NCRSA 2003:
UNC - Charlotte

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Session 1: Ethics and Existence (9:15-10:30)
The Use and Misuse of Transcendental Phenomena: Ethics and Existentialism, Dr. Joe Frank Jones, III (Barton College)

This essay attempts to answer the question whether transcendental phenomena are necessary to achieve an ethical perspective. An ethical perspective is an impartial, objective point of view that treats all conscious beings equally. Existentialists, physicalist and otherwise, for the most part, think not. Ralph Ellis offers an example of a good faith effort to describe the achievement of a principled ethical position based on finitude. His position is examined and found wanting. A minimalist suggestion is made that yet requires transcendental phenomena as opposed to transcendent.

Lev Shestov and Emmanuel Levinas: Reading Kierkegaard, Dr. James McLachlan (Western Carolina University)

In one of his earliest writings, a review of Leon Chestov's "Kierkegaard et la philosophie existentielle" in Revue des Etudes Juives 1, nos. 1-2 (1937, 139-141. Levinas concludes: "Shestov interprets the philosophy of Kierkegaard as a combat undergone by a soul abandoned to despair in a world ruled by reason and the ethical." He sees in Shestov's interpretation of a Kierkegaard who proclaims the supremacy of Jerusalem over Athens. This interpretation, he writes is made explicit in Shestov's book Athens and Jerusalem. Edith Wyschorod has maintained that what Levinas writes of Shestov's analysis of Kierkegaard might well be taken as a program for his own future work. In this paper I provide, for the first time, a translation of Levinas' revue of Shestov and a discussion of the elements of Shestov's thought that are similar to Levinas' work.

An examination of the "telos" within Nietzsche's concept of asceticism, Mr. Blake H. Taylor (Wingate University)

Throughout Nietzsche’s works there are ongoing references to asceticism. Many of these are negative with respect to Nietzsche’s criticism of Jewish and Christian ascetics, others affirmative, as Nietzsche respects many elements of asceticism and their importance in one’s attempt at self-overcoming. Many authors such as Tyler Roberts have delved deeply into Nietzsche’s concept of asceticism and the striking similarities that are at once recognizable, particularly with respect to very early Christian ascetics such as Abba Arsenius and St. Anthony. This side of Nietzsche’s asceticism has been widely discussed and the parallels with religious asceticism are obvious, yet there is an element within asceticism that has yet to be brought to light with regard to Nietzsche and his philosophical system.
There are a number of definitions of asceticism that have been put forth by such major scholars as Valantasis, Foucault, Ware and Harpham in the near past with the binding characteristic that there be a specific end toward which an individual is working. This causes something of a difficulty with regard to Nietzsche and his asceticism when one attempts to evaluate the “telos” within his system. The difficulty arises for two reasons; the first is that for Nietzsche the Ubermensch is a creative individual whose every action is monumental in itself, rather than a step towards some final end, the second is Nietzsche’s doctrine of eternal-recurrence and the nullifying affect this has on any discussion on a final end for which his asceticism aims.
What my research focuses in on is the secondary ends that Nietzsche’s asceticism achieves and their positive value within a social context. As the ultimate ascetic for Nietzsche, the Ubermensch, acts not for himself or others but is simply creative in every action there is no primary goal that is worked towards, but there is nonetheless many secondary ends that are accomplished by the ascetic activities of such an individual.

Session 2A: Popular and Traditional Religion in Multicultural Perspective (10:45-12:00)
The Significance of Gihli, the Dog, in Cherokee Thought, Ms. Carrie McLachlan (Western Carolina University)

Cherokee mythology, formalized prayers, and traditions reveal a unique place for the dog in the earthly as well as the cosmic realm. Among the several functions they fulfill in Cherokee traditions, dogs protect against enemies, give aid to humans in matters of love and healing, deliver messages and give warning when dangerous beings are near. Most importantly, dogs sacrifice themselves for the welfare of humans and, in the cosmic realm, mediate between the human and otherworldly realms by serving as guides, guards, and judges. Today Cherokee people do not all share the same cultural traditions or a fundamental system of belief. This paper does not seek to address that diversity. Instead, the purpose is to excavate Cherokee beliefs about dogs that were commonly held by the Cherokee (some of which were shared by other American Indians) at the time of European contact.

Towards Understanding Traditional African Religion, Dr. Kofi Johnson (Fayetteville State University) and Dr. Raphael T. Oyinade (Claftin University)

This paper discusses the religion of sub-Saharan Africa with emphasis on their beliefs and the concept of God. More importantly, the paper concludes that African traditional religion is monotheistic. The study underscores that the concept of one God is not a monopoly of western culture.

How Sacred Are They? Revisiting the Theoretical Models for the Study of Religion in Popular Culture, Dr. Rama Datta (Fayetteville State University)

Focusing primarily on the recent study of religion in popular culture, the present paper revisits the so-called theoretical models for analyzing and defining 'religion' and tries to examine their logical plausibility. While making a sincere attempt to tour their sacred space, their religious character is found to be extremely complex and problematic. Finally, the paper comes to the conclusion that the definition of religion as proposed by these models, is either too wide or, too narrrow.

Session 2B: The Theory and Practice of Religious Studies
Open Theism: A MacIntyre-esque Critique, Dr. Robert Prevost (Wingate University)

Much work has been done recently on a recent theological movement called “open theism.” Open theism asserts, among other things, that (1) God cannot know the future because what occurs in the future is contingent to a large degree upon the free choices of free human creatures, whose choices are not determined, and hence unknowable, until the choice is made, and (2) God does not meticulously determine what events occur in the world because of God’s desire to have true loving relationships with His creatures, the condition for which requires the God’s risk of rejection. 

I propose in this paper to examine open theism from the standpoint of rationality articulated in Alasdair MacIntyre’s Three Rival Versions of Moral Inquiry. Many have criticized this movement as a serious departure from classical Christian theism and as a fundamental rejection of the authority of the Bible in theology. The problem with this mode of criticism is that it makes a doctrine of God appear to be a simple matter of whose Biblical exegesis is better. I think that this mode of criticism is wrong headed because it fails to recognize the role of tradition in interpreting texts and the systemic nature of justification. 

In this paper, I will define open theism and briefly discuss the nature of the debate over it. I want subsequently to discuss MacIntyre’s work as a means of illuminating what is necessary for rational criticism between radically incommensurate traditions. Finally, I will discuss criticism of open theism in light of the MacIntyre’s work. Here I will focus on two issues related to internal criticism of open theism: first, the rejection of natural knowledge of God, and second, its approach to the problem of evil.

Keeping God Guessing, Ms. Amy Lambert (Wingate University)

In the past decade or so a new type of theology has appeared – open theism. Open theism claims a middle ground between classical theology and process theology; it draws reasoning from both theologies, and it posits that there is an open God and an open future. That is, human choices are not predetermined, and how humans choose to act drastically shapes the present and the future. With any theology, there are practical applications that flow from and that affect Christian ministry. A primary case in point in this research paper is the way a theology of open theism should be expected to shape pastoral counseling. What theology a pastor holds will obviously influence how that pastor responds in the giving of pastoral care. Theology is both consciously and unconsciously applied in pastoral care, and different types of theologies will elicit different actions and reactions in circumstances of crisis and crisis care. This paper will address how an open theism theology shapes pastoral responses to human crisis in comparison to classical and process theology.

Religious Studies and Service Learning: Uses and Abuses; Pitfalls and Possibilities, Dr. Bennett Ramsey (UNC-Greensboro)

Departments of Religious Studies have long been associated with service learning both at the level of service learning’s pedagogy and its epistemological goals. For the most part, these associations have been beneficial for students and have provided Religious Studies with additional curricular depth. However, recent changes in public policy with regard to (1) understandings of the relationships between public institutions of higher education and religious institutions, and (2) governmental advocacy of “faith-based organizations” as agents of social change have altered the value of Religious Studies courses being taught as service learning courses. 

This paper will explore the ethical use of service learning courses in Religious Studies (in public higher education) in the light of the changes in public policy. In the paper I will be addressing needed reassessments of how to develop partnerships with faith-based organizations (i.e., what do students, faculty, and community partners need to know and do differently), in turn, adjustments that might be required at the level of pedagogy and epistemology. Put simply, the thesis of the paper is that the change in the public ethos brought about by recent policy decisions requires a revision of the ethics of teaching Religious Studies courses utilizing a service-learning model. As such, the paper will attempt to make a contribution to the field of education ethics in Religious Studies.

Luncheon (12:00-1:30)
  • Introduction of Speaker, Dr. James McLachlan (Western Carolina University)
  • Keynote Address: Monotheism and Monism--The Unity of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, Dr. Richard Cohen, Isaac Swift Distinguished Professor of Judaic Studies (UNC-Charlotte)
Session 3: Cosmology, Chaos, and Consciousness2:00-3:15
A Terrible Sublimity: Kant and the Big Bang, Dr. Maurice F. Stanley (UNC-Wilmington)

I argue that Kant's claim, that concepts that apply only within the world of human experience cannot be legitimately applied beyond that realm, applies not only to judgments about God but also to the contemporary cosmologists' claims about the Big Bang. At best such concepts can serve as what Kant called "regulative ideas" that further the aim of achieving the most coherent empirical employment of reason.

In Praise of Chaos: A 21st Century Reincarnation of Erasmus as an Archetype of Hybrid Scholarship, Dr. John Collins (Wake Forest University)

An extended leave has given me the opportunity to review a significant set of scholarly publications describing the birth, development, and conclusions of four "new sciences"-- the sciences of Chaos, the sciences of Complexity, the sciences of Creativity, and the sciences of Consciousness. Taken together, these "new sciences" pose a challenge to many of the foundational assumptions of 20th century scholarship in the American Academy, and they have called for a significant expansion of what may be called "science".
In this paper I will focus on the implications of this dialogue between "new" and "old" science with regard to the AAR's unilateral decision to break the hybrid structure of the SBL/AAR; and I will suggest that in making significant decisions during this time of global transformation, we should follow Erasmus' "complex scholarship of the included middle" rather than the exclusive scholarship of Scholasticism, or Protestantism, or Material Culturalism, or any other "ism".

Is Seamless Post-mortem Existence Necessary for Survival?, Dr. P. Eddy Wilson (Shaw University)

Some philosophers contemplating post-mortem survival like William Haskers and Kevin Corcoran have been troubled by the problem of the gap. If we do not assert some form of Cartesian dualism, then a temporal gap may intervene between the moment a person dies and the moment he or she is resurrected. This discontinuity may be seen as a threat to the person’s identity. Haskers and Corcoran have proposed ways to overcome the problem of the gap. I examine their bridgework, and offer my own suggestions about resolving the problem.

Session 4: Arguments on the Attributes of God (3:30-4:45)
Boethius on Foreknowledge and Freedom, Dr. Greg Rich (Fayetteville State University)

Unbelievers and believers may wonder how God can have foreknowledge and humans still have free will, for if God knows what we'll do tomorrow, how can we be free to do anything else? The problem is especially acute for believers because foreknowledge seems to be part of omniscience, and free will seems to be necessary for blameworthiness. Generally, believers who sense the tension between foreknowledge and free will don't want to give either one up.

St. Augustine tried to resolve the problem by saying that God knows how we will use our free will. But if God is in time, Augustine's proposed solution seems to require that humans have an ability to change the past. Boethius, another early Christian philosopher, tried to avoid this problem by putting God outside of time. According to Richard Greeen, a translator of Boethius's THE CONSOLATION OF PHILOSOPHY, Boethius's solution "was to be authoritative for centuries to come (xix)."

What I want to do in this paper is to look more closely into the Boethian position and determine its merit.

Berkeley's Critique of Theological Representationalism, Dr. Theodore M. Cooke (Belmont Abbey College)

The paper deals with William Molyneux's query of whether a man who is born blind but later given sight would be able to distinguish a cube from a sphere using the power of sight alone. I explain why Berkeley's negative response to the question, and his belief in the heterogeneity of tactile and visual perception, should be viewed in the larger context of his attack on theological representationalism, the predominant theological position of Berkeley's Anglo-Irish contemporaries.

The Ecological Ethics of Albert Schweitzer & Jonathan Edwards, Dr. Richard Hall (Fayetteville State University)

This paper compares and contrasts the ethics of two undeservedly neglected moral philosophers in order to show their significance for contemporary moral theory and practice.  Both espoused an agapistic ethics, a form of aretaic or virtue ethics.  For Edwards, the root virtue was benevolence to being, and for Schweitzer it was reverence for life.  Edwards' benevolence to being and Schweitzer's reverence for life are parallel principles though with different metaphysical presuppositions.  Both were critical of traditional ethical theories for being too exclusive, a situation they endeavored to remedy in their own constructive theories which enfranchise many more beings as objects of moral worth than is traditional.  And each formulated his ethical theory in secular terms which means in part that he made no appeal to revelation.  Their normative ethical theories have important implications for contemporary discussions of animal rights (such as those of Peter Singer) and other issues of environmental ethics.

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