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January 2006
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The Children of Men: P. D. James's Dystopian Vision 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

Audition - Program 5 (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.

Direct download: MHA_Audition_005.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 5:35pm EST

Not Ready for Marriage 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

Louise Cowan on the Classics (Audio Reprint) "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

Audition - Program 4 (31 Oct 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!

Direct download: MHA_Audition_004.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 12:08am EST

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

Audition - Program 3 (30 Sept 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!

Direct download: MHA_Audition_003.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:55pm EST

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

Russell Hittinger on Church, State, and Society
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.

A preview of this Conversation was featured in the 30 August 2006 issue of Audition. The entire Conversation is available from MARS HILL AUDIO.

Category:MHA MP3 -- posted at: 11:07pm EST

Audition - Program 2 (30 Aug 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!

Direct download: MHA_Audition_002.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 11:04pm EST

Sir John Polkinghorne on science and theology 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.

Ken Myers

Category:MHA MP3 -- posted at: 10:36pm EST

The Ultimate Victory Garden 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.

Ken Myers

Category:MHA MP3 -- posted at: 9:35pm EST

Michael Polanyi on MP3 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

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

-- Ken Myers
    Producer & Host

Category:MHA info -- posted at: 11:45pm EST

Audition - Program 1 (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!
Direct download: MHA_Audition_001.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 4:01pm EST