The Enduring Tension:
Capitalism and the Moral Order
by donald j. devine
encounter books, 384 pages, $32
Donald J. Devine’s The Enduring Tension energetically defends liberal capitalism, less from critics hailing from the secular left than from religious and traditionalist commentators ranging from Rod Dreher and Patrick Deneen to Pope Francis. Devine makes challenging arguments concerning the innovative potential of market reforms and the routine incompetence of centralized institutions, though he perhaps tries to cover too much economic and sociocultural ground, leading to rather limp conclusions like “issues surrounding marriage and gender will certainly continue to divide people into opposing political factions.”
From a fusionist perspective, Devine agrees on the importance of faith as the spiritual foundation of a humane capitalism—“a tradition, a mythos that limits demand, or its logos will be overwhelmed.” This is doubtlessly true, although an emphasis on functionality will undercut the unifying and motivational value of such narratives, which depend on their acceptance as icons and not tools. To be sure, Devine echoes Professor J. Budziszewski in saying that “we must actually know that our moral sense has a real truth” and argues that “humans have a sense of a moral law written in their conscience,” but to the extent that this is true, it has been malleable enough to inspire vastly divergent and conflicting religious and secular ideologies. Devine’s argument for the enduring popularity of religious belief also places more emphasis on self-definition than on revealed preference.
Still, this is a serious and painstakingly written book for which Devine has explored everything from medieval philosophy to classical music, making it an endearingly eclectic project that embodies many of the virtues of the pluralism it defends.
by eleanor bourg nicholson
chrism, 352 pages, $16
What do werewolves and Franciscan friars have in common? Not much—unless Eleanor Bourg Nicholson is writing a novel about them. Brother Wolf, Nicholson’s latest foray into Gothic horror, is a rollicking tale of adventure, mystery, faith, and redemption. And yes, there are plenty of werewolves.
The story opens when Athene Howard—the precocious daughter of a neglectful academic father—encounters a band of travelers who are on the trail of a werewolf: a soul-tortured Franciscan friar who has given in to bestial inclinations. Intrigued by this tale, Athene is thrilled when she and her father join the party of werewolf hunters in their trek across Europe. But hidden dangers stalk their footsteps, and a malevolent presence haunts Athene’s dreams. Human souls are at stake in this quest, including those of Athene and her father.
The plot abounds with larger-than-life characters, including the delightful Fr. Thomas Edmund Gilroy. Despite his melodramatic profession of hunting down preternatural creatures, Fr. Gilroy exudes a Chestertonian good humor and practicality (as well as an affection for terrible puns). Although raised by her atheist father, Athene is naturally drawn to Fr. Gilroy’s Christian virtue. His levelheaded approach to the world’s horrors, both human and demonic, subverts expectations and reveals a deeper truth that only evil is melodramatic, while goodness is simple and childlike.
This juxtaposition of horror and humor is the novel’s greatest strength. This is a funny book. But it is not frivolous. The quest to save the tormented werewolf’s soul is quite serious indeed. And yet the characters’ witty narration and infectious joy lift the grim plot into a new realm—a Christian vision of reality where, in the sight of God, even the demons are laughable.
—Mary Jessica Woods