Volume 142

Guests on Volume 142: Stanley Hauerwas, on writing letters to his godson about the virtues; Perry L. Glanzer and Nathan F. Alleman, on the fragmentation of modern higher education and why we need theology to unify universities; Jeffrey Bishop, on how modern medicine shapes an inadequate understanding of the human body; Alan Jacobs, on how contemporary communications media discourage charitable thinking; D. C. Schindler, on the diabolical nature of the modern understanding of freedom; and Marianne Wright, on how the gospel comes through in the writings of George MacDonald.

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Part 1

  • Description
    Stanley Hauerwas, on his collection of letters to his godson commending the virtues, and how Christians transformed the idea of the natural virtues
    The Character of Virtue: Letters to a Godson (Eerdmans, 2018)

    “Faith, hope, and love were seen as the theological virtues and people got the idea through later interpretation that you had the natural virtues as far as they would go and you kind of put frosting on them with faith, hope, and love. But Aquinas was very clear that charity is the form of all the virtues. So charity-formed temperance is not the same as natural temperance.”

    Stanley Hauerwas

    In this opening segment, theologian and ethicist, Stanley Hauerwas, reflects on being a godparent and the responsibility to cultivate and talk about Christian virtue. In his collection of letters to his godson, Hauerwas goes through many of the natural virtues and correlates them to different developmental stages in a child’s life, emphasizing the importance of the body’s role in moral formation.

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    Perry L. Glanzer and Nathan F. Alleman, on the fragmentation typical of modern higher education and why theology is the source of the unity of knowledge
    Restoring the Soul of the University: Unifying Christian Higher Education in a Fragmented Age (InterVarsity Press, 2017)

    “The story that we’re trying to tell . . . is really a story of a missed opportunity. The emergence of higher education in the university where theology had this role and was displaced to a kind of a specialization rather than seeing it as integral to everything that was happening. And then we look at ‘what’s the contemporary price that we’re paying for that missed opportunity?’”

    Nathan F. Alleman

    In this interview, Perry L. Glanzer and Nathan F. Alleman talk about how higher education became so fragmented and how most educational institutions are operating within a “less-than-human” vision of curricular and co-curricular efforts. In order to reanimate the soul of the university, Glanzer and Alleman argue, educational institutions need to return to theology — the study and worship of God — as the ordering principle that can bring unity back to the university.

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    Jeffrey Bishop, on how the practices of modern medicine are shaped by an inadequate understanding of what a human body is
    The Anticipatory Corpse: Medicine, Power, and the Care of the Dying (University of Notre Dame Press, 2011)

    “The students would have to go up to the person, introduce himself or herself to the model, and ask her or his permission to ‘palpate liver,’ for example. And so they suddenly have to learn that this body might recoil from pain or cold hands or from pushing a little too deeply, or from something going on in that body . . . and so suddenly they have to learn that in a social context.”

    Jeffrey Bishop

    Does medicine have to be reductionistic? In this interview, medical doctor and health care ethicist, Jeffrey Bishop reflects on how the practices of the anatomy lab shape our understanding of the body in unhelpful and unrealistic ways. Bishop recounts how he came to feel uneasy about the ways in which medical education achieves certain standards of knowing while bypassing the standards of knowing actually needed when practicing medicine, often by treating the body as a dead object. As a corrective, Bishop wants to recover the question of what bodies are: a person and organism mystically integrated into a whole. Bishop wants to investigate a different way of approaching medicine that isn’t scientistic, but takes into account the mysteriously interactive capacities of human persons.

Part 2

  • Description
    Alan Jacobs, on how contemporary communications media discourage thinking, especially charitable thinking
    How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds (Currency, 2017)

    “Each of us individually can’t know what we need to know about every issue. That means we have to trust other people to help and guide us and inform us, because we just don’t have the cognitive energy to be able to do this.”

    Alan Jacobs

    Frequent guest of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal, Alan Jacobs joins us to discuss some principles he’s compiled to help us think well (and charitably) in our cultural context. Jacobs warns that we need to be attentive to the ways technology and social media displace previously fixed communities and how these new ways of communicating alter how we respond to different ideas and people. Martin Buber said that he allowed a new idea to gestate for nine months before baring it before the world; Jacobs asks that we wait for five minutes. Unfortunately, many people do not realize to what extent thinking is determined and helped by communities and individual narratives. We cannot think and make decisions without the help of others and without the passage of time.

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    D. C. Schindler, on the differences between the classical and Christian understanding of freedom and the modern view of freedom
    Freedom from Reality: The Diabolical Character of Modern Liberty (University of Notre Dame Press, 2017)

    “Human freedom actually begins beyond us. It draws on the attractive power of Goodness and Beauty and Truth, ultimately, and it wells up in one. So when we make our choices it’s fruit being born in us of a movement that begins more profoundly than our deliberate intentions.”

    D. C. Schindler

    Philosopher D. C. Schindler began thinking about the nature of freedom as a result of his efforts to understand the transcendentals Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. Schindler identifies the “anthropological correlates” to the transcendentals as Reason, Freedom, and Love. If human freedom is most closely tied to goodness, what does it mean for man to be free? And does our modern understanding of freedom concur or conflict with man’s participation in Goodness? In this interview, Schindler contrasts the classical and Christian understanding of freedom with the modern understanding of freedom, and explains how John Locke, unlike his contemporaries, was able to popularize the revolutionary notions of freedom that some philosophers were endorsing during the early modern period.

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    Marianne Wright, on how the novels, fairy tales, and spiritual writings of George MacDonald portray the shape of Christian discipleship
    The Gospel in George MacDonald: Selections from His Novels, Fairy Tales, and Spiritual Writings (Plough Publishing, 2016)

    “You’ll be reading and suddenly you’ll hit a sentence that just knocks you over the head that can be extracted, and . . . some of these very short one or two sentence passages are things that I’ve thought about for weeks after reading them. I think it’s possible to get a lot of the value out of MacDonald just with those short excerpts.”

    Marianne Wright

    Bruderhof community member and editor with Plough Publishing, Marianne Wright joins us to talk about how reading George MacDonald (as G. K. Chesterton put it) is like “picking jewels out of a rather irregular setting.” Like his Victorian contemporaries, MacDonald’s output was expansive, but even his greatest admirer, C. S. Lewis was quick to say that “few of MacDonald’s novels were good and none were very good.” Despite these faults, there are gems worth encountering and even worth digging for in MacDonald’s writings, namely, what Lewis called MacDonald’s “mythopoeic genius.” Fortunately for contemporary readers, Marianne Wright, like her predecessor C. S. Lewis, has compiled an anthology of excerpts that draws from MacDonald’s sermons, essays, novels, and fairy tales.