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((released 2022-05-31) (handle mh-154-m) (supplement ))
Volume 154
Volume 154
Volume 154
Volume 154
Volume 154
Volume 154
Volume 154
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Volume 154

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Guests on Volume 154

FELICIA WU SONG on how social media promote “networked individualism” and establish market-driven notions of authority 
MICHAEL WARD on the historical background of and the central ideas in C. S. Lewis’s The Abolition of Man 
NORMAN WIRZBA on why we need to think more deeply about what Creation means and about the consequences of recognizing the presence of Christ — the Logos — in all of Creation 
CARL TRUEMAN on the long-developing social trends that gave rise to new understandings of the self, and to new claims about human sexuality 
D. C. SCHINDLER on how liberalism — especially in its boundaries between “private” and “public” — allows for less freedom than it pretends 
KERRY McCARTHY on the life and accomplishments of Tudor-era composer Thomas Tallis 

Click here to download a pdf file with the contents listing and bibliographic information about this Volume. 

Felicia Wu Song 

“When you move into the digital  in the ways that social media has framed us, organized us  we are all individuals. We aren’t attached to households or places. And so there’re ways in which our perceptions of ourselves and even the interactions that we have really are increasingly individualized because there are no other people that are mediating our interactions with other people. . . . No one’s knocking on my Facebook account door . . . to have to get past my brother to get to me it’s just me. And so, what ends up happening is that the actual infrastructure of the social media shapes our imaginations about where we are located in society. It shapes how we imagine ourselves to be at the center of the networks.”

— Felicia Wu Song, author of Restless Devices: Recovering Personhood, Presence, and Place in the Digital Age (InterVarsity Press, 2021)

Felicia Wu Song argues that social media flattens relationships into problems that need to be solved. Relationships have also been changed by the way social media frames all people as isolated individuals. Before the digital age, individuals were always known in the context of households, in the context of community. With social media, Song explains that each person becomes the center of the network. They also become trained into the sensibilities that life is defined by scarcity and optimization. A Christian social imaginary, she argues, must be counter-cultural to these sensibilities and grapple with what it looks like to live in the abundance of God’s grace and rest.       

•     •     •

Michael Ward

“The objectivity of value does not mean that we all have to sing in unison. There can still be a plurality of voices, but unless we acknowledge the objectivity of value, there’s no grounds for pluralism. There’s no grounds for anything. And, that’s the fundamental thing, you know, at the back of Lewis’s whole argument. It’s not why should we care whether this or that is valued... but it’s why we should care about anything at all.”

— Michael Ward, author of After Humanity: A Guide to C. S. Lewis’s The Abolition of Man (Word on Fire Academic, 2021)

C. S. Lewis scholar Michael Ward explains why The Abolition of Man is one of Lewis’s most important but also most difficult books. While some readers think that The Abolition of Man is an almost modernist attempt by Lewis to establish absolute value, Ward explains that the book is really much more subtle. Lewis does not deny that we are subjects who experience reality through our own lenses. Instead, says Ward, “All Lewis is denying is that those things are themselves absolute and that they eradicate the possibility of objective knowledge.” Ultimately, Ward explains, Lewis warns that if we embrace radical subjectivism, we are headed toward cultural ruin.       

•     •     •

Norman Wirzba

“If the starting point for Christians is that the world that we inhabit is not only occasionally, perhaps at certain points, the object of God’s love, but is in fact the material manifestation of God’s love, how can we simply leave that behind and say, ‘Well, the doctrine [of creation] is primarily about origins, and we fight about when that actually happened, but it’s not of enduring perennial practical significance.’ That seemed to me to be a theological catastrophe and it’s no accident then that Christians are really late to the game in thinking about how do we build a world in which species can flourish together.”

— Norman Wirzba, author of This Sacred Life: Humanity’s Place in a Wounded World (Cambridge University Press, 2021)

Theologian Norman Wirzba believes that Creation is the “material manifestation of God’s love” and that this fundamental teaching affects everything, especially our understanding of the meaning of modern environmental crises and climate change. In This Sacred Life, Wirzba addresses how the Scriptures never depict a God who is interested in escaping the Creation, and he has never wanted for people to do so either. Instead, as we see in the miracles of Jesus, God desires for all creation to live into the fullness of their way of being — their “tropos,” according to Maximus the Confessor. In the end, Wirzba explains, the tropos of everything in creation is to take care of others — to be for others.       

•     •     •

Carl Trueman

“If we were to look at the problem of modernity as a basic anthropological mistake,  epitomized by Jean Jacques Rousseau's claim that “Man is born free and everywhere is in chains,” (self-evidently nonsense: nobody’s born free; we’re all born remarkably dependent upon others obviously our parents, but not restricted simply to them); if you think about modernity as being predicated on that fundamental anthropological mistake, then many of the ways that conservative Christians think are predicated on precisely that mistake as well: the emphasis on rights, the emphasis on autonomy, the emphasis on the unencumbered self.”

— Carl Trueman, author of The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution (Crossway Books, 2020)

Historian Carl Trueman argues that conservative Christians are complicit in the same dynamics that they condemn in modern culture. Sexual immorality is the manifestation of deeper issues, Trueman explains, resulting out of the basic anthropological mistake of modernity: assuming that man is “born free, but is everywhere in chains” (Jean-Jacques Rousseau). Trueman explores the way that the concept of self has changed historically, from being outwardly directed to being inwardly directed. The atmosphere of expressive individualism that is pervasive today, he argues, leads to a kind of cultural amnesia.       

•     •     •

D. C. Schindler

“There is a profound difference between a coincidence of self-interest and an actual real common good — a real thing in its objective reality that gathers us around itself. And when you lose a sense of things being able to gather us in a common good — and things beyond mere material concerns, so things like truth, dignity, culture, beauty, things that have a transcendent significance and ultimately God and the worship of God — when those things are no longer permitted to be affirmed, you lose any positive principle for genuine public life.”

— D. C. Schindler, author of The Politics of the Real: The Church Between Liberalism and Integralism (New Polity Press, 2021)

Philosopher D. C. Schindler argues that — because of the nature of the incarnation — when one rejects reality, one is rejecting God. Rejecting the real — failing to recognizing and honor what is really the case — also means the loss of any true “public” gathered around a common good. In the pre-modern world, “the public” was understood as the life of the community, but with modernity, the individual shifts from being a member of a community to being the center of gravity in and of himself. This means that the public sphere became merely the place for the gathering of individuals. Liberalism sought to make way for these individuals to function together without any orientation to an explicit common good. But, as Schindler argues, without a common good, public life collapses in upon itself.       

•     •     •

Kerry McCarthy

“The one thing I’m struck with most with Tallis in particular is his resilience. So many professional musicians in his situation quit music and did something else. They became teachers; they became clergy; they became theologians. A lot of them just died fairly young. But Tallis kept going and it’s almost a miraculous lifespan if you think about that.”

— Kerry McCarthy, author of Tallis (Oxford University Press, 2020)

Music historian Kerry McCarthy relates the shifting historical circumstances that surrounded the life of English Renaissance composer Thomas Tallis. While the documentary evidence we have is very slim (only about 35 to 40 documents), McCarthy shares that what emerges clearly is a picture of Tallis’s resilience over the span of his half-century long career. Riding the tumultuous tides of political and musical changes in those years, Tallis constantly had to reinvent his musical style. And, McCarthy conveys, these layers of tumult, stylistic changes, and foreign emphases led to the music which still captivates and surprises us today.