Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Pseudo-Outsider Test

But it applies more forcefully to religious faiths, that's why it's called what it is. Why? Because religious believers do not dispassionately evaluate their faith. Why? Because they have such a vested personal interest in defending what they believe. Why? Because they assume what needs to be proved. Why? Because they do not have any good evidence for them. Why? Because they amass many possible arguments together in a pile then conclude they have a probable case, which is a huge non-sequitur.

Needless to say, that caricature reflects the extrinsic perspective of a hostile outsider. Loftus is judging "religion" (or Christianity) by the insider standards of a militant atheist. What a lark!

Liberty U

Some Christians have been confused by Liberty University’s token disciplinary action in the Caner affair. If he was guilty of rampant resume inflation, why not just fire him?

However, one of my moles in the office of Provost explained to me that Liberty U has a graded penalty scale for different types of official misconduct, depending on the gravity of the offense. Here’s the breakdown (in ascending order of severity).

i) Resume inflation:

Demotion from deanship to full professorship.

ii) Grand theft auto:

Demotion from full professorship to associate professorship.

iii) Bank robbery:

Demotion from associate professorship to assistant professorship.

iv) Arson:

Demotion from assistant professorship to adjunct professorship.

v) Conversion to Calvinism:


Phineas Gage

In particular, [Marilynne] Robinson says, these "parascientists" [e.g. E.O. Wilson, Steven Pinker, Richard Dawkins, and Daniel Dennett] deliberately slight "the wealth of insight into human nature that might come from attending to the record humankind has left." At the very least, "an honest inquirer" into the nature of religion "might spend an afternoon listening to Bach or Palestrina, reading Sophocles or the Book of Job." We are not, she maintains, simply the instrument of selfish genes. Indeed, she suspects that the "modern malaise," our sense of emptiness and alienation, can be attributed not to the "death of God" but rather to the widely promulgated, and reductionist, view of the self as wholly biological.

Robinson assails Wilson and company most powerfully by accusing them of faulty, narrow-minded thinking. Take their frequent use of the story of Phineas Gage, the railway worker famous for surviving an accident in which a large iron rod was driven through his skull. Afterwards, according to contemporary accounts, his behavior changed dramatically and he was "fitful, irreverent, and grossly profane." For the parascientists, this proves that personality and character "are localized in a specific region of the brain [e.g. cerebral cortex]," a fact, adds Robinson, "that, by their lights, somehow compromises the idea of individual character and undermines the notion that our amiable traits are intrinsic to our nature."

But Robinson asks us to actually think about Phineas Gage. How would you feel and react if you had had your upper jaw shattered, lost an eye and suffered severe disfigurement? Gage "was twenty-five at the time of the accident. Did he have dependents? Did he have hopes? These questions seem to me of more than novelistic interest in understanding the rage and confusion that emerged in him as he recovered." In the parascientific writings about Gage, she asserts, "there is no sense at all that he was a human being who thought and felt, a man with a singular and terrible fate." In essence, these scholars "participate in the absence of compassionate imagination, of benevolence, that they posit for their kind."

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

John's Genre

Chris Price is writing a series of posts about the genre of the gospel of John: part 1 and part 2.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Legomena & antilegomena

“There is a great deal that we do not yet know about the reception history of Old Testament pseudepigrapha and the uses to which they were put in their Christian contexts of transmission. Probably most Christians who have valued such works in some way have not regarded them in the same way as they did the canonical Scriptures of the Old Testament (though a few pseudepigrapha have been reckoned canonical in some Christian traditions, such as the Ethiopian). This is clear enough from the fact that the texts were not preserved with the care accorded to Scripture, but were frequently abbreviated, interpolated, extended and redacted in various ways. This means that Christian readers of these works could have been interested in them without approving or agreeing with everything in them. In many cases it may be that the stories rather than the teaching were what attracted them. This would have been true at a popular level, but we should also not forget that from as early as Julius Africanus in the third century there were Christian scholars with antiquarian interests, especially in the kind of ancient history about which such works as Jubilees and the Enoch literature could inform them. Much material from Old Testament pseudepigrapha has been preserved in the works of the later Christian chronographers such as George Syncellus and Jacob of Edessa. Modern scholars tend to be interested in the teaching or the message of a work, but this is not necessarily what interested Christian readers or even what they noticed. They preserved these works for all sorts of reasons which may not correspond at all well to the purposes for which the works were written,” R. Bauckham, “The Continuing Quest for the Provenance of Old Testament Pseudepigrapha,” The Jewish World Around the New Testament (Baker 2010), 479-80.

Sharia in Dearborn, MI 2010 - Part II

American Christians: Pay attention to what is happening in YOUR country. Please note that dhimmitude is taking place in Dearborn, MI in 2010, only 9 years after one of our major metropolitan cities was terrorized by jihadists and thousands of American were brutally killed. If you can't see what's going on, you are blinded to the truth!

HT: Alpha and Omega Ministries and Answering Muslims