If you live in the Chicago area, please join us for a special talk by James M. Kushiner, executive editor of Salvo magazine, to mark the publication of the 80-page Salvo supplement On Science & Faith. The talk, free of charge, will take place on Thursday, November 14, 2013, at 7:30 p.m. at Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, 28W770 Warrenville Road, Warrenville, Illinois 60555. Phone: 630-221-0901.
If you would like to download the flyer for the event, it is available here at the (newly designed) FSJ website. Take a look.
Fellowship and refreshments will be provided!
The new issue of Touchstone is heading to your mailbox. See the table of contents and articles available for online reading at www.touchstonemag.com, like this one by Anthony Esolen.
The Great Epics Are Theological & Mark the Hard Path to Beatitude
Some years ago I got into a rather tense conversation with a couple of students in the office of the English department. We were talking about The Lord of the Rings, and I remarked that nothing like it could be written now, because our culture—for want of a better word, I must use the word “culture” to describe our mass habits, after the reality of culture has withered away—no longer possesses a vision of the world and of man that would sustain such a work. Tolkien himself could write his trilogy only because he was something of an anachronism, as he was steeped in the medieval epics—the sagas of Snorri Sturluson, the Finnish Kalevala, the Nibelungenlied, Beowulf, and so forth—and was a devout Catholic, seeing all things by the light of revelation and three thousand years of meditation upon the ways of God to man.
The students resisted. No youngster likes to hear that he lives in an age of decline and decrepitude. But over the years I’ve grown more convinced that my hunch was correct. Not only about the decrepitude—the palsy of the soul that mistakes cynicism for sophistication, and cold-hearted lust for love. Consider the ringing verse from Isaiah: “For my ways are not your ways, nor are my thoughts your thoughts, saith the Lord. For as high as the heavens are above the sea, so far are my ways from your ways, and my thoughts from your thoughts.”
That’s a verse that would set Homer himself to thinking. It expresses the vast distance between the divine and the human. But it is also addressed to man: it is a clarion call for man to set out on a journey to cross that distance, even as God reaches out to man in the events of human life. The sentiment on the part of the prophet is not despair but fear and wonder, and the appeal of an adventure in being itself.
by John Basie
Some months ago I had the opportunity to lead a seminar for recent college graduates, all of whom had been following Christ faithfully for at least a few years. The focus of the seminar was the nexus of vocation, cultural transformation, and the role of grace. When I got to the part of the material that called for an introduction to the Manhattan Declaration and the opportunity we have as Christ-followers to make a difference in our culture, I immediately saw a variety of reactions. Some were energized, but some not so much. With respect to the latter, one young man piped up and basically said, “I went to a state university, and I know what most people on that campus think about marriage, sanctity of life, and religious liberty. Frankly, I just see what a lost cause it probably is, given the mindset out there today. I’m not sure it’s worth the battle.” I could immediately understand where he was coming from. He very much doubted that it was worth the risk of having hope, and he went on to say that his posture at present was to withdraw from these battles and focus on other worthy Kingdom pursuits.
In his work The Expulsive Power of a New Affection, The 18th century Scottish theologian and minister Thomas Chalmers once pointed out the difference between a practical moralist and one who has a deep sense morality that rests on a substantive hope only found in Christ. He said “There are two ways in which a practical moralist may attempt to displace from the human heart its love of the world–either by a demonstration of the world’s vanity, so as that the heart shall be prevailed upon simply to withdraw its regards from an object that is not worthy of it; or, by setting forth another object, even God, as more worthy of its attachment, so as that the heart shall be prevailed upon not to resign an old affection, which shall have nothing to succeed it, but to exchange an old affection for a new one.” To be sure, Chalmers was interested in exploring how Christ-followers actually come to be more like Christ and lay down their personal and communal sin, but the application here is clear enough. It isn’t sufficient to withdraw our affections from the bad stuff–we have to have something good that is far more powerful to fill the void. The young man who held the right convictions but had chosen to disengage hadn’t yet seen that expulsive power available to us and to our culture through a deep hope in Christ’s work. Millennials need to experience that deep and abiding hope for themselves. Theirs is the largest generation among us, and they will be leading all of us soon enough.
Christian Schools & Racial Realities
Hunter Baker on Desegregation & the Rise of Christian Education in the South
I live in Jackson, Tennessee. Our town of about 100,000 people sits between Memphis and Nashville. One of the outstanding features of Jackson is that it features an unusually large amount of Christian and other private schooling. Three public-school-sized parochial (or semi-parochial in one case) entities occupy positions on the north side of town. Another smaller one with a Great Books emphasis (the paradoxically new thing in Evangelical Christian education) is the proud owner of a smaller building outgrown by one of the three flagships. It also happens that the public schools of Jackson only recently gained their independence from federal supervision dating back to the racial tensions of segregation and desegregation.
Many view Christian schools with suspicion because a significant number of them began operation in the period when the United States was grappling most earnestly with desegregating American school systems in the hopes of vindicating our fundamental belief in equal opportunity. Statistics buttress this suspicion. From 1961 to 1971, enrollment in non-Catholic private schools doubled. The natural inference is that enthusiasm for Christian schooling was little more than a cover for racism. Some even referred to emerging Christian schools as “new segregation academies.”
Fundamental to our nature is the fact that we communicate. God speaks; as his image-bearers, so do we. God is a community of persons; we were made to live and can thrive only in community, to know who we are by virtue of communicative relations with others. Because communication and community are so basic to our existence and our sense of identity, technologies that enable and direct how we communicate can have a powerful effect on how we imagine who we are.
All technologies shape the way we engage with things and people, and they thus encourage certain ways of understanding things and people. Technologies do not just enable us to perform tasks; they work on our imaginations. They give us metaphors for understanding that shape our experience and our desires. They also establish patterns of everyday practice that arrange our perception of reality. And often, if we perceive things in certain ways, we easily begin to conceive of them in certain ways. This is why communications technologies—gadgets and systems of gadgets that structure our giving and receiving of ideas and experiences, that mediate the world to us—have such a powerful impact in shaping our culture.Read the rest here.
A book review by S.M. Hutchens
One of my teachers, a distinguished theologian thoroughly trained in the tradition of German academic theology, once said of an acquaintance that the poor chap felt incapable of preaching the gospel unless he felt up on “the latest poop from Germany.”
Thomas Albert Howard demonstrates in this magisterial and brilliantly executed study why the preacher’s dilemma was rooted in far larger and deeper considerations than slavish devotion to German school theology—the relationship between the critical science of the modern university (Wissenschaft), born and reared in Germany, and the peculiar knowledge claimed by the Christian Church, a knowledge that one time supported the claim that theology was the queen of sciences to which all others must apply for meaning and place.
by Patrick F. Fagan & William L. Saunders
Two years ago, in an article titled “How U.N. Conventions on Women’s and Children’s Rights Undermine Family, Religion, and Sovereignty,” we considered the difficulties inherent in two United Nations conventions: the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).1 In particular, we called attention to the fact that the committees entrusted to review implementation reports by state parties are acting far beyond their actual powers in what can only be described as an “ideological” manner.
by Kiernan Schroeder
Nearly every Tudor royal, statesman, and courtier has starred in a book or film in recent years: Queen Elizabeth I, Thomas More, King Henry VIII and his many wives—even Mary Boleyn, forgotten sister of the more famous Anne. Perhaps the most unlikely person to join this cast of reincarnated characters is Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII’s right-hand man and the statesman who finally engineered Henry’s divorce from Katherine of Aragon. In the Hans Holbein portrait, Cromwell is a short, chubby man, tightly gripping a piece of paper and staring with a frown out the window. He doesn’t look like the sort of man you’d want to keep company with. He seems ruthless, calculating, Machiavellian—not at all an ideal hero for a novel.
by Russell D. Moore
There’s nothing quite as bleak as a city street the morning after Mardi Gras. The steam of the humidity rises silently over asphalt riddled with forgotten doubloons, broken bottles, littered cigarettes, used condoms, clotted blood, and mangled vomit. This sight was, for some of the convictional Evangelicals in my hometown, a parable of what was wrong with Roman Catholicism. I wasn’t so sure.
I am a product of “Evangelicals and Catholics Together.” By that I don’t mean the 1994 statement of cultural co-belligerency led by Chuck Colson and Richard John Neuhaus. I mean that since my father was the son of a Southern Baptist preacher and my mother was a Roman Catholic, I am, quite literally, the product of an Evangelical and a Catholic, together. Half my family was Southern Baptist and the other half Roman Catholic, and my family divide perfectly summed up the larger community around us.