Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Walker Percy's Twentieth Century Thomism

"Political Thought"

In this section Lawler compares Thomas Jefferson's view of man with Percy's view. Percy thinks that if Jefferson's view was true, most Americans would be happy, but they are not. Lawler states the modern world has been replaced by a postmodern one. He notes Percy's view of this world: "our century has not been the coming of 'universal peace and brotherhood,' but a time of war, self-destruction, deranged, violent eroticism, and angry, self-hatred. The world human beings have created for themselves is for angels and pigs--abstracted, unempirical beings that are absolutely transcendent or absolutely immanent. It is a world for those who live wholly as scientists or wholly as consumers; it is not for human beings" (95). Percy and Thomistic thought places the human being between angels and beasts. Percy notes often in his writings how man often falls either in the transcendent or immanent realm.

Lawler states that "Cartesian Scientists often speak of the "autonomous self," or the individual who has complete mastery over his self or transcendence similar to the scientist. Lawler thinks the theory of the autonomous self has led to most of the cruelties in our modern world. He says because the autonomous man believes in nothing, he is often caught in the clutches of ideology. Pascal said that man who takes himself to be an angel will often act like a beast. Percy and Flannery O" Connor connected modern sentimentality to cruelty. C. S. Lewis also wrote about the problem of the autonomous man in The Abolition of Man. Peter Kreeft has written about the connection between this work and Percy's Lost in the Cosmos.

"Percy's Self-Help Book"

Lawler notes, "Percy's self-help is a scientific explanation for the apparent misery of Americans in the midst of prosperity, their dislocation, angry self-hatred, and derangement" (97). Why is man sad in good environments? Why was the twentieth century was one of the most violent centuries in history? Percy's "longest piece of prose in that book is a theoretical 'intermezzo of some forty pages,' where Percy presents his Thomistic science, his theory of evolution and of man as a languaged being by nature" (97). Is this the heart of the book? Percy in this prose section analyzes "the impoverishments and enrichments of a self in a world are not necessarily the same as the impoverishments and enrichments of an organism in an environment" (97). Percy says, "the self in a world is rich or poor accordingly as it identifies its otherwise unspeakable self, e. g., mythically, by identifying itself with a world-sign, such as totem; religiously, by identifying itself as a creature of God" (97). Percy thinks this is the reason "that, for Americans, 'The pursuit of happiness becomes the pursuit of diversion' (98). This is because man does not want to know what he is. Lawler notes, "The diverted self cannot be explained rationally or scientifically by the Cartesian expert." "The diverted self is closer to the truth" than the Cartesian scientist. Ultimately, all diversions end in failure. Man must come to failure before he will seek God. This is similar to the Book of Ecclesiastes.

Lawler concludes this section by noting: "There is some pride and joy in knowing the truth about the mystery of the self, and the search for that truth is better than depression or diversion. If the search cannot eradicate the mystery of the self, it can at least make clear what makes one self lovable to another, the foundation for human community" (99).

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Walker Percy's Twentieth Century Thomism Part 4

"Social and Political Science"

Walker Percy was a broad thinker. He was also a very deep thinker. I like to think of Walker Percy as a Christian Humanist. He spoke on many contemporary issues from a Christian world-view. Percy definitely had a Catholic mind, referring to Father Schall's book on the Catholic mind. Not alot has been written on Percy's view on social and political science. In some of Lawler's writings he has compared Percy with Alexis de Tocqueville. It is easy to recognize Lawler's respect for Tocqueville.

Lawler in this section ties in Percy's thought with his arguments against "pop Cartesianism." He says it is really scientism. Lawler notes, ""The pop Cartesianism of the Americans is really scientism, the 'elevation' of a theory that does account scientifically for nonhuman nature into 'an all-enveloping ideology'." Lawler claims that the ideology of scientism is basically "a project for eradicating human nature in the name of science's truth" (92). One can even say it is a reductionism. Whatever that is not explained by science doesn't exist or doesn't matter.

Percy talks much about the Sovereign Wayfarer and one of the early analysis of his work was entitled, The Sovereign Wayfarer. There is alot that is included in this term. One thing is refers is the layman deferring to the knowledge of the experts. Lawler writes: "Laymen tend to surrender their personal sovereignty, their own judgments about their personal experiences, to the scientists' allegedly impersonal authority" (92).

Percy often notes how modern humans felt more alone in the modern, technological world. This is ironic because with the growth of modern science, it is assumed that they would be more at home. Lawler states, "Despite all the expert emphasis on human relations or getting along with others, loneliness remains 'the twentieth-century disease" (93). Is this true still in the modern era of social media? I believe it is.

Lawler also speaks of our therapeutic culture. Percy was good at addressing important issues through questions. He often asked, why do people feel bad in good environments, and why do people feel good in bad environments? There is a common thought we need to cure all anxieties and discomfort through drugs or "through a change in environmental stimuli" (93). Percy would not agree with this. We need to stop putting band aids on these symptoms and look at the core issues. Percy thought that Americans believed "or or told to believe by experts who they hope will provide answers for all the mysteries of human life" (93). A good thing about Percy's writing is that all mysteries or not answered. Life is meant to be lived with mystery. Science does not, cannot and will not answer all of life's questions.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Walker Percy's Twentieth-Century Thomism Part 3

"Cartesian Versus Thomistic Science"

Percy often  refers negatively to Cartesian science in his works. He faults him for dividing the body and soul. Lawler states that to Percy, "The Cartesian scientist views himself, unrealistically, as alone by missing the social fact of science's origination in language. Consciousness, Percy remembers, means to 'know with,' and the isolated individual Descartes describes could not really be conscious" (88).

Lawler notes, "The Thomistic scientist accepts the fact of human distinctness or alienation" and thinks science provides the foundation for this distinctiveness in language. Science means the ability to know and communicate this knowledge to others.

The Thomistic scientist accepts the fact that the Christian faith is compatible with scientific knowledge. Lawler states that the "Biblical revelation" provides reasons why the human being is unique. Lawler notes: "Human beings are sinful creatures uniquely born to trouble" (90). Percy often refers to the scripture in Job which says that man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward. Lawler continues: "But they also have infinite longing or love that points beyond all human experience. They are pilgrims or wayfarers in the cosmos, on their way to their true home elsewhere" (90). C. S. Lewis also spoke of this infinite longing. He said it was something that could not be satisfied by anything is this world. Saint Augustine said this longing can only be met by God. Pascal said that we have a hole in our heart that only God can fill.

Percy thinks that "Life is a mystery, love is delight," and neither of these can be explained by a deterministic science. He believes the "true end for human longing" is 'infinite mystery and infinite delight, God." Percy believes that faith is not a leap, but a form of knowledge. Percy says it "is an assent which includes cognition. . . . The Gospel is the knowledge that humanity truly longs for and needs to have" (90).

Percy thought the Bible's teaching on human distinctiveness allows one to be "ambiguously at home" or "at home with his homelessness." Lawler notes that this teaching helps the human creature "to both acknowledge and accept the limitations of one's 'creatureliness,' and so to really see and love other troubled, incarnated selves and to enjoy the natural pleasures of human life with less anxiety and diversion" (90).

Percy in much of his writing distinguishes between news and knowledge. Knowledge or science are "general truths which can be arrived at by anyone, anywhere and at any time" (90). News is Biblical revelation as presented in Christianity and Judaism which relates a singular event, like the "Jewish covenant" or the "incarnation". This news is brought by a messenger or newsbearer. This is most clearly seen in Percy's "Messenger in the Bottle."

Percy accepts the view that "Both art and science are ways of knowing and as such are the greatest pleasures of which man is capable (Aristotle, Aquinas) " (91). The problem is that "those pleasures are" 'So great, in fact, that the ordinary pursuits of life are spoiled by contrasts'. Percy speaks of this in Lost of Cosmos. It is the problem of transcendence. How does one reenter ordinary life after this experience?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Walker Percy's Twentieth-Century Thomism Part 2


Lawler states, "The Thomist's view is that language is a gift to be used responsibly by those created in God's image" (81). With this gift comes responsibility. The human's ability to use language shows "a value scale of rightness, authenticity; in short, a concept of human nature and what is proper to it" (81). This idea includes "human needs;" Percy writes: An organism is oriented toward the world according to its organismic needs, but a person is oriented in the mode of truth-untruth" (81-82). In other words, people can live authentic or unauthentic lives. Martin Heidegger states that the difference between authenticity and authenticity "is rooted in the human's "primordial relation to language" (82). it is living in accordance with one's true self. Lawler states than an inauthentic self is one that is self-deceived or diverted" (82). This experience of being diverted is what Percy calls being stuck in everydayness.

"The Limited Truth of Existentialism"

Percy agrees with the existentialists that "the experience of human alienation is not a treatable symptom of one's maladjustment to one's environment or society" (83). It is part of the human condition. Percy thinks that "Man is alienated by the nature of his being here" (83). Percy thinks that trying to "cure human beings completely of their anxious misery is actually to deprive them of their humanity" (83). We are dealing with the symptoms instead of the cause. Man is alienated because he is a fallen creature. Lawler, however, says the Thomist's agreement with the existentialist can be only limited because the existentialist is no realist. The existentialist "sees no natural foundation for self-consciousness, and so no natural connection between language and things" (83).

"Natural Science"

Percy seeks to bridge the division between "American empiricism and European existentialism" (84). He thinks we need both perspectives to understand the human condition. Percy criticizes the behaviorists in much of his writing. He disagrees with the idea that "everything man does can be explained by operant conditioning" or Skinner behaviorism.

Percy sees the compatibility between theological and scientific truth. He think revelation complements reason. Percy disagrees with both Christian anti-evolutionists and anti-Christian evolutionists. He wonders why scientists try so hard to prove that humans are not unique. Percy thinks that both the theories of Freud and Darwin "were not radical enough. For neither can account for his own activity by his own theory" (86). In addition, he thinks the scientist "cannot explain why our century has been either the most lonely or the most murderous yet" (87).    

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Salvation is a Process

Dr. Kinchen : “Looking for a Bargain” Luke 14: 25-33
This is the summary and response to a sermon delivered in chapel.
            People are asking the question: “How much can I get and how little do I have to pay?” People are takers not givers. They do not want to give their best. This is a major problem for students. They pay their tuition but do not want to work hard to get an education. People want to expend as little effort as possible.
            Jesus told the crowds following Him that they must count the cost. Dr. Kinchen used the illustration of someone who began to build a home but didn't finish it. What caused them to stop? Jesus said we must surrender everything to follow Him. It costs our very life to follow Christ.
            Dr. Kinchen noted that storms will come in everyone’s life. We must be prepared for them. The author of the book of Job asked this question: Will a man serve God for nothing? It is the storms of life that will determine if we have true faith. Jesus said we must build our house on the rock. This is done by hearing the Scriptures and applying them to our life.
            Dr. Kinchen made an interesting statement. He noted that salvation is a process. We were saved, are being saved, and will be saved. I find this statement quite interesting. It is contrary to my experience in the Baptist church for thirty years. The emphasis has been on making this one time decision. It has been all about justification, but little mention of sanctification. As a friend once told me, Baptists are good about telling us how to get to first base. The problem, however, is that they forget that there are other bases.

            This is strange because the Baptist Faith and Message teaches that salvation is a process. It teaches that we were saved-justification; we are being saved-sanctification; and will be saved-glorification. Why is the idea that salvation is a process is hardly mentioned in a typical Baptist church?

Walker Percy's Twentieth-Century Thomism

Peter Augustine Lawler, in his book, Postmodernism Rightly Understood: the Return to Realism in American Thought, has a chapter on Percy's retrieval and application of the thought of Thomas Aquinas to the twentieth century. In the first two chapters of the book Lawler analysed the thought of Francis Fukuyama and Richard Rorty. I found these two chapters difficult to understand. Chapters three and four which covers the thought of Walker Percy I found more understandable.

Percy was influenced by many influential thinkers: Kierkegaard, Marcel, Pierce, Heidegger, Voegelin, and others. Shelby Foote, however, noted that Percy never borrowed wholesale from these thinkers. He drew from what helped his purposes and made it his own. Percy admired Thomas Aquinas and was influenced by his thought. He thought he could not use Aquinas in his engagement with modernity. The modern world would not accept it he thought.

So it is interesting that Lawler has written a chapter on Percy's "Twentieth-Century Thomism." This is another common interest that Percy shared with Flannery O'Connor. She read from Aquinas's work every night before going to bed. I have read off and on from the works of Aquinas for the last twenty years. Aquinas's thought has shaped my own Christian worldview.

Lawler asserts that Percy shared the scholastic view of man: "Percy defends the 'Scholastic view' that human beings 'share certain characteristics with other creatures' but also 'are capable of higher perfections peculiar to themselves.' For the Thomist, the human being is 'distinguished from the beast in being endowed with soul, intellect, free will, reason, and the gift of language.' The gift of language is the fundamental natural human capacity, the one responsible for the development of others. With that gift, human being can name things, think about them, convey thoughts with words that can be understood by others, come to know much of the truth about nature and something about themselves, and exercise their freedom well or badly" (77). This view of man is evident in Percy's writings. For example, Percy spent most of his life showing how man is different than animals because of their use of language. Percy notes, "the transformation of the responding organism into the languaged human . . . is undoubtedly the most extraordinary natural phenomenon in all of biological behavior, if not in the entire cosmos, and yet the most commonplace of events, one that occurs every day under our noses" (78). Percy spent most of his life making that fact known.


As already been mentioned, Percy was influenced by the thought of C. S. Peirce. Peirce states, "there are real things out there whose characters are independent of our opinion of them" (78). Percy explains Peirce's meaning: "there is a real world and it is possible in a degree to know it and talk about it and be understood" (78). Percy's belief that the world is knowable is evident in his writing.

Percy identified himself as a thief of Peirce in interviews. Percy "took what he needed and let the rest go." Lawler describes Percy's method: "Percy was interested in Peirce only insofar as he could use 'his attack on nominalism and his rehabilitation of Scholastic realism.' He employed the thought and authority of Peirce to make realism credible as a philosophy and science to contemporary scholarly audiences" (78). I do not think Percy's handling of Peirce's thought is different from the way he used other key thinkers who influenced him.

Percy and Peirce both believed that "the human being is the being with language" (79). Percy used Peirce's thought as the "foundation of a semiotic as a natural science of signs" (79). Percy thought his semiotic would provide a theory of man. He thought the sciences had failed to come up with a rational, theory of man. Percy's semiotic also showed that man is a social being. He thought humans were capable of knowing, objective, truth. Lawler notes, "Percy and Peirce take the side of science against all those who deny human beings have a natural capacity to know. Percy agrees with Aristotle and Saint Thomas that discovering the truth and communicating it to others may be the greatest of the human pleasures" (79-80).

Percy thought the human differed from the animal in kind, not degree. Percy thought the human was unique and he "has the . . . capacity for making himself unhappy for no good reason, for existing as a lonely and fretful consciousness which never quite knows who he is or where he belongs" (80). As Percy said in one of his books, man is Lost in the Cosmos. He is an alien in his own world. The more he knows about the objects of the world, the lest he knows his own self. The languaged, social being cannot be known through a "dyadic" or "stimulus-response explanation" (80). Humans are triadic creatures. Lawler notes, "Man experiences himself as an alien because he cannot, through language or thought, formulate or locate his own place in a cosmos that is otherwise dyadic" (80).

Percy believed that "human beings can know, objectively, the truth about nature or the cosmos and even love the truth" (81). Percy thought that science is a valid method to know the truth. But he thought art was also a way of knowing truth. Percy states, "these sentences of art, poetry, and the novel ought to be taken very seriously indeed since these are the cognitive, scientific, if you will, statements that we have about what it is to be human" (81). Percy thinks science and art, faith and reason, are compatible. They are complementary ways of knowing truth.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

William Carey

John E. Shaffett
Dr. Rathel: William Carey: Isaiah 54:1-5
This is a summary and response to a message that was delivered in chapel.
            Dr. Rathel’s sermon was a biographical look at the life of William Carey. He thinks Isaiah 54 is a missionary text. William Carey was the founder of the Modern Missionary Movement. Carey asserted that we are to “attempt great things for God and to expect great things from God.” Baptists at Carey’s time were reluctant to involve themselves in international missions because of Hyper-Calvinism. Carey had a heart for the whole world.
            Carey came to faith through the witness of a cobbler. Carey worked in a cobbler shop. Carey began to study about all the nations of the world. Carey bought himself a globe to remind himself of the needs of the world. He prayed for the world daily. He was influenced by his friend, Andrew Fuller. Fuller’s sermon, “Gospel Worth of All Acceptance,” was especially influential. Fuller thought all people have an obligation to believe the gospel. Carey in a missionary sermon said Christians need to be planning, giving, and going to the mission fields. Carey taught that world missions must be undergirded by prayer. Christians who couldn’t go needed to hold the ropes for those who did go.
            Carey was one of those who did go. Carey gave his life to plant the gospel in India. Carey was a man who was completely sold out to God’s mission for the world. God used Carey to preach the gospel, train Christian workers, start educational institutions, work for social justice, and oppose slavery. William Carey was truly a great missionary.
            There is a dark side to this picture. Carey’s wife didn’t want to go to India. Carey was going to leave her. She was finally persuaded to go with them. Carey seems to neglect his family because of his missionary work. Carey’s wife suffered from a mental illness and she eventually had a complete mental breakdown. She was forcefully confined to her room. Carey neglected his children. It seems they were undisciplined and uneducated. Other members of the missionary community took it upon themselves to take care of them.

            This shadow of Carey brings up an important issue. Is it God’s will for ministers to neglect their family to pursue ministry? Does God want us to abandon our family? Does God require ministers to sacrifice their kids on the altar of ministry? 

John the Baptist and Doubt

John E. Shaffett
Dr. Scott, What Kind of Man was John the Baptist?
This is a summary and response of a chapel sermon I heard last week.

            John the Baptist was a special man because of his birth. Zachariah and Elizabeth were old when they had John. Zachariah received a visit from the angel Gabriel. The angel told Zachariah that Elizabeth would have a son and he was to name him, John. Zachariah said how can this be since I am old? The angel answered him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and bring you this good news” (Luke 1:19). Zachariah was struck silent because he did not believe the angel’s words.
            John the Baptist was special not only because a supernatural announcement of his birth. Second, he was to be filled with the Spirit from his womb. John would be full of the Spirit even from birth. Third, Jesus came to be baptized by John. John tried to refuse it, but Jesus said it must be done to fulfill all righteousness. Fourth, we see that John was a bold preacher. He called the people, “A brood of vipers.” Not many preachers can get away with that.
Then, Dr. Scott came to his major passage, Luke 7:18-28. John was now in prison. He sent two of his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come or shall we look for another (Luke 7:19)? John is discouraged and is beginning to doubt that Jesus is the promised Messiah. John the Baptist is an example of a sincere believer who struggles with doubt. This passage refutes the myth that the committed Christian should never doubt. It also refutes the idea that Christians should not ask questions of their faith. It is not God’s will for us to keep our doubts in the closet. Paul Tillich said that doubt was a natural part of faith. It is human to doubt.

            How did Jesus respond to the doubts of John the Baptist? Did he condemn him? Did he reprimand him? On the contrary, Jesus affirmed him. The questions and doubts of John was not the end of his ministry. Often, our doubts and questions lead to the deepening of our faith. It is best not to hide our doubts and questions. It is better to share them with our friends and redeemer.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Soteriology of Walker Percy Part 4

Andrew Smith in the last part of his article, "Soteriology According to Walker Percy," explains his method and he then applies it to three different works: Lost in the Cosmos, The Moviegoer, and The Second Coming. I will just summarize what he has to say about Lost in the Cosmos. As has already been mentioned, Percy's fiction and non-fictional writings have soteriological themes. Smith's method is to ask three questions to the text: "(1) From What is the person being saved? (2) By what or whom is the person being saved? (3) To what is the person being saved?" (258).

Lost in the Cosmos

Lost in the Cosmos is not a novel. It does contain stories, but it is "more in line with a satirical essay" (259). Its major subject is the search for the self, or as Smith says, "the problem of being human" (259). We will now apply Smith's three questions to the text.

The first question is "From what is the person being saved?" Lost in the Cosmos asserts that we "do not know ourselves" (259). Percy begins the book with a list of questions. One of these questions asks "Why is it possible to learn more in ten minutes about the Crab Nebula in Taurus, which is 6,000 light-years away, than you presently know about yourself, even though you've been stuck with yourself all your life" (259). Percy then gives a quiz to see if the readers knows himself. The rest of the book is made up mainly of 20 question quizzes to different "types of self" that are "presented to the reader." The idea is to help the reader "to think about who he is and why he operates as he does" (259).

One of the sections where Percy clearly answers question one is the section entitled, "The Self Marooned in the Cosmos." This section is in the last part of the book. In some sense, it is a parable. It is the story of a spacecraft "in deep space, searching for intelligent life and fearing that life on earth has ceased to exist (259). The spacecraft eventually makes contact with a planet called PC3 and tries to land, but they are restrained from landing. The planet says they must answer a few questions before they can land. The first major question is, "What is your C-type (Consciousness type)?" PC3"identifies itself" as type C1. They then go on to explain the three types of consciousness, "designated as C1, C2, and C3" (259). C1 consciousness is similar to a "child grown mature and sophisticated but maintaining its innocence permanently and avoiding the malformations of self-consciousness . . . " (260). C2 is those who once was a C1 and then fell "into the pit of itself" (260). C3 consciousness is a C2 "that has become aware of its problem and received help" (260).

Through a question and answer dialogue the reader and PC3 finds out that the American spacecraft is a C2. The members have been practicing a free sexuality and even some of the members of the crew have been killed because of jealousy. Smith asserts that the answers given by the spacecraft show "From what we need to be saved is our predicament in life, that we do not know ourselves, which necessarily includes coming to an awareness of that predicament" (260). The crew is not aware they have a problem.

The second question is "By what? Smith notes, "Percy does not explicitly say what can save us from our predicament. The book itself only points out the problem: we do not know ourselves. Many times in the book, though, Percy brings God and religion into the picture and then hastily dismisses them as real options" (260). This is part of Percy's indirect method. The reader must make up his own mind. Percy does not want to be caught preaching. The gospel, however, is very present in this short story.

Smith gives an example of how Percy brings God in the picture in the section on transcendence. Scientists and authors are prone to "orbit" to transcendence. Percy discusses the problem of "reentry" for self caught in transcendence. He gives the example of Faulkner getting drunk after writing Light in August. One cannot stay in the orbit of transcendence forever. What is the best way of reentry? Smith notes, "One of the best options that Percy offers is reentry through the direct sponsorship of God" (260). He then dismisses the idea, saying it is a "difficult if not nigh-impossible task" (260). Is he saying it is an option not considered by modern man. He does say, "there have existed, so I have heard, a few writers even in this day and age who have become themselves transparently before God and managed to live intact though difficult lives . . ." (260-261). One of the writers he names is Flannery O"Connor. Percy leaves it open that direct sponsorship by God is a possibility. Only God can tell us who we truly are, but Percy must leave it open and not explicitly say it is the best way of reentry.

The last question is "To what?" Smith states that "The obvious answer to this question is that salvation includes us having a knowledge of ourselves as individuals" (261). Percy is seeking more than that. He wants us to be open to hear the gospel, the message in the bottle. The message in the bottle is the good news of salvation. Smith notes that Percy ends the book with questions the questions that PC3 asked the American spacecraft: "Are you in trouble? How did you get in trouble? If you are in trouble, have you sought help? If you did, did help come? If it did, did you accept it? Are you out of trouble? What is the character of your consciousness? Are you conscious? Do you have a self? Do you know who you are? Do you know what you are doing? Do you love? (261)" By answering these questions the reader "should see that he or she is in trouble and that help is available" (261). Before we seek the answer the Gospel gives we must realize that we are fallen and we need help.

Smith thinks that "though Lost in the Cosmos is primarily a diagnosis of what is wrong with almost everyone, the book is soteriological in its ultimate intention. Percy wants people to understand their predicament" and how many of our responses to it are futile and without success. He thinks "the only real answer to the predicament of the person not knowing his or self is found in God" (261). According to Percy, it is only in God that we can know ourselves. Percy often quoted Kierkegaard on this idea: "the self becomes itself only when it becomes itself transparently before God" (261-262). Smith notes, "This is the classic Christian teaching of the 'double knowledge,' taught by Augustine, Calvin, Pascal, and Kierkegaard" (262). Divine revelation gives us knowledge both of ourselves and our selves before God. Smith thinks that "Percy's goal in Lost in the Cosmos is to provide an instrument by which a person will come to this double knowledge" (262).   

Friday, August 16, 2013

Privacy and the Government

Peggy Noonan has written an excellent article on Privacy and the Government. The article, "What We Lose if We Give Up Privacy: A Civil libertarian reflects on the dangers of the surveillance state." It was in the Wall Street Journal August 15, 2013 edition. I enjoy reading Noonan's articles. She is a good observer of current events. She is concerned about the the recent National Security Revelations. She notes, "They log your calls here, they can listen and read your emails. They keep the data in mammoth machines that contain a huge collection of information about you and yours." Of course, this is being done because of the threat of terrorism. Should privacy be sacrificed because of the threat of terrorism?

Noonan is not the only person concerned about the intrusiveness of government. Noonan writes: "A loss of the expectation of privacy in communications is a loss of something personal and intimate, and it will have broader implications. This is the view of Nat Hentoff, the great journalist and civil libertarian." Hentoff thinks the excessive government surveillance is against the Fourth Amendment. This amendment protects "the right of people to be secure in their own persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures."

Mr. Hentoff "sees the surveillance state as a threat to free speech too."

Should we be concerned about the growth of government surveillance over its citizens? See the link below to access the article.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Soteriology of Walker Percy Part 3

We know that Kierkegaard influenced Percy's writing. We have looked at Kierkegaard's three spheres of existence: asthetics, ethics, and religious. We will now look at how Percy used these ideas in his writings. Smith thinks that "Percy's use of them is key to understanding the soteriology in his writings" (256).

Smith asks the following question: "Did Percy believe that his own novels contain a soteriological message? Was it the job of the novelist to also act as an evangelist?" (256). Percy spoke often of the role of the novel and the novelist. Speaking of the novelist, Percy says the novelist is not an "Answer Man." What does Percy mean by this statement. I think, in some sense, he is saying that the novelist is not an apostle. He has not been authorized to preach the gospel. However, Percy says, "the novelist is entitled to a degree of artifice and cunning, as Joyce said; or the 'indirect method,' as Kierkegaard said; or the comic-bizarre for shock therapy, as Flannery O'Connor did" (256). He sounds like he is speaking of his own method of writing. Percy continues: "I never lose sight of the lowly vocation of the novelist. He is mainly out to give pleasure to a reader--one would hope, aesthetic pleasure. He operates in the aesthetic sphere, not the religious or even the ethical" (256). Percy thinks the role of the novelist is to provide aesthetic pleasure to his readers. Does this mean that the novelist does not have a message he wants to bring forth? Does this mean there are no soteriological intentions in Percy's writings? Smith asks a further question: "And, what should be the outcome of the novelist's use of artifice, indirect method, and shock therapy? An answer to these questions can be found in Percy's stance on the role of the novel" (257).

Percy thinks the novel "plays an important role in the lives of people" (257). Percy writes, "For, if I believe anything, it is that the primary business of literature and art is cognitive, a kind of finding out and knowing and telling. . . . The pleasures of literature, the emotional gratification of reader and writer, follow upon and are secondary to the knowing" (257). How does this statement compare with his earlier statement on the role of the novelist? Smith asks, "Is creating something pleasurable to read the goal, or is it not?" (257). Is Percy contradicting himself or did he change his mind. Smith writes, "Percy probably means that the novelist is limited to the aesthetic sphere for the simple reason that people read fiction primarily for the pleasure of it, and they read systematic writings (e.g., a philosophical or medical essay) in order to increase their knowledge about a particular subject" (257). Percy knew that if the novel wasn't pleasurable, the reader wouldn't read it. I am not completely happy with these answers. There seems to be a difference between novels and non-fiction writing. Non-fiction tells, while, novels show. The role of the novel is to present an experience. Comparing Percy's fiction and non-fiction writings, one notices a major difference between them. In non-fiction, one tells directly. In a novel, the message has two be indirect. I think a reader can see how Percy struggled with keeping these distinct. Percy definitely had a message he wanted to tell. He also was concerned in producing good art.

Percy thought that the novel gave the reader "knowledge of himself as an individual." Percy speaking of the novel says, "This may be the only instrument we have for exploring the great gap in our knowing ourselves and how it stand between ourselves and others" (257). We come to know ourselves vicariously through the actors of the novel. Percy's novels are exploratory. He puts the individual in a predicament and sees how he will get out of it. It is interesting our Percy explores his own voices in his novels. Writing novels was a form of knowing for Percy. It helped him to wrestle with his own demons and to move on. Percy does seem to place "more importance on the cognitive effect the novel has on the reader and writer than he does on the aesthetic effect" (257). This might be true, but Percy is not writing a gospel tract.

Smith concludes this section: "The novelist must understand that he or she is writing in the aesthetic sphere. The novel must be pleasing to read or else nobody will read it. Also, the novelist is not the Answer Man. The novel is not a collection of syllogisms thinly veiled by a weak story. The novelist must be indirect and somewhat cunning. As a pleasing story, though, the novel has the potential to say something to a person as an individual. It is the only instrument that can cause a person to know him or herself. Bringing this back to the issue of soteriology, one cannot know oneself without knowing oneself before God. The ultimate issue involving the novel, then, is its soteriological potential" (258).

Is the soteriological potential really the ultimate issue of the novel? I do not know if I can say it is.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Soteriology of Walker Percy Part 2

Percy was raised in a Presbyterian church. He, however, was an agnostic till he converted to the Catholic Church when he was thirty. Until his conversion Percy was a scientific humanist. He contracted tuberculosis while in medical school. Smith notes: "The illness, which would keep him from ever practicing medicine, caused him to spend almost three years in two sanatoriums. In the first sanatorium, Percy found himself continually debating theological issues with a Catholic man who was well versed in apologetics. Due to this man's skillful use of logic, Percy began to read the works of Augustine and Aquinas. This also may have been the time when Percy first read Kierkegaard. His love for the elegant rationality of the 'pure' sciences never ceased, but after medical school, Percy did begin to doubt that they held all of the answers to life's questions" (252-253). Percy distinguishes between science and scientism in many of his writings. He would hold science in favor his whole life, but would disdain scientism. Scientism is the idea that science holds the answers to all questions. It is also the idea that the scientific method is the only method of knowing.

Percy thought science could only generalized about the human being. It could not speak of the individual person. He thought only the novelist could speak of the individual. Percy thought answers lied outside of science. The only nonreligious alternative for Percy was his uncle Will's southern Stoicism. Percy wrote of this alternative:
"But as beautiful and noble this ethic was, Percy felt that it would never work for him--and wouldn't for the simple yet decisive reason that he lacked the strength of character, the virtue, that was necessary for the upholding of such an ethic. Percy's great feelings of self-disgust and unworthiness made the Stoic option seem beyond reach. . . . Percy came to Christianity precisely out of this powerful sense of his own unworthiness. Indeed, it seemed to him the principal brilliance of the Christian 'anthro-pology' was that it put human corruption and inadequacy at the center of its picture of man, and furthermore, that it taught that recognition of this inadequacy was the first step in hearing the Christian Message (Tolson, p. 199)" [253].
This is a very interesting observation. Percy saw himself unable to save himself. He saw himself a sinner in need of a savior. One sees these two themes in most of Percy writings. The first theme is to recognize our lostness. The second theme is to be willing to listen to the gospel message to be saved..

Smith notes, "In 1947, at the age of thirty-one, Walker Percy and his wife Bunt Percy was baptized into the Catholic Church" (253). One might ask why did Percy convert to the Catholic Church and not some Protestant denomination. He was raised a Presbyterian. Why didn't he convert to the Presbyterian church? Did his raising in the Presbyterian church influence his post-conversion life?

Smith thinks if Percy read Kierkegaard before or after his conversion is of little importance. Smith states, "Percy found in Kierkegaard some ideas that he had already considered. He also found some new ideas in Kierkegaard, with which he mostly agreed" (254). It is interesting that the major influence on Percy's thinking just prior or after is conversion was a Protestant thinker. Why did Percy turn to Kierkegaard early on? How did Kierkegaard shape Percy's thinking?

Percy writing of Kierkegaard: "I suppose the great bombshell with me was the famous passage of Kierkegaard's describing Hegel as a philosopher who lived in a shanty outside the palace of his own system and saying Hegel knew everything, except what it is to be born and live and die" (Conversations with Walker Percy, p.109)" [254]. I think Luther said something similar about being a theologian. Percy was "drawn" to Kierkegaard's interpretation of Hegel because it was similar to his interpretation of scientific humanism. Percy would say that science describes everything but what it means to live and die. Smith notes, "This theme of the limitations of science is crucial to understanding Percy, as it is a bedrock of his own thought and a recurring theme throughout his novels and essays" (254). Percy would never forget the lessons he learned about the lessons he learned about the inadequacies of science as a patient in the sanatorium.

Smith points out"two significant ideas from Kierkegaard [that] had a major influence on Percy" (254). The first idea is drawn from Kierkegaard's essay, "Of the Difference Between a Genius and an Apostle." Geniuses are People "who have superior intelligence and create works of art or science or philosophy that go uncomprehended in their times" (254). I assume it would be people like Einstein. These ideas are not "essentially new" because this knowledge is already in the world. It is just not discovered yet. The apostle, in contrast, is just an ordinary person. It is the message, not the messenger, which is "extraordinary." The apostle is set apart by a special calling. One thinks of the prophets in the Bible. They were ordinary people who were called by God to deliver His message. Smith notes, "The apostle is called by God to deliver the good news of salvation. Furthermore, unlike the work of the genius, the revelation of the apostle is immune to judgment. One must either accept the gospel or reject it" (254). One can see this distinction in many of Percy's writings. He often says he is not an apostle. He also says he is not authorized to deliver the message. One thinks of his essay, "The Message in the Bottle," where he distinguishes between everyday knowledge and "News." News is knowledge from outside the world. It is a divine revelation. One must either accept it or reject it.

The second key idea that had a major influence on Percy's writings were Kierkegaard's "Stages on Life's Ways" or the "Spheres of Existence" (255). What are these stages? The first one is the Aesthetic stage. People at this stage "live for the moment." Charles Moore notes, "They are observers, spectators, tasters, but not serious participants. . . . Their well-being is determined by the choices or moods of others and by forces that extend beyond their control. . . . Thus, when things go wrong, aesthetic persons never accept responsibility or blame" (255). This includes more than just people "preoccupied with their senses" (255). It includes people "who are merely interested in ideas. . . because they assume that truth can fit into their system of ideas" (255). Smith notes, "Thus, Christianity is reduced to theology and there is no recognition of a living relationship with Christ" (255).

The second sphere is the ethical. The person in this stage "realizes his or her moral duty in making decisions" (255). In addition, "The ethical person takes full responsibility for his or her actions" (255). Charles Moore thinks that a key element of this stage is freedom. Moore writes: "The aesthetic person drifts along with the current around him. The person who lives ethically, however, determines these very currents. . . . The person who lives in the ethical sphere lives intentionally, intensively" (255). This person is inner-directed, instead of being outer-directed.

The third stage is the religious sphere. Smith states, "A person enters the religious sphere when he or she realizes that the ethical sphere is not sufficient in answering life's difficulties" (255). Is this Kierkegaard's famous leap of faith? Smith thinks that sometimes duties conflict with each other. How will the person choose which one to do? According to Smith, "There is something higher than duty, namely God. In order to see oneself as one really is, that person has to see himself or herself before God" (255). Percy mentions this idea in various writings. To know one's own self one must see himself from God's perspective.
Moore writes:
"When an individual stands before God he no longer sees himself as self-sufficient. He recognizes his own inability to transform himself. The religious person strives to allow himself to be transformed by God. Such transformation includes three things: (1) Infinite resignation--dying to the world, the willingness to sacrifice any finite good for the sake of God. (2) Suffering-- undergoing a transformation of the self, though not by the self. It is the process of undergoing "self-annihilation' so that God, not self, can do his transforming work. (3) Guilt-- the feeling of one's inability to give oneself completely, unreservedly, to God" (256).

In the next part we will look at how Percy used these ideas in his writing.

Soteriology According to Walker Percy Part 1

Andrew Smith, "Soteriology Accoring to Walker Percy." Encounter 62.3 (2001): 251-267.

Percy questioned on "how salvation works" responded: "I don't know. Trying to describe how a person receives God's unmerited grace gives me writer's block" (251). Percy was probably speaking truthfully when he gave this answer; however, according to Smith, "that does not mean that he thought little about the issue of salvation and how it could be communicated to others" (251). One might possibly say that all of Percy's writings are about salvation. Smith thinks that "salvation is a major theme running through almost all of Percy's writings" (251). I believe Smith is correct in stating the importance of salvation as a major theme in all of Percy's writings. For example, there are atleast two themes in Percy's writings: the pointing out that something is wrong and hints or clues to an answer.Smith notes, "Granted, this theme exits implicitly at best and is rarely approached in direct fashion, but it is there" (251). This leads us to ask the following question: Is salvation a major theme running through almost all of Percy's writings? The purpose of Smith's paper is to place Percy in his context and to look at three of his works, Lost in the Cosmos, The Moviegoer, and The Second Coming and to see if salvation is a major theme in these works. Smith's method is to ask three questions of these texts: "(1) From what is the person being saved? (2) By what or whom is the person being saved? (3) To what is the person being saved?" (258).

Smith begins the paper by looking at the personal context of Person. He provides biographical information on Percy and the major individuals who influenced him. Smith thinks it is important to know the biographical information of Percy to understand his works. The reason for this, according to Smith, is "Percy's life shows up again and again in his works, and the one who has some understanding of the man him-self will more accurately interpret the intentions found in his writings" (252). I have found this to be true. For example, I have recently read Tolson's Pilgrim in the Ruins. It did make sense of Percy's writings, but, I knew most of what was said in it without reading a full biography on Percy. I am glad to say I read all the works of Percy before reading biographical or criticism of his work. I think one can take this too far that we need biographical information on Percy to understand his works. I think the works can be understood without the biographical information and the works are not autobiography.

Smith emphasizes the biographical information about Percy's salvation. He states that "one of the driving forces behind hs [Percy] conversion and subsequent development of Christian thought was the writings of Soren Kierkegaard" (252). This has been many reviewers of Percy's work and even acknowledged by Percy himself. It seems that Percy's influences came in stages. Kierkegaard seemed to be more primary in the beginning, Charles Pierce and Marcel more primary in the later stages. Kierkegaard still was an influence in these later stages. To show this influence Smith summarizes some of Kierkegaard's "main ideas" and statements made by Percy concerning his work.

Monday, August 5, 2013

What is a Good Man?

What is a Good Man?
Aristotle thinks that a man can be a good citizen without being a good man (Book III). What makes a man good? Aristotle says that it takes three things to make a good man: “nature, habit, and reason” (Book VII::xiii). By nature, he means that he should have a human nature with body and soul. Repeated acts create habits, both good and bad. To be a good man, a man must develop moral virtue: temperance, fortitude, prudence, and others. The third part that needs cultivating is reason. Aristotle thinks that reason is the most important part of the man. He distinguishes two parts of the soul: “one intrinsically possessing reason, the other not possessing reason but capable of listening to it” (Book VII:iv).
Then Aristotle makes an interesting comment: “To these belong, we think, the virtues which qualify a man to be called in some sense good” (Book VII:xiv). Aristotle seems to be saying that the good man lives by reason. He adds that it is in reason that the highest end exists. Aristotle divides reason into two parts: theoretical reason and practical reason. The development of the good man should be the aim of education. Aristotle states that we should work “for the sake of leisure” (Book VII:xiv). He sees leisure as the higher end. Aristotle thinks that the laborer does not have the time or he is not capable of leisure. For example, he says that “it is quite impossible, while living the life of a mechanic or hireling, to occupy oneself as virtue demands” (Book III:v).
Aristotle thinks that the common laborer cannot become a good man. Why does he think this way? Is it because he does not have the time to develop the moral and intellectual virtues or is it the work or the person? Aristotle states that work is a means to a higher end, leisure. Is work just a means to an end, or can it be both? Is the good life only for the leisured class. I would say no!
There are certain problems with Aristotle’s views that need to be supplemented by Christian revelation. The Bible says that God created men and women good. Jesus came to our world in a human body. He incarnated among us. Christian revelation affirms the goodness of the body and the soul. It also affirms human work because God put Adam in the Garden to take care of it. A modern example of a good man who works with his hands is Wendell Berry. He is a novelist, an essayist, a poet, and a farmer. Berry is a person of both moral and intellectual virtues.
What is a good man? Is it possible to be both a good man and a good citizen? Aristotle thinks they are distinct virtues. The reason he believes this is that only a portion of the population has the leisure to develop this virtue. Aristotle is right about what make a good man. A good man is one who possesses both moral and intellectual virtues. He is also correct in saying that education should prepare citizens for both work and leisure. I would supplement this view by saying that this education is not for the few, but the many.

Happiness and Aristotle

Happiness as the Ultimate End
         Should happiness be sought as the ultimate end? Before we can answer this question, it must be defined. Aristotle defines happiness as an “activity of the soul in accordance with virtue . . . in a complete life’ (Book 1, Ch. 7). Aristotle’s definition of happiness is different from the popular conception of happiness. The hedonistic view of happiness is the indulgence of the flesh. Aristotle says that “every action” aims at “some good” (Book 1, Ch. 1). The ultimate end is the goal for all our activities. Aristotle teaches that the ultimate end is happiness. Others might say it is pleasure, honor, or wealth. Can Aristotle’s idea be defended? This is what this paper will try to achieve.
        Aristotle thinks that the ultimate end is the goal for all our activities. This ultimate end is happiness. The reason is that happiness is not a means to another end. It is an end in itself. We do not want happiness to be wise. We want wisdom so we can be happy. We do all our activities to be happy. Wealth, honor, and pleasure are means to another end. For example, we want wealth to live well. We want honor because we are good. We want pleasure because it makes us happy. Aristotle makes some interesting comments about pleasure. He notes that pleasure is “a good,” but not “the good” (Book 10). He asserts that it part of human nature “to choose what is pleasant and avoid what is painful” (Book 10, Ch.1). He criticizes those who say that pleasure is not a good. He states that some pleasures are good in themselves, like the “pleasures of learning” (Book 10, Ch.1). Aristotle observes that that pleasure can enhance an activity: “Because those who work with pleasure show better judgment and greater precision in dealing with each class of object” (Book 10, Ch. 5). Aristotle’s view of pleasure is both compelling and wise.
        The second part of the definition says happiness is an “activity of the soul.” Happiness is something we do. It is an activity. It is not only an activity, but an activity of the soul. By the soul, Aristotle means activity by the most important part of us. This most important part of us is the rational principle within us (Book 1, Ch.7).
        The next part of the definition addresses the moral virtues. Aristotle asserts there is both a rational and irrational part of the soul. A good example of this is the continent and incontinent man.The soul of the continent man does not fight against what reason tells him is the right thing to do. This concerns the habits one has formed in life. The continent man can see the truth where the incontinent man cannot. The moral virtues make it possible to live according to what is best in us or according to the rational principle.
        The last part of the definition is in a “complete life.” Why does happiness involve a complete life? The simple answer is that someone can begin well, but then end badly. Aristotle asserts that “one swallow does not make a summer; neither does one day. Similarly neither can one day, or a brief space of time, make a man blessed and happy” (Book 1, Ch.7). He adds in another section that “happiness demands not only complete goodness but a complete life” (Book 1, Ch.10). In live our lives, we experience both good and bad fortune. Before the Trojan War, Priam of Troy was happy. During the Trojan War, Priam saw his beloved son, Hector, killed by Achilles and the fall of his beloved Troy. Does this mean we can be happy only when we are dead? Aristotle says we can be happy in this life and this happiness is permanent. Except in certain circumstances, we can experience such tragedy that we are not happy anymore. However, Aristotle thinks we can recover from great tragedies.
Aristotle teaches that we need a minimum of external goods to be happy. Aristotle says that “wealth is obviously not the good that we are seeking, because it serves only as a means for getting something else” (Book 1, Ch.5). In another place, Aristotle says that “happiness needs the addition of external goods” (Book 1, Ch.9). Because without a minimum of external goods, we cannot do the good things that are necessary for happiness.  People who are hungry cannot think about the pleasures of the mind. In another section, Aristotle notes that “the body must be healthy, and food and other amenities must be available” to cultivate the intellectual virtues (Book x, Ch.8).
Aristotle also thinks that friends are important to the achieving of happiness. He states that friendship is a “kind of virtue, or implies virtue, and it is also most necessary for living” (Book 8, Ch.1). Aristotle adds, “Nobody would choose to live without friends even if he had all the other good things” (Book 8, Ch.1). Friendships are important to living the good life. Humans are neither angels or beasts. Men and women are rational so they have the ability to make choices and plan their lives. Unlike the gods, they are not self-sufficient. Aristotle notes that human beings are social by nature. He also states that “friendships also seems to be the bond that holds communities together” (Book 8, Ch.1). People gather together to achieve the common good. Aristotle adds, “Political associations too are believed to have been originally formed and to continue in being for the sake of advantage . . . “ (Book 10, Ch. 9).
Aristotle believes that both the intellectual virtues and the moral virtues are necessary for happiness. He ranks the intellectual virtues as higher than the moral virtues. The reason he does this is because he thinks the intellectual virtues are divine and the moral virtues are human. This seems to contradict some of the comments made earlier about friendship. The ultimate end of contemplation is a solitary thinker contemplating thought. It seems that happiness needs to others to be complete. Happiness as an ultimate end should include others. Aristotle has already said that we are social and political animals. What causes this misconception? Maybe, it is Aristotle’s picture of god. The gods are self-sufficient and do not need others. Aristotle seems to over-emphasize the rational. A more complete view will contain the moral, intellectual, and theological virtues. The Orthodox Christian teaching of the trinity supports the idea that God is a community within himself: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The incarnation of God in Jesus Christ proclaims that both the body and soul are good. Jesus Christ left a community to carry on his work. It is called the church, or the body of Christ. Jesus said the two greatest commandments is to love God, and the neighbor. True happiness includes relationship with others, both God and man.
Should Christians accept Aristotle’s teaching on happiness? Aristotle’s teaching on happiness is compatible with the Christian faith. Happiness can also be considered human flourishing or Shalom: human wholeness. It is developing all the gifts we have received and developing them to the fullest. There is both an earthly and an eternal happiness. Even Aristotle thinks that intellectual activity is divine, most like the gods; and that human activity in accordance with the moral virtues is a “secondary happiness.” Aristotle’s view of happiness can be supplement by the theological virtues of Christianity: Faith, hope, and love. When Aristotle’s view of happiness is combined with the teachings of Christianity it is a more complete view of happiness.

The major source for this essay is based on Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Walker Percy's Use of Satire Part 2

L. Lamar Nisly, "Percy's Edgy Satiric Fiction."

Percy's satire aims at four broad targets: southern Stoicism, Scientism, Modern Culture, and the Church. Percy described his use of satire to Shelby Foote: "Sometimes I think the creative urge comes from malice--a strong desire to attack one's enemies or at least those in the culture one considers to be wrong-headed and injurious--from one's own malice, envy, pride, and capital sins" (160). Percy confesses multiple times in interviews and essays that malice is a major motivation for his writing. He wants to point out what is wrong in modern society to correct it. Nisly notes, "Percy reminds us that is fiction is life-giving, for satire 'attacks one thing to affirm another. It assaults the fake and the phony in the name of the truth. It ridicules the inhuman in order to affirm the human. Satire is always launched in the mode of hope' (161)."

Percy described his writing in a self-interview in 1983:
"I'm always writing on the narrow edge between psychosis and neurosis and the norm. My characters always have something apparently wrong with them and apparently they are living in a normal world. The question is always that delicate balance: Who is crazy and who is not? Who is right? The inkling is that the so-called neurotic or crazy person is on to something that normal people are not" (161). Percy seems to want to wake people from their slumbers. He seeks to do this indirectly through satire. He does this because he believes "that the religious establishment has largely emptied the Christian language of meaning through overuse and abuse of these terms" (162-163).

The targets of Percy's attack are not his ultimate concerns. They are symptoms of larger problems. Percy believes that Stoicism, Scientism, and other beliefs become substitutes for God. Percy notes, "It becomes possible, whether one believes in God, or not, soul or not, to agree that in an age in which the self is not informed by cosmological myths, by totemism, by belief in God--whether the God of Christianity, Judaism, or Islam--it must necessarily and by reason of its own semiotic nature be informed by something else" (163). I think Percy saying if that we do not believe in God, we create our own gods. Nisly notes, "Because he recognizes that a person must believe in something, even if it is not God, Percy attacks the substitutes for God as a means of directing his readers to God" (163). For example, modern science or more specific, Scientism has become a modern idol, a god. It is believed that it will answer all our questions and if it cannot answer it, then the question is not a valid question.

Percy believes all novelist are concerned with original sin. Percy writes, "Is it too much to say that the novelist, unlike the new theologian, is one of the few remaining witnesses to the doctrine of original sin . . . " (163). Percy thinks the novelist is pointing out what is wrong. Percy's ultimate goal is to point people to belief in God. Nisly writes, "Because humans cannot find fulfillment short of God, Percy believes, he satirically exposes, undercuts, and indicts elements of American culture that humans turn to in place of a belief in God" (164). We find this in the Bible itself. There is no need for a savior if sin does not exist. Because human beings are fallen creatures, they need a Savior.

After showing the general theme of Percy's satire, Nisly summarizes the four targets. The first target is southern Stoicism. Percy wrote of southern Stoicism in essays and fictionalize it in his novels. Percy described it as a commitment "to duty, to honor, to generosity to his fellow men and above all to his inferiors--not because they were made in the image of God and were therefore lovable in themselves, but because to do them an injustice would be to defile the inner fortress which was oneself" (164). Percy's Uncle Will would be an example of a southern Stoic. Percy admired southern Stoicism and the commitment to duty, but felt it could not pass muster. He believed it was ultimately spiritually empty.

The second target was Scientism. This is a theme that was close to Percy's heat. It is one that is attacked often in his writings. Percy in early life thought science held all the answers. He later became convinced that this wasn't true. Nisly notes, "Again growing from his own experiences when he expected to have his fundamental questions answered through science, Percy shows the limits of science in providing life's meaning" (164). Percy would assert that like science, art was a form of knowing too. Unlike science, the novelist spoke of the individual. Percy though that science could become a kind of idolatry "when people assume that science can answer the most foundational questions" (164).

A third target of Percy's criticism was the "excesses" in modern society. Percy spoke against the death-culture. He spoke out against abortion and euthanasia. Percy believed we must affirm life. He also spoke against our sex-crazed culture: "Percy is also concerned about the diminishment of the individual that he sees resulting from the sexual revolution" (165). A good example of his satire of this sex-observed culture is in Lost in the Cosmos.

The fourth criticism concerns the failure of the Christian church "to live up to its own best ideals" (165). For example, Percy speaks of the failure of the church to speak against racism. Nisly notes, "Percy laments the 'failure of love' in the churches, particularly to African Americans" (166). Percy also saw the Church as failing "to live up to their [its] potential of serving as a voice of love and hope to an unbelieving world" (166). Tolson speaks in his biography of Percy being disenchanted with the Church because of the disconnect between beliefs and actions.

Percy writes:

"If he is a believer [the Southern novelist], he is in a different kind of trouble. He finds himself in bed with the wrong bedfellows. What makes it difficult for him is that they are proclaiming the same good news he believes in, using the same biblical words, speaking of the same treasure buried in a field, then what manner of treasure is it? " (165). Percy doesn't think it matters if the writer is Protestant or Catholic. Percy says both Prostestant and Catholic "is equally unhappy" (165).