Charles Taylor wins philosophy prize

There is the Nobel Prize for various great achievements, and now there is the Berggruen Prize for philosophy.  The first award, which comes with $1 million, was given to Charles Taylor.

Taylor, a Canadian thinker, is one of the most interesting, helpful, and Christian-friendly of all contemporary philosophers.  (See this Cranach post.) A Catholic, though not of the Reformation-despising kind, Taylor has written provocative and insightful explorations of the self, identity, language, and morality.  One of his biggest subjects, though, is the phenomenon of secularism, which he shows is not as simple as many of its adherents assume and which, far from doing away with religion, may drive people to try to find it again.
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Teaching predestination at Berkeley

The New York Times has a fascinating article by Berkeley history professor Jonathan Sheehan about how he teaches John Calvin in his secular classroom.  Specifically, he uses the scary stuff in Calvin–particularly, double predestination–to blow the minds of his students and to teach them their limits.  Read the article and a response to what he says from someone else who teaches Calvin to secular students (linked and excerpted after the jump).

We Lutherans believe in predestination, though not Calvin’s double predestination.  But we certainly believe in the limits of human beings, a message considered salutary today.  Maybe teaching Luther’s Bondage of the Will would have a similar effect.

What do you think of this use of Calvin?  Is it really accurate to his thought?  Do we take away from this that it’s okay to teach Law to secular students, just not the Gospel?  (The emphasis here is on those who are not chosen to salvation, I guess a group the secularists identify with.  But what about those who are?) [Read more…]

Are Christians the powerful or the marginalized?

In the course of a post on why so many evangelicals are supporting Donald Trump, S. D. Kelly tosses off an observation that explains much about the current controversies between Christians and secularists.

Secularists tend to see Christians as “the powerful”; that is, in postmodern parlance, those who are in a position of power and privilege who oppress “the marginalized,” those who lack power and privilege.

But Christians tend to see themselves as “the marginalized,” oppressed by the cultural elite who exclude them and exercise their power against them.

Thus, when a Christian baker refuses to participate in a gay wedding, the secularists see the Christian heteronormative establishment discriminating against marginalized and oppressed gay people.

While Christians see secularists–who control the culture, the entertainment industry, the educational establishment, the government, and the law–imposing their sexual ideology on those with traditional Christian values and punishing them for their minority religious beliefs.

This explains much of the rhetoric, argumentation, and high feelings on both sides.  Are these just two irreconcilable perceptions?  Or can we make an objective case for one side or the other?  Does realizing these different perceptions suggest other ways of addressing these controversies? [Read more…]

Britain now has more “nones” than Christians

Great Britain now has more people who say they have “no religion” (48%) than say they are Christians (44%).  (Other religions such as Islam constitute 8%.)  And this happened fast.  Fifteen years ago, around 75% said they were Christians.  Five years ago, only 25% said they have “no religion.”  After the jump, a story about this from the London Spectator.

For a long time, most Brits still considered themselves Christians, while hardly ever attending services.  Staying Christian requires going to church.  Then again, when the churches themselves, as a whole, become so theologically liberal they stop teaching anything that could be recognized as Christianity, then of course Christianity will, apart from divine intervention, be extinguished.

Could such a religious shift happen in the USA?  Or is it already happening? [Read more…]

From non-religious families to ISIS

It turns out that 80% of the French citizens who joined ISIS come from non-religious families.  These converts to Islam and jihadism describe it in terms of religious liberation, a putting away of meaningless materialism to find personal meaning and transcendent purpose.  Can it be that human beings have an innate need for transcendence, and that suppressing and denying the religious impulse causes it to break out in extreme, violent, and twisted forms?

Ross Douthat discusses the phenomenon in the New York Times. [Read more…]

The three types of secularism

I stumbled upon this article from seven years ago–another one by the great sociologist of religion Peter Berger.  He distinguishes between three kinds of secularism:  one that separates church and state but is not anti-religous; one that has an animus against public religion but is fine with privatized faith; and one that actively tries to suppress all religion. [Read more…]