MARS HILL AUDIO Journal

Volume 12

Guests on Volume 12: George Weigel, on posturing and prudence in pro-life politics; Don Eberly, on the inability of politics to cure cultural problems; David Wells, on recapturing a "weighty" understanding of God; Alan Jacobs, on the Christian conviction of poet Christina Rossetti; Ken Myers, on instances of naturalistic positivism in recent science journalism; Nancy Pearcey, on misunderstanding the history of science; Leon Kass, on the deeper meaning of eating; and John Hodges, on J. S. Bach's Christmas Oratorio.

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Part 1

  • Description

    George Weigel on posturing and prudence in pro-life politics

    George Weigel, co-author of a proposal for a Republican pro-life strategy, explains that reforming political culture is the key to changing abortion law. Pro-life proponents should work toward a moral consensus on the issue if they want to affect substantive changes in abortion policy and certainly if they hope to pass a Human Life Amendment to the Constitution. Weigel suggests several preliminary steps toward changing the cultural climate. First, pro-life advocates should educate the public about the libertine nature of America's abortion law. Second, activists need to heighten the visibility of alternatives to abortion and commit themselves to providing support to women in crisis. Finally, proponents must change their rhetoric and talk more about responsibility and less about rights.

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    Don Eberly on the inability of politics to cure cultural problems

    Restoring the Good Society: A New Vision for Politics and Culture (Baker Books, 1994)

    Author Don Eberly discusses his book Restoring the Good Society: A New Vision for Politics and Culture. Eberly asserts that culture, rather than politics, is swiftly becoming the determining factor in national destiny. People are beginning to recognize that government can do little to shape social order and are searching for a new way to address social problems. Eberly advocates a revival of the "good society" that has notions of justice and civility at its core.

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    David Wells on recapturing a "weighty" understanding of God

    God in the Wasteland: The Reality of Truth in a World of Fading Dreams (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1994)

    Theologian David Wells discusses his book God in the Wasteland, in which he analyzes the relationship between the Church and modern culture. Wells argues that many evangelical Christians mistakenly assume that culture is neutral, and uncritically adopt modern assumptions without recognizing the impact these ideas will have on their faith. Wells contends that no culture is antiseptic and insists that modernity's values are especially hostile to the Christian belief that God is both sovereign and transcendent. Christians need to examine the cultural milieu in which they live from the standpoint of Biblical revelation in order to recapture a "weighty" understanding of God and to restore what has become an increasingly "anemic" faith.

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    Alan Jacobs on the Christian conviction of poet Christina Rossetti

    Learning Not to be First: The Life of Christina Rossetti (Kathleen Jones: Windrush, 1991)

    Literary critic and English professor Alan Jacobs discusses the life and work of nineteenth-century poet Christina Rossetti, whose poems reflect her struggle to remain faithful to her convictions in the midst of an extravagant and extremely aesthetic London society. Jacobs explains that the themes of renunciation and death in Rossetti's work do not stem from morbid fascination but reveal the integrity of her life as a Christian striving toward heaven.

Part 2

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    Ken Myers on instances of naturalistic positivism in recent science journalism

    Scientific American masthead, 1845

    Host Ken Myers takes listeners on a trip to the bookstore, explaining that magazine racks are excellent cultural indicators. Two widely read scientific publications—Omni and Scientific American—featured issues on decidedly philosophical topics. In Omni's "Science and Religion" issue, various scientists proclaimed that atheistic, materialistic science is passé. On the other hand, those writing for the more scholarly Scientific American remained true to the naturalistic positivism that has dominated the philosophy of science since at least the nineteenth century. Articles by Stephen J. Gould and Marvin Minsky demonstrate how this mindset dehumanizes in the name of evolutionary progress.

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    Nancy Pearcey on misunderstanding the history of science

    The Soul of Science: Christian Faith and Natural Philosophy (Crossway Books, 1994)

    Scientific journalist Nancy Pearcey discusses The Soul of Science: Christian Faith and Natural Philosophy, a book she co-authored with chemist Charles Thaxton. Pearcey asserts that the history of science has been widely misunderstood. Science has not always been a purely naturalistic, deterministic, reductionist endeavor. In fact, most early scientists, including Newton and Descartes, were Christian believers who saw no contradiction between faith and science. Pearcey also discusses current trends in quantum mechanics and physics which are raising serious philosophical questions about the relationship between the human mind and the physical universe.

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    Leon Kass on the deeper meaning of eating

    The Hungry Soul: Eating and the Perfecting of Our Nature (Free Press, 1994)

    Biologist, physician, and professor of philosophy at University of Chicago, Leon Kass believes that naturalistic science is inadequate to explain the meaning of life. In his book The Hungry Soul: Eating and the Perfecting of Our Nature, he attempts to reverse the tendency toward dehumanization and reductionism in the life sciences. Kass explores how the very natural activity of eating provides clues for understanding human nature and helps guide morality and communal life. He explains how customs governing the partaking of food and dinner time conversation humanize an otherwise "animal" activity.

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    John Hodges on J. S. Bach's Christmas Oratorio

    A page from the manuscript of Bach's Christmas Oratorio

    Music critic John Hodges introduces Bach's Christmas Oratorio, a set of six cantatas to be performed between Christmas and the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6. The text for the Oratorio combines excerpts from the gospel nativity narratives with deeply personal reflections on the meaning of Christmas. The music presents a deeply passionate, emotional response to Jesus' birth. Bach was the most overtly Christian of all the classical composers and lived in a period when there was no distinct separation between sacred and secular. This explains why, according to Hodges, Bach was able to ascribe all his work Soli Deo Gloria.