Will Heaven Be Boring? Near Death Experiences and our Imagination

unknown-5Belief in the afterlife is a staple feature of all cultures throughout human history. Just what the afterlife will be like is a question of considerable debate. In the Christian tradition, heaven is said to be the deepest longing of the human heart; hell the consequence of a life of self-love and sin.

C. S. Lewis on the Practical Value of Friendship

imagesA mark of the digital age is a dearth of genuine friendship. Relationships today are largely mediated through pixels and measured by the length of a Snapchap streak or the number of Facebook “likes” received. The plague of superficiality spreads as we forget how to look others in the eye, carry on a conversation, and simply be together. The end result is an epidemic of loneliness.

The Unforgivable Sin of Philosophy?

unknown-3A standard, albeit potted, way of characterizing the dominant modes of thought for ancient, modern, and postmodern intellectuals is in terms of the relationship between being and knowing. The concept of “being” has to do with metaphysics: what kinds of things exist and how do they relate? The concept of “knowing” has to do with epistemology: what can we know and how can we know it? For the ancient thinker, as the story goes, issues of being were primary and knowing secondary. In the modern era, this relationship was reversed: knowing determines being and not vice-versa. With the so-called postmodern era—an era I think has largely passed—neither being nor knowing are primary: rather our shared use of language determines what we can know, which in turn determines what there is.

In Defense of the Liberal Arts

unspecifiedThe purpose of the university, in the good old days, was to make fully functioning human beings. Alas today the purpose of the university is to created human doings, automaton who possess marketable skills—but are incapable of participating in a thoughtful conversation. The university, traditionally a place for the cultivation of intellectual and moral virtue, is today largely driven by market factors which place a priority on sports over academics, image over substance, and research—especially grant money research—over teaching. Only the fittest students and professors survive.

Answering Jihad

imagesTerrorist attacks by Muslims have almost become a routine of 21st century life. Daily it seems we read of new assaults by Muslims in the Middle East, Africa, and now, in Europe and North America. A very natural question to ask concerns the religion of Islam itself. Is Islam a religion of peace, as many claim, or is it a religion of violence, as my daily newsfeed suggests? Is the problem “radical” Islam or “fundamentalist” Islam or just run of the mill Islam? In our politically correct environment, these are not easy questions to answer. Yet, they have real implications: should America send troops to fight ISIS, Boko Haram, and Al-Qaeda? Should America allow Syrian refuges to enter the country? Should the future president ban all Muslims from entering the United States?

Could Jesus Sin? The Problem of the Incarnate Temptation

unknownThe consistent teaching of the New Testament is that Jesus, “the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29) is himself without sin.[1] He is a perfect sacrifice for the sins of man because he himself, unlike the rest of us, never did wrong. He is without blemish. He is not bent, crooked, or fallen. There is, however, a philosophical problem lurking in the shadows.

The Illusory Freedom of Pop Culture

imagesWestern culture is changing at an astonishing speed today. Twenty-five years ago, when I graduated from college, cell phones were barely a known commodity. Today smart phones are a staple of contemporary life. Al Gore had not yet invented the internet. Today our family panics if the Wi-Fi goes out. Socially the country was largely conservative and the values were largely biblical. Oh how things have changed. The guiding principle today is “freedom”—freedom to do and be whatever one wants. Casting off the shackles of a repressive morality—anything goes. An important question to consider, however, is this; does the new “anything goes” morality work? In other words, does the pursuit of unfettered freedom really make one free?

Why Did God Create Armadillos?

imagesGod is often portrayed as serious and cranky; a curmudgeon holding a thunder bolt in his hand ready to strike anyone having too much fun. God has no sense of humor, we are told. As a result, church is often portrayed as somber and formal, a weighty place where we sober-minded creatures go to worship our cranky grandpa in the sky.

Three Reasons We Should Care about Logic According to Isaac Watts

imagesThe great English theologian and hymn writer Isaac Watts is best known for classics such as “Joy to the World” or “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.” Lesser known is that Watts was one of the premier logicians of his day. He wrote a text in logic that became the standard text at Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, and Yale for well over 100 years. In the introduction to his Logic: The Right use of Reason in the Inquiry after Truth Watts provides three reasons why we should care about logic. These reasons are as relevant today as they were in 1724. Dare I say, they carry even more relevance today in a culture focused on image, overrun with anti-intellectualism, and captivated by mindless and constant attention to social media.

Three Surprising Facts about Atheists

UnknownThe Pew Research Center recently released a report entitled 10 Facts About Atheism. Many of the facts cited are unsurprising: while on the rise, atheist represent a small percentage of the American population (3.1%), atheists tend to lean liberal and democratic, tend to be younger and male, and are slightly more educated than the general public. Three facts embedded in this report however were quite interesting.