Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!

The Diversity Machine: The Drive to Change the “White Male Workplace”
By Frederick R. Lynch.
Free Press, 416 pages, $27.50.

Affirmative action has sustained some severe blows recently, but its commercial cousin, the diversity movement, has escaped close scrutiny until now. With this wide-ranging book, sociologist Frederick Lynch crushes the Potemkin Village of slogans, moralisms, and stereotypes that has shielded diversity management. The basic argument of the diversity mavens is that as America’s population becomes increasingly diverse, so must its workforce. The cultural identities of a corporation’s workers must be “valued” and “managed” to maintain a competitive edge in multicultural global markets. There is some truth to all this. But as with so many social innovations, its consequences far outstrip its intentions. Lynch traces the diversity movement from the affirmative action campaigns of the 1960s to its entrenchment in today’s largest corporations. He documents the language and rationales of diversity trainers who browbeat personnel managers into hiring a workforce that “looks like America” and “reaching out” to the “underrepresented”––and who earn large fees providing subsequent training in “cultural sensitivity.” While Lynch is respectful of the good intentions of many in the diversity movement, he demonstrates that blindness to internal group differences in age, religion, education, and even gender undercuts the validity of generalizations about group traits. Particularly valuable and entertaining are the anecdotes Lynch relates from his forays into the hyper-PC world of diversity: a personnel official at a major newspaper happily declaring that the paper was able to hire more minorities once it eliminated typing and spelling tests for applicants; an economist openly declaring, “I want equality of outcomes, not equal opportunity,” while calling the 1992 Los Angeles riots “a long overdue insurrection.” Analyzing “preference falsification” (the phrase coined by economist Timur Kuran for the mobilization of social pressure to make people publicly praise ideas as true that they privately believe to be false) Lynch shows that the diversity machine––with its underlying ideology of ethnic-gender proportionalism, cultural relativism, and identity politics-can only foment social acrimony. The relentless detail of Lynch’s investigation will persuade anyone with an open mind of the problems created by the diversity movement in America’s political and business culture.

––Brad Stetson

Christology from Within: Spirituality and the Incarnation in Hans Urs von Balthasar
By Mark A. McIntosh.
University of Notre Dame Press, 200 pages, $29.

Modern Christology is largely driven by two issues: distance (the sense theologians have of how much divides us from the authors of the New Testament) and division (the separation between the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith that emerged with historical criticism of the Bible). Balthasar’s Christology addresses these issues by seeing in them a more fundamental issue: the gulf that separates the historical Jesus from God, who sent him to the Cross to bear our sins. In the darkness of his obedience Jesus experienced God’s condemnation of sin, but the crucial point is that his obedience was both Incarnate and Trinitarian. Balthasar’s Christology goes back directly to Peter’s first sermon after the miracle of Pentecost: “Therefore let the whole house of Israel know that God has made this Jesus both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). Balthasar insists that no one can see this solution except through the same spiritual conversion for which Peter called. It is the great merit of Mark McIntosh’s book that he has not only seen this essential connection between theology and spirituality in Balthasar’s thought but has devised a way of demonstrating its necessity. As he points out, up until at least the High Middle Ages it seemed perfectly obvious to every Christian that a believer could not possibly reflect on “the mystery of God’s presence in Jesus without attempting to participate in the spiritual journey marked out by Jesus himself,” any more than one would dream of farming at night. Any survey of the place of theology in contemporary culture will surely bear the author out: as McIntosh says, “spirituality” and “theology” have now both become anemic versions of themselves. Few words even sound more vapid than “spirituality,” and in most university settings theology is regarded as little better than alchemy. Only with a vigorous theology married to a tensile faith life will we meet the severe challenges of our time––the kind of theology that Balthasar has provided and that is so convincingly interpreted by his trustworthy Anglican reader, Mark McIntosh.

––Edward T. Oakes, S.J.

Aquinas and Analogy
By Ralph McInerny
Catholic University of America Press, 178 pages, $39.95

The concept of analogy plays perhaps the central role in nearly all the projects undertaken by Thomas Aquinas. And since––as Thomas himself quotes from Aristotle––small errors in the beginning lead to large errors in the end, a correct initial understanding of what Thomas is up to with analogy remains necessary for understanding what positions he ultimately takes about God, man, the universe, and everything else. Ralph McInerny has had a long and almost impossibly distinguished career as a lecturer, essayist, mystery writer, editor, and one of America’s most recognized Catholic philosophers. But he began his career as a scholar of Thomas, thinking about analogy, and it is to Thomistic analogy that he returns in this work”concerned particularly to correct five centuries of misinterpretation put in motion by the stalwart fifteenth-century Dominican, Cardinal Cajetan. At issue is how it is possible to apply the adjective “good,” for example, to God, humans, and apples. As Cajetan reads Aquinas, these very different subjects are good because the ratio propria ”roughly, the proper sense”of “good” can be found in them all, taken individually. According to McInerny, however, we understand the conclusions Thomas reached about ultimate reality only when we grasp that a term’s proper sense belongs to just one subject––God, in the case of goodness––while other subjects take their meaning analogously from that which defines the term uniquely. This is an important argument, and an important return by a major Catholic thinker to his old haunts. Be warned, however: Unlike some of McInerny’s popular work, this is unabashedly scholarly, with significant chunks of Latin and Greek left untranslated at crucial moments in the argument. But for those readers willing to work their way through it, McInerny’s thoughtful analysis shows where the argument about analogy and, consequently, much else in Thomas now stands.

––Stephen R. Grimm

The Encyclicals of John Paul II
Edited by J. Michael Miller.
Our Sunday Visitor, 1,008 pages, $49.95.

There have been twelve encyclicals so far in this pontificate, and Father Miller, who teaches at the Gregorian University in Rome, here brings them together in one volume, offering intelligently helpful introductions to each. The official Vatican translations are used throughout, thus avoiding the sometimes misleading “inclusive” language that is indulged in other editions (even by the otherwise careful Daughters of St. Paul). This project is a very great service, and champions of John Paul II pray that this Pope produces twelve more encyclicals for a second volume.

Heaven on Earth: A Lutheran-Orthodox Odyssey
By Robert Tobias.
American Lutheran Publicity Bureau (Delhi, NY), 132 pages, $12.50 paper.

Veteran ecumenist Tobias, who has been party to the official Lutheran-Orthodox theological dialogues, here offers a piquant account of his personal experiences with the encounter between these church communities, mainly in Eastern Europe but also in this country. This very accessible little book should encourage the growth of such encounters among Christians of all traditions.