Apologia A Journal of Christian Thought
Fall 2012, Volume 7, Issue 1
Christianity and the Philosophy of Friendship also inside
James V. Schall on Trinity, Friendship, and Wonder Rethinking the Wall between Religion and Politics T.S. Eliotâ€™s Search for Meaning
A Letter from the Editor
ruth, the great 13th century philosopher Thomas Aquinas insisted, can only ever be one. Against the claims of his contemporary Siger of Brabant during the age of the rediscovery of Aristotle in the West, this humble saint was adamant: there can be no conflict between faith and reason. “Since therefore grace,” Aquinas wrote in what would become one of his most famous phrases, “does not destroy nature, but perfects it, natural reason should minister to faith as the natural bent of the will ministers to charity.” In this single sentence, Aquinas has articulated Apologia’s core claims about Christianity: with respect to what exists, grace does not destroy but perfects nature; with respect to what we can know, faith likewise does not destroy but perfects reason; and with respect to ethics and human freedom, caritas or love for God also does not destroy but perfects the freedom of the will. Faith does not inhibit the progress of science but rather guides our search for understanding and ensures that we will not rest content in anything but the fullness of truth. Without faith, reason is at best unknowingly near-sighted, at worst arrogantly blind; without reason, faith is at best innocently unarticulated, at worst patently nonsensical. Eight centuries later, although the vocabulary has changed, we still grapple with the difficulty of the same relationship. Critics of Christianity often begin with an unconscious reformulation Siger of Brabant’s distinction between the truths of science and the truths of religion, until they realize they can just as easily claim there are no religious truths but only scientific truths. Discouraged, many modern people, especially college students, settle for relativism, trapped by the whirlwind of competing religious and scientific voices into resigning themselves to the fact that there just is no objective religious truth, or at least none that we can know. Nevertheless, there are voices, like Apologia, insisting that there are answers and we can know them; while we don’t have all the answers and certainly don’t think they are found easily, we refuse to give in and say there are no answers, especially to questions of morality, religion, and purpose. Across America’s college campuses, likeminded journals have begun to draw upon the rich intellectual tradition of Christianity to not only defend the Christian faith but also discover in it unique answers to perennial social and philosophic problems, problems that often seem unanswerable. In the pages that follow, you will encounter articles, book reviews, and an interview tackling just these difficulties. You will notice that as we explore both misconceptions about Christianity and its unique answers to questions like that of true friendship, we examine the writings of ancients and moderns, the secular and the religious. Indeed, it is with confidence that we dive into all pools of knowledge, just as confident as secular humanists that we can discover real truths about our world but humble enough to admit the world might be a more wondrous but also more serious place than we could imagine without the light of faith. We invite you to explore some of Christianity’s unique (and often paradoxical) answers to humanity’s greatest questions.
Christopher Hauser Editor-in-Chief Submissions
We welcome the submission of any article, essay, or artwork for publication in The Dartmouth Apologia. Submissions should seek to promote respectful, thoughtful discussion in the community. We will consider submissions from any member of the community but reserve the right to publish only those that align with our mission statement and quality rubric. Email: The.Dartmouth.Apologia@dartmouth.edu Front cover image by Michael Sugimura ‘14
Letters to the Editor
We value your opinions and encourage thoughtful submissions expressing support, dissent, or other views. We will gladly consider any letter that is consistent with our mission statement’s focus on promoting intellectual discourse in the Dartmouth community.
Fall 2012, Volume 7, Issue 1
Editor-in-Chief Christopher Hauser ‘14 Managing Editor Steffi Ostrowski ‘14 Executive Editor Hayden Kvamme ‘14 Editorial Board Suiwen Liang ‘13 Brendan Woods ‘13 Robert Smith ‘14 Business Manager Robert Smith ‘14 Production Michael Choi ‘14 Minae Seog ‘14 Jessica Yu ‘14 Janice Yip ‘15 Joanne Zhao ‘16 Photography Sarah Wang ‘14 Clarissa Li ‘15 Hyunjung Kim ‘16 Contributors Will Hogan ‘15 Hannah Jung ‘15 Timothy Toh ‘15 Nathaniel Schmucker ‘15 Yesuto Shaw ‘15 Elena Zinski ‘15 Faculty Advisory Board Gregg Fairbrothers, Tuck Richard Denton, Physics Eric Hansen, Thayer Eric Johnson, Tuck James Murphy, Government Leo Zacharski, DMS Special thanks to Council on Student Organizations The Eleazar Wheelock Society
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The opinions expressed in The Dartmouth Apologia are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the journal, its editors, or Dartmouth College. Copyright © 2012 The Dartmouth Apologia.
Temple Revolutionary Timothy Toh ‘15
On the Trinitarian God, Friendship, and the Wonder of Creation Father James V. Schall Georgetown University
rethinking the wall: 12 Cotton and Reagan on the Necessity of Religion in the Public Sphere
Nathaniel Schmucker ‘15
On the philosophy 17 of friendship Hannah Jung ‘15
Eliot’s early poetry 23 and the search for a saving faith Will Hogan ‘15
Thomas Paine’s 29 Age of Reason Suiwen Liang ‘13
Richard Dawkins’ 33 The God Delusion Yesuto Shaw ‘15
Ross Douthat’s 37 Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics Elena Zinski ‘15
he Dartmouth Apologia exists to articulate Christian perspectives in the academic community.
A Journal of Christian Thought
Temple Revolutionary by Timothy Toh
ho was Jesus of Nazareth? How do we know about Jesus? And given that the four canonical gospels are the most complete record of Jesus’ life available to us, are the accounts provided in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John a credible transmission of the life and message of the historical Jesus? These questions have given rise to an entire field of scholarship. Although they form the backdrop of this article’s discussion, the claims in this article involve a more specific inquiry, but one which can shed light on possible answers to these questions. If one were to do some reading about the world in which Jesus lived, one of the first things one would notice is the way in which the Temple of Jerusalem seemed to dominate the religious and political landscape of 1st century Palestine. The Temple has a long history: originally the center of Israelite religion, it was destroyed and partially rebuilt several times. Around 20 B.C. it underwent a major renovation under Herod the Great and, during Jesus’ life, occupied a fundamental position in the Jewish world. By considering the role of the Temple in Jesus’ world, we can gain a distinctive insight toward answering the questions posed above.
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To this end, I want to make two points. First, I will examine the Temple’s place in the extra-Biblical archaeological record of 1st century Palestine, including the written record of the chronicler Josephus. According to this record, the 1st century Temple system was at the core of Jewish life and thought, dominating the religious expression of not only mainstream Judaism but also its many splinter sects and popular movements. Second, I will examine the Temple’s place in the gospel record. According to the gospels, Jesus of Nazareth defined himself by means of the Temple symbol: his parables and teachings take the Temple as one of their key references, and his identity is often described in its terms. Taken together, these two points indicate that the Temple represents an important point of agreement between the archaeological record and the gospel record. The gospels’ Jesus was not a mystic or martyr in isolation from his time or culture as some have suggested, but rather a Temple revolutionary, whose Temple-centric characterization is consistent with the worldviews of 1st century Israel. Here, it is worth noting that grouping the worldviews of 1st century Israel
Reconstruction of Jerusalem and the Temple of Herod by J.J. Tissot, c.1886-1894
together is not simple. In fact, as modern scholarship has pointed out, the picture of Judaism during this time period is much more complex than is often suggested. Yet it is precisely the way that the Temple manages to stand out as the central theme of both the archeological record and the Christian gospels in the midst of this complexity that calls for attention. Its centrality lends credibility to the gospel accounts insofar as they represent the Temple as a core symbolic and geographic reference point in Jesus’ ministry. The
this material, at least one clear conclusion emerges: the various Judaistic worldviews in the 1st century were dominated by the Temple system inherited from early, monarchial Israel. In mainstream Judaism, the Temple was the focal point of national life.i It was the location at which the festivals that marked the national calendar culminated; it was the important administrative and financial center of Jerusalem; and most importantly, it was seen as the dwelling place of their God YHWH and the center
The Temple system was so connected to the national hopes of Palestinian Jews that the political peace of Jerusalem seemed to depend on the attitudes of those in power toward the Temple. predominance of temple symbolism in the gospels provides strong evidence that—at least with respect to the Temple—the Jesus presented in the gospel accounts is consonant with what we know about the times in which he lived. What we know about Palestine in the 1st century is relatively extensive. We have sources from both historical writings and archaeological excavations. The Jewish historian Josephus provides detailed accounts of the First Jewish-Roman War, and his own noble ancestry gives us unique insight into the high priest system that governed the Temple. The Dead Sea Scrolls shed light on the Essenes (with whom the scrolls are generally associated), and supply an important source of information about non-mainstream Judaistic worldviews. And the archaeological record of the time preserves a surprising amount of material from the Jewish diaspora (the communities of the Jewish people scattered throughout the Mediterranean world). Although scholars frequently debate the significance and reliability of
of his reign.ii The Temple system was so connected to the national hopes of Palestinian Jews that the political peace of Jerusalem seemed to depend on the attitudes of those in power toward the Temple. Antiochus the Great’s guarantee to preserve Jewish modes of worship gave way to a period of peace, in contrast to the rule of his son, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, whose antiTemple, anti-YHWH rule provoked a revolt in 167 B.C.iii In fact, several popular revolts were directly associated with what was considered the ‘defilement’ of the Temple. Prior to the destruction of the Temple by the Romans in 70 A.D., Josephus records an occasion where “a certain [Roman] soldier let down his breeches” in the Temple, leading to a violent uproar by festival-goers and, subsequently, a massacre.iv Archaeological evidence confirms this picture of the Temple in mainstream Judaism. After the destruction of the Temple, the remains of various synagogues used by the Jewish Diaspora seem to defer to the Temple’s unique role: the synagogue uncovered at Dura Europos,
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for instance, was decorated around the artistic concept of the Temple,v pointing back to that central institution in framing its own identity. Even the symbols of Jewish identity on the periphery of Jerusalem’s influence appeared to gain “their significance from their implicit relation” to the Temple rather than to draw attention away from it.vi Outside of mainstream Judaism, the Temple occupied a different (although no less central) position. Whereas with the former the Temple was the center of YHWH’s power mediated through Israel’s priestly authorities, those who subscribed to different interpretations of the Israelite heritage and religion viewed
of these popular movements, the Temple’s presence looms heavy over the less violent Essene communities living in various cities. Little is known for sure about the Essenes, but there is at least some scholarly agreement that they were a peripheral Jewish community that held to much stricter ritual requirements and rewrote much of the Jewish Torah found with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The 1960s discovery of the Temple Scroll, the longest of these, gives us particular insight into the importance of the Temple to the identity of the Essene community. Among other things, this scroll seems to contain a floor plan of a new Temple, reflecting the community’s
By associating himself with the blood of the covenant, the gospel Jesus was staking a claim to the Temple’s unique role in the Temple’s own terms the Temple and its functionaries as illegitimate heirs to their ancestors’ authority. The Temple was the focus especially of messianic movements, whose revolutionary appeal and alternative claim to political legitimacy relied on the historical significance of the Temple as the seat of royal priestly rule. In his War of the Jews, Josephus records how Manahem—reportedly a descendent of Judas of Galilee, one of the great messiahs from before the 1st century—regularly attempted to legitimate his movement by going up to the Temple to worship dressed in royal garments.vii Josephus tells us also of the “last great messiah” Simon Bar-Kochba, who even “minted coins depicting the façade of the Temple” indicating his intent to rebuild it.viii In addition to the Temple-centric personality
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aspirations to set right an institution it believed to have strayed. The Essene community “rejected the postMaccabaean Temple regime as illegitimate in theory and corrupt in practice, and looked forward to a day when a new Temple … would be built.”ix Like other Jewish schools of thought, the Essenes seemed to take the Temple as the central expression of their identity, purity, and community purpose. They set their apocalyptic expectations and framed their solution in the concept of a New Temple, and they claimed to be the legitimate rebuilders of that Temple. All of these examples help to demonstrate the centrality of the Temple system to the various Jewish groups of the 1st century. The archaeological record reveals that the Temple was the dominant symbol of Jewish religion and was consistently the central means of articulating spiritual and political hopes. We will now see that the Temple occupies a very similar position in the gospel record, revealing an important point of agreement between extrabiblical history and the Christian gospels, thus lending credibility to the historicity of the gospel accounts. Much as Josephus discusses the developments of Jewish-Roman relations with reference to the Temple institution, the gospels often frame the life and message of Jesus of Nazareth in terms of the Temple. In some ways, the Temple is the key to unlocking the words and actions that the gospels attribute to Jesus. Although many of the images of the gospels (blood, light, water, bread) are often read as simple literary symbols, these images quite
Portion of the Temple Scroll, 2nd century BC
Christ Driving the Money Changers from the Temple by El Greco, c. 1570-1576
evidently reflect the language of the Temple system. The history of the blood ritual of the Passover makes the concept of blood inseparable from the atonement offered by the high priest’s sacrifices,x and the archaeological remains of Herod’s Temple suggests that the concept of light symbolized YHWH’s entering the Temple to dwell among his people, much as the Sun’s light shone through the Temple’s eastern door during the autumn festival.xi Hearing the sayings of Jesus found in the gospels with an understanding of their Temple contexts suggests that they referenced the Temple with a specific intent. By associating himself with the blood of the covenant, the gospel Jesus was staking a claim to the Temple’s unique role in the Temple’s own terms: he was associating himself with the sacrificial system and offering himself as the unique means of atonement and reconciliation with God. And by calling himself the light of the world, Jesus proclaimed YHWH returning to dwell in Zion to redeem his people from their “long night of suffering.”xii But the gospels go further than this. The gospels not only borrow terminology embedded in the form and system of the Temple but also portray acts of Jesus which are directly concerned with the Temple. All four gospels record an incident known as the Cleansing of the Temple, during which Jesus is said to have entered the Temple and overturned the tables of its moneychangers in anger.xiii Although the gospels do not clearly agree on the chronology of the event, its
meaning is clear: by intervening in the daily routine of the sacrificial system, Jesus interrupted “all fiscal, sacrificial, and logistical operations of the Temple” and signaled his total disagreement with the existing Temple institution.xiv Like many other movements before and after him, Jesus’ action seemed rooted in criticism of the Temple priesthood’s “dynastic illegitimacy” and in the “distributive injustice” that the Temple tax perpetuated.xv As N.T. Wright aptly puts it, Jesus’ temple action was an acted parable of
judgment. In casting out the traders, he effected a brief symbolic break in the sacrificial system that formed the temple’s main raison d’etre … Jesus’ action symbolized his belief that when YHWH returned to Zion he would not after all take up residence in the temple, legitimating its present functionaries and the nationalist aspirations that clustered around it and them … [Jesus was] announcing the kingdom of God, but in a deeply subversive way.xvi
In his cleansing of the Temple, the gospel Jesus shows us that the Temple was crucial to his understanding of the fate of Israel and the redemptive purposes of God. This Temple focus is consistent with the gospel record of Jesus’ death. In all four gospels, Jesus’ act of dying on the cross is presented as “destroying the Temple” in order to raise it up in three days and his death and resurrection are regularly associated with the destruction and rebuilding of the Temple.xvii
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All the way to the cross, Jesus’ defining teachings and actions were expressed in terms of the Temple system, revealing that the Temple was central not only to his understanding of Israel’s fate but also to his way of communicating his own identity. The gospels’ Jesus presents his purpose by taking upon himself the unique role of the Temple: by dying on the cross, he himself would fulfill the Temple institution and the old covenant it instrumented, and bring about a new covenant with himself as the new Temple. The gospels’ record of Jesus, it seems, presents us not with a prototype of the modern civil rights activist or a Near Eastern healer-mystic, but with a Temple revolutionary who understood the problems with Jewish society in terms of its attitudes toward the Temple, and framed his solution as the fulfillment of the Temple system. For this reason, the Jesus found in the gospels is radical, but not out of place. The central position the Temple occupies in the gospels is in clear agreement with the role that extra-biblical Jewish history accords to the Temple. In the same way that so many of the 1st century Semitic worldviews surrounding the Jesus movement consistently anchored their belief systems in the central symbol of the Temple, the gospels present a Jesus whose identity and hope was developed in terms of the Temple. His was a claim expressed in the central symbol of his time and place, arising out of the existing religious discourse. Earlier historical Jesus scholars challenged the historicity of the gospels on account of Jesus’ unique claims, arguing that they had to be a later Christology retrofitted by disciples into the gospels after Jesus’ death.xviii But the consistency between the gospel record’s Temple-centric presentation of Jesus, and the Temple-centric Jewish practices of the 1st century attested by the archaeological record, appears rather to lend credibility to the gospel writers. The gospels tell us that, like the movements before and after him, and the communities that surrounded him, Jesus presented himself as fulfilling and revolutionizing the existing Temple institution. This does not prove that the events in the gospels actually happened, but it does show that the Jesus presented in these accounts is consonant with the picture of 1st century Palestine provided by archaeology and textual history. This should not be a controversial statement. Perhaps the reason it is for so many people is that modern Christians have relied increasingly on creedal statements about Jesus, affirming traditional ideas without anchoring these ideas in the historical context upon which they are contingent. It might be said that Christians today are often scared of history and archaeology—but if this article has shown anything, it is that a proper understanding of the world out of which Jesus of Nazareth gained universal prominence can serve to
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illuminate and strengthen, rather than threaten, faith. As far as this article is concerned, the two points I have demonstrated might be restated as one: the fact that the Temple of Jerusalem occupies the same distinctive place in both extra-biblical history and Biblical history significantly weakens accusations that the gospels are ahistorical and offers us deeper insight into the historical credibility of the gospel accounts. N.T. Wright The New Testament and the People of God (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992) 223-224. Wright cites Safrai 1976, Barker 1991, Sanders 1992 and McKelvey 1969 to establish this. ii. Ibid. 224. iii. Martin Goodman, Rome and Jerusalem: The Clash of Ancient Civilizations (New York: Vintage Books, 2007) 49. iv. Flavius Josephus, The Judean Antiquities, trans. William Whiston, 20.5.3. v. Jás Elsner, “Cultural Resistance and Visual Image: The Case of Dura Europos,” Classical Philology 96 (2001): 281. vi. Wright 224. vii. Flavius Josephus, The Judean War, trans. William Whiston, 2.17.9. viii. Wright 44. ix. Wright 225. x. Exodus 12:7, 13. xi. Margaret Barker, On Earth as it is in Heaven (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1995) 16. xii. Wright, 1996. xiii. Mark 11:15. See also Matt 21:12, Luke 19:45, John 2:13. xiv. John Crossan and Jonathan Reed, Excavating Jesus: Beneath the Stones, Behind the Texts (New York: HarperCollins, 2001) 220-221. xv. Ibid. 220-1. xvi. Wright, 1999: 44. xvii. Matthew 27:39-40. xviii. In The Search Begins: The Fathers of Historical Jesus Scholarship, Marcus Borg charts the development of such ‘historical Jesus’ scholarship. i.
Timothy Toh is from Singapore. He is an Economics and East Asian Studies double major.
An interview with
Conducted by Christopher Hauser
father james v. Schall Father James V. Schall, S. J., currently a political philosophy professor in the Government department of Georgetown University, is renowned for his encyclopedic knowledge of the West’s greatest writers and thinkers. In addition to being an ordained Roman Catholic Priest and teaching classical, medieval, and Christian political philosophy as a university professor, Father Schall has served on the National Council on the Humanities and the Pontifical Commission on Justice and Peace in Rome. A prolific writer, he has written dozens of books and essays on political philosophy, faith and reason in Christianity, liberal arts education, and more. In this exclusive interview conducted this past spring, Apologia offers you a chance to join generations of students in listening to the venerable reflections of one of Georgetown’s most beloved professors.
On the Trinitarian God, Friendship & the Wonder of Creation [
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You have written and spoken many times about friendship and God. How do you define true friendship? How does this notion of friendship relate to the revelation of the Christian God as Trinity?
It is always difficult to improve on Aristotle. Friendship differs from justice because it is reciprocal good will. We not only will the good of the other, but the other in turn wills our good. Benevolence means to will good to another, whether or not reciprocity occurs. Essential to this reciprocity is its mutual freedom, its lack of coercion. Friends not only will the good of the other, but will him the highest things, the things that are ultimately important. Friendships based on utility or pleasure may be perfectly decent and good. We cannot or do not want to get along without them.
what amounts to the love of another. Indeed, the definition of the inner life of the Godhead is a relationship of Persons to one another in which they exchange the highest things of their being. If the inner life of the Godhead is itself a friendship—a love of one another for the sake of the other— it would seem to follow, at least as possible, that God could offer to free and rational persons a share in this inner life. It is not something that they could merit or earn simply by themselves. But it is possible that it be a gift to them. They can still individually reject to receive it. Not even divine friendship can be coerced. But the fact remains that it is not unreasonable to suppose that such a relationship might logically follow from a proper understanding of the inner life of the Godhead and the nature of friendship.
If the inner life of the Godhead is itself a friendship—a love of one another for the sake of the other—it would seem to follow that God could offer to free and rational persons a share in this inner life. It is not something they could merit or earn simply by themselves. But it is possible that it be a gift to them. But they are limited to their object. The highest form of friendship is concerned with the exchange of what is really significant and important. Thus, it is also based in the truth. The notion of friendship relates to God firstly because, in the books of revelation, Christ says specifically, “I have no longer called you servants, but friends.” Our relation to God is not submission or subjection. For many philosophical and religious systems, this attribution of a friendship between God and man is a shocking notion. It is said to demean the Godhead. And Christians would agree that they themselves could never have imagined this relationship, had it not been revealed to them. This divine friendship was offered to them not by their own theories but by God revealing Himself. The idea never would have occurred to Christians on their own reasoning. But once revealed to them, they can think about just why the relationship might exist, might make sense with the understanding of God as revealed. The essential answer begins with Aristotle’s wonderment about whether his God was “lonely.” The issue arises in the Tractate on Friendship. If friendship is seen by Aristotle, the philosopher, to be the highest external relation we can have with others, it seems that this relationship does not exist in God. Therefore, He seems lonely or defective. Once the inner nature of God is revealed as Trinity, as having within it an otherness of persons, Father, Son, and Spirit, it becomes clear that God does not necessarily lack within Himself
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You’ve spoken before of the relationship of the doctrine of the Trinity to the philosophical question of “why there is something, not nothing,” or “why is there a creation?” Here it seems that Christian revelation addresses itself to one of the foremost issues of philosophy, namely the question of creation. Can you explain this solution?
As Robert Spitzer, S. J., in his New Cosmological Proofs for the Existence of God and Msgr. Robert Sokolowski in his God of Faith and Reason have well said, two issues should be separated: one is a metaphysical question of whether something can come from nothing. (It can’t). The other is the state of contemporary science that seems more and more to acknowledge that the cosmos began some 13.7 billion years ago, that before it existed exactly nothing existed, yet everything seemed to come into existence in an orderly fashion. Indeed, many scientific facts seem to indicate that the cosmos itself has within it an anthropic principle, that is, it seems to be so designed that a rational being could exist within the cosmos. Once we arrive at this position, which is also the Genesis position, the crucial question becomes: “What is the purpose in a universe of intelligence that is not itself divine?” It would seem that the universe itself is not complete unless it has within it an intelligence that can understand and appreciate it. As I like to put it, the universe does not look at us. We look at it. We seek to understand it. Moreover, the universe seems to betray an order (see my Order of Things) that forms or checks
the human knowing mind. That is, we seek to know what is, what is already there. We can check our mind, our theories, over against an intelligence that is found in things, a “substitute intelligence,” as Charles N. R. McCoy called it in his great book, The Structure of Political Thought. In this sense, the intelligibility within the universe is meant to be discovered and known by the intelligent beings within the universe. But they are to know these things as part of or intrinsic to their own reaching the end for which they were personally and individually created. This reflection brings me to your basic question, a good one. Some theories about the supposed lack of friendship in God suggested that God created the universe because He was lonely. He created it to find someone else to love. While such a position is wrong, we can see why it might be proposed. But if God in His Trinitarian life is complete, He needs nothing else. He is not lacking in friendship. Indeed, He need not create at all. God is complete whether the world exists or not. Creation does not change God. It brings into existence what is not God. The universe is not God. Or as Sokolowski says, “God is not the top most part of the universe.” He is outside the universe. But the origin of the universe or cosmos is not itself. It has a purpose. Basically, this purpose is that other free and rational beings participate in the inner life of the Godhead. This was the initial purpose of creation. From the beginning, God did not create a universe then wonder what to put in it. Rather, the cosmos was the result of His original intention. Man was to achieve something that was in fact beyond his given nature. No purely natural man ever existed. None exists now. We are all imbued with Augustine’s “restless hearts” that will
never allow us to be satisfied with anything other than the original purpose of our creation. The history of the cosmos and the history of revelation as related to it is the explanation of how this purpose is to be carried out in the light of man’s free will. What do you mean by the notion that the human mind should be open to the whole of reality?
A good place to begin to think about such a question is with E. F. Schumacher’s little book, A Guide for the Perplexed. This is a very brief and insightful sketch of how modern notions of certitude and methodology combined to limit our insight into reality, to what could be known by what is called “scientific method.” Essentially, if something cannot be “proved” by this method, almost always itself something that presupposes quantity, the conclusion follows that it does not exist. By this method we cannot “prove” that we ourselves exist. The ways we know the most important things are rarely based on scientific method, yet we know them. We know that our mother loves us, but there is no way to “prove” it. The word “proof ” technically means to begin with something that is known for certain and proceed by logical steps to conclude to something that is not yet known. But all proof depends on something that is known by itself, for its own sake. We reach the foundation of proof when we grasp the meaning of the principle of contradiction. Even if we verbally deny the proposition, we implicitly affirm it by claiming that our position is valid. The definition of mind in Aristotle is that power in us that is capable of knowing all things, all that is. Our minds are open to the “whole” of what exists. This
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openness is why it is all right to be a human being. What is not ourselves is open to us, given to us, by the fact that we can know it. When we know something, it does not cease to be what it is. But we change. In knowing, we have both our being and intentionally the being of what is not ourselves. This is the real foundation of our dignity and indicates the purpose for which we exist, to know what is, including its cause, and to love its reality and the fact that we are included within it. On faith and reason, you write in The Modern Age, about basic evidence that is left out today. How does this relate to the idea that the human mind should be open “to all reality”?
This question follows on the previous one. The human mind is “capable of knowing all things.” But one can understand philosophy or science to mean that we can only “know” what we know by modern
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methodology. The methodology limits us to know what the methodology presupposes. Since we really know things with our intuition or general understanding, we in fact know more than what science knows by its methods. Moreover, revelation contains intelligibility. If we exclude the intelligibility of either of these sources, we are cutting ourselves off from the whole. The issue of revelation is of particular importance. Faith, as least in Catholicism [and amongst orthodox Christians], is not considered to be “absurd” or idiotic. It is directed to intellect. That is to say, revelation is addressed to intellect when intellect is being most intellect. That is, when the human intellect actively knows all that is can know, it still recognizes that it does not possess a knowledge of the whole. Since many issues remain for it to answer, it is confronted with the issue of whether the “reason” that is found in revelation is not in fact posed precisely as an answer to the questions as posed by reason but which it cannot answer by itself. When we say that something is posed by “faith” or “revelation,” we do not mean that it is not intelligible. We may mean that it is not originally something that the human intellect was able to figure out by itself. But we do not mean that, once revealed, it becomes “irrational” or “unintelligible.” We mean the opposite. We mean that it explains a link that we could not figure out but one that needed some additional intellectual input to make complete sense. The revelation of the Trinity itself was precisely of this nature. The validity of revelation itself, like all faith, depends on the testimony of someone who sees. Faith does not depend on faith ad infinitum. It reaches back finally to someone who in fact sees. So if there is a coherence between revelation and reason, it is because the same “seeing” is at the origin of both. What exactly do you mean by the phrase “what is” that you often use in your writing?
Ultimately, I suppose, it comes from Plato, truth is “to say of what is that it is, and of what is not, that it is not.” The phrase has two sides, the “what” side and the “is” side. The first step of the human mind when it knows is to note a “what,” a “form,” that is, this thing is not that thing. A cow is not a toad. The second issue, though it grounds all “what” things, is the “is.” Does this thing stand out of nothingness? Is it there? We put
the two together when we affirm that this (this what) exists. The “is” is Aquinas’ “esse,” the “to be.” The passage from nothingness to an existing thing must be accomplished by the agency of something that is. Ultimately, this leads to a being whose “what” is an “is.” This is the most basic understanding of God, whose being is not limited by any finite form. His being is His what. We seem to have arrived at this understanding with the help of revelation, especially the response of Yahweh to Moses who wanted to know what
that thing? Why must I die? Am I responsible for my thoughts and actions? Why am I the only kind of being in the universe whose ultimate perfection or goodness depends on himself, not instinct or someone else? In the first chapter of book 19 of the City of God, Augustine affirms: “Nulla est homini causa philosophandi nisi ut beatus sit—No cause of philosophizing can be found for man other than that he be happy.” The reason ultimately that we go to college is not to find jobs, learn some skill, or play around. No, we go so
We can look on human life as an adventure in the knowing what is. If we combine the notions of adventure and gift, we will come close to the spirit in which we should live our lives. name to give Him. The answer was to tell the people that “I Am who am.” The New Testament is filled with “I Am” statements on the part of Christ who thereby identifies Himself with the origin of being. These two strands meet when the philosopher, taking his thought to its limits, encounters the “I Am” as a response to the question of “why is there something rather than nothing?” The significance of what is, I think, lies in the wonder we encounter when something not ourselves comes into our ken. Aristotle said that the beginning of our thinking is wonder, not some necessity or coercion. We just want to know what the thing is. We do not initially want to do anything with it. We have first to figure out what sort of a being it is. We act according to the nature of what we encounter. That is, we treat human beings differently from birds or rocks because of what they are. Moreover, we find a delight, a pleasure in just knowing that something is, what it is. We could never by ourselves concoct the variety of things that are. It is almost as if what is not ourselves is out there so that we might know it. In this sense, the reality that is not ourselves appears to us as a gift, not as some configuration of our own mind. If it were, we would soon be bored with it. You have taught college undergraduates for many years. You know the intellectual tradition of the West in great minds and ideas through things we call books. What are the basic questions of meaning and purpose that every liberal arts student should consider?
Interestingly enough, sources as widely divergent as Leibniz, Eric Vogelin, and Vatican II give pretty much the same list. They would include: Why am I rather than am not? Why am I this thing rather than
that, in our leisure, we might come to know ultimate things. What else that we do makes sense only if we have an understanding of what the whole is about and of our part within it. Never to reflect on the sources of wisdom, of what is, is to live an “unexamined life,” a life that Socrates warned us not to live. It is true, again to follow what Plato told us about the steps in our education in the sixth and seventh books of the Republic that when we are twenty or so, we only have begun. We have not yet the experience to be wise about the important things. And yet, as Aristotle told us, if we are brought up with good habits, when the important things come into our lives, we will recognize them. We will know that some things contradict reason before we can articulate what the principle of contradiction is. We can look on human life as an adventure in the knowing what is. If we combine the notions of adventure and gift, we will come close to the spirit in which we should live our lives. Finally, we should know something of evil and its origins. We should wonder about why evil things exist, especially in ourselves. But, in the end, all evil is found in some good. And as Augustine said, no evil would ever be allowed to be present in our lives unless, out of it, some greater good could, but need not, come forth. I would not conclude by touching evil were it not the other side of our freedom. We really are responsible for ourselves and one another. We can choose to put an action in the world that lacks something that ought to be there. This is what evil is. God could not possibly invite beings to His inner Trinitarian life if they were not free to love Him. This is what the divine friendship is about. We may learn about it before we live it. But unless we live it, we will learn only about ourselves, not the what is that includes ourselves, the what is of the greater glory that includes all that is.
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Rethinking the Wall: Cotton and Reagan on the
Necessity of Religion in the Public Sphere by Nathaniel Schmucker
t has come to pass that the American mind has built an undesirably large wall of separation between the spheres of Church and State. With this wall, Americans seek to dichotomize faith and reason in the public sphere. The larger the number of people that a given decision will affect, the more that decision must be made without the influence of religious beliefs. Religion may be fine for running households, but businessmen and politicians must put that religion on hold once they step out the front door. This wall is undesirable, however, for if we allow it to remain in its present near-impenetrable state, it may be the undoing of America. As early as the start of the seventeenth century, Americans—then British colonists—understood that some sort of wall of separation was necessary. The Puritans settling in New England learned through
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experience that allowing the Church and State to dissolve into one entity was undesirable because it would limit either their religious or political freedom. The Puritans lived in a world that essentially had no wall separating Church and State, and they tended to think of the two spheres as dissolved into one another. In the 1534 Act of Supremacy, Parliament declared that the King “justly and rightfully is and ought to be supreme head of the Church of England” and that he had power “to visit, repress, redress, reform, order, correct, restrain, and amend all such errors, heresies, abuses, offences, contempts, and enormities” that pertained to the Church.i This act set in motion a series of reforms that radically changed the system of ecclesiastical authority. Ultimately, political bodies—the king and Parliament—rather than the ecclesiastical body had the final authority on issues of Church doctrine and practice.
This system was doomed to fail, for it stifled religious freedom. As the State-favored religion alternated between Protestantism and Catholicism with almost every change in monarch, English citizens had to either conform their allegiances or risk severe punishment. During the reigns of James I and Charles I, persecution of the Puritans rose to unbearable heights. Many Puritans decided that the safest and easiest way to practice their beliefs was to leave the country and form their own colony in New England. In the New World, the Puritans initially retained the tendency to dissolve the Church and State into one another, but rather than impose the State on Church affairs (as had happened in England), the Puritans tried to impose the Church on State affairs. Lord Saye and Lord Brooke, two of the colony’s Old World benefactors, sent the Puritans a list of ten demands for colonial governance. Among these was the demand that “none shall be chosen to magistracy among [the colonists], but a church member.”ii By this, the Lords hoped to establish a government in which Church membership determined participation. In other words, they hoped to create a colony in which the Church had control over the secular government. As a community, the colonial Puritans recognized the impracticality of this framework for Church-State relations and rejected it. John Cotton, a popular minister in the Bay Colony, outlined the colonists’ position in a letter addressed to the Lords. First, he argued, it would unnecessarily open the door to State excommunication. Placing the Church in direct control of the State gave Church leaders the ability to banish people from the community on religious grounds. Certainly this would make their colony’s government as religiously intolerant as the English system from which they had just escaped. More importantly, however, Cotton argued that the colonists saw no philosophical or religious grounds for merging the two spheres. As they understood it—and as most Americans today would understand it—citizens obey “civill lawes, and those enacted in generall courts” with which the Church “hath nothing to doe.”iii The Church and State were separate entities, operated independently, and had their own rules. The clergy was best suited to make rules for the Church and politicians were best suited to make laws for the State. Placing the Church over the State would inhibit the State’s ability to act in the best manner. From the earliest days, Americans were thus wary of what would happen if there were no
wall separating Church and State. It should then be no surprise that less than two centuries later, the Founding Fathers created a country in which the institutions of the Church and the State were largely separated. It was in 1802, when the nation was still quite young, that Thomas Jefferson penned his famous letter in which he spoke of “a wall of separation between Church & State.”iv Over the years, this wall has grown thicker, stronger, higher, and more impenetrable. While it still is small enough to permit the exercise of religion in private matters—in the privacy of the ballot box, in the running of households, inside houses of worship—it tends to discourage the exercise of religion in more public areas. As a decision moves out of private life and into the public sphere, people tend to think that it should be made on strictly rational and non-religious grounds. The more important and influential the decision, the more people call for reason without religion. It should be no wonder, then, that the role of religious beliefs has become an issue in presidential elections over the last few decades, most notably when John F. Kennedy ran for president in 1960. As November approached, Kennedy’s Catholic faith became an important campaign issue. Many, including prominent leaders in the Protestant Churches, feared that if Kennedy
Portrait of President John F. Kennedy, White House Press Office, 1961
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became president, he would undesirably link the presidency and the Vatican. In September, a group of 150 Protestants discussed and agreed upon a manifesto that argued that “It is inconceivable that a Roman Catholic President would not be under extreme pressure by the hierarchy of his Church to accede to its policies with respect to foreign relations, including representation to the Vatican.”v Wary of a Puritan-like dissolution that melded together these separate institutions, they wanted Kennedy to resign from the campaign. By so doing, he would avoid “breach[ing] the wall of separation between church and state.”vi Kennedy, however, responded by arguing that he could preserve the separation of Church and State in government by building a wall between his religion and his presidential duties. In September, he gave a speech before an assembly of Protestant ministers in which he said, “I believe in a president whose religious views are his own private affair, neither imposed by him upon the nation, or imposed by the nation upon him as a condition to holding that office.”vii He declared his intention to make political decisions “without regard to outside religious pressures or dictates,” and he promised that if the time came when “my office would require me to either violate my conscience or violate the national interest, then I would resign the
side and to adopt a “neutral” morality based on reason alone. In this, we see a strange contradiction. In the name of religious tolerance, we force people to abandon their religion when they enter the public sphere. In the name of tolerance, we are intolerant. How can this come to pass? It is only because of the greater underlying contradiction: this public, rational morality is no morality at all, for it is near impossible to develop a moral system without the foundation of religious convictions. We see religion’s role in shaping and supporting morality in its influence on the worldview. As James W. Sire describes in his book, The Universe Next Door, the worldview is a collection of “words and concepts that work together to provide a more or less coherent frame of reference for all thought and action.”ix More formally, he defines a worldview as: [A] commitment, a fundamental orientation of the heart, that can be expressed as a story or in a set of presuppositions (assumptions which may be true, partially true or entirely false) which we hold (consciously or subconsciously, consistently or inconsistently) about the basic constitution of reality, and that provides the foundation on which we live and move and have our being.x
In the name of religious tolerance, we force people to abandon their religion when they enter the public sphere. In the name of tolerance, we are intolerant. How can this come to pass? office.”viii He argued that while he was president, he could push his faith to the side so that he could make rational decisions in the best interest of the country without succumbing to any religious bias. This appeal pleased Americans, helped to calm their fears, and went a long way to winning him the presidency. Many think, as Kennedy argued, that life is divided into private and public arenas and that faith should remain constrained to private life. They do so in the name of religious toleration. People tend to see religion as subjective and personal—as unique to every individual—and, therefore, as inviolable. Any public decision made based on one’s religious beliefs becomes a violation of others’ religious freedom, for that decision forces one person’s convictions onto another. This is essentially an appeal to a neutral and superior morality of reason. Rather than make a moral decision with which someone of another faith disagrees, people are encouraged to put their “religious” morals to the
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For our purposes, two of these phrases are important. First, a worldview is a “fundamental orientation of the heart.”xi The term “heart” is one that can carry many connotations in today’s culture, and, often times, we think of the heart as those aspects of life shaped by religion or spirituality. This definition, however, is too limiting, for Sire uses “heart” to reference the deepest part of the human soul, which includes aspects of wisdom, intellect, emotion, desire, will, and spirituality.xii Sire quotes another philosopher, Dr. David Naugle, who speaks of the heart as “the central defining element of the human person.”xiii One’s religious convictions can and often do shape the heart. Even so, other beliefs such as devotion to nationalism, patriotism, capitalism, or even to caring for one’s family can shape the heart. Even a devout atheist will hold fast to certain presuppositions that fundamentally reflect who they are. Nevertheless, it is undeniable that one’s convictions about religion—whether they be essentially Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, or even agnostic or
Ronald Reagan saw the danger that removing religion from the public sphere could bring. At a 1984 Ecumenical Prayer Breakfast he remarked:
Portrait of Ronald Wilson Reagan by Everett Raymond Kinstler, 1991
“The truth is, politics and morality are inseparable. And as morality’s foundation is religion, religion and politics are necessarily related… But we poison our society when we remove its theological underpinnings. We court corruption when we leave it bereft of belief…Without God, there is no virtue, because there’s no prompting of the conscience. Without God, we’re mired in the material, that flat world that tells us only what the senses perceive. Without God, there is a coarsening of the society. And without God, democracy will not and cannot long endure. If we ever forget that we’re one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under.”xvi
atheist—are one of the largest and most fundamental shapers of the heart. Secondly, because these convictions are fundamental to who we are, they provide “the foundation on which we live and move and have our being.”xiv What something or someone is will determine what that thing or person does. An apple tree will bear apples because it is an apple tree, and a pear tree will bear pears because it is a pear tree. An apple tree, because of what it is, will never bear pears. Likewise, someone who believes fundamentally in the importance of patriotism will place great value in respecting those who have served in the military and will act accordingly. The fundamental commitments that people hold will largely shape the way they think about and interpret the world and will consequentially influence what they choose to do.xv In perhaps the broadest sense, these fundamental commitments shape our moral beliefs. They influence what we do and do not value. This, therefore, is why we cannot have morality without religion. If we strip religion from the public sphere, we take away a very important, if not the sole, foundation on which morality rests.
Without religion, there is little virtue or morality left to temper and soften public policy. Politics without religion is left with only cold rationalism. At its best, it will turn into something akin to Huxley’s World State, and, at its worst, it will become something like Nazi Germany. Under Hitler, the Nazis suppressed the Church and replaced religious devotion with devotion to the Party. And in the name of the Party, the Nazis authorized some of the cruelest programs the world has ever seen. Wherein, then, lies our hope? If the Puritans taught us that we need a wall between Church and State, and if the wall as it currently stands risks turning the nation into an intolerant, amoral one, what options are left us?
If we strip religion from the public sphere, we take away a very important, if not the sole, foundation on which morality rests. Our only solution is to build a window and door in the wall. We must think of religion and politics as not dissolved into one another (as in seventeenth century England) or as completely disconnected (as in Nazi Germany), but as distinct. Religion and politics are separate entities with different roles, but they overlap and interact with each other. Since they are separate entities, the wall must remain. But it needs a window—we need the light given by religion’s morality to temper our political decisions. And it needs a door—some political issues are so religious in nature that the two cannot be separated at all.
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Reconstructing the wall is not asking too much of Americans. While these ideas might seem radical and might seem to necessitate great changes in the American mind, they are not completely foreign. The New England Puritans, after rejecting the Lords’ demands for Church and State, built their own semipermeable wall. In John Cotton’s words, “institutions (such as the government of church and of commonwealth be) may be close and compact, and coordinate one to another, and yet not confounded.”xvii Cotton argued that while the Bible said it was best to have godly men rule, it was not necessary or prudent to require that rulers be godly. It was the biblical role and duty of the Church both to prepare its members to rule wisely and to instruct its members to elect Godly leaders; it was a shame and a flaw for the Church to fail in this duty.xviii Cotton wrote, “Purity, preserved in the church, will preserve well ordered liberty in the people, and both of them establish well-balanced authority in the magistrates.”xix It was the role of the Church to teach virtue and morality to its congregations and then to encourage citizens to make political decisions informed by that morality. Faith, while remaining distinct from secular life, must nevertheless shape the way people think and act in secular life. Herein lies the hope for religion and politics in America. We must look to the example of the Puritans, recognize religion’s fundamental role in shaping morality, understand that we cannot remove religion from the public sphere without weakening the moral foundation that tempers public policy, and allow religion to remain a visible component of public life. Admittedly, the America of today is much different than that of Puritan New England. Whereas the Puritans had a relative consensus on religion, we now have a country with much greater religious diversity. Breaching the wall and allowing a greater influence of religion in the public sphere undoubtedly will cause strife between religious groups. That, however, should not dissuade us from reshaping the wall of separation between Church and State but should encourage us all the more. If religion disappears from public life, morality will struggle to survive, and this nation will risk losing the very toleration, respect, and good will that maintain peace between those groups. In the name of religious toleration, we risk losing our tolerance. “The Act of Supremacy, 1534,” The National Archives 16 June 2012 <http://www. nationalarchives.gov.uk/pathways/citizenship/rise_ parliament/transcripts/henry_supremacy.htm>. ii. John Cotton, “John Cotton to William Fiennes, Lord Saye and Sele,” The Correspondence of John Cotton, ed. Sargent Bush, Jr. (Chapel Hill: U North
Carolina P, 2001) 245. Cotton 246. iv. Thomas Jefferson, “Jefferson’s Wall of Separation Letter,” U.S. Constitution Online 1 Jan 1802, 30 June 2012 <http://www.usconstitution.net/jeffwall. html>. v. “Protestant Clergy Vs. the Catholic Candidate, JFK,” Time 19 Sept. 1960, 16 June 2012 < http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story. php?storyId=16920600>. vi. “Protestant Clergy Vs. the Catholic Candidate, JFK.” vii. “Transcript: JFK’s Speech on His Religion,” NPR 5 Dec. 2007, 16 June 2012 <http://www.npr.org/ templates/story/story.php?storyId=16920600>. viii. “Transcript: JFK’s Speech on His Religion.” ix. James W. Sire, The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog, 4th ed (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2004) 17. x. Sire 17. xi. Sire 17. xii. Sire 18. xiii. David Naugle, Worldview: The History of a Concept (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2002) 266. xiv. Sire 17. xv. Sire 19. xvi. “Remarks at an Ecumenical Prayer Breakfast in Dallas, Texas” Ronald Reagan Presidential Library 23 Aug. 1984, 29 July 2012 < http://www.reagan. utexas.edu/archives/speeches/1984/82384a.htm>. xvii. Cotton 244. xviii. Cotton defended his position with I Corinthians 6:1-5 (KJV), which reads, “Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints? Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life? If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the Church. I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? no, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren?”; Cotton 246. xix. Cotton 247. iii.
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Nathaniel Schmucker ‘15 is from Wayne, PA. He is a History major.
Whom are we friends with and why? On Philosophy & Friendship by Hannah Jung
hat Americans are expert consumers is nothing new. That we are consumers of relationships, however, is disturbingly true. The hookup culture of college campuses and accruing friends on Facebook exemplify this current trend of a kind of libertarian individualism. In The New York Times article “Friendship in an Age of Economics,” contemporary philosopher Todd May describes today’s friendships in economic terms, as consumeristic and entrepreneurial.i Consumeristic friendship is the kind one consumes to satisfy one’s own emotional needs or physical desire, typically in youth; entrepreneurial friendship is the kind one invests in an other in order to derive a future, external benefit (e.g. a job offer). Our culture’s superficial, self-serving type of friendship should alarm us as relational individuals, especially knowing that it was criticized by the ancients. May’s economic portrayal of consumerist and entrepreneurial friendship reflects not Manuscript of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, Houghton Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.
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only Aristotle’s taxonomy of pleasant and useful relationships, but also Cicero’s assertion that most men do not invest in relationships unless profit can be derived, and when they do, a calculated balance is kept.ii Our time pushes these imperfect relationships upon us, often at the expense of true friendship—the virtuous kind based on man’s goodwill for another, as described
contributing a notion of spiritual friendship based on the theological virtue of charity as a gift from God. Perhaps the finest articulation of the classic model of friendship lies in the Nichomachean Ethics of the Greek philosopher Aristotle (385-322 BCE), who classifies friendship under three causes—pleasure, utility, and virtue. Pleasure refers to physical satisfaction; util-
Aristotle poses a “puzzle”: “do friends really wish their friend to have the greatest good, for example, to be a god?” for upon being a god, he will cease to be a friend. by the ancient philosophers. Our culture pressures us into climbing up the ladder by having the right connections instead of teaching us how to experience and love other human persons; the college hookup culture and high divorce rates across the country attest to our deprived state of meaningful relationships. In a time when personal gratification and material gain can be accessed via people, we so easily overlook the importance of those we call friends. Even the definition of “friend” is already blurred by Facebook. Why are we friends with the friends we have? Why be friends at all; what makes friendship important? And what does Christianity inform us about friendship that secular philosophy has not? This article demonstrates how the Christian perspective, instead of dislodging the classical philosophy on friendship, embraces it while also
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ity, to practical advantage. When friendship is based on either or both these objects, it is susceptible to disintegration because it is not motivated by self-giving but by self-serving interest. One finds happiness not in the person of the friend, or in the relationship of friendship itself, but in an extrinsic quality (e.g. physical/emotional pleasure, economic/social utility, et cetera). True friendship is “reciprocated goodwill”; it is only through virtue, or goodness, that friendship is complete.iii A friend is, according to Aristotle’s definition, he who wishes good for his friend’s own sake, like the tree in Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree, who gives selflessly for the boy’s happiness. The tree does not give to the boy for the sake of her own happiness; rather, her happiness is in the giving, in the boy, and in the friendship itself. However, this children’s storybook example is only half the picture; the boy exclusively takes the tree’s gifts, making the relationship one-way, and hence not a virtuous, or complete, or true friendship. Even if the boy did give something back to the tree, the friendship is incomplete insofar as the giving is done for the sake of receiving something in return. A true friend is a virtuous person, whose friend is at the same time “another himself ”; true friendships, therefore, can only exist between men who are alike in virtue.iv On this matter of equality, Aristotle poses a “puzzle”: “do friends really wish their friend to have the greatest good, for example, to be a god?” for upon being a god, he will cease to be a friend.v You do not wish your friend to be a god—even if that is the greatest good—because by being a god both parties must forgo friendship, which is not only necessary for happiness, but also the greatest good attainable by man. Aristotle’s conclusion, however, will be challenged later by Christian philosophy. Nearly three centuries later Cicero (106-43 BCE), a Roman statesman and Stoic philosopher, took Aristotle’s classic model of friendship, specifically his emphasis on virtue, as the framework for his own. Positing friendship as the utmost priority of humanity’s concern, Cicero argues that virtue initiates
Communion of the Apostles, by Albrecht Altdorfer, c. 1516-1518
friendship and builds on Aristotle’s model, adding that virtue is what sustains the mutual relationship. Cicero reveals the optional nature of friendship by contrasting friends to family: “once goodwill [virtue] has been lost, the friend is no longer a friend, but the relative is still a relative.”vi Whereas family ties remain even if virtue is lost, friendship wholly depends on the human goodness we choose to give and receive. We cannot choose our family but we choose to have our friends, and the friends we do have come from decisions we have made ourselves. Friendship is therefore anthropocentric: man is to decide for himself whether to be and have a friend; neither a god nor any other man chooses our friends for us. Cicero further explicates the unnecessary character of friendship: because we are self-sufficient and our destiny is in our own hands, we feel no need to have friends.vii Hence it is not deprivation or need that drives us to friendship but rather a voluntary desire, rooted in our human nature, that begins
a friendship.viii Paradoxically, however, Cicero argues that it is this optional quality that makes friendship so “universally essential,” striking a keen resemblance to Aristotle’s claim that friendship is necessary for man to live happily.ix The ancients therefore celebrated the good of friendship as a gift from the gods for man’s happiness. The medieval philosopher and Christian historian Aelred of Rievaulx (1110-1167), while embracing the secular thoughts of Aristotle and Cicero in Book I of De Spiritali Amicitia (“Spiritual Friendship”), diverges uniquely by imbuing it with Christian theology, particularly the Bible. Taking Christ as the model for true friendship, Aelred introduces the groundbreaking idea that friends must be willing to die for each other, just as Christ died for humanity on the Cross. Before his death Jesus says to His disciples, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”x Jesus is called the exemplar of a true friend because He
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defies His own superiority as God by taking the flesh of man and invites His disciples to be His friends: “I no longer call you servants... Instead, I have called you friends.”xi Aelred’s innovation, that true friendship is realized in Christ the Son of Man, stems from Jesus’ death on the Cross—not as God but as man—and as a friend. Aristotle had treated the “puzzle” of wishing a friend to be godlike as unreasonable, and that of man’s friendship with God, insoluble. To Aristotle, such an intimate relationship between the ordinary and the extraordinary could not exist because communication of a finite being with God was impossible.xii But Aristotle could never have imagined the Incarnation, the Christian mystery in which God became Man: Jesus Himself, as God, calls us His friends by becoming man in the flesh, and we are invited to the friend-
we are inherently inclined to have and be friends. He reveals that God created woman to create friendship as an inspiration to charity: How beautiful it is that the second human being was taken from the side of the first, so that nature might teach that human beings are equal and, as it were, collateral, and that there is in human affairs neither a superior nor an inferior, a characteristic of true friendship.xvii
It was the Creator’s design to make humans not as disconnected individuals but as equal friends, and this point about equality and friendship echoes those made earlier by Aristotle, that friends are alike in virtue. However, Christianity expands Aristotle’s frame that one can only love the lovable. Christianity agrees, yet it reveals that through the sacrifice of Christ, all
Taking Christ as the model for true friendship, Aelred introduces the groundbreaking idea that friends must be willing to die for each other, just as Christ died for humanity on the Cross. ship Aristotle rejected as unthinkable. Moreover, this same event, unimaginable to the Greeks and Romans alike, solved Aristotle’s second paradox, the impossibility of wishing the highest good for one’s friend—that he become a god. The redemption in Christ and His promise of eternal salvation resolves this kind of wishing that Aristotle lamented as inconceivable: the wish to become friends with a totally perfect god—without wishing him to be something alien to his personhood. This undreamt possibility of Christian revelation offers the way around Aristotle’s dead end. Aelred further expounds on his case for true friendship by disqualifying the pleasure and utility-based Aristotelean friendships as not true, calling the former carnal and the latter worldly friendship.xiii Both types of friendships mirror May’s economic model of friendship: carnal friendship “is consumed by its own self ”; worldly friendship burns out as soon as the spark of profit is extinguished.xiv True friendship, then, is spiritual friendship—in the spirit of Christ’s undying love for man as a friend.xv Aelred describes this spiritual cornerstone of friendship as a “virtue by which spirits are bound by ties of love.”xvi Rather than diluting the ancient philosophy, Aelred enriches the virtue-based friendship by adding a spiritual, theological virtue to the natural, philosophical one. This spiritual virtue is what Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), the foremost philosopher of the medieval Scholastics, denotes as charity (caritas in Latin; agape in Greek). Supporting Cicero’s view that man becomes friends by nature, Aelred provides a theological basis that explains why
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people, according to their intrinsic human dignity, given through their being created in the image and likeness of God, are lovable. While friendship does depend upon equality of virtue, the lovable good in the character of the other—an equality received through the identity as children of God—opens the way for an even deeper friendship. Cicero had claimed that friendship originates from within us, not from an external need, and here we see that Christianity deepens this innate source of friendship: God has placed friendship at the innermost core of human beings, all made in the image of God. Thomas Aquinas, arguably the most eminent medieval Christian philosopher, also develops his ideas using the philosophical foundations of Aristotle and Cicero, centering their secular notions of virtue-based friendship on the spiritual, theological virtue of charity, mirroring Aelred’s account. As the ancients have discussed—that friendship (amicitia in Latin) comes from love (amor/philia)—Aquinas extends this derivation and applies it to Christianity. He articulates a specific kind of love—love based on fellowship with Christ—as charity, and this “charity is the friendship of man for God.”xviii Aquinas calls charity a virtue but specifies it by describing charity as a theological virtue acquired not by man’s own efforts but by God’s gracious love. Thus, like Aelred’s discussion of spiritual friendship, Aquinas’ explanation of charity completes, rather than competes with, the famed accounts of Aristotle and Cicero, two of the greatest pagan philosophers. In fact, this spiritual attribute of friendship appears in ancient philosophy: the Greeks did not believe
developed on purely voluntary grounds: “I have no duty to be anyone's friend and no man in the world has a duty to be mine.”xxi It is precisely this optional quality of friendship that makes it vulnerable and at the same time profound. Lewis, the former atheist who became a Christian apologist, further elucidates that “this love, free from instinct, wholly free from jealousy, and free without qualification from the need to be needed, is eminently spiritual.”xxii Lewis takes the friendship between David and Jonathan as a salient biblical example of the true, spiritual kind as noted in the Book of 1 Samuel: “Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself.”xxiii In David and Jonathan’s friendship we see precisely Aristotle’s (and Cicero’s) definition of a true friend as one who is “another himself ” and who is involved “more in loving than in being loved.”xxiv Friendship is this heavenly kind of relationship that is based on love, the virtue ancient and medieval philosophers held as the centrality of true friendship. At the end of the chapter, though, Lewis presents an extraordinary thesis by defying the ancients. We think that we have chosen our friends. However:
David and Jonathan by Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, 1642
that friendship would end because they thought the human soul itself was spiritual.xix Aquinas’ treatise on friendship does not replace but perfects the ancient archetype by defining the apex of virtue as charity, expanding the foundations of virtuous friendship to include not only human reason, but also heavenly revelation. Aquinas therefore presents friends as providential gifts of grace from God—gifts that human reason and natural virtue alone cannot merit.
In reality, a few years’ difference in the dates of our births, a few more miles between certain houses, the choice of one university instead of another, posting to different regiments, the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting—any of these chances might have kept us apart. But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking, no chances.xxv
Lewis maintains that for the Christian, it is God who has been at work for friendship to have begun between two perfect strangers. Jesus tells His disciples, “You did not choose me but I chose you.”xxvi We do
Lewis, the former atheist who became a Christian apologist, further elucidates that “this love, free from instinct, wholly free from jealousy, and free without qualification from the need to be needed, is eminently spiritual.” Though exalted as one of the highest goods of human existence by both secular and Christian philosophers, true friendship has been largely ignored by modern society. It remains an under-researched relationship in sociology compared to the immense studies done on marriage and family relationships.xx Unlike marriage, friendship serves no biological purpose and has no direct legal ramifications. Exploring friendship as a kind of love in The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis (18981963) argues that true friendship is rarely experienced, simply because it is biologically unnecessary. Lewis echoes Cicero’s philosophy that friendship is mutually
not choose our friends, but friendship itself is chosen for us. Hence friendship is selflessly theocentric: God allows us to cross paths with those whom we think we ourselves chose as friends, but whom in reality were chosen for us by God. Unlike Aristotle and Cicero who held that friendship revolves around human choices, Lewis, Aquinas, and Aelred all maintain that it is God who brings friends together in love, through their own cooperating volition, by His love for us. Thus, Christianity explains that our friends are not accidents but gifts. Just as reason and faith need not collide against each other, the Christian philosophy of friendship
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does not contradict the ancient. Instead of dismantling the secular discourse on friendship, Christian thinkers cemented it with theology, capping Aristotle and Cicero’s virtuous friendship with spiritual friendship. Establishing the theological virtue of charity as the highest virtue, Christianity views the voluntary nature of friendship as a providential boon from God. It is not by chance or luck whom we become friends with— or that we have friends at all—but from a work done by God out of love that spills over to our friendships, a love so great that God as man called His disciples His friends. While the ancient philosophies ultimately culminate in virtue-based friendship, the theological virtue of charity leads us to spiritual friendship that natural virtue and reason by themselves cannot attain. Christianity, therefore, offers a unique perspectivexxvii to the secular philosophy—both ancient and contemporary—by appreciating friendship as God’s gift to us out of His love; our friends, then, are a blessing. As the ancient philosophers recognized the ease with which we can settle for less from our relationships, the current cultural context challenges us, diverts us from what it means to have a true friend and be one. In this age of economics, we must consider how we approach our friendships and, as Flannery O’Connor writes, push back against our age “as hard as the age that pushes against you.”xxviii Todd May, “Friendship in an Age of Economics,” Opinionator The New York Times, 4 July 2010. Web. 15 June 2012. http://opinionator.blogs. nytimes.com/2010/07/04/friendship-in-an-age-ofeconomics/ ii. Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, trans. Terence Irwin, in Other Selves: Philosophers on Friendship, ed. Michael Pakaluk (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 1991) 1156a-1156b; Cicero, De Amicitia, trans. Frank Copley, in Other Selves: Philosophers on Friendship, ed. Michael Pakaluk (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 1991) XXI.79, XVI.58. iii. Aristotle 1156a-1156b. iv. Ibid. 1166a. Cicero makes a similar statement in De Amicitia: “the true friend is, so to speak, a second self ” (Cicero XXI.80). v. Aristotle 1159a. vi. Cicero V.19. vii. Ibid. IX.30. viii. Ibid. VIII.27. “[F]riendship takes its beginning from our very nature rather than from our sense of inadequacy...” ix. Ibid. VI.22, Aristotle, 1155a. Cicero absorbs the Aristotelian thought that friendship is the best gift and greatest good from the gods for human happiness: “of all the gifts the gods have given us, this [friendship] is our best source of goodness and i.
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of happiness” (Cicero XIII.47). John 15:13, as cited in Aelred of Rievaulx, De Spiritali Amicitia, trans. Eugenia Laker, in Other Selves: Philosophers on Friendship, ed. Michael Pakaluk (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 1991) I.30. xi. John 15:15 NIV. xii. James V. Schall What is God like? (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1992) 146. xiii. Aelred I.37, I.38. xiv. Ibid. I.41, I.43. xv. Ibid. I.45, I.9. xvi. Ibid. I.21. xvii. Ibid. I.57. In agreement with Cicero: “nature abhors solitude” (Cicero XXIII.88). xviii. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, trans. the Fathers of the English Dominican Province, Other Selves: Philosophers on Friendship, ed. Michael Pakaluk (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 1991) Q.23, A.1. xix. James V. Schall, “Aristotle on Friendship,” The Mind that is Catholic: Philosophical and Political Essays (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 2008) 109. xx. Kong, Kenneth C. C. “‘Are You My Friend?’: Negotiating Friendship in Conversations between Network Marketers and Their Prospects,” in Language in Society 32.4 (2003): 489. xxi. C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1960) 71. xxii. Ibid. 77. xxiii. 1 Samuel 18:1 NIV xxiv. Aristotle 1166a, 1159a. xxv. Lewis 89. xxvi. John 15:16 NIV. xxvii. This article is not to argue that a Christian is any truer a friend than anyone else, but that Christianity opens up the possibility for us to discover and discuss even deeper, truer friendship. xxviii. Flannery O’Connor, The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor Ed. Sally Fitzgerald (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1979) 229. x.
Hannah Jung ‘15 is from Seoul, South Korea. She is an English major.
Eliot’s Early Poetry
the Search for a Saving Faith by Will Hogan
n late December 1925, T.S. Eliot wrote to the critic Gorham Munson: “The Holy Ghost always descends in the nick of time, and always in disguise.”i It was fitting for this poet of prophecy and presage to foreshadow his own conversion. A rather unbelieving Unitarian until his conversion in 1927, Eliot was perhaps the quintessential modernist poet, able to capture and animate the ubiquitous sentiment of bewilderment and chaos caused by the unprecedented destruction and change that characterized the early twentieth century. At the time he wrote his most revered poem, “The Waste Land,” the world had just witnessed one of the bloodiest wars in history, one that for the first time made prominent use of chemical weaponry, tanks, and machine guns.ii As a result of the war and disillusionment following from it, many soldiers and their families, including Eliot, developed a condition defined at the time as neurasthenia, characterized by “profound mental and physical exhaustion,” along with feelings of unrest and discontent.iii At the same time moral relativism, an uncertainty about whether there were or could be any absolute moral truths, began to garner popularity in America and in many European states. Finally, Eliot was enduring a
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and Myth,” he praises his contemporary James Joyce, claiming that Joyce manipulates “a continuous parallel between contemporaneity and antiquity,” and that Joyce’s method of writing “is simply a way of controlling, of ordering, of giving shape and a significance to the immense panorama of futility and anarchy.”v This emphasis on history certainly had an extraordinary effect on his life and writing, for he could now separate himself from the broken world of the present, as well as the people in it, and enter a new perspective of timeless history, a history including religion (he examined works of Christian and Eastern religious thought). It is very likely that Eliot’s later interest in traditional Christianity can be traced to discoveries from this period of deep curiosity. In his essay “Tradition and the Individual Talent,” Eliot examines how the author should find inspiration in historical sources. At its base, his argument promotes the depersonalization of the author and his distance from the work. Discussing the characteristics of the ideal author, Eliot writes, personal crisis, for his marriage to Vivien Haigh-Wood was slowly unraveling. Vivien suffered from her own neurosis, leading Eliot to say that “only her brain was alive;”iv the author slowly distanced himself from his wife during the first ten years of their marriage. From a purely historical perspective, Eliot had good reason to feel as distressed as he did. The disorienting world of the early twentieth century was moving quickly, and in the eyes of many, in a lamentable direction. Disheartened, the early Eliot took to his pen to attempt to uncover a solution to the madness. The author’s life and early works reveal a search for relief from his personal crisis, a search that led him to examine and eliminate historicism, a kind of literary-cultural
the mind of the mature poet differs from that
of the immature one not precisely in any valuation of “personality,” not being necessarily more interesting, or having “more to say,” but rather by being a more finely perfected medium in which special, or very varied, feelings are at liberty to enter into new combinations.vi
He writes further, likening the author to a chemical catalystix that allows the reactants of the process— phrases, lines, ideas—to form.vii Without the catalyst, the reactants are nothing, yet the catalyst plays no part in contributing to the final product, the masterpiece. Eliot did not wish his personal circumstances or emotion to contribute in any way to his poetry. The irony
The author’s life and early works can be characterized as a search for relief from his personal crisis, one that caused him to examine and eliminate historicism, a kind of literary-cultural syncretism, and despair, amongst other solutions, before he considered traditional Christianity, which proved to sustain and satisfy him. syncretism, and despair, amongst other solutions, before he considered traditional Christianity, which proved to sustain and satisfy him. In his search for meaning, Eliot first turned to history, deeming it paramount to all other sources of literary inspiration in working through the anxiety and distress of his own circumstance. In “Ulysses, Order,
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is that despite his efforts, many critics still consider his work, especially what he wrote during his crisis years in the 1920s, to be profoundly expressive of his personal life. Some scholars, such as Allen Austin, argue, in contrast to what Elliot himself seems to say above, Eliot’s criticisms indirectly value the idea of self in the author’s work;viii Austin claims that “at no point in his career does Eliot hold the doctrine of impersonality.”ix
Biographer Lyndall Gordon writes, “To understand Eliot’s life it is necessary to see the continuity of [the] venture through [his] poetry.”x Though I mention Eliot’s theory of impersonality out of respect and fairness to the great author, to many critics, the correlation between Eliot’s life and work is undeniable and deserves examination. Eliot’s early poems published before his conversion in 1927 are often regarded as his greatest works, perhaps because they most strongly express the profound personal pain felt by Eliot amidst the perceived
but rather another dreadful contributor to the current “dry season,”xviii of which there is no end. In the midst of this “dry season,” Eliot wrote his most revered poem, “The Waste Land,” an incredibly complex work composed of multitudes of simultaneously heterogeneous and homogeneous allusions to great works of literary history. It is impossible to examine here the full breadth of this poem’s complexity, but it is relevant to consider Elizabeth Gregory’s intriguing argument identifying a subtle direction of the poem. She first argues that the opening three
chaos of the 1920s. The poems of this period in Eliot’s life share one defining characteristic: they are incredibly nihilistic and usually puzzle the reader as he or she sifts through the maze Eliot creates in relaying his underlying despair. These early poems fail to find a substantial and lasting solution to this despair, as Eliot explored various options before examining the claims of Christianity and Christ, in whom he was surprised to find, after his long search, one able to “bind up the brokenhearted” and “comfort all who mourn.”xi Eliot’s 1920 poem “Gerontion” is the first illustration of his search for meaning in his poetry, a poem which brought out the thoughts from which he would craft his masterpiece, “The Waste Land,” two years later. The poem starts with a heavy, dreadful declaration: “Here I am, an old man in a dry month / being read to by a boy, waiting for rain.”xii The speaker, to whom Eliot seems to relate personally, finds himself in a period of aridity, characterized by death and thirst for what was. He waits desperately for the solution, for the return of rain. In the meantime, he is disillusioned with the present, for as the boy reads to him, he remains disinterested and detached, retreating into his thoughts and pondering how his situation could have come to be. The man places blame on both the secular history of Europe (of which Eliot had been in constant study) and, strikingly, on “Christ the tiger.”xiii The speaker references the Old Testament prophecies of Christ, reminding us that it had been said “‘We would see a sign,’”xiv though he perceives the coming of Christ to be currently unfolding in the present, and the Lord to be “swaddled with [the earth’s] darkness.”xv He continues illustrating Christ in a negative light, as one who has come “in the juvescence of the year,”xvi not to forgive and cultivate a new spring but instead to devour the earth and her inhabitants.xvii To Eliot’s speaker, Christ is not the life-giving rain he longs for,
sections of the poem crystallize Eliot’s anxiety as an important theme. Madame Sosostris warns her client to “fear death by water,” a paranoid character in “A Game of Chess” worries about a noise under the door, and two women in a pub hold a conversation tinged with anxious uneasiness.xix But Gregory then considers Phlebas the Phoenician, a character introduced in the poem’s fourth section, “Death by Water,” whose entrance and immediate death she argues radically alter the direction of the poem. Her belief is that Eliot crafted Phlebas’ death to signal the inevitable futility of individualism, and promote conformity to timeless tradition:
Eliot was still struggling with the same problem, as well as the same solution. He was dissatisfied with despair, but simply could not find a better response.
Previously [in the poem], the [modern] poet was assumed to be at a loss, the sterile scion of a very old line, because he was unable to transform the words of his predecessors into something uniquely his own. Here, however, in the character of Phlebas, he learns that he has all along been mistaken in his enterprise. Rather than seeking to impose his personality on the tradition, he must seek to lose himself in it.xx Phlebas’ death is the lesson Eliot wishes to teach; it is a noble death in which both author and character are overcome by the waters of literary tradition. This suggests that Eliot’s escape from his personal unhappiness and disillusionment with a broken world was to lose himself in the despair, abandoning hope and finding peace in the knowledge of his own insignificance. Some critics believe that this was Eliot’s solution to coping with his situation in 1922, but this solution of accepting despair did not satisfy him for long. “The Hollow Men,” published in 1925, was Eliot’s final poetic outcry from within this godless “solution,” before the hope of Christ replaced the author’s despair. Rubén Balaguer summarizes the poem:
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The Hollow Men portrays a poetic consciousness in which intense nostalgia for a state of heavenly purity conflicts with the paradoxical search for a long-lasting form of order through acts of denial and alienation. To the common observation that The Hollow Men expresses the depths of Eliot’s despair, one must add that the poet in a sense `chooses´ despair as the only acceptable alternative to the inauthentic existence of the unthinking inhabitants of the waste land.xxi In many ways, the poem reflects a resurgence of new action in the already established “waste land,” but ultimately again portrays a world failing to find redemption in itself. The people inhabiting the world are
It is still unclear what exactly may have been the direct cause of this stunning conversion, but one can at least note some possible influences. After he published “The Hollow Men” in 1925, Eliot’s life entered a downward spiral, and he became more desperate than ever to find his escape. 1925-26 had been years of marital agony for Eliot and his wife, as her neuralgia worsened and she was stricken by the resurfacing of her own childhood fears of loneliness. Her husband’s constant fatigue caused by splitting time working long hours at his job at the bank and caring for Vivien had worn him down. His first solution was divorce, but he managed to delay the idea, figuring it would only cause him more anxiety. The Clark Lectures, released in 1993 but delivered by Eliot at Cambridge in 1926, reveal
Eliot’s later life would be spent putting to death his quest for making sense of an insensible world, for in Christ, he found his solution to the problems of his generation; in Christ, he was reborn, and able to express the joy of his new freedom in his later poems and plays. “the hollow men, / the stuffed men.”xxii It is unclear with what exactly the men have been stuffed, but it is certainly worldly, and the author realizes that it is undoubtedly insufficient. In the people’s common suffering, they “[lean] together [with a] headpiece filled with straw,” and the speaker cries: “Our dried voices, when / we whisper together, / are quiet and meaningless / as wind in dry grass.”xxiii Eliot, in recognizing the futility of the people’s attempt at unification, sees such despair as “the only acceptable alternative.” Thus, in the three years of reverberations from “The Waste Land,” Eliot still struggled with the same problem, as well as the same solution. He was dissatisfied with despair but simply could not find a better response. It is almost too perfect that Eliot so honestly based his final pre-conversion upon the image of the hollow man, for, before his next poem, his innocently acknowledged personal cavity would be filled. As Psalm 34:18 says, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”xxiv On June 29, 1927, Eliot was privately baptized into the Anglo-Catholic churchxxv and confirmed the following day.xxvi
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Eliot’s belief that there might be a spiritual solution to his marriage, that “the heart of light” might “silence” his discontent.xxvii Simultaneously, his rivalry with his contemporary Middleton Murry, who was also spiritually struggling, led him to posit the potential existence of “a higher authority than the ephemeral glamour of disillusion.”xxviii Perhaps it is then no surprise that, on a trip to Rome in 1926, Eliot shocked his family by kneeling down in front of Michelangelo’s “Pieta” out of admiration. F.B. Pinion describes the scene: “Here was a spiritually humble, contrite man ritualizing his
Les rois mages en voyage, James Tissot c.1886-1894
indirectly, Eliot’s own route to faith. To the author, the world is still the same, still broken; the narrating magus explains,
Thomas Stearns Eliot by Lady Ottoline Morrell, 1934
a cold coming we had of it / just the worst time of year… the camel men cursing and grumbling / and running away, and wanting their liquor and women / and the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters / and the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly / and the villages dirty, and charging high prices. / A hard time we had of it.xxxi
acceptance of a higher authority.”xxix At this point, it was clear that Eliot’s search for relief from the world’s brokenness had finally led him to examine the same roots of religion he had quoted in “The Waste Land” just a few years before, yet this time more personally and intensely. Eliot biographer Peter Ackroyd comments on this period of Eliot’s life: He was aware of what he called ‘the void’ in all human affairs--the disorder, meaninglessness, and futility which he found in his own experience; it was inexplicable intellectually . . . and could only be understood or endured by means of a larger faith.xxx Yet Eliot’s conversion is interesting in that this period of his life was not immediately characterized by joy, excitement, and long-sought relief. Eliot believed, but he was not sure that he knew why. Christianity was, in effect, his last resort, but a last resort that was surprising him, for he found he could accept its explanations of sin and morality. Intellectually, he had singled out Anglo-Catholicism as the sole means of understanding the world, and yet, there was much to be learned. Eliot’s first poem after his conversion was “The Journey of the Magi,” one of his most fascinating and yet often overlooked works. Many critics read the poem as Eliot’s honest expression of his unfamiliar and uncomfortable new life. It portrays in depth the three biblical magi’s journey to the newborn Christ and,
The second stanza describes a more dreamlike, positive journey, detailing the beauty of the land and exhibiting anticipation.xxxii Yet the poem surprises the reader, for after the accumulation of impatient excitement as the magi draw near to the Christ, the narrating magus admits: “we arrived at evening, not a moment too soon/ finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.”xxxiii That is the end of his description. In this deliberate flatness of tone, Eliot unfolds an anticlimax comparable to his own experience, as it was simply enough, but uncomfortable and still uncertain. The narrator then asks, “were we led all that way for/ Birth or Death?”xxxiv Eliot is only being honest, unsure of his new life, whether it is the death of his painful struggle to find purpose, or a birth through a newfound realization. Despite this early ambivalence, he would soon discover that he had been led “all that way” for both death and birth. Eliot spent his later life putting to death his quest for making sense of an insensible world, for in Christ, he found his solution to the problems of his generation; in Christ, he was reborn, and able to express the joy of his new freedom in his later poems and plays. Paul exclaims in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new is here!”xxxv Eliot himself became a new creation through divine transformation, but his literary self took on a new nature as well. “Ash Wednesday”(1930) and “Four Quartets” (1944) exhibit this rebirth, poems which most evidently express his faith. Eliot was finally able to write from within existential stability, unlike in his previous poems, where such stability was deeply yearned for but nowhere to be found.
The signature of TS Eliot
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Eliot did not believe in drastic conversions.xxxvi His belief was at first purely intellectual, and it grew gradually and cautiously. Despite his early skepticism and despair, Eliot was never dishonest or opaque in his expression. His poetry was potently nihilistic, and his personal disillusionment almost always found its way into his writing, even though this contradicted his literary manifesto. It is plausible to suggest that Eliot’s early success owes itself to such transparency, especially considering the relevance of Eliot’s restless cries to the hysteria of the post-war generation. A holistic examination of Eliot’s life and works offers an intriguing opportunity to explore how Christian faith can answer the dilemmas of those earnestly grappling, intellectually and emotionally, with a seemingly broken world. Here was a man who was internally broken, searching for the meaning why and for his own cure. He had eliminated all of his options, even abandoning the despairing thought that no option could satisfy him, before he was left to believe that a faith in God somehow would. But to his bewilderment, it did. Most if not all of us share Eliot’s struggle and know the travails of examining numerous options in search of intellectual stability and existential peace. Admittedly, some discover Christ to be the solution; others do not. But to consider that a literary giant, even idol, who for the longest time listed Christianity as his least likely hope, was surprised, converted, and later devoted his life to writing Christian poetry is nothing short of astonishing. Eliot’s biography has forced many critics and historians to reexamine their own faiths, and should inspire any reader to do the same. Valerie Eliot and Hugh Haughton, The Letters of T.S. Eliot: Volume 2: 1923-1925, ([S.l.]: Yale UP, 2011) 801. ii. William L. Hosch, World War I: People, Politics, and Power (New York, NY: Britannica Educational Pub. in Association with Rosen Educational Services, 2010) 48-53. iii. Marijke Gijswijt-Hofstra and Roy Porter, Cultures of Neurasthenia from Beard to the First World War (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2001). iv. Valerie Eliot and Hugh Haughton 635. v. T. S. Eliot and Frank Kermode, Selected Prose of T. S. Eliot (London: Faber, 1975) 177-178. vi. T. S. Eliot, The Sacred Wood: Essays on Poetry and Criticism (London: Methuen &, 1950) 53-54. vii. Ibid. 54. viii. Allen Austin, “T.S. Eliot’s Theory of Personal Expression,” Publication of the Modern Language Association, 3rd ser. 81 (1966): 303. ix. Allen Austin, John J. Pollock, Stephen A. Black, and Elisabeth Schneider, “The Consistency of T.S. i.
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Eliot in His Theory of Personal Expression,” PMLA 88.3 (1973):523-26. x. Lyndall Gordon, T.S. Eliot: An Imperfect Life (New York: Norton, 1999) 209. xi. Isaiah 61:1-2, fulfilled by Christ in Luke 4:1821. All scripture quotations come from the New International Version. xii. T.S. Eliot, “Gerontion”. v. 1-2. xiii. Ibid. v. 20. xiv. Ibid. v. 17. xv. Ibid. v. 19. xvi. Ibid. v. 19. xvii. Ibid. v. 33, 48. xviii. Ibid. v. 75. xix. T.S. Eliot, “The Waste Land,” v. 31, 33, 34-35. xx. Elizabeth Gregory, Quotation and Modern American Poetry: Imaginary Gardens with Real Toads (Houston, TX: Rice UP, 1995) 50. xxi. Rubén Balaguer, “Analysis and Interpretation of “The Hollow Men”,” University of Valencia, web, 30 Dec. 2011. <http://mural.uv.es/rubafa/hollowmen. htm>. xxii. T.S. Eliot, “The Hollow Men,” v. 17,18. xxiii. Ibid. 5-8. xxiv. Psalm 34:18. xxv. “Eliot, T.S.,” New World Encyclopedia, web, 30 Dec. 2011. <http://www.newworldencyclopedia. org/entry/T.S._Eliot>. xxvi. Peter Ackroyd, T. S. Eliot: A Life (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1984) 162. xxvii. Gordon 221. xxviii. Ibid. 222. xxix. F. B. Pinion, A T. S. Eliot Companion (Totowa, NJ: Barnes & Noble, 1986) 34. xxx. Ackroyd 160. xxxi. T.S. Eliot, “The Journey of the Magi,” v. 1-16. xxxii. Ibid. v. 21-29. xxxiii. Ibid. v. 30-31. xxxiv. Ibid. v. 35-36. xxxv. 2 Corinthians 5:17. xxxvi. Barry Spurr, “T.S. Eliot’s Extraordinary Journey of Faith,” ABC.net.au, web, 29 Dec. 2011. <http://www.abc.net.au/religion/ articles/2010/08/03/2972229.htm>.
Will Hogan ‘15 is from Pittsburgh, PA. He is a Neuroscience major.
A R e s p o n s e to
Thomas Paine’s Age of Reason By Suiwen Liang
homas Paine, a famed Revolutionary political activist and Founding Father, is also remembered for his attempts to expose Christianity as a fraud in his pamphlet Age of Reason; Being an Investigation of True and Fabulous Theology. As the title suggests, Paine investigates the purported superiority of true theology (i.e. Deism) over what he calls fabulous theology (i.e. revealed religion). A Deist, Paine professes to believe in one God but rejects revealed religion (like Christianity, Judaism and Islam). According to Paine, of all pretenders of true religion, there is nothing more derogatory to the true God than Christianity, and consequently, he dedicates the lion’s share of his work as a polemic against Christianity and the Bible. He inveighs against biblical revelation on two different fronts. First, God would not use human language (as in the Bible) to transmit his revelation. On top of that, alleged difficulties in the Bible undermine its claim to divine authority. Although Deism has largely disappeared from today’s arena of commonly held worldviews, Paine’s arguments against
Thomas Paine, Auguste Millière, c. 1876
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Christianity still resonate with modern atheists and critics of organized religion. Nevertheless, neither of his arguments presented in The Age of Reason proves to be compelling. Paine defines revelation as “something communicated immediately from God to man.”i According to Paine, true revelation cannot be communicated through written or spoken wordii because human language, being local and changeable, cannot convey a universal and unchangeable message.iii Even if one undertakes translation, the translation is never able to attain the full likeness of the original. Thus, he argues that all religious texts such as the Bible must be deemed counterfeit. In contrast, the true revelation and word of God is Creation, which is seen by all and corrupted by none—an “ever existing original.”iv Man discovers true theology when he embraces natural philosophy and ponders the wisdom of the Creator as revealed in the created world. Thus, he writes, “Search not the book called the scripture, which any human hand might make, but the scripture called the Creation.”v, vi
such an understanding nevertheless remains partial due to the limitations of language. Indeed, the Apostle Paul himself acknowledges that all understanding—of Scripture, of God, of the world, of oneself—has meaning that gets lost in translation until the resurrected lifeviii: “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.”ix Thus, even though man’s understanding of God’s special (and universal) revelation is incomplete, it can simultaneously be sufficient for what God has purposed. Most simply, Paine has missed the point of Christianity’s claim to special revelation. Caught up in the Age of Enlightenment’s fervor for a priori, necessary proofs about regularized laws of nature, he assumes that, if God has offered a special revelation beyond the laws of nature and Creation, there must be a necessary or logical proof explaining this fact. Yet, Christianity insists, at its heart, that this saving special revelation, the revelation fulfilled and culminated in the Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection of
Yes, Christian theologians speculate about the possibility of special revelations, but they only do so as a result of its historical actuality: their task is not to prove why God must choose special revelation but is rather why God could and would choose special revelation. Paine’s argument against special revelation, however, is not without problems. True, the use of language as a vehicle for revelation has its limitations: (1) The original manuscripts of the Gospels were each written in only one language in a society alive with countless languages, and (2) one cannot even perfectly preserve the likeness of the original through translation. Nevertheless, a crucial weakness in Paine’s argument is that he implicitly assumes that God lacks sufficient reason to use special revelation (i.e. revelation given to a particular person/people at a particular time) as a means of “publish[ing]... the glad tidings to all nations.”vii All one needs to do in order to reject this argument is to suggest a possible sufficient reason. And in fact, many people have done just that: theologians and philosophers have given explanations such as God valuing the disposition of a person’s heart, intimately interacting with Creation, or allowing man to play a role in God’s purposes more than man’s complete understanding of the revelation. In addition, even if part of the meaning gets lost in translation, it is plausible that God is willing to reveal something in a certain way (i.e. special revelation) in order to produce sufficient understanding of the revelation’s content, even while
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Christ, is not merely a surprise but a gift: it is totally unexpected, totally unnecessary, and thus a total, free gift from God. Yes, Christian theologians speculate about the possibility of special revelation, but they only do so as a result of its historical actuality: their task is not, as Paine imagines it, to prove why God must choose special revelation but is rather, in their estimation, why God could and would choose special revelation. Paine also devotes much of his pamphlet to challenging the authority of the Bible. He carries out his attack by listing out objections as he reads through the Bible; in fact, almost half the pamphlet is dedicated to this effort. The majority of his attacks involve claims to evidence against traditional authorship, accounts of divinely-mandated moral injustices, and contradictions within the text. Now, although neither time nor space permit a point-by-point response to every accusation levied, a few general observations can be made that seriously weaken Paine’s case against biblical authority. First, although Paine believes that he is able to dismantle the claims of traditional accounts of biblical authorship (i.e. Moses authored the Torah, Joshua authored
The Death of Moses, The Providence Lithograph Company, 1907
Joshua, etc.), even if he succeeds, he has not demonstrated how doing so subverts biblical authority: for an assent to traditional authorship is not a necessary condition for maintaining biblical authority. For example, the early Church Father Origen of Alexandria (184254) argued that “it mattered little whether a truth was spoken by Jesus or the apostles or Moses or one of the philosophers; if it were true, it was true, no matter its source.”x Or, to borrow Bishop Watson’s terminology, there is a difference between a “genuine” text and an “authentic” text: “A genuine book is that which was written by the person whose name it bears as the author of it. An authentic book is that which relates matters of fact as they really happened.”xi Watson’s point is that even if Paine succeeds in saying that Moses did
invalid. In arguing against traditional Mosaic authorship, Paine says that Moses could not have authored the Torah because Deuteronomy records his funeral. This line of reasoning is remarkably weak because traditional Mosaic authorship does not necessitate that Moses authored all of the Torah. It only holds that Moses played a significant role in its composition and therefore allows the possibility of editorial additions. Paine, however, takes a baffling all or nothing approach: since Moses likely did not author one part of the Torah, he could not have authored any of it. There is no reason to grant Paine this inference. Editions of The Age of Reason itself contain numerous editorial notes clarifying and expanding on Paine’s points, yet Paine would certainly say that such additions do not cast doubt on its authorship. It is unfortunate that Paine does not extend similar charity in reading the Bible, which he calls a forgery. Although affirming the traditional authorship of the Bible is not by any means a necessary condition for holding biblical authority, compelling arguments ought to be provided if it is to be questioned. Paine here gives none. Secondly, perhaps as a result of his insistence that true revelation must be universal and therefore not contextualized, Paine never makes the effort to understand the Bible’s Ancient Near Eastern setting and literary style. Few would object that contextual familiarity is necessary for any serious reading of an ancient text. One cannot help but get the impression that Paine takes on project far beyond his abilities. At times Paine’s ignorance becomes embarrassingly transparent for the reader, such as when Paine interprets Joshua’s removal of his sandal during a divine encounter as a comical gesture, not recognizing that such an act was a symbol of reverence in ancient times. Here and elsewhere Paine also criticizes the organization and structure of biblical writing, but one struggles to conceive how Paine is able to do so without any background or interest in the original Hebrew and its literary style.xii Paine’s refusal to engage the context of the Bible also accounts for many of his alleged biblical contradictions and moral injustices. He holds that the Gospel
What Paine lacks in thoughtful exegesis he tries to compensate for with pages chockfull of witticisms. Unfortunately, they serve as poor substitutes for substantive arguments. not personally write the Torah, Paine has not given good reasons to doubt the Torah’s content. Ignoring this strategic blunder, Christians still need not immediately abandon the truth of traditional authorship in the face of Paine’s assault, for his arguments against traditional authorship are quite obviously
writers could not have been or had access to witnesses of Christ’s ministry because of minor variances in the accounts, as in the case of the distinct wordings of the inscription above Jesus’ cross. Many of these alleged contradictions can be resolved when one evaluates what really constitutes an error according to the books’
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respective genres. Wording variances do not constitute contradictions when the Gospel authors, like many other ancient writers, were less concerned with providing word-for-word quotations (ipsissima verba) than preserving the actual voice (ipsissima vox). Likewise, chronological variances do not constitute contradictions when writers sometimes opted to arrange events thematically.xiii The Gospel authors, writing in a genre that was accessible to them, their audience, and much of the ancient world, had no intention for their writings to be scrutinized as modern government records or court briefs. Instead, they sought to convey how the historical events which they had witnessed fit into what they saw to be the overarching divine narrative. Consequently, the books of the Bible must be evaluated on their own terms, according to their genre and authorial intent. Paine, however, has no interest in doing this. Paine in short fails to present a sustained, rational critique of special revelation demonstrating the superiority of Deism. His argument against special revelation rests on the dubious premise that God cannot possess a sufficient motive in revealing himself through language or history, and the credibility of his attacks on the Bible suffers tremendously from his inability or unwillingness to move beyond his contextual insulation. It is true that the Bible seems to present moral and intellectual difficulties. Consequently, many have immersed themselves in studying the social-historical context of the biblical world and nuances of its languages in order to determine if such difficulties can be resolved or not. This form of careful and intellectually engaged treatment of the Scriptures exemplified throughout Christianity’s rich tradition of biblical interpretation is regrettably absent in Paine’s presentation, as it is in much modern anti-Christian and even secular humanist literature. What Paine lacks in thoughtful exegesis he tries to compensate for with pages chock-full of witticisms. Unfortunately, they serve as poor substitutes for substantive arguments. Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason: Being an Investigation of True and Fabulous Theology, Ed. Moncure D. Conway (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890) 23. ii. For simplicity’s sake, I will label such revelations that use language or experience as “special revelation.” This includes the Bible, miracles, and Christ’s earthly ministry, all of which Paine rejects. iii. Paine 46. iv. Ibid. v. Ibid. vi. Christians too maintain that Creation is a general revelation made by God but they also hold that God has given special revelation and that both i.
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revelations cannot contradict one another. vii. Paine 46. viii. Similarly, the philosopher David Bentley Hart writes, “I suppose I should take some comfort from the thought that the translator’s dilemma is only an acute instance of a chronic condition. The ‘indeterminacy of translation’... is a universal reality, one that cuts across not only our efforts to make sense of foreign tongues, but even our daily labor to make sense of one another, or even to understand what we ourselves mean when we speak... Thus the soul’s primordial appetite for truth in itself... has here only shadows—though often golden shadows—to feed upon. I suppose that is why perhaps the loveliest and most absorbing promise in Paul’s letters is that one day we will not only peer into a glass, darkly, but see face to face…” David Bentley Hart, “Through a Gloss, Darkly,” First Things, First Things, August 2012, http://www. firstthings.com/issue/2012/08/augsept. ix. 1st Corinthians 13:12 (NASB). x. Luke Timothy Johnson, “Taking the Bible Seriously,” The Dartmouth Apologia, volume 5, issue 1 (2011) 12. xi. Richard Watson, An Apology for the Bible: In a Series of Letters, Addressed to Thomas Paine, Author of a Book Entitled, The Age of Reason, Part the Second, Being an Investigation of True and of Fabulous Theology (New-Brunswick: Abraham Blauvelt, 1796) 17-18. Some Christians such as Origen would argue that the importance of the textual meaning even supersedes that of historical occurrence. xii. Indeed, in Part 1 of Age of Reason, Paine devotes a chapter to lampooning the misguided interests of Christian educators towards studying “dead languages” such as Greek: “The human mind has a natural disposition to scientific knowledges...It afterwards goes to school where its genius is killed by the barren study of a dead language, and the philosopher is lost in the linguist” (Paine 57). xiii. Charles Dunn, “Can We Trust the Gospels: The Historical Reliability of the Narratives of Jesus”, The Dartmouth Apologia, volume 2, issue 2 (2008) 10-11.
Suiwen Liang ‘13 is from Memphis, Tenessee. He is a Chemistry and Philosophy double major.
A R e s p o n s e to
Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion By Yesuto Shaw
ichard Dawkins is careful not to give Christianity, and also a more generic belief in God, any respect for even one page of his fourhundred page bestseller— according to him, it has received far too much of it already. So his pages are filled instead with deriding, yet witty, humor as he responds to the belief in God and proclaims, with as much certainty as he feels he is able, that God is not out there. Amidst his ridicule, however, some good logic can be found and he does have some arguments right. Despite these, Dawkins’s main arguments against any form of theism are lacking in weight and certainly not as conclusive as he claims. In his rather lengthy book, Dawkins seeks not only to prove that the existence of God is so improbable as to be dismissible but also to demonstrate several other things, such as where religious belief might have come from, why it is so widespread if there truly is no God, and how we can find moral standards without a God. However, while these other points are similarly open to refutation and deserving of a response, this review will focus on Dawkins’s main arguments against the existence of God in general.
First, Dawkins makes it clear that he is denying the existence not of any particular God, but rather of any God that could be described as a “supernatural creative intelligence lurking behind the observable universe.”i He also makes it clear that he understands that no one can completely disprove the existence of God. However, citing Bertrand Russell, he sees this as similar to the fact that no one would be able to completely disprove the claim that there is a small teapot orbiting the sun.ii Instead Dawkins seeks to show that the probability of God’s existence is so low that it makes the most sense to declare oneself an atheist. Before providing his ultimate argument against the existence of God, Dawkins attempts to dismantle what he considers to be the main opposing arguments for God’s existence. He does a good job discounting certain arguments, such as the ontological argument, which encourages one to imagine the greatest possible being and then claims that this being must exist in reality because, if it didn’t, there would conceivably be a being greater since existing in reality is greater than not existing. In response to this, he argues that it makes no sense to insist that a being exists only because we
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have the ability to conceive of it. However, not all of the arguments that he claims to dispose of are as weak as this. Indeed, Dawkins next spends many pages trying to discount any scriptural evidence as a reason to believe in God. But, in so doing, he makes several false claims. Dawkins first claims (with no cited evidence) that “ever since the nineteenth century, scholarly theologians have made an overwhelming case that the gospels are not reliable accounts of what happened in the history of the real world,”iii as well as that “all [the gospels] were written long after the death of Jesus”iv and that the four evangelists who wrote the gospels “almost certainly never met Jesus.”v While these claims may be popular among amateur biblical scholars, they are certainly not the only valid theories among professional scholars today. Contrary to Dawkins’s first claim—that the gospels are not reliable accounts of history—archaeological discoveries of the twentieth and twentyfirst centuries have verified many of those historical accounts of the gospels challenged in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. According to acclaimed twentieth century archaeologist William F. Albright, The excessive scepticism shown toward the Bible by important historical schools of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, certain phases of which still appear periodically, has been progressively discredited. Discovery after discovery has established the accuracy of innumerable details, and has brought increased recognition to the value of the Bible as a source of history.vi As far as the claim that the authors of the gospels lived long after Jesus, this also is not nearly as certain among scholars as Dawkins makes it sound. Many scholars of ancient texts, such as Bruce Metzger, Sir Frederic Kenyon, Rudolf Bultmann, Bart D. Ehrman, and Raymond E. Brown, date the authorship of the gospels in the first century based on the discovery of certain partial manuscripts, which would allow for the writers to have lived during the lifetime of Jesus.vii
Richard Dawkins at the University of Texas, 2008
so because it was the accepted practice of their time. Dawkins assumes that their belief in God was not genuine or grounded in reason but instead their only option, limited as they were by their cultural environments. As far as modern scientists go, he cites several surveys showing that modern scientists who believe in God are largely outnumbered by those who don’t. He goes on to cite studies that indicate that religiosity is negatively correlated with education, seeming to suggest that the more educated people become, the more likely they will realize that believing in God is foolish. However, the connection between learning and irreligiosity is not a definite one, and Dawkins is wrong to assume that a contemporary correlation between the two is an indication of causation. One can imagine many other explanations for this trend—cultural, social, methodological—that don’t fit Dawkins’s thesis. Furthermore, it is possible that the radical skepticism
In The God Delusion, [Dawkins] shows that his strong atheist stance is based on simplistic and misinformed assumptions. Another notable argument that Dawkins attempts to dismantle is the practice of citing several well-known religious scientists as examples of people who were able to integrate faith, science, and reason. In addressing this type of argumentation, Dawkins suggests that the scientists of old who were believers in God were only
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encouraged by modern educational institutions, despite producing many successes, has also often been misapplied to areas, like faith, which do not lend themselves to empirical study. Dawkins is right, however, in asserting that representatives of religious faith may be overstepping their bounds when they claim
that the examples of famous scientists are reasons for everyone to believe. Dawkins must realize, however, that the converse holds true as well; the examples of atheist scientists like him cannot be used as reasons not to believe in the existence of God. His theory about scientists of old holding the popular opinion on religion at the time could hold just as true in the reverse today. Finally we come to Dawkins’s central argument, to which he devotes an entire chapter, entitled “Why There Almost Certainly is No God.” His main reason for believing that the probability against God’s existence is greater than the probability for it is this: Natural selection is not only a parsimonious, plausible and elegant solution; it is the only workable alternative to chance that has ever been suggested. Intelligent design suffers from exactly the same objection as chance. It is simply not a plausible solution to the riddle of statistical improbability. And the higher the improbability, the more implausible intelligent design becomes. Seen clearly, intelligent design will turn out to be a redoubling of the problem. Once again, this is because the designer himself (/herself/itself ) immediately raises the bigger problem of his own origin. Any entity capable of intelligently designing something as improbable as a Dutchman’s Pipe (or a universe) would have to be even more improbable than the Dutchman’s Pipe. Far from terminating the vicious regress, God aggravates it with a vengeance.viii Dawkins’s argument here is clear. He believes that a God who created the universe would be too complex a beginning to be the most probable cause of the universe. Just as natural selection provides slow transitions from simpler organisms to more complex ones, so he sees the cause of the beginning of the universe as making the most sense if it occurred in the simplest way possible. He says it more concisely earlier in the book: “To return to the infinite regress and the futility of invoking God to terminate it, it is more parsimonious to conjure up, say, a ‘big bang singularity,’ or some other physical concept as yet unknown.”ix As it turns out, another Apologia article has already addressed this argument. In “A Proof for the Existence of God,” Peter Blair offers a response to the very point Dawkins raises. As Blair writes, Dawkins errs in assuming that God is overly complex, when classical Christian philosophy actually considers God to be truly simple. This may sound preposterous with all of the attributes and characteristics of God that are often discussed, but, Blair writes, “Aquinas also argues that though we can distin-
Cathedrale Saint-Pierre de Nantes, France
guish in thought between God’s goodness, his truth, his power, his intellect, his will, his existence, etc., in God himself there actually is no distinction between these things. God’s goodness is his truth, which is his will, which is his power, and so on. God is a simple unity.”x It could also be argued that the immaterial and the intellectual are inherently more simple than the material and the physical. “For instance, the idea of something such as a cathedral is much simpler than the thing itself, the physical cathedral. An idea has no direction, size, shape, weight, or any spatiotemporal characteristics. It has no parts and no constituent material. In all these ways, it is simpler than that which it represents.”xi In his book God Is No Delusion: A Refutation of Richard Dawkins, Father Crean puts it this way: A designer, so to speak, is just a being with a design. So since a design is something very simple, as the example of the cathedral shows, a designer is just a being with something very simple. So there is no reason why he himself should be complicated... the designer must be at least as “rich in reality” as the thing he designs, because before he produces it he must have it in himself in a certain way. He must “have” it in an intellectual way, in order to cause it to exist in the world. In this sense, a designer must have the same richness as what he makes. But he need not have the same complexity.xii
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The Creation of the Animals by Raphael, 1518-19
Finally, Blair provides a simple but compelling summation of the argument for this notion of divine simplicity: “As God is an immaterial being possessed of an intellect and a will, but not of a body or any physical parts, there is every reason to think he would be simple.”xiii Dawkins’s assumption that a physical cause for the beginning of the universe is more probable than an immaterial cause, namely God, isn’t indisputable. To many, the probabilities seem to indicate that it is more likely that a growing, developing, physical universe was started by an unchanging, non-physical source. That this unchanging, non-physical cause was a conscious being is not necessarily something that falls under the realm of probability in and of itself, as Dawkins seems to believe, and should perhaps be considered through other avenues, such as whether or not there are indications in the contemporary world of God’s existence. Overall, Richard Dawkins is clearly an intelligent, educated, and, yes, witty man. But in The God Delusion, he shows that his strong atheist stance is based on simplistic and misinformed assumptions. For some of what would be his strongest points he uses faulty data without providing sources to back them up, and he often makes stronger claims than his evidence warrants. Therefore, the probability that God doesn’t exist is not nearly as easily concluded as Dawkins claims it is, and it would seem that the probability may even point in the other direction. Perhaps the delusion here is not so much with those who believe in God as those who believe in Dawkins.
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Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (Boston: Mariner Books, 2008) 35. ii. Ibid. 74-5. iii. Ibid. 118. iv. Ibid. v. Ibid. 122. vi. William F. Albright, The Archaeology of Palestine, Revised. ed. Harmondsworth (Middlesex: Pelican Books, 1960) 127-8. vii. Josh McDowell, Evidence that Demands a Verdict: Volume 1 (San Bernardino: Here’s Life Publishers, Inc. 1986) 46-8. viii. Dawkins 145-6. ix. Ibid. 101-2. x. Peter Blair, “A Proof for the Existence of God,” The Dartmouth Apologia 5.1 (2011): 29. xi. Ibid. xii. Thomas Crean, God Is No Delusion: A Refutation of Richard Dawkins (Oxford: Family Publications, 2007) 38. xiii. Blair 29. i.
Yesuto Shaw ‘15 is from Stone Mountain, GA. He is a Psychology major.
A R e s p o n s e to
Ross Douthat’s Bad Religion By Elena Zinski
n Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics, Ross Douthat directs his warnings concerning modern Christianity at the ordinary America, “where papal encyclicals rarely penetrate and the works of Richard Dawkins pass unread.”i Here the theological history of Christianity is most easily forgotten and thereby disregarded. Many of Douthat’s criticisms echo exactly the points emphasized by modern, secular critics, albeit Douthat admits the distinction between bad and good religion. By sifting out the bad religion, the orthodox Christianity that remains will not only be more authentically Christian but also a tougher target. Douthat proposes that “traditional Christian faith might have more to offer this country than either its flawed defenders or its fashionable enemies would lead one to believe.”ii His book defends this claim with a history and critique of modern Christianity, as well as suggestions for a stronger future. In response to the massive cultural changes embraced during the 1960s and 1970s, Ross Douthat
cites two responses of American Christianity. The first he calls “accommodation”, wherein religious leaders actively sought the “inclusion of the counterculture”iii in their teachings. In this spirit, guitars replaced organs in liturgy, general moral guidelines replaced particular commandments, and the philosophies of the day replaced the theology of the ages. Christian leaders nobly intended to open the doors of the faith to a society caught in the anti-authority Vietnam War era and the Sexual Revolution, but their efforts obscured Christianity’s unique identity. Soon, many religious communities became indistinguishable from secular culture. Douthat remarks that during this period, “It became hard to distinguish a religious education manual from a typical textbook for building self-esteem.”iv Fearing they could alienate a generation of believers, spiritual leaders shied away from Christianity’s peculiar particularities and, in doing so, shied away from the unique answers their religion was able to offer to perennial problems. These were the paradoxes and difficult teachings that made Christianity hard to accept; they
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were what made it worth accepting. Douthat titles the second response to the ‘60s and ‘70s “resistance”, an approach that rejected both popular culture and the theological compromises embraced by accomodationists. At its best, the Resistance movement produced leaders like Pope John Paul II, who combined a concern for young people with his commitment to a strict code of sexual integrity with his Theology of the Body series.v In this same spirit, many Catholic leaders attempted to save the Vatican II reforms from those who took them too far. Leading Evangelical colleges strengthened their academic programs and attracted top students for serious study, leading to a “coterie of Evangelical scholars who could compete as equals with the best and brightest in the wider academic world.”vi These scholars loaned intellectual credibility to the central claims of Christianity. Yet, just like accomodationism, the resistance movement had its perils. Some communities isolated themselves from popular culture, to the point that certain denominations of Christianity existed within their own social and cultural circles, and did not effectively engage the non-Christian community. This has led to “the stuff of Kirk Cameron movies and Christian rock music, geared to an undemanding audience and easily dismissed by anyone outside the circle of the devout.”vii While these popular Christian resources may meet a particular demand within their communities, they can border on emotional manipulation that makes theologically faulty lessons appeal to a dedicated body of believers. Additionally, this type of inverted subculture fails to support the intellectual understanding necessary to defend Christianity. In the void of orthodox Christianity’s decline, Ross Douthat points out that America as a whole became “more religious but less traditionally Christian; more spiritually minded but less churched.”viii New theories emerged about the character of God and the person of Christ. Alternative accounts of Jesus derived from
Pope John Paul II in Brazil, 1997
claim as authoritative texts invalid. They tend to focus on one half of a paradox about Christ—either his humanity or divinity, not both—and thereby attempt to create a “noncontradictory Jesus.”x These small deviations in the character of Jesus Christ gradually lead to a relativist perspective on God as a whole and to some of the greatest heresies of our time. Soon, God becomes so generic and lacking in specific traits that he is “an experience rather than a person,”xi or “so universal that He’s in you as you.”xii This creator no longer demands reverence or obedience from his creation, as he has been conveniently demoted to a vague being who desires nothing except the happiness of his followers. Disintegration in the traditional person of God has supported an indifferent attitude toward morality, which descended from the Sexual Revolution. After all,
In the void of orthodox Christianity’s decline, Ross Douthat points out that America as a whole became “more religious but less traditionally Christian; more spiritually minded but less churched.” gospels not included in the Christian Canon, which Douthat describes as “derivative in their substance, inferior in their art, and tedious in their embellishments,” took hold of popular imagination.ix The alternative gospels used to justify such changes in Christ’s character are fraught with historical inadequacies, translation issues, and sketchy sources that make their
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“If God is beyond personality, perhaps He is beyond morality as well—and thus why should his beloved followers worry overmuch about petty questions like whom they happen to be sleeping with, or how best to dispose of their income?”xiii Under the guise of Christianity, preachers focus on only God’s love and never God’s commandments. According to Douthat, popu-
lar televangelist (and accomodationist) Joel Osteen promulgates this view, with sermons based on the idea that “God gives without demanding.”xiv While Christian theology certainly holds the supreme compassion and generosity of God, Orthodoxy also acknowledges a “hierarchy of goods and ordinary duties.”xv When these moral obligations are violated, orthodox Christianity believes there are consequences, which ultimately make the Incarnation, Death, and Resurrection of Christ matter. With the popular ‘to each his own’ mentality, “men may smile at their neighbor without loving them and decline to judge their fellow citizens beliefs’ out of a broader indifference for their fate.”xvi
love, a love that no genuine orthodox theologian ever claimed would be easy. As a culture, hopefully we can follow in the footsteps of G.K. Chesterton’s search for the truth. In the introduction to his book Orthodoxy, Chesterton describes his efforts to create a coherent worldview separate from traditional Christianity. He concludes, “I did try to found a heresy of my own; and when I had put the last touches on it, I discovered that it was orthodoxy.”xxii Likewise, perhaps our culture’s obsessive search over the past century for a new understanding of God will lead us to the bold discovery that truth lies where we left it, in Orthodoxy.
Perhaps Christian communities would gain more influence if they led by “example rather than engagement.” C.S. Lewis emphasizes precisely this corrective burden of love in his essay “The Weight of Glory” when he argues that “our charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner—no mere tolerance or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment.”xvii Christianity does both its followers and society as a whole a great disservice when it fails to compassionately articulate definitive statements regarding morality, which come from the particular characteristics of God. There is no Christian forgiveness in a world of relativistic tolerance; there is no redemption through Christ where judgment is a mere matter of “intolerance.” Adopting C.S. Lewis’ concept of love’s responsibility, Ross Douthat harshly criticizes American Christianity in hopes of encouraging a stronger future. He ends Bad Religion with suggestions for restoring Orthodox Christianity. In his view, orthodoxy has the tremendous potential to become a “radical alternative”xviii in our modern culture, like it did when Christianity first began. Perhaps Christian communities would gain more influence if they led by “example rather than engagement.”xix Though different denominations of Christianity should join together to restore a proper understanding of their shared theology, this commitment should not come at the cost of erasing theological differences. Douthat believes that American Christianity’s efforts should remain “ecumenical but also confessional”xx instead of simply embracing a Christianity of the “lowest common denominator.”xxi Douthat stands against our priests, pastors, and spiritual leaders who have disregarded the particulars of our theology in exchange for a general validation of our culture’s disordered values. The remedy to bad religion must be good theology voiced with genuine Christian
Ross Douthat, Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics, (New York, Free Press, 2012) 4. ii. Ibid. 293 iii. Ibid. 91 iv. Ibid. 100 v. Ibid. 119 vi. Ibid. 125 vii. Ibid. 139 viii. Ibid. 64 ix. Ibid. 170 x. Ibid. 153 xi. Ibid. 223 xii. Ibid. 221 xiii. Ibid. 229 xiv. Ibid. 183 xv. Ibid. 230 xvi. Ibid. 234 xvii. C.S. Lewis, “The Weight of Glory,” 1942. xviii. Douthat 279. xix. Ibid. 280 xx. Ibid. 286 xzi. Ibid. 286 zzii. Gilbert K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (Simon & Brown, 2011) 9. i.
Elena Zinski ‘15 is from Wheaton, Illinois. She is an Arabic major.
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A Prayer for Dartmouth This prayer by professor of religion Lucius Waterman appears on a plaque hanging outside Parkhurst Hall. O Lord God Almighty, well-spring of wisdom, master of power, guide of all growth, giver of all gain. We make our prayer to thee, this day, for Dartmouth College. Earnestly entreating thy favour for its people. For its work, and for all its life. Let thy hand be upon its officers of administration to make them strong and wise, and let thy word make known to them the hiding-place of power. Give to its teachers the gift of teaching, and make them to be men right-minded and high-hearted. Give to its students the spirit of vision, and fill them with a just ambition to be strong and well-furnished, and to have understanding of the times in which they live. Save the men of Dartmouth from the allurements of self-indulgence, from the assaults of evil foes, from pride of success, from false ambitions, from hardness, from shallowness, from laziness, from heedlessness, from carelessness of opportunity, and from ingratitude for sacrifices out of which their opportunity has grown. Make, we beseech thee, this society of scholars to be a fountain of true knowledge, a temple of sacred service, a fortress for the defense of things just and right, and fill the Dartmouth spirit with thy spirit, to make it a name and a praise that shall not fail, but stand before thee forever. We ask in the name in which alone is salvation, even through Jesus Christ our Lord, amen. The Reverend Lucius Waterman, D.D.
The Nicene Creed We, the members of The Dartmouth Apologia, affirm that the Bible is inspired by God, that faith in Jesus Christ is necessary for salvation, and that God has called us to live by the moral principles of the New Testament. We also affirm the Nicene Creed, with the understanding that views may differ on baptism and the meaning of the word “catholic.”
We [I] believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen. We [I] believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father. Through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end. We [I] believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father [and the Son]. With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets. We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.
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Photo by Clarissa Li â€˜15