Tuesday, November 17, 2015


By Bernard James Mauser, Ph.D.

The buzzword in Christian apologetics is worldview. People spanning the theological spectrum recognize the importance of viewing the world through a proper lens. The emphasis is on making sure that everything that is thought and done is seen in light of what God has revealed.

One would think that Friedrich Nietzsche, one of the leading atheistic philosophers, would have no influence on worldview thinking. To say that he does would appear to be a sinister plot to undermine the faith and ministry of many substantial Christian leaders. This judgment would be mistaken. We can avoid the pitfalls of Nietzsche once we realize how he has affected worldview thinking, and yet still cling to all those aspects of worldview thinking that are good and true.

Nietzsche lays the foundation of an approach to knowledge that is radically relativistic. He is the father of Perspectivalism. Perspectivalism says that people are completely limited to their perspective. Note the parallel in worldview thinking. Those in various circles say that a person’s interpretation of reality is completely seen through a particular lens (this is simply defined as worldview thinking).

Here is the problem. If worldviews determine how one interprets all of reality, then the ‘notion of worldview’ is determined by one’s worldview. Consequently, the notion of worldview is relativistic. If one’s worldview does not determine the ‘notion of worldview,’ then there are aspects of reality that aren’t determined by worldview. Either worldviews determine how one interprets all of reality or it doesn’t. Therefore, the notion of worldview is determined by worldview (which is consonant with Nietzsche’s Perspectivalism and relativism) OR there are aspects of reality not determined by worldview (in which case we have to find which truths that span all worldviews we can use to judge between them).

This analysis does not rule out the positive things worldview can give us. The lens by which we decide things can certainly be helpful. However, as a starting point for knowledge, ‘worldview’ is not able to answer aspects of reality everyone recognizes (regardless of worldview). The primary focus in of our search for truth is reality. Once we discover what is real, then we can decide which worldview best corresponds to reality. 

Monday, November 2, 2015

A Christian Analysis of Halloween

A Christian analysis of Halloween

By Bernard James Mauser, Ph.D.

In pop culture Halloween is said to have connections with the occult, witchcraft, and pagan practices. Aware of this, some parents are weighing whether to allow their children to participate in Halloween. The great concern here has nothing to do with increased cavities, hyperactivity, childhood obesity, or candy laced with drugs or razors. It does have to do with a more ominous evil commonly associated with Halloween.

Those in the Judeo-Christian tradition place great importance on the historical events that mark many holy days. Christians celebrate the birth of the God-man Jesus each year during Christmas (Mt. 1). They celebrate the anniversary marking the death and resurrection of Jesus during Easter (Jn. 19-20). God has mandated that the Israelites remember the Passover each year (Ex. 13). The history of each of these marks something significant about what God has done for His people. It is the origin of each of events that accounts for the corresponding holidays (which is derived from holy days).   

Given this background for other days of celebration mentioned, what is the origin of Halloween? This question is not as simple as it may seem. The reason is only partly because of the difficulty in finding the origin documented in reliable historical sources. A greater difficulty comes from what the word Halloween means. Let me illustrate the difficulty with another example. If I ask, “What is the origin of the mouse?” You’d have to ask what do you mean by mouse (i.e., what are you referring to when you say mouse)? Do you mean the peripheral that allows me to move the cursor on my computer, or do you mean that little creature that cats like to chase? Halloween also has several meanings, such as:

1.     The origin comes from the Celtic festival Samhain (pronounced sah-win) once used to celebrate summer’s end. TO THE CELTS, this day marked the end of the harvest (which gave life), and the beginning of the time of death (of crops, vegetation, some animals, and sometimes human) due to the cold of the winter season. Some Celts also saw this as a time of increased ability for divination.
2.     It is used to signify the medieval Church’s celebration the day before All Saints Day or All Hallows Day to honor the memory of saints in heaven. November 1 is All Hallows Day and October 31 was All Hallows’ Eve.
3.     It refers to the day where, in accordance with what certain leaders planned, there are no religious overtones where community comes together to celebrate in a way to limit vandalism  (‘trick-or-treat’ is an American contribution that started in the second half of the 19th century which combined traditions of various cultures).  Community leaders did this to limit the ‘tricks’ and emphasize the ‘treats.’

So, given the various meanings, which do Christians want to avoid?

Certainly Christians ought to avoid the first meaning if they celebrate. Of course, its highly questionable that Christians are engaging in Halloween as understood in this first meaning today. What is left? The second and third ways of understanding in order to celebrate are in no way problematic.

Wait a second, isn’t there a link to the demonic in the first way that can be suggested in the other ways? This is the argument some make. If this is the case, it should be taken seriously. Why? The reason is clearly because occultism is condemned in Scripture. Whoa… wait a minute… lots of things are condemned in Scripture.

I think we can all agree that if Scripture says something is bad we should avoid it. What are some things that are forbidden for Christians EVERY day of the year- and not just Halloween?

1.     Participating in divination, sorcery, witchcraft, and other occult practices (Deut. 18:9-14).
2.     Women are to dress modestly (1 Tim. 2:9)
3.     We are to avoid drunkenness and sexual immorality (Gal. 5:21).
4.     Christians are to have nothing to do with darkness (Eph. 5).

These are several of universal admonitions about things Christians should avoid every day of the year (I’m pretty sure every day includes Halloween). One can acknowledge the reality of occultism and the fact that many in our country regularly participate in occult practices. These are dangerous and should be completely avoided by Christians.

Its important to note what occultism is. The word occult (not to be confused with a cult) means ‘secret’ or ‘hidden.’ Those that practice occultism are the initiated into the ‘secret’ arts.  Often witchcraft is considered to be occultism.

In discussing Halloween, we must be careful to avoid the genetic fallacy. The genetic fallacy says that the origin of something determines its truth or falsity (or in this case, whether it is good or bad). Keep in mind that the truth of something comes from whether it corresponds to reality. In the case of whether celebrating Halloween is good, one should have in mind what exactly Halloween is. For those Christians that celebrate it, some say that Halloween is simply a day for kids to dress up and get candy. If parents allow children to wear costumes and get treats any other day of the year, why keep your children from these things on this day?

Certainly the way children or adults dress is significant (as stated in #2 above). All should keep this in mind. For example, dressing up as demons may trivialize the reality and danger of the demonic realm. Similarly, dressing as a witch – yes, even an allegedly ‘good’ witch (Scripture says ALL witchcraft is evil) – can promote the idea in our children that witchcraft is harmless fantasy. The Bible does not entertain any idea of witchcraft as innocent or fun. Christians should be wise in how they dress. They can also use Halloween as a day to educate their children about the spiritual forces of darkness that battle against the Christian. On Halloween and every other day of the year remember: the way people dress matters.

Christians should realize that ‘demonic’ forces have no extra power on Halloween. If you think this way, is there a chance that you’re not giving to God what is God’s? After all, every day and all the earth belong to the Lord (Ps. 24:1). Christians should be careful not to give to the devil what belongs to the Lord alone.

A valuable question that can be raised is whether the origin of Halloween is intrinsic to it. In other words, can you participate in Halloween without linking the ‘celebration’ to any alleged pagan origin? Is it possible to make Halloween about something else? Can it simply be a special day to get dressed up and receive candy? There are certainly lots of people that celebrate Christmas without linking it to the significant event it marks for Christians. If non-Christians can do this for Christmas, is it not equally legitimate for Christians to separate the ‘pagan’ meaning mentioned above from their participation in Halloween? Again, these questions are for each individual to weigh.

Romans 14 provides guidance about matters that fall into a complex middle ground about which Christians disagree. The acknowledgement of middle ground doesn’t mean there is no right or wrong. There are plenty of areas that are not complicated and which are absolutely forbidden (worshipping other gods, murder, etc.). On the contrary, Romans 14 acknowledges the many dimensions of reality and that certain things are left to each individual to decide. If one invokes the celebration of Halloween as an area belonging to Romans 14, then participation is best left to each person’s (or the parents’ in the case of children) conscience. We are told that there are certain debated issues between believers that are not clearly answered in Scripture to which each person must have a clear conscience before the Lord (and it is to Him that we are to ultimately give an account). One major area of guidance from Romans 14 is that we are to do nothing to cause a weaker brother to stumble.

Personally, I know of Christians that use this day for evangelism and education about the Christianity. It provides an opportunity to discuss the triumph of light over darkness, of life over death, and of the Christian worldview over the realm of the occult. Shouldn’t we seize every opportunity to share the good news of the gospel with unbelievers?

What are things in every day life that can cause people to stumble? Some may struggle with drugs, lust, gambling, idolatry, or even occultism. Thus, we must not expose our weaker brothers (or sisters) to things that cause them to sin.

One concern of our family is that we desire to protect our children from certain evils. Our kids are sensitive to scary images and easily have nightmares when they've seen something scary. Due to this, we are careful in what we expose them to in media as well as in public (some costumes are absolutely terrifying to them). The exposure to different amounts of evil is something that each family needs to decide for themselves (after all, we can't escape from all evil or we'd need to leave this world). 

At the end of the day, remember three things: do everything in love, test all things, and hold fast to what is good. (1 Cor. 16; 1 Thess. 5:21). 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015





Most people think that knowledge is pretty important. They spend their time scouring the web for news stories, reading books or journals, and paying money to go to school to learn. The underlying assumption in this pursuit is that people think that what they are assimilating is true. Notwithstanding those addicted to fiction, few would spend money or time memorizing what is entirely false.

When asking professionals, most philosophers in the university today, what knowledge is, they’ll explain that knowledge is justified true belief.  This is allegedly given them by Plato from his book Theaetetus. Keep in mind that in this explanation there are three parts to knowledge.

  1. The first is the justification.  Justification is the reason or account given for the belief.
  2. The second is truth. Truth here is correspondence to reality.
  3. The third is belief. Belief is simply the view or judgment that is held.

Overlooked in this explanation of knowledge is Socrates’ critique of this ‘definition’ in Theaetetus.  The relevant parts from the text are found at the end of Socrates dialogue with Theaetetus (209e-210a):

Socrates: Well, if ‘adding an account’ means that we are required to get to know the differentness, not merely judge it, this most splendid of our accounts of knowledge turns out to be a very amusing affair. For getting to know of course is acquiring knowledge, isn’t it?

               Theaetetus: Yes.

Socrates: So, it seems, the answer to the question ‘What is knowledge?’ will be ‘Correct judgment accompanied by knowledge of the differentness’- for this is what we are asked to understand by the addition of an account.’

Theaetetus: Apparently so.

Socrates: And it is surely just silly to tell us, when we are trying to discover what knowledge is, that it is correct judgment accompanied by knowledge, whether of differentness or of anything else? And so, Theaetetus, knowledge is neither perception, nor true judgment, nor an account added to true judgment. [emphasis mine]

Theaetetus: It seems not.  

The problem that Socrates points out is that justified true belief as knowledge sneaks in justification as a kind of knowledge to shore up knowledge. This is surely circular.

Another problem, which is not mentioned, is that if justification is knowledge, then that justification also needs a justification, which needs a justification, all the way to an infinite number of justifications for the justifications. This infinite regress shows no hope of hitting a foundation for knowledge. Without any foundation, the infinite regress shows that justified true belief is not an adequate definition for knowledge.

In sum, there are two problems with using justified true belief as the definition for knowledge. The first is that it smuggles knowledge into the definition as justification (which is circular). The second is that it leads to an infinite regress (which is the same as not having any explanation at all).

Although this is where Plato left it, let me suggest the Thomistic solution. Knowledge is the unity between the knower and the known. If there is no unity between you and what you know, then you don’t know it, but something else. Of course the full details of how this occurs must be left to another time.

Thursday, May 7, 2015


By Bernard James Mauser, Ph.D.

Humanity is inundated with a flood of fads and fascinations. At our fingertips in seconds we can find the latest movie clips, how to survive the zombie apocalypse, along with a host of other obsessions both good and evil. In this melee of entertainment one can find serious news stories as well. One that has recently gained popularity concerns the state of Indiana’s new law promoting religious tolerance. We should recognize the overlap between the serious and the entertaining. C.S. Lewis can be a guide to help to this end.  


Now one may have only known Lewis from his Chronicles of Narnia. He also has a more serious work that is about the role of education in shaping morality. This book is called The Abolition of Man. In it he takes to task English teachers who, in the guise of teaching English, actually teach moral lessons. How can The Abolition throw some light on the overlap between the serious and less-than-serious?

Lewis points out and defends the truth that Paul expresses in Romans 2. What is known to everyone is that there is a moral law written on the heart by which people recognize good and evil. This view is opposed in our society by those identifying as relativists. The creed of the relativist is that there is no right or wrong. This allegedly frees them to pursue any pleasure they choose without a guilty conscience. However, this relativistic credo betrays them.  No person is a full-blown relativist. While they may say there is no right or wrong, the relativist thinks when you do something to hurt them in any way it is wrong.


This moral law is the basis for virtue and for judging anything to be good or evil. This is why we can judge any law to be good or bad. The moral law, sometimes referred to as the natural law, stands over all laws mankind makes. This is why all people can chime in about the morality of certain laws like those allowing religious freedom.

People always talk about the goodness or badness of movies, laws, and the like. When they do so they are saying that people can recognize these qualities. If morality is nothing more than preference, like tastes, then all these statements are meaningless. However, we recognize by our reactions to clear examples of immorality that there is a reality to the moral realm. Our moral judgments about right and wrong actually refer to reality and we all know it.

Those that deny this truth will have to bite the bullet. Lewis posits an argument that shows the implication of rejecting the universal moral law. “In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”[i] The denial of natural law leads to immorality, irrationality, and true intolerance as all these concepts are meaningless without it. Embracing the truth of the existence of this universal moral law frees us to be coherent when we judge between virtue and vice, good and evil.



[i] C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man, New York, MacMillan Publishing, 1947: p. 35

Monday, December 22, 2014



We are in the midst of the most popular holidays of the year. There are still some people completely unaware of what each of major holidays is actually about in the different traditions. I’ll summarize these briefly and provide some resources for those that would like more information to prepare everyone for this season.

I remember growing up as a child in a part of the country where many of my closest friends were Jewish and celebrated Hanukkah (or Chanukah). I couldn’t help but envy that many of my friends got gifts for eight days and I only got them on one. I knew little else other than that my friends had all these candles they’d light over the course of eight days and would play with these spinning tops called dreidels. There was much more involved of course, but these were the facts I had access to.

After finishing my Bachelor’s degree, I decided I needed a religious education as well. Having been raised Roman Catholic, I read through my Bible and found the books of the Maccabees. It was here that I found my first exposure to the historical origin for Hanukkah in the Maccabean revolution.

In 166 B.C. Judas Maccabee (Maccabee comes from the initial letters of the Hebrew words Mi Kamocha Ba’eilim Hashem, Who is like You, Oh God) rebelled against the Seleucids that were oppressing those in Israel and trying to get them to worship foreign gods. The King of the Seleucids, Antiochus, sent several armies to wipe out the rebels but was defeated each time by the Maccabees. Before the final battle with the Seleucid army at Mitzpah, Judah Maccabees and his brothers encouraged each other with the words: “Let us fight unto death in defense of our souls and our Temple!”

After these victories the Maccabees cleansed all of Jerusalem and the temple of idols that the Seleucids had placed there. The Maccabees then made a Menorah to light in the temple to dedicate it. Unfortunately they had only enough oil to last for one day. However, according to tradition, God miraculously allowed it to burn for eight days until new oil became available. This was a sign to God’s people that they were again under His protection. In memory of this, people celebrate Hanukkah for eight days to give thanks to God and to remember this miracle. For more on this read: http://bit.ly/13xq9fw, http://bit.ly/1zq3rUn, http://bit.ly/1wfcu3a.

It seems difficult to justify that I’d have to explain the origin for Christmas. However, recent studies indicate that 91% of people that celebrate Christmas are NOT Christians (http://lfwy.co/1v9q2Ns).  I’d guess the historical basis for this may be lost on this group. A third of children ages 10-13 also don’t know that Christmas is about Jesus (http://bit.ly/1wC1lP8).  
In short, Christmas is a celebration Christians have to mark the birth of the promised messiah, Jesus of Nazareth. Christians believe that God the son added a human nature at the moment of conception. This conception was a result of the Holy Spirit miraculously allowing the virgin Mary to conceive (as we tell our children, God put Jesus in Mary’s belly). We also explain to our children during this season that initially shepherds visited Mary and Jesus in the stable after the angels announced his birth. At a later time (which isn’t specified), wise men appeared to Jesus to present him gifts while the family was at a house. If the star appeared to the wise men WHEN Jesus was born its probable he was two years old or under based on what Herod believed (Luke 2:16). In sum, we celebrate the birthday of Emmanuel (God with us) on Christmas. For a treatment of those that raise objections to Christmas one can find an excellent response here: http://bit.ly/1Hrxpqi.

Unlike the other two holidays, Kwanzaa has only been around since the 1960s. The word ‘Kwanzaa’ means ‘first fruits’ in Swahili. I got my first Kwanzaa card less than a decade ago and decided to look into it. Although some claim that this is an extremely old holiday, you’d be hard-pressed to find ANY reference to the holiday itself before the 1960s.  Kwanzaa is gaining popularity among certain groups and so it is good to be aware of what it is. 

The founder of this religion is Dr. Maulana Karenga. Karenga was a leader of the Black Power movement in the 1960s and was a community organizer. He created Kwanzaa in 1966 upon Marxist principles that he labeled as being those of African Heritage (no wonder so many resonating with Kwanzaa have been duped in thinking the liberal policies are theirs). Although the stated purpose is to “strengthen and unite the African communities,” the liberal policies which it supports have done the complete opposite (http://bit.ly/1goPQD0). The central thrust of his philosophy is communistic and communitarian.

Picture of Dr. Maulana Karenga

 Marx would have been pleased with Karenga’s condemnation of belief in God (Kawaida Theory, p.27), and with Karenga denying the Hebrew and Christian belief in heaven, hell, and the resurrection. Karenga writes, “it is a simplistic and often erroneous answer to existential ignorance fear, powerlessness and alienation. An example is the Hebrew myth of the six-day creation and the tower of Babel, or Christian myths of resurrection, heaven and hell.” (Kawaida Theory, p. 23)

One has to assess all of what is taught and accept the truth any place it is found. There is some indication that Karenga has tried to moderate these early comments to make inroads with those that are Christians. However, most of what is celebrated with the principles of Kwanzaa and the teachings of Karenga are consonant with Marxism. This is why it is embraced where liberation theology is taught (http://bit.ly/13Wx1E2, http://bit.ly/1xbW2rB, http://bit.ly/1CxfbCQ).  

As a general guideline it is good to be familiar with what our friends and family celebrate. We can discuss these holidays with candor. Unlike the historical basis for Hanukkah and Christmas, one can easily find Kwanzaa was made up to advance a political agenda. Kwanzaa and Dr. Karenga are hostile to many of the ideas advanced in Christianity and Judaism. Although I have friends that celebrate all three of these without realizing what they are, ideas have consequences. The fact God has done miracles in history is significant for all mankind. The most important peace that can be found this holiday season does not originate in the will of man, but comes to all mankind on whom God’s favor rests. (Luke 2:14) God makes a way for this peace through His son, Christ the Lord, who was born on Christmas day.

Sunday, December 21, 2014



Marquette University is making national news. This is only partially because Philosophy Instructor Cheryl Abbate told a student that opposed homosexual marriage that “Some opinions are not appropriate,” “you don’t have a right in this class to make homophobic comments,” and “you can drop the class if you don’t like it.”  The main reason for national coverage is due to Marquette professor John McAdams being put on leave and investigated because he reported this incident on his Marquette Warrior blog (http://bit.ly/13leFvr

Cheryl Abbate

John McAdams

As a graduate from Marquette (with several years in the Philosophy program) I know the leadership of the department (both Associate Dean Dr. Susanne Foster and the chair Dr. Nancy Snow) that dealt with the student’s complaint. I also remember how liberal both of these professors were. Despite this liberalism in the leadership positions, there were conservatives in the department that were unaffected. Knowing these women, it is possible more is going on here than simply liberals ignoring complaints by a conservative student (though the policy may justify them doing so).

Here are four problems with what is happening regarding the circumstances at Marquette:

1.       Marquette needs to discover how to reconcile its Catholic identity with the ‘speech codes’ that labels a statement offending any party as hate speech.

A tension for ANY professor at Marquette would be that there are serious problems with forbidding statements against homosexual marriage. One problem is that the teachings of the Catholic Church, the Pope, or even the Bible could be perceived as a personal attack or harassment and thus forbidden from being subject to classroom discussion. 

Another involves the issues with claiming that objections to gay marriage are homophobic. This commits a logical fallacy.  People can be homophobic, but arguments can’t. Even if a person does have an irrational fear of gays, it doesn’t follow that their arguments are invalid or unsound. Also, a phobia is an irrational fear you can’t control. The person with this condition is handicapped. When one person accuses another of being homophobic to ridicule their arguments, it is the equivalent of making fun of the handicapped (which is more politically incorrect than opposing gay marriage). These are distinctions any person can perceive and philosophy professors can lead the way in making them. 

Professors should encourage students to explore that there are not only theological reasons for opposing gay marriage (Rom. 1, 1 Cor. 6:9), there are also strong philosophical (http://bit.ly/1z4L1TG), economic (see http://bit.ly/16ADyVH), and legal reasons for opposing it (http://amzn.to/1AmVdLv). It remains to be seen whether Marquette’s new President Michael Lovell, its first non-Jesuit, will take up the mantle of the Jesuits (who were once known to be defenders of the Catholic Church).  One can hope he will support the right to engage ideas in the classrooms with Catholic teaching (which opposes ‘gay’ marriage).

Dr. Michael Lovell

2.       Everyone should recognize a professor’s right to control the classroom discussion.

The main fear the instructor seems to have had in bringing up the issue of gay marriage is that some in the class would be offended. As Cheryl Abbate certainly thought her students may feel harassed, she thought it best to keep this off the table for public discussion. Ms. Abbate has the right as an instructor to control her course content to stay on task. 

3.     In investigating John McAdams, Marquette is employing a bullying tactic to try to squelch conservative views.

Although they have denied officially ‘suspending’ McAdams (which consists of stopping his pay), opening an investigation into his activity will effectively suppress students and faculty from discussing areas where there is legitimate debate. This is not an atmosphere that will engender public discourse on subjects that are of moral concern. In accordance with McAdams initial blog surrounding the controversy, Marquette has taken the very action of silencing debate of which Ms. Abbate was accused. 

4.     There has been a lack of integrity on the part of some journalists in not reading Ms. Abbate’s side of the story. 

Few reports present a balanced approach in trying to figure out what actually occurred. I’m disappointed by the lack of research done on both sides. It was not entirely unreasonable for Ms. Abbate to postpone or prevent discussion on the issue of gay marriage in class as it would potentially highjack the discussion. In an interview with Ms. Abbate right after the initial report, we should admit that it is possible that there is more going on here than meets the eye (see http://bit.ly/1taUzta). As a conservative, I don’t have to create straw men to knock down liberal arguments for gay marriage. Some of Ms. Abbate’s most contentious statements were not in the actual recording the student provided Dr. McAdams. As these are the most damning, we should give her the benefit of the doubt. All professors have experienced students that have misunderstood what they were saying.  

There are many problematic facets of this story. Ms. Abbate will be welcomed practically anywhere due to the liberal majority in the Universities (if it is proven she actually said what Dr. McAdams has claimed, so much the better in the liberal mindset). The real question for many is whether it is possible to reform liberal Catholic Universities to keep them in line with the foundational beliefs of Christianity. Also, it is clear that the logical outworking of these speech codes is that Jesus, Paul, Aquinas, and even many Popes would be punished if they were to teach ethics at this ‘Catholic’ University.