Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The King James Bible and the World It Made, 1611-2011: a conference of Baylor's Institute for Studies of Religion

Baylor's Institute for Studies of Religion is hosting a major conference April 7-9, 2011, The King James Bible and the World It Made, 1611-2011. Confirmed speakers include: Robert Alter (University of California, Berkeley), David Bebbington (University of Stirling), Philip Jenkins (Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion), Laura Knoppers (Penn State University), Alister E. McGrath (Kings College, London), Mark Noll (University of Notre Dame), Lamin Sanneh (Yale University), N.T. Wright (University of St. Andrews). There is a call for papers, if you are interested in submitting a proposal.

The ISR page for the conference reads:

The year 2011 marks the four hundredth anniversary of one of the landmark events in the history of Christianity: the publication of the King James Bible.


In 1611, England issued its official translation of the complete Bible, a masterful work that laid the foundation for an emerging Christian culture in the English-speaking world. At the time, it was not obvious that the new translation would have the impact that it did, but it was soon clear that the King James Bible would overcome its competitors, as it provided a magnificent new standard by which all later works would be judged. It would indelibly mark the literature and culture of England, America, and all regions across the globe touched by Britain’s empire. From small rural churches to great halls of power, the ideas and words of the King James Version helped form a new culture rooted in the Bible: the modern culture of the English-speaking world.

To celebrate and reflect upon the incomparable influence of the King James Bible, Baylor University will host “The King James Bible and the World It Made, 1611-2011,” on April 7-9, 2011. Organized by Baylor’s Institute for Studies of Religion, this conference will be one of the preeminent international events recognizing this auspicious moment in the history of Anglo-American and world Christianity. It will assemble distinguished scholars from around the globe to consider the history and ramifications of the Bible in English.

Major conference themes will include the way that the King James Bible created a common literary and religious culture in the English-speaking world; the significance of vernacular translation for Christian growth and development; and the challenges posed by recent declines in biblical literacy and the end of the King James’s dominance as the Bible translation for English-speaking Christians.

I am proud to say that I serve as a resident scholar in the Institute for Studies of Religion.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Book Recommendation: Getting the Reformation Wrong: Correcting Some Misunderstandings by James R. Payton, Jr.

Published by InterVarsity Press, I picked this book up at the IVP book table 10 days ago while I was in Atlanta at the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society. It's a terrific read. The author is a Protestant historian who is a professor at Redeemer University College in Ontario, Canada. He offers a compelling  account of the Reformation, the history leading up to it, its chief architects, the Catholic Church's response, and the disputes and disagreements between the different factions of the Reformation.  I highly recommend this book. You can get it via Amazon here.

Today I'll be on Kresta in the Afternoon, 4 pm EST

Read about it here. I'll be talking about relativism, the topic of my 1998 book with Gregory P. Koukl, Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thankfully, for America's megachurches Christmas does not fall on a Sunday this year

Derek at Stand to Reason brought to his reader's attention this jaw-dropping 2005 New York TImes article, "When Christmas Falls on Sunday, Megachurches Take the Day Off."  Reminded me of that line in an old Keith Green song, "Jesus rose from the grave. And you, you can't even get out of bed."

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Today would have been William F. Buckley, Jr.'s 85th birthday

His work had a big impact on my life. Here is an excerpt from my book, Return to Rome, in which I discuss Bill Buckley's influence:
Probably my most memorable encounter at UNLV occurred in 1996 and involved another Roman Catholic intellectual. The conservative writer and thinker, William F. Buckley Jr., was at UNLV for a debate with John Kenneth Galbraith, the economist with whom he debated numerous times. Mr. Buckley was the founder of the magazine National Review, to which I had subscribed during my years at Fordham. Three of my books have received positive reviews in National Review, and I have contributed articles to National Review Online over the years.

[caption id="attachment_387" align="aligncenter" width="361" caption=""a rose between two thorns""][/caption]

Frankie and I snuck into the room where Mr. Buckley was resting before the UNLV debate. We were amazed to find him alone. We introduced ourselves to him. He immediately began asking me questions about my academic work. I told him that I had published a book.. that had been one of the two featured volumes by the Conservative Book Club during a month in 1994. I proudly told him that the other selected book for that month was one of his. He then said, in his distinct style, “That’s similar to when my son Chris and I both had books on the New York Times bestsellers list at the same time.” I thought to myself, “No, it isn’t.” He, of course, was just trying to be kind. And I very much appreciated that. He then turned his attention to my wife and asked her a variety of questions about living in Las Vegas with a philosopher.

Frankie then asked Mr. Buckley if he would allow one of my students to take a picture of the three of us. He agreed. Right before the photo was taken, I was standing next to Mr. Buckley and my wife was to his left. He then gently grasped her shoulders from behind, escorted her between us, turned to me and said, “A rose between two thorns.”

A university official then arrived to take Mr. Buckley to the theater at which the debate was to take place. I didn’t get a chance to tell him that his work—especially the 1959 book Up From Liberalism—strongly influenced my developing political views while I was in college and graduate school. While reading the book as an undergraduate I found myself agreeing with its arguments before I knew that the author was a “conservative.” In fact, when I told one of my professors that I was reading Up From Liberalism and thought it was terrific and compelling, my professor said, “But Buckley is a conservative. You can’t possibly agree with him.” I then said, “I guess I am a conservative.”

Eternal rest grant unto William, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May William rest in peace. May William's soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

The Conversion of Annie Witz

You can listen to her story here at Called to Communion.  She is interviewed by Tom Riello. Annie is a Catholic convert from the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Her father is on the board of Westminster Theological Seminary.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Aquinas, Justification, and Evangelicals

I'm writing from the 62nd annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society in Atlanta, Georgia. This morning I presented one of the two papers I am slated to deliver at the meeting. The paper, "Doting Thomists: Evangelicals, Thomas Aquinas, and Justification," was well-received. The room, which fit about 100, was standing room only. I brought 50 copies of the paper, and they were snapped up quickly.

What a delight it is to be here with so many of my Evangelical friends.  Because I have not given a formal paper at ETS since 2006 (In 2007 I participated in a panel discussion on my book, Defending Life), and thus before I had returned to the Catholic Church, I was overwhelmed by the welcoming spirit I encountered this morning as I delivered my paper.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Back at the Evangelical Theological Society: 17-19 November

I'm preparing to fly out to Atlanta, Georgia to participate in the 62nd annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society (17-19 November). You can find the program for the meeting  here. I will be delivering two papers at the conference. 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.

Here's a little something about the two papers I will be delivering at ETS:

One of them, which I was invited to deliver by the Bioethics Study Group, is "Recent Challenges to Fetal Personhood: A Critical Analysis." Here is the abstract:
Christians oppose embryonic stem-cell research, abortion, and embryo and fetal experimentation because they believe that the human being is a full-fledged member of thehuman community from the moment of conception. This view has been challenged for several decades, with some of us offering a variety of responses. However, during the past decade three philosophers have offered new and innovative arguments in order to establish the view that the unborn human being, during at least most of its gestation, is not a moral person.  In this paper I will critique the arguments of three of these philosophers: Dean Stretton, Jeff McMahon, and David Boonin.

My other paper will be delivered at the annual meeting of the Evangelical Philosophical Society (EPS), a group whose complete docket is part of the ETS meeting.  My paper is entitled: "Doting Thomists: Evangelicals, Thomas Aquinas, and Justification." Here is the abstract:
Over the past several decades a growing number of Evangelical philosophers and theologians have described their views, on a variety of issues and arguments, as Thomistic.  That is, they claim to be, on certain questions, followers of St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274). Although these thinkers often claim to be Thomistic almost exclusively on questions in  philosophical theology, metaphysics, philosophical anthropology,  and apologetics, a few of them have gone so far as to claim that Thomas’  views on justification are either (1) consistent with, or not obviously opposed to, a Reformed perspective,  or (2) inconsistent with the doctrine of justification expounded by the Catholic Church at the Council of Trent and the 1994 Catechism of the Catholic Church.  Among the thinkers who embrace this understanding  of Thomas are Norman L. Geisler, R. C. Sproul, and John Gerstner.  In this paper, I argue that their reading of Thomas is mistaken and that in fact Thomas’ soteriology was integral to the Council of Trent’s expounding of the doctrine of justification and that the Catechism’s presentation of justification is thoroughly Thomistic.  I also argue that because Thomas was not writing in response to, or in the aftermath of, the Protestant Reformation, his work on justification is not driven by the issues over which Protestants and Catholics wrangle today. For this reason, these thinkers’ misreading of Thomas and his subsequent influence on the Catholic Church’s articulation of its soteriology is a hopeful sign that Evangelical Protestant friends of Thomas may also come to see that many who are in communion with Thomas’ Church are friends as well.

The theme of this year's conference is "Justification by Faith," and its plenary speakers are Professor Thomas Schreiner, Bishop N. T. Wright, and Professor Frank Thielman. So, my EPS paper should fit right in.

I had attended, and delivered a paper at, every annual ETS meeting from 1988 until 2007 with the exception of 2000 (when I was in law school). So, I am really looking forward to seeing many of my dear friends.

Confessions of An Evangelical Catholic

St. Joseph's Communications has just released the CD, "Confessions of An Evangelical Catholic." It is an interview of me conducted by Terry Barber and Joshua Betancourt. Joshua is the co-author with Norman L. Geisler of  Is Rome the True Church?, a book in which he and Geisler critique a variety of Catholic beliefs about ecclesiology and papal authority.  Several months after the release of the book, Joshua announced his intention to seek full communion with the Catholic Church.  You can obtain the CD via St. Joseph's Communications here. The following is the description of the CD:

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Future

That is the title of my most recent column at The Catholic Thing. Here's how it begins:

Things are going to slide, slide in all directions
Won’t be nothing
Nothing you can measure anymore
The blizzard, the blizzard of the world
has crossed the threshold
and it has overturned
the order of the soul….


– Leonard Cohen (“The Future,” 1992)


These amazing lyrics by Leonard Cohen came to mind after my friend, Lydia McGrew, brought to my attention a court case in the United Kingdom. It concerns Eunice and Owen Johns, a Pentecostal Christian couple, who were rejected as foster parents by a panel of the Derby City Council. They were not rejected because they were child abusers, unstable, or lacked the requisite skills or background. In fact, according to one account, the couple has already been foster parents to twenty children.

The Johns were denied foster children because they believe that human sexuality has a certain intrinsic purpose that may only be consummated by one man and one woman within the confines of matrimony, and that it is their responsibility to properly instruct the children in their care of this truth. This, of course, entails that non-marital sex, including homosexual conduct, is immoral. But as we have come to realize in these post-modern times, sex is merely an act between consenting adults while a moral judgment about consensual sex is not an act in which consenting adults may engage, especially if they do so while congregating under a cross on Sunday mornings. Because the Johns could not in good conscience embrace this secular shibboleth, they were denied by their community an opportunity to love and care for vulnerable children who would benefit from their selfless charity.

According to Mrs. Johns’ account, “The council said: ‘Do you know, you would have to tell them that it’s OK to be homosexual?’ But I said I couldn’t do that because my Christian beliefs won’t let me. Morally, I couldn’t do that. Spiritually I couldn’t do that.” And for this reason, the council declared that the Johns were no longer fit to be foster parents. This is why last week they found themselves before the British High Court.

>>>Continue Reading

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

"Faith, Reason, and the Christian Citizen" lecture at the Cambridge School in Dallas on November 11.

I am honored to be delivering the 2010 annual faith and culture lecture tomorrow night at The Cambridge School in Dallas, Texas. You can read more about it here.



My lecture is entitled "Faith, Reason and the Christian Citizen." If you are in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, please consider attending. There will be Q & A session and reception following the lecture.