Spring 2016, Volume 10, Issue 2
cover feature by Sara Holston '17: p. 28
p. 23 Christianity, Social Revolutions, and the Way Forward
p. 34 Peace in Toil: How the Cross Redeems Earthly Work
p. 40 A Defense of Leibniz's Cosmological Argument From Contingency
Josh Alexakos '17
Samuel Ching '19
Luke Dickens '18
A Letter from the Editor There are arguably few things that characterize human experience as poignantly as the necessity of choice. The nature of the world that we live in demands that we weigh, sift between, and select (as well as discard) various options for how to spend our time and direct our energies. Indeed, when considering the range of decisions that a single day brings, it is hard to point to a moment where we are not making some sort of choice. Research suggests that the average adult makes 35,000 decisions per day, compared to roughly 3,000 made by children. This only quantifies what we intuitively know: as we mature, responsibility escalates, the complexity of available pathways increases, and we have less time to think before the next choice comes along. The stakes, it seems, are always getting higher. Ten years ago, the Apologia began circulating at Dartmouth, its pages animated by a deep concern with articulating the importance of one of the most ubiquitous human choices – how an individual decides to think about God. No two people undergo the exact same set of experiences and processes as they approach the tangle of questions and emotions that the concept of God raises; some may arrive at conclusions relatively quickly, while others may wrestle for years with inquiry into God’s very existence and what can be known, if anything, about his character and relationship to humanity. Yet we at the Apologia have been motivated by the belief that this decision, regardless of its content and how a person arrives at it, provides the framework through which all other significant decisions are approached. It shapes the contours, themes, and direction of a person’s life. Moreover, history demonstrates that a single life can have a profound impact on the world around it – for better or worse. If one’s logic and values drive the choices that produce this impact, then surely there is incentive to rigorously examine the source of these guiding influences. Though it is impossible for humans to grasp an exhaustive picture of truth, it seems desirable that our choices are made, as much as possible, in light of what is real. Otherwise, there is no way to predict the consequences that will flow from human action. The distinction between better and worse becomes blurry. In these pages, we examine why we think Christianity reflects what is real – a God who desires reconciliation with a fallen humanity, who freely paid the ultimate cost to secure it, and who is victoriously engaged in the process of redeeming both individual hearts and the entirety of his created world. We find that Christianity alone can offer a portrait of this world that best explains the reality around us, unifying reason and faith in an interplay that sharpens our minds and ignites our imaginations. Furthermore, we see how these claims have worked their way through the choices of history and saturate the present day; they undergird the practice of prayer, recast the notion of work, offer resources for social reform, and even provide ways to assess the state of our own Dartmouth College. As you explore these claims, reader, we invite you to reflect on how you make your own choices, and glimpse the God who continuously chooses to bring healing into this broken world.
Jake J. Casale Editor-in-Chief
Spring 2016, Volume 10, Issue 2
Editor-in-Chief Jake Casale ’17 Managing Editor Joshua Tseng-Tham ’17 Editorial Board Chris D’Angelo ’16 Macy Ferguson ’16 Mene Ukueberuwa ’16 Marissa Le Coz ’17 Danielle D'Souza ’17 Sara Holston ’17 Jessica Tong ’17 Matthew West ’17 Stephanie Liu ’18 Business Manager Andrew Shuffer ’18 Production Manager Christopher Kymn ’18 Production Staff Macy Ferguson ’16 Mene Ukueberuwa ’16 Aimee Sung ’17 Chenchen Li ’18 Photography Josh Renaud ’17 Contributors Josh Alexakos ’17 Luke Dickens ’18 Madeline Killen ’18 Andrew Shuffer ’18 Samuel Ching ’19 Advisory Board Gregg Fairbrothers Eric Hansen, Thayer James Murphy, Government Lindsay Whaley, Classics Leo Zacharski, DMS Special thanks to Council on Student Organizations The Eleazar Wheelock Society
Submissions We welcome the submission of any article, essay, or artwork for publication in The Dartmouth Apologia. Submissions should seek to promote respectful, thoughtful discussion in the community. We will consider submissions from any member of the community but reserve the right to publish only those that align with our mission statement and quality rubric. Email: The.Dartmouth.Apologia@Dartmouth.Edu Front and back cover image by Josh Renaud ’17
Letters to the Editor We value your opinions and encourage thoughtful submissions expressing support, dissent, or other views. We will gladly consider any letter that is consistent with our mission statement’s focus on promoting intellectual discourse in the Dartmouth community.
Apologia Online Subscription information for the journal or bi-weekly blog is available on our website at dartmouthapologia.org. Past issues of the journal are available online for archival viewing.
The opinions expressed in The Dartmouth Apologia are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the journal, its editors, or Dartmouth College. Copyright © 2016 The Dartmouth Apologia.
Is Ancient Philosophy Still Relevant? Rediscovering Aristotle, Aquinas, and Classical Theism
Dr. Edward Feser, Ph. D., Pasadena City College
CAN GOD AND FREE WILL COEXIST? 10 Examining the Augustinian Solution Joshua Tseng-Tham ’17
PROPHECY, PROGRESS, 17 AND REPENTANCE:
The Role of the Individual in Human History Jake Casale ’17
CHRISTIANITY, SOCIAL REVOLUTIONS, 23 AND THE WAY FORWARD Josh Alexakos ’17
THE NEW DARTMOUTH: 28 From Sacred to Secular Sara Holston ’17
PEACE IN TOIL: 34
How the Cross Redeems Earthly Work
Samuel Ching ’19
A DEFENSE OF LEIBNIZ'S 40 COSMOLOGICAL ARGUMENT FROM CONTINGENCY Luke Dickens ’18
WHY MIRACLES ARE POSSIBLE: 45 David Hume and the Reasonableness of Belief Danielle D'Souza ’17
THE PURPOSE OF PRAYER: 48
Secular Misconceptions and the Reality of Grace Madeline Killen ’18
REVISITING THE LIFE OF 51 MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.:
Perspectives for Today's Challenges Andrew Shuffer ’18
he Dartmouth Apologia exists to articulate Christian perspectives in the academic community.
A JOURNAL OF CHRISTIAN THOUGHT
Is Ancient Philosophy
Aristotle, Aquinas, and Classical Theism:
an interview with
Edward Feser Bust of Aristotle by Lysippos (photo taken by Jastrow), 2006
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Dr. Edward Feser is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Pasadena City College in Pasadena, California. A former atheist, Dr. Feser converted back to the Catholicism of his youth after an extensive study of St. Thomas Aquinas’ thought and philosophy. Called “one of the best contemporary writers on philosophy,” he currently specializes in metaphysics, natural theology, philosophy of mind, and moral and political philosophy. A prolific writer, he is the author of Philosophy of the Mind (Oneworld, 2007), Aquinas (Oneworld, 2009), and The Last Superstition: A Refutation of New Atheism (St. Augustine Press, 2010). His essays have appeared in publications such as First Things, National Review, and Public Discourse. Dr. Feser has lectured at New York University, Princeton University, and Oxford University, educating the public on Scholasticism.
Aristotelian-Thomism In your book The Last Superstition, you argue that the biggest mistake of modern philosophy is the abandonment of Aristotelian-Thomistic (AT) metaphysics. For those of us who are not as familiar with A-T metaphysics, could you describe three major characteristics of this framework and how they differ from the modern understanding? What led to the abandonment of A-T amongst modern philosophers and why do you think it was a mistake?
If I had to boil the A-T position down to three key themes, the first would be Aristotle’s theory of actuality and potentiality. The pre-Socratic philosopher Parmenides famously held that change is an illusion. The reason is that he thought change would involve a transition from non-being to being, from nothing to something. So, since something cannot come from nothing, change cannot occur. Aristotle’s response was to argue that we need to distinguish between actual being and potential being. For example, a rubber ball might be actually red, actually spherical, and actually solid, but it is also potentially green (if you paint it), and potentially flat and squishy (if you melt it). Though not actualized, these potentialities are not nothing, but something really there in the ball. The ball really does have the potential to melt in a way it does not have (say) the potential to grow wings. And this gives us a way to see how change is possible, contrary to what Parmenides claims. For change is not the transition from non-being to being, but rather from one kind of being to another. It is the transition from potential to actual. Now, once in place, this distinction between actuality and potentiality does an enormous amount of work in A-T philosophy. For example, as I show in detail in my book Scholastic Metaphysics, Aristotle’s famous doctrine of the Four Causes – formal cause, material cause, efficient cause, and final cause – naturally flows out of it. That doctrine is the second
key A-T theme I would emphasize. The formal and material causes of a thing are related to each other as actuality is to potentiality. For a thing’s form – the form of a stone, or of a tree, or of a dog, or whatever – is what makes it actually a thing of a specific kind. Its matter is the potentiality to take on form (which is why physical things are imperfect and unstable to the extent that they are – their matter is always ready to lose the form it has and take on another). A thing’s efficient cause is what actualizes the potential of its matter to take on this or that specific form. Finally, a potentiality is always a potentiality for some outcome or range of outcomes. It “points to” or is “directed toward” that outcome. That is where final cause, or directedness toward an end, comes in. Now, the doctrine of the Four Causes itself does an enormous amount of work in A-T thinking. For instance, it gives us the conceptual apparatus in terms of which to understand the relation between soul and body, since A-T regards the soul as the formal cause of the living body and the body as matter of a type which has the potentiality to take on such a form. The idea of final cause is crucial to the very possibility of morality, certainly as A-T natural law ethicists understand it. It is also crucial to understanding the way the mind fits into the natural order, since the intentionality of the mental – a thought’s directedness toward its object – is an instance of final causality. Perhaps the most important application of the whole A-T metaphysical apparatus, though, is to natural theology, and that is the third key A-T theme I would emphasize. When we unpack the nature of physical things as composites of form and matter and the nature of causality as the actualization of potentiality, we find that no physical thing could continue in existence even for an instant unless actualized by a divine Uncaused Cause – or, more precisely, a “purely actual actualizer.” That is to say, the existence of a physical thing at any moment presupposes that there is something which actualizes it but which does not itself need to be actualized, because it has no potentiality in need of actualization. This is
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The School of Athens by Raphael, 1511
the philosophical core of the A-T understanding of God, from which the key divine attributes can all be derived. Now, the reasons the early modern philosophers moved away from all this are complicated, and that is a story I tell in The Last Superstition and elsewhere. Part of it had to do with the rise of modern science, though not in the way people think. For one thing, there were of course Aristotelian scientific ideas which turned out to be wrong, but the metaphysical ideas I just sketched had no essential connection to them. They can be disentangled, as later Aristotelian and Thomistic philosophers have shown. But some of the early moderns were inclined to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Perhaps more important, though, was that the early modern thinkers wanted to redirect Western thought in a more this-worldly and practical direction. Thinkers like Bacon and Descartes emphasized that science ought to be a tool for mastering the natural world and developing new technologies. This required focusing on those aspects of nature which could be precisely predicted and controlled, which in turn entailed modeling nature in mathematical terms as far as possible. The trouble is that notions like potentiality, final cause, and formal cause do not fit a mathematical model of the world. They are irreducibly qualitative rather than quantitative notions. So, they were
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simply put aside. At first they were treated as merely irrelevant to the specific purposes of empirical science, but gradually this attitude morphed into the more extreme judgment that they had no validity at all, not even in metaphysics. And as I argue in The Last Superstition and elsewhere, this move is the source of the intractability of many of what people think of as the “traditional” problems of philosophy. For example, when final causality or directedness toward an end is no longer regarded as a real feature of the natural world, goodness comes to seem a mere projection of our subjective value judgments. The very possibility of an objective morality becomes problematic. The intentionality or directedness of mental phenomena also comes to seem an illusion. Reasoning causally from the world to a divine sustaining cause becomes difficult when the very existence of a thing at any moment is no longer seen as a matter of a potentiality which needs actualizing. And so forth. If A-T notions are irreducibly qualitative rather than quantitative, how ought we understand A-T in light of modern science and mathematics? How would you describe the nature of the relationship between the two, and can one inform the other?
The answer is that A-T and modern science are complementary descriptions of the natural world. Modern physics captures the mathematical structure
of the world, but mathematical structure cannot be all there is, since there has to be some underlying
all of reality that way. In effect, relativity gives us a description of the world that is an approximation of
Modern physics captures the mathematical structure of the world, but mathematical structure cannot be all there is, since there has to be some underlying reality that has the structure. reality that has the structure. A-T captures what that underlying reality must be like, metaphysically, in order to have the structure physics describes, or any other structure for that matter. Many of the puzzles that modern physics famously confronts us with are the result of mistaking its mathematical descriptions for the whole of the phenomena they describe, when in fact they are merely partial descriptions. That does not mean they are incorrect descriptions, of course, but they are still partial. Hence in relativity theory, as interpreted in Minkowski’s terms, the universe is described as if it were a four-dimensional static “block.” Change is treated as if it were unreal, existing only in the mind of the observer. But among the puzzles this raises is the question: how does the observer himself fit into this static block? We seem stuck with a radically dualist position where the flux of our conscious experiences – which, of course, provide the empirical evidence in terms of which physical theory is justified in the first place – stands entirely outside the static physical world, and yet in some mysterious way is supposed to arise from the latter. Quantum mechanics, meanwhile, seems to describe a world wherein causality is absent. The reason for these strange results, however, is that these theories are trying to capture their respective domains – the large-scale structure of time and space in the case of relativity, the micro-level structure of matter in the case of quantum mechanics – in entirely mathematical terms. And you simply are never going to capture The evolution of man: a popular exposition of the principal points of human ontogeny and phylogene by Ernst Haeckel, 1896
actuality without potentiality. That is why, as Karl Popper noted, the world relativity describes seems Parmenidean. Quantum mechanics, on the other hand, in effect gives us an approximation of potentiality without actuality. Indeed, Heisenberg thought that quantum mechanics had rediscovered something like the Aristotelian idea of potentiality. Now, if you describe potentiality without actuality you are (given the A-T account of causality as the actualization of potential) naturally going to seem to be describing a world in which causality is absent. These weird results, then, are merely an artifact of the method of trying to capture everything in a mathematical model. As E. A. Burtt put it in his influential book The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Physical Science, modern scientists, even those who claim to eschew metaphysics, often end up making a metaphysics out of their method. They mistake what is really just an idealized model of the world for the world itself. A-T gives you the rest of the picture. And it argues that you can never really eliminate its key notions – actuality, potentiality, formal and material cause, efficient causality and teleology – but merely move them around. The most science can do is to tell us that this or that particular application of these notions was mistaken. What it cannot do is eliminate them altogether or show that they have no application at all. For example, the modern Darwinian synthesis in biology tells us that a specific kind of teleological description is mistaken. But it by no means gets rid of teleology altogether. On the contrary, it presupposes a kind of teleology or final causality insofar as it is very difficult, and I would say impossible, to describe the relevant genetic phenomena without bringing in teleology at some level. That is why computational descriptions (of genes as “software,” “programs,” etc.) are so hard to avoid in this context, and these descriptions are implicitly teleological. Part of the reason more people do not see this is that they presuppose a
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Even to ask “But how do you know that such-and-such a metaphysical claim is true?” itself presupposes notions of truth and of mind according to which the mind might get things wrong, and that is a metaphysical assumption. So, the idea that metaphysics has to answer to some purely epistemological tribunal before it can even get started is a myth. cartoonish understanding of what Aristotelians mean by final cause. There are different kinds of teleology, but any process that exhibits “directedness” toward a certain characteristic outcome or range of outcomes would be teleological or an instance of final causality. It is also difficult to argue persuasively for A-T without discussing epistemology. On what grounds can we describe reality using A-T concepts? How do we know that those concepts are true?
The idea that metaphysics in general and A-T metaphysics in particular has some frightfully difficult epistemological burden to meet before it can get going is not uncommon – perhaps especially in theology, rather than in philosophy (which has moved beyond the anti-metaphysical prejudices common in the mid-
St. Thomas Aquinas by Carlo Crivelli, 15th century
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twentieth century. Catch up already, theologians!). But I would say that this attitude is unfounded. To be sure, modern philosophy has for much of its history tended to make epistemology primary and metaphysics secondary. The idea from Descartes onward has tended to be that you first inquire into how we can know anything, and then, after settling that, you address questions about what objective reality is like. But classical and medieval philosophers would regard this as getting things the wrong way around, and A-T philosophers would certainly think it gets things the wrong way around. Metaphysics comes first, and any epistemological position itself always presupposes, implicitly if not explicitly, a metaphysical position of some sort. Even to ask “But how do you know that such-and-such a metaphysical claim is true?” itself presupposes notions of truth and of mind according to which the mind might get things wrong, and that is a metaphysical assumption. So, the idea that metaphysics has to answer to some purely epistemological tribunal before it can even get started is a myth. A second problem is that it is simply sloppy procedure to raise sweeping questions about how metaphysics in general can be justified, or even about how A-T metaphysics in general can justify its claims. The right way to proceed is to begin with something very specific. So, for example, consider the theory of actuality and potentiality. The A-T philosopher will start by pointing out that there is simply no way that the reality of change can coherently be denied. Even if you doubt that the external world is real or that real change occurs within it, you still have to transition from one thought to another in order to come to that conclusion, and that itself entails change. So, change of at least some sort exists. Now, the next step would be show that unless there is a real distinction between potentiality and actuality, change would not be possible. Any attempt to sidestep the distinction between potentiality and actuality can be shown at least implicitly to collapse into a Parmenidean position on which change is entirely illusory, and again, no such position is coherent. So, we work from change to actuality and potentiality, and then we go from there. The way we proceed depends on the specific issue, and on what the
critic is willing to concede. Suppose the critic concedes that there is at least some mind-independent reality. (If he is not willing to concede this there are arguments we can give to show him why he is wrong, but of course, most people will concede at least that much.) Suppose, for example, that he concedes the reality of at least those entities and processes described by physics and chemistry. The A-T philosopher will argue that there is no way to make sense of such phenomena unless they too have an actuality/potentiality structure. But for them to have such a structure entails, on analysis, that they have a form/matter structure, and that they also manifest a kind of efficient and final causality, because all of that falls out of the actuality/potentiality analysis when it is unpacked. Then we go on from there to show that the same thing is going to be true of any higher-level irreducible features of the world (such as biological phenomena) that the critic is prepared to recognize. So, the right way to proceed is work up like this, case by case and in careful detail. Asking vague and sweeping questions like “How do we know A-T metaphysics is true?” is no more helpful than asking
and confidently asserted rather developed in any detail. And when they are developed, they turn out to rest on a number of begged questions, non sequiturs, straw men, failures to make crucial distinctions, and so forth. For example, the critics routinely conflate scientific questions and metaphysical questions. They suppose that since certain empirical claims associated with medieval Aristotelian science have turned out to be mistaken (e.g. the idea that the earth is at the center of the solar system, or that the natural place of sub-lunar objects is the center of the earth), it follows that the whole Aristotelian metaphysical apparatus (of actuality and potentiality, the four causes, etc.) is also mistaken. That simply does not follow. Or they suppose that if an idea is not useful for the specific purposes of physical science, then it must not have any utility at all. Which also does not follow. Or they conflate a particular application of a metaphysical idea and the idea itself. For example, they suppose that if this or that medieval teleological analysis of some particular phenomenon is mistaken, then the whole idea of teleology itself is suspect.
The trouble is that when all of these fallacious arguments are exposed, there is very little if anything of substance left to the “science has undermined A-T” objection. The real issues are hardly even addressed. sweeping questions like “How do we know biology is true?” or “How do we know history is true?” We need to proceed by addressing specific issues in a systematic way, and that is how contemporary A-T metaphysicians proceed. For example, that is how my book Scholastic Metaphysics proceeds and how David Oderberg’s book Real Essentialism proceeds. In your opinion, what is the strongest objection against the A-T framework? How would you respond to that objection?
Well, let me answer this way. What people take to be the strongest objection is the claim that modern science has undermined the A-T framework. Sometimes this objection takes the bolder form of saying that science has positively refuted the various specific components of the A-T picture. Sometimes it takes the weaker form of saying that science has at least made it unnecessary to make use of the A-T framework. Is this a strong objection, in either form? I do not think so. It is more of a cliché or a piece of conventional wisdom that everyone thinks “everyone knows.” Usually such objections are merely casually
The trouble is that when all of these fallacious arguments are exposed, there is very little if anything of substance left to the “science has undermined A-T” objection. The real issues are hardly even addressed. That, anyway, is what I have argued at length in places like my book Scholastic Metaphysics.
Divine Simplicity You have also argued for the classical theistic doctrine of divine simplicity. How would you best explain this doctrine and why is it so important that both Christians and non-Christians understand this conception of God?
The doctrine of divine simplicity maintains that there is no composition of any kind in God – that is to say, that he has no parts. For example, he is not made up of physical parts like molecules and atoms, but he is also not made up of parts of any other kind, even of a subtle or metaphysical kind. He is not a mixture of actuality and potentiality, but rather is pure actuality. He is not composed of form and matter, nor is there in him any distinction between substance and attributes. He is not a member of a species that falls under a
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Annunciation by Fra Bartolomeo, 1500
genus, and thus does not have some feature that would set him apart from other members of the species, or his species from other species in the same genus. He does not have an essence or nature distinct from his existence. And so forth. One reason he cannot be composite in any of these ways is that anything that is composite requires a cause. For if a thing is made of parts of either a physical or a metaphysical kind, then there will have to be some principle distinct from it that accounts for how those parts come to exist together in the thing. For example, suppose that we accept the traditional definition of human beings as rational animals. Rationality and animality are not physical parts, but they are parts in the sense that there is no reason why they have to exist together. We need some account of how it is that rationality, which could exist apart from animality, and animality, which could exist apart from rationality, exist together in human beings. This is one reason why human beings require a cause. Now, if God were
like that, then he too would require a cause. But of course, whatever else God is, he is not something which has a cause or could have a cause. If he had one, or even if he could in principle have had one, then he would not be the ultimate explanation of things. He would not really be God in the first place. So, one of the things at stake where divine simplicity is concerned is the very ultimacy of God. That is why in the classical theological tradition – whether in the thought of pagan Aristotelian and Neo-Platonic thinkers, or Christians like Augustine, Anselm, and Aquinas, or Jews like Maimonides or Muslims like Avicenna – divine simplicity is consistently insisted upon. Without it, you simply do not really have theism at all, but implicitly reduce God to the status of at best a very impressive sort of creature. Very powerful and forbidding to be sure, but still essentially creaturely insofar as he requires a cause outside of him and is thus not ultimate, not absolutely necessary, and so forth. How can divine simplicity be reconciled with the doctrine of the Trinity and the Incarnation of Christ? Many Muslim theologians would point to divine simplicity as a reason why the Trinity and the Incarnation cannot be true. It seems unnecessarily complicated and rationally dubious that these characteristics of the Christian God can be reducible to authentic unity.
Actually, I would say that the doctrine of divine simplicity makes doctrines like Trinitarianism more plausible, not less. All adherents of divine simplicity – Muslims no less than Christians – would agree both that God is non-composite but also that he has various attributes such as power, intellect, will, and so forth. Now, it famously follows from divine simplicity that in some sense God’s power just is his intellect, which just is his will, and so forth – even though in us, of course, power, intellect, will, etc. are distinct attributes. How can this be true? The right answer, in my view, is to
That is why in the classical theological tradition – whether in the thought of pagan Aristotelian and Neo-Platonic thinkers, or Christians like Augustine, Anselm, and Aquinas, or Jews like Maimonides or Muslims like Avicenna – divine simplicity is consistently insisted upon. Without it, you simply do not really have theism at all, but implicitly reduce God to the status of at best a very impressive sort of creature. 8 • The Dartmouth Apologia • Spring 2016 ]
be spelled out in terms of Aquinas’s doctrine of the analogical use of language. But whatever one thinks of that, the point is that all adherents of divine simplicity are committed to making some sort of distinctions where the divine nature is concerned, otherwise there would be no point in insisting on these different predications (of power, intellect, will, etc.). The question is just how to understand those distinct predications. Now, if that is true, then it is hardly a stretch to think that we can make a distinction between three divine Persons despite divine simplicity. Of course, I do not mean to imply that the Persons are exactly on a metaphysical par with attributes like power, intellect, and will. But still, no one who is willing to affirm both divine simplicity but also that there is power, intellect, will, etc. in God has any right simply to dismiss Trinitarianism as obviously incompatible with simplicity. The case of the Incarnation raises unique issues of its own, since in addition to the idea that the incarnate Son is a distinct Person from the Father, we have the added complication that the Son takes on a body, which has material parts and so forth. But of course it must be kept in mind that simplicity applies in the first place only to Christ’s divine nature, not his human nature. But the same thing is true of the other divine attributes. It is not obvious why simplicity is more problematic for the Incarnation than other divine attributes are.
Opponents of divine simplicity often claim that divine simplicity “philosophizes” God and makes him extremely different from the God described in the Bible. These critics say that Scriptures portray God as a personal God emotionally affected by humanity’s actions, temporally intervening in his creation, and expressing real, defined, and different characteristics. This seems like a far cry from the abstract, changeless, and emotionless God posed by classical theists. How do you reconcile these two portraits of God?
The trouble is that people who raise this sort of objection typically do not do so consistently. There are lots of anthropomorphic texts in the Bible that these critics would themselves never take literally. They would not say that God must have eyeballs and nostrils, since the Bible speaks of God seeing and breathing. They would agree that that would not be consistent with God’s being the creator of the material world, since he can hardly be the creator of something which he is part of. Now, in rightly drawing this conclusion they are “philosophizing” God. They are drawing philosophical conclusions from what the Bible itself implies. But proponents of divine simplicity are doing the same thing. They are saying that if you take seriously the idea that God is the creator of everything other than himself -- which is a biblical idea -- then you are, if you follow that idea out consistently, going to arrive at divine simplicity, because if God were composite or non-simple than he would require a cause of his own. You are also going to have to say that God does not undergo emotional changes or any other changes, or experience any passage of time. For if he did, then he would have potentialities that are actualized when he changes or passes from one moment to the next. And in that case he would not be simple, but rather be a mixture of actuality and potentiality. So, it is no use for the critic to thump the Bible and pretend that that is some sort of refutation of divine simplicity. Both sides are “philosophizing,” and cannot fail to do so since the Bible itself raises philosophical questions. So the dispute between them is only going to be settled philosophically, and not merely by citing proof texts.
The Trinity by Albrecht Dürer, 1511
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Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin by Joshua Tseng-Tham D’17, 2014
Examining the Augustinian Solution
By Joshua Tseng-Tham
he existence of human free will has generated tremendous interest beyond the ivory towers of philosophical academia. This is not surprising, because the status of human free will has implications for moral responsibility, personal identity, and epistemology. Most people, however, do not fully understand the implications of the free will question for theology. Take, for example, Christian notions of salvation. A complete understanding of the nature of salvation within the Christian faith must contain sin,
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generally defined as any deed that is contrary to God’s eternal law.i Christianity holds that humanity chose to break these eternal laws, therefore separating humanity from God. Nevertheless, the Christian narrative also emphasizes Christ’s sacrifice on the cross in spite of our transgressions, an act of divine love on our behalf that saves us from spiritual death. Given that the nature of sin implicitly involves a choice, the question of free will’s existence has tremendous power to either affirm or compromise
the integrity of the Christian soteriological narrative. ii If humans do not have free will, then it seems unfair to hold them accountable for their predetermined actions. More disturbingly, if the lack of human freedom prevents us from expressing any moral agency, then God is the only being left that has any real agency over his actions. This unsettling fact seems to divert all the responsibility for what happens in the world to God, including “immoral” actions. It seems unjust for God to cause human beings to act immorally, and it seems even more unjust that these actions necessarily bring about the spiritual deaths of these poor creatures. If humans do not have free will, the Christian narrative changes significantly. Far from a story of rebellion against God, the human narrative turns into a story of victimhood – a race of beings forced to undergo a morbid game conducted by a sociopathic deity. If there were any room for Christ’s “sacrifice” in this new story, it would not be seen as an act of divine love, but rather
omnipotent God compatible with human free will? The problem of reconciling free will with these two divine traits is a genuine one that has resurfaced periodically throughout the history of Christian thought, and thus has been addressed by a variety of different thinkers. What this article aims to examine, in particular, is a defense of free will offered by Saint Augustine, one of the first Christians who addressed this issue directly. While his initial response is inadequate, Augustine can sidestep many of the issues of his original solution by emphasizing God’s atemporality instead of man’s power. When Augustine first addressed the problem of free will, he was responding to an early formulation of the problem that focused on sinful actions. In Augustine’s treatise On Free Will, the author details a conversation with Saint Evodius where Augustine is asked whether man is free to commit sinful actions if God foreknows all events. Saint Evodius argued that if God foreknows
If humans do not have free will, the Christian narrative changes significantly. Far from a story of rebellion against God, the human narrative turns into a story of victimhood – a race of beings forced to undergo a morbid game conducted by a sociopathic deity. as compensation for humanity’s nihilistic existence. Christians can avoid confronting this horrifying scenario by accepting the existence of free will, as most Christian denominations already do. But some critics argue that free will is incompatible with God’s omniscience and omnipotence. Since God is omniscient, God has complete knowledge of all events past, present, and future. And since God is omnipotent, all events that God foreknows he necessarily brings into being. If God knows what is going to happen in the future, and his power necessarily brings this event into being, then it seems like all events occur independently of human agency. If this is true, then it seems to commit one to determinism and forces Christians to reject free will, regardless of its theological consequences. Obviously, some Christians can “bite the bullet” of this argument and deny that free will exists. But there are also Christians who deny the existence of free will for scriptural reasons. The consequences of determinism pose a significant conundrum for those Christians due to the theological and moral implications mentioned previously, but it is beyond the scope of this article to address the merits of their scriptural arguments. Thus, there will be no attempt to address arguments that use scriptural passages to disprove human free will. Instead, this article attempts to address one question: is the existence of an omniscient and
man sinning, then man must necessarily sin. If man necessarily sins, then his sinning is not voluntary. This argument can be expanded into something that applies to free will as a whole, since sin is not the only human action that God foreknows. Because God foreknows every human action, it raises the question as to whether any human action is voluntary.iii Accordingly, Evodius’ original argument can be reconstructed and refined into the following syllogism: (1) If God is omniscient, God foreknows all events. (2) Hence, if a man is going to sin, God foreknows that he will sin. (3) Because God is omnipotent, whatever God foreknows must necessarily happen. (4) Hence, if God foreknows that a man will sin, he must necessarily sin. (5) But if such a man must necessarily sin, there is no voluntary choice in his sinning. (6) The logic expressed by (2)-(5) applies to any action that the man commits. (7) Therefore, such a man does not have free will.iv Augustine’s solution to this problem is to draw a distinction between something that occurs necessarily and something that occurs voluntarily. He essentially denies premise (5) by claiming that necessity does
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In a prison, a person can desire anything, but the confines of the prison restrict him from actually achieving desires that require him to leave the prison. Because his desires do not actually lead to their intended outcome, it is reasonable to say that the prisoner is not free. Inside the Belém Tower Dungeon by Joshua Tseng-Tham D’17, 2015
not preclude freedom. He does this by distinguishing between the sufficient conditions for necessity versus the sufficient conditions for freedom. While necessity follows from God’s foreknowledge, freedom follows from man’s power. In other words, Augustine tries to maintain free will by equating freedom with power. Augustine believed that humans have power over their will, and since power implies freedom, our will must accordingly be free.v Since necessity and freedom follow from different independent sources, a person necessarily willing something does not entail a lack of freedom. Noting this vague account of power, philosopher William Rowe attempted to clarify the meaning of this term by proposing a more systematic definition of power on behalf of Augustine. He argued that a man does not have the power to do X if the situation fulfills one of two criteria: (8) X fails to occur even though the man wills to do X. (9) X occurs even though the man does not will to do X.vi It follows that one has the power to do X if his will does affect the occurrence of X. Since Augustine equates power and freedom, this definition is essential if we want to understand Augustine’s conception of freedom. One way to understand Augustinian freedom is
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to imagine a scenario that illustrates power. If a man had the power to quit smoking, he could choose to quit smoking and he will actually stop because of this choice, and vice versa. Replacing “power” with “freedom,” Augustine would therefore say that the man was free to quit smoking, since he clearly changed his smoking habit after he chose to quit. He therefore defines freedom as having the ability to affect a certain outcome after one decides to act towards that outcome. This interesting definition of freedom seems dubious at first, since many people consider the ability to make a choice as the only prerequisite for freedom, rather than the ability to affect outcomes that come from choices. But Augustine’s definition seems plausible if one considers freedom in the context of a prison. In a prison, a person can desire anything, but the confines of the prison restrict him from actually achieving desires that require him to leave the prison. Because his desires do not actually lead to their intended outcome, it is reasonable to say that the prisoner is not free. If the prison scenario aptly illustrates Augustinian freedom, then it makes sense why power entails freedom – both power and freedom presuppose the ability to affect an outcome that stems from a corresponding desire. Subsequently, Augustine argues that this causal relationship is unaffected by God’s foreknowledge. Even if this event happened by necessity, somebody’s present decision could still affect some future event. For instance, a man’s decision to go to the supermarket will result in the future event “Man goes to the
supermarket.” So long as the causal link between the event and the person performing the action exists (assuming that the action proceeds from the man’s desire), the man maintains his freedom. The question still remains as to why we have power over our will. By positing a thought experiment, Augustine argued that the will (e.g. will to sin) must fall under man’s power. Recall the above definition of power where a man does not have the power to do X if X occurs despite the man’s lack of will to do it. Accordingly, Augustine reasoned, if we imagine that the man’s will to sin is not in his power, the following statement can be constructed: (10) The man wills to sin despite the man’s lack of will to sin.vii Obviously, this is absurd because these desires are contradictory. Therefore, saying that the man does not have the power to will to sin implies a contradiction. Even if we accept Augustine’s definition of freedom, it seems that Augustine made a subtle logical error in his argumentation. If Augustine truly follows the criteria for power given in (8) and (9), then it is clear that he misappropriated what X actually referred to when he tried to establish (10). To illustrate, we need to divide (10) into two parts: (11) Man wills to sin. (12) Man does not will to sin. If (11) were to properly parallel the first half of (9) (i.e. X occurs), then it means that (11) defines X as “wills to sin.” But if (12) were to properly parallel the second half of (9) (i.e. even though the man does not will to do X), then it means that (12) defines X as “to sin.” Hence, (11) and (12) presuppose two different definitions of X. And it is clear that the definition of X implicit in (11) is more in line with Augustine’s original intention for the term when he described his dilemma. The dilemma starts by considering that “the man’s willing to sin is not in his power.”viii If Augustine intended for X to be “to sin,” then the dilemma would
Saint Augustine by Philippe de Champaigne, c. 1650
start by considering that “the man’s sinning is not in his power.” If the definition of X implicit in (12) is not the intended meaning of X, then we have to change Augustine’s argument so that X’s referent is consistent. If we define X as “wills to sin,” then we can construct the “dilemma” as the following: (13) If the man’s will to sin (X) is not in his power, the man wills to sin (X occurs) even though he does not will to will to sin (to do X).ix This new construction is not inherently absurd. To “will to sin” is a first order desire while to “will to will to sin” is a second order desire – he wishes that he does not want to sin. But second order desires can conflict with first order desires. For example, a drug addict may express a second order regret for desiring drugs (he wishes he did not want drugs), even though his first order desire for drugs (he wants drugs) ends up motivating him to take the drugs. Augustine mistakenly inferred that “the man’s will to sin is not in his power” results in a conflict between two first order
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desires, whereas it actually is a conflict between different ordered desires. Therefore, Augustine does not establish that we necessarily have power over our will. Luckily, there is a better solution for Augustine that modifies premise (1) instead of denying premise (5). Augustine in his Confessions describes God as a timeless being who created the temporal world through an act of “speaking.”x This act of speaking, however, has a divine twist. Human speech is successive – one word follows another in a temporal sequence (e.g. “Joe eats sandwiches” is a sequential set of Joe, eats, and sandwiches). But Augustine believed that God’s “speech” (i.e. creative act) is non-successive. This reveals two insights about God’s creative act. First, because God’s speech is non-successive, it must be a single act. There is no
God Rests in the “Bibel in Bildern,” 1860
God, like his speech, is both omnitemporal and atemporal. point where one word “follows” another. Because there is no sequence, there is no point where God’s speech changes or comes out of existence to “make way” for different words. Therefore, if God’s creative act is a single act that encompasses all of creation past, present, and future, it must be non-sequential, changeless, and eternal.xi Second, because God created everything, including time itself, it means that God’s “speech” is atemporal, coming from a source outside of time. In other words, not only does his creative act encompass all of time, it also transcends time itself. Assuming that God is the source of creation, we can infer a further insight about God’s nature. God, like his speech, is both omnitemporal and atemporal – his omnitemporality extends from God’s existing eternally in the past, present, and future, but his atemporality extends from God’s being the source of creation, which requires that he exist independently from time itself.
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Of course, it appears as if God’s speech is temporal, since our understanding of speech is influenced by our temporal perspective. But it does not mean that God’s speech is actually temporal. This insight can be applied to God’s other actions. If God acts from an atemporal perspective, then many of the terms that people use to describe God’s actions are temporal analogies of what really are atemporal actions. Just as our act of speaking is related, but not identical, to God’s act of speaking, our understanding of foreknowledge is related, but not identical, to God’s foreknowledge. God’s “foreknowledge” is analogous to our common understanding of foreknowledge because God has knowledge of all future events. It is substantively different, however, because his foreknowledge is both omnitemporal and atemporal. This understanding of foreknowledge is admittedly difficult to comprehend, since the term foreknowledge
itself implies temporality. But a move from human foreknowledge to divine foreknowledge is analogous to a shift from a 2D plane to a 3D plane. The 2D plane is limited as a description of the 3D plane because it lacks a third dimension. Similarly, human foreknowledge is limited as a description of divine foreknowledge because humans are constrained by time in a way that God is not. When a human, at time t1, foresees a future event at time t2, he only exists at t1, and does not yet exist at t2. But God, being omnitemporal, exists at t1 and t2 simultaneously. So clearly God’s foreknowledge cannot work in the same way as human foreknowledge, since God’s knowledge of every event is simultaneous with his existence at every temporal moment. Hence, because God is both omnitemporal and atemporal, God cannot exhibit a successive knowledge of events in time. Thus, premise (1) should be modified to include
(1*) If God is omniscient, God knows all events instantaneously. (2*) Hence, if a man is going to sin, God apprehends the act as the man is sinning. God’s “foreknowledge” is a single act that apprehends all events instantaneously from a perspective that is atemporal. And there is no doubt that this knowledge, radically different from a temporal understanding of knowledge, is difficult to fully comprehend. But this knowledge, unrestrained by temporal boundaries, denies the assumption that underlies the problem of free will – that a future event can be determined by the prior knowledge of such event. Once Augustine removes this assumption, he can gracefully sidestep the problem by further denying that a prima facie problem even exists. One could argue that a single, eternal act is also
If God is both omniscient and atemporal, then it is not necessarily true that God has “foreknowledge” of future events, if we define foreknowledge in the temporal sense of the term. Rather, it is more apt to say that God knows what the man is doing as he is doing it. the notion of atemporality. If God is both omniscient and atemporal, then it is not necessarily true that God has “foreknowledge” of future events, if we define foreknowledge in the temporal sense of the term. Rather, it is more apt to say that God knows what the man is doing as he is doing it. His knowledge tracks events in a perspective that transcends time. Accordingly, God’s atemporal knowledge is fully compatible with the existence of free will. The original problem assumed that God’s foreknowledge is a single event that later determines a future event. Consider again the first two premises of the problem: (1) If God is omniscient, God foreknows all events. (2) Hence, if a man is going to sin, God foreknows that he will sin. But God does not know events at a single moment in advance, because to God, there is no “advance.” God exists at every point in time simultaneously. Thus, to say that God knows an event in advance means that there is some event in the future that is temporally independent from God, which contradicts God’s temporal transcendence. Consider then, the following reconstruction of (1) and (2) that takes into account the impossibility of temporal foreknowledge:
deterministic in an “ultimate” sense. If we combine God’s atemporal foreknowledge with his atemporal “speech,” then it follows that God plans timelessly for events that appear successively for us in time. This would mean that God planned, from an atemporal perspective, that all temporally successive events be actualized. Insofar as our will allows us to pursue actions freely in the temporal sense, we would lack ultimate freedom because the existence of a divine plan seems to entail determinism. It is plausible, however, to consider this argument problematic for two reasons. First, people generally do not equate free will with the ability to do anything they want. Just as the inevitability of death constrains a woman’s freedom to be immortal but does not compromise her freedom to perform actions while alive, God’s divine plan constrains but does not eliminate humanity’s free will. It is more accurate to say that human free will exists, but only within the boundaries of God’s divine plan. But more importantly, the objection misunderstands the qualitative difference between atemporal determinism and temporal determinism. Temporal determinism is problematic because it entails that a past event commits us to future actions, but it is unclear if atemporal determinism has this same problem. After all, if God “tracks” our events as they occur, then God’s “tracking” is eternally present, and thus cannot be said to affect future actions in any
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God’s tracking eliminates the distinction between past, present, and future, which at the very least means that the traditional problems of determinism do not apply. relevant sense. Rather, God’s tracking eliminates the distinction between past, present, and future, which at the very least means that the traditional problems of determinism do not apply. In practice, it is almost impossible to fully conceptualize the notion of atemporality, let alone apply that property to God and understand its implications. After all, humans are intrinsically temporal creatures and lack any sort of experiential knowledge of atemporality. Nevertheless, the inability to fully comprehend atemporality does not preclude it from being an elegant solution to the problem of free will. Rather than trying to conceive atemporality for what it is, one should try to understand atemporality for what it is not. If the problem of free will presupposes a temporal understanding of foreknowledge, and God transcends temporality, then God cannot exhibit this type of foreknowledge. But if God cannot exhibit this foreknowledge, then a prima facie conflict between foreknowledge and free will does not exist, even though human comprehension fails to grasp God’s knowledge completely. What humans can understand, however, is a God who not only coexists with free will, but who also considers free will a necessary component in the process of salvation. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd ed., 1849. Soteriological: related to theology dealing with salvation iii. William L. Rowe, “Augustine on Foreknowledge and Free Will,” The Review of Metaphysics 18, no. 2 (Dec., 1964): 356. iv. Rowe, 357. v. Rowe, 357. vi. Rowe, 358. vii. Rowe, 359. viii. Rowe, 359. ix. Rowe, 360. Note: made slight modifications x. Saint Augustine, The Confessions (401), Project Gutenberg, trans. E. B. Pusey, May 16, 2013, https://www.gutenberg.org/files/3296/3296h/3296-h.htm#link2H_4_0011 (accessed December 3, 2015) bk. 11, para. 8-10. xi. Augustine, bk. 11, para. 9. i.
Joshua Tseng-Tham ’17 is from Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He is a double major in Economics and Philosophy.
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Eternal Clock by Robbert van der Steeg, 2009
Prophecy, Progress, & Repentance: T HE R OLE
Individual IN HUMAN HISTORY By Jake Casale
he idea of progress exerts a powerful pull over the Western cultural imagination in the present era. This attraction is the culmination of a century of societal flirtation with the notion that the rapid development of technology and scientific methodologies has given mankind the tools that will eventually, with enough trial and error, construct solutions to the seemingly ineradicable injustices of society. If humanity is always in a state of positive refinement and forward movement, then it is only logical to assume that one day we will arrive at a utopic state. Such a belief emerges from the epistemological foundations that undergird modern conceptions of progress: the idea that man is able to apprehend, on his own power, all that can be known through the tools that history has bequeathed to him.i The fact that these assumptions have been forged alongside the decline of religious institutions in America is not surprising, though it is curious that systems of belief – Christianity in particular – are often characterized as enemies of progress, as if they are primarily concerned with blind adherence to archaic and oppressive structures. Given the disproportionate attention that cultural commentators afford to particular eras of church history (such as the oft-mischaracterized trial of Galileo), it is not unreasonable that many Americans conceive of Christianity in this way.ii But this unfortunate reality does indicate that general society has lost familiarity with many of the core concerns that characterize over two thousand years of Christian tradition – including a commitment to progress, though perhaps of a more expansive type. In fact, the Christian worldview provides a notion of personal and societal progress that purports to address the deepest fractures in the human condition and seeks to provide restoration that is rooted beyond the limitations of human maintenance. Indeed, it is rooted beyond time itself. Yet to understand what defines
progress in the Christian vision of reality, it is necessary to understand the way that progress is brought about within that vision, which involves a different set of assumptions about the nature of man and what is considered possible as a result of his actions. Central to these notions is a concept often relegated to the fringes of modern church dialogue, but vitally important to the construction of a framework for the operation of the individual believer within history: prophecy. Unfortunately, the biblical idea of prophecy has been subverted in recent decades by watered-down, overly mystical applications of the term in popular fiction. The collective characterization of prophecy that emerges is dominated by verbal portents of generally dismal future events, either exact or vague but always ominous, and usually prompted by an unknowable spiritual force that the speaker either seeks out or is arrested by. Most of these attributes are twisted renderings of the Christian understanding of prophecy, which rests on a stronger base of knowledge than mystical premonitions and is grounded in the relational and personal interactions between man and God. Yet this conceptualization also includes the paradoxical acceptance of a mystery that can never be penetrated by the human mind due to our fundamental nature as finite beings that know and perceive existence in terms of boundaries, from the endpoints of our own bodies to the restrictions of a temporal moment. Prophecy is undoubtedly concerned with the future, but this concern is ensconced within prophecy’s primary nature as a vehicle for drawing mankind back to right relationship with God through acts of repentance in the present.iii By seeking to curate hearts in specific moments, it safeguards the future that the will of God brings about. In this sense, prophecy has a wider view than is often ascribed to it – it does not always, particularly in the case of predictions of destruction that abound
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Apostle John the Theologian on the Island of Patmos by Andrey Mironov, 2012
within the Old Testament, seek to provide a definitive picture of what will occur in the immediate future, but rather to shape the present in response to the eternal. Any prophetic reference to previously unknown future events within the temporal progression of history must be viewed in light of what the Christian faith has already revealed as certain about the impending shape of the world, and how God claims the heart of
God’s love for humanity, willing and able to overcome all discordances, offers man the option of participation in the goodness that God is bringing about; the choice, however, does not remain open indefinitely. Thus, the content of prophetic communication is animated by what God has revealed about the endgame of his plan for history and his desire to call people to repent from the sin that threatens to displace them from participation in this endgame. The discussion has focused to this point on instances of verbal prophecy because they have received the most damage from popular culture’s appropriation of the term, but there is still greater territory that must be reclaimed, for even notions of what falls into the category of prophetic are often too narrow. While biblical instances of prophecy often involve human actors delivering messages from God to a specific audience, Christianity identifies a type of character that these events emerge from – a way of living and being that is opened by the foundational narrative of the faith and how it sketches mankind’s relationship with history. In fact, a rich comprehension of this pattern of being—which can be variably referred to as a prophetic attitude, character, or posture – precedes a truly robust understanding of prophetic messages and events. Thus, developing a framework for this pattern of being will be the focus of this discussion, which will ultimately contextualize prophecy’s redemptive purpose in the transition between structures of reality that Christianity claims is the ultimate goal of history: the imminent “breaking through” of the Kingdom of God on earth. Before continuing, it must be stated what this discussion is not: an exploration of the spiritual gift
Any prophetic reference to previously unknown future events within the temporal progression of history must be viewed in light of what the Christian faith has already revealed as certain about the impending shape of the world. each individual is impacted by that shape. Therefore, prophecy is primarily concerned with what may occur if the errant currents of the present are allowed to flow unaltered into the local or temporally proximal future. If God is certain to bring about his will for the ultimate future of the universe regardless of whether or not mankind tries to work against that will, it follows that he intends to definitively remove all barriers to this will’s realization. The Christian understands these barriers to be universally rooted in sin, which is endemic to the fallen human condition, therefore placing mankind in discordancy with the will of God. Yet
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of prophecy as referenced in the Scriptures, which is theoretically not discontinuous with a discussion of the prophetic attitude but requires a different set of analytical tools that is beyond the scope of this article. For now, it suffices to say that there is debate about whether such a gift continues to be actively manifested among Christians today or whether it ceased once the apostles had established the church in the two centuries following Christ’s resurrection. There is a rich and ongoing dialogue on the hermeneutics for identifying manifestations of prophecy as a spiritual gift, but this is not the place to sift through its intricacies. The present
concern is to trace the characteristics and conditions for a pattern of prophetic being that the Christian vision arguably opens for any individual to cultivate. All people, regardless of belief system, can readily acknowledge the human situation as both temporal and progressive – meaning that each individual passes through life until some sort of destination is reached, which appears at first glance to be death. Indeed, according to philosophical naturalism – the belief that matter is the ultimate reality, precluding the existence of any external input or force that influences the things that happen to arrangements of matter – death is the inescapable end that every life-form is bent toward. Yet very few individuals, even those who affirm all the tenets of philosophical naturalism, would claim that the aging of the biological organism until it ultimately falls into disrepair and ceases to function is the only sort of progression that occurs over the course of a human life. Moreover, even fewer individuals live as if that progression is the most significant progression they experience. One of the most reliable and consistent characteristics in the midst of the vast diversity of human experience is the stance of pursuit. We have enduring records of humans persistently and often single-mindedly seeking a number of things: power, love, status, culture, and art, just to name a few. Research in social psychology has linked the
relationships that humans establish with one another, with intimate objects, and with personal pursuits to a drive toward self-expansion.iv This concept exposes crucial clues that aid the creation of a rough portrait of the ends of human existence: there is a self, it is central, and it is somehow unfinished. Whatever current state the self is in seems perpetually diminished compared to what it could be – and there is an endless stream of “could be” that the mind is able to envision. Moreover, no mind is able to fully resist the allure of the “could be.” Thus, man is bound to walk some sort of path in order to achieve a change of being, which is variably cast in modern Western terms as self-discovery, selfactualization, personal growth, or identity formation, although other cultures and historical eras would employ a different set of vocabularies. Nevertheless, everyone is inexorably tied to the path – and moreover, all sense that there is a conceivable end that provides an overarching meaning to the journey, though different people may construct disparate ideas of this end. Even those who resign themselves to the fact that life has no discernable meaning will often turn the perpetual search for meaning into its own end, which testifies to the near-impossibility of truly living as if the path does not matter.v Christianity joins the diverse assembly of worldviews that affirm the instinctual knowledge that the journey of life matters, but it uniquely grounds
The Prophet Isaiah by Gustave Doré, 1866
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this intuition in the concept of destiny, which is at once unique to each individual and tied to the overall movement of the entire race.vi Christianity sharpens the context surrounding modern notions of selfactualization by locating the incomplete self within a framework of brokenness; the self has an ideal (indeed, an original) form that it no longer embodies, the result
of Christ. This seminal event shatters existing notions of possibility and reveals, in vivid and unambiguous terms, the core ontological markers of the forthcoming Kingdom of God: a domain where the power of death holds no sway, and the people of all nations live in a state of both individual and corporate wholeness that is animated by boundless, other-centered love.
of a decision to trade the Creator’s vision for another vision that seeks to ascend beyond the human frame. Paradoxically, this choice led to the debasement of the self, though part of the self-deception enacted at the decision is an enduring denial of this reality. Thus, for the believer – made aware of her state through grace – the journey of life is a complex, mysterious, and unceasingly demanding process of “the temporal and free unfoldment of [her] essential being,” or the discovery of her true self in accordance to the vision of her Creator.vii Already, one can see how prophetic contours – a sense of incoming, inalterable eternal realities – distinguish this understanding of personal progress from the modern language of identity formation. The destination, while generally obscured in mystery for the traveler, is not unknown from the vantage point of the divine. Indeed, the knowledge is in the hands of one who also promises to see the traveler through to her destination. Thus, the journey is shaped by the assurance that each step is unified by a concrete meaning that will soon take coherent shape, though it may only be presently discernable in a fragmentary and unsatisfying manner. Yet the act of steadily apprehending the overall arc, and how each moment experienced fits into the arc, is a crucial part of growing into one’s destiny. This lifelong process can be thought of as learning to grasp the overall end of one’s personal history while still existing within the temporal progression of that history. Such a conception underscores the ontologically bounded nature of human experience, yet simultaneously suggests that history is made significant precisely because it is bent toward eternity.viii The common characteristic shared among all human destinies is the steady march toward a plane of existence that is free of the restrictions imposed on mankind by time – restrictions that, in a fallen world, are dominated by the unavoidable fact that finite beings are ultimately extinguished in death. But according to the central claims of the Christian faith, a different reality is near at hand, one that man has already glimpsed through the sacrifice and resurrection
This revelation has several implications for the individual human who currently remains within the confines of time. The first is that, beyond the unique lives that populate every nation and era, all of human history is subject to one categorical destiny. At a minimum, then, it follows that each person’s destiny is indissolubly bound up with the ebb and flow of history, foundationally shaped by the burgeoning knowledge of the realm that all individuals will one day inhabit. Yet how one perceives the exact nature of this connection is crucially decisive in opening or closing pathways to cultivating a prophetic character, and is canalized according to what one understands to be the primal causative forces that drive the course of history. Even within a basic Christian framework, it is natural to observe the stream of events that continuously remolds current world affairs and arrive at the conclusion that a relatively small spectrum of human actors, often
The common characteristic shared among all human destinies is the steady march toward a plane of existence that is free of the restrictions imposed on mankind by time.
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The Sermon on the Mount (Coming of the Kingdom Proclaimed) by Carl Heinrich Bloch, 1877
arranged into hierarchies and institutions, control the decisions that shape the lives of general populations. Moreover, these authorities are not consistent entities; as years turn into decades, they undergo significant changes in ideology, emphasis, values, and structure. Thus, if the average man is simply adrift in the vast seas of political and ecological activity that define the development of human civilizations, he lives in a stance of perpetual reactivity to the whims of institutions far larger and staggeringly more complex than he. He cannot hope to be an active agent in history. The efficacy of his actions will be determined largely by the utterly random flux of circumstances that define his situation and choices. The individual’s relationship to history is therefore preeminently unpredictable and, indeed, nearly uncontrollable. In the face of this potential conclusion, it is significant to note that the tenets of Christianity – while not denying the reality that history is built on one level through human action – paint a picture in which neither the arc of history nor the dynamic nature of human affairs are ultimately ruled by the chances and limitations that should necessarily follow from human authority. Instead, ultimate authority takes the form of the will of God, which is sovereign over the entire progression of history. Moreover, St. Augustine of Hippo clarifies that this sovereignty is not solely manifested in events that might be categorized as explicitly supernatural (such as miracles), but “through the normal course of historical events and the lives of individuals as historical actors
human history. Put another way, each person carries historical responsibilities that are directly connected to the realization of God’s will for his creation – yet which are intimately defined for the individual according to her unique self and situation.xi Thus, the realization of shared historical responsibility does not imply that all people are meant to produce an equivalent degree of impact on the progression of the ages. Indeed, it seems likely that human ideas of impact – defined in recent decades primarily in terms of quantification, data, and empirical measurement – contrast sharply with God’s emphasis on the qualitative worth of the individual. Instead, what is indicated is the imperative resting on each person to cultivate a prophetic posture: a stance of attentive, critical engagement with his or her immediate circumstances and the larger historical forces that define them, while maintaining an awareness that his or her responsibilities proceed from the exigencies of the world to come. Thus, nurturing a prophetic character necessarily involves continuous, disciplined, and intensely personal negotiation of the tensions that must arise when one seeks to be both detached and involved.xii It means that one be relationally available to the demands of the moment and yet always seeking to discern the will of God amidst a tangle of internal and external rhetoric that, while largely attractive, is fully capable of subverting and contradicting divine wisdom. Indeed, the persistence of man’s brokenness suggests that some degree of crookedness, whether subtle or overt, is to be expected in the systems and plans that he constructs. Paired with the recognition
If the destiny of every individual, be they a king or a victim of the most wretched poverty, is equally significant in God’s estimation, it follows that each is equally purposed within the vast network of destinies that compose human history. […] God does not act as a cause in history alongside other causes of historical events, but rather in and through those events themselves.”ix This dovetails mysteriously with several implications of the notion of destiny, for Christianity holds that each human being, created in the image of God and granted “glory, or participation in the goodness of all that has been created,” has an inestimable value in the eyes of the Creator that accordingly eradicates any categorizing power ascribed to inequalities that are visible to the human eye (such as variations in intelligence, physical prowess, moral intuition, and the like).x If the destiny of every individual, be they a king or a victim of the most wretched poverty, is equally significant in God’s estimation, it follows that each is equally purposed within the vast network of destinies that compose
that “the Christian doctrine of sinfulness does not enable us to know in advance just where our limits will be found to lie,” the process of a finite individual becoming a vehicle for divine work hinges on her developing deep capacities for patience and receptivity.xiii True prophetic character is defined by a posture of hopeful yet soberly enduring expectancy, waiting for God to act in history and then responding to those actions from a place of “steady attentiveness and availability to God in Christ.”xiv Thus, though there is always potential for responsive human action to be discolored by the fundamental misdirection of fallen motivations, the opposite potential – the ability to discern and effectively fight for the concerns of the heart of God – is activated and steadily developed. At this point, it becomes clear why prophetic
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True prophetic character is defined by a posture of hopeful yet soberly enduring expectancy, waiting for God to act in history and then responding to those actions from a place of “steady attentiveness and availability to God in Christ.” manifestations throughout history are calls to repentance for wrongdoing, even if such calls in secular contexts do not explicitly address the full metaphysical weight and stakes of the situation. In the Christian worldview, repentance is essential for the new reality of the Kingdom to break through the existing structure of the universe, but it is a challenging concept that is usually associated in popular consciousness with tragic instances in which the church has sought to incite unreasonable, disproportionate, and damaging levels of guilt and shame in both its own assemblies and society at large. Such an understanding casts repentance as the sorrowful reaction to punishment for an infraction of religious rules, which reflects a characterization of the faith that is inaccurately skewed toward legalism over grace. While genuine repentance does involve a sense of remorse, that sense is not meant to be confining nor scarring, but to motivate the reorientation or “re-becoming” of one’s heart away from its own designs and toward the pursuit of a relationship with God and his good vision for the human life.xv So, when one considers that the course of history is enacted through the decisions that spring from human hearts, repentance must be part of the story if the macro-destiny of history is to be realized – which, in turn, explains the prevalence of prophetic communication in addressing and rectifying social ills at key points throughout history. There are numerous well-known examples within the last two hundred years alone of individuals and groups that unify prophetic spirituality and tangible engagement with the atrocities of the day, such as Abraham Lincoln’s transformative words and deeds during the American Civil War, Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s costly resistance to the Third Reich, and the role of black church leaders in condemning the South African apartheid and mobilizing efforts to eradicate it.xvi What ties them together is their shared commitment to advancing the common good through rooting out the sources of injustice and oppression in society and seeking, within their circumscribed humanity, to first discern and then act according to the will of God – a will that seeks to expose what is broken and to spare no effort in bringing about redemption. This, ultimately, is the type of progress that was intimated for humanity through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, and is the purposive goal of prophetic being within the progression of human history.
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Glenn Tinder, The Political Meaning of Christianity: An Interpretation (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1989), 169. ii. See Macy Ferguson, “Conflicting Interpretations: Debunking Galileo’s Science v. Faith Controversy,” The Dartmouth Apologia Vol. 8 No. 2 (2014) and Trevor Davis, “Faith and Learning: Does Christianity Pose a Challenge to Intellectual Inquiry?”, The Dartmouth Apologia Vol. 10 No. 1 (2015). iii. Mark J. Boda and Gordon T. Smith, Repentance in Christian Theology (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2006), 49-50. iv. Sara Konrath, “Self-Expansion Theory”, Encyclopedia of Social Psychology (Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2007), 827. v. Os Guinness, Fool’s Talk: Recovering the Art of Christian Persuasion (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2015), 215. vi. Tinder, 27-29. vii. Tinder, 28. viii. Tinder, 76. ix. Raymond Plant, Politics, Theology, and History (Cambridge: University Press, 2001), 53. x. Tinder, 27 (and other). xi. Tinder, 68, 77. xii. Tinder, 69-71. xiii. Tinder, 163. xiv. Tinder, 224. xv. Ellen F. Davis, Biblical Prophecy: Perspectives for Christian Theology, Discipleship, and Ministry (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2014), 216. xvi. See Tinder, Political Meaning, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, and Richard Elphick, Christianity in South Africa: A Political, Social, and Cultural History. i.
Jake Casale ’17 is from Redmond, WA. He is a major in Psychology, with minors in Geography and Global Health.
Social Revolutions, and
the way forward
By Josh Alexakos
o type of revolution has had a greater history of violence and redemptive victory than the social revolution. Social revolutions, defined by the anarchist Alexander Berkman as “the reorganization of the industrial, economic life of the country, and consequently also of the entire structure of society,” have greatly impacted our world and molded it into the shape it is today.i In Western history, no other religion has had as unique a relationship with social revolutions as Christianity. At times, Christianity and social revolutions have been viciously opposed to each other. At other times, the two have worked in such close tandem as to be indistinguishable. Therefore, while Karl Marx argues that Christianity is impotent for social change and irrelevant to social revolution, Christianity actually promotes social revolution and gives it a powerful and tangible methodology for peaceful social change. In fact, Christianity supplies both a narrative and the moral conviction needed to motivate social change. Christianity has definitely failed to fight injustice in certain instances throughout history, but has also acted as a catalyst for social change for much of history. Society, by extension, attributes much of its progress to Christianity. Marx, the German economist and philosopher and one of the fiercest critics of Christianity, attacked religion’s predictable maintenance of the status quo: The foundation of irreligious criticism is: Man makes religion, religion does not make man… Man is the world of man – state, society. This state and this society produce religion, which is an inverted consciousness of the world, because they are an inverted world. Religion is the general theory of this world… It is the fantastic realization of the human essence since
the human essence has not acquired any true reality. The struggle against religion is, therefore, indirectly the struggle against that world whose spiritual aroma is religion… Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.ii
Marx identifies that religion is nothing more than a product of man, the state, and society. By implication, religion is nothing more than a tool used by the state to conserve the state of affairs. According to Marx, religion acts as the outlet through which people can express their sufferings. However, this means that religion can never enlighten people to recognize the real cause of their problems - in the case of Marx, the state’s continued abuse of the working class in favor of the bourgeoisie. Marx’s critique, one levied by others in history, opposes any suggestion that any religion, including Christianity, could logically work side by side with social revolution. Marx’s denunciation of religion and its assurance of social stagnancy is appealing, but historically incorrect. On the contrary, throughout history, Christians, motivated by Christianity itself, have sought to cure social ills and even spark social revolutions to end some of history’s worst injustices. English Christians, such as William Wilberforce, Granville Sharp, and Thomas Clarkson, felt compelled by their Christian faith to end slavery and succeeded in abolishing the slave trade in 1807 and slavery itself in 1834.iii Although Christianity in Europe had existed from the late 15th century all the way up until the mid-19th century alongside slavery, Christianity and slavery were not a peaceful pairing. In 1537, Pope Paul III forbade the enslavement of the indigenous peoples of America
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by any Catholic nations. Dominican friars and priests, in a meeting with the king of Spain, opposed the enslavement of indigenous peoples and the methods of colonialism the Spanish practiced.iv Bartolome de las Casas, a well-known Dominican friar, fought against slavery and the colonial abuses of the Spanish, and was accused of treason for his protests.v Therefore slavery, even in its earliest days in Europe, was greatly opposed by many Christians. Christianity was also unique in facilitating the end of slavery. On a global scale, slavery as an institution was extremely common in most societies in the 19th century (though it differed from the chattel slavery seen in the New World). Most societies at that time benefited from the continued existence of slavery, and saw little reason to end it. According to sociologist Rodney Stark, no religion, philosophy, or ideology advocated for the abolition of slavery in the 18th century. He noted that, “All known societies above the very primitive level have been slave societies—even many of the Northwest American Indian tribes had slaves long before Columbus’s voyage. Amid this universal slavery, only one civilization ever rejected human bondage: Christendom. And it did it twice!”vi
Christianity also motivated the English Christian abolitionists to bring slavery to an end, despite the cost. Slavery was one of the largest institutions that
The Apostle Paul, 1000
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benefited the state and the slave trade profited many states greatly. Consequently, their efforts to put an end to the enslavement of innocent Africans ran into many difficulties; the culture at that time was comfortable with the continuance of chattel slavery, and it took twenty years of campaigning and protesting for the abolitionists just to end the slave trade. According to Marx, Christianity should have perpetuated slavery for its advantages to slave-owners and traders, rather than relentlessly pursuing the complete abolition of slavery. But the fact that religion was used in this context to overturn, rather than continue, the status quo casts doubt on Marx’s assertion that religion is merely the tool of the state and blinds people to the real cause of their problems. Even disregarding contrary historical evidence, Marx’s beliefs about Christianity’s relationship to social change is contrary to what Christianity itself teaches about social change. St. Paul, in his letter to the church in Galatia, vehemently argued that Jesus’ sacrifice released Jews and non-Jews alike from the dominion of the Jewish law, precisely so that all humanity could thrive as equals in communion with him. St. Paul pushed back against the claims of some Jewish Christians that non-Jewish Christians had to follow the Mosaic Law, given to the Hebrews as they were entering Israel.vii Recognizing that the law would only create more division and separation in the Christian community, St. Paul radically proclaimed that “there
Crucifixion by Evgraf Semenovich Sorokin, 1873
is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”viii The philosopher Paul Copan noted how profoundly this statement affected the culture that Christianity developed: Paul (and Peter) didn’t call for an uprising to overthrow slavery in Rome. They didn’t want the Christian faith to be perceived as opposed to social order and harmony…. On the other hand, the early Christians undermined slavery indirectly and certainly rejected many common Greco-Roman assumptions about it, such as Aristotle’s (slaves were inherently inferior to their masters, as were females to males). Just as Jesus bore unjust suffering for the redemption of others… so Christian slaves could bear hardship to show others—including their masters—the way of Christ and redemption through him, all while entrusting themselves to God. Thus, like yeast, such Christlike living could have a gradual leavening effect on society so that oppressive institutions like slavery could finally fall away. This is, in fact, what took place throughout Europe….ix
Christianity necessarily struggled against the predominant Greco-Roman thought and worked to oppose culture – not to reduce identities to nothingness, but to argue that there is always unity among all people, developing the foundation for later Christian denouncements of slavery. Of course, Marx’s attacks on religion assume that
Martin Luther King, Jr., half-length portrait, facing left, with left arm raised, at freedom rally, Washington Temple Church by O. Fernandez, 1962
In the midst of this, Christianity emerges again as foundational in the pursuit of nonviolent protest. In fact, the pursuit of nonviolence can be seen as a core aspect of Christianity. Consider that the gospels, the records of Jesus’ life, can be seen as a story of a pacifist protest against individual and social evils, against
Jesus preaches against the abuse of power committed by the powerful institutions of his day and argues that their adherence to man-made laws has blinded them to God’s truth. social revolutions are inherently desirable. Yet for people who hesitate to immediately endorse social change, there is a concern that social revolutions themselves have a tendency to devolve into violence and dehumanization. The French and Russian revolutions are typical examples of this phenomenon. But even attempts at social change with peaceful intentions have often ended in violence, such as the Syrian Civil War.x When these social movements become violent, the purpose behind these movements can be lost on the potential sympathizers of a cause. Many social sciences see society itself as a function to reduce and control violence; thus when a social revolution, regardless of intent, creates violence, a great majority of the population tends to see it as only a disruption of the social order. xi
terrible injustices that occurred all around the world in which Christ lived. Jesus preaches against the abuse of power committed by the powerful institutions of his day and argues that their adherence to man-made laws has blinded them to God’s truth. In his greatest act of protest against injustice, Jesus offers up his own body to the violence of the two corrupt institutions he spoke out against: the Jewish priestly class and the Roman government. The condemnation of his messianic claims, a manifestation of priestly authority, and his death on a cross, a symbol of Roman authority, compose the scene of Jesus’ death as one final protest that flips the table on his enemies and exposes their corruption – that they could be so twisted as to murder an innocent, peaceful carpenter, simply for questioning the morality of their actions. In
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Berlin-Mitte. The Marx-Engels monument on the Marx-Engels Forum by Manfred Brückels, 2005
In the final moments of his crucifixion, Jesus achieved the ultimate goal of any social revolution: the revelation of injustice, made clear to all by exposing the absurdity of the so-called “justice system.” the final moments of his crucifixion, Jesus achieved the ultimate goal of any social revolution: the revelation of injustice, made clear to all by exposing the absurdity of the so-called “justice system.” St. Paul highlights this in his letter to the church in Colossae: “[Jesus] disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.”xii Jesus shines a light on the destruction of society caused by the “rulers and authorities” through his condemnation and crucifixion, which were their greatest tools in maintaining the social order. Ironically, Jesus shows that their attempts to maintain the social order actually degrade it. In this way, he gives a stark and powerful example of how a nonviolent social revolution can proceed and succeed. A likely and undeniably fair critique of the above may be that nonviolence sounds good in theory, but fails in practice. Perhaps such a successful nonviolent protest can be made by Jesus, but not by the rest of world. Nevertheless, nonviolence was successfully achieved, most clearly in Martin Luther King Jr.’s civil rights activism. In his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” King logically and emotionally advocates for nonviolent protests, for breaking laws, for being beaten – all for the sake of removing the oppressive bonds of segregation. Civil rights activists took this strategy to
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heart and were hosed down, attacked by dogs, beaten with clubs and more, all to expose the horrid injustices of segregation. The movement won great victories, though at great physical, emotional, and mental costs. Regardless, Martin Luther King Jr.’s emphasis on nonviolent protest did not detract from his heartfelt conviction that racial injustice in America needed to end. His activism is a quintessential example of social change grounded in Christian principles combined with a persistent desire for nonviolence. In the same letter, King explains how the “law of God” defines what is fundamentally just and unjust: How does one determine when a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law, or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas, an unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality...xiii
The root of King’s activism, therefore, came from his belief that there were divine laws that humans
[Christianity] calls for its followers to be unafraid to fight against injustice and immorality, but to fight in a way that is peaceful and consequently even more subversive to corrupt forces. could not violate without then violating their own conscience. It may be true that a Marxist view of social revolution entails a certain level of violence and dehumanization. But this does not mean that violence is the only means of achieving lasting social change. The “social revolution” achieved by Martin Luther King was lasting and nonviolent, but was guided by the belief that God’s laws supersede the laws of states and that the state is not the final determinant of what is and isn’t just. Therefore, Christianity provides both the grounds for social revolution and also the process by which it goes about. This process can be aptly described by the term “civil disobedience,” and combines both a devotion to moral justice and a humility that recognizes that the means do not justify the ends. Civil disobedience is by no means foreign to Christianity. King himself noted the countless examples of civil disobedience throughout Christian history: Of course, there is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience. It was seen sublimely in the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar because a higher moral law was involved. It was practiced superbly by the early Christians, who were willing to face hungry lions and the excruciating pain of chopping blocks before submitting to certain unjust laws of the Roman Empire.xiv
We can see from the examples of Jesus and the civil rights movement that Christianity provides the best way forward for social revolutions in the form of civil disobedience. It calls for its followers to be unafraid to fight against injustice and immorality, but to fight in a way that is peaceful and consequently even more subversive to corrupt forces. Today’s political discourse is rife with contemporary protests against the racism inherent in the American justice system, against the destruction of our ecosystem by multinational corporations, and against the debt slavery that first world nations subject third world nations to. What this discourse requires is an underpinning logic and method of change that truly exposes the evil at hand without violating the humanity of others. As historical examples of the abolition of slavery, the civil rights movement, and the life of Jesus himself have shown, Christianity offers both the inspiration and a radical, nonviolent approach to social change. To silence Christianity on the subject of social revolutions would deprive the world of the voice it desperately needs to make real change happen.
Alexander Berkman, “Chapter 25: The Idea Is the Thing,” in What Is Communist Anarchism?: Now and After: The ABC of Communist Anarchism (New York: Dover Publications, 1972), 199. ii. Karl Marx, “Introduction,” in Critique of Hegel’s ‘Philosophy of Right’, trans. Joseph O’Malley (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977), p.i. iii. See Leo D’Anjou, Social Movements and Cultural Change: The First Abolition Campaign Revisited (Priscataway: Aldine Transaction, 1996). Also, see Eric Metaxas, Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery (New York: Harper San Francisco, 2007). iv. Hugh Thomas, Rivers of Gold: The Rise of the Spanish Empire, from Columbus to Magellan (New York: Random House, 2003), 173-174. v. Helen Rand Parish and Henry Raup Wagner, The Life and Writings of Bartolome De Las Casas (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1967), 211. vi. Rodney Stark, The Triumph of Christianity: How the Jesus Movement Became the World’s Largest Religion (New York: HarperOne, 2011), 376. vii. Timothy Keller, Galatians for You (Purcellville: Good Book Company, 2013), p.iii. viii. Galatians 3:28 (ESV). ix. Paul Copan, Is God a Moral Monster? Making Sense of the Old Testament God (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2011), 152-153. x. “Syria: The Story of the Conflict,” BBC, 3 February 2016, <http://www.bbc.com/news/worldmiddle-east-26116868>. xi. For more on this, see Douglass C. North and John Joseph Wallis, Violence and Social Orders: A Conceptual Framework for Interpreting Recorded Human History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009). xii. Colossians 2:15 (ESV). xiii. Joy James, “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” in Imprisoned Intellectuals: America’s Political Prisoners Write on Life, Liberation, and Rebellion (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2003), 37. xiv. James, 38.
Josh Alexakos ’17 is from Hingham, Massachusetts. He is a Government major and an Economics minor.
Spring 2016 • The Dartmouth Apologia •
Baker Library Tower courtesy of Dartmouth College Library, date unknown
From Sacred to Secular By Sara Holston
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n today’s secular academy, the belief that faith and reason are inherently opposed pervades student life. This perspective is only about 150 years old, however, and Dartmouth College’s roots lie firmly in Christianity. The school was initially founded to provide students with a strong education, with the intent to prepare them to enter the world as wise leaders in the young nation and as faithful doers of God’s will. Up through the 19th century, around one fourth of Dartmouth’s graduates were missionaries.i In the early university, Christianity was not a hindrance to reason, but the force that incubated and elevated it to prominence. About a century after the founding of Dartmouth College, global academia entered into the modernist period, and the school became embroiled in a global conflict over what the role of Christianity should be in the academy. Starting in Europe, schools began to secularize. Between 1877 and 1910, the students, faculty, and administration of Dartmouth struggled with the question of what place Christian faith should have in the life of the College going forward. The dispute over secularization was a complex tangle of factors that resists classification as either wholly good or bad. A Christian perspective might tend to consider
elimination of intentionally structured moral education and the increased fragmentation of the departments, the latter of which detracted from the perceived meaning and value of the liberal arts. Regardless of the worldview one ascribes to, consideration of the full range of motivations for, and the ensuing effects of, the secularization of Dartmouth is required to fully understand its significance in Dartmouth’s history. The impetus for the secularization of American colleges came from a popular European belief that an education freed from theology would constitute a more rounded and objective search for truth. This trend started in Germany, where academics argued that instituting greater “academic freedom” by breaking from the limitations of purely Christian roots would lead to more rigorous scholarship, focusing universities on acquiring and passing on knowledge. As this idea spread across Germany and neighboring countries, European schools of higher education were transformed from small colleges to powerful research universities.ii Seeing this new system as an opportunity for a greater education, more than nine thousand American students enrolled in German universities in the 19th century.iii American scholars cried out for a similar break from the traditional Christian roots
In the early university, Christianity was not a hindrance to reason, but the force that incubated and elevated it to prominence. the school’s secularization a mistake, but secularization was actually a crucial step in “modernizing” the college to keep it from stagnating and collapsing. In contrast, a non-Christian worldview might assume secularization was purely beneficial, allowing the College to move into a new era that recognized a more egalitarian respect for all perspectives. This view, however, overlooks both the
of American colleges in favor of secular research institutions that could compete with these European schools in preparing American students for a variety of career paths.iv Concomitantly, a growing diversity of religious and cultural voices in the student bodies at American colleges wanted a more pluralistic approach to higher education. Increasingly, it seemed
View of Dartmouth College by B.O. Tyler, c. 1834
Spring 2016 • The Dartmouth Apologia •
Samuel Colcord Bartlett courtesy of Dartmouth College Library, c. 1836
that the Christian framework many of the American universities had been founded on was unable to meet the needs of modern higher education. The new vision for the secular university was that students “would hope to contribute to progress by knowing more and knowing it more exactly, not by holding fast to values and a sense of the totality of things.”v As American society increasingly privileged the structure of the secular university, Dartmouth became embroiled in a debate over whether to similarly abandon its Christian roots. During the tenure of President Asa Dodge Smith, Dartmouth “suffered the same decline all the Colleges felt after the Civil War.” The College struggled to maintain vitality in its academics, student life, and, most noticeably, religious life.vi Nevertheless, when President Bartlett took over in 1877, he immediately declared that the College’s stance in the secularization debate would remain solidly on the side of maintaining the Christian calling that Wheelock had entrusted to his presidential successors, saying that “the college is a confessedly Christian college as in the days of her origin.”vii In many ways, Bartlett’s dedication to Wheelock’s vision for Dartmouth represents an admirable commitment to the mission and values of the College her founders laid out. Yet his refusal to have the College keep pace with the cultural pulse of the nation led to an unsatisfactory student experience, as “students objected to compulsory chapel services, demanded the replacement of a relentlessly dull pastor, and complained that the biblical exercises were deadening.”viii Significantly, the Christian reputation of the school also gave rise to conflict over the curriculum. While Bartlett insisted upon a “symmetrical” course of
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William Jewett Tucker courtesy of Dartmouth College Library, c. 1900
study, which is “for the most part established by some other person than the student taking it,” the wider interest in the elective system continued to take hold.ix Overall, Bartlett’s noble determination to adhere to the Christian tenets of the college seemed to be impinging on Dartmouth’s ability to uphold its reputation as an academically powerful institution. It was Bartlett’s successor as president, William Jewett Tucker, who ushered in a new era of secularized education at Dartmouth College. Tucker is widely remembered as one of the most significant and transformative presidents in Dartmouth’s history, introducing many aspects of Dartmouth that we consider iconic today.x Having previously clashed with Andover Theological Seminary over his modernist views, Tucker’s dedication to a new kind of Christianity was already firmly established when he became Dartmouth’s 8th president. Indeed, he stepped into the Presidency himself from his role on Dartmouth’s Board of Trustees during Bartlett’s era, having frequently clashed with Bartlett’s conservative stance.xi Part of Tucker’s attempts to bring Dartmouth into the new culture of the 20th century included relinquishing the Christian structure that had limited the curriculum and faculty recruitment of Dartmouth’s past, making the College a more appealing institution for future students.xii This increased flexibility allowed Tucker to “modernize” other aspects of the school, from enrollment to curriculum to student and alumni interactions. When Tucker began his presidency in 1877, there were 315 students, only 12% of whom came from outside of New England. By the time he left fifteen years later, enrollment stood at 1,136 students
from thirty-two states. Similarly, both the faculty and course offerings more than tripled, while the income and expenditures of the school quintupled.xiii Dartmouth’s transition from a traditionally Christian to a secular institution was not wholly positive, though. Secularization led to splintered departments and a decline in prescribed religious or moral education of any kind. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Dartmouth’s curriculum had heavily emphasized the classics and theology. Students had also been required to graduate with a substantial background in logic, mathematics, rhetoric, natural philosophy, and literature. In fact, when Bartlett became President of the College, the curriculum required three years of Greek and Latin, in addition to a year of physics/astronomy, chemistry, and rhetoric, and at least some background in botany, political economy, constitutional and international law, geography, and literature. In the midst of this breadth of knowledge, students were given some freedom to choose their own electives in subjects of particular interest to them.xiv As noted, however, universities began to change worldwide in the late 19th century and into the turn of the 20th. Students were permitted more control over their schedules, decreasing the required classical courses to make room for subjects of students’ choice.xiv The experience at Dartmouth was similar to that at many colleges and universities. Indeed, this increased freedom in course selection was a significant step toward the system we have today, which allows students to design their studies around their passions. This largely appealed to students but also decreased the sense of interconnectedness among different subjects. Before secularization, the senior Moral Philosophy course, which served as the capstone of the majority of university curriculums, including Dartmouth’s, clearly conveyed the relationships between various subjects and the ways each contributed to an understanding of the world and our place within it. Institutions perceived the course as identifying “the unity of God’s truth, and hence…the unity of the curriculum.”xvi This sense of unity undergirded the entirety of the undergraduate course of study, and “when knowledge seemed in principle tied together – in the study of a single unified divine creation – a professor scarcely needed to explain
Baker Library Tower courtesy of Dartmouth College Library, date unknown
how particular bits of learning were connected in order to convince himself and his students that somehow they all did.”xvii After the secularization of universities all around the world, however, “a jumble of new undergraduate curricula hived off from the old unitary course of study.”xviii Dartmouth herself designated 28 departments where previously faculty and administration alike had resisted identifying subjects separately.xix Even though today Dartmouth and the majority of America’s institutions of higher learning continue to champion the liberal arts, students specialize, exposed at most to two or three fields in depth, and otherwise experience only a class or two in some departments or none at all. Over time, “the tide flowing toward the elective system pulled [students] apart from one another. Students shared less and less of a common education.”xx As a result, students have become increasingly isolated in their study as their education has become more focused on providing the necessary knowledge for a particular field of interest, rather than a search for truth through an understanding of the many different ways of approaching it.
As a result, students have become increasingly isolated in their study as their education has become more focused on providing the necessary knowledge for a particular field of interest, rather than a search for truth through an understanding of the many different ways of approaching it. [
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The combination of this lack of common education and the increasingly vocational focus of the curriculum rendered colleges and universities lost with regard to their larger purpose. While at many schools of higher education “the undergraduate’s experience had taken a sharp turn for the better…at the same time, faculty members in the colleges moving into this brighter future had good reason to worry about the larger meaning of their curriculum.”xxi Students’ course of study became targeted towards the specific skills and knowledge they would need to be successful in their future jobs, leaving some professors feeling that their purpose was no longer tied to seeking deeper truth and imparting it to future generations for the betterment of society. The continued dedication to the idea of the
a Character Education Manifesto, which describes the goal of moral education as “the development of character of virtue, not correct views of ‘ideologically charged issues,’” and thus imagines character education as “[re-engaging] the hearts, minds, and hands of [students] in forming their own characters, helping them to know the good, love the good, and do the good.”xxv At present, Dartmouth, like many schools, offers some courses on ethics, though they are primarily hosted in the departments of philosophy or religious studies. In addition, the ever-increasing freedom of the elective system allows students to complete their undergraduate degree without taking those courses. Even Dartmouth’s distributive requirements or the
Moral education should provide students with the tools to think well about what is right and good. “liberal arts” attempted to balance the technical utility of science courses with the values and meaningful inclinations of the humanities.xxii This can be successful to a degree, and certainly at Dartmouth today students continue to take courses across disciplines. But there is no longer a universal desire for a liberal arts education that teaches students how to identify points of unity in truth and to discover deeper meaning in knowledge, so that this more holistic understanding can be applied to global problems. Instead, secularization has shifted the focus of a liberal arts education to a narrower goal: to identify truth in specific subjects so that they may be applied to problems related to those fields. To the extent that liberal arts are still emphasized today, it is so that students have multiple skill sets and areas of expertise that might allow them to be flexible and dynamic in the job market. In addition to setting aside the search for unified truth as an integral part of the purpose of the university, prescribed moral education at Dartmouth and many other schools was largely abandoned. With the discernment of what is “right” and “good” left to students’ individual experiences, universities provided no tools with which to think well about morality, which itself then became relative. The concern was not that secularization would lead to a complete rejection of morality, but more that “without truth to speak for or purposes to defend, the new university would incline toward utility, and jeopardize its initiative and independence in order to answer client needs.”xxiii Across higher education there has been some recognition of this phenomenon and attempts to rectify it, which “has been a response, in part, to the perceived relativism of values clarification.”xxiv For example, in 1996 Boston University introduced
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core classes of other universities can often be filled by many classes, not all of which have a specifically ethical component. To be fully effective, “character education and liberal education cannot be isolated in single courses but should be integrated into the curriculum as a whole.”xxvi Often, hesitations to do so come from the fact that “‘morality’ has become synonymous either with what is ‘moralistic’ (and hence narrow and intolerant) or what is religious.”xxvii But moral education is different from socialization, which is the “uncritical initiation of students into a tradition, a way of thinking and acting.”xxviii Instead, moral education should provide students with the tools to think well about what is right and good. In a world where we face moral decisions every day, from what food or clothing to buy to how to interact with the individuals around us and with our culture, providing students with the right frameworks for thinking about what is good prepares them to apply those guidelines to unique situations to determine the best path. Developing a comprehensive understanding of the factors in and results of the decision to secularize Dartmouth College permits an appreciation of both the Christian and secular parts of our history. Secularization at Dartmouth was a hotly debated process that pitted a deep commitment to tradition, values, and the founders’ desires against the need to prepare students for the modern job market and to help the college compete in a system that increasingly viewed a faith-based perspective as less academic. To see secularization as purely positive undervalues the Christian roots of the school and the benefits derived from thinking intentionally about ethics and morality through some lens in a variety of contexts. But to see secularization solely as a sacrifice of our values
Baker Tower by Josh Renaud D’17, c. 2015
and betrayal of the traditions we were founded on overlooks the ways secularization served Dartmouth’s growth. Understanding both sides of the debate surrounding secularization offers both the promise of granting historical perspective and potential aid in contemplating the future of Dartmouth going forward. Realizing all we gained and lost through secularization could help us imagine possibilities for maintaining the benefits of “modernization” and of a recognition of the diversity of worldviews that secularization brought, while restoring some of the focus on the significance and value of instilling intentional moral, if not specifically Christian, education to the mission and commitment of the College. For example, is there benefit to be gained from striving for a restoration of the integrated cohesion of different subjects that existed under the presidents from Wheelock to Bartlett? Is there benefit to restoring moral education as an important aim of a broader Dartmouth education going forward? If so, can an understanding of what Christianity specifically offered historically in terms of moral education at Dartmouth help inform attempts to create a new framework for moral education in the 21st century and beyond? Regardless of the answers to these questions, we can be most confident in the decisions we make about our future if we ground it in a comprehensive understanding of our history and place today.
James Tunstead Burtchaell, The Dying of the Light: The Disengagement of Colleges and Universities from their Christian Churches (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1998), 21. ii. Richard Hofstadter and Walter P. Metzger, The Development of Academic Freedom (New York: Columbia University Press, 1955), 369. iii. Hofstadter and Metzger, 367. iv. Stephanie Litizzette Mixon, Larry Lyon, and Michael D. Beaty, “Secularization and National Universities: the Effect of Religious Identity on American Reputation,” The Journal of Higher Education 74 no. 4 (July/August 2004): 401. v. Hofstadter and Metzger, 318. vi. Burtchaell, 21. vii. Samuel C. Bartlett, “Inaugural Address” (speech given at Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, June 1877). viii. Burtchaell, 23. ix. Leon Burr Richardson, History of Dartmouth College, Volume II (Dartmouth College, 1932), 629. x. Burtchaell, 26. xi. Richardson, 609. xii. For further reading on the writings and impact of William Jewett Tucker, see “A Radical Unity: Reflections on the Writings of William Jewett Tucker” in Volume 9, Issue 1 of the Dartmouth Apologia. xiii. Burtchaell, 33. xiv. “Course Catalogues, 1822-1909” (Dartmouth College Archives, Rauner Library, Hanover, New Hampshire). xv. George M. Marsden and Bradley J. Longfield, The Secularization of the Academy (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), 76-77. xvi. Marsden and Longfield, 75. xvii. Marsden and Longfield, 76. xviii. Marsden and Longfield, 76. xix. Burtchaell, 33. xx. Marsden and Longfield, 77. xxi. Marsden and Longfield, 77. xxii. Marsden and Longfield, 74. xxiii. Hofstadter and Metzger, 318. xxiv. Warren A Nord and Charles C. Haynes, Taking Religion Seriously Across the Curriculum (ASCD, 1998), 183. xxv. Character Education Manifesto (Boston University, MA. Center for the Advancement of Ethics and Character, February 1996). xxvi. Nord and Haynes, 186. xxvii. Nord and Haynes, 191-192. xxviii. Nord and Haynes, 184. i.
Sara Holston ’17 is from Wayne, Pennsylvania. She is an English major.
Spring 2016 • The Dartmouth Apologia •
P e ac e
how the cross redeems earthly work
By Samuel Ching
here is no doubt that modern society is fixated on the idea of work. College students preoccupy themselves with job applications during corporate recruiting season, and instantly move on to their new careers after graduation. At Ivy League schools like Dartmouth, graduates often gravitate towards industries such as consulting and finance, notoriously known for long work weeks.i Clearly, humans spend a lot of time doing work. But people seem to devote little attention to what work actually is or what it is for. All work has a desired goal or “end.” Financial compensation is a common example, but some ends may be more abstract. Whatever these ends may be, they are invariably tied to a particular worldview – the set of beliefs that guide and frame one’s thoughts. It informs fundamental questions about meaning, morality, origin, and destiny.ii All worldviews answer three basic questions: what our lives’ purpose should be, why our lives do not correspond to their intended purpose, and
maxim - “live according to Nature.”vi This means that the Stoics viewed one’s alignment to reason as the path to the virtuous and happy life.vii Due to the Stoic emphasis on individual self-determination as a pathway to happiness, there has been a recent revival of interest in Stoicism. In the modern, secular age, Stoicism is advertised as a way to “champion your creativity, facilitate your workflow, and improve your overall state of mind and life.”viii Larry Wallace, a writer for Aeon Magazine, claimed that “indifference really is a power, selectively applied, and living in such a way is not only eminently possible, with a conscious adoption of certain attitudes, but facilitates a freer, more expansive, more adventurous mode of living.”ix Indeed, many of the classical practitioners of Stoicism – individuals such as the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius and Roman philosopher Seneca – offered deeply practical and helpful advice in their writings. They espoused mental discipline and preached that one wields complete control over his own happiness.x
While secular philosophies have attempted to answer them, only a Christian framework can produce a coherent, holistic, and practical understanding of work. how we can realize this purpose.iii Work can be best understood by answering these three questions. While secular philosophies have attempted to answer them, only a Christian framework can produce a coherent, holistic, and practical understanding of work. It is impossible to understand the secular approach to work without understanding naturalism. Naturalism rejects the existence of incorporeal beings – all matter, including the soul and spiritual beings, is material.iv This implies that nature contains adequate explanations for all events. Applied naturalism, then, can manifest itself in many forms, but this article will focus on two common applications of naturalism – Stoicism and Materialism.v Both arrive at entirely different conclusions regarding the nature of work, but are rooted in a common philosophy. The naturalistic Stoics hold to the following
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Given modern society’s emphasis on autonomy, it is no surprise that this advice significantly influences the way some approach work. Taken to its logical conclusion, however, Stoicism fails to answer how individuals can achieve their ultimate end. When analyzing the motivating force behind Stoicism, understanding the pinnacle of achievement in a Stoic worldview is important. To the Stoics, it is attaining the position of “Stoic sage.” The sage is “a person who had attained moral and intellectual perfection,” and would not experience “passionate” emotions such as “fear, envy… impassionate sexual attachments, or passionate love of anything whatsoever.”xi While this detached approach to life may seem orderly and rational, the Stoic view appears to be elitist and unrealistic - try as they might, not all humans are able to attain this state of
Rajat Gupta at the World Economic Forum by Sebastian Derungs, 2010
money, or a lasting legacy. While some goals may be common and admirable, the pursuit of these goals ultimately does not satisfy. Materialism, like Stoicism, fails to provide an answer as to how individuals can attain work’s ultimate end. The prize of the Materialist is often an elusive idea or a concept (i.e. attainment of wealth or power) as he continues to ceaselessly push himself towards loftier, grander goals. This endless striving manifests in both the pursuit of power and material wealth. For instance, when the Materialist rises to a management level position in the company, he will notice that there are still many endless tiers of hierarchy above him. Similarly, when monetary rewards are the ultimate end of work, he realizes that there is infinitely more money to be made. In one of the most shocking insider trading scandals in the 21st century, ex-McKinsey CEO Rajat Gupta, a man of stellar reputation and character, was convicted of providing insider information to a hedge fund colleague. Prior to his conviction, in a speech at Columbia University, he confessed, “…when I live
The single-minded pursuit of self-centered satisfaction in work will very quickly lead to an unraveling of the proper functioning of society. understanding and perfection. This suggests two consequences. First, if an individual, no matter how hard he tries, has “weak reason” and is unable to apply this framework of understanding to his life, he will be seen as permanently less virtuous than others. Furthermore, it seems presumptuous for humans to have developed an understanding of what “absolute Reason” or the “logos” of the entire universe looks like. Second, even if a person manages to achieve “perfect reason” - rising to the level of a Stoic sage - it seems unrealistic that true, lasting joy could arise from a place of indifference and detachment. Stoicism demands the suppression of passions, such as extreme joy and intense love. This suggests that individuals have to sacrifice the joy and satisfaction they feel whenever their work succeeds. Followed to its logical conclusion, the Stoic’s life is not only entirely directed and controlled by logos, but must also be lived out placidly and passively. With all these lingering questions, it is hard to see a satisfying ultimate end of a Stoic approach to work. The second naturalistic perspective on work forgoes virtue and instead emphasizes material possessions. The abandonment of the spiritual world means that the Materialist is entirely fixated on the physical world. He will necessarily strive to “make the most” out of this life – be it through power, pleasure,
in this society…you do get fairly materialistic…I am disappointed. I am probably more materialistic today than I was before, and I think money is very seductive.”xii Gupta had all the trappings of power and money (with an estimated worth of USD 100 million) but he wanted more.xiii For the Materialist, the punishing climb to the top never ends. Furthermore, the Materialist is always in a rush, knowing that each passing day is one more day in the march towards death. The perspective that life ends at death, when left unchecked, can create a mentality that disregards ethics for the sake of material wealth. Socially, this can be destructive for the community, since the Materialist would not seek the welfare of the community unless it necessarily benefits his cause. Consider the moral hazard problems that contributed to the 2008 financial crisis. Due to the unbridled desire for bigger bonuses and commissions, financiers misled many into purchasing new homes on mortgages and manipulated investors into purchasing these subprime mortgages.xiv The single-minded pursuit of self-centered satisfaction in work will very quickly lead to an unraveling of the proper functioning of society. When the Materialist is driven only by fulfillment of his own desires, his work rapidly becomes a destructive force to those around him.
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Obviously, not everyone adheres wholeheartedly to Materialism or Stoicism. The reality is that most people adopt a mixture of these two beliefs. Consider the corporate maverick who gives up her lucrative career to work in a non-profit, or the graduate student who chooses social work with long and arduous hours in order to care for the elderly. In this framework, the motivations underlying work are ideals which are laudable and praiseworthy. There is a pursuit of ideals such as love, relationships, and moral goodness, and work becomes a means to that end. Even then, such individuals inevitably remain discontent. In a perfect world, it would be possible to completely attain these ideals of love, relationships, and moral goodness. In reality, however, this does not happen. As hard as they try, these individuals cannot personally deliver goodness, nor can they save their loved ones from suffering or harm. The corporate maverick despairs at the brokenness of the aid distribution system, and the graduate becomes burnt out and jaded with her work. Even if these individuals
progressively, stage by stage.xvi Through modeling the meticulous, systematic process of creation, God demonstrated that work is intrinsically good and part of the created order. Work is not an unfortunate byproduct of conflict, nor is it a curse to mankind. Christianity believes that humanity is made “in the image of God.”xvii This means that just as God worked to create the universe, humans too are made for work. JRR Tolkien calls our acts of work “sub-creation”, where “we make in our measure and in our derivative mode, because we are made: and not only made, but made in the image and likeness of a Maker.”xviii This means that work is central to the human condition. When he created mankind, God told Adam and Eve to “[be] fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”xix Here, God gave mankind the power and the mandate to care for and develop all of creation. The Fall corrupts this ideal picture of creation,
As much as everyone strives for these ideals, they can only be glimpsed, not grasped, in the best of moments. have the best of intentions, they soon find that these motivations do not match reality. Their plans often go awry. As much as everyone strives for these ideals, they can only be glimpsed, not grasped, in the best of moments. Even if these individuals achieve strides towards moral goodness according to their plans, there is no promise of peace and contentment. After all, these ends are much like the ends of the Materialist – they are illdefined and difficult to imagine. When would one feel they are “good” or “loving” enough? What does the ultimate end look like? There is no definitive ultimate end. This drives many to a deep dissatisfaction with their work as their toils do not allow them to reach the ideals which they so long for. The Christian worldview presents a framework for work that resolves many of the issues which arise from Stoicism and Materialism. Understanding this Christian framework is impossible without first understanding the Genesis creation story. The Genesis creation narrative provides the answer to the first worldview question – mankind’s original intended purpose for work on Earth. In Genesis, God works for six days and rests on the seventh.xv This work/rest cycle can be seen as an example to mankind. After all, God – as an all-powerful being – could have “skipped” the working process and completed his creative act in a single moment. Instead, the use of “days” in the text suggests that God chose to undergo creation
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leading to the toil and pain now associated with work. The Fall also explains why our lives do not correspond to their intended purpose – the second worldview question. Mankind chose to disobey God’s instructions, bringing a curse upon themselves. The joys and the pains associated with work stem from this curse. This curse ensures that thorns and thistles will sprout out of the ground, but God promises that fruit will grow as well.xx Another outcome of the Fall
The Creation of the World and the Expulsion from Paradise by Giovanni di Paolo, 1445
was the severing of mankind’s relationship with God, leaving an empty void behind. As a result, mankind seeks to fulfill its deepest longings and needs with both material and immaterial goals. David Foster Wallace, a non-Christian writer, describes the worship of such goals poignantly and accurately. He warns, “If you worship money and things — if they are where you tap real meaning in life — then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough. It’s the truth.”xxi This desire drives and permeates the restlessness common to all of mankind, underlying the worldviews of both the Stoic and the Materialist. The fact is that all the various conceptions of work falter because they attempt to obtain ends that are ultimately unobtainable through mankind’s own efforts. There is no plausible way to achieve the perfection these worldviews conceive of, and the constantly shifting goalposts, the shaky soil, and the arduous climb make it exhausting and futile. But Christ changes everything. In his incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus Christ answers the question of how mankind can reconcile with his original intended purpose on Earth. This flows from the understanding that God, who is Love, seeks to reconcile man to himself.xxii Timothy Keller, a pastor in Manhattan’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church, puts it this way: “Christians understood that we were made by and for eternal love, which was the primary meaning of life.”xxiii And the ultimate purpose of God’s work of creation was not to receive love and honor from created beings but to share the love, joy, honor, and glory he already had within the Trinity.xxiv Thus, love is at the center of the Christian identity. In the other worldviews, love is something that is craved, slaved for, and earned through work. In the new paradigm offered by Christ, Christ is the embodiment of God’s love for mankind; that mankind no longer had to seek love, but God “so loved the world, that he gave his only Son.”xxv God extends his love to humanity as Christ, in his resurrection, re-establishes the severed, broken relationship between mankind and God after the Fall. As man’s original purpose was to be in communion with God, the restoration of this precious relationship grants mankind everything that he had ever sought or desired.xxvi This transforms our approach to work. In response to the brokenness of this world, mankind has a new confidence in his purpose on Earth. Now, the motivation for work does not stem from the constant striving, like the Materialist, but from a position of rest, a reflection that the ultimate ends have been met, not by mankind’s own efforts but by Christ himself. Mankind does not have to work his way to Christ; Christ offered himself for all. This unshackles
Christ on the Cross by El Greco (Domenico Theotocopuli), c.1610
man from the lofty ideals which ultimately do not satisfy. Keller explains that when “God’s gracious love becomes not an abstract doctrine but a living reality, it means our heart is less controlled by anxiety and pride, two powerful forces that constantly lead us to unwisely over- or under-react to situations.”xxvii Under the Christian view of work, mankind is deeply and totally satisfied in Christ. Work no longer embodies striving. Instead, work becomes a reflection of this satisfaction and flows from a firm foundation in Christ. So, what does this look like practically? In his seminal book on the theology of work, Every Good Endeavor, Timothy Keller explores three ways that work could change for the average individual when properly integrated with the gospel message. First, there will be a “new conception of work.”xxviii Often, Christians are guilty of dividing work into the two categories of “the secular” and “the sacred.” Church work is perceived as sacred and more important to God than secular work, such as vocational work and familial care. Furthermore, some believe that becoming Christian means regarding all secular culture as inherently wrong and sinful and retreating to the
Spring 2016 • The Dartmouth Apologia •
Timothy Keller by Frank Licorice, 2006
safe confines of “Christian” culture and ministry work. Yet, as Keller asserts, with a better understanding of the gospel, there can be another approach. In a world of work where taking shortcuts is commonplace and morality is nothing more than legality, Christians are empowered to deeply appreciate the value of every
thoroughly re-examine his motivations and priorities. As the Christian’s ultimate end of work is to reflect Christ’s achievement on the cross instead of narrow selfish pursuits, the Christian’s work is not driven by fear or pride. Instead, it is driven by a deep desire to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” and to “love your neighbor as yourself.”xxxii This means that in everything Christians put their minds and hands to, they “work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward.”xxxiii After all, the Christian’s true boss is Christ. Due to the life-giving love that Christ bestowed upon mankind, all work becomes a reflection of that life-giving love. The tension between the ends and the means of work is resolved as both point to one person, Christ. While many work decisions are often colored in shades of grey, the Christian is now free to think deeply and persistently about the motives and methods of work and orient his heart so that he may glorify God and love his fellow men. Third, the Christian will be given a “new power for work.”xxxiv In the Materialist’s worldview, the desire for even greater material possessions drives his passion to work. This passion is unsustainable and will often lead to burnout or depression if targets are not met. On the other hand, the Christian’s passion is driven by his Savior and role model, Jesus Christ. Jesus submitted
Due to the life-giving love that Christ bestowed upon mankind, all work becomes a reflection of that life-giving love. field of work and simultaneously recognize and refute its half-truths.xxix Through this new understanding of work, individuals can correctly frame the meaning and the value of work. This empowers them to deeply engage with their work while not falling prey to its false narratives. Second, individuals will have a “new compass for work.”xxx When work is directed toward some outcome, the methods which are used to reach this outcome may not always be legal or morally right. In the secular worldview, businesses are exhorted to be “ethical” as it will benefit them in the long run.xxxi But consider the scenarios where the “ethical” decision may lead to dire straits for the company as compared to the “unethical” or “illegal” one. Furthermore, the converse scenario may also occur, where the chance of being discovered is miniscule and the “cost-benefit analysis” of the “illegal” or “unethical” decision is favorable to the company. In all of these cases, the Bible does not provide an easy answer. Instead, it forces the individual to
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to death on a cross due to his passion and love for his Father and all of mankind. When Christians come to understand the depth and immensity of Christ’s passion, “it will generate passion for the work he has called [them] uniquely to do in the world.”xxxv Their inadequacies, “pride and envy,” and fear of losing out will all disappear, because they know that the ultimate end of their work has been satisfied and achieved in Christ’s death on the cross.xxxvi As Christians are now justified in God’s sight, they have nothing to prove any longer. Thus, Christ does not only fuel passion but also offers deep and genuine rest. As the ultimate end of work has been accomplished by Christ, a Christian is able to rest “in the finished work of Christ instead of his or her own.”xxxvii This completely frees the Christian up to enjoy his work and delight in the process without being chained to his own expectations and ideals. While there is a great deal of truth and practical knowledge in other philosophies and worldviews, the Christian approach to work goes beyond a mere
checklist of practices. In a secular model, work is a means to a salvation which has not yet been attained. Work becomes a means of realizing man’s ultimate purpose or becomes the ultimate purpose of life in itself. Yet, when Christ hung on the cross, he said, “It is finished.”xxxviii This flies in the face of all conventional wisdom expressed in the teachings of all other philosophies. The fundamental purpose of mankind’s existence has already been achieved in Christ. The ultimate end has already been fulfilled. This is the firm foundation on which Christians are able to rest and build. The ultimate end of work is then no longer about striving for the unattainable, but a reflection of the Christian’s new life in Christ. i. Amanda Young, “Law, finance prove popular careers,” The Dartmouth, 27 February 2012, <http:// thedartmouth.com/2012/02/27/law-finance-provepopular-careers/>.; Dawn Kopecki, “Young Bankers Fed Up With 90-Hour Weeks Move to Startups,” Bloomberg, 9 May 2014, <http://www.bloomberg. com/news/articles/2014-05-09/young-bankers-fedup-with-90-hour-weeks-move-to-startups>. ii. Ravi Zacharias, “Think Again – Deep Questions | RZIM,” RZIM, 28 August 2014, <http://rzim.org/ just-thinking/think-again-deep-questions>. iii. Timothy Keller and Katherine Leary Alsdorf, “The Gospel and Other Worldviews,” in Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work (New York: Dutton, 2012), ch. 9, Stories and Worldviews. iv. David Papineau, “Naturalism,” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ed. Edward N. Zalta, 21 September 2015, <http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ naturalism/>. v. Only within the context of work. vi. “Stoicism,” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, accessed 15 December 2015, <http://www.iep.utm. edu/stoicism/>. vii. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Stoicism; Dirk Baltzly, “Stoicism,” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ed. Edward N. Zalta, 21 March 2014, <http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/stoicism/>. viii. Paul Jun, “The Stoic: 9 Principles to Help You Keep Calm in Chaos,” 99u, 31 March 2014, accessed 15 January 2016, <http://99u.com/articles/24401/amakers-guidebook-9-stoic-principles-to-nurtureyour-life-and-work>. ix. Larry Wallace, “Indifference Is a Power,” Aeon, 24 December 2014, accessed 22 December 2015, <https://aeon.co/essays/why-stoicism-is-one-of-thebest-mind-hacks-ever-devised>. x. A. S. L. Farquharson, The Meditations of the Emperor Marcus Antoninus (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1944); Jun, “The Stoic.” xi. Baltzly, “Stoicism.” xii. Anita Raghavan, “Rajat Gupta’s Lust for
Zeros,” The New York Times, 18 May 2013, accessed 14 January 2016, <http://www.nytimes. com/2013/05/19/magazine/rajat-guptas-lust-forzeros.html>. xiii. Raghavan, “Rajat Gupta’s Lust for Zeros.” xiv. Kevid Dowd, “Moral Hazard and the Financial Crisis,” Cato Journal 29, no. 1 (2009): 141-166. xv. See Genesis 1. xvi. Irrelevant whether “day” is symbolic or literal. xvii. Genesis 1:27 (ESV). xviii. J. Samuel and Marie K. Hammond, “Creation and Sub-creation in Leaf by Niggle,” (paper presented at the 7th Frances White Ewbank Colloquium on C.S. Lewis & Friends, Upland, Indiana, 2010), <https://library.taylor.edu/dotAsset/ afcf88aa-52b7-4dda-8e6b-d5efd2e6b1f6.pdf>. xix. Genesis 1:28 (ESV). xx. See Genesis 3:18. xxi. “David Foster Wallace on Life and Work,” Wall Street Journal, 19 September 2008, accessed 21 December 2015, <http://www.wsj.com/articles/ SB122178211966454607>. xxii. See 1 John 4:8. xxiii. Keller, ch. 11, A Different Set of Virtues. xxiv. Keller, ch. 11, A Different Set of Virtues. xxv. John 3:16 (ESV). xxvi. See 1 John 3:1-3 and 1 Timothy 2:3-4. xxvii. Keller, ch. 11, A Different Source of Guidance. xxviii. Keller, ch. 10. xxix. Keller, ch. 10, Dualism vs. Integration. xxx. Keller, ch. 11. xxxi. Andrew Stark, “What’s the Matter with Business Ethics?” Harvard Business Review, May/ June 1993, accessed 22 January 2016, <https:// hbr.org/1993/05/whats-the-matter-with-businessethics>. xxxii. Mark 12:30-31 (ESV). xxxiii. Colossians 3:23-24 (ESV). xxxiv. Keller, ch. 12. xxxv. Keller, ch. 12, The Power of True Passion. xxxvi. Keller, ch. 12, The Power of True Passion. xxxvii. Keller, ch. 12, The Rest Under the Rest. xxxviii. John 19:30 (ESV).
Samuel Ching ’19 is from Singapore. He is a prospective double major in Computer Science and Statistics, with a minor in Human Centered Design.
Spring 2016 • The Dartmouth Apologia •
A Defense of Leibniz’s Cosmological Argument from Contingency G By Luke Dickens od is a hot topic. Many people – theists, deists, atheists, and skeptics alike – can probably relate to that feeling of uncertainty and experience the onset of that all-important question: does God exist? Much of the debate about God’s existence focuses on the “teleological argument” – the argument from design. This argument suggests that God’s existence is the best explanation for the fine-tuning of the universe and the apparent design of things in the natural world. The teleological argument
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has unfortunately seized the focus from some of the more formidable philosophical arguments for theism – specifically the “cosmological argument.” Cosmological arguments attempt to demonstrate the existence of a deity based on the mere existence of the universe. Many variants of the cosmological argument have been developed over the years and they fall into three rough categories: Kalaam, Thomistic, and Leibnizian.i Both the Kalaam and Thomistic arguments invoke a causal principle, which asserts
Antennae Galaxies by NASA, 2006
that every event, or instance of something coming into existence, must have a cause.ii Kalaam and Thomistic arguments approach the problem of infinite causal series differently. The Kalaam argument maintains that because the past is finite, an infinite regress of causal events is impossible. Thomistic arguments do not deny the possibility of an infinite regress of causes, but as contemporary philosopher Alexander Pruss points out, they “use a variety of methods to argue against the hypothesis that there is an infinite regress of causes with no first cause.”iii Leibnizian arguments approach the
feature of cosmological arguments is a straw-man since it is not defended by any serious proponent of the cosmological argument. The actual premise in essentially all cosmological arguments is rather that everything that begins to exist has a cause. Dawkins or Hitchens might retort, “What grounds do you have for claiming that God did not come into existence?” In short, a being who comes into existence would not be God. God, as understood by philosophers of religion, is a necessary being, one who contains the reason of its own existence within its very being, and therefore
The premise – everything that exists has a cause – ... is a strawman since it is not defended by any serious proponent of the cosmological argument question of existence differently. Rather than focusing on an infinite regress of causes, Leibnizian arguments rely on the Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR), which holds that everything has an explanation, to argue that only a necessary being, i.e., one who does not rely on anything other than itself for an explanation of its existence, can provide an explanation for why the universe exists. The Leibnizian Cosmological Argument from Contingency (LCA) makes a strong case for the existence of a necessary causally efficacious being. Before addressing the LCA, it is necessary to address a common objection to all cosmological arguments, which recurs in the literature of some of today’s more renowned atheists. In his work The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins discusses Thomas Aquinas’ “five ways,” several of which are variant forms of the cosmological argument, and proceeds to dismiss them as not proving anything because “they make the entirely unwarranted assumption that God himself is immune to the regress (of causes or extending back into the past).”iv Similarly, in God is not Great, Christopher Hitchens asserts that “the postulate of a designer or creator only raises the unanswerable question of who designed the designer or creator.”v Implicit in Dawkins’ and Hitchens’ remarks is the impression that all cosmological arguments require everything that exists to have a cause. If this were the case, then cosmological arguments would fail to show that God exists, because the very premise of an argument for the existence of God would require God to have a cause. It would then follow that God, since it required a cause, could not end a regress of causes extending back infinitely into the past. Unfortunately for these critics, the premise – everything that exists has a cause – that Dawkins and many other New Atheists consider to be a fundamental
whose existence is self-explanatory, though probably not in a way that human beings can comprehend. The LCA can be condensed from the abstruse shape it takes in Leibniz’s works into the following argument, a modified version of the cosmological argument presented by Jordan Howard Sobel in his Logic and Theism. (1) The world – the cosmos – exists. (2) The world is contingent; it is a contingent entity. (3) For everything that exists, for every fact and every existent entity, there is a sufficient reason for its existence. (4) There must be an explanation for the existence of the world. (1, 2, 3) (5) The universe and everything within it, being contingent, cannot be explained by another contingent thing. (6) The fact that there are contingent things must be explained by something whose existence is necessary. (4, 5) Conclusion: Therefore, there exists an ultimate reason for the world, which is none other than a causally efficacious necessary being.vi This argument is valid, which means if its premises are true, then its conclusion follows. (4) and (6) are dependent premises; that is, they do not stand on their own but rather follow from prior premises, and therefore do not need to be defended. (1) is intuitive and is therefore presumed to be true. The strength of the argument, then, hinges on its other three independent premises – premise (3), which dozens of philosophers object to, premise (2), which was critiqued by Bertrand Russell, and premise (5), which David Hume took issue with.
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The third premise is Leibniz’s renowned Principle of this argument and its rebuttals are beyond the scope of Sufficient Reason (PSR), which affirms that for of this article, Alexander Pruss successfully defends each thing that exists, there is sufficient reason – a the PSR against Peter van Inwagen’s allegation that complete explanation – as to why it exists. Needless it implies modal fatalism in his book The Principle to say, many philosophers have objected to the PSR of Sufficient Reason.xi Given that the PSR does not for several reasons: 1) it purportedly lacks evidence, 2) necessarily imply modal fatalism, the third objection it may entail the denial of contingency, 3) quantum – that quantum mechanics disproves the PSR – can be mechanics appears to undermine it, and 4) if it holds, dismissed. The very fact that quantum phenomena can then it probably entails the existence of a causally be predicted with a high degree of probability lends efficacious necessary being. itself to the fact that they do have an explanation, Contrary to the first objection, “considered as an “since they presuppose and are made intelligible by inductive generalization, PSR is as well supported as the laws of quantum mechanics.”xii This brings us to any other.”vii The world does not operate in a way that the final objection to the PSR – that it implies the one would expect it to if the PSR were false; if existence of a necessary being. This objection this were the case, then “events without to the PSR is also lacking. Obviously, any evident explanation would rejecting any principle or method surely be occurring constantly that is well-attested by evidence and the world would simply because it leads to an unsavory not have the intelligibility conclusion is intellectually that makes science and dishonest, and this everyday commonsense objection can be dismissed as successful as they are. on the grounds that it This would be a miracle renders the project of if the PSR were not conducting rational viii true.” Furthermore, inquiry meaningless. as Alexander Pruss In his essay Why notes, if the PSR were I am not a Christian, false, there might Bertrand Russell be no reason for our proposes that “there having the perceptual is no reason why the experiences we have. world could not have ix In other words, we come into being without would not have grounds a cause; nor, on the other to trust our perception if hand, is there any reason the PSR were not true because why it (the universe) should “objective probabilities depend not have always existed.”xiii His on the objective tendencies of first claim does not undermine the things, and if PSR is false, then events second premise of the LCA if the PSR might occur in a way that has nothing to do Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz is true. This is because the PSR denies the by Johann Friedrich with any objective tendencies in things.”x existence of brute facts – facts that lack an Wentzel, c. 1700 The second objection may be true. explanation – which means that if we grant Gottfried Leibniz did not hold that the PSR entailed the truth of the PSR, then the world could not come the denial of contingency, but his fellow rationalist into existence without a cause. Russell’s second assertion
Rejecting any principle or method that is well-attested by evidence because it leads to an unsavory conclusion is intellectually dishonest philosopher, Benedict de Spinoza, certainly did. Other philosophers, such as Peter van Inwagen and Jordan Howard Sobel, argued that the PSR implies modal fatalism – an extreme form of determinism that holds that everything happens necessarily. While the details
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may pose a threat to the LCA, since it suggests that the universe could exist necessarily, which would eliminate the need for an extramundane creator of the universe. How so? According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, “Russell contends that the move from the
Reflections, Santral Istanbul by Nevit Dilmen, 2008
contingency of the components of the universe to the contingency of the universe commits the Fallacy of Composition, which mistakenly concludes that since the parts have a certain property, the whole likewise has that property.”xiv Yet, reasoning from parts to the whole does not always involve committing the fallacy of composition. For example, consider a Lego house made entirely of green Lego bricks. One could infer, correctly, that the house is green given that each individual constituent brick is green. That being said, it is not certain that
a series of causes or reasons can sufficiently explain the existence of the series as a whole, a question that the fifth premise seeks to address. The fifth premise does not claim that a contingent thing cannot explain another contingent thing. Rather, it claims that something contingent cannot explain why contingent facts exist at all. David Hume, in his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, challenged this premise by suggesting that once one has explained each contingent fact in a set of facts, one has sufficiently explained the set of facts as the whole.
the inference from the contingency of the parts of the universe to the contingency of the universe itself is comparable to the inference in the Lego example above. Thomas Aquinas asserts in his Summa Theologica that “because every composite is posterior to its component parts, and is dependent on them… every composite has a cause, for things in themselves different cannot unite unless something causes them to unite.”xv Since the universe is a composite of the material things that it encompasses, or the events that take place within it, it must have a cause that explains how the components of the universe united to form the universe itself. This results in two conclusions. First, because this cause logically precedes the formation of the universe, it cannot be identical to the universe. Second, because the “individual” components of the universe (e.g. mathematical laws, material objects, etc.) are not intrinsically prone to join together and form the universe (e.g. there is nothing inherent in math that requires it to exist alongside planets) the universe could not exist necessarily. Therefore, Russell’s objection fails. This raises another question, however, of whether
Therefore, since a contingent fact can explain another contingent fact, Hume deemed it plausible that there could exist a regress of events, contingent facts, each of which is explained by its predecessor, which would be fully explained by providing explanations for each member of the regress. Once you have explained the parts, you have explained the whole. As William Rowe points out in The Cosmological Argument, this line of reasoning, though probably correct in the case of some collections of contingent facts, does not work when applied to infinite regresses of causes or explanations.xvi Rowe offers the following example:
...because the “individual” components of the universe (e.g. mathematical laws, material objects, etc.) are not intrinsically prone to join together and form the universe... the universe could not exist necessarily.
“Consider M, the set of men. Suppose M consists of an infinite number of members, each member owing its existence to some other member which generated it. Suppose further that to explain the existence of a given man it is sufficient to note that he was begotten by some other man... Every member of M has an explanation of its existence, namely the causal activity of another man. But does it follow that the existence of M has an explanation? I think not. We do not have an
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explanation of the existence of M until we have an explanation of why M has the members it has rather than none at all. But clearly if all we know is that there always have been men and that every man’s existence is explained by the causal efficacy of some other man, we do not know why there always have been some men rather than none at all?....To explain the existence of the set we must explain why it has the members it has rather than none. But if every member’s existence is explained by some other member, then although the existence of every member has an explanation it is still unexplained why the set has the members it has, rather than none at all.”xvii
Rowe’s argument essentially says that a sufficient explanation for an infinite regress goes beyond the individual explanations for each constituent member; there must be an explanation as to why the infinite set has the members it contains rather than other members, which cannot be explained by the causal activity of any member within the set. Even Jordan Howard Sobel, a staunch atheist, concurs with Rowe, noting that “Demea (one of the two theists in Hume’s dialogues) would have been right to insist that, even if shown the cause of each cause in infinite successions without going outside of them, one needs to go outside of them to find causes or reasons for these successions.”xviii Bearing this in mind, it is clear that Hume’s objection fails to present a serious challenge to the LCA. Given the veracity of the PSR and the failure of Hume’s and Russell’s objections, the LCA succeeds in demonstrating the existence of a necessary being. Even if for some, the LCA is not convincing on its own, exploring these ideas can offer a new appreciation of one of the most prominent arguments for the existence of God. More importantly, charitably understanding the LCA cultivates a newfound caution when listening to skeptics who claim to understand (and dismiss) theistic arguments. The fact that cosmological arguments continue to be defended and debated attests not only to the nuance of the arguments presented, but also to the tremendous influence that cosmological arguments have had in elevating religious discourse. i. Alexander R. Pruss, “Leibnizian Cosmological Arguments,” in The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology (Oxford: Blackwell, 2009), 24. ii. Pruss, 25. iii. Pruss, 25. iv. Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (London: Bantam Press, 2006), 101. v. Christopher Hitchens, God is not Great (New York: Hatchette Book Group, 2007), 71. vi. Jordan Howard Sobel, Logic and Theism (New
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David Hume, 1711-1776. Historian and philosopher by Allan Ramsay, 1766
York: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 208. vii. Edward Feser, Scholastic Metaphysics: A Contemporary Introduction (Neunkirchen-Seelscheid: Editiones Scholasticae, 2014), 142. viii. Feser, 143. ix. Pruss, “Leibnizian Cosmological Arguments,” 4. x. Feser, 144. xi. Alexander R. Pruss, The Principle of Sufficient Reason (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 97-125. xii. Pruss, The Principle of Sufficient Reason, 142. xiii. Bertrand Russell, Why I Am Not a Christian (New York City: Simon & Schuster, 1967), 7. xiv. Bruce Reichenbach, “Cosmological Argument,” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ed. Edward N. Zalta, 21 March 2013, <http://plato.stanford. edu/archives/spr2013/entries/cosmologicalargument/>. xv. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica 1. 3. 7. <http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1003. htm#article7>. xvi. William L. Rowe, The Cosmological Argument (New York: Fordham University Press, 1998), 154. xvii. Rowe, 154-155. xviii. Sobel, 216.
Luke Dickens ’18 is from Fortson, Georgia. He is a prospective Philosophy major.
W hy M iracles
David Hume and the Reasonableness of Belief
By Danielle D'Souza
or millennia the issue of miracles has been central in many religions, especially in Christianity. But in the eighteenth century philosopher David Hume changed the West’s entire understanding of miracles. Hume argued that people should, as a practical matter, always disbelieve miracles and be skeptical of them because any amount of testimony or proof is always outweighed by the universal human experience of the laws of nature. Hume’s argument relies on the premise that the laws of nature are actually known to human beings. Yet this proves to be problematic because humans do not have full knowledge of nature’s laws and so cannot confidently assert that miracles are impossible. Could it not be that the law of nature itself includes within it exceptions or deviations that seem to violate nature’s usual behavior? The truth is we do not know, and no matter how much empirical evidence we gather we will never be able to say that we, as humans, know the absolute truth about what the law of nature is. After all, our human reason has its own limits. In Hume’s other writings, even he emphasizes the limits of human reason in our understanding of nature, law, and causality. Based on those limits, I argue not that this miracle or that miracle happened, or that miracles come from a divine being, but simply that it is reasonable to believe that miracles are possible. The term ‘miracle’ is used rather loosely today. To avoid confusion, I want to clarify that there are two types of miracles. The first type can be defined simply as a rare and improbable event. For example, a woman surviving a terrible car accident could be described as a ‘miracle’ - in other words, very unlikely and amazing. The second type can be defined as something that seems to contradict human understanding of the laws of nature. An example of this would be Lazarus rising from the dead as reported in John 11:38-44. I am focusing only on this second type of miracle. Hume’s argument against miracles can be understood in two parts: a moderate one and a radical one. The moderate claim is that miracles are unlikely, so we should be slow to believe them. The radical claim is that miracles are essentially impossible, so we should never believe them. The moderate part of Hume’s argument is unobjectionable. Hume writes that the burden of proof for any miracle lies on the person who is claiming to have performed or witnessed
the miracle.i This simply means that we should be reluctant to believe in this or that miracle. If anyone asserts that the human understanding of the laws of nature has been violated in a certain instance, then of course a heavy burden of proof should be placed upon that person. Most religious believers would agree with Hume on this, as I do. Christianity has no problem with regarding the laws of nature as stable, predictable, and regular. Miracles, whether they seem to violate the laws of nature or whether they are due to divine intervention or chance, are always, by definition, extremely rare. This is why they produce wonder: because we expect nature to be predictable, and miracles disrupt that predictability. For instance, we expect blind people to remain blind, and therefore a miracle that enables a blind man to see inspires wonder and amazement. If there were no predictable laws of nature, then everything would be miraculous and miracles would cease to be extraordinary. So the Christian belief in miracles is not an attack on nature’s laws; it is an affirmation of them. Because miracles are extremely
Statue of David Hume on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh by Alexander Stoddart, 1995
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rare in and of themselves, significant testimony and proof is required. In Hume’s An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, he establishes that the number of witnesses should be taken into account along with the validity of the accounts. This constitutes his moderate argument. His conclusion, however, is radical. His conclusion is that no matter how much evidence or testimony you have in favor of a miracle, you should
demonstrates the profound limits of human knowledge. Since we know so little about nature’s laws, we are simply not in a position to say what nature forbids. Just because miracles violate what we know about nature does not mean that miracles violate nature’s laws. The laws of nature that we think are absolute may in fact be “local” laws that only apply in certain realms or domains. Or it could be that there are simply exceptions to certain laws, as C.S. Lewis argues.
Just because miracles violate what we know about nature does not mean that miracles violate nature's laws. always be skeptical of it occurring because it defies the laws of nature. So in effect, he is saying that you should never believe that any miracle is possible. For instance, if someone says that a dead person has been raised to life, it does not matter how reliable the witness of the event is because universal human experience attests that when we die, we die. Therefore, it is much more likely that the witness is lying or mistaken than it is that the known laws of nature have been violated. Hume even goes further to assert that the only miracle occurring at all is people believing in miracles even when they defy nature’s laws.ii Even though Hume’s conclusion seems radical, there is a practical truth in what Hume says. Obviously we rely on the uniformity of human experience in the way that we live our daily lives. For example, it would be difficult to function if we expected gravity to apply today but not tomorrow. In an attempt to support Hume’s argument, philosopher J.L. Mackie argues that people should not believe in miracles because nature is a closed system and a miracle would represent an intervention into that closed system.iii Yet there is a powerful objection to Hume’s argument against miracles. Here we need to turn to Hume’s epistemology – his theory of knowledge. In Hume’s A Treatise of Human Nature, we find Hume giving us the tools to refute his own argument. He provides a powerful argument for contesting the notion that the laws of nature are fully known.iv The effect of Hume’s argument is to demonstrate, not that there are no laws of nature, but rather that as human beings we can never with certainty know what these laws are. Of course, by drawing on human experience we can formulate generalizations that we treat as laws. Science is probably the most reliable collection of such generalizations. Even so, none of those generalizations or laws are “nature’s laws.” Rather, they are human laws, which are nothing more than aggregate observations. These observations merely represent what we have experienced or tried before. Consequently, Hume’s epistemology itself
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But mere experience, even if prolonged for a million years, cannot tell us whether the thing is possible. Experiments find out what regularly happens in Nature: the norm or rule to which she works. Those who believe in miracles are not denying that there is such a norm or rule: they are only saying that it can be suspended. A miracle is by definition an exception.v
Let us consider some of the known laws of nature. Light travels at the speed of 186,000 miles a second in a vacuum. Newton’s inverse square law says that objects attract each other with a force proportional to their mass and inversely proposal to the square of the distance between them. There are innumerable other laws. Now it was Hume who pointed out that from no amount of empirical generalizations, however large, can we draw a general conclusion that is true as a matter of fact. Hume says that we presume that there are laws because we assume causation. “By means of that relation,” Hume writes, “we can go beyond the evidence of our memory and senses.”vi In reality, as Hume shows, there is no proof of causation; there
Christ makes wine out of water at the marriage at Cana by Giovanni Volpato, 1772
A swan in the pond in the Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh by Paul Boxley, 2006
is simply the repetition of experience. Since scientific laws are themselves empirical generalizations, Hume’s statement applies to all such laws. The stunning implication is that scientific laws cannot be verified in the sense of confirming them to be true in all cases. Scientific generalizations can at best be proven false; they can never be proven true. We “know” that light travels at speed “c” (i.e. 186,000 miles per second) because we measure it. But even if we measure the speed of light a thousand times, or a million times, it does not follow that light always and everywhere travels at that speed. Possibly on a star many light years away, light travels at a different speed. We presume that this is not the case, but there is no way to know that. We simply cannot measure light often enough and in every place in the universe, so we cannot truthfully say we “know” light always travels at speed “c.” The philosopher Bryan Magee notes that for centuries in the West, people used the phrase “white as a swan.” That is because all observed swans were white. And this generalization was supported by literally millions of examples. Every swan previously seen was white. Consequently, there are innumerable poems and stories that use the phrase “white as a swan.” Yet when Europeans first set foot on the continent of Australia, they encountered black swans. Suddenly the generalization “white as a swan” no longer held. And how many black swans did it take to defeat the rule? Just one.vii Drawing on the lesson of Hume, philosopher Karl Popper noted that science cannot prove anything. The best that science can do is disprove theories.viii What follows is that scientific laws are nothing more than generalizations that have so far held true. By showing the limits of human reason, Hume demonstrates that the known laws of nature are nothing more than what human experience has shown to this point. But science itself is constantly revising and updating itself based on new discoveries and new
experience. Even this experience represents the most up-to-date human understanding, yet one that is itself subject to revision and correction. Ultimately Hume uses reason to show how little we can be confident in actually knowing. So miracles cannot contradict the known laws of nature because, quite frankly, there are no known laws of nature. The same point was made by the philosopher Immanuel Kant. “I must therefore abolish knowledge,” Kant wrote in his Preface to the second edition of the Critique of Pure Reason, “to make room for belief.”ix Kant is saying that beliefs that go beyond reason should not be dismissed because reason itself is limited and circumscribed. What this means for our purpose is that there is nothing unreasonable in believing that miracles can occur. This does not mean that any particular miracle is true or even likely. Each miracle report must be evaluated on its individual merits – by examining the historical or eyewitness evidence that is given to support it. As Kant and Hume would both agree, humans need to function based on the natural laws that we observe, but also keep in mind the limits of human reason. Yet ironically, a full reading of Hume’s work leads not to a disbelief in miracles, but rather, an understanding that miracles are possible. i. David Hume, An Enquiry on Human Understanding (1777), Project Gutenberg, 15 November 2011, https://www.gutenberg.org/ files/9662/9662-h/9662-h.htm (accessed December 15, 2015) sec. 10, part 1. ii. Hume, sec. 10, part 1, 90-91. iii. J.L. Mackie, The Miracle of Theism (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982), 21. iv. David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature (1740), Project Gutenberg, 13 February 2010, https:// www.gutenberg.org/files/4705/4705-h/4705-h.htm (accessed December 15, 2015) bk. 1, part 3, sec. 4-8. This problem is known as the problem of induction. v. C.S. Lewis, Miracles (New York: Harper Collins, 2009), 72. vi. Hume, sec. 4, part 1, 22. vii. Bryan Magee, Confessions of a Philosopher (New York: Modern Library, 1999), 47. viii. Karl Popper, The Logic of Scientific Discovery (New York: Basic Books, 1959), 1-12. ix. Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason (Montana: Kessinger Publishing, 1998), XXXV.
Danielle D’Souza ’17 is from San Diego, California. She is a major in History, with prospective minors in Government and English.
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The Purpose of Prayer: By Madeline Killen
Secular Misconceptions and the Reality of Grace
ictionary.com, barred entry to the biblical canon for good reason, defines prayer as “a devout petition to God or an object of worship.” Unfortunately, popular culture picked up on this borderline apocryphal rumor, which has spread like wildfire in much the way inaccurate information usually does: casual usage, word of mouth, and of course, Facebook. A quick scroll through your News Feed will confirm this, with status upon status asking for prayer while waiting to hear back from college scholarships or hoping for an injury’s healing before the big game. Christians are not above the fray when it comes to perpetuating this myth either. Oftentimes Christians feel that the best encouragement they can offer their non-religious friends is an “I’ll pray for you” and a King Arthur Flour cupcake. But when these friends do not get their desired outcome, they would naturally doubt the efficacy of Christian prayer. This modern understanding of prayer is superficial and misleading. In order to have a biblical and holistic conception of prayer, one needs to go back to Christ himself. When Christ said, “Ask, and ye shall receive,” it was not as straightforward a statement as the dictionary perceives it to be.i Rather, Christ had a specific genre of requests in mind and pointedly did not offer a timeline on when the “receiving” would occur, nor did he offer a lot of detailed information on what one might actually receive. The Bible demonstrates again and again that Jesus wants man’s varied requests to have the same core desire at their center: a relationship with God. When Jesus famously said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find,” it was not necessarily a blanket statement.ii He continues in the next verse to ask “who among you” would give a snake
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to a son who asks for bread.iii When analyzing these verses, it is necessary to be familiar with a bit of biblical symbolism. Bread is often synonymous to Jesus himself. In John, Jesus claims that “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever.”iv This is an allusion to his forty-day fast in the desert. When Satan tempted him with bread, Jesus responded by alluding to Deuteronomy 8:3 – “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”v So when Jesus calls himself the “living bread,” he is stating that he is the Word of the Lord made flesh. Furthermore, snakes represent Satan, who himself represents a separation from God. In the Garden of Eden, it was the serpent (universally acknowledged to be Satan in disguise) who lured Adam and Eve into sin and thus out of the Garden.vi While the Garden was a paradise in the secular sense of the word, described in Genesis as a perfect oasis, it was also paradise in the common Christian usage because Adam and Eve were granted the privilege of everyday, one-on-one interaction with God the Father. Their expulsion from the Garden was the beginning of mankind’s long separation from God. Thus, Jesus’ choice of bread and snakes in his lesson on prayer is not arbitrary. Jesus is offering an explanation and a qualifier to his earlier “ask, and ye shall receive” statement. Yes, Jesus will give what we ask for, but with the important stipulation that we ask for what will bring us closer to God and help foster our friendship with him. In response, Jesus would never shove us further from the Father. He knows what we need far better than we do, and in our heart of hearts, we all need a relationship with him.
Praying Hands by M. Le Roux, 19th century
This idea is further explained in several of the later books of the New Testament. James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” But two chapters later, James refines the type of wisdom that one should be seeking when approaching God, stating that “the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.”vii When asking for wisdom from God, one is not expecting to receive the wisdom that allows for savvy stock market investment choices or seamless social navigation. Rather, the kind of wisdom that God offers is that which is intended to make one more like him, which equips one to help further the Kingdom of God. As a result of a strengthening relationship with God, the believer becomes both more prepared for and more desiring of the Christian mission to further the Kingdom of God on earth. We learn that this pursuit of the Kingdom is the primary purpose of prayer in Jesus’ most important lesson on the subject: The Lord’s Prayer. Even those who have never spent a second of their lives within the four walls of a church are at least familiar with this meditation, and others can even recite it from memory. In Matthew 6, Jesus gives his disciples the following prayer: Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.viii
Right off the bat, Jesus addresses God as “our Father.” This quickly establishes that prayer is relational, personal, and even familial. Additionally, older translations of this passage, such as the King James Version quoted above, use “thy” in place of “you,” which is notable because “thy” was a much more familiar pronoun than “you,” the equivalent of “tú” rather than “usted” in Spanish. He then asks that “thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” This request is massive, infinitely important, and completely natural. Jesus is teaching his followers what they should yearn for above all else. Prayers should not center on personal gain, but rather on personal growth, which is the beginning of the Kingdom manifesting on earth. The request for personal internal change is vital to prayer life. More than asking for objects or rewards, prayer is about asking for gentleness, kindness, patience, and self-control while also bowing with humility to acknowledge a true lack of these qualities. Yet even this humility is impossible
to achieve without the Father’s help. In the absence of his aid, all the heart intuitively knows is how to posture without substance. It is easy to state that we need to be kinder; it is difficult to truly believe that, and it is even more difficult not to feel smugly pleased with ourselves for our incredible self-awareness.ix This spiral illustrates our intrinsic flaw and is the reason why Christianity places such an emphasis on prayer: none of us are truly self-aware. This theme is ubiquitous, running through philosophy classes, centuries of literature, and the Bible. American writers Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Steinbeck, and their contemporaries ask what truly lies hidden within the human spirit, and all come up with approximately the same answer: nothing good.x Humans overcome one problem only to uncover another. When we stop drinking as much, we start feeling superior to those who have not. When we go out of our way to do favors for our friends, we resent that they do not do the same for us. Prayer offers us the means to become increasingly aware of our own depravity, as night after night we find ourselves continuously asking to be more this and less that. It is at this point that Christians realize how truly fortunate they are to have a God who loves them, listens to them, and wants to “give generously to all.”xi Equipped with this honest awareness of who they are and of their insurmountable distance from perfection, Christians are able to love God far more fully than they could without prayer. This is why the “thy Kingdom come” line of the Lord’s Prayer is so important and why merely requesting kindness is not enough: Christians must desire the Kingdom itself, for the Kingdom is the desire of the One they begin to love more than themselves. This is a natural extension of a developing friendship. We wish our friends well, hoping that they get into the graduate schools of their choice and finish the marathon that they are training for. If we can do anything to help, we willingly offer our support, bringing them coffee in the library while they work on their applications and coming out to the race to cheer for them. When they open the acceptance letter or cross the finish line, we are genuinely happy for them; their accomplishments are our joy. But we would never think to claim that our coffee or cheers are the reason for their success. This is a Christian’s relationship with God; he is the star of the show, the one working on the greatest thesis ever known to man. His followers are there to do anything they can to be able to see him succeed, because his success is what they want even more than their own. After this line, Jesus does eventually get around to asking for something: “Give us this day our daily bread.”xii Notice the scale of the request, though:
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Christ is asking only for enough to survive for the day. More than a request, this is a statement of faith. Bread, both as a metaphor for God’s word and in its literal form, is the building block of sustenance and the first component in allowing man to live, grow, and flourish. Jesus is stating that he believes that God will provide him with the means to make it through another day. He does not need to worry about what is to come, because he trusts that God is in control. This becomes incredibly important later in Jesus’ life, when he asks the night before his crucifixion, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but
offer help to man. And man should want to talk to God, out of an increasing realization of the richness contained in each and every exchange with the Father, and out of a growing love for the One who first loved us. When these conversations become a regular occurrence, Christians begin to see a change in their lives. A prayer life starts out like the start of any new friendship. The first few times we are together, we want to fill all of the silences, taking painstaking care with our words in order to be seen as witty, interesting, and fun. When the conversation is over, we exhaustedly
More than asking for objects or rewards, prayer is about asking for gentleness, kindness, patience, and self-control while also bowing with humility to acknowledge a true lack of these qualities. yours be done.”xiii Although Christ’s specific request was not granted, God instead gave him the strength to complete his mission on earth and face the cross: daily bread. This is often how God works in prayer: he will not always give exactly what we asked for in response to a difficult situation, but he will give us what we need to survive. Prayers for the healing of a family member’s illness or the cessation of pain, whether emotional or physical, often go unanswered for longer than we would like. At times like these it is important, if not comforting, to remember that God’s view of the world is significantly different from ours. If this universe is a patchwork quilt, it is held so close to our eyes that we can only see darkness, whereas God sees every side, angle, and miniscule detail alike. Christians do not know why some of their prayers go apparently unanswered while others result in fantastic, timely displays of God’s love and listening ear. Christians do know, however, that God will not leave them to flounder on their own. God may not offer immediate healing, but he will offer the believer a chance to see her friends’ and family members’ love at work in her life or give her the internal strength that she needs to persevere. Through prayer, both answered and unanswered, Christians learn more about the way and will of their God. This leads one to the conclusion that prayer is the ultimate form of conversation. 1 Thessalonians 5:16 tells Christians to “pray without ceasing,” which seems like an unreasonable request until one takes the character of God into consideration. When we go to a friend to seek advice, they will inevitably fall short of center and land on the side of either ignorant or overbearing. God, of course, does not have these shortcomings. Man is endlessly inferior to and in need of God. Nevertheless, God wants to hear from and
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retreat. As we grow closer, we will one day find ourselves sitting on the floor of one of our dorm rooms doing homework. If we have a thought, any thought in the world, we do not hesitate to share it with our companion. We start to pick up on little words and phrases that they use all the time; we give their favorite food a shot even though it looks like something we would never eat. We make small adjustments in our lives to accommodate this new relationship. That is what prayer without ceasing looks like: God becomes our primary mental conversation partner, our lives see a million tiny adjustments to accommodate his presence, and we are infinitely, inexpressibly better for it. i. Quote is paraphrased from Matthew 7:7. ii. Matthew 7:7 (NIV). iii. Matthew 7:7-10 (NIV). iv. John 6:51 (NIV). v. Matthew 4:4 (NIV). vi. See Genesis 2 and 3. vii. James 3:17 (NIV). viii. Matthew 6:9-13 (KJV). ix. C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (Harper Collins, 2009), 121-128. x. See Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, Steinbeck’s East of Eden, Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise. xi. James 1:5 (NIV). xii. Matthew 6:11 (NIV). xiii. Luke 22:42 (NIV).
Madeline Killen ’18 is from Belmont, North Carolina. She is a Psychology major with a minor in English.
Revisiting the Life of Martin Luther King Jr. Perspectives for Today's Challenges
he protests that took place last year sent a shockwave across the country. At universities such as Princeton, Yale, the University of Missouri, and Dartmouth, these protests have forced students to reanalyze racism in American society and the problems that continue to stem from it. On a more intimate note, the protest at BakerBerry Library last fall left campus divided on the merits of the protest that took place, the actions of the school administration afterward, and most importantly, how the campus community moves forward. Despite all of the conversations about racism and equality on our campus and in the country, many have lost faith in our ability to come to a consensus about what should be done. Yet in spite of the tumult of the last year, it is encouraging to recognize the fact that our country has been through much more chaotic times. Protests during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s were much more violent and divided the American public even more so than today. Indeed, the violence that occurred during the Civil Rights Movement illustrated how deep of an issue racism was (and continues to be) in the United States, and how it became an issue that pointed to a need for change that went beyond government legislation. What was needed instead was a radically new system of interaction between blacks and whites. But where was this new system, and how did it inspire social change? At the time, there seemed to be no hope that such a change could come. Fortunately, a message of hope emerged from the chaos and despair. It is a message that not only
By Andrew Shuffer
Martin Luther King leaning on a lectern by Marion S. Trikosko, 1964
Christian worldview could provide a moral framework capable of fostering radical changes in how people view one another. That message was most vividly portrayed by the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who used his Christian ministry and beliefs to speak to an American society that was in desperate need for social change. This article will describe how his Christian beliefs and ministry brought about that radical social change, and also show that his message
It is a message that not only calls people to love one another, but also calls them to change the mindset that determines how we as humans interact with one another in society. calls people to love one another, but also calls them to change the mindset that determines how we as humans interact with one another in society. Specifically, it was a message that encouraged people to recognize that the
to the world is just as applicable today as it was sixty years ago. Everybody knows who Martin Luther King Jr. is and how important he was to the cause of the
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Civil Rights Movement. The details surrounding the integration of Christianity into his life and work, however, are not often mentioned in contemporary dialogue – yet this information helps elucidate the very framework that explains why he had such an impact on American society, and it bears fair treatment in a discussion on his effectiveness as an advocate for social justice. Martin Luther King Jr. was born in 1929 to a line of black Southern Baptist ministers (his father, grandfather, and great grandfather were all Baptist ministers) in Atlanta, Georgia.i After his grandfather died, Martin’s father took over pastoring the local church, Ebenezer Baptist Church. As King grew up in the church, he became more exposed to the black church tradition of the social gospel – the idea that the church should not just be concerned with the spiritual issues of its day, but also the social ones that intimately impact the daily lives of those in the church and society as a whole. Growing up, King’s father emphasized this need in his own ministry, and King would come to continue the legacy of his father’s preaching in the years to come. As an undergrad at Morehouse College, Martin developed a strong relationship with the president of the college, Benjamin E. Mays. King would often follow Mays back to his office to discuss theology and current events. Mays was also a much welcomed guest at King’s house for Sunday dinner. Mays would eventually encourage Martin to view Christianity as a potential force for progressive change.ii This deep inspiration eventually led King to be ordained as a pastor in his final semester at Morehouse College. After college, King attended Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania to further his understanding of Christian thought and biblical teaching. While there,
he was heavily influenced by Walter Rauschenbusch’s Christianity and the Social Crisis. In it, Rauschenbusch argues that social problems are moral problems on a larger scale. The Christian faith does not only provide a moral framework for the world, but also resources for understanding and addressing the root causes of moral issues. Therefore, the church must be concerned with the social problems that ail its members and society as a whole. This was quite significant for King, as he finally had a strong theological connection between the Christian faith and social justice. King finished his biblical studies with a doctorate in systematic theology from Boston University. While there, he adopted a school of thought called personalism, which believed that personal religious experiences were necessary to properly understand God.iii While this would serve him well in his preaching, it also nurtured his personal faith as he faced numerous difficulties during the Civil Rights Movement. The Civil Rights Movement before Dr. King's involvement was a long series of efforts by black people in the South to resist the effects of Jim Crow after Reconstruction. As he began his work as a pastor in Montgomery, Alabama, Dr. King became increasingly involved in the movement’s progress throughout the South. As opposition to his work became more violent, King became convicted of God’s existence as “a living reality that has been validated in the experiences of everyday life.”iv His strong belief in a personal and loving creator God – one who cares about the wellbeing of persons in the world and who is always present and working on their behalf – allowed King to further develop his faith.v It was this aspect of his Christian faith that grounded him spiritually, mentally, and emotionally throughout his ministerial and civil rights work. His deep and personal relationship with God
The old Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia by Mikefairbanks, 2012
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The March on Washington from the United States Information Agency, 1963
allowed him to face the difficulties in his work with boldness and confidence, enriching his ability to speak to a racially charged American public. What made Dr. King’s movement so powerful was that he centered it on this crucial notion of the Social gospel, a gospel that is concerned with the whole man – not only his soul but also his body, not only his spiritual well-being but also his material well-being.vi In other words, Dr. King believed that the Christian gospel affects all aspects of a person’s life, and its influence on someone should be evident in both spiritual and social spheres. The core of the gospel is the good news of Jesus dying on the cross for mankind’s sins, rising from the dead, and promising that “whoever believes in him should not perish but inherit eternal life.”vii The apostle Paul illustrates the meaning of this in 2 Corinthians: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the
ultimate problem is within the human heart, a broken system from which gross violations of the created order like racism and injustice spring. Rather than wipe the slate clean and start over, however, God decided to redeem the world through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, and he did so out of his love for us. To bring this into more personal terms, when one accepts Christ as Lord and Savior, man’s redemption is secured, producing a new heart and an ability to imitate Christ. Through this renewal and relationship with Christ, one becomes capable of expressing to others the selfless love that Christ showed mankind through the cross. As a result, the hope of the gospel is that God has provided a means for humans to be redeemed back to himself and escape the chains of sin, including the otherwise intractable moral flaws that cause individuals to demonize and behave destructively toward each other. Such attitudes
What made Dr. King’s movement so powerful was that he centered it on this crucial notion of the Social Gospel, a Gospel that is concerned with the whole man – not only his soul but also his body, not only his spiritual well-being but also his material well-being. new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself . . . in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself.”viii This is a key tenet of the Christian gospel; not only does Christ redeem and restore individual human beings, but he’s actually restoring the entire world to what it should be. This restoration is necessary because sin has corrupted the world we inhabit beyond our ability to fix, which is why the injustices that permeate our world seem so unsolvable despite our strongest attempts to do so. The
have no place in the kingdom that God is working to restore – a kingdom that, as signaled by the triumph Christ displays through the resurrection, is destined to soon arrive in full. King juxtaposed this hope of the gospel with the despair of the world. He recognized that the question of racism and civil rights was tearing America apart, and he knew that only love as illustrated by the gospel could provide a viable solution. What was ultimately needed was not just an external code of conduct that
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people were obligated to follow, but a change inside the human heart that would render it capable of demonstrating a new kind of love. The love displayed by Christ in the gospel narrative is not just any type of love. It is agape love. Dr. King defined agape love as purely spontaneous, unmotivated, groundless, and creative.ix When someone loves with agape love, nothing is expected in return. It is selfless and profound. Dr. King claimed that when men rise to love on the agape level, they love others not because they like them or that their attitudes and ways are subjectively appealing, but because God loves them. King writes in a sermon that when one loves with agape love, one rises to a position of loving the person who does the evil deed while hating the evil deed that the person does.x As an example, during the Birmingham protests in the spring of 1963, student protesters were blasted with firehoses set to a pressure that would strip bark off trees and separate mortar from brick.xi Despite the brutality, the students did not fight back at the police. They even laughed as they were rounded up and arrested.xii When the Birmingham fire department was later asked to use the hoses against the protesters again, they refused.xiii Why? They were changed by the fact that even though they were inflicting harm on the protesters, the protesters refused to return the favor. The protesters fought the violence and hate with unconditional love. This is a clear example of how Dr. King’s influence within the Civil Rights Movement was so transformative. He and his followers chose nonviolence. They chose to love on the agape level. That is why Dr. King implored his followers to not assault the homes of white people after his own home was bombed in 1956. He understood that violence does not solve social problems; it merely creates new
and more complicated ones. He also argued that while violence may bring temporary victory, it never brings permanent peace.xiv Retaliating with violence after his house was bombed would surely have started a neighborhood war between blacks and whites, leading to more destruction and potential lives lost. It would also have distracted people away from the larger issue at hand, as people would be more concerned with fighting others rather than fighting racism. The lessons espoused by Dr. King and his followers are still alive today. Last year, nine people lost their lives in a shooting at a black church in Charleston. Dylan Roof, a white man, committed the crime. In light of the anger and grief, the families of the victims publicly forgave Roof for what he had done. Those families could have called for him to suffer in misery for what he had done, but rather than pour hate on his soul, they poured out love. While their response does not erase the severity of his crime, nor does it erase the need for a prompt and just response from the law, it offers a way – a deeply challenging way – to think about the questions and tensions raised by the recent protests that have so shaken American society. It also should cause us to interrogate the status quo that we live in today. These protests have shed light on the fact that despite the abounding victories of the Civil Rights Movement, much work remains to be done. Yet King’s example illustrates that it is critical to carefully consider how this work will be done. While incarcerated during the Birmingham campaign in April 1963, Dr. King wrote that nonviolence demands that the means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek.xv Certain tools for social justice are easy to employ, but may only cause further division in the long term; it is much harder, but ultimately more fruitful, to challenge hateful oppression from a stance animated by agape love. College campuses in America have become increasingly concerned with the creation of an ideal community: a community that is free of hate, racism, and animosity, and instead filled with love, acceptance, and vibrant diversity. King knew that as long as people were sinful, a community like this could never exist, hence the need for him to embody the gospel as he ascended to leadership in the Civil Rights Movement. King also knew that the only way such a community can become reality is for there to be a radical change in the way people Recreation of Martin Luther King's Cell in Birmingham Jail by Adam Jones, 2012
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Racism and the segregation that sprouted from it are sin; they rebel against the fact that we as humans have an inherent value that has been given to us by God. Agape is a love that recognizes that value and profoundly magnifies it for everyone to see. view and interact with one another, a change that only the Christian gospel can bring about. King summarizes it beautifully: Agape is not a weak, passive love. It is love in action. Agape is love seeking to preserve and create community. It is insistent on community even when one seeks to break it. Agape is a willingness to go to any length to restore community . . . It is a willingness to forgive . . . The cross is the eternal expression of the length to which God will go in order to restore broken community. The resurrection is a symbol of God’s triumph over all the forces that seek to block community.xvi
Dr. King’s application of this message to the Civil Rights Movement is a testament to the fact that many of the ills that plague our world cannot be changed by legislation, military action, formal debate, or a change in government, but only through the love displayed in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Dr. King dared to show the world how the gospel could speak into social conflict with love, and the consequences changed the trajectory of American society. Agape was so powerful against racism because at the end of the day, racism denigrates a person’s value and dignity solely because of their ethnicity or color of their skin. Racism and the segregation that sprouted from it are sin; they rebel against the fact that we as humans have an inherent value that has been given to us by God. Agape is a love that recognizes that value and profoundly magnifies it for everyone to see. Today, we are seeing the expression of many of the same desires that undergirded the Civil Rights Movement – desires for true changes in how people relate to one another, for there to be forgiveness of past and current wrongdoings, and a yearning for hope and peace shared among people from all backgrounds. The gospel offered Dr. King a vision of reality that drove him to guide an entire generation toward the fulfillment of these desires, and as we look to his legacy for wisdom and inspiration in navigating our present challenges, it is imperative that we remember what enabled him to effect lasting change.
“Martin Luther King Jr.” “Boston University,” Martin Luther King Jr. and the Global Freedom Struggle, King Institute, accessed 14 February 2016, <http://kingencyclopedia. stanford.edu/encyclopedia/encyclopedia/enc_ boston_university/index.html>. iv. Paul W. Pruyser, Changing Views of the Human Condition (Macon, GA: Mercer, 1987), 157. v. Rufus Burrow, Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Theology of Resistance (Jefferson: McFarland & Company, 2015), 18. vi. “Social Gospel,” Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Global Freedom Struggle, King Institute, accessed 27 December 2015, <http://kingencyclopedia.stanford. edu/encyclopedia/encyclopedia/enc_social_gospel/ index.html>. vii. John 3:16 (ESV). viii. 2 Corinthians 5:17-19 (ESV). ix. “Agape,” Martin Luther King Jr. and the Global Freedom Struggle, King Institute, accessed 27 December 2015, <http://kingencyclopedia.stanford. edu/encyclopedia/encyclopedia/enc_agape/index. html>. x. “Agape.” xi. Diane McWorther, Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama, the Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution (New York: Simon, 2001), 370-371. xii. Foster Hailey, “Dogs and Hoses Repulse Negroes at Birmingham,” New York Times, 4 May 1963, <https://partners.nytimes.com/library/national/ race/050463race-ra.html>. xiii. McWorther, 387. xiv. Martin Luther King, “The Christian Way of Life in Human Relations, Address Delivered at the General Assembly of the National Council of Churches,” The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute, 4 December 1957, <https:// kinginstitute.stanford.edu/king-papers/documents/ christian-way-life-human-relations-address-deliveredgeneral-assembly-national>. xv. Martin Luther King, “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” Atlantic Monthly 212, no. 2 (1963): 78-88. xvi. Jill Karson, Opposing Viewpoints in World History: The Civil Rights Movement (Farmington Hils: Greenhaven Press, 2004), 138. ii.
“Martin Luther King Jr.,” Martin Luther King Jr. and the Global Freedom Struggle, King Institute, accessed 14 February 2016, <http:// kingencyclopedia.stanford.edu/encyclopedia/ encyclopedia/enc_martin_luther_king_jr_biography/ index.html>. i.
Andrew Shuffer ’18 is from Cleveland, Ohio. He is an Electrical Engineering major.
Spring 2016 • The Dartmouth Apologia •
A Prayer for Dartmouth This prayer by professor of religion Lucius Waterman appears on a plaque hanging outside Parkhurst Hall. O Lord God Almighty, well-spring of wisdom, master of power, guide of all growth, giver of all gain. We make our prayer to thee, this day, for Dartmouth College. Earnestly entreating thy favour for its people. For its work, and for all its life. Let thy hand be upon its officers of administration to make them strong and wise, and let thy word make known to them the hiding-place of power. Give to its teachers the gift of teaching, and make them to be men right-minded and high-hearted. Give to its students the spirit of vision, and fill them with a just ambition to be strong and well-furnished, and to have understanding of the times in which they live. Save the men of Dartmouth from the allurements of self-indulgence, from the assaults of evil foes, from pride of success, from false ambitions, from hardness, from shallowness, from laziness, from heedlessness, from carelessness of opportunity, and from ingratitude for sacrifices out of which their opportunity has grown. Make, we beseech thee, this society of scholars to be a fountain of true knowledge, a temple of sacred service, a fortress for the defense of things just and right, and fill the Dartmouth spirit with thy spirit, to make it a name and a praise that shall not fail, but stand before thee forever. We ask in the name in which alone is salvation, even through Jesus Christ our Lord, amen. The Reverend Lucius Waterman, D.D.
The Nicene Creed The Dartmouth Apologia invites people from all intellectual, philosophical, religious, and spiritual backgrounds to join in our discussion as we search for truth and authenticity. We do, however, reserve the right to publish only that which aligns with our statement of belief. We, the members of The Dartmouth Apologia, affirm that the Bible is inspired by God, that faith in Jesus Christ is necessary for salvation, and that God has called us to live by the moral principles of the New Testament. We also affirm the Nicene Creed, with the understanding that views may differ on baptism and the meaning of the word “catholic.”
We [I] believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen. We [I] believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father. Through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end. We [I] believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father [and the Son]. With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets. We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.
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Image by Josh Renaud â€™17
[1 Peter 3:15] a journal of christian thought