Volume 50

Guests on Volume 50: Stanley Carlson-Thies, on the theology of "charitable choice"; Bruce S. Thornton, on the loss of ends and the exultation of appetite in the academy; A. J. Conyers, on the origins of the modern view of tolerance (and of Big Government); Stanton L. Jones, on various configurations of science, morality, and homosexuality; Arthur Holmes, on the history of Christianity and education in the liberal arts; Carson Holloway, on All Shook Up: Music, Passion, and Politics; Ted Prescott, on the popular paintings and the prophetic claims of Thomas Kinkade; and Glenn C. Arbery, on the achievement of form in literature.

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Part 1

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    Stanley Carlson-Thies on the theology of "charitable choice"

    Stanley Carlson-Thies sees in "charitable choice" the legislative embodiment of "principled pluralism." Enacted under President Clinton in 1996, and gaining recognition under President Bush, "charitable choice" seeks to partner public and private institutions to better provide human services. "Principled pluralism," argues Carlson-Thies, provides a way for government to account for both the multiplicity of faiths as well as the multiplicity of institutions encountered in public life.

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    Bruce S. Thornton on the loss of ends and the exultation of appetite in the academy

    Bonfire of the Humanities: Rescuing the Classics in an Impoverished Age (ISI Books, 2001)

    In an intellectual era dominated by post-modernism and multi-culturalism, Bruce Thornton laments that discriminating between ideas is no longer possible. Without discrimination, says Thornton, all ideas are simply a matter of appetite, against which there can be no dispute. Resulting in an almost unchecked tolerance as the highest good, this new egalitarianism has rendered the university unfit for its original purpose--fostering a critical consciousness through liberal education.

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    A. J. Conyers on the origins of the modern view of tolerance (and of Big Government)

    The Long Truce: How Toleration Made the World Safe for Power and Profit (Spence, 2001)

    Theologian A. J. Conyers contends that the modern commitment to the principle of toleration has banished all questions of ultimate meaning from public life. By emphasizing toleration, early modern European governments were able to constrain questions of the true and the good to private life. This resulted in the waning of the authority of mediating structures such as the church, the family, and guilds, and the expansion of the power of public governmental bodies. All public institutions are now seen as the domain of the government, even though many non-governmental bodies may also have a legitimate claim to authority.

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    Stanton L. Jones on various configurations of science, morality, and homosexuality

    Homosexuality: The Use of Scientific Research and the Church's Moral Debate (InterVarsity Press, 2000)

    Staunton L. Jones, author of Homosexuality: The Use of Scientific Research and the Church's Moral Debate, argues that Christians seldom know how to interpret scientific findings which may bear moral implications. Jones rejects three common scientific perspectives in favor of "critical realism," a view which posits that man is capable of perceiving creation accurately, but may be hindered by his own assumptions and inclinations. Jones also evaluates the current scientific data regarding the genetic nature of homosexuality.

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    Arthur Holmes on the history of Christianity and education in the liberal arts

    Building the Christian Academy (Eerdmans, 2001)

    From the days of Tertullian, Christians have often been skeptical of higher education. In tracing Christianity's relationship to the academy, Arthur Holmes points to Augustine as one of the first to embrace higher learning, believing God's ordered creation to be open to study by the rational mind of man. Thus creation, and consequently learning, were neglected during periods when the Church embraced a more dualistic philosophy. Holmes also comments on the professional specialization which occurs in the twentieth century, resulting in an education unconcerned with virtue.

Part 2

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    Carson Holloway on All Shook Up: Music, Passion, and Politics

    All Shook Up: Music, Passion, and Politics (Spence, 2001)

    Carson Holloway is concerned for the lack of consideration given to the place of music in public life. Socrates thought music education the most important aspect of character formation due to the ability of rhythm and harmony to bring gracefulness to the soul. Far from the classical vision of the intellect rightly ordering the appetites, political thought of the modern period has either sought to indulge the appetites (Rousseau, Nietzsche), or borne a liberal indifference to their discipline. Whereas formerly the best music appealed to the intellect, music today, Holloway argues, caters primarily to the unreflective appetites.

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    Ted Prescott on the popular paintings and the prophetic claims of Thomas Kinkade

    Thomas Kinkade's logo

    Grossing hundreds of millions of dollars annually from the sale of his reprints, Thomas Kinkade is one of the most popular artists since Andy Warhol. Sculptor and art critic Ted Prescott examines Kinkade's works, including his use of light and how his outspoken Christian faith affects his paintings. Prescott finds Kinkade's use of light selective, not in accord with either nature or his own Christianity. Kinkade says he is painting a world in which the fall never happened. Prescott argues that this lack of dark and troubling aspects in the work make it difficult for a "Christian painter" to convey two notions essential to the Christian faith: sin and grace.

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    Glenn C. Arbery on the achievement of form in literature

    Why Literature Matters: Permanence and the Politics of Reputation (ISI Books, 2001)

    Glenn C. Arbery, author of Why Literature Matters, finds similarities between sport and literature in how we understand form. Knowing the rules of baseball enables the spectator to understand the dramatic tension between pitcher and batter. At least part of understanding poetry is understanding its form. Arbery argues that one of the greatest impediments to understanding literature is the intellect's impulse to reduce works to their "meaning." Yet what a poet is "saying" through his work cannot be summarized by a few bullet points; it is rather the entire poem itself.