The Library of Historical Apologetics
August 9, 2010 — 22:59

Author: Keith DeRose  Category: News  Comments: Off

Many readers of this blog may be interested in checking out what looks like a great on-line resource: The Library of Historical Apologetics. Here is the site’s own description of itself, from its “About Us” page:

At the Library of Historical Apologetics, our mission is to be the world’s leading resource for lay apologists, pastors, students, and scholars seeking historical apologetics materials for self-study, church classes, sermon preparation, and research. Our digital collection currently contains references to about 3,000 items with a focus on works in English from the 17th through the early 20th centuries.
Beyond simply providing access to these materials, our long-term vision is to create a digital learning environment that incorporates personal and collaborative reading, note taking, and study tools. We want to support a community in which more experienced scholars help newcomers find the material they need and construct secondary resources such as curricula, study guides, and course syllabi that can be shared by all users.
This project is directed by Dr. Timothy McGrew, who is Professor of Philosophy at Western Michigan University, where he has taught since 1995, serving as department chairman from 2005-2009. The Institute for Digital Christian Heritage is providing technical and administrative assistance in the form of project planning, implementation and evaluation.

Clark Pinnock
March 29, 2010 — 21:41

Author: Keith DeRose  Category: Uncategorized  Comments: Off

Sad news indeed from Thomas Oord’s blog:

I received sad news in an email recently: Clark Pinnock is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
Clark sent John Sanders and me the following note:
Dear Tom and John:
I want to inform you that I am now middle stage Alzheimer’s. I will not be able to do my writing etc. I am 73 years now, and I’ve enjoyed my biblical three score and ten. I am not bitter. I have had a good life. I’ll meet you over Jordan if not before.
You are free to make this news known.
With love,

There are some nice comments on Oord’s post; follow the above link.

An Open Letter to the APA
March 8, 2009 — 22:40

Author: Keith DeRose  Category: Uncategorized  Comments: 56

Folks may be tiring of the whole Christian-colleges-APA-JFP-discrimination-against-gays brouhaha, but I’ve written another letter about it, specifically about how the APA should respond to the petition. I’ll put it below the fold.


Christians in the World of Professional Philosophy
March 4, 2009 — 11:00

Author: Keith DeRose  Category: Uncategorized  Comments: 45

The anonymous reporter in Andrew Moon’s very interesting post, “An Opionated Play-by-Play of the Plantinga-Dennett Exchange” (a few posts down) writes:

I prefer to remain anonymous for various reasons, in particular because I am inclined towards Plantinga’s position over Dennett’s and were this to become well-known it could damage or destroy my career in analytic philosophy.

I want to be very clear upfront that I’m not questioning the wisdom of this person remaining anonymous. Different people find themselves in very different situations, and I’m in no position to judge here — especially since I know so little of this person’s situation.
I am worried, though, that on the basis of that remark, and other things they might be reading these days, readers might be developing in inaccurate picture of how Christians are generally treated in the world of professional philosophy. I’m especially concerned about the picture that might be forming in the minds of Christian students who are potential philosophers, but who might be scared away from going on in philosophy because they fear that world is more hostile to Christians than it really is. The job market for those starting out in philosophy is very tough, so everybody should think very carefully about whether they want to pursue a career in professional philosophy. What I’m concerned with here is the extent to which Christians should be especially concerned, due to extra hurdles they fear they might face. Of course, it might be me who has the inaccurate — because it’s too rosy — picture. What I hope is that this post might contribute to a more balanced picture.
So, first, I’ll report on my own experience. All my jobs have been at secular universities. I’ve always had items on my CV that would mark me out as at least a potential Christian (a Calvin College BA and an interest in philosophy of religion), and I’ve never made any attempts to hide the fact that I am. I believe I’m known in the profession as being a Christian philosopher. I take myself to have been treated very fairly by my atheist colleagues in philosophy. Perhaps most notable is my first job, since how one starts out one’s career is very important, and because that was at a department — the philosophy department at NYU circa 1990-1993 — that was, I believe, quite thoroughly non-Christian. I can’t really say with confidence that everyone there then was an atheist: I never really discussed such matters with many of my colleagues there. But several were clearly atheists, and none that I knew of were Christians or even theists. I was their second choice, but was thrilled to be so: I was a new PhD, and their first choice had been out a couple of years and was already extremely accomplished & more accomplished than me, and, because he decided to take another job, second place turned out to be good enough to land the job. And during my 3 years at NYU (it was only 3 years because, especially with two very young children, my wife really didn’t want to live there any more: it really had nothing to do with my professional situation, which I was extremely happy with), and in my subsequent jobs and various dealings with the profession, I have always felt that I was treated extremely fairly by atheist philosophers. I haven’t worked at a Christian college, but was up for a job (while ABD) at such a college, and based in small part on that experience, but in large part on my discussions with various people who do teach in such institutions, I am quite confident in saying that I would have experienced far more trouble for expressing my religious beliefs at Christian colleges (or at least at very many of them) than I actually have at my jobs at secular universities. (Perhaps most notable here is that I’m a Christian universalist — I believe that Christ’s act of righteousness will lead to acquittal and life for all people. As I’ve learned (thankfully not through personal experience), one can get into significant trouble at various Christian colleges if one is open about holding such a belief. I discuss this issue a bit here.)
Second, I’ll refer readers to a blog discussion from several years ago, in which different views are expressed about whether and to what extent Christians are discriminated against in seeking philosophy jobs. The blog post is here, and the relevant comments (it’s part of a larger discussion about other topics; I guess to some extent we “hijacked” the comment thread) are #s 4, 13, 17, 37, 40, 43-50, 52. I would like to stress now, though, that I’ve subsequently become more worried about Christians, and more generally, religious believers of various stripes, who have theological beliefs that are in certain ways unorthodox. If those who think there is considerable discrimination against religious believers are right (and they might well be, though I myself think things aren’t that bad), these less orthodox religious believers might face an environment that is very hostile to them indeed, facing discrimination against them for being religious believers at secular departments, and having an even steeper uphill battle at many Christian colleges, at least to the extent that they’re open about their views.

Graduate Programs Strong in Philosophy of Religion
February 23, 2009 — 9:31

Author: Keith DeRose  Category: General  Comments: 18

The new Philosophical Gourmet Report rankings of graduate philosophy programs are out, including the rankings for the best programs in philosophy of religion, which are here.
For any prospective philosophers of religion looking for good graduate programs, or for potential advisors of such prospective philosophers of religion, who might be reading this, I have a suggestion of a program for philosophy of religion to consider that (again) didn’t make this list: Rutgers. (Others may have other suggestions, and might leave them in the comments.) Many of the programs that are listed seem to be on the list primarily due to the presence of one philosopher who works in the area. Well, Dean Zimmerman, at Rutgers, is a absolutely top-notch philosopher, and he is really into philosophy of religion, and it seems to me he would be an excellent guide and advisor in the area. I imagine Rutgers didn’t make the list because Dean is best known for his work in metaphysics, where most of his best papers have been. And it looks like he will continue to be a committed metaphysician (metaphysicist?). But while he hasn’t done as much work in philosophy of religion as in metaphysics, he’s done some fine work there, too, and he seems to be very much into philosophy of religion (as well as metaphysics) now, and he knows the area very well. Plus, in going to Rutgers, you will be going to one of the very best overall philosophy programs in the English-speaking world. (See the overall rankings here.) Of course, that also means Rutgers is probably a very difficult program to get into (and Rutgers reports here that they admit only 2-3% of applicants), so I guess this is primarily a suggestion for extremely well-qualified prospective philosophers of religion.
Another hot tip: With Marilyn and Robert Adams going to the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, that program is suddenly an excellent choice for philosophy of religion, too. (This change was just announced, and so isn’t reflected in even the new PGR.) And Chapel Hill is also a very strong overall program (see again the overall rankings).
Prospective philosophers of religion should probably inquire into job prospects in philosophy for candidates with that area of specialization before committing to that path. Last I heard, it was supposed to be a bad AOS for getting an initial job when one goes on the job market. But I don’t know how accurate that impression of mine is. (I believe that issue has been discussed here on this blog?) I do believe (but, again, am not sure) that philosophy of religion is often a very helpful AOC (area of competence) to have: Many programs would like to offer courses in the area, and so would welcome someone who could teach it, but don’t want to use up one of their slots on someone who does it as their main thing.

P.Z. Myers’s Retaliation
July 15, 2008 — 8:41

Author: Keith DeRose  Category: Religion and Life  Comments: 27

In a story that concerns the interesting question of how we should take into account the beliefs (especially the religious beliefs) of others that we take to be false in deciding how to treat those people, a University of Central Florida student walked out of a Catholic Mass on June 29 with a consecrated communion wafer. Given their beliefs, this is a rather big deal to Catholics, some of whom seem to have reacted very strongly against the student. Bill Donohue and the Catholic League became involved, calling on the University to take strong action against the student. The biologist, P.Z. Myers, of the University of Minnesota, Morris came to the defense of the student in this post of Myers’s blog, Pharyngula, and called on readers to steal consecrated wafers from Catholic churches so that he could publicly desecrate them, posting pictures on the web. Donohue and the Catholic have taken note of Myers’s blog post, and seem to have begun something of a campaign against him. From what I understand, despite some very negative encounters with some of those who protested his actions, the student himself was nonetheless able to hear the appeals of others who explained to him why the matter was so important to them, and he responded humanely, returning the wafer.
Readers here may have heard of this case already, because it entered the world of philosophy blogs when Brian Leiter wrote about it in this blog post. However, Leiter’s position seems to me very one-sided, so I thought I would post a different perspective. (Thanks to Matthew Mullins and Prosblogion for allowing me to use this forum. For those who don’t know, I should make clear that I am a Christian, but not a Catholic, so readers can know where this commentary is coming from.)
In particular, Leiter seems to me to go way too easy on Prof. Myers. To put my opposition in context, please note that I do not support any efforts to get Prof. Myers fired or disciplined at his job over this incident, that I agree with Prof. Myers that the reaction against the Florida student by many was too strong, and that I find it admirable that Prof. Myers would come to the student’s defense. However, Myers’s proposed retaliation, which would hurt many Catholics who are completely innocent in this whole matter, strikes me as extremely nasty. To my thinking, it is morally more problematic than anything Donohue has yet done in this case. I can understand those who might disagree with that comparative judgment of mine, but have a hard time understanding the judgment of those who see the matter as so one-sidedly favoring Myers as Leiter seems to see things.
Myers’s retaliation hurts Catholics because of beliefs they hold that he disagrees with, and, admittedly, it’s not easy to say, in general terms, just how we should take the beliefs of others into account in deciding how to treat them. However, Myers’s retaliation seems so aimed at hurting innocent parties and so incapable of producing any good, and, well, just so nasty, that this seems an easy call. So readers can judge for themselves, here’s the relevant paragraph of Myers’s post (follow the link above to read the whole thing):

So, what to do. I have an idea. Can anyone out there score me some consecrated communion wafers? There’s no way I can personally get them — my local churches have stakes prepared for me, I’m sure — but if any of you would be willing to do what it takes to get me some, or even one, and mail it to me, I’ll show you sacrilege, gladly, and with much fanfare. I won’t be tempted to hold it hostage (no, not even if I have a choice between returning the Eucharist and watching Bill Donohue kick the pope in the balls, which would apparently be a more humane act than desecrating a goddamned cracker), but will instead treat it with profound disrespect and heinous cracker abuse, all photographed and presented here on the web. I shall do so joyfully and with laughter in my heart. If you can smuggle some out from under the armed guards and grim nuns hovering over your local communion ceremony, just write to me and I’ll send you my home address.

Is he perhaps just joking? To some extent, this is clearly all a joke to Myers. But it doesn’t seem to be just a joke in the sense that it’s clear nobody should really steal the items and send them to him. The Washington Times reports:

In an interview Friday, Mr. Myers said he already had received “a double-digit number” of positive responses, from people saying that they would try to get consecrated Catholic hosts for him and that the writer already had one.
“Enough that I could sculpt a statue of them,” he said, declining to say what he’d do to desecrate them. “I’ve got a few ideas, but I want to keep the surprise.”

I hope that this is a joke at least to the extent that Myers won’t follow through on his sick plan, but it will be very revealing to see people’s reactions if he does. In any case, if a joke, this would seem a rather nasty joke — perhaps to be compared with those who would publicly ask for others to raid burial grounds sacred to Native Americans and send them remains so that they might publicly desecrate them. (“They’re just frackin’ bones!”) “Wickedly funny”?
For the record, I’ll paste below the fold the e-mail I sent to Prof. Myers on July 11. It now appears to me too smug and sanctimonious in tone, but I stand behind the position there expressed: