Erick Nelson

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Like so many people, I became interested in the Big questions in college.  My first Philosophy course opened up the hunger and thirst within me.  What is my life about?  What am I going to make of myself?  Is life really so short, with darkness at the end, or is there a passage to another Life?  I didn't care really about finding a career so I could make money - I wanted first to know whether making money was the right goal.  Is there a God?  Can I find some kind of mystical experience that will fulfill and heal me?  All of these questions and more.

In the summer of 1968, I had a profound experience which told me that Jesus would actually answer these questions, and would be the answer for me.  With little understanding, I followed as best I could.  I read C.S. Lewis' books, which for the first time brought an integration into my thought, and Christianity to me  was not only a mystical experience but made sense.

Later, I read John Warwick Montgomery's History and Christianity, which was the first glimmer that we could actually know about the man Jesus who lived so long ago.  I pursued this avenue relentlessly.  Since then, the quest to understand  this Jesus and this New Life became a lifelong passion.  I found myself writing down my thoughts as I became interested in question after question.  I present them here for you, in case they can help you think through these most important questions.

Papers About Christianity

1.  First, what reasons do we have to think that we can know who Jesus was, what he taught, and what he did?  What real evidence is there, or is this just wishful thinking?  My first major paper, Christian Apologetics, tackled this question head-on.

2.  Is it really right to read the New Testament so "literally" - that Jesus really did these miracles, that he was God in the flesh, and that he rose from the dead?  Or should we see these as valuable spiritual stories, parables if you will? 

There are many prominent and influential scholars who hold that understanding the New Testament "literally" is a huge and tragic mistake, that the original writers did not mean to say that many of these stories actually happened, and were not teaching that Jesus was really "God in the flesh" or rose from the dead in bodily form.  Instead, they were telling spiritual stories - parables, if you will.  I could not find a clear, step by step treatment of this view, and so I did a great deal of research culminating in The Metaphorical Gospel Theory paper.

3.  Are we missing the point when we pay so much attention to reason and evidence?  Isn't belief in Jesus simply a matter of faith?  Or, perhaps, is it primarily a spiritual experience?

There is a popular view in the "apologetics" world that we "know" Christianity is true (exclusively) through the inner witness of the Holy Spirit, and the purpose of reason and evidence is only to "show" it is true to others.  I wrote Knowing vs. Showing for Dr. Montgomery's online journal to respond that that current view.

4.  How can we trust the gospels of Mathew and Luke when everyone knows they copied from Mark?  When they deviate from Mark's account, are they trying to correct him (in which case, Mark's credibility is damaged), or are they oblivious to the historical nature of their account and simply want to make theological / spiritual points?

One of the "assured results of New Testament criticism" which enjoys the favor of virtually all scholars, liberal and conservative alike, is the standard answer to the Synoptic Problem - which is, that Matthew and Luke copied from Mark and extended Mark in their own ways.  I see this misstep as the source of all kinds of problems.  Interestingly, although I have gotten prominent scholars to agree with my first three papers, I haven't been able to find engagement on this, much less agreement.  Even so, I wrote Structured Stories with Eyewitness Control to present my answer.

5.  Famously, the greatest and most famous objection to Christianity, or any form of theism, is the Problem of Evil.  Really, how can God exist in a world with so much misery, pain, and evil?  This is not answered with a bumper-sticker slogan; it takes a long run-up and much explanation. 

Existentially, why do we find ourselves alienated from the world and from ourselves?  Where do these evil impulses come from?  Who can rescue us? ... and more.  And, Ok if this is true, what is it all about, what difference does it make?  To my own surprise, I found that the answers I saw are both orthodox (C.S. Lewis) and iconoclastic in the world of American Evangelicalism.  This is my most recent,  Real Life:  a Theodicy

Philosophy Papers

1.  What can we know for certain?  What is the foundation for our knowledge of the world and of various forms of truth?  Here is an approach which builds on a secure foundation and strives to explain how knowledge can be "true belief for good reasons."  Epistemology:  Inference from Direct Knowledge

2.  This is a technical paper having to do with Plato's 3-part soul, and the middle part, called Thumos, which has caused a lot of confusion.  I try to make sense of it.   Plato's Concept of Thumos

3.  The first problem students have with formal logic is often "buying into" how the Material Condition (A -> B) works.  There is a counter-intuitive part of this which cannot be gotten over.  We need a better model, which is more like modern computer conditional logic.  Material Conditional