Apologetics: December 2003 Archives

Last Wednesday, I posted a link to a fascinating discussion of how many ancestors the average American of European descent would have had in the Middle Ages. The answer was all of them who have living descendants today. Those who missed it should read it. It's fun.

What I've been thinking about it what this means for the common claim that Matthew and Luke's genealogies of Jesus are contradictory. I guess the assumption of that claim is that there's only one genealogical path between and two people who have the ancestor/descendant relation. Given the common Hebrew practice of including certain ancestors in a list and not others, sometimes for theological purposes (e.g. 14 generations as a multiple of 7, the desire to show legitimate kingship, or emphasis on Gentiles and sinners in the ancestry), these two facts alone could explain why there could be two genealogies that are so different. The common responses by evangelicals to this issue deal with some specific issues (e.g. Levirate marriage with a biological father and a legal father), but I've always thought that they missed this obvious general point.

It's always struck me as strange that Matthew, who spends so much time explaining old covenant fulfillment in Jesus as Messiah, would make up a genealogy, or anything for that matter. Similar, it would be a little odd that Luke, who made such a great effort to investigate matters (Luke 1:1-4), would have made it up. If the traditional authorship is right, Luke would have had access to Jesus' brother Judas and could have checked on some of it, and Matthew would have known Mary even. I'm aware that many modern scholars reject the only reliable witness we have to who put these gospels together, so they dodge this point, but that's just poor historical method.

Shameless plug

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Those interested in Christian apologetics and theology can check out my sites on those topics:

http://web.syr.edu/~jrpierce/apologetics.htm
http://web.syr.edu/~jrpierce/theology.htm

There's probably enough there to offend almost anyone.

Having taught this semester on feminist ethical theory for the first time, I've been thinking about the various kinds and motivations for feminisms. My recent venture into Ken Wilber's world of color-terms for waves of value change over time has given me some categories for thinking about these (see my Dec 5 posting on Wilber for more on the color terms).

Pre-Gilligan feminisms were generally motivated by orange concerns. Orange involves such Enlightenment ideas as equality, progress, and achievement. This led to treating men and women as if there's no real difference, expecting women to do everything men do and encouraging women to break out of traditional roles. Ifeminism is a good example of the only really consistent feminism based on pure orange principles. It insists on equality for women but not to the point of being unfair to men (and thus, interestingly, opposes affirmative action for women). If you're going to stick with pure orange motivations, the ifeminists (who also call themselves libertarian feminists) are the way to go. I've found many worthwhile commentaries and insightful perceptions coming from this crowd.

Finally, green allows real sensitivity to women's values, lives, ways of developing knowledge, ways of arriving at moral choices, etc. Green is the multicultural, pluralistic value of seeking and accepting the other. This allowed people like Carol Gilligan to say that women don't need to be forced into male molds but should be allowed to be women.

What interests me most about the green motivation is that it allows back in some traditional (i.e. blue) views about gender roles but from a green motivation, which according to Wilber is two colors more mature than blue. Unfortunately, it also allows some really dangerous attitudes when combined with red (egocentric and power-motivated values). When the red values lead to a reaction against those who wrongly or ignorantly mistreat women, anger results and fuels a reaction against such people. The green values led to the original perception, but the red fuels the reaction, and men or some group in power is seen as the enemy. This actually leads to abandoning the general green outlook, since now we have a group that isn't welcomed into the pluralistic, multicultural, just-try-to-understand-people community of love. So we don't want let the red hate full us away from the originally good insight from green, even if the initial anger of the red element is justified.

Christian philosopher Michael Rea has posted a very interesting exchange with Daniel Dennett on the issue of naturalism. Dennett is known, among other things, for his book Darwin's Dangerous Idea, a discussion of the philosophical implications of evolutionary theory.

Dennett recently published an op-ed piece in the New York Times. Apparently the point of the piece is to come out of the closet as an atheist (or, to use his preferred and highly pretentious, dialectically loaded, term, a bright) and to ask for more respect for atheists. Yes, atheists are now playing the victimology card.

John McWhorter spends his first chapter of Losing the Race, argues that the black community in the United States (and pretty much nowhere else) seems to emphasize victimhood merely for the sake of saying it to feel better. There's no attempt to make things any better. A number of other groups in American society have done this sort of thing, with political correctness as the most obvious result. Christians have certainly joined the bandwagon, as evidenced by David Limbaugh's new book. (Incidentally, I think what Limbaugh is pointing out is true. Christians are often belittled by the intellectual elite. However, I think it's ridiculous to emphasize this as persecution in the face of what Christians in Saudi Arabia or China have to deal with or what most seriously Bible-following Christians throughout history have had to deal with.) Another example is the "reverse racism" idea, which in some ways does get to a real issue about whether fairness is the standard and how it should be achieved. This issue is actually far more complicated than both the right and the left tend to make it seem. See my thoughts on this past summer's Supreme Court ruling and John McWhorter's argument that affirmative action's real problem is its racism against underrepresented minorities, not against whites and Asians. Still, white people actually complaining about (and even bringing lawsuits over) the unfairness they've experienced for being white is as bad as any other kind of victimology.

Well, now atheists are claiming victimhood. They just want a little respect. I think Rea makes it clear that Dennett isn't really looking for mutual respect. Most of what he says about Dennett is about right, as far as I can tell. Basically, Rea is blowing the whistle on a real presumption for atheism among professional philosophers, something Christians in philosophy have been able to see for a long time. It's actually gotten better in recent years, but Dennett exemplifies the attitude I've seen in many I know who want to portray evangelicals as "ignorant, stupid, insane, or wicked" (to quote Rea). It's interesting that someone who clearly does have this agenda (whose view on this issue happens to be considered orthodoxy among philosophers) would claim victimhood.

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