apologetics

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What about those who haven’t heard? – Part 1 of a Case Study on Religious Pluralism from Lew Wallace’s “Ben Hur”

ben-hur

A beautiful cover for an edition of Ben Hur- I was unable to locate the exact copyright information.


Ben Hur 
is one of my all-time favorite novels. There are many issues related to worldview raised throughout the novel. I have started a series which outlines some of the ways it interacts with

Selection from the Book

Each post in this series will begin with a segment from the book itself. Here, we jump into a scene in which one of the wise men is telling the story of how he came to be in a desert, meeting up with the others. He is Greek. I have abridged the segment to focus on the areas in which this series is most interested, namely, the ways God interacts with humanity.

“I am Gaspar, son of Cleanthes the Athenian…

…”It happens that two of our [Greece’s] philosophers, the very greatest of the many [reference to Plato and Aristotle, presumably], teach, one the doctrine of a Soul in every man, and its Immortality; the other the doctrine of One God, infinitely just. From the multitude of subjects about which the schools were disputing, I separated them, as alone worth the labor of solution; for I thought there was a relation between God and the soul as yet unknown…

“In the northern part of my country–in Thessaly… there is a mountain famous as the home of the gods… Olympus is its name. Thither I betook myself. I found a cave [nearby]… there I dwelt, giving myself up to meditation–no, I gave myself up to waiting for what every breath was a prayer–for revelation. Believing in God, invisible yet supreme, I also believed it possible so to yearn for him with all my soul that he would take compassion and give me answer.

“…One day I saw a man flung overboard from a ship sailing by. He swam ashore. I received and took care of him. He was a Jew, learned in the history and laws of his people; and from him I came to know that the God of my prayers did indeed exist; and had been for ages their lawmaker, ruler, and king. What was that but the Revelation I dreamed of? My faith had not been fruitless; God answered me!”

“As he does all who cry to him with such faith,” said the [Hindu].

“But, alas!” the Egyptian added, “how few are there wise enough to know when he answers them!”

“That was not all,” the Greek continued. “The man so sent to me told me more. He said the prophets who, in the ages which followed the first revelation, walked and talked with God, declared he would come again…

“It is true… the man told me that as God and the revelation of which he spoke had been for the Jews alone, so it would be again… ‘Had he nothing for the rest of the world?’ I asked. ‘No,’ was the answer, given in a proud voice–‘No, we are his chosen people.’ The answer did not crush my hope. Why should such a God limit his love and benefaction to one land, and, as it were, to one family? …When the Jew was gone, and I was alone again, I chastened my soul with a new prayer–that I might be permitted to see the King when he was come, and worship him. One night I sat by the door of my cave trying to get nearer the mysteries of my existence, knowing which is to know God; suddenly, on the sea below me, or rather in the darkness that covered its face, I saw a star begin to burn; slowly it arose and drew nigh, and stood over the hill and above my door, so that its light shone full upon me. I fell down, and slept, and in my dream I heard a voice say:

“‘O Gaspar! Thy faith hath conquered! Blessed art thou! With two others, come from the uttermost parts of the earth, thou shalt see Him that is promised, and be a witness for him, and the occasion of testimony in his behalf. In the morning arise, and go meet them, and keep trust in the Spirit that shall guide thee.’

“And in the morning I awoke with the Spirit as a light within me surpassing that of the sun…”

This passage can be found in Ben Hur, Book I, Chapter III. It may be read in its entirety online here (it is public domain due to expired copyright).

An illustration from the Ben Hur novel. I was unable to find a specific copyright.

An illustration from the Ben Hur novel. I was unable to find a specific copyright.

Notes on Religion from the Selection

Christians have proposed many different answers to one of the most pressing questions, itself having been pondered for centuries: “What about those who have never heard?” The question is regarding salvation–can those who have never heard be saved? But it isn’t only that. It might be nuanced in many ways. For example, are there any who have not heard what is required to be saved who would respond if they did hear it? Though the answer initially may seem obvious, it must be thought over carefully before one simply says yes or no.

In this passage from Lew Wallace, we find not one, but two separate answers to this question combined into one account. The answers are: direct divine revelation, and sending a witness. (I have dubbed them this, but the titles summarize common proposals–see below.)

Sending a Witness

One of the answers Christians have given to the question of those who have not heard and their salvific status is pretty straightforward: there simply are none who have not heard. The claim seems rather extraordinary, for, after all, entire swathes of humanity never had contact with any Christian missionary for vast periods of time. Yet, this answer to the question suggests that God sends a witness to anyone who would respond. Thus, if there is someone in a place where Christianity had not yet reached who would have responded to a missionary, God somehow sets it up such that that person hears from someone about Christ.

In the example from Ben Hur above, we see that the Greek was looking for the divine–hoping for a response. Thus, through providential act, a Jew washed up on shore to instruct him about the truth.

It seems this solution to the problem of religious pluralism and those who have not heard is unsatisfactory. There are many reasons for this. First, it supports a rather dim view of other cultures through a system that is ultimately culturally imperialist. Second, it seems to stretch credulity, for it would follow from this position that either there have only been very few outside of the parts of the world where Christianity is dominant who would have responded to the Gospel anyway (see previous point) or that there are innumerable instances of shipwrecks washing missionaries on shore in far off places all over the world to wherever someone might respond to the Gospel. Either of these seems unsatisfactory.

However, it is possible that the “Sending a Witness” answer could be part of an answer to the questions posed here. It just does not seem capable of carrying all the weight on its own.

Direct Divine Revelation

Like the previous answer, the “direct divine revelation” solution to the problem of religious pluralism and specifically those who have not heard is one which ultimately results in the answer: None have not heard. For, if someone would respond to the Gospel, God simply reveals Christ through direct revelation. In the selection above, we see that a dream reveals the Holy Spirit to Gaspar.

This answer to the questions raised above is perhaps more satisfactory than the previous one, but difficulties remain. The primary one is that although several firsthand instances of this type of thing happening are found, they do not seem to be as ubiquitous as they might need to be in order to adequately account for all those who have not heard. Again, this may be part of a larger multi-level response, but I don’t think it can stand on its own.

Conclusion

Wallace provides here an overview of two of the traditional answers to the question of those who have not heard about Jesus Christ. Neither solution seems entirely satisfactory, though either or both might be integrated into a holistic view of witnessing and missions. We will explore other aspects of Wallace’s exploration of religious pluralism

Although I don’t agree with all of his conclusions, I think that John Sanders’ book, No Other Name is perhaps the best work I have read for providing background into the different proposed solutions for the question of those who have not heard about Christ. It would be a good read for those wishing to explore the topic further.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Religious Pluralism- A case study from “Ben Hur” by Lew Wallace– The post introducing this entire series on “Ben Hur.” It has links to all the posts in the series.

Ben Hur- The Great Christian Epic– I look at the 1959 epic film from a worldview perspective. How does the movie reflect the deeply Christian worldview of the book?

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Religious Pluralism- A case study from “Ben Hur” by Lew Wallace- Series Introduction

ben-hur-novel

Ben Hur is one of the most influential novels of all time, selling millions in the 19th and 20th centuries and noted as admired by several U.S. Presidents, among others. Reactions to the novel are varied–an interesting thing to examine of itself (some critics saying that it would only appeal to the “unlettered” person, while the general and broad appeal of the novel speaks against that same notion). Its enduring popularity can be attested to by the fact that it continues to be adapted to film.

I’m going to write a series of posts exploring religious pluralism through the lens of the novel, Ben Hur.

Method

The opening scene of the book  describes the wise men–those who would later visit Christ–meeting up in the desert. In this scene, each wise man–from a different part of the ancient world–shares his own story of how he became a believer.

Each post will start with a selection from this scene. Then, I will analyze what was said therein from a theological and apologetic viewpoint. The goal will be to examine what is said therein to see its value for Christians today in interfaith dialogue.

 

Links

What About Those Who Haven’t Heard? – Part 1 of a case study on religious pluralism from Lew Wallace’s “Ben Hur”– I examine two of the most popular answers to the question about those who have not heard about Jesus (and their eternal fate) from the book.

Links for the series will be posted here. This post will serve as the home page for the series.

Brandon Sanderson’s “Calamity” – The Reckoning of Humanity

calamity-sandersonBrandon Sanderson is one of the most gifted authors I know currently writing. Each book he writes, it seems, consistently has stunning twists, great action, and an interesting world. Here, we’ll take a look at the conclusion to his “The Reckoners” series, Calamity. We will be exploring it from a worldview perspective. There will be SPOILERS below for the whole series.

Face Your Fears

A theme that continues throughout the entire series is the notion of facing your fears. In Calamity, this is shown to be the way for Epics to gain control of their powers without going dark. Yet what does it mean to face our fears? For some epics, it is a literal sense, such as Firefight simply plunging an arm into fire–her weakness. For others, facing fear is facing failure, or a different kind of weakness.

As Calamity continues, however, we discover that these weaknesses are from Calamity himself–the things that Calamity is afraid of. Part of me wonders whether this cheapens the impact of this theme, for it makes the weaknesses of the Epics something that is imported to them rather than something intrinsic in themselves. Another part of me sees this as somewhat consistent–for as humans we are social, and we can all too easily take on the fears  of others and turn them into something far greater than they are in fact.

The Nature of Humanity

In the climactic encounter between David and Calamity, Calamity is brought to a different, alternate reality in which he left the humans he’d gifted to their own devices. There, those with the powers are effectively superheroes, having had no darkness to face down, nothing from the outside to impinge upon their own reality. David challenges Calamity:

“Do you fear that?” I asked him softly. “That we aren’t what you’ve thought? Does it terrify you to know that deep down, men are not monsters? That we are, instead, inherently good?” (411)

Such a viewpoint is quite popular in our world. Humans are inherently good, right? Well, it seems that such a viewpoint is not the biblical one, which argues that humans are sinful from birth–even from conception (Psalm 51:5); that no one is good, not even one (Romans 3:10) and the like. There is some debate over this in Christian circles, but it seems quite difficult to square these (and other statements) with the notion that humans are inherently good.

Indeed, although this climactic challenge from David ultimately defeats Calamity, once Calamity is gone, not everyone suddenly turns good. Obliteration, for example, continues to seek the extermination of humanity (possibly?). The open-endedness of this makes it difficult to pin down where Sanderson was going with it, but it seems that even alleged “inherent goodness” does not guarantee goodness.

Conclusion

Calamity is one of those rare books that combines intense plot with serious discussion of worldview. Sanderson continues to weave these tales which force us to look at humanity and contemplate what it is that we are.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

The “Mistborn Trilogy” by Brandon Sanderson- Religion(s), Intrigue, and a Messiah– I look at another trilogy by Brandon Sanderson, the wildly creative “Mistborn Trilogy.”

Popular Books– Read through my other posts on popular books–science fiction, fantasy, and more! (Scroll down for more.)

Source

Brandon Sanderson, Calamity (New York: Delacorte Press, 2016).

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

 

Problems with the “Slippery Slope” argument for Inerrancy

question-week2I believe the Bible is true in all that it teaches, and that this is what is meant by inerrancy. The Bible teaches no error. There is much debate over the meaning of inerrancy, and I’m not going to enter into that debate now (though I have written on it, if you’d like to see my opinion). What is important is that I want to start by saying that I affirm inerrancy, but I think one common argument in favor of the doctrine is mistaken.

The Slippery Slope Argument for Inerrancy

The argument I’m referring to is what I shall dub the “Slippery Slope” argument. Basically, it asserts that if someone doubts that one part of the Bible is true, doubt about the rest of the Bible unerringly follows [see what I did there?]. One example of this can be found in a recent webcomic from Adam Ford. We might write out the argument in syllogistic form as something like:

1. If one part of the Bible is in thought to be an error, other parts are thrown into doubt
2. Person A believes the Bible has an error.
3. Therefore, person A has reason to believe other parts are thrown into doubt.

The syllogism as I have written it is surely not the only way to put this argument. I am providing it largely as an illustration of how the argument might be stated. The core of the argument, however, is that if one thinks part of the Bible is an error, the rest of it is made at least possibly dubious.

Analyzing the Argument

There are several difficulties that immediately come up, ranging from concrete to obscure. On the obscure end, we might question what is meant by “an error” and whether that error is said to be theological, scientific, medical, or something else. We could then debate whether an alleged scientific error in the Bible is grounds for stating that there is “an error” in the Bible to begin with, by debating different views Christians hold about the Bible’s relationship with science (or medicine, or whatever). I’m not going to delve into obscurities here, however interesting they may be (and, in my opinion, they are very interesting).

Instead, I want to focus on some major difficulties with the argument. For one, it assumes that the interlocutor, person A, views the entirety of the Bible as on the same evidential plain. That is, for the argument to hold any weight, person A would have to believe that the Bible is linked together so intricately that a belief that Genesis 34:17 [I arbitrarily chose this verse] is an error (however defined) would entail that John 3:16 is possibly an error as well. Clearly, for the argument to be sound, Premise 1 must be correct, and it seems to be obviously false.

The reason I say this is because the possible errancy of John 3:16 does not follow from belief that there is an error in Genesis 34:17. Suppose you are reading a history textbook and you see that it states the date of General Lee’s surrender at Appomattox to be April 9, 1864. You, being a proud history buff, know that the date was actually April 9, 1865. However, the year is only off by one. You may proceed more carefully through the rest of the book, but you would not have any reason to think that the book was mistaken when it said that General Patton was a United States general in World War II.

The argument therefore assumes a unity of the text such that the entire Bible stands or falls together. Now, that might be a perfectly correct position to hold–and I do hold to the unity of Scripture myself–but that is not an obligatory or necessary view. That is, someone might deny that the Bible is a unified text and therefore need not ascribe to the view that if one part is in error, another must be.

But this is not the only difficulty with the argument. Another problem is that it assumes person A has no more reason to believe the portions of the Bible they believe are true than they do for the portions they believe might be errors. Yet this is mistaken, and demonstrably so. Person A may believe there is overwhelming evidence for the truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, such that they affirm that without question, while also thinking that the evidence against Israel having been in Egypt is quite weighty as well. Thus, they believe the Bible is perhaps mistaken on the status of Israel in relation to Egypt in Exodus, but they also affirm that it is clearly correct on Jesus’ resurrection. But the slippery slope argument presumes that they cannot hold these beliefs together without at least significant tension. But why? Again, the reason appears to be because the slippery slope argument relies on the assumption that the evidence for one part of the Bible must be exactly on par with the evidence for another. However, that in itself is clearly wrong.

 

Conclusion

Again, I affirm the doctrine of inerrancy. I just think we should not rely on this as one of our arguments. I have used the slippery slope argument myself in the past, but I believe the above analysis shows I was mistaken to do so. I think that others should avoid the argument as well so that we can present the best possible arguments for the truth of the Bible without error.

I suspect many will take issue with the analysis above. I’m not saying that I believe any portion of the Bible is an error. Nor am I denying the unity of Scripture. What I am saying is that it is not logically fallacious to deny that unity. I’m saying that I believe it is logically consistent to believe that the Bible may have an error while still affirming, for example, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Is that something I would recommend? No, but neither is it something I would say is necessarily contradictory. Those who do want to take issue with my analysis must demonstrate how it is mistaken, and thus provide reason to think that the assumptions the slippery slope argument is based upon are sound.

Again, a final note is that I have taken the place of the interlocutor in several instances in this post. My point is simply that someone who did deny these things could come up with effective counters to the slippery-slope argument for inerrancy. Therefore, it seems to me that the argument is ineffective at best and faulty or fallacious at worst. It relies on presupposing that the opponent operates in the same sphere of presuppositions as the one offering the argument, but they need not do so.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

On the “Fuzzification” of Inerrancy– I argue that we have qualified the term “inerrancy” unnecessarily and to the extent that it has become difficult to pin down its actual meaning. I advocate a return to a simple definition of the term.

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

“Never use an argument that you don’t find convincing”?

Rock_Strata

Not an argument, but a pretty picture nonetheless.

I was contemplating a post I was working on not too long ago and realized I didn’t find one of the arguments I put forward very convincing.

I think that there may be situations in which it is permissible and perhaps even wise to use arguments that you don’t personally find convincing. I want to start this with the caveat that as Christians in no way should you use arguments in this fashion without honestly prefacing them by saying something like “I don’t find this convincing necessarily” or “This is not my view, but some think…” We must be honest in our argumentation, but that doesn’t mean we have to be limited in it.

The Impossibility of Knowing Everything

One reason to use arguments that you don’t personally find convincing is because it is impossible for us to know everything. For example, for a long time I thought Pascal’s Wager was an okay, but not ultimately convincing argument. However, I then read a book on the argument, Pascal’s Wager: Pragmatic Arguments and Belief in God by Jeff Jordan (review linked), which convinced me that the argument is actually fairly powerful. Indeed, after reading the book I even started to use the argument myself.

Thus, what this means is that there was an argument I did not find convincing at one point, but which I later found to be quite convincing indeed. I didn’t have a complete picture of the Wager type argument, and I still don’t. It’s possible that one day I might discover a strong counter-argument which undermines my confidence in the argument.

Effectively any argument that we consider is in a situation like this. We cannot possibly have read every single angle on most (any?) arguments, and so it is possible that any number of arguments we find convincing are really not; or vice versa.

Thus, it might not be a bad idea in some situations to offer something like this: “I haven’t studied X argument much, but as of now I don’t find it very convincing. However, I do think the position it ultimately argues for is true. Perhaps you’d find X argument convincing, and we can talk about it. [Offer X argument.]”

Opening Up New Avenues for Discussion

The closing example above offers another insight into why mentioning or “using” arguments that we don’t personally find convincing could be effective- they might open up avenues for more discussion. For example, when one is doing apologetics, I could see a conversation happening in which an opening could be found by saying something like “I agree! I don’t find X to be a convincing reason to believe in God. Here’s why. Can we talk about Y, though, which I do find convincing?”

Moreover, we are called to pursue the truth and hold fast to what is good. In discussing an argument we might not find convincing, there might be new points raised which cause us to reevaluate the rejected argument in a different light.

The Pragmatic Use of Arguments 

Finally, another reason it might be even wise to utilize arguments that we don’t personally find convincing would be pragmatic. For the sake of the following example, just assume that the positions presented are thought be the apologist to be acceptable biblically, though they favor one over the other. Suppose one is talking to an atheist whose only objection left to Christianity is the doctrine of eternal conscious punishment. In that case, the apologist might mention the alternative Christian doctrine of annihilationism/conditionalism, pointing out that although they don’t personally hold the view, it is a view that is established within the Christian tradition and offers an alternative to the eternal conscious punishment view.

In this case, the atheist’s final objection is at least possibly answered–they are confronted with the reality that their final objection is possibly mistaken. And, the apologist with whom they are having this discussion was honest enough to point out they don’t hold to the view, merely that it is a view which answers their objection.

This pragmatic use of argument must be done carefully, and again very openly and honestly. I have found that if one does use this method in a conversation, it generally goes to more fruitful discussions and drawing out more areas of agreement.

Conclusion

Thus, I am of the opinion that it is at least permissible to use arguments that you do not personally find convincing, with the caveat that you do so honestly.

What do you think? Should you only use arguments you personally find convincing? Is it permissible to use arguments you don’t find convincing? Are there circumstances in which this is different?

By the way, I did take that argument out of the post I was working on.

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

A World of Darkness and War- “Eisenhorn” by Dan Abnett

eisenhorn-abnettInnocence Proves Nothing.

The world of Warhammer 40,000 (hereafter WH40k) is one that has few entry points for the uninitiated. Dan Abnett’s Eisenhorn Trilogy is one such entry point. I reviewed the omnibus on my general interests blog. Here we will be exploring some themes in the trilogy from a worldview perspective. There will be SPOILERS in what follows.

The Darkness

The world of WH40k is ostensibly one set in our very far future. The major tagline for the universe is “In the grim dark future, there is only war.” Confronted by this darkness, readers sometimes struggle to find light. But the light found in the universe is that of relationships: friendships and loyalty. Another light is the fight against the Warp and the forces of Chaos. Christians are similarly called to fight against evil and destroy it. The way that struggle plays out is hotly debated, but Eisenhorn is a kind of call to fight against evil where it is visible.

Puritan or Radical?

There are different sects of the Imperial Inquisition in the WH40k universe and the major way to divide them is along lines of Puritanism or radicalism. Largely, this comes down to whether an Inquisitor would use elements or even knowledge of “Chaos” in order to fight Chaos or whether they would not. This notion of Puritan/Radical is found throughout the Eisenhorn trilogy.

These lines of separation are relevant because in some ways they are paralleled in Christian thought. How literally is the Bible to be taken? How separated from the world should Christians be? What insights can be allowed for in other faith traditions? These are just a few questions that parallel this complex line that is brought to light by Abnett.

Interestingly, the way that Eisenhorn himself develops as a character points to how these might become a false dichotomy. He begins to realize that some of the insights from the Radical side have merit, and began to shift towards a more moderate position. One wonders whether we too often become bogged down in our conservative/liberal divisions to see how the “other side” might have some helpful insights.

War Against Chaos

In the WH40k universe, demons are manifested in the flesh, the forces of darkness work through psychic powers (psykers), aliens worship evil deities, and more. Through the realism of these elements, the universe is put forward as one in which evils are, at times, much easier to identify than the evils we find in our world. Christians have differing views about spiritual warfare (read the link in those words for a brief exploration of a few), but I think we too often pretend that there are no real evils out there or that they can be reduced purely to the evils of the human heart.

Conclusion

The world of WH40k is dark, but the way it portrays evil and the battle against it serves up not only a compelling narrative but one which has some points of contact with Christianity. Ultimately, WH40k ends up left in darkness, but Christianity has the one Story which offers ultimate hope; that found in Christ as victor over death and the devil.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

Source

Dan Abnett, Eisenhorn (Black Library, 2005).

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Women, Emotions, and Apologetics: A Response to “Apologetically Blonde”

clur-copancraigI recently came upon Come Let Us Reason: New Essays in Christian Apologetics, a book I’d been meaning to read for some time. I decided to take a break from the unpacking I was doing to do a little browsing as my son crawled around on my lap. I turned to the index to discover an article entitled: “Apologetically Blonde: The Struggle of Women to Defend Their Faith and What They Should Do about It” by Toni Allen (full citation below- all references to this text). As I browsed the article I knew I needed to write a response, because–with apologies to Toni Allen–I felt much of it was misguided.

Emotional Reasoning

The first critique I have of Allen’s article is the continued references to emotional reasoning and its apparent lack of justification for knowledge. Writes Allen:

…I find that women often depend on their experience and emotional connection with God as the primary justification for the beliefs they hold. In other words, women tend to perceive meaningful experiences and their corresponding emotions to be validation that what they believe is accurate. (40)

She goes on to say:

Yes, the gospel is for the whole person, and this includes existential reasons (including personal experience as well as our deepest emotions and longings)… However, a well-rounded defense of the gospel will include rational reasons and evidences. (40)

Throughout this section, Allen affirms the reality of personal experience and emotions as a basis for believing, but continually asserts that rational reasons are required in the public defense of Christianity. It is difficult to pin down exactly what Allen’s critique is in this section, because the wording is such that it could allow any number of exceptions. Words like “typically,” “often,” “includes,” and the like allow for broad interpretations of her meaning. But it does seem like the whole tone of the article as a whole is that emotions are somehow inadequate as a defense of the faith or that they are opposite or opposed to reason. This latter point is particularly problematic, and it seems like it is closest to the way Allen is leaning throughout the essay.

The reason I say this is because emotions are set up not alongside reasons and rationality, but rather as something separate from them. But this is itself mistaken. As any number of authors have pointed out, emotions themselves are part of the reasoning process and indeed can be integral or even essential to rationality. For example, Daniel Westberg argues in Renewing Moral Theology, a Thomistic approach to ethical theology, that emotions are a central part of the process of reasoning and judgment (see especially 40-43; see also my review of the book here). If Westberg is right, then for Thomists–a formidable bunch of philosophers indeed–emotions are a central aspect of reasoning; not something separate from and possibly antithetical to it. But even if he’s wrong, his case is fairly persuasive that emotions should not be dismissed from the reasoning process, and philosophers of several other flavors have agreed.

Thus, one of the major points of Allen’s assessment is itself mistaken because it operates from a false understanding of the relationship between emotions and reasoning.

As an aside, Allen’s assertion that “we must realize that appeals to religious experience typically do not function as a decisive apologetic” (41) is shifty in its wording (“typically”) while also being mistaken, as philosophers like Richard Swinburne, Caroline Franks Davis, Keith Yandell, and the like have made the argument from religious experience a powerful apologetic tool. Moreover, people like Alvin Plantinga have argued (persuasively, in my opinion), that we can have a rational basis for belief in God through properly basic belief and religious experience.

Can Women Do Apologetics?

Alongside Allen’s constant stream of arguing that women think more emotionally, there is the question of what exactly that is supposed to mean. Again and again we are treated to quotes like the one shared above and those below:

“[W]omen are naturally more cognizant of their emotions… depending on them as the primary validation for our beliefs directly affects our judgment.” (42)
“[I]n mentoring many women over the years, I have found it very common that rather than evaluate an idea on its merits, they are instead more reluctant to adopt an idea if it actuates negative feelings, or more eager to accept it because of positive ones.” (42)
“As women, we should welcome the challenge of defending our faith, even if this pushes us out of our comfort zone.” (45)

Lines like these are found throughout the essay with little supporting evidence other than personal experience–itself a great irony given the previous analysis. But apart from this, it fails to take into account that men and women operate on bell curves in regard to emotional–and other–reasoning skills and so making broad statements like these fails to reflect the reality of the spectrum of capacities for either gender.

Women, according to Allen, also are hamstrung in their attempts to do apologetics through “their natural inclination to avoid conflict” (37). But again, what does this say about men and women essentially (in the philosophical sense)? Do men who have an inclination to avoid conflict somehow become women or more feminine because of this? If so, in what fashion? And what biblical basis do we have for these kinds of assertions?

These and other issues betray a primary underlying presupposition of Allen’s article: gender essentialism. This is a deep topic that I cannot explore thoroughly here, but basically what Allen has–consciously or not–bought into is the notion that men and women operate in largely different spheres with clearly defined cognitive and other barriers between them. That’s why lines like “Women are naturally more cognizant of their emotions…” manage to sneak into the text. But these lines find little argumentative support and again fail to take into account the aforementioned reality that men and women do not operate in entirely different planes of existence–or even emotions. Although Allen generally included lines that allowed for some wiggle room, the overall message was clearly based on this presupposed and unfounded adherence to gender essentialism.

Apologetically Blonde?

A final issue I wanted to mention with the article is the title itself. Although “blonde jokes” have become part of our culture, I think that we as Christians are called to a higher standard. “Blonde” jokes select a specific portion of the population for the sake of ridicule. Though these are often “in good fun” the question is whether such jokes are taken that way and what kind of impact that might have on the people who are, well, blonde. I am not, but it’s easy to see how the use of “blonde” in the title as a synonym for “challenged” could be taken poorly and works against the gentleness and respect we need to display as Christian case-makers.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Source

Toni Allen, “Apologetically Blonde: The Struggle of Women to Defend Their Faith and What They Should Do about It” in Come Let Us Reason: New Essays in Christian Apologetics eds. Paul Copan & William Lane Craig (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2012).

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Rhetoric as Apologetic- Can we learn from ancient apologetics?

apologetics-romanIn the ancient world, rhetoric was a major field of study. Briefly, classical rhetoric is the practice of discourse as a means to motivate, inform, persuade. It is hard to pin down to an exact degree what rhetoric is, but here we will use the term as broadly defined above.

Ancient Rhetoric in Apologetics

Mark Edwards, in “The Flowering of Latin Apologetic: Lactantius and Arnobius,” (cited below) examines the way these ancient apologists used rhetoric in their defense of the Christian faith. This involved demonstrating that Christians were educated over and against the notion that Christians were all slaves and fools. It also involved showing that Christians were the paragons of (Roman) society rather than people who overthrew society. They presented Christianity as an alternative way of thinking–a whole system which was to overthrow the Pagan thought of the time.

These different aspects of rhetoric in apologetics were specifically aimed at the audience of the time of Lactantius and Arnobius. Perhaps we can learn from their example.

Rhetoric in Apologetics Today

There are a number of ways we may apply rhetoric to apologetics today. One may argue that the use of memes is one (lowbrow) way of utilizing rhetoric in apologetics–making brief points in a provocative manner that brings forth further thought. How might we best use memes in apologetics? Are they even appropriate? These are questions that I will not delve into, but I think they are worth trying to work out for those involved in apologetics or interested in doing the same.

Another aspect of rhetoric which may be integrated into today’s apologetic is the continued deflection of charges from non-Christians against the faith. Specifically, some allege that Christians are stupid. Like Lactantius and Arnobius, we may feel free to flourish the names of Christian scholars through time and into today. Christians cannot truly be classified as necessarily stupid or foolish when they continually work in the highest levels of academia.

Rhetoric in apologetics seems as though it may necessarily be focused on the “low hanging fruit” like the examples given above. I’m not convinced this is the case, nor am I convinced that this is a valid objection to its use. Regarding the latter point, surely if charges are made against Christians necessarily being foolish or lacking education, a valid response is to demonstrate how this is false. The use of memes is frequently effective, though we must be wary of their tendency to oversimplify.

Regarding the former point–that rhetoric is not necessarily focused on “low hanging fruit,” I would note that in many ways, a convincing case depends on how it is presented. Moreover, as Christians we are called to present our case in a way that will put us above reproach in character. If we’re able to eloquently present a case, then perhaps more will consider the case itself. I’m not suggesting we try to obfuscate, but we should try to work to present our case in a winsome manner that utilizes the best scholarship, the most current language, and integrates the fewest possible errors (and this includes typos and spelling errors–something of which I am guilty, I’m sure).

Moreover, Lactantius and Arnobius were both clearly concerned with the imminent attacks on Christianity. They weren’t seeking to anticipate and shoot down future problems so much as they were dealing with the current attacks on their faith. Perhaps we can take this as a call to focus on the issues which face Christianity today ourselves. Like them, we need to confront the most popular of our naysayers and utilize the best scholarship in order to refute criticisms of Christianity.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Sunday Quote– If you want to read more Sunday Quotes and join the discussion, check them out! (Scroll down for more)

On the Shoulders of Giants: Rediscovering the lost defenses of Christianity– I have written on how we may discover the enormous resources historical apologists have left behind for us. Take and read!

Source

Mark Edwards, “The Flowering of Latin Apologetic: Lactantius and Arnobius” in Mark Edwards, Martin Goodman, and Simon Price, eds., Apologetics in the Roman Empire (New York: Oxford, 1999).

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Book Review: “Mapping Apologetics” by Brian Morley

ma-morleyAlthough there is widespread agreement over the need to have a defense of the faith (a biblical charge–1 Peter 3:15-16), there is much disagreement over exactly how that defense should proceed. Brian Morley’s Mapping Apologetics is a way forward in helping interested readers discern how they may defend the faith.

There are few books that deal exclusively with apologetic methodology by outlining various approaches. Perhaps the most comprehensive is Faith Has Its Reasons by Kenneth Boa and Robert Bowman, Jr. Mapping Apologetics is distinguished from this other excellent work by having a narrower focus that provides more in-depth comments on the individual proponents of the various systems. Whereas Faith… attempts a synthesis of the varied methods, Mapping… is geared more towards giving readers understanding of each method.

After a couple introductory chapters on apologetics in the Bible and history, the following chapters each highlight individuals who are major contemporary proponents of different apologetics methods. Included are such people as Cornelius Van Til, Alvin Plantinga, E.J. Carnell, Richard Swinburne, William Lane Craig, and John Warwick Montgomery, just to name a few.

Each of these chapters presents an extended overview of the apologist’s method of defending the faith along with several quotes and often detailed analysis of their primary arguments with examples. Thus, readers are given the resources to compare and contrast the various approaches on the level of the actual arguments and counter-arguments presented.

The people chosen are each major contributors to their specific variety of apologetics, so both those who are well-versed in apologetics and those who are just beginning will get insights from top defenders of the faith. I personally have an MA in Christian Apologetics, and I was familiar with each author, but the way that each was presented gave me a good refresher on their method and primary arguments–and sent me scampering to re-read some of my favorites!

The book includes some great follow-up questions after each chapter to help readers review the material in the chapter, along with useful further reading sections for those interested in learning more about specific defenders. Each chapter also includes criticisms of the specific type of apologetic the individual puts forward. These are often only about 1 1/2 to 2 pages, though, and it would have been nice to have a bit more space dedicated to the critiques and rebuttals to each approach. Morley also very quickly dismisses the fideistic approach as being “unbiblical” with only a brief argument. Although I am not at all a fideist, I do think that the approach has at least some merit and the aforementioned work by Boa and Bowman has some great insights into how it might also offer some insights into apologetics.

Mapping Apologetics is an excellent read for those interested in apologetic methodology, with sympathetic interpretations of many of the primary contemporary defenders of each approach. I recommend it highly for those interested in apologetics and how we are to defend the faith.

The Good

+Great summaries of top apologists from multiple methodological approaches
+Invaluable insight into different apologetics methodologies
+Helpful review questions and resource lists

The Bad

-Dismisses fideism too quickly
-Could stand to have more reflection on criticisms of each position

Disclaimer: InterVarsity Press provided me with a copy of the book for review. I was not obligated to provide any specific kind of feedback whatsoever, nor did they request changes or edit this review in any way. 

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

Source

Brian Morley, Mapping Apologetics (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2015).

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

“Dune” by Frank Herbert- Prophecy, Religion, and the Messiah

Dune-HerbertBless the Maker and His water. Bless the coming and the going of Him. May His passage cleanse the world. May He keep the world for his people.

Dune has been called “Science Fiction’s Supreme Masterpiece.” I say that this tagline is accurate. The depth of the saga is breathtaking, and its majesty is at times overpowering. Here, I’ll take a look at some key themes in the book from a Christian perspective. There will be SPOILERS in what follows.

Prophecy

Prophecy is found throughout the various factions in Dune. The Bene Gesserit is a school composed of women who are working to bring about a prophesied man–but to use him for their own ends. The Fremen, inhabitants of the desert, also have prophecies of one who would bring their world–Arrakis–to fertility and unite the Fremen against their enemies.

Prophecy has a function, which will be fulfilled one way or another. Often, this involves the conscious working of persons towards the fulfillment. This is unlike prophecy in the Bible, which is sometimes fulfilled in quite unexpected ways or even has double applications (such as the virgin birth).

Religion

Religion is a theme throughout the book, as there are many different philosophies of life on offer, but few which seem genuine. Herbert’s vision of religion is that it is essentially a function of humanity and one which is constructed through the interplay of power and belief. For example, in one biographical entry about Paul Atreides, the protagonist, the Princess Irulan writes:

You cannot avoid the interplay of politics within an orthodox religion. The power struggle permeates the training, educating and disciplining of the orthodox community… the leaders of such a community… must face that ultimate internal question: to succumb to complete opportunism as the price of maintaining their rule, or risk sacrificing themselves for the sake of the orthodox ethic. (401)

Hebert also channels much wariness about any engagement of politics and religion throughout the book. Representative is a saying allegedly from the Muad’Dib–the name given to Paul Atreides after he is seen as the fulfillment of various prophecies: “When law and duty are one, united by religion, you never become fully conscious, fully aware of yourself. You are always a little less than an individual” (408).

Yet this is not to say there is no genuine belief in the world of Dune. Debates over determinism and divinely decreed futures are placed throughout the book, and Paul Atreides himself struggles with his own role as an apparent Messiah.

The religious mixture of Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity found in the various factions provides much food for discussion and engagement for those who want to dialogue on these topics. How should we interact with those of other faiths? What lines of correlation may we see in other religions and how might we use these to engage believers in other faith traditions? These are questions which arise in Dune, and Herbert also offers challenges to believers to see what harm might be in their beliefs and to search out those aspects of their faith which lead astray from the truth.

Truth

There are many more philosophical, theological, and political questions which could be asked after reading a masterwork like Dune. A fundamental issue is that of truth. The issues of religion and prophecy listed above make one read the world of the work with a rather ambiguous eye: there seems to be some deception, but some truth, in various aspects of the different factions’ belief systems and what they present to the world as the truth.

From a Christian perspective, there is but one truth and that is found in Jesus Christ. Similarly, even on the world of Arrakis, we find that there is an objective standard of truth, it just isn’t always cut-and-dried as to how we might discern it. It is a reflection of the fallenness of the real world in which often the truth is intermingled with lies. We should work ever towards seeking the truth and working to bring it forward.

Conclusion

Weeks after reading Dune, I can still feel the hot sand under my feet, and still smell the Spice in the air. It is a simply incredible read which demands hours of reflection afterwards. I recommend it highly to you, dear readers. It will get your mind going, and it will also perhaps force some thought into one’s own faith and life–are we living a genuine life of faith, or have we turned it into a perversion?

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

A Solar System and Cosmos Filled with Life?- A reflection on Ben Bova’s “Farside” and “New Earth”– I explore the notion that life should be expected all over the place in a post that looks at some of Bova’s most recent works.

“Fitzpatrick’s War”- Religion, truth, and forgiveness in Theodore Judson’s epic steampunk tale– I take a look at the book Fitzpatrick’s War, a novel of alternative history with steampunk. What could be better? Check out some of the worldview issues brought up in the book.

I have discussed the use of science fiction in showing how religious persons act. Check out Religious Dialogue: A case study in science fiction with Bova and Weber.

Source

Frank Herbert, Dune (New York: Ace, 1990). Originally printed 1965.

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

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