Papers

Postmodern Epistemology

Subtitle: 
A Critique of Stanley J. Grenz and John R. Franke
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In light of the negative critique of foundationalism at the end of the twentieth century, Stanley Grenz and John Franke propose an approach to theology that addresses the current postmodern context. This approach bases theology and epistemology in the life of the Christian community, a community which is, according to Grenz and Franke, called into existence by the triune God who is revealed in the Bible, church tradition, and the culture. The proposed approach entails many aspects, but this study intends to show that the inherent weakness of recognizing epistemic authority in any human community is subjectivity. To be sure, evangelicals should address the postmodern context by abandoning strong foundationalism. But instead of revising evangelicalism according to a postmodern paradigm, Christians may still embrace the objectivity, authority, and intelligibility of truth while avoiding the impossible demands of strong foundationalism. In Beyond Foundationalism: Shaping Theology in a Postmodern Context, Grenz and Franke make a noteworthy and admirable plea to evangelicals to avoid irrelevance in their presentation of the truth of Christianity in the postmodern world by “set[ting] themselves to the task of grappling with the implications of our setting, lying as it does ‘after modernity.’” However, they abandon a correspondence view of truth in favor of a constructionist view, thereby exposing the Christian message to the danger of self defeat.

The purpose of the present study is to analyze and critique the positions outlined by Grenz and Franke in their book, Beyond Foundationalism. The study will be divided into three parts. First, some of the main points of the book will be presented in order to orient the reader to the nature of the positions held by the authors. The second section will be devoted to three points of critique of Grenz and Franke. These points will rally around this question: is the community of faith a sufficient standard to justify true belief? In the concluding section, a brief alternative proposal to strong foundationalism, one that is more consistent with evangelical epistemology than the one offered by Grenz and Franke, will be presented.

Author: 

John D. Wilsey

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Associate Pastor, First Baptist Church, Charlottesville, VA

The Ethics Of Darwin Or The Ethics Of Design

Subtitle: 
How Science And Society Have Been Impacted By The Error Of Evolution
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Since Charles Darwin published On the Origin of the Species in 1859, the scientific community has witnessed obvious and considerable paradigm shifting. The biblical account of creation, which was considered normative in the mid-19th Century, is currently under vicious attack from scientists. However, the field of ethics has also observed tumultuous times since “evolution” was introduced. As we have devolved from moral absolutism of before Darwin’s day to the modern clamoring for relativism, society has to reflect on whether or not this contemporary slant has actually been progress.

One of the reasons why Darwin has become such a hot topic in recent years is that his reach continues to extend beyond his biological system into the religious realm that is its roots. Evolution was not born of the observation of changes among finches in the Galapagos Islands as he tried to submit, but rather due to his penchant toward an atheistic system. Virtually the entire moral morass in which our society currently finds itself drowning is the perpetuation of Darwin’s attempt to devalue and eliminate God from human thought processes.
 

Author: 

Jack L. Greenoe

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Ph. D. candidate and Teaching Assistant at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

The Evolution Of American Conceptions Of The Role Of Religion In The State: 1630–1789

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Just over one and a half centuries prior to the enactment of the U.S. Constitution in 1789, the Massachusetts Bay Colony established how the relationship between religion and the state would be defined there. In 1630, Governor John Winthrop explained this model in his sermon entitled A Model of Christian Charity. He said that the colonists who were about to establish Massachusetts Bay were entering into a covenant with God. Winthrop’s expectation was that if they were obedient to the covenant, God would “please to heare us, and bring us in peace to the place wee desire, [and] hath hee ratified this Covenant and sealed our Commission. . . .” If they were to fail in their commitment to the covenant, God would “surely breake out in wrathe against us, be revenged of such a perjured people and make us knowe the price of the breache of such a Covenant.” In short, the Puritans were establishing a Christian colony: religion and the state would be unified on the basis of a covenant with God.

A great shift in the American conception of religion’s role in the state would take place over the course of the next 160 years. In 1787, when the delegates to the Constitutional Convention met in Philadelphia, they did not intend to follow the Puritan model. Rather than uniting religion and the state, thereby creating a Christian nation, the Convention intended to establish an environment in the new republic wherein the state would not interfere with the individual consciences of its citizens in religious matters. Religious freedom4 would be guaranteed in the United States. The English philosopher John Locke (1632–1704), writing in 1689, stated in his Letter Concerning Toleration, that “the care of souls cannot belong to the civil magistrate, because his power consists only in outward force; but true and saving religion consists in the inward persuasion of the mind, without which nothing can be acceptable to God.” While this statement affirming individual religious freedom—without any state compulsion—may be universally agreed upon in contemporary times, it was a revolutionary idea by the eighteenth century. Western society, since at least the empire of Constantine in the fourth century, had agreed that religion and the state were partners in bringing order and providing identity to a nation. The argument for the unity of religion and the state, modeled by the Puritans in particular was taken for granted by Westerners for centuries. To draw a stark contrast between that time and our own, Edwin Gaustad stated, “We of today ask where the state left off and the church began; they of yesterday can only shake their heads in wonderment at so meaningless a question.” Locke’s statement in the Letter is passed over today as a given, but it was radical to Locke’s readership in 1689, and was still innovative at the time of the founding of the United States.

Author: 

John D. Wilsey

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Associate Pastor, First Baptist Church, Charlottesville, VA

Inductive Reasoning, Miracles, and Examples from Number Theory

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It is an obvious fact that any empirical knowledge of physical laws currently possessed by human civilization arose, not from constant observation of the universe at all points in space at all instances in time, but rather through experiments conducted at specific points in space at specific instances in time. In fact, given the relatively small proportion of human beings who are engaged in science research, and given that even scientists do not spend every moment of their time performing experiments, it should be obvious to anyone that human beings are not constantly checking the laws of physics to prove rigorously that exceptions to known knowledge are not occurring. If one additionally considers the relatively short span of time modern human civilization has existed relative to the age of the earth, one realizes the great lengths of time that have passed with human beings not observing the universe. Nevertheless, the laws of physics are assumed to hold at all points in space and time. What then justifies this assumption?

Author: 

Timothy Foo

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Graduate Student in Mathematics, Rutgers University -Newark

Latter Day Atheists

Subtitle: 
The Problem Of Omnipotence In Mormon Theology
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Mormons have taken steps to brand themselves as mainstream Christians. From recent statements by Jimmy Carter to the primary campaign of Mitt Romney, Mormonism is undergoing an extreme faith makeover. Despite these attempts to mainstream, I wish to argue Mormonism isn't a theistic religion and thus cannot be Christian.

In classical theism, God is the greatest conceivable being, possessing omnipotence, omnipresence, eternality, freedom, aseity, and omniscience. In the western tradition, the minimal properties a being must posses to be considered God include omniscience, omnipotence, and freedom. Far from being the greatest possible being of Christianity, the Mormon deity isn't a God in the classical sense. Mormon apologists will grant this, but I hope to show that the Mormon deity cannot be a God according to the standards set forth in Mormonism. The critical issue will be the attribute of  omnipotence.

In this paper, I will argue that the Mormon deity fails to be God because the property of omnipotence, among other biblical attributes in the classical tradition, cannot be instantiated by more than one being. Much has been written on the fact that the God of Mormonism isn't an eternally existing being but rather has undergone a transformation into godhood through a process called eternal progression.

Author: 

Adam P. Groza

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Director for Admissions, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

Relatively Unsafe

Subtitle: 
Why The Church Must Be Freed From The Trap Of Relativism
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Just one generation ago, the most quotable Scripture in American churches would have easily been John 3:16. Today, it is arguably Matt. 7:1 "Do not judge so that you will not be judged.” There are several reasons why this verse is so popular among believers today, but the most obvious is the mistaken concept that it provides a safe haven for the tolerance and acceptance of personal sin, regardless of its egregious nature.
It has become apparent in recent years that the church is faring little better than the world in regard to moral relativism. Even within the walls of the church, Scripture is rarely accepted unequivocally as absolute truth. The church is now better characterized as simply a baptized by-product of western individualism. Borrowing the words of the Lord in John 14:6, this paper will examine how the church in America has lost her way, because of the absence of truth. Without a miracle, it may cost her life.

Author: 

Jack L. Greenoe

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Ph. D. candidate and Teaching Assistant at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

The Apologetic Methodology of Blaise Pascal

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Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) was a French mathematician and scientist who is famous for his work dealing with the pressure of liquids and the theory of probability. He also designed a calculating machine, and, at the age of 16, wrote a book on Geometry which caught the attention of the great mathematician, Rene Descartes.
Pascal was a devout Roman Catholic who had a vibrant faith in Jesus Christ. He was influenced by the teachings of the Jansenists, a heretical Catholic movement which stressed God's grace in salvation and the importance of leading a lifestyle consistent with one's faith. Towards the end of his life, Pascal began to write and gather notes for a book on Christian apologetics. Unfortunately, Pascal died before he completed the project. A few years after his death the notes were published. It was entitled Pensees, which means "thoughts."
Since Pascal did not himself complete his task on the Pensees, readers must study Pascal's ideas and attempt to organize them in as coherent a fashion as possible. Recent advancements have been made in this area by Tom Morris of Notre Dame and Peter Kreeft of Boston College.
In this paper, I will attempt to construct a basic outline of the apologetic methodology of Blaise Pascal. I will also attempt to show the contemporary relevance of the Pascalian method.

Author: 

Dr. Phil Fernandes

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Institute of Biblical Defense

The Correspondence Theory Of Truth Within The Analytic Tradition

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The correspondence theory of truth serves an important place in evangelical
theology. It serves as the foundation for all sound theology because the correspondence theory suggests that truth corresponds to reality. It also serves as a foundation for epistemology (the theory of knowledge). This is because Christian theology is supposed to correspond to reality. Neo-orthodoxy and liberal types of theology requires something more akin to a coherence theory of truth or some kind of post-modern theory of truth. Evangelicals normally (and rightly) reject these theories of truth as being inadequate. These other theories of truth suggest that truth is not tied to reality. Continental philosophy has rejected the correspondence theory of truth is favor of theories of truth based upon justification.
Only with the correspondence theory of truth can Christian theology be united with reality. Unfortunately, the correspondence theory of truth has not always been accepted within analytic philosophy. It is my intent in this paper to explain when and why the correspondence theory of truth has fallen out of favor. I also intend to explain why the linguistic essentialist movement has restored the correspondence theory of truth back to its rightful place.

Author: 

Dr. Craig Vincent Mitchell

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Assistant Professor of Ethics Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

The Mystery Of The Freedom Of God

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Traditionally, theistic philosophers have concerned themselves with cogently and coherently defending belief in God. The charge of the incoherence of theism is a perennial objection that any theistic philosopher will inevitably encounter. I aim to address the claim that the conjunction of God’s perfect goodness, power, and knowledge with divine freedom is incoherent. I will develop the incoherence objection in the form of a reductio and then offer various theistic attempts at resolving the problem of incoherence.
Before proceeding into the thick of this essay it is necessary that I establish the force of the objection against theism. Why, after all, should the theist be at all bothered by the claim that God cannot be perfectly good, omniscient, and omnipotent as well as free? Where would the absurdity lie in believing God to not be free? I take it as obvious that traditional theism cannot regard God as lacking moral perfection, omniscience, and omnipotence. But is divine freedom really on par with these essential properties of God? Is it necessary to the nature of God that he be free?

Author: 

Joshua L. Watson

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A Pastoral Look At Apologetics, With A Plea

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Understanding that the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20 is to be our guide in the church, I often felt as I was growing up that there was a lot of emphasis placed on winning souls to Christ, but that they were then forgotten in the rush to win more souls. “Jesus came to them and spoke to them saying, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore, Go and disciple all the peoples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to carefully observe [t h r e w - obey, etc.] all that I commanded you; and behold! I am with you always, even until the completion of eternity!’” I used an exclamation point here for two reasons. 1) This is a command and that is usually how we show a command in English, and 2) I think that this is exciting! Obeying Jesus pleases Him, and pleasing him should excite us to service!
I have since learned that even though any of us can be used of God to win a soul to Christ, that my gifts lie more in the area of equipping. That is to say that my role is much more that of “teaching them all things that I have taught you,” than that of baptizing them--if one sees the teaching of all things as discipleship and the baptizing as that result of effective evangelism wherein individuals give their life to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It seems to me still that often efforts and ink are expended much more in this latter effort to win souls than in teaching those already won to the Lord how it is that they should live and grow in Him--and in doing so to repeat both the baptizing and the teaching portions. Thus carefully observing all of Christ’s Great Commission to us.

Author: 

Dr. Dean Bruce

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Pastor, Church of God, Mendon, Ohio