Audio Reprints

MARS HILL AUDIO Reprints are readings of individual articles and essays from magazines, journals, and pamphlets on subjects of cultural significance. Some articles have been selected to complement the content on recent issues of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal, offering listeners an opportunity to explore a subject in greater depth or from a slightly different angle. Other articles are chosen to provide a primer on important cultural and theological issues.


Robert W. Jenson, "How the World Lost Its Story"

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(from First Things, October 1993)

In this article, theologian Robert W. Jenson describes how a postmodern world is characterized by the loss of a conviction that we inhabit a “narratable world” that exists coherently outside of ourselves. Although modernity — as opposed to postmodernity — presupposed in its arts and philosophy this narratable world, it did so while at the same time discarding the Judeo-Christian framework that enabled such a supposition in the first place. Increasingly, as the arts prefigured and now as the general culture at large displays, the experience of and confidence in such a coherent narrative has broken down into fragments. How then is the Church to respond to a world that has lost its story? In Jenson's words: “If the church does not find her hearers antecedently inhabiting a narratable world, then the church must herself be that world.” Read by Ken Myers. 40 minutes.


David Bentley Hart, "A Perfect Game: The Metaphysical Meaning of Baseball"

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(from First Things, August 2010)

In this playful article from First Things, theologian David Bentley Hart muses on what is arguably America’s greatest contribution to civilization: baseball. Baseball, as Hart would have it, is the Platonic ideal of sports, “a game utterly saturated by infinity,” a game not contrived by our own artifice, but a discovery long kept secret in the dark mysteries of Reality. Contrary to what Hart disparagingly dubs “the oblong game” — the spatial and temporal confines of which are “pitilessly finite” — baseball in its shape and motion stretches towards endless vistas, unfolding organically according to its own narrative and inner logic while at the same time striving to complete the most perfect of shapes, the circle. Read by Ken Myers. 27 minutes.


Roger Kimball, "Josef Pieper: Leisure and Its Discontents"

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(from The New Criterion, January 1999)

Long before Alasdair MacIntyre or Stanley Hauerwas were reminding us of the significance of historic teaching about virtue, Josef Pieper (1904-1997) was writing confidently about virtue and the virtues. Pieper is best known today for his 1952 book, Leisure, the Basis of Culture. When the book was published, The New York Times enthused "Pieper's message for us is plain. . . . The idolatry of the machine, the worship of mindless know-how, the infantile cult of youth and the common mind — all this points to our peculiar leadership in the drift toward the slave society. . . . Pieper's profound insights are impressive and even formidable." While the Times may not be quite as excited about Pieper today, we're pleased to present a primer on Pieper's ideas in our latest Audio Reprint: "Josef Pieper: Leisure and Its Discontents." This 1999 essay by Roger Kimball introduces listeners to Pieper's arguments about the nature of leisure, which are claims about the nature of philosophy and of human well-being. The article was originally published in The New Criterion, where Roger Kimball is editor and publisher. Read by Ken Myers. 34 minutes.


David Lyle Jeffrey, "God's Patient Stet"

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(from First Things, July/August 2011)

Writing in The American Scholar in 1991, critic Bruce Bawer claimed that Richard Wilbur is "the outstanding contemporary instance of the type of poet who writes in strict forms about traditional themes, and whose poems—making, as they do, frequent, appropriate, and instructive use of meter, rhyme, imagery, alliteration, assonance, and even the occasional classical allusion—could serve as models in a textbook of prosody." But the attentive (and therefore delighted) reader will take less note of Wilbur's model practice than of the sense of marveling that saturates his work. As David Lyle Jeffrey observes in his article, "God’s Patient Stet," the sense of consistency one perceives in Wilbur's work "emerges not only from his craftsmanship as a poet but from his constancy as an affectionate observer of creation, both Nature and human nature." Jeffrey's article focuses on the poems in Wilbur's 2010 anthology Anterooms, especially those that are more explicitly Biblical or theological in their allusions. David Lyle Jeffrey is Distinguished Professor of Literature and Humanities at Baylor University. Read by Ken Myers. 25 minutes.


Robert R. Reilly, "The Music of the Spheres, or the Metaphysics of Music"

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(from The Intercollegiate Review, Fall 2001)

For 2500 years in the West, music was understood as a work of discovery, as an expression of something present in the structure of the cosmos. Despite changes in musical styles, the ways composers and musicians arranged melody, harmony, and rhythm were assumed to be expressive of some objective reality in the nature of things. As Robert R. Reilly summarizes this view, "Music was number made audible. Music was man's participation in the harmony of the universe." In the 20th century, that view was abandoned by courageous pioneers of the avant-garde, and "musical art was reduced to the arbitrary manipulation of fragments of sound." In this essay, Robert R. Reilly contrasts these two sets of assumptions about music, and introduces two 20th-century composers who rejected the metaphysics of chaos in their compositions: the Danish composer Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996) and the American John Adams (1947-). Read by Ken Myers. 43 minutes.


Mickey Craig & Jon Fennell, "Love in the Age of Neuroscience"

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(from The New Atlantis, Fall 2005)

When Tom Wolfe's novel, I Am Charlotte Simmons, was originally published in 2004, most of the reviews concentrated on the story's sexual escapades. The book was received by social conservatives as an indictment of collegiate promiscuity and dismissed by progressives as a tired and embarrassing display of peephole prurience by a once-vital writer now in his grumpy 70s. Mickey Craig and Jon Fennell argue that sexual confusion is simply a symptom of a larger crisis prominently explored in the book. "The novel invites us to ask: Is love possible in the age of neuroscience? Or have we unmasked human beings only to discover that love is an illusion?" Read by Ken Myers. 38 minutes.


Christine Rosen, "Virtual Friendship and the New Narcissism"

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(from The New Atlantis, Summer 2007)

Social networking sites—in widespread use only since 2002—are changing the shape of relationships for millions of Americans. But how are those changes affecting our understanding and experience of friendship and our sense of personal identity? What happens in personal and social life when we are increasingly connected by weak (and conveniently abandoned) ties? Citing numerous studies by social scientists, Christine Rosen asks: "Does this technology, with its constant demands to collect (friends and status), and perform (by marketing ourselves), in some ways undermine our ability to attain what it promises—a surer sense of who we are and where we belong?" Read by Ken Myers. 50 minutes.


Richard Sherlock, "The Secret of Straussianism"

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(from Modern Age, Summer 2006)

Leo Strauss (1899-1973) was one of the most influential political philosophers of the 20th century. In this essay, Richard Sherlock explores the significance of Strauss's methodology, focusing on how he understood the communication of ideas in classical and modern thought about political order. Strauss's deep, insightful readings and profound respect for the writers of seminal works manifested a powerful apologetic for the idea of "classic natural right," even as his intellectual esotericism masked a critical gap in his political philosophy. Read by Ken Myers. 36 minutes.


Caitrin Nicol, "Brave New World at 75"

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(from The New Atlantis, Spring 2007)

"It is easy to imagine that we see the shadows of our society in Huxley's vision of the future. But could it be that our insistence on seeing Huxley's book as an exceedingly successful prophecy actually prevents us from recognizing its real insight? Is there a way for us to understand the book free of the great distorting influence of our own times?" That's what Caitrin Nicol accomplishes in this essay which combines a survey of contemporary reviews of Brave New World with some thoughtful reflections on happiness and freedom. Read by Ken Myers. 44 minutes.


Yuval Levin, "The Moral Challenge of Modern Science"

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(from The New Atlantis, Fall 2006)

It is commonly assumed that science is a morally neutral set of practices which may be used for good or bad purposes. But Yuval Levin, a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, insists that science has always been "a profoundly moral enterprise, aimed at improving the condition of the human race, relieving suffering, enhancing health, and enriching life." Because this moral dynamic is so deeply assumed, our society finds it difficult to assess how we ought to use science when the improvement of health comes into conflict with other social goods. In this article, Levin calls for a more deliberate awareness of how science shapes how we ask and answer moral questions together. Read by Ken Myers. 44 minutes.


Ralph C. Wood, "Rapidly Rises the Morning Tide: An Essay on P. D. James's The Children of Men"

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(from Theology Today, vol. 51, no. 20 [July 1994])

"The key to P. D. James's fiction, especially her later work, is her Christianity." So argues Ralph C. Wood, University Professor of Theology and Literature at Baylor University. "She regards our cultural malaise as having theological no less than ethical cause." In this essay, Wood discusses the way in which the futuristic dystopia of her novel, The Children of Men, reveals much about the West's modern spiritual confusion and about the possible sources of hope beyond that chaos. Read by Ken Myers. 39 minutes.


Louise Cowan, "The Necessity of the Classics"

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(from Intercollegiate Review, Fall 2001)

The classics are, argues Louise Cowan, "the primary curricular need of our time." The classics are poetic in the root sense of the word: they are a form of making (poesis), based on mimesis, "the envisioning, or imagining, of fictional analogies, a kind of knowing different from philosophy or history and yet occupying an irreplaceable position in the quest for wisdom." Cowan (a recipient of the National Humanities Medal) insists that what we label the classics "have become classics because they elicit greatness of soul," and that such aspiration can only be informed by such works. Read by Ken Myers. 35 minutes.


David Aikman, "One Word of Truth: A Portrait of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn"

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(A Trinity Forum Reading, 1997)

In 1989, David Aikman, then a journalist with Time magazine, was granted the first major interview Solzhenitsyn had given an American news organization for years. In this essay, Aikman offers an engaging and lively account of the dramatic and sobering events of Solzhenitsyn's life: from his early years as a Communist, to the beginnings of his literary efforts and his subsequent imprisonment, to his exile and life in the West, to his return to Russia in the 1990s. A portrait emerges of a courageous man devoted to the battle for truth in the context of the distinctive disorders of modern, post-Christian culture. This Reprint is read by the author, and includes a foreword written and read by Os Guinness on the contemporary crisis of truth in the West. 107 minutes.


John Pollock, "William Wilberforce: A Man Who Changed His Times"

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(A Trinity Forum Reading, 1996)

"God Almighty has set before me two great objects: the suppression of the Slave Trade and the reformation of manners." William Wilberforce, a young parliamentarian, recorded these audacious ambitions in his diary on October 28, 1787. Forty-six years later and three days before his death, slavery was abolished throughout the entire British empire. Over the course of these years he went from being one of the most vilified men in Europe to one of the most loved and revered in the world. This biographical account of Wilberforce's life and work was written by John Pollock, and is introduced by J. Douglas Holladay. Read by Ken Myers. 50 minutes.


Joshua P. Hochschild, "Globalization: Ancient and Modern"

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(from The Intercollegiate Review, Spring 2006)

Beginning with the refreshing observation of the sheer ugliness of the word "globalization" ("an adjective, converted into a barbaric verb, then forced into service as a still more barbaric noun"), Hochschild observes that this misbegotten word labels a poorly defined concept. Despite its vagueness, it "suggests a trend toward increased economic and political interdependence, which at once fosters and is fostered by cultural homogenization." Hochschild goes on to examine the effects of this trend on local communities and insists that any effort to evaluate globalization requires a return to a "political teleology," reflection on the ends of politics given the ends of human being. Read by Ken Myers. 36 Minutes.


Matthew B. Crawford, "Shop Class as Soulcraft"

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(from The New Atlantis, Summer 2006)

In the age of think tanks, consulting firms, and IKEA, craftsmanship seems to be in decline. Shop class is becoming rarer, and our children are told that college is the ticket to an "open future" as a "knowledge worker." This rejection of craftsmanship wrongly ignores the cognitive, social, and remunerative rewards of skilled manual work, and wrongly assumes that white-collar work always engages the mind. In this essay, political philosopher Matthew B. Crawford recounts life as a motorcycle mechanic and makes a case for the manual trades as an expression of human flourishing. Read by Ken Myers. 55 minutes.


Roger Kimball, "Leszek Kolakowski and the Anatomy of Totalitarianism"

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(from The New Criterion, June 2005)

Born in 1927 in Poland, Leszek Kolakowski grew out of his youthful Stalinism to become one of the most penetrating critics of Marxism. In his masterful three-volume Main Currents of Marxism, he concluded: "The self-deification of mankind, to which Marxism gave philosophical expression, has ended in the same way as all such attempts, whether individual or collective: it has revealed itself as the farcical aspect of human bondage." Kolakowski's diagnosis of the spiritual crisis of modernity goes far beyond his critique of Marxism; in a variety of books, essays, and public addresses, he regularly returned to the problem of modern culture's denial of the sacred. This essay by Roger Kimball, editor of The New Criterion, was written on the occasion of the release of a new edition of Main Currents of Marxism, and sets the arguments in that book in the wider context of Kolakowski's other work. Read by Ken Myers. 35 minutes.