Saturday, August 13, 2005

The Conference at Cambridge

I had a good time at Cambridge with my paper presentation, which I came out fairly nicely; I didn't get into a whole lot of complicated issues except when I was asked six questions by one questioner. (He's going to e-mail me). I got to see the English countryside and people punting on the Cam, though I didn't see anyone reciting lines from Monty Python's Life of Brian while punting, something my advisor Hugh Chandler got to see when he was in England. ("We're all individuals. I'm not. I'm not either.")

I met Jerry Walls, co-author of both a book on Lewis and Schaeffer and Why I Am Not a Calvinist. He seems happiest when ripping into Calvinists for their inconsistencies. I am in sympathy with him for this as veteran readers of this blog must be aware.

I also heard a presentation by Gary Habermas on the psychology of doubt and faith, making connections between Lewis's A Grief Observed and Rational Emotive Therapy, cataloguing different types of Christian doubt. Very interesting.

David Baggett gave a paper criticizing John Beversluis's C. S. Lewis and the Search for Rational Religion for claiming that after Joy's death Lewis was dealing with a rational rather than an emotional objection to his faith. Beversluis claims that Lewis was dealing with a logical objection to his faith and that his response moved him from a prior belief in Platonism, the view that the goodness of God is commensurable to what humans call goodness, to a view he calls Ockhamism, according to which goodness applied to God and goodness applied to humans is incommensurable. Baggett argued that we have every reason to believe what Lewis says when he says that the crisis precipitated by Joy's death was caused by his emotions and not by any new rational grounds for unbelief.

This was familiar ground to me, since both Thomas Talbott in C. S. Lewis and the Problem of Evil (Christian Scholar's Revew, 1987) and James Petrik (International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, 1994) had argued against a Beversluis claim that Lewis had compromised his Platonism in The Problem of Pain. Talbott wrote the enbtry on A Grief Observed in Schultz and West ed. The C. S. Lewis Readers Encyclopedia (Zondervan, 1998) in which he doesn't mention Beversluis but does mention the consistency between Lewis's thoughts in A Grief Observed and in The Problem of Pain. Richard Purtill wrote a response to Beversluis on A Grief Observed that appeared in a volume entitled A Christian for All Christians in 1990, and Beversluis did respond to that in the Lamp-Post some time shortly thereafter.

I saw a presentation by the new head of the National Endowment for the Arts pointing out a loss of Catholic presence in the arts, in particular amongst novelists in particular, though he applied this to Christian presence in the arts as well. In the 1950s you had Catholic novelists like Evelyn Waugh and Flannery O'connor, and now this presence has pretty much dried up. I also saw two presentations on the relevance of philosophy for biblical hermeneutics by Anthony Thistleton of the University of Nottingham.

What I was not able to attend was a re-enactment of the Lewis-Anscombe debate which took place the previous Friday night at Oxford and included parts of the revised additions and subsequent comments by Anscombe.

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