Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Book Review - Allah: A Christian Response

You might remember that last year I wrote reviews of books by Nabeel Qureshi. The latter review of No God But One covered a crucial topic for Qureshi: Are Islam and Christianity really all that different?

A friend of mine suggested my next book be Miroslav Volf's Allah: A Christian Response. In fact, he actually bought the book for me; thanks again, friend. 

I think understanding this book starts with understanding the author. Volf's Wikipedia page carries a lot of noteworthy accomplishments and glowing references. Theologian, seminary professor, author, public intellectual, White House advisor . . . the man has a long and reputable résumé. There is a strong theme throughout his work, however, of interfaith engagement, the most relevant work being his crafting of the "Yale Response" to "A Common Word.

This book seems to have been an outgrowth of that work, though in this case, Volf's audience is fellow Christians, or at least that's what he claims in the book. The central question Volf seeks to answer in Allah is, "Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God?" Nabeel Qureshi answered the question in the negative. Volf, in the course of the book, says, "Yes, we do worship the same God." (If you're interested in hearing these two debate the matter, there's audio of just that.)

Volf spends a lot of time laying his groundwork, but his basic argument follows that of "A Common Word," arguing that Muslims and Christians worship the same God because of their common ground, a faith centered in the love of God and the love of neighbor. He spends a great deal of the book unpacking these ideas. 

I really struggled to finish this book. My first inclination while reading it was to call Volf a hack. That isn't fair or charitable, but it was born out of irritation, and a sense, as I worked my way through the chapters, that Volf was not dealing with the topic in an honest manner. I can't know the process by which Volf reached the conclusions he did; I can't unpack the people he's met or the books he's read. However, I can at least respond to the arguments he's made, and they are not convincing, as far as I'm concerned.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

On The Paris Climate Treaty Exit

I've written sparingly about global warming/climate change over the years. I'll be the first to tell you that most of the actual science that comes from the myriad concerned fields goes right over my head. I do take quite a bit of it with a grain of salt, not just because I suspect some people are playing fast and loose with the data, but also because on a social level it's become associated with a sort of eschatological environmentalism.

Nowhere was the latter bit more evident to me than following President Trump's announcement that the US would be leaving the Paris Climate Treaty.

It's hard to determine just how serious to take any of it anymore. I understand that Trump's election represents an existential crisis to many on the American left, but many declared that the US exit from this treaty means no less than the end of the world. Everything as we know it is lost! The world will burn! Our only chance at possibly saving a remnant is to vote Democrat!

Everything Donald Trump does is wrong, I get that. This panic over the Paris Treaty, though, the rending of garments, the gnashing of teeth . . . it's really not worth it. Let me explain.

Monday, May 08, 2017

On Origins and the Molecular Basis of Life

I've said on a number of posts, mostly about the possibility of life on other planets, that I don't particularly buy into the idea of a chemical origin of life. This often leads to some awkwardness in my professional life. I have advanced degrees in life sciences; how can I disregard actual science in favor of a purely religious point of view?

I don't reject a naturalistic explanation of the origin of life on purely religious grounds. Even in the absence of a motivating faith, the ideas regarding the chemical origin of life don't inspire confidence. Frankly, I find it requires more faith to believe that life arose out of a primordial soup than not, a conclusion in search of evidence to support it, and the evidence is wanting.

In all of the posts where I've mentioned this, I've said that I ought to explain why at some point. This is an attempt to do so, and like the theory itself, this explanation is complicated.