Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Is It Child Abuse to Raise Children in a Religious Tradition?

There's a claim made by some recent atheist critics of religion--including Richard Dawkins--that I haven't taken up on this blog. Specifically, some argue that it amounts to something like child abuse to raise children as “Catholics” or “Southern Baptists” or “Hindus,” to encourage them to think of themselves in these terms before they have reached a level of intellectual maturity necessary for reflecting critically on the content of the belief systems correlated with these labels.

It turns out that some time ago I started a post on this topic but then never finished it. Given how little time I have this month to devote to this blog, I thought this would be a good time to finish up that essay and post it here. So, here it is--a post on what we should make of the claim that raising one's child in a religious tradition amounts to child abuse.

The claim matters to me in a very obvious way. I have children. I'm raising them in a religious tradition. Am I thereby being abusive?

Monday, May 20, 2013

Eclectic Orthodoxy explains the "Reitan Maneuver"

I mentioned in connection with my recent interview with Randal Rauser that I would devote some space on this blog to a topic that wasn't explored in that interview: the relationship between universalism and free will. Unfortunately, I'm teaching an intensive three-week course right now and so have little time to fulfill this promise. Fortunately, Fr Aidan Kimel, on his blog Eclectic Orthodoxy, has recently posted a reflection on universalism that takes up this issue--including a concise and accessible overview of some of my main thoughts on the matter.

Specifically, he focuses on the line of argument that I first developed in my contribution to Universal Salvation? The Current Debate--an argument which John Kronen and I expand on and situate into a broader  line of argument in God's Final Victory. Kimel also considers Tom Talbott's thinking on the subject, locating his reflections within his own broadly (eclectically) Orthodox context. He sums up his reactions as follows:

I confess that I am reluctant to speak of a guarantee of universal salvation, as Reitan does; but Talbott’s and Reitan’s arguments should encourage us in a confident and robust hope for the salvation of every human being. God does not need to force anyone to repent of his sins and embrace heaven. Precisely because we are created for him, all he needs to do is to allow us to experience the hell that we think we want. Suffering, divine grace, and the prayers of the Church will do the rest.

The whole piece is nicely done and worth reading for anyone interested in the topic.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Universalism Interview on Randal Rauser's Blog

The prolific theologian, Randal Rauser, has been interviewing me on the topic of universalism on and off over the last couple of months. Mostly off--I'm sure he was starting to lose patience with me, since I answered his thoughtful questions in sporadic bursts (squeezed into the gaps left by other things).

In any event, the results of that interview are now posted on his blog under the heading, "When it comes to the question of universal salvation: An interview with Eric Reitan." We didn't get to the topic of free will and universalism--a topic of no small interest and importance. This is a topic that John and I address at length in God's Final Victory (devoting two substantive chapters to the issue). I've also explored it in various articles--most accessibly in my contribution to Universal Salvation? The Current Debate. And I've addressed it in various ways on this blog.

However, it does seems appropriate to take it up here in a more direct way over the next few weeks.Unfortunately I've just started teaching a three week intensive intercession course in ethics, which leaves me limited time to do other things. So I'll have to "squeeze it into the gaps" once again.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Once More: Storytelling Animals

This past weekend I had the pleasure of participating in the annual conference of the Oklahoma Writers' Federation, Inc. Our keynote speaker was the hugely talented Patrick Rothfuss--who, in addition to writing engrossingly brilliant fantasy novels, also founded Worldbuilders, a geek-powered charity that raises money for Heifer International (an organization I have a fair bit of fondness for myself).

During his keynote, in addition to showing off his enviable beard and reading his not-for-toddlers picture book The Adventures of the Princess and Mr. Whiffle, Rothfuss made the case that what distinguishes human beings most meaningfully from other animals may be our irresistible desire to tell stories--to see the world through the lens of storytelling, to make sense of it all in narrative forms.

Hence, I thought this might be a good occasion to revisit my own exploration of this idea--from a post last year. The entire post is reprinted below. What do people think? Is "storytelling animals" a better definition of humanity than the classic "rational animals"?