MARS HILL AUDIO Journal

Volume 64

Guests on Volume 64: Paul Berman, on the links between Islamism and other totalitarian utopias; Jean Bethke Elshtain, on justice and the vocation of government, and on maintaining a sense of the holy; Hadley Arkes, on natural rights and "inadvertant treason," and on the rise of a new jurisprudence in Griswold v. Connecticut and Roe v. Wade; Ralph C. Wood, on the place of the seven virtues in J. R. R. Tolkien's vision of the moral life in The Lord of the Rings; and Jeremy Begbie, on what we learn about time, theology, and the structure of creation from the experience of music.

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Part 1

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    Paul Berman on the links between Islamism and other totalitarian utopias

    Terror and Liberalism (W. W. Norton, 2003)

    Journalist Paul Berman discusses the connections between Western totalitarian movements and Islamic terrorism. Berman is author of Terror and Liberalism. He explains that Western totalitarian movements developed partly in response to the modern, rationalist understanding of life. He also explains that Islamic terrorist groups are quickened by a critique of liberal humanism, which claims that life and its experiences can be thoroughly understood with rational and scientific explanations alone. Berman comments on these connections and addresses how other societies could guard against similar extreme responses to modernity's view of life.

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    Jean Bethke Elshtain on justice and the vocation of government, and on maintaining a sense of the holy

    Just War against Terror: The Burden of American Power in a Violent World (Basic Books, 2003)

    Professor Jean Bethke Elshtain discusses the responses from within the academy and the Church to acts of terrorism committed by Islamic radicals. Elshtain is author of Just War against Terror: The Burden of American Power in a Violent World. She states that the responses of some of the leaders of these two cultural institutions illustrate naïve thinking about the role of government: rather than talk of government's responsibility to preserve justice through the use of force if necessary, many in the academy and the Church instead chastise government for responding to these acts with lethal means. The naïve thinking that inspires the rebuke rises in part from the Church's abandonment of its rich teachings on depravity, judgment, justice, and mercy; by neglecting its understandings of the depth of evil in humanity the Church has left its members without a vocabulary for understanding the role of government. Since the Church's members are not carrying this notion out into culture, other cultural institutions, in turn, have also neglected sound thinking about the relationship of government to justice.

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    Hadley Arkes on natural rights and "inadvertant treason"

    Natural Rights and the Right to Choose (Cambridge, 2002)

    "The notion of inadvertent treason referred to a sense in which people . . . Have the affectation that they're expanding their freedom while at the same time they seem heedless of the fact that they talk themselves into premises that are at odds with their freedom and at odds with the very grounds of our rights and the principles of the American regime."
    Hadley Arkes

    Political philosopher Hadley Arkes discusses the difference between contemporary society's discourse on rights and that of the society during Lincoln's era. Arkes is author of Natural Rights and the Right to Choose. When Lincoln and his contemporaries spoke of rights, they appealed to the nature of humans as revealed by reason as the reality from which rights were derived. Society today, however, discounts reason and human nature in its discussion, appealing instead to majority opinion to define rights. Arkes calls this subtle redefinition of rights inadvertent treason.

Part 2

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    Ralph C. Wood on the place of the seven virtues in J. R. R. Tolkien's vision of the moral life in The Lord of the Rings

    The Gospel According to Tolkien: Visions of the Kingdom in Middle Earth (Westminster John Knox Press, 2003)

    Professor Ralph C. Wood discusses the four classical virtues, the three Christian virtues, and their influence on J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. Wood is author of The Gospel According to Tolkien: Visions of the Kingdom in Middle-earth. Tolkien was familiar with the virtues because of his study of the Early Church and Thomas Aquinas's theology. Wood says that prudence, justice, courage, temperance, faith, hope, and charity are manifest in the stories of Gandolf, Frodo, and the rest of the Fellowship. He defines the virtues and gives examples of them from The Lord of the Rings.

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    Jeremy Begbie on what we learn about time, theology, and the structure of creation from the experience of music

    Theology, Music and Time (Cambridge, 2000)

    Theologian and musician Jeremy Begbie discusses how music can enable Christians to understand the Gospel more clearly. Begbie is author of Theology, Music and Time. He says that time is one component of the Gospel that is better understood through music. Because music unfolds in time, it implicitly affirms the biblical understanding of time as good, which is contrary to philosophies that scorn time and activities that take time. Begbie plays selections on piano to demonstrate his conclusions.

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    Hadley Arkes from the bonus track of the CD edition, on the rise of a new jurisprudence in Griswold v. Connecticut and Roe v. Wade

    Natural Rights and the Right to Choose (Cambridge, 2002)

    Political philosopher Hadley Arkes discusses the relationship between laws and public opinion. Theoretically, laws act as a moral guide for public opinion; if a practice is made legal, people ought to be able to assume that the practice is morally commendable and thus deserves their support. Arkes states that the desegregation of American society after the Brown v. Board of Education decision of 1954 is an example of how laws can pave the way for a shift in public opinion. But changes in opinion are not always concomitant with changes in jurisprudence. Arkes notes that many people still find abortion repugnant even though it was legalized with Griswold v. Conneticut and Roe v. Wade.