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.

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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"


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.

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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.

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