Thursday 24 June 2004

Romantic polytheism or bust

Having pushed for the removal of religion from academic life for a long while, philosopher Richard Rorty has recently changed his mind. He now suggests that the religious instinct in human beings is likely to prove ineradicable and that what we ought to be striving for is 'a religion of democracy', or what he calls 'romantic polytheism'. Romantic because it honours the transcendental instincts we cannot shake; and polytheistic because it allows many spiritualities and religious practices to co-exist. However, Rorty still has a caveat. Those who wish to retain the religious label and still be intellectually acceptable will have to:

"...get along without personal immortality, providential interventions, the efficacy of sacraments, the Virgin Birth, the Risen Christ, the Covenant of Abraham, the authority of the Koran, and a lot of other things which many theists are loath to do without."

In yesterday's CASE symposium on the place of specific worldviews in the teaching and research life of a secular campus, Trevor Cairney and I suggested that a more radical pluralism would be far better, where those with such beliefs were still given room to operate within the academic context, but without the assumed naturalistic worldview. It seems to us imperious to suggest that such views could not be part of acceptable academic discourse.

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Wednesday 9 June 2004

The easiest problem in apologetics

Last week I told the diploma course in apologetics that we were looking at the hardest problem in the world—the question of why a good, powerful God would allow evil. This week, I announced, we would look at the easiest problem—the problem of who Jesus is. I consider it thus because I feel that the logical and philosophical problems surrounding Jesus—whether he lived, whether his claims about himself could be true, whether he could perform miracles, whether he could rise from the dead—do seem to be solvable in a way that the question of suffering just isn't. In fact, some of them seem to be straightforward historical issues: given the data we have, is it most reasonable to believe that Jesus was crucified in Palestine under the prefect Pontius Pilate? Yes, it is. Resurrection is harder, but even then, using the logic of history, one is led in the direction of a resurrecton event. Unless, like Spinoza and Hume, we rule it out beforehand.
The reason most people disagree on Jesus questions is that they haven't considered the evidence. Or they have made up their minds beforehand, without it.
William Lane Craig and Paul Barnett do a great job on the historical reasoning.
But what about The Jesus Seminar, Spong and others? I'll leave them for later.

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