Three things you should know about the site: (1) T h e o • p h i l o g u e is aimed at quality of critical research over quantity of rant posts, (2) it’s now postured by critical thinking and open-minded exploration of theology and philosophy and as such is not used to propagate or defend religious dogmas, and (3) the comment threads are where ideas are tested against contrary arguments or perspectives. The dialogues are more important than the posts themselves, for in the exchange of arguments terms and logical connections are clarified and refined so that truths can be more clearly discerned.
Atheism According to Julian Baggini
Baggini’s defense of atheism is important because it shows a kinder-gentler side of atheism that exemplifies true intellectual integrity over rhetoric and dogmatism. Baggini grants as much to the theist as he possibly can and concludes that while there is evidence for theism, the evidence for atheism is much stronger. While making his case chapter-by-chapter, he still holds out the possibility that he could be mistaken. His book is a perfect introduction onto the subject matter of atheism, as it avoids extremes and aims to play fair. I offer mostly praise but some criticism, concluding that how Baggini makes his case for atheism demonstrates a lack of familiarity with some of the strongest counter-arguments. In spite of shortcomings (and who is above shortcomings?), however, if I were teaching a class on philosophy this book would without doubt be required reading for all my students.
I give Julian Baggini’s book * * f i v e s t a r s* * * without any hesitation as the best introduction to the subject matter for those seeking to learn it for the first time. It’s not too technical or erudite so as to burden the reader with thinking she must now read 100 other books to really “get it,” yet Baggini’s case for atheism is the case of an established philosopher not a polemic rhetorician. He manages to neatly encapsulate a good mixture between classic critiques of theism and more up-to-date perspectives.
Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica
Thomas Aquinas: Summa Theologica :: My most recent singular post was a summary of Thomas Aquinas’s doctrine of justification as found in the ten questions of article 113 in the prima secunda of Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologica: “Of the Effects of Grace.” This is the latest addition to my ever-increasing number of posts where I’ve summarized some article relating to grace in Thomas’ Summa.
Other posts on Aquinas in Summa include:
The Demerits of Utilitarianism
More people are reading my post than ever before because of the discussion in the comment thread where my arguments and perspective are challenged by a welcome visitor who argues that I haven’t proven Utilitarianism to be untrue. In the end, I argue that this visitor is working with an understanding of utilitarianism that doesn’t ultimately base right or wrong on consequences, but bases the key criterion for right and wrong in the human intention—the intention to effect the best consequences. This one thread may have captured T h e o • p h i l o g u e ‘ s most sustained debate over the merits of the utilitarian ethic. Here is an excerpt from this discussion of one of my arguments I coined “The Omniscience Requirement” of Utilitarianism, which I argue makes Utilitarianism an impossible ethical guideline for action.
• The Utilitarian paradigm requires for us to do what will cause “greater pleasure (and less pain)”
• In order for us to do what will cause “greater pleasure” we must know what the consequences of our actions will be.
• In order to know what the consequences of our actions will be, we would need to know immediate and future consequences.
• But it is impossible to know the full range of all future consequences for any given action or set of actions by an individual or society.
• Therefore, we cannot know what the immediate and future consequences of our actions will actually be.
• Therefore, we cannot know what will cause the “greater pleasure.”
• Therefore, we cannot do what is required from us in the Utilitarian paradigm.
• Therefore, utilitarianism is impossible.
An Eastern Theology of Justification
I just added my article on the doctrine of justification in John Chrysostom: The Superiority of Faith: John Chrysostom’s Eastern Theology of Justification. Here I am concerned to show that although Chrysostom teaches a doctrine of justification by grace through faith (and even uses the language of “faith alone”), he has an Eastern theology of justification vastly different from the Reformation’s version of the doctrine, and uses the same language in a way that actually undermines the key concerns of Reformation doctrines of justification.
In the footnotes I criticize and correct various authors who have misinterpreted Chrysostom in various ways on this subject: and here I correct not just Protestants who proof text Chrysostom’s language and assume it has Protestant meaning, but also ecumenical uses of Chrysostom that somehow fail to illuminate the most important dynamics in his theology of justification. In the end, Chrysostom’s theology of justification is neither Catholic nor Protestant, but Eastern. To find out what this means, and why I come to this conclusion, you will have to read my article.
You can see other academic contributions on my PDF Catalog, where you can download the full articles.