Archive for the ‘philosophy’ Category

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“There are people alive today who may live to see the effective death of Christianity within our civilization.”

-Rod Dreher (The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation)

One commentator (highlighted below) states that The Benedict Option might be”The most important book for Christians in this decade.”

If the death of Christianity occurs in our civilization (and Dreher means in Europe and America) how is Christianity to respond?  Dreher’s Answer: The Benedict Option.

Rod Dreher, has just published his this much discussed strategy (up until March 20 in blog and article form primarily) in book form: The Benedict Option.  Subtitled “A Strategy for Christian in a Post-Christian Nation,” Dreher opens by reminiscing about his 2006 best seller Crunchy Cons which he advocated for “a countercultural, traditionalist conservative sensibility.” He brought up the moral philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre who had proclaimed that Western Civilization has “lost it moorings.”

His introduction recounts the steady decline of Christianity with references to failure of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Indiana followed by a similar failure in Arkansas in 2015.  Two months later the U. S. Supreme Court declared a constitutional right to same-sex marriage with an immediate push by activists and political allies for transgender rights: “Post-Obergefell, Christians who hold to the biblical teachings about sex and marriage have the same statue in culture, and increasingly in law, as racists.”

So begins Dreher in what is surely to be a much discussed and debated option amongst post-Christian traditionalists and doctrinally orthodox believers.

I have written The Benedict Option to wake up the church and to encourage it to act to strengthen itself, while there is still time.  If we want to survive, we have to return to the roots of our faith, both in thought and in practice.  We are going to have to learn habits of the heart forgotten by believers in the West.  We are going to have to change our lives, and our approach to life, in radical ways.  In short, we are going to have to be the church, without compromise, no matter what the cost.

Dreher provides and Benedict Option FAQ page over at the American Conservative

This sounds like a book that needs to be read.  Much reaction has already being buzzing on the internet, articles, and podcasts concerning Dreher’s book.  Below are just a few samples of this dialogue The Benedict Option:

Sparking Renewal: A Review of ‘The Benedict Option’ ” by Gerald Russello | Intercollegiate Review Spring 2017

Along the way, Dreher has carved out his own space against that toxic culture and has called that space and that which he saw others creating “the Benedict Option.” The name is an homage both to Pope Benedict Emeritus XVI and the famous closing sentence of Alasdair MacIntyre’s influential book After Virtue: “This time . . . the barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers; they have already been governing us for quite some time. And it is our lack of consciousness of this that constitutes part of our predicament. We are waiting not for a Godot, but for another—doubtless very different—St. Benedict.”

This is our cultural moment, despite who occupies the White House or Congress, and with his unerring cultural radar, Dreher has written the book for this new moment: a central point in The Benedict Option is “put not your trust in princes.” Culture is more important than politics, and the currents of modernity did not change on Election Day. And one thing conservatives, and especially Christian conservatives, should understand is that they have lost the culture war, and, indeed, it was their obsession with politics—and their assumption that the culture and major institutions such as big business would always support them—that partially caused that loss.

Exploring the Benedict Option” by John Stonestreet | Breakpoint

Stonestreet concludes his podcast that explores the Benedict Option by saying:

the controversial aspect of the Benedict Option is Dreher’s call for “a strategic withdrawal.” To many, understandably, this sounds way too much like post-Scopes fundamentalism that abandoned the public square to non-Christians.

Dreher insists that it doesn’t mean the same thing, and I hope not. Because escape is never an option for Christians. We should never retreat into our institutions because we’re seeking safety. We should, however, strengthen them out of loyalty to each other and to the true, the good and beautiful, preserving the best of Christian culture so that we can—at some point—gift it back to the world in acts of grace.

Now whether you agree or disagree with the Benedict option, I am thankful that Dreher’s book is igniting a long-overdue conversation about what it means to live in a post-Christian context.

The Constantine Strategy in the Benedict Option!” by John Mark Reynolds | Eidos March 12, 2017

John Mark Reynolds, president of The Saint Constantine School and senior fellow in the humanities at The King’s College, declares that The Benedict Option may be the most important book for Christians in this decade:

Until the muddle or the collapse of this version of America  is settled, the sensible person builds an alternative culture. Rod Dreher thinks we may be at one of those points in the West of the world and argues what needs to be done. Traditional Christianity is hard to live in a decadent America and harder still to live where Daesh is torturing Christians.

and in the list of top Christian thinkers in the post below Reynolds declares “The Benedict Option is not a way, but the only way forward for Christians who wish to be more than nominal in their faith.”

Top Christian Thinkers Reflect on the ‘Benedict Option’ ” by John Stonestreet | Breakpoint

Breakpoint hosts the thoughts of top Christian thinkers on Dreher’s book:

Rod Dreher’s “The Benedict Option” is one of the most anticipated and talked-about Christian books in recent memory. How do Christians carry on and live out the faith in this “new Dark Age,” as Dreher puts it? We’ve asked leading Christian writers and thinkers to share their thoughts on “The Benedict Option.”

Bruce Ashford, Joshua Chatraw, Greg Forster, Michael Francisco, Tom Gilson, Mollie Ziegler Hemingway, Peter Leithart, Gerald McDermott, Karen Swallow Prior, John Mark N. Reynolds, Roberto Rivera, John Stonestreet, Glenn Sunshine, Andrew Walker, and Trevin Wax.

The Benedict Option and the Way of Exchange” by Alan Jacobs | First Things March 20, 2017

It would be a mistake, as Alan Jacobs at First Things and distinguished professor of the humanities at Baylor University states, to assume that Dreher’s Benedict Option is pessimistic, despairing, or hopeless:

Therefore, to argue, as many have, that the argument Rod Dreher makes in The Benedict Option is despairing, and hopeless, and a failure to trust in the Lord Jesus, is a category error. It takes a set of sociological and historical judgments and treats them as though they were metaphysical assertions. Anyone in Roman Cappadocia who had said that the culture Basil and his colleagues had built was not bound to last until the Lord returns would not have been deficient in Christian hope. Rather, he or she would have been offering a useful reminder of the vagaries of history, to which even the most faithful Christians are subject. Dreher’s argument in The Benedict Option may be wrong, but if so, it is wrong historically and prudentially, not metaphysically.

“The Benedict Option or the Constantine Project?” (Two part series) by David Kern | Circe Institute

Part 1, Part 2

Kern, the director of our multimedia initiatives for the Circe Institute (an acronym for the Center for Independent Research on Classical Education), hosts a skype call between Rod Dreher and John Mark Reynolds.  While the title sets the two positions as opposed to each other, in reality the discussion results in a much agreed upon strategy between Dreher and Reynolds. It is a 2 parts series

Other Articles and Responses to the Benedict Option:

Rod Dreher’s Benedict Option: Why I Have Mixed Feelings” by Michael Brown | Christian Post March 18, 2017

If Politics Can’t Save Us, What Will?” by Collin Hanson | The Gospel Coalition March 13k 2017

Why We Need the Benedict Option and How It Doesn’t Have to Return to Fundamentalism” by Heather Walker Peterson | Patheos March 9, 2017

9 Most Intelligent Takes on Rod Dreher’s ‘The Benedict Option’ ” | Intercollegiate Review Spring 2017

I come across these “objections” repeatedly online, in conversation, in debates, talk shows, and the like.  These are such silly objections against the existence of God that it is ludicrous that an answer has to be brought up.  But, since they keep appearing and reappearing, they must be dealt with.  In the interest of being fair, as well as over compensating, I double with a list of four silly arguments Christians should avoid which are graciously provided by Dr. Douglas Groothius at the bottom of this post.

1. “Believing in God is like believing in a flying spaghetti monster”

This is a real objection one can find online, and it is as silly as it sounds.  There is even a church dedicated to this objection (more of a parody than to be taken seriously) which is also called Pastafarianism.  It is a common meme found online as is seen from the “inspirational” poster here.  It has even been manufactured for car decals.  The Flying Spaghetti monster argument is meant to parody belief in God by showing that since there is no evidence for a Flying Spaghetti monster, you shouldn’t believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster.  Likewise, since there is no evidence for a God, you shouldn’t believe in God.

Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason responds to this silly objecton:

Dr. William Lane Craig responds to this objection in his weekly Q&A:

“God and the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Q#33” Reasonable Faith. Dr. Craig concludes by:

The real lesson to be learned from the case of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is that it shows how completely out of touch our popular culture is with the great tradition of natural theology. One might as well be speaking a foreign language. That people could think that belief in God is anything like the groundless belief in a fantasy monster shows how utterly ignorant they are of the works of Anselm, Aquinas, Leibniz, Paley, Sorley, and a host of others, past and present. No doubt part of the fault lies with equally ignorant Christians who have no answer when called upon to give a reason for the hope within and who therefore give the impression of arbitrary and groundless belief. But it must also be attributed to poor education, intellectual laziness, and a lack of curiosity. Given the revival of natural theology in our day over the last half century, we have no excuse for such lame caricatures of theistic belief as belief in the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

The origins of the Flying Spaghetti Monster actually goes back to a response to Intelligent Design (ID) in 2005.  This following video provides the context as well as the Dr. Craig’s response to it as a critique to ID:

“5 Reasons The Flying Spaghetti Monster Parody Doesn’t Make Sense” by Richard Bushey | Therefore, God Exists, December 24, 2015 – A taste of this article:

In an attempt to mock and ridicule religion (as is the great commission of the atheist as prescribed by Richard Dawkins at last years’ Reason Rally), atheists will compare belief in God to something ridiculous, that anybody would regard as false, like Santa Claus, or the Tooth Fairy, or even what they call the Flying Spaghetti Monster. The Flying Spaghetti Monster came as a response to the advocacy of Intelligent Design being taught in schools. The very concept is as ridiculous as teaching students about the Flying Spaghetti Monster. However I think there are at least 5 reasons the Flying Spaghetti Monster parody doesn’t make sense.

“Conclusion: Why the ‘Flying Spaghetti Monster’ Doesn’t Fly”

  1. Sure, there is no evidence for a flying spaghetti monster, but there are plenty of arguments for the existence of God.  So this argument from a spaghetti monster does not counter any argument for God’s existence, because the spaghetti monster example is assuming that there are no arguments for God. Now, that doesn’t mean any of the arguments for God’s existence are good arguments, but that is what needs to be investigated.  Spaghetti monsters don’t provide evidence against God.
  2. The spaghetti monster is physical, temporal, and material and the concept of God is non-physical, eternal, and immaterial.  Since the spaghetti monster is a material object extended in space and time and can’t be the cause of space, time, matter, and energy.
2.We are all atheists about most of the gods that societies have ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further.

Richard Gervais, the comedian (who is “obviously” an authority in philosophy and religion [please read that with sarcasm]) recently proposed the “one god further” objection with Stephen Colbert (relevant information at 2:20):

This quote apparently originated with Stephen F. Roberts in 1995.  Common Sense Atheism also has utilized this argument:

What I mean is that if you apply the same reasoning to your god as you do to every other god (your “common” sense) then you’ll see that your god doesn’t exist, either.

In short, this argument states that the only difference between a Christian and an atheist is that the atheist is just like the Christian theist, but they just believe in one less god than the Christian.  So Christians are atheists when it comes to the belief in Baal to Zeus, so they are just as atheistic as the full atheists. Bill Vallicella of Maverick Philosopher summaries the argument:

The idea, I take it, is that all gods are on a par, and so, given that everyone is an atheist with respect to some gods, one may as well make a clean sweep and be an atheist with respect to all gods. You don’t believe in Zeus or in a celestial teapot. Then why do you believe in the God of Isaac, Abraham, and Jacob?

one-god-futherRationalWiki even has a list of gods that Christian don’t believe in from Aabit to Zurvan for a total of 1,637 deities that Christians are atheistic towards.  This is suppose lead to the conclusion that the God of Christianity doesn’t exist either.  I am not sure how it does this, but that is the claim.  This is just a non sequitur.  Richard Dawkins has used this argument in The God Delusion:

None of us feels an obligation to disprove any of the millions of far-fetched things that a fertile or facetious imagination might dream up. I have found it an amusing strategy, when asked whether I am an atheist, to point out that the questioner is also an atheist when considering Zeus, Apollo, Amon Ra, Mithras, Baal, Thor, Wotan, the Golden Calf and the Flying Spaghetti Monster. I just go one god further.

Here are some responses to this objection:

Ricky Gervais Makes the Usual Atheist Mistakes” by Tom Gilson | Thinking Christian Feb 17, 2017. Tom Gilson answers almost all of Ricky Gervais points in the Colbert clip, but answers the one god objection under the heading of “The Arithmetical Argument.”

Brett Kunkl of Stand to Reason posted this entertaining video answering this silly objection:

Debunking the One God Further Objection ” by Edward Feser | Strange Notions.

Here is a quick video of Dr. Craig’s response to the “we are all atheists” objection:

Why the ‘I Just Believe in One Less God Than You’ Argument Does Not Work” by Michael Patton | Credo House April 13, 2011 – Michael Patton differentiates the important distinction between belief in other gods and the belief in the Christian God.

On the Statement That ‘We Are All Atheists’ ” by J. W. Wartick | Always Have a Reason April  4, 2011. – Wartick examines three problems with the statement “we are all atheists to other religions, we [atheists] just take it one step further.”  The problems are:

1) The statement is false

2) The statement is irrational

3) The statement–as with many false or irrational statements–proves too much (or too little).

“Conclusion: Why the ‘One God Further’ Objection Doesn’t Add Up”

  1. If one takes the argument to mean we are all atheists to multiple gods, but the skeptic is just an atheist of one more god, then the argument just confuses what is means to be an atheist.  The Christian theist (or Muslim or Jew) are NOT atheists.  Atheism is the believe that God doesn’t exist.  Theists (whether Christian, Islamic, or Jewish) or not atheists at all.
  2. This claim that it is irrational to believe in Odin, Thor, Zeus, Baal, etc. is irrational, thus belief in theism is irrational fails to grapple with the arguments for theism.  It is just an attempt to avoid the work of looking at arguments for (or against) God.

As this last point points out, both objections are just attempts to avoid looking at arguments for God’s existence, which there are plenty (kalam cosmological argument, moral argument, teleological argument, ontological argument, contingency argument, and dozens of others).  Both of these objections against theism have run their course and (unfortunately) will pop back up here and there because of the internet, but please, lets put these to rest.

______________________________

Arguments to Avoid in Defending Christianity” by Douglas Groothuis.  Dr. Groothuis calls each argument a non-starter:

Nonstarter #1: Since we do not know everything, no one can disprove the existence of God. God might be somewhere outside of our knowledge. Moreover, if we knew everything—which is the only way to disprove God—we would end up being God ourselves and, thus, atheism would be false!

Nonstarter #2 People do not die for a lie. But the apostles died for their belief in the resurrection of Jesus, so they must have died for the truth.

Nonstarter #3: Evolution (meaning Darwinism) cannot be proven because it is not scientific. Science demands repeatable and empirical observation: things that can be observed through a microscope or a telescope or chemical reactions in a test tube. Therefore, evolution is unscientific and has no final claim on reality.

Nonstarter #4: You cannot argue with a changed life. A Christian’s testimony is the most powerful and irrefutable apologetic. (Some say it is the only apologetic needed.)

Grootuis is author of Christian Apologetics, Truth Decay, On Jesus, Philosophy in Seven Sentences, and others. Professor of Philosophy, Denver Seminary since 1993. Head of The Apologetics and Ethics Masters Degree Program and Co-Director of The Gordon Lewis Center for Christian Thought and Culture.

Ken Samples Christians 101 with Mortimer Adler who wrote How To Read a Book.

Reflections

adler3

“It is man’s glory to be the only intellectual animal on earth. That imposes upon human beings the moral obligation to lead intellectual lives.”1 –Mortimer J. Adler

Mortimer Adler was one of the most influential philosophers and educators of the 20th century, but what exactly did he believe and what did he contribute to his fields of study? Here’s your crash course on the life and accomplishments of Mortimer Jerome Adler—and why he still matters today.

Who Was Mortimer Adler?

Mortimer J. Adler (1902–2001) was born in New York City to nonobservant Jewish immigrants. He studied at Columbia University and went on to serve as a distinguished philosopher, educator, editor, and advocate of the Great Books program. He chaired the board of editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica and was the editor of the Great Books of the Western World. He also worked as the director of the Institute for…

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