Posted tagged ‘Religion’

An Inkling of Transcendence: Lewis and Tolkien

October 8, 2017

Despoitphotos Image ID: 121201272 Copyright: chrisdorney

“[His] father had taught him to absorb doubt and disbelief into his beliefs.”

This statement from the book, Inklings, by Humphrey Carpenter, is spoken of Charles Williams, who was a regular participant in the informal discussion group, the Inklings, formed by CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien at the University of Oxford, England. The group met at various time in Lewis’s classroom and a local pub from the late 1930’s to late 1949. Charles Williams was an early member of the group and continued as a regular until his death in 1945. Williams grew up “a devout churchman” but was encouraged by his father “to appreciate the force of atheistic rationalism and to admire such men as Voltaire and Tom Paine”.

Lewis, of course, was an atheist when he began teaching at Oxford. His journey from a naturalistic worldview to agnosticism to Christian theism is chronicled in his autobiographical work, Surprised by Joy. Tolkien was already a Christian when Lewis joined him as a professor at Oxford, and Tolkien influenced Lewis in his transition to Christianity. Williams came along later. These men were attracted to each other as much by their love of language, literature and poetry as their faith, and their views on literature and faith often diverged sharply.

These three men, and others who joined them, were a powerhouse of thought and creativity. CS Lewis, of course, wrote many books from fiction to philosophy. JRR Tolkien wrote, perhaps, the greatest mythological series of the 20th century in the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Charles Williams, though lesser known, was a prolific writer, literary critic, publisher and student of English literature who could recite hundreds of passages from sheer memory.

They influenced each other, despite their very distinct differences, and their collective influence has been felt by generations from their day to ours. They were Christian men, believing very authentically in the Bible as scripture, but they were also fierce academics who held their faith up to the rigors of intellectual exercise.

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Rejecting the Right God

October 5, 2017

Depositphotos mage ID: 46970151 Copyright: JanMika

It occurs to me that the “new atheists” are rejecting the wrong God. They are famous for saying that they don’t believe in the Christian God any more than they believe Zeus or the Flying Spaghetti Monster. It seems to me that, if someone is going to reject God, they ought to be rejecting the right one.

Not all gods are created equal. The Christian concept of God is not on a par with Zeus or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, to say the very least.

The ignorance of the new atheists about these things is rather shocking, though it shouldn’t be altogether surprising. They admit they find no use for such things as gods and, therefore, have spent no time studying or considering them. The ignorance is more willful then due to any lack in ability to understand.

I can’t do justice to the subject in a short blog, but I will try to summarize. The only serious contenders for consideration as God are the gods of the major world religions. They can’t all be true because they are incompatible with each other[1], so which one, if any of them, is the most likely candidate?

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Religious Pluralism Sounds Nice, but Is It True?

January 8, 2017

Pluralism is the idea that all truth claims are equally valid. So does that include the truth claim that all truth claims are not equally valid? Think about it. The claim of pluralism is already in trouble right from the start.

Religious pluralism is “the acceptance of all religious paths as equally valid, promoting coexistence”.  Religious pluralism sounds nice, and the motives for wanting to believe in religious pluralism are largely nobles ones. The idea of religious pluralism is born out of a desire for unity, respect for others and harmony, but does it hold water?

That we want religious pluralism to be true doesn’t mean it is true. We would like for gravity not to be “true”, especially while climbing a ladder, but wishing it so does not make it so.

My thoughts today are spurred on by a presentation by Vince Vitale on religious pluralism. You might want to listen to what he has to say about it before or after considering my thoughts.[i] He addresses several bad assumptions and several good desires that lead to pluralism. I only address two of the three assumptions here.

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The Jesus We Meet in the Gospels

September 13, 2016

I didn’t want to read the NY Times article, What Religion Would Jesus Belong To, by Nicholas Kristof.[1] As I suspected, when I read it, the article was devoid of a deep understanding of Christianity, and Christianity is lumped together with the other religions of the world. I don’t know the depth of the author’s understanding of Christianity, but it didn’t show in the article (though he claims a conservative Christian background).

The problem is that the article makes a good point, and I shouldn’t be so reluctant to admit it.

American churches don’t reflect “the Jesus we met in the Gospels”. Never mind that the author’s proof is another NY Times article complaining of the Christians of the Republican Party.[2] The author seems to equate Jesus with the current moral landscape, as if Jesus would condone it, rather than the modern church; but the modern church doesn’t reflect the Jesus we meet in the Gospels either. (more…)

An “Other” View of Christianity

January 10, 2016
© Can Stock Photo Inc. / Bialasiewicz

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / Bialasiewicz

I began my college career with a World Religions class that exposed me to the major world religions. My professor boasted a Christian upbringing and background, but he was more of a universalist than a Christian in his theology and philosophy. The class focused more on the religions other than Christianity than Christianity, partly, I suppose, because most people sitting in a World Religion class in a small liberal arts college in Iowa already were acclimated to Christianity.

Western Civilization was another class I took. Western civilization, not surprisingly, dominates and colors most of the history of American thought since the United States is predominantly an extension of Greek, Roman and western European philosophy and ideology. My Jewish religion professor put that in context for me one day in a class on the Old Testament when he asserted that Judaism has roots in Eastern religion and civilization. (I was a thesis away from being a religion major.)

I will not repeat the context or expand on the details of that proposition. I have forgotten most of the details anyway. The take away I want to chew on with this piece is that we make assumptions about religion and the world based on how we have been acculturated and “indoctrinated” by our culture. Listening to the perspectives of “others” provides us valuable, different perpectives, even on the things with which we are familiar (like Christianity).

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The Reconciliation of Science and Religion

October 15, 2015
By Brooke Ekstrom

By Brooke Ekstrom

The reconciliation of science and religion may seem unlikely to some. Though the Renaissance period grew alongside the Reformation, and advancements in science during that time were largely pioneered by men of faith, science began to deviate from faith during the Enlightenment period. I suppose that the divergence of science and faith that began in the Enlightenment period is somewhat like the Protestant movement separating from the Catholic Church.

As one grew alongside the other, however, and both having roots in the same soil, it is inevitable that separation cannot be complete or total.

To the chagrin of modern materialists, the connection cannot and will not be severed.

Many atheists would of course embrace the idea that science can falsify religious claims. However, if this is the case, then religion may fall within the purview of science. The claim that religion and science may overlap is a claim that atheists have fought vigorously in the courts to reject. The reason for this is that if science can falsify religious claims, then it is also conceivable that it can give evidence for the truth of religious claims.

It is also maintained that science deals only with the physical world as its subject matter. While this is a methodological statement, many believe that science only deals with the physical world because that is all that exists. However, this is not a statement of science; instead, it is a philosophical statement that can neither be verified through the senses nor falsified through reason. Alvin Plantinga, J.P. Moreland, and several other philosophers of science have written extensively on this understanding of science. The problem with this materialistic criterion is that it fails its own test. That is, definitions are not physical, concepts are not physical, and meaning is not physical, and these things are what the materialist uses to define science. Therefore, if definitions, concepts, and meaning exist, then not everything that exists is physical.

Of course one could believe that non-physical reality exists, but claim that science merely deals with the physical attributes of the world. That is all well and good, but would merely suggest that religion and science do not talk to each other. Yet, as shown above, one could clearly use science to show certain religious beliefs to be false. And, as I also mentioned earlier, if one can used scientific fields to disprove religious claims, science may also be used to justify the beliefs of many religious claims.

From the blog post, Is Science the Enemy of Religion?, written by Shannon Holzer.

The Exclusivity of Truth

September 8, 2015
On the Right Road - Ellen Posledni

On the Right Road – Ellen Posledni

Most people are not comfortable with atheism. They know there is something greater than us, a cosmic Being or some Divine Truth. They intuitively know that the universe did not form itself out of nothing. But many people are also not comfortable with the exclusivity of religious propositions, especially in this post modern, pluralistic world.

All religions are true is something no one can say who has studied religions. There are some similarities at the surface, but there are fundamental propositions that are mutually exclusive with each other. Each of them has principals that are exclusive of other principals of other religions. Most people do not attempt to say that all religions are true, because it simply is not tenable.

That tension creates a dilemma. (more…)


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