I’m sometimes fascinated by the idea of resurrection as captured in our broader culture. In case you missed this video, the skydiver in it is knocked unconscious by another diver hitting him on the head:


Inerrancy and Young Earth Creationism

Evangelical philosopher Norman Geisler has an essay on the relationship between the doctrine of biblical inerrancy and Young Earth Creation. He explores whether an affirmation of Old Earth Creation necessarily entails a denial of inerrancy. Here is his conclusion:

After seriously pondering these questions for over a half century, my conclusions are: (1) The Young Earth view is not one of the Fundamentals of the Faith. (2) It is not a test for orthodoxy.  (3)  It is not a condition of salvation.  (4)  It is not a test of Christian fellowship. (5) It is not an issue over which the body of Christ should divide. (6) It is not a hill on which we should die. (7) The fact of creation is more important than the time of creation. (8) There are more important doctrines on which we should focus (like the inerrancy of the Bible, the deity of Christ, the Trinity, and the death and resurrection of Christ, and His literal Second Coming.  As Repertus Meldenius (d. 1651) put it: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty, and in all things charity.” And by all counts, the age of the earth is not one of the essentials of the Christian Faith.

Exciting Radio Station Idea

Here it is:

“If I had a Christian radio station, I think it would be mostly silence. People who tuned in would listen to dead air, would wait quietly with all the other people listening, sitting in the presence of God. Every once in a while we might play an older hymn, or read a Psalm. Come Vespers we’d pipe in a feed from a Trappist monastery somewhere, and listen to the old brothers chant and sing and the organ echo in the high vaults. And Friday and Saturday night we’d take a few hours to play some of the best [Christian rock] stuff, so people could dance. Dancing is important. I’m pretty sure it makes you a better person.

But mostly it would be silence.

I suspect no one would listen.”

Hat tip.

Henry, the Third Man

Gregory Alan Thornbury writes in his Recovering Classic Evangelicalism (p. 156):

As I see it, Carl F. H. Henry would have been the ideal third party to the Zizek-Milbank debate. Like Zizek, he was intimately concerned with the plight of the globe and suffering peoples. Like Milbank, he resolutely defended the right of theologians to maintain divine prerogatives in theological expression. But unlike the contemporary pair, he was no idealist or mystic—he was a realist and sought for biblical authority to be defended on proper grounds. Henry would not have condoned either a conceptual or actual collapsing of theological verities into a Hegelian scheme.

An provocative proposal.

Night At The (Creation) Museum

This was one of those events that was over before it began. I do not think that anyone was surprised by what either Bill Nye or Ken Ham had to say about whether or not creationism (of a young-Earth variety) is a viable model for understanding the universe. Check the video out if you don’t believe me:

Now that you may or may not have just blown over two hours hearing arguments that you have likely already heard I will further disappoint you by saying that almost everyone’s reaction to this was predictable. Those who subscribe to some form of evolution (be it atheistic, theistic, or agnostic) thought that Bill Nye carried the day (if they weren’t annoyed that he was debating a creationist at all in the first place). Those that believe in young-Earth creationism no doubt felt that Ham had carried the day. A number of groups that held what I might call some kind of alternate position that did not align with either of the two poles of this debate (anything from Intelligent Design, to Roman Catholic teachings that harmonize Christianity with evolutionary biology) remarked on how the debate was a missed opportunity to bring up their own particular views. Again, this is not at all surprising.

As for my own take, like I said, this is all old hat to me. The one thing that did strike me was how Ham continued to claim that nothing could really be known about the age of the earth since we weren’t there to observe the events that formed the Grand Canyon or layers of polar ice, but then elsewhere in the debate stated that reliable laws governing nature and logic were evidence for God. And yet it is wrong for scientists to extrapolate from those same laws back into prehistory, because who knows what went on there. So the laws are also unreliable when Ken Ham needs God to bend the rules?

A Metaphysical Drink

Jameson Distillery, Midleton, Ireland

I’m reading Whiskey & Philosophy: A Small Batch of Spirited Ideas edited by Fritz Allhoff and Marcus P. Adams. I’m only into the first chapter and am thus far really enjoying it. In the introduction the two editors share a great quote by Aeneas MacDonald, who wrote an important book simply titled Whisky. I thought some of you philosophically-minded folk might enjoy it:

Some might say that whisky is a Protestant drink, but it is rather a rationalistic, metaphysical and dialectical drink. It stimulates speculation and nourishes lucidity. One may sing on it but one is as likely to argue. Split hairs and schisms flourish in its depths; hierarchies and authority go down before the sovereignty of a heightened and irresistible intuition. It is the mother’s milk of destructive criticism and the begetter of great abstractions; it is disposed to find a meaning— or at least a debate— in arts and letters, rather than to enjoy or appreciate; it is the champion of the deductive method and the sworn foe of pragmatism; it is Socratic, drives to logical conclusions, has a horror of established and useful falsehoods, is discourteous to irrelevances, possesses an acuteness of vision which marshals the complexities and hesitations of life into two opposing hosts, divides the greys of the world rigidly into black and white.

My favourite line is the bit about whisky being the sworn foe of pragmatism. I wonder what Pierce, James, or Dewey drank?

Recent Books

I have just come through quite a busy season with conference speaking, dissertation chapter submission, and a full course taught overseas, so my silence on the blog hopefully has some justification! Why not break the silence with some shameless self-promotion?

This past November I had the privilege of presenting to Michael Haykin a Festschrift in his honour. My co-editor, Steve Weaver, and I worked on this book for over two years. It was incredibly rewarding to see it completed, and for Dr. Haykin to receive it with utter shock and amazement. The book, The Pure Flame of Devotion, is a history of Christian spirituality and covers the span of church history. We have over twenty contributors, including Carl Trueman, Dennis Ngien, Crawford Gribben, David Hogg, Mark Jones and others, who write on subjects dealing with the patristic, medieval, Reformation, and modern periods. We are hoping that the book will function as a textbook for bible college and seminary courses. You can read about the night here.

Also, I just learned that a book that I contributed to is now available. As 2014 commemorates the centenary of the First World War, Gord Heath of McMaster Divinity College has edited a book studying Canadian religious responses to it. It is called Canadian Churches and the First World War and is published by Pickwick. Michael Haykin and I co-wrote a chapter on the Canadian Baptist response. It was quite an eye-opening study, seeing as Baptists were typically political liberals and eschewed war, but after it was declared they supported it with gusto. I was, I must say, honoured to have a part in the book.

Is The Stable Two-Parent Family Now A Luxury Good?

When someone speaks of the lifestyles of the wealthy a number of images may come to mind involving luxury cars or big houses, but what about a traditional, stable two-parent family? Wait, what? Consider this article (by a self-described feminist) about how feminism has been co-opted as a wage-suppression tool – the labour pool is larger if both parents work and at the same time, if the expectation is that both parents in a family are in the workplace, then why should one person’s wage be large enough to support a family anyway? Then there’s Japan where young people are giving up on having families in part because the expectation of the husband to be a breadwinner is intense and, for many, unfeasible in an economy that has been stagnant for a couple decades now. It has been observed that those in the upper classes are more likely to marry and stay married, have children later and, by doing all of this, pass their opportunities on to their children.

Why are the working classes not following the same patterns? Charles Murray thought that this could solved by a stern lecture and the example of their betters, but David Frum thoroughly debunked Murray’s finding that not much else is needed. The reality is that our economic system privileges flexibility in production of goods and services, and family life makes flexibility difficult. Try making a parent-teacher interview working two jobs, or even shift-work. What if the better jobs are elsewhere? If one spouse is unemployed but the other is not, should they move? Should one spouse go where the work is and the other stay and effectively become a single parent? I do not know if anyone in our readership has considered that no-fault divorce has this sort of benefit of improving labour market liquidity, but it surely does.

It is natural for a Christian  to point out that they know a family from their own church perhaps who have stuck together in spite of economic challenges. The reality is it is possible to make such a thing happen, just like it is possible for someone of modest means to make other luxury purchases by scrounging and cutting back in other areas. By such means one can find working class car collectors, watch collectors, world travellers and so on. What we need to ask is whether it is wise or beneficial to be living in a society where people come to view these types of life choices as luxuries.

Should We Make Curriculum More Relevant?

From Roger Ebert’s glowing review of the timeless Mr. Holland’s Opus:

Watching this film, falling into its rhythm, appreciating its sweep, I could not help but remember my own high school teachers. Sitting here at the keyboard, I began a list of their names, only to realize that you have your own list. Amazing, how clearly I remember their excellence, and their patience. One anecdote will do. Stanley Hynes, who taught us Shakespeare, always addressed us as “Mr.” and “Miss,” as a college teacher would do, and somehow that brought a greater seriousness to “Macbeth” and “Julius Caesar,” which were uncharted new worlds for us. Modifying the curriculum to make it more “contemporary” and “relevant” is doing an injustice to students, whose lives will become relevant to the exact degree that high school encourages them to outgrow themselves, and escape from the contemporary into the timeless. Mr. Hynes knew that. So does “Mr. Holland’s Opus.”

Why Doug Groothuis Is Not A Continental Philosopher

From Dr. Groothuis’ blog:

First, unlike CP’s, I’ll define terms. An analytic philosopher (AP) emphasize the following philosophical principles:

1. Define terms carefully.
2. Obscurity is not profundity
3. Logical operations are primary for philosophy, such as the distinction between necessary and sufficient conditions, types and tokens, necessary and contingent, and, of course, the basic arguments forms–deductive, inductive, and abductive. One should not have to guess about these points; they should be clearly stated.

Second, the orgins of analytical philosophy probably trace to Bertrand Russell and G.E. Moore. It is a neutral method and is not committed, a priori, to any one worldview. Russell was an atheist; Alvin Plantinga is a Christian. Both are analytic philosophers.

Third, many claims to the contrary, the method of AP does not rule out large-scale philosophical questions about God, meaning, philosophy of culture (I do that!) or even aesthetics. CPs often make this erroneous claim.

Fourth, while some APs de-emphasize the important of the history of philosophy, there is nothing in the approach of AP that necessitates this; that is, it is not part of the definition of AP. The history of a philosophical concept, such as substance, is very significant in making any sense of it rationally.

Fifth, philosophers who are pre-analytic, such as Pascal, are subject to analytical criticism and reconstruction. I did so in my book, On Pascal. It has even been done with Nietzsche and Kierkegaard (see the work of C. Stephen Evans)!

CPs typically do not define terms or types of arguments carefully and revel in obscurity and false dichotomies, such as “those analytic apologists like J.P. Moreland, Bill Craig, and Doug Groothuis emphasize logic, but not love and community” (Myron Penner). Bull$^&#.