Saturday, January 9, 2010

Good Press

Anthony Flew's conversion to theism from atheism is pretty well-known now and I made brief mentioned of it here, back when I was writing about the Craig-Hitchens debate. He (Flew) is very public and open about his conversion and still displays as much intellectual rigor as a theist as he did when an atheist. But this didn't keep Richard Dawkins from portraying Flew's conversion as the result of senility. Flew wrote quite the stinging (but apropos) response in the December '08 issue of First Things (yes, I'm that far behind). What I want to highlight here are Flew's comments about Biola University, my alma mater, former employer and current ministry partner in part of the work in which we are involved here in Ukraine. Here's what he had to say:

"In a monster footnote to what I am inclined to describe as a monster book— The God Delusion—Dawkins reproaches me for what he calls my ignominious decision to accept, in 2006, the Philip E. Johnson Award for Liberty and Truth. The awarding institution is Biola University in Los Angeles. Dawkins does not say outright that his objection to my decision is that Biola is a specifically Christian institution. He obviously assumes (but refrains from actually saying) that this is incompatible with producing first-class academic work—not a thesis that would be acceptable in either my own university of Oxford or in Harvard. ...

Finally, as to the suggestion that I have been used by Biola University: If the way I was welcomed by the students and the members of the faculty whom I met on my short stay in Biola amounted to being used, then I can only express my regret that at my age of eighty-five I cannot reasonably hope for another visit to this ­institution."

Way to go, Biola, and thanks for the more-than-kind words, Dr. Flew.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Philosophizin' 'Bout Jesus

In a few weeks I'll begin teaching a course called, Philosophy: Introduction & History. While excited and invigorated by all the philosophy I've been reading lately (yes, that puts me in rare category), I'm a little intimidated by this, having spent most of my graduate education focused on theology. My apologetics training and its association with and dependency on philosophy is the only reason why I even considered the idea of teaching a class like this. Nonetheless, it will be a tough first go (but the first go is always tough, right?). Hopefully, I can pass my enjoyment of philosophy on to my students, even if I don't do full justice to the grandeur of the content. And hopefully I'll get to teach the class in the future, honing my skills and teaching more Ukrainian Church leaders to love philosophy as much as I do.

In looking for some texts to use as I prepare my teaching material, I came across some recent stuff by Paul Moser, a Christian philosopher out of Loyola University in Chicago. I read a fabulous booklet by Moser a few years back on God's hiddenness and I know that he's one of the key players in getting Evangelical Christianity a place at the secular philosophical table. So, I asked for these books for Christmas. Well, I got 'em and I can't put 'em down. Moser is awesome and I can't recommend him more highly. He is unashamedly Evangelical when he writes, yet this doesn't minimize his philosophical rigor in the least. And for the believer skeptical of philosophy, as most of my Ukrainian students will likely be, Moser exemplifies how to engage the philosophical world without compromising the truths of Christianity in the least. Below are 3 poignant and powerful selections from his introductory essay to Jesus and Philosophy: New Essays, a collection edited by Moser.

On the Atonement:
"The Good News movement founded by Jesus offers a divine manifest-offering approach to divine-human atonement. According to its unique message, what is being made manifest is God's character of righteous and merciful love, and what is being offered, in agreement with that character, is lasting divine-human fellowship as a gracious divine gift on the basis of (a) the forgiveness manifested and offered via God's atoning sacrifice in Jesus and (b) God's resurrection of Jesus as Lord and Giver of God's Spirit. The manifestation of God's self-giving character in Jesus reveals the kind of God who is thereby offering lasting divine-human forgiveness and fellowship to humans. Although the death of Jesus can't bring about divine-human reconciliation by itself, it is presented, by Jesus, Paul and others, as supplying God's distinctive means of intended implementation of reconciliation via divine manifestation and offering. For the sake of actual divine-human reconciliation, according to Jesus and Paul, humans must receive the manifest-offering via grounded trust and obedience." (p. 8)

On the Greatest Commandment:
"These commands [to love God and neighbor], found in the Hebrew scriptures and in the Christian New Testament, give a priority ranking of what humans should love. They imply that at the very top of a ranking of what we humans love should be, first, God and, second, our neighbor (as well as ourselves). They thus imply that any opposing ranking is morally unacceptable. More specifically, they imply that human projects, including intellectual and philosophical projects, are acceptable only to the extent that they contribute to satisfying the divine love commands. ... Loving God and our neighbor requires eagerly serving God and our neighbor for their best interests. Characterized broadly, our eagerly serving God and our neighbor requires (a) our eagerly obeying God to the best of our ability and (b) our eagerly contributing, as far as we are able, to the life-sustaining needs of our neighbor. ... We humans, of course, have limited resources, in terms of time and energy for pursuing our projects. We thus must choose how to spend our time and energy in ways that pursue some projects and exclude others. If I eagerly choose projects that exclude my eagerly serving the life-sustaining needs of my neighbor (when I could have undertaken the latter), I thereby fail to love my neighbor. I also thereby fail to obey God's command, as represented by Jesus, to give priority to my eagerly serving the life-sustaining needs of my neighbor ... The lesson about failing to love applies directly to typical pursuit of philosophical questions. If my typical eager pursuit of philosophical questions blocks my eagerly serving the life-sustaining needs of my neighbor (when I could have undertaken the latter), I thereby fail to love my neighbor. I also fail then to obey the divine love command regarding my neighbor. In this case, my eager pursuit of philosophical questions will result in my failing to love God and my neighbor as God has commanded, at least in the commands summarized by Jesus. The failing would be a moral deficiency in serving God and my neighbor, owing to my choosing to serve other purposes instead, namely, philosophical purposes independent of loving God and others. Even if a philosophical purpose is truth-seeking, including seeking after truths about God and divine love, it could run afoul of the divine love commands. ... Not all truth-seeking, then, proceeds in agreement with the divine love commands. This lesson applies equally to philosophy, theology, and any other truth-seeking discipline." (p. 14-15)

On Jesus' Influence On Philosophy
"Philosophy in its normal mode, without being receptive to an authoritative divine challenge stemming from divine love commands, leaves humans in a discussion mode, short of an obedience mode under divine authority. ... As divinely appointed Lord, in contrast, Jesus commands humans to move, for their own good, to an obedience mode of existence relative to divine love commands. He thereby points humans to his perfectly loving Father who ultimately underwrites the divine love commands for humans, for the sake of divine-human fellowship. Accordingly, humans need to transcend a normal discussion mode, and thus philosophical discussion itself, to face with sincerity the personal Authority who commands what humans need: faithful obedience to the perfectly loving Giver of divine love commands, for the sake of divine-human fellowship. Such obedience of the heart, involving the conforming of a human will to divine will, is just the way humans are to truly receive the gift of divine redemptive love. Insofar as the discipline of philosophy becomes guided, in terms of pursuits, by that gift on offer, it becomes kerygma ["proclamation" or "message"]-oriented in virtue of becoming an enabler of the aforementioned Good News message of Jesus. According to Jesus, humans, including philosophers, were intended by God to live in faithful obedience to the divine love commands, whereby they enter into volitional fellowship with God and, on that basis, with others." (p. 17)

Paul K. Moser, "Introduction: Jesus and Philosophy," in Jesus and Philosophy: New Essays, edited by Paul K. Moser (New York: NY, Cambridge University Press, 2009), 1-23.

Friday, January 1, 2010

If I Had a Facebook Account

Happy New Year!!! I just finished giving Dietrich a second bath after discovering that he had, while on the potty attempting to wipe, instead, wiped his business on the wall and on himself. 2010 can only get better from here, right?