My latest book, Beyond Tenebrae: Christianity Humanism in the Twilight of the West, is now out from Angelico Press. In it, I consider not the end of the West, but the twilight of the West and the individuals who have done so much to struggle against its demise.
As noted on the slide itself, this slide compares and considers, arguably, the seven most influential male conservatives of the 20th century: Irving Babbitt; Friedrich Hayek; Christopher Dawson; Eric Voegelin; Leo Strauss; Russell Kirk; and Harry Jaffa. [As a sidenote, had I included Paul Elmer More, his reputation would have paralleled, almost exactly, Irving Babbitt’s, so I left it off for sake of clarity.] This chart makes several things clear. First, and most significantly, the most important conservative thinker of the century came at its beginning, not its end: Irving Babbitt. At his height, Babbitt soared above all others, and he experienced three peaks. Second, the most important conservative as of 2008, without compare, is Leo Strauss. Yet, interestingly, his reputation declined rather shockingly during the Clinton years, and only rebounded with the election of George W. Bush. Third, Christopher Dawson and, to a lesser extent, Eric Voegelin each enjoyed considerable and sustained popularity over decades.
— Read on theimaginativeconservative.org/2019/05/russell-kirk-influence-conservative-authors-bradley-birzer.html
What causes mediocrity in our lives? What is it that truly keeps us from reaching our full potential? Is there an antidote to a mediocre life?
Sometime before Christmas, I was home at my parents’ house for the weekend and attending their church. The pastor preached a fantastic sermon on this topic, and he pointed out that fear is ultimately what leads to mediocrity in any part of our lives. Primarily, I think we can boil that down to fear of two things: failure and rejection. Think about a mediocre situation in your life, and it is probably related to a fear of one of those things.
We fear not being good enough – not measuring up (which distills to a fear of failure). From the Christian perspective, this is complete nonsense. This is something I have long struggled with, and I have to pray about it specifically every day to keep that fear at bay. As humans, we are unique in God’s creation. God made us in His very image. Each one of us is inherently valuable because God created us. He knew us before our conception (Psalm 139:13-16), and for those of us that are in Christ, God looks upon us and smiles. He doesn’t see our sin and shame, for it was laid upon Christ’s shoulders at Calvary. The full wrath of God was directed at Jesus, the only man who ever lived a sinless life, in that moment so that we who have lived sinful lives might receive the very righteousness of God. With that truth, of what do we possibly have to be afraid?
I’m very excited to announce that I have a forthcoming book (sometime this fall) from Angelico Press.
BEYOND TENEBRAE: Christian Humanism IN THE TWILIGHT OF THE WEST.
(initial) table of contents if you’re interested:
PrefaceIntroduction: Beyond Tenebrae
Section I: Conserving Christian Humanism• Humanism: A Primer• Humanism: The Corruption of a Word• The Conservative Mind• Burke and Tocqueville• What to Conserve?• Conserving Humanism
Section II: Personalities and Groups• T.E. Hulme: First Conservative of the Twentieth Century• Irving Babbitt’s Longings• Irving Babbitt and the Buddha• The Christian Humanism of Paul Elmer More• The Order Men• Willa Cather• Canon B.I. Bell• The Conversion of Christopher Dawson• Christopher Dawson and the Liberal Arts• The Gray Eminence of Christopher Dawson• Nicholas Berdyaev’s Unorthodoxy• Theodor Haecker: Man of the West• The Inklings• Two Tolkiens, Not One• Sister Madeleva Wolff• Peacenik Prophet: Russell Kirk• St Russell of Mecosta• Eric Voegelin• Eric Voegelin’s Gnosticism• Eric Voegelin’s Order• Flannery O’Connor• Clyde Kilby• Friedrich Hayek’s Intellectual Lineage• Ray Bradbury at His End• Shirley Jackson’s Haunting• Wendelin E Basgall• Julitta Kuhn Basgall• Ronald Reagan’s Ten Words• The Optimism of Ronald Reagan• Walter Miller’s Augustinian Wasteland• Alexander Solzhenitsyn as Prophet• The Ferocity of Marvin O’Connell• The Good Humor of Ralph McInerny• The Beautiful Mess that is Margaret Atwood; Conclusion: Confusions and Hope
True to superhero convention, Murdock did not merely lose his sight. He unwittingly traded his normal eyesight for finely honed perceptions in his four remaining senses as well as superior resistance to pain and heightened acrobatic agility. When asked if he “sees,” he replies, and I’m paraphrasing, “somewhat but as though the world is on fire.” When the viewer gets a brief glimpse of what Murdock “sees,” we immediately recognize a medieval vision of the angelic, the sainted, and the holy. Halos appear everywhere.
— Read on www.theamericanconservative.com/birzer/the-brilliant-and-profoundly-catholic-daredevil/
Dedra and I just watched all three seasons plus the eight-episodes of The Defenders. As I’ve mentioned before, Daredevil is the single best thing on screen, big or small, and I just can’t–for the life of me–understand why Netflix cancelled it. It seems–and I don’t mean to be conspiratorial–that it must have been too Catholic for the moneymakers at Netflix. Maybe? Regardless, watch it. So stunning. Jeph Loeb has been a favorite writer of mine for a long, long time, and Charlie Cox is just stunning.
Francis Schaeffer, one the greatest Christian thinkers and presuppositional apologists of the second half of the twentieth century, co-wrote with C. Everett Koop (pediatric surgeon and Surgeon General under President Ronald Reagan) one of the most powerful defenses of the value of unborn life in Whatever Happened to the Human Race? (1979, revised edition, 1983). This book is a must-read for anyone interested in an intellectual and medical defense of the pro-life position that holds that human life begins at conception. Schaeffer handles the intellectual heft, providing a position that aligns well with that of Christian Humanism. His use of the term “humanism” is decidedly different than the Christian Humanist version of the term. By “humanism”, Schaeffer means secularism. Koop handles the medical and scientific arguments.
Here is a brief excerpt from chapter 1 (page 4):
Until recently in our own century, with some notable and sorry exceptions, human beings have generally been regarded as special, unique, and nonexpendable. But in one short generation we have moved from a generally high view of life to a very low one.
Why has our society changed? The answer is clear: the consensus of our society no longer rests on a Judeo-Christian base, but rather on a humanistic one. Humanism makes man “the measure of all things.” It puts man rather than God at the center of all things.
Today the view that man is a product of chance in an impersonal universe dominates both sides of the Iron Curtain. This has resulted in a secularized society and in a liberal theology in much of the church; that is, the Bible is set aside and humanism in some form (man starting from himself) is put in the Bible’s place. Much of the church no longer holds that the Bible is God’s Word in all it teaches. It simply blends with the current thought-forms rather than being the “salt” that judges and preserves the life of its culture. Unhappily, this portion of the church simply changes its standards as the secular, humanist standards sweep on from one loss of humanness to the next. What we are watching is the natural result of humanism in its secular and theological forms, and the human race is being increasingly devalued.
Elsewhere in chapter 1 (page 6):
The Bible teaches that man is made in the image of God and therefore is unique. Remove that teaching, as humanism has done on both sides of the Iron Curtain, and there is no adequate basis for treating people well… The loss of the Christian consensus has led to a long list of inhuman actions and attitudes which may seem unrelated but actually are not. They are the direct result of the loss of the Christian consensus.
I post this more out of interest rather than agreement. Here’s a young Christopher Dawson contemplating the intersection of property ownership, history, and culture. It was his fourth publication, but one can already see the penetrating thought and style that would characterize his more mature work.
98 years ago. . .
Source: Christopher Dawson, “The Land,” Blackfriars (June 1921): 137-145.