JIS XII 2000
The Reality of Absolutes

JIS XII 2000: 1-19


Robert K. Garcia
Biola University

Postmodernism’s censure of  metanarratives expresses a moral claim and moral concern about those who have spawned injustice in the name of Truth.  Ironically, while this censure is an indictment against the historic failures of  the Christian church, it is also a corroboration of  Christian theology.  On postmodernism, a moral claim must be understood either instrumentally (emotivism or prescriptivism) or ideally (subjectivism or intersubjectivism), and neither is adequate.  Rather, the moral claim requires moral realism.  Moral realism, however, is best explained by theism.  While sharing many of postmodernism’s moral concerns, theism–especially Christian theism–can best enable and satisfy these concerns, whereas postmodernism can only frustrate them.  Thus, theism uniquely enables moral accountability, communication, and tolerance.  Moreover, Christian theism, in virtue of  the incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus, uniquely redeems moral concerns from futility and offers hope to those concerned for justice.

* David Morsey Award for Best Biblical Exegesis, 2000.

JIS XII 2000: 21-44


Pamela Werrbach Proietti
University of Memphis

John Paul II’s encyclical, Fides et Ratio, describes a profound and causal connection between the teaching of modern Western philosophy and contemporary spiritual dilemmas.  The Pope argues persuasively that modern philosophy has led modern man to a loss of  faith in the nobility of  human reason and the possible existence of meaningful human truths.  Modern political philosophers wanted to bring the divine law of revealed Scripture into service of  modern philosophic principles of  the autonomy of  human reason and freedom.  John Locke sought to reorganize family life in accordance with such modern principles.  Locke clearly modified Biblical teaching to allow for more liberty for the autonomous individual in his imagined liberal democratic society of  the future.  John Paul II is among those who urge Christians in the West to examine our present social disintegration in light of  the foundational ideas that have formed modern liberal societies.  We must understand how these ideas have contributed to our present social problems, and determine how to chart the best course for liberal democracy in the new Millennium.

* Oleg Zinam Award for Best Essay in JIS, 2000.

JIS XII 2000: 45-68


Bradley N. Seeman
Judson College

Drawing on C. S. Peirce’s notion of  an “unlimited community of investigators,” Jurgen Habermas seeks to construct binding moral norms apart from independently existing moral absolutes.  But Habermas fatally compromises the usefulness of  an unlimited community for his project.  Where Peirce relied on the notion of  a uniform “outward clash” with external reality or “secondness”  to lead all members of  his unlimited community of   investigators to a “predestinate” point of  convergence, Habermas lacks any notion of  an independent moral reality to bring about this convergence throughout his unlimited community of  constructors.  Apart from devising a substitute secondness to replace the clash with external moral reality, Habermas’ unlimited community will spin apart into countless divergent moral constructs.   Habermas’ attempts to devise a substitute secondness founder on a lifeworld dilemma he never resolves.  Habermas’ difficulties are instructive, suggesting a possible way forward.

JIS XII 2000: 69-84


Peter Schotten
Augustana College

Martin Heidegger, an influential twentieth-century philosopher, attempted to transcend previous metaphysical understandings.  Rejecting his Catholic heritage, his ontology sought to free itself  from any objective ethical standard.   Nonetheless, he was unable to reject ethical matters entirely.  Before Hitler’s rise to power, Heidegger championed authenticity as a quasi-ethical concept.   Later, he condemned technology as the source of  human suffering.   Neither led him to condemn the Holocaust explicitly.  Such a condemnation was warranted in light of Heidegger’s enthusiastic early support of National Socialism and his silence at its collapse.  Ultimately, Heidegger’s  silence reflected the unacceptably high price of  amoral thought intent upon celebrating only itself.   Heidegger’s conception of  the human being in a world where transcendental standards do not exist reveals the spirit of  postmodern man, rooted in nothing larger than himself.

JIS XII 2000: 85-108


Oskar Gruenwald
Institute for Interdisciplinary Research

This essay explores an interdisciplinary framework for the comparative study of genocide.  It traces the Other Holocaust of  communist genocide in the twentieth century, with an estimated 100 million victims.  Both the Nazi Holocaust and communist genocide raise major ethical dilemmas concerning individual and collective responsibility.  The central underlying dynamic common to the Nazi Holocaust, communist and other genocides is  the radical discounting of  human life and dignity, and denial of  the intrinstic worth of  each individual human being.   Hence the moral equivalency of evil.  Mass crimes against humanity run counter to the ethical precepts of all major religions, in particular the Judaeo-Christian tradition which considers man inviolable, created in the image of  God. T hose who would honor and remember the victims of  past genocides, whether Christians or Jews, believers or nonbelievers, need to rededicate their efforts to prevent such atrocities in the future by defending human rights and the persecuted in the present.

JIS XII 2000: 109-124


Jesse J. Thomas
San Diego State University

C. S. Lewis acknowledged Rudolf Otto’s influence in his use of  the term numinous to describe the uniqueness of  religious experience, the experience of   awe and with it the reality of  absolutes, in contrast to prevailing naturalistic, materialistic, and subjectivist interpretations of  morality and religion.  Otto hints at and Lewis develops in more detail the idea of  the numinous in human relationships.  In Lewis’ personal life, he does this in his relationship to his wife, Joy Davidman Lewis.  In his writings, he does this in Till We Have Faces and other works.  In each case, Lewis provides apt illustrations of how the numinous is at the heart of  what by almost any standards are meaningful and satisfying relationships.  Intense personal relationships become ideal environments for the experience of  the numinous, even in situations of  tragedy and loss.  This is a message that a postmodern, secularized world needs to hear.

JIS XII 2000: 125-142


John E. Stapleford
Eastern College

There are universal Christian ethics that should be applied in economics.   Christian ethics in economics stresses free will; the immense value, dignity, and unique talents of the individual; individual accountability for the use of resources, charity, and the exercise of  justice; the relevance of  the family and community; and a role for the state in the adjudication of  economic justice, the enforcement of  contracts, and the facilitation of  competition and minimization of  exploitation in product and resource markets.  Civil authorities are to be obeyed until they set themselves in opposition to divine law, while the individual is prior to the state and the social order.  Among economic systems, Christian ethics favors mixed democratic capitalism, rejecting non-democratic socialism and authoritarianism.  Strictly utilitarian, consequentialist, or contractarian approaches to economic policy are unacceptable, since they reject the other-regardedness of  God’s law.  While Christian ethics establishes certain clear economic objectives, final policy choices require a synthesis of  reasoning, research, and practical application.

JIS XII 2000: 143-158


Albert F. Spencer
University of Nevada-Las Vegas

This essay examines the complex nature of  sport today and considers how sport can transcend social, political, and economic divisiveness through a union with Judaeo-Christian ethical and spiritual values.  Although religion and sport both involve the synthesis of  the mind, body, and spirit, there are valid questions about the uses and abuses of  sport in society.  The central issues concern proper professional and sports conduct.  The significance of  competition and winning among athletes, coaches, and fans presents a challenge to the integration of  ethical principles between sport and religious faith.  Some sports practitioners are able to make this bond successfully, exemplified by the Christian witness of  individuals like Nile Kinnick, Eric Liddell, and John Wooden.  Relevant to any consideration of   the symbiotic relationship between religion and sport is the potential for sport, nurtured through the sacredness of  faith, to serve as a means for developing various aspects of  human virtue.

JIS XII 2000: 159-177


David A. Grandy
Brigham Young University

In Einstein’s theory of  relativity, the speed of  light is deemed an absolute value because it is indifferent to the motion of  material bodies.   Nothing we do can “take a bite” out of its measured velocity of 186,000 miles per second: it is an irreducible quantity.  Similarly, our minds cannot race ahead quickly enough to reduce or convert light to everyday understandings.  Indeed, modern physics portrays light as having an infinite aspect.  Leading to talk of   the spaceless, timeless character of  light, this aspect permits the suggestion that light resonates spiritual possibilities, and this resonance supports the traditional religious view that light is a symbol or expression of  divinity.   It also provides a basis for affirming absolutes in ethical life.  The relativist stance is thus countered on two fronts–scientific and sacred–with light shining through the veil or barrier that has historically divided the two.