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“That which is untenable or beyond the limits of rationality. When associated with existentialism, the absurd refers to there being a lack of any meaning inherent within the real world or in our actions. It gained currency in popular culture via Samuel Beckett’s theatre of the absurd and works by Sartre and Camus. A phrase famously (and erroneously) attributed to Tertullian claimed that faith in an incarnate God was absurd: credo quia absurdum est—’I believe because it is absurd.’
“The actual quotation from Tertullian is: credibile est, quia ineptuin est—’It is credible because it is silly.’ (De carne Christi 5.4). Tertullian is sometimes taken to thereby valorize irrationality, but his thesis was instead that the truth of Christianity was absurd only in relation to Stoic, non-Christian philosophy. If Tertullian is correct, the tenability of Christianity is not contingent upon external, philosophical inspection.”
— A Dictionary of Philosophy of Religion, Charles Taliaferro and Elsa J. Marty, eds., 4.
The website for Christian philosopher James Spiegel’s newest book, The Making of an Atheist, is now up here. I had the pleasure of editing this volume and I believe it will be a helpful resource – and probably a source of some controversy. Part of Spiegel’s aim is to make the case that
atheistic rejection of God is precipitated by immoral indulgences, usually combined with some deep psychological disturbances, such as a broken relationship with one’s father. I also show how atheists suffer from what I call “paradigm-induced blindness,” as their worldview inhibits their ability to recognize the reality of God manifest in creation.
For those in the Reformed tradition – especially in terms of Reformed or presuppositional apologetics – this analysis will sound familiar. For those who adopt a more evidential-oriented apologetics, this viewpoint may feel foreign or uncomfortable. However, most of us who are steeped in the evidential tradition have probably not taken non-rational factors seriously enough in dealing with disbelief. I came away from the book much more convinced that the will and psychological dispositions play as important a role in choosing to believe or disbelieve as rational factors.
The book doesn’t officially release for a couple of more weeks, but I would be interested in hearing responses and reviews from those who read it.
I’ve written a guest post for the excellent blog of the Harvard Icthus Journal, the Fish Tank, on the renaissance in Christian philosophy over the past forty years. Please check it out and share your comments or questions there. Here’s the intro:
The last forty years have witnessed a renaissance in philosophy done by Christians and applied to important topics in theology and religion. One reason this is remarkable is that Christian philosophy of religion had nearly been vanquished in the decades between 1920 and 1960, due to the dominance in academic philosophy of the movement known as logical positivism.
This movement and its related “verification principle” insisted that only statements that were either true by definition (all bachelors are unmarried males) or empirically verifiable (helium is lighter than air) could be considered meaningful. This meant that theological beliefs like “God is love” or “Jesus is Lord” (which couldn’t be empirically verified) were literally without meaning—something akin to Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky.” Thus philosophical work on religious topics was marginalized and unable to gain a hearing in journals, books, or academic conferences. (continue)