As we approach Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I have been thinking about U2’s song Pride (In the Name of Love) (hereinafter, "Pride"). The song, of course, concerns MLKJr. (According to U2 Sermons, U2 formerly ran a video of MLKJr giving his “I have been to the mountaintop” speech during the playing of the song.) However, the lyrics of Pride are quite apparently not exclusively about MLKJr.
A couple of months ago, I wrote a post about the Gospel of Matthew’s account of the slaughter of the innocents. Therein, I argued that some of the skepticism about the account was unjustified. One argument I made was that the number of children killed in Bethlehem would likely have been no more than 20. Though obviously an act of great evil, the killing of 20 children would be much less likely to be noticed by historians of the time than the slaughter of thousands as later traditions speculated.
In response to the post, Peter Kirby asked a few questions. He has patiently waited my response, continuously delayed by work, family, and the completion of my Acts article. Two of the questions had to do with how the amount of 20 was determined. Others with the omission of the account by Luke and the reliability of the tradition recounted by Macrobius. Peter also mentioned that there were other reasons to doubt the story's historicity beyond just the silence of other sources. I h…
[Introductory note from Jason Pratt: the previous entry in this series of posts can be found here. The first entry can be found here.]
Having explained why, as a Christian, I do not hold to what many people (Christian and sceptic) have considered the 'party line' that reason and faith are mutually exclusive, I will now explore this issue from a deeper philosophical perspective.
A Christian (or other religious theist) who accepts a faith/reason disparity will usually do so for religious reasons. His argument that these two aspects must be mutually exclusive (or at least need not have anything to do with each other) will be grounded on positions and presumptions which usually proceed from a devout loyalty to God's status, or from authority of specifically religious leaders, or from the structure of religious ritual, or some combination thereof.
And a sceptic who accepts a faith/reason disparity might do so only because, as far as he can tell, his opposition has chosen that grou…
It is understandable that naturalistic thinkers are uneasy with the concept of miracles. So should we all be watchful not to believe too quickly because its easy to get caught up in private reasons and ignore reason itself. Thus has more than one intelligent person been taken by both scams and honest mistakes. By the the same token it is equally a danger that one will remain too long in the skeptical place and become overly committed to doubting everything. From that position the circular reasoning of the naturalist seems so reasonable. There’s never been any proof of miracles before so we can’t accept that there is any now. But that’s only because we keep making the same assumption and thus have always dismissed the evidence that was valid. At this point most atheists will interject the ECREE issue (or ECREP—extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, or “proof”). That would justify the notion of remaining skeptical about miracle evidence even when its good. The…
In his most recent Q&A, Dr. William Lane Craig stresses the importance of distinguishing between moral ontology (the objective status of moral facts or properties) and moral epistemology (how we come to know moral facts) when deploying the moral argument for the existence of God:
I’m convinced that keeping the distinction between moral epistemology and moral ontology clear is the most important task in formulating and defending a moral argument for God’s existence of the type I defend. A proponent of that argument will agree quite readily (and even insist) that we do not need to know or even believe that God exists in order to discern objective moral values or to recognize our moral duties. Affirming the ontological foundations of objective moral values and duties in God similarly says nothing about how we come to know those values and duties. The theist can be genuinely open to whatever epistemological theories his secular counterpart proposes for how we come to know objective va…
Lately, I have been listening to a series of lectures by Hubert Dreyfus, Ph.D., a Philosophy professor at U.C. Berekley, concerning the writings of Soren Kierkegaard. The lecture has been very interesting, and while I think that Professor Dreyfus has some questionable interpretations of the Bible, his discussions have given me a greater understanding of Kierkegaard's view of faith. Most importantly, it has helped me clarify in my own mind the use of the illustration of a Knight of Faith and the example of Abraham and Isaac.
The Two Knights of Kierkegaard
Kierkegaard, the great Danish philosopher of the 19th Century, can be considered the father of modern existentialism. In his work Fear and Trembling, he wrote about the difference between two types of people whom he called the Knight of Infinite Resignation and the Knight of Faith. In Fear and Trembling, , Kierkegaard identifies Abraham as a Knight of Faith. In his lectures, however, I get the sense that Professor Dreyfus, who I ac…
One of the most interesting passages in Mark’s Passion Narrative, from a historiographical perspective, is Mark 15:21:
A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country and they forced him to carry the cross. First let us compare the passage to its parallels in the Gospels of Luke and Matthew (it does not appear at all in the Gospel of John).
As they led him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming from the country, and they laid the cross on him, and made him carry it behind Jesus. Luke 23:26.
As they went out, they came upon a man from Cyrene named Simon; they compelled this man to carry his cross. Matt 27:32.
Matthew and Luke retain the reference to Simon as well as describe him as being from Cyrene, but drop the reference to Cyrene being “the father of Alexander and Rufus.”
It is notable that Mark identifies Simon by name. This is rare for Mark unless the author is referring to the disciples and some famil…
Scholars frequently pronounce the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist as one of the firmest historical facts about Jesus’ life. See, e.g., James D.G. Dunn, Jesus Remembered, Vol. I, pages 350 (“This is one of the most securely grounded facts in all the history of Jesus.”); Robert H. Stein, Mark, page 55 (“Jesus’s baptism by John is one of the most certain historical facts we possess concerning the life of Jesus.”). This post will focus on the account of Jesus’ baptism in Mark and a challenge to its historicity from Neil G. at Vridar. Here is the relevant passage.
John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea was going out to him, and all the people of Jerusalem; and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins. John was clothed with camel's hair and wore a leather belt around his waist, and his diet was locusts and wild honey.
Money-hungry televangelists taking advantage of the devotion of the poor? Pedophile priests taking advantage of the young? The apocalypse industry? Its syndication in the tabloids? Another big-name preacher succumbs to sexual temptation or to egotism? Christian factions involved in name-calling melee? In-house church politics alienating God-loving members?
Even if they sound familiar, I suspect that none of those will become the next big church scandal. I think there are two huge scandals that we do not see clearly enough. First, that we are not tending our own houses well enough to stop many of these others before they become scandals. We see them coming; where is our outcry? Second, we are not living lives of such active mercy and compassion as to completely dwarf the scandals in comparison.
Wait, but aren't there Christians living lives of mercy and compassion? Sure, and there many of them. Are they notable? Sure, all of them. I don…
The manger in which Jesus was laid has colored our imagery of Christmas. A manger, "[i]s a feeding-trough, crib, or open box in a stable designed to hold fodder for livestock.” Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary, page 674. Usually, we associate the manger with the animals in the story of Christmas or with Jesus’ perceived poverty. I have several nativity sets which include the manger, along with barn animals. Although I am a nativity set enthusiast, there is a much deeper meaning in the manger.
The manger is mentioned three times in Luke 2. Mary lays Jesus in the manger, the angels tell the shepherds that they will find the Savior by seeking the baby lying in a manger, and then the shepherds in fact find Jesus lying in a manger. Obviously, the repetitive references to the manger are indicative of its significance in Luke’s narrative. As Bible scholar N.T. Wright comments:
[I]t was the feeding-trough, appropriately enough, which was the sign to the shepherds. It told them whic…