The Weekly Roundup – 5.17.19

“To be clear, some religious people evaluate their subjective experience as a piece of the evidential pie without taking this strong of a stance – but I want to address those who attempt to build atop the ‘unshakable’ ground of religious experience.  The epistemology illustrated creates a host of problems.  If taken seriously, it is unfalsifiable – making this method of ‘knowing’ especially vulnerable to human fallibility.  These observations don’t “prove” that religious experience can’t work as a foundation, only that it seems best to be highly skeptical of such an endeavor given what we know about human nature and the fact of religious diversity.” – @AlchemistNon


  • In a recent edition of Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology, Marc Brettler and Amy-Jill Levine published a piece entitled “Isaiah’s Suffering Servant: Before and After Christianity.” As they point out, the figure of Isaiah 52:13-53:12 is “never called the ‘Messiah,’ let alone as divine” (160). And while they root this figure in the historical context of the exilic era, they do not think it is a reference to Israel collectively. They also discuss how the Suffering Servant was viewed in the Second Temple period and in early Christianity.
  • A few years ago biblical scholar and Seth Green impersonator Joel Baden gave a talk on how the biblical narratives are often more like Snow White than Harry Potter. Few of us see a rendition of Snow White which differs from the Disney classic and decry it as erroneous. Why? Because we recognize that the story exists in a state of flux and is malleable. Harry Potter, on the other hand, is far less changeable and hardcore fans can recognize in the movies where the producers have deviated from the canonical telling. Baden argues that we have elevated the biblical texts to a status akin to how many view the Harry Potter books when in reality the biblical stories are more like Snow White. Baden, with humor and insight, makes his case that the biblical stories are one of many and that we should embrace the tension of competing (and contradictory) narratives.
  • Back in April one of my favorite historians Paula Fredriksen gave a talk related to her 2018 book When Christians Were Jews: The First GenerationIn it, Fredriksen discusses the nature of early Christianity, especially as it relates to the fate of Jesus and his earliest followers. She highlights its apocalyptic elements, noting that apocalypticism was a kind of theodicy, giving God a second chance for all the horrors of the world. Also, at the end of the talk James Crossley offers a response to Fredriksen’s book and it all closes with Q&A.
  • @AlchemistNon wrote a piece last month on whether religious experience is a reliable indicator of the truth. Drawing from the work of philosopher J.L. Schellenberg, @AlchemistNon discusses the ways in which religious experience cannot serve as epistemic warrant for particular beliefs. In particular, he deals with Reformed epistemology which is inherently revelatory. Because it is unfalsifiable, Reformed epistemology is practically worthless as a foundation for forming true beliefs. I cannot help but agree.
  • What is the main theme of the book of Acts? Writing specifically to his fellow Christians, Phil Long argues that it is the final verses of the book: “He lived there two whole years at his own expense and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance” (Acts 28:30-31, NRSV). That is, the main theme is the boldness with which the good news was proclaimed by Paul and other Christians. Long writes, “What Luke is telling us in the last few verses of Acts is that we can have confidence in the outcome because God has already planned the key events of salvation history and he has already won the victory in the death and resurrection of Jesus.”

Featured image: Wikimedia Commons.

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