About Steven Dunn

Steven Dunn is the author of "Hellenistic Christendom"; a blog with a primary focus on the philosophy of religion and other philosophical/theological subjects relevant to his interests (existentialism, metaphysics, philosophy of mind, etc.). He completed high school in May of 2013 and will be starting Community College in June of 2014 pursuing a degree in Philosophy. He currently resides in Tampa, FL.

The Legitimate Use of Kierkegaard in Apologetics

In a post earlier this year entitled The Legitimate Use of Aquinas in Apologetics (2014), I drew upon several essential aspects of Thomas Aquinas’ (1225-1274) thought that (I believe) are relevant for a context in apologetics. Furthermore, I do strongly believe that those essentials can be utilized by the Christian apologist to engage not only unbelievers, but also serve as an aid for Christians to be self-reflective with respect to their own faith-based journey. In this post, I wish to invoke a similar vocation with the legitimate use of Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) in apologetics. However, I do wish to be poignant, as well as careful, with what I intend to take from Kierkegaard.

Craig Bartholomew and Michael Goheen in their book, Christian Philosophy: A Systematic and Narrative Introduction (2013) make the observation that philosophy has a vital role for Christian missions. As they write:

Increasingly in the West today, Christians are in a minority amid an often hostile culture, and in this situation it is vital that we are able not only to live out our faith but also account for it. We should never underestimate the compelling power of a life lived in Christ and of a conversion narrative, but the credibility of our faith will still depend to an extent on our being able to provide a logical account of it.1

Furthermore, it is this attitude of Christian philosophy being a missional vocation which we may appropriately apply to Kierkegaard. To take an example, in his book The Point of View for My Work as An Author, you are really able to see this notion of “Governance,” where Kierkegaard believed that it was God’s purpose for his life that it should unfold in the ways that it did, that he should utilize the gifts of intellect and imagination that God has given him. As he writes: “To this, every hour of my day has been and is directed.”2

[Read more...]

To Find God: An Existential Argument for the Passionate

When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them. (Revelation 8:1-2)

Bergman-101

In Western literature and especially film, we encounter certain philosophical motifs that toy with man’s existential situation, as it were. From Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal to Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov, we as the audience are just enamored with these themes that address some of the most important questions in life: love, passion, truth, sin, meaning, God, despair, and many others. The utilization of these themes function as a sort of perverse art – shifting and constantly disrupting our everyday experience with the “usual,” pushing us to the heights of our existential vertigo.

French philosopher Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) in his Pensées presents us with the reality of death as an attention grabber:

One needs no great sublimity of soul to realize that in this life there is no true and solid satisfaction, that all our pleasures are mere vanity, that our afflictions are infinite, and finally that death which threatens us at every moment must in a few years infallibly face us with the inescapable and appalling alternative of being annihilated or wretched without eternity. Nothing could be more real or more dreadful than that. Let us put on a bold a face as we like: that is the end awaiting the world’s most illustrious life. [1]

[Read more...]

The Legitimate Use of Thomas Aquinas in Apologetics

Much has been said of the 13th-century philosopher, Thomas Aquinas, from both secular as well as religious critics alike. For instance, Bertrand Russell once wrote with respect to Aquinas that he “cannot. . . feel that [Aquinas] deserves to be put on a level with the best philosophers either of Greece or of modern times” [1]. This is due to Aquinas’ apparent prior commitment to the truth of the Catholic faith before he even begins to philosophize: “If he can find apparently rational arguments for some parts of the faith, so much the better; if he cannot, he need only fall back on revelation. The finding of arguments for a conclusion given in advance is not philosophy, but special pleading” [2].

Protestant philosopher Gordon H. Clark has suggested that Aquinas rejected the rationalism of Augustine and Anselm in substitute for Aristotelianism as the foundation of the Roman Catholic church [3]. Furthermore, that since Aquinas attributes all of our knowledge as being abstracted from our sensations, and hence, his arguments for the existence of God are hinged off of this level of empiricism, “Thomas. . . cannot pass from the first mover to the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost” [4].

Francis Schaeffer even suggests that “[t]hanks to Thomas Aquinas, the world and man’s place in the world was given more prominence than previously” [5]. In other words, Aquinas in his rejection of the depravity of mankind allowed for the possibility of perfection apart from God. Thus, Aquinas wrongfully used reason as “an absolute rather than a tool” [6]. These criticisms and others among Protestant evangelicals predominately (although some Catholic thinkers aren’t dismissed), I do not think are legitimate reasons for rejecting the valuable apologetic (among other aspects) found in Aquinas’ thought.

Here, I only wish to present a few aspects of Aquinas’ thought which I think are valuable for all Christians to consider – both Protestants and Catholics alike [7]. To begin our discussion:

[Read more...]

5 Arguments for the Existence of God

Why should one make an argument for the existence of God? Why, moreover, provide five of them? Is it that the evidence for God is so weak, that believers need multiple arguments, working together in their persuasive power, to change the minds of unbelievers? Questions of whether or not these arguments are useful, or if they can actually coerce religious belief has been an area of interesting debate between philosophers for some time now.

In philosopher Alvin Plantinga’s essay “Twenty Dozen (or so) Theistic Arguments” (1986), he firsts asks this question: “What are these arguments like, and what role do they play?” [1] Plantinga answers this question by saying that these arguments  are probabilistic either with respect to (1) the premises, (2) the connection of the premises with the conclusion, or (3) both. Furthermore, “[t]hey can serve to bolster and confirm. . . perhaps to convince” [2]. Of course, Plantinga is careful with what it means  for these arguments to be coercive. As he writes, “These arguments are not coercive in the sense that every person is obliged to accept their premises on the pain of irrationality. Maybe just that some or many sensible people do accept their premises (oneself)” [3]. And so, the discussion could go on.

However, I present five arguments here for the existence of God so that I might establish a cumulative case for his existence. This is because some arguments are more so about strong probability (i.e.,the argument from religious experience, argument from miracles, etc.) while others can have a demonstrative element to them (i.e., Aquinas’ Third Way). The combination of these given characteristics can (in my opinion) be very effective in a case for theism – particularly, that of Christian theism. These arguments are as follows: [Read more...]

How Should People Have Religious Conversations?

Have you ever tried talking to someone about religion? Have you shared your thoughts and opinions on man, where he’s going, and where he should be? or his relation to God, if He exists? The conversation can sometimes be frustrating and the atmosphere tends to be awkward once its all over. One prime example I remember was when I was discussing the meaning of life with someone I worked with and really only knew for a short time, but it was her reaction that was quite memorable. After I was done talking about death, human mortality and even suicide, it would be an under statement to say that I merely “ruined dinner.”

However, I want to aim the point of this post not so much on “seasoning our speech with salt,” (Col. 4:6) but with revealing some underlying points that are often, if not always missed in conversations regarding religious subjects. Contrary to my usual style, I want to present this in the form of a couple (but not minimal) bullet-pointed summarizing  statements that address the important elements in having a conversation about truth and/in religion.

[Read more...]