Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Jesus Tea-Strainer, or the Jesus Poisonous-Seed-Strainer? Or Maybe the Jesus Gold-Sifter

Andrew Wilson just posted a piece on the Theology Matters blog, "The Jesus Lens, or the Jesus Tea-Strainer?", which begins as follows:
I had an interesting series of debates with Steve Chalke recently, on Scripture, the Old Testament, the atonement and sexuality. There are all sorts of things I could say about them (and I probably will, in time), but for me the most striking feature of Steve's presentation was his continual reference to "the Jesus lens". In his view, the Bible should be read through "the Jesus lens", that is to say, in the light of God's self-revelation in Jesus. I agree. But he then goes on to argue that this enables us, and in fact requires us, to correct all sorts of things that the texts actually say, particularly those which involve wrath, death and sexual ethics. Reading through the Jesus lens, for Steve, involves reading a difficult text - say, one about picking up sticks on the Sabbath, or destroying the Canaanites, or Yahweh pouring out his anger - figuring that Jesus could never have condoned it, and then concluding that the text represents a primitive, emerging, limited picture of God, as opposed to the inclusive, wrath-free God we find in Jesus. Not so much a Jesus lens, then, as a Jesus tea-strainer: not a piece of glass that influences your reading of the text while still leaving the text intact, but a fine mesh that only allows through the most palatable elements, while meticulously screening out the bitter bits to be dumped unceremoniously on the saucer.
Wilson goes on to list a series of biblical passages in which the Gospel authors attribute to Jesus angry words that Wilson takes to be in the spirit of the wrathful God that Chalke wants to reject.

There are several concerns I have about Wilson's post:

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Bachmann/McDonough Principle of Non-Discrimination

I'm thinking academic blogs might be a good place to toss out first drafts of things that may eventually make it into professional articles. Now may be a good time for that, since I've starting work on a philosophy article that brings together some things I've talked about before on this blog.

As I've noted before on this blog, Michele Bachmann maintains that civil marriage laws restricting marriage to heterosexual couples are non-discriminatory. She doesn't say that it's justified discrimination. She says that no discrimination is going on at all.

Why? Because all persons--gay and straight--face the very same marital opportunities and requirements: all are free to marry someone of the same sex, while none are free to marry someone of the opposite sex.

One section of the article I'm working on will look at an argument along these same lines that was put forward by a philosopher, Richard McDonough, in Public Affairs Quarterly (a rather prestigious journal of political and social philosophy). McDonough puts the main line of argument succinctly as follows:

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Apparently, Atheists Are Grumpy Goats

I found the following image posted at Sarah Brown's blog, and felt compelled to repost it here:





atheists.. why are they always so sad?

and they’re also goats

Happy 2 b a goat

That goat looks very content with his bathrobe and coffee.

That goat looks cozy as hell.

On the one hand, the image--not to mention the reference to "very advanced witnessing techniques"--makes me want to chuckle and roll my eyes. I know nothing about the flyer's origins, and a part of me wants to dismiss it as a bit of satire.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Missing the Evolution/Creation Debate

I missed the recent exchange between Ken Ham (the Answers in Genesis Guy) and Bill Nye (the Science Guy). And I have no plan to correct that oversight. I tend to agree with Michael Schulson and Sarah Posner that it was a strategic mistake for Nye to agree to the debate in the first place. Other than offering those on Ham' side the chance to mug for a camera holding silly handwritten signs (and actually face a real prospect of having others look at the results), what exactly is a debate like this supposed to accomplish?

I'm not sure. Science education may have been Nye's goal--but it's not clear that this aim is served by the kind of theater that is expected in this kind of debate. Don't get me wrong. I think there is a place for thoughtful debate. I just don't think that this is what you're likely to get when a science educator who wants to talk about the evidence for evolutionary theory pairs off against a biblical fundamentalist interested in slinging scientifically empty zingers while waving a Bible around.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Woody Allen and the Transgression of Familial Boundaries

Back in the 1980's, I was a big fan of Woody Allen. As an undergraduate philosophy major, "Love and Death" was one of my favorite movies.

Then, in the early '90's, Allen's long-term relationship with Mia Farrow fell apart amidst a scandal featuring a sexual relationship between Allen and Soon-Yi Previn, Farrow's adopted daughter (21 at the time). There were also darker accusations about sexual abuse of his and Mia's 7-year-old adopted daughter, Dylan Farrow (who now goes by the name "Malone").

I really didn't know what to make of those accusations at the time. But my taste for Woody Allen's movies withered. I stopped watching them. Even setting aside the child abuse allegation, the fact that Allen had a sexual relationship with the daughter of his long-term lover, who was also the older-sister-by-adoption of Allen's own children, was enough to evoke in me a kind of moral nausea. This spoiled his work for me. I couldn't enjoy it anymore.

Morality, Science, and Intelligent Design: New Essay on Religion Dispatches

A new article of mine--"Does NIH Head Francis Collins Believe in Intelligent Design?"--has been published in Religion Dispatches.

One commenter ("ortcutt") makes explicit the distinction that is implicitly at work in the article, between moral psychology and meta-ethics. I eschewed this terminology in writing the piece, since I thought my points could be made without introducing those technical terms from my discipline. However, the distinction is helpful and important. Put briefly, meta-ethics pertains to the nature of moral claims and their truth-conditions (if indeed they have a truth value), while moral psychology pertains to our moral motivations and their origins.

In these terms, my article can be summarized as follows: Paul Bloom takes it that when Francis Collins appeals to morality in making his case for God's existence, Collins is invoking an argument premised on beliefs about moral psychology. It is this way of reading Collins that allows Bloom to treat Collins' argument as an intelligent design argument, one that can be refuted by his own research into moral psychology.

But it is more plausible to see Collins' argument as premised on meta-ethical views.