Continuing discussion.

EPS Blog

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

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Manhatten Declaration, Natural Law & Original Sin

R.J. Snell,  Professor of Philosophy and Director of Eastern University's Philosophy program, comments on the Thomistic conception of reason, natural law and sin in the "Manhattan Declaration":

There is no cheery optimism in Aquinas with respect to reason. The human is disordered; one might even say we suffer a totality of depravity since not a single human capacity or function remains in the state of original justice. Yes, humans are utterly messed up, but they are still human beings, and as human beings, as rational animals, they still possess the natural law, for to lose the natural law would be a loss of humanity, actually to become a beast. Not, that is, to act bestially—humans do so—but to be a beast. And this has not happened, since original sin does not change our essence—nor could it. The basic human goods remain the same basic human goods for Adam and for Hitler, and the flourishing of human persons qua persons has not changed. But sin does change our willingness to function as we ought, as we can all attest.

There is, then, no contradiction between the natural law and original sin, at least as understood by Thomas Aquinas. The “Manhattan Declaration,” therefore, remains the declaration of cosmopolis, for insofar as the declaration is reasonable it is reasonable for all, even us sinners.
You can read the full text of Snell's comments by going here.

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Historical Apologetics Project---help needed

Timothy McGrew, an epistemologist deeply interested in apologetics, has taken it upon himself to develop a colossal (not 30MB, 30 *GB*) digital library of historical apologetics. To get a sampling of his work, (just the tip of a Titanic sinking ice-berg) check out the link below:

What Tim and I are hoping is that there are faculty and grad students who have good ideas about how these historical resources might best be used. One idea is that they could be indexed by problem/objection for/to the Christian faith so that working apologists could quickly find the relevant passages. Might this, for example, be a worthy project for students enrolled in the MA program in apologetics at Biola University or similar programs elsewhere?

It would be particularly valuable if these resources would help students select new directions in doctoral research. It seems to me that advisors in philosophy would be more inclined to take dissertations bearing on apologetics seriously if they realized both the caliber of some of the great historical apologists and their unjustified neglect.

If anyone has constructive proposals as to how this resource can best be used or developed, please contact me and I will convey any response to Tim McGrew. Tim is willing to send his entire digital collection (via portable hard drive) to anyone who is interested in indexing even a single volume or assisting in other ways to develop the resource.

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

2008 EPS Plenary Paper (Moser)

Paul K. Moser

Kerygmatic Philosophy

Abstract: The disturbing God acknowledged by Jewish and Christian theism is not static but dynamic, interactive, and elusive. In particular, this God reveals himself to some people at times and hides himself from some people at times, for the sake of gaining fellowship with people. As a result, this God is cognitively elusive, since the claim that this God exists is not obviously true or even beyond evidentially grounded doubt for all capable mature inquirers. Let’s think of the God in question as “the living God” in virtue of this God’s being personally interactive with some agents and cognitively nimble and dynamic rather than functionally or cognitively static. This God, more specifically, is elusive for good reasons, that is, for reasonable divine purposes that fit with God’s unique character of being worthy of worship and thus being morally perfect. Accordingly, we should expect any evidence of God’s existence for humans to be purposively available to humans, that is, available to humans in a way that conforms to God’s perfectly good purposes for humans. This paper explores the striking consequences of this position for natural theology in particular and for theistic philosophy in general. It outlines an epistemology of God’s existence that is pneumatic, owing to a personal divine Spirit (who cannot be reduced to Calvin’s sensus divinitatis), and that is thus foreign to secular epistemology and to much philosophy of religion. It is also an incarnational epistemology, given its cognitive role for God’s Spirit dwelling in humans, in such a way that they become a temple of God’s Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19). We may think of incarnational epistemology as requiring that human inquirers themselves become evidence of God’s reality in virtue of becoming God’s temple. In this approach, characteristic evidence of God’s reality is increasingly available to me as I myself am increasingly willing to become such evidence.

The epistemology offered is grace-based, in that firsthand knowledge of God’s reality is a direct gift of God’s grace. The cognitive grace in question supplies a cognitive gift that replaces any demand for intellectual earning, controlling, or dominating with a freely given presence of God’s inviting and transforming Spirit who seeks fellowship with humans. This cognitive, irreducibly personal gift must be appropriated by humans in Gethsemane struggles, given the human condition of sin, but it is not shrouded in philosophical sophistication of the sort accompanying contemporary natural theology. This gift is directly challenging toward natural human ways that resist God, including toward human cognitive idolatry, but it does not get bogged down in its own intellectual complications. It revolves around God’s gracious call to humans for the sake of divine-human fellowship, and this call is to be received, and obeyed, in an I-Thou acquaintance between a human and God. Natural theology, as the paper contends, omits such distinctive interactive foundational evidence to its own detriment.

Stay tuned for further discussion about this paper in a forthcoming issue of Philosophia Christi!

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

2008 EPS Papers (Stump)

J. B. Stump

Natural Theology Stripped of Modernism

Abstract: This paper examines the difference in natural theology (and more specifically, the methodology in natural theology) from the Middle Ages in which Anselm’s dictum credo ut intelligam held sway, with that of the modern period after Descartes’ cogito ergo sum. There are lessons to be learned from both. Ultimately I claim that the non-modern (I’ll not say “post-modern”) approach is the Church’s more appropriate witness to the Truth in the arena of nature. Various objections to this position are considered.

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2008 EPS Papers (Liederbach)

Mark Liederbach

Natural Law, Common Ground, and the Problem of Postmodern Epistemology

Abstract: In his Philosophia Christi article (6:1, 2004), "Returning to Moral 'First Things': The Natural Law Tradition and Its Contemporary Application," J. Daryl Charles made the following provocative statement:

Natural serves as a bridge between Christian and non-Christian morality. In civil society, religious and nonreligious people conform to the same ethical standard in order to be governable. A revival in natural-law thinking, therefore must be a highest priority for the Christian Community as we content in, rather than abdicate, the public square.
Why do I describe this statement as provocative? Two reasons: First, while Roman Catholics have traditionally embraced natural law theology, Protestants have been far more suspicious about certain elements of it with some even outright denying its viability for ethics (i.e., Karl Barth). Second, great skepticism exists among an increasingly Postmodern society that questions not only the existence of natural law, but even the most fundamental structures of reasoning by which, if it were real, it could be accessed.

Therefore, if Charles is correct in his claim that a revival in natural-law thinking "must take place" to build a bridge, then at least two things have to be addressed if there is to be a hope of actually building that bridge. First, Catholic and Protestant Christians must identify points of common ground to serve as a basic foundation upon which they can agree and constructively move forward. Second, Christians in general must demonstrate why and how natural law theory is vitally necessary for personal and public life in an increasingly Postmodern era. My intention in this paper is to offer some thoughts on each.

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2008 EPS Papers (Smedley)

C. Donald Smedley

Hare on Divine Command Theory and Natural Law

Abstract: In his book, God's Call: Moral Realism, God's Commands, and Human Autonomy, John Hare argues that natural law fails to adequately and accurately capture the moral furniture of the world as a metaethical theory, rather opting for a version of divine command theory commensurate with Duns Scotus. In this paper, I wish to argue that Hare's defense of divine command theory is problematical on two levels. First, as a theistic metaethical theory, Hare fails to give a satisfactory theological justification for his position. Second, his construal of divine command theory as the ground for moral obligation does not adequately account for some of our strongest moral intuitions and judgments. Both of these deficiencies, I argue, are better accounted for by a natural law theory.

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Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Richard Dawkins' search for a grander truth

In a recent interview in the UK based Third Way magazine, Richard Dawkins affirmed:

'I'm damn sure there's more to the universe than we understand... there may be some things that we never understand. But I think I draw the line at saying because we don't understand it, therefore some kind of theistic interpretation is therefore more plausible. I suspect that the truth, when and if we discover it, will be far grander and more mysterious than anything that theists have ever imagined.' (Third Way, 'Said the atheist to the (ex) Bishop', September 2008, p. 10.)

A few brief observations:

1) Dawkins almost sounds here like a proponent of the theological 'way of negation' which holds (rightly or wrongly) that we can only say what God is not, and not what God is.

2) While everyone seems agreed that there is indeed a bad, 'God of the gaps' form of theistic argument (at least when it is an 'argument from ignorance'), arguments in natural theology needn't be, and generally aren't, formulated along such fallacious lines.

3) The main question this quote raises in my mind is whether Dawkins hasn't come accross St. Anselm's definition of God as 'the greatest conceivable being' or 'that than which a greater cannot be thought'. Of course, since Dawkins critiques the ontological argument in The God Delusion he must have come accross Anselm's definition. How, then, can he think that any as-yet-to-be-discovered truth could possibly be greater than the greatest possible being? I can only surmise that Dawkins' (literally) doesn't understand what he is talking about on this issue.

4) Is Dawkins contradicting the values-subjectivism he elsewhere explicitly embraces by talking about the possibility of discovering 'grander' truths? If not, then how can a merely subjective 'grander' truth be any greater than God, especially when God is defined as the objectively 'maximally great being'? Dawkins is either contradicting himself or undercutting himself here.

5) Perhaps if Dawkins came to understand the meaning of the phrase 'greatest possible being' he wouldn't think of theistic belief as a 'medieval' place-holder for something grander. And if he thought more deeply about God so-defined than he does in The God Delusion (where he basically passes the ball to Hume and Kant) then he might look more kindly upon St. Anselm' ontological meditations upon that theme...

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Saturday, July 5, 2008

Welcome Peter Williams

We welcome Peter S. Williams as our newest web contributor to the EPS website. Among many things, Peter is a Philosophia Christi contributor, a philosophy lecturer and a researcher particularly in the areas of intelligent design and natural theology work.

You can see more of Peter here at his author profile.

Also, we have posted three of his essays:

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