Contending for Christian Faith in Today's Academic Setting
Publication Year: 2009
Disputed Issues is a collection of essays reflecting Professor Steven Davis’s thinking—developed over a long and illustrious career—on a host of widely-contested issues essential to Christian philosophy, theology, and belief. These thoughtful and highly readable essays explore a range of topics, from those central to basic Christian belief (such as issues about resurrection and the survival of death), to others focused on more specific questions (such as whether Mark copied Homer and whether exegesis should be presuppositionless). Intended as a useful, instructive resource for believers and unbelievers alike, Disputed Issues is essential to understanding what a thoughtful orthodox Christian believes—and why.
Published by: Baylor University Press
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Attacks on orthodox Christian beliefs and practices originate from many quarters. Those of us who are professionally located in secular academia find criticisms coming from three main academic locales—biblical studies, theology, and philosophy. (Some also arise out of the sciences, of course, but they will not be my focus in the present book.) Many of these attacks are from...
Part I: New Testament Issues
1. Should We Believe the Jesus Seminar?
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The so-called Jesus Seminar (JS) was much in the news in the 1990s, and its work had the effect of confusing and troubling many Christian laypersons. It is, in my opinion, a good example of biblical scholarship that has lost its way. First I will tell you what it is and what it tries to do; then I will offer four criticisms of its...
2. Is the Jesus of Q Theory Believable?
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Since the time of the early church, a curious fact about the synoptic gospels has been noticed. There is a large amount of material—almost all of it sayings of Jesus—that is found in Matthew and Luke, often in word-for-word agreement, but not at all in Mark. But given that most scholars believe that Mark was the first gospel, and given the obvious fact that (on that...
3. Did Mark Copy Homer?
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Nothing is more important for Christians than Jesus. Christian faith begins with Jesus, with narratives about who he was and what he did. We believe that our salvation depends on the truth of certain claims about the life, death, resurrection, and person of Jesus. That is why Christians take an active interest in contemporary Jesus scholarship. Intellectual fads seem to come and go...
4. Did Jesus Claim to Forgive Sins?
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Section II lays some philosophical groundwork with a brief discussion of the phenomenon of forgiveness of one person by another. Section III deals with divine forgiveness and, more specifically, with a recent argument by philosopher Anne C. Minas to the effect that God, a perfect being, cannot forgive sins. Then in Section IV we will turn to the Mark text, where Jesus...
5. Have the Infidels Refuted the Resurrection?
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This chapter is a critical review of the recent book The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave (Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus: 2005), edited by Jeffery Lowder and Robert Price.1 The word Infidels in the title of this chapter reflects the fact that the contributors to this book call themselves the “Internet Infidels.” They operate a web site, the Secular Web (www.infidels.org), that serves...
6. Should Exegesis Have Presuppositions?
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The question of the relationship between philosophical presuppositions and biblical exegesis is a frequently discussed one. It has been analyzed from several angles. Some biblical scholars—recognizing as Bultmann did that the presuppositions of certain exegetes have sometimes distorted their interpretations—have argued for the ideal of presuppositionless exegesis. Others...
Part II: Theological Issues
7. Should Evangelicals Be Pluralists?
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I was raised in a Christian culture. Although it seems strange to our ears now, in the late 1940s and 1950s virtually everybody in the United States was considered Christian unless they were Jewish. And my family certainly saw itself as a Christian family. But I began to take Christianity seriously as a result of a conversion experience that occurred when I was a teenager. I...
8. Holocaust Theology and The Passion of the Christ
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I grew up in the 1940s and 1950s. Because my mother and father were divorced when I was an infant, in effect I had two families. The family with which I spent the most time (my mother, stepfather, five younger siblings, and myself ) was nominally Protestant. The other was Catholic. I cannot remember ever being taught, in either family, to hate or disrespect Jews. I...
9. Is the God of Process Theology a Valid Option?
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I came to Claremont as a graduate student in philosophy in 1966 and started teaching full time at (what was then called) Claremont Men’s College in 1970. I soon learned that Claremont was the world center of Process Theology (PT), a way of doing Christian theology that is based on the thought of Alfred North Whitehead. Charles Hartshorne, a disciple of Whitehead, is also...
10. Is Theological Nonrealism Dangerous?
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Most of us who believe in the existence of God made our peace long ago with the fact that there are intelligent and moral people who do not believe in God. We also know that some of these same people wish to retain certain aspects of the religious life. If Don Cupitt belongs in this last category (and I believe he does), there is nothing here so far that is particularly threatening...
11. Resurrection and Eschatology: How Are They Related?
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Christian eschatology presupposes a linear view of time. On circular views of time, as are found in many ancient and tribal cosmologies, history endlessly repeats itself, no one event or person has eternal significance, and history is mythology. Following its parent, Judaism, Christianity holds instead that human history and the creation itself are moving in a certain direction. As...
Part III: Issues in the Philosophy of Religion
12. Despair over Genocide—Can There Be Hope?
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Occasionally we have experiences that make us proud to be members of the human race. When we watch a Shakespeare play or listen to a Mozart symphony or look at a Rembrandt painting or admire an Ansel Adams photograph or benefit from a medical discovery—in those moments we can feel thrilled and uplifted. We sense that this sort of thing is the work of Homo...
13. Is “Survival of Death” Coherent?
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In a famous and influential essay written over fifty years ago, “Can a Man Witness His Own Funeral?”1 Antony Flew argued that the notion of life after death is incoherent. He offered three related arguments for this conclusion. Although Flew’s argument has been around for some time and has been discussed in the journals, I am not sure that it has ever been decisively refuted...
14. Wittgensteinian Philosophy of Religion—A Valid Option?
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Are religious belief and unbelief metaphysical choices? I am to answer that question in this chapter. So I must obviously first define terms like metaphysics, belief, and unbelief. These words are defined variously, and debate about the proper definitions of these and related terms can be vigorous. I will try to avoid such debates by simply stipulating how I will use them on this occasion...
15. Has the Ontological Argument Been Refuted?
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The so-called ontological argument for the existence of God (OA) is one of the most fascinating, as well as controversial, pieces of natural theology in the history of philosophy. Invented by Anselm1 (1033–1109), it appears in many versions and has been attacked and defended many times. Rather than try to survey the many criticisms that have been raised against it, I have decided...
16. Three Views of God, Which Is Correct?
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Nothing is more important in Christian philosophy than the concept of God. Christianity is essentially based on the notion of a God who creates and redeems us. But what is God like? What are God’s attributes or properties? There is, among Christian philosophers, a large area of agreement or overlap in their explanations of God’s nature, but serious disagreement too...
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Page Count: 260
Publication Year: 2009