Saturday, April 29, 2006

Are Women Reliable?

When we come to Luke 24 we find an interesting bit of insight into the historical veracity of the empty tomb account. Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and some other women present told the apostles of the things which they had just seen (i.e. the vacant tomb, the absent body, the two men, etc.). However, the apostles did not accept what they had to say concerning these things. But why not? Well, it seems that it is because the testimony of women was not held in high regard in their culture. Are there any extra-biblical sources that attest to this? Sooner let the words of the Law be burnt than delivered to women. (Talmud, Sotah 19a) The world cannot exist without males and without females-happy is he whose children are males, and woe to him whose children are females. (Talmud, Kiddushin 82b) But let not the testimony of women be admitted, on account of the levity and boldness of their sex, nor let servants be admitted to give testimony on account of the ignobility of their soul; since it is probable that they may not speak truth, either out of hope of gain, or fear of punishment. (Josephus, Antiquities 4.8.15) Any evidence which a woman [gives] is not valid (to offer), also they are not valid to offer. This is the equivalent to saying that one who is Rabbinically accounted a robber is qualified to give the same evidence as a woman. (Talmud, Rosh Hashannah 1.8) So Clint, what is the big point? Well, I am glad you asked! If the disciples were trying to create a resurrection account why would they use women as the primary witnesses? After all, women are the primary witnesses in all four gospels as opposed to men in only two gospels. Further, if legend creeps in over time, why was the text not redacted to show that men, a more reliable source, were in fact the first and primary witnesses to the empty tomb? Why even include the women at all? The scholar Gary Habermas found that about 75% of all critical and skeptical scholars accept the fact of the empty tomb (see The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus). However, there are those who refuse to let the evidence convince them. Their reasons? William Wand, former Oxford Church Historian addresses this matter in a concise manner stating that “all the strictly historical evidence we have is in favor of [the empty tomb], and those who reject it ought to recognize that they do so on some other ground than that of scientific history.”

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

N. T. Wright

For those of you who enjoy reading this old chaps works, you should check out his newest work Simply Christian. From what I have heard it is going to be the Mere Christianity of this generation.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Jon Kvanvig to Join Baylor Faculty

Thanks to Matt Mullins' post at Prosblogion it looks like Jonathan Kvanvig will be joining the philosophy department at Baylor University as a Distinguished Professor of Philosophy. I raise my glass.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Stupid Reasoning and Beckwith's Tenure Denial

MikeGene at Telic Thoughts has posted a response to one example of stupid reasoning regarding Beckwith's tenure denail. Update: scordova at Uncommon Descent has discovered MikeGene's post as well. See here. Update 2: MikeGene is all over it. See here.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

I Sometimes Wonder...

...Are the three major branches of Christianity--Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant--meant to tell us anything about the three divine Persons: the Father, the Son and the Spirit?

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Presentism and Truthmakers

According to Presentism, whatever exists, exists now, in the present. The past has flowed away and the future is yet to come. Only the present exits. But what of things like abstract objects? This view appears to rule out in one swift stroke, any view of abstract entities, for such things do not exists at times, present, past, or future. Many presentists would want qualify a bit. According to this qualified view, for any x, x exists if and only if x obtains in the present, and x is non-abstract. This way room is made for the existence of atemporal objects—objects like properties or numbers which exist but do not exist in the present since they do not exist at any time. But as attractive Presentism is, it faces a serious objection: How exactly are truths about the past grounded? This question of the grounding past truths is a consequence of the truthmaker thesis: TM: Every truth has a truthmaker—that in virtue of which a proposition or sentence is true. Traditionally, facts or states of affairs are taken to be the sort of things that qualify as truthmakers, so that for any true proposition P, there exists a corresponding fact or state of affairs S such that P if and only if S. But perhaps this definition is too strong. There are some truths, e.g. analytic ones, which seem to require no truthmakers. For example the proposition 1) All bachelors in are unmarried, is just true by definition. Similarly, contingent negative existential propositions like 2) Cerberus does not exist, are also thought to not require truthmakers since they do not posit the existence of anything and, so, do not require the existence of anything in order to be true. But save for the likes of 1) or 2), truthmakers are apparently needed for all other propositions. If it is true that I am now writing this post, then necessarily, it is the case that I am now writing this post. But what about the post I wrote last Saturday? What is it that grounds a proposition like: 3) Xavier wrote a post last Saturday. Given Presentism, apparently, nothing in the past could, since past events do not exist. Further, nothing in the present does either, for my typing last Saturday’s post occurred last Saturday. How then does Presentism account for the truth of something like 3)?

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

New Contributor

I'd like to hoist a pint in welcoming our newest contributor, Matt Woodard. Matt is currently completing his Master's in Theology, while (rightly) promoting disinterest in anything Duke related. His specializations and interests include Scriptural background studies, textual issues, historical Jesus, NT exegesis, theology and so forth. We're excited to have Matt as part of our team, and I trust you will not be disappointed by anything he writes.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Exposing a Presupposition

While engaged in a discussion of middle-knowledge with a dear friend recently, I noticed a presupposition. The objection was something in the neighborhood of this: "Middle-knowledge sounds nice philosophically, and has great theological potential if true, but, there's something I can't picture: When Paul was writing on election and predestination in Romans (for example), was he thinking 'middle-knowledge is how God effected this'? I think it was not." Here's the objector's presupposition: Scriptural authors completely understood, philosophically, how the truth of what the Holy Spirit told them works. This is, I think, something Christian's should not feel compelled to hold. I totally affirm that Paul, for example, understood that God predestines us-- but I don't affirm that he necessarily understood just how that works. Similarly, I doubt any of the authors of Scripture could philosophically explain the Trinity, though at least most of them would explicitly affirm it. Now, I've written this in a hurry, so my explanation has not been polished, but the point is clear, I think. Any thoughts?

Augustine and The Spirit as "Love"

I recently quoted Augustine in De Trinitate VIII at length where he sees in the very act of love, a trace of the Trinity itself. Augustine ponders on the Jesus’ words in Matt. 22:40. There, Christ tells us that the whole of the Law and the prophets can be summed up by loving God and loving your neighbor. Yet we are often instructed in Scripture to love God in one instance and to love our neighbor in another, but not both simultaneously. What then? Are the biblical writers contradicting what Christ has said? Not so, Augustine remarks. For God Himself is love (I John 4:7-8), and the man who loves his neighbor loves love itself (much as the man who loves good things loves the good itself), and thus the one who loves love actually loves God. In Augustine’s words: because God is love, the man who loves love certainly loves God; and the man who loves his brother must love love. So then this loving act of the mind itself is Trinitarian for there you have three equally necessary things in the act of loving—the one who is the lover, the one being loved, and the love itself. For the mind to love, it must love something, and for it to love something, it must love love. “There you are with three, the lover, what is being loved, and love.” Now Augustine does not immediately attempt to identify which member of the Godhead is the Lover, the Beloved, or the Loving. However, he will later return to this and give some hints of his insights. It seems clear that Augustine, while emphasizing the unity and equality of all three members of the Godhead, wants to carry on the tradition he inherited from the East of the Father being Fons Divinitas—or the “fountainhead of deity.” So then, the Father is the Lover. The Son is the Beloved as the Scriptures often presents Him, e.g. Eph. 1:6: which he freely bestowed upon us in the beloved one. The Spirit then is the Love, or the gift of mutual love that ties the both together. And the mutual love between the Father and the Son is actually a love of Love itself, and this Love is the Holy Spirit. (Parenthetically centuries later, Richard of St. Victor will elaborate even more holding that for mutual love to be perfect, there must be love shared with a third person. So then perfect love is not in the I-thou relationship but instead when there is a “co-beloved” as the Holy Spirit is to the Father and the Son. So the Trinity is a communion of love: The Father loves the Son and the Son loves the Father, but for either to love the other, each must love Love Itself, which is the Holy Spirit). Now Augustine’s analogy is just that. An analogy. And he himself after stating it, promptly sets it aside to find something better. But this analogy doesn’t sit well with many contemporary theologians. According to some of my professors, the doctrine of the Trinity is in dire straights in the West. The Holy Spirit, it is said, has been so depersonalized that He is hardly ever considered in Christian scholarship, and has nearly vanished into irrelevance in the religious life of believers. But what has brought this about? Why is the Holy Spirit so often depersonalized? Was it one of the ill effects of the Enlightenment? The net result of the “every man for himself” approach to Scripture interpretation practiced by Protestants? The work of the Enemy? Bad hermeneutics? The tendency among evangelicals to emphasize the work and person of Christ to the neglect of the other divine Persons? “Nay,” I was told. It was none of these things. Rather, the problem of depersonalizing the Spirit that is so prevalent in the West actually finds its root cause in that dreaded analogy of Love that Augustine propounded in De Trinitate VIII. And for a long time I parroted this notion. After all, in the analogy, the Father is personalized as a Lover. The Son, moreover, is personalized, being called “the Beloved One.” But the Spirit is referred to as the impersonal Love that is shared with the Father and the Son. This notion of the Spirit as an impersonal seems to be reflected in Western art where the Father and Son are often depicted in the form of persons, while the Spirit is depicted using impersonal objects like doves, and even inanimate entities like fire. What choice then, did Christians in the West have, but to think of the Holy Spirit as non-personal. I sometimes wonder whether these theologians are secretly suspicious of the biblical writers themselves, what with all those neuter names given to the Holy Spirit like רוּחַ and πνεύματος, “breath” or “wind” (well at least it’s neuter in Greek since Hebrew has only masculine and feminine). While the Father and Son are expressly objectified for us (the Father in His miraculous works, the Son in His incarnation), the Spirit is often elusive, frequently seen as an agent of power—the means by which the Father accomplishes great acts, or the saints endure suffering; He is experienced subjectively. Even more, we are regularly reminded in the Gospels that the Son came to do naught but to glorify the Father. We are also told that the Spirit comes to do naught but to glorify the Son. But nowhere are we told that the Father or the Son comes to glorify the Spirit. And why is it that the Spirit is so often imaged as non-personal objects? In the baptismal scene of Luke 3:21-22, the Son comes to the water as a man. The Father speaks with a voice from heaven, “You are my beloved Son…” But the Spirit comes as a mere dove. And again, when in Acts 2:1-4 the Spirit came upon the believers gathered at Pentecost, he did not come with a human-like voice from heaven as the Father does, nor was He incarnate as a man like the Son. Instead, He came as a wind and as tongues of fire. So do contemporary theologians fault the writers of Scripture for de-personalizing the Spirit too? It seems to me that there is a certain hiddeness to the Person of the Spirit and perhaps it is intended to be just so in the economic Trinity. It is this hiddeness, I think, that Augustine is trying to capture by giving the Spirit the name “Love” (he also uses “Gift”).

Friday, April 07, 2006

Ongoing at Culture Watch

There is a terrific exchange taking place at Doug Groothuis's blog, Culture Watch, in the comments of "Reporting on an Evening with Atheists." Up to 72 comments already, it is a lengthy but worthwhile read-- especially if you're interested in apologetics/phil of religion. Enjoy! UPDATE-- The discussion continues, though it is (as one may expect) fizzling out. It seems as though Luke (atheist) is running out of back-peddling room; Tim has quite capably defended his position. Still worth a read, the thread is far more interesting (in my opinion) early on.

A Kinder, Gentler [Gnostic] Judas

Just in time for easter, the National Geographic Channel is presenting a special program on the now widely publicized Gospel of Judas, Sunday April 9th. You can check out their site for a preview. Ben Whitheringon also has a post (and possibly more to come) on the matter.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Moreland's Substance Dualism Part II: An Argument from the Indexicality of Thoughts

We turn now to survey an argument offered by Moreland to support substance dualism. I have chosen this one from among his extensive arsenal simply because I find it interesting and compelling. Also known as the argument from the experience of first-person subjectivity, this line of reasoning seems true prima facie. It is based largely on a proper understanding of indexicals (expressions of a first-person point of view, e.g., I, here, now), but is helped considerably by first-person introspection. Before delving into the argument itself, a review of these concepts will no doubt prove helpful.

Introspection is nothing new. It is, in fact, the oldest research technique in psychology. There are various types of introspection, but we are interested only in its cognitive form. Introspection comes in two levels: (1) Simple, which refers to a direct report of sensations, feelings, and/or thoughts, and (2) reflective, which refers to one’s reactions (both cognitive and affective) to what one is experiencing and reporting. Hilary Kornblith has observed:

If we wish to know what is going on in someone else’s mind, we must observe their behaviour; on the basis of what we observe, we may sometimes reasonably draw a conclusion about the person’s mental state. Thus, for example, on seeing someone smile, we infer whether they are upset. But this is not, at least typically, the way in which we come to know our own mental states. We do not need to examine our own behaviour in order to know how we feel, what we believe, what we want and so on…. The term used to describe this special mode of access which we seem to have to our own mental states is ‘introspection.1

Thus, “you experience goings-on in the world, and, turning inward (“introspecting”), you experience your experiencing. 2 Though we are considering introspection only insofar as it may provide support for the argument from the indexicality of thoughts, it is worth noting that Moreland does base another argument on it alone.3

As indicated above, indexicals are basically expressions of a first-person point of view. These include such terms as I, here, now, there, then: Here and now refer to where and when I am; there and then are where and when I am not. ’I’ is the most basic indexical and refers to a self that is known by acquaintance with one's own consciousness in acts of self-awareness. ‘I’ am immediately aware of my own self and ‘I’ know who ‘I’ refers to when ‘I’ use it; it refers to an individual as the self-conscious self-reflexive owner of his own body and mental states.4

We take these words to be token-reflexive, that is, they systematically change their referents in a context-dependent way.5 For example, if two individuals simultaneously utter the phrase “I am here,” (which undoubtedly happens daily), are they each saying the exact same thing? Of course not; the statements are context-dependent. When person A says, “I am here,” she is referring to herself, as well as to a certain place. The same goes for person B. Even if they were arriving simultaneously at the same place, they would still not be saying the same thing: each phrase has a unique referent, namely, the speaker.

Subjective states of experience also exist. These experiences are such that I have a unique, first-person perspective of them; they are experiences of my “I” that cannot be reduced to third-person characterizations. This is often described by saying there is “something it is like” to having these experiences (e.g., what it is like to be me, what it is like for me to hear a bird singing), something, the content of which, cannot be captured without indexical language.

A completely physicalist description of the world would be one in which everything would be exhaustively describable from a third-person point of view in terms of objects, properties, processes, and their spatiotemporal locations.6 This points to the falsity of physicalism because “according to physicalism, there are no fundamentally basic or intrinsic (irreducible), privileged first-person perspectives.”7 Moreland approvingly quotes Thomas Nagel (a philosopher devoid of any religious tendencies) concerning this:

If physicalism is to be defended, the phenomenological features [the sounds, colors, smells, tastes of experience that make the experience what it is] must themselves be given a physical account. But when we examine their subjective character it seems that such a result is impossible.8

Thus, a formal argument may be formed:

(1) Statements using the first-person indexical ‘I’ express facts about persons that cannot be expressed in statements without the first-person indexical. (2) If I am a physical object, then all the facts about me can be expressed in statements without the first-person indexical. (3) Therefore, I am not a physical object. (4) I am either a physical object or an immaterial substance. (5) Therefore, I am an immaterial substance.9

1 “Introspection: Epistemology of,” in Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, vol. 4, ed. by Edward Craig (London: Routledge, 1998), emphasis mine.

2 John Heil, “Awareness,” in The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy 2nd ed., ed. Robert Audi (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1999).

3 The argument goes as follows (as in “The Soul and Life Everlasting: Introduction,” 434). (1)I am an unextended centre of consciousness (justified by introspection). (2) No physical object is an unextended centre of consciousness. (3)Therefore, I am not a physical object. (4)Either I am a physical object or an immaterial substance. (5)Therefore, I am an immaterial substance.

4 Moreland, “Body and Soul Part II: Why the Soul is Immaterial,” in Facts for Faith, no. 7, 2001, available online .

5 See Philosophical Foundations, 294.

6 “Body and Soul Part II: Why the Soul is Immaterial.”

7 “Physicalism, Naturalism and the Nature of Human Persons,” 233.

8 “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?” in his Mortal Questions (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press,1979), 167, quoted in Moreland, Scaling the Secular City, 86.

9 “The Soul and Life Everlasting: Introduction,” 436.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Simplicity and the Divine Persons

Although most christian thinkers today reject the doctrine of Divine Simplicity, the view was nearly universally held among the Patristic and Medeival theologians. I provide here a brief passage from Augustine's City of God XI. 10 where he (seemingly paranthetically, as it interrupts his discourse on angels) ponders on Simplicity and the Three Persons in God.

There is, accordingly, a good which is alone simple, and therefore alone unchangeable, and this is God. By this Good have all others been created, but not simple, and therefore not unchangeable. "Created," I say -- that is, made, not begotten. For that which is begotten of the simple Good is simple as itself, and the same as itself. These two we call the Father and the Son; and both together with the Holy Spirit are one God; and to this Spirit the epithet Holy is in Scripture, as it were, appropriated. And He is another than the Father and the Son, for He is neither the Father nor the Son. I say "another," not "another thing," because He is equally with them the simple Good, unchangeable and co-eternal. And this Trinity is one God; and none the less simple because a Trinity. For we do not say that the nature of the good is simple, because the Father alone possesses it, or the Son alone, or the Holy Ghost alone; nor do we say, with the Sabellian heretics, that it is only nominally a Trinity, and has no real distinction of persons; but we say it is simple, because it is what it has, with the exception of the relation of the persons to one another. For, in regard to this relation, it is true that the Father has a Son, and yet is not Himself the Son; and the Son has a Father, and is not Himself the Father. But, as regards Himself, irrespective of relation to the other, each is what He has; thus, He is in Himself living, for He has life, and is Himself the Life which He has. It is for this reason, then, that the nature of the Trinity is called simple, because it has not anything which it can lose, and because it is not one thing and its contents another, as a cup and the liquor, or a body and its color, or the air and the light or heat of it, or a mind and its wisdom. For none of these is what it has: the cup is not liquor, nor the body color, nor the air light and heat, nor the mind wisdom. And hence they can be deprived of what they have, and can be turned or changed into other qualities and states, so that the cup may be emptied of the liquid of which it is full, the body be discolored, the air darken, the mind grow silly...

According to this, then, those things which are essentially and truly divine are called simple, because in them quality and substance are identical, and because they are divine, or wise, or blessed in themselves, and without extraneous supplement. In Holy Scripture, it is true, the Spirit of wisdom is called "manifold" because it contains many things in it; but what it contains it also is, and it being one is all these things. For neither are there many wisdoms, but one, in which are untold and infinite treasures of things intellectual, wherein are all invisible and unchangeable reasons of things visible and changeable which were created by it. For God made nothing unwittingly; not even a human workman can be said to do so. But if He knew all that He made, He made only those things which He had known. Whence flows a very striking but true conclusion, that this world could not be known to us unless it existed, but could not have existed unless it had been known to God.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Augustine On the Trinitarian Analogy of Love

Now up till this point in De Trinitate VIII, he insists that God is nothing less than Truth itself and Goodness itself and that one can attain to the knowledge of God through understanding Truth and Goodness. But there is yet a more excellent way by which we might attain to the knowledge of God, and that is through Love. So while we would have innitially thought that Augustine would have found a Trinitarian analogy in Truth or Goodness, he does not . At least not directly. Rather, he finds it in Love which is a speicies of the Good. And Love, unlike Truth or Goodness, is not merely some abstract notion that the mind apprehends, but it is really an act that the mind performs. This in turn opens the doorway to his other trinitarian analogies.

But what is love or charity, which divine Scripture so greatly praises and proclaims, except the love of the good? But love is of some one that loves, and with love something is loved. Behold, then, there are three things: he that loves, and that which is loved, and love. What, then, is love, except a certain life which couples or seeks to couple together some two things, namely, him that loves, and that which is loved? And this is so even in outward and carnal loves. But that we may drink in something more pure and clear, let us tread down the flesh and ascend to the mind. What does the mind love in a friend except the mind? There, then, also are three things: he that loves, and that which is loved, and love. It remains to ascend also from hence, and to seek those things which are above, as far as is given to man. But here for a little while let our purpose rest, not that it may think itself to have found already what it seeks; but just as usually the place has first to be found where anything is to be sought, while the thing itself is not yet found, but we have only found already where to look for it; so let it suffice to have said thus much, that we may have, as it were, the hinge of some starting-point, whence to weave the rest of our discourse.

De Trinitate VIII. 10. 14

Saturday, April 01, 2006

An Indication of the Church’s State of Preparedness?

You’re all familiar, I’m sure, with Dan Brown’s recent novel The Da Vinci Code. The (well deserved) hype surrounding both the novel and movie virtually guarantee this. I, for one, am quite eager for the latter’s debut! But is the Church? Well, anyone with a taste for intrigue is ready, in the sense of eager, for it. But what about intellectually, that is, historically and doctrinally? Are Christians prepared intellectually? Let me explain what I’m getting at. Consider first what I’m not referring to: I don’t mean have our preachers put together a great sermon series, jumping to inform the churches concerning Brown’s story. I don’t mean have we all leapt to schedule the Darrell Bock’s, the Blomberg’s, and so forth (that is, the ‘experts’) to guest speak to our congregations. I don’t mean have we put copies of Breaking the Da Vinci Code on sale in our welcoming centers. By no means is this my inquiry. And for Pete’s sake, I don’t mean are we encouraging our flock’s to boycott the film! Now, please don’t misunderstand: I have tremendous respect for Darrell Bock et al. Moreover, I am pleased and thankful for their willingness to travel from church to church speaking (in this instance) on The Da Vinci Code. Goodness knows every church around Dallas (and I’m sure elsewhere) is scrambling (really, falling all over themselves) to schedule such speakers. But what I’m asking is this: Why? Why is this happening? Why do our ministers need to skip even a beat on behalf of this story? Why aren’t our flocks reading such stories and laughing (not because they think, for example, that the prospect of Jesus and Mary being married is funny, but rather because they already know that such notions are absurd—because they are intellectually prepared)? Is this instance any indication of the Church’s state of preparedness against such cultural phenomena? I don’t know; I don’t consider myself qualified to answer such questions. What I do know is this: there should be no need for last minute preparations for our churches concerning such things. I fully appreciate the vital role apologists, philosophers, historians, and theologians play in the Church. But is that role only to be called upon at the last minute? Of course not, yet it seems that is what has happened. Please, let’s take steps to correct this “scandal of (our) evangelical mind.”