Gregory Koukl (Zondervan: Feb 1, 2009), 208 pages.
In a world increasingly indifferent to Christian truth, followers of Christ need to be equipped to communicate with those who do not speak their language or accept their source of authority. Gregory Koukl demonstrates how to get in the driver’s seat, keeping any conversation moving with thoughtful, artful diplomacy. You’ll learn how to maneuver comfortably and graciously through the minefields, stop challengers in their tracks, turn the tables and — most importantly — get people thinking about Jesus. Soon, your conversations will look more like diplomacy than D-Day. Drawing on extensive experience defending Christianity in the public square, Koukl shows you how to: Initiate conversations effortlessly; Present the truth clearly, cleverly, and persuasively; Graciously and effectively expose faulty thinking; Skillfully manage the details of dialogue; Maintain an engaging, disarming style even under attack. Tactics provides the game plan for communicating the compelling truth about Christianity with confidence and grace. ~ Back Cover
Jay Heinrichs (Crown Publishing Group: Feb 2007), 336 pages.
Magazine executive Heinrichs is a clever, passionate and erudite advocate for rhetoric, the 3,000-year-old art of persuasion, and his user-friendly primer brims with anecdotes, historical and popular-culture references, sidebars, tips and definitions. Heinrichs describes, in "Control the Tense," Aristotle's favorite type of rhetoric, the deliberative, pragmatic argument that, rather than bogging down on past offenses, promises a future payoff, e.g., a victim of office backstabbing can refocus the issues on future choices: "How is blaming me going to help us get the next contract?" To illustrate "Control the mood," Heinrichs relates Daniel Webster's successful rhetorical flourish in a murder case: he narrated the horrific murder by following Cicero's dictum that when one argues emotionally, one should speak simply and show great self-control. Readers who want to terrify underlings into submission will learn from Heinrichs that speaking softly while letting your eyes betray cold fury does the trick handily. Thomas Jefferson illustrates Heinrichs's dictum "Gain the high ground"; keenly aware of an audience's common beliefs and values, Jefferson used a rhetorical commonplace (all people are created equal) to launch the Declaration of Independence. ~ Reed Business Information
CS Lewis (Harper SanFrancisco: Mar 2001)
C.S. Lewis's The Abolition of Man purports to be a book specifically about public education, but its central concerns are broadly political, religious, and philosophical. In the best of the book's three essays, "Men Without Chests," Lewis trains his laser-sharp wit on a mid- century English high school text, considering the ramifications of teaching British students to believe in idle relativism, and to reject "the doctrine of objective value, the belief that certain attitudes are really true, and others really false, to the kind of thing the universe is and the kinds of things we are." Lewis calls this doctrine the "Tao," and he spends much of the book explaining why society needs a sense of objective values. The Abolition of Man speaks with astonishing freshness to contemporary debates about morality. ~ Amazon.com
Os Guinness (HarperOne: Jan 22, 2008), 224 pages.
In a world torn apart by religious extremism on the one side and a
strident secularism on the other, no question is more urgent than how
we live with our deepest differences — especially our religious and
ideological differences. The Case for Civility is a proposal
for restoring civility in America as a way to foster civility around
the world. Influential Christian writer and speaker Os Guinness makes a
passionate plea to put an end to the polarization of American politics
and culture that — rather than creating a public space for real
debate — threatens to reverse the very principles our founders set into
motion and that have long preserved liberty, diversity, and unity in
this country. Guinness takes on the contemporary threat of
the excesses of the Religious Right and the secular Left, arguing that
we must find a middle ground between privileging one religion over
another and attempting to make all public expression of faith
illegal. If we do not do this, Guinness contends, Western civilization
as we know it will die. Always provocative and deeply insightful,
Guinness puts forth a vision of a new, practical "civil and
cosmopolitan public square" that speaks not only to America's immediate
concerns but to the long-term interests of the republic and the world. ~ Product Description
The Centre for Public Christianity (CPX) is an independent research and media organization seeking to promote the public understanding of the Christian faith in Australia and beyond employing the best of scholarship via the best of media. Established by Dr John Dickson and Dr Greg Clarke the Centre: seeks to be a benchmark for Christian thinking and communication in Australia and beyond; offers free vodcast/podcast comment, lectures and interviews, and other web-based resources; produces a range of popular and academic works exploring the relevance of the Christian faith; is a one stop shop for media outlets in search of informed and independent Christian comment; runs events and short courses for the curious and sceptical alike; supports a network of Christian scholars and research projects across the disciplines; serves as a speakers bureau and training facility for Christian thinkers and communicators. The Centre has no denominational affiliation and seeks to represent historic Christianity as defined by the Nicene Creed.
Address by President Dwight D. Eisenhower,
delivered before the American Society of Newspaper Editors, April
In this spring of 1953 the free world weighs one question above all others: the chance for a just peace for all peoples. To weigh this chance is to summon instantly to mind another recent
moment of great decision. It came with that yet more hopeful spring of
1945, bright with the promise of victory and of freedom. The hope of
all just men in that moment too was a just and lasting peace. The 8 years that have passed have seen that hope waver, grow dim, and
almost die. And the shadow of fear again has darkly lengthened across
the world. Today the hope of free men remains stubborn and brave, but it is
sternly disciplined by experience. It shuns not only all crude counsel
of despair but also the self-deceit of easy illusion. It weighs the
chance for peace with sure, clear knowledge of what happened to the
vain hope of 1945.
Joseph Ratzinger and Jürgen Habermas (Ignatius Press: Jan 10, 2007), 85 pages.
Two of the worlds great contemporary thinkers — theologian and churchman Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, and Jürgen Habermas, philosopher and Neo-Marxist social critic — discuss and debate aspects of secularization, and the role of reason and religion in a free society. These insightful essays are the result of a remarkable dialogue between the two men, sponsored by the Catholic Academy of Bavaria, a little over a year before Joseph Ratzinger was elected pope. Jürgen Habermas has surprised many observers with his call for "the secular society to acquire a new understanding of religious convictions", as Florian Schuller, director of the Catholic Academy of Bavaria, describes it his foreword. Habermas discusses whether secular reason provides sufficient grounds for a democratic constitutional state. Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI argues for the necessity of certain moral principles for maintaining a free state, and for the importance of genuine reason and authentic religion, rather than what he calls "pathologies of reason and religion", in order to uphold the states moral foundations. Both men insist that proponents of secular reason and religious conviction should learn from each other, even as they differ over the particular ways that mutual learning should occur. ~ Product Description
Richard J. Foster in Westmont Magazine (Septermber 22, 2010).
A stirring exhortation on behalf of words; words that are imaginative,
clear, convicting, and well meditated upon; words capable of cutting
through the din of tweets and talking heads. Foster's words are just
that, and I must add, kudos to the art director for the accompanying
"Whatever It Is, I'm Against It" in Horsefeathers (1932).
I don't care what you have to say,
it makes no difference anyway:
Whatever it is,
I'm against it.
No matter who proposed or who commenced it,
I'm against it.
Your proposition may be good,
but let's get one thing understood:
Whatever it is,
I'm against it.
And even if you change it or condense it,
I'm against it....
William T. Cavanaugh (Oxford University Press: September 3, 2009), 296 pages.
The idea that religion has a dangerous tendency to promote violence is part of the conventional wisdom of Western societies, and it underlies many of our institutions and policies, from limits on the public role of religion to efforts to promote liberal democracy in the Middle East. William T. Cavanaugh challenges this conventional wisdom by examining how the twin categories of religion and the secular are constructed. A growing body of scholarly work explores how the category 'religion' has been constructed in the modern West and in colonial contexts according to specific configurations of political power. Cavanaugh draws on this scholarship to examine how timeless and transcultural categories of 'religion and 'the secular' are used in arguments that religion causes violence. He argues three points: 1) There is no transhistorical and transcultural essence of religion. What counts as religious or secular in any given context is a function of political configurations of power; 2) Such a transhistorical and transcultural concept of religion as non-rational and prone to violence is one of the foundational legitimating myths of Western society; 3) This myth can be and is used to legitimate neo-colonial violence against non-Western others, particularly the Muslim world. ~ Synopsis
The New Atlantis is an effort to clarify the nation’s moral and political understanding of all areas of technology — from stem cells to hydrogen cells to weapons of mass destruction. We hope to make sense of the larger questions surrounding technology and human nature, and the practical questions of governing and regulating science — especially where the moral stakes are high and the political divides are deep. We also hope to stir things up — to challenge policymakers who know too little about science, and to push scientists who often fail to think seriously or deeply about the ethical and social implications of their work. This much seems clear: Technology will be central to the future of American life and American politics. It will create new political divides and new moral quandaries. It will force liberals and conservatives, Republicans and Democrats, to rethink their guiding principles and political vision. The New Atlantis hopes to be at the center of redefining politics for the technological age — by helping scientists, policymakers, and citizens deal more wisely and more creatively with the promise and perils of our nation’s future.
» Reflections on Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion
know I'm late to the party, but I've finally gotten a chance to begin reading Dawkins' celebrated best-seller, The God Delusion
. It's been a very engaging read so far and I'm hoping to post a number of reflections here as I stumble across provocative passages. In the first chapter, Dawkins aims to embolden beleaguered atheists who have been cowed into silence by societal and familial pressures. I second his call to transparency, to being our authentic selves in the public square. However, along the way, he paints a picture of the plight of atheists in the Western world, and in America in particular, that to me seems off. He suggests that, "the status of atheists in America today is on a par with that of homosexuals fifty years ago." And, it is only "slightly exaggerating" to say that "making fun of religion is as risky as burning a flag in an American Legion Hall". Dawkins makes some good observations about the very real prejudices
that atheists do face, but this second claim is absurd
. I know Dawkins is a Brit, looking in from afar, but has he ever: 1)
Watched The Simpsons
, The Family Guy
, or The Daily Show
Read The Onion
, a college newspaper, or a big city's "independent" paper
Hung out in the Humanities department of any major American university; 4)
Opened a Bible in West Hollywood or Manhattan
Ironically, many Christians also complain that it is they who are persecuted and prevailed upon to keep their beliefs in the closet. And the truth is, they're both right.
Isaiah Berlin (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux: August 2000), 672 pages.
Oxford professor, philosopher, and historian of ideas, the late Sir Isaiah Berlin (1909-97) was also one of the finest English essayists in the 20th century. This retrospective collection of 17 of his best essays surveys his entire career as a thinker, including his work in political philosophy and the philosophy of history, his thoughts on the Enlightenment, Vico, and Machiavelli, and his passion for Russian literature. Reprinted are such seminal essays as "Two Concepts Liberty" and "The Hedgehog and the Fox," as well as his reflections on Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt. Edited by scholars Hardy and Hausheer, who also provides an introduction, and with a foreword by Noel Annan, this book also includes a helpful bibliography. A fitting epitaph for a man passionately and eloquently devoted to ideas. ~ Library Journal
James Darsey (NYU Press: Sep 1, 1999), 279 pages.
This expansive volume traces the rhetoric of reform across American history, examining such pivotal periods as the American Revolution, slavery, McCarthyism, and today's gay liberation movement. At a time when social movements led by religious leaders, from Louis Farrakhan to Pat Buchanan, are playing a central role in American politics, James Darsey connects this radical tradition with its prophetic roots. Public discourse in the West is derived from the Greek principles of civility, diplomacy, compromise, and negotiation. On this model, radical speech is often taken to be a sympton of social disorder. Not so, contends Darsey, who argues that the rhetoric of reform in America represents the continuation of a tradition separate from the commonly accepted principles of the Greeks. Though the links have gone unrecognized, the American radical tradition stems not from Aristotle, he maintains, but from the prophets of the Hebrew Bible. ~ Synopsis
J. Budziszewski (Spence Pub: October 1, 1999), 184 pages.
Dr. Budziszewski begins by turning his criticism on himself, examining the foundations of the nihilism of his early career. Describing the political effects of Original Sin, he shows how man's suppression of his knowledge of right and wrong corrupts his conscience and accelerates social collapse. The depraved conscience grasps at the illusion of "moral neutrality," the absurd notion that men can live together without a shared understanding of how things are. After evaluating the political devices, including the American Constitution, by which men have tried in the past to work around the effects of Original Sin, Dr. Budziszewski elucidates the pitfalls of contemporary communitarianism, liberalism, and conservatism. The revenge of conscience is horrifically manifest today in abortion, euthanasia, and suicide, evils brought about by the pollution of good impulses such as pity, prudence, honor, and love. The way out of this confusion, he concludes, is Christianity, a once-prevalent faith whose troubling memory men now suppress along with their knowledge of the natural law. The political responsibility of Christians is somehow to stir up that memory and that knowledge, a daunting task in a world of sound bites and shouting matches. ~ Product Description
Mitchell Stephens and Others, for New York University (Mar 1999).
Sometime, somewhere, some anthropologist must have explored that tribal ritual: the greatest-hits list. These lists date back at least to the seven wonders of the ancient world. They reflect the importance of some area of tribal endeavor — monumental architecture, say, or rock-and-roll. And they establish hierarchies; how better to show your pre-eminence in the pecking order than to rank everyone else?
Journalists, trained to make their value judgments in neat pyramid style, most important facts first, could hardly be expected to resist the millennial listing urge. If Modern Library can cause a stir with its list of 100 best novels and the Rock-and-Roll Hall of Fame can take abuse for its top 500, why shouldn't journalists share in the fun? ~ Felicity Barringer in the New York Times
William Lane Craig, Habib Malik, and Paul M. Gould, eds. (Crossway Books: October 2007), 208 pages.
In September 1980 Charles Malik gave a powerful talk on the need for evangelicals to reclaim the mind, and to reclaim the universities. It was published that year in a brief book called The Two Tasks. A century after his birth, a number of Christian scholars, including his son, commemorates Malik and his stirring address. Thus this book. Seven Christian thinkers, including Peter Kreeft and William Lane Craig, remind us of the crucial importance of what Charles Malik said on that September day. And it was indeed a vital message. I have pulled from my shelves that quite thin volume (a mere 37 pages) and reread that incisive message. Malik rightly said that the "greatest danger besetting American Evangelical Christianity is the danger of anti-intellectualism." He also said that the most urgent need is "not only to win souls but to save minds". He correctly noted that the universities are the real battle ground today, and we need to see Christ exalted there as much as anywhere else. ~ William Muehlenberg at Amazon.com
Fyodor Dostoevsky, Notes from Underground (1864), Part I, Sect. VII, VIII.
ostoevsky's unprecedented short story, Notes from Underground
, is a philosophical treatise of striking originality, considered by many to be the first existentialist novel. In the early nineteenth century, with the remarkable successes of science in controlling nature, social and political theorists began to conceptualize human persons as just one more cog in the Newtonian "world machine
". As such, it was thought, human society could likewise be controlled through social engineering, ensuring its proper functioning toward desired outcomes. In this excerpt,
Dostoevsky voices his revulsion toward this mechanistic view of humans, renouncing the notion that humans can be relied upon to act in the predictable, law-like fashion
that characterizes the physical world. On the contrary, we humans are radically free, often acting irrationally and self-destructively for no other reason than to assert our independence from custom, convention, and social pressure. The larger story, from which this excerpt is taken, recounts the inner dialogue of an isolated and contemptuous civil servant whose quest for vengeance against perceived slights leads him to alienate himself from all others. Though this "Underground Man" is of an especially unseemly sort, Dostoevsky takes it that his irrational rationalizations will resonate with the reader's own inner thoughts, and will thereby undercut the deterministic, materialistic view of man current in his day. Dostoevsky's protest on behalf of free will remains a spirited rebuke to the standard narratives of human events that defer only to human psychology and instinct geared toward self-interest. ~ Nathan
C. S. Lewis in The Abolition of Man (1943), chp 2.
ewis continues his train of thought from "Men Without Chests"
, criticizing the project of subjectivizing value. Lewis thinks the stakes are as grave as they can be: "the destruction of the society which accepts it". But immediately, Lewis notes, such grave consequences do not make it false. And besides, there are "theoretical difficulties" as well. Those who advocate the subjectification of value, in this case the pseudonymous Gaius and Titius, presume some greater end even as they undercut traditional values. "In actual fact Gaius and Titius will be found to
hold, with complete uncritical dogmatism, the whole system of values
which happened to be in vogue among moderately educated young men of
the professional classes during the period between the two
wars. Their scepticism about values is on the surface: it
is for use on other people's values; about the values current in their
own set they are not nearly sceptical enough." But if Gaius and Titius have some ultimate ground for value in mind, which cannot be so debunked, what might that be? Lewis considers whether "instinct" can ground human value, but notes that instinct is itself contradictory and cannot warrant the leap from is
. One will be inexorably forced back to some objective law that presents itself to our conscience as self-evident and obligatory. "This thing which I have called for
convenience the Tao,
and which others may call Natural Law or
Traditional Morality or the First Principles of Practical Reason or
the First Platitudes, is not one among a series of possible systems of
value. It is the sole source of all value judgements." ~ Afterall
The Williamsburg Charter, presented to the nation on June 25, 1988, the 200th anniversary of Virginia's call for the Bill of Rights.
Recent controversies over religion and public life have too often become a form of warfare in which individuals, motives, and reputations have been impugned. The intensity of the debate is commensurate with the importance of the issues debated, but to those engaged in this warfare we present two arguments for reappraisal and restraint. The lesser argument is one of expediency and is based on the ironic fact that each side has become the best argument for the other. One side's excesses have become the other side's arguments; one side's extremists the other side's recruiters. The danger is that, as the ideological warfare becomes self-perpetuating, more serious issues and broader national interests will be forgotten and the bitterness deepened. The more important argument is one of principle and is based on the fact that the several sides have pursued their objectives in ways which contradict their own best ideals. Too often, for example, religious believers have been uncharitable, liberals have been illiberal, conservatives have been insensitive to tradition, champions of tolerance have been intolerant, defenders of free speech have been censorious, and citizens of a republic based on democratic accommodation have succumbed to a habit of relentless confrontation.