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Aquinas versus Locke and Descartes on the Human Person and End-of-Life Ethics

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During the last decade or so, there has been a growing body of literature about various topics in end-of-life ethics. And while there is no clear agreement about a number of issues in this literature, nevertheless, there is something of a consensus that has emerged, perhaps unconsciously and implicitly at times, regarding how to view a cluster of crucial metaphysical themes relevant to the ethical issues just mentioned — the nature of personhood, humanness, and personal identity. In our view, this consensus approach to these three themes is Cartesian and Lockean in spirit. Often conspicuous by its absence, especially outside Catholic circles, is any discussion of Thomistic insights into these metaphysical desiderata, much less an acceptance of them. This tendency is egregious and contributes to a way of framing certain ethical issues that determines their resolution from the beginning.

Humanness, Personhood, and The Right to Die

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A widely adopted approach to end-of-life ethical questions fails to make explicit certain crucial metaphysical ideas entailed by it and when those ideas are clarified, then it can be shown to be inadequate. These metaphysical themes cluster around the notions of personal identity, personhood and humanness, and the metaphysics of substance. In order to clarify and critique the approach just mentioned, I focus on the writings of Robert N. Wennberg as a paradigm case by, first, stating his views of personal identity, humanness, personhood, and the relations among them; second, offering a comparison of a view of humans as substances (understood in the classic interpretation of Aristotle and Aquinas) vs. a view of humans as property-things; third, applying the metaphysical distinctions surfaced in the second section towards a critique of Wennberg.

On Christian Scholarship

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Our general question is: how can our university be a proper Catholic or Christian university? What would such a university be like? This question is a really tough one in three ways. First, as Chuck Wilber and others have pointed out, we have no contemporary 1 models here. We can’t look at Princeton (much as we love and admire it), to see how they do things, as a pattern for us. Indeed, the truth is just the reverse. One lesson to be learned from George Marsden’s talk last time is that Princeton is in an important way a failed project: at one time it was or aimed to be or continues to be a Christian university, just as we do; that aim, sadly enough, was not accomplished. Hence we can’t take Princeton as a model; instead, we must try to learn from its mistakes. Second, if what we want is a Catholic or Christian university, we must, as Nathan Hatch pointed out, dare to be different, to pursue our own path, to take the risks involved in venturing into unmapped and unexplored territory. That isn’t easy; there are enormous pressures towards conformity. (But it is our university, after all, and we don’t have to follow the common herd.) And thirdly, this is a multifarious, many-sided question; it has to be thought about in connection with graduate education as well as undergraduate education; we must think about the need for the kind of conversation mentioned by Craig Lent — both about the need for such a conversation, and about the appropriate topics; we have to think about curricula, about relationships with other universities aimed in the same direction as we, as well as about relationships with universities aimed in different directions; we have to think about how all this bears on hiring policies; we must think about these things and a thousand others.

Conceptual Problems and the Scientific Status of Creation Science

Go My intention here is not merely to raise another round of controversy about creation and evolution. Rather, I would argue that the nature of creation science provides an occasion for examining the much broader and more far-reaching issue of whether and how our Christian theism should affect our view of the world. As Thomas Morris has pointed out, for some time now there has been an attitude of theological anti-realism among many theologians. They believe that it is intellectually futile to bring their Christian theism to bear on questions of the nature, origin, investigation, and development of the world.

Complementarity, Agency Theory, and the God-of-the-Gaps

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There has been a growing debate about the proper way to integrate science and theology. On the one side are those who accept a complementarity view of integration and claim that science must presuppose methodological naturalism. On the other side are those who accept some form of theistic science. Central to this debate is the nature of divine and human action and the existence of gaps in the natural causal fabric due to such action that could, in principle, enter into the use of scientific methodology. In this article, I side with the second group. To justify this position, I first state the complementarity view and its implications for the nature of human personhood, second, explain libertarian agency in contrast to compatibilist models of action, and third, show why "gaps" are part of divine and human agency and illustrate ways that such a model of agency for certain divine acts could be relevant to the practice of science.

Scientific Creationism, Science, and Conceptual Problems

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Among other things, scientists try to solve both empirical and conceptual problems. Conceptual problems, in turn, are of two basic types: internal and external. In this article, I offer a taxonomy of both types of conceptual problems that have constituted scientific practice throughout its history and argue that certain activities done by creationists fit this taxonomy nicely. I then conclude that these creationist activities cannot be faulted as being non-science or pseudo-science once we see how they fit a proper scientific pattern of addressing conceptual problems in other areas.

The Problem with the Problem of Evil

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Current discussions of the ‘problem of evil’ vary greatly in at least two ways. First, those involved in such discussions often differ on the exact nature of the problem. Some see it as primarily logical (deductive), some as primarily evidential (inductive), and still others as primarily psychological (personal, pastoral). Second, those involved in such discussions differ radically on what is required of the theist in response. Some claim that unless the theist can offer an explanation for evil (a theodicy) that is satisfying to rational individuals in general, theistic belief is rendered unjustified. Others agree that the theist must offer a theodicy, but deny that such an explanation must be found convincing by most if theistic belief is to remain justified. And still others deny that the theist is required to offer any sort of explanation (theodicy), arguing instead that the theist need only defend the logical consistency of simultaneous belief in the existence of evil and God.

The Seventy-Four “Scholars”

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A major new work of scholarship is raising eyebrows in many quarters: The Five Gospels: What Did Jesus Really Say?1 This is the product of six years of extensive consultation by a group of scholars known as the Jesus Seminar (hereafter JS), who have set out to determine the authentic words of Jesus. The result is a book that (1) provides a fresh, colloquial, and at times racy translation of the five gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and the noncanonical Gospel of Thomas); (2) colors every saying attributed to Jesus in these Gospels as either red, pink, gray, or black (red means Jesus said it; pink means it’s close to what He said; gray means He didn’t say it in this form but there are echoes of His teaching in it; and black means the saying didn’t come from Him at all); and (3) provides passage-by-passage commentary explaining the JS’s rationale for its decisions. As the book jacket and popular press releases emphasize, only 20 percent of all the sayings of Jesus are colored red or pink and a good number of these come from Thomas!

A Philosophers Way Back to the Faith

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I must begin by confessing that I am quite unaccustomed to testifying, which is what I have let myself in for by agreeing to write this essay. Abstract reasoning is more my line. Therefore, I must ask you to bear with me if I sound like a fish out of water. If I am to speak of my way back to the faith, I must say something about where I was coming back from. And for this, a little background is needed. I was raised as a Methodist in the South–Shreveport, Louisiana, to be exact. My undoubtedly imperfect recollection of this particular religious ambiance is that it was perfunctory and lacking in warmth of conviction. No doubt, a lot was going on there that was not getting through to me. But when, many years later, I came to learn something about John Wesley and the origins of Methodism, I was surprised to learn that great store was set on personal religious experience. It is a plausible conjecture that the fact that I have spent a large part of the last fifteen years working on the epistemology of religious experience represents a development of seeds that were planted during my childhood as a Methodist in Shreveport. However, as I say, none of this made any strong, conscious impression on me at the time (to the best of my recollection), and on attaining the age of reason (or what I thought of as such in early adolescence) and becoming acquainted with atheistic arguments and attitudes, I readily abandoned ship.

Is Science a Threat or Help to Faith?

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From space travel to organ transplants, one of the most important influences shaping the modern world is science. Amazingly, people who lived during the Civil War had more in common with Abraham than with us. If Christians are going to speak to that world and interact with it responsibly, they must interact with science. The question is, how are we to understand the relationship between science and Christianity? At a dinner party I was introduced to a professor of physics. On learning that I was a philosopher and theologian, he informed me of the irrational nature of my fields, contending that science had removed the need to believe in God.