Jews and Christmas

How does one respond to the late”and highly respected”Jakob Petuchowski’s eloquent critique of those Jews who oppose the display of religious symbols on public property (“A Rabbi’s Christmas,” December 1991)? Not easily. But let me try.

The story has been told that, shortly after the constitutional convention in Philadelphia in 1787, a professor of theology at Princeton rebuked Alexander Hamilton because, in the document they drafted, the founders of the republic failed to espouse Christianity. Hamilton is said to have replied, “Well, I declare, we forgot.” Of course, the founders didn’t forget at all. What they did was remember. They remembered that this country had been settled mainly by Christians”Puritans, Quakers, Baptists, Lutherans, Catholics, Huguenots, Mennonites, and many others”who were fleeing oppression in Europe at the hands of other Christians who controlled the machinery of government, who had read the Gospels, and who sincerely believed they were doing the Lord’s will when they savagely persecuted dissident minority sects, both Christian and Jewish. They remembered also what had happened in this country to religious dissenters in the Puritan theocracy of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and under the Anglican establishment in Virginia.

Precisely because the founders remembered, in the entire body of the Constitution they framed there is no mention whatever of Jesus or Moses, or even of God. Does that mean that they were anti-religious? Of course not. Did the founders, therefore, in Rabbi Petuchowski’s critical words elsewhere in his article, “‘establish’ the religion of Secularism as the official religion of the United States”? Again, of course not. But even though they surely didn’t ponder the question of crèches or menorahs on public property, they surely did reject the concept of fusion of religion and government. Clearly, they wanted the two to remain separate . . . .There is, of course, nothing in the U.S. Constitution which says that religions cannot play a vital, visible role in American public life. They certainly can, and they certainly should. Separation of church and state has never meant separation of church and society.

With regard to crèche and menorah displays, is there any religious need to place sacred symbols of any faith at the seats of government? Once again, of course not. There is certainly no dearth of private spaces readily available for the public display of sacred symbols”churches, synagogues, religious schools, private lawns, and store fronts . . . .

To some very well-meaning people, the constitutional principle of separation of religion and government is just so much idle banter. (The late Marshall McLuhan, for example, one remarked that the whole issue of separation of church and state had outlived is uselessness .) In the cogent words of the Williamsburg Charter, however, “Far from denigrating religion as a social or political ‘problem,’ the separation of Church and State is both the saving of religion from the temptation of political power and an achievement inspired in large part by religion itself. Far from weakening religion, disestablishment has, as an historical fact, enabled it to flourish.”

As Rabbi Petuchowski well realized, most American Jews are indeed staunchly “separationist””and for good historical reasons. Some of them also believe that it is their civic responsibility to articulate their beliefs and, if need be, to advocate them robustly in courts of law in specific situations. Were it not for such activists. Passion Plays with anti-Semitic undertones, for example, might still be staged at Easter time in public schools in Dade County, Florida. Nor, contrary to Rabbi Petuchowski’s views, is it a proper function of government under our Constitution to compose or to sponsor prayers (even nondenominational prayers) for American school children to recite. The U.S. Supreme Court has made that quite clear. With all due respect to the late Rabbi Petuchowski, it is fair to say that he did not really believe very strongly in the principle of separation of religion and government.

If, God forbid, the United States should ever become, in Rabbi Petuchowski’s words, “a totally Godless society,” it will not be because some people feel deeply, for another example, that the only symbol that properly belongs on a public firehouse is the American flag, not the Cross of Christ. Having said all of this, this writer (as did Rabbi Petuchowski) also “rather likes the sights, the sounds, the smells, and the tastes of Christmas,” and “continues to wish his Christian friends a heartfelt ‘Merry Christmas’ at Yuletide.” In sum, let thousands of crèches”and menorahs”bloom! But out of symbolic respect for constitutional principle, let them be publicly displayed on or at other than government property.

Samuel Rabinove
Legal Director
American Jewish Committee
New York, NY


Jakob J. Petuchowski’s “A Rabbi’s Christmas” expresses friendly feelings toward Christians who publicly display religious Christmas symbols, and resentment toward those persons, apparently mostly Jews, who, like Grinches, want to do away with such wholesome celebration.

One thing wrong with the article is that it uses the term “public observance of Christmas” and equivalent terms in an ambiguous way. Christmas pastry, crèches, and carols”found in and around stores, homes, and churches”are in no way at issue. Only late in the article does it touch on the real issue”not “public observance” and not “spontaneous expression” but religious displays, songs, and presumably prayers that are supported or sponsored by local governments. The examples are “a crèche at City Hall . . . or a Christmas carol at a public school assembly.”

But city halls and public schools belong to a public that consists not merely of Christians but of Muslims, Buddhists, agnostics, atheists, and, of course, Jews. According to the principles of American tradition and of basic fairness, such public institutions should not give the impression that some one religion is the established religion of the country, and therefore superior to all others . . . .

I do not think that thoughtful Christians demand tax-supported opportunities for their religious observances. After all, they have the use of their homes and churches, inside and outside, the places most suitable for the manifestation of their deepest beliefs. They no doubt do not feel so spiritually weak as to require government sponsorship of their faith.

The second thing wrong with Rabbi Petuchowski’s argument is that it libels Jews when it claims that they harbor “Jewish animosity” toward “public celebration of the birthday of Jesus of Nazareth.” It goes on to suggest that a high proportion of Jews are “secularists” who hate all religions and who “want to denude the ‘public square’ of every last trace of religious influence.”

In my experience . . . the vast majority of Jews have no such animosity; and the claim that they have sounds as if it comes from someone who does not like Jews. At the same time, Jews, like adherents to other non-Christian religions, may with justice object to their children in school being forced either to sing or to pretend to sing of “Christ the Lord.” Moreover, the many “secularists” I have known, far from hating all religion, usually think so little of religion that they for the most part merely ignore it . . .

Referring to the Talmud and to expediency, “A Rabbi’s Christmas” warns Jews not to annoy Christians by demanding justice. As for me, I prefer the prophet Amos’ advice: “Let justice roll down like waters” (5:24).

Leonard Moskovit
Professor Emeritus of English
University of Colorado at Boulder


Dissent on Reagan

Nothing so confuses me as the defense by so many writers in First Things of Ronald Reagan (James Nuechterlein, “Reagan’s America, America’s Reagan,” December 1991). Whenever the word is not taken as a synonym for libertarian or racist . . . I can pass any test for “conservative.” But, unlike Mr. Nuechterlein’s friend who saw Reagan on TV and said “He’s good,” every time I see Ronald Reagan I am reminded of Mark 9:42: “If anyone gives scandal, it is better for that person that a millstone be tied around his neck and he be tossed into the sea.” It would be a great help if we had some list of characteristics of Ronald Reagan that are taken by his Christian admirers to be admirable. Let me make a list of what those Christians who so dislike him find contemptible.

1. Christ’s First Commandment. People like myself are stunned that Mr. Nuechterlein can be unaware that Ronald Reagan so rarely (never?) goes to church. Contrary to the quote from Reagan that appears in the article, he was infrequently in church and was often asked about his absence by reporters during press conferences. The reason he gave for not being there (safety) was not used by his predecessor or successor . . . .

2. Christ’s Second Commandment. When he ran for President, Mr. Reagan’s income tax returns were made public. His contributions to charity were considerably less than 1 percent of his income. He regularly appointed officials . . . who testified unashamedly to their lack of interest in the poor. Mr. Carter’s Christian support of Habitations for Humanity need not be Ronald Reagan’s interest. But there should be some evidence somewhere of his concern . . . .

3. Mr. Nuechterlein assures us that Ronald Reagan was “hurt by the charge of racism so regularly raised against him.” Can Mr. Nuechterlein offer us any evidence that Ronald Reagan was interested in any way in racial justice or participated in any effort to advance it?

It isn’t the “liberals” who are so confused about claims made for Ronald Reagan. It is the Christians.

Finally, although “liberalism’s near-obsessive concern with the distribution of income [may be] . . . a matter toward which Americans have been mostly indifferent,” it was not a matter toward which Jesus Christ was indifferent. I do not jump to the conclusion that income redistribution will work, but I wonder more than Mr. Nuechterlein seems to do what Jesus had in mind as a proper attitude for Christians about income distribution.

Defenders of Ronald Reagan have been able to ignore these honestly felt and easily documented concerns. I hope First Things will not. History will not.

Jack Connor
Strafford, PA


Reforming the Trinity

In “The Grammar of Baptism” (December 1991) the Rev. Alvin F. Kimel, Jr. argues with considerable ingenuity against the efforts of feminists to “reform” the name of the Holy Trinity, from its current benighted state of “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,” in the direction of “non-gender-specific terms.”

A more direct approach would be simply to admit that it is finally time for Christians to have done with “feminism.” Feminists don’t care about religious truth. They are motivated instead by nothing more than the desire to see a particular political agenda prevail, but they pretend to be the bearers of some mighty revelation, vouchsafed to them alone, leading one and all to a bright new world of greater inclusiveness and sensitivity.

Let us rather say lo the feminists, “We eschew inclusiveness and sensitivity. These are pseudo-virtues, which you try to shame us into accepting, by directing a polemic against the Church, whose moral force is due simply to its use of certain radical chic cliches that we were all taught to grovel before back in the 1960s. Your critique is fundamentally anti-theological in nature. It is based upon a radical egalitarian political teaching that insists on the subordination of revealed truth to your version of political orthodoxy. As such it is worse than heresy, it is blasphemy. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is the name of the Triune God, revealed to us by the incarnate Word Himself and the Holy Spirit, through Holy Tradition and Scripture, the Church Fathers, and the first seven Ecumenical Councils. You have nothing to offer against these but your own insatiable desire for ‘equality and social justice,’ and the force of your demonic anger.”

It is a waste of time to argue with feminists, or to think up clever replies to the cowards who tell us that we are “challenged with being faithful to the credal tradition of the church, while . . . naming the God who is ‘One in Three and Three in One’ in non-gender-specific terms.” This is nonsense. No serious Christian will listen to this pathetic drivel, or have any patience with people who use “words” like “non-gender-specific.”

Scott R. Stripling
North Andover, MA

While sharing Alvin F. Kimel’s concern relative to the “language revisers,” I found his article rather bemusing. If the titles “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” are so critical in baptism, why did not the Apostles use them? The first-century church always baptized in the name of Jesus, never in the triune titles Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38; 8:16; 10:48; 19:5). Baptism in the name of Jesus was so well-established and accepted that Paul used it as a basis of his anti-schism argument in 1 Corinthians 1:13.

Jesus was God incarnate (2 Cor. 5:19; Col. 2:9) and the Church did everything in his name”preaching and teaching (Acts 4:18), healings (Acts 3:6), exorcisms (Acts 16:18), and baptisms. The invoking of his name was so pervasive that the sons of Sceva thought it was an incantation (Acts 19:13).

If the Church had retained the emphasis on, and the use of, the name of Jesus in all its activities (Col. 3:17), the current battle over revising the language of the Church would be pretty much dead in the water. Could anyone argue that invoking the name of Betty (or some other name) is the equal of invoking the name of Jesus?

The current language debate is just one more indicator of how much the church lost when it got caught up in the philosophical/theological Christology debates, and replaced the name of Jesus with the titles Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Forrest H. Scott
Middletown, OH

Age andAbortion

I have noticed that as some women grow older, they tend to shift toward a more conservative position on the issue of abortion. By the time such women have completed their “analytical odyssey,” to use Stephanie Moussalli’s pompous term (“Abortion on Second Thought,” December 1991), they are often beyond the normal years of childbearing. Many younger women who disapprove of abortion nevertheless do not want the legal option to be closed off because they realize that circumstances may conceivably arise in which they might need to exercise the abortion option, but beyond a certain age threshold there is probably diminished empathy with less “analytical” younger women, who should now, their elders conclude, be compelled by the State to carry an accidental pregnancy to term. Some feminists would call these coerced younger women “pregnancy slaves,” which is not quite the same analogy between slavery and abortion that Stephanie Moussalli belabors.

Thomas Robbins
Rochester, MN


Science and Truth

Paul Liben’s fine article “Science Within the Limits of Truth” (December 1991) explains why scientific claims to objectivity are threatened by the naturalistic metaphysic that has seduced so many scientists. The Nobel laureate biochemist Arthur Kornberg insists, for example, that “mind, as part of life, is matter and only matter.” If scientific thinking itself is only the product of material causes (or cultural prejudice, if you prefer), then science itself is a prime candidate for deconstruction. Scientific realism thus presupposes an investigating mind that has some degree of independence from the grip of material or cultural causation.

Liben also says that creation is a topic outside of science, and that creationism can play only the negative role of denying that there is sufficient evidence for evolution. The point requires an important qualification. Natural science cannot study a supernatural Creator, but it does study life, which may be the product either of materialistic evolution or of intelligent creation. The difference between these two theories of origin has tangible scientific consequences. For example, Michael Polanyi has written that living organisms contain and transmit information, which in principle cannot be explained solely by reference to the laws that govern its physical and chemical embodiment. Polanyi’s view has been sharply rejected by materialists like Francis Crick, “who is convinced that all life can be ultimately accounted for by the laws of inanimate nature.” That rejection stems from the materialist commitment to Darwinism. As Polanyi explained, “The question is whether or not the logical range of random mutations includes the formation of novel principles not definable in terms of physics and chemistry. It seems very unlikely that it does.”

The difference between Polanyi and Crick/Kornberg is of great practical importance for the design of research strategies. We can’t understand Shakespeare by learning everything there is to know about ink and paper, and we can’t understand a computer program by explaining the electronic medium in which it is expressed. As I point out in Darwin on Trial, molecular biologists even now use the language of intelligent communication (information, libraries, translation) because there is no other way to depict what they are seeing. I am advocating that scientists consider intelligent creation seriously because this concept allows them to discard ideological blinkers and recognize the reality that is staring them in the face.

Phillip E. Johnson
University of California
School of Law
Berkeley, CA


Some comments on the Paul Liben article, “Science Within the Limits of Truth,” by a retired college professor of social studies and religion.

Mr. Liben has correctly identified a serious challenge to human welfare, a tendency to regard individuals as puppets of “society,” and therefore without moral responsibility for their conduct. He is wrong in attributing this to a wrong use of “science” largely by “academics.”

One error is a failure to recognize that “science” has different meanings. The discussion sees science as a body of conclusions about some limited area of “truth.” But science also means a critical examination of opinions and values by continual “checking up” on the evidence. In this sense, science should have no “limits of truth.”

A second question is “Who is to blame for this distorted appeal to ‘Science’?” Mr. Liben implies that it is the academics. I am familiar with social scientists and their writings, and know that this is not the case. The trouble arises from pundits who write popular articles . . . .

Today, the main champions of “society is to blame” movements have been ethnic groups who have eagerly seen themselves as “victims” as a device to avoid personal responsibility for their plight and the liberal “Utopians” who aid and abet them.

Sylvanus Milne Duvall
Sarasota, FL

. . . In his excellent article, Paul H. Liben defines science as the study of nature. I disagree. While this statement is descriptively true, it is not an adequate definition. The Greeks were aggressive students of nature. They postulated the heliocentric theory of the solar system (Aristarchus of Samos) and suggested the atomic theory of matter but finally settled for the far more reasonable explanations that the Sun went around the Earth and that all things were composed of earth, air, fire, and water.

The distinguishing feature of modern science is its limiting requirement that findings be repeatable. It is the repeatability factor that has made science such a powerful tool in the search for truth and has given science the reputation that is so coveted by non-scientific disciplines. Even a sociologist asserting that poverty correlates with crime must show repeated examples. He cannot simply point to a poor criminal. A good working definition of modern science might be the study of those things in nature that are repeatable and only those things that are repeatable.

One of the few disciplines called a science and not subjected to the repeatability standard is the study of origins. “Why,” we should ask the evolutionist, “should you be exempt?” We may not get an acceptable answer but at least the problem of separate standards is made explicit. Until the student of origins can produce repeated examples of spontaneous generation (living organisms created entirely from non-living matter) followed by an evolutionary process, his speculations remain in the realm of philosophy and outside the strict standards of modern science.

Science can, of course, provide evidence for a philosophical debate. The creationist has the laws of thermodynamics, the absence of any known case of spontaneous generation, and a fossil record “filled” with missing links. The evolutionist has the ongoing process of adaptation throughout nature. But neither side has any scientific proof.

New scientific hypotheses are proposed every day. Many are tested. Of those tested the vast majority go quickly to the garbage can for lack of repeatable results. Yet the theory of evolution has been with us for one hundred years. If the goal of the evolutionist is to replace God with a mechanistic model, he is doomed in more ways than one. What model exists to explain what would have been the greatest quantum change in the history of the universe, namely the first cell?

It is also worth remembering that there is no such thing as a scientific fact. The most that any valid scientific finding has ever proven is that the old well-tested theory was wrong. See, for example, what Einstein did to the rock-solid certainty of Newtonian physics. Yet the enlightened modern man is told by so-called scientists to “believe” in the theory of evolution . . . .

My main point is that the best defense of true science can often be found in its own axioms. People who love science need to boldly proclaim these axioms and challenge those who would abuse science’s good reputation, to explain why they should be exempt from the rules that created that reputation.

Jim Ober
Baton Rouge, LA


Papal Economics

Readers can thank Francis Canavan for his masterful exposition (“The Popes and the Economy,” October 1991) of the place of Centesimus Annus in the social magisterium. So far as contemporary U.S. life-styles are concerned, one point he makes deserves special emphasis. As a high-tech version of the ancient vice of avarice, consumerism is indeed a monstrous evil. But such a vice is not an essential, necessary characteristic of capitalism, not ( pace Karl Marx) the inevitable psychological consequence of alienation in the capitalist work place. With private property initiatives and market incentives kept in place, appropriate cultural changes (“a great deal of educational and cultural work,” CA No. 36) can be introduced to purge capitalism of consumerism and thereby bring the market economy to a higher level of moral perfection.

There are, however, places in Fr. Canavan’s analysis which indicate that the theologians haven’t yet got John Paul II’s message. Fr. Canavan suggests three ways”(i) minimum wage legislation; (ii) obligatory collective bargaining; and (iii) “other means not beyond . . . human intelligence””for dealing with the case when a firm finds it “economically unfeasible to pay a living wage.” The unusual short-case justification for the first two options assumes that shifting the balance of power in favor of labor can force a redistribution of income from capitalist bad guys to worker good guys and thereby achieve a living wage for the firm’s employees. Such an argument has great populist appeal; trade union demagogues love it. But it should be noted that the axiomatic base of such analysis is a bit of flat-earth superstition explicitly rejected by Pius XI”the Marxian labor theory of value and its purportedly “scientific” corollaries, the theory of surplus value and worker exploitation.

A non-Marxian and more insidious justification for reliance on minimum wage legislation to achieve distribution equity is founded on a twisted interpretation of traditional scholastic teaching on economic justice. Through a highly idiosyncratic reading of the Summa Theologica, R. H. Tawney bequeathed to the critics of capitalism the notion that the just price of a commodity”the justum pretium which serves as the central concept of St. Thomas’ teaching on market relationships”was to be determined by the “status” of the producer. The just price of shoes should provide a living wage for shoemakers; the just price of milk should preserve the family farm. To apply such a principle to a market economy, the law should first specify the wage required to maintain the worker in his social position as the price of the commodity he produces should then adapt to the cost structure so established. Such analysis had great appeal to writers (Chesterton) who would romanticize the medieval world. Such an understanding of market relationships undergirds John A. Ryan’s classic work on distributive justice (an analysis, be it noted, that was quietly but definitively rejected in the U.S. Bishops’ pastoral letter on the economy).

As research by Schumpeter, Langholm, and others has demonstrated, the notion that the scholastic justum pretium was to be determined by producer “status” does not reflect an accurate understanding of medieval teaching on economic justice. As the latter was developed by the later scholastics, the just price of a commodity was said to be determined by its usefulness to a typical buyer and is identified by society’s communis estimatio as reflected in the market. It is this latter conception of exchange justice that is implied in John Paul II’s endorsement of the market, especially in his assertion ( CA, No. 32) that the price of a commodity is determined by contractual agreement between buyer and seller.

However, though purveyors of capitalist ideology would deny it, the principle that the just price of a commodity is determined by supply and demand can indeed give rise to a moral dilemma. What happens when the consumer’s right to buy at the just price collides with the worker’s right to a living wage? Students of the social magisterium might note this hard case was explicitly dealt with by Pius XI ( Quadragesirno Anno , Nos. 72, 73).

Pius XI sets up the case carefully, noting that a firm with up-to-date technology, progressive management, and good labor relations, selling its product in a fair market, may nevertheless find itself unable to pay a living wage. In such a “grave crisis,” he concludes, “it must finally be considered whether the business can continue or the workers be cared for in some other way.” Fr. Canavan’s third option for dealing with the firm unable to pay a living wage is here identified. Such a firm is to be closed down, the workers to be “cared for in some other way””e.g., through unemployment compensation and retraining allowances. Unlike minimum wage and collective bargaining solutions that would keep the workers in place (and eventually require public sector subsidies to keep the otherwise bankrupt firm in business), the plant closure plus retraining option facilitates and humanizes, rather than obstructs, the working of the market process.

Those who try to find (mistakenly, as Fr. Canavan rightly affirms) an abrupt change in direction in Centesimus Annus might reflect. This deep-level understanding of the market system and identification of plant closure with retraining as the solution for a basic problem was spelled out by Pius XI in one of the classic documents of the social magisterium half a century ago.

Stephen T. Worland
Professor Emeritus of Economics
University of Notre Dame


Dissent on Euthanasia

I like your magazine and appreciate what I have read.

However, I have serious reservations about your editorial on euthanasia (“Euthanasia: Final Exit, Final Excuse,” December 1991).

You write of “the ominous advances made by the campaign for euthanasia.” You then criticize Derek Humphry’s Final Exit as a manual for killing.

Let us look at Webster’s definition of euthanasia: “An act of putting to death persons suffering from incurable and distressing disease.” Is that not quite different from “killing”? Killing is a highly negative term used eighteen times in your editorial, but only once (page 50) in Final Exit.

Look again at the purpose of Final Exit as stated at the bottom of page 19: “It is aimed at helping public and health professionals achieve death with dignity for those who desire to plan for it.”

You imply that euthanasia is running rampant in our society. Read again Derek Humphry’s caution on page 33: “I cannot emphasize strongly enough that people (doctors included) should help each other to die if there is a bonding of love and friendship and mutual respect.”

I agree that “a body is owned, body and soul, by God”created and destined for God.” Do we have a right to use mechanical means to keep that soul, entombed in a non-functional physical body, from returning to its Maker?

You indicate that our choice now is between healing and killing. Rather, when healing has reached its limit, should not death with dignity be accepted as part of life”eternal?

Could not money used to keep dysfunctional bodies alive be better used to feed, clothe, house, educate people who are alive”and want to live creatively?

J. Albert Clark
Minister in the United
Church of Christ
Columbus, OH


Body and Mind

I tip my hat to John Crosby for his wonderful article “Education and the Mind Redeemed” (December 1991). An incarnational theology that limits the significance of the earthly appearance of the second person of the Trinity to the salvation of our souls from a world of iniquity and eternal damnation must, inevitably, terminate in a devaluation of everything terrestrial. Hence, in answer to Tertullian’s query “What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?” the Christian whose understanding of the incarnation is so circumscribed will either embrace the one (Jerusalem) and hate the other (Athens) or try in vain to unite what can only remain strange (and strained) bedfellows . . . .

While Crosby’s interest in this article is limited to Tertullian’s quandary (and our own) of relating the elements of the Christian university, that is, philosophy, literature, history, and the liberal arts, to the life of redemption and faith, the underlying issue at stake seems easily to extend beyond intellectual culture. What we are really dealing with here is the legitimacy of any Christian vocation whose end seems, and perhaps is, unambiguously terrestrial.

This problem is particularly acute in the evangelical community. If our terrestrial purpose is that of evangelism and the salvation of souls, how are we to justify any vocation whose end is not directly, or indirectly, so oriented? What invariably emerges in such circles is the kind of thinking that impels evangelical Christians into missions, the pastorate, or a career whose financial remuneration contributes to these eschatological vocations. An alternative evangelical view of vocation is a utilitarian one, namely, that the reason we need Christians occupying a variety of positions in a multiplicity of “secular” fields is in order to proclaim the gospel to the unbelievers who inhabit those universes of discourse. Such views, however, not only invariably devalue the terrestrial, but what’s worse is that in their very devaluation they fail to apprehend the magnitude and universal scope of God’s redemptive and re-creative work in the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, a truly cosmic work to which Scripture bears testimony.

It strikes me that an incarnational humanism of the kind posited by Crosby (and a position articulated by many thinkers of the Reformed persuasion) need not threaten in the least the evangelistic fervor of those of us who count ourselves among American evangelicals. The evangelistic mandate recorded in the twenty-eighth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew does not, and should not, issue forth in a devaluation of the terrestrial. The biblical picture seems rather to be that the destiny of humanity and all creation is the destiny of Jesus Christ. Human flourishing in all of its various dimensions accurately mirrors the kingdom of God. Certainly the writer of Psalm 72 anticipated a king whose kingdom would be characterized by terrestrial flourishing. As the blessed receivers of God’s promises, should we not embrace the terrestrial as that which is included in the universal redemptive and re-creative act of God in Christ? Is it not time to acknowledge that contributing to human flourishing, exemplifying Christ as the telos of humanity, is not just a humanistic nicety, but constitutive of the very gospel we proclaim? . . .

Kevin Corcoran
New Haven, CT


Correction

One of our readers points out that the review by Kevin Flannery of Roger Scruton’s The Philosopher on Dover Beach (December 1991) misquotes Matthew Arnold’s “Dover Beach.” The lines should read thus: “the grating roar / Of pebbles which the waves draw back , and fling” (emphasis added), and not “suck back,” a rather unlikely alternative.

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