Sixteen Works of Creative Nonfiction


Here are sixteen works classified as “creative nonfiction” and called “superlatively entertaining and artful” by Michael Dirda, in loose chronological order: Read more of this post

Advertisements

Our Role in the Appointment of a Supreme Court Justice


A few days ago, President Obama announced his first nominee for Supreme Court Justice. Among the various tools the President has used to get his message out is his website, where a 4-minute video announcement is posted here. I encourage you to view this video. I also encourage you to think carefully about what the President says at each stage in his announcement.

We live in a democracy. We have the opportunity and the responsibility to pay attention to major developments occurring in the executive, congressional, and judicial branches of our federal government. We should not simply elect a new President and our congressional representatives, and then forget about it. We have a duty to unceasing vigilance. The survival of democracy depends upon it.

The appointment of a new justice to the United States Supreme Court involves all three branches of our government, starting with the executive branch and the President’s nomination of the person he or she believes is best suited to the role. Congress then deliberates and votes up or down on the President’s nomination. If the nominee is approved, he or she steps into the vaunted role of applying the United States Constitution to the most sensitive legal cases of the age. If Congress does not approve the nominee, then the whole process begins again, with the President’s selection of a new nominee.

Now is a good time to consider why so much circumspection is required—required by the Constitution. When drafting the Constitution, the founders of our nation recognized that the degree of authority vested in justices of the Supreme Court is, well, supreme. What they say goes. Each appointment is a life appointment. It ends only when an individual justice decides to retire or that justice dies—whichever comes first. It is not unusual for justices to sit on the highest court for several decades. Except in very rare cases, a justice’s tenure on the Supreme Court is years and years longer than the maximum eight years any person can serve consecutively as President of the United States.

In addition, the decisions made by our Supreme Court justices outlive the justices themselves and stand indefinitely. Reversing the effects of a Supreme Court decision is far more complicated than appointing justices to the Court. It is probably the most unlikely action our federal government can make.

Finally, decisions made by the Supreme Court are compelling for all 50 of the United States.

You may wonder what difference ordinary citizens can make in the process of appointing justices to the Supreme Court. Here are a few key opportunities:

  1. Our responsibility begins with the election of a President.
  2. We then are free to follow the nomination and confirmation process. This is mostly a matter of staying informed. This takes some skill, since media outlets themselves have political agendas.
  3. Being informed is not enough. We must be thoughtful about what we hear. We must consider how a nominee is being pitched to “we, the People.” This requires skills of another kind, the skills associated with critical thinking.
  4. We are represented by elected officials in Congress. Our representatives are sensitive to our expressed will to be heard. Citizens hold some power, then, in influencing the approval process.

The single most significant aspect of our duty as citizens is vigilance and critical thinking.

This post reveals nothing about my response to President Obama’s nomination. I may add posts about that later. Meanwhile, I’m especially interested in the way the nominee is being presented to “the public.” That’s us. Except that we aren’t “the public.” We are the People. And We the People must do our part.

To that end, I’ll be adding posts that encourage critical reflection on aspects of the media coverage. My first post about this can be found here. It begins at the beginning with the President’s announcement.

Geivett’s Book Recommendations:

Am I a Calvinist? Not Exactly


Recently I received this note from a friend on Facebook:

Dr. Geivett,

What is your view on Calvinism, election, and free will? Do you have any good resources you could recommend?

Since I am occasionally asked this question, I thought it might be helpful to others to post my reply here, together with Amazon links for the reading I recommend:

Hi . . . ,

I’m not a Calvinist. I’m a libertarian regarding human freedom, and I reconcile human freedom and divine sovereignty on the basis of the doctrine of divine middle knowledge. I can recommend several books on this:

(1) Luis de Molina, On Divine Foreknowledge

This is an early primary source for the doctrine of divine middle knowledge. Luis de Molina was the first to develop the doctrine systematically. This is Alfred J. Freddoso’s translation from the Latin text. Freddoso’s lengthy introduction to the volume is an excellent sympathetic introduction to the doctrine. This is the ideal place to begin your study of middle knowledge if you’re prepared to read a fairly sophisticated treatment of the topic.

(2) William Lane Craig, The Only Wise God

William Lane Craig is an evangelical Christian apologist and a leading proponent of the doctrine of divine middle knowledge. This book explains the doctrine, contrasts it with alternative views of the relation between divine sovereignty and human freedom (e.g., Calvinist views), and includes careful examination of the relevant texts of Scripture. If you read only one book on this topic, this is the book to study. The topic is complex, so any exposition of the doctrine and related issues will generally be written above the popular level. This is the most accessible detailed treatment of the topic (at a very reasonable price).

(3) Thomas P. Flint, Divine Providence: The Molinist Account

This is an exceptional treatment of the doctrine of divine middle knowledge by a prominent Catholic philosopher of religion. Exposition and defense of the doctrine is more developed here than in William Lane Craig’s book, so it’s a good place to go next if you plan further study of the topic.

(4) Dennis L. Okholm and Timothy R. Phillips, eds., View Views on Salvation in a Pluralistic World

For an application of the doctrine of divine middle knowledge to the question of the fate of the unevangelized, see the contributions in this book that I co-authored with Gary Phillips. Another source for this material is my chapter in the book Jesus Under Fire (see below).

(5) Michael J. Wilkins and JP Moreland, Jesus Under Fire

My concluding chapter to this volume presents the same material contained in my contribution to the book Four Views on Salvation in a Pluralistic World, on the fate of the unevangelized (see above).

%d bloggers like this: