Plans for the Winter Quarter

These last couple weeks have been crazy hectic, so I want to give an update on what I have been busy with, and how it will affect my availability for the next couple months.

First, I had a good time in San Francisco a couple weeks back, where I met Classicist Trevor Luke, who is doing research on Roman healing miracles. His research is highly relevant to my ongoing review of Craig Keener, and I hope to discuss it at some point ahead.

Secondly, my flight back to Los Angeles sucked. I was stuck sitting next to a very sick guy who was coughing and blowing his nose the whole time on the flight back. Everyone on the plane was mad that he got on the flight, and I even had multiple people come up to me, after we landed, to express concern over my situation. Fortunately, my partner Camille (the love my life) had some immune-boosting tea, vitamin C, and cold prevention medicine ready when I got home, which managed to stave off most of the sickness. So, I haven’t been sick these last couple weeks.

However, I have had to catch up on a ton of graduate work, including readings for a French literature course that I am TAing. I have been reading Tristan and Iseult over the last several days, as well as Manon LescautDepressing French romance and adultery has, funny enough, though, been a welcome distraction from my other work.

Now to the most important part: I have a lot of work that I need to do on my dissertation this quarter, and that will need to take top priority. My upcoming debate with Craig Evans is likewise a month away, and I need to prepare for that as well. As such, my availability for blogging will be very limited this quarter, at least until I can make some major progress in my graduate work. It’s too early to tell when I will have more free time again, so right now I am tentatively declaring a break for the Winter quarter. I’ll be back at least by Spring Break, and possibly before then if I make good progress, but otherwise I need to put things on hold.

I have approved all pending comments, including some that I didn’t have time to answer, so there are none currently waiting in moderation. I have decided not to temporarily close comments on the blog, since I don’t want block people from giving input, but my ability to answer comments will be very limited this quarter. So, if I don’t get back to you quickly, the reason why is that I am busy.

I hope that everyone reading has had a good start to the new year. 2016 promises to be a major year of change, for better or for worse, with everything going on with the presidential election. The next weeks ahead should thus be pretty exciting!

 -Matthew Ferguson
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Currently Sick: Expect Some Delay

I flew back from San Francisco yesterday, and I sat next to a very sick guy on the airplane. I am not feeling well this morning, which is a rough way to start the Winter academic quarter. I also have some dissertation work to focus on right now, which is top priority.

As such, I am going to be somewhat slow in moderating and answering comments for the next couple weeks. I apologize for the delay, but I will get to the pending comments when I can. Until then, I am going to take some vitamin C this morning, and hunker down on doing reading and research.

-Matthew Ferguson

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A Manifesto for Secular Scriptural Scholarship ​and Religious Studies

Recently I signed a manifesto, sponsored by Hector Avalos and André Gagné, titled “A Manifesto for Secular Scriptural Scholarship and Religious Studies.” Avalos is working to start a new movement, called “The Second Wave of New Atheism.” I have never really identified with the New Atheism movement, primarily because Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens aren’t really my favorite authors (I do have a greater appreciation for Daniel Dennett). I like some of their ideas, but mostly I tend to prefer other secular scholars, such as Graham Oppy, Bart Ehrman, Sean Carroll, Shelly Kagan, etc.

The New Atheism movement has also been criticized for not engaging theological and apologetic arguments, and focusing primarily on the negative cultural effects of religion. Likewise, New Atheists have been attacked for publishing popular level books, like the The God Delusion, written by authors who are not experts in some of the relevant fields that they argue about. That said, I don’t have much against New Atheism either. I think that a lot of the critiques of the movement miss the target, since New Atheism is primarily a cultural, social, and political movement directed towards increasing secularization and removing religion from everyday life. New Atheism *is not* a philosophical or theological movement directed towards answering the most arcane questions of philosophy, nor does it even really espouse a particular worldview or metaphysical model of reality.

But, Hector Avalos is now starting a “Second Wave” of New Atheism that I can get behind.

Second Wave

This Second Wave of New Atheism is not just concerned with popular audiences, but is working to unite secular scholars against theologically motivated scholarship and institutions in Religious Studies, Biblical Studies, and other academic fields that are targeted by religious apologetics. The Second Wave likewise acknowledges the cultural and historical importance of religion, without seeking to retain the moral authority of religious scriptures and traditions. In this new movement, Avalos is seeking advocates who:

“Are academically trained experts in the study of religion and sacred scriptures (e.g., the Bible, Quran, and any other text deemed sacred on religious grounds);”


“Regard the study of the Bible, the Quran, and other sacred scriptures as important in understanding western history and modern culture, but without seeking to retain their moral authority.”

Since the demographics described above is one that I belong to, I was happy to sign this new manifesto when Avalos contacted me. Among the goals of the Second Wave of New Atheism are the following:

  • Acknowledge that human ethics need not depend on religion;
  • Advocate the discontinuation of the use of any sacred scripture as a moral authority in the modern world;
  • Work to ensure that professional organizations of scriptural and religious studies, such as the Society of Biblical Literature and the American Academy of Religion, insist on methodological naturalism, and not theological methodologies, in their basic approach to all research presented at its meetings, as is the case with all other areas of the humanities and social sciences;

If you agree with the description above, particularly if you are a scholar trained in Religious Studies, Biblical Studies, or any other related discipline, then please consider signing “A Manifesto for Secular Scriptural Scholarship and Religious Studies.” The contact information to do so is included on the website linked above.

-Matthew Ferguson

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SCS/AIA 2016 Annual Meeting in San Francisco

This week I am flying to San Francisco to attend the 147th annual meeting of the Society for Classical Studies and Archaeological Institute of America. The meeting will be taking place from January 6-9, and I’ll be staying in San Francisco until Sunday.

San Francisco

The Society for Classical Studies (SCS) is basically the Classics equivalent of the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL). I wrote earlier this year about attending the 2015 annual SBL meeting in Atlanta.

It’s going to be a busy year of conferences ahead, since I have also been accepted to present at two more conferences in the upcoming months, one at the Pacific Coast 2016 SBL regional meeting at Claremont in March, and another at the American Academy of Religion 2016 Western Region annual meeting in April, which will be taking place at my alma mater, the University of Arizona.

If anyone who follows the blog will be at San Francisco this upcoming week (especially if you are attending the SCS/AIA), drop me a line if you would like to meet up.

-Matthew Ferguson

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More Lies, Polemics, and Vehement Language from Christian Apologist David Marshall

For fun, I thought I’d share this write-up that I did over Winter break, especially given some of David Marshall’s recent activity in the blog sphere:

Continue reading

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Ed Babinski Reviews Craig Keener, “Miracles,” on his Claims about Johann Blumhardt and David Strauss

Keener, MiraclesFellow blogger and author of Leaving the Fold: Testimonies of Former FundamentalistsEd Babinski, on Scrivenings has also written a critical review of some of the material in Craig Keener’s Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament AccountsIn particular, Babinski has written about some of Keener’s claims regarding the reputed faith healer Johann Blumhardt, as well as the skepticism of David Strauss allegedly caused by his “worldview.” Ed’s book review is titled:

“Miracles by Craig S. Keener, book review part 1 — “inability to walk?” no. “cured?” didn’t last. Keener’s failure to try & make a famed critic of Gospel miracles look foolish.”

With Ed’s permission, I have posted his review of Keener below:

Continue reading

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Mind and Cosmos

Another book review that I want to share, as we close out the year 2015, is one by fellow blogger Travis R., who writes on the blog A Measure of Faith. Travis has written a good book review of philosopher Thomas Nagel’s Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False. This was another book that Christian apologist Don Johnson brought up during our radio debate a couple years ago. I checked out a copy of Nagel’s book from my university library last year, but haven’t had time to write a review. Nonetheless, Travis R. seems to have done that work for me, and so I have decided share his excellent review.

I am also planning to write more about teleology and abstract objects as part of my metaphysics series on the sister-blog to this site, Civitas Humana. On the other blog, I have already written a lengthy essay critiquing medieval philosopher Thomas Aquinas’ teleological argument for God. I also plan to write more about Aquinas during the next year.

So much to write! It will take me a very long time to get through all of the projects that I have planned for Κέλσος and Civitas Humana, but fortunately I have several years of my Ph.D. program, and beyond, to do so.

For these next couple months, however, I am going to be focusing on work towards my Ph.D. dissertation. I also will be attending the Society for Classical Studies and American Archaeological Association’s annual meeting next month, which is taking place in San Francisco from January 6-9. Nevertheless, I’ll give updates on what I’m up to, when I find the time and energy.

Till then,
Matthew Ferguson

A Measure of Faith

mind_and_cosmosThomas Nagel’s “Mind & Cosmos”, published in 2012, is almost certainly the book that has garnered the most attention over the last couple years in the God debate; and it has thus become required reading for those of us who are immersed in that milieu. My encounters with the book have primarily come through the off-handed endorsements of Christian apologists. It has become a weapon of choice for defense of the theistic worldview. Conversely, the naturalists were quick to call foul. Most famously, Steven Pinker called it “the shoddy reasoning of a once-great thinker.” Deeply critical negative reviews abounded and those who rushed to Nagel’s defense were quick to suggest that he was, in an ironic twist, being treated like a heretic by the clergy of the church of science. With all of this in mind, my goal was to approach this book via the middle road, as someone…

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