Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Tim Challies says Pope Francis is a false teacher, but misunderstandsCatholic view of justification.

You can read it here. I had heard of Tim Challies years ago. And I may have actually met or corresponded with him at some point in the past, but I do not recall.  He seems like a nice guy, and I have no doubt that he is a devoted pastor, husband, and father.

In any event, I bring his blog post to your attention, since it serves as an excellent example of a talented writer misunderstanding the Catholic view on justification. Although there is more to Challies' judgment of the Holy Father than his negative assessment of Catholic soteriology, my focus will be on that assessment. Writes Challies:

Saturday, April 12, 2014

My chapter in the new book, Reason, Revelation, and the Civic Order: Political Philosophy and the Claims of Faith

Northern Illinois University Press has just published Reason, Revelation, and the Civic Order: Political Philosophy and the Claims of Faith. Edited by Paul DeHart (Texas State University)  and Carson Holloway (University of Nebraska, Omaha), I am proud to be one of the contributors along with Peter Augustine Lawler (Berry College), Robert C. Koons (University of Texas), J. Budziszewski (University of Texas), James Stoner, Jr. (Louisiana State University), R. J Snell (Eastern University), Ralph C. Hancock (Brigham Young University), Micah Watson (Union University), and Lugi Bradizza (Salve Regina University).

Here's the book's description from the publisher's website:
“What has Athens to do with Jerusalem? When it comes to politics, a great deal, as the superb set of essays DeHart and Holloway have gathered show so well. In these pages the political is nourished by the theological, something we sorely need today.”-R. R. Reno, Editor, First Things

“Religion is typically regarded by contemporary political philosophers as a problem. It's a problem for the state, since religion threatens oppression and violence; and it's a problem for political theorists themselves, since religion is held to be irrational and its intrusion into political thought would corrupt the pure rationality of acceptable political theory. The authors of this collection, while agreeing that religion can be a problem, argue persuasively that it is also a resource, both for our life together and for our theorizing, a resource that we neglect at our peril. It's a bold and courageous book, contesting the pieties of our present day. ”-Nicholas Wolterstorff, Yale University

While the dominant approaches to the current study of political philosophy are various, with some friendlier to religious belief than others, almost all place constraints on the philosophic and political role of revelation. Mainstream secular political theorists do not entirely disregard religion. But to the extent that they pay attention, their treatment of religious belief is seen more as a political or philosophic problem to be addressed rather than as a positive body of thought from which we might derive important insights about the nature of politics and the truth of the human condition.

In a one-of-a-kind collection, DeHart and Holloway bring together leading scholars from various fields, including political science, philosophy, and theology, to challenge the prevailing orthodoxy and to demonstrate the role that religion can and does play in political life.

My 30-page chapter, entitled "Fides, Ratio, et Juris: How Some Courts and Some Legal Theorists Misrepresent the Rational Status of Religious Beliefs," offers a critical analysis of what I call Secular Rationalism (SR), a view embraced by several notable legal theorists including Suzanna Sherry (Vanderbilt University), Brian Leiter (University of Chicago), and the late Stephen Gey (Florida State University).  Here is how the chapter begins (endnotes omitted):
Religious citizens, like their nonreligious compatriots, attempt to shape public policy in order to advance what they believe is the common good. Critics have suggested that there is something untoward with such activism, since the positions advocated by these citizens are informed by their religious beliefs. Some of these critics ground this judgment in the claim that religious beliefs are by their very nature not amendable to rational assessment and are thus irrational.

This view should not be confused with what is sometimes called Political Liberalism and often associated with the work of John Rawls and his numerous disciples. According to that view, policies informed by religious or secular comprehensive doctrines that limit the fundamental liberties of citizens who do not share those comprehensive doctrines are justified if and only if the coerced citizens would be irrational in rejecting the coercion. Rawls, himself, concedes that many of these comprehensive doctrines, including the religious ones, are reasonable. This is why Rawls distinguishes between reasonable comprehensive doctrines and the grounds by which the government may be justified in coercing its citizens.

The focus of this chapter will be on those who eschew Rawls’ modest approach and argue that all religious worldviews are at their core unreasonable, because they are dependent on beliefs not amendable to reason. The implication of this view--that some, though not all, proponents of it explicitly acknowledge--is that religiously informed policy proposals have no place in a secular liberal democracy that requires the primacy of reason. Although this view of religion’s rationality is found or implied in several US Supreme Court opinions as well as among some legal and political theorists, it is far more controversial than its advocates portray.

You can order the book from  or the publisher, Northern Illinois University Press.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Happy Birthday, Frankie!

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="368"] Frankie and me in Paris in 2001[/caption]

Today is my wife Frankie's birthday.

What follows is one of the many poems I wrote to her over the years. This one in particular was penned in the mid-1980s while we were dating. It is called "Elusive Valentine."

Elusive Valentine

I'm finally relaxed
After two weeks of being here
And my time is never taxed
Whenever she is near
She doesn't wear a monogram
She's got an independent mind
She admires Billy Graham
She's an elusive valentine

There's something 'bout this city
That always brings me back
It's that woman who's so pretty
That she gives me a heart attack
She'd look lovely in Paris
Sipping a glass of French wine
'neath a moonlit glowing terrace
Like an elusive valentine

My words, not frivolous
Their meaning leaves no doubt
Her symmetry is marvelous
Her spirituality, devout
She stands up for her faith
In the Man from Palestine
In gold, she's worth her weight
She's an elusive valentine

Standing still, lavender clad
Indeed, attractively stubborn
Her possibilities are myriad
By fools, she'll not be governed
And yes, we're a couple of mystics
Rationally inclined
She holds her own in linguistics
She's an elusive valentine

--Francis J. Beckwith, 13 June 1986 (Las Vegas, Nevada)

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The paper I gave in Rome published in NCBQ: "On Making the Case for Life: On St. Peter's Counsel to Always Be Ready"

Last year I was invited by the Pontifical Council for Promotion of the New Evangelization to participate in an education conference in Rome on John Paul II's 1995 encyclical Evangelium Vitae.  Held at the Pontificia Università Urbaniana, the keynote address was given by Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, which was followed by papers given by myself and Robert Royal (Faith & Reason Institute). A revised version of my  Rome talk, entitled "On Making the Case for Life: On St. Peter's Counsel to Always Be Ready," was just published in the Winter 2013 issue of the National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly 13.4.  To download the article, go here.

The next day, June 16, 2013, I had an opportunity to meet Pope Francis and give him a copy of my book, Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case for Abortion Choice (Cambridge University Press, 2007). (I tell the story of my meeting the Holy Father in a Catholic Thing column published last summer, "From Frances to Francis.")

[caption id="attachment_3171" align="aligncenter" width="590"] Francis Beckwith and Pope Francis (click picture to enlarge)[/caption]