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January 30, 2009
Ronald Aronson has a mission: to demonstrate that a life without religion can be coherent, moral, and committed. In the last few years, the "New Atheists"—Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, and Christopher Hitchens—have created a stir by criticizing religion and belief in God. Optimistic and stirring, Living Without God is less interested in attacking religion than in developing a positive philosophy for atheists, agnostics, secular humanists, skeptics, and freethinkers. Aronson moves beyond the discussion about what not to believe, proposing contemporary answers to Immanuel Kant's three great questions: What can I know? What ought I to do? What can I hope?
Hemant Mehta, known as the "Friendly Atheist" and the man who "sold his soul on e-Bay," is a well-known defender of the atheist stance who has written at least one best-selling book. Mehta recently persuaded Christian apologist Lee Strobel to answer some questions posed by his atheist friends. Strobel, in turn, asked his Christian theist friends to submit questions for atheists to answer. Seven of Strobel's friends complied. Whittenberger offers his answers to the questions posed by Strobel's Christian theist friends.
January 27, 2009
New in the Bookstore: Intolerance and the Gospel: Selected Texts from the New Testament (2006) by Gerd Lüdemann.
Tolerance or intolerance? Which of the two is promoted by the New Testament? And why? Contemporary Christians usually suppose that Christianity is quite congenial to the democratic ideals that are the basis of free, open Western societies. Among these ideals is freedom of religion, which encourages a broad tolerance for different belief systems. Nonetheless, a careful examination of core Christian beliefs and the history of Christianity reveal little tolerance for thinking or acting outside the orthodox Christian tradition.
January 15, 2009
Added to Chapter 5 the following remark in Note 4: "Incidentally, Holding's reference to temple prostitutes as a component of pagan religion has recently been refuted: there was never any such thing. See Stephanie Lynn Budin, The Myth of Sacred Prostitution in Antiquity (2008)." Deleted a reference to the same institution in Chapter 3.
January 9, 2009
New in the Kiosk: Review of Dinesh D'Souza's What's So Great about Christianity (2008) by Mark Alford
Dinesh D'Souza is a bestselling author and conservative Christian activist who has turned his talents to religious apologetics. In What's So Great about Christianity? D'Souza presents himself as the man to defend theism in general and Christianity in particular against the recent upsurge of atheist argumentation from authors such as Dawkins, Dennett, and Hitchens. D'Souza starts off with a healthy skepticism to all irrational claims, those made in the name of science as well as those made in the name of religion. The stage seems set for an exciting intellectual confrontation, with overblown atheists at last feeling the "horse kick of a vigorous traditional Christianity." The most positive thing one can say about this book, however, is that it beautifully illuminates how intelligent people can get trapped in incredible belief systems.
January 7, 2009
The closing statements in the Carrier-O'Connell debate, On Paul's Theory of Resurrection, have been posted.
Jake O'Connell's closing statement reiterates his position that the typical meaning of the word "ependyomai" supports a one-body theory of resurrection, and that absent contextual evidence to the contrary, we should presume that Paul had a one-body theory in mind when he used that term. Other terms and analogies used by Paul are also compatible with a one-body theory, and when Paul addressed the Corinthians, he underscored the resurrected body's superiority to the present body, not the continuity between one and the other. O'Connell goes on to defend the notion that there was indeed an empty tomb, and that "the silence of Acts" on the empty tomb is no reason to think otherwise. He concludes that there are a few instances in which Paul unambiguously affirms a one-body theory, while there are none in which he clearly affirms a two-body view.
Richard Carrier's closing statement, The Stronger Case Prevails, maintains that Paul believed that Jesus had left his corpse behind and risen in an entirely new body, and hence had no reason to affirm an empty tomb, which in turn explains why we find no evidence that Paul did affirm one. That Paul held a two-body view of resurrection is supported in much of the scholarship, and a two-body view is explicitly affirmed by Paul himself in a few places, while implied in several other places. Moreover, Paul sounds nothing like those who advocate a one-body theory, and nothing in the Gospels or Acts gives us any reason to think that Paul held a one-body view. None of O'Connell's statements have adequately rebutted these points, and none of his discussions of Paul's analogies or vocabulary entail continuity with one's earthly body, while Paul's analogies and vocabulary themselves tend to imply a one-body view. Although O'Connell has indeed presented the best case that can be made for his view, the preponderance of the evidence itself points toward Paul's advocacy of a two-body view of Jesus' (and our own ultimate) resurrection.
The four independent judges which both debaters initially agreed upon now have two weeks to review and assess who won the debate and by how much, and offer their takes on the most significant merits and errors of each side.
January 1, 2009
New in the Bookstore: Paperback Apocalypse: How the Christian Church Was Left Behind (2007) by Robert M. Price.
"Dr. Price threads his way expertly through both popular and scholarly media in order to explain the depth of the failure of biblical prophecy. With the scalpel of a trained biblical scholar, and the inside knowledge of a former fundamentalist preacher, Dr. Price is fully equipped to issue this relentless expos%eacute; of how the Left Behind series, among other Christian musings on the apocalypse, actually represent attempts to hide one of the greatest prophetic failures in history." - Hector Avalos, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, Iowa State University, Author of The End of Biblical Studies and Fighting Words