On Wednesday, October 23, 2019, the University of Saint Mary of the Lake welcomed the 2019/20 Paluch Lecturer, Dr. Joshua Farris. Dr. Farris delivered the first of his lectures on philosophical theology with a consideration of the soul.
While the fact that we have an immortal soul, distinct from our physical bodies, is a basic teaching of the catechism, as society becomes further secularized, many people are calling this teaching into question, or at least finding themselves confused over conflicting things they hear in the broader culture. This is especially true since America’s dominant religious culture is Protestant and philosophy has not played the same role in shaping the United States as it has in traditionally Catholic cultures. As a result, most Americans, even those highly educated in the professions or the natural sciences, have not been exposed to the intellectual resources Christianity has to confront such questions.
Dr. Farris led the seminary community through a careful exposition of how some faulty ideas about the soul are finding their way into American culture, and even into Protestant thought. A Reformed theologian himself, Farris is keenly aware of the challenge of materialism (a philosophical position which holds that there is no spiritual reality distinct from the material) in a culture that exalts the scientific in an uncritical way.
Dr. Farris presented the materialist argument and then showed how problematic it is to Christianity. As his lecture series continues, he will offer some insights of how scholarly apologetics needs to respond to this challenge. Far from an esoteric topic, the challenge of materialism concerns the imago Dei, beatific vision, union with Christ, and the coherence of personal survival. None of these are small things. The lecture series will also demonstrate why it is vital for Catholic priests to be conversant with philosophy as their people depend on them “to give reasons for their hope.”
Joshua Farris is the Chester and Margaret Paluch Lecturer, 2019-2020 at the University of Saint Mary of the Lake. He is concurrently serving as Visiting Scholar at the Center of Theological Inquiry. He is Director of Trinity School of Theology, International Advisor, Perichoresis, The Theological Journal of Emanuel University Associate Editor, Philosophical and Theological Studies for the Journal of Biblical and Theological Studies; Associate Editor, European Journal of Philosophy of Religion. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Bristol, England.