Mars Hill Audio Addenda https://marshillaudio.org Wed, 14 Nov 2018 06:11:35 -0500 en-US hourly 1 http://github.com/man4mac https://marshillaudio.org https://marshillaudio.org/favicon.ico Mars Hill Audio Addenda <![CDATA[Through the Eye of a Needle: Wealth, the Fall of Rome, and the Making of Christianity in the West]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/through-eye-needle-wealth-fall-rome-and-making-christianity-west Tue, 19 Feb 2013 13:11:10 -0500 https://marshillaudio.org/node/254 super
19 Feb

Through the Eye of a Needle: Wealth, the Fall of Rome, and the Making of Christianity in the West

Category: What We're Reading
By: Ken Myers
Published: 02/19/13
Subtitle:

(Princeton, 2012)

Brown is known for his 1967 biography of St. Augustine and for numerous volumes about the transition from Roman antiquity to Christendom. Brown explored the relationship of the early Church and the poor in his 2001 Poverty and Leadership in the Later Roman Empire. This new book is a more extensive exploration of the meaning and roles of wealth in early Christendom.

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<![CDATA[Loving the Poor, Saving the Rich: Wealth, Poverty, and Early Christian Formation ]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/loving-poor-saving-rich-wealth-poverty-and-early-christian-formation Tue, 19 Feb 2013 13:14:42 -0500 https://marshillaudio.org/node/255 super
19 Feb

Loving the Poor, Saving the Rich: Wealth, Poverty, and Early Christian Formation

Category: What We're Reading
By: Ken Myers
Published: 02/19/13
Subtitle:

(Baker Academic, 2012)

Rhee examines the way in which almsgiving emerged as a defining feature of Christian identity in the second and third centuries.

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<![CDATA[Beauty in the Word: Rethinking the Foundations of Education ]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/beauty-word-rethinking-foundations-education Tue, 19 Feb 2013 13:16:27 -0500 https://marshillaudio.org/node/256 super
19 Feb

Beauty in the Word: Rethinking the Foundations of Education

Category: What We're Reading
By: Ken Myers
Published: 02/19/13
Subtitle:

(Angelico Press, 2012)

A sequel to his Beauty for Truth's Sake (discussed on volume 102 of the Journal), this new book examines how education, rooted in the classical trivium, enables us to "become more human (and therefore more free, in the truest sense of the word)."

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<![CDATA[A Hobbit Journey: Discovering the Enchantment of J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/hobbit-journey-discovering-enchantment-j-r-r-tolkiens-middle-earth Tue, 19 Feb 2013 13:22:53 -0500 https://marshillaudio.org/node/257 super
19 Feb

A Hobbit Journey: Discovering the Enchantment of J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth

Category: What We're Reading
By: Ken Myers
Published: 02/19/13
Subtitle:

(Brazos, 2012)

A reworking and expansion of his earlier Following Gandalf, Dickerson (a guest on volume 85) discusses the moral vision of Tolkien in the Middle Earth books, focusing a good deal of attention on matters concerning justice in warfare.

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<![CDATA[Liberal Arts for the Christian Life ]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/liberal-arts-christian-life Tue, 19 Feb 2013 13:23:55 -0500 https://marshillaudio.org/node/258 super
19 Feb

Liberal Arts for the Christian Life

Category: What We're Reading
By: Ken Myers
Published: 02/19/13
Subtitle:

by Jeffry Davis and Philip Ryken (Crossway, 2012)

This anthology, edited by the president of Wheaton College and one of the school's English professors, presents the case that liberal arts education is a form of Christian discipleship.

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<![CDATA[Who Strangled God?]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/who-strangled-god Tue, 19 Feb 2013 13:25:51 -0500 https://marshillaudio.org/node/259 super
19 Feb

Who Strangled God?

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Ken Myers
Published: 02/19/13
Subtitle:

This essay first appeared in the “Contours of Culture” column (Touchstone, January/February 2011)

In conversations among Christians about the shape of our cultural lives, it is common to hear references to St. Paul’s “all things to all men” declaration. That oft-cited phrase appears in the middle of his first letter to the Corinthians (in chapter 9), in a passage in which he is addressing questions that had been raised about the legitimacy of his apostolic office. This defense is part of a larger argument in the letter about how Christians should always use their freedom for the sake of others, not for their own gain. St. Paul insists that his becoming “like one not having the law” or “like a Jew” was done “for the sake of the gospel, that I may share [with them] in its blessings.”

Later in the letter, continuing his discussion of the shape of Christian freedom, St. Paul insists that freedom must always be exercised with wisdom. In chapter 10:23ff., he cites a slogan apparently in vogue in Corinth among believers eager to assert their freedom in Christ: “Everything is permissible.” But this wise (and inspired) shepherd amends the slogan: “but not everything is beneficial.” Again, he writes: “‘Everything is permissible’—but not everything is constructive.”

Every effort by Christians to adapt the shape of the Church’s life to accommodate contemporary cultural conventions must be guided by a concern for what is constructive and beneficial as well as what is superficially winsome. St. Paul’s “all things to all men” formula must always be applied in light of other inspired guidance. For example, in his letter to the Ephesians, he writes: “I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking” (4:17). This warning introduces a long passage about how the lives of believers must be remarkably different from those of their unbelieving neighbors. In the middle of this sequence of exhortation, St. Paul urges the same attitude of discernment and prudence displayed in the Corinthian epistle: “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”

These complementary Pauline passages came to mind as I was re-reading sections of James Turner’s remarkable book, Without God, Without Creed: The Origins of Unbelief in America. This detailed and wide-ranging exercise in intellectual history is concerned with a single question regarding Western cultural life. “How did the practically universal assumption of God disappear?” How—within a very short period of time in the mid-nineteenth century—did atheism become plausible in Western culture?

In Turner’s study, the answer is that many well-intentioned Christians—motivated by a version of the “all things to all men” strategy—embraced a modern “cast of mind,” thereby enabling Christians and their message to seem more “relevant.” The mental sensibility Turner has in view is the habit of mind that gave rise to modern science and technology, a mentality “more insistent on the regularity and orderliness of phenomena; more comfortable with tangible, measurable realities than with the unseen and mysterious; more dubious about traditional explanations and more inclined to experiment with new ones.”

As various Church leaders and theologians tried to repackage Christian thought in a form than was more resonant with this new mental world, they thus signed their own death warrant—and God’s. “In trying to adapt their religious beliefs to socioeconomic change, to new moral challenges, to novel problems of knowledge, to the tightening standards of science, the defenders of God slowly strangled Him. If anyone is to be arraigned for deicide, it is not Charles Darwin but his adversary Samuel Wilberforce, not the godless Robert Ingersoll but the godly Beecher family.”

Motivated by the best intentions, the Church nonetheless “played a major role in softening up belief.” Turner concludes that atheism became plausible because of “the decisions that influential church leaders—lay writers, theologians, ministers—made about how to confront the modern pressures upon religious belief. . . . And the choices, taken together, boiled down to a decision to deal with modernity by embracing it—to defuse modern threats to the traditional bases of belief by bringing God into line with modernity.”

Turner’s compilation of evidence for these charges is thorough, compelling, and sobering. Like all the books I’ve discussed in this column, this one should be required reading by every pastor and seminary student. Without God, Without Creed presents a valuable case study of how forms of cultural adaptation that are well-intentioned and within the bounds of bare moral permissibility nonetheless can fall short of being constructive or beneficial. The destructive effects may not be immediately obvious, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t foreseeable. The story Turner tells here should be read as a paradigmatic warning to all efforts of Christians who are eager to address their cultural situation with wisdom and compassion, who want to know when to be like the Gentiles and when not to, who are willing to be against the world for the world.

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<![CDATA[Faith of Our Fathers]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/faith-our-fathers Tue, 19 Feb 2013 13:30:51 -0500 https://marshillaudio.org/node/260 super
19 Feb

Faith of Our Fathers

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Ken Myers
Published: 02/19/13
Subtitle:

This essay first appeared in the “Contours of Culture” column (Touchstone, July/August 2010)

A few years ago, while driving on an Interstate in the Southeast, I spotted a billboard that announced: “A church for people who don’t like church.” This description prompted me to imagine exactly what it was that the target market for this invitation might find objectionable about “church” as conventionally experienced.

It is unlikely that the congregation in question was ditching all references to God or to spiritual renewal (although who God is and what constitutes spiritual renewal might well be reconfigured in this setting). And while there are “churches” that eschew making any significant moral demands on their constituents, I don’t know that this was in the minds of the billboard’s presenters. However, since the leaders of this religious enterprise seem so eager not to offend potential clients, I also doubt that vigorous and sustained exhortation will be on the agenda come Sunday.

Driving further down the road, I wondered whether the NFL could dream up some sort of football for people who don’t like football. Might marketers at NASCAR re-tool stock-car racing for people who don’t like stock-car racing? Could the imagineers at Disney build a theme park for people who don’t like theme parks? In such scenarios (and countless others), what would need to be eliminated in order to attract the disaffected? And would the event still retain its identity when stripped of allegedly accidental characteristics?

I’m guessing that what people typically dislike about “church” (not, interestingly, “the Church”) includes ritual, tradition, reverent silence, hierarchy, mystery, and doctrinal orthodoxy rooted in historic and learned debates. These are the things that Americans have typically and dramatically disliked about “church” for a long time. The history of that dislike explains a great deal about American religion and American culture more generally. That history had its defining moment in the early decades of the nineteenth century, a heady season of revolutionary enthusiasm for “liberty,” understood in terms of the absolute competence of individuals and of the shucking off of old forms of authority.

To my knowledge, there is no better account of that history than Nathan O. Hatch’s The Democratization of American Christianity. One cannot hope to make sense of the various twists and shifts and emergings of contemporary American religion without examining the way the Jeffersonian and Jacksonian visions of human flourishing stamped American Christianity with an individualistic character that fundamentally reshaped the American Church and its message. Hatch brilliantly traces the personalities and movements that advanced the notion that—in the words of one popular preacher of the time—“religion is a matter between God and individuals.” No creeds. No ecumenical councils. No authoritative community. No educated clergy. The unchurch: church for people who don’t like church.

In the first several decades of the young republic’s life, many religious Americans came to believe that “the Spirit of ’76” was Pentecost 2.0, an event propelling the Church into a new level of spiritual power. Hatch uncovers how the radical egalitarianism of the late eighteenth century—a “passion for equality” stemming from a novel confidence in individual reason and common sense that had been advanced by the pioneers of the Enlightenment—came to reshape religious institutions and redefine the typical understanding of religious experience. As Hatch explains, “the Revolution dramatically expanded the circle of people who considered themselves capable of thinking for themselves about issues of freedom, equality, sovereignty, and representation. Respect for authority, tradition, station, and education eroded. Ordinary people moved toward these new horizons aided by a powerful new vocabulary, a rhetoric of liberty that would not have occurred to them were it not for the Revolution.” This vocabulary was applied without dilution to the life of God’s people. As a result, “The correct solution to any important problem, political, legal, or religious, would have to appear to be the people’s choice.”

Hatch describes how “the people” dismissed the alleged lessons of history and tradition and “refused to defer to learned theologians and traditional orthodoxies.” They followed Kant’s path to Enlightenment by insisting on judging for themselves “rather than depending upon the mediations of an educated elite.” Egalitarianism was allied with strong anti-intellectual biases.

One of the subplots in Hatch’s story is how the untethering of the Church’s life from a tradition of thoughtful reflection produced “a society in which grasping entrepreneurs could erect new forms of tyranny in religious, political, and economic institutions.” The rejection of existing forms of authority did not magically transform the world into a place with no authorities; the repudiation of the Church’s tradition simply meant embracing a less venerable legacy of more recently developed (and more dubious) ways of thinking, often with disastrous results. “Attempting to erase the difference between leaders and followers,” Hatch concludes, “Americans opened the door to religious demagogues.”

The Democratization of American Christianity is a cautionary tale about how the Church surrenders its vocation when it allies itself with dubious cultural trends. Since we are going through another season of enthusiasm about the power of populism—much of it inflected with anti-intellectual confidence—it is a particularly good time for Christians to reflect on the cultural captivity experienced in the life of the Church by embracing these most American of sentiments.

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<![CDATA[Immediately Yours]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/immediately-yours Tue, 19 Feb 2013 13:35:12 -0500 https://marshillaudio.org/node/261 super
19 Feb

Immediately Yours

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Ken Myers
Published: 02/19/13
Subtitle:

This essay first appeared in the “Contours of Culture” column (Touchstone, November/December 2009)

We were created as beings intended to inhabit time well. We are so eager to defend the fact of Creation to skeptics and atheists that we often forget the instructive quality of the rhythm of Creation. God who is beyond time somehow takes time to create all things. And then a day of rest is established. Christian faith is thus not simply historical; it is also concerned with honoring the meaning of our temporality. Impatience is a deeply disordering vice, displaying at root a frustration with a God who uses time to accomplish his purposes, who has chosen not to do everything right away.

While there is nothing new about impatience, I think it’s fair to say that no human culture has so institutionalized restlessness and a quest for immediacy as has our own. We expect that people will respond to our demands without delay and circumstances will be altered (whether a website loading or traffic abating or a meal being prepared) in the blink of an eye. More significantly, we expect to be able to adjust our own feelings quickly, to move from an emotional 0-60 in 3 seconds. The idea that any joys—whether sublime or mundane—might require disciplines of cultivation is increasingly foreign to our accelerated culture.

In his 2001 book Media Unlimited: How the Torrent of Images and Sounds Overwhelms Our Lives (Henry Holt & Co.), Todd Gitlin argues that our experience with omnipresent media creates in us what he describes as a new way of having emotions. We expect experiences to have an intense emotional impact immediately, but we want to be able to abandon these feelings just as quickly. Frenetic Java animations on web page, fast-cutting 15-second commercials, 90-second news reports skimming the surface of hugely complicated stories: all are crafted to offer us a daisy-chain of disposable epiphanies. For commercial reasons, no mass-mediated experience can afford to make us turn off the set or turn from the screen to reflect on what we have seen or heard. We have to want to come back for more. Sensational intensity rather than contemplative depth is the ideal.

Gitlin situates this sensibility in a time long before TV or the Internet: in the Romantic reaction to Enlightenment rationalism, a reaction that established human feeling (and willing) as more fundamental and reliable than reason. Romanticism “urges us to heed the inner voice of feeling. Real life takes place in deep feeling, authentic feeling, feeling that must be protected from social impositions, feeling that was born free and longs to go native. The idea spreads that the individual is, above all, his or her feelings.”

But the demands of work, sustaining relationships, and participating in social life require some tempering or management of emotions. So, as Gitlin puts it, “Romanticism must be domesticated, made to fit into the niches of life. . . . Emotions must refresh, not drain or disrupt. they must be disposable and, if not free, at least low-cost.” The goal is a “society of nonstop popular culture that induces limited-liability feelings on demand—feelings that do not bind and sensations that feel like, or pass for, feelings.”

Gitlin’s thoughtful analysis exposes the way in which modern media don’t so much deliver information as they shape and intensify desires—and not just desires for things (the final goal of advertising) but the desire for love, acceptance, pleasure, security, power, happiness, even the desire for desire itself, or the desire for experiences that stoke desire. The restlessness sustained by mass media is a product as much of its form as its content, and the most powerful formal device the media uses to generate this restlessness is the sense of speed. “Speed on top of speed,” write Todd Gitlin: “there is the swirling dynamic within a shot, and then the edit between one shot and the next. Montage is as relentless as the camera is restless. But in many instances, the camera movement and the quickcut editing conceals the fact that the images themselves are not that visually interesting. . . . Pictorially, they often lack interest. In other words, the pleasure of beholding these freestanding images speeding by is not strictly visual but amounts to a different sort of pleasure, the kind Mark Crispin Miller calls ‘subvisual’—visceral pleasure at the disorientation that results from a sequence of bursts, pleasure at immersion in a wild procession of fragments.” I think that “lust of the eyes” is an apt description of this condition.

Gitlin’s politics and theology are far from my own, but I know of few books as insightful in analyzing the causes and effects of media saturation. If his diagnosis is correct, churches that re-tool their worship services to accommodate these sensational expectations are simply adding momentum to a severe cultural and personal disorder, which is an odd way to love your neighbors or make disciples.

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<![CDATA[Irrigating Deserts]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/irrigating-deserts Tue, 19 Feb 2013 13:39:06 -0500 https://marshillaudio.org/node/262 super
19 Feb

Irrigating Deserts

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Ken Myers
Published: 02/19/13
Subtitle:

This essay first appeared in the “Contours of Culture” column (Touchstone, September/October 2010)

Many years ago, I had a conversation with philosopher and ethicist Gilbert Meilaender about the work of C. S. Lewis. As we were discussing why Lewis was such a compelling apologist, Gil said, “I think he’s not so much trying to argue anybody into thinking something as he is simply trying to understand what it would mean to believe something, through the enormous gifts he has for illustration and metaphor and story.”

Lewis’s imaginative skills were thus focused less on the mere credibility or plausibility of belief (which are the concerns of most apologists) and more on the ramifications of belief. If the Gospel is true, here is how the world will look.” Even “belief” had a more comprehensive scope in his thinking than most apologists recognize. The Gospel wasn’t just a message about getting saved; it was a message of salvation in the context of a bigger story about the meaning of everything. It presupposed a cosmology and a rich anthropology. As in the Creed, Lewis’s defense of the faith began with a tacit but rich affirmation of the Maker of Heaven and Earth who made all things in a particular way, the shape of which His creatures would do well to honor.

As a great lover of stories, Lewis knew that Christianity had a big story to tell. He also was acutely aware that there were fatally misleading ways of telling the story about the world and all that therein is. The Screwtape Letters is such a powerful work because Lewis described so well how all of life looks from the viewpoint of a devilish tempter. In his fiction, many of his villains are comprehensively wrong, not just mistaken on this or that point of doctrine. The way they look at the whole of life is out of whack. In The Narnian, Alan Jacobs observes that Lewis had a shrewd eye for “what Marxists call ‘ideology,’ that is, the system of beliefs that are so taken for granted in a given culture that hardly anyone even notices that they are beliefs.”

In all of his writings, Lewis always presented Christianity as something that was true, and as something that should be embraced precisely because it was true (not because it was felt to be a ticket to happiness or safety). The Christian account of God and Creation and Man and Sin was the Way Things Really Are. So, as Jacobs observes, Lewis was profoundly troubled by the fact that “after being indoctrinated into a systematic disregard of truth and falsehood, people can find themselves unable to recognize the difference even when it is put before them plainly.”

Such fatal indoctrination comes through many cultural conduits, and Lewis damns them all at one time or another in his books: journalism, political rhetoric, advertising, bad literature. But he seems to regard the false indoctrination practiced by educators as the most insidious and pervasive. It was, Lewis makes clear, the shape of his education that made Mark Studdock (in That Hideous Strength) such a man of straw and so vulnerable to being corrupted.

Given Lewis’s concern about the disordering effect of misguided schooling, it is not at all surprising to read the somber epigraph to the first chapter of The Abolition of Man, a book whose subtitle identifies it as Reflections on Education. Lewis begins his scathing critique of a common mentality of modern educators by citing two lines from a 15th century carol, “Unto us a boy is born,” suggesting a Herodian quality in the teachers in question: “So he sent the word to slay /  and slew the little childer.” The pedagogical practices under scrutiny amount to a slaughter of the innocents.

The Abolition of Man is a powerful tract defending the assumption that value judgments (in ethics, aesthetics, and everyday life) are tied to objective reality. It does not prove the reality of what Lewis calls “the Tao” (and, as he points out, others have called “Natural Law or Traditional Morality or the First Principles of Practical Reason or the First Platitudes”). Rather than offer proof for the Tao (which Lewis says would be impossible, since there would be nothing higher to appeal to in making such a proof), Lewis teases out what the world would look like (and what Man becomes) if the subjectivists are right. If all value judgments are expressions of mere feeling and preference, then humans are merely trousered apes.

Because feelings are so highly valued in modern culture, some Christians assume that the response is to train reason so as to resist the blandishments of emotion. Lewis strongly disagrees. “The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles but to irrigate deserts. The right defense against false sentiments is to inculcate just sentiments.” Education rightly ordered must properly train the sentiments, sensibilities and affections of students. After all, “approvals and disapprovals are . . . responses to an objective order” and thus we should seek to align our emotions with the Way Things Really Are. A person so trained will understand that the chief end of a truly human life is to conform the soul to reality, not (as the modern mind assumes) to attempt to remake reality to fit our desires.

Subjectivism is one of the deep, dehumanizing lies of modern culture. It devalues emotion as well as reason, truth as well as tradition. Subjectivist assumptions prevent many unbelievers from becoming believers, and they deter many believers from living fully as believers. I think every Christian teacher, pastor, and parent should wrestle with The Abolition of Man and ask how teaching and the shape of everyday life should be altered if Lewis’s prophetic warnings are true.

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<![CDATA[Reducing Enlightenment Glare]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/reducing-enlightenment-glare Tue, 19 Feb 2013 13:42:11 -0500 https://marshillaudio.org/node/263 super
19 Feb

Reducing Enlightenment Glare

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Ken Myers
Published: 02/19/13
Subtitle:

This essay first appeared in the “Contours of Culture” column (Touchstone, March/April 2011)

In his 1983 Templeton address, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn began by recounting a memory from his childhood. “I recall hearing a number of older people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: ‘Men have forgotten God; that’s why this has happened’.”

As a telegraphic summary of the source of Russian ills under Communism, it would be hard to improve on those four initial words. Since Solzhenitsyn spoke them, they have served many Christian pundits in the West as a description of the disorders within liberal democratic regimes. But while this slogan boasts a certain scrappy punchiness, it doesn’t offer us much help in figuring out how the memory lapse in question was provoked.

The modern forgetting of God has many intertwined causes, some of them the result of well-intentioned efforts to sustain God’s “relevance” for people living in a culture that eclipses God’s identity.  It is a forgetting induced by systemic forces, and so it will not be reversed though piecemeal efforts such as keeping God’s name on our coins or His laws memorialized in public places.

Remembering God is not like remembering your brother’s birthday or remembering where you left your car keys. Remembering God is not sustaining awareness of an isolatable fact. The God we must remember is the source of rationality in which memory and personality have meaning. He is the origin of all being and order, all truth and coherence. The God we must remember gave all of Creation its shape, then entered Creation in the form of a man, and thereby reaffirmed his love of Man and his love of all He has made. Trying to remember God as anything less is to ensure our forgetting.

If we are really concerned to remember God, we need to attend to the various dismemberings that have made it easy to forget Him. Since God has chosen to use Creation to reveal Himself, and then to reveal Himself most fully in human form, it is not surprising that the modern forgetting of God is intimately tied with confusion about the nature of the human, the nature of Creation, and the nature of human perception of Creation.

The English theologian Colin Gunton (1941-2003) left us with a number of books exploring these themes and how they relate to our understanding of God. Much of his work revolved around the doctrine of Creation and the doctrine of the Trinity, and his most insightful work interweaves those two concerns. It was through Gunton’s work that I first encountered the observation that most Christian reflection on Creation might as well be Unitarian, and that this has contributed to our careless acceptance of many modern cultural innovations. We misunderstand Creation and we misunderstand God (and thus risk forgetting Him) if we fail to acknowledge that it is in Christ that all things hold together.

One of Gunton’s earliest books is a slim volume called Enlightenment and Alienation: An Essay Towards a Trinitarian Theology. The book explores themes developed more fully in Gunton’s later writing, but I know of few volumes that summarize so well the destructive “cast of mind” introduced by the Enlightenment. As Gunton demonstrates, the confidence in allegedly unaided reason championed by the Enlightenment is intertwined with a set of assumptions about the nature of knowledge (particularly an unprecedented emphasis on precision and certainty), the nature of perception, the relationship between knowledge and belief, and the place of Man in Creation. As he traces the dominant threads in the development of modern ideas about human knowing, he introduces various critics of that main stream. There are some tantalizing excursions about the place of the imagination in the thinking of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, about the true meaning of human freedom as discussed by Iris Murdoch, and (most importantly) about the necessarily personal nature of human knowledge as explored by Michael Polanyi.

Throughout the book, Gunton keeps coming back to theology. Consider this Christological comment, part of his defense of the reliability of knowledge gained through the senses:

A world that owes its origin to a God who makes it with direct reference to one who was to become incarnate—part of that world—is a world that is a proper place for human beings to use their senses, minds and imaginations, and to expect that they will not be wholly deceived in doing so.

There are numerous “alienations” in modern culture; among those addressed here are the dismembering of knowledge from belief, the stark separation of reason from the senses (of the mind from matter), and the alleged conflict between freedom and obedience.  But the alienation that Gunton is most concerned with in this book is the alienation from Creation that modern thought and culture have encouraged. By making ourselves into the makers of all meaning, we cut ourselves off from “things as they really are,” and so, as he notes early in the book, “Despite the massive advances in knowledge, understanding and the protection of human life from threats to its physical well-being, we are no more at home on the earth, perhaps less so, than other-worldly mediaeval man.”

The modern forgetting of God is not a careless slipping from consciousness of an important fact. It is a product of various idolatries that have coalesced into conventional mindsets and cultural institutions, many practiced by well-meaning Christians. In Enlightenment and Alienation (as in his other books) Colin Gunton does more than identify those false gods and how they secured the fealty of their followers: he confidently and hopefully offers encouragement for a way forward for those who wish to honor in their engagement with Creation the three-in-one true God.

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<![CDATA[The Good City: Community and Urban Order]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/good-city-community-and-urban-order Mon, 20 May 2013 15:08:33 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/348 catalog maintainer
20 May

The Good City: Community and Urban Order

Category: Fresh Tracks
By: Ken Myers
Published: 05/20/13
Subtitle:

MARS HILL AUDIO Anthology 10

The phrase "human flourishing" has become quite common in conversations among Christians about the goals of cultural involvement. Sometimes the shape of flourishing remains vague, sometimes it is identified with very specific social or political issues.

All too rarely is human flourishing discussed in terms as mundane as the presence of sidewalks, the width of residential streets, or zoning regulations that encourage walking rather than driving. But for a number of contemporary thinkers, human flourishing is necessarily tied to the way we plan and cultivate our built environment.

In Anthology 10: "The Good City: Community and Urban Order," MARS HILL AUDIO host Ken Myers talks with architects, historians, activists, and clergy about how loving our neighbors can and must take shape in how we order the material aspects of shared life. The conversations on this Anthology give particular attention to how the New Urbanist movement has challenged the dehumanizing effects of modernism in urban design.

Myers notes in his script that, "As the God-ordained stewards of the earth, we must be attentive to the condition of our homes, towns, cities and countryside; the love of our neighbors demands it. A rich theology of human flourishing must include the recognition that communities are sustained by memory of their history and by specific patterns of attentiveness to Creation. An architectural agenda that allows the needs of mobility to dictate the texture of lived life in cities—a civic vision that champions efficiency with no concern to the beauty of life in a place—violates the well-being of real communities and the real people within them."

Guests featured on this Anthology all previously appeared on back issues of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal, and include: James Howard Kunstler (The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition); Jeff Speck (Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream); Vincent Scully (American Architecture and Urbanism); Richard Moe (Changing Places: Rebuilding Community in the Age of Sprawl); Philip Bess (Till We Have Built Jerusalem: Architecture, Urbanism, and the Sacred); and Eric Jacobsen (Sidewalks in the Kingdom: New Urbanism and the Christian Faith).

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<![CDATA[MARS HILL AUDIO Journal: Volume 116]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/mars-hill-audio-journal-volume-116 Mon, 20 May 2013 15:32:08 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/349 catalog maintainer
20 May

MARS HILL AUDIO Journal: Volume 116

Category: Fresh Tracks
By: Ken Myers
Published: 05/20/13
Subtitle:

This issue of the Journal moves from the farm to the city, from sex to death.

Five of the six guests on this volume have been on earlier issues of the Journal. We're glad they've come back to deepen our understanding of the Gospel's description of human well-being in light of God's work of creation and redemption, and to discuss how that understanding should inform our cultural lives.

Here’s the rundown for Volume 116:

Stratford Caldecott, on the original understanding of the trivium as the foundation of education, and why schools must educate the whole person within an understanding of the unity of all knowledge

Fred Bahnson, on how his early life in the mountains of Montana impressed him with the grandeur of God, and how he came down from the mountains to become an urban gardener

Eric Jacobsen, on why the Christian commitment to love neighbors should issue in a concern for the physical shape of neighborhoods, and why the lessons of the New Urbanists are a helpful antidote to the mistakes of modernism

J. Budziszewski, on why reductionist accounts of human nature—reducing all physical actions to merely material matters—fail to do justice to our humanity

Brian Brock, on how the Church has welcomed the disabled, and on the challenge of severe mental disabilities for how we understand the nature of faith

Allen Verhey, on why a "medicalized" view of death detaches us from the life of the Church, and why our trust in God at the hour of our death should include a recognition of Christ's cosmic triumph over all evil

To listen to your copy now, click here.

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<![CDATA[Bringing the Blush to Old Slewfoot's Face]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/bringing-blush-old-slewfoots-face Tue, 30 Nov 2004 19:00:00 -0500 https://marshillaudio.org/node/357 catalog maintainer
30 Nov

Bringing the Blush to Old Slewfoot's Face

Category: What We're Reading
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 11/30/04
Subtitle:

William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company has collected a number of professor Alan Jacobs's works in Shaming the Devil.

William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company has collected a number of professor Alan Jacobs's works in Shaming the Devil. The subtitle of the book, Essays in Truthtelling, aptly and succinctly expresses the task of the collection, which Jacobs (a guest on several volumes of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal) describes as conducting experiments in truthtelling and the pursuit of truth. The work is divided into three parts: part one, titled "Exemplars," attends to great writers who have told the truth—and to the truths they have told—in their poems, novels, and books; part two, "Explorations," studies additional writers, along with how they have succeeded and fallen short in pursuing truth; and part three, "Experiment," discusses computer technology and whether it helps or hinders, in Jacques Ellul's phrase, "the search for justice before God." The collection of exemplars and those whose work is explored include W. H. Auden, Rebecca West, Albert Camus, and Iris Murdoch. Jacobs concludes the introduction to Shaming the Devil thus: "If what I write . . . in this book moves us an inch or so closer to general truthfulness, and thereby towards the justice of the Lord, my work will have been amply rewarded. And if it brings a discomfited blush, even for an instant, to the face of Old Slewfoot, that would be nice too." [Posted December 2004, ALG]

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<![CDATA[The New Whateverism in Art]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/new-whateverism-art Sun, 01 Apr 2007 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/359 catalog maintainer
1 Apr

The New Whateverism in Art

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Ken Myers
Published: 04/01/07
Subtitle:

Art critic Jed Perl (writing in the February 5, 2007 issue of The New Republic) observes that "We have entered the age of laissez-faire aesthetics." The ruling assumption of this age is that "any experience that anyone can have with a work of art is equal to any other." . . .

Art critic Jed Perl (writing in the February 5, 2007 issue of The New Republic) observes that "We have entered the age of laissez-faire aesthetics." The ruling assumption of this age is that "any experience that anyone can have with a work of art is equal to any other." Perl examines the work of a number of specific artists, all highly fashionable (and exceedingly well-rewarded for their work), and admits that this moment in contemporary art is "reminiscent of the mentality of a number of collectors in the early 1960s." That was a period when Pop Art burst on the scene, when figures such as Andy Warhol unashamedly exploited the dynamics of fashion and entertainment to upset the aesthetic rigors of the mid-century art world. The difference between then and now, however, is disturbing: in the 60s, Pop Art and the subsequent movements it inspired "were self-consciously ironic: they depended on the existence of a standard that was being mocked or from which one was registering a dissent. Irony, even in the whatever-the-market-will-bear forms that it often assumed in the 1980s and 1990s, was generally accompanied by at least the afterglow of a moral viewpoint. The artists were mocking something. They had a target. This is what has now changed. Laissez-faire aesthetics makes a mockery of nothing. Even irony is too much of an idea."

Perl's criticism of laissez-faire aesthetics is not a charge that people are unconcerned with aesthetic excellence. It is a recognition that "excellence" is experienced in different registers. An "excellent" football game and an "excellent" symphony offer experiences that engage us in different ways. Failure to acknowledge this difference, in the interest of "democratizing" culture, is a great loss. Perl writes:

When the collecting of art takes on that familiar pop-culture buzz, we are seeing a diminishment of the variety of artistic experience, and this variety is among the glories of any culture. Baudelaire may have been the first to point out that one of the great pleasures and privileges open to an educated audience in a modern society is the possibility of experiencing both high art and popular culture. And why on earth shouldn't it be possible to enjoy The Sopranos and Sex and the City, which we take in with thousands of other people, and also the new work of an abstract painter that may be known to no more than a hundred? The trouble starts when people begin to imagine that all these experiences are equal.

Jed Perl's essay contains further discussion of the distinguishing characteristics of high culture and popular culture, distinctions that are of central concern since the current aesthetic mood seems incapable of making any distinctions.

The trouble is that fewer and fewer people are willing to recognize the fundamentally different nature of various forms of cultural experience. And make no mistake, there are essential distinctions that must be made. It is in the very nature of popular culture that its pleasures are ones that we share with a wide range of people simultaneously. And it is in the very nature of high art that its pleasures are ones that we experience as individuals. To insist upon this distinction is not to say that one experience is better and one is worse, it is only to clarify the character of each experience. The art in popular culture has everything to do with creating a work that catalyzes a strain of feeling in the mass audience. High art operates in a completely different way, for each viewer comes to the work with the fullest, the most intense, the most personal awareness of the conventions and traditions of an art form. The essential high-art encounter is a private encounter—but we are living in the YouTube era, when people are often uncomfortable with privacy, with its challenges and its revelations. The intensity of the high-art experience has everything to do with a disengagement from the pressures of the present. It is the unquantifiable experience par excellence.

Perl concludes that the reign of laissez-faire aesthetics promises "a tolerance of everything—high, pop, whatever: a tolerance so bland that it really amounts to indifference." When we contemplate the truly lasting works of culture from any age we realize that they are "anything but easygoing, . . . always daringly, rightfully, triumphantly intolerant."

Jed Perl's article, "Laissez-Faire Aesthetics," is available on The New Republic's website to subscribers. [Posted April 2007, KAM]

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<![CDATA[The Necessity of Metaphor]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/necessity-metaphor Wed, 02 Aug 2006 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/360 catalog maintainer
2 Aug

The Necessity of Metaphor

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 08/02/06
Subtitle:

On Volume 51 of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal, Mary Midgley discussed the connections between science and poetry. A recent article in The Toronto Star echoes Midgley's words, attending to the use of metaphor and analogy in science and mathematics. . . .

On Volume 51 of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal, Mary Midgley discussed the connections between science and poetry. A recent article in The Toronto Star echoes Midgley's words, attending to the use of metaphor and analogy in science and mathematics. In "It's like this, you see," author Siobhan Roberts writes, "Casual inquiry reveals that metaphor, and its more common cousin analogy, are tools that are just as important to scientists investigating truths of the physical world as they are to poets explaining existential conundrums through verse. . . . Both are seeking 'the truth of the matter,' . . . ." Roberts provides several examples of scientists who put analogies to use in their work. Roberts also explains why poetic language is so useful in these scientific fields. [Posted August 2006, ALG]

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<![CDATA[Recipient of the Grawemeyer Award for Religion Announced]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/recipient-grawemeyer-award-religion-announced Thu, 02 Dec 2004 19:00:00 -0500 https://marshillaudio.org/node/361 catalog maintainer
2 Dec

Recipient of the Grawemeyer Award for Religion Announced

Category: What We're Reading
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 12/02/04
Subtitle:

Jonathan Edwards biographer George Marsden has received the 2005 Grawemeyer Award for religion.

Raise three cheers for University of Notre Dame professor George Marsden who has received the 2005 Grawemeyer Award for religion. The award honors Marsden for his recently published and much-heralded biography of Jonathan Edwards. Marsden discusses Jonathan Edwards: A Life on Volume 65 of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal.

The Grawemeyer awards pay tribute to creative works and ideas in the sciences, arts, and humanities. Charles Grawemeyer, a University of Louisville alumnus, established them in 1984. More information about the awards is available through the web pages of the Grawemeyer Foundation. [Posted December 2004, ALG]

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<![CDATA[The Best of Films, the Worst of Films]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/best-films-worst-films Tue, 03 Apr 2007 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/362 catalog maintainer
3 Apr

The Best of Films, the Worst of Films

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Ken Myers
Published: 04/03/07
Subtitle:

Back in December, we alerted our listeners to the arrival of Children of Men in theaters, and provided listeners to our podcast some archival interviews with Ralph Wood and Alan Jacobs about the P. D. James novel on which the film was based (and about Baroness Phyllis more generally). We also produced an Audio Reprint of a Ralph Wood article about P. D. James's writing. . . .

Back in December, we alerted our listeners to the arrival of Children of Men in theaters, and provided listeners to our podcast some archival interviews with Ralph Wood and Alan Jacobs about the P. D. James novel on which the film was based (and about Baroness Phyllis more generally).

When it opened, the movie turned out to be a severe departure from the novel, abandoning James's thematic concerns altogether. Now that the DVD is out, Christopher Orr has a helpful review in The New Republic, summarizing how Children of Men "was simultaneously one of last year's best movies (better, I think, than any off those nominated for Best Picture) and one of its larger disappointments." Director Alfonso Cuarón has made a visually gripping film without "a composing idea to undergird the plot." Orr's review reminds us why really good stories are always more than just good stories. [Posted April 2007, KAM]

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<![CDATA[The Apocalypse: "It's a-comin', and it's gonna be big"]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/apocalypse-its-comin-and-its-gonna-be-big Tue, 14 Sep 2004 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/519 catalog maintainer
14 Sep

The Apocalypse: "It's a-comin', and it's gonna be big"

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 09/14/04
Subtitle:

Professor Alan Jacobs reviews Left Behind and Father Elijah.

"Moreover, it could be argued that not only the thriller but even the novel itself is fundamentally inappropriate as a vehicle for conveying this eschatological vision—that, as I said at the beginning, the Apocalypse cannot be narrated. The novel is above all a realistic medium, devoted to representing as faithfully and even minutely as possible the textures and themes of everyday life; yet what [John Henry] Newman counsels, and [Michael] O'Brien's Elijah [character] exemplifies, is a loss of interest in those very everyday textures and themes, a dimming of the physical eye so that the inner eye can grow sharper, more discerning of spiritual truth." Alan Jacobs

In an article in the September 2004 issue of Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity, professor Alan Jacobs calls attention to recent and to older treatments of the Apocalypse, partly in order to explain why the end times are beyond our storytelling abilities. Jacobs, a veteran guest of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal, explicates the narrative styles of the Left Behind books and Father Elijah (the first book in a series by Michael O'Brien) in "The Inexpressible Apocalypse," demonstrating that theological beliefs emerge in the form of stories, in how tales are told.

Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, authors of the former, are dispensationalist in their theology—they believe in literal, prophetic interpretations of Daniel and Revelation, that the end of history has yet to begin and that it will unfold dramatically when it does—and thus melodrama, states Jacobs, dominates their novels, turning them into thrillers about the events that bring history to a close. O'Brien, on the other hand, believes that the end times were initiated with the birth of Jesus, have been unfolding ever since, and that Christians need not worry about discerning events that signify the coming of the Apocalypse but, rather, should concern themselves with praying about, fasting for, and meditating on the laying bare of the meaning of history that will occur at the last battle of the end times. For his books this means that, while there are melodramatic elements in them (elements which Jacobs considers an artistic flaw of the works), those elements do not dominate the stories as they do in the Left Behind series.

Jacobs employs his elucidations of these very different works to support his thesis that the Apocalypse cannot be narrated. The Apocalypse, he writes, "is the end of history, and the end of history is the end of narrative; it is beyond our powers of storytelling because it is beyond story itself." While LaHaye, Jenkins, and O'Brien make noble efforts to portray it, older approaches to describing the end of the world—such as the silence Dante depicts when he is faced with "the unveiling of cosmic hierarchies"—may "be our best guide to these vexing matters" of how to illustrate the Apocalypse.

The full text of Jacobs's article is available on-line.

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<![CDATA[Human Dignity in the Biotech Century]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/human-dignity-biotech-century Wed, 25 Aug 2004 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/520 catalog maintainer
25 Aug

Human Dignity in the Biotech Century

Category: What We're Reading
By: Ken Myers
Published: 08/25/04
Subtitle:

Theologian and MARS HILL AUDIO guest Nigel Cameron co-edited a new anthology from InterVarsity Press that is concerned with Christian anthropology, technology, politics, and the global market.

Theologian Nigel Cameron was a guest on the very first issue of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal (then called the MARS HILL Tapes). He has since appeared (talking about current issues in bioethics) on volumes 51 and 66. In those conversations, and in his many writings, Dr. Cameron has argued that Christians addressing questions of bioethics need a fuller and richer account of human nature. A new anthology from InterVarsity Press combines the quest for a more developed Christian anthropology with a wise-as-serpents realism about the confluence of technology, politics, and the forces of a global market. The book, Human Dignity in the Biotech Century: A Christian Vision for Public Policy, is edited by Cameron and Charles W. Colson. Colson contributes an introductory essay reflecting on C. S. Lewis's 1948 book, The Abolition of Man. Other contributors include Dr. C. Christopher Hook ("Techno Sapiens: Nanotechnology, Cybernetics, Transhumanism and the Remaking of Humankind"); Dr. David Stevens ("Promise and Peril: Clinical Implications of the New Genetics"); and Dr. Nathan A. Adams, IV ("An Unnatural Assault on Natural Law: Regulating Biotechnology Using a Just Research Theory"). Nigel Cameron's contribution to the book is entitled "Christian Vision for the Biotech Century: Toward a Strategy;" in it Cameron examines three distinct phases in bioethics as we have moved from issues of taking human life, to issues of making human life, to the possibility of faking human life: "the capacity of developments in the fields of nanotechnology and cybernetics to manipulate, enhance and finally perhaps supplant biological human nature." Excerpts from the book, along with its table of contents, are available through InterVarsity's web pages.

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<![CDATA[Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/wolfgang-amadeus-mozart-1756-1791 Thu, 28 Dec 2006 19:00:00 -0500 https://marshillaudio.org/node/522 catalog maintainer
28 Dec

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 12/28/06
Subtitle:

Before 2006 gives way to the New Year, Books & Culture is taking one last opportunity to pay homage to the 250th anniversary of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's birth. The November/December issue of the periodical offers "The Triumph of Genius: Celebrating Mozart" by Jon Pott. . . .

Before 2006 gives way to the New Year, Books & Culture is taking one last opportunity to pay homage to the 250th anniversary of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's birth. The November/December issue of the periodical offers "The Triumph of Genius: Celebrating Mozart" by Jon Pott. Pott, the editor-in-chief of Eerdmans Publishing Company, attends to what eight authors or theologians have written about Mozart and his music, mentioning—along the way—the types of music Mozart composed and his relationship with his father. Pott also notes the genius of Mozart's music, which is technically exquisite and full of "equanimity and poise."

"The Triumph of Genius" is available online. MARS HILL AUDIO paid tribute to this anniversary year through an interview with professor of music Calvin Stapert on Volume 80. [Posted December 2006, ALG]

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<![CDATA[With enemies like this . . .]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/enemies Wed, 19 Aug 2009 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/526 catalog maintainer
19 Aug

With enemies like this . . .

Category: What We're Reading
By: Ken Myers
Published: 08/19/09
Subtitle:

The spurt of books published in the past few years by fervent, fundamentalist atheists has seen a predictable sequel in a crop of titles by the critics of the critics of religion. The most stimulating of these critiques may have been written by a man who makes no claims of personal Christian commitment. . . .

The spurt of books published in the past few years by fervent, fundamentalist atheists has seen a predictable sequel in a crop of titles by the critics of the critics of religion. The most stimulating of these critiques may have been written by a man who makes no claims of personal Christian commitment.

Alister McGrath's The Dawkins Delusion (InterVarsity Press, 2007) was a brief point-by-point refutation of claims made by Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion. In Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies (Yale, 2009), David Bentley Hart focuses on the most outrageous claim made by the "New Atheists," that the history of the West was more cruel and ugly because of Christianity than it would have been otherwise. "Many of today's most obstreperous critics of Christianity," writes Hart, "know nothing more of Christendom's two millennia than a few childish images of bloodthirsty crusaders and sadistic inquisitors, a few damning facts, and a great number of even more damning legends; to such critics, obviously, Christians ought not to surrender the past but should instead deepen their own collective memory of what the gospel has been in human history." Such a deepening is what Hart's book succeeds in encouraging. (My interview with Hart about his book will be heard on volume 98 of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal.)

Terry Eagleton's Reason, Faith, and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate (Yale, 2009) presents the lightly manicured texts of four lectures given last year in which Eagleton—a brilliant literary critic and unabashed Marxist—offered a blistering dismissal of arguments made by Dawkins and by Christopher Hitchens in God Is Not Great. This artful shellacking was a continuation of the 2006 review ("Lunging, Flailing, Mispunching") that Eagleton fired at Dawkins's book in the London Review of Books, a review which memorably began, "Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the Book of British Birds, and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology."

Eagleton's witty deconstruction of the two-headed "Ditchkins" (the Dickensian persona he employs to signify these two authors and their genus) provides the impetus for this book, but not its substance. In the Preface, Eagleton writes that he has a larger goal than simply rebuking the "ignorance and prejudice" of Ditchkins. "If the agnostic left [among whom we assume Eagleton is numbered] cannot afford such intellectual indolence when it comes to the Jewish and Christian Scriptures, it is not only because it belongs to justice and honesty to confront your opponent at his or her most convincing. It is also that radicals might discover there some valuable insight into human emancipation, in an era where the political left stands in dire need of good ideas. . . . [These] scriptures have much to say about some vital questions—death, suffering, love, self-dispossession, and the life—on which the left has for the most part maintained an embarrassed silence. It is time for this politically crippling shyness to come to an end."

Contrary to what some might be led to infer from this claim, Eagleton is not ransacking the Bible for superficial sources of political leverage. His interaction with Christian thought is much deeper than that and is marked by some remarkable insights into the meaning of faith, reason, creation, love, and sacrifice.

Take, for example, Eagleton's treatment of the relationship between faith and reason. Early in the book, Eagleton observes that "Life for Dawkins would seem to divide neatly down the middle between things you can prove beyond all doubt, and blind faith. He fails to see that all the most interesting stuff goes on in neither of those places." Later (in a chapter called "Faith and Reason"), Eagleton observes: "We might clarify the relations between faith and knowledge here with an analogy. If I am in love with you, I must be prepared to explain what it is about you I find so lovable, otherwise the word 'love' here has no more meaning than a grunt. I must supply reasons for my affection. But I am also bound to acknowledge that someone else might wholeheartedly endorse my reasons yet not be in love with you at all. The evidence by itself will not decide the issue. At some point along the line, a particular way of seeing the evidence emerges, one which involves a peculiar kind of personal engagement with it; and none of this is reducible to the facts themselves, in the sense of being ineluctably motivated by a bare account of them."

While he is a staunch critic of cocky postmodern irrationalism, Eagleton is eager to make rationalists feel the pressure that "[i]f we are to defend reason, we must be inspired by more than reason to do so." And as to the notion that science is simply the exercise of pure reason, Eagleton quotes Charles Taylor, who points out that "to hold that there are no assumptions in a scientist's work which aren't already based on evidence is surely a reflection of a blind faith, one that can't even feel the occasional tremor of doubt." Science is about faith, but faith in Eagleton's view "is not in the first place a matter of choice. It is more common to find oneself believing something than to make a conscious decision to do so—or at least to make such a conscious decision because you find yourself leaning that way already. This is not, needless to say, a matter of determinism. It is rather a question of being gripped by a commitment from which one finds oneself unable to walk away. It is not primarily a question of the will. . . ." Eagleton offers here an aside about the "cult of the will" that characterizes the United States: "Negativity is often looked upon there as a kind of thought crime. Not since the advent of socialist realism has the world witnessed such pathological upbeatness. This Faustian belief in Man's infinite capabilities is by no means to be confused with the virtue of hope. As long as it exists, however, belief will continue to be falsely linked to so-called acts of will, in a voluntaristic misunderstanding of how we come by our convictions."

Earlier in the book, Eagleton offered a summary of the Christian understanding of the doctrine of Creation, insisting that God "made the world with no functional end in view but simply for the love and delight of it. . . . he made it as gift, superfluity, and gratuitous gesture—out of nothing, rather than out of grim necessity. . . . He created it out of love, not need." This theme of gift-ness returns when Eagleton observes: "The difference between science and theology, as I understand it, is one over whether you see the world as a gift or not, and you cannot resolve this just by inspecting the thing, any more than you can deduce from examining a porcelain vase that it is a wedding present."

Faith, in Eagleton's view, resonates with the giftly character of Creation. "The Christian way of indicating that faith is not in the end a question of choice is the notion of grace. Like the world itself from a Christian viewpoint, faith is a gift. This means among other things that Christians are not in conscious possession of all the reasons why they believe in God. But neither is anyone in conscious possession of all the reasons why they believe in keeping fit, the supreme value of the individual, or the importance of being sincere. Only ultrarationalists imagine that they need to be. Because faith is not wholly conscious, it is uncommon to abandon it simply by taking thought. Too much else would have to be altered as well. It is not usual for a life-long conservative to become a revolutionary because a thought has struck him. . . . Because certain of our commitments are constitutive of who we are, we cannot alter them without what Christianity traditionally calls a conversion, which involves a lot more than just swapping one opinion for another."

Eagleton is as critical of the optimistic project of liberal humanism as he is of glib rationalism. At the end of the book, he identifies himself as a "tragic humanist," one who believes that the goal of human flourishing can only be pursued "by confronting the very worst" in the human condition. Tragic humanists hold "that only by a process of self-dispossession and radical remaking can humanity come into its own." Holding such a conviction, Eagleton is understandably ready to find the story of Christ's crucifixion and resurrection a compelling and revealing one, more ready perhaps even than many believers.

Posted by Ken Myers on 8/20/09

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<![CDATA[What Is Life Like after Culture?]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/what-life-after-culture Sun, 30 Sep 2001 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/527 catalog maintainer
30 Sep

What Is Life Like after Culture?

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Ken Myers
Published: 09/30/01
Subtitle:

The modern elevation of individual autonomy leads to postmodern suspicion of all authority, and eventually to postculturalism. Insights from Christopher Clausen and Philip Rieff . . .

In the summer of 1996, The American Scholar published an essay by Christopher Clausen. It was called "Welcome to Post-culturalism" and in it, Clausen (a professor of English at Penn State University) reflected on how the word "culture" has come to mean something very different from its historical meaning in anthropology. In that context, it "refers to the total way of life of a discrete society, its traditions, habits, belief, and art." This way of life was transmitted from one generation to the next and thereby served as a system of moral instruction and ethical restraint.

But "culture" in this deep sense has always been something of a problem for Americans. "The American political tradition places individual liberty ahead of nearly every other goal, thereby (among many other benefits) reducing occasions for intergroup conflict." The liberation of individuals from restraining forces "is one of the permanent trends in American life and comes closer to realization with every advance in communications. But the freedom that lies beyond culture may be a mixed blessing—in some respects a liberty that not even John Stuart Mill could love. The escape from restraint that the Internet represents derives not from an ideal of human fulfillment but from the narcissistic experience of one's own personality, strengthened by its reflection in the computer screen, as the only significant reality. The major constituents of real cultures—family, religion, ethics, manners—have shrunk almost to the vanishing point as authorities over individual behavior. This inflation of personality at the expense of exteral reality did not begin with the computer age; Christopher Lasch chronicles its rise in a book entitled, naturally, The Culture of Narcissism (1978). Computers and their sibling, cable television, have, however, greatly accelerated the process." [p. 387]

"The old liberal distinction between self-regarding and other-regarding conduct has little significance if one inhabits a world made up primarily of bytes and images. Like television itself, which exists only to reach the largest possible audience, such a world has no fixed norms; like the Internet, it welcomes virtually any content from any source. Every expression, however violent, pornographic, or merely shallow, is equivalent to all other expressions. 'The First Amendment,' proclaims Michael Eisner, chairman of the Walt Disney Company, 'gives you the right to be plastic.'"[p. 387]

Clausen's observations resonate with earlier concerns expressed by Philip Rieff in his 1966 book, The Triumph of the Therapeutic: Uses of Faith after Freud. In that book, Rieff describes a culture as an "inherited organization of permissions and restraints upon action." [p. 3] But the 20th century was witness to a widespread suspicion about any inherited assumptions about good and evil, and so encouraged social institutions and personalities that were committed to liberation rather than restraint. This marked a transition from culture towhat Rieff terms anti-culture: "The systematic hunting down of all settled convictions represents the anti-cultural predicate upon which modern personality is being reorganized. . . . Our cultural revolution does not aim, like its predecessors, at victory for some rival commitment, but rather at a way of using all commitments, which amounts to loyalty toward none.

Rieff's diagnosis is similar to Clausen's, but more pessimistic. [Posted October 2001, KAM]

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<![CDATA[Thomas Hopko, <cite>Christian Faith and Same-Sex Attraction: Eastern Orthodox Reflections</cite> (Conciliar Press, 2006)]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/thomas-hopko-christian-faith-and-same-sex-attraction-eastern-orthodox-reflections-conciliar Mon, 08 Jan 2007 19:00:00 -0500 https://marshillaudio.org/node/528 catalog maintainer
8 Jan

Thomas Hopko, Christian Faith and Same-Sex Attraction: Eastern Orthodox Reflections (Conciliar Press, 2006)

Category: What We're Reading
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 01/08/07
Subtitle:

"I use the expression 'same-sex attraction' in my reflections because I find the term 'homosexuality,' except in its most general usage, not very helpful. It seems more accurate and useful to speak of persons with same-sex feelings and desires that have a wide variety of causes, forms, and expressions. I reflect on how these same-sex attractions and emotions relate to Christian faith as understood and experienced in Orthodox Christianity. And I especially try to reflect on how they relate to love, as revealed by God in Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit in the Church." Thomas Hopko, Christian Faith and Same-Sex Attraction: Eastern Orthodox Reflections . . .

The behavior of various churches towards clergy and others who are attracted to members of the same sex has garnered much attention in the public square particularly since the early 2000s. MARS HILL AUDIO responded to the attention through interviews with scholars and theologians who illustrate the issues at hand, along with their theological, social, and legal implications. The conversationalists are Robert Gagnon (volume 68), Stanton L. Jones (v-50), Christopher Wolfe (v-49), and Hadley Arkes (v-22). Adding a pastoral perspective to the conversation through printed word is Father Thomas Hopko, Dean Emeritus of St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary in Crestwood, New York. In Christian Faith and Same-Sex Attraction: Eastern Orthodox Reflections, Hopko offers a theologically rich but easily accessible essay in how to think faithfully about, and in how to live alongside of, people with same-sex attractions. Hopko's work, with its nugget-sized chapters, is anchored firmly in the Orthodox tradition but bears wisdom for all branches of the Church.

Before addressing the particularities of the experiences of those who have same-sex attractions, Hopko establishes the framework for his discussion. In chapter one, "Christian Faith and Same-Sex Attraction," he explains who Christ is. In chapter two, "Christ and the Church," he explains that Christ's body is the Church and what that means for the Church's members. In chapter three, "A Three-Dimensional Experience," he describes the threefold reality in which the Church lives, namely that God created the world and all therein as good; that it has been corrupted through human sin; and that the crucified and risen Christ redeems and sanctifies all that has been afflicted. Supported by that foundation, the following twenty-four chapters of the book explore the realities listed in their titles and how people with same-sex attractions engage, or could engage, them. The chapters note how such engagement, although it taxes these souls uniquely, is similar to that of all those who are seeking God and sanctification. Father Hopko makes applications in the chapters that are based on his theological principles; some readers may dispute the applications even while agreeing with the principles.

The chapters are titled: "Same-Sex Attraction"; "Same-Sex Attraction and Goodness"; "Same-Sex Attraction and Passion"; "Same-Sex Attraction and Sin"; "Same-Sex Attraction and Choice"; "Same-Sex Attraction and God's Will"; "Same-Sex Attraction and Sanctity"; "Same-Sex Attraction and Asceticism"; "Same-Sex Attraction and Scripture"; "Same-Sex Attraction and Blessed Mourning"; "Same-Sex Attraction and Joy"; "Same-Sex Attraction and Friendship"; "Same-Sex Attraction and Sexual Activity"; "Same-Sex Attraction and Sexual Knowing"; "Same-Sex Attraction and Children"; "Same-Sex Attraction and Civil Rights"; "Same-Sex Attraction and Death"; "Same-Sex Attraction and Theology"; "Same-Sex Attraction and Religion"; "Same-Sex Attraction and Church Community"; "Same-Sex Attraction and Sacraments"; "Same-Sex Attraction and Pastoral Care"; "Same-Sex Attraction and the Counseling Process"; and "Same-Sex Attraction and Christian Witness Today." [Posted January 2007, ALG]

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<![CDATA[The Worm in the Brain]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/worm-brain Wed, 14 Jul 2004 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/529 catalog maintainer
14 Jul

The Worm in the Brain

Category: What We're Reading
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 07/14/04
Subtitle:

A new report from the National Endowment for the Arts supplies statistics that demonstrate that the number of readers in America is declining. The report is introduced in an article from The Chronicle of Higher Education titled "Literary Reading Is Declining Faster Than Before, Arts Endowment's New Report Says."

A new report from the National Endowment for the Arts supplies statistics that demonstrate that the number of readers in America is declining. The report is introduced in an article from The Chronicle of Higher Education titled "Literary Reading Is Declining Faster Than Before, Arts Endowment's New Report Says." As the article explains, the report portrays a steep decline in "literary reading" (described as the reading of any type of fiction, poetry, and plays) over the past two decades; it also describes some reactions to the report's findings.

"Reading at Risk: a Survey of Literary Reading in America" reports data gathered from 17,000 adults across major demographic groups categorized by age, gender, education, income, religion, race, and ethnicity. It addresses what and how much those sampled read, other civic activities in which they participate, factors and trends in literature participation, and includes a summary and conclusions. It comprises a preface and executive summary, five chapters, and appendices.

The report's role, says chairman of the NEA Dana Gioia, is not to offer suggestions for a solution to the problem, but to spark debate about how to perpetuate readers and the role of reading in a democracy. In his introduction to the report, Gioia (a guest on volumes 51 and 53 of the Journal) writes: "Reading is not a timeless, universal capability. Advanced literacy is a specific intellectual skill and social habit that depends on a great many educational, cultural, and economic factors. As more Americans lose this capability, our nation becomes less informed, active, and independent-minded. These are not qualities that a free, innovative, or productive society can afford to lose."

While the concern of the NEA report is specific to literary reading and its decline, others quoted in The Chronicle of Higher Education article are concerned with a general decrease in reading in this electronically savvy age. In a 1995 interview with Ken Myers, Sven Birkerts, author of The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age, discussed the influence the printed word has on society. In his Volume 13 interview, Birkerts argued that when people read less and thus lose "habits of reading"—such as inwardness, empathy for the lives of others, and a sense of the significance of the past—they understand themselves and the world differently. Barry Sanders concurred with Birkerts in his Volume 17 interview about his book A Is for Ox: Violence, Electronic Media, and the Silencing of the Written Word. Sanders argued that literacy is an historical invention and thus can dissipate in time just as it developed in time. As it becomes extinct, he said, people will begin to lose their conscience, memory, and sense-of-self and regret—all outgrowths of literacy—and thus will no longer be able to recognize others as human beings.

Another guest on the Journal, Robert Jenson, is concerned more specifically with the diminution of the attention given by the community to books in the University and the Church, and the consequential enervation of the vision for knowledge and wisdom at the core of both institutions. Descriptions of the Birkerts, Sanders, and Jenson interviews are available through the MARS HILL AUDIO web pages.

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<![CDATA[The Virtues of Orwell's Windowpane Prose]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/virtues-orwells-windowpane-prose Fri, 22 Nov 2002 19:00:00 -0500 https://marshillaudio.org/node/530 catalog maintainer
22 Nov

The Virtues of Orwell's Windowpane Prose

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 11/22/02
Subtitle:

Professor Paul J. Griffiths explains why Christians should read George Orwell's works.

George Orwell is known, in part, for his disdain for system- and doctrine-endorsing institutions, Catholicism and Christianity included. At first glance, it may not seem as if his writings would be particularly advantageous for Christians to study, but in "Orwell for Christians," published in the December 2004 issue of First Things, professor Paul J. Griffiths takes a closer look at Orwell and commends his work to Christians for some valuable lessons. In addition to explaining that Orwell's prose demonstrates the consequences of affirming that there is a describable, natural order to the world, Griffiths writes: "The virtue [Christians] can learn from Orwell is to see the power of language to depict and of thought to grasp the meaning of what is depicted, and to strive to use language in such a way that it more fully realizes that power." [Posted November 2004, ALG]

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<![CDATA[The Truth about Harvard]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/truth-about-harvard Mon, 14 Mar 2005 19:00:00 -0500 https://marshillaudio.org/node/531 catalog maintainer
14 Mar

The Truth about Harvard

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Ken Myers
Published: 03/14/05
Subtitle:

Sure, Harvard is hard, but not the way you might think. Writing in The Atlantic (March 2005), a recent Harvard graduate reflected on what was missing from his education. Ross Douthat observes that getting into Harvard was hard. Once there "it was hard work competing for offices and honors and extracurriculars with thousands of brilliant and driven young people; hard work keeping our heads in the swirling social world; hard work fighting for law-school slots and investment-banking jobs as college wound to a close . . . yes, all of that was heavy sledding. But the academics—the academics were another story."

Ross Douthat's "The Truth about Harvard" (The Atlantic, March 2005) exposes some not entirely surprising facts about one of America's most respected credentialing agency. After some anecdotes and analysis about the origins of grade inflation, Douthat looks at the effects of postmodern academic theory on the humanities. "The retreat into irrelevance is visible all across the humanities curriculum," judges Douthat. "Philosophy departments have largely purged themselves of metaphysicians and moralists; history departments emphasize exhaustive primary research and microhistory. In the field of English there is little pretense that literature is valuable in itself and should be part of every educated person's life, rather than serving as grist for endless academic debates in which every mention of truth is placed in sneering quotation marks."

Douthat then looks at the Core Curriculum, a program that one might hope retains some of the content and confidence of a traditional liberal arts curriculum. But the Core is so loosely defined and governed that it gives equal weight to peripheral questions as it does to central ones. Douthat cites as an example a history course entitled "The Cuban Revolution: 1956—71: A Self-Debate." Under Harvard's system, such a class fulfills the history requirement, and may thus turn out to be the only history class taken by a student. "It seems deeply disingenuous, at best, to suggest that in the development of a broadly educated student body the study of Castro's regime carries the same weight as, say, knowledge of the two world wars, or the French Revolution, or the founding of America. (During my four years at Harvard the history department didn't offer a single course focusing on the American Revolution.)"

The rationale for this system is suggested in the Harvard course catalogue, which explains that "the Core differs from other programs of general education. It does not define intellectual breadth as the mastery of a set of Great Books, or the digestion of a specific quantum of information . . . rather, the Core seeks to introduce students to the major approaches to knowledge in areas that the faculty considers indispensable to undergraduate education."

As Douthat exegetes this, developing a knack for the "historical approach" is more valuable than actually knowing anything about history. The results for individual students and for society are tragic. "A Harvard graduate may have read no Shakespeare or Proust; he may be unable to distinguish Justinian the Great from Julian the Apostate, or to tell you the first ten elements in the periodic table (God knows I can't). But one need only mention 'Mass Culture in Nazi Germany' or 'Constructing the Samurai' and his eyes will light up with fond memories."

The article is available online to subscribers, and most libraries subscribe to The Atlantic. MARS HILL AUDIO Journal subscribers may wish to revisit our interviews with Susan Wise Bauer, Daniel Ritchie, Louise Cowan, and Leland Ryken to compare Harvard's views about the goals of liberal arts education with those of our guests. [Posted March 2005, KAM]

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<![CDATA[The Subtlety of <cite>Film Noir</cite>]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/subtlety-film-noir Thu, 26 Apr 2007 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/532 catalog maintainer
26 Apr

The Subtlety of Film Noir

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 04/26/07
Subtitle:

Movies in the genre of film noir portray more than wicked characters in hopeless situations, moving through dimly lit environments. In "Seeking with Groans: The moral universe of film noir," Thomas Hibbs describes the moral complexity of the genre, which is gaining popularity with critics and movie watchers. . . .

Movies in the genre of film noir portray more than wicked characters in hopeless situations, moving through dimly lit environments. In "Seeking with Groans: The moral universe of film noir," Thomas Hibbs describes the moral complexity of the genre, which is gaining popularity with critics and movie watchers. Hibbs writes: "Repudiating old-fashioned American optimism but never quite succumbing to despairing nihilism, noir's most captivating characters are those who, in the words of Pascal, 'seek with groans.'"

"Seeking with Groans" resonates with Barrett Fisher's discussion of film noir and Dick Keyes's discussion of cynicism, both on volume 83 of the Journal. It is published in the March/April 2007 issue of Books and Culture, and is available online. [Posted April 2007, ALG]

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<![CDATA[The Ramsey Colloquium and Other First Things Resources]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/ramsey-colloquium-and-other-first-things-resources Fri, 29 Jun 2001 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/533 catalog maintainer
29 Jun

The Ramsey Colloquium and Other First Things Resources

Category: What We're Reading
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 06/29/01
Subtitle:

The periodical First Things offers a wealth of resources for reflecting on the meaning of sexuality and the shape that the public debate about sexuality has taken.

For a number of years, under the aupices of the Institute on Religion and Public Life, Richard John Neuhaus convened a discussion group of a number of Christian and Jewish theologians, philosophers, and ethicists to discuss a variety of timely topics pertinent to the preservation of public morality. The group came to be known as the Ramsey Colloquium, in honor of the courageous example set by the late Paul Ramsey, whose ethical wrestling on matters from the justice of war to the hubris of biotechnology has aided thousands of people still confronting some of the same questions. Members of the Colloquium included Hadley Arkes, Robert George, Russell Hittinger, Gilbert Meilaender, Philip Turner, and Robert Wilken.

In 1994, the Ramsey Colloquium published (in First Things, March 1994) a brief summary of their reflection on some of the questions then publicly debated concerning the meaning of sexuality. Entitled "The Homosexual Movement: A Response by the Ramsey Colloquim," the brief document remains one of the most concise statements about what is at stake in the changes in public policy being recommended by advocates of public affirmation of the necessity of moral indifference toward homosexuality.

First Things has consistently published a number of helpful articles on this topic. Here are several to note:

In the same issue of First Things that contained the Ramsey Colloquium, the magazine's editor Richard John Neuhaus summarized the work of the many critics of historian and homosexual apologist John Boswell. Boswell's 1980 book, Christianity, Social Toleration, and Homosexuality (University of Chicago) had a remarkable influence in revising the perception of what the Bible and the Christian tradition had to say about homosexuality. Boswell's arguments were enthusiastically embraced by many in mainline churches who were eager to endorse the gay liberation movement. Neuhaus collects a number of the scholarly refutations of Boswell's revisionist book, including the remark of scholar David Wright: "The conclusion must be that for all its interest and stimulus Boswell's book provides in the end of the day not one firm piece of evidence that the teaching mind of the early Church countenanced Homosexual activity." [Posted November 2001, ALG]

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<![CDATA[The Queen of the Sciences]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/queen-sciences Sun, 16 Jul 2006 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/534 catalog maintainer
16 Jul

The Queen of the Sciences

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 07/16/06
Subtitle:

"[T]heology . . . may find itself the one discipline capable of integrating the otherwise unconnected disciplines that constitute the modern university." Stanley Hauerwas, "Theology as Knowledge: A Symposium" First Things (May 2006) . . .

"[T]heology . . . may find itself the one discipline capable of integrating the otherwise unconnected disciplines that constitute the modern university. . . . 'the purpose of the university is to find love at the heart of all things, for love is the cause of the world. This does not mean that the study of atoms is going to show that love rather than neutrons and protons is to be found. Rather, once the atomic structure has been explicated the question of how such ordering analogically facilitates the possibilities of love, harmony, beauty, and truth is vital, and is another way of recognizing the ethical and methodological dimensions of the disciplines.'" Stanley Hauerwas, "Theology as Knowledge: A Symposium" First Things (May 2006)

In the April 2006 issue of First Things, R. R. Reno (a guest on Volume 67 of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal) wrote about theology's role in knowing and affirming truth. In part of his essay he noted theology's position in the academy in pre-modern times and traced its journey as it relinquished its lofty position as queen of the sciences. In the May 2006 issue of First Things, several professors contributed to a related discussion in "Theology as Knowledge: A Symposium." In the article James R. Stoner, Jr., Stanley Hauerwas, Paul J. Griffiths, and David B. Hart (also a guest on Volume 67 of the Journal) distinguished the position theology used to hold in society and the academy, mentioned its current virtual absence in both arenas, and argued about the possibility and wisdom of it reclaiming its throne.

"Theology as Knowledge" is available on-line. [Posted July 2006, ALG]

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<![CDATA[The Pope's Regensburg Address]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/popes-regensburg-address Sun, 01 Oct 2006 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/535 catalog maintainer
1 Oct

The Pope's Regensburg Address

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 10/01/06
Subtitle:

Pope Benedict XVI's lecture at the University of Regensburg, which has incited wide-spread outrage among Muslims, addresses a subject to which much attention has been paid on back issues of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal: the relationship between faith and reason in the modern world. The work is titled Faith, Reason and the University: Memories and Reflections and is being touted as the second most important work to come from former Cardinal Ratzinger since he became Pope (the first being the encyclical Deus Caritas Est). . . .

Pope Benedict XVI's lecture at the University of Regensburg, which has incited wide-spread outrage among Muslims, addresses a subject to which much attention has been paid on back issues of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal: the relationship between faith and reason in the modern world. The work is titled Faith, Reason and the University: Memories and Reflections and is being touted as the second most important work to come from former Cardinal Ratzinger since he became Pope (the first being the encyclical Deus Caritas Est). Faith, Reason and the University attends to the question: Is the conviction that acting unreasonably contradicts God's nature merely a Greek idea, or is it always and intrinsically true? Pope Benedict writes about the origins of the idea that acting unreasonably is contrary to God's nature, and how different generations have tried to sunder the connection between faith and reason. Finally, he discusses the importance of and necessity for rejoining the two in a new way. While we rejoice in the new possibilities open to humanity, we also see the dangers arising from these possibilities and we must ask ourselves how we can overcome them. We will succeed in doing so only if reason and faith come together in a new way, if we overcome the self-imposed limitation of reason to the empirically verifiable, and if we once more disclose its vast horizons. In this sense theology rightly belongs in the university and within the wide-ranging dialogue of sciences, not merely as a historical discipline and one of the human sciences, but precisely as theology, as inquiry into the rationality of faith.

The text of Faith, Reason and the University is available on-line. An article that resonates with the Pope's lecture is R. R. Reno's essay Theology's Continental Captivity, which was published in the April 2006 issue of First Things. Reno was a guest on Volume 67 of the Journal. For another Pontiff's studied and wise words on the connection between faith and reason, see the late Pope John Paul II's letter Fides et Ratio. When the letter was first delivered, the journal First Things dedicated to it many pages of discussion. The commentary is available on-line. [Posted October 2006, ALG]

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<![CDATA[The Peculiar Insanity of the Contemporary Public Square]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/peculiar-insanity-contemporary-public-square Sun, 29 Apr 2007 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/536 catalog maintainer
29 Apr

The Peculiar Insanity of the Contemporary Public Square

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 04/29/07
Subtitle:

Contemporary society considers religion a private matter that individuals practice (or don't) at their discretion; it does not consider it a legitimate conversation partner for shaping the body politic. In "Religion and the Common Good," Charles J. Chaput, the archbishop of Denver, explains that the absence of religious discourse in the public square is a consequence of the idea articulated by Nietzsche that God is dead. . . .

Contemporary society considers religion a private matter that individuals practice (or don't) at their discretion; it does not consider it a legitimate conversation partner for shaping the body politic. In "Religion and the Common Good," Charles J. Chaput, the archbishop of Denver, explains that the absence of religious discourse in the public square is a consequence of the idea articulated by Nietzsche that God is dead. He also attends to what the French Catholic author Georges Bernanos (1888-1948) wrote about the spiritual sickness that helped to produce, and was made manifest in, Nietzsche's belief. Bernanos discussed the de-spiritualization of society and the need to practice the Christian virtue of hope in a series of lectures he gave in the late 1940s, Chaput summarizes the themes of those lectures in his article. He writes: "The common good is what best serves human happiness in the light of what is real and true. That's the heart of the matter: What is real and true? If God exists, then the more man flees from God, the less true and real man becomes. If God exists, then a society that refuses to acknowledge or publicly talk about God is suffering from a peculiar kind of insanity."

Chaput's article, which is published on the First Things blog, resonates with many interviews featured on the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal. Visit the Religion and Society topic page for a list of related conversations. J. C. Whitehouse discusses the literature of Bernanos on volume 55. [Posted April 2007, ALG]

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<![CDATA[The Necessity of Tradition]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/necessity-tradition Sun, 14 Aug 2005 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/537 catalog maintainer
14 Aug

The Necessity of Tradition

Category: What We're Reading
By: Ken Myers
Published: 08/14/05
Subtitle:

In 1997, I wrote a short article for Modern Reformation magazine entitled "Is Popular Culture Either?" It was an epilogue to my 1989 book, All God's Children and Blue Suede Shoes: Christians and Popular Culture, which began my interest in what might be called the sociology of popular culture. . . .

In 1997, I wrote a short article for Modern Reformation magazine entitled "Is Popular Culture Either?" It was an epilogue to my 1989 book, All God's Children and Blue Suede Shoes: Christians and Popular Culture, which began my interest in what might be called the sociology of popular culture. While many Christian apologists have focused on the message-bearing capacity of pop cultural artifacts, I have long been more interested in the deeper dynamic of how cultural forms situate us in (or out of) communities, how they shape our deepest assumptions (as opposed to our explicit beliefs), and how they shape sensibilities and emotional expectations which, in turn, become matrices of meaning.

One of the aspects of popular culture which I failed to examine as thoroughly as I should have in my book was taken up in this article. I had not yet read Wendell Berry's powerful essay "The Work of Local Culture" (included in our Anthology, Place, Community, and Memory) which underscores the imperative of intergenerational continuity if a community is to sustain any kind of coherence. The word "culture" has historically been used to describe in summary all of the ways of living, believing, and feeling that sustain bonds of membership and obligation within a community. Culture is thus about passing on a notion of the good life from one generation to the next. A culture establishes ends and bounds that in-form the conscience by speaking deeply with morally binding address.

I suggested in that article that "popular culture" wasn't really popular, as it was created and sustained by elites in entertainment, manufacturing, media, and marketing, and it wasn't really culture because popular culture as we know it is deeply committed to age segregation. I addressed the ephemerality and disposability of the artifacts of popular culture in my book, but mostly in the context of the problem of superficiality. The deeper problem is the problem of culture-as-commodity rather than culture-as-legacy. When what we label as "culture" becomes a collection of accessories that individuals independently choose to shape their personal project of self-creation, cultural artifacts no longer have the capacity to bind, to join, to direct, and to in-form. Popular culture as we know it is a web of commodities (often short-lived), aspirations to independence, and the liberation of desire. Cultures as they have been experienced through most of human history have served such radically different ends that calling popular culture "culture" is at best confusing. (I won't bother connecting the dots on the phrase "youth culture.")

From a theological perspective, we were created for community, for membership, for mutual trinity-imitating belonging. Cultures are not simply adaptive mechanisms that facilitate survival, they are the necessary extensions of our image-bearing being. That's why social, political, and economic institutions that encourage us to move in a direction that is (in Christopher Clausen's term) post-cultural, or (in Philip Rieff's formulation) anti-cultural, or (in my own phrase) auto-cultural are finally dehumanizing.

In the past few decades, many Christian churches have adopted techniques of ministry that fit nicely into this post-, anti-, or auto-cultural regime. These techniques are sometimes labeled "contemporary," and they are often consciously pitted against "traditional" forms of ministry. The leaders of the various movements that have championed these retoolings seem to be largely oblivious to the problems I have briefly outlined above. In their writings to explain the necessity of their approaches, one reads a great deal about how traditions need to be dismantled in order to reach more people. But there is no evidence that they have wrestled with the question of whether or not traditions are necessary to keep a people together (at many levels) over time. The Gospel itself is then another commodity individually appropriated, not the foundation of a community, not the announcement of a new people committed to a shared way of life forward into many generations. Such re-invented churches are successful in reaching many individuals, which is absolutely no surprise. It would be shocking if they didn't. But if they are to become communities rather than strategies, they will have to take more seriously the necessity of traditions as vehicles of committed memory.

These concerns were all at the back of my mind (as they almost always are) as I was reading a recent article by Lee Harris called "The Future of Tradition," in the June & July 2005 issue of Policy Review. Harris's recent book Civilization and Its Enemies has gotten a lot of attention; several of our subscribers have suggested that I interview him (let me apologize here for my negligence). He has obviously thought a great deal about what allows a civilization to survive, and one of the ingredients he has identified is tradition. He says that traditions must be seen not as "reason in a somewhat garbled code," but as a pattern of living that embodies deep "habits of the heart."

Let me extract a few paragraphs, and suggest that you read them not just with the crisis of our own civilization in mind, but with concern for the health of the Church as a community, a people, a body through time.

"In even the shortest possible list of the attributes of a civilization, you are certain to discover the feature of transgenerational stability. A civilization must have a proven track record of cultural permanence, which is to say that it must be a multigenerational project. A civilization must be passed, with its fundaments pretty much intact, from one generation to the next; and this is especially true when we are dealing with civilizations whose civilizing process requires a stern renunciation of the id in all of its manifestations—ungovernable impulses, unruly desires, a lack of consideration or feeling for the well-being of others, sexual promiscuity, prodigal expenditures on passing fads, and so on. In short, the loftier the ethical ideal of a civilization is, the harder it must work to preserve this ideal against the return of the id.

"But how exactly is a civilization passed on from generation to generation? We can understand passing on an heirloom, like a set of fancy china, from one generation to another. But a civilization cannot be reduced merely to the physical props that are associated with it: the buildings, the transportation system, the machines and the tools, the gold and the treasure. What possible use would America's complex superhighway system be to a generation no one had taken the trouble to teach how to drive?

"A society that wishes to reproduce itself must take care to pass on to the next generation the knowledge required to maintain itself at more or less the same level of civilization. It is not enough to pass on the good china; you must also pass on the family recipe for making the pot roast. Yet even that is not quite enough; you must also find a way to pass along the culinary skills needed to transform a recipe written in words into an actual plate of pot roast. Figuratively speaking, a civilization must pass on the china, the recipe and the cook. But even this is not quite enough. You must also make the cook realize that in addition to cooking, he must know how to replace himself, and, most critically, he must feel that he has a duty to replace himself. Not only must he teach his children to cook, but he must also teach them how to teach their children to cook.

"If a society wishes to find a way of ensuring that newly emergent and valuable techniques are passed on and preserved, its members must feel themselves under an ethical obligation to leave the best possible world not only for their children, but also for their grandchildren.

"The grandchild, far from being incidental, is decisive. Civilization persists when there is a widespread sense of an ethical obligation on the part of the present generation for the well-being of the third generation—their own grandchildren. A society where this feeling is not widespread may last as a civilization for some time—indeed, for one or two generations it might thrive spectacularly. But inevitably, a society acknowledging no transgenerational commitment to the future will decay and decline from within. Which leads to our main question: How is this task accomplished? How do you make parents feel such a deep and unshakeable ethical commitment to their grandchildren?" [Posted August 2005, KAM]

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<![CDATA[The Meaning of Human Dignity]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/meaning-human-dignity Fri, 14 Mar 2008 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/538 catalog maintainer
14 Mar

The Meaning of Human Dignity

Category: What We're Reading
By: Ken Myers
Published: 03/14/08
Subtitle:

In his 1985 book, Toward a More Natural Science, Leon Kass observed: "Liberal democracy, founded on a doctrine of human freedom and dignity, has as its most respected body of thought a teaching that has no room for freedom and dignity." . . .

In his 1985 book, Toward a More Natural Science, Leon Kass observed: "Liberal democracy, founded on a doctrine of human freedom and dignity, has as its most respected body of thought a teaching that has no room for freedom and dignity." Kass was referring to the fact that a materialistic science, science detached from any metaphysical or religious definitions of human nature or purpose, had achieved an exalted place in Western societies. Kass went on to make the irony of our dilemma even more pointed: "Liberal democracy has reached a point--thanks in no small part to the success of the arts and sciences to which it is wedded--where it can no longer defend intellectually its founding principles. Likewise also the Enlightenment: It has brought forth a science that can initiate human life in the laboratory but is without embarrassment incompetent to say what it means either by life or by the distinctively human, and, therefore, whose teachings about man cannot even begin to support its own premise that enlightenment enriches life."

During his tenure as chairman of the President's Council on Bioethics, Kass was unflinching in his insistence that laws and regulations that had bioethical ramifications ought to be based on first principles about the meaning of the human. Under Kass's successor on the Council, Edmund D. Pellegrino, that concern seems to be continuing. This month, a new publication was released by the Council entitled Human Dignity and Bioethics an anthology of essays commissioned by the Council which examine the meaning and significance of the concept of human dignity. There are a variety of viewpoints represented, Daniel C. Dennett, a committed materialist, has an essay in the volume, as do Gilbert Meilaender, Robert George, Peter Augustine Lawler, Leon Kass, Richard John Neuhaus, and Robert P. Kraynak (all former guests on the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal).

The print copies of this anthology are no doubt in short supply, but a pdf version is available from the Council's website for download. If you are unfamiliar with the Council's earlier work, a number of the earlier reports are also online. I doubt that any American government organization has ever published as much theologically inspired reflection as may be found in the Reports: your tax dollars at work in a remarkable way.

Posted by Ken Myers on 3/15/08

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<![CDATA[The Market-Driven Marriage?]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/market-driven-marriage Mon, 30 Jan 2006 19:00:00 -0500 https://marshillaudio.org/node/539 catalog maintainer
30 Jan

The Market-Driven Marriage?

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Ken Myers
Published: 01/30/06
Subtitle:

The May 2005 issue of Harper's featured a very disturbing feature about the Rev. Ted Haggard, or "Pastor Ted" as he is affectionately and informally named by his congregation. Haggard is the pastor of the 12,000-member New Life Church in Colorado Springs, and the current president of the National Association of Evangelicals. Among the disturbing features in the article was this observation by the author, Jeff Sharlet: . . .

The May 2005 issue of Harper's featured a very disturbing feature about the Rev. Ted Haggard, or "Pastor Ted" as he is affectionately and informally named by his congregation. Haggard is the pastor of the 12,000-member New Life Church in Colorado Springs, and the current president of the National Association of Evangelicals. Among the disturbing features in the article was this observation by the author, Jeff Sharlet:

"One of Pastor Ted's favorite books is Thomas Friedman's The Lexus and the Olive Tree, which is now required reading for the hundreds of pastors under Ted's spiritual authority across the country. From Friedman, Pastor Ted says he learned that everything, including spirituality, can be understood as a commodity."

Well, yes, everything can be understood as a commodity. But far from being a convenient characteristic of modern life, this is a temptation of inadequate analogizing which should be resisted by everyone, and which the Church and its leaders should be warning against rather than glibly and carelessly promoting. If Uncle Screwtape were still advising his trainee in our market-driven society, I'm sure among advice he would give is "Get your patient to see everything in life as a commodity. This will give us a point of leverage by which to advance his sense of his own sovereignty ('the customer is always right,' after all) and his feeling that unfashionable ideas and commitments are disposable."

The devilish disorder promoted in our lives by the assumption that everything can be understood as a commodity is illustrated in a recent column in the San Francisco Chronicle, headlined "Marriage proposal: Why not privatize? Partnerships could be tailored to fit." The article, written by a lawyer named Colin P. A. Jones, argues at one point: "Exclusivity and the use of choice to define one's identity are at the core of modern consumer society. Extending this to marriage is only logical."

It shouldn't be that hard to see why the commodification of everything is a problem, not an opportunity. (One of our former guests, Vincent Miller, did a marvelous job spelling out many of these problems in his book Consuming Religion: Christian Faith and Practice in a Consumer Culture). But as in many instances, the pursuit of "cultural relevance" is radically different from the pursuit of cultural wisdom. [Posted January 2006, KAM]

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<![CDATA[The Embryo Question]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/embryo-question Sun, 13 Mar 2005 19:00:00 -0500 https://marshillaudio.org/node/540 catalog maintainer
13 Mar

The Embryo Question

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 03/13/05
Subtitle:

Writers for The New Atlantis consider the question of destroying embryos for stem cell research, setting parameters for the debate and examining the language employed in the discussion thus far.

The embryo question presents us with some of the essential dimensions and deep tensions in the American character—including the devotion to technological progress, the fidelity to biblical morality, and the belief that all human beings are created equal. In the essays that follow, the authors explore the embryo question in full, seeking to guide the current policy debate and to grapple with more fundamental questions about out [sic.] politics, our ideals, and our humanity.

So reads the introduction to a three-part feature published in the Fall 2004/Winter 2005 edition of The New Atlantis: A Journal of Technology & Society. The feature, titled The Embryo Question, contains articles by Robert P. George and Patrick Lee, Eric Cohen, Leon R. Kass, Yuval Levin, and Amy Laura Hall. It identifies terms and analogies employed in the debate about whether or not human embryos should be destroyed for stem cell research, explicating and disclosing weaknesses in the arguments of those in favor while establishing a strong case in opposition. In the first two sections of the feature George, Lee, and Cohen discuss the framing of the debate and what is at stake in how it is framed. Section III finds Kass, Levin, and Hall responding, in turn, to Cohen's article in section II.

In the first article of The Embryo Question, Acorns and Embryos, George and Lee explain that the debate about using stem cells from human embryos for research purposes is couched in language that clouds the issues at stake. The controversy is about the ethics of deliberately destroying human embryos in order to harvest their stem cells. The main question of the debate, therefore, should not be: should there be embryonic stem cell research? but: is it unjust to kill members of a certain class of human beings—those in the embryonic stage of development—to benefit others? Along the way to answering the latter question in the affirmative, the authors dissect an analogy that many advocates of research on stem cells harvested from destroyed embryos tout in order to justify their position: that embryos are to humans as acorns are to oak trees, and that since there is no moral outrage over the destruction of acorns, neither should there be any over the destruction of embryos. George and Lee demonstrate how the analogy fails and conclude their essay by exhorting biomedical science to remain faithful to the moral norm against killing some human life in the effort to bring healing to other human life.

Cohen, in The Tragedy of Equality, also protests the way the debate is framed for the public; he contends it ought not to be portrayed as a clash between religion and science. Putting the debate in these terms, he writes, makes it far too easy to presume that religious opposition to the practice is irrational and that the case for it is rational, grounded in the best scientific evidence available. The complex truth is quite the opposite, he states. After explaining why this is the case he claims that such destruction of human life undermines one of the foundational principles of democratic states: that all human life is equal and ought to be treated thus. The state would be cannibalizing its principle of equality, he writes, if it allowed embryos to be destroyed for stem cell research.

Section III, titled Equality Reconsidered, begins with Kass's response to Cohen. Kass spends the greater portion of his essay, Human Frailty and Human Dignity, outlining and summarizing Cohen's. Cohen portrays the embryo debate as a story about the fate of the democratic idea of equality hanging in the balance as society considers sacrificing it to serve the health of some. While Kass shares Cohen's moral sensibilities about destroying embryos for research, he diverges from Cohen in portraying the cultural conflict surrounding the debate as a conflict about equality; it is better understood, he writes, as a tension between concern for human frailty and dignity. He explains that, while he is not certain that a human embryo is morally equivalent to older people, he is certain that embryos deserve to be treated with respect, dignity, and awe, especially since all people were once embryos. Dignity and prudence ought to restrain the current generation from using the seeds of the next generation to its advantage, he concludes.

Levin also amends Cohen's article, but for reasons different from Kass's. In The Crisis of Everyday Life he states that Cohen gives two extreme responses to the practice of destroying embryos for stem cell research, neither of which is attractive. Cohen implies that society can either abandon its commitment to equality by sacrificing embryos for the sake of others, or, in order to uphold the truth that all humans are equal, it can martyr its sick by not developing cures for them through such research. Levin notes that these options may not be the only two available, and he encourages practices that would allow society to capitalize on modern scientific progress—such as research on stem cells taken from adults—without sacrificing moral principles.

Finally, Amy Laura Hall takes The Tragedy of Equality as a starting point for considering what it means to affirm that all humans are equal. In her article, "In What Sense Equal?" she examines three ways (upheld by Scripture and the western canon) in which humans are equal, and describes how one way is particularly helpful for bioethics and thinking about stem cell research. Equality through redemption, she explains, is the idea that all people suffer and all are shown mercy; thus, because one has been shown mercy, one ought to extend it to others. The Kantian idea of equality—that people deserve equal treatment because of their rationality—is the framework on which bioethics is loosely based, writes Hall, and it stands in need of a supplement. If not supplemented with other reasons for treating people equally, she states, it could encourage the destruction of human life that is without rational capacities and that seems extraneous. Complementing the Kantian idea of equality with the idea of equality through redemption would discourage the destruction of extraneous life.

The New Atlantis is a publication produced by the Ethics and Public Policy Center; for more information, visit the Journal's web pages. Readers who would like to learn more about bioethics and the issues involved may wish to consult past interviews on the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal; guests include Leon R. Kass, Nigel Cameron, C. Ben Mitchell, and Gordon Preece. [Posted March 2005, ALG]

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<![CDATA[The E. U. and Virtual Harems]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/e-u-and-virtual-harems Thu, 16 Dec 2004 19:00:00 -0500 https://marshillaudio.org/node/541 catalog maintainer
16 Dec

The E. U. and Virtual Harems

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 12/16/04
Subtitle:

MARS HILL AUDIO guest Steven Rhoads discusses Turkey's law against adultery in "The Turkish Letter."

On Volume 71 of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal, professor Steven Rhoads discusses the biological evidence for taking sex differences seriously. His book on the subject demonstrates that Rhoads is well-versed in the detrimental effects, for families and individuals, of not taking sex differences seriously; he encourages policy makers and employers to pay such differences greater heed in public policy and the work place. Rhoads extends similar arguments about taking public prohibitions against adultery seriously in a recent article for The Weekly Standard. In " The Turkish Letter," published on-line for the December 17, 2004, issue of The Daily Standard, Rhoads draws attention to Turkey's pending entrance into the European Union in order to both commend the country for the law which almost kept it out of the Union (a law which would make adultery by either spouse a crime), and to demonstrate the importance of supporting legal deterrents to adultery. Rhoads gives examples of how adultery undermines marriages and families, and of how it colors the lives of those involved in or affected by adultery. He encourages societies to support laws intended to discourage the tempting act. [Posted December 2004, ALG]

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<![CDATA[The Ancient World and Modern Western Civilization]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/ancient-world-and-modern-western-civilization Sat, 23 Mar 2002 19:00:00 -0500 https://marshillaudio.org/node/542 catalog maintainer
23 Mar

The Ancient World and Modern Western Civilization

Category: What We're Reading
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 03/23/02
Subtitle:

Pastor and literature enthusiast Peter Leithart recommends a recent book about the influence of the classical world on modern Western civilization. Click here for his abstract.

Pastor and literature enthusiast Peter Leithart recommends a recent book about the influence of the classical world on modern Western civilization. Click here for his abstract. [Posted March 2005, ALG]

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<![CDATA[That's why they call them browsers]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/thats-why-they-call-them-browsers Tue, 12 Aug 2008 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/543 catalog maintainer
12 Aug

That's why they call them browsers

Category: What We're Reading
By: Ken Myers
Published: 08/12/08
Subtitle:

Lately, a lot of what I'm reading has been concerned with how I'm reading, whether other people are reading, and how reading influences our inner lives, both our brains and our souls. Nicholas Carr's Atlantic essay, "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" (July/August 2008) is an elegant exploration of some of the themes explored by media ecologists. Carr has the feeling, he confesses, that the way he thinks has been changing. It's increasingly hard for him to concentrate on extended arguments presented in books for any sustained period. . . .

Lately, a lot of what I'm reading has been concerned with how I'm reading, with whether other people are reading, and with how reading influences our inner lives, both our brains and our souls. Nicholas Carr's Atlantic essay, "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" (July/August 2008) is an elegant exploration of some of the themes explored by media ecologists. Carr has the feeling, he confesses, that the way he thinks has been changing. It's increasingly hard for him to concentrate on extended arguments presented in books for any sustained period. "I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I'm always dragging my wayward brain back to the text." He reports that many friends and colleagues report the same sensation, and he's convinced that the cause behind this effect is all the time he spends online.

As Carr describes it, the way knowledge is organized and acquired online encourages certain mental habits while discouraging others. And it reinforces a specific model of human knowing, "a belief that intelligence is the output of a mechanical process, a series of discrete steps that can be isolated, measured, and optimized. In Google's world, the world we enter when we go online, there's little place for the fuzziness of contemplation. Ambiguity is not an opening for insight but a bug to be fixed."

Carr's article is worth reading (and re-reading, does anybody re-read anything anymore?) in its entirety, which one may do--ironically--online (though an actual printed copy of the magazine is much more pleasant to spend some time with). The essay has a nicely allusive shape to it that resists neat summary as it weaves together references to Nietzsche's first typewriter, the invention of the mechanical clock, Frederick Winslow Taylor's advocacy of industrial efficiency, and ruminations about HAL, the spooky computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey (which, we all know, was really a mind odyssey). Hovering over all this is Carr's recognition of one of Marshall McLuhan's great insights, that media "supply the stuff of thought, but they also shape the process of thought. And what the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in a sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski."

There's some science behind Carr's troubling sensation. Among other experts, he cites Maryanne Wolf, a developmental psychologist at Tufts University, who "worries that the style of reading promoted by the Net, a style that puts 'efficiency' and 'immediacy' above all else, may be weakening our capacity for the kind of deep reading that emerged when an earlier technology, the printing press, made long and complex works of prose commonplace." Note that the printing press didn't make such works (and the interior experience they enable) possible, just more widely available.

Carr insists that "The kind of deep reading that a sequence of printed pages promotes is valuable not just for the knowledge we acquire from the author's words but for the intellectual vibrations those words set off within our own minds." There is a quality of thought encouraged by working through extended arguments and ruminations that is not engendered by the kind of reading encouraged by the Internet. Carr observes that deep reading--reading that is more like prayer than basketball--is deliberately discouraged by the structure of the Web and in the business models of the Web's reigning powers. "The faster we surf across the Web--the more links we click and pages we view--the more opportunities Google and other companies gain to collect information about us and to deed us advertisements. Most of the proprietors of the commercial Internet have a financial stake in collecting the crumbs of data we leave behind as we flit from link to link--the more crumbs, the better. The last things these companies want is to encourage leisurely reading or slow, concentrated thought. It's in their economic interest to drive us to distraction."

Carr's article reminded me of observations by two writers whose books (repeatedly re-read) have had a formative effect on my thought. One of these writers is principally concerned with philosophical and historical matters, the other with spiritual life. Richard Weaver, in Ideas Have Consequences, commented (in 1948!) on the "astonishing vogue of factual information." Weaver correlates this lust for facts--often acquired with no context or connections--to modern skepticism. "Having been told by the relativists that he cannot have truth, he now has 'facts.' . . . And the public is being taught systematically to make this fatal confusion of factual particulars with wisdom."

Writing in 1957, Catholic theologian Romano Guardini (in Prayer in Practice) warned of the threat to spiritual health in a life characterized by flitting and restless distractedness. Guardini counseled that the only way to enter into the spirit of prayer was to learn to concentrate. "Above all, we must prepare ourselves for prayer. The same applies also to all worldly matters. No one with a serious task before him will approach it unprepared, but will concentrate on the demands he has to face. If we appreciate good music we shall not arrive at the performance at the last minute, allowing for no transition between the noise and unrest of the street and the opening bars of the concert. We shall be there in good time and hold ourselves ready for the beautiful experience before us. Anyone who has the right feeling for things which are great and important will, before tackling them, banish distraction and collect himself inwardly."

Guardini notes that "distraction" is historically described by "spiritual teachers" as a "state in which man lacks poise and unity, that state in which thoughts flit from object to object, in which feelings are vague and unfocused and the will ineffective. Man in this state is not really a person who speaks or who can be spoken to, but merely an uncoordinated bundle of thoughts, feelings and sensations." Collectedness, by contrast, is a condition in which the person aspires to be a "unified whole. This is the state in which he may, when the call comes to him, answer in the words of Moses, 'Here am I.'"

I think we can safely assume that were he alive today, Guardini would regard the institutionalization of distraction through our dominant communications medium as a great evil, the fact that we read fewer books is a symptom of a deeper problem. Two years before Prayer in Practice, Guardini addressed the idea of "collectedness" even more thoroughly, in Meditations before Mass,, he used a synonym for that unified state: composure. "What then do we mean by composure? As a rule, a man's attention is broken into a thousand fragments by the variety of things and persons about him. His mind is restless, his feelings seek objects that are constantly changing, his desires reach out for one thing after another, his will is captured by a thousand intentions, often conflicting. He is harried, torn, self-contradictory. Composure works in the opposite direction, rescuing man's attention from the sundry objects holding it captive and restoring unity to his spirit. It frees his mind from its many tempting claims and focuses it on one, the all-important. It calls the soul that is dispersed over myriad thoughts and desires, plans and intentions back to itself, re-establishing its depth.

"All things seem to disquiet man. The phenomena of nature intrigue him, they attract and bind. But because they are natural they have a calming, collecting influence as well. It is much the same with those realities that make up human existence: encounter and destiny, work and pleasure, sickness and accident, life and death. All make their demands on man, crowding him in and overwhelming him, but they also give him earnestness and weight. What is genuinely disastrous is the disorder and artificiality of present-day existence. We are constantly stormed by violent and chaotic impressions. At once powerful and superficial, they are soon exhausted, only to be replaced by others. They are immoderate and disconnected, the one contradicting, disturbing, and obstructing the other. At every step we find ourselves in the claws of purposes and cross-purposes that inveigle and trick us. Everywhere we are confronted by advertising that attempts to force upon us things we neither want nor really need. We are constantly lured from the important and profound to the distracting, 'interesting,' piquant. This state of affairs exists not only around but within us. To a large extent man lives without depth, without a center, in superficiality and chance. No longer finding the essential within himself, he grabs at all sorts of stimulants and sensations, he enjoys them briefly, tires of them, recalls his own emptiness and demands new distractions. He touches everything brought within easy reach of his mind by the constantly increasing means of transportation, information, education, and amusement, but he doesn't really absorb anything. He contents himself with having 'heard about it', he labels it with some current catchword, and shoves it aside for the next. He is a hollow man and tries to fill his emptiness with constant, reckless activity. He is happiest when in the thick of things, in the rush and noise and stimulus of quick results and successes. The moment quiet surrounds him, he is lost."

I read Nicholas Carr's article several weeks ago when it first appeared, and then saw--within a few days--a number of bloggers and online pundits make reference to it. There was a flurry of musing about his assertions, and then his concerns disappeared to make room for a new round of issues. I thought about writing something about the article right away, to stay in synch with the blogosphere, but then thought that it might be better to live with the article for a while--re-reading it a few times, reading some related essays and passages from long-treasured books--in order to gain a better stance from which to make some fruitful comments. Carr's observations are not the makings of a story that needs to "break" in a rush of competitive information pushing. They form a piece of evidence for understanding a pattern according to which the fashions of our cultural disorder often reinforce our spiritual disorder, a reminder that spiritual struggle is never simply spiritual.

Among the other things I read while living with Nicholas Carr's article was an article in the Spring 2008 issue of The New Atlantis by Christine Rosen called "The Myth of Multitasking." It reinforced ideas in Walter Kirn's "The Autumn of the Multitaskers" (Atlantic, November 2007), both articles suggesting that it is ultimately inefficient to try to achieve efficiency by doing three or four things at once. I was also reading Eugene Peterson's Eat This Book, which contains Peterson's reflections on the art of "spiritual reading." The metaphor of eating a book (a biblical metaphor) has echoes of Cranmer's prayer that we read, mark, learn and inwardly digest Holy Scripture. That requires the cultivation of disciplines and habits of attentiveness, practices which are robustly discouraged in the conventional experiences of everyday life in what is increasingly Google's world.

Posted by Ken Myers on 8/13/08

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<![CDATA[Terri Schiavo and our Moral Confusion]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/terri-schiavo-and-our-moral-confusion Mon, 28 Mar 2005 19:00:00 -0500 https://marshillaudio.org/node/544 catalog maintainer
28 Mar

Terri Schiavo and our Moral Confusion

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Ken Myers
Published: 03/28/05
Subtitle:

In thinking about the meaning of the tragedy of Terri Schiavo's life and the decisions it has generated, I spent much of Good Friday reading a number of articles by bioethicists, theologians, and various columnists. The entire time, I was haunted by the title of an essay by Stanley Hauerwas, who has written a lot about the moral nature of our care for the severely mentally retarded and more generally of those whose lives are incomprehensible and (thus?) burdensome to us.

In thinking about the meaning of the tragedy of Terri Schiavo's life and the decisions it has generated, I spent much of Good Friday reading a number of articles by bioethicists, theologians, and various columnists. The entire time, I was haunted by the title of an essay by Stanley Hauerwas, who has written a lot about the moral nature of our care for the severely mentally retarded and more generally of those whose lives are incomprehensible and (thus?) burdensome to us. In "Must a Patient Be a Person To Be a Patient? Or, My Uncle Charlie Is Not Much of a Person But He Is Still My Uncle Charlie," Hauerwas challenged the conventional framework that guides many debates in bioethics: the definition of what constitutes personhood. According to this framework, to be alive and to be human is not sufficient to make a moral claim for care and protection. One must also be a "person," a status (in both beginning-of-life and end-of-life settings) that is usually defined in terms of capacities for reason and volition.

Leon Kass, in Life, Liberty and the Defense of Dignity: The Challenge for Bioethics (Encounter, 2002), observes that the Western tradition of conferring dignity and respect on persons, on "rational beings" capable of "genuine moral agency," has preserved the unique value of human life by distinguishing it from beasts and machines. But, as we are painfully discovering on many issues addressed by bioethicists, it is an inadequate framework, appropriate perhaps for the Hellenistic view of human nature, but not rich enough for the account preserved by Jews and Christians in the account of Creation, and extended by Christians in reflection on the reality of the Incarnation. As Kass notes, "Precisely because it dualistically sets up the concept of 'personhood' in opposition to nature and the body, [this view of human dignity] fails to do justice to the concrete reality of our embodied lives—lives of begetting and belonging no less than of willing and thinking. . . . Precisely because 'personhood' is distinct from our lives as embodied, rooted, connected and aspiring beings, the dignity of rational choice pays no respect at all to the dignity we have through our loves and longings—central aspects of human life understood as a grown togetherness of body and soul. Not all of human dignity consists in reason or freedom." [page 17]

Reason and freedom are valued in the Biblical account of human nature. But in the modern, Enlightenment account that has shaped our political institutions and much of our thinking about the contours of caring for one another, reason and freedom are pretty much all there is to a person rightly so called. The modern picture of the human cannot account for our nature as embodied spirits created for and constituted by relationships of love.

In his book Bioethics: A Primer for Christians (Eerdmans, 2nd edition 2005), Gilbert Meilaender reflects on how Christian thinking should challenge the common assumptions of our culture about "personhood": "[O]ur personal histories—precisely as histories of embodied spirits—do not require the presence of 'personal' capacities throughout. Our personal histories begin in dependence—first within our mother's womb and then as newborns. Often our life ends in the dependence of old age and the loss of capacities we once had. Personhood is not something we 'have' at some point in this history. Rather, as embodied spirits or inspirited bodies, we are persons throughout the whole of that life. One whom we might baptize, one for whom we might still pray, one for whom the Spirit of Christ may still intercede 'with sighs too deep for words' (Rom. 8:26)—such a one cannot be for us less than a person. Dependence is part of the story of a person's life." [2nd edition, page 6]

Meilaender concludes this section of his book with an observation that applies to Terri Schiavo's situation most particularly: "Those human beings who permanently lack certain empowering cognitive capacities—as well as all human beings in stages of life where those powers are absent—are simply the weakest and most needy members of our community. We can care for them and about them only by acknowledging the living bodily presence that they have among us—seeking to discern in their faces the hidden spirit, the call to community that their bodily presence constitutes, and the face of Christ." [ibid.]

In an article written for The Weekly Standard and posted online on Good Friday, Eric Cohen, the editor of The New Atlantis, also reflects on moral framework questions. "For all the attention we have paid to the Schiavo case," Cohen insists, "we have asked many of the wrong questions, living as we do on the playing field of modern liberalism."

Like Kass and Meilaender, Cohen is unhappy with the liberal idea that volition is the defining characteristic of the human: "[T]he real lesson of the Schiavo case is not that we all need living wills; it is that our dignity does not reside in our will alone, and that it is foolish to believe that the competent person I am now can establish, in advance, how I should be cared for if I become incapacitated and incompetent. The real lesson is that we are not mere creatures of the will: We still possess dignity and rights even when our capacity to make free choices is gone; and we do not possess the right to demand that others treat us as less worthy of care than we really are."

Cohen observes that liberalism's celebration of liberty as autonomy, as independence, distorts the meaning of the human and establishes "a set of assumptions about what makes life worth living and thus worth protecting" according to which we regard "incompetence itself as reasonable grounds for assuming that life is not worth living."

Cohen thinks that medical ethics organized around the single theme of autonomy is flawed. "[T]he autonomy regime, at its best, prevents the worst abuses—like involuntary euthanasia, where doctors or public officials decide whose life is worth living. But the autonomy regime, even at its best, is deeply inadequate. It is based on a failure to recognize that the human condition involves both giving and needing care, and not always being morally free to decide our own fate."

The article is posted online here.

In watching and reading the news coverage of Terri Schiavo's case, I can't remember hearing the word "euthanasia" once. And yet it should be clear that by withdrawing food and water from her, she is euthanized, not simply being "allowed to die." I doubt that a parent who withheld food and water from their children, or a warden who withheld food and water from a prisoner, could be excused from culpability on the grounds that they were simply allowing someone to die. In none of these cases, including Terri Schiavo's, is there a dying person, just a dependent one.

Two articles from First Things help sort through the issues involved in distinguishing killing from allowing to die. The first, "Always to Care, Never to Kill: A Declaration on Euthanasia," was produced by the Ramsey Colloquium, a group of Jewish and Christian theologians, ethicists, philosophers, and scholars that met periodically to consider questions of ethics, religion, and public life. The statement was prepared at a time when many states were considering laws liberalizing the practice of euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide, and its principal theme was declared quite concisely: "In relating to the sick, the suffering, the incompetent, the disabled, and the dying, we must learn again the wisdom that teaches us always to care, never to kill. Although it may sometimes appear to be an act of compassion, killing is never a means of caring."

Later in the declaration, a warning that has relevance to Terri Schiavo's case was offered: "Once we cross the boundary between killing and allowing to die, there will be no turning back. Current proposals would legalize euthanasia only for the terminally ill. But the logic of the argument—and its practical consequences—will inevitably push us further. Arguments for euthanasia usually appeal to our supposed right of self-determination and to the desirability of relieving suffering. If a right to euthanasia is grounded in self-determination, it cannot reasonably be limited to the terminally ill. If people have a right to die, why must they wait until they are actually dying before they are permitted to exercise that right? Similarly, if the warrant for euthanasia is to relieve suffering, why should we be able to relieve the suffering only of those who are self-determining and competent to give their consent? Why not euthanasia for the suffering who can no longer speak for themselves? To ask such questions is to expose the logical incoherence and the fragile arbitrariness of suggested 'limits' in proposals for legalized euthanasia."

The article is available online here.

Finally, the August/September 2004 issue of First Things featured an exchange between Robert D. Orr (director of Ethics for Fletcher Allen Health Care and Professor of Family Medicine at the University of Vermont College of Medicine) and Gilbert Meilaender. The exchange dealt explicitly with the question of the use of feeding tubes for patients in a "permanent vegetative state." Orr and Meilaender both agree that such patients (like Terri Schiavo) are not dying. Given that fact, Meilaender discusses this question: "Under what circumstances may we rightly refuse a life-prolonging treatment without supposing that, in making this decision, we are doing the forbidden deed of choosing or aiming at death?"

"The answer of our medical-moral tradition has been the following: we may refuse treatments that are either useless or excessively burdensome. In doing so, we choose not death, but one among several possible lives open to us. We do not choose to die, but, rather, how to live, even if while dying, even if a shorter life than some other lives that are still available for our choosing. What we take aim at then, what we refuse, is not life but treatment—treatment that is either useless for a particular patient or excessively burdensome for that patient. Especially for patients who are irretrievably into the dying process, almost all treatments will have become useless. In refusing them, one is not choosing death but choosing life without a now useless form of treatment. But even for patients who are not near death, who might live for a considerably longer time, excessively burdensome treatments may also be refused. Here again, one takes aim at the burdensome treatment, not at life. One person may choose a life that is longer but carries with it considerable burden of treatment. Another may choose a life that is shorter but carries with it less burden of treatment. Each, however, chooses life. Neither aims at death.

"It is essential to emphasize that these criteria refer to treatments, not to lives. We may rightly reject a treatment that is useless. But if I decide not to treat because I think a person's life is useless, then I am taking aim not at the treatment but at the life. Rather than asking, 'What if anything can I do that will benefit the life this patient has?' I am asking, 'Is it a benefit to have such a life?' If the latter is my question, and if I decide not to treat, it should be clear that it is the life at which I take aim. Likewise, we may reject a treatment on grounds of excessive burden. But if I decide not to treat because it seems a burden just to have the life this person has, then I am taking aim not at the burdensome treatment but at the life. Hence, in deciding whether it is appropriate and permissible to withhold or withdraw treatment—whether, even if life is thereby shortened, we are aiming only at the treatment and not at the life—we have to ask ourselves whether the treatment under consideration is, for this patient, either useless or excessively burdensome.

"Is the treatment useless? Not, let us be clear, is the life a useless one to have, but is the treatment useless? As Dr. Orr notes—quite rightly, I think—patients 'can live in this permanent vegetative state for many years.' So feeding may preserve for years the life of this living human being. Are we certain we want to call that useless? We are, of course, tempted to say that, in deciding not to feed, we are simply withdrawing treatment and letting these patients die. Yet, as Dr. Orr also notes, these patients 'are not clearly dying.' And, despite the sloppy way we sometimes talk about these matters, you cannot 'let die' a person who is not dying. It is hard, therefore, to make the case for treatment withdrawal in these cases on the ground of uselessness. We may use those words, but it is more likely that our target is a (supposed) useless life and not a useless treatment. And if that is our aim, we had better rethink it promptly."

The article is available online here. [Posted March 2005, KAM]

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<![CDATA[Technology's Deeper Resonances]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/technologys-deeper-resonances Sun, 14 Aug 2005 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/545 catalog maintainer
14 Aug

Technology's Deeper Resonances

Category: What We're Reading
By: Ken Myers
Published: 08/14/05
Subtitle:

The newest issue of The New Atlantis (Summer 2005; available on-line here) provides further evidence that it is the most instructive and insightful publication examining the many facets of the relationship between technology and culture. . . .

The newest issue of The New Atlantis (Summer 2005; available on-line here) provides further evidence that it is the most instructive and insightful publication examining the many facets of the relationship between technology and culture. Christine Rosen (a guest on MARS HILL AUDIO Journal volume 70) continues her series of reflections on how some of the most private and personal technologies (iPods, TiVo, cosmetic surgery) shape our consciousness and our sense of personal identity and of the shape and texture of relationships. In "Video Games: Playgrounds of the Self," Rosen shows why explicit sex and graphic violence are only the more superficial problems facing heavy game players.

Eric Cohen, the editor of The New Atlantis and Director of the Project on Bioethics and American Democracy at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, also focuses on the inner effects of living in a technological society. In "The Real Meaning of Genetics," Cohen argues that the real challenge posed by radical programs of genetic engineering are not in the potentially monstrous products created by new techniques, but in new attitudes toward life, death, children, and love. In his concluding paragraphs, he reminds us that "too often, we easily assume that the progress of science is identical to the progress of man. The truth, as always, is much more complicated. Many men and women of the past were superior in virtue to us now, and many scientific discoveries of the present and future will prove a mixed blessing, and sometimes even a curse."

Two theologians, David Bentley Hart (featured on volume 67 of the Journal) and Robert W. Jenson (a guest back on volume 20) contribute essays assessing the importance of John Paul II's Theology of the Body for bioethics and for cultural and social wisdom more generally. Hart, an Eastern Orthodox theologian, contrasts the elevated view of the human in John Paul II's work and in Christian thought more generally with the view that dominates in various "transhumanist" and eugenist circles. This latter view appears at first glance to present human beings in a more Promethean, grander guise, since there is a lot of talk about acquiring more and more power over nature and human nature and "becoming as gods." Yet Hart (in "The Anti-Theology of the Body") maintains that there is a pathetic paradox in this hubris: "The materialist who wishes to see modern humanity's Baconian mastery over cosmic nature expanded to encompass human nature as well—granting us absolute power over the flesh and what is born from it, banishing all fortuity and uncertainty from the future of the race—is someone who seeks to reach the divine by ceasing to be human, by surpassing the human, by destroying the human. It is a desire both fantastic and depraved: a diseased titanism, the dream of an infinite passage through monstrosity, a perpetual and ruthless sacrifice of every present good to the featureless, abysmal, and insatiable god who is to come."

In "Reading the Body," Robert W. Jenson insists that one of the effects of John Paul II's Theology of the Body is simply to re-focus attention in medical ethics to the human body. So Jenson writes: "I propose that most questions conventionally bundled together as 'bioethica,' together with some medical-ethical questions at the boundary, can be cast in the form: Should/may we do (x) with/to bodies that are human? Interpreting bioethical problems as problems about bodies . . . does assume that some entities—such as embryos or even cells—may be regarded as bodies that are human without necessarily insisting that they have the status of human persons." Jenson continues discussing a number of other bioethical maxims suggested by John Paul II's remarkable reminder of the biblical teaching of the meaning of the human as centered in the body.

If this isn't enough to encourage you to read the current issue of The New Atlantis, there are also reflections about Paris Hilton and the end of the Star Trek franchise. We stoop to conquer. [Posted August 2005, KAM]

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<![CDATA[Study Compares Home- and School-educated Children]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/study-compares-home-and-school-educated-children Wed, 12 Jan 2005 19:00:00 -0500 https://marshillaudio.org/node/546 catalog maintainer
12 Jan

Study Compares Home- and School-educated Children

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 01/12/05
Subtitle:

On Volume 54 of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal, Mitchell L. Stevens discussed his book about home-schooling and motivations to home-school. Now a study published in the Journal of Early Childhood Research compares the intellectual development of children who have been home-educated with that of those who have been school-educated.

On Volume 54 of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal, Mitchell L. Stevens discussed his book about home-schooling and motivations to home-school. Now a study published in the Journal of Early Childhood Research compares the intellectual development of children who have been home-educated with that of those who have been school-educated. The first portion of "Home-education: Comparison of Home- and School-educated Children on PIPS Baseline Assessments" identifies the tests and studies conducted to measure the developmental differences between the two groups of children; it records how those tested were chosen, how the tests were administered, and the results of the tests. The latter portion of the article analyzes the results of the tests, speculating about why children scored as they did, and recommends a closer study of what makes home-education successful so that schools may benefit by it.

Home-educated children, it reports, "demonstrated high levels of ability and good social skills"; they tested higher in many of the tests than did school-educated children. Speculating about why this would be the case, the article describes home-education and how it differs from school-education: "Home-education is best described as an individually tailored education (ITE) whereby the children work from a home base but often spend a large amount of their time away from the home itself, instead attending group get-togethers and activities, visiting parks, museums, friends' houses, libraries and 'after school' groups. In general this is an education gained through 'living and doing' . . . ." The article advocates individually tailored education and the elements of which it consists—such as high levels of attention from parents and family members and a pace of learning gauged to each child—to schools that wish to reform their education programs. [Posted January 2005, ALG]

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<![CDATA[Studies of Milton and Conrad Are Alive and Well in Seemingly Unlikely Spots]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/studies-milton-and-conrad-are-alive-and-well-seemingly-unlikely-spots Sun, 17 Sep 2006 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/547 catalog maintainer
17 Sep

Studies of Milton and Conrad Are Alive and Well in Seemingly Unlikely Spots

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 09/17/06
Subtitle:

Guests on various editions of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal have considered the state of education at the university level. Most recently, on Volume 78, professor Mark Bauerlein notes that colleges and universities enable students to pursue nearly everything but an education rich in the humanities. . . .

Guests on various editions of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal have considered the state of education at the university level. Most recently, on Volume 78, professor Mark Bauerlein notes that colleges and universities enable students to pursue nearly everything but an education rich in the humanities. In an article in the September 18, 2006, issue of The Weekly Standard, Bauerlein attends to those schools which do offer a robust, liberal arts, core curriculum. The schools are not the usual elite suspects; they are, rather, military academies. In "Saluting the Canon: The liberal arts are alive and well—at military academies," Bauerlein describes his visits to English literature classes at West Point and The Citadel, and the dialogues in which students and professors engage. He mentions why the academies are keen to demand from their students extensive engagement in literature, philosophy, and art. He writes: "If anything, military schools are more serious about humanistic knowledge and skills than are the best civilian schools. They require more courses of all their students, and they engage them with the materials just as intensely."

"Saluting the Canon" is available on-line. [Posted September 2006, ALG]

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<![CDATA[Stronger than Death]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/stronger-death Sun, 30 Sep 2007 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/548 catalog maintainer
30 Sep

Stronger than Death

Category: What We're Reading
By: Ken Myers
Published: 09/30/07
Subtitle:

In 1999, I interviewed Alan Jacobs about J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter novels. After that interview, Dr. Jacobs collected his thoughts for an essay called "Harry Potter's Magic," published in First Things. Now that the final Harry Potter book has been published, a number of MARS HILL AUDIO listeners have suggested that I talk to Jacobs again to discover his take on the completed saga. . . .

In 1999, I interviewed Alan Jacobs about J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter novels. After that interview, Dr. Jacobs collected his thoughts for an essay called "Harry Potter's Magic," published in First Things. Now that the final Harry Potter book has been published, a number of MARS HILL AUDIO listeners have suggested that I talk to Jacobs again to discover his take on the completed saga. While we won't be able to do that interview, you may be interested in reading the essay Alan wrote after reading the seventh book, "The Youngest Brother's Tale," published in Books and Culture. Jacobs argues that "The key theme of the whole series is the opposition of death and love: the devastation wrought by those whose fear of death causes them to shun love as a weakness, and, in contrast, the rich rewards in store for those who will not allow the fear of death to block love, who know that love risks all for the beloved."

Meanwhile, The First Things website has published a brief but thoughtful response to some of the accusations leveled against Rowling's book by conservative Christians. In "Harry Potter and the Christian Critics," Mark Shea argues that the magic in these books is 'incantational,' not 'invocational,' exactly like the magic of Gandalf. Born with the talent for magic, Gandalf says the magic words and fire leaps forth from his staff, just as from Harry's wand. No principalities or powers are invoked in HP. Indeed, if any words are 'invocational' they are the prayer to Elbereth and Gilthoniel uttered in Middle Earth. Yet nobody accuses Tolkien of promoting the worship of false gods. That's because we understand Tolkien's fictional subcreation and its rootedness in Christian thought. I suggest Christian critics try to extend Rowling the same charity.""

Posted by Ken Myers on 10/1/07"

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<![CDATA[Slower, Longer, Smarter]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/slower-longer-smarter Sun, 30 Sep 2007 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/549 catalog maintainer
30 Sep

Slower, Longer, Smarter

Category: What We're Reading
By: Ken Myers
Published: 09/30/07
Subtitle:

Many years ago, when working at National Public Radio, I talked with a friend who had left NPR to work in the news department at ABC. During the conversation, he remarked that the biggest difference between his old colleagues and his new ones was that reporters and producers at NPR regularly read books, while the people at ABC generally didn't. . . .

Many years ago, when working at National Public Radio, I talked with a friend who had left NPR to work in the news department at ABC. During the conversation, he remarked that the biggest difference between his old colleagues and his new ones was that reporters and producers at NPR regularly read books, while the people at ABC generally didn't. He said this somewhat wistfully, suggesting that he missed the conversations and arguments that are nourished by a shared experience of the focused and sustained attentiveness that books make possible. Books, like music, are ways of ordering our experience of time and intellect. They encourage habits of mind that are quite different from those typical among people whose reading is enabled most often by a device appropriately called a "browser."

Since the work of MARS HILL AUDIO is achieved primarily by passing on information about books, I have long been interested in appraisals of the place books and what George Steiner calls "bookishness" play in society. So the cover story in the September/October 2007 issue of the Columbia Journalism Review naturally called for my attention. "Goodbye to All That" is written by book editor and journalist Steve Wasserman, who for a number of years edited the Los Angeles Times Book Review.

Wasserman's lead is that coverage of books in American newspapers is declining "with alarming speed." But, as he notes in his second paragraph, this decline has been going on for some time. Even the New York Times Book Review, the most prestigious and widely read book section in the country, has slimmed down from an average forty-two pages in 1985 to a present average of thirty-two pages.

The Internet is one reason for this decline, but this is not a zero-sum game in which identically valuable resources have simply been made available in a new setting. Wasserman worries that the loss of newspaper coverage of books is part of "the sea change in the culture of literacy itself, the degree to which our overwhelmingly fast and visually furious culture renders serious reading increasingly irrelevant, hollowing out the habits of attention indispensable for absorbing long-form narrative and the following of sustained argument." Wasserman quotes Time film critic Richard Schickel who (in an article in the L.A. Times in May) bemoaned "the 'hairy-chested populism' promoted by the boosters of blogging. 'Criticism--and its humble cousin reviewing--is not a democratic activity. It is, or should be, an elite enterprise, ideally undertaken by individuals who bring something to the party beyond their hasty, instinctive opinions of a book (or any other cultural object). It is work that requires disciplined taste, historical and theoretical knowledge and a fairly deep sense of the author's (or filmmaker's or painter's) entire body of work, among other qualities.'"

Wasserman's article is a revealing window into newspaper and book publishing, as well as to the constructive and constituting place of books and news about books in a good society. As a fellow editor, I especially appreciated his description of the convictions he carried with him when he assumed responsibility for the Los Angeles Times Book Review in 1996. "Where everyone else was going faster, shorter, dumber, I was intent upon going slower, longer, smarter, on the perhaps foolhardy presumption that there were enough adults out there in Newspaper Land who yearned to be spoken to as adults."

Posted by Ken Myers on 10/1/07

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<![CDATA[Slaves, Women & Homosexuals]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/slaves-women-homosexuals Tue, 19 Jun 2001 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/550 catalog maintainer
19 Jun

Slaves, Women & Homosexuals

Category: What We're Reading
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 06/19/01
Subtitle:

In his book Slaves, Women & Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis, professor William J. Webb explores the differences between the Church's historical stances on slavery, the subjugation of women, and homosexual practices.

Debate about the Church's historic stance on homosexuality has intensified with the consecration of Canon Gene Robinson as a bishop in the Episcopal Church USA. Many who celebrate his consecration and welcome a change in the Church's teaching on homosexuality refer to the Church's refined positions on slavery and the subjugation of women to buoy their arguments for change. These two cultural phenomenon were renounced by the Church in subsequent cultural settings, they point out, and such should be the case with the restriction of homosexual practices; today's Church ought to lift those restrictions. William J. Webb, professor of New Testament at Heritage Theological Seminary, counters this assertion, however, cautioning that these three issues ought not be conflated. In his book, Slaves, Women & Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis (InterVarsity Press, 2001), Webb demonstrates that the Church's restriction of homosexual practices acknowledges that the Bible's stance on homosexuality is a "transcultural" stance, unlike its stances on slavery and the role of women in society which are "culture-bound." His demonstration uses the criteria he recommends Christians enlist to determine which components of biblical text should apply today and which should not.

Since it is important that Christians live out the redemptive spirit of Scripture, they must be able to discern which values in Scripture are "kingdom values" (those that transcend culture and time) and which are "culture values" (those specific to a particular time and place). To assist his readers in this task, Webb uses the early chapters of Slaves, Women & Homosexuals to introduce a Redemptive-Movement framework for reading, interpreting, and applying Scripture. In his later chapters he uses the circumstances of slaves, women, and homosexuals in biblical times to develop the criteria of the framework. The book is divided into three sections, titled: "Toward a Hermeneutic of Cultural Analysis"; "Intrascriptural Criteria"; and "Extrascriptural Criteria."[Posted November 2003, ALG]

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<![CDATA[Serendipity]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/serendipity Thu, 12 Apr 2007 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/551 catalog maintainer
12 Apr

Serendipity

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 04/12/07
Subtitle:

In a world increasingly shaped by technology, people encounter few opportunities to have the unexpected waylay them. A quick click of a button provides access to materials for specifically tailored searches, eliminating the need to look through titles not necessarily related to one's research. . . .

In a world increasingly shaped by technology, people encounter few opportunities to have the unexpected waylay them. A quick click of a button provides access to materials for specifically tailored searches, eliminating the need to look through titles not necessarily related to one's research. Professor Alan Jacobs (a guest on several issues of the Journal) notes and laments the lack of opportunity for serendipity in a technological society in a new essay online. "Serendipity: In Praise of Accidental Sagacity" is available through the website of Books and Culture. In the article Jacobs describes serendipity and what it conveys to people about life and the cosmos. He writes: "The cultivation of serendipity is at once a self-abnegation, a disciplining of technological power, a form of trust in God, and an expression of solidarity with the vast multitudes of Christians from all generations whose poverty and powerlessness made it impossible for them to think even for a moment that they could control their own lives."

Several other MARS HILL AUDIO guests have commented on the pros and cons of technology, along with the need for discerning engagement with it. Lists of interviews are available here and here. [Posted April 2007, ALG]

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<![CDATA[Roger Shattuck]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/roger-shattuck Thu, 12 Jan 2006 19:00:00 -0500 https://marshillaudio.org/node/552 catalog maintainer
12 Jan

Roger Shattuck

Category: What We're Reading
By: Ken Myers
Published: 01/12/06
Subtitle:

In December of last year, the literary scholar Roger Shattuck died at the age of 82. Shattuck was best known for his first book, written in 1958, The Banquet Years: The Origins of the Avant-Garde in France, 1885 to World War I. I first read this book in 1989, when I was working on All God's Children and Blue Suede Shoes: Christians and Popular Culture. Shattuck helped me see that many of the characteristic attitudes and sensibilities of popular culture were shared with the much more recondite work of epoch-defining artists of the 20th century, such as Henri Rousseau, Alfred Jarry, Erik Satie, and Guillaume Apollinaire. . . .

In December of 2005, the literary scholar Roger Shattuck died at the age of 82. Shattuck was best known for his first book, written in 1958, The Banquet Years: The Origins of the Avant-Garde in France, 1885 to World War I. I first read this book in 1989, when I was working on All God's Children and Blue Suede Shoes: Christians and Popular Culture. Shattuck helped me see that many of the characteristic attitudes and sensibilities of popular culture were shared with the much more recondite work of epoch-defining artists of the 20th century, such as Henri Rousseau, Alfred Jarry, Erik Satie, and Guillaume Apollinaire.

In 1996, Roger Shattuck wrote what many have recognized as his most ambitious (and controversial) book, Forbidden Knowledge: From Prometheus to Pornography, which violated the modern spirit of exploration and progress by asking "Are there things we should not know?" In their obituary notice for Roger Shattuck, the editors of The New Criterion commented: "Today, shallow intellectuals bandy about words like 'subversive' and 'transgressive' as terms of endearment. But the age-old uneasiness about the subversive potentialities of unfettered knowledge reveal a recognition that knowledge can bring unhappiness and ruin as well as insight and liberation. This thought is embedded in countless myths and stories, many of which Roger anatomizes in the course of his book." (The entire notice can be read here. The Times of London also carried a very thoughtful obituary, more thorough than that in his long hometown paper, The Boston Globe. It is online here.)

I had the good pleasure of interviewing Roger Shattuck when Forbidden Knowledge was published; that interview appeared on volume 24 of what was then called the MARS HILL TAPES. While much of his early writing was more celebratory of the modern avant-garde, in his book and in subsequent conversations and correspondence with him, Roger Shattuck revealed himself to be a chastened seeker. He was surprisingly supportive of the project of MARS HILL AUDIO, and even wrote a commendation for us to use in our marketing efforts.

In honor and memory of his intellectual brilliance and moral seriousness, we're making available the two parts of my 1996 interview which appeared on volume 24 as a free downloadable mp3 file. It may be obtained by clicking HERE. [Posted January 2006, KAM]

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<![CDATA[Robert P. Kraynak & Glenn Tinder, eds., <cite>In Defense of Human Dignity: Essays for Our Times</cite> (Univ. of Notre Dame Press, 2003)]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/robert-p-kraynak-glenn-tinder-eds-defense-human-dignity-essays-our-times-univ-notre-dame Thu, 03 Jul 2003 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/553 catalog maintainer

"The defense of human dignity has been a perennial theme of philosophers and theologians, but it takes on new and special urgency in our own times. . . . [Many observers] think that the major challenge of our times is to recover a true and authentic understanding of human dignity and to defend it against threats from modern civilization." Robert P. Kraynak, In Defense of Human Dignity

In In Defense of Human Dignity: Essays for Our Times, editors Robert P. Kraynak and Glenn Tinder gather essays that name threats to human dignity concomitant with modern civilization and develop defenses of the former. Kraynak, in the introduction, "Defending Human Dignity: The Challenge of Our Times," writes about issues at the core of human dignity, namely: whether or not human beings have a distinct and privileged place in society that carries with it duties and rights; and whether or not they have a unique destiny and moral worth that should be protected from science gone awry. He states that modern civilization threatens human dignity in multiple ways, and gives a brief description of both the organization of the anthology and the pieces therein. The first essay, "Against Fate: An Essay on Personal Dignity" (by Tinder), addresses the dignity of individuals, treating people as ends and never merely means. The following seven essays develop Tinder's themes while also offering alternative perspectives on dignity and its political and ethical implications. They are titled: "Kant on Human Dignity" (Susan M. Shell); "'Made in the Image of God': The Christian View of Human Dignity and Political Order" (Kraynak); "Between Sanctity and Depravity: Human Dignity in Protestant Perspective" (John Witte, Jr.); "A House Divided, Again: Sanctity vs. Dignity in the Induced Death Debates" (Timothy P. Jackson); "Are Freedom and Dignity Enough? A Reflection on Liberal Abbreviations" (David Walsh); "A Well-Ordered Society" (John Rawls); and "Saving Modernity from Itself: John Paul II on Human Dignity, 'the Whole Truth about Man,' and the Modern Quest for Freedom" (Kenneth L. Grasso). Tinder provides the book's afterword, "Facets of Personal Dignity." [Posted July 2005, ALG]

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<![CDATA[Robert Hughes on Fast Art, Slow Art]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/robert-hughes-fast-art-slow-art Thu, 26 Aug 2004 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/554 catalog maintainer
26 Aug

Robert Hughes on Fast Art, Slow Art

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Ken Myers
Published: 08/26/04
Subtitle:

Art critic Robert Hughes reviews the last 25 years in art in a new BBC documentary

Twenty-five years ago, art critic Robert Hughes hosted an eight-part television series on modern art called "The Shock of the New." While the book based on that series is still available (being one of the most acccessible and provocative surveys of the meaning of modernity in art), the videos, sad to say, have not been commercially released. In July, viewers of the BBC had an opportunity to watch the series re-run just prior to an epilogue of sorts, "The New Shock of the New," in which Hughes discussed and displayed some of the highlights (and lowlights) of the last two-and-a-half decades in art.

One of the concerns Hughes has expressed repeatedly is that art has become a commodity like all other commodities, for which value is just economic value and the ebb and flow of the forces of fashion erase distinctions of quality. While there have always been celebrity artists, the restless demand for novelty and fame (lust of the eyes?) sustained by mass media and advertising has (in Hughes's words) "distorted nearly everyone's relationship with aesthetics."

In the June 30 issue of The Guardian, Hughes offered a peek into his new program in an article called "That's showbusiness." "It used to be," wrote Hughes, "that media-based, photo-derived art looked automatically 'interesting.' It cut to the chase instantly, it mimicked the media-glutted state of general consciousness, it was democratic--sort of. The high priest of this situation was of course the hugely influential Andy Warhol, paragon of fast art. I am sure that though his influence probably will last (if only because it renders artmaking easier for the kiddies) his paragonhood won't, and despite the millions now paid for his Lizzes and Elvises, he will shrink to relative insignificance, a historical figure whose resonance is used up. There will be a renewed interest--not for everyone, of course, but for those who actually know and care about the issues--in slow art: art that takes time to develop on the retina and in the mind, that sees instant communication as the empty fraud it is, that relates strongly to its own traditions."

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<![CDATA[Robert Gagnon On-line]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/robert-gagnon-line Sat, 30 Jun 2001 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/555 catalog maintainer
30 Jun

Robert Gagnon On-line

Category: What We're Reading
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 06/30/01
Subtitle:

Robert Gagnon, a guest on Volume 68 whose interview with Ken Myers is published in full on Conversation 20, "Texts, Sex, & Sanctity: Robert Gagnon on Homosexuality & the Bible," offers various resources about the Bible, the Church, and homosexuality in his web pages.

Robert Gagnon, a guest on Volume 68 whose interview with Ken Myers is published in full on Conversation 20, "Texts, Sex, & Sanctity: Robert Gagnon on Homosexuality & the Bible," offers various resources about the Bible, the Church, and homosexuality in his web pages. Gagnon is an ordained elder of the Presbyterian Church (USA) and an associate professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. He site contains pdf and html versions of many of his articles, along with information about his books, The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics, and Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views. He has also posted entries on the Federal Marriage Amendment and legal decisions about homosexual marriage. [Posted August 2004, Amy L. Graeser]

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<![CDATA[Rieff Revisited]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/rieff-revisited Thu, 30 Aug 2007 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/556 catalog maintainer
30 Aug

Rieff Revisited

Category: What We're Reading
By: Ken Myers
Published: 08/30/07
Subtitle:

If you were intrigued about our features on volume 82 about Philip Rieff and would like to know more about his ideas before committing to reading him, a pithy summary of Rieff's views by critic George Scialabba appeared in a recent issue of the Boston Review. . . .

If you were intrigued about our features on volume 82 about Philip Rieff and would like to know more about his ideas before committing to reading him, a pithy summary of Rieff's views by critic George Scialabba appeared in a recent issue of the Boston Review. The occasion for Scialabba's article is the posthumous book by Rieff called Charisma: The Gift of Grace and How It Has Been Taken Away from Us. Rieff draws on (and disputes) Max Weber's idea of charisma, which was in Weber's formulation a form of authority. Rieff insists that there can be no charisma in Weber's sense apart from some sense of sacred order, no charisma without creed is how Rieff summarizes his view.

Philip Rieff always maintained that the point of culture was to provide authority, to set limits against which individuals could come to understand the world and their place in it. But the crisis of modernity is specifically the loss of the plausibility of any authority. Rieff believed (in Scialabba's summary) that: For most educated (and even many uneducated) Westerners, however, all formerly unalterable authorities now lie in the dust, like Ozymandias. Science has banished the supernatural, technology has vanquished scarcity, and so, having lost its parents, ignorance and misery, morality is now an orphan. This is the triumphalist view of modernity, and Rieff shared it, only instead of a triumph, he thought it a catastrophe.

Scialabba's sympathy for Rieff's lament for the loss of religious moorings (and for similar concerns in the work of Christopher Lasch) are especially poignant in light of the fact that Scialabba himself would appear to be one of modernity's victims, as this profile explains.

A review essay of the anniversary edition of Rieff's The Triumph of the Therapeutic appeared in the Spring 2007 issue of The University Bookman. In the essay, James G. Poulos (who dubs Rieff America's most obscure critical genius) examines the question of how to best live in the present world. In a society where genuine community seems withered and perverted, and where the wisdom and habit of traditional culture is often repudiated by popular publicity, is the moral dissident to fight or flee? Put more specifically, is it our duty to struggle to engage a culture that has soured to our tastes, or are we better off abandoning, in Rieff's term, the anti-culture that surrounds us?

Full disclosure requires my acknowledgment that Mr. Poulos discusses the work of MARS HILL AUDIO as being influenced by Rieff, in our continuing effort to address (in Poulos's words) the dilemma of engaging the culture without being lost to it.

Posted by Ken Myers on 8/31/07

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<![CDATA[Richard Wilbur and the Comeliness of Things]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/richard-wilbur-and-comeliness-things Sun, 21 Nov 2004 19:00:00 -0500 https://marshillaudio.org/node/557 catalog maintainer
21 Nov

Richard Wilbur and the Comeliness of Things

Category: What We're Reading
By: Ken Myers
Published: 11/21/04
Subtitle:

Just in time for Thanksgiving (or for Christmas giving), Richard Wilbur's Collected Poems 1943-2004 has been published by Harcourt. Thanksgiving is an apt moment, since Wilbur's poetry consistently bears witness to the good gifts in Creation.

Just in time for Thanksgiving (or for Christmas giving), Richard Wilbur's Collected Poems 1943-2004 has been published by Harcourt. Thanksgiving is an apt moment, since Wilbur's poetry consistently bears witness to the good gifts in Creation. In a review essay in The New Yorker (November 22, 2004), Adam Kirsch writes of Wilbur's praise of mundane joys, and writes with a bit of jaded suspicion (the article is entitled "Get Happy," with a note of disapproval; Kirsch suggests, without denying Wilbur's powerful poetic gifts, that "Wilbur's essentially hopeful temperament leaves him ill-equipped for certain kinds of moral inquiry"). Kirsch also quotes from a 1977 Paris Review essay with Wilbur: "To put it simply, I feel that the universe is full of glorious energy, that the energy tends to take pattern and shape, and that the ultimate character of things is comely and good. I am perfectly aware that I say this in the teeth of all sorts of contrary evidence, and that I must be basing it partly on temperament and partly on faith, but that is my attitude." Thanksgiving, indeed. I am reminded of the title of Josef Pieper's book, In Tune with the World: A Theory of Festivity, in which Pieper argues that the essence of the spirit of celebration is that of saying "Yes" to God's unnecessary gift of creation. Professor Roger Lundin quotes Wilbur's celebratory poetry (particularly "Love Call Us to the Things of This World") in the article "Postmodern Gnostics." [Posted November 2004, KAM]

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<![CDATA[Resources Taken from Listener's Guides]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/resources-taken-listeners-guides Wed, 14 Feb 2001 19:00:00 -0500 https://marshillaudio.org/node/558 catalog maintainer
14 Feb

Resources Taken from Listener's Guides

Category: What We're Reading
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 02/14/01

John F. Kilner is one of the editors of The Reproductive Revolution: A Christian Appraisal of Sexuality, Reproductive Technologies, and the Family (Eerdmans, 2000). Earlier books on which he collaborated include Bioethics and the Future of Medicine: A Christian Appraisal (Eerdmans, 1995), Dignity and Dying: A Christian Appraisal (Eerdmans, 1996); "The Way They Were, the Way We Are: Bioethics and the Holocaust" (First Things, March 1990), and Genetic Ethics: Do the Ends Justify the Genes? (Eerdmans, 1997). MARS HILL AUDIO recently produced an audio anthology called The Ethics of Human Cloning, which may be ordered by calling 1.800.331.6407. We also have available an unabridged audio edition of Gilbert Meilaender's Bioethics: A Primer for Christians. Additional resources include: C. S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength (Simon and Schuster Trade, 1990); Jacques Ellul, The Technological Society (Knopf, 1964); Albert Borgmann, Technology and the Character of Contemporary Life: A Philosophical Inquiry (University of Chicago Press, 1984); Albert Borgmann, Crossing the Postmodern Divide (University of Chicago Press, 1992); George Parkin Grant, Technology and Justice (University of Notre Dame Press, 1986); Stanley Hauerwas, Naming the Silences: God, Medicine, and the Problem of Suffering (Eerdmans, 1990); Stanley Hauerwas, Suffering Presence: Theological Reflections on Medicine, the Mentally Handicapped, and the Church (University of Norte Dame Press, 1986); Leon R. Kass, Toward a More Natural Science: Biology and Human Affairs (New York: Free Press, 1985); Stephen E. Lammers, editor, On Moral Medicine: Theological Perspectives in Medical Ethics (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1987); C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man (Macmillan Publishing Company, 1947); Richard John Neuhaus, "The Excitable Dr. Watson" (First Things, June/July 1990, pp. 67f); Richard John Neuhaus, editor, Guaranteeing the Good Life: Medicine and the Return of Eugenics (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1990); Neil Postman, Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology (Knopf, 1992); Paul Ramsey, Ethics at the Edges of Life: Medical and Legal Intersections (Yale University Press, 1978); Max L. Stackhouse, "Godly Cooking? Theological Ethics and Technological Society" (First Things, May 1991, pp. 22-29); and Michael Aeschliman, The Restitution of Man: C. S. Lewis and the Case Against Scientism (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1983). Gilbert Meilaender's Body, Soul, and Bioethics (Notre Dame, 1995) looks at how the field of bioethics has developed over the last 25 years, and how in his view some questions have been asked and/or answered badly. Also see Jeremy Rifkin's The Biotech Century (Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 1998). Nigel Cameron's book, The New Medicine: Life and Death after Hippocrates, has been re-issued (in the summer of 2001) by The Bioethics Press. Dr. Cameron is a senior fellow with the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity (www.cbhd.org). The fellows of the Center have been involved with the publication of a number of important books on bioethics, including the anthology Bioengagement: Making a Christian Difference Through Bioethics Today (Eerdmans, 2000).[Posted between October 2001 and June 2002, ALG]

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<![CDATA[Resources on Children's Literature]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/resources-childrens-literature Fri, 04 Apr 2003 19:00:00 -0500 https://marshillaudio.org/node/559 catalog maintainer
4 Apr

Resources on Children's Literature

Category: What We're Reading
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 04/04/03
Subtitle:

A sampling of sources from Scott Bucko, headmaster of the Geneva School in Central Florida, and former owner of Splintered Light Bookstore. (Descriptions are taken from the publisher, unless otherwise noted.):

A sampling of sources from Scott Bucko, headmaster of the Geneva School in Central Florida, and former owner of Splintered Light Bookstore. (Descriptions are taken from the publisher, unless otherwise noted.):

—Gladys Hunt, Honey for a Child's Heart: The Imaginative Use of Books in Family Life, Fourth Edition (Zondervan, 2002): "Since its publication in 1969, this has been an essential guide for parents wanting to find the best books for their children. Now in its fourth edition, Honey for a Child's Heart discusses everything from the ways reading affects both children's view of the world and their imagination to how to choose good books. Illustrated with drawings from dozens of favorites, it includes an indexed and updated list of the best new books on the market and the classics that you want your children to enjoy. Author Gladys Hunt's tastes are broad, her advice is rooted in experience, and her suggestions will enrich the cultural and spiritual life of any home."

—Mary Ruth Wilkinson & Heidi Wilkinson Teel, A Time to Read: Good Books for Growing Readers—For Those Who Love Books, Children, and God (Regent College Publishing, 2001): (description from www.parable.com) "In A Time to Read, Mary Ruth K. Wilkinson and her daughter, Heidi Wilkinson Teel, have compiled a helpful guide to children's books. More than bibliography A Time to Read also includes essays on the nature of children, families, literature and story—and how these hold together in a Christian life, reflecting Mary Ruth's 30 years' experience teaching a literary and Christian approach to children's books."

—Kathryn Lindskoog & Ranelda Mack Hunsicker, How to Grow a Young Reader: Books from Every Age for Readers of Every Age (Harold Shaw, 1999): (description from www.parable.com) "In this book, authors Kathryn Lindskoog and Ranelda Mack Hunsicker offer parents, teachers, and homeschoolers the best resource available as they closely examine genres such as classics, fantasy, biography and realistic fiction, mystery and adventure, humor, poetry, picture and audio books, and multimedia resources. Additional discussions of censorship, character building through literature, and objectives for spiritual development make this book the ideal guide for finding the best literature for children."

—Jim Trelease, The Read-Aloud Handbook, Fifth Edition (Penguin Group, 2001): "Every child can become an avid reader, and this beloved, classic guide . . . will show you how to make it happen. . . . Jim Trelease has made reading aloud a special pleasure for millions of people. This new edition offers a chance for a new generation of parents, teachers, grandparents, and siblings to discover the rewards—and the necessity—of reading aloud to children." [Posted April 2005, ALG]

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<![CDATA[Religion in America]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/religion-america Mon, 14 Jun 2004 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/560 catalog maintainer
14 Jun

Religion in America

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 06/14/04
Subtitle:

In order to better understand religion's role in "the American scene," editors at The Public Interest have solicited essays from various writers and scholars to treat the topic for the periodical's Spring 2004 issue.

The introduction to the Spring 2004 issue of The Public Interest explains that "Indeed, the American scene cannot be fully grasped without a consideration of religion's changing role therein. And it may be no exaggeration to suggest that the country's prospects in the new century will be powerfully shaped, at home and abroad, by religious developments." In order to better understand "the American scene," editors at The Public Interest have solicited essays from various writers and scholars, including previous MARS HILL AUDIO guests Wilfred M. McClay, Stanley W. Carlson-Thies, and Michael W. McConnell. Each of the writers examines the state of religion in America from different points of view; some attend to the history of religion in America, some to the stress that the September 11 attacks and the ensuing war have placed on religion's place in the public square in America, and some to religion's influence on social policy. McClay's piece, "The Soul of a Nation," examines the state of civil religion in America and argues for the continuation of a strong civil religion. Carlson-Thies's article, "Implementing the Faith-Based Initiative," looks at the debates about the propriety and success of faith-based service providers receiving federal funds and offers methods for measuring the success of their integration into public policy. And in "Religious Souls and the Body Politic," McConnell advocates religious pluralism instead of secularism in American public life, taking into account the history of the religious life of America.

While a few of the articles from the Spring 2004 issue are available on-line, most are not. To order a print copy of the issue, call 202.785.8555. For more information about The Public Interest, visit the periodical's web pages.

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<![CDATA[Re-imagining Economic Obedience: Lessons from Wendell Berry]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/re-imagining-economic-obedience-lessons-wendell-berry Mon, 21 Jul 2003 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/561 catalog maintainer
21 Jul

Re-imagining Economic Obedience: Lessons from Wendell Berry

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Ken Myers
Published: 07/21/03
Subtitle:

Several scholars and members of Christ Episcopal Church in Charlottesville, Virginia, recently explored and contemplated consumerism, along with its potenial dangers and blessings, in the May 2003 issue of Voices, the parish journal. Ken Myers also contributed an article to this issue (titled "Consumerism: Wherever Your Treasure Is, There too Will Be Your Heart"). His article, which introduces writer Wendell Berry's thoughts on the God-given order of Creation and what that order means for human housekeeping, is available here.

The structure of a great proportion of our social, economic, and political life encourages us to think of ourselves as consumers. "Think" is actually the wrong verb here, since what is happening is an act of presupposition or assumption or intuition. Since so many institutions around us encourage such an assumption, since the "self as consumer" is a model of self-understanding so pervasive, it is a great challenge to gain enough detachment from the prevailing winds to think of our lives in any other way. And yet the consequences of imagining ourselves principally as consumers are destructive and disordering.

In order to recover other ways of imagining our lives, we need prophets and practices. We need the assistance of wise and creative truth-tellers who have, by God's grace, been given a vision of life that challenges the great myths of our time. From such seers, we can acquire models for living our lives deliberately, ways of engaging space, time, and the material world that conform more fittingly with the order our Creator has established.

In my own reading, I have found Wendell Berry to be among the most profound sages addressing the manifold confusions associated with the habitual turn of our mind, hearts, and bodies toward consumption. Berry is a novelist, poet, farmer, and essayist, not necessarily in that order. His writing is plain and elegant, deceptively simple to the point of being rejected by many as simplistic. As with the wisest of sources, his work requires meditation and reflection. Many of Berry's observations about the shape of human well-being can only be comprehended if the reader is willing to make radical changes in patterns of living. Not all will have ears to hear.

One of Berry's fundamental assumptions is deeply Christian and yet profoundly out of tune with most of modern culture. It is the assumption that God has established an order in Creation the honoring of which is required if we are to live well. One of the characteristics of modern culture is the contrary, technocratic assumption that the world is just so much raw material awaiting human creativity and transformation. There is no nature to nature (even to human nature), and human willing is meant to be sovereign, free, and unlimited. In this view, we live well when we have power to remake all things according to our desires.

But Christianity taught from the beginning that desires are to be trained to fit reality, to fit the order of Creation. That is the assumption Berry brings to his writing, and he emphasizes what might be called an Incarnational theme within that assumption, training our attention not simply on the immaterial world of ideas and the will, but on the givenness (that is, the Divine ordering) of the world our bodies inhabit as well.

Berry's essay "Christianity and the Survival of Creation" is a good place for beginners to start with his work. It is contained in a volume called Sex, Economy, Freedom and Community. (The title of this book, also the title of one of his essays, suggests how Berry encourages us to join what is often put asunder: we cannot understand the place of sex in our lives (privately and communally) unless we pay attention to how other material aspects of our lives are to be ordered, and we cannot know how freedom should be preserved apart from an understanding of the calling into community that is established in our nature.) In that essay, Berry insists that if we are to preserve any meaning in our lives, "religion" and "economy" cannot be regarded as disconnected. The reasons for this are suggested in the etymology of the word "economy," which at root means literally the "management of a household." "By 'economy' I do not mean 'economics,' which is the study of money-making, but rather the ways of human housekeeping, the ways by which the human household is situated and maintained within the household of nature. To be uninterested in economy is to be uninterested in the practice of religion; it is to be uninterested in culture and in character. Probably the most urgent question now faced by people who would adhere to the Bible is this: What sort of economy would be responsible to the holiness of life? What, for Christians, would be the economy, the practices and the restraints, of 'right livelihood'? I do not believe that organized Christianity now has any idea."

Berry is very hard on organized Christianity, because he sees the churches behaving as handmaidens to the assumptions of political and economic institutions dedicated to the exploitation of creation rather than its stewardship. "Despite its protests to the contrary, modern Christianity has become willy-nilly the religion of the state and the economic status quo. Because it has been so exclusively dedicated to incanting anemic souls into Heaven, it has been made the tool of much earthly villainy. It has, for the most part, stood silently by while a predatory economy has ravaged the world, destroyed its natural beauty and health, divided and plundered its human communities and households. . . . It has assumed with the economists that 'economic forces' automatically work for good and has assumed with the industrialists and militarists that technology determines history. It has assumed with almost everybody that 'progress' is good, that it is good to be modern and up with the times.

Berry's critique of national and global forces always comes back to the concrete challenge of individual families, households, and communities. In one of his most comprehensive essays, "Discipline and Hope," he insists that marriage cannot be understood apart from its concrete, material aspects. "The prevalent assumption appears to be that marriage problems are problems strictly of 'human relations': if the husband and wife will only assent to a number of truisms about 'respect for the other person,' 'giving and taking,' et cetera, and if they will only 'understand' each other, then it is believed that their problems will be solved. The difficulty is that marriage is only partly a matter of 'human relations,' and only partly a circumstance of the emotions. It is also, and as much as anything, a practical circumstance. It is very much under the influence of things and people outside itself; that is, it must make a household, it must make a place for itself in the world and in the community. But with us, getting someplace always involves going somewhere. Every professional advance leads to a new place, a new house, a new neighborhood. Our marriages are always being cut off from what they have made; their substance is always disappearing into the thin air of human relations."

The wisdom about consumption in Berry's work is not limited to specific comments he makes about consuming; it permeates his essays as a critique of the posture toward Creation and toward the material world that dominates American society. In theological terms, he is opposed to Gnosticism, the ancient and perennial heresy that matter is evil (or indifferent) and only the world of spirit is really important to God and to us. Berry knows that this does not square with the Biblical account of human life, and so his explicit critiques of consumerism (as in this passage from "Discipline and Hope") tend to refer back to a theologically rooted view of Creation. "A consumer is one who uses things up, a concept that is alien to the creation, as are the concepts of waste and disposability. A more realistic and creative vision of ourselves would teach us that our ecological obligations are to use, not to use up; to use by the standard of real need, not of fashion or whim; and then to relinquish what we have used in a way that returns it to the common ecological fund from which it came.

"The key to such a change of mind is the realization that the first and final order of the creation is not such an order as men can impose on it, but an order in the creation itself by which its various parts and processes sustain each other, and which is only to some extent understandable. . . . The order of the creation, that is to say, is closer to that of drama than to that of a market."

In an essay called "Two Economies," Wendell Berry recounts a conversation with his friend Wes Jackson during which they mused about how to define a framework for thinking about the economy that would be comprehensive enough to deter ecological and social destruction. Berry suggested that an economy based on energy rather than money might be more benign. Jackson thought it still wouldn't be comprehensive enough, and when asked for an alternate framework, he "hesitated a moment, and then, grinning, said 'The Kingdom of God.'" We may not be able to persuade Alan Greenspan et al. to adopt such a standard, but certainly in our discrete households and in the household of faith that is the Church, such a framework ought to be imaginable. [Posted July 2003, KAM]

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<![CDATA[Readings on the Causes and Treatment of Homosexuality]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/readings-causes-and-treatment-homosexuality Thu, 31 May 2001 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/562 catalog maintainer
31 May

Readings on the Causes and Treatment of Homosexuality

Category: What We're Reading
By: Ken Myers
Published: 05/31/01
Subtitle:

In the March 1997 issue of First Things, psychologist Elizabeth Moberly reviewed several then-recent books (most of which are still in print) on the causes and treatment of homosexuality.

In the March 1997 issue of First Things, psychologist Elizabeth Moberly reviewed several then-recent books (most of which are still in print) on the causes and treatment of homosexuality. The books were Strangers and Friends, by Michael Vasey, Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth, by Jeffrey Satinover, The Truth About Homosexuality, by John F. Harvey; Straight and Narrow? by Thomas E. Schmidt; Homosexuality: A Freedom Too Far, by Charles W. Socarides; Unwanted Harvest? by Mona Riley and Brad Sargent; and Craving for Love, by Briar Whitehead. [Posted December 2003, KAM]

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<![CDATA[R. R. Reno Recognizes Philip Rieff's Work]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/r-r-reno-recognizes-philip-rieffs-work Sun, 29 Apr 2007 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/563 catalog maintainer
29 Apr

R. R. Reno Recognizes Philip Rieff's Work

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 04/29/07
Subtitle:

Professor and MARS HILL AUDIO guest R. R. Reno describes why the late Philip Rieff is one of the most important social theorists and cultural critics of the modern era. In "Philip Rieff's Charisma," published on the First Things blog, he attends to one of the sociologist's later works, Charisma. . . .

Professor and MARS HILL AUDIO guest R. R. Reno describes why the late Philip Rieff is one of the most important social theorists and cultural critics of the modern era. In "Philip Rieff's Charisma," published on the First Things blog, he attends to one of the sociologist's later works, Charisma. It explicates Rieff's beliefs about culture, the origins of authority, creeds, personality, and the gap between true charisma and modern culture's understanding of charisma. True charisma is not mere personality, Reno notes, it is authority deeply instilled in a person through creeds and commandments. Rieff recognized the difference and society's refusal to instill such authority. Reno writes: "By Rieff's analysis, our refusal to teach the commandments of God to our children and ourselves leads us to destroy what we promise to cherish and nurture—personality."

Rieff's best-known work, The Triumph of the Therapeutic, is discussed at length on volume 82 of the Journal. [Posted April 2007, ALG]

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<![CDATA[R. R. Reno Discusses the "Re"unification of Truth and Theology]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/r-r-reno-discusses-reunification-truth-and-theology Tue, 13 Jun 2006 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/564 catalog maintainer
13 Jun

R. R. Reno Discusses the "Re"unification of Truth and Theology

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 06/13/06
Subtitle:

Theologian and professor R. R. Reno, a guest on Volume 67 of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal, follows in the footsteps of both the late Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI by encouraging a renewal of philosophically rich theology in a book review published in the April 2006 issue of First Things. "Theology's Continental Captivity," which Reno begins with a review of Thomas Guardino's Foundations of Systematic Theology, asserts that theology will be revived through a rededication to truth, to the reality that there are things to be known in the world and that it is in human nature to discover them. . . .

Theologian and professor R. R. Reno, a guest on Volume 67 of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal, follows in the footsteps of both the late Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI by encouraging a renewal of philosophically rich theology in a book review published in the April 2006 issue of First Things. "Theology's Continental Captivity," which Reno begins with a review of Thomas Guardino's Foundations of Systematic Theology, asserts that theology will be revived through a rededication to truth, to the reality that there are things to be known in the world and that it is in human nature to discover them. Reno notes that theology since the nineteenth century has shied away from acknowledging this reality and he examines how philosophy has contributed to the skittishness. He highlights the differences between the continental and analytic schools of philosophy, explaining why the latter of the two schools is less perilous than the former to theology's efforts to re-engage reason and truth.

"Theology's Continental Captivity" is available on-line. [Posted June 2006, ALG]

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<![CDATA[Prometheus's Yellow Light of Caution May Not Be Enough]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/prometheuss-yellow-light-caution-may-not-be-enough Wed, 13 Feb 2002 19:00:00 -0500 https://marshillaudio.org/node/565 catalog maintainer
13 Feb

Prometheus's Yellow Light of Caution May Not Be Enough

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 02/13/02

Gilbert Meilaender, a guest on multiple volumes of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal, was invited to present a paper on bioethics for the Ethics and Public Policy Center's semi-annual conference on religion and public life in December 2004. A transcript of his talk, complete with a reply from a journalist attending the conference, is available on-line.

In "Bioethics and Human Nature: Exploring Some Background Issues," Meilaender emphasizes the need for morally serious thinking about bioethics grounded in an understanding of human nature. Before one can wisely recommend implementation of bioethical practices, one ought to have a firm grasp on what it means to be human. Meilaender points out that bioethics offers four ways of unpacking that very question, and he attends to each way in turn, devoting the bulk of his paper to setting the stage for further reflection about bioethical issues. The four themes Meilaender examines are: the unity and integrity of the human being; human finitude and freedom; the relation between the generations; and suffering and vulnerability. He closes his discussion with the tale of Prometheus, and he advocates not only the caution advised therein, but also the ability and willingness to stop "progress" if necessary. He writes, "Now, quite often, of course, proceeding with caution is perfectly sound advice. . . . But if we really want to be morally serious, the ability to stop, to decline to go forward, may also sometimes be needed . . . ."

"The Ethics and Public Policy Center (EPPC) was established in 1976 to clarify and reinforce the bond between the Judeo-Christian moral tradition and the public debate over domestic and foreign policy issues. Its program includes research, writing, publication, and conferences." (Quote taken from the web pages of the Ethics and Public Policy Center.) [Posted February 2005, ALG]

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<![CDATA[Possibility Junkies]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/possibility-junkies Sun, 16 Mar 2008 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/566 catalog maintainer
16 Mar

Possibility Junkies

Category: What We're Reading
By: Ken Myers
Published: 03/16/08
Subtitle:

University of Virginia English professor Mark Edmundson has a keen eye for cultural ecosystems. He has written perceptively about how changes in the texture of the everyday lives of his students affects the orientation of their souls. In a 1997 article in Harper's, "On the Uses of a Liberal Education," he described how the conditioning of his students by consumer/entertainment culture (and their desire to be cool) made it hard for them to acquire a passion for learning. . . .

Ideas, we are frequently told, have consequences. We are less often encouraged to reflect on the equally significant if more elusive relationship of ideas to their antecedents. Ideas come from somewhere, and they are able to take up residence in our lives because they find friendly surroundings. So if bad ideas are plaguing our society (and having bad consequences), we ought to ask about their origins. And we need to ask what it is about the shape of our lives that make bad ideas seem plausible.

Ideas and cultural moods or sensibilities often live together in a kind of harmony. Sometimes ideas evoke cultural moods (think, for example, of the quality of music written during the Enlightenment), but surely the influence can flow in the other direction as well. Cultural moods, established by nothing more than changing conditions in the quality of everyday life, can render certain beliefs more plausible. C. S. Lewis once observed that the increasing presence of machines in the lives of nineteenth-century Europeans, and the rapid rate of change introduced by those machines, encouraged the rise of a positive attitude toward novelty. Belief in the inevitability of progress in all things may have been a consequence of relatively mundane improvements in things mechanical.

University of Virginia English professor Mark Edmundson has a keen eye for cultural ecosystems. He has written perceptively about how changes in the texture of the everyday lives of his students affects the orientation of their souls. In a 1997 article in Harper's, "On the Uses of a Liberal Education," he described how the conditioning of his students by consumer/entertainment culture (and their desire to be cool) made it hard for them to acquire a passion for learning. He followed this up in 2000 with a wry, sly article in The Hedgehog Review called "A Word to the New Humanities Professor." ("Students should be assured continually that by virtue of living later in time than the author, they naturally know a great deal more than she possibly could. . . . The professor should continually make self-mocking references to her authority and her stock of learning. . . . But, of course, answers are not really the point. The point is learning to work together and to get along.") Now Mark Edmundson has again taken stock of the mood of his students in an article called "Dwelling in Possibilities," published in The Chronicle of Higher Education. In it, he portrays his students as energetic anti-slackers, eager "to study, travel, make friends, make more friends, read everything (superfast), take in all the movies, listen to every hot band, keep up with everyone they've ever known. . . . They live to multiply possibilities. They're enemies of closure. For as much as they want to do and actually manage to do, they always strive to keep their options open, never to shut possibilities down before they have to."

Edmundson believes that this voracious omnitasking makes the lives of his students both highly promising and radically vulnerable to living lives that leave no room for reflection and self-knowledge. "Our students rarely get a chance to stop. They're always in motion, always spitting out what comes first to mind, never challenging, checking, revising." In Edmundson's view, the tyrants most responsible for this condition are not rigorous professors or even parents with unrealistic expectations. The tyranny is exercised in a mood of possibility enabled by web browsers and cell phones. These technologies are less about communication and more about enlarging desire. "Skate fast over the surfaces of life and cover all the extended space you can, says the new ethos," which is why the drugs of choice on campuses are increasingly ADD pharmaceuticals, which are "on sale in every dorm at prices that rise exponentially as the week of final exams approaches."

Edmundson's article explores the ways in which this pattern of velocity is evident in sports, music, and sexual habits of students. Underlying the entire essay is Edmundson's conviction that "life is more than spontaneity and whim," and that a college classroom is one of the best places to learn how to stop, think, and reflect on the task of living deliberately.

If Edmundson's diagnosis of the ethos of our culture is accurate, there are at least two avenues of response available to parents, teachers, clergy, and others in positions of Church and cultural leadership. One is to try to figure out how to go with the flow (although "flow" may not be the best word/semi what about "rampage" or "tsunami"?). But if the absence of thickness, depth, and commitment encouraged by fast skating is really not in keeping with the shape of human flourishing, if there is something truly unnatural about this mentality, something in it that is not consistent with our nature, then we need to attend to the maintenance of counter-cultural institutions and practices. Reading and re-reading books, slowly, keeping personal and private journals (not public blogs) which invite true introspection without the distraction of self-presentation, face-to-face conversations that linger and dwell, conversations that achieve some contrapuntal pleasure, attentive listening to musical works that require us to slow down and perceive subtle resonances and formal nuance: these are monotasking practices of closure, commitment, and contemplation. Their loss is one of the ways our contemporaries are becoming figurative widows and orphans (see James 1:27). The pursuit of actuality rather than infinite possibility will not come easily, and will require repudiation of the ways of life that characterize our moment. Those Christian leaders who discourage such repudiation in the name of "cultural engagement" need to be able to explain to people like Mark Edmundson why the Church is indifferent to the plight of students who cannot stop and think.

Posted by Ken Myers on 3/17/08

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<![CDATA[Place]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/place Sun, 19 Sep 1999 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/567 catalog maintainer
19 Sep

Place

Category: What We're Reading
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 09/19/99
Subtitle:

MARS HILL AUDIO Anthology

For additional readings on place, consult the MARS HILL AUDIO Anthology, "Place, Community, and Memory." A short description of it is available here. [Posted October 2003, ALG]

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<![CDATA[Philip Rieff]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/philip-rieff Sun, 16 Jul 2006 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/568 catalog maintainer
16 Jul

Philip Rieff

Category: What We're Reading
By: Ken Myers
Published: 07/16/06
Subtitle:

We had planned on doing some interviews soon about the work of sociologist and cultural theorist Philip Rieff, plans which became more appropriate with Rieff's death in early July. Prior to his death (he was 83 and had been ailing for some time), our interest was sparked by two publishing "events." . . .

We had planned on doing some interviews soon about the work of sociologist and cultural theorist Philip Rieff, plans which became more appropriate with Rieff's death in early July. Prior to his death (he was 83 and had been ailing for some time), our interest was sparked by two publishing "events." The first was the imminent republication by ISI Books of Rieff's 1966 seminal book, The Triumph of the Therapeutic: Uses of Faith after Freud. The forthcoming edition contains essays by Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn, Wilfred McClay, and Stephen Gardner. In that book, Rieff argued that the most significant task of cultures is to communicate a set of deeply held convictions about reality to their members. Discrete and diverse cultural artifacts align the affections of cultural participants cultivating a shared understanding. As Rieff put it early in his book, "Books and parading, prayers and the sciences, music and piety toward parents: these are a few of the many instruments by which a culture may produce the saving larger self, for the control of panic and the filling up of emptiness. Superior to and encompassing the different modes in which it appears, a culture must communicate ideals, setting as internalities those distinctions between right actions and wrong that unite men and permit them the fundamental pleasure of agreement. Culture is another name for a design of motives directing the self outward, toward those communal purposes in which alone the self can be realized and satisfied."

Behind this passage is an assumption (which conforms to a Christian understanding, although Rieff was not a Christian) that human beings are created to be social, that our identity is known in relationships, not individualistically, and that membership in a society is essential for personal fulfillment.

But, as Rieff documented in his work, the crisis of modern culture is that, for a variety of reasons, "all communications of ideals come under permanent and easy suspicion."

The second reason for our current editorial interest in Rieff is the publication this past January of the first new book by him in many years. The volume is the first of four collected under the title Sacred Order/Social Order (he had completed the manuscripts some time ago), this first provocatively called My Life among the Deathworks: Illustrations of the Aesthetics of Authority (University of Virginia Press).

While we're preparing our interviews about Philip Rieff's work, you may want to read some recent pieces about him, some published because of the books coming out, some because of his death. Richard John Neuhaus wrote a brief appreciation of Rieff's prophetic voice on the First Things blog, in which he reminded us that "Christ never said of Western Civilization that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."

Last November, the Chronicle of Higher Education, anticipating the publication of My Life among the Deathworks, featured an article called "Prophet of the 'Anti-Culture'", which summarized his career and his main arguments about contemporary culture.

Stephen L. Gardner has written an essay called "Psychological Man: Eros and Ambition in Democratic Desire" which will be included in the new edition of The Triumph of the Therapeutic.

We hope to interview Dr. Gardner, as well as Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn, Wilfred McClay, and others about Philip Rieff's work. Stay tuned for more information. [Posted July 2006, KAM]

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<![CDATA[Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, <cite>The True Image: The Origin and Destiny of Man in Christ</cite> (Eerdmans, 1989)]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/philip-edgcumbe-hughes-true-image-origin-and-destiny-man-christ-eerdmans-1989 Mon, 25 Aug 2003 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/569 catalog maintainer

"According to the biblical perspective, then, man cannot be classified as no more than an intelligent animal whose provenance is evolutionistically attributed to an animal origin from below and whose difference from the brute beasts is merely a matter of degree. To explain man in this way is actually to brutalize him and to open the door for the ungodly conclusion that man is after all but an animal and therefore virtually as dispensable as any other animal. . . . As we know only too well from the history of this twentieth century, it is a view of man which has encouraged even the justification of genocide for the sake of purifying the human stock." Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, The True Image: The Origin and Destiny of Man in Christ

In The True Image: The Origin and Destiny of Man in Christ, Philip Edgcumbe Hughes examines the authentic identity of man, studying who man was created to be, what happened to him with the fall, and how he will be restored to a sinless state. Hughes's position throughout his exploration is that the identity of man can only be understood in light of his relationship with Christ and the Godhead. He writes: "Nothing is more basic than the recognition that being constituted in the image of God is of the very essence of and absolutely central to the humanness of man. It is the key that unlocks the meaning of his authentic humanity. Apart from this reality he cannot exist truly as man, since for man to deny God and the divine image stamped upon his being and to assert his own independent self-sufficiency is to deny his own constitution and thus to dehumanize himself."

The first section of The True Image, "Creation in the Image of God: Integration," dissects what it means to be created in the image of God. The chapters in section one include: "The Meaning of Creation in the Image of God"; "Is There a Bodily Aspect of the Image?"; "Man and the Divine Image Not Identical"; "The Image of God in the New Testament"; "The Imprint of the Image in Man"; and "The Image in Fallen Man." The second section of the book, "The Image Rejected: Disintegration," studies the origins of evil, the fall of man, and how sin affects the image of God in man and his relationship with the Godhead. The chapters include: "The Origin of Evil"; "The Perfection of the Creature"; "The Biblical Account of the Fall"; "The Meaning of Death"; "Original Sin"; "The Freedom of the Will"; "The Freedom of God"; and "The Effect of the Fall." The third section, "The Image Restored: Reintegration," attends to the salvation and redemption of man, to the restoration and perfection of the image of God in man. The chapters include: "The Word Becomes Flesh"; "The Evolutionistic Interpretation"; "The Self-Humbling of the Image"; "The Theanthropic Person of Christ"; "Docetic Christology"; "The Early Unitarians"; "Origen's Christology"; "Arianism"; "The Christology of Athanasius"; "The 'Deification' of Man in Christ"; "The Christology of Apollinaris"; "Nestorius and Nestorianism"; "On to Chalcedon"; "The Importance of Orthodoxy"; "The Life of Jesus"; "The Death of Jesus"; "Understanding the Atonement"; "The Continuing Debate"; "The Glorification of Christ"; "Christology and History"; "Between the Comings"; "Between Death and Resurrection"; "Is the Soul Immortal?"; and "The Kingdom."

While the three sections record the biblical account of their main topic, they also recount other explanations of those topics, comparing and contrasting the latter explanations to the former account. [Posted August 2005, ALG]

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<![CDATA[People, People who Poke People . . .]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/people-people-who-poke-people Wed, 07 Nov 2007 19:00:00 -0500 https://marshillaudio.org/node/570 catalog maintainer
7 Nov

People, People who Poke People . . .

Category: What We're Reading
By: Ken Myers
Published: 11/07/07
Subtitle:

For several years, Christine Rosen has been writing a series of articles for The New Atlantis about the technologies of everyday life. Treating everything from computer games and personal identity (in "Playgrounds of the Self") to the effects of the proliferation of images in our culture, mediated by PhotoShop, Powerpoint, and other technologies (in "The Image Culture"), to online dating services (in "Romance in the Information Age"), Rosen has skillfully scrutinized how new ways of mediating space, time, and relationships are not simply new ways of accomplishing venerable ends, but, all too often, profoundly new practices with deep effects on the soul. . . .

For several years, Christine Rosen has been writing a series of articles for The New Atlantis about the technologies of everyday life. Treating everything from computer games and personal identity (in "Playgrounds of the Self") to the effects of the proliferation of images in our culture, mediated by PhotoShop, Powerpoint, and other technologies (in "The Image Culture"), to online dating services (in "Romance in the Information Age"), Rosen has skillfully scrutinized how new ways of mediating space, time, and relationships are not simply new ways of accomplishing venerable ends, but, all too often, profoundly new practices with deep effects on the soul. (While you're reading her work, don't miss "Our Cell Phones, Ourselves" and "Are We Worthy of Our Kitchens?".)

Rosen has a perceptive sense of how technologies are never simply tools, serving also as talismans, metaphors, and templates for living. By conferring the ability to do something, technologies often convey a sense of the need to do something. And we rarely examine how both the need and the doing have rearranged our sense of who we are and how we might live well. We are all aware of the benefits of these new abilities, but rarely do we survey the possible (and often likely) liabilities.

The latest article by Rosen in this series is called "Virtual Friendship and the New Narcissism," which looks at some of the personal and social effects of the so-called "social networking" websites, the most popular being Facebook and MySpace. Rosen commences her reflections on this new way of having "friends" by observing that "we are only beginning to come to grips with the consequences of our use of these sites: for friendship, and for our notions of privacy, authenticity, community, and identity." She goes on to ask whether this technology, "with its constant demands to collect (friends and status) and perform (by marketing ourselves), in some ways undermines our ability to attain what it promises--a surer sense of who we are and where we belong."

The intensification of personal uncertainty in these virtual settings seems to be acknowledged by Facebook's own administrators. Facebook users can send a "poke" to a friend, a digital nudge, a cyber-smoke-signal, that serves to, well, exactly what does it serve? On their help pages, Facebook's administrators seem to revel in the uncertainty of the poke. "A poke is a way to interact with your friends on Facebook," they "explain." "When we created the poke, we thought it would be cool to have a feature without any specific purpose. People interpret the poke in many different ways, and we encourage you to come up with your own meanings." Whatever. Given the fact that our anarchic and script-free patterns of social relations are already so confusing to young people wandering toward adulthood, one wonders whether such indeterminacy is really helpful. Apparently many Facebookies agree and would like greater definition in their interactions, Rosen reports that "one Facebook group with over 200,000 members is called 'Enough with the Poking, Let's Just Have Sex.'"

One of the aspects of these sites that concerns me the most is suggested in the "New Narcissism" reference in the title of her article. It is the effect on the possibility of sincerity and humility generated by the necessity in these settings to act as one's own publicity agent. Rosen observes that in the world of social networking, "users are committed to self-exposure. The creation and conspicuous consumption of intimate details and images of one's own and others' lives is the main activity in the online social networking world. There is no room for reticence, there is only revelation. Quickly peruse a profile and you know more about a potential acquaintance in a moment than you might have learned about a flesh-and-blood friend in a month." Toward the end of the article, Rosen concludes: "The implications of the narcissistic and exhibitionistic tendencies of social networkers also cry out for further consideration. There are opportunity costs when we spend so much time carefully grooming ourselves online. Given how much time we already devote to entertaining ourselves with technology, it is at least worth asking if the time we spend on social networking sites is well spent. In investing so much energy into improving how we present ourselves online, are we missing chances to genuinely improve ourselves?"

A friend of mine who teaches at the University of Virginia has been doing some research on the new mode of friendship, and in conversation with students raised the question as to whether giving so much attention to creating one's online image wouldn't lead to vanity. The students stared blankly back, not sure what this "vanity" word meant, though they knew that a magazine title used the word. When my friend defined the vice in question, they continued to be baffled, not certain why this vanity thing was regarded as a problem. Their response may be evidence of the ways in which what is common in our experience is all too easily regarded as normal, and then as good.

Posted by Ken Myers on 11/8/07

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<![CDATA[Origin of Life]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/origin-life Thu, 02 Oct 2003 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/571 catalog maintainer
2 Oct

Origin of Life

Category: What We're Reading
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 10/02/03
Subtitle:

MARS HILL AUDIO Conversation

Writer Dean Overman discusses his book A Case Against Accident and Self-Organization in a MARS HILL AUDIO Conversation titled, "Not by Accident: The Improbability of Life Itself."

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<![CDATA[Notes on Bernanos]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/notes-bernanos Thu, 15 May 2003 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/572 catalog maintainer
15 May

Notes on Bernanos

Category: What We're Reading
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 05/15/03
Subtitle:

Quotes, paraphrases, and other references in these notes are taken from the following sources . . .

Quotes, paraphrases, and other references in these notes are taken from the following sources:

--Kurt F. Reinhardt, The Theological Novel of Modern Europe: An Analysis of Masterpieces by Eigth Authors (Frederick Ungar Publishing Co., 1969)

--John E. Cooke, Georges Bernanos: A Study of Christian Commitment (Avebury Publishing Co., 1981)

--Gerda Blumenthal, The Poetic Imagination of Georges Bernanos: An Essay in Interpretation (Johns Hopkins, 1965)


Biographic Material

Georges Bernanos was born in Paris on February 20, 1888. His father was a petit bourgeois (member of the lower middle class, a servant to the middle class), he had an older sister, and he grew up as an avid reader. He grew up as a practicing Catholic (his father would read to the family the polemical works of the ultras) and never wavered in his faith. At his first communion the fear of death invaded his being—it never left him and decisively influenced his writing. He received his bachelor's degree in 1906 from the Junior Seminary at Bourges. He began writing short stories in 1907. Because of his father's and teachers' influence, and his own temperament, he became an ultra, i.e. a Catholic who wouldn't accept the democratic sentiments of the secularized masses and who wanted the monarchy and the Church's place in French society restored (in addition to being attached to the restoration of the monarchy, he was also attached to the myths of Eternal France and the memory of Joan of Arc). He went to law school in Paris and became a member of the political-religious party Action Française, which represented the Catholic right wing in France and championed the monarchist idea (and from which he withdrew in 1919, partly because of the lack of charity exhibited by the movement's intellectual leader, Charles Maurras). He assumed the editorship of the small polemic paper L'Avant-Garde de Normandie in Rouen, for which he penned the political editorials, and in which he published his first three novelettes. Bernanos married the chairman of the women's section of the A.F., Jeanne Talbert d'Arc, who was a direct descendant of the family of Joan of Arc; they had six children together and moved frequently. Bernanos served as an enlisted volunteer in WWI. He was ambivalent about war and his time in the war, which profoundly affected his spiritual development (it did not, however, alter his political allegiance); at the end of it, he realized the need for a steady income and accepted a position as a life-insurance agent in 1922. It is truly paradoxical to picture Bernanos, the fierce opponent of all bourgeois security, the advocate of risk and daring, a man who all his life never knew how to deal with money or with any practical household problems, traveling across the French countryside, trying to persuade people to buy life-insurance policies. Bernanos could make such an existence tolerable only by submerging himself ever more deeply in the world of his dreams. We see him at work, trying to translate his dreams into the written word, indefatigably writing, in railroad cars, in waiting-rooms, in hotel rooms, in the cafes (Reinhardt).

Much of his attention in the 1920s was taken up with his denunciation of Modernism, and his first novels, Under Satan's Sun, L'Imposture, and La Joie, were particularly inspired by this hatred. He was friends with the writer and lyric poet Robert Vallery-Radot, and his admired masters were Balzac, Léon Bloy, Barbey d'Aurevilly, Dostoevsky, Joseph Conrad, Charles Péguy, Pirandello, and Marcel Proust. He severed ties with the insurance company in the late 1920s, and published his first book, Under Satan's Sun, in 1926. It was soon followed by the double novel The Fraud and Joy.

Bernanos's first critical work was published in 1931 under the title The Great Fear of the Right-Thinking People. He had a bad motorbike accident in 1934 that left him crippled: Bernanos, the arch foe of modern technology, had been an enthusiastic motorcyclist. Near Montbéliard, trying to avoid a collision with a car, to spare the life of a child on the other side of the road, he threw himself and his motorcycle against a stone wall and broke both legs. Henceforth he had to walk on crutches (Reinhardt).

Bernanos left France in 1934 for Majorca and in two years produced a trilogy of novels, A Crime, An Evil Dream, and The Dead Community (aka Monsieur Ouine), which are his gloomiest works. He followed these with The Diary of a Country Priest, which he loved as if it weren't his own work.

Bernanos returned to France in 1938, but left again in July (after being disgusted by the Allie capitulation at Munich and anticipating the Nazis invasion of France) for Paraguay and then Brazil. He was happy in Brazil, and there wrote for resistance papers while also working on one of his most beautiful books, Les enfants humiliés (published posthumously in 1949). His critical works from Brazil include Letter Addressed to the British, Meditations on the Present Age, and France against the Robots. In 1945 he left Brazil for Tunisia, and there he wrote his last novel, shortly before returning to France and dying. Bernanos' last and perhaps purest creation, The Dialogues of the Carmelites, which he completed shortly before his death and which was a great success on the stage. It is essentially an apotheosis of mystical anguish and love, set in the frame of the Carmelite pattern of spirituality (Reinhardt). He died in Neuilly, France, on July 5, 1948, from liver cancer. One of his friends wrote this about his: 'He died in a state of extraordinary peace. All his physical and mental anguish he had overcome in his faith. . . . He had once again become the child which in his innermost essence he had never ceased to be.'


Additional excerpts on Bernanos from the Reinhardt, Cooke, and Blumenthal books

"Bernanos' thought depended greatly upon a series of Christian assumptions about the nature and extent of human involvement in the process of Redemption and the way in which grace had an effect on the individual and collective experience. A natural extension of this simple belief was the conviction that there existed privileged beings who were specifically chosen by God to assume the task of saving the social organism from spiritual decay and whose personal salvation depended a great deal on the success of this wider vocation. Bernanos believed that the only worthwhile society—and the only one deserving the title of civilization&dash;was one which found its inspiration in the eternal order of Providence. Its masters were literally the agents of God, empowered to transmit constant spiritual values from one generation to the next.

"On the other hand, if the established elites were tempted to ignore this prime responsibility and to forsake the spiritual in favour of the ephemeral comforts of the temporal, the harmony of God's creation became threatened by the inevitable corruption of His Ideas, and the movement towards the Redemption was stifled. Bernanos' analysis of history led him to the conclusion that this process had taken place when the order of Christendom had given way to the impersonal domination of money and the stultifying conventions of the modern industrialized world. The ascendancy of the bourgeoisie, the advent of the mass society, and the growth of ideologies were in such contrast to his view of the harmony of the Middle Ages that he could only attribute the transformation to Satan's positive intervention in the world. Since the Industrial Revolution and the collapse of the old aristocracy, Europe had returned to the Dark Ages" (Cooke).

"Bernanos chose the literary form to realize and express his vision of man because it enabled him to imitate, however imperfectly, the creative dynamism of God's will. The artist's search for expression represents in a most tangible form the human search for the absolute, and the manner in which the spirit emerges from the image—the transmission of the Word into Flesh—provides his most important challenge" (Cooke).

Bernanos was a visionary who saw beyond the narrow horizons of his surroundings, and he expressed "the unconscious feelings of a generation caught in the cross-fire of harsh events which it could neither control nor even fully understand, and the lingering spiritual convictions and certainties of an earlier, and for some, more leisured age. [He searched] to reconcile tangible uncertainty with intangible certainty, and the confusions and dilemmas which this paradox produced in both spiritual and social attitudes . . ." (Cooke).

"Bernanos' primary concern remained man: man in his dignity, forever consecrated because Christ had become man. And man, himself redeemed, was called to redeem others. But to be able to do this he must be free: he must show forth what Martin Luther called 'the freedom of a Christian man.' And the ideal type of a free man was for Bernanos the Christian knight, or, in an even more purified incarnation, the Christian saint, the saint of the type of Joan of Arc" (Reinhardt).

"Most important, however, was for him the restoration and re-formation of the individual human being. Without this all attempts at social and economic reform will be doomed" (Reinhardt).

"The truth is that the faith of Bernanos was neither logical nor systematic but rather dynamic and synthetic. And his faith made it possible for him to envisage clearly and deeply the 'mystery of iniquity,' to penetrate with his glance into the depths of evil and sin. The characters of his novels emerge from the mysterious abysses of either iniquity or grace and thus completely lack the distinctness and transparency of Cartesian logical constructs" (Reinhardt).

"The novels of Bernanos are much more than mere narratives: they are authentic interpretations of human existence as it unfolds within the frame of contemporary life. The author asserted repeatedly and emphatically that he did not regard himself as a theologian and that for this reason (if for no other) faith could never assume the form of a tranquilizing intellectual systematic construct. He regarded the 'systematic mind' as a sort of insanity. When philosophers and theologians pretended to simplify matters by systematizing them, he thought that by making this attempt they merely confused everything. Life, contrariwise, which seems to confuse things, actually simplifies all complexities" (Reinhardt).

"More than any other modern Christian literary artist Bernanos was the poet and eulogist of both grace and freedom. Like Léon Bloy, he was 'a pilgrim of the Absolute.' He pictured himself as standing 'between the radiant and the dark angel,' as looking at both ultimately 'with a mad hunger for the absolute.' He thus embodied in his creations not only the praise of the grace offered human beings but also the demonian rebellion of those who stubbornly, yet freely, resist the offer. However, when he depicts the tortures of the sinner and the rebel, he does so to show in the extreme bitterness of a seemingly lost heart and soul a latent receptivity for the overwhelming sweetness of grace. What Bernanos wrote to a young French author applies to himself: 'If God demands that you bear witness, be prepared to suffer much, to doubt yourself unceasingly, in success and in failure. For thus understood—as a testimonial—the calling of a writer is no longer a trade but an adventure, above all a spiritual adventure. But all spiritual adventures are Golgathas' . . ." (Reinhardt).

"A Christian should try to look at evil not with his own eyes but, as it were, with God's eyes, that is, in that state of mind which is generated by prayer. Man cannot force evil to retreat by looking at it with a fixed stare, for if he does he will never escape its strange and seductive fascination" (Reinhardt).

"One problem which never failed to arouse Bernanos' interest and to evoke his comments is that of science and technology" (Reinhardt).

From one of Bernanos's letters: "The modern world has mutilated and disfigured art by concentrating on insignificant detail, reducing art and literature to ironic anecdotes, small confectionary. . . . What is lacking is the principle of incarnation. Art has no longer its home either in heaven or on earth or in hell. Our present day literature is a literature without a world; it is out of joint like everything else. It is without passion and without insanity, like the devil. It lacks the stormy majesty of great passion, and the deeper reason for this lack is that men have lost the vision of those immense spaces which are traversed by the Saints—the Saints who appear on the surface so tranquil, so waterproof. But there is hidden in all human inwardness an oceanic mobility, a striving for perfection, which is a way without end, the way of the entire creation, with eternity as the goal. It is a way of messages, of universal communications, of participations in truths, in beauties, in fruitful anxieties . . ." (Reinhardt).

"This then was what he called his 'impossible' task: to build lasting edifices with the most fragile and ephemeral material, to build monuments of the supernatural with the tools of a trade which like no other was marked by human vanity and pride. For he knew full well that he was only a writer, no saint, no extraordinary human being. He also knew that he was not of the race and type of those men whom he portrayed in his novels. He regarded himself as a 'street singer, living in exile in a land without streets' (in Brazil)" (Reinhardt).

He thought that ". . . the contemplative and the active life should be intertwined or, as other Christian mystics expressed the same thought, that 'Martha and Mary must work together' in a cooperative effort for the benefit of all" (Reinhardt).

One of his main images is water, and Blumenthal contends that he uses it to express two spiritual poles.

"It is that at the very heart of a world on the march toward the Kingdom of God, and most particularly in the soul of man himself, the Usurper is at work. With wrathful vigilance he exerts his immense power to arrest the dynamic movement of a steadily unfolding creation and to reverse the divinely inspired élan in which man and his earth struggle toward fullness of being in the Father by tempting them to turn back on themselves and slide or 'return' into the enredeemed and hence deadly abyss" (Blumenthal).

"The duel between the two movements of opening out and blossoming and of closing in and 'returning' to nothingness constitutes the fundamental Bernanosian dramatic conflict" (Blumenthal).

"Whereas his vision of the goal—the desolate human landscape redeemed by grace and become a flourishing land of fountains—has steadied him and deepened his resources, so the backward glance of self-reflection pries him loose from reality and pulls him back, unknown to himself, into the enveloping slumber and darkness of the world's and his own origin.

"The lure of this backward glance is Satan's greatest triumph. In the Bernanosian drama, it is the triumph of the tomb over creation, of the infinite, inimical water over earth" (Blumenthal).

"Between the evil infinity of the untamed sea and the pathetic finiteness of a barren, unwatered soil, the great bulk of Bernanos' humanity appears simply to miss its challenge and goal and to suffer an ignominious 'return'" (Blumenthal).

"In passing unharmed across the sea and in releasing the hidden fountains in the desert, these children of grace free both water and earth from the curse of death. Through them, Georges Bernanos expresses his hope for man. In the wholeness of their being, they are men in the full biblical sense of the word. They are like masterpieces of clay, firm yet pliable, strong yet tender, which resist both dissolution and petrification and at the same time respond to the slightest touch of their creator. Few as they are, they bind the world together, keeping the road open and mankind on the march toward the Kingdom" (Blumenthal). [Posted May 2005, ALG]

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<![CDATA[Notes on <cite>Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament</cite> and <cite>Sanctified Vision: An Introduction to Early Christian Interpretation of the Bible</cite>]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/notes-inspiration-and-incarnation-evangelicals-and-problem-old-testament-and-sanctified Tue, 30 May 2006 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/573 catalog maintainer
30 May

Notes on Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament and Sanctified Vision: An Introduction to Early Christian Interpretation of the Bible

Category: What We're Reading
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 05/30/06
Subtitle:

"The problems many of us feel regarding the Bible may have less to do with the Bible itself and more to do with our own preconceptions." Peter Enns, Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament

"Once one thinks that the scriptures are divinely inspired, then the primary project is not to assess them. . . . The church fathers sought to explain how the vast heterogeneity and diversity of scriptural data might be brought into an intellectually satisfying form. This was the basic project of interpretation, as they understood it." John J. O'Keefe and R. R. Reno, Sanctified Vision: An Introduction to Early Christian Interpretation of the Bible

Peter Enns, Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament (Baker Academic, 2005)

John J. O'Keefe and R. R. Reno, Sanctified Vision: An Introduction to Early Christian Interpretation of the Bible (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005)

"The problems many of us feel regarding the Bible may have less to do with the Bible itself and more to do with our own preconceptions." Peter Enns, Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament

"Once one thinks that the scriptures are divinely inspired, then the primary project is not to assess them. . . . The church fathers sought to explain how the vast heterogeneity and diversity of scriptural data might be brought into an intellectually satisfying form. This was the basic project of interpretation, as they understood it." John J. O'Keefe and R. R. Reno, Sanctified Vision: An Introduction to Early Christian Interpretation of the Bible

Two guests on previous editions of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal have written recently about how to read scripture. Susan Wise Bauer, a guest on Volume 66, reviewed a book in the May/June 2006 issue of Books & Culture that attends to difficulties readers face when studying the Old Testament and trying to submit to its authority. As Bauer explains, Peter Enns's Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament discusses how the apostles read the Old Testament. R. R. Reno, a guest on Volume 67, is co-author of a book whose subject matter is also biblical exegesis, but which focuses on the methods of the early Church fathers.

In the first of these two books, Inspiration and Incarnation, Enns encourages evangelical Christians to read the Bible on its terms. He notes that biblical scholarship in the last century contains claims that are difficult to reconcile with scripture, especially if readers are clinging to modern notions of how to read the Bible while also trying to respect its authority. Enns explores how readers can account for these claims while still keeping scripture as an authority at the center of their lives. In doing so he proposes an adjusted framework for thinking about Holy Writ, writing: "[Trust in God as the author and giver of scripture] encourages us to look to the Bible not as a timeless rule book or owner's manual for the Christian life—so that we can lift verses here and there and apply them. It helps us to see that the Bible has a dynamic quality to it, for God himself is dynamic, active, and alive in our lives and in the life of his church." Enns also studies three issues from the Old Testament that are in particular need of a fresh reading. He explains that once readers understand that the Incarnate Christ is the fulfillment of the Old Testament, issues that are difficult to understand make much more sense. "Finally," writes Enns, "with respect to the New Testament's use of the Old Testament, what is modeled for us is that Christ is the goal of the Old Testament story, meaning that he is the ultimate focus of Christian interpretation. Not every verse or passage is about him in a superficial sense. Rather, Christ is the deeper sense of the Old Testament—at times more obvious than others—in whom the Old Testament drama as a whole finds its ultimate goal or telos. It is in the person and work of Christ that Christians seek to read the Old Testament, to search out how it is in Christ that the Old Testament has integrity, how it is worthy of trust, how the parts cohere. Such coherence is not found by superficially putting isolated pieces of the Old Testament together to make them fit somehow, but by allowing the tensions to remain and asking how our fuller knowledge of God's incarnational pattern can add to our reading of Scripture."

In Sanctified Vision: An Introduction to Early Christian Interpretation of the Bible, professors John J. O'Keefe and Reno study how the early Church fathers thought about, read, and interpreted scripture. O'Keefe and Reno distinguish pre-modern hermeneutics from modern reading methods, working to dispel the unfair biases of the latter toward the former. The professors explain that the early fathers understood scripture not as referring to something other than itself, but as the subject matter of interpretation. The early fathers focused their attention on the text itself because they believed it to be the language of God and the source of wisdom about God's order and plan and its fulfillment in the Incarnate Christ. They also believed that through pursuit and study of the text, they would be conformed to its shape. The rule of faith and the authority of the Church guided their reading, which was disciplined and focused, rigorous yet creative; they sought, in their exegesis, to illuminate both the words and the work of the Logos of God. The fathers were convinced that "[t]he sacred texts do not just provide good data; they are fragrant with the aroma of the redemptive sacrifice of Jesus Christ."

O'Keefe and Reno arrange their book in six chapters. The first chapter, "Scriptural Meaning Modern to Ancient," outlines the modern notion of scripture as significant because it refers to something beyond itself, a notion which is different from the pre-modern understanding of scripture as significant because "it is divine revelation," not because "of its connection to an x." Chapter two, "Christ Is the End of the Law and the Prophets," discusses the "cross, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ" as "the interpretive key" of scripture. It also describes three concepts from classical rhetoric the fathers used in their study of scripture: hypothesis, economy, and recapitulation, which refer, respectively, to the gist of a work, its plan or order, and its "point" or summary statement. Chapter three, "Intensive Reading," defines lexical, dialectical, and associative methods of reading. Lexical reading involves the strategies used for assigning reliable meanings to words and elements in texts; dialectical considers two seemingly contradictory elements of a text and looks for the deeper coherence; and associative pays attention to verbal echoes across a text. In chapter four, "Typological Interpretation," O'Keefe and Reno explain that, for the fathers, Jesus Christ is the type, or pattern, that "unlocks" all the stories in scripture, Old and New Testaments both. They write: "The text tells of events in the divine economy, [and the example under discussion] in this case [is] Joshua's leadership. The import of these events is not clear until they are typologically linked to another set of events that occurs later in the divine economy. Just as importantly, the later events are themselves not fully clear until the illuminating typological link is established. More succinctly, one learns about Jesus by reading about Joshua. The typology casts light forward as well as backward." Chapter five, "Allegorical Interpretation," discusses how allegory enabled the fathers to explore the full meaning of the scriptures, the meaning embedded in both its content and form. Chapter six, "The Rule of Faith and the Holy Life," states that early exegesis was tethered to the authority of the church, and that right reading of scripture was bound to righteousness, to holy living. "The goal of patristic exegesis," write O'Keefe and Reno, "was to pass through the narrow opening that led to thoughts that participated in the unspeakable mysteries, and only a person whose vision has been refined by prayer, fasting, and self-control could hope to effect such a passage. Therefore, the fathers identified interpretive skill with the ambitious regimes of ascetic practice that defined the spiritual endeavor of the ancient church."

Sanctified Vision concludes with notes, a bibliography, and an index. Inspiration and Incarnation comprises a preface and abbreviations section, five chapters, a glossary, and two indices. The chapter titles are, respectively: "Getting Our Bearings"; "The Old Testament and Ancient Near Eastern Literature"; "The Old Testament and Theological Diversity"; "The Old Testament and Its Interpretation in the New Testament"; and "The Big Picture." [Posted May 2006, ALG]

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<![CDATA[Not Quite Newsprint, Not Quite Commonplace Book]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/not-quite-newsprint-not-quite-commonplace-book Thu, 28 Dec 2006 19:00:00 -0500 https://marshillaudio.org/node/574 catalog maintainer
28 Dec

Not Quite Newsprint, Not Quite Commonplace Book

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 12/28/06
Subtitle:

John McWhorter, Dana Gioia, and Daniel Ritchie are a few of the guests who have talked about language and its use on the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal. Adding to the discussion from another corner is editor and writer Joseph Rago. . . .

John McWhorter, Dana Gioia, and Daniel Ritchie are a few of the guests who have talked about language and its use on the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal. Adding to the discussion from another corner is editor and writer Joseph Rago. Rago reflects on blogs and how their writers use and abuse language in a piece published in the December 20, 2006, issue of The Wall Street Journal. In his editorial, "The Blog Mob," he compares the writing on blogs to other types of writing, stating that it is a sad thing to imagine that blogs are progress away from mainstream media and traditional journalism.

Click here to read the article. [Posted December 2006, ALG]

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<![CDATA[Neighborhoods and Community]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/neighborhoods-and-community Tue, 15 May 2007 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/575 catalog maintainer
15 May

Neighborhoods and Community

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Ken Myers
Published: 05/15/07
Subtitle:

Over the years, we've done several interviews with guests about how the physical structure of neighborhoods encourages the relational reality of community (e.g., Richard Moe, Jeff Speck, Eric Jacobsen, Lilian Calles Barger, etc.). We also produced an audio anthology called "Place, Community, and Memory" (available for purchase as an MP3 download here). . . .

Over the years, we've done several interviews with guests about how the physical structure of neighborhoods encourages the relational reality of community (e.g., Richard Moe, Jeff Speck, Eric Jacobsen, Lilian Calles Barger, etc.). We also produced an audio anthology called "Place, Community, and Memory" (available for purchase as an MP3 download here). Novelist Orson Scott Card has recently commented on the importance of thinking in tangible ways about how communities work in a column called "Walking Neighborhoods," a sequel to a column called "Life without Cars." [Posted May 2007, KAM]

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<![CDATA[Myth]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/myth Sun, 02 Nov 2003 19:00:00 -0500 https://marshillaudio.org/node/576 catalog maintainer
2 Nov

Myth

Category: What We're Reading
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 11/02/03
Subtitle:

In a brief book review for the Times Online, author Karen Armstrong discusses the function and role of myth and mythology. . . .

In "The Myth of Mythology," Karen Armstrong identifies the role myth played in pre-modern times while introducing a series of books about myth from Canongate Books. She explains that the pre-modern world recognized two ways of arriving at truth, mythos and logos. She writes that both "were considered essential and neither as inferior to the other. They were complementary modes of acquiring knowledge, each with its own distinct sphere of competence." In the nineteenth century, however, reason became the only respectable way to know truth. The result, states Armstrong, is that the modern age is alienated from myth in an unprecedented way. Her article is available through the Times Online. [Posted November 2005, ALG]

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<![CDATA[My Favorite Newbery Winners]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/my-favorite-newbery-winners Mon, 19 Apr 2004 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/577 catalog maintainer
19 Apr

My Favorite Newbery Winners

Category: What We're Reading
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 04/19/04
Subtitle:

Patricia Owen, a guest on Volume 73 of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal, offers a list of her top ten favorite Newbery Medal winners.

List courtesy of Patricia Owen.

1928—The Trumpeter of Krakow: A Tale of the Fifteenth Century, Eric P. Kelly

In 1461 the 15 year-old Joseph and his family make their way to the Polish city of Krakow after their farm is burned by bandits. Inspired by a 200 year old legend, he and his father take on the job of playing the trumpet every hour from the tower of the Church of Our Lady Mary. Alchemists, Tartar bandits, a lovely orphan and a beautiful musical piece, the Heynal, all come together to make this a riveting story full of courage and loyalty. Avid readers 9+

Illustrations by Janina Domanska

1932—Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze, Elizabeth Foreman Lewis

Set in pre-revolutionary China of the 1920's, this is an absorbing tale of a boy who moves with his mother to the big city of Chungking and is apprenticed to Tang the coppersmith. Young Fu's vitality and humor shine out as he encounters all kinds of characters and undergoes all kinds of experiences in the process of coming of age and learning what really counts in life. Avid readers 9+

Introduction by Pearl S. Buck. Excellent glossary and historical notes.

1935—Caddie Woodlawn, Carol Ryrie Brink

This author writes the stories her grandmother recounted of her own pioneer childhood running wild with two brothers on the Wisconsin frontier of the 1860's. Full of fun and excitement for both boys and girls, with an interesting twist at the end. Great read-aloud, ages 6+

1973 edition with illustrations by Trina Schart Hyman

1946—Adam of the Road, Elizabeth Jane Gray

Adam, an 11 year-old boy walks the roads of England in 1294, in search of his cocker spaniel and his minstrel father. Adventurous and historically invigorating, with a timeless and universally interesting plot. A road's a kind of holy thing, said Roger the minstrel to his son, Adam. That's why it's a good work to keep a road in repair, like giving alms to the poor or tending the sick. It brings all kinds of people and all parts of England together. And it's home to a minstrel, even though he may happen to be sleeping in a castle. Ages 10 - Young adult

Illustrations by Robert Lawson

1949—The Door in the Wall, Marguerite D'Angeli

Set in medieval England, this story chronicles the development of character in Robin, a young nobleman's son who falls ill and loses the use of his legs. Beautifully told, the story weaves its way through frustration and pain to encouragement, resourcefulness and heroism as Robin follows Brother Luke's advice: Thou hast only to follow the wall long enough and there will be a door in it. Ages 9+

Beautiful illustrations by the author

1954—The Wheel on the School, Meindert DeJong

The little seaside village of Shora, in Holland, has no storks. Lina, and the five boys in her little schoolhouse wonder why and then put their heads together to remedy the situation. Humor, mischief, and a lovely intergenerational sympathy knit together an engrossing story of youthful resourcefulness. Great read-aloud. Ages 6+

1989—Number the Stars, Lois Lowry

When the Nazis occupy Denmark in 1943 and begin to round up the Jews, 10 year-old Annemarie's family takes in her best friend, Ellen Rosen, and pretends she is part of the family. Both girls have to learn new courage and resourcefulness as they live out this deception in a fear-filled society. The truths of the brutal regime are not spared, but they are dealt with in a way that is appropriate for thoughtful children and young adults. 12+

1993—The Giver, Lois Lowry

In a futuristic dystopic community where pain and sadness have been eliminated but also music and books and history, 12 year-old Jonas is picked to be the next Receiver of Memory; in daily visits with the Giver, the oral history of life and experience is transferred to him, enabling the community to remain ignorant, happy and productive. What happens when Jonas begins to think for himself for the first time makes for intriguing, thought-provoking twists of plot and growth in his character. A clear statement against both abortion and euthanasia, and one which raises a wide variety of moral and spiritual questions, this book is definitely for older readers and should be read by parents, grandparents, etc. as well as children. Ages 14+

2001—A Single Shard, Linda Sue Park

A spare but beautifully crafted story about a young orphan who has been nurtured and reared by a homeless cripple living under a bridge in 12th century Korea. The boy, Tree-Ear, longs to become an apprentice to a famous potter and in a long and difficult journey to deliver wares to the royal court, he learns much about courage, persistence, patience, and real love. One of the most subtle and deeply moving descriptions of mutual caring and sensitivity in all of children's literature. A must read for boys and girls 12+

2003—The Tale of Despereaux; Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread, Kate di Camillo

A fun, meta-fairytale in which Despereaux the mouse reads instead of chewing the book of chivalric tales in the palace and is then thrown into a series of adventures in the course of which he is challenged, disappointed, and then enabled by the very stories he has read. In spite of the rollicking, jocular tone, themes of forgiveness, true courage, and self-sacrifice emerge in the course of his quest which lend themselves to thoughtful discussion. Ages 10+ [Posted April 2005, ALG]

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<![CDATA[More on Flannery O'Connor]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/more-flannery-oconnor Thu, 14 Jul 2005 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/578 catalog maintainer
14 Jul

More on Flannery O'Connor

Category: What We're Reading
By: Ken Myers
Published: 07/14/05
Subtitle:

Listeners who appreciated learning more about Flannery O'Connor's work from Ralph C. Wood and Susan Srigley (volume 73) will also be interested in two other books about O'Connor recently released. . . .

Listeners who appreciated learning more about Flannery O'Connor's work from Ralph C. Wood and Susan Srigley (volume 73) will also be interested in two other books about O'Connor recently released. Christina Bieber Lake's The Incarnational Art of Flannery O'Connor (Mercer University Press) examines "O'Connor's concerted effort to defy the Gnostic tendencies in American thought." Lake argues that "Bodies in O'Connor stories serve always to remind characters and readers of what the Incarnation validates—the inescapable reality of human embodiment." Meanwhile, in Return to Good and Evil: Flannery O'Connor's Response to Nihilism, (published by Roman & Littlefield in 2002 and just released in paperback by Lexington Books), Henry T. Edmondson, III, makes the case that O'Connor agreed with "Nietzsche's complaint that the modern age is populated by 'last men,' individuals without faith, vision, purpose, or valor. Her solution, unlike Nietzsche's, was a recovery of the concepts of good and evil, not their rejection." [Posted July 2005, KAM]

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<![CDATA[Miroslav Volf, The End of Memory: Remembering Rightly in a Violent World (Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2006)]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/miroslav-volf-end-memory-remembering-rightly-violent-world-wm-b-eerdmans-2006 Thu, 25 Jan 2007 19:00:00 -0500 https://marshillaudio.org/node/579 catalog maintainer
25 Jan

Miroslav Volf, The End of Memory: Remembering Rightly in a Violent World (Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2006)

Category: What We're Reading
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 01/25/07
Subtitle:

"Although the book may be hazardous to recent conventional 'wisdom' about the memory of wrongs, it is, I believe, good medicine for our cultural health and personal flourishing. The warning appropriate to this book isn't like the one on a life-endangering pack of cigarettes—it's like the one on a life-enhancing bottle of medicine apprising the taker of the temporary discomforts that accompany its curative effects." Miroslav Volf, The End of Memory . . .

"Although the book may be hazardous to recent conventional 'wisdom' about the memory of wrongs, it is, I believe, good medicine for our cultural health and personal flourishing. The warning appropriate to this book isn't like the one on a life-endangering pack of cigarettes—it's like the one on a life-enhancing bottle of medicine apprising the taker of the temporary discomforts that accompany its curative effects." Miroslav Volf, The End of Memory

Theologian Miroslav Volf's disclaimer about his new book, The End of Memory: Remembering Rightly in a Violent World, comes at the end of his detailed discussion of the necessity for and practice of remembering well the wrongs one has suffered. Volf, a guest on Volume 56 of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal and author of Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation, writes: "Freedom from guilt requires that the light of truth shine into the dark corners of our lives, whether in this life through uncoerced confession, private or public, or at the doorway to eternity during God's final judgment. The same is true in regard to the wounds caused by wrongdoing. We must name the troubling past truthfully—we must come to clarity about what happened, how we reacted to it, and how we are reacting to it now—to be freed from its destructive hold on our lives. Granted, truthful naming will not by itself heal memories of wrongs suffered; but without truthful naming, all measures we might undertake to heal such memories will remain incomplete" (p. 75). In The End of Memory, he engages the call to remember both public and private atrocities for the sake of the victims. While remembering is necessary for healing and justice, he notes that if memories are not redeemed they can actually increase suffering and injustice rather than alleviate them. Volf draws on various sources—including theologians and stories from within the Christian tradition, along with his experiences of interrogation as a Yugoslavian soldier—to establish a case for a right way of remembering. He also develops guidelines for how to remember and when to forget.

His challenging discussion is informed and accessible, peppered with stories and metaphors. The contents of the book comprise three parts and ten chapters, a postscript, afterword, acknowledgments section, and index. Part one is titled, "Remember!" and includes the chapters "Memory of Interrogations" and "Memory: Shield and Sword." Part two, "How Should We Remember?", includes the chapters "Speaking Truth, Practicing Grace"; "Wounded Self, Healed Memories"; "Frameworks of Memories"; and "Memory, the Exodus, and the Passion." Part three, "How Long Should We Remember?", includes the chapters "River of Memory, River of Forgetting"; "Defenders of Forgetting"; "Redemption: Harmonizing and Driving Out"; and "Rapt in Goodness." [Posted January 2007, ALG]

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<![CDATA[Mark P. Cosgrove, <cite>The Essence of Human Nature</cite> (Zondervan/Probe Ministries International, 1977)]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/mark-p-cosgrove-essence-human-nature-zondervanprobe-ministries-international-1977 Mon, 04 Aug 2003 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/580 catalog maintainer

"It is especially important to clarify our understanding of the nature of man because our view of human nature affects critical issues of society, such as capital punishment, abortion, and biological and psychological engineering, to name a few." Mark P. Cosgrove, The Essence of Human Nature

In The Essence of Human Nature, Mark P. Cosgrove attends to psychology's presuppositions about the nature of man and the conclusions those presuppositions have led it to draw. At its dawning, he writes, psychology assumed that how people function could be explained through physical realities and animal instincts alone; its research, therefore, has tended to disregard evidence that points to other explanations for people's behavior. The data gathered through the discipline's studies, however, indicate that people are more than just material or animals, and that their behavior is not wholly determined. This is contrary to what has been assumed, Cosgrove states, and consequently a "fresh look at the nature of man is a most pressing need."

The Essence of Human Nature comprises six chapters; in chapters one and two (titled "The Pressing Question" and "The Presuppositions and Methods of Psychology") Cosgrove frames the direction of the discussion, explaining why he is re-evaluating the psychological work done on what human nature is and how psychology has gone about studying human nature in the past. Chapters three through five ("Is Man Just Material?", "Is Man's Behavior Determined?", and "Is Man an Animal?") demonstrate why psychology's various presuppositions about man encourage the discipline to a myopic account of the nature of man. Chapter six ("What Can We Conclude?") states, "Man's unique capabilities are impossible to explain by any purely biological theory. . . . The materialistic, mechanical, and animal view of man, thus, is not only inadequate to explain man, but it is also destructive to him." The book concludes with a "Response" section, "References," and a "For Further Reading" list. [Posted August 2005, ALG]

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<![CDATA[Marcel Gauchet, <cite>The Disenchantment of the World: A Political History of Religion,</cite> trans. Oscar Burge (Princeton University Press, 1997)]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/marcel-gauchet-disenchantment-world-political-history-religion-trans-oscar-burge-princeton Wed, 12 Apr 2006 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/581 catalog maintainer
12 Apr

Marcel Gauchet, The Disenchantment of the World: A Political History of Religion, trans. Oscar Burge (Princeton University Press, 1997)

Category: What We're Reading
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 04/12/06
Subtitle:

On Volume 57 of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal, sociologist Steve Bruce discussed his book God Is Dead: Secularization in the West; he asserted that while many people believe in some sort of religion, religion no longer shapes the body politic. His understanding of secularization is one supported by French author Marcel Gauchet, who was interviewed for the daily Le Monde in March, 2006. In the interview Gauchet comments on what the violent response to the caricatures of Mohammed demonstrate about how globalization is affecting Islamic nations, why those nations feel threatened by the West, and why Europeans cannot understand such hostility. . . .

On Volume 57 of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal, sociologist Steve Bruce discussed his book God Is Dead: Secularization in the West; he asserted that while many people believe in some sort of religion, religion no longer shapes the body politic. His understanding of secularization is one supported by French author Marcel Gauchet, who was interviewed for the daily Le Monde in March, 2006. In the interview Gauchet comments on what the violent response to the caricatures of Mohammed demonstrate about how globalization is affecting Islamic nations, why those nations feel threatened by the West, and why Europeans cannot understand such hostility.

Gauchet explains that globalization, propagated by the West, destroys "the existing social order" in Islamic states, in which faith is a way of life, "disaggregate[ing] the traditional family and violently chang[ing] the relationship between men and women and between generations." He states, "Europeans' problem is that they can no longer understand what religion means in societies where it still maintains a structural power. . . . For them, religion has become a system of individual and private beliefs."

Gauchet examined the Western world's modern understanding of religion in his 1985 book (published in English by Princeton University Press in 1997), The Disenchantment of the World: A Political History of Religion. His concern in the book was ". . . to reconstruct Jewish monotheism from the circumstances surrounding its first appearance to the development of its long-term consequences; and then, to follow its development from where Christianity takes over to the point where the seeds of terrestrial autonomy contained within it come to fruition. This is the point where, thanks to religion, a society with no further need for religion arises." In it he studies the relationship between heaven and earth, between the divine and humanity, and how humanity's understanding of itself and the divine has changed during the course of history.

Religion first arose, he states, because ancient peoples were looking for a way to explain the existence of the world and their own being and acting in it. The development of specific religions, particularly Christianity, introduced ways of understanding God, the world, and humanity that eventually allowed people to give up religion and the divine as necessary to their explanations and understandings. Gauchet notes that the religious still affects individuals and their interior lives, but that societies no longer depend on it for their structure. His characterization of secularization is different from others that define it as the disappearance of all religious observance, public and private. He writes: "I cannot overemphasize that when I say 'end of religion' I am referring to a quite specific phenomenon: the end of the principle of dependency structuring social space in all known societies prior to our own." His more nuanced construction explains the unusual occurrence of public institutions increasingly hostile to religion's influence even while individual belief and church attendance remains high, an occurrence illustrated in the United States. "The United States shows us how spiritual and cultural influence was preserved by denominational membership within a society whose workings, orientations, and values were just as far removed from the structure of dependency toward the other as the older, superficially more de-Christianized or laicized, European societies," writes Gauchet.

One stateside review of Gauchet's work put his distinction between public and private religion thus: ". . . the characteristic social phenomena of our time . . . sees some people turn to religious conversion as a response to the disequilibrating experience of freedom in a pluralist world. This is where Gauchet's distinction between religion as personal faith and religion as the ideological creator and designer of society stands him in brilliant stead. The two things—faith and religion—are not the same . . . . Individual pockets of faith may indeed postdate the decline of religion as a major social player. In Gauchet's words: 'We can imagine the extreme of a society comprised entirely of believers, yet beyond the religious.'" The article, written by Steven Englund and titled "Converting to religion after its demise: thoughts on Marcel Gauchet and his American reception," was published in Cross Currents, the journal of the Association for Religion and Intellectual Life. In addition to the aforementioned quote it offers this pithy explanation of the modern world's relationship to religion: ". . . the world, for all that it may be reverential toward religion, is no longer referential to religion in its social organization." A second review, written by Brian C. Anderson and published in the June/July 1998 issue of First Things, offers the following about Gauchet's portrayal of secularization: "But the Enlightenment project of human autonomy proves illusory, Gauchet admits. Instead of obeying the other outside of us, as in the era of religion, we rediscover it within, in the unconscious, rendering our own identity opaque."

The authors of both reviews, when commenting on Gauchet's understanding of Christianity and its role in the secularization of the West, concur with Charles Taylor in his foreword to Gauchet's The Disenchantment of the World. Therein Taylor writes: "But can the new departures in faith, of Buddha, of Jesus, or for that matter of St. Francis or St. Teresa, be understood simply in terms of the hunger for meaning? If the basic aim is just to make sense of it all, why is it that karuna or agape are so central to these traditions? . . . But perhaps these mutations can only be explained by supposing that something like what they relate to—God, Nirvana—really exists. In that case, a purely cultural account of religion would be like Hamlet without the Prince.

"While I opt for this second view, and hence cannot accept Gauchet's fundamental characterization of religion, this book is the living proof—if we still needed one—that you do not have to be ultimately right to make clear some truly profound and important features of our religious history, nor to open tremendously fruitful and exciting vistas for further explanation. No one interested in clarifying our thought about religion and the secular can afford to ignore this remarkable and original book."

Englund, the first of the two reviewers mentioned, reminds his readers that Gauchet is not questioning the validity of religious experience, but its function in society. He maintains that treating religion as merely a way to order society and explain meaning misses the mark. But many are so relieved that Gauchet is acknowledging the major role religion and Christianity has played in the development of the West that they overlook how explaining it in utilitarian terms—as a means of ordering society—marginalizes the depth of the modern crisis of religion.

Anderson, the second of the two, criticizes Gauchet for underestimating how radically men shaped modernity from its beginning (as opposed to it unfolding on its own, due to natural structures). He also notes that the Frenchman never considers "that Christianity might be true." Which means, writes Anderson, that Gauchet "neglects another possibility: that there might be an answer to our current discontents on the far side of modernity, and one that involves not post-religious man but a post-secular world. A post-secular world would not be a return to some enchanted, primordial dispossession, but it may well be a world after liberalism."

The Disenchantment of the World is divided in two parts. Part one—which comprises four chapters—is titled "The Metamorphosis of the Divine: The Origin, Meaning, and Development of the Religious." It demonstrates that the religious has reached the end of its life in the modern world, in spite of what the presence of churches and the faith of individuals indicates. Part two—two chapters long—is titled "The Apogee and Death of God: Christianity and Western Development." It claims that the West is radically original because it has reincorporated the sacral element that used to exist in the world into the heart of human relationships and activities. The book concludes with notes, a bibliography, and an index.

Gauchet's work is one of the volumes in the New French Thought Series published by Princeton University Press, edited by Thomas Pavell and Mark Lilla. The books in the series cover a wide range of topics, comprising religion, European history, political science and international relations, world history, comparative history, art and architecture, philosophy, political philosophy, comparative literature, cognitive science, biological sciences, psychology, sociology, and British literature. Other titles include Pierre Manent's The City of Man (whose foreword is written by Jean Bethke Elshtain, a guest on several issues of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal). A complete list of titles is available on-line. [Posted April 2006, ALG]

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<![CDATA[Malcolm Jeeves, "Portraits of Human Nature: Scientific & Theological" (Regent College, recorded in 2002)]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/malcolm-jeeves-portraits-human-nature-scientific-theological-regent-college-recorded-2002 Thu, 05 Jun 2003 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/582 catalog maintainer
5 Jun

Malcolm Jeeves, "Portraits of Human Nature: Scientific & Theological" (Regent College, recorded in 2002)

Category: What We're Reading
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 06/05/03
Subtitle:

Available on CD through the Regent Bookstore, 800-334-3279 or www.regentbookstore.com. A brief question and answer session followed Jeeves's lecture and is included on the CD recording.

In "Portraits of Human Nature: Scientific & Theological," professor emeritus Malcolm Jeeves analyzes what science can contribute to the debate about human nature and dualism. He discusses what people have thought about human nature, how the Imago Dei is manifested in mankind, and spirituality, all in conjunction with scientific discoveries throughout the centuries. The collective evidence, he states, overwhelmingly points away from thinking of humans as dualist beings and towards regarding them as unified wholes. The glimpses of reality science affords reveal that humans are a mysterious unity of body and mind. When that revelation is considered alongside the glimpses of reality that theology affords, Jeeves notes, it is possible to see that human nature is largely defined by people's capacity for relationships with God and others, and that people's spirituality—their practice of their relationship with God—is embodied and thus can change as bodies degenerate or are traumatized.

Jeeves is Emeritus Professor of Psychology at the University of St. Andrews and was President of The Royal Society of Edinburgh, Scotland's National Academy of Science and Letters. "Portraits of Human Nature: Scientific and Theological" was recorded in 2002 at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia.

A Literary Aside:

For centuries, various strains of philosophy in Western civilization have assumed a dual nature in human beings, pitting the mortal flesh against the immortal soul in a battle over which has more eternal importance. As long as these philosophies have existed, however, there have been additional systems of thought that assume the opposite. Poet John Donne (1572-1631) spoke from within one of those traditions, as the following quote from his Easter sermon in 1623 demonstrates:

"Never therefore dispute against thine own happinesse; never say, God asks the heart, that is, the soule, and therefore rewards the soule, or punishes the soule, and hath no respect to the body; Nec augeramus cogitationes a collegio carnis, saies Tertullian, Never go about to separate the thoughts of the heart, from the colledge, from the fellowship of the body; Siquidem in carne, & cum carne, & per carnem agitur, quicquid ab anima emaculetur, All that the soule does, it does in, and with, and by the body. And therefore, (saies he also) Caro abluitur, ut anima emaculetur, The body is washed in baptisme, but it is that the soule might be made cleane; Cargo ungitur, ut anima consecretur, In all unctions, whether that which was then in use in Baptisme, or that which was in use at our transmigration, and passage out of this world, the body was anointed, that the soule might be consecrated; Caro signatur, (saies Tertullian still) ut anima muniatur; The body is signed with the Crosse, that the soule might be armed against tentations; And againe, Caro de Corpore Christi Vescitur, ut anima de Deo saginetur; My body received the body of Christ, that my soule might partake of his merits. He extends it into many particulars, and summes up all thus, Non possunt in mercede separari, quæ opera conjungunt, These two, Body, and Soule, cannot be separated for ever, which, whilst they are together, concurre in all that either of them doe." [Posted June 2005, ALG]

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<![CDATA[Malcolm A. Jeeves, <cite>Human Nature at the Millennium: Reflections on the Integration of Psychology and Christianity</cite> (Baker Books, 1997)]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/malcolm-jeeves-human-nature-millennium-reflections-integration-psychology-and-christianity Sat, 12 Jul 2003 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/583 catalog maintainer

"In addition to specific issues, such as sexual orientation and psychotherapy, there are more general pervasive issues recurring across the board as we detect consensus views emerging about human nature widely shared by scientists working on mind, brain, and behavior. Thus, taken together, much neuropsychological research has pointed almost uniformly to the ever-tightening link among mind, brain, and behavior. One result is that it has raised, generally and with a fresh urgency, issues such as the extent to which we actually do have freedom of choice in our thinking and behaving. In the domain of sexual orientation, this in turn raises important questions for Christians for whom moral choice and responsibility are not optional extras. More specifically, among Christians it raises questions of the status of terms we have become so familiar with in the past such as soul, spirit, body." Malcolm A. Jeeves, Human Nature at the Millennium

In Human Nature at the Millennium: Reflections on the Integration of Psychology and Christianity, Malcolm A. Jeeves discusses how current psychological knowledge may affect traditional Christian beliefs about man and develops a framework for reconciling what Scripture reveals about man with what psychology reveals. Before describing either view, Jeeves introduces readers to psychology. He defines what it is, states that many consider it a discipline of science, and reviews past models of the interaction between established sciences (such as physics, astronomy, or geology) and Christianity and religion. He then provides Biblical and psychological portraits of human nature, discusses contemporary discoveries from psychology about how people function, and compares those discoveries with Christian and Biblical understandings of mankind.

Human Nature at the Millennium comprises a preface and thirteen chapters, a number of which include technical scientific language. Each chapter, however, ends with a "Taking Stock" section that summarizes the chapter's content in layman's terms. [Posted July 2005, ALG]

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<![CDATA[Liberalism and Limits]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/liberalism-and-limits Mon, 06 Oct 2008 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/584 catalog maintainer
6 Oct

Liberalism and Limits

Category: What We're Reading
By: Ken Myers
Published: 10/06/08
Subtitle:

On his blog, Patrick Deneen identifies himself as a political theorist. Not a political scientist or a political philosopher, but a theorist. This self-designation reflects Deneen's attention to political history and to the life of language. . . .

On his blog, Patrick Deneen identifies himself as a political theorist. Not a political scientist or a political philosopher, but a theorist. This self-designation reflects Deneen's attention to political history and to the life of language. To be associated with scientia, derived from the Latin verb meaning "to know," would be an honorable situation for any thoughtful academic, even if "political science" has an air of mechanistic wonkishness about it. "Philosopher" might be a more attractive label for someone with Deneen's commitments, the etymological echoes of the word accurately suggesting his evident belief that thinking well about politics is a matter properly linked with the orientation of the soul.

"Theory" comes from a Greek verb meaning "to see." The English word "theater," denoting a place where scenes from human life are enacted to be seen (and to promote greater vision about life), comes from the same root. As Deneen himself explained in a 2002 essay on the nature of patriotism, the word "theory" came over time to designate a particular kind of seeing in the Greek world. "Certain designated city officials—theoroi—were charged with the task of visiting other cities, to 'see' events such as religious or theatrical or athletic festivals, and to return to their home city, where they would then give an account of what they had seen. To 'theorize' was to take part in a sacred journey, an encounter with the 'other' in which the theorist would attempt to comprehend, assess, compare, and then, in [the] idiom of his own city, explain what had been seen to his fellow citizens." Theorists in the best tradition are people who enable us to become "other-wise," encouraging us to realize that the way we live life isn't the only way it could be lived, and may not be the best way we could live.

Deneen's blog is called "What I Saw in America," an homage to G. K. Chesterton, and is subtitled "The Political Theory of Daily Life." Like the ancient theoroi, Deneen has traveled to distant places, distant in time if not space—Tocqueville's America, Aristotle's Athens, Wendell Berry's Port William, Descartes's utopia—and returned to explain aspects of our daily lives in light of what he has seen there.

In the past few weeks, Deneen's posts have placed the Wall Street meltdown in a larger cultural perspective that is absent from most media diagnoses and from the comments of politicians, whose handlers and PR experts forbid them from ever saying anything critical of the dominant trends of our cultural moment. In mid-September, in a piece called "Abstraction," Deneen argued that "at nearly every level this financial collapse was precipitated by transforming reality into abstraction, unmooring grounded commitments and obligations and fostering new patterns of fantastical behavior throughout the populace." That essay was followed by "Political Philosophy in the Details," in which Deneen questioned one of the fundamental assumptions of classic liberalism, which is that "unleashed self-interest is a predictable driver of human behavior and can be harnessed to ensure stable political institutions and dynamic economic activity." This assumption contradicts the wisdom of premodern political thinkers from Aristotle on, who "argued against unleashed self-interest inasmuch as its free rein led to the deformation of the human soul—a form of enslavement to the desires." While liberalism claims to be a procedural order in which competing claims about the good—whether religious, philosophical, or practical—all compete freely in an open "marketplace of ideas," in actuality what liberalism "seeks above all is the promotion of economic growth and material pursuits as the main activity" of human societies. "It can afford to be neutral about ends because by emphasizing that one end—growth and material gain—it effectively demotes all other ends. . . . Correspondingly, no party of government will call for virtue and restraint as a possible solution [to our economic woes], since that would contradict the fundamental wellspring of human behavior necessary for increase and dominion."

Deneen followed up this piece with a post entitled "Whack a Mole," in which he insisted that the failure of political leaders to call for self-restraint is "an indication of our enslavement to appetites over which we have no control. This latter condition was defined by the ancients as a condition of servitude, not liberty."

In an entry dated October 2, 2008 called "Democracy in America," Deneen raises questions about the viability of democracy in a culture that eschews limits and self-control. Citing Tocqueville's insight that democracy was a collection of mores as much as it was a system of government, he reviews Tocqueville's warning about how the very success of democracy could lead to its undoing. "The very dynamism of modern democracy that allowed it to defang resentments [by enabling social and economic mobility] also simultaneously contributed to profound short-term thinking that devolved into forms of self-serving individualism. Increasingly unable to discern how our liberated actions impacted others—neither recognizing our debts to the past nor our obligations to the future—we see ourselves as wholly free agents shorn of history or future." Deneen also cites Montesquieu's belief that democracy could only survive if it was internally enabled by virtuous citizens, people with the habit of the heart to eschew luxurious living and temper their appetities. "Without the virtue of moderation, thrift, and self-governance [that is, the willingness of each citizen to govern himself], democracy was an ideal whose reality was always in question."

Reading Deneen over the past few weeks has prompted me to go back and review some of Daniel Bell's observations in his 1976 book, The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism. In that profound study, Bell raised questions about "the end of the bourgeois idea," the unravelling of social and political order in a society in which the bourgeois virtues of self-control and delayed gratification necessarily collide with the modernist values of limitless acquisition and boundless self-expression, values promoted by a capitalism centered on consumption rather than production. Bell's examination of the symbiotic relationship between economic practices and structures on the one hand and cultural beliefs and assumptions on the other is worth extended reflection. Looking at the current financial chaos with his analysis in mind, one is struck—as one is in reading Patrick Deneen—by how the trajectory of this crisis predates the regulatory changes of the past three decades. "American capitalism changed its nature in the 1920s," Bell wrote, "by heavily encouraging the consumers to go into debt, and to live with debt as a way of life. In the 1960s, the basic financial structure of the economy became transformed when sharp individuals began to realize that considerable fortunes could be created through 'leverage,' that is, by going heavily into debt and using that borrowed money to underwrite finance companies, create real estate investment trusts, and increase the debt/equity ratio of corporations, rather than expand out of internal financing or by equity capital." Bell goes on to describe possible economic and political scenarios when an economy built on a "mountain of debt" encounters reality. What I find more interesting is his description in the first half of the book of how so many features of our cultural life—our notion of identity, the centrality of fun and entertainment in social life, our need for constant distraction and stimulation, the institutionalization of "transgressive" behavior—have imprinted a characteristic mentality that makes recognizing the nature of our cultural and economic disorder so difficult. That's all the more reason to be grateful for insightful theorists such as Patrick Deneen.

Subscribers to the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal will have heard my interview with Patrick Deneen on volume 91. If you missed that interview, you can hear a portion of it here or purchase the whole issue here.

Posted by Ken Myers on 10/7/08

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<![CDATA[Leroy S. Rouner (ed.), <cite>Is There a Human Nature?</cite> (University of Notre Dame Press, 1997)]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/leroy-s-rouner-ed-there-human-nature-university-notre-dame-press-1997 Sun, 31 Aug 2003 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/585 catalog maintainer

"In our day, however, serious questions have been raised about the legitimacy of the idea [of a universal human nature], no matter how human nature is interpreted. The questions arise from the pluralism of contemporary American culture and the rapidly increasing interdependence of various world cultures. We are now mindful, in a new way, of how peoples in different cultural situations deal with their lives on the basis of different foundational values. If their values can be so different, what common ground makes it possible to claim a universal human nature?" Leroy S. Rouner (ed.), Is There a Human Nature?

In Is There a Human Nature?, Leroy S. Rouner notes that the concept of a nature that all humans in all times and places share has become nearly archaic in recent eras. Throughout the twentieth century, optimism about the goodness or possible perfection of human beings has also waned. People, then, are left wondering if they can make any claims about what sort of beings humans are, or about how they should act. The essays in Is There a Human Nature? explore both of these questions. Rouner writes, "So what follows is both a study in the metaphysics of human nature and the ethics of being humane, since we eventually become who we have consistently understood ourselves to be."

The first part of the book, "What Does It Mean to Be Human?", explores that very question, considering if all people share a set of certain properties and what they may be, how liberal democracies honor or squelch human nature, and philosophy's relationship to human nature. The essays included in this section are: "Is There a Human Nature?" (by Bhikhu Parekh); "The Human Need for Recognition and the Crisis of Liberal Democracy" (Daniel O. Dahlstrom); "Human Nature and the Founding of Philosophy" (Stanley H. Rosen); "Reason and Will in the Humanities" (Knud Haakonssen); "Natural Law: A Feminist Reassessment" (Lisa Sowle Cahill); and "Is There an Essence of Human Nature?" (Robert Cummings Neville). The second part of the book, "The Human Struggle to Be Humane," evaluates how the theories about human nature are or are not manifested in how people actually live. Its essays try to explain why humans are faulty, how Confucian ideas about the self can enrich Enlightenment ideas of the self, and what happens to people's ethics when their survival is threatened. The essays included in this section are: "Human Intelligence and Social Inequality" (Glenn C. Loury); "Fall/Fault in Human Nature/Nurture?" (Ray L. Hart); "The Place of the Human in Nature: Paradigms of Ecological Thinking, East and West" (Graham Parkes); "Humanity as Embodied Love: Exploring Filial Piety in a Global Ethical Perspective" (Tu Wei-ming); "Why Good People Do Bad Things: Kierkegaard on Dread and Sin" (Leroy S. Rouner); and "Lifeboat Ethics" (Sissela Bok). [Posted September 2005, ALG]

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<![CDATA[Leon Kass, <cite>Toward a More Natural Science: Biology and Human Affairs</cite> (The Free Press, 1985)]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/leon-kass-toward-more-natural-science-biology-and-human-affairs-free-press-1985 Sat, 26 Jul 2003 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/586 catalog maintainer

"I intend no aid or comfort to the enemies of science or the friends of ignorance. My intention, rather, is to point out that the teachings and discoveries of science are at best partial—indeed, partial in principle. They are necessarily incomplete, hence in need of being supplemented. Our current difficulties call for more and better thought, not less, albeit also thought of a somewhat different kind. They beckon us to seek deeper knowledge, precisely about the adequacy of what we already know—or think we know—and also about the possible knowability of what we have declared to be unknowable."

"Ultimately, our goal is a richer, more comprehensive 'new science' of man in relation to the whole. This must be compatible with the findings—if not necessarily the interpretations—of the natural, psychological, and social sciences. But it must also do justice to the full range and complexity of human powers and activities, and it might thus provide some standards for addressing moral and political questions." Leon R. Kass, Toward a More Natural Science

In Toward a More Natural Science: Biology and Human Affairs, professor and bioethicist Leon R. Kass discusses recent developments in scientific technologies and how they are affecting human nature and the contemporary understanding of it. Revolutionary biotechnologies have made life "less poor, nasty, brutish, and short," and promise to render life more livable yet, but they have also challenged man to transform, or at least to reconsider, his traditional view of himself and his place in the world. Kass, before beginning to construct a philosophy of science and nature that will be rich enough to wrestle with the questions the new biotechnologies pose to this long-held understanding, introduces inquiries such as: How reasonable is it to divorce science from ordinary experience and philosophy? What is the relationship between knowledge and wisdom? What is the proper relationship between science, which is universal by nature, and human institutions and polities, which are particularist? The thirteen essays of the collection build upon this introduction, intending "to search out the human significance of the presently new biology, and to search for a yet newer and richer biology that will do justice to matters of human significance."

Toward a More Natural Science comprises three parts. Part I, titled "Eroding the Limits: Troubles with the Mastery of Nature," concentrates on new biomedical technologies, providing descriptions of the technologies available and setting the direction of the discussion regarding their powers and concomitant ethical dilemmas. Part II, titled "Holding the Center: The Morality of Medicine," reconsiders the nature of medicine in light of the contemporary challenges to medicine's traditional understanding of its purpose. Part III, "Deepening the Ground: Nature Reconsidered," concerns itself with developing a proper philosophy of nature; it also considers death and what to make of it, and what nature reveals about how people ought to conduct themselves. [Posted July 2005, ALG]

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<![CDATA[Leon Kass, <cite>Life, Liberty and the Defense of Dignity: The Challenge for Bioethics</cite> (Encounter Books, 2002)]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/leon-kass-life-liberty-and-defense-dignity-challenge-bioethics-encounter-books-2002 Thu, 05 Jun 2003 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/587 catalog maintainer

"We need to realize that there is more at stake in the biological revolution than just saving life or avoiding death and suffering. We must also strive to protect and preserve human dignity and the ideas and practices that keep us human. This book is an invitation to remember these human and moral concerns, concerns that are themselves manifestations of what is humanly most worth preserving."

—Leon Kass, Life, Liberty and the Defense of Dignity

In Life, Liberty and the Defense of Dignity: The Challenge for Bioethics, Leon Kass extends a deliberately-reasoned, perspicuous, and urgent invitation to study the beautiful, mundane, and messy realities of human nature that are vulnerable to burgeoning biotechnologies. The book comprises an introduction and three sections, the second of which is titled "Ethical Challenges from Biotechnology." In it Kass, the chairman of the President's Council on Bioethics, describes the challenges biomedical science and technology pose to human nature, alongside of which he also describes that of which human nature consists, or, in other words, what makes people human. The particulars he addresses are life and lineage, body and soul, and death and immortality. In the first and third sections of the book, he explores, respectively, the poles of the biotechnologies argument, technology and ethics, and the "underlying scientific quest." The introduction sets the stage for the rest of the work, explaining that all societies are facing a "posthuman" future and thus need a richer understanding of human nature in order to navigate it wisely. [Posted June 2005, ALG]

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<![CDATA[Language by Tolkien]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/language-tolkien Sun, 03 Aug 2003 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/588 catalog maintainer
3 Aug

Language by Tolkien

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 08/03/03
Subtitle:

In the late 1990s, the British writer and scholar J. R. R. Tolkien's fantasy trilogy The Lord of the Rings was polled "book of the century" by the English public on four different occasions. Soon after, the 2001 movie version of the first part, The Fellowship of the Ring, and the 2002 follow-up of the second, The Two Towers, created an even greater resurgence of mass appeal for the fantasy epic which had first gained world-wide readership in the 1960s. Despite consistent disparagement by some "serious" critics, Tolkien stands firmly among the ubiquitous authors. . . .

A sampling of sources:

—Humphrey Carpenter, Tolkien (originally 1977, now HarperCollins, 2002): authoritative Tolkien biography

—Robert Foster, The Complete Guide to Middle-earth (Ballantine, 1978): "classic" Tolkien companion

—Jane Chance, Tolkien's Art: "A Mythology for England" (Macmillan, 1979): examination of the theory reflected in Tolkien's work

—Joseph Pearce, Tolkien: Man and Myth (Ignatius Press, 2001): exploration of Tolkien's theories about myth and creative writing

—Mark Eddy Smith, Tolkien's Ordinary Virtues (InterVarsity Press, 2002): description of Tolkien's characters as moral examples

In the late 1990s, the British writer and scholar J. R. R. Tolkien's fantasy trilogy The Lord of the Rings was polled "book of the century" by the English public on four different occasions. Soon after, the 2001 movie version of the first part, The Fellowship of the Ring, and the 2002 follow-up of the second, The Two Towers, created an even greater resurgence of mass appeal for the fantasy epic which had first gained world-wide readership in the 1960s. Despite consistent disparagement by some "serious" critics, Tolkien stands firmly among the ubiquitous authors.

For most of his lifetime, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (1892-1973) was known mainly as a gifted but obscure Oxford philologist and Old English scholar who had rekindled interest in important Old and Middle English texts such as Beowulf. Originally a by-product of Tolkien's love for words and languages, the author's story-wrighting—a craft he considered both amateur work and an expression of Divinity in Man—inspired a new genre of literature. Moreover, his essays on "fairy-stories" offered rousing assumptions about the meaning, scope, and consequence of Christian art. . . .

To read the rest of this essay by Jonathan G. Reinhardt, which includes a more complete listing of references, click here. [Posted August 2003, ALG]

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<![CDATA[Ken Myers on the NEA]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/ken-myers-nea Wed, 14 Sep 2005 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/589 catalog maintainer
14 Sep

Ken Myers on the NEA

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Ken Myers
Published: 09/14/05
Subtitle:

A few weeks ago, I received a note from a high school student at a Christian school who had read my book, All God's Children and Blue Suede Shoes: Christians and Popular Culture, and who was writing a senior thesis about the question of whether or not Christians should support the idea of federal funding for the arts. It's a more complicated question than is often recognized, on both sides. In the interest of stimulating further discussion, here's what I wrote to her: . . .

A few weeks ago, I received a note from a high school student at a Christian school who had read my book, All God's Children and Blue Suede Shoes: Christians and Popular Culture, and who was writing a senior thesis about the question of whether or not Christians should support the idea of federal funding for the arts. It's a more complicated question than is often recognized, on both sides. In the interest of stimulating further discussion, here's what I wrote to her:

As you rightly acknowledge in your note, you are raising some enormous issues. Let me try to offer some ideas that might help.

First, I should say that the question of federal funding for the arts is as much a question of what we believe about the purpose of government as it is what we believe about the purpose of art. People could agree on their understanding of what art is and what place it should have in our lives without agreeing on the question of federal support.

But let's start with the question of art. When Christians start looking at this question, there are two immediate obstacles. First, for over 100 years, the various institutions that sustain the arts have become distorted and confused. This is not to say that all modern art is bad, but that our culture's understanding of the place of art in human life is really a mess. Modern culture is by and large confused about what it means to be human, and so it is not surprising that it is confused about the place of the arts in human life.

So that's the first obstacle: our culture's understanding of what the arts are all about.

The second obstacle is that American Christians by and large are equally confused about the arts. Most Christians seem to have a low view of the arts, and I think it is because they have a low view of imagination.

Let me try to correlate these two confusions with a shockingly quick summary of what I think went wrong in the West in the past 400 years. In his book, The Abolition of Man, C. S. Lewis observed that in the classical and Christian view prior to the modern age, the chief task of living a good life was understood as discovering meaning and moral order in Creation, and then, through the exercise of self-control, through the pursuit of knowledge and wisdom, and (in the Christian view) by the experience of grace, to "conform the soul to reality." There is a pattern of reality in Creation that can be perceived through what theologians call "general revelation," and one lived a good life, one ful-filled one's humanity by fitting into that pattern. Lewis also once said that you can't go against the grain of the universe without getting splinters. What he meant was that when you ignore or violate the order that is there, you will suffer in some way (whether or not you know it).

The older view of art fit into this understanding. Art was one way of perceiving the order of things in the universe. The world was knowable through imaginative means as well as through rational analysis. I think that's why we have so much poetry and metaphor in the Bible. I think that is why wisdom literature in particular relies on imaginative forms of expression (look at all of the metaphors in the Psalms, for example).

Human imagination has the capacity to tell us something important about reality because God, the author of reality and the One in whose image we are made, has made it so. Robert Houston Smith (in a book called Patches of Godlight: the Pattern of Thought of C. S. Lewis, University of Georgia Press, 1981) once summarized Lewis's adherence to this older view of Creation and imagination this way: "Although the imagination might entertain, its noblest and most essential function was that of guiding the mind toward the higher truths that gave meaning to existence. Lewis insisted that those who suppose imagination to be only a psychological or physiological activity of the mind are wrong. When functioning as it should, in secular as well as religious contexts, imagination is the most important means by which higher truths can be communicated. . . . He was concerned to dispel the popular notion that whatever is imaginative is, by its very nature, false or nonexistent. What the ordinary person fails to conceive is that there are some aspects of reality that can be conveyed in no other way than imaginatively. Inasmuch as reality itself transcends the most abstract language, the imagination can offer, when properly focused, higher integrative levels, helping to lead the receptive mind toward a supraverbal apprehension of reality that draws upon the mind's innate capabilities of recognizing truth when presented with it. Thus by imagination Lewis meant something far more important than the aesthetic experience of the fabrication of fantasies." [p. 136]

Lewis gave "assent to the venerable, though by no means universally held assumption that poetic language 'is by no means merely an expression, nor a stimulant, of emotion, but a real medium of information,' whether (he carefully added) that information be false or true. . . . Though immensely subtler, the human imagination is, in its own distinctive way, just as absolute as are universal moral laws or syllogisms. All are part and parcel of the same underlying reality that is itself inaccessible to the mind through any direct means." [p. 136f.]

I want to emphasize two things about this older view (which I believe is the view most consistent with biblical teaching) of Creation and imagination. First, there is an order in Creation. The universe is not just a lot of meaningless raw material, but there are patterns of meaning in the structure of creation that has continuity with the pattern of meaning in our moral and spiritual lives. Second, both reason and imagination are necessary to apprehend this meaning. Even science relies a lot on imagination (Mary Midgley's book Science and Poetry makes this very clear, as does the wonderful work in philosophy of science by Michael Polanyi) in the pursuit of new discoveries. I'm convinced that Einstein's grasp of the way the universe worked was a product of his imagination, not just his ability to compute.

Some of the greatest artists in Western history were very explicit in their belief that they were discoverers of something in reality, not inventors or creators of an entirely new thing.

I said that this was the "older view" to contrast it with the modern view, and by "modern," I mean the view that begins to take shape in the 17th century, and becomes entrenched during the Enlightenment. In the modern view, as Lewis observes in The Abolition of Man, the chief task is not to conform the soul to reality, but to remake reality to fit human desires. In the modern view, the universe is just matter, known by mathematics, but there is no moral order inherent in things. There is nothing there to which we should conform. There is no "higher truth" that can be perceived by reflecting on Nature (notice that the term "Nature" replaces "Creation" in this view). Human will, expressed in human reason, is the highest force in the universe, and we fulfill our humanity not by discerning the pattern of the grain of the universe and living accordingly, but by expanding the power of the human will to do whatever it wants.

On this view, imagination is not an organ of meaning that assists us in recognizing boundaries, but imagination is a way of expressing unbounded human creativity, freedom, and power. This is why art has, for many modern people, displaced religion, and why many currents of modern art are so deliberately opposed to traditional religious belief.

Now let me get to the question of support for the arts. Some people will say that since so many artistic institutions and individual artists are pursuing a distorted, even blasphemous agenda through the arts, the government should not be at all involved. But if we were consistent, we would have to recognize that many politicians and lawyers have views of law, justice, and government that are just as distorted, so we shouldn''t have government at all! Or, less radically, we could argue that many people involved in scientific research are pursuing power over what they suppose to be meaningless matter in an arrogant and ungodly way, and so government should not support scientific or technical research.

I believe that art serves a public good that is as important as that served by science or commerce or education. If it is appropriate for government to support and organize those other spheres, then there is no reason why it should not be committed to the arts. That being said, not all science, commerce, education, or art serves the public good equally, and, in a democracy, one of the tasks of political life is to promote discussion and debate about the nature of the common good. Unfortunately, the modern project of unlimited freedom has advanced so far that people think their government has no business in making any value judgments. This is a recipe for anarchy. Laws and policies are always expressions of values, and in a democratic society, those values need to be discussed and debated.

One thing that the Church should do in such a setting is promote really good art criticism, to train people to make public arguments about art that rejects the relativism and skepticism of our time. Unfortunately, like their modern neighbors, most Christians don't believe (as Lewis did) that art has anything to do with objective value. Most Christians have accepted the modern idea that art is purely subjective, just an expression of individual (and thus arbitrary) likes or dislikes. And so even while they oppose the NEA on allegedly Christian grounds, they advance a view of the arts that has more in common with their enemies than they realize.

The Endowments (arts and humanities) were set up through the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act of 1965 (P.L. 89-209). In Section 2 of the Act, "Declaration of Purpose," Congress declared (among other things) the following:

"(2) that a high civilization must not limit its efforts to science and technology alone but must give full value and support to the other great branches of scholarly and cultural activity in order to achieve a better understanding of the past, a better analysis of the present, and a better view of the future;

"(3) that democracy demands wisdom and vision in its citizens and that it must therefore foster and support a form of education, and access to the arts and the humanities, designed to make people of all backgrounds and wherever located masters of their technology and not its unthinking servant; . . .

"(7) that the world leadership which has come to the United States cannot rest solely upon superior power, wealth, and technology, but must be solidly founded upon worldwide respect and admiration for the Nation's high qualities as a leader in the realm of ideas and of the spirit;

"(8) that Americans should receive in school, background and preparation in the arts and humanities to enable them to recognize and appreciate the aesthetic dimensions of our lives, the diversity of excellence that comprises our cultural heritage, and artistic and scholarly expression. . . ."

Some of the concerns expressed here no doubt came from a famous book called The Two Cultures, by C. P. Snow, which looked at the relative roles of science and of the humanities in modern Western culture. His book would be good background for you (he published a revised edition of it in 1964, the year before this bill was passed, and it was very widely discussed at the time).

I think it might be helpful for you to study this legislation (if you haven't already) and ask whether its assumptions (what judicial scholars would call the original intent of the law) is widely understood and affirmed by Americans today, especially by those in the arts.

For the last two years, I have served on a National Endowment for the Arts panel, helping to decide how some of the NEA's money is allocated. I was asked to serve because I have been involved in arts journalism since I was 22 years old (that's 30 years, by the way). But there aren't many committed, theologically deliberate Christians who get involved in the arts this way, which is one of the reasons why so many arts institutions and so much thinking about the arts generally is so disordered.

We will never see ideas and practices in the arts improve in ways that fit a Christian understanding of reality unless Christians are committed to the arts.

Here are a couple of other observations.

Even though the arts serve a public good, it would not be necessary for the federal government to provide support. Regional, state, and local governments may be a more appropriate level for that support to originate. But I've never heard any Christian who wanted to dismantle the NEA argue for increase in government support at other levels.

Finally, let's do a thought experiment. Since Christians believe that God is the Creator of all things, the one who established the foundation of the earth, they should be at the forefront of honoring God in every possible way. They should be more interested in the nature of Creation than people whose belief are rooted in humanism, environmentalism, science, or art. They should be committed to encouraging rich and fitting experience of all of creation. We are saved in order to restore the fullness of our humanity in Christ. We are not saved in order to escape our humanity. Sadly, most American Christians seem to have absorbed the modern assumption that religion is about matters private and purely spiritual, when in fact, the Gospel is a message that has consequences for all of life.

But if American Christians were really committed to honoring their Creator fully, they would be the biggest supporters of the arts. Private patronage of the arts by thoughtful, artistically committed Christians could dwarf federal funding of the arts. And yet I've never seen any of the Christian opponents of arts funding suggest that we need to promote artistic literacy and patronage within the Church.

I hope that some of this is helpful. If you have any questions about these comments, please get back in touch. And if you would like further bibliographic recommendations for your thesis, please let me know.

Good luck, and God's blessings on your writing! [Posted September 2005, ALG]

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<![CDATA[John Henry Newman]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/john-henry-newman Sun, 12 Mar 2006 19:00:00 -0500 https://marshillaudio.org/node/590 catalog maintainer
12 Mar

John Henry Newman

Category: What We're Reading
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 03/12/06
Subtitle:

On Volume 52 of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal, guest Ian Ker discussed his book The Achievement of John Henry Newman. Those who took a particular interest in this interview will be pleased to know about the "Newman Reader" web page, a veritable treasure trove of links to articles by and information about Newman. The dozens of resources available include biographies and bibliographies of both primary and secondary works. [Posted March 2006, ALG]

On Volume 52 of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal, guest Ian Ker discussed his book The Achievement of John Henry Newman. Those who took a particular interest in this interview will be pleased to know about the "Newman Reader" web page, a veritable treasure trove of links to articles by and information about Newman. The dozens of resources available include biographies and bibliographies of both primary and secondary works. [Posted March 2006, ALG]

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<![CDATA[J. R. R. Tolkien]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/j-r-r-tolkien Fri, 03 Oct 2003 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/591 catalog maintainer
3 Oct

J. R. R. Tolkien

Category: What We're Reading
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 10/03/03
Subtitle:

MARS HILL AUDIO Conversation

Previous MARS HILL AUDIO guests Tom Shippey, Joseph Pearce, and Ralph Wood discuss the work of J. R. R. Tolkien on the Conversation " Maker of Middle Earth." [Posted October 2005, ALG]

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<![CDATA[J. Gresham Machen's "Christianity and Culture"]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/j-gresham-machens-christianity-and-culture Wed, 14 Apr 2004 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/592 catalog maintainer
14 Apr

J. Gresham Machen's "Christianity and Culture"

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 04/14/04
Subtitle:

One of the greatest of the problems that have agitated the Church is the problem of the relation between knowledge and piety, between culture and Christianity. This problem has appeared first of all in the presence of two tendencies in the Church—the scientific or academic tendency, and what may be called the practical tendency. . . .

One of the greatest of the problems that have agitated the Church is the problem of the relation between knowledge and piety, between culture and Christianity. This problem has appeared first of all in the presence of two tendencies in the Church—the scientific or academic tendency, and what may be called the practical tendency. Some men have devoted themselves chiefly to the task of forming right conceptions as to Christianity and its foundations. To them no fact, however trivial, has appeared worthy of neglect; by them truth has been cherished for its own sake, without immediate reference to practical consequences. Some, on the other hand, have emphasized the essential simplicity of the gospel. The world is lying in misery, we ourselves are sinners, men are perishing in sin every day. The gospel is the sole means of escape; let us preach it to the world while yet we may. So desperate is the need that we have no time to engage in vain babblings or old wives' fables. While we are discussing the exact location of the churches of Galatia, men are perishing under the curse of the law; while we are settling the date of Jesus' birth, the world is doing without its Christmas message. . . .

The entirety of J. Gresham Machen's essay is available here.

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<![CDATA[Islam's Interpreter]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/islams-interpreter Fri, 30 Apr 2004 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/593 catalog maintainer
30 Apr

Islam's Interpreter

Category: What We're Reading
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 04/30/04
Subtitle:

Professor Bernard Lewis has spent several decades studying the Middle East and Islam, and Oxford University Press has recently published several of his essays on these subjects in From Babel to Dragomans: Interpreting the Middle East.

Professor Bernard Lewis has spent several decades studying the Middle East and Islam, and Oxford University Press has recently published several of his essays on these subjects in From Babel to Dragomans: Interpreting the Middle East. The publication of the collection is the occasion for an interview with Lewis in the Atlantic Unbound (the April 29, 2004, edition) in which Lewis offers his thoughts on the region's future, particularly regarding how America is handling its involvement in Iraq: "I'm cautiously optimistic about what's happening in Iraq. What bothers me is what's happening here in the United States." The interview, conducted by Elizabeth Wasserman, is available on-line .

Lewis discussed one of his more well-known works What Went Wrong: Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response on Volume 59 of the Journal. MARS HILL AUDIO published a full-length version of the interview as Conversation 19, "The Crisis of Islam and the Crisis of the West." [Posted May2004, ALG]

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<![CDATA[Islam and Redemptive History]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/islam-and-redemptive-history Mon, 14 Feb 2005 19:00:00 -0500 https://marshillaudio.org/node/594 catalog maintainer
14 Feb

Islam and Redemptive History

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Ken Myers
Published: 02/14/05
Subtitle:

Most discussions about Islam and Christianity since 9/11 have been conducted as exercises in comparative ethics: here's what Christianity teaches (and how Christians have behaved) and here's what Islam teaches (and how Muslims have behaved). But what if the Christian account of history and God's sovereignty is true: What does the magnificent reality of Islam mean?

Ever since the events of September 11, 2001, I have read dozens of articles that examine and compare Christian and Islamic teaching on war, peace, violence, and justice. As helpful as these have been, I have been waiting for a long time to see a Christian theologian reflect on the theological meaning of the phenomenon of Islam. When theologian Peter J. Leithart mentioned on his blog that he had recently completed an article on this subject and was looking for a place to publish it, I wrote and asked if he would let me see it. He graciously obliged, and eventually assented to my suggestion that we make the "Mirror of Christendom" available on our web pages. Readers who find his framework perplexing are encouraged to read his provocative book Against Christianity (Canon, 2003), which argues against Christianity as an abstraction or philosophy or worldview in favor of the Church as a concrete historical reality. It is in light of his assumption that the Church should be richly ramified in the world that Leithart suggests some avenues of understanding the providential purposes of the historical reality of Islam. [Posted February 2005, KAM]

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<![CDATA[Islam]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/islam Wed, 29 Jan 2003 19:00:00 -0500 https://marshillaudio.org/node/595 catalog maintainer
29 Jan

Islam

Category: What We're Reading
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 01/29/03
Subtitle:

Bibliographic sources from the liner notes of various editions of the Journal.

A guest on Volume 55 of the Journal, John Kelsay's Islam and War: A Study in Comparative Ethics (Westminster/John Knox Press, 1993) is a comparison of the Western tradition of just war and the Islamic tradition of war. In this book, Kelsay argues that generally, in the just-war tradition, religion is never a just cause for war, whereas in Islam, religion is the only just cause. Kelsay also co-edited (with James Turner Johnson) Cross, Crescent, and Sword: The Justification and Limitation of War in Western and Islamic Tradition (Greenwood, 1990). See also Human Rights and the Conflicts of Culture: Western and Islamic Perspectives on Religious Liberty (University of South Carolina Press, 1988), co-edited by Kelsay, David Little, Abdulaziz A. Sachedina, and Frederick Denny. Bernard Lewis's The Political Language of Islam (Chicago, 1991), traces the development of Islamic political philosophy from the very beginnings to the present. Lewis is also the author of The Shaping of the Modern Middle East (Oxford, 1994), The Assassins: A Radical Sect in Islam (Oxford, 1987), Islam and the West (Oxford, 1994), and The Multiple Identities of the Middle East (Schocken, 2001). Of this last book, the review in the Library Journal noted; "His new work should be required reading for all Westerners who have any serious interest in understanding how the history and religion of this dynamic area have led to very different interpretations of such traditional Western notions as nation, citizenship, and patriotism. Lewis ably communicates the primary importance of Islam in forming the core personal identity for area Muslims." [Posted June 2002, ALG]

Bernard Lewis discusses the similarities and differences between Islam and Western Civilization on Volume 59 of the Journal; his book What Went Wrong: Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response is published by Oxford University Press (2001). Bat Ye'or has researched extensively the history of the treatment of Christians and Jews in Islamic societies and documented the effects of the formal discrimination which conferred dhimmi status on Jews and Christians. Her books include The Decline of Eastern Christianity under Islam: From Jihad to Dhimmitude (Fairleigh Dickinson, 1996) and Islam and Dhimmitude: Where Civilizations Collide (Fairleigh Dickinson, 2001). Rudolph Peters has assembled an anthology of texts documenting the understanding of the idea of jihad in his book Jihad in Classical and Modern Islam: A Reader (Marcus Wiener Publishers, 1996). Daniel Pipes has recently observed (in "Jihad and the Professors," Commentary, November 2002, available on-line) that many academic scholars of Islam have been publicly denying the military connotations of jihad. Pipes, a veteran Middle East scholar, is also the author of the recent study Militant Islam Reaches America (Norton, 2002). Stephen Schwartz's Two Faces of Islam: The House of Sa'ud from Tradition to Terror (Doubleday, 2002) looks at the rise of Wahhabism, the movement which originated in the eighteenth century in an effort to purify Islam from various contaminants (Schwartz discusses this history on Volume 61 of the Journal). Two books that examine Islam more in the light of Christian apologetics than politics are Answering Islam: The Crescent in Light of the Cross (Baker, updated 2002), by Norman Geisler and Abdul Saleeb, and Islam at the Crossroads: Understanding the Beliefs, History, and Conflicts (Baker, 2002), by Paul A. Marshall, Lela Gilbert, and Roberta Green. [Posted January 2003, ALG]

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<![CDATA[Intelligent Design]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/intelligent-design Fri, 03 Oct 2003 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/596 catalog maintainer
3 Oct

Intelligent Design

Category: What We're Reading
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 10/03/03
Subtitle:

Readings from the liner notes.

William A. Dembski's The Design Inference (Cambridge, 1998) is a highly technical study aimed at philosophers interested in epistemology, logic, probability, and complexity theory. The book asks how we can identify events that happened by reason of intelligent causes and distinguish them from events due to undirected natural causes. His more recent book, Intelligent Design: The Bridge between Science and Theology (InterVarsity Press, 1999) is a more popular and wide-ranging volume. Dembski also edited the anthology Mere Creation: Science, Faith and Intelligent Design (InterVarsity Press, 1998); contributors to this volume include Michael Behe, Steven C. Meyer, Walter L. Bradley, Paul A. Nelson, and Hugh Ross. The July/August 1999 issue of Touchstone contains a number of essays by the same contributors (call 815.398.8569 for copies). Another recent title of similar interest is Michael J. Denton, Nature's Destiny: How the Laws of Biology Reveal Purpose in the Universe (Free Press, 1998). Denton is the Senior Research Fellow in Human Molecular Genetics at the University of Otago in New Zealand. His 1984 book, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis (Adler & Adler), is recommended by Dembski. Denton says that the new book's purpose is "first, to present scientific evidence for believing that the cosmos is uniquely fit for life as it exists on earth and for organisms of design and biology very similar to our own species, Homo sapiens, and second, to argue that this 'unique fitness' of the laws of nature for life is entirely consistent with the older teleological religious concept of the cosmos as a specially designed whole, with life and mankind as its primary goal and purpose." [Posted October 2001, ALG]

William Dembski has further contributed to the debate on intelligent design with his book The Design Revolution: Answering the Toughest Questions about Intelligent Design (InterVarsity Press, 2004). Stephen M. Barr, a guest on Volume 62 of the Journal, writes this about the work: "The Design Revolution is about questions of fundamental importance: Can one formulate objective criteria for recognizing design? What do such criteria tell us about design in the biological realm? Sad to say, even to raise such questions is dangerous; but fortunately Dembski is not deterred. In this courageous book he takes aim at the intellectual complacency that too often smothers serious and unprejudiced discussion of these questions." [Posted March 2004, ALG]

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<![CDATA[Housekeeping as Liturgy]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/housekeeping-liturgy Sun, 18 Mar 2007 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/597 catalog maintainer
18 Mar

Housekeeping as Liturgy

Category: What We're Reading
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 03/18/07
Subtitle:

One of the paradoxes of contemporary life is that homes are equipped with labor-saving appliances and yet people do not have time to cook and care for the home and its members as did past generations. Work that should be (with appliances) easy to complete is often pushed aside for either the sake of time or because it does not seem important. In a lecture given recently at the Center for Christian Study in Charlottesville, Virginia, professor Margaret Kim Peterson examines this paradox and establishes a theological framework explaining the importance and practice of keeping a home economy. . . .

One of the paradoxes of contemporary life is that homes are equipped with labor-saving appliances and yet people do not have time to cook and care for the home and its members as did past generations. Work that should be (with appliances) easy to complete is often pushed aside for either the sake of time or because it does not seem important. In a lecture given recently at the Center for Christian Study in Charlottesville, Virginia, professor Margaret Kim Peterson examines this paradox and establishes a theological framework explaining the importance and practice of keeping a home economy.

Peterson's lecture is the last in a four-part series titled "Focusing on the Family: Biblical, Sociological, and Ethical Views of Parental Authority." In her talk she discusses practicing hospitality in the home and what it means to think about the home as a sanctuary. She states that the work of the household is the most important work people could do. She also explains how to think about housekeeping in terms of litany and liturgy. Her talk—along with the others from the series—is available here. Her book on the topic is forthcoming in April 2007 from Jossey-Bass and is titled Keeping House: The Litany of Everyday Life.

Other MARS HILL AUDIO guests who have discussed hospitality, the economy of the home, the effects of the Industrial Revolution, and theology as a guide for living include: Christine Pohl, Miroslav Volf, Lendol Calder, Allan C. Carlson, and Dorothy Bass. Another guest who has written about the type and quality of kitchen appliances in homes is Christine Rosen; her article, "Are We Worthy of Our Kitchens?" is available online. Many thanks to Amy Gilbert, Lynne Heetderks, and Elizabeth Straight (all residents of Charlottesville) for bringing the lecture to our attention. [Posted March 2007, ALG]

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<![CDATA[Holy Writ Exalted in Verse]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/holy-writ-exalted-verse Wed, 04 Oct 2006 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/598 catalog maintainer
4 Oct

Holy Writ Exalted in Verse

Category: What We're Reading
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 10/04/06
Subtitle:

Earlier this year, "New on our desks . . ." featured two short annotations of books about how to read the Bible. Peter Enns wrote about taking the Bible on its own terms in Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament, and John J. O'Keefe and R. R. Reno studied how the Early Church Fathers understood Scripture in Sanctified Vision: An Introduction to Early Christian Interpretation of the Bible. . . .

Earlier this year, "New on our desks . . ." featured two short annotations of books about how to read the Bible. Peter Enns wrote about taking the Bible on its own terms in Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament, and John J. O'Keefe and R. R. Reno studied how the Early Church Fathers understood Scripture in Sanctified Vision: An Introduction to Early Christian Interpretation of the Bible. Some of the realities presented in both works are ancient and have been attended to by souls throughout the ages, as is evident in two poems by Anglican priest and poet George Herbert (1593-1633). His two poems that wonder at the glory, intricacy, and power of scripture, titled The Holy Scriptures I and II, are provided below. Many thanks to Lois Westerlund for drawing our attention to the works. Lois recently presented a four-part lecture series called "'True Beauty Dwells on High': The Poetry of George Herbert" at the Center for Christian Study in Charlottesville, Virginia. [Posted October 2006, ALG]


The Holy Scriptures I

Oh Book! infinite sweetness! let my heart

Suck ev'ry letter, and a honey gain,

Precious for any grief in any part;

To clear the breast, to mollify all pain.

Thou art all health, health thriving, till it make

A full eternity: thou art a mass

Of strange delights, where we may wish and take.

Ladies, look here; this is the thankfull glass,

That mends the looker's eyes: this is the well

That washes what it shows. Who can endear

Thy praise too much? thou art heav'n's Lidger here,

Working against the states of death and hell.

Thou art joy's handsel: heav'n lies flat in thee,

Subject to ev'ry mounter's bended knee.


The Holy Scriptures II

Oh that I knew how all thy lights combine,

And the configuration of their glory!

Seeing not only how each verse doth shine,

But all the constellations of the story.

This verse marks that, and both do make a motion

Unto a third, that ten leaves off doth lie:

Then as dispersed herbs do watch a potion,

These three make up some Christian's destiny:

Such are thy secrets, which my life makes good,

And comments on thee: for in ev'ry thing

Thy words do find me out, and parallels bring,

And in another make me understood.

Stars are poor books, and oftentimes do miss:

This book of stars lights to eternal bliss.

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<![CDATA[Happiness Has a History]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/happiness-has-history Thu, 28 Dec 2006 19:00:00 -0500 https://marshillaudio.org/node/599 catalog maintainer
28 Dec

Happiness Has a History

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 12/28/06
Subtitle:

On Volume 82 of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal, professor Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn discusses the work of the late Philip Rieff and how people become increasingly dissatisfied the more obsessively they pursue satisfaction and fulfillment. In a recent publication of The Trinity Forum, professor Wilfred McClay—also a guest on Volume 82—says much the same thing about happiness: . . .

On Volume 82 of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal, professor Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn discusses the work of the late Philip Rieff and how people become increasingly dissatisfied the more obsessively they pursue satisfaction and fulfillment. In a recent publication of The Trinity Forum, professor Wilfred McClay—also a guest on Volume 82—says much the same thing about happiness: when pursued as an end in itself, happiness is elusive. In "A Short History of Happiness," McClay writes that the way the current age thinks of happiness—as something everyone can and should achieve by themselves at any time—is not the way previous ages have understood it, nor is it the way Christianity understands it. He gives a brief history of various ideas about happiness and notes the role the Enlightenment played in the development of those ideas. He asserts that happiness might be best found along the way, as a byproduct while one is seeking something else, and that oftentimes it is fleeting. He explains how the Christian faith is suited particularly well for accounting for happiness and for grieving its loss.

"A Short History of Happiness" is published in the online journal of The Trinity Forum, Implications: Reflections & Provocations on Faith and Life. For an adaptation of it, see "The Paradox of the Pursuit of Happiness." The Trinity Forum is, according to its web site, "a leadership academy that works to cultivate networks of leaders whose integrity and vision will help renew culture and promote human freedom and flourishing. Our programs and publications offer contexts for leaders to consider together the big ideas that have shaped Western civilization and the faith that has animated its highest achievements." To find out more about it and Implications, click here. [Posted December 2006, ALG]

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<![CDATA[Guests on Volume 79]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/guests-volume-79 Tue, 18 Apr 2006 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/600 catalog maintainer
18 Apr

Guests on Volume 79

Category: What We're Reading
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 04/18/06
Subtitle:

The March/April 2006 issue of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal (Volume 79) features interviews with several guests who have been interviewed for previous volumes of the Journal. Two of the several are Carson Holloway and Peter Augustine Lawler, both of whom have also had their work reviewed in the Fall 2001 issue of The Intercollegiate Review. . . .

The March/April 2006 issue of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal (Volume 79) features interviews with several guests who have been interviewed for previous volumes of the Journal. Two of the several are Carson Holloway and Peter Augustine Lawler, both of whom have also had their work reviewed in the Fall 2001 issue of The Intercollegiate Review. Carson's book, All Shook Up: Music, Passion, and Politics, was reviewed by Glenn C. Arbery while Lawler's Postmodernism Rightly Understood: The Return to Realism in American Thought was reviewed by Wilson Carey McWilliams. The reviews are available here and here.

On MHAJ's upcoming Volume 79, Holloway discusses his The Right Darwin? Evolution, Religion, and the Future of Democracy; Lawler, meanwhile, talks about his Stuck with Virtue: The American Individual and Our Biotechnological Future. [Posted April 2006, ALG]

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<![CDATA[Georges Bernanos]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/georges-bernanos Mon, 16 May 2005 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/601 catalog maintainer
16 May

Georges Bernanos

Category: What We're Reading
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 05/16/05
Subtitle:

Subscribers who enjoyed the Volume 55 interview with J. C. Whitehouse on Georges Bernanos can now learn more about the French Catholic writer by visiting the MARS HILL AUDIO Georges Bernanos web page. [Posted May 2005, ALG]

Subscribers who enjoyed the Volume 55 interview with J. C. Whitehouse on Georges Bernanos can now learn more about the French Catholic writer by visiting the MARS HILL AUDIO Georges Bernanos web page. [Posted May 2005, ALG]

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<![CDATA[Free Trade Zone for Preferences]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/free-trade-zone-preferences Sat, 09 Jun 2001 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/602 catalog maintainer
9 Jun

Free Trade Zone for Preferences

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Ken Myers
Published: 06/09/01
Subtitle:

Philip Turner, the former Dean of the Berkeley Divinity School at Yale and currently the Vice President of the Anglican Communion Institute, examines "The Episcopalian Preference" in the November 2003 issue of First Things.

Philip Turner, the former Dean of the Berkeley Divinity School at Yale and currently the Vice President of the Anglican Communion Institute, examines "The Episcopalian Preference" in the November 2003 issue of First Things. The occasion for the article is the controversy surrounding the consecration of V. Gene Robinson as a bishop in the Episcopal Church, USA, the first candidly homosexual bishop in the denomination. (ECUSA) Turner looks at the failure of ECUSA since the mid-1960s to discipline its priests and bishops, a failure inspired by a desire to protect the image of the denomination as an open, inclusive, progressive body. But Turner sees larger cultural forces at work, forces that threaten American churches of every creed and style: "the subversion of Christian belief and practice by the logic of autonomous individualism, and the churches' transformation into simulacra. Make no mistake: what has happened in ECUSA is not a problem limited to a once (overly) proud denomination. Rather, it provides an exemplary case study of the subversion and transformation that, in one way or another, threatens all American denominations today."

Turner summarizes the critique of liberalism offered by Alasdair MacIntyre (in After Virtue and in Whose Justice? Which Rationality?) in which he argued that "the tradition of liberalism cannot allow for a single notion of the good to dominate 'the public square,' since liberal society must remain morally and theologically neutral. What one can express in public are not notions of good, but rather preferences. Of course, some way must be found to order preferences both in respect to individual life and to social policy. No rational way can be found to achieve this goal, however, because there is no common notion of the good to which public appeal can be made. Hence, one establishes preferences in the public arena primarily by bargaining. Everything in private as well as public life becomes a 'trade-off.' Social life becomes a sort of free trade zone for preferences."

MacIntyre labeled this dominant attitude toward moral understanding "emotivism," defined precisely (in After Virtue) as follows: "Emotivism is the doctrine that all evaluative judgments and more specifically all moral judgments are nothing but expressions of preference, expressions of attitude or feeling, insofar as they are moral or evaluative in character." [p. 11f.] Later, MacIntyre observed: "[T]o a large degree people now think, talk and act as if emotivism were true, no matter what their avowed theoretical standpoint may be. Emotivism has become embodied in our culture. But of course in saying this I am not merely contending that morality is not what it once was, but also and more importantly that what once was morality has to some large degree disappeared—and that this marks a degeneration, a grave cultural loss."

Philip Turner points out that since, in the framework of emotivism, assumptions about identity and the nature of moral agency are radically different than they were in the classical and Christian understanding of the moral life, the current arguments about legitimating homosexual behavior in the churches and in society at large are quite predictable.

"It is precisely this sexualized notion of moral agency and personal identity that makes the Robinson election so predictable. Here is a unique individual, who is a self with a particular history, and a person with a right to express his preferences and put his talents to work in the social world he inhabits. To deny him that right on the basis of sexual preference is to deny his personal identity. This notion of moral agency also makes understandable why the issues of abortion and euthanasia take their place alongside self-chosen sexual expression as centers of moral controversy both within the churches and without. At the heart of each of these arguments lies the characterization of moral agents as individuals, selves, and persons who have the right to pursue their own preferences, whatever they may be.

"In the culture wars that rage over abortion, euthanasia, and sexuality, defenders of more traditional Christian teaching and practice often miss the fact that they must confront American culture on a deeper level than any of these specific issues. If they are to be effective, they must take on the very way in which Americans think of themselves as moral agents. The 'socio-logic' that stands behind ECUSA's recent action beckons thinking to a deeper level than the sad history of this church's search for a distinctive place on the spectrum of American denominationalism. It tempts Christians to adopt a vision of moral and social life that runs counter to the very foundations of Christian thought and practice. And it raises the question of whether we inhabit a moral universe governed by an order we are called upon to understand and to which we are required to conform, or whether that universe is a mere product of preference-pursuing individuals, selves, and persons who create a social world suited to their self-defined goals through an elaborate process of moral bargaining."

Philip Turner has written earlier pieces that look in greater depth at the ideas of identity and moral agency as they relate to the understanding of sexual ethics. In "Undertakings and Promises: An Anatomy of Sexual Ethics" (First Things, April 1991, pp. 36-42), he argues that current thinking about sexual ethics is rooted in the "contractarian moral philosophy of Hobbes and Locke." Whereas traditional sexual ethics understood that the ends of sexual activity were rooted in the purposes of God, contemporary sexual ethics assumes that the ends are rooted in the choices of those engaged in the activities. And in "Sex and the Single Life" (First Things, May 1993), he comments further on the subjectivization of sexual ethics as concern about "commitment," "vulnerability," and "care" eclipses the reference points of God's revelation and the moral order of creation. [Posted December 2003, KAM]

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<![CDATA[Food and the Modern World]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/food-and-modern-world Tue, 15 Aug 2006 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/603 catalog maintainer
15 Aug

Food and the Modern World

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 08/15/06
Subtitle:

On Volume 62 of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal, Corby Kummer discusses his book The Pleasures of Slow Food: Celebrating Authentic Traditions, Flavors, and Recipes and the movement that encourages the preservation of local varieties of foods and the crafts used for preparing them. In a recent article in the London Review of Books, Steven Shapin reviews a book written by a man who spent time learning some of those arts. . . .

On Volume 62 of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal, Corby Kummer discusses his book The Pleasures of Slow Food: Celebrating Authentic Traditions, Flavors, and Recipes and the movement that encourages the preservation of local varieties of foods and the crafts used for preparing them. In a recent article in the London Review of Books, Steven Shapin reviews a book written by a man who spent time learning some of those arts. In "When Men Started Doing It," Shapin describes how the book, Heat: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker and Apprentice to a Butcher in Tuscany by Bill Buford, is different from other recent books about chefs and cooking. He also accounts for the wanderlust that drove Buford to quit his job at The New Yorker in order to become an apprentice to various chefs and "food artisans" in Manhattan and Italy. Shapin writes: "Buford is a romantic, and what's gone wrong with the modern world—as he sees it—is the commodification of food and the loss of skill in making and preparing it: not knowing what's at the end of your fork but especially not knowing how to make it, not knowing how to use your hands and your senses. Having spent his working life making intellectual artistic judgments, Buford wanted to be able to make sensory artisanal judgments: how much pressure to apply to the point of a very sharp knife when separating the muscles of a cow's thigh, and to the ends of a matterello when rolling out pasta for ravioli, how to gauge the proper resilience of dough, how to touch grilled meat to tell its degree of doneness, how to hear when the risotto needs more broth, how to smell when the fish is cooked, how to tell by sight alone whether the meat is good, how to taste on the roof of your mouth the difference between grass-fed and grain-finished beef, how the polenta looks when it's ready and how to judge when it doesn't need stirring. . . . What he wanted was to be a very good cook, a cook who was the steward of vanishing artisanal traditions: 'I didn't want this knowledge in order to be a professional; just to be more human'—where more human is understood to mean less modern."

"When Men Started Doing It" is available on-line. Devoted proponents of Gnosticism should read this. [Posted August 2006, ALG]

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<![CDATA[Flannery O'Connor]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/flannery-oconnor Fri, 03 Oct 2003 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/604 catalog maintainer
3 Oct

Flannery O'Connor

Category: What We're Reading
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 10/03/03
Subtitle:

MARS HILL AUDIO Conversation

Professors Susan Srigley and Ralph Wood discuss Flannery O'Connor's literature and her acceptance of limits on the MARS HILL AUDIO Conversation "Hillbilly Thomist: Flannery O'Connor and the Truth of Things." A description of the Conversation is available here. [Posted October 2005, ALG]

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<![CDATA[Flannery O'Connor]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/flannery-oconnor-0 Tue, 21 Aug 2001 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/605 catalog maintainer
21 Aug

Flannery O'Connor

Category: What We're Reading
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 08/21/01
Subtitle:

Titles recommended by Ralph Wood, a guest who talks about Flannery O'Connor on Volume 73 of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal.

Melvin J. Friedman and Lewis A. Lawson (eds.), The Added Dimension: The Art of Mind of Flannery O'Connor (Fordham University Press, 1989)

Frederick Asals, Flannery O'Connor: The Imagination of Extremity (University of Georgia Press, 1982)

John F. Desmond, Risen Sons: Flannery O'Connor's Vision of History (University of Georgia Press, 1987)

Richard Giannone, Flannery O'Connor and the Mystery of Love (Fordham University Press, 1999)

Jon Lance Bacon, Flannery O'Connor and Cold War Culture (Cambridge University Press, 2005) [Posted August 2005, ALG]

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<![CDATA[Euthanasia]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/euthanasia Sat, 05 Apr 2003 19:00:00 -0500 https://marshillaudio.org/node/606 catalog maintainer
5 Apr

Euthanasia

Category: What We're Reading
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 04/05/03
Subtitle:

A sampling of sources from The Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity at Trinity International University, and from Michael Poore, executive director of The Humanitas Project:

A sampling of sources from The Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity at Trinity International University, and from Michael Poore, executive director of The Humanitas Project:

—Wesley J. Smith, Forced Exit: The Slippery Slope from Assisted Suicide to Legalized Murder (Times Books, 1997)

—Gary P. Stewart, et al., Basic Questions on Suicide and Euthanasia: Are They Ever Right? (Kregel, 1998)

—Nigel M. de S. Cameron, The New Medicine: Life and Death after Hippocrates (Bioethics Press, reprint 2001)

—Wendell Berry, "Fidelity," published in Fidelity: Five Stories (Pantheon Books, 1993) and That Distant Land: The Collected Stories (Shoemaker & Hoard, 2004)

—C. Ben Mitchell, ed., Aging, Death and the Quest for Immortality (Eerdmans, 2004)

—John F. Kilner, Life on the Line: Ethics, Aging, Ending Patients' Lives, and Allocating Vital Resources (Eerdmans, 1992)

—J. Daryl Charles, "The 'Right to Die' in the Light of Contemporary Rights Rhetoric," published in John F. Kilner, et al., Bioethics and the Future of Medicine: A Christian Appraisal (Eerdmans, 1995)

—Wesley J. Smith, Culture of Death: The Assault on Medical Ethics in America (Encounter Books, 2002)

—Rita Marker, Deadly Compassion: The Death of Ann Humphry and the Truth about Euthanasia (William Morrow & Co., 1993)

—Germain Grisez & Joseph Boyle, Life and Death with Liberty and Justice: A Contribution to the Euthanasia Debate (Notre Dame, 1980)

—Herbert Hendin, Seduced by Death: Doctors, Patients and Assisted Suicide (Norton, 1998)

—Pope John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae, printed in Medical Ethics: Sources of Catholic Teaching (Georgetown University Press, 1999)

—The Ramsey Colloquium, "Always to Care, Never to Kill: A Declaration on Euthanasia," First Things (February 1992): 45-47

—Daniel Callahan, "The Sanctity of Life Seduced: A Symposium on Medical Ethics," First Things (April 1994): 13-27

—Avery Dulles, Russell Hittinger, Richard M. Doerflinger, and Robert P. George, "The Gospel of Life: A Symposium," First Things (October 1995): 32-38

—Michael Uhlmann, "The Legal Logic of Euthanasia," First Things (June/July 1996): 39-43

—William Saletan, "Alternative Sentence: A Counterproposal to Assisted Suicide" Slate (March 3, 2005)

—Richard Weikart, "Killing Them Kindly: Lessons from the Euthanasia Movement," Books & Culture (February 1, 2004)

Organizations to consult for further information include the Patients Rights Council (previously known as the International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide), on-line here, and the President's Council on Bioethics—Aging and End of Life, on-line here. [Posted April 2005, ALG]

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<![CDATA[Eurabia by 2100?]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/eurabia-2100 Thu, 30 Sep 2004 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/607 catalog maintainer
30 Sep

Eurabia by 2100?

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 09/30/04
Subtitle:

Was the liberation of Vienna from the Turks in 1683 merely a delay of the inevitable? Bernard Lewis thinks so.

Historian Bernard Lewis set the course for vigorous political discussion in Europe this fall with an assertion he made in an interview in July published in the Hamburg-based daily paper Die Welt. Lewis, a guest on Volume 59 of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal, was asked if the European Union could serve as a global counterweight to the United States in the future and he answered that, no, it could not serve as such because it would be a part of the Arabic west by the end of this century. His comment in the interview—which was actually an interview about the war in Iraq, not about Europe and the European Union—sparked debate about the probability and desirability of an Islamic Europe. Outgoing European Union competition commissioner Frits Bolkestein mentioned Lewis's remarks in a speech he gave in September when he compared the current situation of an increasingly Islamic Europe to that of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, of which the majority population was Austrian but became Hungarian. Bolkestein suggested that Europe consider whether or not it desires to become further Islamicized before forging ahead with plans to open negotiations for European Union membership with nations with large Islamic populations. Details about Bolkestein's speech are available on-line; see Christopher Caldwell's "Islamic Europe?" in the October 4, 2004, issue of The Weekly Standard.

Journalist Robert Spencer details the current extent of Muslim influence in European countries in his September 16 article posted on Human Events On-Line. In the article Spencer, who appropriates Lewis's quote for his title, "'Europe Will Be Islamic by the End of the Century,'" comments on Lewis's statement and chronicles the growing presence of Muslims in Sweden and Denmark, along with Islamic terrorist activity in the Netherlands and Spain. Spencer wrote an earlier article—published on-line in the March 18, 2004, issue of FrontPageMagazine.com—which sheds light on why Europe began to be Islamicized.

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<![CDATA[Eugenics in America]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/eugenics-america Sun, 27 Mar 2005 19:00:00 -0500 https://marshillaudio.org/node/608 catalog maintainer
27 Mar

Eugenics in America

Category: What We're Reading
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 03/27/05
Subtitle:

New book tells the story of eugenics laws in North Carolina at the turn of the twentieth century.

In an interview on Volume 70 of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal, Christine Rosen discusses her book Preaching Eugenics: Religious Leaders and the American Eugenics Movement and the eugenics laws that some states—Virginia included—passed in the early twentieth century. The laws, she explains, were used as models for the eugenics practices the Nazis regime adopted. Now a book from the University of North Carolina Press, Choice & Coercion: Birth Control, Sterilization and Abortion in Public Health and Welfare, examines the eugenics laws of North Carolina and their lasting affect on the state and its members. [Posted March 2005, ALG]

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<![CDATA[Digital Equality and the Untuning of the World]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/digital-equality-and-untuning-world Mon, 13 Apr 2009 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/609 catalog maintainer
13 Apr

Digital Equality and the Untuning of the World

Category: What We're Reading
By: Ken Myers
Published: 04/13/09
Subtitle:

Lee Siegel's most recent book, Against the Machine, is a pointed exploration of themes MARS HILL AUDIO addresses frequently: the centrality of the sovereign self in modern culture (and the dehumanizing effects of that sovereignty), the way technologies rearrange social relationships without our noticing the changes (or their consequences), and the erosion of forms of cultural authority. . . .

Lee Siegel's most recent book, Against the Machine, is a pointed exploration of themes MARS HILL AUDIO addresses frequently: the centrality of the sovereign self in modern culture (and the dehumanizing effects of that sovereignty), the way technologies rearrange social relationships without our noticing the changes (or their consequences), and the erosion of forms of cultural authority. These are concerns that have emerged in other essays by Siegel, who has contributed regularly for the last decade to The New Republic, The Nation, and Slate. In this book, subtitled Being Human in the Age of the Electronic Mob, Siegel's concerns about the consequences of cultural carelessness seem more closely defined, if sometimes overstated.

Siegel's range of cultural criticism is broad; his 2006 book, Falling Upwards: Essays in Defense of the Imagination, included pieces about J. K. Rowling, Saul Bellow, Jack Nicholson, Jane Austen, The Sopranos, and Dante. That same year, he wrote a cover story for The New Republic about Oprah Winfrey, Thank You for Sharing, a brilliant analysis of how Oprah had become such a powerful public figure by showcasing themes that resonate with certain dominant cultural vibrations. Having acquired cultural influence by reflecting certain values, her public presence further reinforces those vibrations, which snowballs her to remarkable social influence.

In the Oprah article, Siegel discussed two interrelated cultural patterns: the narcissistic preoccupations encouraged by the modern elevation of the self at the center of the moral universe, and the erasing of objective hierarchies of significance that accompanies that enthroned self. In Siegel's analysis, a large proportion of Oprah's diverse range of guests are united by their stories of struggle and survival, of suffering and growth—stories that serve a therapeutic purpose for viewers anxious about navigating the shoals of their own experience. While stories of growth through suffering sound redemptive, Siegel suggests that Oprah's paradigmatic stories encourage personal growth on terms established autonomously by each person. In other words, each of us sets out to become the self we choose to be, on our own terms. Our actions are meaningful not in the context of some overarching moral framework, but as episodes in the construction of that self-authenticating self. And we can find encouragement for negotiating obstacles in our way by empathizing with the plucky and resourceful guests on one of Oprah's comfy chairs.

But Siegel worried that a crucial capacity for moral reflection and evaluation was undermined by the empathy marathon in Oprahworld, which seems to be

a kingdom of mere sensations, in which no experience has a higher—or different—value than any other experience. We weep and empathize with the self-destructive mother, we weep and empathize with Sidney Poitier, we weep and empathize with the young woman dying of anorexia, we weep and empathize with Teri Hatcher, we weep and empathize with the girl with the disfigured face, we weep and empathize with the grateful recipients of Oprah's gift of a new car to every member of one lucky audience, we weep and empathize with the woman burned beyond recognition by her vicious husband. In the end, like the melting vision of tearing eyes, the situations blur into each other without distinction. They are all relative to your own experience of watching them. The fungibility of feeling is really a reduction of all experience to the effect it has on your own quality of feeling.

The implication here is that all powerful feelings are self-authenticating. According to the cultural ethos exploited and sustained by Oprah (and countless others), no one need regard any feelings as disproportionate, misdirected, or disordered.

The socially destructive effects of narcissism (and of the idea that the self is a project we create autonomously) are also examined throughout Against the Machine. In a chapter called The Me Is the Message, Siegel recalls Christopher Lasch's 1978 The Culture of Narcissism, and Lasch's concern about a rising tide of confessional writing evident in American culture. As Siegel notes, Lasch was worried that such self-preoccupation would create an inner sense of emptiness by exalting the self and cutting it off from reality. Such isolated self-scrutiny, packed with psychiatric clichés, made people so self-conscious that they felt as though they were performing their existence rather than living it. Siegel believes that what Lasch saw was the initial edge of a social revolution, and argues that the way Internet technologies have developed has enabled the advent of the first social environment to serve the needs of the isolated, elevated, asocial individual.

In Siegel's view, the connections made possible by this technology do not compensate for the disconnections it encourages:

[T]he Internet creates a vast illusion that the physical, social world of interacting minds and hearts does not exist. In this new situation, the screen is all that is the case, along with the illusion that the screen projects of a world tamed, digested, abbreviated, rationalized, and ordered into a trillion connected units, called sites. This new world turns the most consequential fact of human life—other people—into seemingly manipulable half presences wholly available to our fantasies. . . . What kind of idea do we have of the world when, day after day, we sit in front of our screens and enter further and further into the illusion that we ourselves are actually creating our own external reality out of our own internal desires? We become impatient with realities that don't gratify our impulses or satisfy our picture of reality. We find it harder to accept the immutable limitations imposed by identity, talent, personality. We start to behave in public as if we were acting in private, and we begin to fill our private world with gargantuan public appetites. In other words, we find it hard to bear simply being human.

Late in the book, Siegel describes the quasi-gnostic effect of Internet communications, observing that when you are online,

you don't have to be communicating with anyone in particular. Just being online means that you are communicating with everyone in general. . . . There are no physical reminders of where the other presences online begin and end. There are no concrete inhibitors. And because you are alone, without bounded people, or a definite environment, or delineated circumstances—because there is nothing to remind you that you yourself have limits—you can 'express' yourself out of the infinite conceptions you have of yourself. . . . Such absolute liberation from constraints is why anonymity is so widespread on the Internet, and why everything on the Internet tends toward anonymity: the hidden solitude of sitting before the screen, the spectral half-person presence of being online, the sense of yourself and of other people as having no boundaries. After expertise, authority, and merit have fallen away as obstacles, identity remains the last barrier to the vicarious, acquisitive, totally accessing, fully participating Internet will. Anonymity, you might say, is the Internet's ultimate identity. If you are not who you say you are, you can be anyone you wish to be.



Boundaries are a central idea in Siegel's book; not only the boundedness of identity and personal experience, but the proper boundedness of ideas. Early in the book, he observes that the Internet ideal of giving everyone a voice begs the question of whether everyone deserves—in every setting—the same hearing. The digital mechanisms and social structures that give everyone a voice can also be a way to keep the most creative, intelligent, and original voices from being heard.

Boundaries (along with hierarchies) are also implicitly in play when Siegel discusses the difference between being knowledgeable and being well-informed.

[K]nowledge means you understand a subject, its causes and consequence, its history and development, its relationship to some fundamental aspect of life. But you can possess a lot of information about something without understanding it. An excess of information can even disable knowledge; it can unmoor the mind from its surroundings by breaking up its surroundings into meaningless data.



In Ideas Have Consequences, Richard Weaver observed that many modern people wish to know the truth, but they have been taught a perversion which makes their chance of obtaining it less every day. This perversion is that in a just society there are no distinctions. A just society—the conventional wisdom has it—will tolerate no elites, let alone honor them. This egalitarianism and its repudiation of cultural authority is the consequence of the blogosphere Siegel finds most repulsive. The Internet, Siegel claims, has created a universal impatience with authority, with any kind of superiority conferred by excellence of expertise. Created is an unwarranted verb: Weaver saw this impatience in the 1940s. But the Internet has certainly aided and abetted this tendency; its economic, social, and technical capacities make it ever easier for sheer popularity to replace excellence as the sole criterion of cultural value.

Siegel's greatest sin in the eyes of his critics is his insistence that culture should not be democratic. When he asserts that Not everyone has something meaningful to say, he is dismissed as undemocratic, an enemy of equality. But, as Richard Weaver warned, an undefined equalitarianism is the most insidious idea employed to break down society. . . . Thomas Jefferson, after his long apostleship to radicalism, made it the labor of his old age to create an educational system which would be a means of sorting out according to gifts and attainments.

One other observation of Weaver's seems to resonate with Lee Siegel's critique of bloggers, especially those who proudly dismiss the dinosaur of mainstream media as antiquated and enemies of universal access. Weaver noted I would mention here the fact, obvious to any candid observer, that 'equality' is found most often in the mouths of those engaged in artful self-promotion. These secretly cherish the ladder to high designs but find that they can mount the lower runs more easily by making use of the catchword. We do not necessarily grudge them their rise, but the concept they foster is fatal to the harmony of the world.

Posted by Ken Myers on 4/14/09

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<![CDATA[Cultural Health and the Arts]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/cultural-health-and-arts Sun, 22 Jul 2007 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/610 catalog maintainer
22 Jul

Cultural Health and the Arts

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Ken Myers
Published: 07/22/07
Subtitle:

One of the reasons I do the work I do is because I believe that American society is in a state of cultural deterioration, and that the Church is often making things worse rather than better. Specifically, serious art, literature, and music no longer have the position of importance in the lives of educated Americans they once had, and I believe that our lives (and the shared life we call our "culture") are worse off for that. Celebrities (people famous for being famous rather than for creative achievement) have replaced artists in the minds and hearts of people who should know better. That was one of the subjects addressed in the commencement address given at Stanford University this year by Dana Gioia, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. . . .

One of the reasons I do the work I do is because I believe that American society is in a state of cultural deterioration, and that the Church is often making things worse rather than better. Specifically, serious art, literature, and music no longer have the position of importance in the lives of educated Americans they once had, and I believe that our lives (and the shared life we call our "culture") are worse off for that. Celebrities (people famous for being famous rather than for creative achievement) have replaced artists in the minds and hearts of people who should know better. That was one of the subjects addressed in the commencement address given at Stanford University this year by Dana Gioia, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts.

Gioia's speech is on-line, so I won't try to summarize it here. I will only underscore Gioia's emphasis on art education as an essential part of the remedy for our condition, and ask you to join me in a thought experiment. What would happen if theologically conservative Christians were noted for their commitment to improving arts education in public schools more than for their opposition to the teaching of evolution? Is it possible that a commitment to a well-trained imagination is a necessary asset in properly apprehending the kind of thing Creation is?

Dana Gioia has been a guest a few times on the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal. If you haven't heard him, he may be heard on one of our free bonus tracks talking about Longfellow.

Posted by Ken Myers on 7/23/07

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<![CDATA[Consumer Culture]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/consumer-culture Sun, 21 Oct 2001 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/611 catalog maintainer
21 Oct

Consumer Culture

Category: What We're Reading
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 10/21/01
Subtitle:

A sampling of sources . . .

Financing the American Dream: Debt, Credit, and the Making of the American Consumer Culture was published by Princeton. Robert Bocock provides a sociological survey of the topic in his 1993 book, Consumption (Key Ideas) (Routledge). Writing that "Consumerism has become the practical ideology of capitalism," he traces the shift in the basis of social identity from production to consumption. Although no longer in print, T. J. Jackson Lears's The Culture of Consumption: Critical Essays in American History, 1880-1980 (Pantheon, 1983) provides a historical understanding of credit and consumption in a period of great change. In Lead Us Into Temptation: The Triumph of American Materialism (Columbia, 1999), James Twitchell sets forth the provocative thesis that consumption is an outgrowth of our need for self-identity—a need for which the culture no longer provides. Countering the idea that consumers are the hapless victims of marketers, Twitchell believes we have quite willingly become a consumer culture—indeed, "consumerism is our better judgement." [Posted October 2001, ALG]

For further resources, see Gary Cross's An All-Consuming Century, published by Columbia University. An earlier work by Cross, Kids Stuff: Toys and the Changing World of American Childhood (Harvard, 1999), examines in detail the effects of consumerism on children. Michael Sandel examines the emergence of "the newest commercial frontier—the public schools" in his essay "Ad Nauseum" in the September 1, 1997, issue of The New Republic. [Posted November 2001, ALG]

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<![CDATA[Clip mentioned in <cite>Addenda,</cite> November, 2005]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/clip-mentioned-addenda-november-2005 Mon, 17 Nov 2003 19:00:00 -0500 https://marshillaudio.org/node/612 catalog maintainer
17 Nov

Clip mentioned in Addenda, November, 2005

Category: What We're Reading
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 11/17/03
Subtitle:

On this audio clip Alan Jacobs explains the centrality of the Chronicles of Narnia in the writings of C. S. Lewis.

On this audio clip Alan Jacobs explains the centrality of the Chronicles of Narnia in the writings of C. S. Lewis. [Posted November 2005, ALG]

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<![CDATA[Christopher Wolfe's Recommended Readings]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/christopher-wolfes-recommended-readings Sat, 19 May 2001 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/613 catalog maintainer
19 May

Christopher Wolfe's Recommended Readings

Category: What We're Reading
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 05/19/01
Subtitle:

For informative discussion about homosexuality, Christopher Wolfe?who discussed the subject on Volume 49?recommends several books and web sites.

For informative discussion about homosexuality, Christopher Wolfe—who discussed the subject on Volume 49—recommends the following websites: www.CourageRC.net; www.exodus-international.org; www.peoplecanchange.com; and www.narth.com.

For further reading he recommends the following books (quotes from Wolfe):

Fr. John F. Harvey, The Truth About Homosexuality: The Cry of the Faithful (Ignatius Press, 1996); David Morrison, Beyond Gay (Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Co., 1999); and Christopher Wolfe, ed., Homosexuality and American Public Life (Spence, 2000). "These books contain chapters on a wide range of topics associated with this issue."

Gerard J. M. van den Aardweg, The Battle for Normality: A Guide for (Self-) Therapy for Homosexuality (Ignatius Press, 1997) and On the Origins and Treatment of Homosexuality: A Psychoanalytic Re-interpretation (Praeger, 1985). "Written by a psychiatrist with a great deal of clinical experience, it provides a kind of self-help manual for those dealing with same-sex attractions."

Jeffrey Satinover, Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth (Baker Books, 1996). "Dr. Satinover is absolutely excellent on the genetic and biological aspects of homosexuality."

Elizabeth R. Moberly, Homosexuality: A New Christian Ethic (James Clark, 1983). "A very short book, written by a Christian psychiatrist."

George A. Rekers, ed., Handbook of Child and Adolescent Sexual Problems (Lexington Books, 1995). "Written by a counselor with a great deal of experience in dealing with young people who experience tendencies toward homosexuality."

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<![CDATA[Christian-Muslim Dialogue]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/christian-muslim-dialogue Thu, 29 Apr 2004 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/614 catalog maintainer
29 Apr

Christian-Muslim Dialogue

Category: What We're Reading
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 04/29/04
Subtitle:

In an effort to meet some of the questions coming from the increasing interest in education and encounters between Christians and Muslims, The Institute on Religion and Democracy has published "Christian-Muslim Dialogue: A Guide for Churches."

"Within the Church, Christian-Muslim relations have been largely the concern of a small group of specialists. All that changed on September 11, 2001." In an effort to meet some of the questions coming from the increasing interest in education and encounters between Christians and Muslims, The Institute on Religion and Democracy has published "Christian-Muslim Dialogue: A Guide for Churches." The brochure, the contents of which were originally printed in the summer 2003 issue of the Institute's Faith & Freedom magazine, divides its guidelines for dialogue into two categories: appropriate and necessary subjects and means of communication; and inappropriate and damaging subjects and means of communication. Suggestions in the former category include: "Make sure that the Christians entering into dialogue with Muslims have a firm grasp of an orthodox faith in the mainstream of the Christian tradition." Suggestions in the latter category include: "Play political games inside the Muslim community, elevating leaders that we Christians favor and ignoring those that we dislike." To order "Christian-Muslim Dialogue" brochures from The Institute on Religion and Democracy, call (202) 969-8430 or e-mail enelson@ird-renew.org.

The Institute for Religion and Democracy describes itself as "a non-profit organization committed to reforming the Church's social and political witness and to building and strengthening democracy and religious liberty, at home and abroad." Diane L. Knippers, Alan F. H. Wisdom, and Steve R. Rempe are among those who run the Institute. For more information, visit the Institute's web pages. [Posted April 2004, ALG]

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<![CDATA[Christianity and Science in the Beginning]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/christianity-and-science-beginning Thu, 12 Jan 2006 19:00:00 -0500 https://marshillaudio.org/node/615 catalog maintainer
12 Jan

Christianity and Science in the Beginning

Category: What We're Reading
By: Ken Myers
Published: 01/12/06
Subtitle:

It is widely affirmed that Francis Bacon (1561-1626) is a pivotal figure in Western cultural history. Bacon was a champion and publicist for what became known as the "scientific method," sometimes referred to (in honor of his singular role in promoting its legitimacy) as the Baconian method. The central assertion of this new way of knowing and explaining the world was that empirical and inductive practices could lead to experimentally verified (and repeatedly verifiable) set of conclusions about how things happen. Classical forms of knowledge of the world proceeded by deducing conclusions in the abstract from an array of more fundamental propositions. . . .

It is widely affirmed that Francis Bacon (1561-1626) is a pivotal figure in Western cultural history. Bacon was a champion and publicist for what became known as the "scientific method," sometimes referred to (in honor of his singular role in promoting its legitimacy) as the Baconian method. The central assertion of this new way of knowing and explaining the world was that empirical and inductive practices could lead to experimentally verified (and repeatedly verifiable) set of conclusions about how things happen. Classical forms of knowledge of the world proceeded by deducing conclusions in the abstract from an array of more fundamental propositions.

While figures like Galileo (1564-1642), Kepler (1571-1630), and Newton (1643-1727) are often regarded as pioneering scientists whose work had widespread influence, Bacon might be better seen as the first philosopher or theorist of science. Bacon is not known for scientific discoveries, but for outlining and defending a new approach to the world which included techniques and habits of thought. Bacon introduced a mindset into the Western world that has become its dominant identifying feature. In his characterization of what underlies Western cultural life, theologian and missiologist Lesslie Newbigin observes that the most important cultural effect of the rise of the Baconian method was to impart to the West a sense of mastery over the world, and a loss of concern for questions of purpose. "To have discovered [through inductive techniques] the cause of something is to have explained it. There is no need to invoke purpose or design as an explanation. There is no place for miracles or divine intervention in providence as categories of explanation." (Foolishness to the Greeks, p. 24)

In time, this new mentality evoked the sense that dealing with Nature (with the goal of mastery) was a more suitable preoccupation for a society than dealing with God (from a standpoint of submission and obedience). And so science is credited with having a secularizing influence in Western culture. This has led many cultural historians to argue that Francis Bacon himself was a pioneer of secularization. Even though Bacon used religious language and ideas to defend the new science (e.g., framing the project of practical social improvement, "the relief of man's estate," through the acquisition of practical knowledge as a way of undoing some of the effects of the Fall), these historians have argued that Bacon was fundamentally interested in purely social and political concerns, not in anything religious, transcendent, or eternal.

Historian Stephen A. McKnight has written a new book, The Religious Foundations of Francis Bacon's Thought (University of Missouri Press) which argues that Bacon did not employ religious ideas with cynical and manipulative intent, but with the utmost sincerity. Rather "Bacon's program of utopian reform, as presented in the 'New Atlantis,' is grounded in genuinely and deeply felt religious convictions, which serve as the foundation for his program of political and social prosperity through the advancement of learning."

An excerpt from McKnight's book was published in the Fall 2005 issue of the journal The New Atlantis (now you know where the title comes from!), and is available online. If all goes well, Stephen A. KcKnight will appear on volume 79 of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal, during which time questions will be raised about whether Bacon's religious ideas were theologically sound as well as sincere. [Posted January 2006, KAM]

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<![CDATA[Charles Sherlock, <cite>The Doctrine of Humanity: Contours of Christian Theology</cite> (InterVarsity Press, 1996)]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/charles-sherlock-doctrine-humanity-contours-christian-theology-intervarsity-press-1996 Sat, 20 Sep 2003 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/616 catalog maintainer

"Perhaps the most basic problem with the idea of the image of God as a religious faculty in humans is the assumption that it is an individual, rather than a relational and personal, reality. Behind this is another assumption, that the image of God can be defined as an entity in itself, and so be identifiable within an individual. Again, once an individual interpretation is assumed, the question of gender arises sharply: given that women and men are different, does one possess the image more than the other? These types of questions lie behind much contemporary discussion of the image of God." Charles Sherlock, The Doctrine of Humanity

In The Doctrine of Humanity: Contours of Christian Theology, Charles Sherlock observes that the great diversity of peoples and cultures in the world makes it challenging to think or speak of a singular human nature. To have an understanding of what it means to be human is important, though, and in The Doctrine of Humanity Sherlock investigates what the Christian faith affirms about being human in order to equip people who are formulating just such an understanding. The essential affirmation about being human that the Christian faith makes, he writes, is that ". . . to be human means to be made 'in the image of God'. This visionary, enigmatic answer is explicated in Christian understanding by pointing to Jesus Christ, who is both 'the image of the invisible God' (Col. 1:15) and the image of perfect humanity (Heb. 2:14-18)." Sherlock spends the rest of the work studying what this means, and what human experience reveals about being human.

The Doctrine of Humanity contains two foci, the latter of which is subdivided. Focus 1 is theological; it explores the bible's affirmation that humans are made in the image of God. Its chapters discuss what it means to be made in the image of God, and how being image bearers is understood both in light of Christ and in Christian thought historically. Focus 2 concentrates on the reality of human experience and existence, both communally and personally. The chapters in 2A examine human relationships in society, those relationships within the natural world, and human culture; the chapters in 2B highlight human uniqueness, being a woman, being a man, and human beings as embodied and sensual persons. [Posted September 2005, ALG]

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<![CDATA[Chantal Delsol, <cite>The Unlearned Lessons of the Twentieth Century: An Essay on Late Modernity</cite> trans. by Robin Dick (ISI Books, 2006)]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/chantal-delsol-unlearned-lessons-twentieth-century-essay-late-modernity-trans-robin-dick-isi Thu, 29 Mar 2007 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/617 catalog maintainer
29 Mar

Chantal Delsol, The Unlearned Lessons of the Twentieth Century: An Essay on Late Modernity trans. by Robin Dick (ISI Books, 2006)

Category: What We're Reading
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 03/29/07
Subtitle:

"Hope for the future rests on the double certitude of man's frailty as well as his promise. These two certainties are interwoven opposites. To deny man's frailty leads to utopia. To deny his promise makes the certainty of his frailty lead to cynicism or inflexibility. A humanity that is marked by its failings can cling to hope only if it also carries within itself potentialities that are yet to be achieved." . . .

Hope for the future rests on the double certitude of man's frailty as well as his promise. These two certainties are interwoven opposites. To deny man's frailty leads to utopia. To deny his promise makes the certainty of his frailty lead to cynicism or inflexibility. A humanity that is marked by its failings can cling to hope only if it also carries within itself potentialities that are yet to be achieved. Chantal Delsol, The Unlearned Lessons of the Twentieth Century

In The Unlearned Lessons of the Twentieth Century: An Essay on Late Modernity, French philosopher Chantal Delsol describes the spirit of the age, what the age has inherited from modernity, and wherein lies hope for the future. Delsol notes that modernity, the age of totalitarian regimes, has left man with little hope for the future and little hope in institutions. It has left man clinging to the certainty that individuals have dignity, but without a framework for establishing why man has dignity or in what his dignity is found. She describes why totalitarian regimes came to dominate the political and social spheres, how they have failed and what remains of their attitude towards man, and what needs to be recovered or emphasized for a new era to be born out of late modernity. She writes: "To ward off totalitarianism, it is not enough to dismiss it; totalitarianism must be replaced. The question of hope then ceases to be an academic debate. If we still have the value of personal dignity to defend, it becomes a question of responsibility: what must we become in order to safeguard that principle? Who is the person-subject, possessor of dignity, and what kind of common world can guarantee his existence?" (p. 9)

Before the age of totalitarian regimes, man found meaning for life and the cosmos in the cultures and institutions in which he was embedded. His sense of dignity came from the reality of his being distinct from other living beings, from his ability to confer meaning on the world and its happenings. Eventually, however, man rejected the idea that meaning was conveyed to him from the outside and tried, instead, to internalize it. When the weight of meaning and existence became too much to bear, man looked for help to regimes which promised to care for him, to give him meaning, and to provide hope for the future. Thus was born the age of totalitarian regimes and hope in progress for the future. These regimes, however, did not understand human nature and justice and ended up stripping man of his dignity and slaughtering their citizens by the thousands. In the wake of these regimes, man is left with no sense of hope for the future, no cultures or institutions from which to gather meaning, and a sense of dignity but no structure to support it. The time is ripe, notes Delsol, for man to grow up. To take responsibility for his circumstances, to commit to imperfect relationships even though they will be problematic, to commit to communities and cultures from which he can draw meaning, and to begin to transmit his culture to the next generation. It is time for man to acknowledge both the frailty and promise in subject-persons and to begin to nurture them for the sake of society. It is time for him to "risk being" in an objective, imperfect order, knowing that he is equipped with the tools for navigating his way. Delsol writes: "The future belongs to those who will work to promote the excellence of beings. Everything that nurtures the subject will also nurture society. The converse is no more than a farce drenched in blood." (p. 198)

The Unlearned Lessons of the Twentieth Century consists of sixteen chapters, notes, and an index. Chapter titles are: "Introduction"; "The Insularity of the Human Species"; "The Unalterable Human Form, or the Lessons of the Twentieth Century"; "Derision and Revolt"; "The Traces of a Wounded Animal"; "Insufficiency and the Human World"; "Must the Subject Be Saved?"; "The Modern Subject, or Incomplete Certitudes"; "The Figure of the Witness"; "Common Values as Language"; "Economics as Religion and the Paradoxes of Materialism"; "Human Rights, Body and Soul"; "The Universal as Promise"; "The Ubiquity of Evil"; "Interiority and Eternity"; and "Conclusion."

Delsol's emphasis on the importance of the person and his relationship to other people and institutions outside of himself resonates with the work of several scholars in an anthology edited by Wilfred McClay, titled Figures in the Carpet: Finding the Person in the American Past, published by William B. Eerdmans in 2007. Several of the writers discussed their essays on the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal; guests include Eugene McCarraher, Christopher Shannon, Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn, and Eric Miller. The anthology studies the history of personhood and the self in America. It advocates a definition of personhood that honors individuals as subjects defined in part through their limitations and various moral obligations. The wisdom from this collection begins to answer Delsol's questions of: what sort of being is a subject-person; from whence comes his dignity; and how might he best be nurtured?

Delsol's Unlearned Lessons of the Twentieth Century is a sequel to her earlier work Icarus Fallen: The Search for Meaning in an Uncertain World, which ISI Books published in 2003. Icarus Fallen is a lucent and poetic description of man's condition in the modern world, which claims that meaning is not inherent in man or the cosmos, and that man can define himself as he sees fit. She writes that man in the modern world is as Icarus would have been if, instead of dying, he would have crashed back to the earth after flying too close to the sun: wounded, confused, not sure about how to go on with life in light of the fact that he cannot do or be whatever he wishes, in light of the fact that the cosmos is not his to contrive. The existence of man signifies the existence of God, she writes, and even if he denies that reality and the truth about his relationship to God and the world, those realities still exist and tug at him.

Icarus Fallen comprises a forward, a translator's preface, an author's preface to the English edition, an introduction, four parts (divided into nineteen chapters), a conclusion, notes, and an index. Part one, titled "A Condition Deprived of Meaning," consists of chapters one through four, titled: "Existence as Sign"; "The Rejection of the Figures of Existence"; "Black Markets"; and "The Danger of a Return to Essentialism." Part two, titled "The Revelations of the Devil," includes chapters five through eight, titled: "The Good without the True"; "The Morality of Complacency"; "A Morality of Emotion and Indignation"; and "The Clandestine Ideology of Our Time." Part three, titled "The Urgent Need for a New Anthropology," includes chapters nine through fourteen, titled: "Is Democracy Unsurpassable?"; "The Rejection of Worldviews"; "The Fear of Decision-Making"; "The Sacralization of Rights"; "Utopian Equality"; and "Production and Care-Giving." Part four, titled "Mastering the World in a Different Way," consists of chapters fifteen through nineteen, titled: "Fallen from the Heights"; "Fragmented Existence"; "God in Exile"; "The Return of an Uncertain World"; and "On Vigilance." [Posted March 2007, ALG]

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<![CDATA[Celebrating Mozart]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/celebrating-mozart Wed, 12 Apr 2006 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/618 catalog maintainer
12 Apr

Celebrating Mozart

Category: What We're Reading
By: Ken Myers
Published: 04/12/06
Subtitle:

This year marks the 250th anniversary of the birth of Mozart, and Volume 80 of the Journal will feature an interview which explores the nature of the attractiveness in Mozart's music, especially among certain theologians. Meanwhile, whether you know Mozart's music well or not at all, you will learn a great deal (and delight a great deal) in listening to insightful discussions of Mozart's music on the BBC's Discovering Music program (or, to be more culturally sensitive, "programme"). . . .

This year marks the 250th anniversary of the birth of Mozart, and Volume 80 of the Journal will feature an interview which explores the nature of the attractiveness in Mozart's music, especially among certain theologians. Meanwhile, whether you know Mozart's music well or not at all, you will learn a great deal (and delight a great deal) in listening to insightful discussions of Mozart's music on the BBC's Discovering Music program (or, to be more culturally sensitive, "programme"). These may be heard (in streaming audio) here. Each program (so much for sensitivity) contains an illustrated lecture/performance which demonstrates how the music works, how its power is delivered. Among the Mozart works discussed are the Clarinet Concerto, several of the Piano Concertos, three of the symphonies, a string quintet, and The Magic Flute. There are dozens of other works by other composers discussed on other programs. Discovering Music is a treasure; American listeners should be grateful for English federal funding of the arts. [Posted April 2006, KAM]

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<![CDATA[Camille Paglia: Only Religion Can Save the Arts]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/camille-paglia-only-religion-can-save-arts Thu, 30 Aug 2007 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/619 catalog maintainer
30 Aug

Camille Paglia: Only Religion Can Save the Arts

Category: What We're Reading
By: Ken Myers
Published: 08/30/07
Subtitle:

Since the publication of the book that made her a celebrity intellectual, Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson (1990), Camille Paglia has been focusing attention on connections within the fabric of Western culture that are often ignored or denied. This has earned her a bundle of suspicion from across the political and ideological spectrum. So, for example, when she writes that "the route to a renaissance of the American fine arts lies through religion," she will no doubt frighten leaders in the arts while flummoxing many American religious leaders, who can't imagine why we ought to bother reviving the fine arts. . . .

Since the publication of the book that made her a celebrity intellectual, Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson (1990), Camille Paglia has been focusing attention on connections within the fabric of Western culture that are often ignored or denied. This has earned her a bundle of suspicion from across the political and ideological spectrum. So, for example, when she writes that "the route to a renaissance of the American fine arts lies through religion," she will no doubt frighten leaders in the arts while flummoxing many American religious leaders, who can't imagine why we ought to bother reviving the fine arts.

Paglia's assertion launched an article entitled "Religion and the Arts in America" in the Spring/Summer 2007 issue of the journal Arion: A Journal of Humanities and the Classics (published at Boston University). The bulk of the article is a whirlwind survey of the history of the contentious if sometimes fertile relationship between religion (mostly Christianity) and the arts in America since the Puritans, with sections on literature, the visual arts, and music. Noting that the art world and the Church world virtually ignored each other for most of the twentieth century, she then discusses the "culture wars" episodes of conflict in the 1980s and 90s (the Mapplethorpe controversy, etc.), most of which were about morality, not art or religion. Looking ahead, Paglia writes (in the final three paragraphs):

For the fine arts to revive, they must recover their spiritual center. Profaning the iconography of other people's faiths is boring and adolescent. The New Age movement, to which I belong, was a distillation of the 1960s' multicultural attraction to world religions, but it has failed thus far to produce important work in the visual arts. The search for spiritual meaning has been registering in popular culture instead through science fiction, as in George Lucas' six-film Star Wars saga, with its evocative master myth of the Force."" But technology for its own sake is never enough. It will always require supplementation through cultivation in the arts.

To fully appreciate world art, one must learn how to respond to religious expression in all its forms. Art began as religion in prehistory. It does not require belief to be moved by a sacred shrine, icon, or scripture. Hence art lovers, even when as citizens they stoutly defend democratic institutions against religious intrusion, should always speak with respect of religion. Conservatives, on the other hand, need to expand their parched and narrow view of culture. Every vibrant civilization welcomes and nurtures the arts.

Progressives must start recognizing the spiritual poverty of contemporary secular humanism and reexamine the way that liberalism too often now automatically defines human aspiration and human happiness in reductively economic terms. If conservatives are serious about educational standards, they must support the teaching of art history in primary school--which means conservatives have to get over their phobia about the nude, which has been a symbol of Western art and Western individualism and freedom since the Greeks invented democracy. Without compromise, we are heading for a soulless future. But when set against the vast historical panorama, religion and art--whether in marriage or divorce--can reinvigorate American culture.



Posted by Ken Myers on 8/31/07"

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<![CDATA[C. Stephen Evans, <cite>Preserving the Person: A Look at the Human Sciences</cite> (InterVarsity Press, 1979)]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/c-stephen-evans-preserving-person-look-human-sciences-intervarsity-press-1979 Thu, 19 Jun 2003 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/620 catalog maintainer

"This current battle is the latest engagement in a very long war—the struggle over the nature of man. It is a battle which has been precipitated by the rise of new and powerful sciences dealing with man: physiology (particularly of the brain), psychology, sociology and that whole cluster of disciplines variously referred to as the behavioral sciences or sometimes the social sciences. What is at stake in this battle is the very notion of personhood. Are human beings persons in the sense in which that word has been traditionally understood?" C. Stephen Evans, Preserving the Person

In Preserving the Person: A Look at the Human Sciences, C. Stephen Evans examines whether or not the more recent scientific view of man complements the older personalistic view of man; the question he strives to answer is: how do contemporary explanations of personhood compare with how it has been understood traditionally? In the first chapter of the work, "The Problem: The Attack on the Person," he explains what the two views of man entail: the personalistic view understands people as agents who use reason to make choices; who can be held accountable for their actions; and who can be understood best through the eyes of several disciplines, philosophy, sociology, and theology included. The scientific view, on the other hand, understands people as organisms best explained by systems and efficient causality, whose actions are determined by forces in the natural order. Evans notes that the remaining chapters of the book explore the complementarity (or lack thereof) of the views in more depth. Chapters two through five examine what various disciplines of science reveal about man, and what they espouse regarding people as agents. Chapters six and seven explain what is at stake if the older view of man is lost, and chapters eight through twelve develop a contemporary model for thinking about man that does not disregard either the personalistic or scientific view. [Posted June 2005, ALG]

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<![CDATA[C. S. Lewis: Two doses, administered aurally]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/c-s-lewis-two-doses-administered-aurally Sun, 14 May 2006 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/621 catalog maintainer
14 May

C. S. Lewis: Two doses, administered aurally

Category: What We're Reading
By: Ken Myers
Published: 05/14/06
Subtitle:

Many people who've read Lewis's Mere Christianity know that the content of the book was originally presented as a series of talks on the radio (or "wireless" to be more in keeping with the patois of the period). It has long been assumed by people who care about such things that no recordings of those talks survived. . . .

Many people who've read Lewis's Mere Christianity know that the content of the book was originally presented as a series of talks on the radio (or "wireless" to be more in keeping with the patois of the period). It has long been assumed by people who care about such things that no recordings of those talks survived. However, the BBC has made available online a 14-minute selection of original reading of what became the third part of Mere Christianity, a section called "Beyond Personality." The audio quality from this recording, originally broadcast on March 21, 1944, is crude but entirely clear. Hearing Lewis's voice offers a feeling for his personality. But the recording is also a reminder of how much public culture in the West has changed in 60 years: try to imagine any country in which government-sponsored broadcasts could contain this kind of content. The BBC is to be commended for offering this treat even to those of us who don't pay for its upkeep.

The audio is available here, and requires Realplayer installed on your computer (the BBC's instructions for obtaining Realplayer are here).

In addition to the recording of portions of "Beyond Personality," the BBC web page referenced above also has a link to Lewis offering a 2-minute introduction to his book, The Great Divorce, comments originally broadcast in 1948. Lewis begins: "Blake wrote The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. If I've written of their divorce, this is not because I think myself a fit antagonist for so great a genius, nor even because I feel at all sure that I knew what he meant. . . ."

Other BBC resources about Lewis are available here. [Posted May 2006, KAM]

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<![CDATA[C. S. Lewis]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/c-s-lewis Wed, 01 Oct 2003 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/622 catalog maintainer
1 Oct

C. S. Lewis

Category: What We're Reading
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 10/01/03
Subtitle:

MARS HILL AUDIO Anthology

Several MARS HILL AUDIO interviews about C. S. Lewis have been published together in an Anthology titled, The Christian Mind of C. S. Lewis. More information about the Anthology is available here. [Posted October 2005, ALG]

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<![CDATA[Bishops Weigh in on Terri Schiavo]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/bishops-weigh-terri-schiavo Mon, 31 Mar 2003 19:00:00 -0500 https://marshillaudio.org/node/623 catalog maintainer
31 Mar

Bishops Weigh in on Terri Schiavo

Category: What We're Reading
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 03/31/03
Subtitle:

Catholic World News on-line is offering links to a plethora of statements from various bishops about Terri Schiavo. Click here for the list of links. [Posted April 2005, Amy L. Graeser]

Catholic World News on-line is offering links to a plethora of statements from various bishops about Terri Schiavo. Click here for the list of links. [Posted April 2005, Amy L. Graeser]

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<![CDATA[Bishop N. T. Wright and Justification]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/bishop-n-t-wright-and-justification Thu, 14 Apr 2005 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/624 catalog maintainer
14 Apr

Bishop N. T. Wright and Justification

Category: What We're Reading
By: Ken Myers
Published: 04/14/05
Subtitle:

The Anglican Bishop of Durham N. T. Wright (commonly addressed as Tom) has written a great deal about the identity of the Church as the people of God called to challenge the reigning gods in the world around them. But while Wright is profoundly interested in questions of Church and culture, much that is written about his work concerns his understanding of soteriology, specifically the way he understands justification. . . .

The Anglican Bishop of Durham N. T. Wright (commonly addressed as Tom) has written a great deal about the identity of the Church as the people of God called to challenge the reigning gods in the world around them. But while Wright is profoundly interested in questions of Church and culture, much that is written about his work concerns his understanding of soteriology, specifically the way he understands justification. If you're interested in a survey of the issues at stake, you may want to listen to a series of four lectures offered at the Center for Christian Study in Charlottesville, Virginia, and available for download online .

The lectures were given by Bill Wilder, director of graduate ministries at the Center. Wilder studied at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and at Union Theological Seminary in Virginia, and is the author of Echoes of the Exodus Narrative in the Context and Background of Galatians 5:18 (Peter Lang, 2001). The title for the series is The Doctrine of Justification in the Work of N.T. Wright, and the four lecture titles are I Love to Tell the Story: The Narrative Substructure of Paul's Theology; Adam, Israel, Servant, Christ: Does Covenant Theology Get it Wright? To Whom it Belongs: The 'Dis'puted Righteousness of God; The Importance of Definition: Righteousness, Justification, Faith & Works. [Posted April 2005, KAM]

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<![CDATA[Better Things for Better Living]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/better-things-better-living Wed, 20 Jun 2007 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/625 catalog maintainer
20 Jun

Better Things for Better Living

Category: What We're Reading
By: Ken Myers
Published: 06/20/07
Subtitle:

I first ran across the work of Richard DeGrandpre in an article he wrote for the magazine, AdBusters. That magazine's original editorial vision (which they seem to have forgotten in recent years) was to examine the ways in which the version of reality encouraged by advertising (and by other technically mediated forms of communication) promotes habits of profoundly distorted perception. . . .

I first ran across the work of Richard DeGrandpre in an article he wrote for the magazine, AdBusters. That magazine's original editorial vision (which they seem to have forgotten in recent years) was to examine the ways in which the version of reality encouraged by advertising (and by other technnlogically mediated forms of communication) promotes habits of profoundly distorted perception.

The article I read by DeGrandpre was called The Great Escape (published in the March/April 2001 issue), in which DeGrandpre described experiments done in the 1930s by perception psychologist James Gibson. People were given glasses that distorted their vision, making straight lines seem curved. The subjects gradually compensated for the distortion of the lenses, and eventually, the curved lines seemed to be straight ones. When the glasses were removed, straight lines were perceived to be curving in the other direction.

DeGrandpre related this to the so-called beauty myth. Young women, he observed, have millions of exemplars from which to judge the sizes and shapes of the female body, yet this vast pool of reality is somehow overridden by a narrow band of hyper-reality. It's a perfect match with the finding of Gibson's classic study. Many young women, presented with their own image, fail to 'see' what appears on their retinas. Instead, as researchers have now documented, they often perceive a distorted, 'fatter' version of themselves. Again, their sense of reality derives from cumulative experience with the goal of adapting to whatever reality appears to be most pressing, or 'valuable.' Unfortunately, for many women, this 'valued' reality happens to make them sick.

DeGrandpre's discussion was a helpful reminder of how much our perception of reality is conditioned by our cultural setting. This leads some postmodernists to insist that there is no reality, only socially constructed perceptions. An alternative reading, one which has many resonances in Scripture and the Christian tradition, is that there is a reality, and our cultural situatedness can either help us see it or deter us from seeing it. The glasses I am wearing right now enable me to see what the trees outside my window and the birds at my feeder actually do look like, they do not enable an arbitrary and entirely idiosyncratic view of the world. They put me in greater touch with reality.

Richard DeGrandpre was concerned in that article about the way in which virtual reality was becoming more attractive to people than real reality, a theme he pursued well in his 2001 book Digitopia: The Look of the New Digital You (Random House). As he wrote in his AdBusters article,

The mind isn't some kind of computer that remains unchanged as cultural software runs through its cerebral circuits. Conscious reality changes as the software of everyday life changes, and remains changed thereafter. Whether it's watching the tube, surfing the web, or viewing the latest special-effects flick, chronic exposure to simulated ideas, moods, and images conditions your sensibilities, albeit to different degrees, for how the real world should look, how fast it should go, and how you should feel when living in it. When a thousand points of light shine upon you in a commercial war for your thoughts, feelings, and wants, your mind adapts, accepts, and then, to feel stimulated, needs more. Kids twenty-five years ago forfeited their quarters to a video game called Pong. Pong is to Sony PlayStation 2 what a firecracker is to the atomic bomb. Virtual reality wires us for a virtual world. . . . As you adapt to the latest digital experiences, straying farther and farther from your home world of the here and now, that home world becomes less satisfying each time you return to it. Simply, the virtual becomes the only reality that counts.

Later in the article, DeGrandpre talks about how the use of psychotropic drugs mirrors the increasing levels of engagement with alternative-reality media. About one in ten Americans filter their life experiences through antidepressants. But with the increasing number of people using such drugs comes a novel social philosophy. As dubbed in Peter Kramer's best seller Listening to Prozac, this is 'cosmetic psychopharmacology.' The idea here is that new 'lifestyle drugs' are being synthesized not to make us well, but rather to make us, as Kramer puts it, 'better than well.'

This is a profoundly cybernetic ideology: the progressive abandonment of concern over real-world causes of despair and dysfunction in favor of symptom-specific individual solutions. The better-than-well ideology marks not scientific progress—-several thousand compounds were tested by Eli Lilly before Prozac was stumbled upon—-but social regress. It urges you not to think about or pursue social change, but to seek out technological and consumer-based fixes to what are not individual problems.

Of course this cyborg ideology of more human than human couples perfectly with the postmodern ethos of the digital age. Both tap in to the same utopian technological spirit, both function as technologies of the self, and both help you accommodate your nervous system to a dying and dysfunctional social realm. As unplugged reality gets worse, the cyborg solution is to constantly upgrade and improve the self. By helping us cope in the middle years of today—-living neither as the socioborgs of times past nor as the true cyborgs of times future—-drugs like Prozac affirm our cultural direction. They are part of the great escape.

This article raised many of the same issues about happiness and society addressed in Carl Elliott's book Better than Well: American Medicine Meets the American Dream.

Richard DeGrandpre had written an earlier book called Ritalin Nation: Rapid-fire Culture and the Transformation of Human Consciousness (W. W. Norton, 1999), in which he examined ways in which popular psychotropic drugs alter the brain and its expectations. Most recently he has written The Cult of Pharmacology: How America Became the World's Most Troubled Drug Culture (Duke University Press, 2006), which examines the complicated reasons (few of them scientific) why some drugs are regarded as bad and outlawed while others are deemed to be good and encouraged by large marketing campaigns.

Posted 6/21/07 by Ken Myers

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<![CDATA[Bernard Lewis Sets the Course for Discussions Abroad and Articles at Home]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/bernard-lewis-sets-course-discussions-abroad-and-articles-home Mon, 18 Oct 2004 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/626 catalog maintainer
18 Oct

Bernard Lewis Sets the Course for Discussions Abroad and Articles at Home

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 10/18/04
Subtitle:

The MARS HILL AUDIO interview with Bernard Lewis on Volume 59 of the Journal played a formidable role in the life of an article about the history and shape of Islamist feminism that was published in the October/November issue of Policy Review, a publication of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

"Western visitors to Muslim lands have 'talk[ed] with horror of the subordination and ill-treatment of Muslim women (and, I might add, with ill-concealed envy of what they imagine to be the privileges of Muslim men). Muslim visitors to the Christian world are shocked and horrified by the loose and promiscuous ways of the West and also the absurd deference, as they see it, given to Western women.'"

This statement from historian Bernard Lewis in his MARS HILL AUDIO interview on Volume 59 of the Journal prompted journalist Lauren Weiner to research some of the differences between how Middle Eastern and Muslim countries treat their women and how the West treats its women. She recorded her findings in "Islam and Women: Choosing to veil and other paradoxes," an article published in the October/November 2004 issue of Policy Review, a publication of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. In her article Weiner addresses the development of feminism in Muslim societies; radical Islamist reactions to it and to Western feminism; Western feminism's response to acts of terror from radical Islamists; and how Islamic feminism differs from Western feminism. She writes that both groups should focus on bringing about a decent life for women and men, who ought to have their rights respected: "This is, in fact, what the woman questions brings out especially well: the rights of human beings that are manifest not in any penumbra of any constitution but in the full light of day."

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<![CDATA[Before and after Economics]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/and-after-economics Mon, 13 Apr 2009 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/627 catalog maintainer
13 Apr

Before and after Economics

Category: What We're Reading
By: Ken Myers
Published: 04/13/09
Subtitle:

As a follow-up to some of the themes raised by guests on Volume 95 of the Journal, listeners may want to read a piece by political theorist Mark T. Mitchell (author of Michael Polanyi: The Art of Knowing). Published on the Front Porch Republic, an online intellectual cooperative dedicated to exploring the place of place in our lives, Mitchell's article ("The Dismal Science vs. Community") is a discussion of a book by Harvard economist Stephen A. Marglin. . . .

As a follow-up to some of the themes raised by guests on Volume 95 of the Journal, listeners may want to read a piece by political theorist Mark T. Mitchell (author of Michael Polanyi: The Art of Knowing and The Politics of Gratitude). Published on the Front Porch Republic, an online intellectual cooperative dedicated to exploring the place of place in our lives, Mitchell's article ("The Dismal Science vs. Community") is a discussion of a book by Harvard economist Stephen A. Marglin.

Marglin's book, The Dismal Science: How Thinking Like an Economist Undermines Community (Harvard University Press, 2008), examines ways in which economics—like all sciences—presents a limited picture of human nature and human well-being, concealing more about the kinds of creatures we are than it reveals. Like biology, economics has become a powerful ideology, in Mitchell's words,

a self-contained worldview with its own set of values as well as a particular epistemology and ontology. In short, modern economics is not simply a means by which exchanges can be described or even a set of tools that ensure optimal efficiency of market transactions. The ideology of economics is a way of seeing the world. It forces reality into a preconceived structure and subsequently deigns to rule this truncated world with all the authority of science. The modern discipline of economics is, among other things, imperialistic in its aims and destructive in its consequences.

A video recording of a lecture by Prof. Marglin (recorded shortly after the publication of his book) is available online at the FORA-TV site. But read Mitchell's essay first!

Posted by Ken Myers on 4/14/09

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<![CDATA[Articles Address the Economics, Challenges, and Virtues of Graceful Aging]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/articles-address-economics-challenges-and-virtues-graceful-aging Sun, 15 Jan 2006 19:00:00 -0500 https://marshillaudio.org/node/628 catalog maintainer
15 Jan

Articles Address the Economics, Challenges, and Virtues of Graceful Aging

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 01/15/06
Subtitle:

Professor Leon Kass, former chairman of the President's Council on Bioethics and a guest on several volumes of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal, has drawn the public's attention to issues of aging in recent months. In September 2005 he oversaw the publishing of the Council's report Taking Care: Ethical Caregiving in Our Aging Society; two periodicals, Commentary and The New Atlantis, took advantage of the report's appearance in order to attend to the questions an aging society faces. Commentary ran an article by Kass and Eric Cohen (editor of The New Atlantis) that relied in part on Taking Care; The New Atlantis published an excerpt of the report. . . .

Professor Leon Kass, former chairman of the President's Council on Bioethics and a guest on several volumes of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal, has drawn the public's attention to issues of aging in recent months. In September 2005 he oversaw the publishing of the Council's report Taking Care: Ethical Caregiving in Our Aging Society; two periodicals, Commentary and The New Atlantis, took advantage of the report's appearance in order to attend to the questions an aging society faces. Commentary ran an article by Kass and Eric Cohen (editor of The New Atlantis) that relied in part on Taking Care; The New Atlantis published an excerpt of the report.

In Commentary's article, "Cast Me Not Off in Old Age," Cohen and Kass note the coming of a "mass geriatric society" and the anxieties it will bring with it. "How we age and die are not only private matters," they write, "Our communal practices and social policies shape the environments in which aging and caregiving take place." They examine questions that will confront society as it faces the demands of caring for an increasing number of elderly, emphasizing that the demands will be not only economic in nature, but also spiritual and cultural.

The New Atlantis's "The Aging Self," on the other hand, examines questions of what it means to age in today's society, along with the issues and frustrations concomitant with old age and decline. It states: "But for human beings, aging is not only a biological experience but a psychological, existential, social, and religious one: it involves seeing oneself in a new light as one's life progresses and one's body changes; it involves looking back on one's past experiences and looking ahead to one's shortening future; it involves treasuring life and independence as long as possible and accepting dependence and death when they can no longer be resisted. It involves changes of familial and social roles, changes of responsibility at work and at home, and differing forms of participation in civic and communal life." The excerpt discusses the ethics of graceful aging and encourages the elderly to cultivate courage, wisdom, simplicity, and humor as they age.

The MARS HILL AUDIO Journal has published interviews on the related topics of medical ethics and euthanasia; C. Ben Mitchell discussed the Church and bioethical issues on Volume 70, and there are links to other interviews here and here. [Posted January 2006, ALG]

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<![CDATA[Art and the Loss of Transcendence]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/art-and-loss-transcendence Sun, 15 Aug 2004 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/629 catalog maintainer
15 Aug

Art and the Loss of Transcendence

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Ken Myers
Published: 08/15/04
Subtitle:

In "Julian Schnabel Paints a Portrait of God" artist and critic Suzi Gablik looks at how artists have struggled with living in modern and postmodern societies in which there is no public vocabulary for the sacred.

"In refusing to acknowledge the reality of any experience that is not scientifically provable, the scientific world view has condemned much that is vital to culture and creative growth. To see things in this alienating way may be the particular compulsion of the modern Western mentality, but it does not necessarily reflect the way things really are. Although we may value technological power more than sacred wisdom, scientific rationalism has so far failed to prove itself as a successful integrating mythology for industrial society; it offers no inner archetypal mediators of divine power, no cosmic connectedness, no sense of belonging to a larger pattern. Science, in the twentieth century, has had little to say about spiritual values, nor, it would seem, has art."

So wrote artist and critic Suzi Gablik in a 1984 article called "Julian Schnabel Paints a Portrait of God." In the essay, Gablik (author of Has Modernism Failed? and Conversations before the End of Time: Dialogues on Art, Life and Spiritual Renewal) looks at how modern and postmodern artists have struggled with living in modern and postmodern societies in which there is no public vocabulary for the sacred.

MARS HILL AUDIO is pleased (with thanks to the author) to offer a downloadable copy of this insightful article in which the cultural consequences of living in a "disenchanted" world are well described. This article is part of a continuing series of articles we have made available on our web pages, some of them original, some of them reprints.

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<![CDATA[An Ancient Modern Confusion]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/ancient-modern-confusion Mon, 13 Feb 2006 19:00:00 -0500 https://marshillaudio.org/node/630 catalog maintainer
13 Feb

An Ancient Modern Confusion

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Ken Myers
Published: 02/13/06
Subtitle:

The Church has been fighting the influence of religious movements that deny the goodness of creation (especially of the human body) since before John wrote his Gospel. Gnosticism in one form or another is the perennial heresy, and modernity has been identified by many observers to have a deeply gnostic flavor. . . .

The Church has been fighting the influence of religious movements that deny the goodness of creation (especially of the human body) since before John wrote his Gospel. Gnosticism in one form or another is the perennial heresy, and modernity has been identified by many observers to have a deeply gnostic flavor.

Strictly speaking, gnosticism is a movement that emerged or coalesced in the first two centuries of the Christian era. The church fathers of the second and third centuries (Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Hippolytus, Origen, and Tertullian) all show great concern with the gross errors of gnosticism, and many New Testament scholars believe that Paul is confronting a proto-gnostic heresy in Colossians (hence his insistence that in Christ all things were created), and that John's Gospel (the Word was made flesh) and the Johannine epistles contain material intended to battle a way of explaining Christ's ministry that devalues (or denies) the reality of the Incarnation and the goodness of the material world. Moreover, the healing miracles of Jesus, which, far from delivering people from bodily existence, restored a measure of goodness to the material aspects of their lives.

Gnosis is the Greek word for knowledge, and gnosticism is so named because of the centrality of knowledge in its understanding of salvation. One reason that modern culture has been called gnostic is because of the assumption (focused in the centrality of scientific knowledge in our culture) that knowledge will liberate us from all our suffering.

Ancient Near East historian Edwin Yamauchi, author of Pre-Christian Gnosticism:A Survey of the Proposed Evidences (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1973), wrote the entry on Gnosticism for the first edition of the New International Dictionary of the Christian Church. In that essay, Yamauchi writes:

In Gnostic systems there is an ontological dualism—an opposition between an ineffable, transcendent God and an ignorant, obtuse demiurge (often a caricature of the OT Jehovah), who is the creator of the cosmos. [Christians who seem to believe that the 'God of the Old Testament' and Jesus are somehow distinct or at odds are essentially accepting Gnostic assumptions, characteristic of the first great heretic Marcion] In some systems the creation of the material world results from the fall of Sophia. [Note that it is Creation that causes the moral crisis, not the Fall!] The material creation is viewed as evil. Sparks of divinity, however, have been encapsuled in the bodies of certain pneumatics destined for salvation. These pneumatics [i.e., spiritual ones] are ignorant of their celestial origins. God sends down to them a redeemer, often a docetic Christ [i.e., not an incarnate Christ], who brings them salvation in the form of a secret gnosis. Thus awakened, the pneumatics escape from their fleshly bodies at death and traverse the planetary spheres of hostile demons and are reunited with the deity. Since salvation is not dependent upon behavior but upon the knowledge of an innate pneumatic nature [that is, awareness that deep down, you are really God!], some Gnostics manifested extremely libertine behavior. They held that they were 'pearls' who could not be sullied by any external 'mud.' On the other hand, many Gnostics took a radically ascetic attitude toward marriage, deeming the creation of woman the origin of evil and the procreation of children but the multiplication of souls in bondage to the powers of darkness.

An essay by Dr. Yamauchi entitled Pre-Christian Gnosticism, the New Testament and Nag Hammadi in Recent Debate is available on-line at http://www.earlychurch.org.uk/article_gnosticism_yamauchi.html.

Back in 1997, we featured (on volume 25 of what was then called the Mars Hill Tapes) two interviews in which I discussed gnosticism more explicitly. On that tape, we played part of a TV commercial for internet access that spoke of a place where people communicate mind to mind, a place where there is no race, no genders, no age or infirmities. Only minds. Utopia? someone asks. No, we're warmly assured. The Internet, where minds, doors and lives open up.

There was a gnostic appeal in this commercial for Internet access services. The Internet, we were assured, was a dreamy, perfect (if virtual) place because it is purely mental. There are no bodies. But is a place without bodies really a good place? On gnostic terms, it is indeed.

Christianity, on the other hand, teaches that the Creation is good, but fallen, that God took human flesh without sin, and that we all await eagerly the resurrection of our bodies. The church is called alternatively the Body of Christ, and the Bride of Christ, both metaphors rooted in materiality. The people of God are defined and sustained by baptism, a dramatic in-body experience, and by sharing in a meal of body and blood.

All this physicality is repulsive to gnostics, whether ancient or modern. As I said above, the gnostic alternative to Christian orthodoxy, an alternative which despises bodily existence, seems to be the perennial theological error, perpetually attractive even to devout Christian believers. It is, after all, comforting to believe that an innocent, endlessly interesting, and powerful self is buried within us, awaiting liberation when we abandon our space-time containers. It is appealing to believe that our perfection requires no repentance, merely some act of detaching. The dream of pure consciousness, life as bug-free software without dust-collecting hardware. No age, no genders, only minds.

In his 1992 book The American Religion, literary critic Harold Bloom observed that gnostic assumptions and desires have colored much of American religious experience and expression, even some of its most apparently Christian forms. In the pragmatic and experiential faith defined by the Second Great Awakening, Bloom finds something very much akin to gnosticism. What was missing in all this quite private luminosity, he writes, was simply most of historic Christianity. Bloom continues, I hasten to add that I am celebrating, not deploring, when I make that observation. Harold Bloom, best known for his celebrated work in literary criticism, is, it turns out, a professing gnostic, of the most serious sort, as his 1996 book Omens of Millennium: The Gnosis of Angels, Dreams, and Resurrection (Riverhead Books) made very clear. The last chapter in the book is, in Bloom's own terms, a gnostic Sermon, it amounts to a gnostic altar call.

In Bloom's reading, gnostic seeds have found fertile soil in North America. The ideas of inner divinity and of power and salvation through knowledge are quite at home here. Whereas ancient gnosticism was a system for elites, American gnosticism is popular with the masses.

In his book Bloom follows traditional gnostic belief by speaking of creation and fall as identical, isolating an important difference between orthodox Christian belief and a gnostic understanding. For gnostics, existence in space and time is a tragic decline from what we could be enjoying as part of the godhead. Where Genesis 1 shows an almighty Creator pronouncing a benediction on what He has called into being, in gnosticism, the Supreme Deity can have no interest in the corrupt trifle of Creation. As Philip Lee has summarized it (in his book Against the Protestant Gnostics), The ancient gnostic, looking at the world through despairing eyes, saw matter in terms of decay, place in terms of limitation, time in terms of death. In light of this tragic vision, the logical conclusion seemed to be that the cosmos itself—matter, place, time, change, body, and everything seen, heard, touched or smelled—must have been a colossal error.

Here's a passage from Harold Bloom's Omens of Millennium: In the Gnostic view, the God of the organized Western faiths is an imposter, no matter what name he assumes. His act of usurpation masked itself by renaming the original Fullness as the Abyss, or chaos, and by obscenely naming the Fall into division as the Creation. A divine degradation presents itself as a benign act, Gnosticism begins in the repudiation of this act, and in the knowledge that freedom depends upon a return to what preceded the Creation-Fall. Now we are forlorn, suffering from homesickness and dread, most frequently called 'depression.' Yet from a Gnostic perspective, our trauma is shock, having been thrown, we are stunned, and being victims of the lie, we forget what it is that we know. Knowledge ultimately is of the oldest part of your own deepest self, and that is knowledge of the best of your self. The Creation could not alter that best part, a spark in you even now is healed, original, pure. This spark is also a seed, and from it springs the unwavering Gnosis, which makes us free of what most men and women go on calling God, though the angel they worship as God is a poor ruin, dehumanized.

Philip Lee's helpful book Against the Protestant Gnostics (Oxford University Pres, 1987) contains some very helpful analysis of ancient gnostic beliefs and how their equivalents are found in modern Protestantism. Lee points out that one of gnosticism's most basic assumptions is the tragedy that anything was ever created. This highlights the distinctiveness of the Christian belief that God made something that was not God, and it was still good.

As Lee observes, for the gnostic (a word he uses in lower case), The material world itself is the result of a cosmic faux pas, a temporary disorder. . . . The ancient gnostic, looking at the world through despairing eyes, saw matter in terms of decay, place in terms of limitation, time in terms of death. In light of this tragic vision, the logical conclusion seemed to be that the cosmos itself—matter, place, time, change, body, and everything seen, heard, touched or smelled—must have been a colossal error. [p. 8] And so, The gnostic escape, in the last analysis, is an attempt to escape from everything except the self. [p. 9f.]

Note that modernity has been often described as elevating the self to the center of the moral universe. Sociologist Daniel Bell has argued that the dominant theme that characterizes the modern mentality is The rejection of a revealed order or natural order, and the substitution of the individual—the ego, the self—as the lodestar of consciousness. What we have here is the social reversal of the Copernican revolution: if our planet is no longer the center of the physical universe and our earthly habitat is diminished in the horizons of nature, the ego/self takes the throne as the center of the moral universe, making itself the arbiter of all decisions. There are no doubts about the moral authority of the self, that is simply taken as a given. The only question is what constitutes fulfillment of the self. [Resolving the Contradictions of Modernity and Modernism (Society: March/April 1990, pp. 43-50)]

If indeed modernity has crafted for us a culture of narcissism, a society in which universally high self-esteem matters more than honoring the order God has established in Creation, then we live in a society that has much in common with gnosticism.

Philip Lee also observes that gnostics, in addition to distancing God from creation, had to distance Christ from human flesh. Valentinus spoke of Christ passing through the Virgin Mary as 'through a canal.' Christ himself is credited with a body which is nonterrestrial: It was by his unremitting self-denial in all things that Jesus attained to Godship, he ate and drank in a peculiar manner, without any waste. The power of continence was so great in him that his food did not decay in him, for he himself was without decay. [p. 17]

Because nothing is quite so earthy (or quite so supportive of continuing earthiness) as sexuality, it is not hard to understand why the gnostics did everything they could to interpret Holy Writ in an antisexual way. Some of their allegorizing efforts in this regard are mind-boggling. The Jordan River, for example, symbolized sexual intercourse. Both Joshua and Jesus, they claimed, were able to interrupt its flow—Joshua temporarily when he crossed over dry-shod with the children of Israel and Jesus permanently at his baptism. Jesus' baptism in the Jordan symbolized the beginning of a type of birth which would make carnal begetting obsolete. Once Christ is able to introduce a new form of birth, there is then hope for an end to this dreadful error called cosmos. [p. 18]

As further evidence of the antisexual bias of gnosticism, Lee cites The Gospel of Thomas, one of the so-called Gnostic Gospels, which ends with these words: Simon Peter said to them [the disciples]: 'Let Mary leave us, for women are not worthy of Life.' Jesus said, 'I myself shall lead her, in order to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit, resembling you males, for every woman who will make herself male will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.' [Lee, p. 138] Somehow Dan Brown missed this passage in his effort in The Da Vinci Code to divinize Mary Magdalen as the focal point of the sacred feminine.

There have been in the past few decades many efforts to resurrect gnostic beliefs as an alternative to historic Christian teaching. Some of those efforts are discussed in The Rebirth of Gnosticism: The Secret Path to Self-salvation, which is chapter 8 in James A. Herrick's fine book, The Making of the New Spirituality: The Eclipse of the Western Religious Tradition (InterVarsity Press, 2003). See also Carl A. Raschke's The Interruption of Eternity: Modern Gnosticism and the Origins of the New Religious Consciousness (Nelson-Hall, 1980). Studies of ancient gnosticism include the classic work The Gnostic Religion (Beacon, 1963) by Hans Jonas. A more recent book by Kurt Rudolph, Gnosis: The Nature and History of Gnosticism (HarperSanFrancisco, 1987) is regarded as a worthy successor.

More significant than the explicit and self-confessed gnostics are those gnostic leanings in modern and postmodern culture, and the writers who have discussed this theme are legion. The gnostic desires evident in our love of technology is discussed in Erik Davis's TechGnosis: Myth, Magic, and Mysticism in the Age of Information (Harmony Books). Excerpts from his book are on-line at: http://www.techgnosis.com/techgnosis/tgexcerpts.html.

The influence of gnostic ideas on the thought of Carl Jung is explored in the article "Jungians and Gnostics" by Jeffrey Burke Satinover, available online. See also Satinover's book The Empty Self: C. G. Jung and the Gnostic Transformation of Modern Identity (Hamewith Books, 1996).

An essay by Roger Lundin called Postmodern Gnostics, which develops in detail other ways in which our age is more gnostic than Christian, is available on our web pages at: /downloads/Lundin-Postmodern.pdf. In that essay, Lundin discusses the anti-gnostic writing of Wendell Berry, whose essay The Body and the Earth (available in several anthologies including The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays of Wendell Berry) is one of the most eloquent expressions of the destructive effects of gnostic biases in American life. [Posted February 2006, KAM]

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<![CDATA[Alasdair MacIntyre and Education]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/alasdair-macintyre-and-education Tue, 14 Nov 2006 19:00:00 -0500 https://marshillaudio.org/node/631 catalog maintainer
14 Nov

Alasdair MacIntyre and Education

Category: Sound Thinking
By: LEA
Published: 11/14/06
Subtitle:

Alasdair MacIntyre of Notre Dame joins the chorus of observers who decry the fragmentation and bankruptcy of the modern university education system, in "The End of Education: The Fragmentation of the American University" in Commonweal; and asks if Catholic universities should do better. . . .

Alasdair MacIntyre of Notre Dame joins the chorus of observers who decry the fragmentation and bankruptcy of the modern university education system, in "The End of Education: The Fragmentation of the American University" in Commonweal; and asks if Catholic universities should do better. According to MacIntyre, the specialization and compartmentalization of faculties and academic disciplines, accompanied by the resulting marketplace mechanism of "individual student choice" as the form of curriculum structure, yields an incompletely, inadequately and superficially educated public—whether graduates from secular or Catholic universities. This "should matter to anyone who thinks it important what conceptions of human nature and the human condition students have arrived at by the time they enter the adult workplace—and therefore to any Catholic. For each of the academic disciplines teaches us something significant about some aspect of human nature and the human condition," and should interact and integrate. MacIntyre then proposes a solution in the time-honored manner of indicating there "are questions that need to be answered if we are to understand who we are here and now." From three sets of great questions—who are we materially? who are we historically and culturally? and, who are we to other cultures?—MacIntyre indicates that a "tripartite curriculum emerges" which emphasizes scientific, historical and linguistic studies. Yet these distinct strands must interact and integrate, not stray into specialized cubbyholes. To avoid such superficiality, MacIntyre notes Cardinal Newman's view that "it is theology that is the integrative and unifying discipline needed by any university, secular, Protestant, or Catholic. And it is in the light afforded by the Catholic faith and more especially by Catholic doctrines concerning human nature and the human condition" that "[t]heology can become an education in how to ask such questions" as are at the foundation of liberal education. The resources exist, only the will to reform is lacking. MacIntyre ends by addressing the expected question of economic and technological demand for professional specialization as a goal for education, by suggesting a 4-year program, the first 3 of which engages in a rigorous, liberal, tripartite, question-asking curriculum, with the fourth year reserved for a professional apprenticeship in preparation for the workplace. "We do not have to sacrifice training in research in order to provide our students with a liberal education, just as we do not have to fragment and deform so much of our students' education, as we do now." [Posted November 2006, LEA]

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<![CDATA[After Irony]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/after-irony Tue, 19 Jun 2007 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/632 catalog maintainer
19 Jun

After Irony

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Ken Myers
Published: 06/19/07
Subtitle:

Philosopher Richard Rorty died on June 8, 2007 at the age of 75. For twenty-one years he taught in the philosophy department at Princeton. He spent the next sixteen years as University Professor of the Humanities at the University of Virginia. The last seven years of his career he was professor of comparative literature at Stanford. From philosophy to the humanities to comparative literature, a migration that is indicative of the evolution of Rorty's thinking about truth and meaning. . . .

Philosopher Richard Rorty died on June 8, 2007 at the age of 75. For twenty-one years he taught in the philosophy department at Princeton. He spent the next sixteen years as University Professor of the Humanities at the University of Virginia. The last seven years of his career he was professor of comparative literature at Stanford. From philosophy to the humanities to comparative literature, his migration is indicative of the evolution of Rorty's thinking about truth and meaning.

In a 1992 review essay of some fiction by Salman Rushdie, Alan Jacobs noted Rorty's influence on Rushdie's own thinking. "For Rorty," wrote Jacobs, "philosophers are, whether they like it or not, storytellers, purveyors of more-or-less comforting, interesting, and stimulating fictions. In Rorty's view, the most complex and logically rigorous philosophical argument ultimately says no more than, 'Listen to the story I'm telling and see if you don't like it better than the one you've been telling.' People who think this way Rorty calls 'liberal ironists,' because they are tolerant, open-minded, and skeptical even about their own views, and Rorty thinks that if we all become liberal ironists the world will be a happier place. Why? Because liberal ironists-like Nietzsche and Jacques Derrida-are blissfully free from that arduous quest for Truth that has for so many centuries made philosophers irritable sourpusses and religious leaders hideous tyrants. As one contemporary Nietzschean puts it, 'The good news is that there is no good news', or, as a character in Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum puts it, 'I have understood. And the certainty that there is nothing to understand should be my peace, my triumph.'"

"Salman Rushdie Gets Religion," in First Things, January 1992.)

The book that propelled Rorty to public attention was the 1979 Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, in which he argued for the view that our perception and our knowledge do not reflect reality. His next landmark book was Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity (1989), in which Rorty sketched out the political consequences of his philosophical views. This book was the occasion for Richard John Neuhaus to compose an extended essay on Rorty's views called "Joshing Richard Rorty," in the midst of which he offered this summary:

Rorty describes himself as a "liberal ironist." Liberal ironists know that the Enlightenment project is dead, and what is most dead about it is the rationalist notion that there is reality "out there" that is intellectually apprehensible and that can provide certain knowledge about how the world is and what we ought to do about it. Liberal ironists know, Rorty writes, that there is no universally valid answer to moral questions such as, "Why not be cruel?" "Anybody who thinks that there are well-grounded theoretical answers to this sort of question . . . is still, in his heart, a theologian or a metaphysician. He believes in an order beyond time and change which both determines the point of human existence and establishes a hierarchy of responsibilities."

. . .

It is nonsense, we are given to understand, to ask about the truth of this theory of ironism. "The last thing the ironist theorist wants or needs," says Rorty, "is a theory of ironism." Indeed, the implication is that he cannot abide such a theory because such theories inevitably make the ironist vulnerable to the traditional questions about truth. "Ironist theory," Rorty writes, "is thus a ladder which is to be thrown away as soon as one has figured out what it was that drove one's predecessors to theorize." If the ironist is to be able to say, "Thus I willed it," he has to be able to sum up his life "in his own terms." "He is trying to get out from under inherited contingencies and make his own contingencies, get out from under an old final vocabulary and fashion one which will be all his own." He refuses to be judged by "history" or even by the standards that he has created. Rather, says Rorty, "the judge the ironist has in mind is himself."

One of Rorty's last books was entitled The Future of Religion, co-written by the Italian philosopher Gianni Vatimon, and summarized as follows in a review by Paul Griffiths:

The first element in the story is that metaphysical thought—also called onto-theology,"" "realism,"" "objectivism,"" and so on—has been decisively abandoned by the West. The abandonment of metaphysics, as Vattimo puts it, is the form of thought that corresponds to our epoch. Next comes the claim that this now-abandoned metaphysical thought is incompatible with democracy and the exercise of civic responsibility and virtue. And finally there's the claim that religion, though slow to achieve this, is moving inexorably in the same post-metaphysical direction: away from being a contributor to the ordering of the public sphere, and toward being a private comfort that may foster civic virtue.

For a deeper explanation of how Rorty got to this point, read Jason Boffetti's fascinating essay, "How Richard Rorty Found Religion." Rorty's tangled spiritual pilgrimmage has origins in being the grandson of social gospel theologian Walter Rauschenbusch, and the son of committed Leninists. Boffetti's article traces Rorty's struggle to find an alternative to Christianity and metaphysical philosophy, the alternative on which he settled probably would have pleased his grandfather.

Rorty offers social solidarity that can take the place of a "communion of saints"" in the form of a democratic community, "a community in which everybody thinks that it is human solidarity, rather than knowledge of something not merely human, that really matters. The actually existing approximations to such a fully democratic, fully secular community now seem to me the greatest achievements of our species."" In exchange for giving up religion's promise of reconciliation with Truth or God, pragmatists-as-romantic-polytheists are energized toward social action in their existing, temporal, human community.

. . .

In several of his writings, Rorty describes the role of college professors in almost fundamentalist terms: professors should see their work in the classroom as nothing less than an exercise in conversion. They ought "to arrange things so that students who enter as bigoted, homophobic, religious fundamentalists will leave college with views more like our own." With no hint of his usual irony, Rorty writes that "students are lucky to find themselves under the benevolent Herrschaft of people like me, and to have escaped the grip of their frightening, vicious, dangerous parents." Parents, he writes, ought to be forewarned that "we are going to go right on trying to discredit you in the eyes of your children, trying to strip your fundamentalist religious community of dignity, trying to make your views seem silly rather than discussable." Although Rorty is on record as agreeing with Judith Shklar that liberalism means that "cruelty is the worst thing we do" and that the "redescription" of another's most central beliefs is about the worst form of cruelty imaginable, he seems willing enough to visit such cruelty on college students who happen to wander into his classroom.

It may be worth noting that many people who cringe at the "God and Country" rhetoric of conservative Christians somehow found Rorty's "democracy as God" unproblematic. As Boffetti concludes, "It is disconcerting to find that one of the country's most prominent academic critics of fundamentalism has invented for himself a new kind of quasi-religious zealotry. Haunted for his entire career by faiths he could not bring himself to accept, Rorty has finally managed to become the true believer he has always longed to be. It remains to be seen whether those who do not share his newfound faith will eventually suffer at the hands of his most enthusiastic coreligionists."

Posted 6/20/07 by Ken Myers

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<![CDATA[Additional Resources]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/additional-resources Thu, 13 Feb 2003 19:00:00 -0500 https://marshillaudio.org/node/633 catalog maintainer
13 Feb

Additional Resources

Category: What We're Reading
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 02/13/03
Subtitle:

Breakpoint on-line offers a further bioethics bibliography. On the MARS HILL AUDIO Conversation "Not by Accident: The Improbability of Life Itself," Dean Overman discusses the inadequacy of historic and current scientific understandings of the origin of life. A short description of the Conversation is listed here. [Posted October 2003, ALG]

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<![CDATA[A Sampling of Sources]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/sampling-sources Sun, 21 Oct 2001 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/634 catalog maintainer
21 Oct

A Sampling of Sources

Category: What We're Reading
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 10/21/01
Subtitle:

Jill Peláez Baumgaertner's Flannery O'Connor: A Proper Scaring is published by Cornerstone Press. One of the most recent anthologies about O'Connor's work was published in 1997 as Volume 17 of the biannual journal, Literature and Belief, a project of the Center for the Study of Christian Values in Literature at Brigham Young University. Among the essays included are Ralph C. Wood's "Flannery O'Connor's Strange Alliance with Southern Fundamentalists," Robert Donahoo's "O'Connor's Catholics: A Historical-Cultural Context," and Jae-Nam Han's "O'Connor's Thomism and the 'Death of God' in Wise Blood." Ralph C. Wood devotes a large section to O'Connor in his book The Comedy of Redemption: Christian Faith and Comic Vision in Four American Novelists (Notre Dame, 1988). Other books to note: Robert H. Brinkman, The Art and Vision of Flannery O'Connor (LSU Press, 1989); Robert Coles, Flannery O'Connor's South (LSU Press, 1980); John E. Desmond, Risen Sons: Flannery O'Connor's Vision of History (University of Georgia Press, 1987); Anthony DiRenzo, American Gargoyles: Flannery O'Connor and the Medieval Grotesque (Southern Illinois University Press, 1993); David Eggenschwiler, The Christian Humanism of Flannery O'Connor (Wayne State University Press, 1982); Kathleen Feeley, Flannery O'Connor: Voice of the Peacock (Rutgers, 1972); Conversations with Flannery O'Connor, ed. by Rosemary M. Magee (University Press of Mississippi, 1987); Flannery O'Connor and the Christian Mystery, ed. by Sua Prasad Rath and Mary Neff Shaw (University of Georgia, 1996); Marion Montgomery, Why Flannery O'Connor Stayed Home (Sherwood Sugden, 1981); and Brian Abel Ragen, A Wreck on the Road to Damascus: Innocence, Guilt, and Conversion in Flannery O'Connor (Loyola, 1989). [Posted October 2001, ALG]

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<![CDATA[A Forgotten Prophet]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/forgotten-prophet Thu, 28 Jun 2007 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/635 catalog maintainer
28 Jun

A Forgotten Prophet

Category: What We're Reading
By: Ken Myers
Published: 06/28/07
Subtitle:

The name Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy shows up now and then in books and essays I read, but for a long time I knew nothing about him or his apparently brilliant ideas. . . .

The name Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy shows up now and then in books and essays I read, but for a long time I knew almost nothing about him or his apparently brilliant ideas.

Now Peter Leithart provides readers with a glimpse (summary isn't the right word for such a deliberately unsystematic thinker) of the fertile and generous ways of Rosenstock-Huessy's mind. In The Relevance of Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, posted on the First Things blog, Leithart shows how Rosenstock-Huessy (1888-1973) anticipated various postmodern insights, in much the same way (it would seem) as did Michael Polanyi.

Here is a paragraph from Leithart's essay:

To take a more extended example: During the modern period, he writes in The Christian Future (1946), people believe that all large organizations are rational, legal, and mechanical as well as logical and systematic. At the center of modern institutions, there stands a typewriter (a machine, and specifically a machine for generating plans and reports). Moderns are puzzled by the perfectly unsystematic, irrational, antilogical institution, the poorest organization on earth but yet fully alive--the family, which to the modern mentality seems a colorful folly. At the center of the family is not a typewriter but a bed and a stove, the unquenchable illogicality of the family perturbs planners with a blueprint for the future.



Posted 6/29/07 by Ken Myers.

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<![CDATA[A Devilish temptation]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/devilish-temptation Wed, 08 Oct 2008 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/636 catalog maintainer
8 Oct

A Devilish temptation

Category: What We're Reading
By: Ken Myers
Published: 10/08/08
Subtitle:

For some time now, I have been growing in my understanding of how many cultural disorders are related to hatred of limits. The aspiration to limitlessness was embedded in the first temptation and the original sin, it informed the earliest docetic and Gnostic heresies, and it inspired the founding intellects of modernity. . . .

For some time now, I have been growing in my understanding of how many cultural disorders are related to hatred of limits. The aspiration to limitlessness was embedded in the first temptation and the original sin, it informed the earliest docetic and Gnostic heresies, and it inspired the founding intellects of modernity. Many sincere Christians still have some sense that being limited is an effect of sin, rather than a condition of the Creation. Both Genesis accounts of Creation (in chapters 1 and 2) resound with the establishment of boundaries—in time, in space, in ontology, and in vocation. God created all things (including his image-bearers) to thrive within limits, and he then asserted that this circumstance of Creation is very good. After delivering the mandate to serve as his regents and stewards over all Creation, God reminds Adam and Eve that they are creatures who are bounded. They do not exist independently, but must turn to the earth (from which they came and to which will return) for food, for the stuff of life. But not all the food in the Garden was on the menu. Man was limited and needy in his created state, and his continued fellowship with God required the recognition of boundaries.

Almost all human cultures have pursued the task of defining and governing boundaries in human behavior. Philip Rieff argued (in The Triumph of the Therapeutic) that every culture survives "by the power of its institutions to bind and loose men in the conduct of their affairs with reasons which sink so deep into the self that they become commonly and implicitly understood." The story of modern Western culture, however—a culture built around the ideal of the sovereign self—is a story of the abandonment of restrictions and restraints in the name of human freedom. Our institutions have increasingly been defined in terms of encouraging liberation from limits rather than cultivating a conscientious honoring of limits.

It was in light of this understanding that I read Wendell Berry's essay in the May issue of Harper's with great appreciation. In "Faustian Economics," (subtitled "Hell Hath No Limits"), Berry argues that "we have founded our present society upon delusional assumptions of limitlessness," that "the commonly accepted basis of our economy is the supposed possibility of limitless growth, limitless wants, limitless wealth, limitless natural resources, limitless energy, and limitless debt." This quest for unbounded possibility has, in Berry's view, led to a coarse and dehumanized society. "The minimization of neighborliness, respect, reverence, responsibility, accountability, and self-subordination—this is the culture of which our present leaders and heroes are the spoiled children."

With echoes of numerous theologians who have related the imago dei to our essential relationality, Berry questions the understanding of freedom that dominates modern culture. "In our limitless selfishness, we have tried to define 'freedom' for example, as an escape from all restraint. But, as my friend Bert Hornback has explained in his book The Wisdom of Words, 'free' is etymologically related to 'friend.' These words come from the same Indo-European root, which carries the sense of 'dear' or 'beloved.' We set our friends free by our love for them, with the implied restraints of faithfulness or loyalty. All this suggests that our 'identity' is located not in the impulse of selfhood but in deliberately maintained connections."

The title of the essay foreshadows Berry's discovery in Marlowe's telling of the Faust myth of the idea that the desire for limitlessness is devilish. Milton's Paradise Lost is also cited in the article, as it offers angelic testimony (from Raphael) that limits apply not only to what we ought to do, but to what we ought to strive to know, that (in Berry's summary) "knowledge without measure, knowledge that the human mind cannot appropriately use, is mortally dangerous."

Berry anticipates criticism for bringing "the language of religion" into a discussion of economics—a discussion that should, it is assumed, remain disinterestedly scientific. But he suggests that such detachment from transcendent concerns may be what got us into this mess—a mess that has become much more evident since he wrote the article. "I doubt that we can define our present problems adequately, let alone solve them, without some recourse to our cultural heritage. We are, after all, trying now to deal with the failure of scientists, technicians, and politicians to 'think up' a version of human continuance that is economically probable and ecologically responsible, or perhaps even imaginable. If we go back into our tradition, we are going to find a concern with religion, which at a minimum shatters the selfish context of the individual life, and thus forces a consideration of what human beings are and ought to be."

The text of the entire article is online at the Harper's website.

Posted by Ken Myers on 10/7/08

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<![CDATA[A Deeply Religious Civil Religion]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/deeply-religious-civil-religion Fri, 20 Jul 2007 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/637 catalog maintainer
20 Jul

A Deeply Religious Civil Religion

Category: What We're Reading
By: Ken Myers
Published: 07/20/07
Subtitle:

Just before the Independence Day holiday this year, Doubleday published David Gelernter's Americanism: The Fourth Great Western Religion. Gelernter is a professor of computer science at Yale and a frequent contributor to several magazines, often writing about the visual arts. His new book serves as a hearty rebuttal to the claim that America is the product of post-Christian and secularist ideas. . . .

Just before the Independence Day holiday this year, Doubleday published David Gelernter's Americanism: The Fourth Great Western Religion. Gelernter is a professor of computer science at Yale and a frequent contributor to several magazines, often writing about the visual arts. His new book serves as a hearty rebuttal to the claim that America is the product of post-Christian and secularist ideas. On the contrary, he insists, America is a "biblical republic," meaning at the very least that many of its social, cultural, and political commitments were pioneered and defended by thinkers haunted by the Bible. Americanism is a biblical religion although, Gelernter reminds his readers, it is not Christianity.

Moreover, being a religion "of the Book" does not render Americanism one of the great "monotheisms." Gelernter explains that "you can believe in Americanism without believing in God--so long as you believe in man." Despite the optional theism of this new religion, Gelernter insists that "Christians and Jews ought not to see Americanism as a blasphemous replacement for Christianity or Judaism." (Concerning this assurance, theologian Peter Leithart has appropriately mused whether belief in man without belief in God wasn't the original blasphemy.)

Americanism is sustained by two things: an "American Creed" and "American Zionism." By the first he means a set of beliefs that boil down to "liberty, democracy, and equality for all mankind." American Zionism he defines as "the community's closeness to God and its obligation to God and the whole world--Americans as a new chosen people, America as a new promised land" [p. 69, italics in the original].

Gelernter's book corrects much of the revisionist history of the past two or three generations which has shoved American religious history down the memory hole. But his historical sketches are so selective and tendentious as to be of no real help to Christians attempting to come to terms in theologically responsible ways with the intertwining of political and religious experience in American history. His long and sympathetic discussion of the Puritans (whom he regards as the most significant factor in giving rise to both the American Creed and American Zionism) avoids asking whether the Puritans themselves would have approved of Americanism as espoused by Lincoln, Wilson, Reagan, or George W. Bush. To take the Puritan commitment to the idea of being a chosen and covenanted people and cut it off from its essential eschatological links with the work of Christ and the mission of the Church would surely have been regarded by all of the Puritans as a blasphemous deviance far worse than the disfigurements they rejected in the Church of England or in Rome. If they had known their lives and deaths were preparing a way in the wilderness for Americanism they might never have set sail from Southhampton.

In insisting that America is "a biblical republic" Gelernter is rejecting those historians and political philosophers who have insisted that the Founding is a project of the Enlightenment. He dismisses this claim rather glibly, repeatedly returning to the evidence of the biblical ideas undergirding the work of Hobbes, Locke, Jefferson, and others. I am reminded of the wise observation of C. S. Lewis in The Abolition of Man, that "in every mixed movement the efficacy comes from the good elements not from the bad. But the presence of the bad elements is not irrelevant to the direction the efficacy takes." To say that there were biblical themes present in the thought of architects of the American polity is not really saying very much at all. The question is whether the themes were developed well in conjunction with many other biblical themes, or whether ideas like "covenant" and "providence" were co-opted to serve ends incompatible with the religious vision of Isaiah or St. Paul.

One need not be anti-American to reject American Zionism, one need not regard America as the New Israel to love it and admire its commitments. I am worried that many patriotic Christians will read this book and not ask whether Americanism has become an alternative to the Christian religion in the lives of many who call themselves Christian. It is notable that there seems to be a correlation between a high view of America and a low view of the Church. One might begin by looking at Presidents Lincoln and Reagan, two high priests of Americanism, and ask what room there was in their belief system for ecclesiastical authority. One could continue by asking whether Independence Day or Pentecost is the more important holiday for the majority of American Christians. It is the Church of Jesus Christ, the living Stone, that has been and is being built into a spiritual house which is (in the words of the apostle Peter) "a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God." There has never been a need for a third chosen nation, since the second one is still being assembled.

Gelernter's book is a helpful reminder of the religious, indeed, biblical sources of America's beliefs about itself, although it does little to invite any religiously grounded reflection on those beliefs. By denouncing the secularists and asserting the propriety of an unapologetically religious sense of civic life, he seems to assume that Christians will applaud his argument. But the Bible itself is not terribly sympathetic to religion as such, most of its pages, Old and New Testament, are devoted to denouncing false religion. For millennia, numerous belief systems have arisen which have their origins in the Bible, even in a reverent and often sincere submission to the Bible. For just as long, biblically based beliefs have been subjected to the Church's scrutiny, following St. Paul's example of exposing false gospels.

Another angle of approach in examining Gerlernter's assertion that Americanism is compatible with Christianity is to ask whether "Christianity" as we usually define it isn't already a construction re-tooled to make it more compatible with Americanism. If you read Gelernter's book (or even if you don't), I strongly recommend wrestling simultaneously with the deliberately prickly and provocative arguments made by Peter Leithart in his book Against Christianity (Canon Press, 2003). Leithart argues that the Bible does not present the goal of advancing an abstract set of ideas called "Christianity." The Bible is the story of God building the Church, which is a people, a community, a city. "The Church is God's society among human societies, a heavenly city invading the earthly city." And this means that "a territorial conflict is inevitable."

Posted 7/21/07 by Ken Myers

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<![CDATA[A Culture of One]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/culture-one Wed, 12 Mar 2008 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/638 catalog maintainer
12 Mar

A Culture of One

Category: What We're Reading
By: Ken Myers
Published: 03/12/08
Subtitle:

"In this era of exploding media technologies there is no truth except the truth you create for yourself." That's the assertion of Richard Edelman, the founder and CEO of one of the world's largest public relations companies. The work of PR professionals has always caused concern from people concerned with truth. But Edelman's observation suggests that in the communications ecosystem that is the Internet, where everyone is a spinmeister, the very idea of truth becomes less and less plausible. . . .

"In this era of exploding media technologies there is no truth except the truth you create for yourself." That's the assertion of Richard Edelman, the founder and CEO of one of the world's largest public relations companies. The work of PR professionals has always caused concern from people who believe in the importance of truth-telling. But Edelman's observation suggests that in the communications ecosystem that is the Internet, where everyone is a spinmeister, the very idea of truth becomes less and less plausible. The quote from Edelman is in a new book by journalist Andrew Keen called The Cult of the Amateur: How Today's Internet Is Killing Our Culture (Doubleday/Currency). "Today's media," writes Keen, "is shattering the world into a billion personalized truths, each seemingly equally valid and worthwhile."

Andrew Keen hasn't always been so negative about the Internet. He almost made a fortune in the 1990s by founding Audiocafe.com, one of the first digital music sites. Keen got involved in that project because he wanted to make the world's best music more available to more people. But the more time he spent among the digirati in Silicon Valley, and the more he heard the utopian pronouncements of its most energized leaders, the more he realized that his view of culture and theirs were at odds. He wanted to expand the audience for great music. The Web enthusiasts wanted to make money by allowing more people to distribute home-made music, no matter how unimaginative and insipid it was, and collect revenue for all of the web advertising that accompanies the narcissism-enabling websites.

Although he doesn't use the phrase, Keen's book is about the loss of cultural authority. He believes that the survival of the very best forms of cultural expression, in journalism, music, fiction, and other disciplines, requires a network of mediation and accreditation. Cultural institutions that nurture the production of the best cultural artifacts maintain teams of editors, critics, producers, and teachers who have advanced in their careers through years of training and evaluation within a guild or tradition. Over time, some of those institutions earn more trust and respect among their peers than do others, their expertise and ability are acknowledged through an organic process of accountability and recognition. Those cultural institutions can be corrupted and standards can become debased. But without some form of institutionalized judgment established over time in communities of expertise, without, that is, some knowledgeable person to tell you your work isn't good enough to be published, cultural expression easily becomes mere self-expression.

When everyone can self-publish by putting up a few bucks for a website, they don't have to face the humiliation of rejection slips. And when a critical mass of people spend more time reading self-published (and often mediocre) writing, and self-produced videos, less time is spent in the company of credentialed creativity. And that translates into declining revenue for established voices and their intermediaries. Keen is particularly helpful in calling attention to how institutions of cultural authority require economic support to continue to operate. They also require a widespread sympathy to the idea of hierarchies, an assumption that some ideas are objectively better than others, that some commentators are wiser than others, that some creative work is, well, more creative than others.

Twenty or so years ago, cultural conservatives were up in arms about higher education's demotion of the canon of great literature. They attributed this abandonment to the anti-Western bias of campus leftists. But surely the ecosystem of ideas and sentiments encouraged by uncritical use of the Web, energized by its defining myth of the democratization of knowledge and culture, poses a much greater threat than all those tenured radicals.

Posted by Ken Myers on 3/13/08

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<![CDATA[1996 Interview]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/1996-interview Sun, 12 Jan 2003 19:00:00 -0500 https://marshillaudio.org/node/639 catalog maintainer
12 Jan

1996 Interview

Category: What We're Reading
By: Ken Myers
Published: 01/12/03
Subtitle:

In honor and memory of Roger Shattuck's intellectual brilliance and moral seriousness, MARS HILL AUDIO is making available the two parts of his 1996 interview with Ken Myers which appeared on volume 24 of the TAPES as a free downloadable mp3 file. It may be obtained by clicking HERE. [Posted January 2006, KAM]

In honor and memory of Roger Shattuck's intellectual brilliance and moral seriousness, MARS HILL AUDIO is making available the two parts of his 1996 interview with Ken Myers which appeared on volume 24 of the TAPES as a free downloadable mp3 file. It may be obtained by clicking HERE. [Posted January 2006, KAM]

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<![CDATA[<cite>The Teachings of Modern Christianity on Law, Politics, and Human Nature</cite>]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/teachings-modern-christianity-law-politics-and-human-nature Wed, 09 Aug 2006 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/640 catalog maintainer
9 Aug

The Teachings of Modern Christianity on Law, Politics, and Human Nature

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 08/09/06
Subtitle:

In a recent article in Books and Culture, David A. Skeel, Jr., reviews The Teachings of Modern Christianity on Law, Politics, and Human Nature. Several of the contributors to the anthology, along with one of its editors, John Witte, have been—or will be—published on the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal.. . .

In a recent article in Books and Culture, David A. Skeel, Jr., reviews The Teachings of Modern Christianity on Law, Politics, and Human Nature. Several of the contributors to the anthology, along with one of its editors, John Witte, have been—or will be—published on the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal. The guests have written about Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox views on law and include Paul Valliere, Russell Hittinger, Vigen Guroian, Mark Noll, and George Hunsinger.

Skeel, in his "What's Law Got to Do with It? Recovering a lost heritage," notes that this anthology is one sign of Christians re-engaging legal scholarship, specifically, and public life, generally. He writes, "From the early 20th century until the 1940s, evangelical Christians disengaged from American public life. Law schools were hostile territory, generally to be avoided." He notes why the time is ripe for the sort of scholarship found in The Teachings of Modern Christianity. "What's Law Got to Do with It?" is available on-line. [Posted August 2006, ALG]

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<![CDATA[The New Atlantis]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/new-atlantis Thu, 14 Feb 2002 19:00:00 -0500 https://marshillaudio.org/node/641 catalog maintainer
14 Feb

The New Atlantis

Category: What We're Reading
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 02/14/02

Hoping to encourage thoughtful reflection in America on the larger questions surrounding technology and human nature, the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington has founded The New Atlantis: A Journal of Technology & Society. The premiere issue, published in the spring of 2003, featured articles by such heavyweights in the world of bioethics as Leon R. Kass and Gilbert Meilaender. For information about subscribing to the quarterly Journal, its mission and editorial board, or to browse the available issues, visit The New Atlantis's web pages. [Posted February 2004, ALG]

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<![CDATA[<cite>The Culture of Narcissism</cite> Nearly Thirty Years Later]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/culture-narcissism-nearly-thirty-years-later Tue, 01 Nov 2005 19:00:00 -0500 https://marshillaudio.org/node/642 catalog maintainer
1 Nov

The Culture of Narcissism Nearly Thirty Years Later

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 11/01/05
Subtitle:

In the October/November 2005 issue of Policy Review, Christine Rosen attends to the critique of American society that historian and social critic Christopher Lasch (1932-1994) offered in his book The Culture of Narcissism. . . .

In the October/November 2005 issue of Policy Review, Christine Rosen attends to the critique of American society that historian and social critic Christopher Lasch (1932-1994) offered in his book The Culture of Narcissism. (When Lasch died in 1994, Ken Myers talked with Dominic Aquila about The Culture of Narcissism; the interview is featured on Volume 7 of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal. Lasch and his writings are addressed in a new anthology, Figures in the Carpet, several essays from which will be discussed on upcoming issues of the Journal.) In her article "The Overpraised American," Rosen, a guest on Volume 70 of the Journal, assesses the trajectory for society Lasch predicted in his work. She states, ". . . the narcissism Lasch described has not disappeared. It has simply taken on a different and in some ways more exaggerated form."

In The Culture of Narcissism, which was published in 1979, Lasch asserted that Americans had become narcissistic; they had exchanged the development of character for the development of personality and were happy to peer into a mirror in order to rate who they were and how they might develop a sense of fulfillment. He depicted how the culture was beginning to devalue the very things—a strong home and family life, independence and self-reliance, work, and connections with others in a world "'independent of our wishes yet responsive to our needs,'"—that prevent people from becoming narcissistic and susceptible to the "'terrors of existence.'" Rosen studies the same factors Lasch originally used to discover and describe these trends and concludes that "Lasch's narcissist has become the over praised, attention-seeking, technologically dependent American who is aware and concerned about certain influences on family and social life but little motivated to change his lifestyle to counteract them." She writes: "Although the children of Lasch's narcissists express both shock and confusion over the disorder of their family lives and the declining civility around them, their response so far has been largely one of retreat—into congratulatory, therapeutic reassurances, into the cocoon of increasingly large homes where the demands of domesticity and family life can be outsourced and distracting entertainments easily obtained. This is a technologically sophisticated world that nevertheless increasingly lacks opportunities for genuine connection. It is a world where parents fret about negative, outside influences on children yet do little to stop children (or themselves) from watching hour after hour of the television that celebrates those very influences. Demanding constant praise and immediate feedback, and without knowing where, at any given moment, they rest on the tumultuous yet finely calibrated scale of success, Americans are, in the end, even more anxious and unhappy than the narcissists Lasch first described. Whether or not these anxieties will become a permanent feature of our culture remains to be seen. But as Lasch's book reminds us, their influence is not likely to disappear. It is likely to grow even more powerful in ways now beyond our ability to imagine."

Rosen's "The Overpraised American" is available on-line. [Posted November 2005, ALG]

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<![CDATA[<cite>Taking Care</cite>]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/taking-care Wed, 12 Oct 2005 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/643 catalog maintainer
12 Oct

Taking Care

Category: What We're Reading
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 10/12/05
Subtitle:

"Taking Care is an important, and provocative, ethical document that belongs in every university and medical school bioethics curriculum. More important, it offers a starting point for a badly needed national conversation about a difficult topic that is too often avoided. Leon Kass and the President's Council on Bioethics deserve high praise for another job well done." Wesley J. Smith, "A Kass Act," The Weekly Standard (September 10, 2005)

Under the chairmanship of Leon Kass, a guest on multiple volumes of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal, the President's Council on Bioethics produced in-depth studies of human cloning, biotechnology as therapy, human nature, stem cell research, reproductive biotechnologies, and alternative sources to human pluripotent stem cells. Its latest release, and the last report during Kass's tenure as chairman, is Taking Care: Ethical Caregiving in Our Aging Society. The document acknowledges that America is an aging society and explores the concerns it will face as it ages. In the book's preface Kass writes: "Taken as a whole, our report aims to enrich public discussion about aging, dementia, and caregiving, to encourage policymakers to take up these complicated yet urgent issues, and to offer ethical guidance for caregivers—professional and familial—who struggle to provide for those entrusted to their care. We also hope to encourage policymakers in this area to take into account the humanistic and ethical aspects of aging and caregiving, not only the economic and institutional ones. Staying human in our aging society depends on it."

The five chapters in Taking Care are titled: "Dilemmas of an Aging Society," "The Limited Wisdom of Advance Directives," "The Ethics of Caregiving: General Principles," "Ethical Caregiving: Principle and Prudence in Hard Cases," and "Conclusions and Recommendations." They deal, respectively, with aging well in modern times and in America; practical and ethical critiques of living wills; constructive inquiry into ethical caregiving—both its ethical principles and moral boundaries and how prudence and principle collaborate in determining ethical caregiving; and with the conclusions and recommendations of the Council. The full text of Taking Care is available on-line. [Posted October 2005, ALG]

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<![CDATA[<cite>Monitoring Stem Cell Research</cite>]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/monitoring-stem-cell-research Thu, 15 Apr 2004 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/644 catalog maintainer
15 Apr

Monitoring Stem Cell Research

Category: What We're Reading
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 04/15/04
Subtitle:

Since its inception in 2001, the President's Council on Bioethics has occupied itself with—among other tasks—monitoring the developments of human stem cell research. It has presented its findings thus far to the President and the public in Monitoring Stem Cell Research: A Report of the President's Council on Bioethics.

Since its inception in 2001, the President's Council on Bioethics has occupied itself with—among other tasks—monitoring the developments of human stem cell research. It has presented its findings thus far to the President and the public in Monitoring Stem Cell Research: A Report of the President's Council on Bioethics. The introduction to the Report states that, "[t]his report is very much an 'update.' It summarizes some of the more interesting and significant recent developments, both in the basic science and medical applications of stem cell research and in the related ethical, legal, and policy discussions." The Report is organized into four chapters—comprising the introduction, an overview of current Federal law and policy regarding stem cell research, a record of developments in ethical and policy debate on the research, and a record of developments in stem cell research and therapy—with a glossary of terms and several appendices of papers that the Council commissioned about various aspects of the research.

To read what others are writing about the report, see "No Decision on Stem Cells" by Eugene Russo, and "Reason as Our Guide" by Elizabeth Blackburn and Janet Rowley. Rowley, a member of the President's Council on Bioethics, is a professor at the University of Chicago and Blackburn, who was recently dismissed from her position on the Council, is a professor at the University of California, San Francisco. Russo is a contributing editor for the magazine The Scientist. [Posted April 2004, ALG]

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<![CDATA[<cite>Humanitas</cite> Project Lectures]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/humanitas-project-lectures Tue, 11 Oct 2005 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/645 catalog maintainer
11 Oct

Humanitas Project Lectures

Category: What We're Reading
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 10/11/05
Subtitle:

Ken Myers traveled at the end of September to Nashville under the auspices of the Humanitas Project and InterVarsity Graduate and Faculty Ministries to lecture at Vanderbilt University and Belmont Church. . . .

Ken Myers traveled at the end of September to Nashville under the auspices of the Humanitas Forum on Christianity and Culture and InterVarsity Graduate and Faculty Ministries to lecture at Vanderbilt University and Belmont Church. He gave two lectures, "Faithful Stewards or Terrestrial Gods? Christianity and the Chief End of Science" and "Word Made Flesh, Flesh Made Whole: The Embodied Character of Salvation and the Basis of Bioethics,". The Humanitas Project provides "educational resources that will help in making informed and wise decisions about supporting and using" new biotechnologies; its executive director is Michael Poore, and more information about it is available here. [Posted October 2005, ALG]

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<![CDATA[<cite>Heresies: Against Progress and Other Illusions</cite>]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/heresies-against-progress-and-other-illusions Mon, 06 Sep 2004 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/646 catalog maintainer
6 Sep

Heresies: Against Progress and Other Illusions

Category: What We're Reading
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 09/06/04
Subtitle:

Professor and writer John Gray publishes book debunking the Enlightenment faith in progress.

Political philosopher John Gray spoke—on Volume 40 of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal—about his 1998 book False Dawn, which delivered a soberly realistic assessment of the state of international economics (in novelist John Banville's words). Gray's most recent work, Heresies: Against Progress and Other Illusions, debunks the Enlightenment faith in progress that has shaped the modern era. The book is a collection of essays Gray wrote between 1990 and 2003 for the New Statesman. In the collection he explains that faith in progress—the belief that human beings become better with the growth of knowledge—is misdirected faith; human knowledge grows, he writes, but the human animal stays much the same. John Banville's review of Heresies was published on-line in the September 4, 2004, issue of The Guardian.

Some of the concerns of Gray's Heresies are addressed in An illusion with a future, published in the Summer 2004 issue of Dædalus: Journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In the article, Gray writes that the idea of progress is a recent creed that has developed, and come to be believed in, in the last two centuries. Before its development thinkers never imagined that improvement in any area of life would be sustainable throughout time; while Christianity and its promise of salvation for those who would believe inspired people to hope for improvement in the human condition, after Christianity's advent people still believed that what was gained in one generation would surely be lost in another, explains Gray. Once modern science was established and started to effect dramatic improvements in the material quality of life, people transferred their hopes for a better future from religion to science and faith in progress. This transfer was misguided, however, because faith in progress cannot account for human nature and its hopes as religion can: Like older faiths, progress and the Religion of Humanity are illusions. But whereas the illusions of older faiths embody enduring human realities, the faith in progress depends on suppressing them. It represses the conflicts of human needs and denies the unalterable moral ambiguity of human knowledge. Gray, who is clearly as skeptical about religion as he is about secular progressivism, states that it may be possible to temper the modern faith in progress, but that overcoming it any time soon is not possible.

An illusion with a future is available for order on-line.

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<![CDATA[Common Objects of Love]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/common-objects-love Thu, 14 Apr 2005 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/647 catalog maintainer
14 Apr

Common Objects of Love

Category: What We're Reading
By: Ken Myers
Published: 04/14/05
Subtitle:

In 2001, just days after the events of 9/11, moral philosopher Oliver O'Donovan gave a series of lectures for Calvin College and Calvin Seminary. The title for the series was taken from Augustine's The City of God, in which he defines a political community as "a multitude of rational beings united by agreeing to share the things they love." . . .

In 2001, just days after the events of 9/11, moral philosopher Oliver O'Donovan gave a series of lectures for Calvin College and Calvin Seminary. The title for the series was taken from Augustine's The City of God, in which he defines a political community as "a multitude of rational beings united by agreeing to share the things they love." The lectures were subsequently published under the same name, Common Objects of Love. In them, O'Donovan reflects on the links between knowledge and love, on the nature of the Church as a moral community, and on the pernicious effects of institutions of "publicity," the massive volumes of mediated communication which subvert community in the fullest sense. [Posted April 2005, KAM]

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<![CDATA[<cite>Beyond Therapy:</cite> A Report from the President's Council on Bioethics]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/beyond-therapy-report-presidents-council-bioethics Sun, 14 Mar 2004 19:00:00 -0500 https://marshillaudio.org/node/648 catalog maintainer
14 Mar

Beyond Therapy: A Report from the President's Council on Bioethics

Category: What We're Reading
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 03/14/04
Subtitle:

In October the President's Council on Bioethics submitted to the President a report titled Beyond Therapy: Biotechnology and the Pursuit of Happiness. In Beyond Therapy Council members address two concerns linked to biotechnology: the inclination of many to seek the fulfillment of the deepest human desires through biotechnology, and the threat to the soul that accompanies such fulfillment.

In October the President's Council on Bioethics submitted to the President a report titled Beyond Therapy: Biotechnology and the Pursuit of Happiness. In Beyond Therapy Council members address two concerns linked to biotechnology: the inclination of many to seek the fulfillment of the deepest human desires through biotechnology, and the threat to the soul that accompanies such fulfillment. The writers of the report have structured their study "around the desires and goals of human beings, rather than around the technologies they employ" (taken from the letter—by the Council's Chairman Dr. Leon Kass—that accompanied the report to the President). To establish a rich picture of life in the age of biotechnology the report insists on understanding human beings in psychic, moral, and spiritual terms rather than in material, mechanistic, or medical (i.e. therapeutic) ones.

Beyond Therapy considers four ends for which biotechnologies are used: better children, superior performance in the activities of life, ageless bodies, and happy souls. In its early chapters the report asks whether or not using technologies to achieve these ends redefines them. The final chapter considers what kind of society might result from employing technologies not for healing, but for human "enhancement." In setting these boundaries for the discussion of life in the age of biotechnology, Kass writes that Council members are "hopeful that, by informing and moderating our desires, and by grasping the limits of our new powers, we can keep in mind the true meaning of our founding ideals—and thus find the means to savor the fruits of the age of biotechnology, without succumbing to its most dangerous temptations."

In their research for the report members of the Council drew on sources as varied as scientific publications, weekly periodicals and daily newspapers, and classic works of literature and philosophy. The concerns of Beyond Therapy are summarized in the following paragraphs from the report:

"Summing up these 'essential sources of concern,' we might succinctly formulate them as follows:

"In wanting to become more than we are, and in sometimes acting as if we were already superhuman or divine, we risk despising what we are and neglecting what we have.

"In wanting to improve our bodies and our minds using new tools to enhance their performance, we risk making our bodies and minds little different from our tools, in the process also compromising the distinctly human character of our agency and activity.

"In seeking by these means to be better than we are or to like ourselves better that we do, we risk 'turning into someone else,' confounding the identity we have acquired through natural gift cultivated by genuinely lived experiences, alone and with others.

"In seeking brighter outlooks, reliable contentment, and dependable feelings of self-esteem in ways that by-pass their usual natural sources, we risk flattening our souls, lowering our aspirations, and weakening our loves and attachments.

"By lowering our sights and accepting the sorts of satisfactions that biotechnology may be readily able to produce for us, we risk turning a blind eye to the objects of our natural loves and longings, the pursuit of which might be the truer road to a more genuine happiness."

Members of the President's Council on Bioethics include Francis Fukuyama, Robert P. George, Paul McHugh, Gilbert Meilaender, and Michael Sandel. [Posted March 2004, ALG]

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<![CDATA[<cite>Being Human: Readings from the President's Council on Bioethics</cite>]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/being-human-readings-presidents-council-bioethics Wed, 14 Apr 2004 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/649 catalog maintainer
14 Apr

Being Human: Readings from the President's Council on Bioethics

Category: What We're Reading
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 04/14/04
Subtitle:

Ovid, St. Augustine, Francis Bacon, W. H. Auden, Thomas Mann, and Vladimir Nabokov are some of the authors whose works grace the pages of a new anthology edited and published by the President's Council on Bioethics.

Ovid, St. Augustine, Francis Bacon, W. H. Auden, Thomas Mann, and Vladimir Nabokov are some of the authors whose works grace the pages of a new anthology edited and published by the President's Council on Bioethics. Being Human: Readings from the President's Council on Bioethics speaks—through its stories, poems, memoirs, and the introductions that accompany them—to the matters and dilemmas facing humanity in an age of biotechnology. In a letter introducing Being Human the executive director of the Council writes, "The Council offers this volume in the hope that it will help advance the goals with which the Council was established, namely, 'to undertake fundamental inquiry into the human and moral significance of developments in biomedical and behavioral science and technology . . . To provide a forum for a national discussion of bioethical issues' and to 'strive to develop a deep and comprehensive understanding of the issues [the Council] considers.'" The anthology is divided into ten chapters: "The Search for Perfection"; "Scientific Aspirations"; "To Heal Sometimes, To Comfort Always"; "Are We Our Bodies?"; "Many Stages, One Life"; "Among the Generations"; "Why Not Immortality?"; "Vulnerability and Suffering"; "Living Immediately"; and "Human Dignity". [Posted April 2004, ALG]

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<![CDATA["Wardrobe Accessories"]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/wardrobe-accessories Sun, 12 Mar 2006 19:00:00 -0500 https://marshillaudio.org/node/650 catalog maintainer
12 Mar

"Wardrobe Accessories"

Category: What We're Reading
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 03/12/06
Subtitle:

On Volume 77 of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal, Peter Schakel and Alan Jacobs discussed their recent works on C. S. Lewis and the Chronicles of Narnia. Of course theirs are not the only works published lately on the subject, as a review in Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity demonstrates. . . .

On Volume 77 of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal, Peter Schakel and Alan Jacobs discussed their recent works on C. S. Lewis and the Chronicles of Narnia. Of course theirs are not the only works published lately on the subject, as a review in Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity demonstrates. In "Wardrobe Accessories," Donald T. Williams reviews three commentaries on The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, two of which are written by former guests on the Journal.

All three of the works—whose authors are Bruce Edwards, Devin Brown, and Leland Ryken and Marjorie Lamp Mead—"rise above the sea of commercial mediocrity," writes Williams, and have their own unique organization, emphasis, and focus in discussing the first book of the Chronicles. Their titles are (order listed corresponds with order of authors above): Further Up and Further In: Understanding C. S. Lewis's The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; Inside Narnia: A Guide to Exploring The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; and A Reader's Guide Through the Wardrobe: Exploring C. S. Lewis's Classic Story. Williams describes what each does best and notes to which audience each is particularly suited.

Through the years the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal has featured several interviews about Lewis and his work; to see a complete listing of them, click here. [Posted March 2006, ALG]

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<![CDATA["The Necessity of the Classics"]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/necessity-classics Wed, 10 Mar 2004 19:00:00 -0500 https://marshillaudio.org/node/651 catalog maintainer
10 Mar

"The Necessity of the Classics"

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 03/10/04
Subtitle:

In the Fall 2001 of The Intercollegiate Review, ISI published an essay by Louise Cowan titled "The Necessity of the Classics."

In the Fall 2001 of The Intercollegiate Review, ISI published an essay by Louise Cowan titled "The Necessity of the Classics." In it Cowan explains that nobility and magnanimity are present in human nature, but are not naturally displayed if one's imagination is left unstirred. The classics, which "preserve the full range of human sensibility," train the imagination and elict "greatness of soul."

An audio version of the article is available here. [Posted March 2004, ALG]

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<![CDATA["The Image Culture"]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/image-culture Wed, 11 Jan 2006 19:00:00 -0500 https://marshillaudio.org/node/652 catalog maintainer
11 Jan

"The Image Culture"

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Ken Myers
Published: 01/11/06
Subtitle:

In the Fall 2005 issue of The New Atlantis, Christine Rosen continues her insightful series of articles on technology and culture, especially those technologies that we might call "consumer technologies" rather than "producer technologies." She's not interested in large data-processing, communications, travel, or manufacturing systems, but in things like iPods, cell phones, video games, and online dating services. . . .

In the Fall 2005 issue of The New Atlantis, Christine Rosen continues her insightful series of articles on technology and culture, especially those technologies that we might call "consumer technologies" rather than "producer technologies." She's not interested in large data-processing, communications, travel, or manufacturing systems, but in things like iPods, cell phones, video games, and online dating services. These are technologies that re-configure the way we sustain relationships and order our experience in time and space. They also affect the way we regard and use language, our habits of thinking and imagining, even our sense of self.

In her latest essay, "The Image Culture," Rosen joins a venerable tradition of reflection on the comparative cultural and expressive possibilities of images and words, and considers how the ubiquity of images erodes their power. Along the way she brings a number of commentators into the discussion, including Susan Sontag, Marshall McLuhan, and Mitchell Stephens, as she discusses how programs like Photoshop and PowerPoint have transformed our relationship to images and to verbal language.

Perhaps Rosen's most helpful contribution to this continuing conversation about image-based technologies (which includes such diverse voices as Jacques Ellul's 1981 The Humiliation of the Word and my own All God's Children and Blue Suede Shoes) is her more general observation about how we assess the cultural effect of new technologies. In a discussion of some of the judgments of NYU media professor Mitchell Stephens, Rosen comments: "Like any good techno-enthusiast, Stephens takes the choices that we have made en masse as a culture (such as watching television rather than reading), accepts them without challenge, and then declares them inevitable. This is a form of reasoning that techno-enthusiasts often employ when they attempt to engage the concerns of skeptics. Although rhetorically useful in the short-term, this strategy avoids the real questions: Did things have to happen this way rather than that way? Does every cultural trend make a culture genuinely better? By neglecting to ask these questions, the enthusiast becomes nearly Panglossian in his hymns to his new world."

Rosen's questions for techno-enthusiasts are broad enough to be appropriate for use in assessing almost all instances of cultural change. If these and related questions are not asked, we will never know when we ought to resist certain changes, when we are obliged (by the ramifications of our love of God and of neighbor) to be counter-cultural. The kinds of questions Christine Rosen has been raising in her articles (available online at www.thenewatlantis.com) are exactly right for parents, pastors, and teachers who care about healthy cultural lives for themselves, for those under their care, and for society at large. [Posted January 2006, KAM]

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<![CDATA["The First of Institutions"]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/first-institutions Mon, 30 Apr 2001 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/653 catalog maintainer
30 Apr

"The First of Institutions"

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 04/30/01
Subtitle:

In an article called "The First of Institutions," theologian Gilbert Meilaender writes that conversations about homosexuality should begin with a discussion of marriage.

As headlines from both coasts indicate, there is increasing argument about the morality of homosexuality and about the proper response to social and ecclesiastical demands by homosexual rights activists. In an insightful article called "The First of Institutions" (which is available as a pdf file here), Gilbert Meilaender establishes a framework for the portion of the discussion that focuses on theological ethics. Meilaender writes that conversations about homosexuality should begin with a discussion of marriage and its purposes because marriage is the first of institutions and, as such, has much to say about the nature of sexuality and love. He proceeds to define the purposes of marriage and what they imply about sexuality, and only then moves on to the Bible's evaluation of homosexual behavior and what others have said about it. He concludes by measuring the latter against the former. "The First of Institutions" was published originally in Pro Ecclesia, Volume VI, Number 4.

Meilaender has appeared on various issues of the Journal. [Posted April 2004, ALG]

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<![CDATA["The Critical Distinction Between Science and Religion"]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/critical-distinction-between-science-and-religion Fri, 17 Nov 2006 19:00:00 -0500 https://marshillaudio.org/node/654 catalog maintainer
17 Nov

"The Critical Distinction Between Science and Religion"

Category: What We're Reading
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 11/17/06
Subtitle:

The relationship between science and religion is a popular topic on the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal; guests who have contributed to the conversation include Tim Morris and Don Petcher, and John Polkinghorne. Joel James Shuman (who discusses a book about Christians and medicine on Volume 81) has also contributed to the discussion, albeit not within the context of the Journal. . . .

The relationship between science and religion is a popular topic on the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal; guests who have contributed to the conversation include Tim Morris and Don Petcher, and John Polkinghorne. Joel James Shuman (who discusses a book about Christians and medicine on Volume 81) has also contributed to the discussion, albeit not within the context of the Journal. In 2002 Oxford University Press published Heal Thyself: Spirituality, Medicine, and the Distortion of Christianity, in which Shuman and his co-author, Keith G. Meador, study how religion is misrepresented when it is used to measure health benefits, how faith, approached as a servant of better health, is robbed of its true meaning. For a recent article-length recognition of this idea of faith being reduced to something other than what it is, see Richard P. Sloan's "The Critical Distinction Between Science and Religion" in the November 3 issue of The Chronicle Review. [Posted November 2006, ALG]

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<![CDATA["The Classics in the Slums"]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/classics-slums Tue, 13 Jan 2004 19:00:00 -0500 https://marshillaudio.org/node/655 catalog maintainer
13 Jan

"The Classics in the Slums"

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 01/13/04
Subtitle:

In the Autumn 2004 issue of City Journal, author Jonathan Rose argues that the classics aren't just for those who are well off.

In the Autumn 2004 issue of City Journal, author Jonathan Rose explores the history of the engagement of lower economic classes with classic literature. His article, "The Classics in the Slums," offers evidence that contradicts those in the academy who espouse (to quote the article) "that classic literature was always irrelevant to underprivileged people who were not classically educated" and "'that Homer, Dante, and Shakespeare do not figure significantly in the personal economies of [underprivileged] people, do not perform individual or social functions that gratify their interests, do not have value for them'" (italics in the original).

As history tells it, reading of the greats was, in fact, widespread and voracious among autodidact members of the working class in many cultures up until the mid-twentieth century. Rose writes: "In the mining towns South of Wales, colliers had pennies deducted from their wages to support their own libraries, more than 100 of them by 1934. . . . There were sophisticated literary debates down in the pits, where one collier heard high praise for George Meredith. That evening, he tried to borrow Meredith's Love in the Valley from the local miners' library, only to find 12 names on the waiting list for a single copy."

The full text of "The Classics in the Slums" is available on-line. [Posted January 2005, ALG]

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<![CDATA["The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Theology, Analogies, and Genes"]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/bible-and-homosexual-practice-theology-analogies-and-genes Wed, 09 May 2001 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/656 catalog maintainer
9 May

"The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Theology, Analogies, and Genes"

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 05/09/01
Subtitle:

In 2001, Abingdon Press published an examination of the biblical account of homosexuality by Robert Gagnon, an assistant professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Gagnon subsequently wrote a summary of the book, titled The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics, for Theology Matters: A Publication of Presbyterians for Faith, Family, and Ministry.

In 2001, Abingdon Press published an examination of the biblical account of homosexuality by Robert Gagnon, an assistant professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Gagnon subsequently wrote a summary of the book, titled The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics, for Theology Matters: A Publication of Presbyterians for Faith, Family, and Ministry. In the article, "The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Theology, Analogies, and Genes," which is available on-line as a pdf file (listed under "Gagnon, Robert"), Gagnon reflects on the theocentric posture of Scripture before approaching the "three main arguments for supporting homosexual practice,"and before looking more closely at two issues within those arguments. The two issues he looks at more closely concern the biblical analogies that are used to support homosexual practices, and the "socio-scientific data" used to prove the innateness of homosexual desires. Gagnon offers the following in his concluding thoughts in the article: "Jesus, Paul, and the first-century church generally did not view sexual intercourse and sexual gratification to be God-given rights, nor did they regard sexual intimacy as the highest good. . . . The fact is that Scripture's carefully defined vision for acceptable human sexual expression—and that of any civil society whose law contains vestiges of that vision—leaves a lot of people bereft of sexual intimacy through acceptable channels. . . . The extraordinary energy that the church has expended in efforts to secure endorsement of homosexual behavior should be diverted instead to exploring ways in which those homosexually inclined, as well as all others who cannot obtain sexual intimacy within the bounds of Scripture's parameters, can have their intimacy needs met through acceptable avenues." [Posted March 2004, ALG]

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<![CDATA["Postmodern Gnostics"]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/postmodern-gnostics Tue, 14 Sep 2004 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/657 catalog maintainer
14 Sep

"Postmodern Gnostics"

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 09/14/04
Subtitle:

"To speak of the rebirth of gnosticism in contemporary culture is one way of coming to theological terms with the moral and intellectual world of modernity and postmodernity." So says professor Roger Lundin in "Postmodern Gnostics"; read more here.

"To speak of the rebirth of gnosticism in contemporary culture is one way of coming to theological terms with the moral and intellectual world of modernity and postmodernity." Professor Roger Lundin (a guest on multiple volumes of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal) explores the manifestations of gnostic assumptions throughout history while developing a theological understanding of modernity and postmodernity in a chapter from his book The Culture of Interpretation: Christian Faith and the Postmodern World. In the chapter, titled "Postmodern Gnostics," he defines gnosticism as it was first known, traces its survival in various zeitgeists throughout the ages, and explains how the peculiar contemporary concerns for the autonomy of the self and the deification of language are part of this age's flirtation with the ancient philosophy.

With the permission of the book's publisher, Eerdman's Publishing Company, MARS HILL AUDIO is pleased to offer a downloadable copy of "Postmodern Gnostics." This article is part of a continuing series of articles available on our web pages, some of them original, some of them reprints.

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<![CDATA["Pearls Before Breakfast"]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/pearls-breakfast Thu, 12 Apr 2007 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/658 catalog maintainer
12 Apr

"Pearls Before Breakfast"

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 04/12/07
Subtitle:

All of the guests on the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal contribute to a critique of contemporary culture. Historians, artists, philosophers, bioethicists, sociologists, the accumulated wisdom of all their comments indicates that, despite the persistence and gracious epiphanies of goodness and beauty and truth, contemporary culture is structurally alienated from the transcendent. . . .

All of the guests on the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal contribute to a critique of contemporary culture. Historians, artists, philosophers, bioethicists, sociologists, the accumulated wisdom of all their comments indicates that, despite the persistence and gracious epiphanies of goodness and beauty and truth, contemporary culture is structurally alienated from the transcendent. A recent article in the Washington Post chronicles a manifestation of this disorder. The article describes a sociological experiment the Post conducted in January, 2007; it is titled "Pearls Before Breakfast: Can one of the nation's great musicians cut through the fog of a D.C. rush hour? Let's find out." Gene Weingarten, the author, tells the story of how the Post hired Joshua Bell, a violin virtuoso, to play several classical masterpieces at a Metro train station during morning rush hour. The descriptions of how people reacted—or didn't—say much about the current regard of many for classical music, beauty, interruptions, consideration of public space, and limited use of communications technologies. The article is available online.

For names of MARS HILL AUDIO guests who have spoken on related matters, visit the following topics pages: beauty, classics, culture, modernity, music, technology, technology and culture, and time. [Posted April 2007, ALG]

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<![CDATA["J. Gresham Machen and the Problem of Christian Civilization in America"]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/j-gresham-machen-and-problem-christian-civilization-america Wed, 14 Apr 2004 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/659 catalog maintainer
14 Apr

"J. Gresham Machen and the Problem of Christian Civilization in America"

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 04/14/04
Subtitle:

By most measures the significance of J. Gresham Machen is minor. Few outside the world of conservative Presbyterianism know about the man once recognized as the most articulate and intelligent proponent of historic Protestantism in the United States. . . .

By most measures the significance of J. Gresham Machen is minor. Few outside the world of conservative Presbyterianism know about the man once recognized as the most articulate and intelligent proponent of historic Protestantism in the United States. Indeed, most assessments of Machen highlight his historical importance, a sure sign of fading significance. As early twentieth-century fundamentalism's lone scholar, Machen is best remembered for his involvement in the ecclesiastical and cultural struggles of the 1920s, the time when the term "fundamentalism" was coined. From 1923, the publication date of Machen's Christianity and Liberalism, until his sudden death in 1937 at the age of fifty-five, Machen was the fiercest critic of Protestant liberalism, proving to be especially nettlesome for officials in the Northern Presbyterian Church (PCUSA). Over the course of the fundamentalist controversy Machen founded a new seminary (Westminster Theological Seminary in 1929) to protest theological changes within the administration of Princeton Seminary, the institution where he had taught New Testament since 1906 and established a reputation as one of the leading authorities in the United States in New Testament scholarship. In 1933 he accused the Presbyterian foreign missions establishment of harboring theological modernism, criticized the revered missionary statesman, Robert E. Speer, forced the novelist and missionary, Pearl Buck, to resign from the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions, and established a rival and independent missions agency (The Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions). In the end, Machen's temerity forced the allegedly tolerant and mild-mannered Presbyterian leadership beyond the limits of Christian unity and good will. In 1935 the church tried and suspended him from the ministry for his renegade ways. Yet, despite the controversial conclusion to his rocky and distinguished career, Machen maintained his reputation as the most articulate, the most consistent, and probably the most ardent proponent of the Christian religion as defined by the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms. . . .

The entirety of this essay by D. G. Hart is available here. [Posted April 2005, ALG]

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<![CDATA["In Defense of Memorization"]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/defense-memorization Mon, 09 Aug 2004 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/660 catalog maintainer
9 Aug

"In Defense of Memorization"

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 08/09/04
Subtitle:

For a brief article that promotes both reading and memorization as ways to enlarge, strengthen, and free young minds, see the Summer 2004 issue of City Journal.

For a brief article that promotes both reading and memorization as ways to enlarge, strengthen, and free young minds, see the Summer 2004 issue of City Journal. In "In Defense of Memorization," Michael Knox Beran describes the contemporary anathema to reading and memorizing poetry, and why earliers eras would not have agreed. "Classic poetry and rhetoric," he writes, "give kids a language, at once subtle and copious, in which to articulate their own thoughts, perceptions, and inchoate feelings. They help awaken what was previously dormant, actualize what was before only potential, and so enable the young person to fulfill the injunction of Pindar: 'Become what you are.'" [Posted August 2004, ALG]

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<![CDATA["I Wonder What the King Is Doing Tonight"]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/i-wonder-what-king-doing-tonight Sun, 16 May 2004 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/661 catalog maintainer
16 May

"I Wonder What the King Is Doing Tonight"

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Ken Myers
Published: 05/16/04
Subtitle:

The legends surrounding the figure of King Arthur are compelling and exciting, and their origins and evolution are intriguing. MARS HILL AUDIO attends to these legends through an interview with novelist Stephen Lawhead and an essay by Jonathan G. Reinhardt.

The legends surrounding the figure of King Arthur are fascinating on many levels. The stories themselves are often compelling and exciting. But the origins and evolution of the stories are also intriguing. In some of the accounts, pre-Christian elements shaded with Christian concerns, in others the Christian element dominates with echoes of a pre-Christian past. Themes of redemption and justice are commingled with expressions of treachery and revenge. On Volume 27 of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal, Ken Myers interviewed Stephen Lawhead about his retelling of the Arthur story; to revisit that subject, we are now making available on-line an essay called "The Matter of Britain: An Introduction to Arthurian Legend," written by Jonathan G. Reinhardt who worked with us in the summer of 2003. Jonathan's essay looks at the ideas that are associated with the Arthur myths, as well as the many sources that combined to form a memorable and evocative body of stories.

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<![CDATA["Casual Sex Is a Con"]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/casual-sex-con Wed, 17 Jan 2007 19:00:00 -0500 https://marshillaudio.org/node/662 catalog maintainer
17 Jan

"Casual Sex Is a Con"

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 01/17/07
Subtitle:

Living chastely in today's culture is made especially challenging by confusion in conventional thinking about sexuality, sex, and marriage. For example, the message is widespread that casual sex is beneficial for everyone involved. . . .

Living chastely in today's culture is made especially challenging by confusion in conventional thinking about sexuality, sex, and marriage. For example, the message is widespread that casual sex is beneficial for everyone involved. In an article published in the Times Online, author Dawn Eden argues that such is not the case at least for women and introduces her recently published book on the subject, The Thrill of the Chaste: Finding Fulfillment While Keeping Your Clothes On. In the article, "Casual Sex Is a Con: Women Just Aren't Like Men," she notes that the Sixties generation made "free love" socially acceptable and that following generations have been reaping the painful consequences. Eden writes: "Whatever [Germaine] Greer and her ilk might say I've tried their philosophy—that a woman can shag like a man—and it doesn't work. We're not built like that. Women are built for bonding. . . . however much we try and convince ourselves that it isn't so, sex will always leave us feeling empty unless we are certain that we are loved, that the act is part of a bigger picture that we are loved for our whole selves not just our bodies."

Sex, feminism, chastity, modesty, courtship, and love are all subjects addressed on the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal. Previous conversation partners include Wendy Shalit, the late Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, and Amy and Leon Kass. [Posted January 2007, ALG]

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<![CDATA["Bright Sadness" and Arvo Pärt]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/bright-sadness-and-arvo-p%C3%A4rt Thu, 02 Oct 2003 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/663 catalog maintainer
2 Oct

"Bright Sadness" and Arvo Pärt

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 10/02/03
Subtitle:

For a brief but thoughtful and descriptive introduction to Arvo Pärt, see professor Dale Nelson's review of his music in the March 2002 issue of Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity. The review, "The Bright Sadness of Arvo Pärt," begins with a list of Pärt's recordings and concludes with notes on the recordings. . . .

For a brief but thoughtful and descriptive introduction to Arvo Pärt, see professor Dale Nelson's review of his music in the March 2002 issue of Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity. The review, "The Bright Sadness of Arvo Pärt," begins with a list of Pärt's recordings and concludes with notes on the recordings. In the body of the text Nelson gives a short biography of the composer, compares his music to Bach's, and discusses the different terms listeners use to describe the qualities of the works. Many would say the music, which is "characterized by 'directness of feeling, transparency of form, austerity of mood, economy of gesture,'" has a "timelessness" about it, Nelson writes. But the other reality of which it is full is "bright sadness," which Nelson describes through a quote from Orthodox theologian Alexander Schmemann's Great Lent.

"The Bright Sadness of Arvo Pärt" is available on-line. [Posted October 2006, ALG]

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<![CDATA["A Faithful Journey through the Bible and Homosexuality?"]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/faithful-journey-through-bible-and-homosexuality Wed, 13 Apr 2005 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/664 catalog maintainer
13 Apr

"A Faithful Journey through the Bible and Homosexuality?"

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 04/13/05
Subtitle:

On Volume 68 of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal, professor Robert Gagnon discussed the biblical texts concerning homosexual relations and various arguments that obscure the meaning of those texts. In a recent article "A Faithful Journey through the Bible and Homosexuality?" he again deconstructs poorly reasoned arguments that subvert the meaning of the biblical text regarding sexual behavior . . .

On Volume 68 of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal, professor Robert Gagnon discussed the biblical texts concerning homosexual relations and various arguments that obscure the meaning of those texts. In a recent article "A Faithful Journey through the Bible and Homosexuality?" he again deconstructs poorly reasoned arguments that subvert the meaning of the biblical text regarding sexual behavior, this time focusing on two books commissioned by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), titled Journey Together Faithfully, Part Two: The Church and Homosexuality, and Background Essay on Biblical Texts for "Journey Together Faithfully, Part Two."

The introductory pages of Gagnon's thorough article set the context for the rest of the document. The remaining portions demonstrate, in his words, "how poorly Journey Two and Background Essay presented the biblical-theological case against homosexual practice and for a sexuality predicated on complementary sexual others."

The ELCA is meeting in August of 2005 to consider whether or not to enforce its current policy "that pastors and rostered laypersons are expected to abstain from sexual relationships outside of marriage, including homosexual relationships" ("A Faithful Journey through the Bible and Homosexuality?"). The denomination appointed a committee to assess biblical texts in order to determine if the current policy could be changed and still keep faith with biblical teaching on sexual behavior, and the committee produced the previously mentioned works. Gagnon responds to two of the books' non-biblical claims in his introduction, demonstrating why sexual proclivities are not matters of indifference to the soul and why pastors are not at liberty to counsel an individual to disregard traditional ethical and theological teaching about sexual behavior.

"A Faithful Journey through the Bible and Homosexuality?" is available on-line. [Posted April 2005, ALG]

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<![CDATA["The Witness of Czeslaw Milosz"]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/witness-czeslaw-milosz Thu, 09 Dec 2004 19:00:00 -0500 https://marshillaudio.org/node/665 catalog maintainer
9 Dec

"The Witness of Czeslaw Milosz"

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 12/09/04
Subtitle:

In his interview with Roger Lundin about poet Czeslaw Milosz (1911-2004) on Volume 71 of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal, Ken Myers mentioned an article about Milosz published in the November 2004 issue of First Things. The full text of the article is now available through First Things's web pages.

In his interview with Roger Lundin about poet Czeslaw Milosz (1911-2004) on Volume 71 of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal, Ken Myers mentioned an article about Milosz published in the November 2004 issue of First Things. The full text of the article is now available through First Things's web pages.

In "The Witness of Czeslaw Milosz," author Jeremy Driscoll attends to an oft-overlooked element of Milosz's greatness: his Christian witness. Driscoll notes that Milosz believed the question of religion ought to be explored in the mainstream of literature and culture, and thus that many of his poems are imbued with his struggle with faith. While the poet did struggle with faith, Driscoll writes, he also felt compelled—partly by the witness of the saints who had gone before him—to remain true to his religious inheritance, trusting the Christian tradition throughout history to answer the questions which were troubling him and the age in which he lived. Endeavoring to remain faithful to that tradition, Milosz wrote—to paraphrase the man himself—gentle verses declaring themselves for life in the midst of horror. He recorded and praised the world's passing beauty, states Driscoll, reminding his readers, in his twilight years, that such beauty comes from a permanent source beyond the world. [Posted December 2004, ALG]

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<![CDATA["The Caregiving Society"]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/caregiving-society Mon, 16 May 2005 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/666 catalog maintainer
16 May

"The Caregiving Society"

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 05/16/05
Subtitle:

Professor Peter Augustine Lawler, a guest on volumes 56 and 71 of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal, attends to the dilemmas of Social Security in an aging nation and the idea of an "ownership society" in the Spring 2005 issue of The New Atlantis.

The Spring 2005 issue of The New Atlantis includes an article by Peter Augustine Lawler, a guest on volumes 56 and 71 of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal. In "The Caregiving Society," Lawler takes the possibility of Social Security reform as an occasion to explore society's attitudes towards aging, the young and old, freedom, independence, care-giving and -receiving, and families and individuals. Members of American society are obsessed with youth and self-reliance and find it increasingly difficult to both give and receive care, writes Lawler. He demonstrates, throughout the six sections of the article, that "Lives moved by a veneration of independence threaten to leave us unprepared for dependence, and thus increase the burdens and challenges of long-term care."

The full text of "The Caregiving Society" is available on-line. [Posted May 2005, ALG]

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<![CDATA["Sex and the Episcopal Church"]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/sex-and-episcopal-church Tue, 29 May 2001 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/667 catalog maintainer
29 May

"Sex and the Episcopal Church"

Category: What We're Reading
By: Ken Myers
Published: 05/29/01
Subtitle:

Theologian and author R. R. Reno offers an analysis of some of the deep disorders of contemporary culture that assail the Church in his essay "Sex and the Episcopal Church," a chapter in his book, In the Ruins of the Church: Sustaining Faith in an Age of Diminished Christianity.

Few theologians have as perceptive a sense of the deep disorders of contemporary culture (and the challenges those disorders present to the Church) as R. R. Reno. So MARS HILL AUDIO is proud to be able to share with our friends one chapter from his recent book, In the Ruins of the Church: Sustaining Faith in an Age of Diminished Christianity. "Sex in the Episcopal Church" was written before the current controversy concerning Bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, but analyses many of the cultural dynamics at work in the Episcopal Church, drawing heavily from David Brooks's portrayal of Bourgeois Bohemians (in his book Bobos in Paradise). This essay is available for download for a limited time, thanks to the book's publisher, Brazos Press. [Posted February 2004, KAM]

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<![CDATA["Music and the Spheres" Lecture Available On-line]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/music-and-spheres-lecture-available-line Sun, 14 Aug 2005 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/668 catalog maintainer
14 Aug

"Music and the Spheres" Lecture Available On-line

Category: What We're Reading
By: Ken Myers
Published: 08/14/05
Subtitle:

In April of 2004, Ken Myers participated in a conference held in Charlottesville and sponsored by the Center for Christian Study. . . .

In April of 2004, Ken Myers participated in a conference held in Charlottesville and sponsored by the Center for Christian Study. The Conference was called "Music and the Spheres: Music, Faith and Culture in America Today," and the speakers included theologian and pianist Jeremy Begbie (interviewed on Volume 64 of the Journal), conductor and music professor John Hodges (a guest six times, as listed here), and film composer J. A. C. Redford (who also writes chamber and sacred choral music, as discussed in conversation on Volume 41 and Volume 67). These lectures have been available for sale from the Center for Christian Study on cassette or CD (call 434-817-1050 to order), and they have given permission for us to make an mp3 version of the lecture by Ken Myers available for free download from our webpage. In this lecture, Ken examines ways in which social configuration of music in our lives and the assumptions we typically have about beauty and order reflect larger patterns of disorder in modernity. The Center for Christian Study has other lectures available in mp3 format through its web page, www.studycenter.net. [Posted August 2005, KAM]

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<![CDATA["Medicine Goes to the Mall"]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/medicine-goes-mall Thu, 26 May 2005 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/669 catalog maintainer
26 May

"Medicine Goes to the Mall"

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 05/26/05
Subtitle:

"Today it is seen as entirely fitting and proper for physicians to employ medical technology to remedy the social and psychological problems of stigma, alienation, and poor self-esteem." So writes Carl Elliott, a guest on Volume 70 of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal, in an article published by the American Medical Association; "Medicine Goes to the Mall: Enhancement Technologies and Quality of Life" is available on-line. [Posted May 2005, ALG]

"Today it is seen as entirely fitting and proper for physicians to employ medical technology to remedy the social and psychological problems of stigma, alienation, and poor self-esteem." So writes Carl Elliott, a guest on Volume 70 of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal, in an article published by the American Medical Association; "Medicine Goes to the Mall: Enhancement Technologies and Quality of Life" is available on-line. [Posted May 2005, ALG]

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<![CDATA["Islam and the West: A Conversation with Bernard Lewis"]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/islam-and-west-conversation-bernard-lewis Tue, 30 May 2006 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/670 catalog maintainer
30 May

"Islam and the West: A Conversation with Bernard Lewis"

Category: What We're Reading
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 05/30/06
Subtitle:

Professor Bernard Lewis, a guest on Volume 59 of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal and Conversation 19, "The Crisis of Islam and the Crisis of the West," spoke earlier this year at an event hosted by The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. . . .

Professor Bernard Lewis, a guest on Volume 59 of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal and Conversation 19, "The Crisis of Islam and the Crisis of the West," spoke earlier this year at an event hosted by The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. In "Islam and the West: A Conversation with Bernard Lewis," Lewis discusses the reaction to the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed and the questions it raises.

The event at which Lewis spoke was, according to the transcript, ". . . part of an ongoing Pew Forum series that brings together journalists and policy leaders to discuss timely topics at the intersection of religion and public affairs." [Posted May 2006, ALG]

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<![CDATA["Freedom and Decency"]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/freedom-and-decency Sun, 03 Oct 2004 20:00:00 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/671 catalog maintainer
3 Oct

"Freedom and Decency"

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 10/03/04
Subtitle:

"We are free not because we can choose, but only when we have chosen well." So writes orthodox theologian David B. Hart in an article titled "Freedom and Decency" published in the June/July 2004 issue of First Things.

"We are free not because we can choose, but only when we have chosen well." So writes orthodox theologian David B. Hart in an article titled "Freedom and Decency" published in the June/July 2004 issue of First Things. Hart, a guest on Volume 67 of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal, muses about matters of censorship and definitions of freedom in this edifying and lambent article.

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<![CDATA[Getting It All Wrong: Bioculture Critiques Cultural Critique]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/getting-it-all-wrong-bioculture-critiques-cultural-critique-0 Sun, 04 Mar 2007 19:00:00 -0500 https://marshillaudio.org/node/672 catalog maintainer
4 Mar

Getting It All Wrong: Bioculture Critiques Cultural Critique

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 03/04/07
Subtitle:

A recent article in the American Scholar suggests that academics in the humanities should be challenged by the work of their colleagues in the sciences who have shown that reality is not socially constructed. In Getting It All Wrong: Bioculture Critiques Cultural Critique, author Brian Boyd states that the work of scientists reveals a givenness to reality; he addresses how knowledge of that givenness is manifested and the foundations upon which it is based. . . .

A recent article in the American Scholar suggests that academics in the humanities should be challenged by the work of their colleagues in the sciences who have shown that reality is not socially constructed. In Getting It All Wrong: Bioculture Critiques Cultural Critique, author Brian Boyd states that the work of scientists reveals a givenness to reality; he addresses how knowledge of that givenness is manifested and the foundations upon which it is based. The findings of science, he explains, demonstrate that components of reality can be known with surety but also that such knowledge is complex and incomplete. These findings challenge both the postmodern notion that there is no givenness to reality (nor—even if there were—could people know it with any degree of confidence) and the modern notion that knowledge of reality is potentially complete. These findings also challenge the assertions of academics in the humanities, particularly those who study literary criticism and who claim that knowledge of reality is difficult if not impossible to attain, and always contingent on time and place. Boyd compares and contrasts the way the disciplines understand knowledge. He also attends to the different opinions literary studies and the biological sciences have about whether or not reality can be known.

Boyd states that scholars of literary studies critique works of literature in order to understand the culture that produced the work, not in order to examine the work's artfulness, nor to gain knowledge and wisdom about the world and the human condition. Such wisdom and knowledge—because it would apply in all times and places and because such all-encompassing truths do not exist in this worldview—cannot be known in general, and particularly cannot be known in literature. Boyd describes how the biological sciences' understanding of knowledge and truth differs from this view. The biological sciences, he states, have proven how difficult it is to discover knowledge of reality's givenness; when scientists test a seemingly straightforward hypothesis, they often find that it contains a more complex description of reality than they had first imagined it would. But through such testing the sciences have shown that knowledge is possible and that there are solid foundations upon which to base it. Scientific work indicates that some particularities can only be rightly understood in light of some generalities. It has suggested that situatedness (the idea that all statements of truth are only true for their particular time and place) can include the unique situation of being human (i.e. that some statements of truth apply to many times and places because human nature's essence is fixed). Boyd writes that these demonstrations call into question the anti-foundationalism and situatedness advocated in many literary studies departments.

Boyd's observations parallel those made by professor James K. A. Smith on volume 82 of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal. In the Journal interview, Smith discusses how postmodern thought accounts for knowledge of reality. Postmodern thinkers do not use dogmatic, objective statements to describe reality. Instead they tell stories about their experience in and of the world. Smith points out that while the stories vary, the fact that they are about the same sorts of things indicates that there is a givenness to reality and that people can know it with some amount of confidence.

The conclusions of both commentators indicate that the Church is on firm ground when it insists on the possibility of knowing truly. They also provide tools for the Church as it seeks to preach and to embody truth in an increasingly hostile culture. [Posted March 2007, ALG]

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<![CDATA["What You Need to Know About Hans Urs von Balthasar"]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/what-you-need-know-about-hans-urs-von-balthasar Fri, 23 Aug 2013 14:18:04 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/688 catalog maintainer
23 Aug

"What You Need to Know About Hans Urs von Balthasar"

Category: What We're Reading
By: Ken Myers
Published: 08/23/13
Subtitle:

Rodney Howsare's new essay (and his 2009 book) provide instructive guidance for reading Balthasar.

To date, our Journal has featured no interviews about the work of theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar. There is probably no good reason for this omission. His name has been mentioned in passing during interviews, and many of our guests have been influenced by his work (perhaps most notably David Schindler, heard on vol. 112, and Stratford Caldecott, a guest on vol. 102 and vol. 116).

Reading Balthasar is not a project casually pursued. As Rodney Howsare has remarked, Balthasar “makes enormous demands on his reader, both in terms of the density of his arguments and in terms of what he expects them to already know.” Howsare has provided would-be Balthasar readers with welcome assistance in his 2009 book, Balthasar: A Guide for the Perplexed (T&T Clark). Now Howsare (Professor of Fundamental Theology at DeSales University) has offered an even more concise and tantalizing primer in an essay posted on the Front Porch Republic website, “What You Need to Know About Hans Urs von Balthasar.” In addition to a summary of Balthasar’s massive theological project, Howsare includes links to other introductory essays.

Click here to subscribe to the Addenda RSS feed.

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<![CDATA[Robert George on Marriage]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/robert-george-marriage Tue, 03 Sep 2013 08:25:07 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/692 catalog maintainer
3 Sep

Robert George on Marriage

Category: Fresh Tracks
Published: 09/03/13
Subtitle:

Free audio resource from Mars Hill Audio!

Volume 117 of the Mars Hill Audio Journal featured a lengthy interview with Princeton Professor of Jurisprudence Robert George on the subject of marriage. Given the relevance of that interview to current events, and the large amount of positive feedback we've had from our listeners on the segment, we're making it available for free to all users logged into our website. Click here to listen to or download the interview.

 

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What is Marriage? (Encounter Books, 2012)
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<![CDATA[Stanley Hauerwas on the modern idea of freedom]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/stanley-hauerwas-modern-idea-freedom Thu, 05 Sep 2013 12:57:16 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/693 catalog maintainer
5 Sep

Stanley Hauerwas on the modern idea of freedom

Category: What We're Reading
By: Ken Myers
Published: 09/05/13
Subtitle:

American churches and autonomous choosers

One of the themes that emerged in several interviews on Volume 118 of the Journal was the meaning of human freedom. I think Ron Highfield (God, Freedom, and Human Dignity) is absolutely right in insisting that the modern view of freedom is incompatible with the Gospel’s understanding of who we are and how we were meant to thrive. Unfortunately, much of American Christianity seems configured to justify many modern assumptions rather than critique them. 

Do American churches have the capacity and courage to offer an alternative to the central assumptions that comprise the spirit of our age? In a recently published essay called “The End of American Protestantism,” Stanley Hauerwas argued that “Protestant churches in America lost the ability to maintain the disciplines necessary to sustain a people capable of being an alternative to the world.” He further observes: “More Americans may go to church than their counterparts in Europe, but the churches to which they go do little to challenge the secular presumptions that form their lives or the lives of the churches to which they go.”

I have a lot of sympathy with Hauerwas’s evaluation of the cultural captivity of the American churches. And I think Hauerwas is right in this essay to identify a particular view of freedom (and of America) as fundamental to our confusion. That view of freedom is implicit in the glib concept of “church shopping” (as Daniel M. Bell, Jr., observed in our conversation) and in the proud championing of the “market-driven church” that has become uncontroversial in much of Protestantism.

Hauerwas argues that “America is the exemplification of what I call the project of modernity. That project is the attempt to produce a people who believe that they should have no story except the story that they choose when they had no story. That is what Americans mean by ‘freedom.’” Hauerwas has used this “no story” formulation to discuss the modern view of freedom in other essays, and it’s worth spending some time with his essay to discern what he means. I think that he’s right in insisting (here and elsewhere) that this is a view of freedom that issues in nihilism. American society, he asserts, is “a society that shares no goods in common other than the belief that there are no goods in common.” If churches really want to confront the implicit (and often explicit) nihilism of our cultural moment, they will have to confront their complicity in its nurturing.

Click here to subscribe to the Addenda RSS feed.

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Stanley Hauerwas
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<![CDATA[After humanism]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/after-humanism Tue, 24 Sep 2013 21:15:56 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/694 catalog maintainer
24 Sep

After humanism

Category: What We're Reading
By: Ken Myers
Published: 09/24/13
Subtitle:

Transcending limits, abolishing the human

Early in my interview with Gilbert Meilaender about his recent book, Should We Live Forever? (Journal Volume 118), he said that the subject of the ethics of anti-aging research was something he could not discuss in a “metaphysically neutral” way. The need for a starting point in evaluating technical means to extend human life becomes dramatically obvious when interacting with the most radical advocates of anti-aging research, the so-called “transhumanists.” As their self-designation suggests, the transhumanists (also known as “immortalists”) aren’t so much interested in extending human life as transcending it. 

Some of this movement’s assumptions about the meaning of the human (or the absence of meaning in “the human”) are discussed in a 2010 article by Fred Baumann, professor of political science at Kenyon College. Published in The New Atlantis (Fall 2010), “Humanism and Transhumanism” explains how this utopian commitment depends on “a new science that accepts reductionist materialism as a matter of course, both as an account of nature and of man.” As Baumann writes:

The new science isn’t squeamish about man as machine; transhumanism goes a step further and embraces man’s becoming a different machine, or any number of kinds of machines. If that were to come to pass, even if only among elites, it would be a change of world-historical proportions, because it would mean that the new science was no longer merely seeking to transform the world to suit human beings, but rather transforming human beings into whatever they chose.

Because they are committed to eliminating all limits to human willing — limits historically regarded as necessities — the transhumanists imagine a bright future without true inwardness.

[I]nwardness arises from reflection on the self; from struggling with the challenges the world presents to you and you present to yourself; from meeting those challenges or failing to meet them; from working to make sense of them; and from the result of all these things: the progressive unfolding of the self over time. Inwardness, then, requires necessities, and arises in no small part from accepting them and reflecting on the difficulties inherent in them.

Baumann examines four possible objections to the transhumanist agenda, but acknowledges that such objections are not likely to be regarded compelling. There is, after all, no metaphysically neutral basis on which to advocate or criticize such a project. As long as we believe we must check our metaphysical convictions at the door when entering into public debate about public matters (government funds such research), the position that seems to advance more choices is likely to win. As Baumann muses, “few people seem to see that our technological motion ought to have some sensible guidance rather than continuing its relentless and blind inertia forward.”

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<![CDATA[The Desire of the Nations]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/desire-nations Wed, 25 Sep 2013 14:34:15 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/695 catalog maintainer
25 Sep

The Desire of the Nations

Category: What We're Reading
By: Ben Garner
Published: 09/25/13
Subtitle:

Rediscovering the Roots of Political Theology

A theme that is discussed quite often on the Journal is how important it is for Christians to be able to think christianly about politics – not merely on a policy-by-policy basis, but about political order as a whole. What is the purpose or end of political order, and what does the Gospel communicate about the proper ends of men’s political interactions with each other?

One thinker who has not yet been featured on the Journal, preeminent political theologian Oliver O’Donovan, answers these kinds of questions in his masterful work, The Desire of the Nations. Published in 1999, it is his most thorough work of political theology to date. Yet O’Donovan does not pursue a discussion of political order separated from other considerations, instead desiring to tear down the barriers that have been erected by modern thinking between politics and theology. The desire of the nations is Christ, O’Donovan argues (referencing Haggai 2:7), and therefore all political action is infused, whether we acknowledge it or not, with religious undertones. As O’Donovan puts it: “within every political society there occurs, implicitly, an act of worship of divine rule.” Christians who fail to fully grasp the implications of Christ’s kingship over all things run a serious risk, then, of falling into a form of political idolatry. Interested readers can find a more detailed review of the work here.

Due to O’Donovan’s commitment to a vision which MARS HILL AUDIO shares, that of encouraging Christians to think through the implications of the Gospel on the area of culture known as politics, it is with great excitement that we are pleased to co-sponsor an event in Washington D.C. titled “The Gospel and Public Life: Cultivating a Faithful Witness in the Face of Challenge.” Ken Myers will host a discussion with Professor O’Donovan on the subject of America’s transition to a “post-Christian” society. More details, including the time and location, can be found here.

This event is a perfect opportunity for MARS HILL AUDIO listeners to experience a live and in-person interview, unmediated as they usually are by the strictures of audio-recording technology. We hope to see you there.

UPDATE: The audio from this event was recorded live and is available for free to all users logged in to our website. To listen or download, click here.

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<![CDATA[The Homosexual Movement]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/homosexual-movement Thu, 26 Sep 2013 15:12:53 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/696 catalog maintainer
26 Sep

The Homosexual Movement

Category: What We're Reading
By: Ben Garner
Published: 09/26/13
Subtitle:

Whose love? Which marriage?

The March 1994 issue of First Things featured an article titled “The Homosexual Movement.” It was a position paper produced by the Ramsey Colloquium, a group of scholars and public intellectuals from a variety of academic disciplines. Many of the document’s signers (Hadley Arkes, Gilbert Meilaender, and Robert George, to name a few) have appeared on past issues of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal. The purpose of the paper was to point out the flaws in what we have come to recognize, two decades later, as the determined and largely successful push to normalize same-sex behavior.

The Colloquium made a much neglected point in its paper about the definition of the word “love”:

There are legitimate and honorable forms of love other than marriage. Indeed, one of the goods at stake in today's disputes is a long-honored tradition of friendship between men and men, women and women, women and men. In the current climate of sexualizing and politicizing all intense interpersonal relationships, the place of sexually chaste friendship and of religiously motivated celibacy is gravely jeopardized.

Far from expanding the definition of love to include previously marginalized groups, current habits of thought have actually narrowed it dramatically.

Men have always been allowed, and even encouraged, to love other men in a real and deep way – such love used to be called friendship, and Aristotle ranked it as one of the highest virtues a person could attain. But if what the Colloquium suggested is true, then proponents of same-sex marriage have essentially declared all love to be rooted in sexual desire. Affirming the goodness of many forms of homosexual love (such as friendship), then, while at the same time denying members of the same sex the right to express that love sexually is seen as a complete contradiction.

Many thinkers over the past few decades have, like the Ramsey Colloquium, given the lie to modernity’s claims of unprecedented freedom and liberation. Particularly in the realm of language, modernity has been terribly tyrannical; words like love and marriage, which in the Christian faith have had such depth and richness of meaning, become reduced to one aspect and squeezed into a blunt and narrow ideology.

The intensity of the debates on homosexuality has escalated considerably in the two decades since the Ramsey Colloquium put forth their opinion on the subject, but its arguments still hold a great deal of weight.  

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<![CDATA[Imagining our selves in the image of our devices]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/imagining-our-selves-image-our-devices Thu, 26 Sep 2013 16:36:18 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/697 catalog maintainer
26 Sep

Imagining our selves in the image of our devices

Category: What We're Reading
By: Ken Myers
Published: 09/26/13
Subtitle:

Ellen Ullman on computer science, the meaning of life, and the importance of the body

In his book, Should We Live Forever? Gilbert Meilaender (a guest on volume 118 of the Journal) offers a cogent critique of the radical anti-aging agenda of the transhumanists, sometimes acknowledged as “posthumanists.” Meilaender comments on the contradiction at the heart of their program: 

The posthumanist vision begins with a thoroughgoing commitment to materialistic reductionism, in order, then to reimagine human beings as immaterial — as utterly disembodied. We are, according to this view, what our brains do. Mind and personal identity are located in the pattern of information housed in the brain, and our memories and emotions are simply the behavior of its nerve cells. Having reduced mind to that, we can then imagine the possibility of transferring it to a computer program, where the “self” would remain in entirely immaterial form.

Human beings are reduced to bodies, personality is then reduced to brains, which is further reduced to information, which can then survive without a body. Neat.

It is precisely the neatness of it — the dispensing with the messiness of bodies — that displays how research in cognitive science, artificial intelligence [A.I.], robotics, and “artificial life” has much in common with ancient Gnosticism.

In her 2002 article “Programming the Post-Human: Computer science redefines ‘life’” (Harper’s, October 2002) Ellen Ullman describes (with a profound sense of un-ease) how scientific research in various disciplines has converged to promote a vision of the future once only imaginable to fabulists like Isaac Asimov. Ullman recalls how in the late 1970s and 1980s, working as a young computer programmer, she

saw in AI  the opportunity to explore questions that had previously been in the province of the humanities. What are we? What makes a human intelligent? What is consciousness, knowledge, learning? . . . It was clear that as members of a secular society that has given up on the idea of God we would be looking elsewhere for the source of what animates us, and that “elsewhere” would be the study of cybernetic intelligence, the engine of postmodern philosophical speculation.

Ullman bristles at the mechanistic, reductionistic view of life that is advanced by the research, and she makes a good case for its inadequacies, but she finally has no compelling way to refute it. Nonetheless, her essay has not lost in 11 years any of its power to describe the dehumanizing agenda that animates (if that is an apt word) this agenda. Passages in the article are reminiscent of scenes set in the National Institute for Coordinated Experiments (N.I.C.E.), the site of some devilish brain research in C. S. Lewis’s That Hideous Strength.

Ullman’s essay was appreciated at the time by Steve Talbott (a guest on two back issues) in his on-line newsletter NetFuture (#138). Talbott welcomed her descriptions of the dehumanizing effects of this research (and her personal sense of dis-ease at the vision of life it represents), but finally says that he couldn’t “see how Ullman has made a case in any way that clearly separates her view from that of the AI researchers she is criticizing.”

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<![CDATA[Religion for Sundays only]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/religion-sundays-only Sat, 12 Oct 2013 10:55:45 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/698 catalog maintainer
12 Oct

Religion for Sundays only

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Ken Myers
Published: 10/12/13
Subtitle:

Walter Kasper on the meaning of secularization

“[T]o the degree that religion disappears from the external world it retreats into the interior in order to erect its temples and altars in the heart. As a result, secularization did not cause the death of religion; it led rather to the alienation between a secular and monotonous cultural world and a kind of ‘Sunday existence’ represented by religion. Religion did not cease to exist; it did, however, become but one sector of modern life along with many others. Religion has lost its claim to universality and its power of interpretation, and has become particular, at times even a form of a subculture.
     “To be sure, not only religion, but man himself has become homeless in the modern world. Wherever man loses the all-embracing unity of all reality that used to be articulated by religion and cultivated by liturgical celebrations, the individual human being becomes homeless and without support.”

— from “Nature, Grace, and Culture: On the Meaning of Secularization,” in Catholicism and Secularization in America: Essays on Nature, Grace, and Culture (Notre Dame: Communio Books, 1990) edited by David L. Schindler.

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<![CDATA[Oliver O’Donovan on civil religion (and other forms of cultural captivity)]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/oliver-o%E2%80%99donovan-civil-religion-and-other-forms-cultural-captivity Thu, 17 Oct 2013 15:23:34 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/700 catalog maintainer
17 Oct

Oliver O’Donovan on civil religion (and other forms of cultural captivity)

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Ken Myers
Published: 10/17/13
Subtitle:

“ . . . the Gospel may raise serious difficulties for an order that conceives itself as democratic . . . ”

“Civil religion is a corruption to which the church is liable when it enjoys a close co-operation with the state. It is not a matter of serving the interests of government solely — civil religion can flourish in opposition, too — but the interests of the state at large, bolstering its legitimacy, supporting its political philosophy, inculcating virtues, both active and passive, which are useful to the political constitution of society. And not everything that the church may say or do along these lines is to be disapproved of. It is when this line of thought has become autonomous, cut loose from its evangelical authority, that it distorts the witness of the Gospel. ‘Never mind how you vote, just make sure you go to the poll!’ Messages like that delivered from the pulpit are the archetypal civil religion of modern democracy. They maintain the appearance of political neutrality, while actually suppressing important possibilities for Christian criticism: that the Gospel may raise serious difficulties for an order that conceives itself as democratic, that the Christian population may need to send a message of disapproval not to the governing party but to the political classes at large, and so on. Jaques Ellul waged periodic campaigns against voting; they deserve at lease a respectful mention in the annals of Christian political witness.
     “However, civil religion is only one manifestation of a more general temptation: that of accommodating the demands of the Gospel to the expectations of society. Any successful mission will leave the church inculturated; any inculturated church is liable to lose its critical distance on society. Forms of prophetic criticism may persist, but they become increasingly intra-mural, taking up those causes which were controversial anyway rather than finding deeper grounds for evangelical challenge. Echoing political controversy, rather than calling its grounds in question, is the sign of a Babylonian captivity which cannot be avoided by purely constitutional precautions. The end of Christendom has not, in fact, resulted in a freer and more independent-minded church. Much Christian enthusiasm for ‘pluralism’ has less to do with a relation to the state than with the church’s yearning to sound in harmony with the commonplaces of the stock exchange, the law-courts and the public schools. . . . And the only precautions we can take are theological. To the extent that the Christian community is possessed by its Gospel, it will be be protected against social conformity.” 

— from Oliver O’Donovan, The Desire of the Nations: Rediscovering the Roots of Political Theology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), pp. 225f..

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<![CDATA[Oliver O’Donovan in Conversation]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/oliver-o%E2%80%99donovan-conversation Thu, 17 Oct 2013 15:38:09 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/701 catalog maintainer
17 Oct

Oliver O’Donovan in Conversation

Category: Fresh Tracks
By: Ken Myers
Published: 10/17/13
Subtitle:

Discussing political theology with Matthew Lee Anderson and Ken Myers

Oliver O’Donovan’s 1996 book The Desire of the The Nations: Rediscovering the Roots of Political Theology is a monumentally important work. The roots referenced in the subtitle are present in the Old Testament, in the New Testament, and in pre-modern theological reflection on the task of political authority. Modern theology and modern politics have tended — sometimes vehemently — to insist on a wall of separation between them, a wall O’Donovan insists must be torn down if we are to be true to the Gospel, which is, after all, the good news about God’s Kingdom. “Theology must be political if it is to be evangelical. Rule out the political questions and you cut short the proclamation of God’s saving power; you leave people enslaved where they ought to be set free from sin — their own sin and others’.”

In October 2013, while the U.S. government was shut down over disputes about the federal budget, Oliver O’Donovan made a rare visit to Capitol Hill for a public conversation about the Gospel and public life. The event was held a few blocks from the relatively darkened Capitol building, before a group of about 160 congressional and executive branch staff people, Christian activists, clergy, theologians, and assorted lay-people. Sponsored by the Mere Orthodoxy blog, RenewDC, the Christian’s Library Press, and MARS HILL AUDIO, the conversation was convened by Matthew Lee Anderson, the author of The End of Our Exploring and Earthen Vessels, and one of the principal contributors to mereorthodoxy.com.

The event was recorded and is available here, in streaming audio or downloadable MP3. (Listeners must sign in to access the audio.)

A brief extract from The Desire of the Nations is available here.

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<![CDATA[In Light of the Logos: Creation, Redemption, and the Christian Imagination]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/light-logos-creation-redemption-and-christian-imagination Mon, 28 Oct 2013 16:06:59 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/702 catalog maintainer
28 Oct

In Light of the Logos: Creation, Redemption, and the Christian Imagination

Category: Fresh Tracks
Published: 10/28/13
Subtitle:

Ken Myers delivers lectures at Dallas Theological Seminary

On October 22-25, 2013, Ken Myers delivered a series of three lectures at Dallas Theological Seminary as part of the school’s inaugural Arts Week. The week, which included an art show, guest performers, and Myers’s three lectures, was incorporated this year to help emphasize the importance of Christian involvement in the arts. The lectures, titled “In Light of the Logos: Creation, Redemption, and the Christian Imagination,” were recorded and are available for both viewing and downloading on Dallas Theological Seminary’s website.

One of the main themes in these lectures is the claim that a Christian understanding of art and imagination begins with a confidence in the meaningful order of Creation, an order which survives the Fall and which is perceived by the collaboration of reason and imagination. So a confident affirmation of the doctrine of Creation is fundamental to understanding art and imagination. Second, the mystery of the Incarnation — God taking human form — is the basis for regarding aspects of embodied life and action as meaningful and valuable. Third, the resurrection of the man Jesus Christ confirms God’s love for his Creation and the order he established within it. Our present delight in the reality of beauty within Creation anticipates our future delight in the new heavens and the new earth.

Below are links to the three lectures and the Q&A session:

Lecture I

Lecture II

Lecture III

Question and Answer session

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<![CDATA[Crowd Culture]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/crowd-culture Fri, 08 Nov 2013 12:50:44 -0500 https://marshillaudio.org/node/703 catalog maintainer
8 Nov

Crowd Culture

Category: What We're Reading
By: Ben Garner
Published: 11/08/13
Subtitle:

An examination of the American way of life

In 1952, Bernard Iddings Bell described the general attitude of society towards the Church thus: “[M]ost Americans regard the Church as promoter of a respectable minor art, charming if it happens to appeal to you, its only moral function to bless whatever the multitude at the moment regards as the American way of life.”

The truth stings all too sharply through that statement, more true today than it was over a half-century ago. Bell, who was an Episcopal priest and educator, had a great many harsh words to say about the state in which he found the Church, particularly the Church in America. She had lost her prophetic calling, no longer standing against the deformities and perversions of the surrounding culture, but instead had simply joined hands with the prevailing cultural forces, thereby consigning herself to cultural captivity and irrelevancy.

The quotation above comes from Bell’s book Crowd Culture, which was reprinted in 2001 by ISI Books. Much of what Bell argued in that book can be found in a more condensed form in this article titled “Will the Church Survive?”, run in the October 1942 edition of The Atlantic.

In it, Bell has more words of reproach:

It is because the Church has thus obscured the socially prophetic note that it seems to most people to have no relevancy. The masses of the folk, observing the Church as of late the Church has been willing to present itself, say, ‘There is nothing here to bother with. These people bear within themselves no salvation. They are as mad as all the rest of us. They are not worth listening to. They are not even worth crucifying.’

Bell eventually answers his hypothetical question with a definitive “yes”; the church will, in fact, survive. But it will take a small minority of Christians who are willing to speak prophetically and boldly against prevailing fashions:

By no means all the Church’s membership is still placidly content with relegation to insignificance. In the ears of more and more Christians there sounds, ever louder, ever more insistent, the command that the kingdom of the world must become the kingdom of God and of His Christ. There are those who begin again to believe, with more than a verbal acquiescence, that all of man belongs to God: his doings economic, industrial, political, sexual, marital, creative, recreational. These rebellious souls, to be sure, are a small minority of Christians; but among them are persons both of high position and of influence intellectual and moral.

Let’s hope that Bell’s words are still true, and that there still remain that small minority of Christians willing to be rebels.

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<![CDATA[Alan Jacobs on the Christian conviction of poet Christina Rossetti]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/alan-jacobs-christian-conviction-poet-christina-rossetti Wed, 20 Nov 2013 14:32:14 -0500 https://marshillaudio.org/node/706 catalog maintainer

In 1994, Volume 12 of the MARS HILL TAPES featured an interview with English professor Alan Jacobs on the poetry of Christina Rossetti. This interview was referenced in Volume 119 of the Journal, and the audio from that interview is now available for free (Listeners must be logged in to access the audio).

To access the audio in streaming format or downloadable MP3, click here.

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<![CDATA[In Our Time podcast featuring Christina Rossetti]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/our-time-podcast-featuring-christina-rossetti Fri, 22 Nov 2013 12:46:40 -0500 https://marshillaudio.org/node/708 catalog maintainer
22 Nov

In Our Time podcast featuring Christina Rossetti

Category: Fresh Tracks
By: Ben Garner
Published: 11/22/13
Subtitle:

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life and work of the Victorian poet Christina Rossetti

Volume 119 of the Journal featured an interview with Karen Dieleman about the work of three poets, one of whom was Christina Rossetti. As a bonus accompanying material, we also released a free recording of an interview with Alan Jacobs which was first featured on Volume 12 of the MARS HILL TAPES.

As yet another resource on this topic for interested listeners, we’d also like to direct you to a podcast produced by the BBC called In Our Time. Hosted by Melvyn Bragg (who was himself a guest of the Journal on Volume 112), the free podcast discusses various topics relating to the history of ideas. Click here to listen to Bragg discuss the life of Christina Rosetti. In this feature, listeners can learn more about the historical context of Rossetti’s work, in particular her connections with such movements as the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood as well as the Oxford Movement within the Church of England.

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<![CDATA[The Catholic Writer Today]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/catholic-writer-today Fri, 06 Dec 2013 14:43:24 -0500 https://marshillaudio.org/node/709 catalog maintainer
6 Dec

The Catholic Writer Today

Category: What We're Reading
By: Ben Garner
Published: 12/06/13
Subtitle:

Dana Gioia on the need for a renewal of Catholic literature

Dana Gioia, poet and former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, wrote a lengthy article for the latest issue of First Things in which he details the decline over the past fifty years or so of the prominence of Catholic literature in the greater world of American literary culture. Gioia is a catholic Catholic: he argues that the decline of Catholic literature has a negative effect on everyone interested in a thriving artistic culture, not just Roman Catholics:

The retreat of the nation’s largest cultural minority from literary discourse does not make art healthier. Instead, it weakens the dialectic of cultural development. It makes American literature less diverse, less vital, and less representative.

It’s not just Catholic voices that are being squeezed out of the dialogue, Gioia argues; it’s the loss of any real engagement between the dominant culture of materialistic philosophy and any persons who believe that “all reality is mysteriously charged with the invisible presence of God.” Anyone who “tend[s] to see humanity struggling in a fallen world,” who “combine[s] a longing for grace and redemption with a deep sense of human imperfection and sin” suffers when Catholic literature declines.

Gioia closes the essay with some choice observations on the nature of culture:

Culture is not an intellectual abstraction. It is human energy expressed through creativity, conversation, and community. Culture relies on individual creativity to foster consciousness, which then becomes expanded and refined through critical conversation. Those exchanges, in turn, support a community of shared values. The necessary work of writers matters very little unless it is recognized and supported by a community of critics, educators, journalists, and readers. The communion of saints is not only a theological concept, it is the model for a vibrant Catholic literary culture.

Read the whole essay here.

Dana Gioia has been featured on five Journal issues, most recently on Volume 111.

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<![CDATA[Pity the Beautiful: Poems]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/pity-beautiful-poems Tue, 10 Dec 2013 14:05:33 -0500 https://marshillaudio.org/node/710 Ken Myers
10 Dec

Pity the Beautiful: Poems

Category: What We're Reading
By: Ken Myers
Published: 12/10/13
Subtitle:

Dana Gioia’s latest collection of verse

Dana Gioia’s recent essay, “The Catholic Writer Today,” is a sobering reminder of the causes and consequences of the contemporary “schism between Christianity and the arts.” Gioia’s realistic diagnosis and hopeful encouragements (summarized here) should be read in light of his work as a poet, which displays the commitment to craft, language, and tradition he calls for as a cultural observer.

His most recent collection of poetry is called Pity the Beautiful, his first volume in over a decade; serving as chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts from 2003 to 2009 kept him somewhat preoccupied. Among the poems is one with seasonal relevance called “Shopping,” which begins:

I enter the temple of my people but do not pray.
I pass the altars of the gods but do not kneel
Or offer sacrifices proper to the season.

Strolling the hushed aisles of the department store,
I see visions shining under glass,
Divinities of leather, gold, and porcelin,
Shrines of cut crystal, stainless steel, and silicon.

But I wander the arcades of abundance,
Empty of desire, no credit to my people,
Envying the acolytes their passionate faith.
Blessed are the acquisitive,
For theirs is the kingdom of commerce. . . .

The imagery in “Prayer at Winter Solstice” makes it a fitting Advent meditation:

Blessed is the road that keeps us homeless.
Blessed is the mountain that blocks our way.

Blessed are hunger and thirst, loneliness and all forms of desire.
Blessed is the labor that exhausts us without end.

Blessed are the night and the darkness that blinds us.
Blessed is the cold that teaches us to feel.

Blessed are the cat, the child, the cricket, and the crow.
Blessed is the hawk devouring the hare.

Blessed are the saint and the sinner who redeem each other.
Blessed are the dead, calm in their perfection.

Blessed is the pain that humbles us.
Blessed is the distance that bars our joy.

Blessed is this shortest day that makes us long for light.
Blessed is the love that in losing we discover.

 

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<![CDATA[Shining Glory]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/shining-glory Wed, 08 Jan 2014 14:46:33 -0500 https://marshillaudio.org/node/711 catalog maintainer
8 Jan

Shining Glory

Category: What We're Reading
By: Ben Garner
Published: 01/08/14
Subtitle:

Theological reflections on Terrence Malick's Tree of Life

Volume 119 of the Journal featured an interview with theologian Peter Leithart on the topic of empire criticism. As readers of his First Things blog will know already, Leithart’s expertise is certainly not limited to political theology, or even to theology in general. He has proven himself well versed in things philosophical and literary, and with last year's publication of Shining Glory: Theological Reflections on Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life, he demonstrated his ability as a film critic.

Examining the film from a distinctly theological perspective, Leithart unpacks many of the key themes of the film, showing them to be part of a complex and coherent whole. Leithart is, admittedly, not an unbiased critic; in his preface he describes the film as “one of the most beautiful films I had ever seen, drenched in prayer, shot-through with the biggest questions that we humans pose about our lives and our world, more philosophically and theologically sophisticated than any film I knew.”

If you’ve seen the film already, you’ll know that it is the type of film that demands helpful commentary such as this (and multiple viewings!) in order to grasp its full significance. Shining Glory is a short and enlightening read – and it is always encouraging to realize how thoroughly Christian and theologically rich an incredible work of art like Tree of Life really is.

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<![CDATA[Oliver O’Donovan on how the Church promotes the cause of freedom]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/oliver-o%E2%80%99donovan-how-church-promotes-cause-freedom Wed, 08 Jan 2014 15:27:58 -0500 https://marshillaudio.org/node/712 Ken Myers
8 Jan

Oliver O’Donovan on how the Church promotes the cause of freedom

Category: What We're Reading
By: Ken Myers
Published: 01/08/14
Subtitle:

Wisdom from The Desire of the Nations: Rediscovering the Roots of Political Theology

Near the end of The Desire of the Nations, Oliver O’Donovan examines the origins and trajectory of liberal society in the West. He begins by calling attention to a scenario imagined by St. Paul in I Corinthians 14:24f., in which an unbeliever wanders into a church that is saturated in compelling, prophetic witness. The message he hears is both rational and convicting, and he falls on his face in repentance. This story, O’Donovan says, “is a paradigm for the birth of free society, grounded in the recognition of a superior authority which renders all authorities beneath it reactive and provisional. We discover we are free when we are commanded by that authority which commands us according to the law of our being, disclosing the secrets of the heart. There is no freedom except when what we are, and do, corresponds to what has been given to us to be and to do. ‘Given to us’, because the law of our being does not assert itself spontaneously merely by virtue of our existing. We must receive ourselves from outside ourselves, addressed by a summons which evokes that correspondence of existence to being. ‘Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty’ (2 Cor. 3:18). The church of Christ, which professes the authority of God’s summons in the coming of Jesus, has the role of hearing it, repeating out, drawing attention to it. In heeding the church, society heeds a dangerous voice, a voice that is capable of challenging authority effectively, a voice which, when the oppressed have heard it (even in an echo or at a distance), they cannot remain still.” [p. 252]    

Click for a link to free audio featuring Ken Myers in conversaion with Oliver O’Donovan.

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<![CDATA[Surviving Technopolis]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/surviving-technopolis Wed, 15 Jan 2014 11:49:10 -0500 https://marshillaudio.org/node/713 catalog maintainer
15 Jan

Surviving Technopolis

Category: What We're Reading
By: Ben Garner
Published: 01/15/14
Subtitle:

Essays on finding balance in our new man-made environments

Technology often plays a prominent role in the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal discussions; over the years we've spoken with figures such as Gilbert Meilaender, Albert Borgmann, Brian Brock, and Neil Postman on topics ranging from bioethical concerns to the sociological and psychological impact of the internet. Adding to this discussion about the overlooked consequences of technology is a new book by Arthur W. Hunt III, Associate Professor of Communications at the University of Tennessee, titled Surviving Technopolis. This book features a collection of Hunt's essays, each one examining the impact of technology on a specific area of life from economics to public speaking. From the introduction:

Whether we call it the megamachine, La Technique, Technopoly, or the Abolition of Man, makes little difference. These labels are all getting at the same thing. To boil it down, Technopolis refers to our new man-made environments - now gone global - and how they intentionally and unintentionally alter the economic, social, and moral fabric of our lives. In this sense Technopolis is not just about new and powerful technologies; it is about the technological milieu in which we swim. Ultimately, these essays address the subject of what people are for - that is, the implications of being created in God's image.

It's a short read, but filled with insights into the far-reaching impact of our technology-driven society.

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<![CDATA[Taking a world's-eye view of America]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/taking-worlds-eye-view-america Fri, 07 Feb 2014 12:15:16 -0500 https://marshillaudio.org/node/714 catalog maintainer
7 Feb

Taking a world's-eye view of America

Category: What We're Reading
By: Ben Garner
Published: 02/07/14
Subtitle:

How pop culture is our most prominent (and destructive) export

What picture comes into your head when you hear the word “America” or “American society”? Whatever picture it is (and we all have one, differ though it may from person to person), it is most likely not the picture that would pop into the mind of someone raised in, say, Saudi Arabia, or Ethiopia, or China.

We should be concerned, however, about the nature of this picture that has developed of America in most parts of the world. Such is the argument of Martha Bayles (former guest of the Journal on Volume 10) in her new book Through a Glass Darkly: Popular Culture, Public Diplomacy, and America’s Image Abroad. In the 1990’s, Bayles writes, America, having defeated the Soviets in the Cold War, decided to get out of the public diplomacy business, dissolving the United States Information Agency (USIA) in 1999. But public diplomacy didn’t stop just because the government stopped taking responsibility for it; rather, the reins were handed over to the producers and pushers of pop culture. Now, America’s image is almost entirely shaped by whatever the pop culture industry happens to be pumping out at the time—and in recent years what it has been pumping out has been increasingly toxic, especially as it finds its way into more traditionally oriented communities in the Middle East and Africa.

In the introduction, Bayles recounts an interview she conducted with the leader of an Islamist terrorist organization in Jakarta:

Like many people I have met overseas, Rizieq showed little awareness of America’s larger cultural heritage, or even of its ‘classic’ popular culture. To him, American culture consists mainly of the latest commercial entertainment, from rap and rock that “reduces you to the level of animals, making you dance like a monkey,” to films and TV shows that “use slogans like ‘freedom’ to cover immoral behavior like gambling, alcohol, prostitution, and homosexual marriage.” He also believed that the US government was deliberately exporting these harmful influences as part of a Western conspiracy to destroy Islam.

What most Americans take to be the relatively harmless, if perhaps not the most desirable, aspects of popular culture is taken around the world to be an accurate representation of America and her values. And while the rosy optimism of the early 90’s led us to declare that democracy and freedom were our greatest exports, the reality is that our most visible offerings to the global marketplace in the past few decades have been things like pornography, fast food, and Britney Spears.

If America’s image is to be restored, Bayles writes, we must “stop treating American entertainment as cultural expression at home and a commodity overseas,” and instead get serious about attending to and polishing our reputation. And that polishing will, one hopes, include asking some difficult questions about whether or not we have become as obsessed with cheap, trashy entertainment as the world believes.

 

Through a Glass Darkly is available from Yale University Press; a full review of the book can be found on the website of the Weekly Standard.

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<![CDATA[Allen Verhey and the art of dying well]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/allen-verhey-and-art-dying-well Fri, 28 Feb 2014 11:54:33 -0500 https://marshillaudio.org/node/716 catalog maintainer
28 Feb

Allen Verhey and the art of dying well

Category: What We're Reading
By: Ben Garner
Published: 02/28/14

Dr. Allen Verhey, Professor of Christian Theology at Duke Divinity School, passed away on February 27th, 2014, at the age of 68. Listeners who recall his interview on Volume 116 of the Journal will not be surprised to hear that the brief announcement made by Duke Divinity School said that “he died peacefully at home.”

That interview was occasioned by the publication of what would be Dr. Verhey’s last book, The Christian Art of Dying: Lessons from Jesus. In that work, Verhey discusses the 15th-century Ars Morienda, an illustrated text on the “art of dying.” This text, Verhey points out, is helpful in some ways but at points too Stoic, not allowing room for what Verhey takes to be the very proper and Christian response of lamentation. From the interview:

One of the great contributions of the ars moriendi tradition was that it told the dying that they should think on the passion of Christ. But to think on the passion of Christ is to remember that Christ made lament. The word from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” is from Psalm 22, which is of course a psalm of lament in the Old Testament. “Into your hands I commend my spirit” is taken from a psalm of lament [Psalm 31]; it’s not the lament itself but it’s a prayer for deliverance, involving the certainty of a hearing, from a prayer of lament.

Lament has a place because physical life is a good. The Christian tradition, the story of Jesus does not make either death or suffering goods; they don’t make masochists of us. They permit us to endure dying and to endure suffering with the confidence that God has been and will be victorious over death and suffering; but there has to be a place for lament. The psalmist in Psalm 31 is threatened by death, and suffering, threatened by enemies and in that context, calls upon God for life, for deliverance, and is confident about God’s care.

The ars moriendi tradition can still be seen today in those who would (quite understandably wanting to lessen the psychological blows dealt by death and suffering) have us view a person’s death not as a tragedy, but as their release from physical suffering into the blissful existence of heaven in perfect unity with God. But to make a most profoundly unnatural event like death into a cause for rejoicing is not necessarily the most Christian approach. As Nicholas Wolterstorff put it in an interview with Ken Myers (included in the MARS HILL AUDIO Report: Best-Selling Spirituality):

The earth and our bodily relationships to each other, our personal relationships to each other, are important. We’re made as bodily creatures and that’s something good about us, and so, when a person you love dies, that person is gone. And one can hear some words from other people which are meant as consolation to say that the person in question is better off, and in fundamental ways things aren’t really different and so forth, but still there’s this biting reality: the person is gone, I can’t talk to him anymore, I can’t embrace him anymore, I can’t be with him anymore. For me a person isn’t just a spirit; a person is a bodily thing. To be human is to be a sort of personal animal, and when the person dies, as I say, I can’t express my love anymore, so death is the breaking of the bonds of love.

. . . .

Deep in the Christian vision, I think, has to be the vision of God’s wounded love, and our wounded love; that if love is appropriate, then when the object of that love is destroyed or altered, grief is appropriate. And the Christian hope is that that’s not the end of things, but that hope is not to be achieved by overlooking the propriety of grief.

Verhey’s death rightly prompts mourning for the “breaking of the bonds of love,” but also kindles our desire to see the goodness of the created order restored in the new heavens and new earth. And it is this desire for restoration, this hope we have by means of the resurrection, that is the final word. Verhey reminds us in his book:

Christians hope because they know the faithfulness of the One who made all things, because they know the story of one who was raised from the dead, and because they know a life-giving Spirit. The Christian church owns a story in canon and in creed that begins with the power and love of the Creator, centers in the resurrection of the crucified Jesus, and ends with talk of God’s good future—and our own. They cannot but hope.

If these are the grounds for Christian hope, then the virtue of hope must somehow be fitting to this story. And if it is to be fitting to this story, hope may not shrink to the egocentric hope that a solitary individual may experience the bliss of heaven. The scope of Christian hope is nothing less than cosmic. The story begins with the creation of all things, and it reaches finally to “all things” made new.

Verhey’s life and work are appreciated and will be remembered by many. It is with great lament that we mark his passing, and great hope that we look to the day when all things are made new.

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<![CDATA[Abraham Kuyper: Modern Calvinist, Christian Democrat]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/abraham-kuyper-modern-calvinist-christian-democrat Wed, 12 Mar 2014 11:54:42 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/719 catalog maintainer
12 Mar

Abraham Kuyper: Modern Calvinist, Christian Democrat

Category: Fresh Tracks
By: Ben Garner
Published: 03/12/14
Subtitle:

Interview with James Bratt now available for free download

Volume 120 of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal featured an interview with James Bratt, of Calvin College, on his new biography of Abraham Kuyper. Since Dr. Bratt was such a stimulating guest, we decided to make a longer version of that conversation available here as a free download. To listen to or download the audio, click here (if you haven't registered for a free user account on our site yet, you'll need to do that before accessing the audio). Bratt provides a fascinating account of the life and work of Abraham Kuyper; focusing not only on his theological and cultural vision but on the historical and personal events in Kuyper's life that helped shape that vision. We hope you enjoy the discussion, and if you're interested in hearing more like it, click here to subscribe to the Journal.

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<![CDATA[Saving the Appearances: Creation's Gift to the Sciences]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/saving-appearances-creations-gift-sciences Thu, 01 May 2014 16:08:56 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/721 catalog maintainer
1 May

Saving the Appearances: Creation's Gift to the Sciences

Category: What We're Reading
By: Ben Garner
Published: 05/01/14
Subtitle:

Michael Hanby on theology and science

Is it possible to have science without theology? Can the scientific enterprise, as its apologists frequently claim, easily bracket and set aside theological and metaphysical assumptions and pursue disinterested observation of natural phenomena?

That it is possible for science to be fully neutral and disinterested is largely taken as a given, even by those who think that science shouldn’t be so neutral (those who argue scientists should allow Scripture to inform the direction and interpretation of their research, for example, as well as Kurzweil-ian futurists who propose science be guided by a trans-human, singularity narrative).

But Michael Hanby, recently featured on Volume 121 of the Journal, isn’t convinced that science ever can fully separate itself from metaphysical assumptions. In a 2009 article entitled “Saving the Appearances: Creation’s Gift to the Sciences,” Hanby argued the following:

There is no pure method, and no science can do and indeed ever does without a metaphysics and therefore ultimately a theology whose “axioms” with respect to being, time, space, matter, motion, truth, knowledge, and God are not simply “presupposed” at the boundaries of the science where they can be bracketed in the name of methodological purity.

It’s a claim that will sound shocking to some, but it really isn’t all that new. Hanby follows in a long line of philosophers and theologians skeptical about the supposedly self-evident neutrality of things such as science, technology, and economics. The legacy of such concern over technological and scientific trends in society stretches back at least as far as C. S. Lewis, and includes such figures as Jacques Ellul, George Parkin Grant, and Gabriel Marcel. In fact, Hanby and these other thinkers all argue in various ways that the idea of “neutrality” within any particular discipline is a belief peculiar to modern society. Just as with the advent of modernity came a belief in a purely “secular” state and economy — capable of bracketing all assumptions about truth and goodness — so also came the idea of a “secular” science.

No God, No Science? is a dense but fascinating work, and I would encourage anyone interested in the topics mentioned above to read it. If you’re looking for a shorter introduction to Hanby’s thought, however, the essay quoted above provides the perfect opportunity, as do the following essays:

  • “Culture of Death,” on how boredom is the ontology of modern society, against which the only effective resistance is an ontology of joy.

The ideas Hanby discusses in his interview on Volume 121 are particularly resistant to brief summary, so be sure to take a look at his writing, either in the essays above or his book No God, No Science?, to see the full scope of his arguments.

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Dr. Michael Hanby, Associate Professor of Religion and Philosophy of Science, Pontifical John Paul II Institute
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<![CDATA[Learning to look and listen]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/learning-look-and-listen Sat, 17 May 2014 20:15:15 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/722 Ken Myers
17 May

Learning to look and listen

Category: What We're Reading
By: Ken Myers
Published: 05/17/14
Subtitle:

Introducing students to art and music

There are many reasons why Christians should take an interest in art and music education. Among them is the fact that when Christian institutions demonstrate that they are serious about training the imagination, they testify to the fact that a Christian understanding of reality takes beauty as seriously as it does goodness and truth (even if many Christians fail to recognize this). Robert Houston Smith has noted that “Though immensely subtler, the human imagination is, in its own distinctive way, just as absolute as are universal moral laws or syllogisms. All are part and parcel of the same underlying reality that is itself inaccessible to the mind through any direct means.”

So it is always encouraging to see a new primer on art and music written with students in mind. Art and Music: A Student’s Guide (Crossway), by Paul Munson and Joshua Farris Drake, is part of a series of slim volumes called Reclaiming the Christian Intellectual Tradition. The series editor is David Dockery, former president of Union University and president-elect of Trinity International University in Illinois. Other volumes in the series include one on philosophy by David Naugle and one on literature by Louis Markos. Munson and Drake both teach at Grove City College, and they make it clear from the outset that neither indifference to beauty nor aesthetic relativism are compatible with a Christian understanding of God or Creation.

I was asked to write a blurb for this volume. In its unedited (and admitedly long-winded) form, it read as follows:

“Many in our society are afflicted with the assumption that all value judgments are simply expressions of personal preference. In our churches, this subjectivism is manifest in a chronic and often stubborn refusal to recognize hierarchies of value in forms of artistic expression. As a result, art and music are typically enjoyed mindlessly, which has the unfortunate result that the most mindless works get the most attention. Drake and Munson know better. They know that our minds and imaginations require training to work as they are intended to work. They know that failure to cultivate eyes to see and ears to hear prevents us from perceiving the glory of God’s Creation as ramified in great works of art and music. Their book offers courageous instruction for those open to attending to beauty.”

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A helpful primer on aesthetic meaning
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<![CDATA[Stanley Hauerwas on Christian cultivation and cultural captivity]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/stanley-hauerwas-christian-cultivation-and-cultural-captivity Sat, 17 May 2014 23:34:43 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/723 Ken Myers
17 May

Stanley Hauerwas on Christian cultivation and cultural captivity

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Ken Myers
Published: 05/17/14
Subtitle:

The disabling consequences of winsomeness

“The training entailed in being a Christian can be called, if you are so disposed, culture. That is particularly the case if, as Raymond Williams reminds us in Keywords, culture is a term first used as a process noun to describe the tending or cultivation of a crop or animal. One of the challenges Christians confront is how the politics we helped create has made it difficult to sustain the material practcies constitutive of an ecclesial culture necessary to produce Christians.

“The character of much of modern theology exemplifies this development. In the attempt to make Christianity intelligible within the epistemological conceits of modernity, theologians have been intent on showing that what we believe as Christians is not that different than what those who are not Christians believe. Thus [Alasdair] MacIntyre’s wry observation that the project of modern theology to distinguish the kernel of the Christian faith from the outmoded husk has resulted in offering atheists less and less in which to disbelieve.

“It should not be surprising, as David Yeago argues, that many secular people now assume that descriptions of reality Christians employ are a sort of varnish that can be scraped away to reveal a more basic account of what has always been the case. From a secular point of view it is assumed that we agree, or should agree, on fundamental naturalistic and secular descriptions of reality, whatever religious elaborations may lay over them. What I find so interesting is that many Christians accept these naturalistic assumptions about the way things are because they believe by doing so it is possible to transcend our diverse particularites that otherwise result in unwelcome conflict. From such a perspective it is only a short step to the key sociopolitical move crucial to the formation of modern societies, that is, the relegation of religion to the sphere of private inwardness and individual motivation.”

—from Stanley Hauerwas, “Church Matters,” in Christian Political Witness, edited by George Kalantzis and Gregory W. Lee (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2014)

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<![CDATA[Alasdair MacIntyre on sacred and secular]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/alasdair-macintyre-sacred-and-secular Fri, 30 May 2014 15:23:07 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/724 Ken Myers
30 May

Alasdair MacIntyre on sacred and secular

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Ken Myers
Published: 05/30/14
Subtitle:

The dangers of self-marginalizing religion

“When the sacred and the secular are divided, then religion becomes one more department of human life, one activity among others. . . . This has in fact happened to bourgeois religion. . . . Only a religion which is a way of living in every sphere either deserves to or can hope to survive. For the task of religion is to help see the secular as the sacred, the world as under God. When the sacred and the secular are separated, then ritual becomes an end not to the hallowing of the world, but in itself. Likewise if our religion is fundamentally irrelevant to our politics, then we are recognizing the political as a realm outside the reign of God. To divide the sacred from the secular is to recognize God’s action only within the narrowest of limits. A religion which recognizes such a division, as does our own, is one on the point of dying.”

—from Alasdair MacIntyre, Marxism: An Interpretation (London: SCM Press, 1953)

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Alasdair MacIntyre
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<![CDATA[Against the machine]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/against-machine Tue, 03 Jun 2014 10:00:28 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/725 Ken Myers
3 Jun

Against the machine

Category: What We're Reading
By: Ken Myers
Published: 06/03/14
Subtitle:

How a bad metaphor obscures the mystery of life

One of the great insights of Michael Hanby’s remarkable book, No God, No Science? (discussed on Volume 121 of the Journal) is the recognition that the materialistic assumptions that characterize much modern thought are sustained because of the mechanistic model that informs the modern imagination. Christians realize how important it is to confront the materialistic mistake, but they often share an unwitting sympathy for the mechanistic model. Many thinkers (e.g., C. S. Lewis, Jacques Ellul, Oliver O’Donovan) have warned about the influence of ubiquitous technology on our imaginations; the persistence of mechanistic thinking is one such effect. 

Virtually all aspects of social life, personal relationships, and even religious experiences are commonly imagined in mechanistic terms (e.g., “Washington is broken,” “We need to jumpstart the economy,” “That event was a great networking opportunity,” etc.). Hanby refers to the “mechanistic ontology” that informs much thinking about Creation (not to mention the relationship between Creation and God), suggesting that the machine serves as more than a suggestive model that illumines an aspect of reality, but the way things really are most essentially.

At the beginning of his book, Life Is a Miracle, Wendell Berry observes:

The most radical influence of reductive science has been the virtually universal adoption of the idea that the world, its creatures, and all the parts of its creatures are machines — that is, that there is no difference between creature and artifice, birth and manufacture, thought and computation. Our language, wherever it is used, is now almost invariably conditioned by the assumption that fleshly bodies are machines full of mechanisms, fully compatible with the mechanisms of medicine, industry, and commerce; and that minds are computers fully compatible with electronic technology.

This may have begun as a metaphor, but in the language as it is used (and as it affects industrial practice) it has evolved from metaphor through equation to identification. And this usage institutionalizes the human wish, or the sin of wishing, that life might be, or might be made to be, predictable.

We can’t avoid the use of metaphors in our thinking, but we can try to avoid the use of inadequate or misleading metaphors. The metaphor of the machine is a deeply attractive one within many spheres of modern culture, and probably for the reason Berry suggests. Sociologist Craig Gay has observed that “the desire to maintain autonomous control over reality by rational-technical means is particularly central to the modern world. Put somewhat differently, we might say that a modern society is one in which the prevailing conception of the human task in the world is that of mastery by way of systematic manipulation.”

If modernity is about control through systematic manipulation, it is very attractive to imagine that all organisms are simply mechanisms that happen to be alive. Seeing and treating the world as a collection of mechanisms — rather than a community of mysterious organisms — promises the possibility of control, even if the promise often goes unfulfilled.

All of the above is prelude to a commendation of the work of Stephen Talbott, who has been writing for some time about various myths that shape our use of technology and our pursuit of scientific knowledge. His early work (e.g., The Future Does Not Compute: Transcending the Machines in Our Midst, published in 1995) confronted the extravagant claims that computer technology would solve all of the problems faced by educators. More recently his writing for The Nature Institute has been challenging the reductionistic thinking that drives a lot of enthusiasm about biotechnology and genetic research. Through his Biology Worthy of Life project, Talbott has been examining the framework of understanding that guides both ends of means of biological research.

As part of that project, Talbott recently posted an essay entitled “Biology’s Shameful Refusal to Disown the Machine-Organism.” In this essay, Talbott examines what is obscured in our perception of living things when they are imagined to be very much like non-living things. Early in the piece, Talbott asserts that “an inexcusable mistake has gripped the scientific community for decades, severely perverting biological understanding.” By treating all causality within organisms as mechanistic causality, biologists misrepresent or misunderstand living things. “If biologists would only recognize that they are not dealing with machines, the causal ambiguity they continually run up against would cease to frustrate them. They would realize that they are — if they would only raise their eyes to take in the larger, qualitative picture — gaining an ever fuller understanding of the way organisms actually live their lives. There are numberless potential causal relations among the molecules, cells, and organs of any given creature; from among these, and acting as a whole in ever-changing, context-dependent ways, this creature weaves the causal threads of its own life.”

The temptation to regard all things as working after the model of machines is one of the fundamentally disorienting dispositions of modernity. Its effects on biology as documented by Stephen Talbott’s essays and books are simply one expression of a faulty preoccupation with how things work that detaches us from deeper and more fruitful habits of reflection on what and why things are.

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Stephen Talbott and his colleagues confront the reductionism of organisms to useful mechanisms
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<![CDATA[True transcendence, true immanence]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/true-transcendence-true-immanence-0 Mon, 07 Jul 2014 12:05:05 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/737 catalog maintainer
7 Jul

True transcendence, true immanence

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Ken Myers
Published: 07/07/14

“[T]he commonly seen endeavor to ‘bracket out’ Christianity from one’s thinking or one’s formation of and participation in cultural institutions (with the intention, of course, of reintroducing it at the appropriate moment, namely, when moral questions come to the fore) betrays at once a false understanding of Christianity and a false understanding of understanding. . . .

“The most fundamental truth of religion is that the being of the world cannot ultimately be accounted for simply in terms of itself — world as eternal or self-created — but implies reference to a source beyond itself; in other words, the world is created. The two dimensions of the ‘logic’ of religion stem directly from the created character of the world’s being. In the first place, there is the ‘infinity’ of God that follows upon a notion of God as Creator, and thus as one who transcends all worldly being as its source, and who therefore is more intimately within all worldly being as the non-aliud, to use the expression of Nicholas of Cusa that Hans Urs von Balthasar admired so much. A true conception of the transcendence of God necessarily entails a radical immanence, for a God who is excluded from being, i.e., who ‘merely’ transcends things in the sense of being apart from them, is a God who exists within the same order as created being so as to be able to be ‘juxtaposed’ to it. This would be a God who is not truly transcendent but rather caught within the immanent ambit of the world. In other words, a Creator God is necessarily an infinite God, and an infinite God, by definition, must in some sense effectively bear on all things without exception, all the time. ‘A God who is truly God must affect everything. A God who in some significant sense is not everywhere and does not affect everything, and every aspect of everything, is not infinite but finite.’* There is a certain parallel between a misunderstanding of the nature of transcendence, which would exclude God from the world and by that very fact include God within the world as one discrete entity among other created entities, and the understanding of religious health that is satisfied with the (discrete) affirmation of the existence of God and feels no need to ask deeper questions. If God is the Creator of the world, then his existence has effective, formal, final, and indeed in some sense material significance for everything in the world, and so the affirmation of God’s existence must coincide with a particular way of thinking and speaking about, and dealing with, all other things. If God does not make at least implicitly a difference in the way one thinks about everything that is not God, if one assumes that God’s existence is simply a fact that can be tidily captured in sociological data, empirically gathered, one is in fact denying God’s existence. A fervent believer may be a practical atheist. God’s existence is more than a fact; it is an all-embracing truth the significance of which the mind will never be able to catch up to. As such, there is an essential mystery to God’s existence that will necessarily elude the positivistic methods of sociological data collection.”

—from D. C. Schindler, “Beauty and the Holiness of Mind,” in Being Holy in the World: Theology and Culture in the Thought of David L. Schindler (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2011)

(*quotation from David L. Schindler, Heart of the World, Center of the Church (Eerdmans, 1996)

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<![CDATA[From Logos to Ethos]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/logos-ethos Thu, 10 Jul 2014 23:37:39 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/738 Ken Myers
10 Jul

From Logos to Ethos

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Ken Myers
Published: 07/10/14
Subtitle:

Romano Guardini on how the modern worship of the will led to the demoting of reason

“Modern times brought about a great change. The great objective institutions of the Middle Ages — class solidarity, the municipalities, the Empire — broke up. The power of the Church was no longer, as formerly, absolute and temporal. In every direction individualism became more strongly pronounced and independent. This development was chiefly responsible for the growth of scientific criticism, and in a special manner the criticism of knowledge itself. The inquiry into the essence of knowledge, which formally followed a constructive method, now assumes, as a result of the profound spiritual changes which have taken place, its characteristic form. Knowledge itself becomes questionable, and as a result the center of gravity and the fulcrum of the spiritual life gradually shifts from knowledge to the will. The actions of the independent individual become increasingly important. In this way active life forces its way before the contemplative, the will before knowledge.

“Even in science, which after all is essentially dependent upon knowledge, a peculiar significance is assigned to the will. In place of the former penetration of guaranteed truth, of tranquil assimilation and discussion, there now develops a restless investigation of obscure, questionable truth. Instead of explanation and assimilation, education tends increasingly towards independent investigation. The entire scientific sphere exhibits an enterprising and aggressive tendency. It develops into a powerful, restlessly productive, laboring community.

“This importance of the will has been scientifically formulated in the most conclusive manner by Kant. He recognized, side by side with the order of perception, of the world of things, in which the understanding alone is competent, the order of practicality, of freedom, in which the will functions. Arising out of the postulations of the will he admits the growth of a third order, the order of faith, as opposed to knowledge, the world of God and the soul. While the understanding is of itself incapable of asserting anything on these matters, because it is unable to verify them by the senses, it receives belief in their reality, and thus the final shaping of its conception of the world, from the postulations of the will which cannot exist and function without these highest data from which to proceed. This established the ‘primacy of the will.’ The will, together with the scale of moral values peculiar to it, has taken precedence of knowledge with its corresponding scale of values; the Ethos has obtained the primacy over the Logos.”

“This predominance of the will and of the idea of its value gives the present day its peculiar character. It is the reason for its restless pressing forward, the stringent limiting of its hours of labor, the precipitancy of its enjoyment; hence, too, the worship of success, of strength, of action; hence the striving after power, and generally the exaggerated opinion of the value of time, and the compulsion to exhaust oneself by activity till the end. This is the reason, too, why spiritual organizations such as the old contemplative orders, which formerly were automatically accepted by spiritual life everywhere and which were the darlings of the orthodox world, are not infrequently misunderstood even by Catholics, and have to be defended by their friends against the reproach of idle trifling. And if it is true that this attitude of mind has already become firmly established in Europe, whose culture is rooted in the distant past, it is doubly true where the New World is concerned. There it comes to light unconcealed and unalloyed. The practical will is everywhere the decisive factor, and the Ethos has complete precedence over the Logos, the active side of life over the contemplative.”

“Protestantism presents, in its various forms, ranging from the strong tendency to the extreme of free speculation, the more or less Christian version of this spirit, and Kant has rightly been called its philosopher. It is a spirit which has step by step abandoned objective religious truth, and has increasingly tended to make conviction a matter of personal judgment, feeling, and experience. In this way truth has fallen from the objective plane to the level of a relative and fluctuating value. As a result, the will has been obliged to assume the leadership. When the believer no longer possesses any fundamental principles, but only an experience of faith as it affects him personally, the one solid and recognizable fact is no longer a body of dogma which can be handed on in tradition, but the right action as a proof of the right spirit. In this connection there can be no talk of spiritual metaphysics in the real sense of the word. And when knowledge has nothing ultimately to seek in the Above, the roots of the will and of feeling are in their turn loosened from their adherence to knowledge. The relation with the supertemporal and eternal order is thereby broken. The believer no longer stands in eternity, but in time, and eternity is merely connected with time through the medium of conviction, but not in a direct manner. Religion becomes increasingly turned towards the world, and cheerfully secular. It develops more and more into a consecration of temporal human existence in its various aspects, into a sanctification of earthly activity, of vocational labor, of communal and family life, and so on.

“[S]uch a conception of spiritual life . . . is untrue, and therefore contrary to Nature in the deepest sense of the word. Here is the real source of the terrible misery of our day. It has perverted the sacred order of Nature [by putting the will before knowledge]. It was Goethe who really shook the latter when he made the doubting Faust write, not ‘In the beginning was the Word,’ but ‘In the beginning was the Deed.’

“While life’s center of gravity was shifting from the Logos to the Ethos, life itself was growing increasingly unrestrained. Man’s will was required to be responsible for him. Only one Will can do this, and that is creative in the absolute sense of the word, i.e., it is the Divine Will. Man, then, was endowed with a quality which presumes that he is God. And since he is not, he develops a spiritual cramp, a kind of weak fit of violence, which takes effect often in a tragic, and sometimes (in the case of lesser minds) even a ludicrous manner. This presumption is guilty of having put modern man into the position of a blind person groping his way in the dark, because the fundamental force upon which it has based life — the will — is blind. The will can function and produce but cannot see. From this is derived the restlessness which nowhere finds tranquility. Nothing is left, nothing stands firm, everything alters, life is in continual flux; it is a constant struggle, search, and wandering.”

—from Romano Guardini, The Spirit of the Liturgy (London: Sheed & Ward, 1930)

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<![CDATA[The dead-end of privatized faith]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/dead-end-privatized-faith Fri, 11 Jul 2014 00:26:26 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/739 Ken Myers
11 Jul

The dead-end of privatized faith

Category: Sound Thinking
Published: 07/11/14
Subtitle:

T. S. Eliot on the Church’s duty to interfere with the World

“That Liberalism may be a tendency towards something very different from itself, is a possibility in its nature. For it is something which tends to release energy rather than to accumulate it, to relax, rather than to fortify. It is a movement not so much defined by its end, as by its starting point; away from, rather than towards, something definite. Our point of departure is more real to us than our destination; and the destination is likely to present a very different picture when arrived at, from the vaguer image formed in imagination. By destroying traditional social habits of the people, by dissolving their natural collective consciousness into individual constituents, by licensing the opinions of the most foolish, by substituting instruction for education, by encouraging cleverness rather than wisdom, the upstart rather than the qualified, by fostering a notion of getting on to which the alternative is a hopeless apathy, Liberalism can prepare the way for that which is its own negation: the artificial, mechanised or brutalised control which is a desperate remedy for chaos. . . .”

“The Liberal notion that religion was a matter of private belief and of conduct in private life, and that there is no reason why Christians should not be able to accommodate themselves to any world which treats them good-naturedly, is becoming less and less tenable. This notion would seem to have become accepted gradually, as a false inference from the subdivision of English Christianity into sects, and the happy results of universal toleration. The reason why members of different communions have been able to rub along together is that in the greater part of the ordinary business of life they have shared the same assumptions about behaviour. . . . The problem of leading a Christian life in a non-Christian society is now very present to us, and it is a very different problem from that of the accommodation between an Established Church and dissenters. It is not merely the problem of a minority in a society of individuals holding an alien belief. It is the problem constituted by our implication in a network of institutions from which we cannot dissociate ourselves: institutions the operation of which appears no longer neutral, but non-Christian. And as for the Christian who is not conscious of his dilemma — and he is in the majority — he is becoming more and more de-Christianised by all sorts of unconscious pressure: paganism holds all the most valuable advertising space. Anything like Christian traditions transmitted from generation to generation within the family must disappear, and the small body of Christians will consist entirely of adult recruits. . . .”

“What is often assumed, and it is a principle that I wish to oppose, is the principle of live-and-let-live. It is assumed that if the State leaves the Church alone, and to some extent protects it from molestation, then the Church has no right to interfere with the organization of society, or with the conduct of those who deny its beliefs. It is assumed that any such interference would be the oppression of the majority by a minority. Christians must take a very different view of their duty. But before suggesting how the Church should interfere with the World, we must try to answer the question, why should it interfere with the World?

“It must be said bluntly that between the Church and the World there is no permanent modus-vivendi possible. We may unconsciously draw a false analogy between the position of the Church in a secular society and the position of a dissenting sect in a Christian society. The situation is very different. A dissenting minority in a Christian society can persist because of the fundamental beliefs it has in common with that society, because of a common morality and of common grounds of Christian action. Where there is a different morality there is conflict. I do not mean that the Church exists primarily for the propagation of Christian morality: morality is a means and not an end. The Church exists for the glory of God and the sanctification of souls: Christian morality is part of the means by which these ends are to be attained. But because Christian morals are based on fixed beliefs which cannot change they also are essentially unchanging: while the beliefs and in consequence the morality of the secular world can change from individual to individual, or from generation to generation, or from nation to nation. To accept two ways of life in the same society, one for the Christian and another for the rest, would be for the Church to abandon its task of evangelising the world. For the more alien the non-Christian world become, the more difficult becomes its conversion.

“The Church is not merely for the elect — in other words, those whose temperament brings them to that belief and that behaviour. Nor does it allow us to be Christian in some social relations and non-Christian in others. It wants everybody, and it wants each individual whole. It therefore must struggle for a condition of society which will give the maximum of opportunity for us to lead wholly Christian lives, and the maximum of opportunity for others to become Christians. It maintains the paradox that while we are each responsible for our own souls, we are all responsible for all other souls, who are, like us, on their way to a future state of heaven or hell. And — another paradox — as the Christian attitude towards peace, happiness and well-being of peoples is that they are a means and not an end in themselves, Christians are more deeply committed to realising these ideals than are those who regards them as ends to themselves.”

—from T. S. Eliot, The Idea of a Christian Society (London: Faber & Faber Ltd., 1940)

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<![CDATA[Modernity’s fateful encounter with weird, wayward sisters]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/modernity%E2%80%99s-fateful-encounter-weird-wayward-sisters Sun, 13 Jul 2014 20:31:37 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/740 Ken Myers
13 Jul

Modernity’s fateful encounter with weird, wayward sisters

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Ken Myers
Published: 07/13/14
Subtitle:

Richard Weaver on the cultural consequences of bad metaphysics

 “Like Macbeth, Western man made an evil decision, which has become the efficient and final cause of other evil decisions. Have we forgotten our encounter with the witches on the heath? It occurred in the late fourteenth century, and what the witches said to the protagonist of this drama was that man could realize himself more fully if he would only abandon his belief in the existence of transcendentals. The powers of darkness were working subtly, as always, and they couched the proposition in the seemingly innocent form of an attack upon universals. The defeat of logical realism in the great medieval debate was the crucial event in the history of Western culture; from this flowed those acts which issue now in modern decadence.

“One may be accused here of oversimplifying the historical process, but I take the view that the conscious policies of men and governments are not mere rationalizations of what has been brought about by unaccountable forces. They are rather deductions from our most basic ideas of human destiny, and they have a great, though not unobstructed, power to determine our course. . . .”

“. . . I turn to William of Occam as the best representative of a change which came over man’s conception of reality at this historic juncture. It was William of Occam who propounded the fateful doctrine of nominalism, which denies that universals have a real existence. His triumph tended to leave universal terms mere names serving our convenience. The issue ultimately involved is whether there is a source of truth higher than, and independent of, man; and the answer to the question is decisive for one’s view of the nature and destiny of humankind. The practical result of nominalist philosophy is to banish the reality which is perceived by the intellect and to posit as reality that which is perceived by the senses. With this change in the affirmation of what is real, the whole orientation of culture takes a turn, and we are on the road to modern empiricism. . . .”

“The denial of universals carries with it the denial of everything transcending experience. The denial of everything transcending experience means inevitably — though ways are found to hedge on this — the denial of truth. With the denial of objective truth there is no escape from the relativism of ‘man the measure of all things.’ The witches spoke with the habitual equivocation of oracles when they told man that by this easy choice he might realize himself more fully, for they were actually initiating a course which cuts one off from reality. Thus began the ‘abomination of desolation’ appearing today as a feeling of alienation from all fixed truth.

“Because a change in belief so profound eventually influences every concept, there emerged before long a new doctrine of nature. Whereas nature had formerly been regarded as imitating a transcendent model and as constituting an imperfect reality, it was henceforth looked upon as containing the principles of its own constitution and behavior. Such revision . . . did away with the doctrine of original sin. If physical nature is the totality and if man is of nature, it is impossible to think of him as suffering from constitutional evil; his defections must now be attributed to his simple ignorance or to some kind of social deprivation. One comes thus by clear deduction to the corollary of the natural goodness of man. . . .”

“The question of what the world was made for now becomes meaningless because the asking of it presupposes something prior to nature in the order of existents. Thus it is not the mysterious fact of the world’s existence which interests the new man but explanations of how the world works. . . .”

“There is no term proper to describe the condition in which he is now left unless it be ‘abysmality.’ He is in the deep and dark abysm, and he has nothing with which to raise himself. His life is practice without theory. As problems crowd upon him, he deepens confusion by meeting them with ad hoc policies. Secretly he hungers for truth but consoles himself with the thought that life should be experimental. He sees his institutions crumbling and rationalizes with talk of emancipation. . . . He struggles with the paradox that total immersion in matter unfits him to deal with the problems of matter.”

—from Richard Weaver, Ideas Have Consequences (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1948)

[NOTE: In 2013, an expanded edition of this classic work was released, containing a foreword by New Criterion editor Roger Kimball and an afterword by Ted J. Smith, III, relating the remarkable story of the book’s writing and publication.]

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<![CDATA[Radical faith in the nothing]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/radical-faith-nothing Sun, 13 Jul 2014 20:20:14 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/741 Ken Myers
13 Jul

Radical faith in the nothing

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Ken Myers
Published: 07/13/14
Subtitle:

David Bentley Hart on the nihilism of worshiping mere choice

“To be entirely modern (which very few of us are) is to believe in nothing. This is not to say it is to have no beliefs: the truly modern person may believe in almost anything, or perhaps in everything, so long as all these beliefs rest securely upon a more fundamental and radical faith in the nothing — or, better, in nothingness as such. Modernity’s highest ideal — its special understanding of personal autonomy — requires us to place our trust in an original absence underlying all of reality, a fertile void in which all things are possible, from which arises no impediment to our wills, and before which we may consequently choose to make of ourselves what we choose. We trust, that is to say, that there is no substantial criterion by which to judge our choices that stands higher than the unquestioned good of free choice itself, and that therefore all judgment, divine no less than human, is in some sense an infringement upon our freedom. This is our primal ideology. In the most unadorned terms possible, the ethos of modernity is — to be perfectly precise — nihilism. . . .”

“Again, however, almost no one is entirely modern in this way, and very few of us are conscious or consistent nihilists, even of the extremely benign variety I have just described. The majority of us, if polls are to be trusted, even believe in God. And even the majority of unbelievers are aware that human nature and human society place not merely necessary but desirable limits upon the will’s free exercise. Nevertheless, we live in an age whose chief value has been determined, by overwhelming consensus, to be the inviolable liberty of personal volition, the right to decide for ourselves what we shall believe, want, need, own, or serve. The will, we habitually assume, is sovereign to the degree that it is obedient to nothing else and is free to the degree that it is truly spontaneous and constrained by nothing greater than itself. This, for many of us, is the highest good imaginable. And a society guided by such beliefs must, at least implicitly, embrace and subtly advocate a very particular ‘moral metaphysics’: that is, the nonexistence of any transcendent standard of the good that has the power (or the right) to order our desires toward a higher end. We are, first and foremost, heroic and insatiable consumers, and we must not allow the specters of transcendent law or personal guilt to render us indecisive. For us, it is choice itself, not what we choose, that is the first good, and this applies not only to such matters as what we shall purchase or how we shall live. In even our gravest political and ethical debates — regarding economic policy, abortion, assisted suicide, censorship, genetic engineering, and so on — ‘choice’ is a principle not only frequently invoked, by one side or by both, but often seeming to exercise an almost mystical supremacy over all other concerns.”

—from David Bentley Hart, Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009)

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<![CDATA[The reasonableness of love]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/reasonableness-love Sun, 13 Jul 2014 20:05:26 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/742 Ken Myers
13 Jul

The reasonableness of love

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Ken Myers
Published: 07/13/14
Subtitle:

Terry Eagleton on the myth of the disinterested pursuit of truth

“In the end, love (of which faith is a particular form) can achieve the well-nigh impossible goal of seeing a situation as it really is, shorn of both the brittle enchantments of romance and the disheveled fantasies of desire. Clinical, cold-eyed realism of this kind demands all manner of virtues — openness to being wrong, selflessness, humility, generosity of spirit, hard labor, tenacity, a readiness to collaborate, conscientious judgment, and the like; and for Aquinas, all virtues have their source in love. Love is the ultimate form of soberly disenchanted realism, which is why it is the twin of truth. The two also have in common the fact that they are both usually unpleasant. Radicals tend to suspect that the truth is generally a lot less palatable than those in power would have us believe, and we have seen already just where love is likely to land you for the New Testament. In one sense of the word, dispassionateness would spell the death of knowledge, though not in another sense. Without some kind of desire or attraction we would not be roused to the labor of knowledge in the first place; but to know truly, we must also seek to surmount the snares and ruses of desire as best we can. We must try not to disfigure what we strive to know through fantasy, or reduce the object of knowledge to a narcissistic image of ourselves.”

—from Terry Eagleton, Reason, Faith, and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009)

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<![CDATA[The kingdom of God has public consequences]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/kingdom-god-has-public-consequences Mon, 14 Jul 2014 17:38:17 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/743 Ken Myers
14 Jul

The kingdom of God has public consequences

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Ken Myers
Published: 07/14/14
Subtitle:

Lesslie Newbigin on the subversiveness of evangelism

“It is not so often acknowledged that evangelism means calling people to believe something which is radically different from what is normally accepted as public truth, and that it calls for a conversion not only of the heart and will but of the mind. A serious commitment to evangelism, to the telling of the story which the Church is sent to tell, means a radical questioning of the reigning assumptions about public life. It is to affirm the gospel not only as an invitation to a private and personal decision but as public truth which ought to be acknowledged as true for the whole of the life of society. . . .”

“[T]he opening words of the ministry of Jesus include the word metanoete. At the very beginning we are warned that to understand what follows will require nothing less than a radical conversion of the mind. . . .”

“The problem of making sense of the gospel is that it calls for a change of mind which is as radical as is the action of God in becoming man and dying on a cross.”

“[W]hen the Church affirms the gospel as public truth it is challenging the whole of society to wake out of the nightmare of subjectivism and relativism, to escape from the captivity of the self turned in upon itself, and to accept the calling which is addressed to every human being to seek, acknowledge, and proclaim the truth. . . .”

“Our problem is that most of us who are Christians have been brought up bilingual. For most of our early lives, through the accepted systems of public education, we have been trained to use a language which claims to make sense of the world without the hypothesis of God. For an hour or two a week we use the other language, the language of the Bible. We are like the Christian congregations under the milet systems of the Persian and Muslim empires: we use the mother tongue of the Church on Sundays, but for the rest of our lives we use the language imposed by the occupying power. But if we are true to the language of the Church and the Bible, we know that this is not good enough. The incarnate Word is Lord of all, not just of the Church. There are not two worlds, one sacred and the other secular. There are differing ways of understanding the one world and a choice has to be made about which is the right way, the way that corresponds to reality to the reality beyond all the show which the ruler of this world can put on. . . .”

“We have a gospel to proclaim. We have to proclaim it not merely to individuals in the personal and domestic lives. We do certainly have to do that. But we have to proclaim it as part of the continuing conversation that shapes public doctrine. It must be heard in the conversation of economists, psychiatrists, educators, scientists and politicians. We have to proclaim it not as a package of estimable values, but as the truth about what is the case, about what every human being and every human society will have to reckon with. When we are faithful in this commission we are bound to appear subversive to those who believe that the cosmos is a closed system. We may appear to threaten the achievements of these centuries in which this has been the reigning belief. In truth we shall be offering the only hope of conserving and carrying forward the good fruits of these centuries into a future which might otherwise belong to the barbarians. . . .”

“[W]hen the Church is seen simply as a voluntary society made up of those individuals who have decided to accept the Christian faith and to join themselves together for its nourishment and exercise, then the danger is that the ethical implications of the gospel come to be regarded as merely house rules for the Church, guidance for Christian behavior rather than the law of the creator with jurisdiction over the entire human family.”

—from Lesslie Newbigin, Truth to Tell: The Gospel as Public Truth (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991)

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<![CDATA[Coming Soon: N. T. Wright on Volume 122]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/coming-soon-n-t-wright-volume-122 Fri, 18 Jul 2014 15:21:43 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/745 Ken Myers
18 Jul

Coming Soon: N. T. Wright on Volume 122

Category: Fresh Tracks
By: Ken Myers
Published: 07/18/14
Subtitle:

The narrative of Scripture and the narrative of modernity

 

One of the guests on the soon-to-be-released issue of the Journal is N. T. Wright, in conversation with me about Paul and the Faithfulness of God, the final volume of his magnum opus, “Christian Origins and the Question of God.” During the interview, we discuss the idea of narrative, a concept that makes some people nervous. Narrative seems too fuzzy, too imprecise a tool to rely on in doing theology. Wright makes a strong defense of narrative, and also shares some ideas about why narrative may produce resistance:

“But I think an awful lot of people, without even realizing it, live in a narrative, which goes: that in the eighteenth century the world came of age; we now see everything differently; we’ve got science and technology; we’ve got modern democracy; we’ve got this, we’ve got that. We’ve now grown up. Everything beforehand, you know, too bad, apart from these religious moments of revelation, which we look back to with gratitude. But any idea that world history reached its climax in the first century when Jesus of Nazareth came out of the tomb on Easter morning is simply ruled out, because we know that world history reached its climax in the 1770s with Jefferson, Rousseau, and Voltaire and Co. And though people don’t always articulate it like that, that is an extremely powerful narrative in both British and North American culture. Every time somebody says, “But now that we live in the modern world,” dot, dot, dot. That’s what’s going on; they’re invoking that narrative. So I suspect that part of the problem is that that controlling narrative is so big that it has driven many Christians, preachers, pastors, etc. to de-narrate their own faith and to leave it as sort of chunky little clumps of dogma. Of course, the other thing is if you de-narrate the thing, you de-Israelise it, you know, you de-Judaise it, and that has always been a danger for the Church.”

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<![CDATA[Which story is ours?]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/which-story-ours Thu, 07 Aug 2014 23:20:19 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/750 Ken Myers
7 Aug

Which story is ours?

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Ken Myers
Published: 08/07/14
Subtitle:

“Instead of allowing the Bible to shape us, we may in fact be allowing our culture to shape the Bible for us.”

“The church of the first century [as described in the book of Acts] is almost two thousand years removed in time and (for most of us) half a world away in distance. Jesus lived in Palestine, died, and rose again there a little before most of the events recorded in the book of Acts. The ancient nation of Israel sought to walk with God while conquering and settling a homeland in Canaan more than a thousand years before that. The biblical accounts of how all these different people struggled to live faithfully in their distant times and places may seem to have little to do with you and me. Yet it is not so. The world of the Bible is our world, and its story of redemption is also our story. This story is waiting for an ending—in part because we ourselves have a role to play before all is concluded. We must therefore pay attention to the continuing biblical story of redemption. We must resist the temptation to read the Scriptures as if they were a religious flea market, with a basket of history and old doctrines here, a shelf full of pious stories there, promises and commands scattered from one end to the other. Some readers of the Bible turn it into little more than an anthology of proof texts assembled to support a system of theology. Others seek only ethical guidance, ransacking the Old Testament for stories of moral instruction. Still others look just for inspirational or devotional messages, for comforting promises and lessons for daily living. The result may be that we lose sight of the Bible’s essential unity and instead find only those theological, moral, devotional, or historical fragments we are looking for.

“But all human communities, including our own, live out of some comprehensive story that suggests the meaning and goal of history and that gives shape and direction to human life. We may neglect the biblical story, God’s comprehensive account, of the shape and direction of cosmic history and the meaning of all that he has done in our world. If we do so, the fragments of the Bible that we do preserve are in danger of being absorbed piecemeal into the dominant cultural story of our modern European and North American democracies. And the dominant story of modern culture is rooted in idolatry: an ultimate confidence in humanity to achieve its own salvation. Thus, instead of allowing the Bible to shape us, we may in fact be allowing our culture to shape the Bible for us. Our view of the world and even our faith will be molded by one or the other: either the biblical story is our foundation, or the Bible itself becomes subsumed within the modern story of the secular Western world. If our lives are to be shaped and formed by Scripture, we need to know the biblical story well, to feel it in our bones. To do this, we must also know our own place within—where we are in the story.”

—from Craig G. Bartholomew and Michael W. Goheen, The Drama of Scripture: Finding Our Place in the Biblical Story (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2004)

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<![CDATA[Fujimura, Hibbs, & Siedell: Abstraction, immanence, & the cultural landscape]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/fujimura-hibbs-siedell-abstraction-immanence-cultural-landscape Mon, 22 Sep 2014 14:43:46 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/751 catalog maintainer
22 Sep

Fujimura, Hibbs, & Siedell: Abstraction, immanence, & the cultural landscape

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Eve Ruotsinoja
Published: 09/22/14
Subtitle:

Artist, philosopher, and art historian in trialogue concerning the Western visual tradition's tension between self-expression, transcendence, and this material world.

“We pollute the cultural landscape with irresponsible expressions in the name of progress and call them freedom of speech. Thus, our cultural landscape is increasingly uninhabitable. If we cannot dwell inside the imaginative landscape of what is offered, then what is the purpose of creativity?”

— Makoto Fujimura, quoted in Thomas Hibbs, Soliloquies

“[T]he enduring Romantic conception of the artist as involved principally in self-expression combines with the assumption that worthy art is always engaged in novel forms of protest against established order. This results in the perception of art as negative, parasitic, and ephemeral.”

— Thomas Hibbs, Soliloquies

“The Western pictorial tradition reveals an obsession with transcendence, a nervous discontentment with the material world, and a desire to paint through to the absolute, the sublime—to achieve union with the Divine, to soar to the sun on wings of wax, or to live on in posterity, like Achilles, through heroic defiance. . . . Fujimura finds this urge attractive and useful.
“Rothko and Newman embody discontentment, the urge to find the transcendent. The ambition of this project often puts the modern artist at odds with his audience. Rothko observed that it is a risky business to send a painting out into the world, which certainly is true for an artist whose project is to achieve transcendence, touch the ineffable; a mere mortal viewer of flesh and blood is all too often an obstacle. Newman declared that the modern artist's role is not to stop making cathedrals, but to make them out of his own inner experience, his own feeling.”

— Daniel Siedell, “Makoto Fujimura, Golden Sea, and the Poetry of Loving Your Neighbor,” in Golden Sea monograph.

“[Fujimura] cites Rothko and Gorky as influences whose use of abstraction was an honest attempt to ‘grapple’ with ‘invisible reality.’ Yet he remains concerned about the way abstraction can become a kind of gnosticism that repudiates or neglects the material conditions of art.”

— Thomas Hibbs, Soliloquies

“Fujimura is fond of the gospels’ presentation of a woman . . . who pours a jar of perfume onto Jesus's feet—an indulgent, useless act and a waste of valuable resources that could be given to the poor. It is here, in the prodigality of the offering, that he finds the vocation of the artist.
“Oswald Bayer reminds us, following Martin Luther, that faith turns us toward creation, as creation returns to us as a gift and a promise (Martin Luther’s Theology, 95-120). Moreover, creation and the creature are the very means by which God, through the Word, gives life, creates faith, as Johann George Hamann puts it, ‘to the creature through the creature.’ Theology, as Luther never tired of emphasizing, does not begin in the heights, but in the depths, in the radical immanence of creation itself.”

— Daniel Siedell, "Makoto Fujimura, Golden Sea, and the Poetry of Loving Your Neighbor"

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<![CDATA[The witness of goodness and beauty to truth]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/witness-goodness-and-beauty-truth Thu, 11 Sep 2014 10:07:56 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/752 Ken Myers
11 Sep

The witness of goodness and beauty to truth

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Ken Myers
Published: 09/11/14
Subtitle:

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger on the apologetic necessity of holiness and great art 

“The only really effective apologia for Christianity comes down to two arguments, namely, the saints the Church has produced and the art which has grown in her womb. Better witness is borne to the Lord by the splendor of holiness and art which have arisen in the community of believers than by the clever excuses which apologetics has come up with to justify the dark sides, which, sadly, are so frequent in the Church’s human history. If the Church is to continue to transform and humanize the world, how can she dispense with beauty in her liturgies, that beauty which is so closely linked with love and with the radiance of the Resurrection? No, Christians must not be too easily satisfied. They must make their Church into a place in which beauty — and truth — is at home. Without this the world will become the first circle of hell. . . . A theologian who does not love art, poetry, music and nature can be dangerous. Blindness and deafness toward the beautiful are not incidental: they necessarily are reflected in his theology.”

—from Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, The Ratzinger Report: An Exclusive Interview on the State of the Church, edited by Vittorio Messori (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1987)

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<![CDATA[The publicly inert Christ of modernity]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/publicly-inert-christ-modernity Thu, 11 Sep 2014 10:58:07 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/753 Ken Myers
11 Sep

The publicly inert Christ of modernity

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Ken Myers
Published: 09/11/14
Subtitle:

Dom Anscer Vonier on secularism’s confidence

“The denial of Christ’s position in the affairs of mankind is a comparatively recent phenomenon: we may assign to the eighteenth century the beginning of that hostile movement against the supremacy of the Redeemer. The whole of the nineteenth century and after has been the glorification of a civilization that boasts its independence of Christ, its complete self-sufficiency; in no wise will it acknowledge indebtedness to the Son of God for any of its achievements. This almost universal self-sufficiency of the political world has become a grave temptation for believers themselves. So we find everywhere instances of the apologetic attitude of Christians, of the feeling of inferiority at least in sentiment and imagination, which takes many forms, from the speculative to the devotional.”

— from Dom Anscar Vonier, The Victory of Christ (Burns, Oates & Washbourne, Ltd., 1934)

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<![CDATA[Cultural participation in reconciliation]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/cultural-participation-reconciliation Mon, 22 Sep 2014 11:42:43 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/754 Ken Myers
22 Sep

Cultural participation in reconciliation

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Ken Myers
Published: 09/22/14
Subtitle:

Jonathan Wilson on faithfully representing Creation in the culture of the Church

“In order to bring our existence in this world under the discipline of God’s love in Christ, which is the life of the world, the church must understand itself as culture. The way that we use the stuff of creation for our life as church is training us in this-worldly existence. And most of that existence seems so natural and commonplace that we take it for granted.

“The ways that we use the stuff of creation in architecture, music, painting, food, money, books, cars, water, and more reflect our convictions about creation and teach us convictions for thinking about and living in creation. If we see the things of this world merely as instrumental to the salvation of spirit or saving souls, then we have truncated the good news of Jesus Christ. That is, if we see music or banners or other visual presentations merely as a means to move people more effectively to faith in Christ, then we are unfaithful to the gospel. There is a fine balance to observe here. Since creation is fallen from the good, it has become the world that must be and is being redeemed. Therefore, we must not be naive or undisciplined in our cultivation of church culture. At the same time, however, creation is not instrumental to salvation in Christ; it is the very substance of salvation in Christ. It is not enough that we have the arts in the life of the church; we must have them in the life of the church in the right way: as our celebration of and participation in the reconciliation of all things visible and invisible to God through Christ. The stuff of creation is what God the Son redeems through his becoming flesh, bearing our sin, enduring death, and rising to life. When we have a truncated doctrine of creation, we have a truncated understanding of salvation. With a more robust doctrine of creation, we may enter more fully into the life of the redeemed as witnesses to and servants of the only hope of all creation.”

— from Jonathan Wilson, God’s Good World: Reclaiming the Doctrine of Creation (BakerAcademic, 2013)

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<![CDATA[How communities remember who they are]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/how-communities-remember-who-they-are Mon, 22 Sep 2014 11:59:41 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/755 Ken Myers
22 Sep

How communities remember who they are

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Ken Myers
Published: 09/22/14
Subtitle:

Oliver O’Donovan on the necessity of tradition in sustaining communal identity

“The word ‘tradition,’ like koinonia, refers both to an action and a possession. In the first sense it is the activity by which one shares in the community, receiving and contributing. In the second sense it is the reserve of practices and communicative patterns received from the past — but only those which continue to command recognition, that is, which have been effectively communicated down to the present time. The essential thing about tradition is that it creates social continuity. It binds the communal action of the present moment to the communal actions of past moments. What we often call ‘traditionalism,’ the revival of lapsed tradition, is, properly speaking, a kind of innovation, making a new beginning out of an old model. This may or may not be sensible in any given instance, but it is not a tradition. The claim of tradition is not the claim of the past over the present, but the claim of the present to that continuity with the past which enables common action to be conceived and executed.

“The paradigm command of tradition is, ‘Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which the Lord your God gives you.’ It appears to our eyes to be concerned with the duties of children, but this is a mistake. The duties of children are purely responsive to the duty of parents to be to their children what their parents were to them. This is a command addressed to adults, whose existence in the world is not self-posited but the fruit of an act of cultural transmission, which they have a duty to sustain. The act of transmission puts us all in the place of receiver and communicator at once. The household is envisaged as the primary unit of cultural transmission, the ‘father and the mother’ as representing every existing social practice which it is important to carry on. Only so can community sustain itself within its environment, ‘the land which the Lord your God gives you.’ No social survival in any land can be imagined without a stable cultural environment across generations. By tradition society identifies itself from one historical moment to the next, and so continues to act as itself. . . .

“The peculiar value of art to tradition lies in its capacity to elicit recognitions, reminding us of the sources of our cultural objects within the structures of natural necessity. This power of reminiscence we call ‘beauty,’ and it arises from the coincidence of natural order with artificial form. Both poles, the natural and the conventional, are essential to an art form, that the evocation of the one within the other may be experienced. Formal qualities are as important as substantive references in evoking the presence of nature in culture. A poem may allude to springtime, or a tune may imitate birdsong. But an abstract fugue evokes nature, too, by exploring the power of repetition in difference, and a sonnet by its balance of thesis development, and resolution.”

— from Oliver O’Donovan, Common Objects of Love: Moral Reflection and the Shaping of Community (Eerdmans, 2002)

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<![CDATA[Universalizing Dr. Faustus]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/universalizing-dr-faustus Fri, 24 Oct 2014 10:03:24 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/757 Ken Myers
24 Oct

Universalizing Dr. Faustus

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Ken Myers
Published: 10/24/14
Subtitle:

Eugene Peterson on the normalization of prideful ambition

“[W]hen an ancient temptation or trial becomes an approved feature in the culture, a way of life that is expected and encouraged, Christians have a stumbling block put before them that is hard to recognize for what it is, because it has been made into a monument, gilded with bronze and bathed in decorative lights. It has become an object of veneration. But the plain fact is that it is right in the middle of the road of faith, obstructing discipleship. For all its dress and honored position, it is still a stumbling block.

“One temptation that has received this treatment in Western civilization, with some special flourishes in America, is ambition. Our culture encourages and rewards ambition without qualification. We are surrounded by a way of life in which betterment is understood as expansion, as acquisition, as fame. Everyone wants to get more. To be on top, no matter what it is the top of, is admired. There is nothing recent about this temptation. It is the oldest sin in the book, the one that got Adam thrown out of the garden and Lucifer tossed out of heaven. What is fairly new about it is the general admiration and approval that it receives.

“The old story of Dr. Faustus used to be well known and appreciated as a warning. . . .

“For generations this story has been told and retold by poets and playwrights and novelists (Goethe, Marlowe, Mann) warning people against abandoning the glorious position of being a person created in the image of God and attempting the foolhardy adventure of trying to be a god on our own. But now something alarming has happened. There have always been Faustian characters, people in the community who embarked on a way of arrogance and power; now our entire culture is Faustian. We are caught up in a way of life that, instead of delighting in finding out the meaning of God and searching out the conditions in which human qualities can best be realized, recklessly seeks ways to circumvent nature, arrogantly defies personal relationship and names God only in curses. The legend of Faustus, useful for so long in pointing out the folly of a god-defying pride, now is practically unrecognizable because the assumptions of our whole society (our educational models, our economic expectations, even our popular religion) are Faustian.”

—from Eugene Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1980)

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<![CDATA['Freedom' as tyranny]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/freedom-tyranny Fri, 17 Apr 2015 10:46:37 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/762 Ken Myers
17 Apr

'Freedom' as tyranny

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Ken Myers
Published: 04/17/15
Subtitle:

Stanley Hauerwas and William H. Willimon on democracy and desire

 

“The primary entity of democracy is the individual, the individual for whom society exists mainly to assist assertions of individuality. Society is formed to supply our needs, no matter the content of those needs. Rather than helping us to judge our needs, to have the right needs which we exercise in right ways, our society becomes a vast supermarket of desire under the assumption that if we are free enough to assert and choose whatever we want we can defer eternally the question of what needs are worth having and on what basis right choices are made. What we call ‘freedom’ becomes the tyranny of our own desires. We are kept detached, strangers to one another as we go about fulfilling our needs and asserting our rights. The individual is given a status that makes incomprehensible the Christian notion of salvation as a political, social phenomenon in the family of God. Our economics correlates to our politics. Capitalism thrives in a climate where ‘rights’ are the main political agenda. The church becomes one more consumer-oriented organization existing to encourage individual fulfillment rather than being a crucible to engender individual conversion into the Body.”

—from Stanley Hauerwas and William H. Willimon, Resident Aliens: Life in the Christian Colony (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1989)

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<![CDATA["Principles have to be discovered, not chosen"]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/principles-have-be-discovered-not-chosen Thu, 30 Apr 2015 16:43:32 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/763 Ken Myers
30 Apr

"Principles have to be discovered, not chosen"

Category: What We're Reading
By: Ken Myers
Published: 04/30/15
Subtitle:

Alasdair MacIntyre on natural law and contemporary culture

On Volume 124 of the Journal, we featured an interview with R. J. Snell about his book The Perspective of Love: Natural Law in a New Mode. Our conversation about his book began (as did his book) with a recollection of a 2013 article written in First Things by David Bentley Hart called “Is, Ought, and Nature’s Laws.” Hart’s article focused on the attempt by various philosophers, theologians, law professors, and others to import this tradition into public policy debates, in a way amenable to modern political culture. “What I have in mind,” Hart explained, “is a style of thought whose proponents (names are not important) believe that compelling moral truths can be deduced from a scrupulous contemplation of the principles of cosmic and human nature, quite apart from special revelation, and within the context of the modern conceptual world. This, it seems to me, is a hopeless cause.”

Hart went on to explain why he believed it to be hopeless, if well-intentioned. Hart may have understood before he wrote the first sentence of this brief article that persuading his adversaries that they were wasting their energies was an equally hopeless cause (although the tone of the article suggests that this wasn’t likely to cause him to lose much sleep). 

Midway through the essay, Hart summarized what I took to be the most important point in his argument:

The assumption that the natural and moral orders are connected to one another in any but a purely pragmatic way must be logically antecedent to our interpretation of the world; it is a belief about nature, but not a natural belief as such; it is a supernatural judgment that renders natural reality intelligible in a particular way.

The piece concluded on a similar note:

Our concept of nature, in any age, is entirely dependent upon supernatural (or at least metaphysical) convictions. And, in an age that has been shaped by a mechanistic understanding of the physical world, a neo-Darwinian view of life, and a voluntarist understanding of the self, nature’s “laws” must appear to be anything but moral.

I think it’s important here to recognize that the supernatural or metaphysical convictions Hart refers to need not be consciously, systematically, or consistently held for them to exert a controlling influence on what we think about natural matters. That’s why Richard Weaver refers to the governing power of a “metaphysical dream of the world,” an intuitive sense of the ultimate shape of things. As Hart has written elsewhere, modern culture nurtures and protects the metaphysical belief in “the unreality of any ‘value’ higher than choice, or of any transcendent Good ordering desire towards a higher end.” His main argument in this article was that, in such a cultural setting — a setting that is fundamentally nihilistic — appeals to natural law quite simply make no sense.

There are, Snell’s book explained, other ways to frame natural law theory, other ways to make arguments about moral ends that set to one side metaphysical questions about the relationship between natural and supernatural realities. There are in fact many ways to defend the idea of natural law. The question remains as to how fruitful any of these approaches can be in overcoming the nihilistic prejudice that is so thoroughly embedded in modern culture. (I would be very interested to read some conversion accounts.)

In musing about these issues since talking with Snell, I came across an essay by Alasdair MacIntyre called “Natural Law in Advanced Modernity.” It was featured in an anthology entitled Common Truths: New Perspectives on Natural Law (Wilmington: ISI Books, 2000). Given the urgency that many Christians rightly feel about the difficulty of making public arguments about moral absolutes, it’s worth attending to MacIntyre’s argument in some detail.

He begins by emphasizing the differences between our cultural backdrop and that of earlier ages in which natural law arguments had a more compelling power.

[W]e find a remarkable difference between how matters are or were conceived by the exponents of these older views of natural law and the beliefs dominant in modern cultures. It follows that we should not expect those older conceptions of natural law to continue to flourish in the modern world. And they do not. What we find instead, for the most part, are very different theories of natural law, theories that have come to terms in greater or lesser degree with cultural modernity.

I’m going to argue that these latter theories all fail and that they fail in just those respects in which their adaptation to what is distinctively modern in modern culture is most evident.

MacIntyre then summarizes the principal objectives of all theories of natural law.

Every account of natural law, no matter how minimal, makes at least two claims: first, that our human nature is such that, as rational beings, we cannot but recognize that obedience to some particular set of precepts is required, if we are to achieve our good or goods, a recognition that is primarily expressed in our practice and only secondarily in our explicit formulation of precepts; and, second, that it is at least one central function of any system of law to spell out those precepts and to make them mandatory by providing for their enforcement.

Later in the essay, MacIntyre discusses the new natural law theory as put forth by John Finnis and Germain Grisez.

This theory was originally developed in part as an interpretation of the thought of Aquinas. But its differences from Aquinas’s standpoint, especially as that standpoint has been understood by most modern Thomists, are as noteworthy as its resemblances. It [the new natural law] does not, for example, rely upon an Aristotelian conception of essential human nature, defining goods in terms of the flourishing of such a nature and of the satisfaction of its various, hierarchically ordered inclinations. Instead it defines integral human fulfillment in terms of respect for and the achievement of a set of basic goods. It does not understand human individuals as essentially parts of larger wholes — of the family and of political community, for example — wholes apart from membership in which the human individual is incomplete. According to the Grisez/Finnis theory, individual goods are not understood in terms of a prior notion of the common good. Instead their theory defines the common good in such a way that the common good is nothing other and nothing more than one aspect of the set of fundamental human goods.

At this point in the essay, MacIntyre returns to the question of the cultural setting in which natural law arguments are to be made, a setting characterized by a deeply held misconception of human nature and the nature of the good.

Just as functioning well for human beings partially consists in individuals understanding themselves in a particular way, as engaged together with family, friends, and others in a shared discovery of what their individual goods and their common good are, so the malfunctioning of human nature is characteristically expressed in some kind of systematic misunderstanding. In the cultures of advanced modernity, and most notably in contemporary North America, the form often taken by this misunderstanding is one in which the individual is misconceived as someone who has to choose for himself what his good is to be. This conception of the sovereignty and central importance of individual choice is generated by several different but mutually reinforcing features of our dominant contemporary social and moral modes.

Here, MacIntyre underscores a key corollary to the historic understanding of natural law: that the shape of moral order can only be properly perceived by those who have benefited from some healthy moral formation. Systematic misunderstanding of the nature of moral order is now institutionalized; the instruments of moral perception have been retuned to play only in certain keys, recalibrated to detect only certain phenomena.

On a Thomistic view, it is to be expected that under certain social conditions in which adequate moral education is unavailable, the place of individual choice in the moral life will be misunderstood in precisely the way it has been misunderstood in the dominant cultures of advanced modernity.
The exercise of individual choice thus understood, that is, not choice as governed by principles but choice as prior to and determining our principles, is often identified in the contemporary world with the exercise of liberty. Liberty is therefore thought to be threatened whenever it is suggested that the principles that ought to govern over our actions are not in fact principles that are up to us to choose, but principles that we need to discover. But since a Thomistic understanding of natural law commits those who possess it to asserting that human nature is such that rational practical principles are antecedent to and govern choice in rational well-functioning human beings, and that therefore those principles have to be discovered, not chosen, any defense of a Thomistic understanding of natural law is very easily construed as a threat to liberty.

The arguments made by MacIntyre, Hart, and others stress the obstacle erected to any revival of natural law ideas — or any shared vision for the common good or “human flourishing” — by the zealous veneration of a modern view of freedom. That is the one subject that seems off-limits in public debate about moral matters, but I think it is the idol that must be toppled before any substantive moral content can be restored to public deliberation about public life.

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<![CDATA[Intellectual apostasy and Christian witness]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/intellectual-apostasy-and-christian-witness Mon, 04 May 2015 16:49:21 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/764 Ken Myers
4 May

Intellectual apostasy and Christian witness

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Ken Myers
Published: 05/04/15
Subtitle:

Harry Blamires on unfashionable beliefs about the ends of human beings

“For Christians, it can be a stimulating business nowadays to come to grips with specific social corruptions precisely because the assault upon injustice, cruelty, and poverty carries with it the public support of leading elements in our secular civilization. But the fact that it is respectable and fashionable nowadays to be socially conscious does not prove it the most urgent priority of Christian witness. It may by contrast be a forbidding task to turn from the social to the intellectual front, and to attack established modes of thought which have the backing of academic circles with their vast intellectual authority and influence; but the formidableness of the challenge ought surely not to deflect us from taking it up. Indeed the formidableness of the challenge is the measure of its importance. If the change in the temper of our culture is such that we Christians can enjoy being in the vanguard of social progress in the struggles against material injustice, it is also such that we are tempted to shrink from the mental fight, for the prospect of espousing causes which the established and fashionable intellectual circles of our time tend to regard as obscurantist and fanciful is neither attractive nor invigorating. In short, the twentieth-century Christian social gospel for the world in its practical manifestations is now in tune with powerful currents of thought outside the Church; but the Christian’s unchanging understanding of man’s nature and vocation is at loggerheads with established thinking. Is it not therefore incumbent upon us to adjust our priorities, and to strive to counter intellectual apostasy with the same buoyancy and relish with which we confront social injustice?”

—from Harry Blamires, Where Do We Stand? An Examination of the Christian’s Position in the Modern World (Ann Arbor: Servant Books, 1980)

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<![CDATA[A God with nothing to do]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/god-nothing-do Fri, 05 Jun 2015 08:43:18 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/769 Ken Myers
5 Jun

A God with nothing to do

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Ken Myers
Published: 06/05/15
Subtitle:

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger on privatized faith

“Has not Christian consciousness acquiesced to a great extent — without being aware of it — in the attitude that faith in God is something subjective, which belongs in the private realm and not in the common activities of public life where, in order to be able to get along, we all have to behave now etsi Deus non daretur (as if there were no God). Was it not necessary to find a way that would be valid in case it turned out that God did not exist? And so actually it happened automatically, when the faith stepped out of the inner sanctum of ecclesiastical matters into the general public, that it had nothing for God to do and left him where he was: in the private realm, in the intimate sphere that does not concern anyone else. It did not take any particular negligence, and certainly not a deliberate denial, to leave God as a God with nothing to do, especially since his name had been misused so often. But the faith would really have come out of the ghetto only if it had brought its most distinctive feature with it into the public arena: the God who judges and suffers, the God who sets limits and standards for us; the God from whom we come and to whom we are going. But as it was, it really remained in the ghetto, having by now absolutely nothing to do.”

—from Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger Introduction to Christianity (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1968)

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<![CDATA[No such thing as pure objectivity]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/no-such-thing-pure-objectivity Thu, 06 Aug 2015 22:59:25 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/800 Ken Myers
6 Aug

No such thing as pure objectivity

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Ken Myers
Published: 08/06/15
Subtitle:

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger on lessons for faith from physics

“We know today that in a physical experiment the observer himself enters into the experiment and only by doing so can arrive at a physical experience. This means that there is no such thing as pure objectivity even in physics, that even here the result of the experiment, nature’s answer, depends on the question put to it. In the answer there is always a bit of the question and a bit of the questioner himself; it reflects not only nature in itself, in its pure objectivity, but also gives back something of man, of what is characteristically ours, a bit of the human subject. This too, mutatis mutandis, is true of the question of God. There is no such thing as a mere observer. There is no such thing as pure objectivity. One can even say that the higher an object stands in human terms, the more it penetrates the center of individuality; and the more it engages the beholder’s individuality, then the smaller the possibility of the mere distancing involved in pure objectivity. Thus, wherever an answer is presented as unemotionally objective, as a statement that finally goes beyond the prejudices of the pious and provides purely factual, scientific information, than it has to be said that the speaker has here fallen victim to self-deception. This kind of objectivity is quite simply denied to man. He cannot ask and exist as a mere observer. He who tries to be a mere observer experiences nothing. Even the reality ‘God’ can only impinge on the vision of him who enters into the experiment with God — the experiment that we call faith. Only by entering does one experience; only by cooperating in the experiment does one ask at all; and only he who asks receives an answer.”

—from Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger Introduction to Christianity (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1968)

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<![CDATA[Alan Jacobs on Oliver Sacks]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/alan-jacobs-oliver-sacks Wed, 09 Sep 2015 14:09:16 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/806 Ken Myers
9 Sep

Alan Jacobs on Oliver Sacks

Category: Fresh Tracks
By: Ken Myers
Published: 09/09/15
Subtitle:

. . . from the MHA archives

Neurologist Oliver Sacks died on August 30, 2015. We’ve made available a 1995 interview with Alan Jacobs about Sacks (from volume 16 of the MARS HILL Tapes).

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<![CDATA[How literature becomes a habit]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/how-literature-becomes-habit Wed, 09 Sep 2015 14:39:50 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/808 Ken Myers
9 Sep

How literature becomes a habit

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Ken Myers
Published: 09/09/15
Subtitle:

Flannery O’Connor exhorts English teachers

“I know, or at least I have been given to understand, that a great many high school graduates go to college not knowing that a period ordinarily follows the end of a sentence; but what seems even more shocking to me is the number who carry away from college with them an undying appreciation for slick and juvenile fiction. . . .”

“I don’t know whether I am setting the aims of the teacher of English too high or too low when I suggest that it is, partly at least, his business to change the face of the best-seller list. However, I feel that the teacher’s role is more fundamental than the critic’s. It comes down ultimately, I think, to the fact that his first obligation is to the truth of the subject he is teaching, and that for the reading of literature ever to become a habit and a pleasure, it must first be a discipline. The student has to have tools to understand a story or novel, and these are tools proper to the structure of the work, tools proper to the craft. They are tools that operate inside the work and not outside it; they are concerned with how this story is made and with what makes it work as a story.”

From the essay “The Teaching of Literature,” based on a talk to a group of English teachers, published in Flannery O’Connor’s Mystery and Manners (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1961)

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<![CDATA[The Church as a public reality]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/church-public-reality Wed, 09 Sep 2015 14:59:40 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/809 Ken Myers
9 Sep

The Church as a public reality

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Ken Myers
Published: 09/09/15
Subtitle:

William Cavanaugh on how we must be disciples in public, not just citizens

In his book, Theopolitical Imagination, William Cavanaugh challenges the common modern understanding of the necessity of privatizing religion, “whereby the price to the Church of admission to the ‘public’ is a submission of its particular truth claims to the bar of public reason, a self-discipline of Christian speech.” According to the rules of liberalism, “Theology must submit to what ‘the public’ can consider reasonable, where ‘the public’ is understood in terms of the nation-state. Christian symbols must be run through the sausage-grinder of social ethics before coming out on the other hand as publicly digestible policy. . . . ”

“I think the deepest problem with the [conventional Christian] models of civil society . . . is their anemic ecclesiology. Their search for a public Christian presence that is neither private nor in the thrall of the state simply bypasses the possibility of the Church as a significant social space. Missing is even a basic Augustinian sense that the Church is in itself an alternative ‘space’ or set of practices whose citizenship is in some sort of tension with citizenship in the civitas terrena. For Augustine not the imperium but the Church is the true res publica, the ‘public thing;’ the imperium has forfeited any such claim to be truly public by its refusal to do justice, refusing to give God his due. For the [conventional] models, on the other hand, what is public is that space bounded by the nation-state. To enter the public is to leave behind the Church as a body. Individual Christians, fortified by ‘basic orienting attitudes,’ can enter public space, but the Church itself drops out of the picture. The Church is an essentially asocial entity that provides only ‘motivations’ and ‘values’ for public action. Christians must therefore find their politics and their publicness elsewhere, borrowing from the available options presented by the secular nation-state. If we wish to go public, we must take on the language of citizenship. . . . ”

“The modern construction of religion interiorizes it, and makes religion only a motivating force on bodily political and economic practices. The modern Church thus splits the body from the soul and purchases freedom of religion by handing the body over to the state. . . . ”

“A public Christian presence cannot be the pursuit of influence over the powers, but rather a question of what kind of community disciplines we need to produce people of peace capable of speaking truth to power. . . . ”

“We must cease to think that the only choices open to the Church are either to withdraw into some private or ‘sectarian’ confinement, or to embrace the public debate policed by the state. The Church as Body of Christ transgresses both the lines which separate public from private and the borders of nation-states, thus creating spaces for a different kind of political practice, one which is incapable of being pressed into the service of wars or rumours of wars.”

—from William Cavanaugh, Theopolitical Imagination: Discovering the Liturgy as a Political Act in an Age of Global Consumerism (T & T Clark, 2002)

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<![CDATA[Education as the formation of taste]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/education-formation-taste Wed, 09 Sep 2015 15:11:58 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/810 Ken Myers
9 Sep

Education as the formation of taste

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Ken Myers
Published: 09/09/15
Subtitle:

Flannery O’Connor on the shaping of literary experience

In 1963, Flannery O’Connor addressed the claim that “students do not like to read the fusty works of the nineteenth century, that their attention can best be held by novels dealing with there realities of our own time.”

“English teachers come in Good, Bad, and Indifferent, but too frequently in high schools anyone who can speak English is allowed to teach it. Since several novels can't easily be gathered into one textbook, the fiction that students are assigned depends upon their teacher’s knowledge, ability, and taste: variable factors at best. More often than not, the teacher assigns what he thinks will hold the attention and interest of the students. Modern fiction will certainly hold it.

“Ours is the first age in history which has asked the child what he would tolerate learning, but that is a part of the problem with which I am not equipped to deal. The devil of Educationism that possesses us is the kind that can be ‘cast out only by prayer and fasting.’ No one has yet come along strong enough to do it. In other ages the attention of children was held by Homer and Virgil, among others, but, by the reverse evolutionary process, that is no longer possible; our children are too stupid now to enter the past imaginatively. No one asks the student if algebra pleases him or if he finds it satisfactory that some French verbs are irregular but if he prefers [John] Hersey to Hawthorne, his taste must prevail.

“I would like to put forward the proposition, repugnant to most English teachers, that fiction, if it is going to be taught in high schools, should be taught as a subject and as a subject with a history. The total effect of a novel depends not only on its innate impact, but upon the experience, literary and otherwise, with which it is approached. No child needs to be assigned Hersey or Steinbeck until he is familiar with a certain amount of the best work of Cooper, Hawthorne, Melville, the early James, and Crane, and he does not need to be assigned these until he has been introduced to some of the better English novelists of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

“The fact that these works do not present him with the realities of his own time is all to the good. He is surrounded by the realities of his own time, and he has no perspective whatever from which to view them. Like the college student who wrote in her paper on Lincoln that he went to the movies and got shot, many students go to college unaware that the world was not made yesterday; their studies began with the present and dipped backward occasionally when it seemed necessary or unavoidable. . . . ”

“The high school English teacher will be fulfilling his responsibility if he furnishes the student a guided opportunity, through the best writing of the past, to come, in time, to an understanding of the best writing of the present. He will teach literature, not social studies or little lessons in democracy or the customs of many lands.

“And if the student finds that this is not to his taste? Well, that is regrettable. Most regrettable. His taste should not be consulted; it is being formed.”

from Flannery O’Connor’s “Total Effect and the Eighth Grade,” published in The Georgia Bulletin in 1963, reprinted in Mystery and Manners (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1961)

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<![CDATA[The black hole of boredom]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/black-hole-boredom Fri, 11 Sep 2015 09:23:49 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/811 Ken Myers
11 Sep

The black hole of boredom

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Ken Myers
Published: 09/11/15
Subtitle:

The nihilism at the heart of our culture of distraction and titillation

“[I]f one considers many of the more garish artifacts of this culture—Las Vegas, Disneyworld, gnostic, digitalized forms of community and sexuality, a virtual arms race of violent spectacle and vulgar celebrity expressionism—or even the increasingly isolated character of entertainment through ever more personalized electronic devices, they seem less the expression of a celebration of the self, the pleasure principle or a will to power than the expression of an opposed and more fundamental pathology: boredom.

“The advent of this concept of boredom coincides, tellingly, with the rise of bourgeois society and the triumph of industrialization. There is no etymological record of the word or the concept prior to the eighteenth century. Boredom differs in important ways from such antecedents as ennui or acedia. The diagnosis of these maladies traditionally contained within them a moral judgment of the subject, whose melancholy was understood as a moral and spiritual affront to a true and meaningful order of things. Boredom, by contrast, names a twofold failure of an altogether different kind: a failure of the world to be compelling to a subject ostensibly entitled to such an expectation and a failure or incapacity on the part of the subject to be compelled. In this, boredom is closely aligned with hopelessness, and there may indeed be a more profound relation between the excesses of consumer society and the sense of helplessness that leads an increasing number of citizens of that same society to despair of social and political involvement. It is this double nullity of both subject and world, I contend, that underlies entertainment culture and the numbing array of cultural choices produced by it. The very notion of entertainment presumes the state of boredom as the norm, which means that a culture increasingly fueled by this notion assumes that our lives are innately and intrinsically meaningless without the constant stream of “stimulation” and distraction, a stream inevitably subject to the law of diminishing returns. This nullity on the side of the subject is matched by a similar noughting in the world, for latent in this assumption is a corollary denial of form, objective beauty, or a true order of goods that naturally and of themselves compels our interest. As a consequence, according to this cultural logic, all such choices can only be indifferently related to one another. None is intrinsically good or bad, and indeed no good approaches that of choice itself. Hence most citizens of the modern West, almost of necessity, live lives of profound fragmentation and internal contradiction, and yet these contradictions too frequently make no real competing claims on lives and loyalties and cause little pain or anguish to those who are subject to them. Yet the effect of many of these choices is less to please than to stupefy, anesthetize or distract us from the failed festivals, broken communities, and otherwise empty existence imposed by a formless goalless world.”

— from Michael Hanby, “The Culture of Death, the Ontology of Boredom, and the Resistance of Joy,” Communio 31 (Summer 2004)

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<![CDATA[Transforming the world into an orphanage]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/transforming-world-orphanage Mon, 14 Sep 2015 22:10:20 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/812 Ken Myers
14 Sep

Transforming the world into an orphanage

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Ken Myers
Published: 09/14/15
Subtitle:

Robert Pogue Harrison on the tragedy of our systemic callowness

“[O]ur youth-obsessed society in fact wages war against the youth it presumably worships. It may appear as if the world now belongs mostly to the younger generations, with their idiosyncratic mindsets and technological gadgetry, yet in truth, the age as a whole, whether wittingly or not, deprives the young of what youth needs most if it hopes to flourish. It deprives them of idleness, shelter, and solitude, which are the generative sources of identity formation, not to mention the creative imagination. It deprives them of spontaneity, wonder, and the freedom to fail. It deprives them of the ability to form images with their eyes closed, hence to think beyond the sorcery of the movie, television, or computer screen. It deprives them of an expansive and embodied relation to nature, without which a sense of connection to the universe is impossible and life remains essentially meaningless. It deprives them of continuity with the past, whose future they will soon be called on to forge.

“We do not promote the cause of youth when we infantilize rather than educate desire, and then capitalize on its bad infinity; nor when we shatter the relative stability of the world, on which cultural identity depends; nor when we oblige the young to inhabit a present without historical depth or density. The greatest blessing a society can confer on its young is to turn them into the heirs, rather than the orphans, of history. It is also the greatest blessing a society can confer on itself, for heirs rejuvenate the heritage by creatively renewing its legacies. Orphans, by contrast, relate to the past as an alien, unapproachable continent—if they relate to it at all. Our age seems intent on turning the world as a whole into an orphanage, for reasons that no one . . . truly understands.”

—from Robert Pogue Harrison’s Juvenescence: A Cultural History of Our Age (University of Chicago Press, 2014)

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<![CDATA[Lives with no context]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/lives-no-context Mon, 14 Sep 2015 22:28:02 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/813 Ken Myers
14 Sep

Lives with no context

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Ken Myers
Published: 09/14/15
Subtitle:

Miroslav Volf on the triumph of the will

“Those among our contemporaries who think that flourishing consists in experiential satisfaction tend not to ask about how this notion of flourishing fits with the character of the world and of human beings. The reason is not simply that, for the most part, they are ordinary people, rather than philosophers (like Seneca or Nietzsche) or great religious thinkers (like Augustine, Ghazzali, or Maimonides). After all, over the centuries and up to the present, many ordinary people have cared about aligning their lives with the character of the world and of ultimate reality. No, the primary reasons have to do with the nature of the contemporary account of flourishing and the general cultural milieu prevalent in today’s Western world. . . .

“[M]any today would not care whether they live with or against the grain of reality. They want what they want, and that they want it is a sufficient justification for wanting it. Arguments about how their desires fit with the more encompassing account of reality—how they relate to ‘human nature,’ for instance—are simply beside the point.”

—from Miroslav Volf, “Human Flourishing,” in Renewing the Evangelical Mission, edited by Richard Lints (Eerdmans, 2013)

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<![CDATA[A society without purpose]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/society-without-purpose Mon, 14 Sep 2015 22:45:37 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/814 Ken Myers
14 Sep

A society without purpose

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Ken Myers
Published: 09/14/15
Subtitle:

Oliver O’Donovan on the eighteenth-century sources of radical secularism

“The paradox of the First Amendment is that a measure conceived as a liberation for authentic Christianity has become, in this [i.e., the 20th] century, a tool of anti-religious sentiment, weakening the participation of the church in society and depriving it of access to resources for its social role. . . .

“[T]here were features of the intellectual climate of the eighteenth century which weakened the Christian understanding of salvation-history, and replaced it with an open-ended concept of historical development, shaped by human action ventured, perhaps, in imitation of Christ but not in obedient faith directed back to his accomplished work. The shift from salvation-history to an unfolding providence undermined the intelligibility of Christian secular government, as it undermined the intelligibility of the doctrine of the Trinity itself. . . . A Deist religion of divine fatherhood seemed sufficient to support the authority which government needed. . . . By denying any church established status in principle, the framers of the First Amendment gave away more than they knew. They effectively declared that political authorities were incapable of evangelical obedience. And with this the damage was done. It did not need the anti-religious line of interpretation pursued by twentieth-century courts to make this formula, from a theological point of view, quite strictly heretical. The creed asserts: cuius regni non erit finis, and the apostle that ‘at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow’ (Phil. 2:10). The First Amendment presumes to add: ‘except . . .’.

“Excluding government from evangelical obedience has had repercussions for the way society itself is conceived. Since the political formation of society lies in its conscious self-ordering under God’s government, a society conceived in abstraction is unformed by moral self-awareness, driven by internal dynamics rather than led by moral purposes. To deny political authority obedience to Christ is implicitly to deny that obedience to society, too. Precisely such a conception arose from the sociology which emerged in the eighteenth and came to maturity in the nineteenth century. Society was an acephalous organism, driven by unconscious forces from within an object of study and, to the skilful, of manipulation, but in no sense a subject of responsible action. With this conception late-modernity, as we now experience it, stands on the threshold. This, after all, is society as it has been thought about in capitalist economic theory and in revolutionary socialism: it is liberal technological society, which functions like a computer constantly to extend the scope of its own operations in obedience to no rational purpose.”

—from Oliver O’Donovan, The Desire of the Nations: Rediscovering the Roots of Political Theology (Cambridge University Press, 1996)

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<![CDATA[Leaders with management skills (but no virtues)]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/leaders-management-skills-no-virtues Thu, 17 Sep 2015 12:53:04 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/817 Ken Myers
17 Sep

Leaders with management skills (but no virtues)

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Ken Myers
Published: 09/17/15
Subtitle:

Philip Turner on viewing authority as mere conflict management

“[I]n the classical tradition, the very notion of authority carries with it two attendant ideas that underline the close links between authority and community health. One is that there is a common set of beliefs and a common way of life and the other is that there are people who have a particular set of virtues that allow them both to understand those beliefs and ways better than others and to protect and augment them in the midst of life’s chances and changes. . . . We have a crisis of authority because our society no longer has widely shared beliefs and forms of life to which common reference can be made. Beliefs and ways of life, save in respect to certain minimal attitudes and practices without which social life could not successfully be carried on, are considered matters of private rather than public business. Further, because our notions of equality constantly seek to exclude discussion of the personal qualities of excellence that makes one a fit person to govern, we increase the number of arguments over what ought to be done by those in authority and simultaneously narrow the range of personal qualities we believe make one fit to be entrusted with it. We seem less and less concerned that those we invest with authority embody a common ideal and more and more concerned that they succeed in the particular matters that touch our own interests.”

“[T]here has arisen another view of what having authority is and how it ought to be exercised. . . . The new authority rests not upon the presence of shared beliefs and practices but upon their absence. Within modern and postmodern cultures, this new way of having authority depends upon the very absence of shared beliefs and practices and it functions not to further what is common but to insure a social order within which people, who regard one another as strangers and potential enemies, can follow differing beliefs and ways of life without in the process doing unacceptable harm to one another. The peace it seeks to foster is the avoidance of conflict between contradictory aims rather than common though conflicted pursuit of shared goals.

“In short, the new authority is justified not by what is common but by irreconcilable differences in what people believe and the ways in which they choose to live their lives. The new authority therefore functions not by producing consensus within a common, but nonetheless dispute driven, tradition but by seeking to guarantee the rights of people who are strangers one to another — people whose lives are informed by different traditions. These guarantees are insured by creating buffer zones between people who are not civic friends or brothers and sisters in the Lord but adversaries with differing interests. These interests are protected (supposedly) by fair procedures which are designed not to augment common beliefs and ways of life but to insure that individuals are able to make their own choices about these matters. The new authority exists, in short, to see that the rights of individuals are protected and to lay down and enforce the fair procedures that are designed to guarantee their protection.”

“No longer is it necessary for those in authority to stand close to a common tradition or exhibit a range of virtues prized by all. What is necessary is to have the skills of a manager of conflict and the expertise of a technician. The job is to manage conflict in ways that allow people with various desires and ‘life plans’ to coexist. The job description of the new authority is best summed up in the words of pluralism and inclusivity. The new authority functions, at least in theory, to insure that a plurality of beliefs and practices, indeed a plurality of traditions, are allowed to coexist and that the devotees of these various ways of life are not excluded from participating in and benefiting from the goods of social life.”

—from Philip Turner, “Episcopal Authority in a Divided Church: On the Crisis of Anglican Identity” (Pro Ecclesia, Vol. VIII, No. 1 [Winter 1999])

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<![CDATA[The problem with patriotism in secular democracies]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/problem-patriotism-secular-democracies Tue, 22 Sep 2015 20:32:27 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/820 Ken Myers
22 Sep

The problem with patriotism in secular democracies

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Ken Myers
Published: 09/22/15
Subtitle:

Alasdair MacIntyre on the systematic rejection of the tradition of the virtues in modern political institutions

“[M]odern politics cannot be a matter of genuine moral consensus. And it is not. Modern politics is civil war carried on by other means. . . . 

“[P]atriotism cannot be what it was because we lack in the fullest sense a patria . . . . [T]he practice of patriotism as a virtue is in advanced societies no longer possible in the way that it once was. In any society where government does not express or represent the moral community of the citizens, but is instead a set of institutional arrangements for imposing a bureaucratized unity on a society which lacks genuine moral consensus, the nature of political obligation becomes systematically unclear. Patriotism is or was a virtue founded on attachment primarily to a political and moral community and only secondarily to the government of that community; but it is characteristically exercised in discharging responsibility to and in such government. When however the relationship of government to the moral community is put in question both by the changed nature of government and the lack of moral consensus in the society, it becomes difficult any longer to have any clear, simple and teachable conception of patriotism. Loyalty to my country, to my community—which remains unalterably a central virtue — becomes detached from obedience to the government which happens to rule me.

“Just as this understanding of the displacement of patriotism must not be confused with the liberal critique of moral particularity, so this necessary distancing of the moral self from the governments of modern states must not be confused with any anarchist critique of the state. Nothing in my argument suggests, let alone implies, any good grounds for rejecting certain forms of government as necessary and legitimate; what the argument does entail is that the modern state is not such a form of government. It must have been clear from earlier parts of my argument that the tradition of the virtues is at variance with central features of the modern economic order and more especially its individualism, its acquisitiveness and its elevation of the values of the market to a central social place. It now becomes clear that it also involves a rejection of the modern political order. This does not mean that there are not many tasks only to be performed in and through government which still require performing: the rule of law, so far as it is possible in a modern state, has to be vindicated, injustice and unwarranted suffering have to be dealt with, generosity has to be exercised, and liberty has to be defended, in ways that are sometimes only possible through the use of governmental institutions. But each particular task, each particular responsibility has to be evaluated on its own merits. Modern systematic politics, whether liberal, conservative, radical or socialist, simply has to be rejected from a standpoint that owes genuine allegiance to the tradition of the virtues; for modern politics itself expresses in its institutional forms a systematic rejection of that tradition.”

—from Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue (University of Notre Dame Press, second edition 1984)

 

 

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<![CDATA[Not “mere” matter]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/not-%E2%80%9Cmere%E2%80%9D-matter Tue, 22 Sep 2015 20:48:36 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/821 Ken Myers
22 Sep

Not “mere” matter

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Ken Myers
Published: 09/22/15
Subtitle:

David Bentley Hart on the spirituality of the material world

“In the Western philosophical tradition, for instance, neither Platonists, nor Stoics, nor any of the Christian metaphysicians of late antiquity or the Middle Ages could have conceived of matter as something independent of ‘spirit,’ or of spirit as something simply superadded to matter in living beings. Certainly none of them thought of either the body or the cosmos as a machine merely organized by a rational force from beyond itself. Rather, they saw matter as being always already informed by indwelling rational causes, and thus open to—and in fact directed toward—mind. Nor did Platonists or Aristotelians or Christians conceive of spirit as being immaterial in a purely privative sense, in the way that a vacuum is not aerial or a vapor is not a solid. If anything, they understood spirit as being more substantial, more actual, more ‘supereminently’ real than matter, and as in fact being the pervasive reality in which matter had to participate in order to be anything at all. The quandary produced by early modern dualism—the notorious ‘interaction problem’ of how an immaterial reality could have an effect upon a purely material thing—was no quandary at all, because no school conceived of the interaction between soul and body as a purely extrinsic physical alliance between two disparate kinds of substance. The material order is only, it was assumed, an ontologically diminished or constricted effect of the fuller actuality of the spiritual order. And this is why it is nearly impossible to find an ancient or mediaeval school of thought whose concept of the relation of soul and body was anything like a relation between two wholly independent kinds of substance: the ghost and its machine (which, for what it is worth, was not really Descartes’ understanding of the relation either).”

—from David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss (Yale University Press, 2013)

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<![CDATA[Assimilation or identity in Christ]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/assimilation-or-identity-christ Tue, 22 Sep 2015 21:23:29 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/822 Ken Myers
22 Sep

Assimilation or identity in Christ

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Ken Myers
Published: 09/22/15
Subtitle:

Francisco Javier Martínez Fernández on the choice facing the Church

“[A] Church that understands itself and reality through the prevailing categories of secular modernity (whether in their postmodern or Enlightenment form, or merely constituted as reactions to either of these) is doomed to disappear. Or at any rate, it will undergo such a metamorphosis that its continuity with ‘historical’ Christianity would be broken (indeed, it has in part already been broken). . . . Moreover, a Church that uses secular categories is incapable of having a productive and sincere encounter with people of other religious and cultural traditions. To the extent that it adapts itself to the categories of secular modernity, it takes on the precise role that modernity assigns to it; insofar as it embraces this role, the Church can only dissolve, or else be an instrument of violence and division. In order to meet every man and every woman in a way that allows all of us—Christians and non-Christians—to grow in our common humanity, the Church must free itself from the categories of modernity and recover its identity from within its own particular tradition.”

“The Church only exists in concrete cultural forms, on which the encounter with Christ—which from the beginning has always occurred in concrete cultural form—has had varying degrees of impact. This encounter can be the determining factor of the human experience, or it can remain merely a partial or marginal aspect thereof. The task of Christian education consists entirely of helping people pass from the latter condition to the former. For people in the latter situation, the categories determining Christian life continue to be those of the surrounding culture. And those categories will influence and weigh on the thought of individuals and peoples depending on how decisive the encounter with the Risen and Living Christ, Center and Lord of the cosmos and of history, has been in determining their self-awareness and awareness of reality.”

“Leaving the distinction between modern and postmodern cultures aside—though I do not claim that it is unimportant—the view of Christianity is fundamentally the same in both variations of secular culture: Christianity is a subset of the ‘religion’ category, and this fact clearly sets it apart from other spheres of human activities such as rational knowledge, work and art, the economy, ethics, and politics. Because it is ‘religion,’ it is assigned certain characteristics so that it will fit into the term’s preexisting, modern definition: religion is, above all, a set of beliefs that are not rationally verifiable, and are therefore designated ‘religious sentiment’ and assigned to the irrational realm of preference. They must remain tokens of a past culture fit only for a museum, or they must be contained within the private sphere. Because these beliefs are irrational and rigidly separated from the other spheres of human activity, they may not be guidelines for anything ‘real’ that has social significance or value—whether politics, economics, or family life. In general, these beliefs are depicted in fixed ritual expressions established by tradition and are often used as a foundation for specific ethical codes. An ethical code will be tolerated as long as its members live it as a free, private choice: that is, as long as it is not imposed by any person or institution, and as long as it cannot interfere with other beliefs and other ethical systems. If religion and the ethical code derived from it sought to emerge from the strictly private realm or the realm of folklore, they would become sources of violence. The mission and duty of preventing this violence falls to the state, the supreme protector and guarantor of individual liberties and the common good.”

“Given the assumptions of secular, modern society, the Church is left with two fundamental possibilities, which are not mutually exclusive, and which can be combined in different ways and to varying degrees. Either the Church accepts its role as a cultural leftover from the past, or it must dissolve into the surrounding society. The former means transforming into an optional collection of individuals who share certain beliefs, rights, moral rules, and tastes concerning one aspect of life that remains separate from the other aspects and is called ‘religious.’ The latter road leads before long to the disappearance of any identifiable Christian social reality, or at least of any Christian reality that can be identified with its own Tradition.”

—from Francisco Javier Martínez Fernández, “Church, Modernity, and Multiculturalism: An Extemporaneous Reflection,” in Retrieving Origins and the Claims of Multiculturalism (Eerdmans, 2014), edited by Antonio López and Javier Prades

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<![CDATA[Keeping "the good" in the common good]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/keeping-good-common-good Sat, 26 Sep 2015 16:12:51 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/823 Ken Myers
26 Sep

Keeping "the good" in the common good

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Ken Myers
Published: 09/26/15
Subtitle:

D. C. Schindler on the metaphysical character of real community

“[T]he possibility of genuine community depends on the existence of goods that have a reality that transcends their relativity to individuals, or in other words are able to be possessed by many at once. A common good is more than a sum of individual goods; even though it is a good for individuals, it is good for them precisely as universal. . . . If I pursue a good, not (merely) because I like it or want it or need it or find it useful, but simply because it is good, in that act I transcend myself in my individuality and so open to others in an intrinsic way: we can actually be with each other only on the basis of a good that transcends us both. . . .

“The common good is not necessarily a different thing from an individual good, but rather what we might describe as a more profound way of representing any good, whatever it might be. The key question is whether we take something as good in itself, as true, or we functionalize it or otherwise relativize it to something particular. To illustrate this point, let us consider some concrete examples. Education could be understood in different ways, and whether it counts as a common good — i.e., whether it serves genuinely to found community — depends on the precise way in which it is understood. If we promote it as a common good in the strict sense, it means that there is something intrinsically good about an educated human being; that education means the flourishing of humanity, which means that it allows the truth of humanity to be actualized; and that this truth has no need for anything beyond itself to justify itself as worthy of pursuit. If, by contrast, we think of education as training for some profession, as a means of acquiring the knowledge and skills necessary to live a successful life, and so forth, then even if we seek to make education available to as many human beings as possible, we are not in fact promoting it as a common good. To deny it this character, of course, does not imply that education so conceived is therefore an evil, but it does mean that we need to think of it differently if we are to have a community. . . .

“Given our cultural climate, we almost cannot help but reduce the common good to some collectivist form. To take a final, provocative example, we might consider the arguments typically offered against the legal recognition of same-sex marriage. The state’s ‘compelling interest’ is explained in terms of the material harm to individuals, in this case, above all the children. This is a consequentialist argument. It may be true, and its truth may be crucially important, but it is not, strictly speaking, an argument about the common good, at least as it is generally framed. To become such, the argument would have to reject same-sex marriage in the first place because it betrays the truth of human sexuality, regardless of the implications of that truth. If one were to object that an argument of this sort does not carry weight, one is conceding that truth is less significant to human beings than material well-being. If one were to add that such an argument simply cannot be made in our society, one is actually saying that we do not have a society: a society, understood as a human community, can be founded only on the common good, and if a ‘society’ restricts appeal at best to a collection of individual goods, it is denying the one thing that makes it possible. . . .

“In a word, one cannot promote community without promoting goodness in its highest sense, and this means not only promoting what are called ‘values’ but a deepening of understanding, or rather, the ordering of the soul to the truth of the good.”

—from D. C. Schindler, “Enriching the Good: Toward a Development of a Relational Anthropology,” Communio 37 (Winter 2010)

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<![CDATA[Seeing the world from somewhere]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/seeing-world-somewhere Sun, 27 Sep 2015 16:37:14 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/824 Ken Myers
27 Sep

Seeing the world from somewhere

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Ken Myers
Published: 09/27/15
Subtitle:

Robert Spaemann on why education can’t be “objective”

“Teaching a language is the model for all other education. To educate means to introduce a person into one’s own world, to interpret the world, to train a person to make distinctions, whether it be the distinction between a blackbird and a robin, between a brook and a canal, and between a Mercedes and a Volkswagen, or on the other hand the distinction between the important and the trivial, between the beautiful and the ugly, and between good and evil.

“The distinctions just mentioned are not ones we can learn in a merely theoretical way. We learn to distinguish between the important and the trivial only through the practice of acts of preference, deferral, and renunciation. We learn to distinguish between ‘beautiful’ and ‘ugly’ by growing out of the crude judgments that ‘I like that’ and ‘I don’t like that,’ and by fashioning in ourselves an organ for the perception of objective qualities. But this happens in the first place through an encounter with beauty, through involvement with the beautiful, and through learning to do whatever one does in a beautiful manner. The distinction between good and evil, however, is something we acquire only by learning to take one side and to be against the other — and perhaps in certain circumstances even to be against ourselves; we acquire it by learning that the world is a battlefield between good and evil and that this battle goes on even in our own heart. . . .

“[M]any think that . . . we ought simply to expose young people ‘non-judgmentally’ to various possible worldviews. An exposure of this sort is supposed to be what first teaches a person the attitude of general tolerance, and for the rest, when a person cannot avoid making a choice, it teaches the ability to make a free decision. As if it were possible to choose something that one never got to know from the inside!

“This way of looking at things is a profound and fateful anthropological and pedagogical error. If a person believes that there are many different paths man could take to reach his goal, he does not infer the resolution to follow one of them in a faithful way. Instead, he draws the inference that there is no need to follow any particular path, and he leaves them all as hypothetical. The pathological inability to make a commitment that afflicts many young adults today is already the product of such an approach to education. We prevent young people from experiencing the power that a demanding view of the world and man has to open up reality, merely because we want to give them the possibility of looking at reality from some other perspective. This is a great injustice to children.”

—from Robert Spaemann, “Education as an Introduction to Reality," Humanum: Issues in Family, Culture & Science (2015, no. 1)

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Robert Spaemann
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<![CDATA[Not just a counterculture]]> https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/not-just-counterculture Mon, 28 Sep 2015 10:05:54 -0400 https://marshillaudio.org/node/825 Ken Myers
28 Sep

Not just a counterculture

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Ken Myers
Published: 09/28/15
Subtitle:

Peter J. Leithart on the public (and prophetic) mission of the Church

“The mission of the Church can be described as a double movement. On the one hand, the Church is called to withdraw from the world, to be a counterculture, a separate city within the world’s cities, challenging and clashing with the world by unapologetically speaking her own language, telling her own stories, enacting her own rites, practicing her own way of life. Though she shares considerable cultural space with the world, the Church is not an institution in the world alongside other institutions. She is an alternative world unto herself, with her roots in heaven, formed by being drawn into the community of Father, Son and Spirit.

“The Church is not, however, simply a counterculture. She has been given the subversive mission of converting whatever culture she finds herself in. She works to the end that her language, her rites, and her way of life might become formative for an entire society. She withdraws from the world for the sake of the world. Having been drawn into the communion of the triune God, she participates also in the mission of the triune God.”

—from Peter J. Leithart: Against Christianity (Canon Press, 2003)

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