When Postmodern Pastors Do Philosophy

noargBishop Berkeley (d. 1753) once suggested that the surest way to refute atheism and defend religion was to deny the existence of matter. It stands to reason. The atheist holds that there is no God, and matter is all there is. Therefore, if there are no material objects, atheism couldn’t possibly be true. Exactly so. However, we’ve never met anyone who didn’t consider this idealistic cure far worse than the materialist disease. John Wilkinson, youth pastor and author of No Argument for God (IVP, 2011), seems to have taken a page directly from Berkeley’s playbook. Continue reading

In Support of Tom Oord and Academic Freedom

informal_colorThe Philosophy Department at Tyndale University College wants to officially lend its voice in support of Northwest Nazarene University professor, Dr. Tom Oord, who was recently informed that he was being laid-off. This is truly shocking given that he is not only a tenured faculty member at NNU, but he’s also widely respected by his students and has made significant contributions to the academic community.

A fuller account of what has happened at NNU can be found on the Support NNU website; here we want to simply present our reasons for feeling compelled to speak out in support of Dr. Oord. The reason given for this layoff was declining enrollment (Fact Sheet, no. 2), but given that the 2013-2014 academic year was described as their “best financial year ever” (Fact Sheet, no. 11) and within the previous 18 months “other attempts have been made to discipline or terminate Dr. Oord’s service to NNU” (Fact Sheet, no. 6), it seems unlikely the stated reason was the actual one.

Instead, it seems far more likely that the decision to layoff Dr. Oord stems from the discomfort some have with his belief in evolution. This connection has been made by the Idaho Press-Tribune, Insider Higher Ed, the Daily Beast, and even Christianity Today. What this boils down to, then, is an attack on the very thing that tenure is supposed to protect: academic freedom.

Although we have our doubts about evolution,1 we do affirm the principle of academic freedom and denounce NNU’s infringement upon it.

Any university that does not fully embrace academic freedom, even if the views in question are unpopular, has effectively given up on one of the central aims of the university. Academic freedom is vital to any university because it allows faculty the ability to pursue truth without fear of reprisal. Unfortunately, in this case, that is exactly what Dr. Oord appears to have received.

We encourage you to show your support for Dr. Oord by emailing Dennis Venema (Dennis.Venema@twu.ca) and requesting that your name be added to the petition he has started, or by joining the Support Tom Oord & NNU Facebook group.

Dr. Richard B. Davis, Professor of Philosophy
Dr. W. Paul Franks, Associate Professor of Philosophy

If you would like to ask a question or make a comment about this post, please consult our Comment Policy here.

  1. See, for example, Thomas Nagel’s Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False (Oxford, 2012).

Tyndale Apologetics 2015

photos“The Apostle Paul affirmed the existence of God to be evident to all people, so no one is without excuse. If this is true, then those who deny it are without excuse – definitely a hard pill to swallow for many of us. So how can we help others see the truth of the existence of God, and also learn to strengthen our faith in the process?

Enter Dr. Richard Davis and Dr. Paul Franks, philosophy professors at Tyndale. Both are down-to-earth, articulate, engaging and intelligent.”

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The Calvinism Files

calvin2Calvinism is a powerful force: historically, theologically, and even (in our own day) culturally. According to Time Magazine, it is “Evangelicalism’s latest success story.” Nevertheless, in this series of four posts, Rich Davis recommends caution. Calvinism is beset by deep and apparently intractable problems. It presents us with a picture of the world in which (1) God is the cause of sin, while human agents are absolved of evil; and (2) God’s (irresistible) grace is showered upon the elect alone, leaving us not only with a God who is seemingly unfair, but also a gospel that isn’t good news.

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Against a Postmodern Pentecostal Epistemology

tonguesIn this paper we explore the idea that pentecostalism is best supported by conjoining it to a postmodern, narrative epistemology in which everything is a text requiring interpretation. On this view, truth doesn’t consist in a set of uninterpreted facts that make the claims of Christianity true; rather, as James K. A. Smith says, truth emerges when there is a “fit” or proportionality between the Christian story and one’s affective and emotional life. We argue that pentecostals should reject this account of truth, since it leads to either a self-refuting story-relativism or the equally problematic fallacy of story-ism: favoring one’s own story over others without legitimate reason. In either case, we contend, the gospel itself is placed at risk.”

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On Jesus, Derrida, and Dawkins

derridaAbstract  In this paper we respond to three objections raised by Joshua Harris to our article, “Against a Postmodern Pentecostal Epistemology,” in which we express misgivings about the conjunction of Pentecostalism with James K. A. Smith’s postmodern, story-based epistemology. According to Harris, our critique: 1) problematically assumes a correspondence theory of truth, 2) invalidly concludes that “Derrida’s Axiom” conflicts with “Peter’s Axiom,” and 3) fails to consider an alternative account of the universality of Christian truth claims. We argue that Harris’s objections either demonstrate a deficient interpretation of the relevant biblical passage or are not directed at us at all. Continue reading

The Fitch Files

debateDoes apologetics help or hurt our witness? According to David Fitch, not only does evidence-based apologetics hurt the church, it ultimately collapses in the face of postmodernism. Apologetics is disingenuous, presumptuous, depends on an agenda-driven science, undermines a person’s conversion, and makes Christians defensive. In this series of four posts, Rich Davis shows how (at every point) Fitch’s case is built on biblically and philosophically unsound arguments.

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