of Illinois

This is an ominous sign. It means, I believe, that to be an outspoken creedal Christian--Catholic or Protestant or Orthodox--on moral and social questions is to court loss of employment in the secular academy, no matter your accomplishments, pedigree, winsomeness of presentation, or sophistication of argument.  Writes Jeff Culbreath at What's Wrong with the World:
Dr. Kenneth Howell was an adjunct professor in the Department of Religion at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Congratulated by the university for  excellence in teaching in the Fall of 2009, he was recently fired for affirming, in an e-mail to the students of his "Introduction to Catholicism" course, the teaching of the Catholic Church on homosexuality. According to The News-Gazette:

Bob Dylan: "License to Kill"

Lyrics follow...

Friday, July 9, 2010

Reminder: Defending the Faith Conference at Franciscan University, Steubenville (July 30 - August 1, 2010)

It's not too late to register and attend Franciscan University's annual "Defending the Faith" conference, which will be held on July 30 through August 1, 2010. This year's theme is "Be Transformed by the Renewal of Your Mind." I will be giving two talks:

“Can We Be Good Without God? Why Moral Law Requires a Lawgiver" and
"Making the Case for Unborn Life in the Public Square”

Hosted by Franciscan University professors Allan Schreck and Scott Hahn, this should prove to be a terrific conference. In addition to Schreck, Hahn, and yours truly, other speakers include Patrick Lee, Patrick Madrid, Marcus Grodi, Regis Martin, Fr. Benedict Groeschel, CFR, and Justin Francis Cardinal Rigali. You can register online here.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Evangelical Philosophical Society (EPS) Apologetics Conference, 18-20 November, in Atlanta

I will be one of several speakers at the Evangelical Philosophical Society's 9th annual Apologetics Conference: "Set Forth Your Case: Equipping Christians for Discipleship and Evangelism." It will be held at Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Georgia. The keynote speakers include William Lane Craig, Gary R. Habermas, and Alvin Plantinga. You can find a list of all the sessions and speakers here.  In my session  I will be lecturing on "Natural Rights and the New Atheism."  Speakers in the other sessions include Craig Evans, Paul Copan, Gregory P. Koukl, Craig Blomberg, Mary Jo Sharp, and Matthew Flannagan. You can find the entire line-up of instructors here.

It's a conference worth attending.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I will be in Atlanta earlier that week for the Evangelical Theological Society's 62nd annual conference, at which I will be delivering two papers. One is a paper I was invited to deliver to the ETS's bioethics study group. And the second is a paper that was accepted for presentation at the annual meeting of the Evangelical Philosophical Society (EPS), a group of which I am a member.  The annual EPS meeting is part of the annual ETS meeting.  You can read about both papers here.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Book Recommendations: Embryo (by George and Tollefsen), Reasons to Believe (by Hahn)

I recently reread Embryo: A Defense of Human Life (Doubleday, 2008), authored by my friends Robert P. George and Christopher Tollefsen.  It's a sophisticated though readable defense of the prolife position by two accomplished philosophers.  This is an ideal supplementary text for upper division courses in bioethics. For those interested in better understanding the "New Natural Law Theory" and its application to practical issues, this is as clear a presentation you will find.

The other book is authored by another friend, Scott Hahn. Entitled Reasons to Believe: How To Understand, Explain and Defend the Catholic Faith (Doubleday, 2007), Scott graciously sent me and my wife, Frankie, a copy of this book soon after we were received into the Catholic Church in 2007. (In fact, Scott sent us several books, some of which I still have to read!).  Reasons to Believe is a clear and concise presentation of the Catholic faith. I really liked it. Scott covers a lot of material with which high-powered Catholic apologists are already  conversant. However, this book is not meant for them. It is intended for church catechesis, whether remedial or introductory, as well as the sharing of one's faith with family and friends.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Oderberg on Consequentialism

(HT: Ed Feser).  Just came across this nicely written and eminently clear essay by the philosopher David S. Oderberg, "Why I am not a Consequentialist."  Here's an excerpt:
I have given a number of fairly abstract reasons why consequentialism is on the face of it unintuitive and unmotivated. But I also think it is straight out false, and not only false but an evil and dangerous theory – a view I am not alone in holding. There are a number of ways in which I could defend the view, but I want to focus on one in particular, the one that has always seemed to me – at least ever since I stopped being a consequentialist – the most damaging. It is a very familiar objection, but no less persuasive for being well known. This is the charge that consequentialism allows, indeed requires, certain kinds of action that are obviously wrong and so not to be done. In particular, consequentialism permits and requires actions that are horrendous evils, as evil as anything can be. The typical example often given is of the judge who condemns an innocent man to death in order to satisfy a rioting mob that will murder hundreds of people if the judge lets the innocent man go free. Another is the doctor who kills patients for their organs so he can transplant those organs into many other patients who need them. In general, according to consequentialism, it is at least permitted, often obligatory, for a person to commit what looks to any sane observer like a blatant and serious violation of someone else’s rights, and hence to commit an act of grave injustice, in order to maximize value, or at least to do what he thinks is likely to maximize value. Now, for the non-consequentialist, no intuition his opponent can bring to bear in support of the consequentialist position on this matter is as strong as the intuition that such apparent injustices are indeed injustices, and so to be forbidden on all occasions, no matter what the consequences. According to Elizabeth Anscombe, even to entertain the supposition that the judge is allowed, let alone required, to condemn the innocent man to placate the angry mob is to show evidence of a morally corrupt mind. Someone who thinks the issue debatable, she says, is not someone with whom you should enter into debate. 
Read the entire essay here.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Dawkins' Contradiction (Video)

From my friend and co-author Greg Koukl.  See it here.

"The Courts, Natural Rights, and Religious Claims as Knowledge" in Santa Clara Law Review

The American Founders understood that the government they put in place presupposed a cluster of rights that citizens have by nature and that the government is obligated to recognize. This is clearly spelled out in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Or, in the words of Alexander Hamilton, “[t]he Sacred Rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for among old parchments or musty records. They are written, as with a sunbeam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the Hand of the Divinity itself, and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power.” [notes omitted]

(originally posted on Southern Appeal)