“A Reading List on Western Philosophy and Christian Philosophy and Apologetics”

“A Reading List on Western Philosophy and Christian Philosophy and Apologetics”

In this post, I recommend some of the most influential works in the history of Western philosophy, American philosophy, as well as Christian philosophy and apologetics. The list below is not meant to be exhaustive. For example, it does not deal with classical philosophy (with the exception of three to four titles on the list ); rather, the emphasis is on modern thought or history of ideas. I do not, for example, include works by African and Caribbean philosophers. I hope you will find the selected works helpful and meaningful to your own personal philosophical and spiritual growth and intellectual progress.

*** I wrote this post as a response to various inquiries I received from individuals and students who are passionate about the life of the mind and also from those who would like to be well-versed in both Western Philosophy and Christian philosophy.

Click on the link below to access the list of recommended books on the subject matter!

Happy Reading!

A Reading List on Western Philosophy and Christian Philosophy and Apologetics

Nine Unethical Practices and Questionable Intellectual Habits in the Academia!

Nine Unethical Practices and Questionable Intellectual Habits in the Academia!

  1. The sin of tribalism and group exceptionalism and preference
  2. The politics of (or the process of) job interviewing and candidate selection
  3. Jealousy and envy among academics in regard to salary, publication, promotion, and public recognition.
  4. The politics of intentional silence and lack of recognition
  5. The deliberate undermining of the scholarship and intellectual contribution of someone in the same discipline and/or cognate areas
  6. The sin of academic plagiarism and mischaracterization of somebody’s scholarship
  7. The unethical practice of colorism, shadism, and the problem of ethnic exclusion in reference to academic recognition, rewards, employment, and job promotion
  8. The sin of academic bullying and gossiping
  9. The moral dilemma of academic structures and systems, as well as intellectual infrastructures

“‘Let My People Think’: Remembering Ravi Zacharias (1946-2020) and the Importance of the Life of Faith and the Life of the Mind”

“‘Let My People Think’: Remembering Ravi Zacharias (1946-2020) and the Importance of the Life of Faith and the Life of the Mind”

Influential Indian-born Christian thinker and apologist Ravi Zacharias died this morning!

May your family and friends find God’s peace and comfort in this time of transition! You have touched many lives for good and nurtured millions of individuals to think critically about the relationship between the life of faith and the life of the mind!

On May 13, 2020, I wrote an essay to honor Ravi Zacharias: “Dr. Ravi Zacharias: My Tribute to a Distant Intellectual Mentor and Teacher.” You can read my tribute to Mr. Zacharias by clicking on the link below:

“Dr. Ravi Zacharias: My Tribute to a Distant Intellectual Mentor and Teacher”

The famed Christian philosopher and apologist Dr. Ravi Zacharias has recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer. We do not know how long he’s going to be with us. As a result, I would like to share a brief testimony with you about how Dr. Zacharias has transformed my life. This is also a way for me to pay a tribute to him.

When I was in College, I began to listen to Ravi Zacharias regularly through his international radio program called “Let My People Think.” Literally, I listened to his philosophical talks every day, both before and after class. He would captivate my mind through his vast knowledge, critical reasoning, and intellectuality. In the process, Dr. Zacharias has become instantly my distant intellectual teacher and mentor. It was through his philosophical and religious writings and lectures that I have learned about the most important philosophers, both from the East and the West. He was through him that I encountered the most leading ideas in the world of philosophy and religious studies (i.e. Hinduism). For example, he introduced me to the central ideas of Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, Nietzsche, Bertrand Russell, C.S. Lewis, Rousseau, Voltaire, Hume, Sartre, Dewey, Plantinga, Lennox, Craig, Foucault, Derrida, Rorty, James, etc. Although I took four philosophy classes in College, Ravi was my best philosophy teacher.

After I graduated from College, I applied to the University of South Florida to pursue an M.A. in (analytical) philosophy. (Unfortunately, I did not enroll in the philosophy program there.) His impact was so strong on me that I wanted to study philosophy professionally and at the academic level.

I must admit that Dr. Zacharias has become the most influential Christian thinker in my life. Language is not adequate to describe his impact on my intellectual development and analytical thinking. In the time of tape recording, I purchased literally every series he produced such as his famous philosophical lecture series at Ohio State University: “Jesus Among Other Gods,” as well as his thought-provoking lecture “Why I am a Christian,” in which he used analytical method and reasoning to argue for theism by deconstructing atheistic ideas in Western Philosophical tradition.

It was Mr. Zacharias who had fueled in me a passion to study in great detail the historicity of the New Testament Gospels, to test the validity of the texts of the New Testament, and to critically evaluate the claims of the resurrection of Jesus. As an Indian philosopher, he had also introduced me to another philosophical tradition beyond the West: Indian Philosophy. He has helped me to explore another worldview and to see the world intellectually from different epistemological lenses. Not only have I learned from him some of the greatest thinkers and philosophers India has produced; he had sparked the fire in me to learn more about Hinduism and Indian poetry and literature. It was also through Zacharias’s rich interdisciplinary knowledge and his impressive expertise on various religious traditions that I became interested in other religious traditions closer to home such as the Haitian Vodou.

Today, my heart is in pain because my teacher and mentor Ravi Zacharias, who had taught me many viable lessons about the life of the mind and the life of the soul (as he himself a devoted follower of Jesus Christ), is in critical medical condition. I pray for his recovery and also wish that his wife Margie and children and friends will find peace and comfort in these difficult times. I also invite you to pray urgently and fervently for Mr. Ravi Zacharias.




“Yon Ti Istwa sou Drapo Ayisyen an” (18 Me, 1803-18 Me, 2020)

“Yon Ti Istwa sou Drapo Ayisyen an” (18 Me, 1803-18 Me, 2020)

Nan pwezentasyon sa a istoryen Doktè Célucien L. Joseph fè yon ti pakou istorik sou Drapo Ayisyen an. Li adrese 8 gran koze sou drapo nasyonal la:

1. Peryòd revolisyonè avan drapo a te kreye
2. Peryòd kreyasyon drapo asyisyen an
3. Catherine Fon: Fanm  kite koud drapo a
4.Signifikasyon senbòl nan drapo a
5.Rapò drapo a ak plizyè drapo nou trouve nan Vodou
6. Evolisyon oubyen chanjman nan drapo a pandan diferan administwasyon politik
7. Diferan pwopozisyon oubyen ide sou istwa drapo a
8. Rapò Drapo Ayisyen an ak im nasyonal dayiti (la desalinyèn) a

“We Wear the Mask” (1895)

“We Wear the Mask” (1895)
by Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906)

We wear the mask that grins and lies, It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—This debt we pay to human guile; With torn and bleeding hearts we smile, And mouth with myriad subtleties.

We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries, To thee from tortured souls arise.We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask!

Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.

“Rethinking The Problem of Theodicy in Haitian Vodou”

“Rethinking The Problem of Theodicy in Haitian Vodou”

In contemporary Vodou scholarship, the notion of theodicy and the opposing binary of good and bad remains unfortunately an unexplored terrain. Vodou scholars have either reject both concepts as if they only belong to the Abrahamic religions or Asian religious traditions such as Buddhism.

Some of my friends who are specialists in Vodou boldly assert that there is no concept of sin, and good and bad in Vodou. Some have argued that “sin” is a Christian concept. It is not Vodou nor does one find it in any African traditional religions. Even if sin is not a basic element in Vodou theological vocabulary and rhetorical grammar, atonement is part of Vodou praxis and liturgy. More often, atonement in Vodou deals with human trespasses, transgressions, shortcomings, the break-up of a vow with a law, for example. These various names we proposed here all pertain to one’s relationship with the Vodou Spirit. In a nutshell, one must atone for one’s sins and seek reconciliation with the Lwa.

Interestingly, if one carefully studies various Vodou songs such as praise songs, thanksgiving songs, agricultural songs, songs of alienation and exile (i.e. Lapriyè Ginen [The Ginen Prayer], and Le grand recueil sacré, ou, Répertoire des chansons du vodou Haïtien [The great sacred collection, or, Repertoire of Haitian Vodou songs] by Max Beauvoir; Vodou Songs in Haitian Creole and English by Benjamin Hebblethwaite ) or examine exegetically Haitian novels (i.e. Masters of the Dew by Jacques Roumain, General Sun, My Brother by Jacques Stephen Alexis) and Vodou poetry (i.e. Un Arc-en-ciel pour l’occident chrétien : Poème, mystère vaudou (Poésie) by René Depestre. Translated by Colin Dayan, as A Rainbow for the Christian West: The Poetry of René Depestre), the notion of human transgression as sin and the failure to maintain balance, as well as the problem of theodicy is inevitable and deliberate in the Vodou proper, as well as in Haitian Vodouist imagination through texts and visual/plastic arts. Vodou aesthetics through Vodou art and aesthetic performances such as the “mizik ginen” and “mizik rasin” all narrate a vision of good and bad in this Religious tradition, and the “ideal world” we long for and that which has departed from the Vodou practitioner. Vodou practitioners also shout “Ichabod”/” The glory has departed!

In fact, “theodicy” is one of the major issues in the acclaimed Haitian novel Masters of the Dew, which accounts for the environmental crisis, natural disasters, drought, human death, animal death, and the hostility that exists between the peasants in the village of Fonds Rouge, the geographical and cultural setting of the novel. The problem of “theodicy” is momentous, omnipresent, and toxic in the Fond Rouges community, and it causes strife and disturbs the peace and harmony in the Vodouist community there. As a result, the much Vodou-devoted parents of the protagonist Jean-Manuel Joseph had to call upon the Vodou Lwa to find a solution to the problem of not only “natural evil” in the village, but also the predicament of human-inflicted pain and suffering in their midst.

Furthermore, in the Haitian Vodouist tradition and cosmological order, the mere existence of a multiplicity of Lwa, is by design, and the fundamental function of the Lwa is, with the help of human (volitional) agents, to create harmony, equilibrium, balance, and equity in the world. The Vodou Lwa not only represent the various ideals of how the world should be and could be, they are in fact representations of how the world ought to be. The Lwa as messengers of the Creator-Bondye (The “Good God”) also infers that the present world does not represent the intended will of God/Bondye, and that human beings have created another world that contradicts “the Ideal World” that Bondye has willed. Hence, the creation of the Vodoun (Spirits) exists by divine necessity so that human beings in cooperation with the Messenger-Lwa could eventually achieve the intended plan of their Creator-Bondye, the good God. Arguably, the Vodoun are Bondye’s promising notes to Vodou adepts. They exist to help human beings/Vodouists deal with theodicy.

Correspondingly, in Vodou hermeneutics, the Vodou spirits also articulate and embody concurrently the various expressions and manifestations of the divine will, desire, and plan. As messengers of the divine will, the notion that the Vodou spirits help to create a relational cosmic order and improve the interplays between human beings in the world is indicative (1) the present world is not the way it should be, (2) the present creation is out of order, and (3) that human nature is out of balance and has been altered by the anti-Bondye human dispositions such as the evil choices and actions free volitional agents orchestrate in the world. In other word, we live in a world that is not harmonious, balanced, and equitable; hence, human beings need the lwa to put all things and the creation as whole to the intended will of Bondye.

Another way to think about the reason the lwa exist in Vodou is to improve the world by readjusting its order and human relationships and fellowship, and reestablishing human shalom and wholeness. Yet the underlying question we ought to explore and seek to understand is this: What is the ontology of the things that are out of place and harmony in the universe? How can we identity them? How should we classify them? Can we place them in different categories? Can we classify them as bad and evil things? Or what makes the world not so good, some human relationships evil, and some human choices anti-Bondye?

Whether one refuses to accept (or reject) the idea of bad and good does not (does) exist in Haitian Vodou or theodicy is (or is not) an element in Vodouist conception of the world/worldview, the Vodouist must face the existence of evil in the world. (Please don’t be quick to say theodicy and the opposing binary of good and bad are Western and Christian concepts; they’re not African!). The Vodouist like every religious and non-religious person in the world is trouble about the problem of human suffering, oppression, and pain, as well as the relationship between the good God (“Bondye”) and the presence of evil in our community, city, nation, and in the world. African traditional religions just like the African-derived religions in the African Diaspora have their roots in the ancient Egyptian religions and spirituality. Ancient Egyptian religions have shaped African/African diasporic religious liturgical practices, ethical systems, divination system, theological beliefs, and moral principles. Ancient Egyptian religions and spirituality have left their enduring mark on the Haitian Vodouist tradition. An important resource that sheds some light about those parallels and connections relating to theodicy and good and bad actions can be found in the famous Egyptian “The Book of Dead.”

Arguably, religion is a human invention, and at the core of every religion, there’s a form of spirituality and attempt to achieve piety. One of the functions of religion is to help humans cope with the care, burden, and anxieties of this world. The Vodou religion is no exception, and Vodouists are affected everyday by the troubles and worries of this world; yet they consult the lwa to find out why and to find a solution? That is theodicy; that is the conflict between the “ideal world” Bondye envisioned for human beings and the world that is.

Six years ago, I published a major article to address the problem of theodicy in Haitian Vodou through an exegetical reading of Jacques Roumain’s famous novel, Masters of the Dew. It was published in the academic journal Theology Today, which is associated with Princeton Theological Seminary/PUP: “The Rhetoric of Suffering, Hope, and Redemption in Masters of the Dew: A Rhetorical and Politico-Theological Analysis of Manuel as Peasant-messiah and Redeemer,” Theology Today (October 2013) 70: 323-350.

Allow me to say this in closing: Many Haitian peasants and some people (some of whom are family members and friends, and my late grandmother whom I so loved and cherished was an ardent Vodou-Catholic practitioner, as well as the great Vodou priestess [Mambo] in her community in Haiti) that I know who practice Vodou are quite aware of the problem of good and bad and correspondingly the predicament of theodicy in their religion and in their everyday experience; interestingly, the intellectual study of the Vodou religion is playing an utopian game with the real life and the real experience of Vodou practitioners. Like other religious traditions, Vodou has its own challenges: some of those challenges are ethical, moral, theological, and existential. The Vodou scholar must make these challenges as part of his or her intellectual adventure and curiosity about the religion. The basic human disposition to all religion is curiosity and the attempt to discover truth, the ideal, and gain understanding.

The Caribbean Fiction!

If one wants to get well-acquainted with the Caribbean life, read Caribbean fictional writings such as novels, short stories, plays, and poems. The Caribbean fiction reveals the inner life, contradictions, tragedy, and the hope of the Caribbean people. It also explains the reality of their complex culture, practices, and ideas, as well as their resistance to oppression, militarization, and imperialism.

Through the Caribbean fiction, the reader learns about the unrelenting attempt of the Caribbean people to recreate themselves, to remake their society, and to fashion another and better Caribbean world contributing to human flourishing in this side of the world. I believe the Caribbean fiction offers a specific entrance into the Caribbean world and condition more than any other form of writing is able to do.

****Here are a few Caribbean classics: Maryse Conde, I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem; Edwidge Danticat, Breath, Eyes, Memory; Edouard Glissant, Monsieur Toussaint: A Play; Jacques Roumain, Masters of the Dew; Patrick Chamoiseau, Texaco; Marie Vieux-Chauvet, Love, Anger, and Madness; Aime Cesaire, Notebook of a Return to the Native Land; Edward Brathwaite, The Arrivants: A New World Triology; Derek Walcott, Omeros; V.S. Naipaul, A House for Mr. Biswas; George Lamming; Wilson Harris, Palace of the Peacock; Sylvia Winter,The Hills of Hebron; Roger Mais,The Hills Were Joyful Together; Claude McKay, Banana Bottom; Earl Wilbert Lovelace, The Dragon Can’t Dance.