The Missing Links – Sept. 9, 2011

Peter Adamson, Professor of Ancient and Medieval Philosophy at King’s College London, takes listeners through the history of Western philosophy, “without any gaps.” Beginning with the earliest ancient thinkers, the series will look at the ideas and lives of the major philosophers (eventually covering in detail such giants as Plato, Aristotle, Avicenna, Aquinas, Descartes, and Kant) as well as the lesser-known figures of the tradition.

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The purpose of this site is to set [the] contemporary ‘God Wars’ in their historical context, and to offer a range of perspectives (from all sides) on the chief issues raised by the ‘new atheists’. We hope this will encourage more informed opinion about the issues, discourage oversimplification of the debate, and deepen the interest in the subject.

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Edgar Andrews answers this question in an article written for the Christian Apologetics Alliance.

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New and Forthcoming Books (August 2011)

Since books are part of the life-blood of apologists and philosophers, I wanted to highlight a few new and upcoming ones here.  This isn’t a comprehensive list by any means, but hopefully it will alert you to some new titles you may want to add to your library or wish list.  I’ll try to post similar lists on a regular basis. 

* Evidence and Religious Belief – Edited by Kelly James Clark and Raymond J. VanArragon. Oxford University Press. July 2011.

  • Brand-new work in the hot topic of philosophy of religion
  • Features essays by leading scholars in the field
  • Addresses the crucial question of the role of evidence in religious belief
  • Explores a range of contemporary arguments that push the debate in new directions
  • Will interest theologians as well as philosophers

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* Thomas Aquinas on God and EvilBrian Davies. Oxford University Press.  August 2011.

“Brian Davies offers the first in-depth study of Saint Thomas Aquinas’s thoughts on God and evil, revealing that Aquinas’s thinking about God and evil can be traced through his metaphysical philosophy, his thoughts on God and creation, and his writings about Christian revelation and the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation.”

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* Destiny and Deliberation: Essays in Philosophical TheologyJonathan Kvanvig. Oxford University Press. December 2011.

“Jonathan Kvanvig presents a compelling new work in philosophical theology on the universe, creation, and the afterlife. Organized thematically by the endpoints of time, the volume begins by addressing eschatological matters–the doctrines of heaven and hell–and ends with an account of divine deliberation and creation. Kvanvig develops a coherent theistic outlook which reconciles a traditional, high conception of deity, with full providential control over all aspects of creation, with a conception of human beings as free and morally responsible. The resulting position and defense is labeled ‘Philosophical Arminianism,’ and deserves attention in a broad range of religious traditions.”

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Book Review – Healing for a Broken World

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  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Crossway Books
  • Amazon
  • DVD & Study Guide
  • Much is being written these days on the relationship between Christianity and politics, especially in the light of the decline of the religious right. The more enlightened of these articles and books avoid simply defending either the Republican or Democrat party line, but instead seek to apply biblical principles to public policy and civil society. One recent book that does this well is Steve Monsma’s Healing for a Broken World: Christian Perspectives on Public Policy. Monsma is a former state senator, emeritus professor of political science at Pepperdine, and currently senior research fellow at the Henry Institute for the Study of Christianity and Politics at Calvin College.

    The book is divided into two parts. Part one sets out four principles from Scripture that Monsma believes are the most relevant for thinking about public policy. These principles are creation, sin, and redemption; justice; solidarity; and civil society. The first principle is drawn from the early chapters of Genesis and portrays the nature of our world and the human condition: God instructed human beings to multiply and subdue the earth (the cultural mandate). But man fell, and God is now in the process of redeeming humanity, as well as every aspect of His creation. (I appreciate this reformed approach to redemption, which includes all of creation, and doesn’t focus solely on human souls—important as that is.)

    The second principle (justice) indicates that “God has instituted governing authorities and their public policies to work against evil and to promote justice in society” (p. 49). The third principle is solidarity, which is the obligation God has given every person to love their neighbor as themselves (Matt. 22:37-40; Rom. 13:8). The final principle draws on Abraham Kuyper’s idea of “sphere sovereignty,” which holds that God has established several domains of human society, each of which is authoritative in its own realm. Chief among these domains are the government, the family, and the church. Since each sphere possesses its own authority, it is wrong for any one sphere to usurp the authority of another—for example, for the government to usurp the authority of the family, or the church to usurp the authority of the government. These four principles, Monsma contends, are those that should guide a Christian approach to public policy.

    Part two seeks to apply these four principles to several pressing issues in our world today, including church and state, life, poverty, the environment, human rights, the needs of Africa, and war and terrorism. On the issue of abortion, for example, Monsma points out that justice requires that human life, which is made in God’s image, should be protected by law. At the same time, Christians and others in our society should stand in solidarity with pregnant women facing difficult circumstances and seek to help and support them. In terms of civil society/sphere sovereignty, private organizations are typically better equipped to offer emotional and spiritual support, while government agencies are often better placed to provide monetary assistance, housing, and job training (though there may be exceptions where organizations can also contribute to these).

    Yet challenges and gray areas remain. To what extent should a society attempt to restrict abortion? Should exceptions be made for the health of the mother, in cases of rape and incest, or when the fetus is severely deformed? Are conservatives willing to support assistance programs for low-income families that will discourage women from having abortions? Are liberals willing to extend their concern for children to the womb?

    Monsma frequently raises difficult issues such as these in each of the chapters in part two, which I appreciate about the book. I believe his four biblical principles are compelling and important, though others, no doubt, could be added. He does a good job of consistently applying these criteria to the problems he addresses, while also highlighting some of the ambiguities that arise in trying to construct a consistent Christian public policy.  At some points I felt that references to relevant political philosophy would have made for a richer discussion (for example, in defining terms like “justice”), but Monsma was keen to keep the discussion concrete and practical (p. 50).

    The relationship between Christianity and government is a difficult and complex topic, and there are no easy answers. But the principles Monsma suggests are indispensable to the discussion, and deeply rooted in Scripture and Christian tradition.   Anyone interested in the intersection of Christianity and politics will find this book helpful, especially since the author has wrestled with many of these issues firsthand.

    — Reviewed by Chris Reese

    * Thanks to Crossway for providing a review copy.

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    Review of The Bible Among the Myths

    Christians in Context reviews John Oswalt’s book The Bible Among the Myths.

    Old Testament Israelite religion, as all fair-minded, non-fundies know, was just another ancient near eastern Semitic religion. Don’t let the fact that it caught on and stuck around fool you: OT Israel borrowed her creation myth, her ritual system, her tripartite temples, and even some of her Scriptures themselves from Egypt and Canaan. This silly idea of a uniquely revealed religion is for those folks who have naively left their brains back in the days before we did real science and history. Biblical religion is myth, just like the rest of ’em.

    So says most of the scholarship on the OT and the Ancient Near Eastern world from the last fifty or so years. Which makes John Oswalt wonder: since for a long time even liberal scholars agreed that Israelite religion was mostly unique (even if it was wrong about God and the world), why this recent shift? And more importantly, is this newer wave of scholarly consensus correct? Does or does not the Bible present a religion that is essentially similar to or different than other ANE religions? (Continue)

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