Because I love books and am of the belief that everyone should be knee-deep in at least two at any given time, I’m going to post the occasional book recommendation.
I read 17 books in 2015. That’s chump change to some, sure, but in addition to those 17 are Bible studies, backs of cereal boxes, and the People magazines at my hair gal’s place. All in all the 2015 reading feast was a veritable mix of theology, philosophy, and mind-numbing vapidity. I’m all for balance.
I’m a sucker for this stuff.
He opens with, “I believe the two most prophetic books of our century are Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and C.S. Lewis’ Abolition of Man. If you want to see the third millennium, read these two books….Lewis has one advantage over Huxley: he is a Christian. Therefore he holds out hope, appeals to moral choice, and offers a positive alternative, though his jeremiad is no less horrific than Huxley’s scenario of doom.”
So, as Kreeft felt Lewis’ take on Western Civilization, which was written in 1943, was applicable in 1994, I contend that Kreeft’s take on Lewis’ take remains applicable in 2016, which is, by the way, the Third Millennium. I know that read like a “Who’s on Second” skit, but I’m trusting that you get my drift.
Kreeft is a prolific writer, a professor of Philosophy at Boston College, and a devout pro-life Catholic traditionalist.
He is nothing short of brilliant. And if you like Lewis’ writing style, you’ll find Kreeft imminently satisfying.
In the spirit of trying it before you buy it I’d like to share some passages that read as if they were written just last week rather than 22 years ago…because there really isn’t anything new under the sun, those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it, and fallen man is genuinely slow on the uptake.
“When radicalism is the establishment, the only really radical revolution is traditionalism.”
In Kreeft’s defense, not that he needs it, he doesn’t really address homosexuality, but rather, the bankrupt ideas that I believe have led to its self-proclaimed societal importance. On the death of the spiritual, the denial of natural moral law, and the wholesale embrace of subjectivism he has plenty to say. The correlations between Kreeft’s analyses and today’s gender/sex-obsessed Hydra are mine.
“We are living in the middle of a gigantic social science laboratory experiment in moral denial. We are playing elaborate intellectual games on the deck of the Titanic.”
“Truth is not the same as falsehood, happiness is not the same as misery…The greatest error in modern times is the confusion between these two orders. Nothing is anything firm in itself–this is the great heresy of the modern world. But there is no power on earth or in heaven that can make falsehood truth, evil good, misery happiness, slavery freedom. And yet what do philosophers tell you in the great centers of learning? They insist everything depends on what you mean. The mind becomes so blurred and blunted in its judgment that it fails to see the real, given distinction between things.” ~ Charles Malik, former President of Lebanon and the UN General Assembly.
“We are still sinners, but a new kind of sinners: sinners who no longer believe in sin. That is the most dangerous kind. We are sinaholics in denial.”
“What can we do, we who live amid the morally insane? What can we do with those who have unlearned even the very first and simplest lesson of kindergarten, “the goodness of goodness and badness of badness“?”
“The master heresy is subjectivism. It is the parent of all the others, for only after the objective truth is denied are we “free” to recreate new “truths” in the image of our own desires.”
Kreeft is unapologetically pro-life.
“We have so far witnessed five major holocausts in this century, and along with every “civilized” nation in the Western world except Ireland, Portugal, and Malta, we are participating in the sixth largest one of all, the only one that shows no signs of ending as the other five did. What the Turks did to the Armenians, Hitler did to the Jews, Stalin and Mao to their political enemies, and Pol Pot to one-third of his nation’s people, our present femininity-haters (the incredibly misnamed “radical feminists”) and their allies are still doing to the tiniest, most innocent, and most defenseless of all classes of human beings, unborn babies.”
If we teach kids that killing the unborn is legitimate, we don’t get to act appalled when they start slaughtering each other. They aren’t stupid. They know rationalizing hypocrites when they see them. Deny the sanctity of life and you lose respect for all life. Justify murder and murder you will get.
“Johnny can’t tell right from wrong, once man plays God by creating values, all hell breaks loose.”
The God denial that was percolating among the academic intelligentsia 1994 has morphed into a full-blown, scorched-earth campaign to eradicate anything resembling the sacred. Western civilization has had enough of God.
“The grand strategy of modernism is the dethronement of religion.”
“Every civilization in history has had a religious base. Ours is experimenting with a deviation from history’s most obvious and universal law. Thus the prognosis does not look very hopeful…This fact comes as a surprise only to this generation, the first to be biblically illiterate…All I have done is to translate into abstract, philosophical language the simple, punchy point of Old Testament history that a nation’s fate rests on its faith.”
“The prophetic Italian Marxist Gramsci saw it and predicted that Marxist atheism would triumph not militarily or even politically but educationally, by infiltrating the intelligentsia. Get the teachers and you’ve got the students. This is exactly what is happening. The basic philosophical theses of Marxism are winning the world more solidly now, after its political collapse in 1989, than before. Just as Christianity did two thousand years earlier, it is winning minds and hearts…”
From these passages it would be easy to assume that C.S. Lewis for the Third Millennium is just another long, conservative litany of society’s ills. It’s not. Kreeft discerns the Western world through the eyes of a learned Christian philosopher, not an agenda-driven pundit. The difference being Kreeft, like his predacessor Lewis, is ever mindful of the hope that shines through the ruins of a depraved culture. Kreeft’s faith is in God; the pundit’s faith is in the system he’s trying desperately to control.
Kreeft does more than diagnose, he offers prescriptions.
“Optimism or pessimism about the third millennium? We have no crystal ball, but we have clues. What is the bottom line? The bottom line is optimism.
Why? Because apocalyptically decadent ages elicit saints. Suffering elicits courage, compassion, heroism, and martyrdom. Evil elicits good in response. Bad times make good people, as mountainous pressures make diamonds or as fire tempers steel.
We should have great hopes for America, for if she emerges from her present crisis she will be stronger than ever before. Defeating British economic tyranny in the Revolutionary War gave us only political independence. Defeating slavery in the Civil War gave us only personal freedom for all. Defeating Fascist totalitarianism in World War II gave us only a “free world”. But defeating moral decadence and confusion would give us moral strength and clarity, perhaps even holiness.”
“How do we become true and good, happy and genuine, joyful and free? Only by getting in touch with good, true, happy, genuine human beings. Read the Psalms and the Gospels reverently and prayerfully every day, and I guarantee you two things: first, that you will experience in your own life and being a taste of what is beautiful and strong and certain and free; and second, you will then develop a sharpness of vision to differentiate between the true and the phony, between the beautiful and the hideous, between the noble and the mean.” ~ Charles Malik
“The strongest force in history is not man’s sin but God’s grace. ‘Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound’ (Romans 5:20). God can’t lose. Othello can lose to Iago, but Shakespeare can’t lose. God is our Shakespeare. History is His story. Identify with our Author and you can’t lose either in the end.”
And isn’t that good news for this, the Third Millennium?