When the Idols are Destroyed

Holy God,

We come to you bearing many things.
Some are burdens, but others are idols:

The idol of superiority,

The idol of certainty,

The idol of believing that
we are the gatekeepers to your kingdom,

The idol of making the gospel
an object of mere belief,
and not a way of life.

But when the burdens are lifted,
and the idols are destroyed,
What remains is truly precious:

Women and men in community,
Gifted people of all ages
working together so that
your kingdom may come,
and your will be done
even here, even now.

Amen

Study Guide for Exam 2

Here are some topics to study for the second exam in Introduction to Philosophy, Fall 2017. Students are responsible for knowing everything covered in lectures and readings, but the items on the following list will make up the bulk of the exam.

Material will be added to the list as it is discussed in class.

  1. Philosophical behaviorism
  2. The identity theory
  3. The multiple realizability thesis
  4. Functionalism
  5. Objections to functionalism (missing qualia and inverted spectrum)
  6. Computationalism
  7. Turing test
  8. The Chinese Room argument
  9. Problems for materialism
  10. Locke’s theory of personal identity
  11. Objections to Locke from Reid and Butler
  12. Problem with duplication and brain transplants
  13. Epicurean hedonism
  14. Act utilitarianism
  15. The utilitarian calculus
  16. Strengths of act utilitarianism
  17. Weaknesses of act utilitarianism
  18. Preference utilitarianism
  19. Ways of measuring preferences
  20. Rule utilitarianism
  21. General objections to utilitarianism
  22. Hume on morality
  23. Hypothetical vs. categorical imperatives
  24. Two formulations of the categorical imperative
  25. Perfect and imperfect duties
  26. Objections to deontology
  27. Aristotle’s analysis of the soul
  28. The ultimate good
  29. Four options for happiness
  30. The function argument
  31. Aristotle’s analysis of virtue
  32. Four types of moral personality
  33. Key concepts in virtue theory
    1. Imprecision
    2. Importance of experience
    3. Freedom
    4. Friendship
    5. Practical wisdom
    6. Virtue
    7. Eudaimonia
    8. Teleology
  34. Objections to virtue theory
  35. Nietzsche
    1. Meaning of “God is dead”
    2. Master and slave morality
    3. Ressentiment
    4. Will to Power
    5. Overman
  36. Argument for cultural relativism
  37. Consequences of relativism
  38. Punishment
    1. Utilitarian justifications
    2. Deontological justifications
    3. Virtue justifications
  39. Euthanasia
    1. Doctrine of Double Effect
    2. Involuntary, non-voluntary, voluntary
    3. Active and passive
  40. Abortion
    1. General attitudes of utilitarians, deontologists, and virtue ethicests

The Burden of Freedom

Hearing the sermon on Sunday, then reading Abraham Joshua Heschel on Monday and Flannery O’Connor on Tuesday – they all seemed to be speaking the same thing to me. This week’s prayer:

Lord,

I feel the weight of my choices,
bearing down upon my conscience,
each one a testimony to the truth
that those who do evil
have their greatest allies
in those who do nothing.

The burden of freedom is this,
though only some are guilty,
we are all surely responsible.

We ask not that this burden
be taken from us, but instead,
that we bear it with more
than the empty thoughts and prayers
of those who just pass by,
but with the grace and love
of the Samaritan
that leads to action.

Amen

Do Not Be Daunted

I bought an entire book for these two paragraphs, but they are worth much more than I paid:

“Rabbi Tarfon would say:

You are not obligated to complete the work,
but neither are you free to abandon it.

Do not be daunted
by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now,
Love mercy, now.
Walk humbly, now.”1


  1. Rabbi Rami M. Shapiro, Wisdom of the Jewish Sages: A Modern Reading of Pirke Avot, p. 41. [return]

In Offense, Giving Thanks

Holy God,

Thank you
for the one
who offends me,
for in offense
my heart is laid bare
and my idols are revealed.

My anger declares
the object of my worship.

Is it myself,
the empire,
or you?

Lord, have mercy.

On Passing Judgment

One of last week’s lectionary texts was Romans 14:1-12.

Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. (Rom. 14:10, NRSV)

God of Grace,

In belittling others,
I am made small.

By doubting their faith,
I cheapen my own.

In my haste to judge,
I am the one condemned.

The day will come,
when my time on earth
is finally weighed.

If I am found wanting,
let it be for my
failure to judge,
and not for my
failure to love.

Amen

Be the Body of Christ

We are the Body of Christ.

He cannot go where
we refuse to tread,
speak what we
refuse to say,
or share what
we refuse to give.

May we be the
instruments of
his love and grace.

Amen

A Prayer for My Failing Faith

God of Hope,

I claim to be person of faith,
yet live as a person of fear.

I build walls,
because I fear the stranger;

Hold on to the present,
because I fear the future.

And make my own plans,
because I do not trust yours.

What a fool to think
that what I do out of fear
could ever be better than
what you do out of love.

Thanks be to God,
there is no wall that cannot be torn down,
no stranger that cannot be a friend,
and no future that cannot be redeemed.

Amen

A New School Year

As this year’s chairperson of the Faculty Council, I am privileged to open our first employee meeting with a reading from Scripture and a prayer. This year, our academic year begins one week after the horrific display of racism and violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. That event prompted my reflection on the following text.

Colossians 3:1-15

So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.

Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient. These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life. But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!

As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.

Prayer

God of hope and Lord of life,

Thank you for this time
to gather together
as friends and colleagues
to kindle the excitement
and hope of a new beginning.

We give thanks and pray for our students,
for they come here with hopes and dreams,
and believe that this is the place where
those hopes and dreams can become reality.

May they never leave thinking
that their dreams were too big,
but instead go from here
with a new vision of their role
in the redemptive story
that is far greater than
even they had ever dared to dream.

We pray for ourselves,
that you would protect us from the temptations
to answer too quickly,
to respond with cynicism,
and to serve the spirit that crushes hope,
instead of our God who makes all things possible.

We pray for our nation,
still reeling in shock
from what we have seen this week.

The temptation is to despair,
asking who are we,
and what can we do
when anger, wrath, and malice
appear to win the day?

But we are those who have been raised with Christ,
and of all people we should have hope,
for we have been to the cross,
and we have seen what love can do.

May our lives bear witness to that love
and to the resurrection power
that the darkness, as hard as it may try,
can never overcome.

In the name
of the Father,
and of the Son,
and of the Holy Spirit.

Three persons,nOne God,
forever and ever.

Amen

Prayer for Graceful Words

Holy God,

In my haste to be heard,
give me the strength
to slow down,
think carefully,
and measure
my words.

Some words are poisonous fruit,
and others are seeds of grace.

Help me to sow
according to your will.

Amen