And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. [Phil 1:9-11, ESV]
Jeremy Pierce has a Ph.D. in philosophy from Syracuse University and is an Adjunct Professor at Le Moyne College. His philosophical specializations are in metaphysics, philosophy of race, and philosophy of religion. He is a co-founder of and contributor at the philosophy of religion blog Prosblogion, as well as maintaining his personal blog Parableman. Jeremy is married to Samantha Pierce, who can be found blogging at Uncle Sam's Cabin. They have five children.RSS feed for this author
There’s a box to check at the bottom of the commenting box to indicate that you want to receive notifications by email whenever anyone comments on a post. I’ve been checking that box when I leave comments. I haven’t received one notification from this site. I even checked my spam folder, and there wasn’t anything there that could have been from comments on this blog. Have those notifications been working for anyone? Does anyone have any idea what might be going on?
It’s pretty common to find unlikely occurrences in fiction, where the one-in-a-million chance just happens to occur, and our heroes are saved. Terry Pratchett makes fun of this in one of his Discworld novels, where the characters assume that something that unlikely has to happen precisely because it is a one-in-a-million chance.
J.J. Abrams was recently asked about such an occurrence in his Star Trek XI. I think his response is revealing. Kirk ends up being beamed down to the same ice world that the future Spock from the original Trek reality happened to have been exiled on, and he happens to be beamed to a spot on that world right near where Spock happened to be, which also happened to be right near a Federation facility that Scotty was on, and Scotty just happened to have been the person doing the research Spock with his future knowledge could capitalize on to get Kirk and Scotty to the Enterprise.
Abrams accepts the radical unlikelihood. His excuse? He says it’s the timeline attempting to repair itself and that the movie is about fate. The kind of friendship that these people (or rather their counterparts) in the original timeline had been part of somehow created itself again (actually not again but simply in parallel) in this other timeline.
It’s hard to know how to respond to this. One the one hand, this is so ludicrous as to be unworthy of comment. Does Abrams really think it’s plausible to respond to the claim that something is incredibly unlikely by asserting that his audience should just accept it as fate? If so, what mechanism of fate does he imagine here? What he seems to be saying is that the friendship itself is making itself happen, when at the time of these events there is no friendship yet. Or maybe he means the friendship in the original reality is causing the new friendship among these different individuals who are very similar, in which case it’s backward causation from some future alternate reality. What he’s saying just sounds crazy.
On the other hand, there is something that could make sense of this, something he’s resisting bringing in. What wants is something like providence. He wants something that could only occur with intelligent guidance of events. When it’s writers who have some level of intelligence who are guiding the events, you can get things like this, but Abrams seems to want to accept something like this as if it’s plausible, and I have trouble seeing how that could be without a providential hand guiding things along. He apparently doesn’t allow for that and has to attribute it to being caused by the friendship or something. I wonder sometimes if the desire for fate without providence is really a longing for providence or perhaps even an assumption that there is such a thing without an admission that there’s any such thing.
The 300th Christian Carnival will be hosted this coming Wednesday at Brain Cramps for God. The Christian Carnival is a weekly collection of some of the best posts of the Christian blogosphere. It’s open to Christians of Protestant, Orthodox, and Roman Catholic convictions. One of the goals of this carnival is to offer our readers to a broad range of Christian thought. This is a great way to make your writing more well known and perhaps pick up some regular readers. For examples of past carnivals, see the Christian Carnival archive.
To enter is simple. First, your post should be of a Christian nature, but this does not exclude posts that are about home life, politics, or current events from a Christian point of view. Select only one post dated since the last Christian Carnival (i.e. from the last Wednesday through the coming Tuesday). Then do the following:
One reason I read the LTI Blog is because I regularly come across important information there that I’ve never noticed in any of the abortion discussions in the philosophical literature or in any political blogs not focused on abortion. (This isn’t the only reason. It’s the only blog I’ve ever found focused entirely on abortion that is pretty well-informed philosophically. Several key contributors there are well-read in the philosophical literature and are pretty good at explaining the difference between good and bad arguments.)
In a post mostly about how to argue with those who disagree in a way that doesn’t shut down discussion (which would be good for anyone to pay heed to), Jay Watts points to two documents I was unaware of. Both have to do with the common pro-choice argument that if abortion is made illegal again it will lead to lots of deaths from back-alley abortions.
The first document is an excerpt from material written by the Medical Director of Planned Parenthood in 1960, stating quite plainly that 90% of illegal abortions at the time were done by physicians in their offices in a way that was as safe for the mother as it would have been if it were legal. [The Wikipedia entry for "Unsafe Abortion" includes a key quote from this excerpt also, for those who don't want to trust the PDF. So this is out there for those who know what to look for, but I'd never been directed toward it before.]
The second is from NARAL founder Bernard Nathanson, admitting that the pro-choice arguments before Roe v. Wade about the numbers of deaths from illegal abortions were simply fabrications on the order of 10-20 times the amount that an accurate assessment could have produced.
I wrote a series of guest posts back in the summer of 2007 for the now-defunct blog Right Reason that I think might provide a good theoretical background for some of the issues going around right now on Christians and political participation. When that blog suddenly vanished within the following year, I managed to get the content, including the comments, restored onto my personal blog. Rather than try to summarize them or post them here again, I thought I’d link to all the posts in the series and let people read them where I’ve already got them, and you can feel free to pick up the conversation either on those posts or in the comments here. Bear in mind that the original location of these posts was as guest posts at a politically-conservative philosophy blog. I wrote them with that audience in mind. I would probably have written them differently for this crowd.
1. Introduction: Christianity and Politics
2. Augustine on Civil Government: The Two Cities
3. Augustine on Civil Government: Two Further Preliminaries
4. Augustine on Civil Government: Authority
5. Augustine on Civil Government: The City of God and Compromise
6. Christian Political Participation
7. Religious Motivations in Politics
Here I was thinking that I’d be able to get through a couple days with the kids home and not much time to blog and then enter into the conversation a few posts in by tonight. Little did I know that over 50 posts would appear on this blog in the meantime!
I wrote back in November about the boundaries of evangelicalism on a post about where Barack Obama seems to fall on the religious spectrum. That post had originally been a response to what I had wrongly taken to be a claim that Obama is an evangelical, and the person I was responding to hadn’t meant to imply that at all, so the post is somewhat geared toward him and particularly an interview he gave when he was running for the U.S. Senate. I thought it might be worth taking some of what I said there and generalizing it outside that context. Those who want to read the original can follow the link. In it, I was trying to get a handle on some of the boundaries of evangelicalism as I’ve usually heard and used the term. (I fully acknowledge that people in different contexts might have learned and used the term differently.) The result was almost a brainstorming session on some of the people I’m aware of or know personally who hold views that I think are out of the evangelical mainstream but hold them in ways that I think allows them to remain within evangelicalism (and there are those who take the same views further in ways that I think will place them outside evangelicalism). So most of what follows, except the concluding paragraph, is a reworking of sections of the above-linked.