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((released 2022-08-31) (handle mh-155-m) (supplement ))
Volume 155
Volume 155
Volume 155
Volume 155
Volume 155
Volume 155
Volume 155
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Volume 155

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Guests on Volume 155

DONALD KRAYBILL on how the Amish "negotiate" with modernity as communities by making decisions about the uses of technology
THADDEUS KOZINSKI on the dubious claim within liberalism that public life can be well-ordered by entirely neutral (non-transcendent) principles
DAVID BENTLEY HART on how "two-tier Thomism" deviates from historic Christian understanding of the relationship between God and Creation
NIGEL BIGGAR on recognizing problems with the notion of "natural rights," without denying the importance of rights understood as granted within social and political contexts
RAVI SCOTT JAIN on reconfiguring science and the teaching of science within the framework of natural philosophy, natural history, and natural science
JASON BAXTER on how C. S. Lewis’s imagination was shaped by texts from the Middle Ages

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

Donald Kraybill 

“My basic research question when I started this research with the Amish in the mid-80s to late-80s was, how is it possible for a tradition-laden group like the Amish who reject cars, reject electricity off the public grid, who reject high school, on and on — how is it possible for a group like that to be growing and thriving and flourishing in modern life, in modern society? They were and still are doubling every 20 years . . . And my answer was, well, they have found ways to negotiate with modernity: to accept certain things, to reject other things, and then to make a lot of compromises and then also to adapt — or as one Amish man said “Amishize” — equipment and make it fit into their way of life."

— Donald Kraybill, author of What the Amish Teach Us: Plain Living in a Busy World (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2021)

Sociologist Donald Kraybill explains how the Amish have learned to “negotiate with modernity,” in his book What the Amish Teach Us: Plain Living in a Busy World. Kraybill has been writing about the Amish for decades. His curiosity was piqued initially by observing that Amish were flourishing doubling every twenty years  despite the fact that they look like they are from the year 1900. His answer is that the Amish have found ways to dynamically reject and accept certain aspects of modernity as a community. Interestingly, the Amish origins do not contain a protest to technology. And, in fact, their origins include such modern ideas as voluntarism and separation of church and state (manifested in their rejection of the state’s demand for infant baptism). Kraybill also marvels at Amish ingenuity and innovation. In many ways, he observes, the Amish have a “culture of restraint” that is “spurring innovation.”     

•     •     •

Thaddeus Kozinski

“As the idolatries become more and more insane and explicit, and when one realizes that substitute religions are kind of taking over the culture, one starts to see that, ‘Wait a minute, this isn’t supposed to happen in liberalism,’ and yet it is happening.  And then the question is, ‘Why is it happening?' And the way I look at is, if politics and culture are not based on the real, and the real is known to us through tradition (and through the God-established tradition of Christianity) . . . if in some sense, all our actions (whether individual or communal, social, institutional or personal) are not somehow guided by that tradition in an integrated way, then some other comprehensive tradition — a substitute, a counterfeit — is going to crop up and emerge.”

— Thaddeus Kozinski, author of Modernity as Apocalypse: Sacred Nihilism and the Counterfeits of Logos (Angelico Press, 2019)

Thaddeus Kozinski argues that liberal order’s ideal of tradition-less neutrality is itself a tradition, in his book Modernity as Apocalypse: Sacred Nihilism and the Counterfeits of Logos. Kozinski, highly influenced by philosopher D. C. Schindler, explains how all the elements of a worldview exist “within a mythos and a logos that’s enculturated and integrated in a theology.” And, when they are not integrated within the real what God has established in Christianity these elements become disparate and “insane.” Ultimately, it’s “Christ or nothing.” And, as Kozinski states (referencing David Bentley Hart) “the nothing ends up portraying itself as a counterfeit architectonic religion.”      

•     •     •

David Bentley Hart

“If there is, as I say, a certain porosity between the natural and supernatural, if the human . . . is invested already by its very nature with a divine vocation and a divine dignity and a predisposition to the good that’s intrinsic to our nature, then there are all sorts of realms where the law is non compos. But if in fact grace is extrinsic to the nature of the creature — which is the axiom that dominates this sect — then in fact, those who claim a divine warrant for governance can make the law absolute. There’s nothing in human nature itself that demands deference, that intrinsically possesses the dignity of created gods on the way to becoming one with God. Instead, we are just natural beings with an inherently natural end and if we are to be conduced to a higher destiny by an extrinsic grace, then that may take the form of an absolute legal power invested in a sort of throne and altar or a sacerdotal monarchical system and that’s . . . the form the new integralism takes.”

— David Bentley Hart, author of  You Are Gods: On Nature and Supernature
  (Notre Dame Press, 2022)

In his book You are Gods: Nature and Supernature, David Bentley Hart argues that Biblical and Christian history flatly contradict the new integralist return to a two-tiered system of nature versus supernature. Hart believes that the impulse toward this metaphysical vision follows after the political vision: a desire to return to a non-existent medieval ideal where absolute power is manifested in “throne and altar or a sacerdotal monarchical system.” While we can all justly criticize modernity, Hart believes the new integralist critique of modern liberalism neglects the reality that the flaws of liberalism proceed out of the flaws of Christendom. Even the common dismissal of modern ideas of freedom as “voluntarist” is inadequate, Hart articulates. Because Enlightenment understandings of freedom proceed out of Renaissance humanism, modern ideas of freedom find their origin in an age that took seriously the god-like endowment of freedom of choice to those created in the image of God.       

•     •     •

Nigel Biggar

“As a Christian, I don’t believe in a general right to liberty. I mean, if I’m a Hobbesian, then yes, we’re all at liberty to do whatever it takes to survive; if that means scratch each others’ eyes out, then we’re at liberty to do it. But, as a Christian, I believe we are born with responsibility and therefore we have room for choices, but we are born, not only with the liberty of making choices, we are born also into social obligations, which are, as it were, co-original. So there is no original, undefined liberty. . . . We may have a right to liberties of certain kinds in certain circumstances, but it is the abstraction that is the problem.”

— Nigel Biggar, author of What's Wrong with Rights? (Oxford University Press, 2020)

In his book, What’s Wrong with Rights?, theologian Nigel Biggar argues that the problem with rights talk today is its abstraction from context and from the process of moral deliberation. While Biggar does take issue with much of contemporary rights talk, he is also critical of many Christian thinkers’ carelessness in dismissing it altogether not distinguishing between natural moral rights and positive legal rights. Some rights talk is legitimate, Biggar explains. Positive legal rights are often vitally important. On the other hand, he argues that there are no natural rights because the social institutions that strengthen and enforce what are normally considered natural rights are not always everywhere existent. Ultimately, Biggar argues that legal rights belong at the end of a process of moral conclusion  if they are introduced at the outset, they are too abstract to be helpful.       

•     •     •

Ravi Scott Jain

“The best way to understand theology is the same kind of genetic/synthetic way that we advocate in the study of physics and biology — seeing the narrative of discovery. And part of it, too, is that the narrative of discovery is not merely discovery, it’s also a narrative of demonstration. Because in the liberal arts, there’s always this alternation between, 'You discovered something. That’s great!' But how do you get other people to believe your discoveries? You have to demonstrate it. And so that, when the students start learning not only to discover things, but also to demonstrate them to others, that’s also powerful and creates powerful habits of thought that cross all the disciplines.”

—  Ravi Scott Jain, co-author of A New Natural Philosophy: Recovering a Natural Science and Christian Pedagogy (Classical Academic Press, 2021)

Science teacher Ravi Jain discusses natural philosophy, the “love of wisdom in the realm of nature,” as the overarching discipline in the sciences. In A New Natural Philosophy: Recovering a Natural Science and Christian Pedagogy, Jain and his co-authors, Robbie Andreason and Chris Hall, approach the sciences with a belief that “truth does not exclude mystery, but embraces it.” A posture of wonder as well as respect for mystery form the bedrock to approach science along the “narrative of discovery.” This “genetic/synthetic” pedagogy means a student comes to a subject by first understanding its context and the grappling that made the question emerge. Then, the process comes to fruition as the student demonstrates what they have discovered. In the end, this movement from discovery to demonstration creates habits and skills that cross all disciplines of learning.      

•     •     •

Jason Baxter

“If you’ve understood something, you’ve realized it’s beautiful. And when you realize it’s beautiful (this is just good Thomism here), you reach out to grasp it. Your will desires it. You want to sort of bury it in your heart and in your veins, such that it becomes a part of you and it’s not . . . just a set of kilobytes of information in your brain. And I think that Lewis (even before the height of the age of information, what we live in, or what Deborah Lupton calls the ‘datafication of the self’) I think recognized this aspect of literature, but particularly pre-modern medieval literature, as its ability to be haptic, to have this sense of touch and taste and the palpable and then all the consequences of that extraordinary metaphor.”

— Jason Baxter, author of The Medieval Mind of C. S. Lewis: How Great Books Shaped a Great Mind (InterVarsity Press, 2022)

Scholar Jason Baxter explores the limitations of the modern imagination in his book The Medieval Mind of C. S. Lewis: How Great Books Shaped a Great Mind.  C. S. Lewis marveled at the possibilities of literature  especially medieval literature  to communicate an atmosphere, a “weather of emotions.” Reading this literature enabled Lewis to become a “naturalized citizen of the Middle Ages,” and Baxter believes this aspect of Lewis can guide moderns to see and surpass the narrow boundaries of a “psychic paradigm controlled by scientific methodology.” Literature can influence the “deep structure of our thoughts,” Baxter explains. And this helps us to not turn back the clock but attend to the way that our daily lives have become so integrated to the machine. And, most importantly, we can learn that our deepest responses to beauty and goodness are not mere emotions but real knowledge that points to the eternal.