Thursday, September 30, 2010

Great new website:

My own return to the Catholic Church would have not been possible if not for the overwhelming evidence that the Church Fathers embraced without reservation—and in fact, often assumed as uncontroversial—those doctrines that presently divide Catholics from Protestants. This website——is a wonderful resource for Catholics, Protestants, as well as Orthodox believers.  Whether you are Protestant, Catholic, or Orthodox, your spiritual paternity is older than either the 16th, 13th, or 11th century. We have, as they say, a common ancestry. This website will help you to better understand the ancient roots of your faith and what our predecessors—those that formed our theology at Nicaea, Chalcedon, and Orange—believed about a variety of practices and doctrines over which we are divided today

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Speaking at University of South Carolina School of Law, September 29

On Wednesday, September 29, I will be speaking at the University of South Carolina School of Law. Sponsored by the Federalist Society, I will be giving a talk on "What's Wrong with Roe v. Wade." It is scheduled for 12:40 in Room 135.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

ETS program now online

The program for the 62nd annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society is now online. You can find it here. As I noted in a previous blog post, I will be delivering two papers at the conference, which will be held in Atlanta, Georgia on November 17-19, 2010. I will also be participating in a lay conference sponsored by the Evangelical Philosophical Society on November 18-20, 2010 at Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Georgia. You can find about that here.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Protestant Seeks to Educate a Catholic on Justification

I don't know the person who made this video, but it's a nice and fair-minded exchange between a Catholic and a Protestant on the doctrine of justification:

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Hall of Mirrors of Justice

Over at Mirror of Justice, Rob Vischer asks a question: "Should Catholics support 'Don't ask, Don't tell'?" But he doesn't leave his combox open. Apparently, it was only a rhetorical question.

Update: The combox is now open!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Pope Benedict's speech to former prime ministers, religious leaders and lawmakers at Westminster Hall

(HT: Martin Cothran at Vital Remnants). From the website "Rome Reports," here's the entire text:
Mr Speaker,

Thank you for your words of welcome on behalf of this distinguished gathering. As I address you, I am conscious of the privilege afforded me to speak to the British people and their representatives in Westminster Hall, a building of unique significance in the civil and political history of the people of these islands. Allow me also to express my esteem for the Parliament which has existed on this site for centuries and which has had such a profound influence on the development of participative government among the nations, especially in the Commonwealth and the English-speaking world at large. Your common law tradition serves as the basis of legal systems in many parts of the world, and your particular vision of the respective rights and duties of the state and the individual, and of the separation of powers, remains an inspiration to many across the globe.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Off topic: President's one-liner gives critics rhetorical ammo. (Who was the genius who thought of this one?)

According to Reuters "President Barack Obama, seeking to fire up an important part of his support base ahead of November's elections, told black leaders on Saturday he wanted their support to "guard the change" he was delivering."

The president's speech writer, by writing that line, provided his critics with the perfect comeback:
He wants to "guard the change" but the American people want to change the guard. 

Friday, September 17, 2010

Open-mindedness: the new closed-mindedness -- my debut on The Catholic Thing

Several weeks ago I accepted an invitation by Robert Royal to be a regular contributor to The Catholic Thing. Today is my debut.  Entitled, "Open-mindedness: the new closed-mindedness," here is how my essay begins:
Years ago when my sister was a senior in high school and I was on the philosophy faculty at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, her religion teacher, a feminist nun, began the semester with the instruction that because no one had the truth about morality or religion, we should be open-minded to everyone’s point of view. After consulting with her philosopher-brother, my sister raised this question the next day in class, “If no one has the truth about morality or religion, isn’t that a good reason not to listen to others? After all, if no one has the truth on such crucial questions, why should I waste my time listening to people who can’t teach me anything?”
My sister was suggesting that open-mindedness is only a virtue if there is something that the mind may acquire that would make it a better mind, just as improving his jump shot would make Kobe Bryant a better basketball player. Assuming that the mind’s proper function is to know the truth, then it would seem that a mind that acquires truth is better than one that does not, just as an improved jumper by Mr. Bryant would contribute to his flourishing as a basketball player. So for the teacher to say that a prerequisite for open-mindedness on theological and moral questions is that one believe there are no true answers to those questions is like telling Mr. Bryant to practice his jumper but that it will do neither him nor the L.A. Lakers any good in the final score.
Read the rest here. 

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Kennedy Mistake - 50 Years Later

September 12, 2010 was the 50th anniversary of Senator John F. Kennedy's speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association.  I write about it in my most recent book, Politics for Christians: Statecraft as Soulcraft (InterVarsity Press, 2010), and call the posture taken by the late president, The Kennedy Mistake (notes omitted):
In 1960, Senator John F. Kennedy, a Roman Catholic, was the Democratic Party’s candidate for the U.S. Presidency. He was to become the first Catholic president in a country whose citizenry had been predominantly Protestant, and pugnaciously anti-Catholic, since its infancy. Many Protestant Christians were concerned that Kennedy’s commitment as a Catholic Christian to the teaching of the church’s Magisterium on a variety of social, moral and political issues would serve as his guide for U.S. domestic and foreign policy. In order to assuage Protestant fears, on September 12, 1960, Senator Kennedy addressed the Greater Houston Ministerial Association and assured the attendees that nothing of his Catholic faith would play any role in his judgments as occupant of the White House: 
I am not the Catholic candidate for President. I am the Democratic Party’s candidate for President who happens also to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my church on public matters—and the church does not speak for me. Whatever issue may come before me as President—on birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling or any other subject—I will make my decision in accordance with these views [i.e., religious liberty and church-state separation], in accordance with what my conscience tells me to be the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressures or dictates. And no power or threat of punishment could cause me to decide otherwise. 
From the vantage point of the early twenty-first century, Senator Kennedy’s speech reads like a complete acquiescence to American mainline Protestant notions of privatized faith and anti-clericalism as well as its stereotypical, outdated and uncharitable ideas about the Catholic hierarchy and the teachings of the Catholic Church. Senator Kennedy could have argued that his Catholicism informs him of certain theological and moral doctrines that will make him a thoughtful and principled president. He could have consulted and mined from the works of Catholic scholars such as Jacques Maritain or John Courtney Murray, both of whom were able defenders of liberal democracy and the natural law that grounds it. In fact, Senator Kennedy’s speechwriter, Ted Sorenson, according to an article in The Catholic World Report, “said that he had vetted the Houston speech with . . . Murray, . . . chief architect of the Second Vatican Council’s landmark affirmation of religious freedom. But most historians agree that Murray disapproved of the strident separationism that Kennedy championed.”  Senator Kennedy’s speech was a terrible concession. It played to his audience’s anti-Catholic prejudices while saying that his religious beliefs were so trivial that he would govern exactly the same if they were absent.

Monday, September 13, 2010

My Return to the Catholic Church -from Right Reason (5 May 2007)

No longer available online except by searching with internet archive, I am reproducing here my Right Reason entry that was published on May 5, 2007:

My Return to the Catholic Church

During the last week of March 2007, after much prayer, counsel and consideration, my wife and I decided to seek full communion with the Roman Catholic Church. My wife, a baptized Presbyterian, is going through the process of the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA).  This will culminate with her receiving the sacraments of Holy Communion and Confirmation.  For me, because I had received the sacraments of Baptism, Communion, and Confirmation all before the age of 14, I need only go to confession, request forgiveness for my sins, ask to be received back into the Church, and receive absolution.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Stained Glass Curtain: Crossing the Evangelical-Catholic Divide to Find Our Common Heritage

That's the title of a new book by Fr. Dimitri Sala, OFM. I highly recommend it. Here is my endorsement, published in the first few pages of the book:
“One of the great impediments to Christian unity is our failure to realize how our vocabularies shape and misshape our understandings of each other. So, when the Protestant tells the Catholic, `Faith alone,’ the Catholic hears, `Believe and do as you please,’ and when the the Catholic says to the Protestant, `grace allows us to cooperate with God in our justification,’ the Protestant hears, `works righteousness.’ In both cases, each hears but does not listen. Fr. Sala’s book is an invitation to really listen, to understand that each tradition, properly understood, may not be as far apart as we think. This is a wonderful work that should be in the hands of every Catholic and Protestant pastor.”
--Francis J. Beckwith
Professor of Philosophy and Church-State Studies, Baylor University
Author, Return to Rome: Confessions of An Evangelical Catholic

Friday, September 10, 2010

Pastorbation and Jhiad Joe

"Pastorbation" is my name for the activities of the showmen clergy who would rather pull stunts that provoke others rather than offer a public example of how to conduct one's life as a Christian. Pastorbation is just disguised narcissism pretending an act of love.

The Rev. Terry Jones is such a "pastor." His "church's" "burn the Koran day" does not lift up Christ. This, of course, does not justify any retaliation against the "church" by those who are offended by Jones' pastorbation, and neither does it relieve the offended from making irresponsible threats and fomenting violence. Pastorbation is bad, but it does not excuse the acts of Jhiad Joe.

Monday, September 6, 2010

My three favorite quotes on science and religion

This was posted the other day on the BioLogos Blog, Science & the Sacred:
"Science and the Sacred" is pleased to feature essays from various guest voices in the science-and-religion dialogue. Today's entry was written by Francis Beckwith. Francis Beckwith is Professor of Philosophy & Church-State Studies at Baylor University and is a prolific scholar of jurisprudence, the theory of law. His most recent book, Politics for Christians: Statescraft as Soulcraft, clarifies the confusion many Christians feel about how their faith should shape their involvement in the public square, particularly within politics. 
The BioLogos Top-List Survey is a sociological exercise aimed at collecting lists of people’s ‘favorites’ in a variety of categories related to the mission of BioLogos, i.e. relating to the science, philosophy, and religion dialogue. 
A survey question is asked of a scholar in the area of science, philosophy, or religion, who responds with their “Top-List” and, if he or she wishes, a brief commentary on why that particular list was chosen. Each new “Top-List” survey thread will be introduced by an opening Top-List from someone who is considered an ‘expert’ to friends and regular visitors, or who holds a perspective that BioLogos is promoting. 
The “Top-Lists” are not a place for debate or argument. Instead, they are simply an opportunity to show and share what one values in one’s approach to the discourse of science, philosophy, and religion. By listing books, articles, quotations, figures, dates, events, links, etc. one can point to references and resources that may help others discover new thoughts, new people, and new ideas. 
To keep things simple, we will restrict all “Top-List” experts to the same 1,250-character limit as imposed in the comment boxes. 
This week's list was written by Francis Beckwith. 
"What are you three favorite quotes on science and faith?" 
  1. “For when anyone in the endeavor to prove the faith brings forward reasons which are not cogent, he falls under the ridicule of the unbelievers: since they suppose that we stand upon such reasons, and that we believe on such grounds." - St. Thomas Aquinas 
  2. “It is clear from a churchman who has been elevated to a very eminent position that the Holy Spirit’s intention is to teach us how to go to Heaven, and not how the heavens go” - Galileo 
  3. “This rapid survey of the history of philosophy, then, reveals a growing separation between faith and philosophical reason. Yet closer scrutiny shows that even in the philosophical thinking of those who helped drive faith and reason further apart there are found at times precious and seminal insights which, if pursued and developed with mind and heart rightly tuned, can lead to the discovery of truth's way. Such insights are found, for instance, in penetrating analyses of perception and experience, of the imaginary and the unconscious, of personhood and intersubjectivity, of freedom and values, of time and history. The theme of death as well can become for all thinkers an incisive appeal to seek within themselves the true meaning of their own life. But this does not mean that the link between faith and reason as it now stands does not need to be carefully examined, because each without the other is impoverished and enfeebled. Deprived of what Revelation offers, reason has taken side-tracks which expose it to the danger of losing sight of its final goal. Deprived of reason, faith has stressed feeling and experience, and so run the risk of no longer being a universal proposition. It is an illusion to think that faith, tied to weak reasoning, might be more penetrating; on the contrary, faith then runs the grave risk of withering into myth or superstition. By the same token, reason which is unrelated to an adult faith is not prompted to turn its gaze to the newness and radicality of being.” - John Paul II, from Fides Et Ratio

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Frank Turk's review of Politics for Christians

Over at Pyromaniacs, Frank Turk reviews my latest book, Politics for Christians: Statecraft as Soulcraft. You can find his review here. It's not strange because Frank disagrees with my understanding of the relationship political philosophy and the Christian worldview. That, I fully expected, given the disparate ways in which our theological traditions inform the way we approach certain public questions. But what surprised me is this claim:
And it is almost utterly bereft of his much- deferred use of the Bible to inform part of our thoughts on this matter. Another symptom of this problem is Beckwith's missing Scriptural index -- but it's missing for a very good reason: there's no Bible cited by this book to speak of.
What is odd about this claim is that it is false. In the pages that are found under the general heading, "The Christian Citizen" (pp. 63-81), I interact with Scripture in some detail as well as cite and/or quote Scripture 34 times! (It may actually be more than that, but that's just my eyeballing it for this blog post). In the four cases in which I significantly interact with the Bible in those pages I expound on Jesus's interaction with the Pharisees over Caesar's coin, the role of grace in the exercise of Christian virtue in relation to the wider community, the arrest of St. Paul and St. Silas and what it teaches us about the exercise of our rights as citizens, and the Jewish Council's confrontation with the Apostles (and especially St. Peter) and what it says about what the Bible teaches us about the epistemological status of our theological claims in a public setting. Towards the end of that chapter, after I address the question of Christians supporting non-Christian candidates, I write the following (pp. 87-89), some of which summarizes my employment of Scripture on the pages prior to page 63 (notes omitted):
Is there Scriptural warrant for the notion that the common good should be the standard by which we assess candidates? Although I believe the answer is yes, as I have argued above, one must exercise care in using Scripture to address this sort of question. For, as I have already noted, the Bible’s authors did not reside in liberal democracies in which citizens play an integral part in electing their leaders, shaping policy and enforcing laws. So, this is how I suggest one should proceed: if we assume that the common good is achieved when a political regime treats justly its citizens and the many institutions that help develop and sustain their virtue (e.g., families, schools, churches, etc.), it seems that the Bible does provide us principles by which we can evaluate those running for public office. 

Pray that I don't become this guy... that often

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Fr. Robert Barron on Stephen Hawking's recent claims about God

Fr. Robert Barron writes:
So another prominent British academic has weighed in on the God question. Stephen Hawking, probably the best-known scientist in the world, has said, in a book to be published a week before the Pope’s visit to Britain, that the universe required no Creator. (I’m sure, of course, that there was no “intelligent design” behind that choice of publication date!). I confess that something in me tightens whenever I hear a scientist pontificating on issues that belong to the arena of philosophy or metaphysics. I will gladly listen to Stephen Hawking when he holds forth on matters of theoretical physics, but he’s as qualified to talk about philosophical and religious issues as any college freshman. There is a qualitative difference between the sciences, which speak of objects, forces, and phenomena within the observable universe, and philosophy or religion which speak of ultimate origins and final purposes. Science, as such, simply cannot adjudicate questions that lie outside of its proper purview—and this is precisely why scientists tend to make lots of silly statements when they attempt to philosophize. 
>>continue reading  

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

That's a cross, but it's not very holy: the dismissal of Notre Dame's Bill Kirk

The following is written by my friend, David Solomon, Notre Dame philosophy professor and Director of the Notre Dame Center for Ethics & Culture, the academic unit at which I spent the 2008-2009 as the Mary Anne Remick Senior Visiting Fellow. Writes David:
The decision by Father Tom Doyle, Notre Dame’s new Vice-President for Student Affairs to fire Bill Kirk from his position as Associate Vice-President for Residence Life has left many of us with an empty feeling. It has also put another dent in Notre Dame’s reputation as a family-friendly and compassionate employer. The decision was both unfair and imprudent. It was unfair, because, as a loyal employee of Notre Dame for almost 22 years—and one who had been placed repeatedly in positions where he took the brunt of public criticism for enforcing policies adopted by his superiors—he deserved better from those superiors than to be removed from office with no notice and with no public explanation for his removal. It was imprudent, because administrators of Bill Kirk’s talent, compassion and principled commitment to the good are rare. He loved Notre Dame and he loved and respected the students whose welfare he vigorously pursued.