Monday, December 24, 2012

President Reagan's Address to the Nation About Christmas and the Situation in Poland, December 23, 1981

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UU0tuah-x7M[/youtube].  Here is the text of the address:

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Sandy Hook, Huckabee, and the Inscrutability of Evil

That's the title of my recent entry over at The Catholic Thing. Here's how it begins:
“How could God let this happen?” That was the question asked of the former Arkansas governor, Mike Huckabee, by Fox News host Neil Cavuto in an interview following the horrific slaughter of innocent school children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

Huckabee, an ordained Baptist minister, replied:

"We ask why there’s violence in the schools, but we’ve systematically removed God from our schools. Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage? Because we’ve made it a place where we do not want to talk about eternity, life, what responsibility means, accountability. That we’re not going to have to be accountable to the police, if they catch us, but we stand one day before a holy God in judgment."

The governor is no doubt correct that transgressions against justice do not occur in a vacuum. For what a person is taught about the good, the true, and the beautiful – which depends on the health of the cultural institutions committed to transmitting those beliefs – often strongly influences the development of a person’s character and virtue.

It is, of course, far from a sure thing. After all, Judas Iscariot was tutored by the finest teacher the world has ever known, and yet he committed the most infamous act of betrayal in human history. Bad character remains a mystery even in the most idyllic of circumstances.

The question that Huckabee was asked, however, was about the absence of divine action in an event in which everyone wishes that God had intervened. For that reason, his answer was not to the point.

>>>continue reading

 

 

Friday, December 7, 2012

J. R. R. Thomas Chesterton of Hippo?: Moody Publishers and Its Safely Dead Catholic Authors

That's the title of a piece I just published over at Catholic World Report. Here's how it begins:
Several months ago I was invited to contribute to a festschrift in honor of a dear friend of mine, a well-known Christian philosopher who is a professor at a well-known Evangelical university. I was, of course, eager to contribute to this volume, to honor a man who I have known, as both friend and collaborator, for over a quarter of a century. The editors, I am pleased to announce, were able to secure a publisher, which is difficult to do, given the book's genre. In fact, I was present, on the evening of November 14 at a reception sponsored by the Evangelical Philosophical Society, when a representative of Moody Publishers revealed that his press had offered the editors a contract for this tome. I was delighted to hear the news.


Several days later, however, the editors informed me that the publisher had forced them to disinvite me. Why? Because the members of Moody's board, as the editors put it, "are not ready as an institution to allow Catholic contributors for their books," even though in my prospective chapter--"The Reclamation of First Philosophy"--I had planned to do nothing distinctly Catholic.  I had intended to defend the honoree's understanding of philosophy and its relation to other disciplines. (To get a sense of what I mean by "first philosophy," see my essay, "In Defense of First Philosophy," published last June at The Catholic Thing).

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Sunday, November 25, 2012

A guide to safe sects?: Roger Olson's list of "approved denominations."

My colleague, Roger Olson, has published this post on his blog, "My List of `Approved Denominations.'"   One commentator says: "I’m disappointed that you have nothing to say about the Catholic and Orthodox Churches."  Roger replies: "Would any faithful Catholic or Orthodox theologian put any Protestant denominations on his or her list of approved denominations to recommend to people? Not in my experience."

My answer: Roger's correct. We wouldn't, since we don't think it's up to the individual Christian to treat communion with the Church as a matter of spiritual consumerism. The Catholic (or Orthodox) is, or ought to be, more concerned with the Church approving him rather than him approving it. At the end of the day, the whole idea of "church shopping" sounds like a brief for ecclesiastical promiscuity, which, in my experience, always leads to unsafe sects, no matter the advertised effectiveness of one's theological prophylactic.

 

Friday, November 23, 2012

Evangelicals, Catholics, and the Ecumenism of Conviction

That's the title of my latest entry over at The Catholic Thing. Here's how it begins:


[caption id="attachment_2649" align="alignright" width="300"] Timothy George, Chris Castaldo and yours truly[/caption]

“We are committed to an ecumenism of conviction, not an ecumenism of accommodation.” Those are the words of my friend, Timothy George, a Baptist theologian who serves as Dean of Beeson Divinity School at Samford University. He was referring to the signatories of “The Gift of Salvation,” one of the many statements issued by Evangelicals and Catholics Together, a group that was formed through the initiative of Fr. Richard John Neuhaus and Charles Colson, both of whom are no longer with us.

I spent most of last week experiencing the delights of this “ecumenism of conviction” first hand. I delivered three papers at the 64th annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society, the academic association for which I served as president until resigning a week after I was received back into the Catholic Church in May 2007.  Two of my papers were given on panels that directly addressed issues over which Catholics and Protestants disagree.

>>>continue reading

Monday, November 12, 2012

Getting ready for the 64th annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society: three papers and a lecture

Tomorrow I am flying to Milwaukee, Wisconsin to attend and participate in the 64th annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS). Held at what was once called the Frontier Airlines Center (now the Delta Center) , it will last from Wednesday, November 14 until Friday, November 16. I will be delivering three papers at the meeting, all of which were invited: (1) In the Bioethics Section I will be delivering a paper that critiques the argument for “After Birth Abortion” recently defended by two philosophers in the Journal of Medical Ethics; (2) In a special session on the book,Journeys of Faith: Evangelicalism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Catholicism, and Anglicanism (Zondervan, 2012) (of which I am one of the four main contributors), I will offer a reflection on my return to the Catholic Church five years later; and (3) In one of the sessions sponsored by the  Evangelical Philosophical Society (a group in which I hold membership), I will provide a Catholic perspective on Jerry Walls’ book, Purgatory: The Logic of Total Transformation (Oxford University Press, 2011). (If you want to look at the entire conference program, go here)

I will also be participating in the Reason for Hope Conference, an apologetics event sponsored by the Evangelical Philosophical Society (EPS) and held at Spring Creek Church in Penwaukee, Wisconsin. In my session I will talk on the topic, "Can We Be Good Without God?"

I look forward to seeing many of my old ETS and EPS friends.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Reformation Day Essays

Tomorrow, October 31, is Reformation Day, the 495th anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his 95 Theses to that door in Wittenberg. Over the years, since returning to the Catholic Church, I have authored a few essays to commemorate Reformation Day.  Here are links to them:

 

Friday, October 5, 2012

Reconsidering the First Freedom: Second Thoughts

That's the title of an essay I published in the latest issue of The City, a publication of Houston Baptist University. It is a review of  Religious Liberty, Why Now?: Defending an Embattled Human Right, by The Task Force on International  Religious Freedom of the Witherspoon Institute (Princeton, NJ: The Witherspoon Institute 2012). Here's how my essay begins:
In a class I teach at Baylor University, “Law and Religion in the United States,” I begin the semester by asking my students this question: If you were writing the Constitution from scratch in this day and age, would you include the religious free exercise and dis-establishment clauses? As you would guess, the students enthusiastically affirm their commitment to these principles. But then I follow up with these queries, “But why? What is so special about religion, its beliefs, and its practices, that require that your Constitution protect those of its citizens that embrace them? On the other hand, if religion, its beliefs, and its practices are of such importance to the political community, why would your Constitution at the same time prohibit the establishment of religion?”

That’s when the fun begins. For the students now have to provide a justification for what they want their new Constitution to include. They cannot merely appeal to our present Constitution to ground their claims, since the whole point of the exercise is to force them to provide an account of why our present Constitution’s religion clauses are justified.

Because we have largely taken these principles for granted, most of us, like my students, have never thought seriously about how we would defend these principles if we were asked by skeptics, theocrats,or secularists to provide an account of them.

Most skeptics and secularists, for instance, do not believe that religious belief is rational. So for them, religious liberty must be subsumed under a citizen’s more general right to hold private beliefs that are akin to personal preferences and matters of taste. Under this account, religious belief is no more entitled to be singled out for special protection than is the right to attend a Rolling Stones concert, consume pornography, believe in the tooth fairy, or play chess, though all these activities are permissible under a general right to acquire satisfaction for one’s preferences. So, for the skeptic or secularist, a religious group that is engaged in what the state declares as “secular” activities, such as owning and running a university, hospital, or charitable organization, has no right to withhold from its employees and clients whatever the state requires that it must provide to them, even if the requirement violates the moral beliefs of the religious group.

You can read the whole thing here.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

If Not "Under God," then What?

That's the title of my latest entry over at The Catholic Thing. Here's how it begins:
The recent scuffle over God’s temporary absence from the Democrat Party’s 2012 platform is a reminder of how the understanding of “God” in certain enclaves of American life has become diminished. His critics have ceased to comprehend the meaning of His absence – or even to understand the role His presence has played in our understanding of our natural rights.

It was in 1954 that the U. S. Congress inserted “under God” into “The Pledge of Allegiance.” Although uncontroversial at the time, the phrase has become a point of contention in recent years.

In the 2002 case of Newdow v. Elk Grove School District, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the public school recitation of the Pledge violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment because “the text of the official Pledge, codified in federal law, impermissibly takes a position with respect to the purely religious question of the existence and identity of God.”

>>continue reading

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A Fireside Chat with Alvin Plantinga at Baylor

This took place last April when Alvin Plantinga was visiting Baylor as part of our department's philosophy of religion lecture series. In the video, along with Plantinga, are my colleagues Michael Beaty (department char), C. Stephen Evans, and Trent Dougherty

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fkt-xaZhSJQ[/youtube]

Thursday, August 16, 2012

That Good Old Baylor Line That Led Me Back to Catholicism

That's the title of my latest entry over at The Catholic Thing. Here's how it begins:
"That good old Baylor line!
That good old Baylor line!
We'll march forever down the years,
As long as stars shall shine.
We'll fling our green and gold afar
To light the ways of time,
And guide us as we onward go;
That good old Baylor line!"
(Eaid Eastland Markham ,“That Good Old Baylor Line,” 1931)

Next week I begin my tenth year as a faculty member at Baylor University. When I arrived in July 2003, I found myself smack dab in the middle of an old-fashioned Texas shoot out.

In one corner were the advocates of Vision 2012, a ten-year plan for the university proposed by then-President Robert Sloan. It was an ambitious vision with the goal of elevating Baylor to tier-one research university status while maintaining its Christian identity. It included a commitment to increased scholarship, better teaching, a truly residential campus, and outstanding athletic programs.

In the other corner were those who represented what is called “old Baylor.” Many of them were self-described “moderate Baptists.” Having survived the Southern Baptist wars of the 1980s and 1990s, they had valiantly fought the fundamentalist take-over of their most cherished and beloved institutions. So they were understandably suspicious of any transformative agenda that seemed to echo the fundamentalists, who had accused their moderate brethren of not taking their Christian faith seriously.

The Baptist moderates were certainly not opponents of excellence. I have come to know many of them over the years, some of whom strongly opposed my hiring.  They are decent people for whom I have developed a great respect, even though we may part ways on certain theological and political questions.

I am proud to say that I now count a few of them as friends. What they feared was that Baylor University, the most impressive monument of their tradition and its accomplishments, would be appropriated to advance an understanding of the Christian life and its connection to the academy that is antithetical to authentic Baptist principles.

This feud is now, thankfully, ancient history. But unlike real Texas shoot outs, where the two sides eventually run out ammunition, the divisions in this gun battle eventually ran out of targets.

>>>continue reading

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Strengthen the Things That Remain (Thoughts on Chick-Fil-A and Religious Liberty)

"Strengthen the Things That Remain" is the title of my most recent entry over at The Catholic Thing. Here's how it begins:
"Counterfeit philosophies have polluted all of your thoughts
Karl Marx has got ya by the throat, Henry Kissinger’s got you tied up in knots
When you gonna wake up, when you gonna wake up
When you gonna wake up and strengthen the things that remain?"
-Bob Dylan  (“When You Gonna Wake Up?,” 1979)

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee dubbed Wednesday August 1, “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day,” encouraging his fellow citizens to patronize the establishment in order to show support for the ownership, which had recently come under fire by several local governments. It seems to have been a rousing success.

What precipitated this unusual event were threats by government officials in several major American cities in response to comments by Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy. In an interview with Baptist Press, he said, “We are very much supportive of the family – the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.”

And more provocatively on a radio program, he asserted, “I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage,’ and I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to redefine what marriage is about.”

It’s clear that Chick-fil-A, as a corporation, supports a view of marriage tightly tethered to its ownership’s theological beliefs, anchored as they are in Evangelical Christianity. They are, of course, beliefs shared by a wide diversity of believers outside that tradition including Catholics, Orthodox, Muslims, Hindus, and Jews. It should go without saying that under the U.S. Constitution a citizen (or a collection of citizens – e.g., church, mosque, synagogue, eatery), who harbors these sorts of beliefs cannot be punished by the government for holding them.

In the words of Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion, or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.”

Nevertheless, this did not deter officials of several major American cities (including Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, Philadelphia, and New York) from issuing a series of secular fatwas, announcing that they would in effect include a religious test for holding business licenses.

Boston mayor Thomas Menino, for instance, said, “Chick-fil-A doesn’t belong in Boston. You can’t have a business in the city of Boston that discriminates against a population. We’re an open city, we’re a city that’s at the forefront of inclusion.” Well, in that case, the mayor’s office should be shut down, since while doing the business of city government it seems intent on discriminating against devout Christians and their businesses based on the degree to which their devotion offends secular sensibilities.

>>>continue reading

The Sun's Not Yellow, It's Chicken: An Analogy for Chick-Fil-A Skeptics

I came cross this blog post last night via the Facebook wall of Hunter Baker. On that blog, called "The American Jesus," a young Christian man named Zack Hunt explains why he did not participate in "Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day." (For some reason, "The American Jesus"  cannot be accessed right now. Hopefully, it is only a temporary glitch).

Although I very much appreciate the thought that went into Zack's post, I want to focus on one claim he makes: "Regardless, for me, dedicating a day to shove a chicken sandwich in the face of your `enemies' just doesn’t seem like a very Jesus-like thing to do." I don't see it that way. Consider this analogy.

Imagine that Chick-Fil-A were owned by Muslims and the mayor of "We Love Jesus, Texas," Billy Bob Cinderblock, announces that he "don't want no crazy Muslims preaching their Sharia Law in these parts," and thus suggests that his office will not allow Chick-Fil-A to build and open up a store in his city.  Hearing of this,  I and several friends, including Hunter, conclude: "You know, let's show our support for the religious liberty of our Muslim neighbors and eat at Chick-Fil-A on August 1." As Christians, we see this as an act of neighbor-love, consistent with the teachings of Christ. We then post our plan on the internet, and it goes viral. On August 1 hundreds of thousands of Americans eat at Chick-Fil-A restaurants throughout the United States  in order to show solidarity with their Muslim neighbors.

How is this not "Jesus-like"?

In fact, it seems to be quintessentially Jesus-like, since in both the real and Muslim cases, government officials, harboring anti-religious prejudices, were trying to harm--either by word, deed, or both--productive citizens who merely want to conduct business. When the mayors of three major cities (Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco) start issuing such secular fatwas, people of good will, regardless of political or religious differences, must do what we can to support our fellow citizens.

Friday, July 27, 2012

My three presentations at the upcoming Evangelical Theological Society meeting in Milwaukee, November 14-16, 2012

The Evangelical Theological Society will be holding its 64th annual meeting in Milwaukee on November 14-16, 2012. A draft of the program is now accessible online here.  I am happy to report that I will be giving three presentations at the meeting: (1) In the Bioethics Section I will be delivering a paper that critiques the argument for "After Birth Abortion" recently defended by two philosophers in the Journal of Medical Ethics; (2) In a special session on the book, Journeys of Faith: Evangelicalism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Catholicism, and Anglicanism (Zondervan, 2012) (of which I am one of the four main contributors), I will offer a reflection on my return to the Catholic Church five years later; and (3) In one of the sessions sponsored by the  Evangelical Philosophical Society (a group in which I hold membership), I will provide a Catholic perspective on Jerry Walls' book, Purgatory: The Logic of Total Transformation (Oxford University Press, 2011).

There will, of course, be a great number of panels and papers at the meeting. To peruse the offerings, take a look at the program draft.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Egopapism and the Arlington Five

That's the title of my most recent piece over at The Catholic Thing. Here's how it begins:
The Catholic Diocese of Arlington, Virginia has recently drawn national attention because it has asked its catechists to sign a profession of faith that asserts that they believe the catechism that the Church has commissioned them to teach and are committed to the Church as the guardian and custodian of that faith.

In short, they are being asked to admit that they are Catholics and that they believe in Catholicism. This, apparently, is so controversial that five out of the 5,000 diocesan catechists (including parochial school teachers) have resigned over this request. Five, by the way, is the number of popes that have served the Church over my lifetime.

At least one of the five catechists, Kathleen Riley, who is 52, is, like me, a Catholic child of the 1970s (I am 51), which means that we were part of the first generation of Catholics who were spiritually and intellectually formed “in the spirit of Vatican II.”

There was, of course, nothing wrong with Vatican II; its deliverances were a natural development of prior Church teachings. The problem was with how these changes were implemented and understood by clergy and religious who had a different agenda in mind.

As I noted in my 2009 memoir, Return to Rome, the lack of theological seriousness that flowed from this agenda is what pushed me and many others into the arms of Evangelical Protestantism.

When I was in Catholic high school, to provide but one example, I took a mandatory religion class in which Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach was one of the required texts. This was fairly typical of the catechetical infidelity that dominated the era in many parishes and schools in the United States.

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Sunday, July 15, 2012

Alvin Plantinga and Nicholas Wolterstorff On the Conduct of the Christian Philosopher

Very wise words by two giants in Christian philosophy:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iQBx6asT3og[/youtube]

(HT: Evangelical Philosophical Society blog). The interviewer is the remarkably talented philosopher, Tom Crisp, of Biola University

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Surprise: Famous St. Francis "Quote" is Not a St. Francis Quote

How many of you heard this one:

"Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary."

It is attributed to St. Francis of Assisi. Problem is that he never said it. Read Glenn Stanton's blog entry on this famous misquote.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Pluralist Game

That's the title of my latest entry over at The Catholic Thing.  Here's how it begins:
This is how it works. The political liberal, unable to win much support for the goodness of the activity he wants permitted, makes this suggestion to his adversaries: why don’t we let each individual decide for himself whether or not he wants to do X.  His doing X does not affect you, since the state is not forcing you do to X. So, this is a perfectly neutral position consistent with individual liberty. By acquiescing to permit others to do X, you are not approving of X. All you are doing is allowing each person to choose to do or not do X.

The Pluralist Game is the name of a book that consists of a collection of essays by the late political philosopher and Fordham professor, Francis A. Canavan, S. J. (It is also the name of a lecture I have given for several years at Summit Ministries, from where I am writing this present essay). Fr. Canavan makes the point that the pluralist game is a sort of bait and switch. First promising neutrality in exchange for your support, the pluralist winds up giving you something far different than what he promised.  What you are forced to acquiesce to is a set of beliefs that are in fact hostile to what you believe. They become over time part of the unquestioned infrastructure of our public life, and thus make it more difficult for you and your dissenting compatriots to live consistently with what you believe about the nature of the good life.

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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Video of President Reagan delivering his June 6, 1984 D-Day Speech.

I published the text of the speech here. What follow is the video of President Reagan delivering it.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eEIqdcHbc8I[/youtube]

Ronald Reagan on the 40th Anniversary of D-Day

One of the greatest presidential speeches:
June 6, 1984
POINTE DU HOC

[caption id="attachment_2491" align="alignright" width="300" caption="President Reagan delivering the speech"][/caption]

We're here to mark that day in history when the Allied peoples joined in battle to reclaim this continent to liberty. For four long years, much of Europe had been under a terrible shadow. Free nations had fallen, Jews cried out in the camps -- millions cried out for liberation. Europe was enslaved, and the world prayed for its rescue. Here in Normandy the rescue began. Here the Allies stood and fought against tyranny in a giant undertaking unparalleled in human history.

We stand on a lonely, windswept point on the northern shore of France. The air is soft, but forty years ago at this moment, the air was dense with smoke and the cries of men, and the air was filled with the crack of rifle fire and the roar of cannon. At dawn, on the morning of the 6th of June, 1944, 225 Rangers jumped off the British landing craft and ran to the bottom of these cliffs. Their mission was one of the most difficult and daring of the invasion: to climb these sheer and desolate cliffs and take out the enemy guns. The Allies had been told that some of the mightiest of these guns were here, and they would be trained on the beaches to stop the Allied advance.

The Rangers looked up and saw the enemy soldiers -- at the edge of the cliffs shooting down at them with machine guns and throwing grenades. And the American Rangers began to climb. They shot rope ladders over the face of these cliffs and began to pull themselves up. When one Ranger fell, another would take his place. When one rope was cut, a Ranger would grab another and begin his climb again. They climbed, shot back, and held their footing. Soon, one by one, the Rangers pulled themselves over the top, and in seizing the firm land at the top of these cliffs, they began to seize back the continent of Europe. Two hundred and twenty-five came here. After two days of fighting, only 90 could still bear arms.

Behind me is a memorial that symbolizes the Ranger daggers that were thrust into the top of these cliffs. And before me are the men who put them there.

These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc. These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent. These are the heroes who helped end a war.

Gentlemen, I look at you and I think of the words of Stephen Spender's poem. You are men who in your "lives fought for life...and left the vivid air signed with your honor…."

Forty summers have passed since the battle that you fought here. You were young the day you took these cliffs; some of you were hardly more than boys, with the deepest joys of life before you. Yet you risked everything here. Why? Why did you do it? What impelled you to put aside the instinct for self-preservation and risk your lives to take these cliffs? What inspired all the men of the armies that met here? We look at you, and somehow we know the answer. It was faith, and belief; it was loyalty and love.

The men of Normandy had faith that what they were doing was right, faith that they fought for all humanity, faith that a just God would grant them mercy on this beachhead or on the next. It was the deep knowledge -- and pray God we have not lost it -- that there is a profound moral difference between the use of force for liberation and the use of force for conquest. You were here to liberate, not to conquer, and so you and those others did not doubt your cause. And you were right not to doubt.

You all knew that some things are worth dying for. One's country is worth dying for, and democracy is worth dying for, because it's the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man. All of you loved liberty. All of you were willing to fight tyranny, and you knew the people of your countries were behind you.

 

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Bob Dylan, still misunderstood by American liberals

So says Matthew Schmitz at First Things:
Two days ago, Bob Dylan received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. And once again we saw the tendency of American liberals to misunderstand a man who has refused to be enlisted in their causes.

President Obama remarked that “No one ever picks up a guitar, or fights a disease, or starts a movement, thinking: ‘You know what? If I keep this up, in 2012 I could get a medal in the White House from a guy named Barack Obama. That wasn’t in the plan. But that’s exactly what makes this award so special.”

Setting aside the odd narcissism of the president’s comment, we see in it yet another instance of liberalism’s long history of misunderstanding Bob Dylan.

Dylan’s work is not about the story of American liberalism. It is not about the Antiwar movement, Civil Rights, or—contra President Obama—the wonder of a black man leading a nation that has long struggled with race, worthy as all these things are. It is about man simpliciter and, often, about man standing before his God.

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Two Evangelical seminarian conversion stories.

The one is of a Southern Baptist seminarian, who was received into the Church on the Feast of Pentecost. He presents his story anonymously here. The other is of Joshua Lim, who graduated this Spring with an MA in historical theology from Westminster Theological Seminary in California. (Warning: suppress the impulse to refer to the latter's conversion as "Limsanity." Thank you.)

Friday, May 18, 2012

Mormonisn, Calvinism, Catholicism, oh my: Webb reviews Mouw

(HT: John W. Morehead)

On the Books & Culture website, Stephen H. Webb reviews Richard Mouw's latest book, Talking with Mormons: An Invitation to Evangelicals. Steve and Rich are both friends of mine. Here's how the review begins:
Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary, has two goals in this book. First, he wants evangelicals to stop demonizing Mormons. Second, he wants Mormons to be more Calvinist in their theology.

With the first goal—which will certainly provoke disagreement from some evangelicals—I am entirely in sympathy. I am convinced that we should take Mormons at their word and acknowledge the sincerity of their conviction that Jesus Christ is their Lord and Savior.

By now we should know better than to judge fellow followers of Jesus by the quality of their philosophical speculations rather than the fruits of their faith. Before long, we may hope, religious prejudices against Mormons will go the way of the once widespread prejudices against Roman Catholics. Mouw's book, written by an insider who can speak with sympathy to Mormon-despisers, will help to bring that about.

Mouw's second goal is a different story. That he—as a Calvinist—would like to see Mormonism become more Calvinistic is hardly surprising, but the two traditions make a very odd couple. The Mormon imagination is edgy and expansive while Calvinism is restrained and ascetic. Mormonism is a compendium of every 19th-century religious movement, including restorationism, apocalypticism, hermeticism, and even a healthy dose of liberalism. It is almost as catholic as the Roman Catholic Church—and that, for Mouw, is precisely its problem. After all, both Mormons and Catholics believe in the historical development of doctrine, divinization as the form of salvation, the need for centralized religious authority, the beauty of ritual, the connection between faith and love, and the existence of a heavenly Mother.

Calvinism, by contrast, is theologically lean and clean. Calvinism teaches "[t]hat God is sovereign and totally 'other' than the creation; that human beings are depraved sinners who are desperately in need of rescue by God; and that salvation is by grace alone." Mormons fail the Calvinist test because they believe that, as Mouw puts it, God and humans are "of the same species ontologically." Mormonism went wrong not with the Book of Mormon but with a flawed metaphysics.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Commitment. Faith. Vision. Baylor University

New video about Baylor's last ten yeas, ending with an introduction to the university's new strategic plan: Pro Futuris

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kxVo5k21TJY&feature=youtu.be[/youtube]

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The President, Jesus, and the Golden Rule

That's the title of my latest entry over at The Catholic Thing. Here's how it begins:
President Barack Obama just announced his support for same-sex “marriage”in an interview with ABC reporter Robin Roberts. In explaining his reasoning, the president offered this theological reflection:

"[Y]ou know… we [the First Lady and I] are both practicing Christians and obviously this position may be considered to put us at odds with the views of others but, you know, when we think about our faith, the thing at root that we think about is, not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it’s also the Golden Rule, you know, treat others the way you would want to be treated. And I think that’s what we try to impart to our kids and that’s what motivates me as president and I figure the most consistent I can be in being true to those precepts, the better I’ll be as a as a dad and a husband and hopefully the better I’ll be as president."

 

I admire the president for unashamedly invoking the authority and instruction of Christ in revealing to us his internal deliberations on this matter. In an age in which many in our culture-shaping institutions reflexively, and unreflectively, dismiss the deliverances of theology as sub-rational, the president’s forthrightness is refreshing and welcome.

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Other relevant posts:

 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

USU prof’s spiritual journey from Mormon scholar to Catholic convert

This story, that recently appeared in the Salt Lake City Tribune, is about the spiritual journey of my friend, Richard Sherlock, a Utah State University professor of philosophy. Authored by Peggy Fletcher Stack, here's how it begins:
Richard Sherlock is sitting in a majestic Roman cathedral and suddenly senses the Holy Spirit in a profoundly powerful way.

It is a feeling, he reports, yet more than a feeling. An illumination. A hint of truth.

This isn’t the first time the lifelong Mormon intellectual feels God tugging him toward Catholicism, and it won’t be the last. But it is there, in the moment. Real. Palpable.

The Utah State University philosophy professor, who had tussled with life’s big questions since he was a college student, feels he is coming home to a place he should have been all along.

Two years later, during a 2012 Easter vigil, Sherlock is baptized into the faith with three other adults and four teens at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Parish outside Logan.

It marks the culmination of a spiritual search that has taken the 65-year-old through the study of moral theology and the early church fathers, through marriage and loss, debates and interfaith dialogues, from Utah to Boston to New York and back again.

He is exultant. Overcome by emotion. Surrounded by teary-eyed loved ones and, he believes, touched by God.

"It was," Sherlock says, pausing for a word big enough, "glorious."

His childhood in the heart of Mormonism might not have predicted this trajectory, but it did launch him in that direction.

>>>continue reading
 

Monday, April 30, 2012

The Joy of Calvinism

I just noticed that Greg Forster has published a new book, The Joy of Calvinism. Given the divisions that arose as a consequence of the movement that spawned Calvinism, perhaps a sequel to the book should be entitled The Joy of Sects. In all seriousness, Greg is a wonderful scholar, and the author of a three-part series that will be published at Public Discourse. The first installment is entitled "Evangelicals and Politics: The Hundred Years' War."

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Al Mohler's Interview of Ross Douthat

Al Mohler's interview of Ross Douthat is tremendous. The occasion of the interview is the release of Douthat's new book, Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics. Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, does a masterful job of interviewing Douthat, a New York Times columnist. You can listen to the 55-minute interview here. I could have listened for another hour.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Then I Confessed, I Can Do No Other: Five Years After My Return to Catholicism


In my latest entry over at The Catholic Thing--"Then I Confessed, I Can Do No Other"--I share some thoughts on my return to the Catholic Church, on the cusp of the five year anniversary. Here's how it begins:


On April 29, 2007, five years ago this Sunday, I was publicly received into the Catholic Church at St. Joseph’s Parish in Bellmead, Texas. My wife, Frankie, stood beside me, as we both faced Fr. Timothy Vaverek, who presided over the brief ceremony between the homily and the recitation of the Creed at Sunday Mass.  Frankie was received as a candidate, since, unlike me, she had not been baptized and confirmed as a youngster.


Frankie could not wait to become Catholic, and thus she thought it a bit unfair that we reverts had a loophole we could procure. All I had to do was partake in the Sacrament of Confession. Fortunately for her, Fr. Timothy gave her a private crash-course RCIA, which culminated in her reception the following August.


When I went to confession on April 28 at St. Jerome’s in Waco, it was the first time in over 30 years that I had partaken in the sacrament. My younger brother, James, had emailed me earlier that week and volunteered to assist me in recollecting my sins.


When I entered the confessional, I sat face-to-face with Fr. Rakshaganathan Selvaraj (or “Fr. Raj”). I closed my eyes, made the sign of the cross, and said, “Father, forgive me, for I have sinned. It has been over 30 years since my last confession. I’m not sure I can remember all of my sins.”  Fr. Raj, in his thick Indian accent, replied, “That is alright. God knows them all.” “I was afraid of that,” I quipped. Fr. Raj then heard my confession and granted me absolution.  My penance, if I remember correctly, consisted of one “Our Father” and one “Hail Mary.”  When I told this to Frankie, she thought the priest had let me off easy. She was right. She knew my sins.


>>>continue reading


You can read a fuller account of my spiritual journey in my contribution to the book Journeys of Faith: Evangelicalism, Orthodoxy, Catholicism, and Anglicanism (Zondervan, 2012) as well as my 2009 memoir, Return to Rome: Confessions of An Evangelical Catholic (Brazos Press)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Alvin Plantinga: "Science and Religion - Where the Conflict Really Lies"

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rbjp9PrtPS8[/youtube]

This is a lecture Al Plantinga gave at Biola University about 18 months ago. He gave this lecture while he was working on his recently released book, Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism (Oxford University Press, 2012). I am happy to report that Plantinga will be speaking at Baylor next Thursday (April 26) at 3:30 pm in the Foyer of Meditation at the Armstrong Browning Library. Reception to follow from 5:00pm-6:00pm in the Cox Reception Room of the Armstrong Browning Library.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Ever Wonder Why Secular Elites Are So Ignorant of Faith and Reason Issues?

Short answer: they don't think there are any issues.  The longer answer is found in my latest entry over at The Catholic Thing. Entitled, "Faith, Reason, and Secular Hegemony," here's how it begins:
About a year ago I was invited to contribute to a book on the topic of political philosophy and religious beliefs, set to be published next year by a university press. My chapter, tentatively titled, “Fides, Ratio et Juris: How Some Courts and Some Legal Theorists Misrepresent the Rational Status of Religious Beliefs,” addresses the claims of courts and legal theorists who argue that religiously informed policy proposals have no place in a liberal democracy because the religious worldviews from which they herald are at their core unreasonable, for they are dependent on irrational beliefs.

While preparing for this chapter, I read and reread scores of court cases and academic monographs. The judicial opinions, most of which affirmed or implied the irrationality of religious belief, did not surprise me, since the jurists who authored them are often unacquainted with the sort of literature on the rationality of religious belief that has been the staple of Anglo-American philosophy for nearly five decades.

What did surprise me were the legal theorists. Their ignorance was embarrassing. Take, for example, this claim made by one of these scholars: “Secular science and liberal politics, both committed to the primacy of reason, necessarily deny that any truth is incontestable.”  We can put this claim in the form of a proposition:

A. Reason necessarily denies incontestable truths

Is this an incontestable truth? If reason necessarily denies incontestable truths, and this author is offering A as a canon of reason, then A is not an incontestable truth. But in that case, it is not incontestable that reason necessarily denies incontestable truths. Thus, reason may in fact affirm incontestable truths.

On the other hand, if A is an incontestable truth, and the author is offering A as a canon of reason, then it is not the case that reason necessarily denies incontestable truths. Consequently, reason requires that we believe at least one incontestable truth, namely, that reason necessarily denies incontestable truths. In that case, reason is downright unreasonable.

>>>continue reading

 

Catholic and Non-Catholic Reviews of Journeys of Faith

There are now several reviews of Journeys of Faith that have appeared on line, including ones penned by my friends Devin Rose (Catholic) and Carl Trueman (Protestant). Rose's is in four parts, with the first two now accessible online. Here is a list of the reviews, so far:

 

 

 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Good News for Modern Man, Las Vegas Edition

In Journeys of Faith: Evangelicalism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Catholicism, and Anglicanism (Zondervan, 2012), here is how my contribution to the book begins:
I was baptized in the Catholic Church as an infant, several weeks after I was born on November 3, 1960. In January 1967, our family moved to Las Vegas, Nevada, where I received First Holy Communion (May 1968) and the Sacrament of Confirmation (May 1973).

It was soon after my confirmation that I became intensely interested in the person and work of Christ. I had come across a copy of the Good News for Modern Man version of the New Testament that a family friend, Frank Strabala, had left on our kitchen table after he talked with my parents one evening about his renewed Catholic faith. Not knowing at first that it was the New Testament, I began reading it. I was drawn to the Jesus of the Gospels. I really did not know what to do. So I called up Mr. Strabala and asked him some questions. He invited me to a weekday service at a local “Jesus people” church, Maranatha House. It was there for the first time that I came in contact with Christians from a variety of Protestant denominations. They, along with the Catholics on hand, were part of the burgeoning “charismatic movement,” a renewal movement that emphasized the baptism of the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts. There were none of the accoutrements of Catholic liturgy at these worship services. Rather there was Scripture reading, expository preaching, and contemporary and expressive worship. For a young Catholic interested in following Jesus more deeply and authentically, this was profoundly attractive.

I have had in my personal library for nearly four decades several editions of Good News for Modern Man, including the almost impossible to find "Las Vegas edition," which has on its front and back covers a collage of Las Vegas hotel marquees that include the names of many famous entertainers. Among the names is Pupi Campo, the late Cuban-American bandleader whose children attended Bishop Gorman High School with me in the 1970s. In any event, after years of searching, I finally found excellent photographs of the iconic covers. Here they are: [Update: I also found a picture of Maranatha House, which is directly above the Good News photos]

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

When the Saint Goes Swearing: Mormonism and the Romney Candidacy

In 2007, I published an article at First Thing's On the Square, "When the Saint Goes Swearing In." It was a review essay of Hugh Hewitt's 2007 book, A Mormon in the White House? Given the scuttlebutt over comments made by the gentleman who introduced Governor Rick Perry at the Value Values Summit last year, the Rev. Robert Jeffress (Pastor, First Baptist Church, Dallas), as well as the strange stuff emanating from MSNBC,  my First Things review essay has become relevant again. Here's an excerpt:
As for "the Mormon Question," Hewitt accurately presents LDS theology and does a fine job of shooting down the sorts of ridiculous bigotries that Romney will likely face during his run. Hewitt also offers clear and persuasive responses to several more serious objections to Romney's candidacy—for example, "A Mormon president will supercharge Mormons' missionary work," "[Mormonism] is just too weird." Most important, Hewitt addresses what I call the Creedal Mistake.

MSNBC's Anti-Mormon Bigots

Read about it on the Article VI blog.

Even the President of the United States Sometimes Must Have to Stand Naked

From Adam White over at The Weekly Standard:
Last week, President Obama clumsily announced that it would be "unprecedented" for the Supreme Court to strike down "a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress." This week, his words are already having an effect in the courts—but not the effect he hoped for. Yesterday, in another case challenging Obamacare, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ordered Justice Department lawyers for a briefing on whether the Justice Department actually believes what the president said.

We can expect the Justice Department lawyers, with the help of the White House counsel, to walk back the president's statement in a hurry. In fact, President Obama is already walking it back himself, as Steve Hayes noted last night.

But the president's most recent "clarification" is no great improvement on last week's mistake. In his re-explanation yesterday, President Obama—a former law professor, Harvard Law Review president, and "the best student that" Harvard's Laurence Tribe "ever had"—continued to demonstrate a surprisingly poor grasp on constitutional law and Supreme Court history.

>>continue reading

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Why Did Legal Elites Underestimate the Case Against the Mandate?

That's the title of Jonathan Adler's insightful post over at the Volokh Conspiracy. It begins this way:
Greg Sargent is one of many commentators wondering “How did legal observers and Obamacare backers get it so wrong?” I think he’s asking the wrong question.  A better question to ask is: why did so many expect legal elites to have any particular insight into the current court?  After  all, many of the legal experts who were so dismissive of the arguments against the mandate were equally dismissive of the federalism arguments that prevailed in cases like United States v. Lopez, New York v. United States, and City of Boerne v. Flores.  Many of the legal academics who ridiculed Randy Barnett’s work on the mandate, and who were relied upon by legal journalists and commentators, thought their schools were advancing viable legal claims in Rumsfeld v. FAIR. Oops. Premier appellate litigators may have a good sense of how the Court is likely to assess complex constitutional law claims, but elite legal academics, not so much.

>>>continue reading

This, by the way, is also true of the views of legal elites on the matter of religion and the law, as I have noted in several articles of mine:

 

Friday, March 30, 2012

Catechesis, Conversion, and the Hope That is Within You

That is the title of my latest piece over at The Catholic Thing. Here's how it begins:


[caption id="attachment_2347" align="alignright" width="296" caption="Me in 1968, following my First Holy Communion"][/caption]

During Holy Week and Easter Sunday Mass, in Catholic parishes throughout the world, many pilgrims will be received into the Church. Most will have gone through the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA), a six-month study of the Church’s teachings and practices. This year I have the privilege of being part of the RCIA team at St. Peter’s Catholic Student Center at Baylor University, where as many as a dozen men and women will soon be entering the Church.

Because it was five years ago this week that my wife, Frankie, and I decided to seek full communion with the Catholic Church, I have been reflecting on my own journey and the degree to which my own misunderstanding (and subsequent understanding) of Catholicism and its teachings were instrumental in both my departure to Evangelicalism in my teens and my return to the Church at forty-six.

Although I had attended Catholic schools from first through twelfth grades (1966-1978), my knowledge of Catholic thought was grossly superficial. Everything that I would come to believe substantively about Catholicism during my years of intellectual and spiritual formation as an Evangelical would come from Protestant authors, some of whom were deeply hostile to Catholicism while others were critical though appreciative.

I did earn my Ph.D. in philosophy at Fordham University (1989), a Jesuit institution, where I studied under the great Thomist philosopher, W. Norris Clarke, S. J. It was Fr. Clarke who helped fully convert me from a peeping to a convinced Thomist, though it was St. Thomas’ metaphysics and ethics, rather than his commitment to the Church, to which I gravitated.

>>>continue reading

 

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Michael Licona on "Flipping the Bird," i.e., giving the finger



My friend, Mike Licona, a New Testament scholar, muses on the historical origins of flipping people off.  Here's the video, as it appears on the Parchment & Pen Blog:

[vimeo]http://vimeo.com/39005198[/vimeo]


 

Friday, March 16, 2012

“Potential Persons” in the “After-Birth Abortion” Article

This is my latest over at The Catholic Thing. Here's how it begins:
As readers of The Catholic Thing are well aware, the Journal of Medical Ethicsa periodical to which I have contributed, recently published the controversial article, “After-Birth Abortion: Why Should the Baby Live?”, written by the philosophers Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva.

Throughout the article, the authors refer to fetuses and newborns as “potential persons,” which, I am sure, sounds like an odd neologism for those uninitiated in contemporary moral philosophy. It is, however, a phrase that has been used in the bioethics literature for over four decades.

According to Giubilini and Minerva, “fetuses and newborns. . .are potential persons because they can develop, thanks to their own biological mechanisms, those properties which will make them ‘persons’ in the sense of ‘subjects of a moral right to life’: that is, the point at which they will be able to make aims and appreciate their own life.”

This is why, argue the authors, it is morally permissible to kill fetuses and newborns. They are only potential persons, not actual persons.

continue reading>>>

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

HBU starting M.A. in philosophy program

Houston Baptist University is starting an M.A. program in philosophy.  Given the quality of its faculty, and the recent hiring of philosopher John Mark Reynolds as the new HBU provost, this is an exciting development.  Here's what the HBU website says:

Program Description


The mission of the Master of Arts in Philosophy (MAPhil) is to develop students who are capable of serving their community and the Church successfully in a variety of vocations, including academic, parachurch, and ecclesiastical professions. The MAPhil degree is intended to offer students training in the critical and philosophical skills that are useful for their further academic study and also for their growth as followers of God. MAPhil graduates may continue their education at the doctoral level.

In addition, the MAPhil program contains a Certificate of Apologetics.  The coursework for the certificate is 18 hours and overlaps with the MAPhil curriculum while also containing electives for those wishing to focus on apologetics.  A student can complete the certificate while in the MAPhil program or just pursue the certificate.
Finally, there is an option to complete a research track as part of the program.  This track is ideal for students who desire to write a thesis and use that as the basis for further graduate work in philosophy.


Advantages and Opportunities


The faculty of in the MAPhil program are excellent teachers and nationally known scholars.  Faculty have achieved terminal degrees from the University of Notre Dame, St. Louis University, University of California-Riverside, Baylor University and Northwestern University.

 

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Parable of the Kosher Deli: Bishop Lori's Statement to the House Committee on Oversight regarding Religious Freedom

[vimeo]http://vimeo.com/36914640[/vimeo]

I anticipate the bishop's analogy in my October 14, 2011 Catholic Thing essay, "President Obama: Ex-Liberal." Here is the text of Bishop Lori's statement:

Apple Doesn't Like the Tridentine Mass?

I just ordered a new iPod Touch. I took the engraving option, and asked for this to be inscribed on the back:

et cum spiritu tuo

But Apple refused to honor my request. Here's the message I received:

"Inappropriate message text."

So, instead I ordered this to be engraved on the back:

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God,
have mercy on me, a sinner

It does have the advantage of being a bit more ecumenical than my first choice.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Chuck Colson Schools Rush Limbaugh

[audio:http://wp.patheos.com.s3.amazonaws.com/blogs/returntorome/files/2012/03/030612_BP.mp3|titles=030612_BP]

You can find the transcript here.

From Left Behind to Right Behind: Denny Burk's review of Mark and Grace Driscoll's "Real Marriage."

Just read Denny Burk's enlightening review of Mark and Grace Discoll's Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship & Life (Thomas Nelson, 2012).  The Rev. Driscoll, a committed Calvinist, is a well-known megachurch pastor in the Seattle area.  If Driscoll's book is Evangelicalism's answer to John Paul II's Theology of the Body, Evangelicalism has no idea what the question is.  Here's an excerpt from Burk's review:  "Although some Christian authors comment on the ethics of a husband sodomizing his wife, I have yet to find any who contemplate the reverse. Yet the Driscolls give explicit instructions to wives about how they might sodomize their husbands in a pleasurable way." God help us.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Journeys of Faith, to be released on Tuesday, March 6



Tomorrow, March 6, Zondervan (a subsidiary of Harper Collins Publishers) officially releases the book  Journeys of Faith: Evangelicalism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Catholicism, and Anglicanism, edited by Robert L. Plummer (with a forward by my fellow Patheos blogger, Scot McKnight). I am one of the four main contributors, presenting in my chapter an account of my return to Catholicism.

My chapter is followed by a response by Gregg R. Allison of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. I then in turn reply to Allison in a small chapter. The other three authors each provide accounts of their pilgrimages from one Christian tradition to another: Chris Castaldo (Evangelicaism), Lyle Dorsett (Anglicanism), and Wilbur Ellsworth (Eastern Orthodoxy). And just like my contribution, each of the others is followed by a respondent to which he too replies. The respondents for Castaldo, Dorsett, and Ellsworth are respectively Brad Gregory of the University of Notre Dame, Robert Peterson of Covenant Seminary, and Craig Blaising of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

You can browse inside the book at the Harper Collins website here. And you can read more about the book on the Zondervan website here.

Here is how my contribution begins:
I was baptized in the Catholic Church as an infant, several weeks after I was born on November 3, 1960. In January 1967, our family moved to Las Vegas, Nevada, where I received First Holy Communion (May 1968) and the Sacrament of Confirmation (May 1973).

It was soon after my confirmation that I became intensely interested in the person and work of Christ. I had come across a copy of the Good News for Modern Man version of the New Testament that a family friend, Frank Strabala, had left on our kitchen table after he talked with my parents one evening about his renewed Catholic faith. Not knowing at first that it was the New Testament, I began reading it. I was drawn to the Jesus of the Gospels. I really did not know what to do. So I called up Mr. Strabala and asked him some questions. He invited me to a weekday service at a local “Jesus people” church, Maranatha House. It was there for the first time that I came in contact with Christians from a variety of Protestant denominations. They, along with the Catholics on hand, were part of the burgeoning “charismatic movement,” a renewal movement that emphasized the baptism of the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts. There were none of the accoutrements of Catholic liturgy at these worship services. Rather there was Scripture reading, expository preaching, and contemporary and expressive worship. For a young Catholic interested in following Jesus more deeply and authentically, this was profoundly attractive.

Although there were Catholics who worshiped at Maranatha House, the ecclesial ambience was Evangelical Protestant. The authors and speakers whose books and tapes I devoured, and the sermons I heard, were virtually all Protestant. Thus, it seemed to me—in comparison with my experience as a young Catholic—that Protestants, at least the ones I knew, were far more serious about their faith. Although I considered myself Catholic through my high school years, I had assimilated much of Protestant thinking on salvation, Scripture, ecclesial authority, and worship. Nevertheless, it was only after high school that I began to think of myself as an Evangelical Protestant.

Here's is an excerpt from my response to Professor Allison:
The doctrine of justification in the first fifteen hundred years of Christian history poses a peculiar problem for the Protestant view that “Scripture is clear for all Christians, who are also responsible and competent for the task of interpreting it.” “The clarity of Scripture,” according to Allison, “means that it is written in such a way that ordinary human beings who possess the normal acquired ability to understand written and oral communication can read Scripture with understanding or, if they are unable to read, can hear Scripture read and comprehend it.…”

Given this belief—sometimes called the “perspicuity of Scripture”—it seems difficult for Allison to account for why the Protestant view of justification is not front and center in the Church’s first fifteen hundred years. For if that view were the obvious and clear reading of Scripture, one that literate Christians of ordinary wit should find in the Bible with ease, then its absence from deliberations of every church council as well as the Church’s sacramental life and the writings of its leading theologians means that either the Protestant view of justification is right and Scripture’s perspicuity wrong or Scripture’s perspicuity is right and the Protestant view of justification wrong. Thus, it seems to me that the Reformation’s legitimacy depends on two apparently contrary beliefs both being true at the same time.