MARS HILL AUDIO Journal
Guests on Volume 54: Robert P. Kraynak, on Christian Faith and Modern Democracy: God and Politics in the Fallen World; Mitchell L. Stevens, on home schooling and the individuality of children; Ralph C. Wood, on the Christian achievement of detective novelist P. D. James; Mark Henrie, on the films of Whit Stillman and the overcoming of irony; Terry Lindvall, on the responses of American churches to the advent of motion pictures; Richard J. Mouw, on sin, culture, and common grace; and Marilyn Chandler McEntyre, on her book In Quiet Light: Poems on Vermeer's Women.
Robert P. Kraynak on Christian Faith and Modern Democracy: God and Politics in the Fallen World
Professor Robert Kraynak discusses democracy and political systems, and how Christians have thought about ordering political life. Kraynak, author of Christian Faith and Modern Democracy: God and Politics in the Fallen World, notes that in the second half of the twentieth century many Christians began to claim that democracy is a morally superior political system. In past eras it had been one option among many potentially prudent choices. The development is due in part to a mistaken notion about the origins of human dignity and the function of government. Kraynak explains the different notions, along with one of the oldest Christian understandings of the role of the State, which is found in Saint Augustine's exploration of the City of God and the City of Man.
Mitchell L. Stevens on home schooling and the individuality of children
"Home schooling really isn't as strange as it appears. In fact, at its core it's philosophically quite similar to other fashionable ways of talking about children."
Professor Mitchell Stevens discusses his study of home schooling and what he discovered about those who teach their children at home. Stevens's book, Kingdom of Children: Culture and Controversy in the Homeschooling Movement, is one of the first sociological studies of home schooling, which is a social phenomenon with long-term cultural consequences. Stevens explains that there are two distinct groups of people who typically choose to educate their children at home, but that these groups are often motivated by similar convictions. Both counter-cultural families and conservative Christians are concerned with tailoring pedagogy to the needs of individual children. Stevens also mentions the discussions conservative Christians who home school are having about child development, parenting, and balancing work and home.
Ralph C. Wood on the Christian achievement of detective novelist P. D. James
"Unless you have a theological understanding of final justice and certain mercy, you live a horrified life."
Mystery novelist P. D. James has a talent for creating intricate social worlds worth entering, says professor Ralph Wood. Wood explains why he finds her work so engaging. James portrays intricate worlds upset by murder, murderers with complicated motives, crimes with solutions that are not easy, and some culprits who are never punished for their crimes. Her decision to leave a case unclosed illustrates one of the concerns that makes James's work "profoundly Christian," says Wood. With unsolved cases she raises the question: "What does it mean to live in a world where evil often goes unpunished?"
Mark Henrie on the films of Whit Stillman and the overcoming of irony
"A humane life can be retrieved if we follow the intimations that are there, the intimations in our deepest longings."
Editor Mark Henrie discusses the anthology Doomed Bourgeois in Love: Essays on the Films of Whit Stillman and the films it studies. In the 1990s, says Henrie, director Whit Stillman made three movies about social manners. "Metropolitan" (1990), "Barcelona" (1994), and "Last Days of Disco" (1998) are all set in epochs that are dying; in each of them the characters are trying to live well even though their era is ending. Loss and sadness are dominant themes, but Stillman does not focus only on grimness. Henrie explains how Stillman depicts the resilience of human nature guided by grace.
Terry Lindvall on the responses of American churches to the advent of motion pictures
"Film was a primary vehicle in transferring social authority from the Church to the larger, secular culture."
Professor Terry Lindvall discusses the advent of moving pictures and how the Church first reacted to them. Lindvall, author of The Silents of God: Selected Issues and Documents in Silent American Film and Religion 1908-1925, explains that movies went from assisting the Church in educating and evangelizing to competing for the time and loyalty of its members on Sundays. When silent pictures first made their debut, they depicted Bible stories, Passion plays, and other moral tales. Churches hailed them as great teachers and preachers and began to show them in-house on Sundays. These viewings encouraged theaters to open their doors on Sundays, eventually drawing people away from churches to the pictures instead.
Richard J. Mouw on sin, culture, and common grace
Professor Richard Mouw discusses the doctrine of common grace, the subject of the Stob Lectures he gave in 2000 at Calvin College. The lectures were published in He Shines in All That's Fair: Christianity, Culture, and Common Grace. Common grace, the belief that God blesses unbelievers in many ways, is one of two concepts in Calvinist theology that can equip Christians for taking an active role in secular culture. The second concept, says Mouw, is antithesis, that is, the belief that there is "radical opposition between the work of God and the work of Satan in the world." Mouw attends to why it is important to rearticulate these doctrines.
Marilyn Chandler McEntyre on her book In Quiet Light: Poems on Vermeer's Women
"One of the things I love about Vermeer's women, I guess it's what I love about his gaze, is that . . . [it's] the gaze of someone who's inviting us to recognize that even the simplest women have an interior life."
—Marilyn Chandler McEntyre
Professor Marilyn Chandler McEntyre discusses the artwork of Jan Vermeer (1632-1675) and the poetry she wrote in response to it. She reads a couple of the poems from her book In Quiet Light: Poems on Vermeer's Women, and describes the portraits they address. McEntyre states that Vermeer, a Protestant heavily influenced by Catholicism, evokes in his paintings the essence of earlier portraits of the Virgin Mary. His paintings depict women in the middle of a task or at a moment when they are deep in thought. The works protect the privacy of their subjects while richly imaging the smells and textures the women are experiencing.