MARS HILL AUDIO Journal

Volume 3

Guests on Volume 3: Andrew Kimbrell, on the bioethical issues discussed in The Human Body Shop; Allan C. Carlson, on From Cottage to Workstation: The Family's Search for Social Harmony in the Industrial Age; Larry Woiwode, on Flannery O'Connor, John Updike, and what fiction is good for; Peter Kreeft, on the reasonableness of faith, the devilishness of deconstructionism, and The Snakebite Letters; Alan Jacobs, on The Children of Men by P. D. James; Thomas Morris, on Blaise Pascal and why people still ask the Big Questions; Jay Tolson, on how Walker Percy's search for authenticity led to his conversion; and John Hodges, on the popularity of Henryck Gorecki's Third Symphony.

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Part 1

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    Andrew Kimbrell on the bioethical issues discussed in The Human Body Shop

    The Human Body Shop: The Engineering and Marketing of Life (HarperSanFrancisco, 1993)

    In his book The Human Body Shop: The Engineering and Marketing of Human Life, Andrew Kimbrell questions the assumptions about progress and human nature that drive biotechnology research. Kimbrell asserts that technologies involving fetal tissue research create unprecedented ethical, legal, and economic dilemmas. Science, technology, and the market forces dominate the decision-making process. Most Americans are unaware that scientists are using taxpayer money to fund morally questionable procedures. Kimbrell explains some of these developments and raises questions about their "beneficial use." He insists that "progress" itself does not provide adequate justification for experimentation.

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    Allan C. Carlson on From Cottage to Workstation: The Family's Search for Social Harmony in the Industrial Age

    From Cottage to Work Station: The Family's Search for Social Harmony in the Industrial Age (Ignatius Press, 1993)

    Social historian Allan Carlson analyzes how the Industrial Revolution affected family life in his book From Cottage to Workstation: The Family's Search for Social Harmony in the Industrial Age. Carlson maintains that most people fail to recognize the extent to which the modern system of state capitalism endangers traditional family structures. The 1950's ideal of a family fell apart, according to Carlson, because people underestimated the demands that the market would make upon their lives. Many "pro-family" organizations continue to treat only the effects of the problem without addressing the root causes. Carlson insists that people must consciously construct cultural boundaries around the family in order to resist the negative forces that threaten it.

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    Larry Woiwode on Flannery O'Connor, John Updike, and what fiction is good for

    Flannery O'Connor in 1947 (1925-1964)

    Novelist Larry Woiwode discusses the work of authors John Updike and Flannery O'Connor. Among contemporary authors, Updike is certainly one of the most skilled storytellers, but Woiwode believes his work lacks an ethical edge. Woiwode asserts that novelists must take moral responsibility for what they write. The best fiction teaches us how to live by showing us characters who embody different ideals that we can emulate or reject. Catholic author Flannery O'Connor was extremely skilled at creating characters who show us how to apply the teachings of the scriptures to a life lived in our time. She had a particular gift for showing the height and depth to which grace reaches, according to Woiwode.

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    Peter Kreeft on the reasonableness of faith, the devilishness of deconstructionism, and The Snakebite Letters

    The Snakebite Letters: Devilishly Devious Secrets for Subverting Society as Taught in Tempter's Training School (Ignatius Press, 1993)

    Dr. Peter Kreeft, a philosophy professor at Boston College, recently penned a "demonic dialogue" along the lines of C. S. Lewis's Screwtape Letters. The devils (like the present day deconstructionists) try to convince humans to be egalitarian about ideas and elitist about people: it is elitist, they say, to assert that any one idea is better than another. God, on the other hand, wants us to be elitist about ideas and egalitarian about people. Kreeft's tempters wreak havoc on the church by separating creed, code, and cult (the three elements of spiritual life which correspond to mind, will, and emotions). According to Kreeft, when doctrine is detached from worship it becomes abstract; when worship is removed from doctrine it becomes emotional; when morality is disconnected from both doctrine and worship it becomes purely pragmatic.

Part 2

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    Alan Jacobs on The Children of Men by P. D. James

    The Children of Men (Alfred A. Knopf, 1993)

    Literary critic Alan Jacobs discusses P. D. James's futuristic novel The Children of Men. James explores what happens to the human psyche under conditions of apparent hopelessness. Her characters reveal that people in crisis are left without a middle ground: they either abandon religion altogether or they turn to a more traditional, orthodox, and fully supernatural Christianity. Despite the bleak circumstances, the book is not about death, according to Jacobs. James imagines a world in which people finally appreciate the value of life because they have lost the ability to create it.

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    Thomas Morris on Blaise Pascal and why people still ask the Big Questions

    Making Sense of It All: Pascal and the Meaning of Life (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1992)

    The great Christian thinker Blaise Pascal observed that diversion is one of the greatest spiritual dangers of our age. But diversion can only keep the "big questions" about the meaning of life at bay for so long, says Thomas Morris, author of Making Sense of it All: Pascal and the Meaning of Life. Morris, who taught philosophy and ethics at Notre Dame for fifteen years, noticed that people are hungry to engage in intelligent dialogue about the purpose and meaning of life. Pascal argued that people need to understand the larger context of their lives in order to determine how to live. As people confront ethical dilemmas in everyday life, they begin to ask more probing questions that eventually lead to ultimate questions about life, death, morality, value, meaning, and purpose.

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    Jay Tolson on how Walker Percy's search for authenticity led to his conversion

    Pilgrim in the Ruins: a Life of Walker Percy (Simon and Schuster, 1992)

    In his book Pilgrim in the Ruins, biographer Jay Tolson explores the life of Walker Percy, one of the most perceptive novelists of the twentieth century. Tolson explains that Percy's penchant for lonely, isolated figures reflected his struggle to maintain the integrity and coherence of his own soul in a world of disintegrating boundaries. Percy was acutely aware of how the breakdown in societal roles heightened anxiety about personal identity and threatened the notion that there is such a thing as the unique self. His convictions about sin provided a framework for coping with this social, personal, and spiritual malaise, and they gave him hope that his search for authenticity and coherence beyond the disintegration was not in vain.

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    John Hodges on the popularity of Henryck Gorecki's Third Symphony

    Henryk Gorecki's Symphony No. 3 was recorded by the London Sinfonietta with soprano Dawn Upshaw, conducted by David Zinman (Nonesuch 9 79282-2).

    Conductor and music critic John Hodges reviews an acclaimed new symphony by Polish composer Henryck Gorecki. Judging from its immense popularity, the Third Symphony strikes a chord in the souls of those who hear it. Hodges suggests that the music and lyrics resonate with the deep-rooted human longing for the transcendent. Although Gorecki makes use of some minimalist techniques, the work does not reflect the spirit of minimalism, which most often lulls the listener into a non-rational reflection upon nothing. Instead, the Third Symphony is a very human piece that speaks of human emotions and longings.