Embarrassing Christian Philosophers

There is an outside chance you have heard about the recent controversy surrounding a recent meeting of the Society of Christian Philosophers (SCP), Richard Swinburne, and some of his remarks regarding homosexuality. If you have not, here are several links to the story, commentary on the story, and a brief synopsis. (The Stream, Rightly Considered, Rod Dreher 1 & 2, The Georgetown Academy)

Richard Swinburne is one of the great living philosophers, recognized for decades now as a luminary in his fields of work, specifically philosophy of religion, but certainly not limited to that. Until his retirement in 2002 he was Oxford’s Nolloth Professor of the Philosophy of Christian Religion and his contribution to modern philosophy is vast. He is no pushover, and he is a member of the Orthodox church. He was invited to a recent SCP meeting at which he gave a talk on the rationality of the commands of God where he commented on the rationality of God’s commands concerning human sexuality specifically. In those comments he stated that homosexuality is a “disability” that should be “cured.”

Depending on your leanings, the next set of events may or may not surprise you. After Swinburne’s talk the president of the Midwest SCP, Michael Rae, himself a respected philosopher, apologized for Swinburne’s remarks about homosexuality. Rae’s apology was reiterated by other officers of the SCP, and then the firestorm erupted. You can track the vile, childish, and hateful things said about Swinburne on several sites that are tracking the event, but I recommend Rod Dreher’s blog posts on the topic.

As The Stream reports:

The official reaction to Swinburne’s remarks came quickly. In a Facebook post, SCP’s president Michael Rea expressed his “regret” for the “hurt” Swinburne’s remarks caused. Rea, who teaches philosophy at Notre Dame, insisted that the SCP does not hold Swinburne’s views and declared his commitment “the values of diversity and inclusion” as part of the SCP’s intellectual life. He concluded with an apparent rebuke to Swinburne: “As an organization, we have fallen short of those ideals before, and surely we will again.”

Swinburne took a positive stance on the orthodox Christian teaching on sexuality, and he was promptly denounced by the Society of Christian Philosophers.

My first reaction to Rea’s apology for Swinburne was shock. I simply did not expect the SCP to be so in-step with secular Progressivism on this issue. For reasons that can only include assumption on my part, I guessed that the SCP would take a more orthodox stance, or at the very least do what philosophers do best and allow a dissenter to make his case. My second reaction to Rea’s remarks was a different kind of shock – the kind of frustration I encounter upon reading yet another paper by a freshman in my philosophy or ethics classes who is a knee-jerk relativist and has no idea that what they assert destroys itself upon simple reflection.

If Rea wants to use “the values of diversity and inclusion” to brandish as a cudgel to criticize Swinburne then he is bound by sheer force of logic to hit himself over the head with it next. By definition you can’t appeal to such vague and undefined values as “diversity and inclusion” to exclude ideas you disagree with. That is literally a freshman error in logic, and a leading Christian philosopher brandishes it without apology to publicly shame another Christian philosopher. I find that pathetic – literally worthy of my pathos.

My next disappointment came with the realization that here we have a society of Christian philosophers (I have subscribed to their journal in the past to great reward) who have allowed themselves to be bullied into taking the easy intellectual road. They have allowed the rather powerful cultural force of secular Progressivism to tell them what they should believe about their own orthodoxy and their own Scriptures. I am constantly embarrassed by Christians who do this in public, but my level of surprise decreases with every instance.

And when I say bullied, I mean bullied. If you read the comments proffered by high-level philosophers in the English speaking world about Swinburne (many of whom teach at Protestant and Catholic institutions, one especially contemptible offender from Yale), you will feel the weight of public shaming. None of them have offered reasoned responses to Swinburne’s talk (they never do). Instead, they have cursed, blasphemed, and made some of the most vile remarks you can imagine people making about sexual behavior. They have shown themselves to be intellectual and moral infants, controlled by Political Correctness and hot under the collar with someone who dared to disagree with the morality Brown Shirts. I suggest you read this post at The Georgetown Academy to get a sense of the base level of discourse started by the leftist professors and the kind of double-standard it reveals in the academy (plenty of obscene language).

So, what now is the difference between the Society of Christian Philosophers and the Society of Secular Progressive Philosophers? As a pastor, a teacher of philosophy and ethics, and a follower of Jesus Christ I am looking for courage and wisdom from churches, Christians, and Christian institutions. I am growing less and less patient with self-proclaimed Christians who are in positions that allow them to engage with our changing culture with timeless truths in ways I can only imagine, but who lack the bravery to do so. I will not make it into the ranks of the SCP, but it is reasonable for me to hope that they will be identifiably Christian in their work. I really do pray that will be the case in the future.

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