The New Evangelization Editor’s Corner – May 2017
Rev. Thomas A. Baima, S.T.D. With this issue Chicago Studies becomes an open access, peer reviewed academic journal. Also with this comes a change in editors. Let me express the thanks of the editorial board to the Reverend Michael J. K. Fuller, who faithfully served both the University of Saint Mary of the Lake as associate professor of spiritual theology and Civitas Dei as the Editor of Chicago Studies. A priest of the Diocese of Rockford, Father Fuller was invited by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to take up the position of Executive Director of its Secretariat for Doctrine and Canon Law. This appointment is certainly a testimony to his scholarship and leadership capacity. He will be missed. Fuller’s work to transition Chicago Studies into the open access world comes to fruition with this issue. We are proud that Chicago Studies move into this new frontier of publishing has been acknowledged by the Omega Alpha Open Access site on theology and religion. You can read the article at https://oaopenaccess.wordpress.com/2017/02/28/chicago-studies-journal-flips-toopen-access/ Father Michael Fuller is succeeded by an Editorial Board which includes Doctor Melanie Barrett, Father Lawrence Hennessey, Father David Olson, Father Martin Zielinski, and myself, Father Thomas Baima. I was selected to assume the role of contributing editor and will introduce each issue as Fuller did. This issue is titled “The New Evangelization.” It includes the academic papers presented at the 2016 Albert Cardinal Meyer Lecture Series at the University of Saint Mary of the Lake. The two keynote papers were by William Lane Craig. Doctor Craig was featured with a cover story in the Chronicle of Higher Education which recognized him as among the most credible of Christian philosophers who are confronting the new atheists. Craig offered two contributions, “What Philosophy Offers the New Evangelization” and “Methods for Sharing the Gospel on College Campuses.” Craig tries to take seriously the challenges to the Christian faith which have emerged from philosophy and science. He does so by being serious about philosophy and its capacity to aid us in the engagement of serious question such as the problem of God. In a particular way, he offers philosophy as having a dynamic role in the evangelization of culture. Culture’s presuppositions stand in the way of individuals engaging the question of faith. Philosophy offers a language, capable of serving as a lingua franca for those wishing to explore these questions outside of the household of faith. Craig traces the development of culture’s presuppositions back to linguistic analysis and the work of A. J. Ayer and his verifiability criterion. Ayer meant to eliminate not only metaphysics but ethics from philosophy in favor of philosophy of science as the supreme and sole arbiter of truth. An equal opportunity offender, Ayer attacked both faith statements and experience as simply meaningless. This trajectory, of which Ayer was one of the important proponents, eventually led to the death of God theology of the 1960’s. What is important for the consideration of evangelization is what happened next. Unfortunately, on most college campuses, the story in the philosophy classroom ends with A. J. Ayer. But Craig demonstrates that the Death of God theology itself died, and traces why this
happened, showing the fundamental flaws in the logical positivism or scientific naturalism which tried to support it. He next turns to postmodernism, which is the successor philosophy to scientific naturalism. Both the anti-rational Romanticism which was a reaction to scientific naturalism and the developing postmodern philosophy are equally hostile to religious faith. But Craig leads us to discover how, at the same time God was being declared as dead, Christian philosophy was experiencing a resurrection. Remarkably, the re-birth comes out of Anglo-American philosophy, that school most dominated by logical positivism. Using Alvin Plantinga as an example, Craig traces the development of philosophy of religion in the Anglo-American school to its present day, where it is a robust counterpoint to the naturalist position. Craig demonstrates how the real advances lie not in arguments against the new atheists, but in the rediscovery of natural theology as a legitimate philosophical enterprise. Natural theology, then, can be the locus of dialogue between believers and non-believers interested in serious engagement of the problem of God. In response to this keynote, Doctor Matthew Levering looks to two authors to further illuminate the issues Craig raised in his paper. They are the author of the Wisdom of Solomon and Joseph Pieper. The Wisdom of Solomon is both a biblical book and a philosophical treatise. It testifies to the intersection of philosophy and scripture. Written, scholars argue, near the end of the Second Temple period (1st or 2nd century B.C.) the Wisdom of Solomon is a religious engagement of philosophy and its questions. Levering principally focuses on the sacred authorâ€™s confrontation of nihilism. For Levering, the problem of nihilism is that it shortens lifeâ€™s horizon to the point of creating an existential crisis. He proposes that the philosophy of death is, in fact, the precursor to a proper philosophy of God. If a particular philosophy cannot address the problem of death, then its whole enterprise is questionable. Levering transitions to the 1960s, the period when Craig notes Christian philosophy began its renewal in the face of scientific naturalism, and focuses the rest of his paper on Joseph Pieper and how the philosophy of death can aid in evangelization. Levering notes that it is an existential experience of death which initiates the philosophical question by causing the person to take the question of nihilism seriously. Death, then, becomes a question of urgency regarding the possibility of meaning. Pieper distinguishes between the narrow horizon of a life in the frame of nihilism, which leads to utilitarian values and what is necessary for a life capable of contemplative values. What is necessary, Levering argues through Pieper, is transcending the self, fixated on needs by death. At issue is nothing short of our capacity to discover good in the face of death. And this introduces the question of God into the philosophical quest. As Craig noted, scientific naturalism cannot take us to either goodness or ethics. Without a new horizon of reality, philosophy itself cannot proceed. It is here, Levering tells us that the God question reenters. Philosophy of God asks about the condition of the possibility of empirically perceived reality. In other words, it asks what stands behind creation and is capable of pushing back absurdity. That question turns philosophy to the question of God and physics towards metaphysics. Craigâ€™s second keynote extends theory toward practice. It is an argument for arguments. I also found in it a persuasive presentation of why Roman Catholic theology students are required to study philosophy, and with it a challenge to us for not using the treasure of our tradition in ministry. Craig tells us that the job of philosophy is to shape a culture that can hear the gospel as intellectually viable. He calls for a positive apologetics, not one aimed at the redistribution of Christians between denominations, but one which actually invites non-Christians to become
Christians! It is a vision also of missional ecumenism, where Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant Christians could work together in this dialogue with secular culture. C. S. Lewis is a model for Craig, in part because of Lewis’ own intellectual journey to faith and because he was a contemporary at Oxford of A. J. Ayer. Lewis’ mere Christianity is an intellectual response to logical positivism which is still valid today. The method used by Lewis grounds Craig’s approach, employing what he calls the twin pillars of God’s existence and the resurrection of Jesus. What Craig is doing is moving into the space between natural theology, and its philosophically based arguments and fundamental theology where the truths of revelation are shown to be intellectually intelligible. This model is necessary, Craig tells us, because apologetics needs to both strengthen the Christian believer in her or his own faith and to provide the nonbeliever with a way to hear the message as credible. In seminaries and divinity schools there is a long-standing debate about the study of languages. Some people argue that the ancient languages are the most important while others argue for the stress to be placed on pastoral languages. Craig agrees that the ministers of today need to be bilingual, meaning they need to learn the ancient language of philosophy because it is also a contemporary pastoral language. The unique claim of Christianity is that the cause of the universe is not Aristotle’s first mover, but the personal God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. One of the important claims which Craig makes is that post-modernism is something of a myth. Not the good kind of myth we talk about in biblical literature, but the bad kind, meaning something not true. He calls post-modernism a myth because in matters of science, people are not post-modern. In matters of science, engineering and technology, they are modernists. Hence, we need to realize that the real opponent is relativism, not post-modernism. If we miss this, we are like a physician treating the wrong disease. If we think the debates of modernism are passé, in effect we are engaging in unilateral disarmament in the battle for hearts and minds. What we need is a “rational, humble, and invitational” engagement of modernism and its claims using the “canons of logic, rationality and truth.” Because people are still in the modernist frame, they want rational arguments to answer their rational questions. These questions are the obstacles which stand in the way of their receiving the gospel. Craig agrees with Pope Saint John Paul II that what’s new about the new evangelization is that we have a culture which has known Christianity and rejected it. Consequently, the rejection stands in the way. The evangelist must help the person move around the obstacle before the proclamation can be heard. To do this, Christians must take the objections seriously and seek to answer them seriously. As part of his call for a credible presentation of Christianity, Craig suggests that debate is a measure of credibility. The willingness of the apologist to engage someone from the other side demonstrates his or her confidence in the credibility of Christianity. It also, in Craig’s experience, is more attractive to audiences. He challenges the common claim that no one comes to Christ through arguments. While there is not intellectual conversion (faith comes by grace), there is an intellectual dimension to the conversion process. In this way, the intellectual path is where openness to the truth may be found. Many people he encountered in his ministry have taught him that emotive expressionism does not offer reasons for the “existence of the universe, moral values and duties, objective human worth, consciousness and will and many other topics.” As these are real questions, if the evangelist offers real answers she or he will be guiding the non-believer around the obstacles to belief. Christianity offers real answers to the real questions, especially the problem of human evil. Many of the men coming to seminary today are coming from business administration, engineering, law and medicine, and they are coming to find answers to these sorts of questions. Those scholars who
study contemporary conversions have discovered that there is a strong intellectual dimension to conversion today. It centers around the credibility of Christianity and involves the person testing faith’s intellectual seriousness. Craig reminds us that people deserve better than fideism. He concludes by sharing his practical suggestions for this debate based approach. Father David Olson responds to Doctor Craig out of his experience as a theologian and a former Newman parish pastor, giving us a Catholics reflection on the same topic. He describes the two approaches to campus evangelism, one which engages in active outreach and one which offers a stable welcoming environment. Regardless of the method, campus evangelism involves four dimensions: building relationships, recognizing challenges and opportunities, the intellectual component of evangelization, and promoting the gospel and sacramental ministry. His approach is to consider evangelization as broader than proclamation of the gospel. As his four dimensions describe, to goal is not only to light the fire of faith, but to keep the flame burning brightly. Olson describes the two organizational efforts for evangelization on today’s campus: the Newman Center and the missionary organization, i.e. FOCUS or Evangelical Catholic. He notes that there are approximately 4,000 campuses being served by 2,200 campus ministers, both ordained and lay. This shows an amazing commitment, but one which is not well known or understood by most in the Catholic Church. Olson’s article sheds light on the Catholic phenomenon of campus evangelization. The first of the four dimensions is building relationships. Relationships are the heart of ministry, but too often we settle for programs instead. Olson alerts us to the data which must inform our decisions about campus ministry. There are different constituencies which must be drawn into relationship, faculty, staff, students. There are different contexts, those incoming students who are practicing Catholics, those experiencing doubts and those who are unchurched. Since Catholic ministry takes place in the wider context of a population which is basically Christian, ecumenical relationships are equally important. Efforts at hospitality and cooperation in efforts at social justice are key elements of this dimension. The second dimension is for the campus minister to have a realistic sense of both the challenges and the opportunities. One such challenge is the issue of mental health among college students, especially isolation and depression. The Church is uniquely positioned to offer support and community in the otherwise impersonal university. Another opportunity is to offer a vision of the dignity of the human person and the solidarity of the human community. This vision provides integration to the proclamation of the gospel. The third dimension is the intellectual component of evangelization. As members of a university community, faculty, staff and students are thinkers. A campus minister must be ready and properly equipped to discuss the reasonableness of faith, to be comfortable entering into not only conversation but debate. Olson suggests that the Christian intellectual tradition offers a key element lacking in the modern university: a credible vision of the whole. Specialization has fragmented knowledge. Nowhere is this more critical for the student under the campus minister’s care than in the area of ethics. Conscience formation is a vital part of any ministry, but for the university student, it takes on an urgency because of the way campus life offers so many risky behaviors as normal. The fourth dimension is biblical, liturgical and sacramental ministry. Recognizing that sacraments are not something Christians do, but the means of grace that make and maintain a person as a Christian, Olson situations this dimension at the heart of the campus ministry enterprise. In particular, giving the intellectual dimension, he prescribes Bible study as an integral part of any Newman center or parish. Bible study provides the context for all of the other
elements of this dimension. These means of grace are foundational to all ministry, but have a particularly important role with college students, for there we encounter Jesus Christ, the power of God and the Wisdom of God. Our final article comes to us from Doctor Thomas Hubert and treats Ignatius of Antioch. It fits well in this issue on evangelization as its theme is witness. Hubert tells us that Ignatius offered his witness in two liquid forms, ink and blood. He repeats the important dictum that martyrdom should be admired, even desired, but not sought. Motive is important and this reveals a tension at the heart of the Christian life of discipleship. The Bible tells us that “to save our life, we must lose it.” (Mt 10:38) Living life in this manner, with this motive, is nothing short of joy. This attitude can provide the disciple with real optimism which can invade every dimension of his or her life. Hubert notes that the motive creates an attitude which prevents action being separated from the rest of our faith life. There are three main motifs in Ignatius’ witness: the role of the bishop, the Eucharist and martyrdom itself. Playing out Hubert’s insights yields a communitarian view of the Church. The mystical body is a liturgical body. Gifts of the Spirit complement and build the Body in to the image of Christ. This is the root of witness.
What Philosophy Offers to the “New Evangelization” By William Lane Craig, Ph.D., D. Theol. Introduction Near the end of his wide-ranging encyclical “Fides et Ratio” on the relationship between faith and reason—and in particular philosophy—, John Paul II declared that “the Church considers philosophy an indispensable help” with respect to two tasks: first, “for a deeper understanding of faith,” and, second, “for communicating the truth of the Gospel to those who do not yet know it.”1 With respect to this second task he spoke of “the pressing need for a new evangelization,” and he appealed specifically to philosophers to aid in this endeavor.2 The Pope believed that philosophy has “a fundamental and original contribution” to make “in service of the new evangelization.” This is partly because, as he put it, “Philosophical thought is often the only ground for understanding and dialogue with those who do not share our faith.”3 Philosophy affords a common ground on which we can engage non-Christians. Moreover, philosophy, the Pope said, “is the mirror which reflects the culture of a people.” So, he concluded, “a philosophy which. . . evolves in harmony with faith is part of that ‘evangelization of culture’ which Paul VI proposed as one of the fundamental goals of evangelization.”4 In 2010 Pope Benedict XVI officially established the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization. The Pope believed it of utmost importance that traditionally Christian nations, especially in Europe and North America, which have become shaped by a culture of secularism, be re-evangelized. I share the Pope’s conviction and believe that Christian philosophy will have and, indeed, is having a vital role in the evangelization of culture. Decisive changes are taking place in the field of philosophy, and the outcome of these changes will reverberate throughout the university and ultimately Western culture. Christian philosophers are significantly changing the current face of Anglo-American philosophy. Indeed, it is no exaggeration, I think, to speak of a renaissance of Christian philosophy over the last generation. Developments in Philosophy In order to understand where we are today, we need first of all to understand something of where we have been. In a recent retrospective, the eminent Princeton University philosopher Paul Benacerraf describes what it was like doing philosophy at Princeton during the 1950s and ’60s. The overwhelmingly dominant mode of thinking was scientific naturalism. Physical science was taken to be the final, and really only, arbiter of truth. Metaphysics—that traditional branch of philosophy which deals with questions about reality which are beyond science (hence, the name “meta-physics”, i.e., “beyond physics”)—metaphysics had been vanquished, expelled from philosophy like an unclean leper. “The philosophy of science,” says Benacerraf, “was the queen of all the branches” of philosophy, since ‘it had the tools. . . to address all the problems.’”5 Any problem that could not be addressed by science was simply dismissed as a pseudo-problem. If a question did not have a scientific answer, then it was not a real question—just a pseudo-question masquerading as a real question. Indeed, part of the task of philosophy was to clean up the discipline from the mess that earlier generations had made of it by endlessly struggling with such
pseudo-questions. There was thus a certain self-conscious, crusading zeal with which philosophers carried out their task. The reformers, says Benacerraf, trumpeted the militant affirmation of the new faith…in which the fumbling confusions of our forerunners were to be replaced by the emerging science of philosophy. This new enlightenment would put the old metaphysical views and attitudes to rest and replace them with the new mode of doing philosophy. The book Language, Truth, and Logic by the British philosopher A. J. Ayer served as a sort of manifesto for this movement. As Benacerraf says, it was “not a great book,” but it was “a wonderful exponent of the spirit of the time.” The principal weapon employed by Ayer in his campaign against metaphysics was the vaunted Verification Principle of Meaning. According to that Principle, which went through a number of revisions, a sentence in order to be meaningful must be capable in principle of being empirically verified. Since metaphysical statements were beyond the reach of empirical science, they could not be verified and were therefore dismissed as meaningless combinations of words. Ayer was very explicit about the theological implications of this Verificationism.6 Since God is a metaphysical object, Ayer says, the possibility of religious knowledge is “ruled out by our treatment of metaphysics.” Thus, there can be no knowledge of God. Now someone might say that we can offer evidence of God’s existence. But Ayer will have none of it. If by the word “God” you mean a transcendent being, says Ayer, then the word “God” is a metaphysical term, and so “it cannot be even probable that a god exists.” He explains, “To say that ‘God exists’ is to make a metaphysical utterance which cannot be either true or false. And by the same criterion, no sentence which purports to describe the nature of a transcendent god can possess any literal significance.” Suppose some Christian says, “But I know God through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. You can’t deny my personal experience!” Ayer is not impressed. He would not think to deny that you have an experience, he says, any more than he would deny that someone has an experience of, say, seeing a yellow object. But, he says, “whereas the sentence ‘There exists here a yellow-colored material thing’ expresses a genuine proposition which could be empirically verified, the sentence ‘There exists a transcendent god’ has . . . no literal significance” because it’s not verifiable. Thus, the appeal to religious experience, says Ayer, is “altogether fallacious.” I hope you grasp the significance of this view. On this perspective statements about God do not even have the dignity of being false. They are devoid of any factual content and so can be neither true nor false. Ask yourself how sympathetic a university community dominated by such a philosophical outlook would be toward theistic faculty and students. And it wasn’t just metaphysical statements that were regarded as meaningless. Ethical statements—statements about right and wrong, good and evil—were also declared to be meaningless. Why? Because they can’t be empirically verified! Such statements are simply emotional expressions of the user’s feelings. Ayer says, “if I say ‘Stealing money is wrong’ I produce a statement which has no factual meaning…It is as if I had written, ‘Stealing money!!’…It is clear that there is nothing said here which can be true or false.” So he concludes that value judgments “have no objective validity whatsoever.” Think of what that implies. It becomes impossible to declare such things as terrorism, school shootings, or intolerance as objectively evil.
The same goes for aesthetic statements concerning beauty and ugliness. According to Ayer, “Such aesthetic words as ‘beautiful’ and ‘hideous’ are employed…not to make statements of fact, but simply to express certain feelings.” On this view, there is no aesthetic difference between the ceiling in the Sistine Chapel and the ceiling in my house! It’s sobering to realize that this was the sort of thinking that dominated the departments of philosophy at British and American universities during the last century into the 1960s. It was not without its impact on religious life. Under the pressure of Verificationism, some theologians began to advocate emotivist theories of theological language. On their view, theological statements are not statements of fact at all but merely express the user’s emotions and attitudes. For example, the sentence “God created the world” does not purport to make any factual statement at all but is merely a way of expressing, say, one’s awe and wonder at the grandeur of the universe. The low point undoubtedly came with the so-called Death of God theology of the mid-1960s. On April 8, 1966, the cover of Time magazine was completely black except for three words emblazoned in bright, red letters against the dark background; the words read: “Is God Dead?” And the article described the movement then current among American theologians to proclaim the death of God. Today that movement has all but disappeared. What happened? What happened is a remarkable story. Limits of Verificationism Philosophers exposed an incoherence which lay at the very heart of the prevailing philosophy of scientific naturalism. They began to realize that the Verification Principle would force us to dismiss not only theological statements as meaningless, but also a great many scientific statements, so that the Principle undermined the sacred cow of science at whose altar they knelt. Contemporary physics is filled with metaphysical statements that cannot be empirically verified. As the eminent philosopher of science Bas van Fraassen nicely puts it: “Do the concepts of the Trinity [and] the soul…baffle you? They pale beside the unimaginable otherness of closed spacetimes, event-horizons, EPR correlations, and bootstrap models.”7 If the ship of scientific naturalism was not to be scuttled, Verificationism had to be cut loose. But even more fundamentally, it was also realized that the Verification Principle is selfrefuting. Simply ask yourself, is the sentence “A meaningful sentence must be capable in principle of being empirically verified” itself capable of being empirically verified? Obviously not; no amount of empirical evidence would serve to verify its truth. The Verification Principle is therefore by its own lights a meaningless combination of words, which need hardly detain us, or at best an arbitrary definition, which we are at liberty to reject. Therefore, the Verification Principle and the theory of meaning it supported has been almost universally abandoned by philosophers. Undoubtedly, the most important philosophical event of the twentieth century was the collapse of the Verificationism that lay at the heart of scientific naturalism. One result of this collapse has been the rise of Postmodernism. Scientific naturalism, originating in the Enlightenment, is characteristic of so-called “Modernity,” or the modern age, which is dominated by science and technology. The collapse of Verificationism brought with it a sort of disillusionment with the whole Enlightenment project of scientific naturalism.
Postmodernism This might seem at first blush a welcome development for Christian believers, weary of attacks by Enlightenment naturalists. But in this case the cure is worse than the disease. For Postmodernists have tended to despair of ever finding objective truth and knowledge. After all, if science, man’s greatest intellectual achievement, cannot do so, then what hope is there? Hence, Postmodernists have tended to deny that there are universal standards of logic, rationality, and truth. This claim is obviously incompatible with the Christian idea of God, who, as the Creator and Sustainer of all things, is an objectively existing reality, and who, as an omniscient being, has a privileged perspective on the world, grasping the world as it is in the unity of his intellect. There is thus a unity and objectivity to truth which is incompatible with Postmodernism. Postmodernists therefore often see their task as implicitly anti-theological. For example, the literary critic Roland Barthes has written, To give a text an Author is to impose a limit on that text, to furnish it with a final significance, to close the writing…In precisely this way literature…by refusing to assign…an ultimate meaning to the text (and to the world as text) liberates what may be called an antitheological activity, an activity that is truly revolutionary since to refuse to fix meaning is, in the end, to refuse God and his hypostases--reason, science, law.8 Postmodernism is therefore no more friendly to Christian truth claims than is Enlightenment naturalism. Christianity is reduced to but one voice in a cacophony of competing claims, none of which is objectively true. Enlightenment naturalism is, however, so deeply imbedded in Western intellectual life that anti-rationalistic currents like Romanticism and now Postmodernism are doomed, I think, to be mere passing fashions. After all, nobody adopts a Postmodernist view of literary texts when reading the labels on a medicine bottle or a box of rat poison! Clearly, we ignore the objective meaning of such texts only at peril to our lives. In the end, people turn out to be subjectivists only about ethics and religion, not about matters provable by science. But that’s not Postmodernism; that’s just classic Enlightenment naturalism—it’s the old Modernism in a fashionable new guise. Underneath the costume it’s the same, old subjectivism and relativism that were characteristic of Modernity’s view of religion and ethics. Fortunately, Postmodernism is not the only result of the collapse of Verificationism. Since Verificationism had been the principal means of barring the door to metaphysics, the jettisoning of Verificationism meant that there was no longer anyone at the door to prevent this dreaded and unwelcome visitor from making a reappearance. So the demise of Verificationism has been accompanied by a resurgence of metaphysics in Anglo-American philosophy, along with all the other traditional questions of philosophy which had been suppressed by the verificationists. Along with this resurgence has come something new and altogether unanticipated: the birth of a new discipline, Philosophy of Religion, and a renaissance in Christian philosophy. Renaissance in Christian Philosophy Since the late 1960s Christian philosophers have been coming out of the closet and defending the truth of the Christian worldview with philosophically sophisticated arguments in the
finest scholarly journals and professional societies. And the face of Anglo-American philosophy has been transformed as a result. At the same time that theologians were writing God’s obituary, a new generation of philosophers was re-discovering His vitality. Just a few years after its infamous Death of God issue, Time ran a follow-up cover story, only this time the question read, “Is God Coming Back to Life?” That's how it must have seemed to those theological morticians of the 1960s! During the 1970s interest in philosophy of religion continued to grow, and in 1980 Time found itself running another major story entitled “Modernizing the Case for God” in which it described the movement among contemporary philosophers to refurbish the traditional arguments for God’s existence. Time marveled: In a quiet revolution in thought and argument that hardly anybody could have foreseen only two decades ago, God is making a comeback. Most intriguingly, this is happening not among theologians or ordinary believers, but in the crisp intellectual circles of academic philosophers, where the consensus had long banished the Almighty from fruitful discourse.9 According to the article, the noted American philosopher Roderick Chisholm believed the reason that atheism was so influential a generation ago is that the brightest philosophers were atheists; but now, he says, many of the brightest philosophers are theists, and they are using a tough-minded intellectualism in defense of that belief that was formerly lacking on their side of the debate. So I’m pleased to tell you that today some of England and America’s finest philosophers at our leading universities are outspoken Christians. I think, for example, of Richard Swinburne and Brian Leftow at Oxford University, Robert Adams and Dean Zimmerman at Rutgers, Peter van Inwagen and Alvin Plantinga at Notre Dame, Trenton Merricks at Virginia, Timothy O’Connor at Indiana, Eleonore Stump at St. Louis—the list goes on and on. Today philosophy of religion flourishes in young professional journals such as the International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, Religious Studies, Sophia, Faith and Philosophy, Philosophia Christi, American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly, and other journals devoted to the discipline, not to mention the standard non-specialist journals. Professional societies such as the Society of Christian Philosophers, the Evangelical Philosophical Society, the American Catholic Philosophical Society, not to mention other smaller groups, number thousands of members. Publishing in philosophy of religion is booming, as is evident from the abundance of available textbooks (also testimony to the seemingly insatiable interest among students for courses on the subject). If you peruse the current book catalogue of Oxford University Press, you will find no less than 50 new books in philosophy of religion. That compares with 28 in metaphysics, 39 in epistemology, 31 in applied ethics, and so on. But, you may ask, what about the so-called “New Atheism” exemplified by Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens? Doesn’t it herald a reversal of this trend? Not really. As is evident from the authors New Atheists interact with (or rather do not interact with!), the New Atheism is, in fact, a pop cultural phenomenon lacking in intellectual muscle and blissfully ignorant of the revolution that has taken place in Anglo-American philosophy. It tends to reflect the Positivism of a bygone generation rather than the contemporary intellectual scene. The positivistic roots of much of the anti-theological diatribes of scientists like Lawrence Krauss, Stephen Hawking, and Neil deGrasse Tyson are plainly evident in their rejection of the entire discipline of philosophy, a throw-back to the sort of attitude described by Benacerraf during the mid-twentieth century. The physicist Carlo Rovelli says bluntly, “They are stupid in this…the
greatest scientists of all times…read philosophy, learned from philosophy, and could never have done the great science they did without the input they got from philosophy…scientists who talk philosophy down are simply superficial.”10 Though influential in popular culture, the New Atheism is shallow and uninformed. To give you some feel for the impact of the revolution in Anglo-American philosophy, I want to quote at some length from an article by Quentin Smith which appeared in the fall of 2001 in the secularist journal Philo lamenting what Smith called “the desecularization of academia that evolved in philosophy departments since the late 1960s.” Smith, himself a prominent atheist philosopher, writes: By the second half of the twentieth century, universities…had been become in the main secularized. The standard…position in each field…assumed or involved arguments for a naturalist world-view; departments of theology or religion aimed to understand the meaning and origins of religious writings, not to develop arguments against naturalism. Analytic philosophers…treated theism as an antirealist or non-cognitivist world-view, requiring the reality, not of a deity, but merely of emotive expressions or certain “forms of life.” This is not to say that none of the scholars in the various academic fields were [sic] realist theists in their “private lives”; but realist theists, for the most part, excluded their theism from their publications and teaching, in large part because theism…was mainly considered to have such a low epistemic status that it did not meet the standards of an “academically respectable” position to hold. The secularization of mainstream academia began to quickly unravel upon the publication of Plantinga’s influential book, God and Other Minds, in 1967. It became apparent to the philosophical profession that this book displayed that realist theists were not outmatched by naturalists in terms of the most valued standards of analytic philosophy: conceptual precision, rigor of argumentation, technical erudition, and an in-depth defense of an original world-view. This book, followed seven years later by Plantinga’s even more impressive book, The Nature of Necessity, made it manifest that a realist theist was writing at the highest qualitative level of analytic philosophy, on the same playing field as Carnap, Russell, Moore, Grünbaum, and other naturalists. Naturalists passively watched as realist versions of theism, most influenced by Plantinga’s writings, began to sweep through the philosophical community, until today perhaps one-quarter or one-third of philosophy professors are theists, with most being orthodox Christians. Although many theists do not work in the area of the philosophy of religion, so many of them do work in this area that there are now over five philosophy journals devoted to theism or the philosophy of religion… …theists in other fields tend to compartmentalize their theistic beliefs from their scholarly work; they rarely assume and never argue for theism in their scholarly work. If they did, they would be committing academic suicide or, more exactly, their articles would quickly be rejected…But in philosophy, it became, almost overnight, “academically respectable” to argue for theism, making philosophy a
favored field of entry for the most intelligent and talented theists entering academia today. Smith concludes, “God is not ‘dead’ in academia; he returned to life in the late 1960s and is now alive and well in his last academic stronghold, philosophy departments.”11 This is the testimony of a prominent atheist philosopher to the transformation that has taken place before his eyes in Anglo-American philosophy. Now I think he’s exaggerating when he estimates that one-quarter to one-third of American philosophers are theists; but what his estimations do reveal is the perceived impact of Christian philosophers upon this field. As all revolutionaries know, a committed minority of activists can have an impact far out of proportion to their numbers. The number of Christians among graduate students in philosophy is estimated to be 50% higher than among current faculty, which suggests that the revolution will continue. Atheism, though perhaps still the dominant viewpoint at the Western university, is a philosophy in retreat. The principal error that Smith makes is calling philosophy departments God’s “last stronghold” at the university. On the contrary, it is a beachhead from which to launch forays into other disciplines at the university. Since every discipline of the university has at its foundation a philosophical component—such as philosophy of education, philosophy of science, philosophy of law, even philosophy of sport—, if we can affect philosophy, we can change the whole university. This is vital because the single most important institution shaping Western culture is the university. It is at the university that our future political leaders, our journalists, our lawyers, our teachers, our business executives, our artists, will be trained. It is at the university that they will formulate or, more likely, simply absorb the worldview that will shape their lives. And since these are the opinion-makers and leaders who shape our culture, the worldview that they imbibe at the university will be the one that shapes our culture. If we change the university, we change our culture through those who shape culture. If the Christian worldview can be restored to a place of prominence and respect at the university, it will have a leavening effect throughout society. Why is this important? Simply because the Gospel is never heard in isolation. It is always heard against the background of the cultural milieu in which one lives. A person raised in a cultural milieu in which Christianity is still seen as an intellectually viable option will display an openness to the Gospel which a person who is secularized will not. For the secular person you may as well tell him to believe in fairies or leprechauns as in Jesus Christ! Or, to see the impact of culture in your own life, imagine a devotee of the Hare Krishna movement approaching you on the street and inviting you to believe in Krishna. Such an invitation would likely strike you as bizarre, freakish, perhaps even amusing. But to a person on the streets of Mumbai, such an invitation would, I assume, appear quite reasonable and be serious cause for reflection. I fear that Christians appear almost as weird to persons on the streets of Bonn, Stockholm, or Paris as do the devotees of Krishna. Evangelization in a Modern Culture What awaits us in North America, should our slide into secularism continue unabated, is already evident in Europe. Although the majority of Europeans retain a nominal affiliation with Christianity, only about 10% are practicing believers, and less than half of those are biblical in their theology. The most significant trend in European religious affiliation is the growth of those classed as “non-religious” from effectively 0% of the population in 1900 to over 22% today. As
a result evangelization is immeasurably more difficult in Europe than in the United States. Having lived for thirteen years in Europe, where I spoke evangelistically on university campuses across the continent, I can personally testify to how hard the ground is. It’s difficult for the Gospel even to get a hearing. For example, I recall vividly that when I spoke at the University of Porto in Portugal, the students were so incredulous at the prospect of a Christian intellectual with doctoral degrees from two European universities that they suspected that I was actually an imposter. They even telephoned the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium, where I was a visiting researcher, to confirm my affiliation with the university! The US is following at some distance down this same road, with Canada somewhere in between. Canada’s slide into secularism has been precipitous. My experience speaking on university campuses across Canada suggests to me that Canada embodies a sort of mid-Atlantic culture further along the road toward European secularism than its southern neighbor. Pluralism and relativism are the conventional wisdom at Canadian universities. Political correctness and laws regulating speech stifle debate on issues of ethical importance and serve as weapons to oppress Christian ideas and institutions. I have been prohibited from speaking on certain Canadian university campuses on any topic simply because of my personal belief that marriage is essentially a heterosexual relationship. Canada’s slide into secularism illustrates how important maintaining a cultural milieu sympathetic to Christian belief is to the effectiveness of evangelization. Fortunately, during the last decade or so Canadian Christians have begun to reverse this slide. But the climb back will be vastly more difficult than the downward slide because it will be in the teeth of a culture that has come to oppose the Christian worldview. Role of Christian Philosophy in Modern Society As John Paul II understood, it is the task of Christian philosophy to help create and sustain a cultural milieu in which the Gospel can be heard as an intellectually viable option for thinking men and women. The point I want to make is that the task of desecularization is not hopeless or impossible, nor need significant changes take as long to achieve as one might think. What is going on in Christian philosophy today represents the best hope for the transformation of culture that the Pope envisioned, and its true impact for the cause of Christ will be felt only in the next generation, as it filters down into popular culture. Speaking recently at Rutgers University, I was stunned when a student in audience stood up during the Q&A following my talk and said, “I want to thank Christian philosophers like you for making it easy for me to be a Christian.” As a result of the work of Christian philosophers genuine advance has been made on important issues like the epistemic status of belief in God, the coherence of theism, and the problem of evil, so that questions which dominated earlier discussions have been resolved or have yielded to new questions. For example, the so-called presumption of atheism, which so dominated midtwentieth century philosophy of religion, according to which atheism is a sort of default position, is now a relic of the past. Similarly, scarcely any philosopher today defends the so-called logical version of the problem of evil, which claims that God and the suffering in the world are logically incompatible. The discussion of the coherence of theism, which analyzes the principal attributes traditionally ascribed to God, such as aseity, necessity, eternity, omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence, has been an especially fertile field of exploration. My own philosophical work has focused on the coherence of theism, yielding in-depth analyses and defenses of the coherence of divine omniscience (particularly God’s middle knowledge and foreknowledge of contingent events), divine eternity (including God’s relationship to time and its connection to physical time
as described in the Special and General Theories of Relativity), and divine aseity (in dialogue with the challenge posed by Platonism with respect to abstract objects such as numbers, sets, and other mathematical objects). The renaissance of Christian philosophy has not been merely defensive, however. Rather it has also been accompanied by a resurgence of interest in natural theology, that branch of theology which seeks to prove God's existence apart from the resources of authoritative divine revelation. All of the traditional arguments for God’s existence, such as the cosmological, teleological, moral, and ontological arguments, not to mention creative, new arguments, find intelligent and articulate defenders on the contemporary philosophical scene. I have personally defended in print and public debate the argument from contingency for a metaphysically necessary being, the kalām cosmological argument for a Personal Creator of the universe, the teleological argument from fine-tuning for a Cosmic Designer, the moral argument for a personally embodied Good, the ontological argument for a maximally great being, along with arguments from the applicability of mathematics and from intentionality for a transcendent personal Mind, as well as the proper basicality of belief in God wholly apart from arguments. Of course, there are replies and counter-replies to all of these arguments, and no one imagines that a consensus will be reached. But theists welcome this debate. For the very presence of the debate is itself a sign of how healthy and vibrant a theistic worldview is today. To return in closing to John Paul II's words: Philosophical thought is often the only ground for understanding and dialogue with those who do not share our faith. The current ferment in philosophy demands of believing philosophers an attentive and competent commitment, able to discern the expectations, the points of openness and the key issues of this historical moment. Reflecting in the light of reason and in keeping with its rules, and guided always by the deeper understanding given them by the word of God, Christian philosophers can develop a reflection which will be both comprehensible and appealing to those who do not yet grasp the full truth which divine Revelation declares.12 I believe that the new evangelization can succeed, that culture can be changed. Christian philosophers are currently carrying out the task to which the new evangelization calls them. May God continue raise up a mighty force of committed men and women to transform the university and, hence, Western culture in such a way that the Gospel may be heard afresh in all its lifechanging power! This paper was delivered as part of the Albert Cardinal Meyer Lecture Series on April 7-8, 2016 at the University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary.
1 John Paul II, Fides et Ratio §5. http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents /hf_jp-ii_enc_14091998_fides-et-ratio.html. 2 John Paul II, Fides et Ratio §103. 3 John Paul II, Fides et Ratio §104. 4 John Paul II, Fides et Ratio §103. 5 Paul Benacerraf, “What Mathematical Truth Could Not Be--I,” in Benaceraf and His Critics, ed. Adam Morton and Stephen P. Stich (Oxford: Blackwell: 1996), 18.
A. J. Ayer, Language, Truth, and Logic (New York: Dover Publications, 1952), Chapter VI: “Critique of Ethics and Theology.” 7 Bas van Frassen in Images of Science, ed. by P. Churchland and C. Hooker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985), 258. 8 Roland Barthes, Image-Music Text, trans. Stephen Heath (New York: Hill and Yang, 1977), 147, cited in A. Plantinga, The Twin Pillars of Christian Scholarship (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Calvin College and Seminary 1990), 22. 9 “Modernizing the Case for God,” Time (7 April 1980), 65-66. 10 “The Philosophy of Guessing Has Harmed Physics, Expert Says,” by John Horgan, August 21, 2014. http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/cross-check/the-philosophy-of-guessing-has-harmed-physics-expert-says/. 11 Quentin Smith, “The Metaphilosophy of Naturalism,” Philo 4/2(2001): 3-4. 12 John Paul II, Fides et Ratio §104.
Methods for Sharing the Gospel on College Campuses By William Lane Craig, Ph.D., D. Theol. Introduction Yesterday I spoke of the value of philosophy for the new evangelization with respect to the task of shaping culture. Christian philosophy helps to create and sustain a cultural milieu in which the Gospel can be heard as an intellectually viable option for thinking men and women. Philosophy is also of value for the new evangelization in a more direct and practical way as well. For philosophy undergirds the discipline of Christian apologetics, that branch of Christian theology which seeks to provide a rational justification of Christianity’s truth claims. A positive apologetic for Christianity will comprise two major components: the arguments of natural theology and various Christian evidences. Natural theology is that branch of Christian theology which seeks to prove the existence of God apart from the resources of authoritative divine revelation. Christian evidences seeks to provide warrant for thinking that God has revealed himself decisively in Jesus of Nazareth. Unfortunately, in my admittedly limited experience most Catholic apologetics seems to be aimed at persuading Protestants to become Catholics rather than at convincing unbelievers to become Christians. This strikes me as a case of misplaced priorities. Catholics and Protestants together face a common challenge in secularism, a challenge which has evoked the call for a new evangelization. An Approach to Apologetics What is urgently needed today is an apologetic for what C. S. Lewis called “mere Christianity,” those central truths which are common to all the great confessions of Christendom, whether Catholic, Protestant, or Orthodox. Now Lewis recognized that no mature Christian rests content with such a bare-boned Christianity. Mere Christianity, he said, is like the hallway into which one enters upon coming into a great house. Off the hallway are the various rooms representing the different confessions and denominations of Christendom. No one is content to remain in the hallway, for it is in the rooms that the couches and the fireplaces and the conversations are to be found. But in a secular culture we first--and foremost--need to bring people into the house. Lewis lived through and wrote during the height of the positivist era at Oxford, the times of A. J. Ayer and Verificationism and the alleged meaninglessness of religious, ethical, and metaphysical discourse. He bucked conventional wisdom by presenting a variety of arguments for God’s existence. And he rejected the relativity of history, arguing for the historical veracity of the Gospels’ record of the life of Jesus of Nazareth. Lewis was thus a champion of both natural theology and Christian evidences. If I may speak personally, my own approach to Christian apologetics has been inspired by Lewis’ model. I have self-consciously focused on the defense of mere Christianity, based upon the twin pillars of God’s existence, as demonstrated by a variety of arguments of natural theology, and the resurrection of Jesus, as established by historical-
critical studies of the New Testament, whereby God vindicated Jesus’ claims to divine authority. Because I have focused upon these central truths of mere Christianity, my apologetic work has been enthusiastically received by Christians of every stripe. Many people have expressed surprise when they learn that I am not Catholic, given my robust defense of these central truths of Catholic faith. Similarly, following speaking engagements, from Austria to Australia, I have been approached by Coptic priests, with their flowing robes and black beards, along with groups from their congregations, enthusiastically thanking me for my contribution to their faith. I have even been told that the one monk at the Greek Orthodox monastery at Mt. Athos who has internet access knows our website ReasonableFaith.org and that as a result of his reports the monks there are keeping us in their prayers. It is so gratifying to know that Christians of all these major confessions have found value and encouragement in my apologetic work. Christian apologetics not only strengthens Christian believers in their faith, but it is also of great value in the evangelization of nonbelievers. Let me share two ways in which Christian apologetics aids in the task of personal evangelization, particularly on the university campus. Christian Apologetics and Personal Evangelization First of all, training in Christian apologetics will make Christians more confident in sharing their faith with others. People who lack training in apologetics are often afraid to share their faith or to speak out for Christ out of fear that someone might ask them a question. But if you have good reasons for what you believe and good answers to the unbeliever’s questions or objections, then you’re not afraid to go into the lion’s den—in fact, you’ll enjoy it! Training in apologetics will help to make Christians bold and fearless witnesses for Christ. I see this happen all the time on university campuses when I have a public debate with a non-Christian professor. My experience is that while these professors may be very knowledgeable in their area of specialization, they are often almost clueless when it comes to the evidence for Christianity. The Christian position in these debates usually comes out so far ahead of the non-Christian position that unbelieving students often complain that the whole event was a “set-up,” staged by the Christian groups to make the non-Christian position look bad! The truth is that we try to get the best opponents, who are often picked by the atheist club on campus. Christian students, by contrast, come away from these debates with their heads held high, proud to be Christians. One Canadian student remarked to me following a debate, “I can’t wait to share my faith in Christ!” Permit me to share with you a letter from a youth pastor whose ministry was transformed by training in apologetics. He wrote, I am a youth pastor at a large evangelical church…A few years ago, one of the elder's sons who was in high school at the time, approached me and told me that he had become an atheist over the summer because science and
philosophy had proven that God doesn't exist! He challenged me with some quotes from Hawking, Dawkins, Hitchens, etc... and I had no responses to them. I'll never forget the look on his face when I had no reply. He started crying and with tears running down his face he turned around and walked out the doors of the church, and he has never come back. That sparked something in me! I realized that there was a new language that needed to be spoken to the youth culture of today... a language that I was not fluent in! In fact I was probably guilty of telling the young men and women that the Bible was true because it says it's true! Wow!!! Looking back I feel like I had no right to call myself a youth pastor at that time, but things have changed since then! Three years ago a fellow pastor gave me your book, “Reasonable Faith.” It was hard to get through... but I managed to plow my way through most of it. Shortly after that it seemed like atheists and agnostics were finding their way into my life. I started having debates on many issues with all of these different individuals, especially via Facebook! Issues that ranged from meaning, value, and purpose in life, morality, the existence of the universe and much more!...I am currently taking a big group of high school boys through "ON GUARD" right now and they absolutely love it! I even taught the Kalam cosmological argument to my youth group of high school and middle school students!!! They understand it and they are hungry for more! It is so awesome to watch their faces when they come to an understanding that the cause of the universe is personal, and therefore, they can have a personal relationship with the “CAUSE of the universe!” I have even used the “Kalam” argument to lead an atheistic college student to the truth of the Gospel about a month ago. Now this former skeptic is now studying “On Guard” with me too. He wants to go to seminary now and devote his life to the truth! I have seen the youth group grow with many skeptical teens. These students want to be respected with logical and thoughtful answers to their deep questions. I am seeing kids come to Christ on a regular basis. I have also seen many of the Christian students grow stronger in their faith and bolder in their evangelism because they are not afraid of having their faith questioned. Training in apologetics can help raise up bold and fearless witnesses to Christ. Now I can imagine some of you thinking, “But don’t we live in a post-modern culture in which these appeals to traditional apologetic arguments are no longer effective? Since post-modernists reject the traditional canons of logic, rationality, and truth, people
are no longer interested in rational arguments for the truth of Christianity. Rather in today’s culture we should simply share our narrative and invite people to participate in it.” In my opinion this sort of thinking could not be more mistaken. The idea that we live in a post-modern culture is a myth. In fact a post-modern culture is an impossibility; it would be utterly unlivable. People are not relativistic when it comes to matters of science, engineering, and technology; rather they are relativistic and pluralistic in matters of religion and ethics. But you see, that’s not post-modernism; that’s modernism! That’s just old-line Positivism and Verificationism, which held that anything you can’t prove with your five senses is just a matter of individual taste and emotive expression. We live in a cultural milieu which remains deeply modernist. Indeed, I think that the idea that we live in a post-modern culture is one of the most dangerous deceptions facing the Church today. “Modernism is dead,” we’re told, “You need no longer fear it. Forget about it; it’s dead and buried.” Meanwhile modernism, pretending to be dead, comes back round again in the fancy new dress of post-modernism, masquerading as a new challenger. “Your old arguments and apologetics are no longer effective against this new arrival,” we’re told. “Lay them aside; they’re of no use. Just share your narrative.” Indeed, some, weary of the long battles with modernism, actually welcome the new visitor with relief. And so we are deceived into voluntarily laying aside our best weapons of logic and evidence, thereby ensuring unawares modernism’s triumph over us. If we adopt this suicidal course of action, the consequences for the Church in the next generation will be catastrophic. Christianity will be reduced to but another voice in a cacophony of competing voices, each sharing its own narrative and none commending itself as the objective truth about reality, while scientific naturalism shapes our culture’s view of how the world really is. Now, of course, it goes without saying that in doing apologetics we should be relational, humble, and invitational; but that’s hardly an original insight of postmodernism. From the beginning Christian apologists have known that we should present the reasons for our hope “with gentleness and respect” (1 Pet. 3.15). One needn’t abandon the canons of logic, rationality, and truth in order to exemplify these biblical virtues. And as for the idea that people in our culture are no longer interested in nor responsive to rational argumentation and evidence for Christianity, nothing could be farther from the truth. If I might be permitted to speak from my own experience, for over thirty years I’ve been speaking evangelistically on university campuses in North America and Europe, sharing the Gospel in the context of presenting an intellectual defense of Christian truth claims. I always close my talks with a long time of Q & A. During all those years virtually no one has ever stood up and said something like, “Your argument is based on Western, chauvinistic standards of logic and rationality” or expressed some other postmodern sentiments. This just never happens. If you approach the questions on a rational level, people respond to them on a rational level. If you present scientific or historical evidence for a Christian truth claim, unbelieving students may argue with you about the facts—which is exactly what you want—, but they don’t attack the objectivity of science or history themselves. If you present a deductive argument for a Christian truth claim, unbelieving students may raise objections to your conclusion or premises—which is, again, precisely where the discussion should be—, but they don’t dispute your use of logic itself. Now I do find that students can be suspicious of a Christian speaker. So they
like to hear both sides of an issue presented. For that reason I’ve found debates to be an especially attractive forum for university evangelism. I competed for eight years in high school and inter-collegiate debate activities, debating topics of public policy like the military assistance program, wage and price controls, and so forth. I never dreamt that debate would someday become a ministry activity. But shortly after finishing my theological doctorate, I began to receive invitations from Christian student groups in Canada to participate in debates on topics like “Does God Exist?,” “Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?,” “Humanism vs. Christianity,” and so forth. And what I’ve discovered is that whereas a few score or maybe a couple hundred will come out to hear me give a campus talk, several hundred and even thousands of students will come to a debate where they can hear both sides presented. For example, last month 2,300 students at Ohio State University came out to hear my dialogue with Prof. Kevin Scharp on “Is There Evidence for God?” At the University of Wisconsin in Madison 4,000 students came out—on the night of a basketball game! —to hear Antony Flew and me debate the existence of God. Three thousand students at the University of Iowa braved a blizzard that dumped seven inches of snow on campus to hear my debate with a local Religious Studies professor known for his vendetta against Christianity. At Purdue University 3,000 students came out to listen to my debate with the young humanist philosopher Austin Dacey on the question “Does God Exist?’ The approach in all these debates is that of rational argument and evidence. There is tremendous interest among students in hearing a balanced discussion of the reasons for and against Christian belief. So don’t be misled into thinking that people in our culture are no longer interested in the evidence for Christianity. Precisely the opposite is true. But an important question remains. Training in apologetics can make Christians more confident in sharing their faith and people may be interested in hearing the arguments and evidence they present, but are the arguments and evidence effective? That leads me to my second point. Apologetics and Effective Evangelization Not only will training in apologetics help to make Christians more confident in evangelization, but it will help to make them more effective in evangelization. In other words, these arguments work! They have been battle-tested in years of university evangelism and shown to be effective. Many Christians will tell you that apologetics is not very useful in evangelization. “Nobody comes to Christ through arguments,” they’ll tell you. (I don’t know how many times I’ve heard this said.) Now this dismissive attitude toward apologetics’ role in evangelization is certainly not the biblical view. As one reads the Acts of the Apostles, it is evident that it was the apostles’ standard procedure to argue for the truth of the Christian view, both with Jews and pagans (e.g., Acts 17:2-3, 17; 19:8; 28:23-24). In dealing with Jewish audiences, the apostles appealed to fulfilled prophecy, Jesus’ miracles, and especially Jesus’ resurrection as evidence that he was the Messiah (Acts 2:22-32). When they confronted Gentile audiences who did not accept the Old Testament, the apostles appealed to God’s handiwork
in nature as evidence of the existence of the Creator (Acts 14:17). Then appeal was made to the eyewitness testimony to the resurrection of Jesus to show specifically that God had revealed Himself in Jesus Christ (Acts 17:30-31; 1 Cor. 15:3-8). So it’s quite clear, I think, that the apostles were not reluctant to give evidence for the truth of what they proclaimed. This doesn’t mean they didn’t trust the Holy Spirit to bring people to God. Rather they trusted the Holy Spirit to use their arguments and evidence to bring people to God. Frankly, I think that those who regard apologetics as futile in evangelization just don’t do very much evangelization. I suspect that they’ve tried using apologetic arguments on occasion and found that the unbeliever remained unconvinced. They then draw a general conclusion that apologetics is ineffective in evangelization. Now to a certain extent such folks are just victims of false expectations. When you reflect that only a minority of people who hear the Gospel will accept it and that only a minority of those who accept it do so for intellectual reasons, we should expect that most unbelievers will remain unconvinced by our apologetic arguments, just as most remain unmoved by the preaching of the cross. We shouldn’t expect that the unbeliever, when he hears our apologetic case, will just roll over and play dead! Of course, he’ll fight back! Think of what’s at stake for him! But we patiently plant and water in hopes that over time the seed will grow and bear fruit. And who knows about the cumulative effect of such arguments, as the seed is planted and then watered again and again in ways we can’t even imagine? “A Fellow Named Darrin” A wonderful illustration of this process is a fellow named Darrin, who was one of the most hard-boiled sceptics I had ever met. I would have thought that there was no chance of his coming to faith. Imagine, then, my shock when I read the following post by Darrin: Some time last week, I realized that I could no longer call myself a skeptic. After fifteen years away from Christianity, most of which was spent as an atheist with an active, busy intent on destroying the faith, I returned to a church (with a real intention of going for worship) last Sunday. Although I know I may struggle with doubt for the rest of my life, my life as an atheist is over. The primary motivator in my change of heart from a Christ-hater to a cardcarrying Disciples of Christ member was apologetic arguments for God’s existence. Briefly, I grew tired of the lack of explanation for: the existence of the universe, moral values and duties, objective human worth, consciousness and will, and many other topics. As I fought so desperately to come up with refutations of these arguments – even going out of my way to personally meet many of their originators, defenders, and opponents – I realized that I could not answer them no matter how many long nights I spent hitting the books. The months of study rolled
on to years, and eventually I found an increasing comfort around my Godbelieving enemies and a growing discontent and even anger at my atheist friends’ inability to kill off these fleas in debate and in writing. As time went on, I reverted the path I traced after giving up Christianity so long ago: I went from atheist to agnostic to … gulp … “leaning” in the direction of God, to finally accepting that he very well could exist, and then to coming out and admitting (quietly) He did exist. After considering Deism, Islam, Hinduism, Baha’i, and even Jainism briefly, I have decided to select Christianity due to its superior model for human evil and its reconciliation, coupled with the belief that God interacted with man directly and face-to-face and had “the” crucial role in this reconciliation. This is all the evangelism you’ll get from me and I do hope it’s quite enough to motivate you to study the evidence for God’s existence yourself and to read the Bible without the predetermined idea of tearing it apart. Come over to the dark side; we have tea and cookies. And people say no one comes to Christ through arguments! Admittedly, Darrin is in the minority. Well, then, why bother with that minority with whom apologetics is effective? First, because every person is precious to God, a person for whom Christ died. Like a missionary called to reach some obscure people group, the Christian apologist is burdened to reach that minority of persons who will respond to rational argument and evidence. But, second--and here the case differs significantly from the case of the obscure people group--, this people group, though relatively small in numbers, is huge in influence. One of these persons, for example, was C. S. Lewis. Think of the impact that one man’s conversion continues to have! I find that the people who resonate most with my apologetic work tend to be engineers, people in medicine, and lawyers. Such persons are among the most influential in shaping our culture today. So reaching this minority of persons will yield a great harvest for the Kingdom of God. You Can Argue Someone into the Kingdom of God In any case the generalization that apologetics is ineffective in evangelization is just not true. My colleague J.P. Moreland has taken to answering those who say, “You can’t argue anyone into the Kingdom of God,” by responding, “Oh, yes, you can. I’ve done it.” When I first heard J.P. say this, it hit me forcefully, “So have I!” At our website ReasonableFaith.org we receive a constant stream of emails from persons who have come to faith or who have come back to faith through the discovery of apologetic arguments. Let me share a few of these letters with you.
I am a sophomore at Ohio University. In April I attended the Veritas Forum where you spoke and my life changed. That day I went in to your lecture not knowing it had anything to do with God and the Lord Jesus--in fact I was invited by a Christian at work and we did not even know each others names! When listening I was shocked to hear the logical arguments you presented for there being a god and that Jesus exist. While you gave your testimony on the first night I knew my life would never be the same. Now I finally have true happiness and peace by knowing that the Lord exist and loves me.—Steven Greetings from Shanghai! We met last year when you are here speaking at Fudan University. Some amazing stories happened here after the symposium last year. We were able to follow up some of the interested students from the lectures. Several people who went to your final lecture came to faith afterward. I hope God will use you and your fellows in great ways to empower his work here in China.—Ike I gave some of your writings to an atheist co-worker. After reading your material I think his exact words were, "I couldn't believe it? Every criticism and question I had which my former pastor could never answer THIS GUY ANSWERED! It was like he read my mind! He really messed me up, but I think I want to be a Christian now. He removed the biggest obstacle I have long had—thinking that Christianity was blind faith and could not exist in an intelligent mind.—Matt I’m the only student in the University of Umeå, Sweden that study to take a degree in Philosophy of Religion/Systematic Theology. When I got saved as a 20 year old metal guitar player I started to study at a Bible School for 2 years. One day I had a Theology Doctor teaching us, and he mentioned Your name, and that You had debated in Umeå. When he told the class about You and Your debate something inside me almost exploded. It was something that I had missed my whole Christian life. My best friend told me that he had a book of you called Reasonable Faith. I read the chapter about "The existence of God" over and over again. A fire was turned inside me, and I started to read everything I could find in apologetics. Right now I have been thinking to take a Dr degree. Today I travel around and teach apologetics for Pastors in churches, and preach on my sparetime. And do you know, one person I debated with got saved!! He is a physicst (sic), and I used the Kalam argument. Today he is on fire for Christ and a clever apologet (sic)! One thing is for sure, I’m so gratefull (sic) for Your work! When my first book is written, I will dedicate it to You. Altough (sic), I will write it on Swedish, because (sic) my english grammar is horrible!!! — Johannes
So those who say that apologetics is not effective with unbelievers must be speaking out of their limited experience. When apologetics is persuasively presented and sensitively combined with a Gospel presentation and a personal testimony, the Spirit of God condescends to use it in bringing certain people to Himself. Internet and Evangelization One of the things Pope Benedict tasked the Council for Promoting the New Evangelization to do was to “study and promote the use of modern forms of communication, as tools for the new evangelization.” I believe this is absolutely crucial. For that reason I founded eight years ago a web-based ministry at ReasonableFaith.org. I believe that the Internet is one of the most effective forms of communication for sharing the Gospel. Our website and two YouTube channels have extended the impact of our ministry to millions of people every year all around the world. One of the most creative and effective uses we’re making of media is the animated, short videos we’re creating on various apologetic arguments.11 These can be uploaded to your mobile device and thus easily shared with a nonbeliever. Practical Suggestions Most of us will not be involved in public speaking or debating on university campuses, though you may be involved in helping to organize or sponsor such outreaches. Most of the time our evangelization will be in personal conversation. Let me close therefore with some practical suggestions that will help to make you more effective is using apologetics in personal evangelization. 1. Don’t allow the arguments to distract you from sharing the Gospel. Use apologetic arguments only after sharing the Gospel when the unbeliever has questions or objections. In many cases you may not need to appeal to apologetic arguments at all. If you share with the unbeliever that “God loves you,” and he responds that he doesn’t believe in God, don’t get bogged down at that point in trying to prove God’s existence to him. Rather say something like this: “At this point I’m not trying to prove to you that what the Bible says is true. I’m just trying to share with you what the Bible says. After I’ve done that, then we can discuss whether or not there any good reasons to think that what it says is true.” Remember that our primary aim is to share the Gospel, not arguments. 2. Start simply. A discussion of the arguments is only as deep as the two people involved. For example, my wife Jan was once sharing her faith with a young woman in the student union. She told Jan that she didn’t believe in God. My wife asked her, “What about the argument for a first cause?” “What’s that?” she replied. Jan explained, “Well, everything we see around us has a cause, and those causes have causes, and so on. This can’t go back to infinity. There must’ve been a first cause which created everything. This is God.” That was obviously a very simple statement of the cosmological argument. The student responded, “That makes sense. I guess I do believe in God after all.” 3. Have a list of arguments memorized. I find that most students have no good reasons for their unbelief. Instead they’ve just learned to repeat the slogan: “There’s no
evidence for God’s existence.” This slogan is usually a mask for intellectual laziness, but it functions as an effective conversation-stopper because most Christians are so illequipped that they have no evidence to offer. But if you have a list of arguments memorized, you can respond with a surprised look on your face, “Is that what you think? Why, I can think of at least five arguments that God exists!” At that point the unbeliever has got to say, “Yeah, like what?” and you’re off and running! Suddenly the conversationstopper has become a conversation-starter. In fact, I’ve found in many cases that just providing a list of the arguments is enough to satisfy the unbeliever! He doesn’t even need to actually hear the arguments themselves! So when someone challenges me to provide evidence that God exists, I’ll give the following list: 1) God is the best explanation why anything at all exists rather than nothing. 2) God is the best explanation of the beginning of the universe. 3) God is the best explanation of the fine-tuning of the universe for intelligent life. 4) God is the best explanation of objective moral values and duties in the world. 5) God is the best explanation of the historical facts concerning Jesus of Nazareth. 6) God can be personally known and experienced. 4. Memorize the premises of the arguments. Each of the arguments that I just listed has certain steps or premises leading to the conclusion. These premises are usually very simple and easy to memorize so that they can be readily shared with the nonbeliever. For example, the argument from the beginning of the universe goes like this: 1) Whatever begins to exist has a cause. 2) The universe began to exist. 3) Therefore, the universe has a cause. If you have the premises of these arguments memorized, then you can share them with the unbeliever at the drop of a hat 5. Have some awareness of the evidence for the premises. You don’t need to be an expert, but you should be able to say something in defense of the premises. For example, in defense of the premise that the universe began to exist, you could say the evidence for the Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe supports the truth of this premise. Be ready to refer the unbeliever to a book for further discussion. 6. Stay focused on the premises. Don’t get distracted by red herrings. For example, many unbelievers are hung up on what we might call Bible difficulties. But if your aim is to defend mere Christianity, you needn’t go into those. That’s an in-house issue among Christians concerning the doctrine of biblical inspiration and its implications. Your case for mere Christianity doesn’t depend on biblical inspiration or inerrancy. Explain to the unbeliever, “If you reject the conclusion of my arguments, then you must think that at least one of the premises is false. So which premise do you think is false and why?” Stay focused on the premises. 7. Never forget that our goal is to win people, not arguments! More often than not it will be your personal character and testimony that will be most persuasive to the unbeliever. The arguments give him the intellectual permission to believe when his heart is moved. Don’t spoil the effect of your arguments by a belligerent and mean-spirited demeanor. Show forth the love and character of Christ.
The study of philosophy is thus of value for the new evangelization on both the cultural and the personal level. By being trained in Christian apologetics we can become more confident and more effective in sharing the Gospel with todayâ€™s university students. This paper was delivered as part of the Albert Cardinal Meyer Lecture Series on April 78, 2016 at the University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary.
For examples of videos and other material on apologetics from William Lane Craig, the editors of Chicago Studies suggest the following website and YouTube videos: 1. www.reasonablefaith.org 2. What is apologetics? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=US_ZrXEw_a4 3. Christian Apologetics https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KDH-_4vkKUk 4. Is Belief in God Reasonable https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0sxLrPbtDlY
Philosophy and the New Evangelization By Matthew Levering, Ph.D. For persons to have true faith, says the Epistle to the Hebrews, they must come to recognize that they are “strangers and exiles on the earth” who “desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one” (Heb 11:13, 16). The same Epistle speaks of death at crucial points. Notably, it presents the divine Son as the one who became human so “that through death he might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage” (Heb 2:14-15). The Epistle envisions those who lack faith as being “subject to lifelong bondage” because of their fear of death, whereas those who have faith recognize that their earthly lives are not the end but rather they are created to enjoy a “heavenly” country beyond the grave. What does a life “subject to lifelong bondage” look like? In my view, the Wisdom of Solomon (composed not too long before the Epistle to the Hebrews) conveys the characteristic elements of such “bondage” nicely. The Wisdom of Solomon presents those who fear death and live solely for this world as saying to themselves: “Short and sorrowful is our life, and there is no remedy when a man comes to his end…. Because we were born by mere chance, and hereafter we shall be as though we had never been; because the breath in our nostrils is smoke, and reason is a spark kindled by the beating of our hearts” (Wis 2:1-2). If death is rightly conceived of as an annihilation, as these erroneous thinkers hold, then no wonder people are in “bondage” due to “fear of death.” The logical result of conceiving of dying as an entrance into annihilation is twofold: seeking the maximum amount of worldly comforts, and trying to ignore and put off death. Wisdom of Solomon depicts its nihilists as urging each other to “enjoy the good things that exist” and “crown ourselves with rosebuds before they wither” (Wis 2:6, 8), while at the same time they have no compulsion against harming innocents who threaten their ability to grasp good things for themselves. They plan to “lie in wait for the righteous man, because he is inconvenient to us and opposes our actions,” and they adopt a creed of unchecked power: “let our might be our law of right, for what is weak proves itself to be useless” (Wis 2:11-12). This description of nihilism as rooted in a conception of death as annihilation suggests that one way of thinking about philosophy’s role in evangelization may well be to give priority to the philosophy of death. It may seem immediately apparent, however, that philosophy can have nothing to say about death, since only divine revelation could enable us to know about whether there is anything for us after we die. Yet, for the Wisdom of Solomon, philosophy can know a crucial thing about what death can do to us: namely, that whatever death does, it cannot annihilate us because we possess a spiritual soul. Wisdom of Solomon teaches that “God created man for incorruption, and made him in the image of his own eternity” (Wis 2:23). Since human souls are not material, death cannot annihilate us. As Wisdom of Solomon says, “the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God,” and it is only “[i]n the eyes of the foolish” that righteous humans seem to have been destroyed by death (Wis 3:1-2). Insofar as philosophy can reason to the immortality of the soul and to the existence of God—and Wisdom 13:5 insists that in fact “from the greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of their Creator”— philosophy can serve as a preparation for the evangelization that enables us to know (as Wisdom of Solomon says about Noah’s ark, but as we can apply to Christ) that “blessed is the wood by which righteousness comes” (Wis 14:7).
The German philosopher Joseph Pieper has suggested some further ways that the philosophy of death can aid in evangelization. Since I find his approach particularly valuable, I wish to set it forth here in service to the conversation that William Craig has initiated by his paper. In his 1966 book In Defense of Philosophy, Pieper sagely refuses to overestimate human nature. He observes, “People are not commonly disposed, as they are simply not in the appropriate mood, to reflect on the ultimate meaning of reality as such.”1 This means that asking truly philosophical questions is rare, and indeed it will be impossible so long “as our interest remains absorbed by the active pursuit of goals, when the ‘lens’ of our soul is focused on a clearly circumscribed sector, on an objective here and now, on things that are presently ‘needed.’”2 Pieper does not deny, of course, that professional philosophers and educated people can and do debate philosophical questions among themselves. But he argues that such debates are not yet truly philosophy, because true philosophy involves real personal and existential urgency to know the truth of a particular matter. He defines “the philosophical quest as an existential experience centered in the core of the human mind, a spontaneous, urgent, inescapable stirring of a person’s innermost life.”3 Given this definition, the special importance of the philosophy of death should be clear. Faced with death, human persons stand up and pay attention; mere platitudes do not suffice anymore, but we urgently want to know whether death obliterates us forever or whether we can truly hope ever to enjoy personal, conscious existence after we die. Pieper points to “the confrontation with death” as providing the necessary “shock” that serves to initiate the process of true philosophy in human thought, by forcing us to face “the question as to the meaning of the world and of existence.”4 He admits that we can try to ignore or suppress the question raised by death and the fact that we are going to die. But if we attend to the reality of death without closing off our minds from the problem death poses, the result is inevitably that “the preoccupation with the daily provisions (in the most comprehensive sense) loses its urgency instantly,” to be replaced with the urgency of the question of the meaning of life.5 Pieper recognizes that his insight in this regard is not a new one, but goes back to Plato (or Socrates) and also characterizes the philosophical quest contained in the Confessions of Augustine. The death of Augustine’s close friend prompts Augustine to undertake an urgent philosophical inquiry into life. Throughout his works, Pieper is concerned about the tendency to give priority to utilitarian values over contemplative ones. If religion or philosophy is promoted simply “as a means to achieve the ‘happy life,’” he argues, no true religion or philosophy will appear—because although religion can indeed offer happiness, the instrumentalization of religion is in fact the distinguishing mark of magic, just as the instrumentalization of philosophy is the distinguishing mark of sophistry. 6 If we are attempting to use God for our ends, then we can hardly attain to “a true elevation of heart and mind to God.”7 Pieper’s description of the true philosophical attitude is significant here. He states that “the true philosopher…approaches his unfathomable object unselfishly and with an open mind,” and finds real release “from the fixation on selfish needs, no matter how ‘intellectual’ or sublime.”8 In the shock of facing death, however, is it possible to avoid being rather fixated “on selfish needs,” namely, on the question of our own existential status and specifically whether or not we are to be annihilated? How is it that the question of death, when seriously attended to, does not produce—against our intentions—a self-interested sophistry
rather than a real philosophical quest? It would seem that a philosophical quest spurred by the question of death cannot avoid a highly utilitarian, rather than purely contemplative, focus. This is still more the case given Pieper’s specification that the true philosopher must “acknowledge, before any consideration of specifics and without regard to usefulness, that reality is good in itself—all things, the world, ‘being’ as such, yes, all that exists, and existence itself.”9 How can we acknowledge the goodness of “all that exists” before we are assured, presumably through a philosophical quest prompted by facing death in some way, that death does not annihilate us? If the structure of all that exists is such that the universe forever annihilates rational creatures with their unique yearning for wisdom and love and with their unique relationships and desire for conscious communion, then “all that exists” is powerful, yes, but it can hardly be said to be good, unless in the sense that a devouring monster could have a certain ontological goodness. What would Pieper say to this? In his 1967 Hope and History, written after the death of his son, he recalls an earlier lecture in which he argued—still, in his view, quite rightly—that “it is not worth talking seriously of hope if there is no hope for martyrs, that is, for persons…whose prospects of mere survival in the struggle for realization of justice, have been wholly and utterly annihilated and who therefore find themselves, to all appearances, in an absolutely despairing situation.”10 I agree with Pieper that if martyrs are annihilated, and therefore if their sacrifice is absolute insofar as they themselves are concerned, then there is no “hope” worthy of the name. Pieper goes on to say that if death is annihilation, then indeed there is no real hope for anyone or for human history.11 If we have no hope facing death, then we will not be able to love reality’s goodness and we will not be able to philosophize; our philosophical quest—as distinct from writing about philosophical questions—will immediately be brought to a halt be despair and horror. Thus at the very outset of the philosophical quest prompted by facing death, Pieper finds a place for theology and evangelization. Philosophy is not simply our opening to questions of meaning, although it is that. Philosophy also demands from the outset a view of reality that permits philosophy to proceed. As Pieper says in his In Defense of Philosophy, “the explicit denial of the world as creation carries with it vast consequences.” 12 In the same book, he argues that the precondition of philosophy is the rejection, in faith (even if simply a philosophical or implicit faith rather than supernatural or explicit faith), of “the nihilistic dogma that the world as such is absurd.”13 The philosopher who opens himself or herself to the world in joyful wonder must trust that it is good and that death does not annihilate our yearning for communion. For Pieper, this means that the philosopher, in order to philosophize, must be committed at least in an implicit and unconscious way to the claim that “the world, as creation, is willed by God, which means that it is created in love and is therefore, by its very existence, good.”14 Has the philosophical quest, then, been shown by Pieper to be a kind of vicious circle, which assumes the reality of the God and the meaningfulness for which it allegedly quests? Pieper argues that the answer is no, because at the outset of the philosophical quest, one must assume also that the truth of things is knowable. If there is no Creator, no Mind behind the things that exist, why should such things be intelligible to mind? Without a creative Mind, from where does intelligible order, which is so evident in things, come? Why should we assume that things are knowable? Pieper argues that “it is obviously impossible to deny categorically, on the one hand, the rootedness of all things in the thought of an inventive and creative Mind, and on the other hand to take for granted, and to explain
as if nothing had happened, the empirically manifested fact of the knowability of these very same things.”15 The philosophical quest, then, presumes (at least implicitly) creation and the existence of God, but it does so on philosophical grounds: namely, a commitment to the knowability of things that allows persons to ask philosophical questions with existential seriousness, rather than despairing at the outset. The philosophical quest will then eventually make this implicit commitment (and its entailments regarding a Creator) explicit and thereby will allow the philosophically contemplative person, at some stage of his or her quest, to respond affirmatively or negatively to the question of God. In this way, the philosophical quest leads the person to where evangelization—the proclamation of a divine revelation—can meet him or her. This paper was delivered as part of the Albert Cardinal Meyer Lecture series on April 78, 2016 at the University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary. 1
In Defense of Philosophy: Classical Wisdom Stands Up to Modern Challenges, trans. Lothar Krauth (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992), 24. 2 Ibid. 3 Ibid. 4 Ibid., 25. 5 Ibid. 6 Ibid., 35. 7 Ibid., 37. 8 Ibid., 38. 9 Ibid., 54. 10 Josef Pieper, Hope and History: Five Salzburg Lectures, trans. David Kipp (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1994), 35. 11 See ibid., 89. 12 Pieper, In Defense of Philosophy, 75. 13 Ibid., 54. 14 Ibid. 15 Ibid., 76.
Evangelization on College Campuses: Practice and Theory By Rev. David Olson, J.D., S.T.D. Introduction There can be no one-size-fits-all description of a successful method of campus evangelization. Even what we mean by success will depend upon circumstances. Indeed, we might ask how it is that we measure success of an endeavor above the order of nature. The topic of this short address is “Evangelization on College Campuses.” I believe the notion of evangelization has a broader sweep than the phrase “proclaiming the gospel.” Evangelization is not a one-time event, proper evangelization on campus is meant to spark the commitment to faith while evangelization benefits most from an ongoing relationship to keep the flame of faith alive. My talk will focus on campus ministry from a decidedly Catholic perspective. The Catholic Church in the United States has for many years promoted evangelization and building up the Catholic faith of students at public and private non-Catholic universities. This ministry began in 1883 at my Law School alma mater, the University of Wisconsin at Madison with the founding of what was known as the Melvin Club - named after the founding donor. The stated goal of the Melvin Club at this Land Grant University campus was to keep Catholics in touch with their religious heritage. A decade later, in 1893, the first Newman Club was established at the University of Pennsylvania with the same purpose. Its founder had been a member of the Melvin Club at the University of Wisconsin. The Newman Movement, as it came to be known, was named after John Henry Cardinal Newman who was chosen as the great patron of campus ministers in the United States. According to Cardinal Newman academic studies are incomplete without religious understanding. In The Idea of a University, Newman wrote, “In a word, Religious Truth is not only a portion, but a condition of general knowledge. To blot it out is nothing short, if I may so speak, of unravelling the web of University Teaching. It is, according to the Greek proverb, to take the Spring from out of the year; . . .”1 The cooperation between Catholicism and higher education was a central theme in his writings and work. Newman believed only a union of the two, the study of the liberal arts and sciences along with religious truth, would lead to wholeness of knowledge. This unity is essential because true faith relies on intellectual arguments for its expression and a full understanding of the arts and sciences requires a study of their Creator. The varieties of ministry A recent phenomenon within the Catholic community are evangelically minded groups with a charism directed toward colleges and universities. Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS), is a national organization that sends missionaries to college campuses. FOCUS, founded by Curtis Martin in 1997, represents a growing trend in Catholic campus ministry. FOCUS is loosely modeled after the Protestant evangelical organization, Campus Crusade for Christ, now known as Cru. FOCUS and similar groups—like Evangelical Catholic—act as missionaries seeking out students. FOCUS is currently found on 113 campuses and Evangelical Catholic is on sixty-three campuses. FOCUS missionaries organize retreats, invite students to Bible studies, and enter into
one-on-one mentor relationships. FOCUS missionaries are most often very recent college graduates. Thus they look like students, dress like students, and talk like students. The favored weapons of these missionary warriors are a smart phone with a Bible app and enthusiasm for the Lord. The typical method of FOCUS is to approach individual students on campus, ask them a few questions about faith, and then if they show interest, to invite them to a Bible study. The national organization of FOCUS receives a significant financial contribution from the Newman Parish or Diocese for the presence of missionaries, while the missionaries themselves will rely upon asking family, friends, and donors for their personal upkeep. The missionaries may serve a particular campus for only one or two years. In some instances, FOCUS operates alongside the existing Newman Center ministers, but in some instances has been a replacement for them.2 If groups like FOCUS and Evangelical Catholic take a more active path, the more typical ministers on a residential campus maintain a stable welcoming environment for students and, in most instances, will have some level of cooperative relationship with the college or university administration. At some colleges there are priests employed full-time for the Newman Center or the Newman Parish.3 At some smaller community colleges the ministry may be only part time and employ either or both lay and clerical ministers. Full-time ministers on a residential campus can offer a wide variety of stable programs and opportunities for evangelization. The US Bishops have stated the purpose of campus evangelization this way, â€œCampus ministry gathers the Catholics on campus for prayer, worship, and learning in order that they might bring the light of the Gospel to illuminate the concerns and hopes of the academic community.â€?4 There are now over 2,200 Catholic campus ministers, ordained and lay, who are employed to serve approximately 4000 campuses ranging from very large residential universities to small commuter colleges.5 The residential campus ministry is present for students and staff over the long term and successful ministry involve students in building up a faith community. The downside to this model is that it can devolve into simply waiting for new students to show up to take part in existing programming. Since one size does not fit all, several approaches to evangelization on campus are necessary. Still, there are a number of elements needed for any successful ongoing evangelization and growth in faith. First element: Building relationships Relationship with the school Many administrators value the presence of campus ministers and view campus ministry as an ally in the common effort to provide integrated learning experience for the students. This, of course, is not always the case and the growing perception of disagreement between academia and those espousing traditional Christian values and morals have in some cases eroded the relations between campus ministry and the university. The contributions made by higher education to the common good of the human family must be respected. At the same time, higher education has its own problems which must be addressed from within the university system. Of concern, as well, is that within the university can be found dehumanizing practices and trends that must be challenged by anyone faithful to the Gospel.
The Role of Attitude One point which should be held in mind is that a college campus is not automatically a hostile environment. Certainly, the growth of atheism and agnosticism has become more public and the issue of separation of church and state on public universities must be navigated. Yet, national statistics show that nearly 80% of the campus population are Christian, nearly 30% of incoming freshmen are Catholic.6 In the ongoing task of evangelization, the attitude of campus ministers is crucial. Campus ministers whose personal outreach is welcoming are likely to gain the active participation of others in the campus community. Students, faculty and staff of a college or university are much more likely to be engaged if they feel they are valued as persons and that their talents and initiatives are appreciated. It is important that students are given the opportunity to engage in the work of the Newman Center or Parish. The practical matter here is to provide them some level of creativity and autonomy. Campus ministers should be seen on campus on a regular basis and be involved in activities and events. Being seen at basketball or football games, the student art exhibit, or a music recital often serves as a way to make an initial contact and provides the opportunity for evangelization and an opportunity to build up the faith community. Ecumenical and interfaith relationships. At many colleges and universities ecumenical and interfaith relationships have developed. In some situations, Catholic campus ministers share an interfaith center and collaborate in some ministerial tasks. My own experience of sharing a building, and cooperating on certain ministerial tasks, with the University Lutheran Church proved to be mutually beneficial. Cooperation on hospitality, welcoming students at the beginning of a new school year, and engaging students in shared prayer services and shared opportunities for students to simply ask questions about both the Catholic and Lutheran faith helped to make the location more inviting to a broader spectrum of students. Projects to promote social justice provide another venue where mutual trust can grow with members of various religious traditions working together. Second Element: Recognizing both challenges and opportunities Community and Alienation Campus ministry works in an academic environment that knows both a healthy sense of solidarity and a good deal of alienation. Ideally the college or university gathers students and faculty together into a community of shared values and a common endeavor to gain knowledge and wisdom. It is true that social organizations abound and friendships are formed and many of the needs for companionship and involvement are met. At the same time, there are many elements of estrangement. The large university can seem impersonal and isolation and depression are common. With an ever-changing student population, one challenge is forming a sense of community within the Newman Center or Newman Parish itself. Here campus ministry should have a sense that the forming of community stems from the very nature of the Gospel. Jesus himself gathered a community of followers. Christianity is ecclesial at its heart and human beings are not saved merely as individuals. There are mutual bonds which make them a united people, a people of God.7 Campus ministry is meant to be a credible sign of unity which nourishes faith and a community which openly proclaims it.
Finding the existing openings If Justin Martyr and Clement of Alexandria are correct, then there has already been sown in the minds and hearts of students and staff on college campuses an inchoate recognition of an intrinsic search for a relationship with God. Our tradition tells us to expect that the Logoi spermatikoi (the seeds of the Word) are present where the mind is nourished. Christians should proclaim an ideal of self-fulfillment for the person that is solidly rooted in the sacredness of the person. This must include respecting the searching attitude itself which is so widely present on college campuses. Respecting this also means allowing for doubt, questioning and even irreverence in this search. Campus evangelization should allow a space where doubts and questions can be raised and addressed in a serious and respectful manner. The notion of selffulfillment should also be placed within the context of service for the common good. Among American youth there is a sense that the well-formed person recognizes the value of service to others. According to an Associated Press poll, three out of ten Americans ages 18 to 30 agreed volunteering for service related programs and projects was a "very important obligation.â€? This is a significant increase from only nineteen percent who said the same thing in a 1984.8 Campus ministry might also seek to engage those who are concerned with human ethical values, but do not directly relate their concerns to a faith tradition. Questions of human dignity, the rights of workers, the rights of immigrants, concerns over access to healthcare, and other social issues may be addressed in a way which allows for cooperation between those who follow a specific faith tradition and those who do not. At the same time, campus evangelization must maintain the integrity of its own gospel oriented values. Third Element: The intellectual component of evangelization The need for an enduring philosophy Nonbelievers on campus are quite willing to challenge Christian belief. The growth of atheist groups on college campuses has been significant. Campus groups under the umbrella organization of the Secular Student Alliance grew from 80 in the year 2000 to 307 in 2015.9 The greater visibility of atheist organizations on college campuses is not only a challenge, but also a potential opportunity for the well-prepared campus minister to discuss the reasonableness of faith. Philosophy, that is to say, natural reason, can demonstrate the well-founded character of religious belief. A few years ago, at the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse campus, I had the opportunity to sit in on a debate between an atheist-a former evangelical minister- and a believer who sported a degree in Philosophy. The debate was sponsored by the student atheist organization and its members wore t-shirts with this slogan on the back, â€œI contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you can tell me why you dismiss all the other gods, I will tell you why I dismiss yours.â€? I think this exhibits two things. First, a willingness to engage in conversation and willingness to stand up for what they believe in even if it may be badly mistaken. I like the values of free speech and standing up for beliefs. The second thing it exhibits is that it is indeed badly mistaken. Behind that mistake is the lack of a sound philosophical education which would have exposed these students to the great minds of the Christian tradition. Augustine and Aquinas would also dismiss the flimsy, all too human, gods of mythology and the students, even the would-be atheists, should have had the opportunity to know that.
University systems excel in communicating expertise on a range of topics. Students may study history, politics, economics, mathematics, microbiology, English literature, and human anatomy to name only a few. What the university does not excel at is integrating these diverse subjects into a vision of the whole. Without an appreciation of an enduring philosophy, the search for the unity of the sciences merely results in an arbitrary secular assertion of materialism or an intellectually dishonest indifferentism when faced with the deep questions. Newmanâ€™s statement that religious truth is a condition of general knowledge should come to mind here. An understanding of the arts and sciences does not just benefit from, but requires, a study enlightened with a sound philosophy. The unrealistic thinking of materialist determinism, indifferentism, and postmodernist relativism fail to acknowledge both the human capacity for, and the desire to know, the truth. The very notion that we can find the truth is lacking within these systems. One of the roles of evangelization on college campus is to remind the University that one of its goals is the pursuit of wisdom. While wisdom has various definitions, the beginning point given by Aristotle in his Metaphysics is worth recalling. â€œThe human person desires to know.â€? We seek after the truth. Yes, through the senses, and by way of the arts and reasoning. Thomas Aquinas will Christianize this in his masterpiece the Summa Contra Gentiles with his reminder that the pursuit of wisdom, seeking to know what is true and refuting error, joins the person to God in friendship.10 Classical philosophy enables us to hold together a realism regarding the physical world and the cosmos, a sense of truth, order and predictability. This realism comes along with an objective appreciation of the irreducible spiritual life of the human person. Presuming one can get to the point of having a philosophical discussion, the openness to a philosophical argument involves more than simply the operation of neutral philosophical thinking; grace is present, along with a complex existential context. The person is more likely to accept the rationality of a core Christian belief if the person has some notion of its existential reality in his or her life. Believing the philosophical argument for the existence of an immortal soul is easier if the person can be brought to see an already experienced need for human fulfillment that we call forgiveness and redemption.11 The question of conscience One of the major challenges for campus ministry is the formation of the Christian conscience. Students, and many faculty and staff of universities, face questions of personal values and ethics. For students, questions of friendships and relations to family members are often foremost. There is a broad questioning of sexual conduct, drinking and drugs, honesty in studies and the pursuit of a career. Christian campus ministry must recognize in the academic world a strong element of moral relativism and a distorted sense of tolerance.12 The active promotion of the hookup culture by some universities is one of the great failings of the universities to appreciate the inherent dignity of the human person and is a distortion of the very sense of the dignity of human person. The result is that a proper concept of freedom has been replaced by license. Concomitantly, we must not underestimate the role that sin plays in the rejection of the Gospel. The putative reasoning of many would-be atheists is that God is oppressively controlling and that the only thing the Church does is tell people what they cannot do. It is not a wholly ungrounded suspicion that the opposition to belief oftentimes is the allure of sin. Campus ministers who seek to address these questions must be perceived as being in touch with the texture and complexities of the moral problems. Personal encounters in spiritual direction
and counseling, giving retreats, seminars and preaching are means of helping to form Christian conscience. Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans, â€œdo not conform yourself to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind so that you may judge what is Godâ€™s will, what is good, pleasing and perfectâ€? (Rom. 12:2). The adherence to this scriptural admonition on the college campus depends upon ongoing support by the community of faith. Fourth Element: Promoting the Gospel and sacramental ministry The invitation to a Bible study group is a common and useful means of engaging students and even faculty and staff of the university. The Catholic groups, FOCUS and Evangelical Catholic regularly use this approach with students and it is prominent with protestant/evangelical groups like Cru and Intervarsity. If ignorance of scripture is ignorance of Christ, as St. Jerome opined, then clearly scripture study is a task of campus ministry. Certainly, from the Catholic perspective, a more sophisticated means of reading scripture must be taken than a fundamentally literalist approach. Leaders of Bible studies must be equipped with a basic understanding of an historical critical method of reading scripture and an appreciation for the spiritual sense of scripture so fruitfully utilized by the Fathers of the Church. A doggedly literalist reading of Scripture is a relative novelty that atheists are happy to exploit. The liturgical and sacramental life of campus ministry on residential campuses should be geared toward creating a true sense of welcome and belonging. On the positive side, there seems to be a growing appreciation of the power of the Eucharist. The reverent yet personable celebration of the Mass helps to promote this appreciation. The community building power of the Eucharist also flows from a sense of closeness within the worshiping community. Legitimate liturgical options, not mere theater, which engage the congregation and encourage participation can be utilized. Homilies and preaching which applies the Gospel in a realistic manner and conveys a positive yet challenging religious message are especially important. Music as an integral component of the liturgy is not to be underestimated. Here the stable campus ministry has an advantage in the ability to draw upon the talents of students and faculty in music departments found at most universities. The sacrament of reconciliation should be readily offered as a means of confronting sins and destructive patterns that inhibit personal maturity and promoted as a means of personal growth. The sacrament of the anointing of the sick should be periodically offered within the midst of the worshiping community. While some few college students may have significant physical illness, many college students suffer from chronic debilitating stress and depression. The use of this sacrament for the healing of the whole person should be emphasized. Offering the sacrament of the anointing of the sick, effective in its own manner, in the context of the celebration of the Mass becomes also a powerful symbol of the care of the community for the individual. Conclusion The Catholic Church has a long history of connection with higher education and promoting integration of faith and reason. The Catholic Church was foundational to the formation of medieval universities including the great schools of Oxford, Cambridge, Salamanca, Bologna, and Paris. That commitment to education has been consistently present, and in the United States, Catholic and Protestant colleges both flourished in the late 19th and the 20th centuries, and many continue to do so. The development of public universities in the 20th century often included a growing
secularism that celebrated the autonomy of reason separate from the question of religious truth. This presents a host of ever new challenges. Evangelization in the university context requires a wide ranging approach, but one well founded in the value of philosophy, the pursuit of knowledge, and the power of grace. It must appreciate opportunities for evangelization as well as the real challenges to faith found in a heightened secularized society. The Christian insight is that the whole quest for knowledge and wisdom must find its final fulfillment in Jesus Christ who is the Wisdom of God. It is Jesus who reminds us of our profound dignity as children of God and our immense potential because only in Christ Jesus is the mystery of human existence fully revealed. This paper was delivered as part of the Albert Cardinal Meyer Lecture series on April 7-8, 2016 at the University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary. 1 John Henry Newman, The Idea of a University (conclusion of Discourse 3). http://www.newmanreader.org /works/idea/discourse3.html. 2 Arizona State University would be an example of where FOCUS replaced the existing Newman ministry. J.D. Long-García, “New man on campus: A new approach to Catholic campus ministry,” US Catholic: Faith in Real Life. http://www.uscatholic.org/culture/environment/2012/01/new-man-campus-new-approach-catholic-campusministry. 3 The typical distinction is this: A Newman Center is often a satellite of a parish, or under the auspices of a particular diocese. Its funding will come either from the parish or from the diocese, but it will cater almost exclusively to the students found on the college campus. A Newman Parish is distinct because it has a core year-round membership that supports the parish’s primary mission to foster the faith of students and faculty and staff of the college or university. 4 United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, “Empowered by the Spirit: Campus Ministry Faces the Future,” A Pastoral Letter on Campus Ministry, 1985. http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/how-we-teach /catholic-education/campus-ministry/empowered-by-the-spirit-table-of-contents.cfm. This article contains several themes from this pastoral letter, along with practical applications. 5 Catholic Campus Ministry Association, 2016. http://www.ccmanet.org/. 6 The percentages vary from poll to poll, but one trend is that the number who self-identify with specific religions has declined. See Catholic Campus Ministry Association, 2016, http://www.ccmanet.org/; and Pew Research Center, “America’s Changing Religious Landscape,” May 12, 2015. http://www.pewforum.org/2015/05/12 /americas-changing-religious-landscape/. 7 See Vatican II, Lumen gentium: The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, no. 9. 8 “According to an AP-GfK poll of 1,044 adults, three out of ten (29 percent) Americans under the age of 30 agreed that citizens have a ‘very important obligation’ to volunteer, a significant increase from the 19 percent who said the same thing in a 1984 survey conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago.” “More Millennials Value Volunteering Than Previous Generation Did,” Philanthropy News Digest, January 5, 2015. http://philanthropynewsdigest.org/news/more-millennials-value-volunteering-than-previous-generation-did 9 Secular Student Alliance, https://secularstudents.org/. The Secular Student Alliance is only one of the umbrella organizations that allows for campus affiliates but shows the rapid growth of atheist organizations on college campuses. 10 Thomas Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles, Book One: God, trans. Anton C. Pegis (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1975), 1.4. 11 See Thomas Joseph White, “Whether Faith needs Philosophy,” First Things (July, 2011). https://www.firstthings.com/article/2011/07/whether-faith-needs-philosophy. 12 From the Christian perspective, the tolerance of objectively evil conduct is not a virtue, except as an exercise of patience. Mere tolerance of a human being, rather than a love that may be simultaneously challenging, is sinful.
The Two-Fold Witness of St. Ignatius of Antioch By Thomas H. Hubert, Ph.D. Introduction The central theme of St. Ignatius’ seven letters, written to six churches and to his fellow bishop Polycarp prior to his second-century martyrdom, is at one level the existential meaning of martyrdom itself. As a mode of physical death, it represents a gateway to eternal life in Christ as the fulfillment of radical discipleship. It is also the supreme Christian witness.1 That, of course, is the etymology of the word “martyr.” It is a witness of oneself to one’s Faith. I contend here that Ignatius made two distinct but interrelated and inseparable witnesses: the first is the witness in ink, that is, the dictated letters; the second lies in the act of shedding his blood in the Flavian Amphitheater. The first, the witness of words, has no real power or resonance without the latter, which fulfills it; the latter, physical death, has no meaning—existential, theological—without the illumination provided by the former. I believe that the intensity with which Ignatius writes is itself sign of his fierce intentionality to make a verbal witness before and in support of his sanguinary one. I suggest further that, whether Ignatius himself was aware of such a prospect or not, the text speaks to us beyond the particular historical circumstances of its origin. It speaks richly into our lives as men and women of the 21st century who would understand what it means to follow Jesus, possibly even to the point of martyrdom, whether in the 2nd or the 21st century.2 The Value and Motivation of Martyrdom Before elaborating, though, a brief look at martyrdom and how it is traditionally valued is in order. Cardinal Donald Wuerl in his recent book on the subject has an apt summary which strikes just the right balance as to its value and the motivation potentially leading to it: “Martyrdom should be admired, and it may be desired, but it should not be sought.”3 In a word, one is not to seek it out from selfish motives. T. S. Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral reminds us, with regard to the martyrdom of St. Thomas à Beckett, that the wrong motive can be “the greatest treason: to do the right deed for the wrong reason.”4 In Thomas’ case it was the desire for lasting glory. Beckett’s namesake, St. Thomas More, cautions as well against an eager pursuit of such a death. While imprisoned in the Tower of London waiting his sentence and ultimate execution, More wrote his classic, Dialogue of Comfort against Tribulation. In it he counsels: Let vs thinke thereon & prepare vs in our mynd therto long before/let vs therein conform our will vnto his/not desieryng to be brought vnto the peril of persecution. For it seemeth a prowde hyigh mynd, to desire martirdome/but desiring help & strength of god yf he suffre vs to come to the stresse, eyther beyng sought, founden, & brought out agaynst our willes/or els beyng by his commaundment/for the comfort of our cure bounden to abide.5 But when the prospect of martyrdom comes, the imperative for the Christian disciple is to run to it and in so doing run to Christ.
That is the paradoxical situation in which the prospective martyr finds himself or herself. And paradoxical language—a seeming contradiction that contains a vital truth—names that tension at the heart of the Christian life, even if it does not involve physical martyrdom. “He who would save his life must lose it,” the Lord tells us (see Mt 10:38-39 and Mk 8:35), and that choice and its subsequent implementation over the span of a life may include only “white” martyrdom, a sacrificial self-giving in the midst of a world that is often hostile to personal holiness, wholeness, and integrity. In the case of Ignatius, however, as was true of Paul, the hostility is directed at his person, his very life, but much like Paul he is “carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in [his] body” (2 Cor. 4:8, RSV-2ndCE). 6 In both instances, this manifestation, this witness was acted out in lives that were moving inexorably toward their own deaths, if at differing rates of speed. The Joy of Martyrdom We should note at least in passing that in Ignatius’ witness a demeanor of optimism, even sheer joy, pervades his language virtually throughout. He seems particularly caught by the idea of the Ephesians as fellow imitators of Christ and travelling companions. In that regard, he says “Warmest greetings…and blameless joy!”;7 “I exult in you, since I have been deemed worthy…to rejoice together with you” (Eph, 229, 9). As with More, Ignatius’ joy is balanced with humility in the face of his impending death. (In More we note the former quality as his famous “merriness,” seen finally in his witty remarks on the scaffold to his executioner.) But both show a realistic assessment of the situation that faces them: not merely an untimely and horrific death but, balanced off against that, the prospect of total union with Christ. That, truly believed, is surely cause for rejoicing. Hans urs von Balthasar relates this outlook to the very essence of martyrdom in general: “If we look at it objectively, martyrdom is nothing less than pure triumphant joy that ‘the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we preached among you…was not Yes and No; but in him it is always Yes.’”8 Action Alone is Not Enough But to resume the main course of our argument, I contend that by itself, the act of physical, bloody martyrdom, is not enough in the case of Ignatius, or others for that matter, no matter the method or perhaps even the particular circumstances. (Some circumstances do in fact allow for at least a few famous last words, but that prospect is not guaranteed.) More is needed, and the more that is needed in this instance is what Ignatius provides in what he writes along the way. It is indeed what both More in A Dialogue of Comfort at length and St. Paul in some of his letters provide us in their own unique ways. In the case of Paul, who after Christ himself is in several respects Ignatius’ main model, we find several passages which directly or indirectly foreshadow his impending martyr’s death. These references are indeed an integral part of his witness if much more succinct than Ignatius’. We see, for example, in 2 Timothy 4:6-7, this prophetic remark: “For I am already on the point of being sacrificed; the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”9 Again, Ignatius’ letters themselves, like those of Paul, are an essential part of the meaning of his martyrdom, a point to which we will return shortly.
Three Main Motifs Around Ignatius’ Witness Before doing so, I want first to suggest that there are three interconnected themes or motifs in the seven letters, the unbundling of which will in fact provide insight into to the fundamental meaning of his witness and death. They are: (1) the critical role of the bishop in the Church; (2) the centrality of the Eucharist; and (3) the meaning of martyrdom itself. The first of these motifs, the vital role of the bishop, along with that of presbyters and deacons, receives perhaps the most attention quantitatively speaking. A rough count yields some sixteen references, although a number of these occur within the same letter. In the following citations I have selected from the letters, however, Ignatius naturally combines references to the role of the bishop and to the Eucharist—the second theme—for it is after all the bishop who is the agent primarily responsible for its proper and valid celebration. In the Letter to the Ephesians he writes, “Anyone who is not inside the sanctuary lacks the bread of God…And so we should be eager not to oppose the bishop, that we may be subject to God” (Eph 225, 5). Along with the references to the bishop, the Eucharist, and the Church (“the sanctuary”), he stresses more than once the spiritual linkage between the bishop and God Himself. The point is made quite explicitly: for the bishop presides “in the place of God” (Mag 247, 6). The bishop is also of course the symbol and agency of unity: “And so be eager to celebrate just one Eucharist. For there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ and one cup that brings the unity of his blood and one altar, as there is one bishop” (Phil 287, 4). Finally, Ignatius links up the bishop, the Eucharist, Christ, and the Church universal: “Let no one do anything involving the church without the bishop. Let that Eucharist be considered valid that occurs under the bishop or the one to whom he entrusts it. Let the congregation be wherever the bishop is; just as wherever Jesus Christ is, there also is the universal Church” (Smyr 305, 8). With regard to this notable passage, whether the Greek is translated as “universal” or “catholic,” it is, in any event, the first recorded instance in which the church has been so described as far as we know. To unpack its implications a bit further, Ignatius is saying here that the catholic church resides wherever Christ is. The question is, where then is Christ? In the second century, Christ in one respect resides as a sacramental, Real Presence wherever a valid Eucharist is celebrated. By implication then, the catholic church exists wherever the bishop (or one of his appointed representatives, i.e., a presbyter) is because the bishop or his delegate is the one who is necessary to celebrate the Eucharist. Further, the church universal is universal both as an ecclesial body— however many individual ecclesial communities there may be—and in its doctrine and worship, arguably even in the second century. These two facets are consistent from church to church, even with variations of style in the latter, for example. This explication says more perhaps than Ignatius states in this one passage but hardly more than he says in the letters as a whole. My main point here is to emphasize the essential role of the bishop with regard to the Eucharist and the unity among the faithful that that role represents. It is also, of course, Ignatius’ main point. Union with Christ and Life in Him Quasten in his Patrology notes that Ignatius’ sense of union with Christ is not mystical in a personal, individual way; rather, it derives from “the community of the faithful functioning as a liturgical body.”10 A member of that community is one with others, in the first place, by virtue of the Eucharistic sacrifice. Pope Benedict Emeritus in his 2007 Wednesday address on Ignatius similarly asserts that unity for Ignatius also stems from both the “hierarchical structure of the
Ecclesial Community” and “the fundamental unity that binds all the faithful in Christ.” 11 The two are not in conflict but instead are complementary and by implication necessary to one another. Benedict further emphasizes that no one has expressed this sense of union with Christ and life in him with greater intensity than Ignatius. He may have received the two doctrines from St. Paul and John’s Gospel respectively, but he made them utterly his own.12 The same “ownership” is true also of a third related doctrine, that of the imitation of Christ, which is particularly relevant as we turn to the issue of martyrdom per se. The third and most important theme, the meaning of martyrdom, follows upon the role of the bishop and the centrality of the Eucharist both naturally and logically. More fundamental than that ecclesial role, though, martyrdom for Ignatius is “the perfect imitation of Christ.”13 Pope Paul VI in Lumen Gentium confirms the point: “By martyrdom a disciple is transformed into an image of his Master by freely accepting death for the salvation of the world—as well as his conformity to Christ in the shedding of his blood.”14 As regards the bishop in Ignatius’ view, he is thoroughly identified with Christ. He (or his presbyter) stands in for Him at the Eucharist. He confects the Eucharist which re-presents the original sacrifice of the Lord, as both foreshadowed at the Last Supper and as fulfilled at Golgotha. Not only that, but as a bishop himself, Ignatius is fully aware that, as he approaches a martyr’s death, he will replicate in a very real sense the role of Christ at Calvary. He, too, will be a lamb offered up sacrificially. He, too, will be a Eucharistic offering, if in a limited, analogical manner. Again, Ignatius’ martyrdom—his witness to the Faith—inheres not only in the action toward which he travels but in the language of the Letters itself. And that is because the bloody sacrifice he will make will not be so much witness as mere entertaining spectacle. It is in these luminous letters to the various churches, and to Polycarp, as he makes his way to Rome to be killed, where he must speak about the faith, the signal role of the bishop, and the Eucharist, as well as the martyrdom itself. Here is the only place he will be able to do so. For he must have known, I venture to speculate, that the circumstance of the actual martyrdom he will face will not lend itself to witnessing. It is not likely that anyone there, with the possible exception of those in the Roman Church who might have attended, will see his being mangled by lions as a testimony to Christian belief. It will be for the crowd just another show, an occasion of entertainment and not even one of the more exciting, dramatic, or prolonged ones. Ignatius as an old man is no match for underfed lions. He will be torn apart in a matter of minutes, dragged around like a rag doll, partially devoured, and then his remains will be hauled off by the grounds crew, if they can retrieve him from the animals. All of the activity within the ring of the Amphitheatre will be utterly meaningless and void as far as conveying a sign, a message, is concerned. In brief, the moment of his physical destruction will be too late in the game. The game began with his arrest and continues with his final journey and most importantly with the letters he composes as he makes his way to Rome.15 Ignatius’ Final Testimony With that in mind, what exactly are we to glean further from Ignatius witness? What is his final testament? We may reduce it to three interrelated points: (1) mutual, reciprocal encouragement from and to the faithful (the Body of Christ) based on their common union; (2) the sacrificial oblation of his life, in imitation of Christ’s, and (3) discipleship for the sake of faithful witness.
Regarding the first issue of mutual support, Ignatius writes to the Ephesians: “For I have needed you to prepare me for the struggle in faith, admonishment, endurance, and patience…I decided to encourage you, that you may run together in harmony with the mind of God” (Eph 223, 3). Martyrdom is not done in isolation as an act of egotism; the Body of Christ works cooperatively: “You are all traveling companions [with Ignatius] bearing God” (Eph 229, 9). Martyrdom is done within the community—the Church—with its support, and it is done for the community as well. “I am your lowly scapegoat; I give myself as a sacrificial offering for you Ephesians” (Eph 227, 8).16 (If this last passage, along with others like it, is particularly striking to us today—as it should be— is that perhaps a measure of the distance between solidarity as it existed in the early church and its manifestation in the contemporary ecclesia?) Whatever fear of death and pain he may have entertained, Ignatius is more afraid that once the fellow faithful in Rome learn of his impending execution, they will try to intervene and save him and thus prevent his achieving his ultimate goal, union with Christ. He says paradoxically to the Romans: “For I am afraid of your love, that it may do me harm” (Rom 271,1), meaning that it could abort his mission. Their support must not express itself as interference. For his mission after all entails his sacrificial oblation in imitation of that of Christ, the second main topic. In one of the most powerful passages in all of the letters, he identifies himself with wheat and bread, which in the context is clearly referring to the Eucharistic bread and hence to Christ himself (see Jn 12:24, “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth”). His goal is not death per se; his goal is total union with Christ, and the way to achieve it now is a sacrificial death that must not be prevented. “Allow me to be bread for the wild beasts; through them I am able to attain to God. I am the wheat of God and am ground by teeth of the wild beasts, that I may be found to be the pure bread of Christ” (Rom 275, 4). True Discipleship In this same Romans passage, Ignatius also touches on the third main motif, the achievement of true discipleship as a way of witness: “Then I will truly be a disciple of Jesus Christ, when the world does not see even my body” (Rom 275, 4). Because he will have become a true disciple, he will then and only then be a faithful witness to the true life (1 Tim 6:19, “the life that is life indeed,” is pertinent here). It will not matter at that point that he will not be physically present: “For if you keep silent about me [that is, if you do not interfere], I will be a word of God [emphasis added]; but if you desire  my flesh, I will once again be a mere noise” (Rom 271/273, 2). That is to say, when he is absent in the flesh, his body having been destroyed, he will be a powerful, enduring witness to God’s mysterious but providential love and mercy, by virtue of both his act of martyrdom and the testament of his letters. “Now I am beginning to be a disciple. May nothing visible or invisible show any envy toward me, that I may attain to Jesus Christ” (Rom 277, 5). The careful reader will perhaps have paused over the phrase “mysterious but providential love and mercy” in the preceding paragraph and may well be puzzled at its insertion in the context of a martyr’s violent death. First of all, the notion of mystery should be kept to the fore of one’s mind here, because mystery here and elsewhere is the ground on which we tread. What I am not saying is that God put Ignatius into his final situation or allowed him to go there out of those two “motivations,” love and mercy. Rather, Ignatius having been put there by an act of what may be called the evil of unredeemed ignorance—that of Trajan—God, in His love and mercy, gave Ignatius the ability freely to approach and then enter the arena of martyrdom with grace under
pressure, to the end (Ignatius’) of bearing witness to Him and coming out on the other side in complete union with his Son. And that is a very different matter. Ignatius’ total Christian witness, I want to add here, is surely not limited to his martyrdom or his letters, but lies as well in his role as bishop of Antioch for the several decades before he was caught up in the persecution instigated by Trajan that ends his life.17 It is his witness in that role after all that led to his being made an example. Of course, it is in the last episode of that life and in the letters he wrote on the way to his death that reveal what that life was made of and ultimately made for. By the grace of God, though, he was prepared many years in advance for what we are proffered in these seven letters. Conclusion Ignatius’ “letters to the world” are a unique and priceless spiritual treasure that manifests what it means to be a faithful, humble, but powerful witness to the living Christ by imitating, in his own circumstances, the oblation of his Lord.18 In doing so, he shows the rest of us what it means to be a disciple prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice. It is a death made holy, not by what was done to him, but by virtue of his willingness to sacrifice himself for a faith that leads to life everlasting. And that is certainly no mean goal. Finally, for Ignatius, the willingness to die a martyr’s death marks one as a true disciple of Christ. Granted, few of us are called to witness to Christ as martyrs in blood; however, as Cardinal Wuerl notes, we all are called to live as Christ did.19 If we do that, if we live in and for him and for his Body, we will be prepared, insofar as possible, for the final occasion of witness should it come. The rest is in His hands. 1
Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd ed. (Citta del Vaticano: Libreria Editrice Vaticano, 1997), no. 2473.
2 Eusebius in his commentary on Ignatius states that the martyr exhorted his readers “to adhere firmly to the tradition of the apostles, which, for the sake of security, he deemed it necessary to attest by committing it to writing” (emphasis added). Fair enough as far as it goes, but my argument is that it does not go nearly far enough toward explaining Ignatius’ motivation as well as the sheer passion and intensity of the author’s language. See Eusebius, Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History, trans. C. F. Cruse (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Press, 1998), 100. 3
Cardinal Donald Wuerl, To the Martyrs: A Reflection on the Supreme Christian Witness (Steubenville, OH: Emmaus Road Publishing, 2015), 8. The Cardinal’s book is itself an eloquent and timely witness not only to martyrs of the ancient past but to those of more recent periods, including the present moment. To paraphrase a line from Faulkner’s Requiem for a Nun, martyrdom is never dead; it’s not even past. 4
T. S. Eliot, Murder in the Cathedral, in The Complete Poems and Plays, 1909-1950 (Orlando, FL: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1980), 191, 196. 5
Emphasis added. St. Thomas More, A Dialogue of Comfort Against Tribulation, ed. Louis L. Martz and Frank Manley (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1976), 316. 6
The paradoxical nature of the Christian life is seen elsewhere, of course, in the writings of St. Paul, as for instance in Romans: “But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him” (Rom 6:8). All scriptural references in my text are cited from the RSV-2ndCE. See also in the same letter, “If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord” (Rom 14:8). A key point in general about Paul’s spirituality made clear in chapter four of 2 Corinthians is that our only power as followers of Christ lies in our weakness because it is there alone that God is able to work through us to accomplish his mission. The mission does not, cannot depend primarily on our talents, initiative, and abilities. I owe this view of Paul’s spirituality to Fr. Eugene Hensell, O.S.B., St. Meinrad Archabbey (IN) from a conference given on August 20, 2016. It is an insight that Ignatius himself had surely incorporated into his own spirituality long before he was called to his final witness. 7
7St. Ignatius of Antioch, “To the Ephesians,” The Letters of Ignatius, in The Apostolic Fathers, vol. 1, ed. and trans. Bart D. Ehrman (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003), 219. Subsequent references in my text
to the letters are made parenthetically using the first few letters of the recipient’s name followed by the page and section numbers. For example, “Eph 237, 5,” refers to the Letter to the Ephesians, found on page 237, in section 5. The sectional numbers remain constant in other editions. The names of the letters are as follows: Ephesians (Eph), Magnesians (Mag), Trallians (Tral), Romans (Rom), Philadelphians (Phil), Smyrneans (Smyr), and Polycarp (Poly). 8
Hans Urs von Balthasar, S. J., Engagement with God: The Drama of Christian Discipleship, trans. R. John Halliburton (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1975), 93. The scriptural passage Balthasar cites is from 2 Cor. 1:19-20. St. Lawrence, the 3rd century Roman deacon, is another instance of the joyful martyr, if the account of his witty remark while being roasted is to be credited. 9
I acknowledge that many contemporary Biblical scholars regard both Timothy 1 and 2 as Deutero-Pauline epistles, but that is an issue not strictly relevant here. Besides, even those letters contain the thought of St. Paul. More to the point, as regards the remark from Timothy cited in the text (as well as others below), we can say further that virtually all of Paul’s writings are a witness to the faith, even if they lack the self-conscious quality of the passages selected here. Of that sort we also note this passage in Philippians 3:14: “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call [toward a martyr’s death] of God in Christ Jesus.” But the most poignant words reflecting an awareness of his own witness in both kinds are found in Acts 21:11-13: “Then Paul answered [in response to the people’s alarm over Agabus’ prophecy], ‘What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.’” 10
Johannes Quasten, Patrology, vol. 1, The Beginnings of Patristic Literature From the Apostles Creed to Irenaeus (Notre Dame, IN: Christian Classics, 1950), 73. 11
Pope Benedict XVI, The Church Fathers: From Clement of Rome to Augustine, trans. L’Osservatore Romano. (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2008), 15. 12
Ibid., 13. Quasten, 71. 14 Pope Paul VI, Lumen Gentium: Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, trans. Vatican, in The Documents of Vatican II (Staten Island, NY: St. Paul’s Publications, 2009), no. 42. 13
While I have not quoted from Rod Bennett’s account of Ignatius’ martyrdom noted below, I have in my own way attempted to imitate in this paragraph the graphic immediacy of description around Ignatius’ death that this author provides us. See Rod Bennett, Four Witnesses: The Early Church in Her Own Words (San Francisco: Ignatius Press), 95-152. 16 See also these additional passages expressing Ignatius’ solidarity with the various communities as he prepares to make his oblation for both his and their sakes: Eph 233, 12; Tral 267,11-12; Tral 269,13; Rom 271/273, 2. One thing is clear, I think, from these passages, and that is that Ignatius’ motive is not that of a man selfishly seeking glory but that of one who would sacrifice his life in order to gain true life as a member of the body of Christ in part through its prayerful intercession. 17
Cardinal Donald Wuerl, in his commentary on St. Ignatius, observes that he is not revered for his administration in Antioch, his sermons, or any miracles and further that all we know about him is what we know from the letters (Wuerl, 33). All of this is true. My point is simply that Ignatius did not suddenly appear out of thin air and become a martyr. He was formed and prepared over many years in his role as bishop for the supreme witness he gave. 18 The phrase, “letters to the world,” alludes to a poem by Emily Dickinson beginning, “This is my letter to the world,” no. 441. In the case of Ignatius, what began as letters to several regional churches and one bishop became a great deal more. Indeed, letters to the world for all time. 19
Authorsâ€™ Page William Lane Craig William Lane Craig is Research Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology and Professor of Philosophy at Houston Baptist University. Dr. Craig has authored or edited over thirty books, including The Kalam Cosmological Argument; Assessing the New Testament Evidence for the Historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus; Divine Foreknowledge and Human Freedom; Theism, Atheism and Big Bang Cosmology; and God, Time and Eternity, as well as over a hundred articles in professional journals of philosophy and theology. He was previously Professor of Philosophy of Religion at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Birmingham and a D.Theol. from the University of Munich. Matthew Levering Matthew Levering is the James N. and Mary D. Perry, Jr. Professor of Theology at the University of Saint Mary of the Lake. Dr. Levering is the author or co-author of over twenty books, including Scripture and Metaphysics, Participatory Biblical Exegesis, Biblical Natural Law, Engaging the Doctrine of Revelation, Engaging the Doctrine of the Holy Spirit, and Proofs of God. He was previously Professor of Theology at the University of Dayton, Myser Fellow at the Center for Ethics and Culture at the University of Notre Dame, and Associate Professor of Theology at Ave Maria University. He holds a Ph.D. from Boston College. David P. Olson The Reverend David P. Olson is a priest of the Diocese of LaCrosse and Assistant Professor of Dogmatic Theology at the University of Saint Mary of the Lake. Fr. Olson is the author of Christology in the Context of Interreligious Dialogue: Thomas Aquinas and Jacques Dupuis, A Comparative Analysis. He was previously pastor of Newman Catholic Parish in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish in La Crosse and associate pastor of Saint Michael Parish in Wausau. He teaches in the areas of doctrine of God, ecclesiology and Christology. He holds a J.D. from the University of Wisconsin, and a S.T.D. from the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas in Rome. Thomas H. Hubert Thomas H. Hubert, a native of Tennessee, is an independent scholar residing in the Indianapolis metropolitan area. Dr. Hubert taught for several years at UGA, McNeese State University (LA), Saint Louis University, and elsewhere. He has published and presented papers on Henry James, E. A. Poe, Allen Tate, Walker Percy, among others. He holds a Ph.D in English, with a concentration in American literature, from the University of Georgia. Dr. Hubert studied theology at Saint Louis University, the Aquinas Institute, and St. Josephâ€™s College.
Published on May 3, 2017