The Neglected Legacy of John Buchan

Author, administrator, historian, politician, mountaineer, and Governor-General of Canada, John Buchan is long overdue for rehabilitation as a genuine Christian intellect of the early twentieth century. A son of a minister, his favorite book after the Bible was Pilgrim’s Progress. Buchan’s progress was marked by a strong faith and catholicity of vision, and he deserves to be known for more than the ripping yarns that he fondly termed his “shockers.” . . . Continue Reading »

What Truths We Hold

A short time ago, President Barack Obama was invited to address the 2009 graduating class of Notre Dame and to be honored by the university. President Obama is an effective speaker; and his speech at Notre Dame was eloquently delivered. But Notre Dame is a Catholic University and the Catholic Church and hierarchy, and Catholics in large numbers, believe that abortion is killing an innocent fetus and a seriously sinful violation of the child’s right to life. President Obama, however, believes just as strongly that the mother has the right to kill the child in her womb… . Continue Reading »

Brave New Church

The seventy-sixth General Convention of the Episcopal Church made headlines last week for moving forward on same-sex blessings and officially opening its doors for partnered homosexuals to serve as priests and bishops. Stacy Sauls, the Episcopal bishop of Lexington and a close associate of the presiding bishop, Katherine Jefferts Schori, argued that it was long past time to do it: Over thirty years ago, he said, the church had placed pastoral compassion over Scripture, tradition, and the teachings of Jesus to permit remarriage after divorce, and it would be nothing less than hypocritical for the church not to do likewise for gay and lesbian people… . Continue Reading »

Ex Corde and the Dilbert Effect

The controversy over Notre Dame’s awarding President Obama an honorary degree raised a fundamental question: What is a Catholic university? Many rich examinations of Catholic mission exist, of course, (from the works of John Cardinal Newman in the last century to Ex Corde Ecclesiae today) but they rarely have any effect on attempts to build Catholic mission. One reason for this may be that these examinations are too rich to serve as guides to definite action. Those in favor of stronger Catholic identity have difficulty maintaining focus on the best among many related concepts… . Continue Reading »

The Motivated Belief of John Polkinghorne

The word fundamentalist was first used in July 1920, and for much of the next decade American Protestants fought bitter internal battles over who would control their denominational seminaries, mission boards, and local churches. While those liberal Protestants who called themselves “modernists” sought to accommodate traditional Christian beliefs to modern science, politics, and culture, their conservative opponents were eager “to do battle royal for the fundamentals,” in the militaristic language of the Baptist preacher who coined the word… . Continue Reading »

Christianity Will Be Victorious, But Only In Defeat

Editor’s Note: In the August/September 2009 issue of First Things, currently on news stands, is a major new essay by René Girard drawn from his recent book, Achever Clausewitz, forthcoming as Battling to the End: Politics, War, and Apocalypse from Michigan State University Press. Here, as a First Things Online exclusive, literary journalist Cynthia Haven interviews Girard about his book.Continue Reading »

How God and Science Mix

Two weeks ago, the Wall Street Journal published an article entitled “God and Science Don’t Mix” written by a physicist named Lawrence M. Krauss. I wrote a reply, which the Journal decided not to run. The text of my reply is given below. Those who read the Krauss article should be warned that Krauss makes a false insinuation about the views on miracles and the Virgin Birth of Br. Guy Consolmagno, a Jesuit astrophysicist at the Vatican Observatory. I e-mailed Br. Guy and he assured me that Krauss completely misrepresented his views. Here is the reply to Krauss that the Wall Street Journal decided not to run… . Continue Reading »

From the Apocalypse to the Rule of Law

The new issue of First Things is out”the August/September issue, filled with as broad a range of material as we’ve ever published. There’s economics, politics, legal theory, literary theory, history, poetry, and ethics. And then there’s René Girard”the grand literary theorist turned anthropologist turned theologian”who contributes an essay, drawn from his forthcoming book, on the lessons of war and the apocalypse. “Christianity is the only religion that has foreseen its own failure,” he writes… . Continue Reading »

Calvin, Conversions, and Catholicity

Since the sixteenth century, conversions and counter-conversions between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism have been the stuff of controversy, polemic, and recrimination. The Lutheran-Catholic concord on the formula cuius regio, eius religio virtually guaranteed the escalation of political strife as parties competed for sovereignty. With the emancipation of church from state in the post-Reformation era, churches in North America have inherited a rather different set of implications for the conversion of political figures. When Newt Gingrich announced earlier this year that he had converted to Roman Catholicism, and when news broke in 2002 that Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas had done the same, relatively few outside of the Beltway took more than passing notice… . Continue Reading »

The Uncharacteristic Catholic Moments of Friedrich Schiller

Peter Oswald’s version of Friedrich Schiller’s “Mary Stuart,” whose run at New York’s Broadhurst Theater ends in mid-August, succeeds in making this 1801 warhorse of the German Classic crackle on a modern stage. Schiller (1759“1805) was guilty of historical distortions no worse than those in Cate Blanchett’s “Elizabeth” films, and his treatment of character is infinitely superior. At his best, no tragedian after Shakespeare surpasses him. “Mary Stuart” depicts the conflict between the Protestant Elizabeth and the Catholic Mary, quite differently from the two Blanchett films, which crawl with ominous Spaniards and lurking Jesuit assassins. It is noteworthy that the Catholic cause gets a more sympathetic look from a nineteenth century enemy of the Church than from twenty-first century Hollywood… . Continue Reading »