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Personalism and Apologetics

After reading Avery Cardinal Dulles’ article “The Rebirth of Apologetics” (May), one would do well to consider another approach to apologetics–one that recognizes that people can also pursue “aspirations of the human heart for communion with the divine” through their vocations. Some of us are scientists; others are teachers, engineers, doctors, lawyers, businessmen, transportation workers, artists, athletes, priests, politicians, and so forth. Vocational practices and experiences influence our openness to apologetic approaches, leading some to be persuasive and others to appear to be irrelevant or even incoherent.

Will a personalist approach work equally well in every case? Does personalism have a monopoly on understanding the human heart’s aspiration for communion with the divine? The answer to both questions is “no.” Moreover, personalism operates from a significant epistemological weakness: to use the self or “personhood” as the basis for seeking”let alone witnessing to”the truth and the divine is to violate the cardinal rule that we ought to start from what is more known to us before proceeding to what is less known. A person knows many things before he can even acknowledge personhood.

This is not, by any means, to disparage the Pope’s reminder that today’s world needs witnesses more than arguments. On the contrary, it is to support this vision through an apologetics that channels the Christian witness so that it harmonizes with the outlook of the receiver’s vocational experience. Focusing on the other by speaking his or her own language, rather than the subjectivistic abstractions of personalism, would better reflect the Pope’s own call in Fides et Ratio “to enter into a relationship with [other human beings] which is intimate and enduring.”

Cardinal Dulles seems to conclude that basing an apologetics on scientific evidence is somehow inferior to appealing to personal testimony. But for a modern-day scientist, such evidence would likely carry far more weight than arguments based on personal experience.

While it might be the case that nonscientists are less interested in proofs for the existence of God than in “a communion with the divine,” it is also true that the general public’s view of the world is strongly influenced by empirical claims. The general public ought to be interested in the objective truth, which is why science should be encouraged–in spite of Cardinal Dulles’ claim that a scientific approach in apologetics “rarely leads to conversion.”

Faith applies to mysteries beyond reason (Hebrews 11:1); knowledge applies to that which can be grasped by the intellect under its own powers–such as knowledge of the existence of God (see Wisdom 13 as a whole, but especially verse 5). The way to a scientist’s heart is more often than not through his reason, and such an approach to witnessing to Christ is truly worthy of the “human desire to know.”

Alexander Sich
Science and Technology Center     Kiev, Ukraine

We should build more airplanes, but not ones that fly. Similarly paradoxical is Avery Cardinal Dulles’ call for a “rebirth of apologetics,” but of an apologetics that does “not attempt to demonstrate the truth of the mysteries of faith.” Isn’t that exactly what apologetics does–attempt to demonstrate the truth of Christian doctrines? That is what is traditionally meant by “apologetics.” There is one strand in contemporary apologetics, called “reformed epistemology” (promoted, for example, by Alvin Plantinga), which seeks to defend the rationality of Christian belief without giving arguments for its truth. Cardinal Dulles might be referring to this school of thought, but what he says positively about apologetics does not point in this direction. He suggests that apologetics provides “reasons for judging that what purports to be God’s word really is His word.” Isn’t this an attempt to demonstrate the truth of a Christian doctrine?

A final note. Cardinal Dulles writes, “The apologetics of personal testimony is particularly suited to the genius of Catholicism.” Particularly? Isn’t it at least as suited to the other strands of Christianity, e.g., evangelical Protestantism? I couldnagree more with Cardinal Dulles’ conclusion that the rebirth of apologetics is urgently needed, if he means by “apologetics” the attempt to demonstrate the truth of Christian doctrines. Fortunately the rebirth is already underway. Many philosophers are working on it–or example, in the Society of Christian Philosophers and in the Evangelical Philosophical Society.

Daniel von Wachter
Department of Philosophy, University of Munich     Munich, Germany

Avery Cardinal Dulles makes many important points in his article, though he also makes some missteps.

The Cardinal states, “This exultation of blind faith frequently goes hand in hand with a strong predestinationism. Choosing whom He wants to save, God infuses faith in some and leaves the rest of the human race to sink into perdition. In this fideist framework apologetics would be quite pointless.” First, God performs no forsaking evil. Romans 8 makes that quite clear. Second, in terms of choosing, who better than God to find in His omniscience those whom He wishes to be with Him for eternity. God, who is infinitely fair, is the only One for the job, and He has assigned his Son Jesus for the task. No one is “coerced” to believe: they are infallibly wooed. The motivation for apologetics then becomes joy and love, the happiness that ensues by being part of God’s plan of salvation for others. What motivation could be more genuine?

Then there is Cardinal Dulles’ perplexing reference to “strong” predestinationism. I see only one kind, the kind mentioned so often in Scripture. In the first paragraph of his article, the Cardinal declares that “the Church has consistently taught that even the first beginnings of faith depend on the working of the Holy Spirit.” But is this not an example of predestination? From our point of view, our decision might appear to be a free and responsible choice. But how it is known to the all-knowing mind of God is and must remain a mystery.

The Cardinal then goes on to write, “They [the New Testament accounts] agree that he [Jesus] held forth a revolutionary ideal of human life, exalting poverty, humility, love of neighbor, and patience in suffering as the way to eternal salvation.” Jesus may have held these as virtues that flow from salvation, but he never described them as a “way” to salvation. Repentance and belief as the consequence of the call of the Holy Spirit were Jesus’ only ways of salvation. Otherwise, the Spirit’s call would not always be effective, and that can’t be the case because then God’s power would be limited. The Church offers grace to all, but those accepting it are determined by God alone.

One last critical point: Cardinal Dulles remarks, “The apologetics of personal testimony is particularly suited to the genius of Catholicism.” Does he mean to exclude the Protestant genius? Why the word “particularly”?

If I have focused too much on the negative, it is only because the virtues of the article are self-evident. Reflecting on “the aspirations of the human heart for communion with the divine” is indeed a sign that humanity is wired for and by God.

Gary Clason
Los Angeles, California

I agree wholeheartedly with Avery Cardinal Dulles when he points out the importance of “personal testimony” in evangelization, but what I don’t understand is what he means when he claims that this personal testimony “is particularly suited to the genius of Catholicism.” It has been my experience that such testimony is rare in Catholicism and that Catholics are usually uncomfortable about expressing their faith in words. It seems as if it is enough for them (and that “enough” can be very impressive) to live their faith without talking about it.

As a convert to Catholicism, it seems to me that the Church discourages personal testimony because it is concerned that many of the faithful may fall into theological error. This may be why most lay Catholics don’t talk about their religion except occasionally to fellow Catholics. The only solution to this difficulty is, in my opinion, more education in apologetics for lay Catholics, especially on how they can answer doubters and critics without going astray themselves.

James J. Guthrie
Lowell, Massachusetts

Avery Cardinal Dulles replies:

Alexander Sich defends the value of science in the field of apologetics. A lot depends, of course, on what one means by science. I spoke of science “as commonly understood,” which proceeds by formal argument or demonstration and seeks to comprehend the object within the investigator’s own conceptual framework. For a conversion to come about, demonstration must be supplemented by forms of persuasion such as the testimony of persons who bring a radically new point of view. By listening sympathetically to such witnesses one can be set on the path to accepting what Paul describes as the “secret and hidden wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 2:7).

The apologist should use philosophy and the various sciences to the fullest extent possible. With the tools of philosophy we can certainly know the existence of God, or even demonstrate it, though few believers are capable of performing the demonstration. But strict mysteries, which are the heart of Christian faith, are knowable only on the authority of witnesses to revelation. To accept the Trinity, the Incarnation, or the Eucharist as conclusions of pure reason (if such a thing were possible) would not be an act of theological faith.

Objective biblical scholarship can be very useful for demolishing certain objections and setting some basic parameters. The secular historian will often be willing to assert, by the methods of his discipline, that Jesus was reputed to have worked wonders and to have risen corporeally from the dead, but this historian will stop short of affirming God’s supernatural intervention. The apologist, drawing on the committed testimony of believers, must be able to give reasons for holding that Jesus did have miraculous powers, did rise from the dead, and was the incarnate Son of God.

The “human heart’s aspiration for communion with the divine,” to which Dr. Sich and Gary Clason allude, makes people alert for signs of God’s presence, but it cannot give rise to faith unless God emerges from His silence and freely manifests Himself. In public revelation He gives signs, treating us as free and intelligent subjects–that is to say, as persons. The structure of faith is necessarily interpersonal. An apologetics that evokes trust in committed religious testimony instills attitudes that are conducive to faith.

Daniel von Wachter is correct in judging that my position is not exactly that of Alvin Plantinga. I am not at ease with his description of Christian faith as a “basic belief.” Most adult believers quite properly rely on signs of credibility or evidences, not indeed to prove the truth of revelation, but to establish the credibility of the testimony. Apologetics aims to show convincingly that the Christian religion is credible”in other words, that it can and ought to be accepted by a free and full submission of mind and heart to the word of God.

I gladly pay tribute to much of the work being done by the members of organizations such as the Society of Christian Philosophers and the Evangelical Philosophical Society.

I am grateful to Mr. Clason for his positive comments. As for predestination, it is a great mystery, as he acknowledges, and is differently understood in different Christian traditions. Insisting as I do on the priority of divine grace, I can accept the doctrine of predestination in certain forms. In my article I rejected only the view that because faith is a gift of God, we can do nothing to prepare ourselves to receive it. Some have denounced apologetics as a vain human effort to obtain faith by conquest.

Dr. von Wachter, Mr. Clason, and James J. Guthrie ask me to explain further what I meant by stating that an apologetics of personal testimony is particularly suited to the genius of Catholicism. The Catholic Church does not see faith as terminating in God alone to the exclusion of God’s human witnesses. It does not see Holy Scripture as God’s word to the exclusion of human authorship. On the contrary, it holds that faith in God ( credere Deum ) is intrinsically linked with faith in the Church ( credere Ecclesiam ). Holy Scripture is God’s word as it comes to us through inspired human witnesses. The Church with its apostolic leadership is Christ’s living and accredited witness, always assisted from above. Jesus, the great Witness of God, transmits his word by the words of others who speak in his name. Personal testimony, therefore, does not have to be private; it can be corporate and public, and is so in the Church.

Mr. Guthrie is unfortunately correct in saying that Catholics often fail to see the need for every believer to be a witness. In that respect they have much to learn from evangelicals. Calling for a “new evangelization,” recent popes have been trying to overcome the passivity of the laity. As Mr. Guthrie says, they are often deterred by the Church’s deep-rooted fear of heresy. Better religious education can help to build confidence. It would, however, be a mistake to imagine that every witness has to be a trained theologian. The quiet testimony of humble, honest, prayerful believers can be enormously effective. But laypersons should not hesitate to involve themselves in the intellectual apostolate. Many of the leading Catholic apologists, past and present, have come from their ranks.

Ghetto Catholicism?

In “World Order: What Catholics Forgot” (May), as well as in his reply to letters about a previous article, George Weigel appeals chiefly to Catholics who long for a return to the ghetto. His way of reading St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Christopher Dawson presumes that they would state their views as he does were they alive today. Such an assumption is not merely unhistorical; it does not do justice to their works.

Mr. Weigel’s attachment to conservative politics is very much out of the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century brand of American capitalism and nationalism. His effort to graft Catholicism onto this creature does enormous damage to the great work of reform that began under Pope Leo XIII and has continued even under the present pope.

Moreover, Mr. Weigel’s explanation of the decline of European Catholicism has its origins in outdated seminary history texts. In fact, most professional historians today have left behind the kind of polemical narrowness that was still around in the 1950s. These historians provide a much more accurate picture of the developments of the period. Most recognize that the Church was not monolithic, that its leadership was often swayed by different political groups, that the bourgeois parties that seized church property were both conservative and liberal, that persecution of religion was often irrational, and that the unwillingness of church leadership to work with the opposition was also a major source of the problems faced by the Catholic laity. I could go on and on. The point is that at many moments the position of religion in Europe could have been altered for the better. In fact, when people from these same European countries came to the U.S. they found a climate much more conducive to the free exercise of their faith and free, for the most part, from the anticlericalism that was beginning to sunder the Church in Europe.

Unfortunately, Mr. Weigel is wedded to a sectarian view of history that was never really history at all, but rather a product of Catholics trying to defend their identity in a predominantly Protestant society. Ironically, Mr. Weigel’s approach would marry this type of ghetto history to an alliance with evangelical Protestants who share his political sympathies. At a time when a small minority of Catholics is leaving the Church to join evangelicalism, one would think that Mr. Weigel would awaken to the fact that Catholicism has never and will never fit into the kind of narrow mold that he embraces.

James M. Powell
Professor Emeritus, Royal Historical Society    Fayetteville, New York

In his article, George Weigel, as usual, overstates the role of Pope John Paul II in bringing about the end of communism. The decisive event in the eventual collapse of the Soviet system that was imposed upon the satellite countries in Europe was the Hungarian revolution in 1956. It cost thousands of lives and some 150,000 escaped to the West after the defeat of the revolution.

In the aftermath, the Soviet Union began, very slowly, to initiate reform. The Polish revolution, twenty-three years after the Hungarian revolution, was a very mild affair in comparison.

Louis J. Mihalyi
Professor Emeritus, California University System   Newland, North Carolina

George Weigel replies:

Louis Mihalyi’s devotion to the Hungarian cause is admirable, but it strains credulity to suggest that the brave Hungarian revolt of 1956 was the “decisive event in the eventual collapse of the Soviet system.” In Hungary itself, the crushing of the revolt led to a weakened Catholic Church that was far less forthright than the Catholic communities in Poland and Czechoslovakia during the 1980s. One does no dishonor to the memory of the brave Hungarians who fought Soviet tanks with bricks and Molotov cocktails to record what the people who had made the Revolution of 1989 in east-central Europe told me shortly after those epic events: that Pope John Paul II ignited a revolution of conscience in 1979 that made possible a nonviolent political revolution a decade later.

I can’t understand what article James M. Powell read. “World Order: What Catholics Forgot” was a call to Catholic intellectuals to engage the defining issues of world politics today through the prism of a developed Catholic international relations theory. How this amounts to a summons to the “ghetto” or an endorsement of a “sectarian view of history” is beyond my imagining. What was once called “Catholic international relations theory” was based on publicly accessible moral arguments that could be engaged by all intelligent people of good will. That’s precisely the kind of Catholic engagement with international relations theory I called for in my article. This is a “narrow mold”? I don’t think so.

The Languages of Theology

I applaud Peter Leithart’s case in “Rhetoric and the Word” (May) for a revival of rhetoric in theological discourse. We should never suppose that Truth is conveyed most appropriately in arid Thomistic parlance. The Bible itself is anything but a textbook in systematic theology, and it never invites us to fashion one. In short, as Mr. Leithart indicates, if rhetoric is good enough for the Bible, it should be good enough for theologians.

I have mixed feelings, however, about the evangelical preoccupation with “textuality.” The problem is that preoccupation with the text can often lead (and often has led) to an underemphasis on the reality to which the text points. Christianity, after all, is not so much a text-religion as it is an event-religion–or, more accurately, it is an event-religion one of whose events was, and remains, a text. The Bible is not a stand-alone proposition that elicits fastidious attention to its literary dimension, but rather the enumeration, attestation, and interpretation of redemptive events centering on the crucified and risen Jesus of Nazareth. Text, though vital, is ancillary and instrumental.

Andrew P. Sandin
President, Center for Cultural Leadership   La Grange, California

Among the many complementary practices that signal the working of God in the world, there is the balance between scientific theology as perfected by Thomas Aquinas and the more rhetorical and Augustinian approach that Peter Leithart recommends.

We need both. A philosophically informed theology operates at the level of the universal, while rhetorical theology (if such I may call Mr. Leithart’s alternative) would return us to the historical specificity from which we universalize in the first place. Human knowing inevitably involves a tension between particular and universal, between the multiplicity of reality as it presents itself and the unity toward which all things tend. Intellect grasps both more and less than the senses, and our abstract mode of knowing, while alone enabling us to rise above cosmological flux (and so to communicate with one another), remains in a sense “outside” the fullness of concrete existence.

For the Aristotelian tradition that dominated the later Middle Ages, rhetoric involves reasoning from particular, not universal, premises; it appeals to individual cases and even to emotion (which involves the particularity of corporeality) wherever definitions based on the universal natures of things cannot be employed in properly demonstrative reasoning. This does not mean (at least until modern times, when all things Aristotelian came under a cloud of suspicion) that rhetoric was considered vain or ignoble, only that its acknowledged role was in establishing not truth so much as right conduct ”in persuading rather than convincing.

In the rhetorician’s art the singular is presented in such a way that we may discern the universal; in the theologian’s science the universal is presented so that we may rightly construe the singularity of life. If, historically, the tide of scholarly favor has swung between the two, perhaps it is Providence’s way of ensuring a balance. And surely it would do no harm if our theologians strove also to be poets, and our poets theologians.

Stan Grove
Anchorage, Alaska

Defining Secularism

In “The Politics of Partisan Neutrality” (May), Louis Bolce and Gerald De Maio parrot a common misunderstanding about secularist politics. They write: “What the journalists leave out of their accounts is the fact that the nonreligious have also become aggressive actors on the political stage and that they possess and promote, in fact, an overarching religious worldview of their own–one that can fairly be called secularism.” Note the use of the singular form of the word “fact,” followed by two observations. The first of these observations (“the nonreligious have become aggressive”) may be a fact; the second (“an overarching religious view”) is an inference, and is completely false.

Pursuing a secularist policy in American politics is not, as Professors Bolce and De Maio want to imply, the same thing as holding a personal, dogmatic, “religious,” secular philosophy. The activities are completely different.

All Americans, whatever their personal religious beliefs, can and should support–even “aggressively”–a radically secular vision for the government of the United States. The only way we can be free to hold any religious beliefs that we individually wish to hold is for all activities of the government to be resolutely secular. This is what the Democratic Party stands for: not personal secularism, but government secularism, in accordance with the Constitution. Democrats are not saying, “All you folks out there should be secularists.” They are saying, “Our government works best when it is secular.”

The religious right, by contrast, is trying to convert its personal religion into public policy. The secularists do not have a similar agenda. Try this analogy. The religious right says, “Thou shalt eat vanilla ice cream.” The secularist says, “Eat any flavor of ice cream thou preferest.” Then the right accuses the secularist of “aggressively” pushing a “not-vanilla” policy. This is a lie. The policy is not against vanilla, it is against folks dictating to each other which flavor they should prefer.

Secularism is not the position, “Thou shalt not believe in God.” It is the constitutional position, “Thou shalt not tell other people what to believe.” Secularism is not against religion; it is for freedom. The Constitution says that religious preferences must not be used to set public policy. This implies that individual politicians must be willing to set aside their own beliefs, to consider their own beliefs almost irrelevant when setting policy. The secularists are big enough to do this because they know that only a secular government can be free. The religious right seems incapable of understanding the point.

Roy Sablosky
Takoma Park, Maryland

Louis Bolce and Gerald De Maio reply:

Roy Sablosky ignores the central point of our article–that secularists since the 1970s have had a stranglehold on the Democratic Party’s cultural agenda. Rather than dealing with our evidence and arguments, Mr. Sablosky faults us for not placing our thesis in the context of his ahistorical, and extremely secularist, understanding of the Constitution. He might consider the following. The First Amendment in the Bill of Rights begins with these words: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” During the debates over the two provisions of the religion clause, Virginia congressman James Madison said that he “apprehended the meaning of the words to be, that Congress should not establish a religion, and enforce the legal observation of it by law, nor compel men to worship God in any manner contrary to their conscience.”

Congress could accommodate religion if it chose to do so, even though it is viewed primarily as a policy matter to be left to the states. Shortly after the first Congress sent the Bill of Rights to the states for ratification, it enacted provisions for House and Senate chaplains and adopted the Northwest Ordinance, which provided in Article III that “religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.”

The legality of state accommodation of religion has been affirmed by the Supreme Court. In the recent Zelman v. Simmons-Harris (2002) and Locke v. Davey (2004) cases, the Court ruled that the Constitution permits states (1) to provide low-income parents publicly funded vouchers to educate their children in parochial schools and (2) to offer scholarships to college students who wish to pursue clerical studies if they so wish, though they are not constitutionally required to do so. The Court, moreover, in McDaniel v. Paty (1978) struck down state laws disqualifying clergy from holding public office. Religiously informed political values have as much right to be part of legislative deliberations as policy preferences motivated by other concerns.

The American people are much more in accord with James Madison’s interpretation of the Constitution’s religion provisions and with the Supreme Court’s accommodationist rulings than with Mr. Sablosky’s idiosyncratic interpretation of the First Amendment. According to American National Election Study surveys and public opinion polls conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, majorities support school vouchers, state and federal accommodation of religion in other arenas, the legitimacy of organized religious groups participating in the political process, and a role for religious values in debates over public policy. The view held by Senator John Kerry, the vast majority of congressional Democrats, and Mr. Sablosky is a minority perspective. Moreover, even if one argues that the First Amendment’s religion provisions are ambiguous, Mr. Sablosky’s reading of the Constitution is dogmatically narrow and ignores the historical fact that experimentation with ways to accommodate religion is an integral part of the American political tradition.

Requirements of Reform

In “The Catholic Reform” (Public Square, May), Richard John Neuhaus comes out in opposition to the zero tolerance policy of the bishops. In this he is wrong. The reasons why are complicated. The policy is necessary because of the collapse of public morality, the pitiful state of the American bishops, and the inaction of Rome. The bishops cannot reform themselves; there are simply too many Mahonys, Trautmans, Weaklands, etc., and not enough Georges or Vignerons in the U.S. episcopate. Collectively, they don’t have what it takes, and the Vatican, with its “languid attitude,” is not able, or willing, to deal with them individually. (Remember, it only accepted Archbishop Weakland’s resignation when the whole sordid affair became a public scandal. A full list of these failings would require several pages.)

The Holy Father has refused to intervene personally in U.S. affairs, apparently preferring to wait for things to sort themselves out with the help of the Holy Spirit. I’ve got news for him: They won’t. I read somewhere that the Pope has publicly wondered if he has been too soft on dissidents in the past; the answer to that one is an emphatic “yes.” The Holy Father has hoped for a springtime for Christianity; instead his legacy is likely to be a gay priesthood, a vapid, “happy-clappy” liturgy, and empty churches, largely because he refuses to act. His answer to problems seems to be to write more encyclicals–encyclicals to which people pay lip service but which they then promptly ignore. What is needed is papal action, not talk.

James Roth
Ridgefield, Washington

RJN replies:

Whatever one might think of the Pope’s administrative strengths or weaknesses, or of the general state of the Church, “zero tolerance” refers specifically to the Dallas 2002 policy of removing from ministry anyone who has ever been plausibly accused of sexually abusing a minor, even if it happened twenty or thirty years ago, even if the “abuse” was no more than a hug of affection, even if the priest denies it happened, and even if he has an otherwise impeccable record of faithful service. Such peremptory removal is an elementary injustice that cannot be a remedy for anything wrong in the Church.

Unworshipful Darwinism

In “Believing in Evolution” (Public Square, May), Richard John Neuhaus reminds us of the persistent controversy between evolutionary theory and intelligent design. As a behavioral scientist, I use evolutionary theory as a conceptual tool to do research into human nature; as a Christian, I pray as a way to thank and honor God. Despite the arguments of Richard Dawkins and some Christian fundamentalists, I can’t find any reason to reject either religion or evolutionary science. Of course, it is possible I am a very slow learner or delusional. If so, I hope such traits are not easy to prove empirically.

I address evolutionary arguments here because I know them better than intelligent-design arguments. So far evolutionary theory is holding up very well in specific areas such as the origins of human anatomy and physiology, and some basic human behaviors. More complex human features such as higher cognitive functioning (mathematics, language, artistic creativity, religion) are another matter. For example: evolutionary psychologists (for whom the uniqueness of humans is a myth) are scrambling to show that evolutionary theory can account for the origins of such high-order features. They do this mainly by showing cognitive similarities between humans and other species (Darwin’s great hope). So far, they are partly successful, but the cognitions they deal with are pretty rudimentary (for example, knowledge of kinship and dominance hierarchies, some language skills, and tool-using).

The complex abstract thinking that characterizes philosophy, science, and theology is very different. Such thinking is not found in any other species, and I doubt if they ever will be. Darwin’s remark that “he who understands baboon would do more toward metaphysics than Locke” suggests that he did not know many baboons and had trouble understanding both Locke and the purpose of metaphysics.

Alfred Russell Wallace, who “co-authored” evolutionary theory with Darwin, was never convinced that genetic mutation and environmental selective factors could alone account for the appearance of human higher intellectual functioning (including spirituality). His lack of conviction came from his observations of so-called primitive peoples who create lavishly complex myths, taboos, and kinship rules to give meaning to their lives and to regulate social behavior. Such traits apparently serve valuable adaptive functions. But the question of what external environmental factors (and gene mutations) go into producing such high-level cognitive abilities in these peoples still needs to be answered.

Darwin’s theory, like any good scientific account, needs to be appreciated and tested but not worshiped. The same applies to the theory of intelligent design.

William R. Charlesworth
Professor Emeritus, University of Minnesota
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Parachurches Offended

Evangelicals in parachurch movements are the migrant workers of God’s kingdom. They work hard, trooping into fields white unto harvest while proper, traditional churches have other things to do. And they get no respect. In Richard John Neuhaus’ one-paragraph summary of Deconstructing Evangelicalism (While We’re At It, May), D. G. Hart describes them using a series of unflattering terms: “spiritually adolescent,” “formlessness and shallowness,” “obsession,” “parasitic,” “grave ecclesiological deficit,” and “collection of spiritual enthusiasms.” Pass the lettuce, please, and for God’s sake let’s get a handle on this immigration problem.

Dean C. Bruckner
Annandale, Virginia


In “Catholic Reform II” (June/July) it was said that a New York public relations firm suggested to the Catholic bishops conference that it adopt the slogan “Promise to Protect, Pledge to Heal.” In fact, the slogan emerged from the Conference’s Office of Child and Youth Protection.

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