Catalog

Conversations

The MARS HILL AUDIO Conversations are extended dialogues with one or two guests.  With a typical duration of an hour, Conversations allow a greater depth of analysis and a more extensive exchange of ideas than do our Journal interviews.

MARS HILL AUDIO Conversation 32

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel: Malcolm Guite and J. A. C. Redford on the Advent O Antiphons

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In this Conversation, poet and priest Malcolm Guite talks about his seven sonnets corresponding to the seven “O Antiphons.” Also included in this Conversation is an interview with composer J. A. C. Redford who collaborated with Malcolm Guite to set Guite’s seven “O Antiphon” sonnets to music for unaccompanied choir. In these interviews, we discuss how poetry and liturgy invite repetition, and also how music can be an interpretation of a text so as to aid how one inhabits poetry over time.

MARS HILL AUDIO Conversation 31

Unbearable Lightness: R. J. Snell on Acedia and Metaphysical Boredom

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In this interview, philosopher R. J. Snell draws from how Hanby uses the verb “noughting” to interpret boredom, and connects it with the capital vice of acedia—or its token symptom, sloth—to help us recognize how this particular vice captures the “mood of our age.” Snell argues that the metaphysical boredom of modernity is sustained by our deeply-held convictions about freedom and contingency, which view the former as necessary and the latter as offensive. Like a sulking child, the slothful prefer to choose nothing rather than accept the neediness and dependency implied by our finite existence. When this slothful posture expands to the metaphysical plane, boredom becomes the very denial of being itself or, in other words, the “noughting” of the world. 48 minutes.

MARS HILL AUDIO Conversation 30

Rebecca DeYoung on Vainglory, the Forgotten Vice

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In this conversation, philosopher Rebecca DeYoung explains how the language of vices speaks to patterns or narratives in our lives in a way that is distinct from “original sin” and from “sin as moments or acts of rule-breaking.” Drawing from the wisdom of the Desert Fathers, DeYoung describes vainglory and the other “deadly sins” as capital vices from which more vices may materialize. 56 minutes

MARS HILL AUDIO Conversation 29

Brand Luther: Andrew Pettegree on Martin Luther, Printing, and the Making of the Reformation

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It is often noted that Martin Luther’s Reformation could never have advanced the way it did without the technology of the printing industry. While the coincidence of Luther and the printing press undoubtedly contributed to the Reformation’s rapid spread, the printing world at the time of Luther was largely under the patronage of the Catholic church, and it was not inevitable, according to Andrew Pettegree, that “print would become an agent of insurrection.” In his book, Brand Luther, historian Andrew Pettegree shows how Luther’s facility for writing in German and his intuitive business sense not only spread ideas and incited controversy, but completely transformed the distribution model of the printing industry. 56 minutes.

MARS HILL AUDIO Conversation 28

The Practice of Christian Pedagogy

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In recent years, Christian educators have rediscovered ancient ideas about how the head and heart interact. There is a relationship between the cultivation of affections, dispositions, and virtues, and the acquisition of knowledge. What we believe is inextricably linked to what we love and what we worship. What we love, in turn, is encouraged by practices: by the ways our bodies and imaginations engage the world of the senses. Christian educators are coming to question the idea that teaching is merely the transmission of ideas and are giving more attention to the formative power of classroom practices and the culture of schools. 56 minutes.

MARS HILL AUDIO Conversation 27

Deadly Legacy: Alan Jacobs on Original Sin

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Literary critic and C. S. Lewis biographer Alan Jacobs has enriched our understanding of Christian faith and its consequences with his thoughtful book Original Sin: A Cultural History (2008). The book looks at beliefs about human waywardness and its sources through much of Western history, and how those beliefs have affected literature, politics, music, education, and other spheres of human culture. In this Conversation, Jacobs explains how belief in original sin (in its Augustinian form) offers resources for comfort and community. 60 minutes.

MARS HILL AUDIO Conversation 26

Dancing Lessons: Eugene Peterson on Theology and the Rhythms of Life

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In his 2005 book, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places, pastor-theologian Eugene Peterson argued that believers should attend to the way God works in creation, history, and community. Such attention prevents theology from being mere abstraction and spirituality from becoming vague and gnostic. In this Conversation, Peterson discusses the necessity of taking time in worship; the benefits and liabilities of small groups; the delightful gifts of language; and the centrality of "fear of the Lord" in describing our response to God's initiative in salvation. 73 minutes.

MARS HILL AUDIO Conversation 25

The Heav'ns and All the Powers Therein: The Medieval Cosmos and the World of Narnia

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For decades, readers and scholars have wondered whether there was a Master Plan for the structure of the seven books in C. S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia. In his book Planet Narnia, Michael Ward makes a compelling case that the qualities attributed to the seven planets in the cosmology of antiquity and the Middle Ages are embodied in the seven books about Narnia. In this Conversation, Ward explains why Lewis thought the pre-Copernican view of the cosmos can still be of spiritual benefit, that although it may not be true in a factual sense, its beauty nonetheless reveals deeper truths. 67 minutes.

MARS HILL AUDIO Conversation 24

Alan Jacobs on The Narnian

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In this Conversation with Ken Myers, Alan Jacobs, author of The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of C. S. Lewis, discusses a number of Lewis's writings, including The Great Divorce, The Abolition of Man, The Magician's Nephew, That Hideous Strength, and The Pilgrim's Regress. The theme that dominates the discussion is Lewis's view of the imagination, and his deep conviction that the shaping of the conscience requires the training of the imagination. 53 minutes.

MARS HILL AUDIO Conversation 23

Church, State, and Society in Catholic Social Teaching

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The development in 19th-century Catholic social thought of the idea of society as a spiritual and cultural reality is one of the themes in this Conversation with Dr. Russell Hittinger. In addition to the contribution of Pope Leo XIII and the revival of Thomistic thought to Catholic social thinking, Hittinger discusses the significance of marital notions to society, the limits of the idea of social contract, the effect of an increasing proportion of Muslims on European social thought, and how modern democracies have abandoned the project of understanding public life in moral terms. 60 minutes.

MARS HILL AUDIO Conversation 22

Hillbilly Thomist: Flannery O'Connor & the Truth of Things

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In this Conversation, Ken Myers talks with Susan Srigley about how Flannery O’Connor’s perception of reality suffuses her fiction in ways that fit the views of how art works developed by Thomas Aquinas, views often summarized as “sacramental” or “incarnational.” And Ralph Wood discusses O’Connor’s acceptance of the limits placed in our lives by Providence, how limits may be a source of wisdom rather than frustration. 60 minutes.

MARS HILL AUDIO Conversation 21

Science and Theology from the Bottom Up: Sir John Polkinghorne on Enriching the Dialogue

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In 1979, a much-respected physicist named John Polkinghorne resigned from his position at Cambridge. Just five years earlier he had been honored for his remarkable achievements in mathematical physics (he had been part of the team that discovered the quark) by being appointed a Fellow of the Royal Society. Polkinghorne was departing the environs of this profound and mysterious reflection on the nature of reality for a vocation no less intellectually and personally challenging: the study of theology and service as an Anglican priest. One of the benefits to the public of Polkinghorne’s twin interests in science and theology has been the remarkable series of books he has written since 1983, beginning with The Way the World Is, continuing with the publication of his 1993 Gifford Lectures (published as The Faith of a Physicist: Reflections of a Bottom-Up Thinker) and most recently Science and the Trinity: The Christian Encounter with Reality (Yale). Sir John Polkinghorne talks about the main themes of this book in this Conversation. 54 minutes.

MARS HILL AUDIO Conversation 20

Texts, Sex, and Sanctity: Robert Gagnon on Homosexuality and the Bible

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There are few issues within the church more potent than that of homosexuality. Barbara Wheeler, President of Auburn Theological Seminary in New York, has noted that "What we in the churches teach about homosexuality affects the lives of many more people than our own members." In recent years, the debate on this issue has centered on disagreements over the exact nature of biblical teaching concerning sexuality. Dr. Robert Gagnon, Associate Professor of New Testament Pittsburgh Theological Seminary is one of the world's foremost experts on the subject and the author of the critically acclaimed text, The Bible and Homosexual Practice. In this Conversation, Dr. Gagnon talks with Ken Myers about the cultural trends and theological arguments that have shaped the dispute over the past few decades, in the hope of clarifying the answers to many of these complex questions. 72 minutes.

MARS HILL AUDIO Conversation 19

The Crisis of Islam and the Crisis of the West

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After the events of September 11, 2001, many people in the West began pursuing crash courses in understanding Islamic belief and history. As a result, many realized the wisdom of acquiring some historical perspective on what appears to be a clash of civilizations. In this Conversation, Bernard Lewis, a Western historian of the Middle East whose work is recognized around the world, helps provide that essential perspective. 50 minutes.

MARS HILL AUDIO Conversation 18

Human Nature, Human Dignity

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Modern people tend to ignore questions about the nature and purpose of things while learning to control them more efficiently. But as science and technology offer us the ability to fundamentally transform human nature, we can no longer avoid addressing metaphysical questions. The crisis of our time, many thinkers agree, is one concerning the definition of human nature. In “Human Life, Human Dignity,” Leon Kass outlines what is at stake and sets forth a framework for indispensable discussions surrounding biotechnologies. Kass stresses that we must approach the discussion with reverence and awe and that a major component of the discussion should be the notion of human dignity. Kass recommends that we turn first not to the findings of science and technology, but to the canon of “residual wisdom” in the East and West—found in literary, philosophical, and religious traditions—that vividly depicts human nature in its glories and tragedies. 60 minutes.

MARS HILL AUDIO Conversation 17

Maker of Middle-Earth

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While it is not a story set in the twentieth century, Tom Shippey (author of J. R. R. Tolkien: Author of the Century) claims that The Lord of the Rings is very much a work of the twentieth century; the momentum of evil sweeps characters into action before they understand the events in which they are involved. Joseph Pearce (author of Tolkien: Man and Myth) defends The Lord of the Rings fantasy genre against those who would claim that realistic fiction is a better vessel for truth; because mythology is stripped of the factual, he explains, it can deal with truth unencumbered and therefore convey its moral more directly. Literary critic Ralph C. Wood explains why he has been drawn to J. R. R. Tolkien's moral Middle-Earth since his first reading of The Lord of the Rings in the 1960s. It is a world ordered by heroism, friendship, loyalty, and hope. These ties alone, he states, enable the hobbits to complete their quest and go where no one else can. 86 minutes.

MARS HILL AUDIO Conversation 14

Till We Have Faces and the Meaning of Myth

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C. S. Lewis’s Till We Have Faces is, in his own words, “a myth retold.” Literary critic Thomas Howard explains that Lewis’s decision to tell this story as a myth was informed by the fact that the mythical outlook on the world is fundamentally opposed to the tenets of modernity, for which Lewis had such unrelenting criticism. 50 minutes

MARS HILL AUDIO Conversation 13

Life Work: On the Christian Idea of Calling

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Paul Marshall, author of A Kind of Life Imposed on Man, discusses how society and the Church have understood work throughout history, and what positive ramifications we might expect to see if Christians began to understand their life at work as part of their life in Christ. On part two, Os Guinness, author of The Call, explains how vocation and identity have lost their theological moorings among Christians. 62 minutes

MARS HILL AUDIO Conversation 12

Youth Culture & the Church

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Mardi Keyes, from the Southborough, Massachusetts branch of L’Abri Fellowship, explains how modern assumptions about the nature of adolescence differ from a biblical understanding of human development. She also describes ways in which intergenerational fellowship within the Church can deter many adolescent crises. Then pastor Mark DeVries describes the ideas in his book Family-Based Youth Ministry74 minutes.

MARS HILL AUDIO Conversation 11

Self, Society, & the Diagnosis of Addiction

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Sociologist John Steadman Rice, author of A Disease of One’s Own: Psychotherapy, Addiction, and the Emergence of Co-Dependency, maintains that the concept of codependency is rooted in the tenets of “liberation psychotherapy,” a way of thinking about the self that sees all psychological problems as a function of the restrictions placed on individuals by social institutions, especially by the family. Rice asks what kind of society will result if a critical mass of people are converted to an asocial existence. 48 minutes.

MARS HILL AUDIO Conversation 9

The Supreme Court and Abortion

Russell Hittinger, associate professor of theology at Catholic University, talks about the evolution of the Supreme Court’s reasoning about abortion, privacy, and liberty, culminating in the extraordinary views of Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

MARS HILL AUDIO Conversation 8

Bread & the Hungry Soul

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Leon Kass, physician, biologist, and professor of philosophy at the University of Chicago, discusses his book The Hungry Soul: Eating and the Perfecting of Our Nature, in which he explores how the activity of eating provides clues for understanding human nature and helps guide morality and communal life. Then Brother Peter Reinhart talks about the art of breadmaking as a metaphor for spiritual life. 72 minutes.

MARS HILL AUDIO Conversation 4

Edge of Life, Edge of Death

Richard Doerflinger recounts the deliberations of the Human Embryo Research Panel, appointed by the National Institutes of Health. On side two, Richard John Neuhaus, editor of First Things magazine, talks about the legitimization of suicide and euthanasia in a society bankrupt of moral and political coherence.

MARS HILL AUDIO Conversation 3

Church, Community, & History

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Robert Wuthnow of Princeton University discusses his book Sharing the Journey. He highlights the advantages and dangers of the small-group movement. Then Richard Lints, professor at Gordon-Conwell Seminary, discusses his book The Fabric of Theology, and the need for a return to an understanding of the importance of theology. 84 minutes.

MARS HILL AUDIO Conversation 2

The Public Poetry of W. H. Auden

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Literary critic Alan Jacobs talks about how W. H. Auden returned to the Church after recognizing that liberal humanism had no answers to the problem of human evil. He also discusses the social themes in Auden's poetry, which avoided utopianism and apocalypticism. 58 minutes.