Awaiting the next batch of fiction to catch my eye, I’m swimming in the sublime seas of Peter Kreeft’s 1993 text, Christianity for Modern Pagans: Pascal’s Pensees Edited, Outlined, and Explained. I was trained on Pensees for apologetics in seminary; it’s a wonderful starting point and Kreeft is a fantastic guide. Kreeft takes Pascal’s thoughts, organizes them along (Pascal’s own) Augustinian lines, and produces a gorgeous travelogue-in-trade-paperback, a recounting of the journey from modern paganism to belief.
I hope to blog more on this text in the future, but I will simply say that there is a great deal of quotable, ponderable, and worshipful material in that book. I can think of no higher praise to bestow than this: this book is actually worth what my published dissertation costs.
In a recent paean of praise for Christopher Hitchens that has some highlights, The Australian managed to bungle it all:
Hitchens is the kind of writer who quite deliberately uses words like evil, and wicked, and shameful, and sinister. He reclaims these words from the religious; he deploys them in a robustly humanist way that maximises their meaning and weight.
I enjoy that quality of CH’s writings, but it does prompt two questions. The first and most obvious is that one cannot reclaim an object or concept one did not previously possess, and for which one can offer no proof of ownership or authorship. We usually call that theft.
Then there is the question of the author’s affirmation of the use of such morally-loaded words. It is difficult to take “a robustly humanist way that maximises their meaning and weight” to mean little more than that “Hitchens deploys words that were previously employed in anti-human ways by religious bigots, so that I, a sophisticated person, can agree with them.”
On this morning’s walk I listened to the “debate” between Hitchens and Doug Wilson at Westminster Theological Seminary. I was disappointed by the ADD quality of the discussion. Wilson proposed to talk about beauty; in response Hitchens spoke beautifully on everything but.
I’ve greatly enjoyed the flurry of posts in the NYT’s Opinionator blog on moral relativism; start here and here and work back through the discussion by clicking the links in the opening paragraphs of those pieces.