Wed, 16 November 2016
In Democratic Faith (Princeton University Press, 2005), political theorist Patrick Deneen examined what he saw as a state of crisis and a sense of quiet desperation underlying much of contemporary democratic theory. At the end of this month, St. Augustine’s Press will publish a collection of Deneen’s essays entitled Conserving America?: Essays on Present Discontents. In those essays, Deneen advances the case that our discontent, anxieties, and uncertainties are due to problems in the basic liberal principles embedded in the American Constitutional order.
In a lecture given in 2010 examining the relationship between community, culture, and liberalism, Deneen offered this summary of the origins and nature of classical liberalism.
Liberalism begins with the political philosophy of Hobbes, with refinement by John Locke, with the idea that humans by nature are naturally free and equal. These thinkers sought to describe the natural human condition to be one of autonomous and whole individuals who have no past, no culture, no history, no relationships, no memory. They are like Athena, sprung from the head of Zeus.
Deneen went on to describe the effects of this understanding of human persons on their sense of membership in communities or cultures. Before liberalism, persons were members of a whole and understood their identity in light of that membership. They were not — in Michael Sandel’s term — unencumbered selves. Liberalism, said Deneen, aims to liberate individuals from the claims and duties of membership
The autonomous individual at the heart of liberal theory cannot in fact come into being in reality without first liberating him or her from the inheritances of cult and culture. Liberal theory thus redefines all human relations in its wake. . . . Whether one’s religion, one’s community, one’s nation, even one’s family, all human relations are redefined by liberalism’s logic.
In this interview, Patrick Deneen talks with MARS HILL AUDIO's Ken Myers about the relationship between democracy and liberalism.
For more information, about the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal. visit our website at marshillaudio.org.
Fri, 11 November 2016
Attorney Kenneth Craycraft, Jr. is the author of The American Myth of Religious Freedom (Spence Publishers, 1999). In that book, Craycraft argued that the protection for religious freedom guaranteed in the Constitution is not as vigorous as many believers may hope. The underlying assumptions in 18th-century Anglo-American thought about the nature of freedom, of political authority, and of religion itself were even then predisposed to favor the interests of the state over religious claims if they came into conflict.
Craycraft observes that the liberal understanding of religious liberty is the freedom of individuals to choose from among a profusion of faiths. Religious liberty is thus just one expression of the fundamental fact of human nature and dignity as understood by liberalism: that we are beings with the capacity to make choices. Some religions, however, hold to the conviction that the most fundamental fact about us is that we are creatures made to glorify God and to live in accordance with the truth. Truth is prior to freedom. A choice is not authentically free if it is not in accord with what is true and good. By contrast, the assumption in the liberal idea of freedom as assumed by the Constitution and defended by the state is that freedom is prior to truth.
One of the consequences of Craycraft’s argument — which is similar to arguments made by many other constitutional lawyers, philosophers, and theologians — is that the actions of the government in recent years that are perceived as an erosion of religious freedom are in fact the fulfillment of latent assumptions underlying our Constitutional order.
In this fifth feature of our series on political theology, Kenneth Craycraft, Jr. contrasts the assumptions about religious liberty held by Locke, Jefferson, and others with a view maintained by many Christian theologians and philosophers.
This feature is hosted by Ken Myers, producer of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal. For more information, visit our website at marshillaudio.org.
Fri, 4 November 2016
In an article entitled “A More Perfect Absolutism” published in the October, 2016 issue of First Things, philosopher Michael Hanby observed that: “It is part of the absurdity of American life that we decide questions of truth under the guise of settling contests of rights. Which means that we decide questions of truth without thinking deeply or even very honestly about them.” One reason this deciding process is a particularly American convention is that Americans “have no common faith, history, or culture outside the decision to found the nation on eighteenth-century philosophical principles, we have always looked to politics and the law to perform the work of faith, culture, and tradition in giving us an identity as a people.” But what happens when politics that are all we know fails us?
Unfortunately, those eighteenth-century philosophical principles (i.e. political liberalism) are deeply committed to certain metaphysical assumptions about nature. These assumptions treat nature as merely material stuff, significant to us only insofar as we can act upon it and manipulate it to our advantage. In his article, Hanby argues that this is a deeply technological way of viewing the world that ultimately offers little guidance for political order.
In this fourth feature of our series on political theology, Michael Hanby discusses what he means when he says that liberalism is fundamentally technological in its assumptions.
This feature is hosted by Ken Myers, producer of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal. For more information, visit our website at marshillaudio.org.
Fri, 28 October 2016
“Our public life is rife with discontent.” So claims political philosopher Michael Sandel, in his 1996 book Democracy’s Discontent: American in Search of a Public Philosophy. Sandel identifies two prominent symptoms of that discontent. “One is the fear that, individually and collectively, we are losing control of the forces that govern our lives. The other is the sense that, from family to neighborhood to nation, the moral fabric of community is unraveling around us.”
Sandel’s book examines the ideas of liberty that have spawned what he calls “unencumbered selves,” atomistic individuals with no abiding sense of responsibility, duty, or binding attachments. The political mechanism that encourages this care-free sensibility is what Sandel calls the “procedural republic,” the product of a view of the state that envisions government as a guarantor of rights and fairness, scrupulously indifferent to questions of truth or goodness. This issue of Audition includes excerpts from a 1996 interview with Sandel in which he outlines a public philosophy committed to promoting civic virtue.
Also featured here is a 2009 interview with philosopher Scott Moore, author of The Limits of Liberal Democracy: Politics and Religion at the End of Modernity. In his book, Moore argues that the Enlightenment views of reason and human autonomy are unsustainable, and that much of our contemporary confusion about political, social, and cultural matters is a symptom of the unraveling of those views. He says that the invention of our democratic institutions was motivated by a desire to accommodate and encourage “the autonomy of the individual and the expansion of personal liberty,” and he asks whether such institutions and their founding assumptions haven’t subtly captured the highest allegiances of many Christians, transforming what we believe about what counts as happiness and success. He asserts that “in a world with fewer and fewer Christians, democratic faith makes ever more exclusive demands.”
To follow up that 2009 interview, Ken Myers phoned Moore to ask him about his views on the political moment that has resulted in the 2016 presidential campaign, and the kinds of questions about political responsibility that aren’t being asked very loudly right now.
Thu, 20 October 2016
In the second of a MARS HILL AUDIO series of special interviews examining politics and theology, theologian Peter J. Leithart (Between Babel and Beast: America and Empires in Biblical Perspective) discusses some of the issues raised explicitly during the current presidential campaign and the failure of many voters and observers to ask how the explosive mood of the present moment reveals deep problems in American political culture.
In a recent on-line commentary, Leithart observed that “contemporary political culture is the product of a convergence of two strains of liberalism: a leftist cultural libertarianism that took off during the 1960s and 1970s, and a rightwing free-market liberalism that reached its apogee with the Reagan-Thatcher alliance.”
Leithart continued: “Though they come from opposite ends of the political spectrum, both strains of liberalism are founded on a concept of freedom as the emancipation of individual choice.”
Leithart suggested that the sense of dismay many currently have about our political possibilities offers Christians “a rare opportunity to take stock and ask some basic questions about our polity.” He proceeds to list a dozen or so questions we should be asking far beyond who to vote for in November: “Are gay marriage and legalized abortion deviations from American values, or expressions of them? Can we disentangle the two strains of liberalism? Can we defend free markets without endorsing free love? What does ‘freedom’ mean? . . . Can politics be humane without recognizing that human beings are souls? Are campaigning and voting the be-all and end-all of Christian political action, or are we better off diverting some of those dollars and hours to less flashy projects that have the potential to leaven political culture over the long haul?”
This feature is hosted by Ken Myers, producer of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal. For more information, visit our website at marshillaudio.org.
Mon, 10 October 2016
The campaign leading up to the presidential election of 2016 has been an unsettling season for many Americans. Against the disturbing backdrop of social and cultural fragmentation, the two principal candidates for the office seem to be equally divisive, so that whoever wins in November, we are certain to be living through a time of further discord and discontent.
Is what we’re living through a sign of the failure of our political structures, or is it the logical outcome of a system with critical design flaws? Does a more hopeful future require the radical revision of some basic beliefs about the public life: about the relationship between state and society, about the purposes of government, and about how the ordering of temporal affairs accounts for the full reality of what we are as human persons? These and other relevant questions are finally theological questions, even if they aren’t always acknowledged as such.
In the first of a MARS HILL AUDIO series of special interviews that discuss politics and theology, moral philosopher Oliver O’Donovan (The Desire of the Nations: Rediscovering the Roots of Political Theology) discusses the Church’s historic belief that governments are an expression of God’s rule, that the reality of the kingdom of God is a necessary point of reference if we are to understand politics correctly.
Mon, 27 October 2014
In his book, Missionaries of Republicanism: A Religious History of the Mexican-American War, historian John Pinheiro argues that much of the enthusiasm for the war was tied up with an array of disparate theological and nationalistic convictions. Many Evangelical Protestants (including such celebrated figures as Presbyterian Lyman Beecher, a Temperance activist and father of Harriet Beecher Stowe) believed that God’s purposes for America included the development of and transmission of the virtues of Republican government. These activists and their followers believed that Roman Catholic teaching and practice, in being opposed to republicanism, was thus contrary to God’s purposes in history.
“The religious history of the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848 is the story of how anti-Catholicism emerged as integral to nineteenth-century American identity as a white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant republic. Americans had long wondered whether Providence had blessed them with North America as part of a divine plan to spread republican civilization. In 1846 the overwhelmingly Protestant United States went to war against Mexico, a country that barred all religions save Roman Catholicism. Fighting Mexico forced Americans to negotiate in new ways the deep interconnectedness among race, religion, and republicanism. This process revealed the universality of a peculiarly American anti-Catholicism that heretofore most Americans had unreflectively relegated to an evangelical Protestant subculture. This unifying discourse, which was most fully developed and popularized by Lyman Beecher and thus in this book is called the ‘Beecherite Synthesis,’ transcended section, religious denomination, and political affiliation. It proved to be the most important means of extracting transcendent meaning from the experience of the war.”
This issue of AUDITION features a portion on an interview with John Pinheiro, the full version of which will be heard in a future edition of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal.
Wed, 8 October 2014
Since 2006, theologian Richard Viladesau has been working on a multi-book project that has been exploring the meaning of the cross of Christ in Christian theology and in the artistic expressions of faith. The first book in this series (all published by Oxford) was The Beauty of the Cross: The Passion of Christ in Theology and the Arts from the Catacombs to the Eve of the Renaissance. The second, published in 2008, was The Triumph of the Cross: The Passion of Christ in Theology and the Arts from the Renaissance to the Counter-Reformation. The third book, published this year, is The Pathos of the Cross: The Passion of Christ in Theology and the Arts—The Baroque Era.
In an interview with Ken Myers for the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal, Vilasdeau explained: “The arts were used as kind of illustrations or as kind of proclamations . . . for the service of God. The main intent was to serve as a mode of preaching, a visible mode of preaching in the case of the graphic arts or an auditory mode of preaching in the case of music. The problem is, of course, particularly when you get to the graphic arts, is that you have to be concrete, and in being concrete, you’re always saying both more and less than what the original message is.”
This issue of Audition features an excerpt from that interview, to be featured on a forthcoming volume of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal.
Wed, 24 September 2014
In her recent book, A Little Manual for Knowing, Esther Lightcap Meek writes:
“Knowing is a pilgrimage. It requires taking personal responsibility, born of love, to pledge allegiance to what we do not yet know. . . . Knowing is a gift. Epiphany comes as a surprising encounter, equal parts knowing and being known.”
On this podcast, Meek talks with Ken Myers about how the conventional understanding of the difference between “objective” and “subjective” doesn’t do justice to the way we know the world as engaged subjects.
This is an excerpt of a longer conversation with Esther Lightcap Meek that will appear on a forthcoming issue of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal.
Mon, 13 October 2008
This issue of Audition features commentary by MARS HILL AUDIO host Ken Myers about recent on-line essays by political theorist Patrick Deneen. The four essays discussed were posted on Deneen's blog, What I Saw in America, and they each offered perspective on our current economic crisis gleaned from classical political philosophy. The essays were titled: "Abstraction," "Political Philosophy in the Details," "Whack a Mole," and "Democracy in America." Also referenced in Myers's comments is the 1976 book by sociologist Daniel Bell, The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism. Patrick Deneen, associate professor of government at Georgetown University, was also a guest on Volume 91 of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal; a portion of that interview may be heard here. In this interview, Deneen and Myers discuss the thought of Wendell Berry, whom Deneen describes as a "Kentucky Aristotelian."
Ken Myers also comments on an article from the May 2008 issue of Harper's by Wendell Berry. Berry's article, "Faustian Economics: Hell Hath No Limits," identifies the destructive (yet perennially attractive) Gnostic tendency to assume that limits are bad and always in need of breaking, a tendency implicated in many forms of cultural disorder.
Finally, Myers previews a new audiobook published by MARS HILL AUDIO, called The Passionate Intellect: Incarnational Humanism and the Future of University Education, by Norman Klassen and Jens Zimmermann.
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Tue, 7 October 2008
On his blog, Patrick Deneen (author of the 2005 book Democratic Faith) identifies himself as a political theorist. "Theory" comes from a Greek verb meaning "to see." The English word "theater," denoting a place where scenes from human life are enacted to be seen (and to promote greater vision about life), comes from the same root. As Deneen himself explained in a 2002 essay on the nature of patriotism, the word "theory" came over time to designate a particular kind of seeing in the Greek world. "Certain designated city officials—theoroi—were charged with the task of visiting other cities, to 'see' events such as religious or theatrical or athletic festivals, and to return to their home city, where they would then give an account of what they had seen. To 'theorize' was to take part in a sacred journey, an encounter with the 'other' in which the theorist would attempt to comprehend, assess, compare, and then, in [the] idiom of his own city, explain what had been seen to his fellow citizens." Theorists in the best tradition are people who enable us to become "other-wise," encouraging us to realize that the way we live life isn't the only way it could be lived, and may not be the best way we could live.
In the past few weeks, Deneen's posts have placed the Wall Street meltdown in a larger cultural perspective that is absent from most media diagnoses and from the comments of politicians, whose handlers and PR experts forbid them from ever saying anything critical of the dominant trends of our cultural moment. . . .
Read more from Ken Myers about Patrick Deneen's analysis on the MARS HILL AUDIO website. Subscribers to the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal will have heard our interview with Patrick Deneen on volume 91. If you missed that interview, you may hear a portion of it here.
Category:Further reading -- posted at: 5:31pm EST
Thu, 25 September 2008
Almost every year, thoughtful books are published documenting the various crises of higher education. The titles alone express a mood of dismay: Excellence without a Soul; Clueless in Academe: How Schooling Obscures the Life of the Mind; Crisis in the Academy; Killing the Spirit: Higher Education in America; and (most pessimistically) The University in Ruins. Surveying such books, one soon realizes that the problems besetting higher education are often instances of larger problems in the society at large. The University has lost its way because modern Western culture has lost its way. In their more optimistic book The Passionate Intellect, Norman Klassen and Jens Zimmermann offer a longer and deeper perspective in identifying what's wrong. Their book—subtitled Incarnational Humanism and the Future of University Education—traces the history of higher education from its medieval roots to the present, focusing on how educational agendas have been assembled in light of shifting understandings of the nature of knowledge and the nature of human well-being. They demonstrate that some form of humanism has always been central to the purposes of higher education, and insist that the recovery of a rich, Christocentric Christian humanism is the only way for the University to recover a coherent purpose. MARS HILL AUDIO has just released an audio version of this important book, available on CD or as an MP3 download. Look here for more information.
Category:MHA MP3 -- posted at: 4:55pm EST
Sat, 9 August 2008
With the death of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in early August, the modern world lost one of its most trenchant prophets. In many eulogies and obituaries, Solzheitsyn was identified mainly (or exclusively) as a fierce foe of the Soviet Communist system. Of course, he was that: the publication of the first volume of his massive work, The Gulag Archipelego—documenting the horrors of the Soviet labor camps—led to his expulsion from his homeland in 1974 and to the West's recognition of the suffering of many Soviet citizens. But there was something more important in his writing: a positive, hopeful vision that was often overlooked by readers too preoccupied with politics. It was a vision rooted in a Christian view of human nature and purpose.
MARS HILL AUDIO has assembled a special Anthology of interviews to explore The Christian Humanism of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Guests include Edward E. Ericson, Jr., coeditor of The Solzhenitsyn Reader (2006) and The Soul and Barbed Wire (2008); David Aikman, for years a senior correspondent for TIME magazine; and James Pontuso, author of Solzhenitsyn’s Political Thought (1990). Host Ken Myers discusses with them the themes in Solzhenitsyn’s books and speeches, including his Nobel Prize speech and his controversial commencement address at Harvard in 1978.
The Anthology is available on CD ($7) or as an MP3 download ($5). Also of interest is the MARS HILL AUDIO Reprint called One Word of Truth: A Portrait of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, written and read by David Aikman, who in 1989 was granted the first—and, for many years, only—major interview given by Solzhenitsyn to an American news organization. Aikman's engaging and lively account portrays an amazing man who devoted his life to the battle for truth. One Word of Truth also includes introductory remarks by cultural critic Os Guinness and is available as an MP3 download ($2).
Wed, 16 July 2008
The first of five books by Eugene Peterson detailing his vision of "spiritual theology" was published in 2005; its title (borrowed from Gerard Manley Hopkins) was Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places: A Conversation in Spiritual Theology. The fourth book of that series, Tell It Slant: A Conversation on the Language of Jesus in His Stories and Prayers, will be published this Fall by Eerdmans. In anticipation of that book, MARS HILL AUDIO has released a Conversation with Eugene Peterson about his vision for spiritual theology. In Dancing Lessons: Eugene Peterson on Theology and the Rhythms of Life, the pastor/theologian talks with Ken Myers about the challenges of remaining faithful in a culture that disorders our lives in countless ways, stressing the theme of the "livability" of the Bible's message. "None of it is esoteric. None of it is a specialized, compartmentalized thing. It's all lived." Just as the redemptive work of God is lived out in the grand story of Scripture, so our lives are stories about God's work. "One of the wonderful things about being a pastor is that your whole work takes place in a 'storied' context. . . . Nothing is mere doctrine. . . . It's all embedded in this narrative way of living."
Hovering around the themes of God's work in creation, in history, and community (the organizing ideas of Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places), Peterson discusses the necessity of taking time in worship; the benefits and liabilities of small groups; the delightful gifts of language; and the centrality of "fear of the Lord" in describing our response to God's initiative in salvation.
This Conversation is available on CD (for $7 plus shipping) or as an MP3 download (for $5). Look here for further information.
Category:MHA MP3 -- posted at: 4:48pm EST
Sat, 31 May 2008
This issue of Audition features an interview with Japanese-American painter Makoto Fujimura. A reproduction of one of Fujimura's distinctive paintings is displayed to the right.
The following biographical material is from the artist's website:
"Makoto Fujimura was born in 1960 in Boston, Massachusetts. Educated bi-culturally between the US and Japan, Fujimura graduated from Bucknell University in 1983, and received an M.F.A. from Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music with a Japanese Governmental Scholarship in 1989. His thesis painting was purchased by the university and he was invited to study in the Japanese Painting Doctorate program, a first for an outsider to this prestigious traditional program.
"It was during the six and a half years of studying in Japan that Fujimura began to assimilate the combinations of abstract expressionism explored in the US with the traditional Japanese art of Nihonga. Upon his return to the US, he began to exhibit his paintings in New York City, while continuing to show in Tokyo, and was honored in 1992 as the youngest artist ever to have had a piece acquired by Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo."In this Audition interview, Fujimura talks about the intertwining of his life, his painting, and his faith. Fujimura is also a guest on volume 90 of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal, an interview in which he talks about the importance of reading as a way of cultivating engagement with the world.
Also featured on this podcast is Dana Gioia, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. Gioia discusses the NEA Report To Read or Not To Read, which was released last year and which is the subject of in-depth discussion on the latest issue of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal.
Mon, 5 November 2007
In an interview with a Washington Post reporter in 2001, writer Philip Pullman candidly remarked, "I'm trying to undermine the basis of Christian belief." The occasion for the interview was the publication of the third book in Pullman's fantasy trilogy, His Dark Materials.
The first book of that trilogy, The Golden Compass, has now been made into a movie, which will open on December 7th. (It's ironic that the distributors of The Golden Compass hope their film will make more money by opening in the Season of the birth of the One who is the basis of Christian belief.) The trailers for the film suggest that Pullman’s suspicion of authority (and hence his antipathy toward the Church and her Lord) will not be abandoned as the book makes the transition to a film.
Whatever his other attributes, Philip Pullman is clearly a remarkably gifted writer. His powerful story takes place in a world similar to ours but with a significantly different history, an alternate universe with a similar cast of historical characters but a different story line. This narrative device allows Pullman a polemical platform to offer opinions about history as we know it without coming out and stating his convictions starkly.
In 2000, MARS HILL AUDIO's Ken Myers talked with literary critic Alan Jacobs about Pullman’s trilogy and the ideas it advances. In that interview, Jacobs explained exactly how Pullman pursues his project of undermining Christian belief, as well as some of the other disturbing tendencies of these creative books. Originally presented on the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal, a longer version of that interview is offered in this issue of Audition.
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Fri, 28 September 2007
A Time magazine article from 1996 nominated political philosopher Leo Strauss (who died in 1973) as one of the most influential and powerful figures in Washington. Strauss was regarded as the inspiration for Newt Gingrich's steamrolling political movement. He has since been cited as the ultimate source of our war in Iraq, since former Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz was a student of a student of Strauss's at the University of Chicago. An article by one libertarian writer labels Strauss the "fascist godfather of the neo-cons."
What, then, to make of these recent claims by Yale political philosopher Steven B. Smith (from his 2006 book Reading Leo Strauss): "Throughout his writings, Strauss remained deeply skeptical of whether political theory had any substantive advice or direction to offer statesmen. . . . The idea that political or military action can be used to eradicate evil from the human landscape is closer to the utopian and idealistic visions of Marxism and the radical Enlightenment than anything found in the writings of Strauss."
A helpful introduction to Strauss's ideas appeared last year in an article entitled "The Secret of Straussianism," by Richard Sherlock, published in the journal Modern Age. A reading of this article is the latest MARS HILL AUDIO Reprint, available as an MP3 download from the MARS HILL AUDIO website (marshillaudio.org/catalog/reprints.asp; sorry we can't insert a clickable link here, but the server is being goofy). In addition to a survey of Strauss's method of reading classical, literary, and political-theoretical texts, Sherlock also examines his posture toward religion. Read by Ken Myers, the 36-minute reading sells for $3.
This Reprint is the tenth in a series that covers such various topics as the novels of P. D. James, the life of William Wilberforce, the penetrating insights of Leszek Kolakowski, the importance of manual labor, and the necessity of reading the classics. Audition listeners may want to expand the range of their aural fixations by downloading some of these unique Audio Reprints.
Fri, 31 August 2007
Since the publication of the book that made her a celebrity intelllectual, Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson (1990), Camille Paglia has been focusing attention on connections within the fabric of Western culture that are often ignored or denied. This has earned her a bundle of suspicion from across the political and ideological spectrum. So, for example, when she writes that "the route to a renaissance of the American fine arts lies through religion," she will no doubt frighten leaders in the arts while flummoxing many American religious leaders, who can't imagine why we ought to bother reviving the fine arts.
Paglia's assertion launched an article in the Spring/Summer 2007 issue of the journal Arion: A Journal of Humanities and the Classics (published at Boston University). The bulk of the article is a whirlwind survey of the history of the contentious if sometimes fertile relationship between religion (mostly Christianity) and the arts in America since the Puritans, with sections on literature, the visual arts, and music. Noting that the art world and the Church world virtually ignored each other for most of the twentieth century, she then discusses the "culture wars" episodes of conflict in the 1980s and 90s (the Mapplethorpe controversy, etc.), most of which were about morality, not art or religion. . . .
Read more about this article on the MARS HILL AUDIO website.
Category:Further reading -- posted at: 4:03pm EST
Fri, 31 August 2007
Many of our listeners to the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal were intrigued about the features on volume 82 about Philip Rieff. Anyone interested in knowing more about Rieff before committing to the diffficult task of reading him will be assisted by a pithy summary of Rieff's ideas written by critic George Scialabba, which appeared in a recent issue of the Boston Review.
The occasion for Scialabba's article is the posthumous book by Rieff called Charisma: The Gift of Grace and How It Has Been Taken Away from Us. Rieff draws on (and disputes) Max Weber's idea of charisma, which was in Weber's formulation a form of authority. Rieff insists that there can be no charisma in Weber's sense apart from some sense of sacred order; "no charisma without creed" is how Rieff summarizes his view.
Philip Rieff always maintained that the point of culture was to provide authority, to set limits against which individuals could come to understand the world and their place in it. But the crisis of modernity is specifically the loss of the plausibility of any authority. . . .
Read all of this brief essay by MARS HILL AUDIO host and producer Ken Myers.
Category:Further reading -- posted at: 3:32pm EST
Tue, 21 August 2007
This issue of Audition is a free preview of a new series of programs being produced by MARS HILL AUDIO. The series, Dialogues on Justice and Judges, will look at recent and upcoming Supreme Court rulings, attending to how they represent ideas about law, justice, identity, freedom, community, and other social and cultural concepts.
In this first episode, "Jurisprudence and the Roberts Court," Ken Myers, Executive Producer of MARS HILL AUDIO, interviews four legal experts who give an initial assessment of the tenure of Chief Justice John Roberts, looking specifically at the changes in the confirmation process of justices and the tendency of the Court to take on the role of legislator, especially in cases related to civil rights. The guests on the podcast are Douglas Kmiec, Professor of Law at Pepperdine University; Michael Uhlmann, Visiting Professor of Political Science at Claremont Graduate University; Terry Eastland, Publisher of The Weekly Standard; and Ed Whelan, President of the Ethics and Public Policy Center.
The second issue of Dialogues on Justice and Judges, slated for release this Fall, will be offered for sale by MARS HILL AUDIO on CD or as an MP3 download. For more information about all of our audio products, see marshillaudio.org.
Wed, 30 May 2007
This special issue of Audition features interviews with five cultural historians, each reflecting on how assumptions of the meaning of "the human person" has shaped some aspect of the American experience. They are all interested in how particular understandings of human nature have influenced American history, and how the distinctive shape of American history has shaped understanding of the meaning of human nature and the contours of human flourishing.
Each of these thinkers contributed an essay to the anthology Figures in the Carpet: Finding the Human Person in the American Past (Eerdmans). In conversation with Ken Myers on this podcast, Wilfred M. McClay (University of Tennessee at Chattanooga) discusses the differences between the terms "self" and "person." Eric Miller (Geneva College) recounts how Christopher Lasch's insightful books and essays exposed dehumanizing patterns in American cultural life. Eugene McCarraher (Villanova University) explains how many early 20th-centuury thinkers saw modern business corporations as proponents of a more communal shape to public life. Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn (Syracuse University) raises some probing questions about how television shapes moral understanding in children. Christopher Shannon (Christendom College) compares how medical institutions interpret the meaning of suffering with the Christian tradition's interpretation (aided by the writing of Ivan Illich).
Each of these guests has been featured on a past issue of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal; when heard together, the resonance implied among their diverse concerns become more evident.
Fri, 18 May 2007
In 2001, Alan Jacobs (last heard on our Journal discussing his book The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of C. S. Lewis) published a series of essays under the title A Visit to Vanity Fair: Moral Essays on the Present Age. The sixteen essays included in this collection covered a wide range of subjects, from the nature of essays (and essayists) to the place of poetry in preaching to the nature of friendship. There are essays on Harry Potter, C. S. Lewis, and Donald Davie. There's even an essay on the moral temptations of watching those violent nature videos, the ones very red in tooth and claw. When the book was published, we brought Alan to Virginia to record it, and then released it on cassette (just months before Apple introduced the first iPod). We've finally made an MP3 edition of this wonderful book available for sale (just $13 for the 5-1/2 hour unabridged reading). In order to encourage you to consider this purchase (which, for those of you without iPods, can easily be burned to CDs to maintain portability), we've placed the introductory essay from the book on-line here. Purchase information is here. (And if you're in a nostalgic mood, we still have a number of copies of the cassette edition, on 4 cassettes for $23.)
Category:MHA MP3 -- posted at: 2:33pm EST
Mon, 30 April 2007
The most influential social thinkers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries all believed that religion was an outdated preoccupation which maturing, progressing societies would eventually abandon. This assumption, often called the secularization hypothesis, was held by most sociologists through most of the 20th century.
One sociologist who believed early on that the story of the place of religion in modern societies was a little more complicated and variable than most of his colleagues allowed for was David Martin. Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the London School of Economics and Political Science, Dr. Martin has long insisted that the fate of religion in modern societies has been dramatically different in different countries.
In 2005, a collection of essays by Martin called On Secularization: Toward a Revised General Theory was published by Ashgate Press. That book was the occasion for a conversation between David Martin and MARS HILL AUDIO host Ken Myers, much of which is presented in this issue of Audition.
A separate portion of this interview was featured on Volume 84 of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal, which is available for purchase in an MP3 download edition.
Other guests on the Journal who have addressed the issue of secularization include Steve Bruce, Zygmunt Bauman, Edward Norman, and Harry Blamires.
Tue, 17 April 2007
Two of our MARS HILL AUDIO Anthologies, previously available on cassette, have just been released in a downloadable format. The first of these is called Manners and the Civil Society, and features readings of articles by columnist and etiquette queen Judith Martin, historian Gertrude Himmelfarb, and others. The second audio Anthology is called Place, Community, and Memory, with essays by Wendell Berry, Gilbert Meilaender, and a selection from Nobel prize-winner Ivo Andric. Informing both of these collections is the question, "How might the way we order social life honor the kinds of creatures we are, body and spirit?" The questions of the place of manners in our lives and of the manner in which we regard place both revolve around taking the form of life seriously. For information about these provocative MARS HILL AUDIO Anthologies, look here.
Category:MHA MP3 -- posted at: 9:06pm EST
Wed, 4 April 2007
Back in December, we alerted our listeners to the arrival of Children of Men in theaters, and provided listeners to our podcast some archival interviews with Ralph Wood and Alan Jacobs about the P. D. James novel on which the film was based (and about Baroness Phyllis more generally). We also produced an Audio Reprint of a Ralph Wood article about P. D. James's writing.
When it opened, the movie turned out to be a severe departure from the novel, abandoning James's thematic concerns altogether. Now that the DVD is out, Christopher Orr has a helpful review in The New Republic, summarizing how Children of Men "was simultaneously one of last year's best movies (better, I think, than any off those nominated for Best Picture) and one of its larger disappointments." Director Alfonso Cuaron has made a visually gripping film without "a composing idea to undergird the plot." Orr's review reminds us why really good stories are always more than just good stories.
Category:Further reading -- posted at: 3:07pm EST
Wed, 14 March 2007
Is humanity -- the quality of being human -- a blessing or a curse? Do we simply put up with it, or do we embrace it? Many Christians consider their purpose in life to deny or escape their humanity. But the humanity of Christians is tied up in the humanity of Christ. If Jesus Christ is human, then his humanity is something to be learned and lived. Many Christians, however, do not really believe in the humanity of Jesus (or they don't feel comfortable with it) and consequently find it hard to affirm and live out their own humanity.
Almost 20 years ago, theologian and bioethicist Nigel Cameron wrote a book called Are Christians Human? An Exploration of True Spirituality. In the book, Cameron points out that being human as Jesus Christ is human has profound implications for daily living. It means living as embodied creatures, using the gifts of perception and intellect, feeling and responding emotionally to life, using one's discernment and will to chart a course in keeping with God's leading. "The purpose of redemption," Cameron reminds us, "is to enable man to be once more himself, restored to his right mind and his right place as a creature under God. . . . The Christian life is the life of man, male and female, made in the image of God and after his likeness. To deny this humanity and attempt to reach beyond to a 'spirituality' which somehow contradicts it, is to fall prey once more to the tempter in his shining, specious livery, who as an angel of light beckons us to reach beyond the confines of our human existence to a place where in fact we deny it and fall from its dignity."
Author Nigel Cameron is President of the Institute on Biotechnology and the Human Future, Director of the Center on Nanotechnology and Society, Research Professor of Bioethics and Associate Dean at Chicago-Kent College of Law in the Illinois Institute of Technology. Cameron founded the journal Ethics and Medicine in 1983 and is widely recognized as a commentator on bioethics and biotech policy issues. His books include The New Medicine: Life and Death After Hippocrates and Nanoscale: Issues and Perspectives for the Nano Century (edited, forthcoming).
MARS HILL AUDIO has just released an unabridged reading of Are Christians Human? Read by Ken Myers, the 4-hour-long book is available as an MP3 download ($11), or on 4 standard CDs ($20 + shipping). Look here for ordering information.
Category:MHA MP3 -- posted at: 6:51pm EST
Wed, 31 January 2007
The meaning of the human and the meaning of the spiritual are the big themes on this issue of Audition. First, we hear an excerpt from Yuval Levin's penetrating essay, "The Moral Challenge of Modern Science," which maintains that science is not, as many claim, just a set of neutral tools. Then part of a chapter from Nigel Cameron's provocative book Are Christians Human? An Exploration of True Spirituality is featured. The section excerpted asks the question "Was Jesus human?" and looks at ways in which Jesus' humanity is often implicitly denied even while explicitly affirmed. Finally, we hear a long section from the audio documentary Best-Selling Spirituality: American Cultural Change and the New Shape of Faith. What's behind the contemporary affirmation of "spirituality" at the expense of "religion"? Ken Myers hosts this exploration of how contemporary culture is shaping how people think about the meaning of faith.
For more information about these and other audio products, consult the MARS HILL AUDIO website.
Thu, 21 December 2006
On the last issue of Audition, we featured Ralph C. Wood talking about P. D. James, whose novel The Children of Men has now been adapted for film (see below for a link to that podcast). In 1994, Dr. Wood (now University Professor of Theology and Literature at Baylor University) wrote an essay for Theology Today in which he examined in great detail the spiritual and social concerns James explores in this fascinating book. MARS HILL AUDIO has just released an MP3 download of a reading of that essay as part of its Audio Reprint series.
This Reprint sells for $3.00 and is read by Ken Myers.
Category:MHA MP3 -- posted at: 10:11pm EST
Thu, 30 November 2006
P. D. James's dystopian novel The Children of Men was the basis for a film opening on Christmas Day in the U.S. On this issue of Audition, Ken Myers talks with Ralph Wood and Alan Jacobs about the power and meaning of James's fiction, specifically of the themes raised in the bleak (but finally hopeful) story now adapted for the screen by Alfonzo Cuaron. A 1980 interview with P. D. James is also featured, in which she talks about why evil characters are more interesting than good ones, and why mysteries need murders.
Tue, 14 November 2006
In 1997, Leon Kass published an essay called "The End of Courtship" in a quarterly journal devoted principally to matters of domestic public policy. Kass was not suggesting new federal guidelines on dating, but was describing a social condition which laws and policies addressing marriage and divorce had failed to reckon with. The article made the argument that, growing up in contemporary society, young people are by and large not given any guidance about how to prepare for married life. As Kass wrote, "Courtship provided rituals of growing up, for making clear the meaning of one's own human sexual nature, and for entering into the ceremonial and customary world of ritual and sanctification. Courtship disciplined sexual desire and romantic attraction, provided opportunities for mutual learning about one another's character, fostered salutary illusions that inspired admiration and devotion, and, by locating wooer and wooed in their familial settings, taught the inter-generational meaning of erotic activity. It pointed the way to the answers to life's biggest questions: Where are you going? Who is going with you? How--in what manner--are you both going to go?"
By contrast, Kass noted, "The practices of today's men and women do not accomplish these purposes, and they and their marriages, when they get around to them, are weaker as a result. There may be no going back to the earlier forms of courtship, but no one should be rejoicing over this fact. Anyone serious about "designing" new cultural forms to replace those now defunct must bear the burden of finding some alternative means of serving all these necessary goals."
A few years after this article was published, MARS HILL AUDIO produced a four-and-one-half hour documentary on the social and personal costs of the absence of expectations about marriage called "Wandering toward the Altar: The Decline of American Courtship." Featuring interviews with Leon Kass and his wife Amy (who has written on this subject with him; see "Proposing Courtship," First Things, October 1999), "Wandering toward the Altar" also includes conversations with a variety of social and cultural historians, theologians, and pastors, including Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, Wendy Shalit, Allan Carlson, Beth Bailey, Steven Nock, Kay Hymowitz, and Douglas Wilson.
This extensive Report is now being offered in an MP3 download format, which is burnable to 4 conventional CDs. The price is $11.
A future issue of Audition will feature excerpts from this Report.
Category:MHA MP3 -- posted at: 4:40pm EST
Wed, 8 November 2006
"Poetry appeals to the imagination, that faculty of the mind which enables the intellect to know the things of the senses from the inside--in other words, to experience by empathy things other than ourselves and to make of that experience a new form."
So writes Dr. Louise Cowan in her 1998 essay, "The Necessity of the Classics." Cowan goes on to note that this capacity of the imagination is central to the rationale of liberal education: "[I]t is not so much to further individual success or to produce 'new knowledge' or even to preserve the monuments of the past. Rather, it is to give form to this creative impulse in human culture." It is in the context of such a view of poetry, the imagination, and education that the idea of the classics has been sustained for centuries.
The same year that essay was published in The Intercollegiate Review. Louise Cowan, a professor of English at the University of Dallas (then and now), was a guest on the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal, discussing her book Invitation to the Classics. Now MARS HILL AUDIO is pleased to announce the availability of an MP3 download of Cowan's wise essay as part of our Audio Reprints series.
This Reprint sells for $3.
Category:MHA MP3 -- posted at: 9:16pm EST
Wed, 1 November 2006
On this issue of Audition, we feature a number of interviews about Christian novelists, poets, and mythmakers.
- Alan Jacobs (What Became of Wystan: Change and Continuity in Auden’s Poetry) tells us about how W. H. Auden's conversion to Christianity affected his poetry (an excerpt from The Public Poetry of W. H. Auden)
- Ralph Wood (The Gospel according to Tolkien: Visions of the Kingdom in Middle Earth) talks about J. R. R. Tolkien's view of language, and the dangers of a society that debases language (an excerpt from Maker of Middle Earth)
- Susan Srigley (Flannery O’Connor’s Sacramental Art) explains how Flannery O'Connor's fiction reveals her incarnational view of life (excerpt from Hillbilly Thomist: Flannery O'Connor and the Truth of Things)
- Thomas Howard (Narnia and Beyond: A Guide to the Fiction of C. S. Lewis) describes how myth differs from the modern novel, and what is lost when the gods disappear from our stories (excerpt from Till We Have Faces and the Meaning of Myth)
- Alan Jacobs (The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of C. S. Lewis) details how C. S. Lewis was more open-minded than his Victorian atheistic teachers, and how that open-mindedness left room for Lewis to become a Christian (from the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal, volume 77)
Thanks for listening!
Tue, 17 October 2006
We continue to convert our archives to a dowloadable digital format, and the latest products (heretofore available only on audiocassette) are two readings from booklets published by The Trinity Forum. The first is by biographer John Pollock, called "William Wilberforce: A Man Who Changed His Times," which details Wilberforce's efforts to eliminate the slave trade in England.
The second is by veteran journalist David Aikman, called "One Word of Truth: A Portrait of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn." This essay is prefaced by introductory remarks read by Os Guinness; Aikman is the reader of his essay.
Each of these Reprints sells for $4.
Category:MHA MP3 -- posted at: 8:13pm EST
Sat, 30 September 2006
This installment of Audition features interviews with the following guests:
-- Leon Kass, on the people who shaped his thinking on bioethics and the meaning of the human
-- Bernard Lewis, on how Islamic antipathy toward the West has been simmering since the late 17th century
-- Thomas de Zengotita, on how the proliferation of signs and messages aimed to encourage us to buy things affect us in other ways
Also featured is an excerpt from the essay, "Shop Class as Soulcraft," by Matthew B. Crawford.
Each of these interviews is part of much longer MARS HILL AUDIO programs which are now available as MP3 downloads.
Thanks for listening!
Mon, 18 September 2006
Since MARS HILL AUDIO was launched 14 years ago, we have been committed (in the words of our mission statement) "to produce creative audio resources that encourage Christians to grow in obedient wisdom concerning the cultural consequences of our duty to love God and neighbor." Obedient wisdom is the goal, and audio is our chosen means. In between the starting point and the finish line are lots of things to read. Since our products have a limited amount of time in people's lives, and since audio is not always the best medium to explain complicated matters, we are very eager to get our listeners to read things that they might not have known about. We are bibliographic scouts, reporting back on some beneficial routes between where you are and where you hope to be.
Almost all of the guests on the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal are authors of recent books, and our interviews are intended as introductions to those books. These authors may or may not share our Christian convictions, but all of them have displayed in their writing a perceptive understanding of how contemporary cultural life has been (and is being) shaped by various ideas and institutions.
We occasionally feature writers who have written especially insightful articles in magazines or journals. Now, we are introducing a new series of audio products intended to offer a more direct access to some of the articles we think are helpful in achieving our mission. MARS HILL AUDIO Reprints are readings of entire texts of articles taken from some of the best journals and magazines in print, and we hope to start making a lot of these available. They will range in length from 30 to 60 minutes, and will be available as MP3 downloads (which may then, if you prefer, be burned to a CD for ann alternate form of portability).
The first three Reprints are now available for order. Roger Kimball's "Leszek Kolakowski and the Anatomy of Totalitarianism" is an appreciative introduction to the writing of one of the 20th century's most penetrating thinkers about politics, culture, and religion. This article (taken from The New Criterion, the journal Kimball serves as editor) focuses on Kolakowski's critique of Marxism and Communism. Kimball makes the point that such a critique is not just of interest to diehard cold warriors. As Kolakowski himself has written recently, "Communism was not the crazy fantasy of a few fanatics, nor the result of human stupidity and baseness; it was a real, very real part of the history of the twentieth century, and we cannot understand this history of ours without understanding communism. We cannot get rid of this specter by saying it was just 'human stupidity,' or 'human corruptibility.' The specter is stronger than the spells we cast on it. It might come back to life."
The second of our Reprints (and yes, we realize that they are only metaphorically re-prints, but the spirit of wisdom is not afraid of metaphors) is by Matthew B. Crawford, called "Shop Class as Soulcraft." Dr. Crawford's article (which comes to the aid of our long-suffering project of fighting the Gnostic denial of the importance of the body) celebrates manual work and craftsmanship. As Crawford beautifully notes: "The satisfactions of manifesting oneself concretely in the world through manual competence have been known to make a man quiet and easy. They seem to relieve him of the felt need to offer chattering interpretations of himself to vindicate his worth. He can simply point: the building stands, the car now runs, the lights are on. Boasting is what a boy does, who has no real effect in the world. But craftsmanship must reckon with the infallible judgment of reality, where one's failures or shortcomings cannot be interpreted away." Three cheers for reality! Crawford's article, by the way, was in The New Atlantis, one of our favorite journals, and a periodical from which you will see/hear more Reprints from us in the future.
Finally, we have an article written by Joshua P. Hochschild called "Globalization: Ancient and Modern," taken from a recent issue of The Intercollegiate Review. This article touches on a number of themes that show up regularly in our Journal, especially place, memory, and the importance of local community. Hochschild alerts us to the fact that, for a word that is tossed around so insistently, "globalization" is a remarkably badly defined concept. This essay uses the fuzziness of globalization and its attendant enthusiasms to introduce some important categories in thinking about politics and the order of Creation. If you enjoyed our recent Conversation with Russell Hittinger on "Church, State, and Society in Catholic Social Teaching," or if you'e interested in the Reformed ideas about "sphere sovereignty," you'll be interested in Hochschild's article.
One last note: like most of our work, these Reprints get better with repeated hearings, so for only $3.00 each, you're getting a lot of listening time, not to mention resources toward obedient wisdom.
Read more about MARS HILL AUDIO Reprints here.
Category:MHA MP3 -- posted at: 4:36pm EST
Mon, 4 September 2006
In 1987, prime minister Margaret Thatcher famously denied the existence of society. "I think we've been through a period where too many people have been given to understand that if they have a problem, it's the government's job to cope with it. . . . They're casting their problem on society. And, you know, there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look to themselves first. . . ."
When these comments were published, there was a huge outcry from liberals at Mrs. Thatcher's attack on social solidarity. Conservatives meanwhile defended her rejection of the assumption of the nanny state. But both liberals and conservatives seemed to have missed the opportunity to question one key assumption in Mrs. Thatcher's formulation of this problem. Why presuppose that "society" must be understood as something coordinated and given authority by the state?
Margaret Thatcher's rejection of the existence of society is ironic in light of the fact that in the 19th century, the idea of society was used to confront the growing claims of the power and authority of the state. It was precisely because something called society did exist that the state could not be regarded as omnicompetent.
The history of the development in 19th century Catholic social thought of the idea of society as a spiritual and cultural reality is one of the themes in a new MARS HILL AUDIO Conversation with Dr. Russell Hittinger. Hittinger is Research Professor of Law and Warren Professor of Catholic Studies at the University of Tulsa, and the author of The First Grace: Rediscovering the Natural Law in a Post-Christian World. In this wide-ranging Conversation of interest to Christians from every tradition, Hittinger also discusses (with host Ken Myers) the contributions of Popes Leo XIII and John Paul II to Catholic social thought, the limits of the notion of social contract, the effect of an increasing proportion of Muslims on European social thought, and why modern democracies have abandoned the project of understanding public life in moral terms.
Category:MHA MP3 -- posted at: 11:07pm EST
Wed, 30 August 2006
This edition of Audition includes excerpts from five MARS HILL AUDIO interviews:
--- Russell Hittinger, on ways in which modern democracies exclude public discussion about the view of human nature and human personhood on which democracy is founded
--- Michael Aeschliman, on how C. S. Lewis opposed both subjectivism and scientism in arguing for the nature of the rationality of Creation
--- Sir John Polkinghorne, on how science and theology are both best pursued "from the bottom up," taking the reality of Creation and our experience of it seriously
--- Richard Gelwick and Thomas Torrance, on how Michael Polanyi's insights into the nature of scientific discovery provide a rich resource for theology
--- Vigen Guroian, reading from his book, Inheriting Paradise: Meditations on Gardening
Each of these interviews is part of much longer MARS HILL AUDIO programs which are now available as MP3 downloads.
Thanks for listening!
Thu, 24 August 2006
In his first book, The Way the World Is; The Christian Perspective of a Scientist, physicist John Polkinghorne makes the following observation: "If it is true, as I think it is, that intelligibility is the ground on which fundamental science ultimately makes its claim to be dealing with the way the world is, then it gives science a strong comradeship with theology, which is engaged in the similar, if more difficult, search for an understanding of God's ways with men." The Way the World Is was published in 1983, not long after John Polkinghorne was ordained as an Anglican priest.
Polkinghorne's first career was in science; he completed doctoral studies in theoretical physics at Cambridge in 1955. He went on to become a professor of Mathematical Physics at Cambridge and was involved in research that led to the discovery of subatomic particles, most notably the quark. He was appointed a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1974, resigned from his position at Cambridge in 1979 to pursue theological study and eventually ordination. He served as a curate in a working-class parish at Bristol in Kent for several years, during which time he also wrote the first of many books that bring together his twin engagements with theology and with science.
In his 2004 Science and the Trinity: The Christian Encounter with Reality (Yale University Press), Polkinghorne was still reflecting on the significance of the intelligibility of the Universe. In a chapter that sketches an outline for a theology of nature, Polkinghorne writes: "Our scientific ability to explore the rational beauty of the universe is seen to be part of the Fathers gift of the imago Dei to humankind, and the beautiful rational order of the universe is the imprint of the divine Logos, 'without whom was not anything made that was made.' Whether acknowledged or not, it is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, who is at work in the truth-seeking community of scientists. That community's repeated experiences of wonder at the disclosed order of the universe are, in fact, tacit acts of the worship of its Creator."
I had the great good pleasure of talking with Sir John Polkinghorne about this book's principal arguments, a conversation which has just been released by MARS HILL AUDIO in a downloadable MP3 edition. "Science and Faith from the Bottom Up" is one of twenty or so MARS HILL AUDIO Conversations that will appear in download form in the next few months, along with our other series of Anthologies, Reports, and Audiobooks. Listeners to Audition will be informed as these are made available, or you may browse our online catalog for materials in a variety of audio formats.
Category:MHA MP3 -- posted at: 10:36pm EST
Fri, 18 August 2006
On a bright morning in the summer of 1999, I drove to Reistertown, Maryland, near Baltimore, to spend some time in Vigen Guroian's garden. I had read about this well-tended piece of ground in Guroian's book, Inheriting Paradise: Meditations on Gardening. The book is a delightful series of reflections which find in the disciplines of tending a garden rich analogies with the experience of grace. I received an intimate, personal tour of this place from Guroian, who, when he's not gardening, teaches theology and ethics at Loyola College in Baltimore. I took a digital tape recorder with me, and shared Guroian's comments with subscribers to the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal.
Here's an excerpt from the beginning of the book:
"We ought not to draw a line that neatly marks off nature from humankind. This is a modern heresy that we have inherited from the Enlightenment. Contrary to environmentalists' accusations of anthropocentrism, Christians believe that human beings are especially responsible for tending the creation. This is because God has endowed human beings alone among God's creatures with the rational and imaginative capacities to envision the good of everything and to see that that good is respected. This is no less a responsibility than the duty for care for our own bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit. God has given human beings this responsibility as an emblem of his own great love for creation."
After my visit to Guroian's prolepsis of Paradise, I thought that Inheriting Paradise would work well as an audiobook. So I persuaded Vigen to go into a studio and record it. Until this week, that recording was available only on cassette tapes. But it's one of the first items we've made available for sale in downloadable MP3 format. It's a timely transition, since Vigen is a guest on Volume 80 of the Journal, talking about his second book on gardening, The Fragrance of God. (An extract from that interview will appear on next week's issue of Audition.)
If you'd like information about purchasing the MP3 edition of Vigen Guroian reading Inheriting Paradise ($8.00), look here. If you would rather order by phone, give us a call at 1.800.31.6407 during buinsess hours (M-F, 9-5 DST) to order this wonderful and thoughtful audiobook.
Category:MHA MP3 -- posted at: 9:35pm EST
Thu, 17 August 2006
Twenty years ago, writing in The Wilson Quarterly, the literary critic Cleanth Brooks noted that: "A world reduced to hard facts would thereby become a dehumanized world, a world in which few of us would want to live. We are intensely interested in how our fellow human beings behave -- in their actions, to be sure, but also in the feelings, motives, purposes that lead them into these actions." Most of us don't believe in a world reduced to hard facts, but for some time, Western societies have found it virtually impossible to order public life around anything other than hard facts.
The Canadian philosopher George Parkin Grant, in an essay written in the 1960s, commented on the widely held assumption in modern societies that the only knowledge that is properly considered objective and public is scientific knowledge, that is, knowledge of hard facts. Grant posed three questions that flowed from this assumption: "(a) whether there is any knowledge other than that reached by quantifying and experimental methods, (b) whether, as such methods cannot provide knowledge of the proper purposes of human life, the very idea of there being better and worse purposes has any sense to it, (c) whether, indeed, purpose is not merely what we will in power from the midst of chaos. The effect of these questionings on the humanities could not but be enormous." The work of Michael Polanyi is a valuable resource in combatting the assumptions about the unique worth of scientific knowledge. Polanyi, who lived from 1891 to 1976, was first a scientist (an accomplished physical chemist) who turned to philosophy later in his life in order to address some of the social crises prompted by the misleading ideals of objectivity derived from science.
In 1999, MARS HILL AUDIO produced a two-and-one-half-hour long audio documentary about Polanyi's life and work, called Tacit Knowing, Truthful Knowing: The Life and Thought of Michael Polanyi. For years, it was available only on audiocassette, and more recently, on MP3 CD. This MARS HILL AUDIO Report is one of a number of products which have just been released for distribution as downloadable audio (information about that Report is on this page). The download (which costs $9.00) is formatted to facilitate easy transfer to conventional audio CDs.
We'll feature an excerpt from that Report on our August Audition, which will be posted next week.
Category:MHA MP3 -- posted at: 5:48pm EST
Tue, 15 August 2006
I can remember the first time I saw an audiocassette. They were invented by Philips in 1963, and trademarked in the U. S. the next year as Compact Cassettes. Initially used principally for low-fidelity dictation recorders, by the late 1960s, 3M and BASF developed higher quality tape stock which (combined with improvements in recording electronics) permitted cassettes to be attractive for music recordings, thereby guaranteeing the doom of the 8-track tape.
My first encounter with a cassette was through the father of a high school friend who had done some professional recording work. He showed us a Compact Cassette while driving us to school (I can still remember him mentioning the fact that they were developed by Philips), and then told us that this little assembly of plastic had a big future (shades of The Graduate!). This was at least a decade before Sony invented the Walkman, by means of which this piece of plastic produced a minor cultural revolution, inaugurating a new way of relating to music (and to the people around the listener).
When MARS HILL AUDIO first began in 1992, our principal product was distributed exclusively on cassettes (and thus called the MARS HILL Tapes) since few cars had CD players and CD duplication was quite a bit more expensive than it is now. To speak then of "burning some CDs" may have conjured up images of angry fundamentalists rendering mute some of the devil's troubadours. But around the turn of the millennium, when we were certain there were enough listeners interested in CDs, we eventually began offering the Tapes on CDs, as the newly christened MARS HILL AUDIO Journal.
We're now commencing another big transition, which will no doubt be much more momentous than our change six years ago. Beginning with volume 81 of the Journal, listeners have the option of subscribing to a downloadable MP3 edition. We'll continue offering cassettes, as long as we can find suppliers with tapes of sufficient quality (which is getting a lot harder).
I have to confess that the technophiliac in me (I owned one of the first iPods) is delighted, but the more sober cultural critic, suspicious of gnosticizing tendencies, is more ambivalent. I think there is an advantage to having around us objects, like books, tapes, and CDs, which retain knowledge and are not re-programmable. We need the presence of substantial and fixed things in our lives, to testify against the suspicion of the unbearable lightness of being. That's why I still like hymnbooks. Their weight and texture bears existential witness to the Church's existence in space and time in ways a projected image does not.
So we're providing MP3 subscribers with instructions on how to burn CDs (the creative kind of burning), and with templates for labels and jewel case liners. We'd like these more accessible products not to be regarded as eminently disposable. Besides, we realize that most people are more likely to have CD players than MP3 hardware available while they drive.
One of the greatest advantages for us in this new format is the ability to produce programs that may be of interest to a smaller audience. Right now, given the economies of scale, it doesn't make sense for us to offer Conversations or Anthologies that aren't of potential interest to most of our subscribers. But because we aren't paying a printer or media duplicator for set-up costs and a minimum run, we can make available interviews without the necessity to liquidate a large inventory of stuff. When I was starting MARS HILL AUDIO, I toyed (briefly) with calling the company HAND CRAFTED AUDIO, and this new technology makes certain ideals of craftsmanship available to us for the first time.
Finally, this technology is a great boon for overseas subscribers and would-be subscribers (not to mention the overland subscribers in Canada, eh?). By eliminating extraordinary shipping costs, customs forms, and (in some instances) repressive postal representatives, MARS HILL AUDIO can reach wider to extend the sort of conversation about Christian faithfulness in contemporary culture that will remain our deepest commitment.
If you're new to with the work of MARS HILL AUDIO, find out more about us at www.marshillaudio.org.-- Ken Myers
Producer & Host
MARS HILL AUDIO
Category:MHA info -- posted at: 11:45pm EST
Thu, 27 July 2006
Audition is the new podcast produced by MARS HILL AUDIO. Hosted by Ken Myers, this first issue includes an exclusive interview with theologian and bioethicist Nigel Cameron on how bioethical issues are discussed in public debate. It also features excerpts from interviews that can be heard on current and future issues of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal.
Guests and topics include:
Cultural historian Stephen McKnight on the religious beliefs of Sir Francis Bacon
Biologist Tim Morris on why Creation and Redemption have to be seen as part of the same story
Music historian Calvin Stapert on how Mozart's music conveys a sense of the goodness of Creation
Orthodox theologian and master gardener Vigen Guroian on how the senses convey the transcendent
Humanities professor Paul Valliere on why Orthodox thought on politics differs from that in the Western churches
Law professor Russell Hittinger on the origins of the idea of "society" in Catholic social thought
Historian Mark Noll on how Protestants flourished in America by not asking some important questions
Journalist Stephen Miller on his book, Conversation: A History of a Declining Art.
New issues of Audition will be produced at the end of every month, and will contain material from the MARS HILL AUDIO archives, from forthcoming products, and unique interviews on timely cultural issues.
Thanks for listening!