I believe you have a mind of your own. I believe a bottle of water can only spinning in one direction at any give time. I believe a bottle of water cannot be full and empty at the same time. I believe that an unsupported bottle of water falls. These beliefs I hold implicitly without cognitive reflection. These beliefs spontaneously develop without special cultural indoctrination. They are maturational natural1 beliefs. Are universal religious2 ideas also maturational natural beliefs?
Preponderance of scientific evidence emerging from cognitive science of religion suggests our answer to this question is yes. Beliefs about the nature and existence of God(s), dualism, afterlife, moral realism &c., are not explicitly cultural indoctrinated ideas. They are intuitive innate implicit beliefs (Bering 2006). Jesse Bering, representing many cognitive scientists, argued that “belief is a ‘cognitive default’ and that, all else being equal, in any given cultural context religious beliefs are driven into expression by a universal, evolved, core set of psychological intuitions present in all normal human brains”(Bering 2010: 167)
Our cognitive faculties have naturally evolved to hold particular mental predispositions. We enter our first day of life with a natural implanted universal cognitive, motivation and perceptual biases. These biases predispose us to foster native instinctive and implicit beliefs of supernatural3. These biases, thus, aid us to effortlessly hold supernatural beliefs. Continue reading
We often and unconsciously read our contemporary understanding of words and ideas into the Pentateuch. Who is to blame? The past is a foreign territory. Ancient Near Eastern cognitive environment of the patriarchal period overwhelmingly finds its location outside our contemporary mindset.
Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch (2002), edited by T. Desmond Alexander and David W. Baker, provides immensely wealth of information in form of comprehensively finely written articles to familiarize us with this foreign territory. This dictionary creates a solid bridge between our modern worldview and that of the patriarchal period of ancient Near Eastern. It assembled leading Old Testament scholars, such as Peter Enns, Richard S. Hess, John H. Walton, John E. Hartley and Victor H. Matthews, just to mention the few, whose articles drag the past into the present. This dictionary will help you start reading the Pentateuch for what its worth.
This monumental work plays well as a referential tool to biblical scholars, graduates, clergy and laypersons who are interested in understanding Old Testament’s literature and form criticism, background information, archaeology, ancient Near Eastern worldviews, and so on, mostly in relationship to the first five books. Like any dictionary, this resource is not meant to be read from cover to cover. It’s meant to be used as a referential goldmine to guide you into the unfamiliar territories of the Pentateuch.
Few of my personal favorite articles are E. C. Lucas’ Cosmology and J. H. Walton’s Creation. These two articles helped me comprehend the cognitive understanding of ancient Near Eastern cosmogony. Swimming in our contemporary salty and bloody waters of confusing ideas concerning the opening chapters of Genesis, exploring how ancient Near Eastern Jews would have understood the creation story of Genesis 1-3 is quite refreshing. Continue reading
In the currently raging debate on homosexuality, there is a lot of spilled ink and emotional strife from multiple sides of the fence that are engaging these important issues. I say “multiple” because I do not think the issue is reducible to merely the Left and the Right, the Revisionists and the Progressives, or what have you. Quite frankly, the Right is disagreeing with the Right and the Left is disagreeing with the Left. As notable journalist Andrew Sullivan (himself a homosexual) wrote, “There are as many politics of homosexuality as there words for it, and not all of them contain reason” (Sullivan 19). In this article I simply wish to address only two key positions on this debate that are very particular with respect to their sociological as well as philosophical approach (among other elements).
On the one hand, you have what has been called the “personalist” position (or conjugal view); containing its most famed formulation in Karol Wojtyla’s Love and Responsibility which argues for a personalistic defense of traditional norms and draws upon the moral philosophical/theological thought of Thomas Aquinas (1224/5-1274). As Alexander Pruss has written, “A dominant methodological approach has been to distance oneself from biological considerations, such as those connected with reproduction, and to focus on us as persons instead, looking at the interaction between our subjectivity and our sexuality, and focusing on human dignity and not to trample on the autonomy of others” (Pruss 2). This is largely the approach of Wojtyla, and I offer a brief defense of this view in my article Marriage: A Personalist Defense over at Hellenistic Christendom.
On the other hand, you have what has been called the “revisionist” position, which in my opinion has its best defense in philosopher John Corvino’s essay in Debating Same-Sex Marriage. According to Robert P. George’s essay with Ryan Anderson and Sherif Girgis, the revisionist view can be defined as follows:
Marriage is the union of two people (whether of the same sex or of opposite sexes) who commit to romantically loving and caring for each other and to sharing the burdens and benefits of domestic life. It is essentially a union of hearts and minds, enhanced by whatever forms of sexual intimacy both partner find agreeable. The state should recognize and regulate marriage because it has an interest in stable romantic partnerships and in the concrete needs of spouses and any children they may choose to rear (George, Anderson, Girgis 2010: 246). Continue reading
I am so good at being so wrong. For a long period of time, I was not persuaded by the argument from innate desire for the existence of the transcend beings. Even though I deserted atheistic worldview 6 years ago, I am incapable of completely breaking free from the philosophical ghosts of my past. The shekels empiricism and positivism are still strongly intervened in my Christian worldview.
David Hume, whose philosophy I strongly followed, captured how I went about evaluating whether a particular argument was persuasive when he wrote,
When we run over libraries, persuaded of these principles, what havoc must we make? If we take in our hand any volume, of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, “Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number?” No. “Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence?” No. Commit it then to the flames. For it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion” (Hume 2000: 123)
I committed the arguments from desire to the flames. In Mere Christianity and The Weight of Glory, C. S. Lewis presented one of the versions of this argument that I rejected. Lewis contended that creatures possess innate desires that correspond to their satisfaction. Creatures possess some of innate desires that finds none of their satisfaction in this world. Therefore, it is probable that there is another world beyond this world. He argued, Continue reading
Imagine for a second that there is no God. Imagine God is dead. What would we expect our world to look like if God did not exist? Based on this idea a brilliant, young Irish economist by the name of Robert Nielsen has presented an interesting, but ultimately unpersuasive case in his article World Without God. Nielsen states that this argument in the foundation for his atheism. I hope to test his case below:
I could say many things about Nielsen’s article, but I would like to focus exclusively on his main argument which is as follows¹:
1. a. If God existed & control the world, then our world would exhibit features A.
b. If God existed & control the world, then our world would not exhibit features B.
2. a. Our world does not exhibit features A.
b. Our world does exhibit features B
Nielsen defends premises 1 and 2 as follows: If God controls our world then we would expect our world to exhibit certain features A. These features include those of a perfect world. He argues, “its fair to assume that it would be perfect (assuming God can do anything and loves us).” A perfect world is that without hunger, without fear, without diseases or disasters. In short it would be the world without pain and suffering. This is not enough for Nielsen. God must also be self-evident, not hidden from His creatures, thus creating no possibility of religious confusion. Our world needs to be a paradise, or something close. Continue reading
Pope Hadrian of Rome & Augustinian Predestination Soteriology
During the reign of Pope Hadrian of Rome (772-795) the Church in Spain was going through internal and extremely fascinating controversies. One of the controversies concentrated on what was the proper way of understanding God’s divine choice and predestination. Two major traditions crossed swords. Those who held the Augustinian predestination soteriology led by Elipandus of Toledo and those who rejected it led by Migetius. The clanks and clangs of their swords reached Pope Hadrian of Rome.
In a nutshell Augustinian predestination soteriology stressed the sovereignty of God in electing in Christ Jesus some fallen humans who are in bondage of sin (Jn. 8:34) and hostile towards God (Ro. 8:7) to receive his mercy and compassion while passing over other equally fallen humans to receive his righteous justice (Ro. 9-11). Those whom God the Father elected are given to His Son and they are kept to the end of time (Jn. 6) We, the Church, choose Christ because He chose us first (Jn. 15:16, Acts 13:48, Eph. 1:3-11). Faith is thus not the cause of our election but its effect (Jn. 10:26-28). Augustine expounded:
Let us, then, understand the calling by which they become the chosen, not those who are chosen because they believed, but those who are chosen in order that they may believe. ‘You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you’ (Jn. 15:16). For, if they were chosen because they believed, they would, of course, have first chosen Him by believing in Him in order that they might merit to be chosen.(PS 17.34)
Elsewhere Augustine wrote: Continue reading
It is Saturday 6th of July 1415. Today, the goose is going to be cooked. John Hus. He is the follower of John Wycliffe and has been advancing his heretical ideas. The Church is at its flimsiest time. The previous years saw the Great Schism of the papacy. It was the years that saw two popes claiming to be the true Vicar of Christ. Urban reigning from Rome and Clement from Avignon.
The Council of Pisa (1409), which was set to resolve this matter, added more problems. They denounced both popes and appointed yet another, Alexander V. Urban and Clement did not recognised Pisa’s authority, thus did not let go of the chair of St. Peter. Alexander V, thus, joined the two. Now, we did not only have two but three popes at the same time. This was the great wall of shame in our Catholic Church history.
Reformers were no better. They were not saints neither. They had greater walls of shame. A century after the goose was cooked, burned at the stalk, a swan nailed 95 Theses of Contention at church of Wittenberg. Using the Swan’s own words:
“St. John Huss prophesied of me [Martin Luther] when he wrote from his prison in Bohemia, “They will roast a goose now (for ‘Huss’ means ‘a goose’), but after a hundred years they will hear a swan sing, and him they will endure.” And that is the way it will be, if God wills.”(LW 34.104)
Luther’s Wall of Shame: His Odium Theologicum Against Jews Continue reading