Volume 122

Guests on Volume 122: N. T. Wright, on the significance of narrative awareness as a gesture towards participating in God's on-going narrative and away from cultural captivity; George Marsden, on American public intellectuals of the 1950s and their anxieties concerning national purpose; Makoto Fujimura, on modernist art, Jacques Maritain, and the Eastern pictorial tradition; David Bentley Hart, on why historic theism (and all of its metaphysical claims) explains reality better than materialism does; and Thomas Lessl, on the institutional "Copernican revolution" of the university and its attending warfare mythology as enduring perpetuators of the war between science and religion.

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Part 1

  • Description
    N. T. Wright, on the importance of reconstructing a biblical context for the transforming of our minds and on the significance of narrative awareness as a gesture towards participating in God’s on-going narrative and away from cultural captivity
    Paul and the Faithfulness of God (Fortress Press, 2013)

    “I think I want to say that story is not simply a bit of decoration around the borders of reality.”

    --N.T. Wright

    In our interview with N.T. Wright, Wright addresses reasons for why we should want to reconstruct a first century worldview and discusses to what extent discipleship should be a re-arranging of how we see reality. He also defends the significance of reading Scripture as narrative, and more specifically, God’s narrative in our world, in which God’s actions are historically decisive and not reducible to dogmatic abstractions. In this interview, Wright offers his take on why many people are suspicious of narrative.

  • Description
    George Marsden, on the perception of American public figures writing on contemporary culture during the 1950s and their incongruous calls for moral consensus and non-conformity on the eve of the Cold War
    The Twilight of the American Enlightenment: The 1950s and the Crisis of Liberal Belief (Basic Books, 2014)

    “[T]hey represented the ideal of consensus. And the consensus was built on trying to shore up the American traditions that go back to the founding and to say ‘here we’ve fought this terrific war against the forces of evil. We’re now facing the Cold War where we have atheistic communists to confront. What are the American ideals that we stand for?’”

    --George Marsden

    In this segment of the Journal, Marsden discusses the influence of public intellectuals in America during the 1950s and their concerns for national moral consensus. Marsden identifies the continuity felt among public figures in the fifties with the common sense ideals held by American Enlightenment founders. Somewhat paradoxically, in addition to calling for a shared tradition, these critics encouraged individual non-conformity to allay the leveling effects of mass media.

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    Makoto Fujimura, on the capacity of the Eastern pictorial tradition and Jacques Maritain’s active, “interpenetrating” beauty to ameliorate the modernist rift between man and nature
    Golden Sea (Dillon Gallery Press, 2013)

    “I find Maritain’s writing in general to bridge this gap between some modernist position[s] that nature … first of all, that we have enmity, that we have to fight against nature, but furthermore that it is a veil and a certain obstacle to even reach the divine. There’s this notion that if God is to exist, nature in some way gets in the way. . . . Maritain seems to bring that veiled nature into this very transparent, maybe even integrated, path toward God.”

    --Makoto Fujimura

    Makoto Fujimura rejoins us to talk about the modernist conflict between man and nature. In this conversation, Fujimura discusses the subtleties of abstraction, poetic essence, and re-presentation in visual art. He also talks about the convergence of Jacques Maritain’s writings on creativity and art with Fujimura’s adaptation of the Asian visual tradition.

Part 2

  • Description
    David Bentley Hart, on the rational necessity for metaphysics and the insolvent means of materialist philosophy to explain consciousness
    The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss (Yale University Press, 2013)

    “[C]onsciousness, especially intentional consciousness . . . that is, the capacity of the mind to be about things, to know things not only as a sort of storm of sense impressions, but under particular aspects with certain intentions imposing certain meanings . . . that’s an act of the mind reaching out towards; that is intention, the stretching out towards all reality in a finite, specific way; that is the most conspicuous imaginable violation of the principle of mechanism, . . . because intention, in that sense, is teleological.”

    --David Bentley Hart

    In this extended interview with David Bentley Hart, Hart discusses what is meant by “God” in contemporary apologetic debate among both atheists and Christians. He examines how pre-modern questions about transcendent form and purpose expose the modern pathology to elevate mechanistic method to the realm of metaphysics. Hart challenges the assumption that progress is made in our ability to account for reality if we assume the modern division between material and spiritual or physical and metaphysical. In this interview, Hart explains how pure naturalism leads to an un-doing of rationality as a result of its self-imposed limitations.

  • Description
    Thomas Lessl, on the institutional “Copernican revolution” of the university and its attending warfare mythology as perpetuators of the war between science and religion
    Rhetorical Darwinism: Religion, Evolution, and the Scientific Identity (Baylor University Press, 2012)

    “We tend to perceive scientists as a kind of priestly cast, independent from all others, who interact in this [public] sphere in different ways, almost like the way the Catholic church would have been perceived down through the ages … because [their] resources of knowledge come from elsewhere: for the church that was revelation and tradition and for science, it’s nature. Science has become the priest that mediates between the natural world and the rest of us.”

    --Thomas Lessl

    In the final segment of this Journal, Thomas Lessl discusses how “public science”—comprising its need for sources of revenue and institutional support and its means of attaining that support—influences our perception of the role of science in public life. Lessl explores the emergence of science as an institution during the nineteenth century and the structural effects it had upon the university.