15 Mar

Announcing the MARS HILL AUDIO App for iOS users

Category: Fresh Tracks
Published: 03/15/18

Now access the Journal directly from your device through the MARS HILL AUDIO App.

MARS HILL AUDIO is happy to announce that all iOS users can now stream or download the Journal and other MARS HILL AUDIO products through our newly released app. Here’s how:

1. Make sure you have registered for a free online account with us. (You do not need to have a paid subscription in order to enjoy our app.)

Current CD subscribers who have never registered an online account will need to make sure that your email address matches up with the email associated with your paid Journal subscription. Please call 1.800.331.6407 or contact us using our webform if you have any questions.

2. Search for MARS HILL AUDIO in the App Store using your preferred mobile device (i.e., iPhone or iPad).

2. Install our app for free.

3. Once installed, open the MARS HILL AUDIO App and follow the login prompts. You will receive an email with an access code confirming your account with us. Once confirmed, browse our app homepage or go directly to your library to begin listening.

Android users, do not despair! We are working on yours presently and hope to make it available soon.

7 Nov

R.I.P. Richard Wilbur (1921-2017)

Category: Fresh Tracks
By: Eve Ruotsinoja
Published: 11/07/17
Photograph by Stathis Orphanos

Former poet laureate, Richard Wilbur, died on October 14, 2017. Known for his technical skill and subtle complexity, Wilbur focused his poems in compact forms and with modest themes. Among his contemporaries, Wilbur stood out as unusually cheerful, a quality due as much to his Christian conviction in the goodness of things as to his general disposition. 

In honor of Richard Wilbur, MARS HILL AUDIO has made available an interview from Volume 46 on which Wilbur discusses his 2000 collection of poems entitled Mayflies. Click here for more information about the life and work of Richard Wilbur and to access the archive recording.

Wilbur also appears as the subject of an essay by David Lyle Jeffrey entitled “God’s Patient Stet.” This essay originally appeared in First Things and was recorded and republished as an Audio Reprint by MARS HILL AUDIO.

7 Sep

In Memoriam: Robert W. Jenson (1930-2017)

Category: Fresh Tracks
By: Eve Ruotsinoja
Published: 09/07/17

One of the greatest living theologians, and in the opinion of many the greatest American theologian, Robert W. Jenson, died on September 5, 2017. Jenson was the author of numerous books and articles, including Story and Promise: A Brief Theology of the Gospel about JesusEssays in Theology of Culture, and his two-volume magnum opus Systematic Theology.

Known as a fearless and compelling theologian, Jenson was the sort of thinker with whom it was worth struggling even if in the end you disagreed with nearly everything he said. By way of tribute to Jenson’s life and work, MARS HILL AUDIO is releasing an archive interview with Robert Jenson from volume 20 of the Journal on why the life of the mind matters to the Church.

Click here to read more about the work of Robert Jenson and to listen to the full interview.

12 Jun

The leaning tower of gabble

Category: What We're Reading
By: Ken Myers
Published: 06/12/17

Oliver O’Donovan on how authority and language connect us with reality and thus sustain community

In his magisterial primer on what makes Christian ethics Christian, Resurrection and Moral Order (Eerdmans, 1988), moral philosopher Oliver O’Donovan presented a thorough and compelling account of the nature of authority. Authority, O’Donovan argued, “is what we encounter in the world which makes it meaningful for us to act. An authority, we may say, is something which, by virtue of its kind, constitutes an immediate and sufficient ground for acting.” Authority is that which authorizes our actions, because it informs us about what really is the case, and thus reliably guides us in the way that we should go. Such authorization assumes that reality itself is the work of an Author, who has given the world an intelligible and good order in which our actions can be meaningful.

In his 2013 Self, World, and Time, O’Donovan briefly revisits the question of authority in the context of discussing the social nature of moral reflection, what was traditionally designated practical reasoning. In a chapter titled “Moral Communication,” he examines the giving of advice, the obeying of authority, and the teaching of moral principles as three forms of communication in which our role as moral actors in community is made evident.

“Authority,” he writes, “is a focused disclosure of reality, one that demands we turn our attention away from everything else and concentrate it in this one place.” When authority speaks, those under authority do well to attend. But authority doesn’t always explain or justify every word spoken. “‘There are good reasons for this, which I dimly perceive but do not fully comprehend!’ — that is the characteristic form of recognition we accord to any authoritative utterance. That is the best reason available to us in the circumstances. Faith in things unseen is always an element in practical reasonableness. The communicative framework of our practical reasoning does not allow us to take in the complete picture straight off. . . . Truth is mediated in successive moments, giving directions step by step when and as we need it. So while every authority presents reasons to act thus and not otherwise, it presents these reasons without their being wholly conspicuous. They are implicit, only partially disclosed; we must act according to a truth we have only imperfectly grasped.”

Modern societies prefer to speak of “leadership” rather than “authority,” because the latter suggests both hierarchy and a pre-existing order of things to which we should all conform our lives. But suspicion of authority is destructive of community, and its degenerative consequences are becoming more evident by the day. As O’Donovan writes, “Authority penetrates social existence and gives it cohesion. Discomfort with authority in general (as opposed to discomfort with this or that exercise of it) is discomfort with society itself. Liberal and egalitarian philosophy is perfectly clear-sighted in distrusting authority, for authority undermines the presumption that society is a contractual relation among equally self-possessed adults, a presumption which screens out, in Martha Nussbaum’s apt phrase, ‘all the times of asymmetrical or unusual dependency . . . through which all citizens pass.’”

O’Donovan notes that submission to authority in society is not an act of blind and mindless obedience. In our experience, “one exercise of authority may disclose a more extensive view than another, and it is this that makes the difference. Those whose power of speech — explaining, clarifying, making the mysterious plain — commands our believing adherence exercise ‘intellectual authority,’ the authority of wisdom. The teacher who first opens the disciple’s eyes gestures towards a wide horizon.”

And then comes a paragraph that connects with many of the motives, means, and manners of MARS HILL AUDIO. I will leave it to readers and listeners to make the connections:

“Communication is the key. Knowledge uncommunicated, however great, is socially unfruitful. (There is, it must be confessed, a slightly desperate air about the great libraries of the Western world, so full of books unread from century to century; but at least the books are there, and encourage us to hope that we may, one day, get round to reading more of them. More desperate by far are the unread bibliographies of our scholarly writings and the databases of our online bookstores, where so much intellectual labor is reduced to a minuscule electronic note!) Intellectual authority is connected with speech used to good effect, the ability to deploy language powerfully and clearly. ‘The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools poor out folly’ (Prov. 15:2). The relentless output of gabble never compensates for loss of articulate control. Acquired skill in the resources of language, its vocabulary, linguistic structures, and rhetorical organization, is essential to framing and focusing the nuanced discernment of reality. It sustains authority, and when it falls into decay, authority falls with it. Linguistic impoverishment in a community causes the most urgent expressions of concern to be dismissed as subjective opinion, and drives the structures of its government away from subtle discernment back upon the crude manipulations of power. Such is our age, which congratulates itself that language evolves, while forgetting that it devolves. Such are our great enterprises with their large budgets and tiny dictionaries, and such is our public discourse, where a leader’s incapacity to construct the simplest sentence is seen as a strong political selling point.”

— From Oliver O’Donovan, Self, World, and Time: Ethics as Theology: An Induction (Eerdmans, 2013)

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9 Jun

Discerning the spirit of the age

Category: What We're Reading
By: Ken Myers
Published: 06/09/17

Oliver O’Donovan on the difficult but essential task of reading our times

In preparing to interview moral philosopher Oliver O’Donovan about his most recent book, Entering into Rest, I have been re-reading the two earlier volumes with which the new book forms a trilogy. The series is called Ethics as Theology, and in these three books O’Donovan describes how Christian Ethics is “done” — how theologically informed thought becomes action.

In the first book, Self, World, and Time (which he designates as An Induction, paving the way for further explorations), O’Donovan examines the nature of moral agency (what it means to be an ethical self), the nature of the world in which we act morally, and the temporal trajectories (both past and future, involving memory and hope) in which ethical decisions made in our present moment are situated. In the book’s Preface, O’Donovan summarizes the challenges we face when we try (as we must) to understand the characteristics of our cultural moment. Given the editorial mission of MARS HILL AUDIO, this paragraph especially caught my attention:

“That ‘late modernity’ in which we are given to live and act can never be taken as self-evident; it is a philosophical task in itself to understand it. There is a style of dealing with modernity all too knowingly. Modern ‘social conditions’ are comprised, we are told, of individualism, egalitarianism, technology, and capitalist enterprise; these are the terms on which mankind today lives, and we must either acknowledge them sensibly or be doomed to be forever criticizing them nostalgically — end of discussion! Alas, it is the doom of modernity to be bound up in an ever over-simple knowingness about itself! Our own age is the hardest of all ages to understand. It is composed of a mass of popular ideas and perceptions, often difficult to document though they are as familiar as the air we breathe, which acknowledge no duty to be consistent with each other. They may be derived from the thoughts of great thinkers, but when they are, they have lost most of what subtlety and discrimination they once had. They ration and restrict our access to thought about life and action in ways we must look hard in order to recognize. (It is not easy to think in a disciplined way through any social question outside the constraints of a would-be economic calculus which scarcely deserves the serious philosophical name of ‘utilitarianism.’) Even more cramping, they determine the way we describe the material objects of our thought, so that there are decent and gullible souls, for example, who think it ‘unscientific’ to refer to the child in the womb as ‘a person.’ Sophistry treads hard, as it has always trodden, on the heels of Ethics, but never harder than in a world of intense and overheated communications. The tramp of its boot must be heard before we can step to one side and free ourselves, recognizing where we have come and what decisions we must take. Such coming to recognition of our place and time is the condition for doing, or indeed being, anything.”

— From Oliver O’Donovan, Self, World, and Time: Ethics as Theology: An Induction (Eerdmans, 2013)

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