Time Will Tell Just Who Has Fell
July 29, 2013 — 9:00

Author: Keith DeRose  Category: Christian Theology  Tags:   Comments: 0

Links added 4 August:
Information about this case isn’t easy to come by, but here are a couple of old stories that provide some account of the events:
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-From Aug. 19, 2011 in the Banner, the “official magazine of the Christian Reformed Church” (the denomination with which Calvin College is associated) there is “Calvin College Religion Profs in the News; One Alleges College Is Being Dishonest”
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-From the Aug. 2011 Spark, Calvin’s own alumni magazine, there is “Calvin professors in center of origins conversation”
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“A Tale of Two Professors” is a recently produced documentary, half of which is on the interesting case of John Schneider, who was a tenured professor in the Religion Department at Calvin College, until he was forced into early retirement over his work concerning how to understand the doctrine of the Fall in light of scientific results suggesting there were no historic first humans, Adam and Eve, who began their lives in an unfallen world, free of evil and death. (I would not recommend the documentary’s telling of the other story they cover, but, unfortunately, the tales are woven together so that you kinda have to take them both in.)
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Schneider’s story was also told a couple of years ago by Michael Ruse in the Chronicle of Higher Education, in an opinion piece whose title reveals how Ruse saw the whole affair: “The Shame of Calvin College”. And in a blog post at New APPS, Jon Cogburn helpfully quotes the question and answer from the Heidelberg Catechism that seems most relevant to the case. (Faculty at Calvin sign a “form of subscription” endorsing that Catechism, along with a couple of other historic Reformed confessions; the form itself is here. Batman’s response is here.)
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The documentary brings in Jamie Smith of the Calvin philosophy department to give the college’s side of the issue. Smith explains:
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We want to cultivate a theological imagination that doesn’t assume that it’s either/or. As if, “Oh, this new data has come in. We’d better abandon everything we’ve thought for fifteen hundred years.” So, we want to ask hard questions, but we want to do that faithfully.” (8:42 – 8:59)

I want to be careful in responding to that. The context in which it’s presented in the documentary suggests that it is aimed at Schneider, as an explanation/justification for why his treatment was appropriate. But I can’t be sure that the documentary is presenting this fairly. For all I really know, Jamie could have been just explaining how in principle the college might be justified in restricting someone, or, indeed, he could have been just explaining how he thought these questions should be pursued, with no reference at all to the issue of whether the college should take any actions against anyone who didn’t pursue the questions in that way. In that case, my complaint is against the documentary, and not against Jamie.
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But since it is suggested – whether by Jamie himself or by the editing of the documentary – that this is directed at Schneider, it really ought to be said that we’re not talking here about “new data” that has just come in. The results that drive Schneider’s questions are quite old. It’s stuff we’ve known for a long time. And I take myself to be seeing things much as Ruse does in saying that it’s stuff that many parts of the Church have been embarrassingly slow to respond to in anything close to a satisfying way. And as for the “abandon everything we’ve thought for fifteen hundred years” bit, well, that’s obviously blowing things up a bit (or more than a bit), since of course nobody’s talking about all that, either. Perhaps that’s just some harmless rhetoric (since it is so obviously blown up), but one might wonder about the use of such pumping of one’s opponent’s position in the context of discussing the ouster of someone from his job. (Though again, I’m not certain whether my complaint here is against Jamie or against those who put this documentary together.)
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Incidentally, Jamie is part of a group that has a grant from the BioLogos Foundation for a project entitled “Beyond Galileo – to Chalcedon: Re-imagining the Intersection of Evolution and the Fall”, so, presumably, we will soon be able to see a concrete example of how to ask the hard questions here faithfully. Making sense of evolution while remaining faithful to the honest-to-God truth of “all the articles and points of doctrine” of the Reformed confessions would seem to me quite a challenge!

Synthese and Plantinga’s Advice
April 20, 2011 — 14:59

Author: Andrew Moon  Category: Links  Tags: , , ,   Comments: 0

In this post, I intend to just be a distributor of information (just as I was when I posted my friend’s account of the Plantinga-Dennet exchange). Readers of this blog will be interested to know that Leiter is proposing a boycott on Synthese for reasons having to do with their issue on intelligent design, specifically, with the editorial practices involved. See here and here for details.
Also of interest to readers of this blog might be a recent blog post by Jon Cogburn, found here. Of note is Cogburn’s third point:

I can’t help but feeling like Plantinga’s truly awful “Advice to Christian Philosophers” is lurking in the background here, since it provides coverage for using philosophy just to support beliefs you never intend to call into question, something I think of as neither Christian (and like Plantinga I am a member of a Reformed church) nor philosophical (this much should be clear); it can’t be an accident every philosophy professor I know who believes transparent absurdities such as the literal truth of the Bible (and there are shockingly many now) both cite Plantinga as one of the main reasons they decided to make a career of academic philosophy and also try to argue that Plantinga’s epistemology somehow makes it O.K. that their (demonstrably false!) religious beliefs are non-revisable (please note that this is exactly the opposite of what “reforming” is supposed to mean in the Calvinist and Presbyterian tradition!), and…

I posted a comment on Cogburn’s blog.
Anyway, these posts tend to provoke visceral reactions (from either side). I am primarily intending to share information and maybe see what people have to say, but I’d rather avoid the name-calling and personal attacks that tend to dominate these discussions. (If there is to be name-calling and personal attacks, I’d rather people do them in person rather than on a blog; that actually takes a little more courage.) This is for anybody who wants to respond to this post.