A Ten-Year Project

I’m starting to build a plan for a ten-year project for myself. The goal will be to produce a multi-volume critique of Christianity, with a focus on Evangelical Christianity, but I would also like to touch on Catholic Christianity and Liberal Christian views.

One objective would be for the critique to be systematic and comprehensive, so I’m thinking about Topics and Issues to cover. Since my educational background is in philosophy (ethics, philosophy of religion, logic, critical thinking, epistemology, metaphysics, philosophy of language, political philosophy, Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, Descartes, Locke, Hume, Kant, Mill, Marx, Wittgenstein), the most obvious choice for topics would be based on:

1. Handbooks and Guides on the Philosophy of Religion.

Since I am especially familiar with the work of one leading modern Christian philosopher of religion, my topics could be based on:

2. Richard Swinburne’s Trilogy on Theism and his Tetralogy on Christian Doctrines.

Another set of topics closely related to philosophy of religion would be based on:

3. Handbooks and Guides on Christian Apologetics (esp. McDowell, Craig, Geisler, Habermas, Kreeft, Nash, etc.).

A somewhat broader range of topics could be based on:

4. Works of Systematic Theology (esp. by Evangelical Christian theologians).

If I go with the Systematic Theology topics, I could start by focusing on the core of Evangelical Christian theology:

5. The Gospel (i.e. John 3:16, The Four Spiritual Laws, The “Romans Road”).
Another way to plan and organize this project would be to use a high-level logical analysis:

6. A Problem-Solving/Medical Schema for Analysis of Worldviews (i.e. symptoms, diagnosis, prescription/therapy, prognosis).

Worldviews can be understood in terms of identifying a particular problem that is viewed as critical or central to human existence, and presenting an alleged solution to that problem. Note that the topics in approach (5) would closely match topics for approach (6), since “The Four Spiritual Laws” look a lot like a problem-solving analysis of the Gospel.

I am interested in hearing your suggestions or advice.

  • Greg G.

    John W. Loftus posted the following just today at What’s the Difference between Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism? :

    Fundamentalist Christianity represents yesterday’s conservative faith whereas Evangelical Christianity represents today’s conservative faith…and the goal posts keep being moved. Evangelical Christianity therefore is the liberal faith that conservatives of yesterday rejected, while the Evangelical Christianity of the future is being rejected by today’s evangelicals. Liberalism is the trend into the future.

    • Bradley Bowen

      Another difference is that Fundamentalists are into being separated from the world, while Evangelicals want to be engaged in the world, especially the world of scholars and intellectuals. Thus Fundamentalists tend to be anti-intellectual, while Evangelicals do not tend to be anti-intellectual. Fundamentalists often reject science as being of the devil, while Evangelicals try to reconcile science with their religious beliefs.

      While Scientific Creationism appears to be Fundamentalist (because of its literal interpretation of Genesis), it seems to me to be basically an Evangelical idea: an attempt to reconcile science and faith (even though a rather clumsy one), rather than to reject science. A true Fundamentalist simply rejects science because it conflicts with the teachings of the Bible.

      On conservative vs. liberal difference, differing views of the Bible and inspiration and interpretation appear to be central.

      • http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/ John W. Loftus

        Keep in mind I didn’t try to write a detailed post on the difference, only a provacative yet true one. That being said, it appears to me the very differences you mention can be subsumed under what I wrote, no? After all, the definition of Fundamentalism also changes as the years go on. And every Evangelical must deny science in some areas to believe.

        • Bradley Bowen

          I need to read your post first, to give you a proper answer (will try to tonight)
          .
          I do have an objection to one line quoted from it:
          “Fundamentalist Christianity represents yesterday’s conservative faith whereas Evangelical Christianity represents today’s conservative faith…and the goal posts keep being moved.”

          Christian Fundamentalism is a modern phenomenon, a reaction against modernism and liberalism. One could argue, and I suspect that some Evangelicals do argue, that Evangelical Christianity has deeper roots in the historic Christian faith, and is closer to the faith and practice of the Protestant Reformers, when compared to Fundamentalism.

          I think that Luther and Calvin would find the anti-intellectualism of Fundamentalists to be odd and objectionable. I think that Luther and Calvin would be more sympathetic with Evangelical interpretation of the Bible than Fundamentalist interpretation. So, an Evangelical who claims to be closer to the faith and practice of the Protestant Reformers than Fundamentalist Christians are, might be able to make a good case for that claim.

          • http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/ John W. Loftus

            The entire post was quoted above. I understand about Fundamentalism being a modern phenomenon too. Much to say here and no time to say it properly.

            I will say that this ten year project of yours is very impressive. Go with your strengths, would be my advice.

          • Bradley Bowen

            Clearly Evangelical beliefs and values have changed over the past decades. One clear example was Jerry Falwell’s shift from wanting nothing to do with politics to being a political mover-and-shaker. Although perhaps that was a shift from being a Fundamentalist to being an Evangelical?

            Such changes in beliefs and values would be true of almost any ideological group that has existed for a century or more. The key question is whether there have been shifts in core or defining Evangelical beliefs and values. Before that can be determined one needs to specify what those core or defining Evangelical beliefs and values are (or used to be), and defend that analysis.

            The fact that Evangelicals have adopted some liberal beliefs and values is significant only if this involves a shift in one or more core Evangelical beliefs or values. Changes in Evangelical beliefs about the divine inspiration of the Bible and inerrancy, might be an example of such a change.

          • Bradley Bowen

            Whatever topics I end up working on, I will try to make good use of principles, concepts, rules, criteria, and techniques of logic, critical thinking, probability, and philosophical analysis.

    • Bradley Bowen

      What is an ‘Evangelical Christian’?

      I think it is helpful to keep in mind a distinction that is used in opinion polling. On the one hand, there are SELF-IDENTIFIED Evangelical Christians, and on the other hand there are people who are identified as Evangelical Christians according to some specific set of criteria (i.e. an explicit definition of this category of people).

      The group of people who are self-identified as Evangelical Christians probably include a fairly wide diversity of beliefs and values.

      But if one defines the category of ‘Evangelical Christian’ in terms of, for example, certain traditional theological beliefs, then:

      (a) there will be no shift in opinion on those theological beliefs among ‘Evangelical Christians’ (because anyone who fails to hold the specified theological beliefs will simply NOT be categorized as an ‘Evangelical Christian’), and
      (b) the portion of self-identified Evangelical Christians that fall into the defined category of ‘Evangelical Christians’ might be rather small; those who hold the required traditional theological beliefs are probably a minority among the group of people who self-identify as Evangelical Christians.

      • Greg G.

        In the mid-70′s, I was a Fundamentalist. Their beliefs and arguments haven’t changed much at all in the last 35 years and they seemed tried and true at the time. We had parties that had Evangelicals there. The only differences I could see were an emphasis on speaking in tongues and faith healing but the rest of their beliefs seem to match up on all counts.

        All of those that who identified as Fundamentalist that I have conversed with over the last 30 years have maintained the same beliefes I held 36 years ago.One that I debated with for a decade changed into a Calvinist. The Evangelical claimants have increasingly diverged. I would be reluctant to generalize on the typical Evangelical of today based on my anecdotal evidence, other than none of them agree with those I used to know.

        I found it ironic reading the announcement of a ten year study just after reading about the changing nature of the subject. I thought you might enjoy the irony as well.

  • http://mountincompetence.wordpress.com/ Nolan

    I would love to see a systematic analysis of all the different brands of Christian ethics. I’m aware that there are many brands of divine command theory, and the Catholics have their natural law ethics, but those are all I know of, and I can’t always distinguish them.

    It would be helpful to have a guide to each Christian Ethical approach, and what philosophical critiques would be valid or invalid.

    • Bradley Bowen

      I’m very interested in Ethics, so that would hold my intertest for the long haul. Also, since morality & ethics are a big selling point for Religion in general and Christianity in particular, a critical analyis and critique of the various Christian ethical theories could be a significant component of a case for skepticism about Christianity.

      Christianity certainly has great flaws in the area of morality, in terms of clarity and plausibility, given the often immoral, contradictory, and unclear teachings of the Bible.

      If it could also be shown that the major Christian ethical theories have serious flaws, this would put the icing on the skeptical cake, by showing that an alleged selling point of Christianity is, on closer examination, a reason to doubt or reject Christianity.

      • Blue Devil Knight

        This sounds very cool. Up vote.

      • http://mountincompetence.wordpress.com/ Nolan

        Yes! That is exactly what I had in mind. I would be really excited to read a systematic treatment of this area.


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