Friday, January 15, 2010

Natural theology presentation not a big hit.

My presentation was not a hit. I think that they didn't really care. That's actually one of the most disappoint aspects of teaching at the undergraduate level I've found. You can come up with exciting propositions and ideas, and most of them are just forced to be there and they don't care.

I did have two responses. First, one young woman wanted to know why Paul was so homophobic (I had them read Romans 1- I explained to her that Paul is not homophobic even if he thinks that homosexual practice is wrong. I then gave a long explanation of how ancient people thought about homosexuality and how it was invented as an idetity in the later 19th century).

The second young woman couldn't defeat my argument about the rationality of supernatural revelation, but said that it seemed too rational. She then said that she believed in Christianity because she has "faith" by which she means irrational belief that makes her feel good.

I think this shows that even the ones who have some Christian belief like the idea of the irrationality of faith because it gives them an out. In other words, if God gets a little too scary-like if he would start to judge me or something- then I can always have the power to put aside my irrational decision to believe in him, or more likely, irrational decide to believe in a God that I like better. A Christian theology with a robust natural theology and which claims that its claims of supernatural revelation are provable, does not allow that possibility. Therefore it's too frightening to contemplate.


  1. Aww- I'm sorry :(

    I thought it sounded like a cool presentation.

  2. Not a hit with undergrad students?! Shocking, just shocking. ;) It's really too bad though. I wish we could make them think!

  3. I'm not sure the irrationality claim is based on keeping an escape option open in case this falls apart, on the contrary, if your religious beliefs are irrational, and necessarily so, they are non-falsifiable.

    You admit of some paradox in your belief, yes? Well if you then go around claiming there are rational arguments for any of this stuff you're a dirty hypocrite.

    Imagine, going to a class to learn about faith!

  4. I agree with Michael. Many Christians have followed the "separate magesteria" idea of Steven Jay Gould, which is just a continuation of liberalism all the way back to Schleiermacher, at least. The idea is that faith had better not be rational or someone might come back with a rational argument (these days, scientific) to prove me wrong. And then where'd I be?

    Oh, and by the way, your experience with teaching theology to undergrads is hardly limitted to theology. I taught math (calculus, linear algebra, etc.) and they were similarly unimpressed.

    Rev. Dr. (in math) George

  5. My wife is a full-time history prof at Aquinas as well and has had similar experiences. Faculty parties in both the theology department at Marquette, Boston College (where my wife taught as an adjunct for a while) and Aquinas seem to lead to the same stories.