Underlying Paul Johnson’s historical writing was the sense that people possess an innate dignity. To Johnson, history was the story of people—flawed, creative, reasoning, exceptional—with the capacity for incredible achievement. People, he thought, were made with a purpose, and that meant history has a purpose.
Pillar: Education & Culture
The fourth pillar, education and culture, is built upon the recognition of two essential realities. First, the Western intellectual tradition requires a dedication to and desire for truth. Second, education takes place not only within colleges and universities but within our broader culture, whose institutions and practices form us as whole persons.
I consider myself lucky to have gotten to know George Cardinal Pell a bit—and that after his 80th year.
In the postmodern world, orthodox religion suffers less for being thought demonstrably false than from claiming the authority of truth at all. This absence of consensus about truth is reflected in the variety of perspectives contained in a collection of essays by seventeen thoughtful Orthodox Jews. Since their reflections on the causes and conditions of belief apply to all religions, all believers are likely to find something instructive in this book.
Instead of focusing on what the world has done to the Jews, it is far more worthwhile to investigate the way Jews have not only survived, but thrived.
There is a lot of mileage to be gained out of mockery, and nowhere more than in satire and parody. But successful parody depends on close study, intimate familiarity with the target, and that can often produce a certain gentleness and sympathy in the result.
Jews and Christians both must rally around Benedict’s call to defend and celebrate the legacy of the West: the rule of law, the respect for the dignity of man, the institutions of marriage and family, the love of our neighbor, the one most like us, which becomes the basis for the love of the truly other, even—and especially—the one most unlike us. These are the gifts of the West.
As a social scientist, I have grave concerns about the methodological mess that has characterized this synod’s massive, unwieldy data-collection-and-analysis venture.
Benedict lived in a faithless time when people lost themselves and their hope. He reminded them of who they were, and who they could be—children and heirs of God. What good fortune we had to have lived at a time when a man such as this taught us.
What is most original in Koons’s book Is St. Thomas’s Aristotelian Philosophy of Nature Obsolete? is his argument that quantum mechanics is best interpreted as vindicating the Aristotelian hylomorphist’s view of nature. Koons is the first prominent philosopher to make the case at book-length, in a way that combines expertise in the relevant philosophical ideas and literature with serious and detailed engagement with the scientific concepts.
Christ’s advent is an astonishing story of God’s power and light breaking into our darkness, doubt, and suffering.
In “The God in the Cave,” G.K, Chesterton explains that when Christians celebrate the Nativity, they are celebrating an event that changed the course of history and permanently transformed the DNA of human society.
Christmas isn’t tasteful, isn’t simple, isn’t clean, isn’t elegant. Give me the tacky and the exuberant and the wild, to represent the impossibly boisterous fact that God has intruded in this world.
Perhaps our longing for Christmas past reminds us that here we have no lasting city—not even a lasting home. In this way, our celebration of Christ’s coming points us toward what it makes possible: our coming to him in heaven, when our longing will be fully satisfied, when we will truly come home.
In Alessandro Manzoni’s recently translated novel, The Betrothed, the world is regularly pitted against the sanctity of a few. The novel often asks the reader, an implicit echo, how do you live as a faithful Christian when so much evil persists in the world? But more than anything, it shows us the reality of forgiveness and the possibility of fulfilling Jesus’s most challenging commandment: love your enemies.
Reading recommendations from Public Discourse and the Witherspoon Institute.
George Weigel’s book on the meaning and legacy of Vatican II is persuasive as a history of ideas, but in focusing on context and content it seems to miss the sense in which the Council is an unfolding event that calls Catholics to encounter Christ and walk away changed and challenged.
Faithful Catholics will affirm, with the Second Vatican Council and with the papal magisterium, that the Jewish people are indeed “the good olive tree onto which the wild shoot of the Gentiles has been grafted,” that God’s original Covenant with his chosen people is unbroken and unbreakable, that our bond with the Jewish people is a spiritual bond, rooted in a common spiritual patrimony, and that our Jewish neighbors are indeed our brothers and sisters in faith.
The expressive individualists promised a world in which moral conventions could be cast off in favor of something more beautiful, purposeful, passionate, and true. Instead, we have been left with an aimless, bloodless, timid culture.
Is literalness the true criterion of a good translation? It may be that for study, the literalness to which Allan Bloom and Harvey Mansfield aspire in their translations of Plato and Machiavelli is the thing needful. But a good case can be made that for readers of English translations to get a sense of a story’s power, small departures from literalness, and perhaps even large ones, will be necessary on the translator’s part.
An ideologically captured university creates the illusion of consensus on questions that in fact are highly contested off campus. That makes public disagreement a puzzling and unintelligible phenomenon. It creates a cascade of resentment and negative sentiment throughout the rest of the elite classes towards any dissenting views in the public square. It shatters a society’s understanding of itself and its role in the world, of what social flourishing looks like.
In his new book, Jamie Boulding uses the metaphysics of participation to argue that multiverse proposals do not really call into question the notion of God central to Christian theology. Infinite multiplicity and diversity do not challenge the claim that all that is is created.
Reason cannot become right reason unless the will is in love with the Truth; intellectual formation requires moral formation. And yet, as my previous essay argued, the university—the teacher of the intellect—cannot impart moral principle of itself. Moral communities, therefore, naturally complement the university’s work. But still more beneficial to the university is the moral witness of each person.
Between the individual and government is a great bulk of institutions that could help us address the cultural challenges posed by tech. In addition to policy reforms and individuals’ weaning themselves off tech, we also need to create stigmas around social media and smartphone use—culturally agreed upon limits, including designated times and places where screen time is socially unacceptable.
North Park isn’t the only Christian university with inner turmoil about human sexuality. Not just colleges and administrations, but denominations and pastors have collapsed and caved on these teachings as well. Some of this is a lack of courage, a failure of spine in the face of cultural disdain; some of this is personal, an experience of a child or friend whose sexual appetites do not easily fit doctrine, and so doctrine must change. But it is always a loss of faith.
French philosopher Gabriel Marcel’s writings on “intersubjectivity” help us see why the metaverse impedes our ability to grasp reality’s most important truths. When every aspect of how I present myself to others is a choice, all my relations become objects of manipulation. Without the authentic connections of involved, concrete, and personal relationships, I become irretrievably disconnected from reality.