Continuing discussion.

EPS Blog

This is the blog area for the Evangelical Philosophical Society and its journal, Philosophia Christi.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Hazards of Self-Promotion

Since listening to JP's reception talk at the annual EPS meeting in New Orleans, periodically I have been confronted with thoughts regarding one of his points -- the third I believe. It had to do with proper motives for our work or should I be more forthright and say our calling (my word, not his). What has challenged me is how easy it is to be subtly captivated by misguided motives even when doing what is good --- particular for those of us in the academy. The particular motive of which I speak is self-promotion. It is when our ministries are shaped by the desire to be recognized by others who we think to be ahead of us urges us to get their attention and let them know how much we know. It is like the person who goes to the party and while talking to one person is constantly casting his eye about the crowd to see if there is someone more important to talk to. Or, manipulating a situation so you can place yourself in optimum relationship to some important person.

One way this attitude reveals itself is being obsessed with knowing the right people and making sure they know who you are, and networking only for advancement and recognition. Another is that the classroom becomes a place where the professor tries to impress the student with what and who he knows instead of a passion to teach Truth for their education and edification -- to see the teaching as his ministry to the Church, the Body of Christ.

Such dangers present themselves to all of us and it requires daily vigilance to deny their grip on our lives and hence our ministries. It is so easy to allow the air of professionalism to smother a passion for the Truth in the Spirit of Christ --- a passion for Truth which is a passion for Christ who is the Truth. Of course, we want to do our very best in the work and networking is not wrong, but it should not be motivated merely for recognition or praise, but as a testimony of faithfulness to the risen Christ who has called us as his witnesses.

In addition, the unhealthy attitude of self - promotion encourages a very narrow view of Christian ministry where my discipline is all that concerns me -- we do not see our work as simply a part of the whole. Instead, one labors as if all that matters is what he is doing. For example, thinking that apologetics operates as a stand alone work. In this case, it makes apologetics (using apologetics as an example) more of a badge I wear instead of a life I live. The end is that the individual work tends to be fragmented and selfish while the work of Christ as a whole suffers. This also often makes us very territorial in the academy. We end up talking only to ourselves.

I suppose some of my thoughts come because of my age. I remember being taught by men and women some 45 years ago when I became a Christian. I am still challenged by their dedication, sacrifice, and deep concern for me -- the new Christian to be shaped into the image of Christ. They taught me by word, attitude and lifestyle. They had a passion for Truth (which is a passion for Christ) that was so focused that it consumed their very being--- a focus I think worth imitating. Recognition as a chief motivation for being in the work was unknown to them. Ideas were important, even necessary, but not as something used as rungs on a ladder to recognition, but as guidance in life for godly living. As I begin the new year, my prayer is that I will be vigilant in auditing my motives that it might be that the love of Christ alone moves me forward in the work.

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

EPS National Meeting 2009: Timothy O'Connor

Our national meeting of the EPS in New Orleans produced a number of excellent papers, a great challenge to the EPS from J.P. Moreland at the reception, and a fruitful time of discussion during our plenary address provided by Tim O'Connor of Indiana University. I highly recommend reading his book from which the foundation of his presentation was derived (Theism and Ultimate Explanation: The Necessary Shape of Contingency (Blackwell Publishers).

In essence, Tim's discussion was geared toward providing an account of ultimate explanation for contingency, where ultimate explanation is to be understood as involving no brute givens. Thus, limited explanations have their probative force derived from something else that not only requires no further explanation, but can have no further explanation. The purported upshot of finding an ultimate explanation is that it avoids an infinite regress of explanations concerning contingent phenomena. Second, ultimate explanation does not provide the necessary elbow room for "scientific" enterprises that postulate theoretical or actual multiverses which are themselves derivative of some universe generator. Indeed, the characteristics generally assigned to such a universe generator propose that it is either eternal or derivative of a beginningless structure, but it has the powers contained within itself to produce contingent phenomena. If we accept that the universe generator is a physical entity that produces universes in a contingent manner, then the physical laws governing it are still left unexplained--thus it cannot be an ultimate explanation of contingency.

Though the conversation was more rich and detailed, this sketch provides some insights into Tim's work in his book and in our discussion. I will end my entry on his work here in virtue of the fact that his revised work from the EPS conference is already under contract for publication, and we want to honor that commitment. We also invite you to keep an eye out for Tim's work on this topic. Our deepest appreciation must go out to Tim for the time he shared with us in the Big Easy.

In other news, the program committee for next year's event has already uploaded a Call for Papers for the 2010 national meeting in Atlanta, GA at the EPS website. Our plenary speaker for that event will be Alvin Plantinga, who has recently retired from his teaching post at the University of Notre Dame. Given that Dr. Plantinga is one of the most formidable Christian scholars of the past century, we have high expectations that the event will be a great success. We hope to see you in Atlanta next November.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, November 30, 2009

How can Christian Intellectual Leadership Serve Non-Western Cultures?

Many have asked for audio or a transcript of J.P Moreland's EPS reception talk that he gave to a little over one-hundred people at the annual meeting.

While audio or a transcript are unavailable, here are the main points from J.P.'s talk:

  1. The church is exploding all over the world outside Western culture, and the disciples in these countries hold to an overtly supernatural worldview.
  2. The emerging young intellectual leadership in these countries look to the ETS/EPS/SCP for guidance and help.  They read our writings and follow us.  They are confused and hurt when we advance ideas that undermine the commonsense, supernatural worldview of the Bible that they embrace.  Thus, we have a responsibility to do our work in light of how it impacts our brothers and sisters in these countries.
  3. Here are four suggestions for how to better fulfill that responsibility:
  • Work together with others to write books, produce edited works, and so forth.  The synergy of such efforts increases our impact and it models the importance of the body of Christ and cooperation among its members.
  • Produce works that range from popular to technical, but be sure we do not look down upon those who work at the popular end of the spectrum.  The key is to find one's role and play it well.
  • Beware of living for a career and for the respect of the "right" people in the profession instead of living for the Kingdom and seeing one's work as a calling from God rather than a place to re-assure oneself that he/she is respected.
  • Require a burden of proof before one adopts a view, e.g., Christian physicalism, that if read by a brothers and sisters outside Western culture, would hurt their supernatural faith, especially if the view is not one held by a significant number of people in church history and if it is "politically correct" to adopt it under pressure from the academic community.

Labels: ,

Monday, March 23, 2009

2009 EPS Annual Meeting

Thanks to all of you that submitted your paper proposals for this year's annual meeting of the EPS (New Orleans).

A final list of presenters has been chosen.

In due course, we will announce the details of the program for the annual meeting.

Tremendous thanks to Jeremy Evans for his outstanding job as program chairperson!