On Religious Worth of Bodily Liturgical Action – Terence Cuneo

Earlier this year (I forgot I wrote this post, its been sitting in my drafts) Terence Cuneo the philosopher from The University of Vermont, best known for his work in metaethics and early modern philosophy, especially the work of Thomas Reid, came in to our Analytic Theology Seminar to give a paper on liturgical theology…..

  • Scripted movement-touching sequences: involve participant in the liturgy moving through space to approach some person or thing for the purpose of bodily engaging that person or thing by their touching it or touching some person or thing in its near vicinity
  • Why do these SMTS play such a prominent role in the performance of Eastern liturgies?
    • SMTS have religious worth
      • Instrumentalist view vs. non-instrumentalist view
    • Defends a variant of non-instrumetnalist view: Authorization-appropriation model
      • God authorized the composition of and appropriated the scripts that perescribe the performance of such actions

 

Against Instrumentalism

  • Two primary commitments of instrumentalist view
    • Proper role of scripted bodily liturgical action is for an agent who performs these actions to stand in some instrumental relation to religious attitudes
    • Religious worth lies wholly in the fact that the performance has ability o instill, evoke, express religious attitudes that are fitting in how we relate to God.
  • Concerns
    • Doesn’t fit so well with the text we have in the liturgies
    • Doesn’t handle some cases well – i.e. child who dies young, the performance of these bodily actions would not have any religious worth because they would fail to play the role that they were meant to play had the child grown up.
    • Paul on illicitly sexual activity – makes reference to the body as the temple

 

The Authorization- Appropriation Model

  • Task of the approach: ID a relation that God bears to liturgical participants such that their performing scripted movement has religious worth in virtue of their bearing this relation to God.
  • Proposal: having authorized and appropriated the liturgical scripts that prescribe these actions to these participants
  • Two parts to the model:
    • Authorization: Deputization and Delegation
      • The authorization to compose the church’s liturgies is a blend of the two
      • Three types of decisions: 1) scope, 2) which actions to prescribe, and 3) scope and normative force of the prescriptions
      • Criteria for selection: divinely required and fitting
    • Divine Appropriation
      • God doesn’t simply authorize, but appropriates the scripts as his own
      • In eastern tradition – there is a synergistic relationship between the church and God in the composition of liturgy
      • But this is not enough- appropriation and authorization must take place

 

Applying the Model

  • Most things in the liturgy are “fitting” not “required”
    • They are cultural expressions of love, awe, wonder, among other attitudes, etc.
  • Difference between an action expressing an attitude vs. an action which is expressive of an attitude
  • Prima Facie worth worth on the whole
    • Some actions have prima facie interpersonal worth, but they are easily defeated
    • Acts can be expressive of attitudes that are apt in one sense but lack interpersonal worth because they lack something
    • The authorization-appropriation model explains why MTS can have stable non-easily defeasible religious worth.

 

Conclusion

  • MTS have religious worth because they fittingly relate us to God. Being fittingly related to God consists not simply in mental states but in the way we use our bodies. Worth of MTS is not wholly determined by the attitudes agents are in, but by the attitude that God has to their performance.  This addresses the issue that there is supposedly something defective about ritualized activity which is by its nature “dead” – and says this objection is off because there may be things in which God delights in the way we use our bodies in worship.

 

Questions

How do you go about figuring out which actions are “authorized” or “fitting?”

  • Come up with some story for how taking communion with chocolate chip cookies and mountain dew expresses in some cultural form attitudes which are appropriate towards God?

 

Who is “authorized?”

  • Its clear on the story of President sending secretary of state, or a ceo having her secretary write a memo and send it out to the company.

A Storm is Brewing…

For those of you who aren’t privileged to be member of ETS, you may have not heard but there is a storm brewing on the horizon about gender and sexuality in relation to the society’s “Doctrinal Basis/Statement of Purpose.”

Below is the abstract to Stan Gundry’s open letter to members of ETS:

In the last business session of the 2015 national Meeting of ETS a set of four resolutions was moved and passed that affirmed human dignity and worth, marriage as a life-long union of one man and one woman, sexual intimacy as reserved for such marriages, and an affirmation of distinct traits of manhood and womanhood as an unchangeable gift that constitutes personal identity. In the aftermath some ETS members expressed dismay that any ETS member would vote against passage of the resolutions. Others, I among them, were shocked that resolutions of this nature would be proposed and passed by a substantial majority. In this open letter to ETS members, I explain the problems with the resolutions and the real issue at stake: Will ETS be true to is Doctrinal Basis and its Statement of Purpose? Hence, my open letter to ETS members, Whence and Whither ETS.


You can read the whole thing here.


With this and the Trinity debate looks like ETS is going to be a lot of fun this year!


Rational Faith

Is Christianity rational?

When most people are asked that question its not coming from a neutral standpoint; it’s a loaded question. In our day and age the question is loaded towards the “NO” side. A lot of people have done hard work over the years to show that the answer to that question is actually “YES!” One such person who has worked towards explaining that rationality of Christian belief is Claremont philosopher Stephen Davis. In his new book, Rational Faith: A Philosopher’s Defense of Christianity, Davis tackles some important questions that have been leveled at Christians in order to show the irrationality of faith.

Consider for instance:

  • Can we believe in God?
  • Isn’t truth relative?
  • Is the Bible’s portrayal of Jesus actually reliable?
  • Doesn’t evolution disprove Christianity?
  • Can’t religious experiences be explained by neuroscience?
  • Aren’t other religions as valid as Christianity?

Aimed at college students (and supposedly Christian professors as well), Davis tackles these sorts of questions and more.

For the sake of the review I won’t go into detail about how he answers these questions, rather I’ll point you to a few chapters that are especially pertinent in our cultural moment, the chapters on Cognitive Science and Religious Pluralism. Most Christians interested in Apologetics will be used to reading about truth/pluralism, the problem of evil, belief in God, gospel reliability, and the resurrection; but the two chapters on Cognitive Science and Religious Pluralism bring something unique to the table.

Cognitive Science

Neuroscientists have attempted to argue that religion is “natural.” In other words humans have a tendency to believe in a god or gods or at least supernatural beings who provide moral guidance and also issue rewards and punishments to humans. What Davis does 040412_1341_canthecogni14which is quite unique to the subject is that he doesn’t examine the findings of Cognitive Science of Religion (CSR) rather he distinguishes between meanings of the term “natural.” Natural can mean explainable, easy, or appropriate. Davis argues that Christian belief (unlike many other forms of religion) is not natural in the first or second sense. Here’s why: If critics of religion are correct in saying we created God rather than vice versa then the Christian God is not the sort of god we would create. A “god” made in our image would be legalistic, performance based, ritual based, maximally accepting and non-accusatory. However Christianity is neither of these, in fact Christianity is very costly, which has no evolutionary advantages that it bestows to its adherents. Davis argues that it is only natural in the third sense, i.e. it is appropriate, in the sense that it is rational.

Religious Pluralism

What should Christians make of other religions? Davis points out three views Christians have taken over the years: 1)Exclusivism, 2)Inclusivism, and 3)Pluralism. He goes on to point out some major flaws with (a John Hick inspired) pluralism. Davis then develops his own view which can best be described as a tolerant, non-imperialist exclusivism. His position is grounded in the concept that God loves all persons and wants all to be saved and that God is a God of justice. Davis says of holding these two points that we ought to hold them in eentions and “trust that God will be fair.” However what makes this chapter unique is that his criterion for a Christian view on religious pluralism is actually a very practical one, it is “evangelism.” He then makes a bold claim (which I applaud):

Any theory that in effect minimizes, belittles, discourages or rules out evangelism is to be rejected.

I have never heard this point made in a philosophical essay and I truly applaud Davis for making it. Given the fact that the Christian faith is evangelistic and grounded in Christ’s words in the great commission its surprising that such a simple criterion has been overlooked in many discussions of religious pluralism.

Recommendation

I teach undergraduates at a bible college and work in a college ministry so I’m always on the lookout for interesting books covering objections to Christianity. Though I’m not a huge proponent of Apologetics in the modernistic sense, I think apologetics is an important subject for Christians to cover mainly as a way to boost their faith. I.e. Apologe9780830844746tics is less for non-Christians and more for Christians. For that reason I recommend this book to most college students. Its filled with answers to questions they will likely hear in their General Education sociology, psychology, anthropology courses.

Congrats to Stephen Davis because he’s given us a book undergrads will find useful in many of their GE classes!

(Note: I received this exam copy thanks to IVP in exchange for an impartial review. It is an early review copy, and anything I say ought to be checked with the final version of the book.)

My Paper on EFS is Now up on the Evangelical Philosophical Society Website

An Examination of Recent Philosophical Responses to Thomas McCall’s Argument Against Eternal Functional Subordination

by Christopher G. Woznicki

Since Thomas McCall first published Which Trinity? Whose Monotheism? Philosophical and Systematic Theologians on the Metaphysics of the Trinity in 2010 numerous papers have been written responding to his philosophical arguments against eternal functional subordination.

Among recent philosophical responses to McCall’s position a paper co-written by Philip Gons and Andrew Naselli and another by Bruce Ware stand out as the most significant. Gons and Naselli argue that McCall’s argument conflates the term “essentially” with “belonging to the essence.” Ware puts forth a reductio ad absurdum argument against McCall and shows McCall’s logic entails a denial of homoousios.

This paper enters into this debate by examining Gons and Naselli’s argument. It engages with recent philosophical literature dealing with the meaning of the term “essence” in order to show that their argument against McCall is unfounded.

The paper then turns to Ware’s argument to show that he has made a category mistake in comparing the property of being eternally begotten and the property of being functionally subordinate in all time segments in all possible worlds. Having critically examined these recent philosophical responses to McCall we see that McCall’s argument still holds up against its objectors.

The full-text of this paper is available for FREE by clicking here.

6th Annual California Metaphysics Conference: Philosophy of Religion & Metaphysics

The University of Southern California will be hosting the 6th annual California Metaphysics Conference, January 20th-22nd, 2017.  This year’s topic is Philosophy of Religion and Metaphysics!

Speakers:

Attendance is open (and free) to all who would like to come, but you must register by emailing kleinsch [at] usc [dot] edu no later than December 15th, 2016.  Please include your full name and university affiliation in the email.  You will not receive a confirmation email, but your name should appear on the list of participants within 30 days.  Also, let Professor Kleinschmit know if you are a graduate student from outside CA and you are interested in being an assistant organizer!

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Note: This conference lineup looks so good that I can get set aside the UCLA vs. USC for a weekend. I guess….

Reformed Views on Predetermined Human Action

I recently came across a quote by Richard Muller (“Grace, Election and Contingent Choice” in The Grace of God, the Bondage of the Will) in which he disagrees with a commonly held misconception about Reformed views on Freedom. There he says:

It was never the Reformed view that the moral acts of human beings are predetermined, any more than it was ever the Reformed view that the fall of Adam was willed by God to the exclusion of Adam’s free choice of sin. The divine ordination of all things is not only consistent with human freedom; it makes human freedom possible. (270)

I’m looking forward to reading more on this in his upcoming book on the Divine Will and Human Choice, which should be out early in 2017.

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How I Got into Analytic Theology (The Long Version)

A while ago I posted a link about how I got into Analytic Theology. That was a shortened version of my story (due to word count limits). Here is the original “long” version.

When I first set foot onto UCLA’s campus, with its Romanesque Revival style architecture and green rolling hills, I was in awe. I knew that at the end of my four years studying physiological science I would be going to medical school (hopefully at UCLA) so that one day I could be a medical missionary. From a young age God had impressed upon my heart a desire to serve and reach those who had yet to hear the message of the gospel. I remember having dreams about being a missionary in places that had not yet heard the good news. The missio Dei was on my heart, so becoming a medical missionary seemed like a really good way to take part in God’s mission. My plan was set, I was going to be a medical doctor. I thought it was a great plan, but I forgot one thing: “The heart of man plans his ways, but the Lord establishes his steps.” (Prov. 16:9, ESV)  I planned on going to medical school, but I quickly found that a weakness that was easy for me to cover up in High School would derail my plans: I was terrible at math. It may have been that the way my brain is wired just isn’t conducive for doing math (at least that’s what I tell myself). Calculus and organic chemistry wrecked me, I got grades in those classes that I had never seen in my entire life. At that point my academic advisor counseled me to try some other classes out. So I looked through which general education courses I could take to fulfill my graduation requirements and stumbled into a Philosophy of Mind class. I was hooked! It was such a change of pace from my math and chemistry courses. The next quarter I decided to take a Medieval Philosophy class, my 19 year old mind was blown. There I was at UCLA, studying Augustine, Aquinas, Anselm, and Abelard. I was doing philosophical theology at UCLA! At that point I decided, I want to be a philosopher. So with the encouragement of some of my pastors (even though some Christians I knew kept throwing Colossians 2:8 in my face), I changed majors. I spent the rest of my time at UCLA focused on philosophy. In my courses we were assigned Geach and van  Inwagen on the Trinity, Craig on Universals, and Plantinga on possible worlds. In other courses we discussed the ontological argument, the implications of the beatific vision for epistemology, how Berkeley’s idealism affected Christology, and how Anselm’s “On the Fall of Satan” sheds light on free will and moral responsibility. At the time I had no idea that what I was doing was actually Analytic Theology, but that is certainly what I was doing.

Before I graduated from UCLA in 2010 I had to make some decisions as to what I would do next with my life. I really enjoyed doing philosophy, but still had the burden of the missio Dei on my heart. So I figured I should do philosophy of religion, that way I could be on mission at a secular university. But I knew that in order to do that well I would have to know theology well. So I decided to go to Fuller Seminary. I applied to their School of Theology, but just a few months before classes began I once again felt the burden of my missionary call, so I switched over to the Intercultural Studies program. Eventually I switched back into theology, and took my first systematic theology class with Oliver Crisp. What I remember most about that class was how much my philosophical training at UCLA fed into our theological discussions. It was almost as though all that I learned while doing analytic philosophy served as a resource to draw from when doing theology. Analytic theology was being used as a tool for doing theology. This was radically different from my previous encounters with systematic theology, which seemed to have a concordance or proof-text like nature to its approach.

Despite stumbling onto a way of doing theology that aligned itself with my love of philosophy, I still had the burden of the mission dei in the back of my mind. Thankfully, during my years of doing college ministry while in seminary my calling got sharpened. I discovered what my role is in the mission of God. My calling is to equip the church for the sake of mission.

Towards the end of my MA at Fuller I was finally able to put all of the pieces of my journey together: I had a burden for mission, I loved analytic philosophy, and I felt a call to equip the church. All these pieces,  fit so well into Fuller’s Analytic Theology for Theological Formation Project.

The project hypothesizes that Analytic Theology provides a rigorous intellectual framework for the training and formation of church leaders…. It brings together theologians and scholars with pastors and church leaders to explore the ways in which theology, and Analytic Theology specifically, may be of service to the life of the church.”[1]

Through the AT project, I am learning how to best put my training in analytic philosophy to use for the sake of doing theology that will help to equip the church for its God given mission.

That’s a little bit about how I got I got into AT – it all started with a desire to serve God’s mission, winded its way through a bunch of classes in analytic philosophy, and culminated in me starting my PhD as a part of Fuller’s AT Project. However, a better question than “How did You get into AT?” is “Why did you get into AT?” The answer to that question is a lot shorter. It is because Analytic Theology is the best way for me to do my part to contribute to God’s plan of making himself and the gospel known throughout the world.

[1] http://analytictheologyfuller.org/about/