I have asked two Energion authors for an extended response to our recent release, Philosophy for Believers by Edward W. H. Vick. These responses will be posted once each month for the next 13 months, covering all thirteen chapters of the book.
There are two purposes for these responses. The first is to discuss and respond to the approach taken in the book. But the second is more important. It is to see how to people who are in the trenches, so to speak, apply this material in their work.
Dr. Bob LaRochelle is a pastor, educator and an author. His Energion titles are Crossing the Street, So Much Older Then …, and the forthcoming What Protestants Need to Know about Roman Catholics. Early next year, there will be a companion volume to the last book, What Roman Catholics Need to Know about Protestants.
Each response will be published as a separate post using the category Philosophy for Believers. They will be posted near the end of each month.
Feel free to comment on these topics. We’d love discussion. If you blog about the topic at or around the same time, we will be happy to post a link here to your post. Join the discussion in whatever way works best for you.
- The first sentence is: We all have many and varied beliefs. Dr. Vick builds the book around this point, saying there is a difference in the meaning of various types of beliefs and how they are justified, but they are nonetheless “beliefs.” Many skeptics, on the other hand, would maintain that there is a much greater distinction between belief in a scientific and a religious context. Since this is a fundamental idea for the entire book, how do you respond to this? Do you find Vick’s approach to this topic viable? Helpful? (Elgin Husbheck’s Response, Bob LaRochelle’s Response)
- The crucial question for a Christian in the second chapter is the relationship between testimony, belief, and knowledge. How important is historical testimony to your beliefs as a Christian? What about contemporary testimony, for example, claims of a miracle? (I note here that I can no longer see this as a liberal vs. conservative issue with liberal author Bruce Epperly maintaining that Jesus did, in fact, heal [Healing Marks, Energion, 2013], and also that God can and does act in the world. So I’m not asking “Do you believe in miracle stories in the Bible?” but rather “How does the testimony of others relate to your belief, whatever that belief is?”) (Bob LaRochelle’s Response, Elgin Hushbeck’s Response)
- There are a number of crucial issues in this chapter, but I think the best place to respond is on the issue of “proof” and “belief,” question #19 in the book exercises. “Fred believes that he can prove the existence of God. He believes that to believe in God you have to be able to prove that God exists. Frederica believes neither of these. What is the issue between them?” (Bob LaRochelle’s Response, Elgin Hushbeck’s Response)
- I’m taking question #4 from the exercises: “What is a ‘world-view’? Do you have a world-view? Is there a common modern world-view about the cosmos?” Then I would add, “How important is “world-view” to the way we respond to new information?
- Again, from the exercises, this time question #6: “Should we distinguish between different kinds of explanation, for example: common sense explanation, ad hoc explanation, scientific explanation, historical explanation? Do these or some of them have anything in common? Do different subject matters require different kinds of explanation?” I would be most interested in looking at the difference (if any) between explanation of a religious claim, a historical claim based (potentially) on the supernatural, and scientific claims.
- This time building from question 3, though you may want to include 4: “Does religious experience provide us with a reason for believing in God? Specify an argument from religious experience to the existence and activity of God.” The handling of religious experience is key to Dr. Vick’s thinking, not only in this book, but in others, such as his From Inspiration to Understanding: Reading the Bible Seriously and Faithfully (Energion, 2012). If you have not, and would like to read that, I’ll be happy to send a copy.
- I’m going to use question #1 from the exercises: “Relate the doctrine of God’s providence to the conviction of the uniformity of nature, and the consistency of natural law.” I use this because it is one I hear rather frequently, and there are a number of different explanations.
- I don’t have a specific question to raise, but rather a section, #8, pp. 167-168 on open theism. Relate open theism, process theology, and more traditional understandings of God’s foreknowledge. This might get too broad, but if you try to stick to understanding providence in connection with the apparent uniformity of nature (if that is correct), it should narrow things down a bit. You probably should avoid getting into the Calvinist vs. Arminian debate, though perhaps you can’t!
- I’m taking the question from the chapter summary: “But is it possible to tell ourselves a lie and then believe the lie we tell ourselves? Is such irrationality a feature of human life?”
- From the chapter summary: “An explanation of how to account for mental activity cannot speak only in biological terms of brain activity. We may not neglect the fact that our experiences have a particular quality of ‘feeling’.” Does Dr. Vick successfully take us to the conclusion that the mind is more than biological function?
- Does the concept of “identity” matter to you in your understanding of the afterlife, resurrection, or similar concepts?
- I’d almost like to make up another question, but the one asked in the chapter summary is too classic to ignore: “How does the occurrence of miracles relate to well established natural or scientific laws?”
- State your basic understanding of how faith and science relate, if they do. Can there be conflict if both are done properly? How should it be resolved.