Monday, January 27, 2014

The Everlasting Man by G. K. Chesterton

G. K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man, Ignatius, 1993.

Our book group discussed G. K. Chesterton's The Everlasting Man last Friday. We read Chesterton's Orthodoxy last year, so it was interesting comparing the two. Orthodoxy is more tightly argued and shorter than The Everlasting Man, but both are arguing for the truth of Christianity. Orthodoxy seems more of a logical argument; while The Everlasting Man seems more a work of the imagination. Chesterton is painting broad strokes why humans are different from other creatures, Jesus is not just another religious leader, and Christianity is not just another religion.

The Everlasting Man is divided into two parts. Part one describes the man in the cave, ancient civilization, history of religions, pagans, and mythology. The second part discusses Jesus Christ and the Christian Church. This book is a reply to H. G. Wells' Outline of History. Wells saw human as similar to other earthly creatures. He also saw Jesus as just another man. Chesterton wants to help us to see how wrong Wells is. He wants to give us fresh eyes to see the uniqueness of Jesus Christ and Christianity.

A theme in this present work that is true of other works by Chesterton is a Christian Humanistic perspective. Chesterton sees the world and the things in it as good, as a gift from God. We are to be grateful for it and rejoice in the giver of all good things. He sees good in paganism, myths, and reason. He sees that Christianity is the fulfillment of all the good things, of reason, mythology, and paganism. He argues against the idea that Christianity is against reason. In contrast, it is Christianity that joined faith and reason together.

The Everlasting Man is considered one of Chesterton's best books. It helped C. S. Lewis in his journey of faith. It showed him that Christianity is the true myth. Chesterton says the following about faith and reason: "The Catholic faith is the reconciliation because it is the realization of both mythology and philosophy. It is a story and in that sense one of a hundred philosophies; only it is a philosophy that is like life. But above all, it is a reconciliation because it is something that can only be called the philosophy of stories" (246). The Everlasting Man is recommended for all readers.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Liberal Arts Majors

Chronicle of Higher Education reports that Liberal Arts major fare extremely well with other majors over the long haul. Of course, that is not the reason to major in the Liberal Arts. See the link below for the article.

Father Schall speaks on his new book: Reasonable Pleasures

Father Schall has written a new book: Reasonable Pleasures: The Strange Coherences of Catholicism. The link below is a three minute video of Father Schall speaking about his new book. The main theme of the conversation is leisure. It brings to mind two books by Josef Pieper: Leisure and Festivity. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


This is the author's version of a work that was submitted/accepted for publication in the following source:

Shaffett, John E. Rev. of  Believing, by Eugene Kennedy. Catholic Library World Dec. 2013:110. Print.

By Eugene Kennedy, Orbis Books, 2013, 157 pp., ISBN 978-1-62698-017-4, $20.00 (paper).
            Eugene Kennedy is professor emeritus of Loyola University, Chicago. He has written more than 50 books on psychology and religion and writes a regular column for The National Catholic Reporter.
            The subject of belief has been a hot topic in the news the last few years because of the public debates of the New Atheists. People like Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins and others have voiced the idea that religious belief is unfounded. They have even called it evil. Is belief something evil? Do only religious believers exercise faith? Kennedy thinks “believing is a profoundly human characteristic” (1).  He argues throughout Believing that we do not have a choice in believing. It is a part of our human make-up. It is what makes us human.
            Believing is divided into two parts. The first part analyzes “the nature of believing in the lives of men and women” (2). People must be willing to examine their lives to discover what they really believe. Kennedy contends that “people are often reluctant to examine their belief systems too closely for fear that they will find that they no longer really believe the things they were taught . . .” (4). The author asserts that our faith is tested by everyday experience and that there is a close connection between the developing personality and the developing faith. Faith is not meant to be static. Kennedy notes, “Examining our faith, asking questions rather than thinking we have all the answers, is a necessary step in the maturation of faith” (3). In addition, Kennedy suggests that “faith is a function of the whole rather than part of the person” (3). In other words, faith is not something we just do in our head.
            In the second part of Believing, Kennedy deals with doubt and unbelief. He thinks doubt is actually a good thing. Doubt allows us to ask questions and grow in our faith. He disagrees with those who see doubt as only destructive.  Kennedy writes, “Doubt can be understood and valued as an integral part of our perennial search . . . for more adequate understanding of our existence and experience” (87-88). The author agrees with Paul Tillich’s view that doubt is a “natural part of faith.”

            Kennedy effectively explains the different elements of faith and offers a helpful analysis of doubt. Believing is short enough to be read in a few hours; however, it will take many more days to process its thought provoking contents.  Believing is recommended for all libraries.

Monday, January 20, 2014

What is the value of a Liberal Arts Education?

I graduated with a B.A. in History Education over twenty years ago. When I finished my degree I had 150 credit hours. My degree required less than 130 credit hours, but I took extra courses because of my educational goals. My courses were quite broad. I had several courses in the humanities, social sciences, and the sciences. One of my favorite courses was a World Literature course. We read many of the great authors of Western Civilization: Homer, Plato, Aristotle, St. Augustine, Dante, Vergil, John Milton, and many others. It was my first introduction to the great authors of Western Civilization and I have reread these works many times since this time. For example, I have been reading Dante's Divine Comedy the last six months. I am truly thankful for this broad educational experience. It gave me the skills of reading, writing, listening, speaking, thinking, and conversation. It laid the foundation that I have been building on for the last twenty or more years.

Today, very few students pursue a liberal arts education. Colleges and universities have become more and more specialized. Students and parents want students to pursue majors that will result in a high-paying salary. Scientism is prevalent in both the academy and society. The view that scientific knowledge is the only valid knowlege or the method of truth. Education has become more technical than humanistic. It is more like training than education. Our society needs students who have been educated in the liberal arts. It will provide the tools they will need to pursue learning all their life.

When I graduated with by B.A. in History Education, it was not the end of education, but the beginning. One cannot become educated in four years of college. It takes a whole life to become educated. A liberal arts education helps the students acquire the arts of learning. The student should be able to learn on their own once they graduate. As Aristotle said, education is not for the youth. College is just an introduction to the learning experience.

The problem with a career oriented learning is that it is just training for a job. Most people will have more than 2-3 careers in their life. Many people will have more job changes in their life. Most people do not end up in careers they majored in. This type education does not prepare the student for using their leisure hours wisely. A liberal arts education, in contrast, prepares the student for all the changes of the market place. It teaches them how to use their time wisely. It helps them to pursue a life of wisdom. I have never regretted pursuing a liberal arts education.