Gabriel Marcel on the Mystery of Evil

Here is a brief excerpt from my first bookEvil and the Evidence for God, published in 1993:

“Some philosophers have been rather adroit in their expression of this theme. For Gabriel Marcel, the only problem of evil is what is sometimes called the ‘existential’ mode of the problem. If Marcel is correct, this language intrudes a pseudodistinction and the so-called logical problem of evil becomes a pseudoproblem, or a mystery degraded to the level of a problem. To seek ‘the causes or the secret aims’ of experienced evil, the professed goal of any theodicy, is to view evil ‘from outside,’ where evil no longer ‘touches me’ and is therefore ‘no longer evil which is suffered.’ And evil that ceases to be suffered ‘ceases to be evil.’ So the only evil that exists is the evil that we encounter in our prereflective lived experience. Our ivory tower incursions into logical territory miss the heart of the matter.”

It has always seemed to me that Gabriel Marcel (1889-1973) was onto something. Today I would say it is a penetrating insight. The details can be found in his little book The Philosophy of Existentialism. But the themes intimated there are explored and developed throughout his essays and plays.

Today, October 8, is the anniversary of Marcel’s death. His work lives on and his influence continues, notably through the work of the Gabriel Marcel Society. I hope you’ll venture to explore the rich texture of Christian sensibility reflected in the pages of this French thinker of the 20th century.

“The American People”

“The American People” is an abstraction. It is a fiction. Yet pundits and politicians are always saying it. American pundits and politicians. When this began, I do not know. But to refer to fellow-citizens of the United States in this way is to fictionalize real people and to regard them as somehow separate from oneself. It’s silly. It’s shallow. It’s trite.

It’s unthinking.

And it’s often used with promiscuous presumption about what the American People think or feel, want or believe.

It’s also a totally useless generalization when it functions as a stand-in for what pundits and politicians think fellow Americans want (or what they want them to want).

I think the American People would agree. Don’t you?

A sea of self-motivated individuals or a web of interdependent talents? Both, of course.

Simon Greenleaf on the Rules of Evidence and the Christian Religion

Simon Greenleaf died on this date, October 6, in 1853. He was an American jurist who wrote an influential three-volume Treatise on the Law of Evidence.

Greenleaf believed that lawyers have a responsibility to evaluate the evidences of the Christian religion using the standards of evidence demanded in their professional lives. Accordingly, Greenleaf detailed the results of his own investigation in an 1846 work titled An Examination of the Testimony of the Four Evangelists, by the Rules of Evidence Administered in Courts of Justice. With an Account of the Trial of Jesus., he set forth the following basic principles for governing any responsible investigation:

In examining the evidences of the Christian religion, it is essential to the discovery of truth that we bring to the investigation a mind freed, as far as possible, from existing prejudice and open to conviction. There should be a readiness, on our part, to investigate with candor, to follow the truth wherever it may lead us, and to submit, without reserve or objection, to all the teachings of this religion, if it be found to be of divine origin. (p. 21)

Here, in brief, is the conclusion Greenleaf reached regarding the testimony of the gospel writers concerning the resurrection of Jesus:

The great truths which the apostles declared, were, that Christ had risen from the dead, and that only through repentance from sin, and faith in him, could men hope for salvation. This doctrine they asserted with one voice everywhere, not only under the greatest discouragements, but in the face of the most appalling terrors that can be presented to the mind of man. Their master had recently perished as a malefactor, by the sentence of a public tribunal. His religion sought to overthrow the religions of the whole world. The laws of every country were against the teachings of his disciples. The interests and passion of all the rulers and great men in the world were against them. The fashion of the world was against them. Propagating this new faith, even in the most inoffensive and peaceful manner, they could expect nothing but contempt, opposition, revilings, bitter persecutions, stripes, imprisonments, torments and cruel deaths. Yet this faith they zealously did propagate; and all these miseries they endured undismayed, nay, rejoicing. As one after another was put to a miserable death, the survivors only prosecuted their work with increased vigor and resolution. . . . They had every possible motive to review carefully the grounds of their faith, and the evidences of the great facts and truths which they asserted; and these motives were pressed upon their attention with the most melancholy and terrific frequency. It was therefore impossible that they could have persisted in affirming the truths they have narrated, had not Jesus actually risen from the dead, and had they not known this fact as certain as they knew any other fact. (p. 53; italics added)

Suppose it were possible that Jesus’ disciples could have persisted in their public claims concerning Jesus and his resurrection even if Jesus had not risen. What seems most unlikely is that they would have persisted in this if they did not believe with grave conviction that Jesus had indeed risen. And this fact of their belief surely demands some plausible explanation, given their readiness to endure such persecution.

Greenleaf’s book still makes for stimulating reading. Its arguments deserve the attention of sincere inquirers today.

An Examination of the Testimony of the Four Evangelists is in the public domain. It can be read online here.

Announcing New Book from Doug Geivett and Paul Moser—The Testimony of the Spirit

Paul Moser and I have teamed together to produce a new book published by Oxford University Press. The Testimony of the Spirit: New Essays is an edited volume of eleven chapters written by distinguished scholars in North America and the United KingdomScreen Shot 2016-10-05 at 1.52.48 PM.png. The book includes a detailed bibliography of all the most important work on the subject.

Publisher’s Description:

The theme of the testimony of the Spirit of God is found in various Biblical writings, but it has received inadequate attention in recent theology, Biblical studies, and the philosophy of religion. This book corrects that inadequacy from an interdisciplinary perspective, including theology, Biblical studies, philosophy of religion, ethics, psychology, aesthetics, and apologetics.

The book includes previously unpublished work on the topic of the testimony of the Spirit in connection with: its role in Biblical literature, an ontology of the Spirit, conscience and the voice of God, moral knowledge, religious diversity and spiritual testimony, psychology and neuroscience, community and language, art and beauty, desire and gender, apologetics, and the church and discernment.

The book includes a General Introduction that identifies some key theological and philosophical topics that bear on the topic of the testimony of the Spirit, and it concludes with a bibliography on the testimony of the Spirit. The book pursues its topics in a manner accessible to a wide range of readers from various disciplines, including college students, educated non-academics, and researchers.

The cover art features an oil on canvas titled “Pentecost,” painted by El Greco, ca. 1600 [see here]

• Pre-order from Amazon here.

Happy Birthday, Jonathan Edwards

Today is Jonathan Edwards’s birthday. He turns 313.

At age 19, Edwards drafted a list of 70 “Resolutions” by which he hoped to live the rest of his days. They were written over a period of several months, beginning in late 1722. His plan was to review the list each week and evaluate his progress. Resolution number six is a great one for birthday anniversaries.

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New Apostolic Reformation: Interview with Pirate Radio

My co-author, Holly Pivec, was interviewed recently on Pirate Christian Radio about the New Apostolic Reformation and the two books we’ve written. You can hear the broadcast,

Holly Pivec

Holly Pivec

hosted by Chris Rosebrough, here.  For the books, see A New Apostolic Reformation here and God’s Super-Apostles here.

Interest has been high, as illustrated by the number of listener comments and likes on their Facebook page here. We’ve also seen a significant uptick in “Best Sellers Rank” on Amazon.

Holly and I have written a Study Guide for God’s Super-Apostles that will be published as a convenient e-book for personal use and group discussion. Stay tuned for details.


Holly blogs about the New Apostolic Reformation here.

Doug and Holly Book Recommended on Stand to Reason

On his radio show “Stand to Reason,” Greg Koukl recently took a call from a 14-year-old young man from Washington state. David had just listened to an interview I did with Greg a year or so ago. He called in to talk about the New Apostolic Reformation. David wanted counsel about how to approach a friend who has been drawn to the movement through the work of Bethel Church in Redding, CA. They talk for ten minutes at the end of the show, beginning at minute 00:46. If you’re interested in the discussion, click here.NAR Book Cover-101 final (6-6-14)

In his conversation with David, Greg recommends the book I wrote with Holly Pivec, God’s Super-Apostles: Encountering the Worldwide Prophets and Apostles Movement. He encourages David to see if his friend will go through it with him.

You may know someone who has been lured into the network of contemporary prophets and apostles. Or you may have some other interest in learning more. Have a listen to the interview, then get the book God’s Super-Apostles. It gives you all the basic information you need to understand this movement and make a reasonable assessment of its claims. If you’re looking for something a little more in-depth, the book to get is A New Apostolic Reformation? A Biblical Response to a Worldwide Movement.

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