Charlie Hebdo, Blasphemy and Modern Civilization

Ross Douthat of The New York Times:

…the kind of blasphemy that Charlie Hebdo engaged in had deadly consequences, as everyone knew it could … and that kind of blasphemy is precisely the kind that needs to be defended, because it’s the kind that clearly serves a free society’s greater good. If a large enough group of someones is willing to kill you for saying something, then it’s something that almost certainly needs to be said, because otherwise the violent have veto power over liberal civilization, and when that scenario obtains it isn’t really a liberal civilization any more. Again, liberalism doesn’t depend on everyone offending everyone else all the time, and it’s okay to prefer a society where offense for its own sake is limited rather than pervasive. But when offenses are policed by murder, that’s when we need more of them, not less, because the murderers cannot be allowed for a single moment to think that their strategy can succeed.

Douthat concludes:

Must all deliberate offense-giving, in any context, be celebrated, honored, praised? I think not. But in the presence of the gun — or, as in the darker chapters of my own faith’s history, the rack or the stake — both liberalism and liberty require that it be welcomed and defended.

Read Ross Douthat’s “The Blasphemy We Need” here.

Now Available: Plantinga and Douthat Audio on Sin

Neal Plantinga and Ross Douthat’s talks about sin—Plantinga discussing sin’s essence and force, laced with many pop culture references, with Douthat discussing sin’s migration in the US—are now available in here.

The audio session is one hour, with both speakers evenly divided, followed by a 90 minute Q and A. While I commend them both, if you have time to listen to only one, listen to Plantinga’s (i.e. the first 35 minutes). Concise, lucid and sane, it’s a tour de force description and defense of sin—among the best I’ve ever heard.

If you don’t consider yourself a Christian, I think you’ll find Plantinga’s talk (given to journalists) refreshing yet challenging. Give it a listen.

Douthat’s talk is briefly discussed here, along with some photos of the event.

Transcripts of both talks will be available within a few weeks, and I’ll post them here.

          Update: Transcripts of Douthat and Plantinga’s talks on sin are now available here.

So Long, Sin. Hello “Ceasingly Cheerful Worship”

Sin. Lament. Confession.

According to Cornelius Plantinga Jr., senior research fellow at the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, these words and concepts are absent in many evangelical—even confessionally Reformed—churches in the United States.

So what’s the dominant tone and tenor of these churches?

Ceasingly cheerful worshiper? Yes. says Plantinga.

Ceasingly cheerful worshipers? Yes, says Plantinga. And it’s not good.

Ceasingly cheerful worship.”

Plantinga, along with The New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, spoke at the Ethics and Policy Public Center’s recent 2014 Faith Angle Forum on the topic “Whatever Became of Sin—2014 Edition.”

Read Plantinga’s perceptive comments and consequences of this shift here.

Also read Plantinga’s bracing book Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be:  A Breviary of Sin, or download a condensed article of his book in this free PDF.




Gay Marriage Victory Lap

Ross Douthat of The New York Times writes that the gay marriage debate in the US is essentially over.

He starkly concludes:

We are not really having an argument about same-sex marriage anymore, and on the evidence of Arizona, we’re not having a negotiation. Instead, all that’s left is the timing of the final victory — and for the defeated to find out what settlement the victors will impose.

Read Douthat’s article here.