Monday, February 28, 2011

Rob Bell may not believe in Hell.

Apparently, this is all the rage over at the Gospel Coalition. Who is Rob Bell? He's one of these Emergent guys that is just about done with his 15 minutes. Ever hear of the Discipleship Movement?  It was the 1977 totalitarian version of the Emergent Church. It went the way of the 8-track. The Emergent Church is today's theological 8-track.  So, if you don't know who Rob Bell is, that's okay, you're just like everyone else in 2021.

Upcoming conference: Reasonable Faith In an Uncertain World (Turlock, California - April 15-16, 2011)

On April 15 and 16 I will be participating in a conference at Monte Vista Chapel, an Evangelical church in Turlock, California. My talk is entitled, “No God, No Good: Why the Moral Law Requires a Moral Lawgiver." The other participants include my friends William Lane Craig, J. P. Moreland, Greg Koukl, Jay Richards, and Craig Hazen. Here is a list of all the sessions, including the speakers and their talk titles:

April 15, 2011:

  • Kick Off with Hazen, Moreland, Beckwith & Koukl (7:00 pm)

  • Greg Koukl: “Bad Arguments Against Religion or Jesus: Man or Myth?” (8:30 pm)

April 16, 2011:

  • Craig Hazen: “Christianity in a World of Religions” (8:45 am)

  • J.P. Moreland: “The Case for the Existence of the Soul” (9:45 am)

  • Jay Richards: “Is Stephen Hawking Right? Why the evidence of astronomy and physics points to a Creator” (11:00 am)

  • Francis Beckwith: “No God, No Good: Why the Moral Law Requires a Moral Lawgiver” (1:30 pm)

  • William Lane Craig: “Arguments for the Existence of God” (2:45 pm)

You can read more about the conference here.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Are monogamy-only laws unconstitutional?

Apparently so, according to the Attorney General and the President. On Wednesday, they told us that they will no longer defend sec. 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act in federal court because it is unconstitutional, since it allegedly violates the 5th amendment and thus does not withstand heightened scrutiny. Here's what sec. 3 states:

"In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word `marriage' means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word `spouse' refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.''

Although the motivation for this is to clear the way for same-sex marriage to become the law of the land by bypassing the state law-making bodies that the Constitution empowers to deal with such issues, there's more to sec. 3 than the requirement of gender difference. There is a number limitation as well. So, if the entirety of sec. 3 violates the 5th amendment and thus does not withstand heightened scrutiny, it would seem to be as unconstitutional to limit marriage to two as it would be to limit it to opposite genders, since there are  "sexual minorities" who would welcome such a judicial discarding of capricious numberism. (The plight of the polyamorous bisexual comes immediately to mind). [Update: The following italicized section is a rewrite of the crossed-out portion above. The conditionals mixed with inference indicators confused some people]  After all, there are sexual minorities, the polyamorous, whose sexual orientation requires more than one partner. But if sexual orientation requires heightened scrutiny and polyamory is a sexual orientation, then the number limitation requires heightened scrutiny as well. So, if the entirety of sec. 3 violates the 5th amendment and thus does not withstand heightened scrutiny, it would seem to be as unconstitutional to limit marriage to two as it would be to limit it to opposite genders. I don’t know if the Obama people thought this through, but the implication of General Holder's claim is not only that the constitution requires genderless marriage but it requires that a limitation of marriage to two must withstand heightened scrutiny as well.  This means that the 19th century federal statutes that made polygamy illegal in the territories are probably unconstitutional.

Fr. Robert Barron on Keith Richards, Bob Dylan, and the New Evangelization

(HT: Frank Weathers)


Friday, February 18, 2011

Recommending The Catholicism Project


Several weeks ago a colleague and I hosted a screening of The Catholicism Project at The St. Peter's Catholic Student Center at Baylor University. You should consider hosting a screening as well at your local parish, school, or university.

Produced by Fr. Robert Barron's Word of Fire ministry, this is a remarkable documentary. Learn more about it and how to host a screening, here.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Live Action and Telling Falsehoods

That is the title of  my latest column at The Catholic Thing. Here's how it begins:
Over at the website Public Discourse, two outstanding Catholic philosophers, Christopher Tollefsen and Christopher Kaczor, have published essays about the morality of the tactics of the prolife group, Live Action.  Two other Catholic philosophers, Robert P. George and Joseph Bottum have weighed in as well.

Live Action recently released a video that included two of its members posing as a pimp and prostitute during a visit to a local Planned Parenthood clinic. Very much like in a police sting operation, Live Action taped the encounters without the permission of its target. In the video, Live Action’s “pimp” and “prostitute” make several inquiries that provide opportunities for the PP worker to commit or not report several crimes.

According to Tollefsen, this tactic, even though it exposed corruption, is itself immoral because it depends on a lie and lying is always wrong.  Kaczor disagrees, arguing that not all intentional falsehoods are immoral, and thus not all intentional falsehoods are technically lies.  Setting aside the question of whether Live Action did the right thing, I think Tollefsen and Kaczor are both correct if we make sharper distinctions: lying is the intentional telling of a falsehood that is always wrong, though not every intentional telling of a falsehood is a lie, just as every murder is a case of unjustified intentional killing, though not every case of intentional killing is murder (e.g., capital punishment, killing in a just war).

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Monday, February 14, 2011

Notre Dame Vita Institute: Educating Prolife Leadership

Just read about this at Mirror of Justice (HT: Rick Garnett):

Notre Dame Vita Institute

In furtherance of Project Guadalupe's goal to form the next generation of pro-life leadership through scholarship and service, the Notre Dame Fund to Protect Human Life is pleased to announce its inaugural Notre Dame Vita Institute to be held  June 12-24, 2011, administered under the auspices of the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture.

Held on the beautiful Notre Dame campus, the Vita Institute will educate participants in the fundamentals of human life issues at the highest academic level from the perspectives of biology, philosophy, theology, law, psychology, and other social science.   Through the instruction by and engagement with premier faculty, discussion with other Vita Institute participants, and introduction to community outreach programs, participants will be challenged intellectually and equipped to effectively engage the culture on beginning of life issues.  The Vita Institute seeks both to educate and to inspire its participants through instruction by noted experts in a strong community environment.


Applicants are expected to have a bachelor's degree or its equivalent, and applications are welcome from those of any age or level of professional development.  Admission is open to those who are passionately committed to the protection of human life, particularly in its earliest stages.  While a distinctly Catholic program, the Vita Institute is open to persons of all faith traditions.  The application deadline has been extended to March 1, 2011, for the inaugural year. Click here for an application.

For more information about the Vita Institute or Project Guadalupe, please contact Angela Pfister at or 574.631.9656.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Call for Papers: University Faculty for Life Conference at Notre Dame (10-11 June 2011)

I have the honor of serving as program chair for the 21st annual conference of the University Faculty for Life, which will be held at the University of Notre Dame on June 10-11, 2011. The on-campus host is Notre Dame philosophy professor, David Solomon, W.P. and H.B. White Director of the Notre Dame Center for Ethics & Culture, where I served as the Mary Anne Remick Senior Visiting Fellow in 2008-2009.

If you are a prolife academic (or retired academic), you should join UFL. The annual dues are negligible ($35.00), but the collegiality, fellowship, and intellectual stimulation are priceless. And if you are not an academic but nevertheless interested in UFL's resources (including its annual meeting), you can become an associate member for only $10.00.

The following includes both a description of UFL as well as the call for papers. (I encourage those close by to Notre Dame--such as my friends in Michigan, Illinois, and Indiana--to seriously consider submitting a paper and/or attending):

Friday, February 11, 2011

Pronoun Envy?

I went to afternoon Mass today. I sat one row over from an elderly woman (who I later discovered was a "nun") who apparently decided that the Novus Ordo was not to her liking. So, instead of saying this, "May the Lord receive the sacrifice from your hands to the praise and glory of His name, for our good and the good of all His Church," she said this, "May the Lord receive the sacrifice from your hands to the praise and glory of God's name, for our good and the good of all God's Church."

Thursday, February 10, 2011

To Everyone An Answer now available on Kindle

The 2004 book I co-edited with William Lane Craig and J. P. Moreland, To Everyone An Answer: A Case for the Christian Worldview (InterVarsity Press) is now available on Amazon's Kindle. You can find it here.

[caption id="attachment_663" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="J. P., me, and Bill Craig, November 2004"][/caption]

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Ronald Reagan's 100th Birthday, and my modest connection to the Reagan legacy

Today is the 100th birthday of our 40th President, Ronald Wilson Reagan.

Most people are unaware that in 1983 during his first term President Reagan published an article in the Human Life Review, "Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation." It was eventually published as a small book a year later with afterwards by Surgeon General C. Everett Koop and Malcolm Muggeridge. To commemorate the  20th anniversary of the article and subsequent book, in 2004 Human Life Review published a special issue that not  only included President Reagan's original article but articles by several writers assessing the president's work. I am proud to say that I was one of those writers. I still cannot believe that my article, "What Would Reagan Do?," appeared alongside President Reagan's. (You can find it here)

(Pic on right: Me at the Reagan Library, March 17, 2004)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

In the Time of My Confession

That is the title of my most recent column over at The Catholic Thing. Here is how it begins:
When I was an Evangelical Protestant thinking about returning to the Catholic Church of my baptism, among Catholic practices I found difficult to accept was the sacrament of penance.

I thought that the sacrament took away from Christ’s sufficiency to forgive all our sins, past, present, and future. For I believed that it diminished the scope of Christ’s atonement if I had to do something in order to acquire forgiveness, such as confess to a priest and/or do penance, i.e., say some prayers, do a good deed, or engage in a spiritual discipline, after receiving absolution. But good reasons eventually led me to change my mind.

First, even Evangelical Protestants have a means for dealing with post-baptismal sin: the rededication. The backslider, depending on the severity of his iniquity, rededicates his life to Christ by walking the aisle once again, as he did when he first converted. In fact, given the Protestant understanding of justification and sanctification – that good works and good living follow from being truly saved – the backslider may wonder if his first confession was a sham. So, he confesses again. Thus, it became clear to me that Christianity requires some way to deal with post-baptismal sin.

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