Review: The Platonic Tradition Lecture Series by Dr. Peter Kreeft

“It’s all in Plato, all in Plato: Bless me, what do they teach them at these schools?” ~Digory Kirke, from C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia

I can’t recommend this lecture series enough! In them, Dr. Peter Kreeft gives an excellent introduction to Western thought that’s both accessible and delightful to listen to. Kreeft is perhaps one of the best popularizers of philosophy today. He helps us see the discipline along the beam, in fact. As an admirer of C.S. Lewis, Kreeft frequently makes use of his metaphor of looking both at and along something (the namesake of this blog). He has written an entire book series in which he creates illuminating dialogues between Socrates and various modern philosophers – from Hume, to Kant, to Freud, and more. The best philosophy, after all, is done in dialogue or along the beam. 

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Salt of the Age

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“…it is the paradox of history that each generation is converted by the saint who contradicts it most.” ~G.K. Chesterton

G.K. Chesterton, 1933: “St. Thomas Aquinas has recently reappeared, in the current culture of the colleges and the salons, in a way that would have been quite startling even ten years ago. And the mood that has concentrated on him is doubtless very different from that which popularised St. Francis quite twenty years ago.

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The Face of Jesus

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The Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb by the German artist and printmaker Hans Holbein the Younger between 1520–22.

A friend recently shared this passage from Dostoevsky’s The Idiot, along with the painting it describes. Like the character in the novel, one is struck by the meaninglessness that the artist chose to depict, seemingly forever frozen on Jesus’s face.

When any of us look at death, this is what we see. We see meaninglessness, and it threatens to engulf us. We wince at the absurdity. It appears there is no hope against such a force. Our only relief is to look away.

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A Reflection on God, Time, and Eternity

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“As a result of God’s creation of, and entry into time, He is now with us literally moment by moment as we live and breathe, sharing our every second.  He is and will be always with us.” ~ William Lane Craig

 

Recently, I had the great pleasure of getting to take a class with Dr. William Lane Craig during my last semester of graduate school. The subject was the relationship of God to time – a subject for which Craig has pioneered some fascinating and important research. This opportunity was such a gift for me, too! I cannot express how indebted I feel to him and his ministry, Reasonable Faith, for helping me through a season of doubt in which I came very close to abandoning my belief in God. (I really wanted to give him a big hug, but Dr. Craig doesn’t seem like a hugger, so I refrained. I’ll give him one in heaven someday.)

Dr. Craig’s view of God’s relationship to time is novel, to say the least, as he rejects the classical view that God exists outside of time. I believe that he has very convincingly shown this view’s weaknesses. Craig’s conclusion is that God is timeless sans creation but temporal subsequent to the moment He created space/time.

Below are some of my reflections on the class. I hope you enjoy reading them and your curiosity is piqued to delve deeper into this very important topic.

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First Impressions and Intelligent Design

“It is the design in Nature that strikes us first …”

“Everyone must have noticed the same thing in the fixed and almost offensive color of all unfamiliar things, tropic birds and tropic blossoms. Tropic birds look like staring toys out of a toy-shop. Tropic flowers simply look like artificial flowers, like things cut out of wax. This is a deep matter, and, I think, not unconnected with divinity; but anyhow it is the truth that when we see things for the first time we feel instantly that they are fictive creations; we feel the finger of God. It is only when we are thoroughly used to them and our five wits are wearied, that we see them as wild and objectless; like the shapeless tree-tops or the shifting cloud. It is the design in Nature that strikes us first; the sense of the crosses and confusions in that design only comes afterwards through experience and an almost eerie monotony. If a man saw the stars abruptly by accident he would think them as festive and as artificial as a firework. We talk of the folly of painting the lily; but if we saw the lily without warning we should think that it was painted.”

~G.K. Chesterton from What’s Wrong with the World

A Reflection on Personhood, Peter Singer, and Abortion

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Sharran Sutherland: “I am hoping that by sharing these pictures of my precious little boy that it might just make one person who is contemplating abortion decide to let their child live.”  Read more here.

“He has been with us in the darkness of the womb as He will be in the darkness of the tomb.”  ~Gilbert Meilaender, “Bioethics: A Primer for Christians”

It is revealing to look at how metaphors change throughout history, for these most often reflect shifts in the ways we look at the world and ourselves. Consider how the expressions for “having children” have changed. Older metaphors contained in them a sense of reverence for the process: “begetting” in ancient Israel, “genesis” in ancient Greece, and “procreation” in premodern times here in the West. Today, we “employ a metaphor of the factory, ‘re-production,” perhaps “impressed with the machine and the gross national product (our own work of creation),” observes philosopher Leon Kass.[1] A phenomenon so deeply rooted in our biology is spoken of in mechanical and impersonal terms that seem at odds with our humanity. This is just another hint that the two-story view of the human being – with its splitting of body and mind, biology and will – has insinuated itself into our discourse. This is another outworking of the two-story view of truth in our world today (see the footnote for an explanation).[2] Nowhere is this bifurcation of the human person more apparent than in the case of abortion and the personhood theory used to justify it.

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Abortion, Religion, and Science

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“In truth, there are only two kinds of people; those who accept dogma and know it, and those who accept dogma and don’t know it.” ~G.K. Chesterton

Scene: Sociology 101 at a local community college.

Professor: Today, we will continue our discussion of religion and politics in America. I’m going to make an assertion that might offend some of you, but I will open the floor for discussion. Here it is: the Christian majority in this country has routinely sought to tear down the sacred dividing wall that separates Church and State and impose their religious views on others through the passage of laws. Perhaps the most egregious instance of this is the case of the so-called Pro-life voter and their desire to control women’s bodies.

Student, raising her hand: Professor, may I provide a rebuttal?

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