Published during: April 2013

Objectivism and Utilitarianism in The Dark Knight Rises

The following paper was prepared for Dr. Jeremy Evan’s introductory philosophy class.


Among the many interesting philosophical tangles woven into The Dark Knight by the Nolan brothers, one of the most interesting is the film’s implicit contrast between a set of conflicting moral visions: the constrained utilitarianism of Batman himself, the nihilistic amoralism proclaimed by the Joker, and the quiet objectivism displayed by Lucius Fox and Rachel Dawes. Of these, Batman’s utilitarianism is both most dynamic and most interesting in the broader context of the Nolan canon. The objectivist position of Fox and Dawes and the anarchist angle espoused by the Joker are both essentially static points that provide contrasts with Batman’s philosophy throughout the second film. Meanwhile, the ethical dilemmas Bruce faces here provoke him to confront at a deeper level the questions raised by the radical utilitarianism of the League of Shadows in the movies that precede and follow The Dark Knight. As a result, Batman transforms from the idealistic, restrained utilitarian—at times almost an objectivist—of the first movie into a compromised, decidedly not objectivist utilitarian by the conclusion of the second film. Read on, intrepid explorer →

He who made all things restores all things!

The following paper was prepared for Dr. Steven McKinion’s Hermeneutics class, with the constraint that it be between 600 and 625 words.

Colossians 1:13–23

The meaning of the text

Christ is supremely worthy of worship. The Father made all things by and through Christ, for Christ, who now sustains all things. In Christ, the Father is reconciling all things to himself, making peace for us by the blood of his cross. He is the very image of God, and in him God dwells fully. He is the firm foundation of believers’ salvation and sanctification, and his person and deeds are the center of the gospel to which believers are called. Read on, intrepid explorer →

Contra Mundum: A Biographical Sketch of Athanasius of Alexandria

The following paper was prepared for Dr. Nathan Finn’s Patristic and Medieval Church history class.

I. Athanasius the Man

Even sixteen hundred years after his death, all orthodox Christians stand indebted to Athanasius, the man who stood contra mundum, “against the world.” Born in Alexandria between A.D. 296 and 298, Athanasius grew up in Alexandria, Egypt. As an obviously talented young man coming up through the ranks of the city’s famed scholastic system, he became a deacon and within a few years was picked by Alexander to accompany him to the landmark Council of Nicaea, where he wrote one of the definitive accounts of the gathering.

Athanasius came into his bishopric as the church underwent a number of substantial challenges in the first half of the fourth century after Christ. Internally, the church faced the threat of heresy from the Arians, ecclesiastical conflict with splinter groups such as the Meletians, and the task of integrating the growing ascetic and monastic movements into the life of the church. Externally, the church confronted the changes brought on by the new realities of first tolerance and then outright patronage by the Roman Empire. These challenges pressed the bishop into new roles, not merely a “local teacher” but now a “cosmopolitan representative of ecclesiastical and often secular authority.”1 Moreover, Imperial authority now touched on every action a major bishop could take, such that “Only someone with the intellectual power, obstinacy of will and longevity of Athanasius could stand against it.”2

By the end of his life, Athanasius had made significant progress in a number of these areas, though not without cost. Each of Athanasius’ five exiles were prompted by his opposition to Arian theology as the changing winds of imperial doctrine brought Nicene orthodoxy in and out of public favor. His fight was ultimately successful, however: the Arians were vanquished decisively (though not finally) at the Council of Ephesus only eight years after his death in exile. The influence of the Meletians in Alexandria had been thoroughly blunted. The monks, though still a distinct movement within the church, were tied much more closely to the bishop and local congregations than they had been when he came into office. Finally, his willingness to oppose the emperor even at great personal cost helped establish the independence of right doctrine from Imperial political authority, even if the point remained in contention and doubt for centuries. Read on, intrepid explorer →

For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.

—Hebrews 12:18–29

A better priest

The following paper was prepared for Dr. Steven McKinion’s Hermeneutics class, with the constraint that it be between 600 and 625 words.

Hebrews 7

The meaning of the text

Jesus officiates a better priesthood under the New Covenant than the Levitical priests of the Old Covenant did. After returning to the subject of Melchizedek in verses 1–3 (from which he had turned aside throughout chapter 6), the author makes this point clear in a series of short reflections, each contrasting the various elements of the Levitical priesthood with that of Jesus Christ.

First, Read on, intrepid explorer →