Friday, February 5, 2016

Cambridge releases UK/European edition of my new book, Taking Rites Seriously: Law, Politics, and the Reasonableness of Faith

Yesterday, February 4, Cambridge University Press released the UK/European edition of my new book, Taking Rites Seriously: Law, Politics, and the Reasonableness of Faith.  Here's a brief description of the book from the publisher:
Taking Rites Seriously is about how religious beliefs and religious believers are assessed
by judges and legal scholars and are sometimes mischaracterized and misunderstood by those who are critical of the influence of religion in politics or in the formation of law. Covering three general topics – reason and motive, dignity and personhood, nature and sex – philosopher and legal theorist Francis J. Beckwith carefully addresses several contentious legal and cultural questions over which religious and non-religious citizens often disagree: the rationality of religious belief, religiously motivated legislation, human dignity in bioethics, abortion and embryonic stem cell research, reproductive rights and religious liberty, evolutionary theory, and the nature of marriage. In the process, he responds to some well-known critics of public faith – including Brian Leiter, Steven Pinker, Suzanna Sherry, Ronald Dworkin, John Rawls, and Richard Dawkins – as well as to some religiously conservative critics of secularism such as the advocates for intelligent design
If you want to read more about the book--including the table of contents and an excerpt, go to the book's website

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Carl Henry's Quandary

"Carl Henry's Quandary" is the title of the article I contributed to the Fall 2015 issue of the Journal of Christian Legal Thought (JCLS), which was just recently released online. The issue is devoted to assessing a mid-1960s private disagreement between the late Evangelical theologian, Carl F. H. Henry, and the future president of Fuller Theological Seminary, the philosopher Richard Mouw.  The disagreement arose over an article that Henry and commissioned Mouw to write for Christianity Today, where Henry served as editor at the time. As the JCLT special issue editor, Thaddeus Williams, describes it in the opening article:
Mouw wanted to rouse the dosing church in America to engage the social evils of the day with more political clarity and verve....Henry...offered Mouw an instructive critique. According to Henry, individual Christians may engage the political process by endorsing specific policies; whereas the church as an institution should stick to declaring the general principles of a biblical worldview as they relate to socio-political issues, while stopping short of explicit public policy endorsements. For Henry, the institutional church
can and should voice negative verdicts on bad policies, but lacks the “mandate, jurisdiction, or competence to endorse political legislation or military tactics or economic specifics in the name of Christ.”

Mouw “grudgingly accepted what [he] considered a less-than-fully satisfactory compromise arrangement,” while remaining convinced that “the church could rightly say a bold ‘yes’ to specific policy-like solutions.” Forty-three years later all of that would change. In January of 2010, Christianity Today [CT] published Mouw’s updated reflections under the humble and candid title, “Carl Henry Was Right.” Why did Mouw, over the course of four decades, come to side with Henry in placing specific policy endorsements beyond the purview of the institutional church’s mission and mandate? Was Carl Henry right? [notes omitted]