Secular reaction can’t work. As Bruce Charlton pointed out yesterday, secular cultures must tend always leftward – i.e., toward chaos and death – because at bottom they are guided and governed by disordered passions and desires, and so furthermore are careless of their danger. This will be as true of their noblest exponents and leaders as of their common folk. And we won’t be able to persuade a whole people that the first principles of their secular society are insane using only secular arguments. To sway them, we’ll have to put the fear of God into them. And we can’t give them what we don’t ourselves possess. Continue reading
Usually at the end of the semester, especially in the spring semester, I dress up in costume, assume a character, and prank students in the corridors during the passing periods. In past years I have appeared as a Viking war-leader recruiting students for a raid on Kingston, Ontario, and as a Star Fleet Inspector-General on an evaluation tour of the satellite facility. My theory is that contemporary college life suffers from a dearth of absurdity. That is – it suffers from a dearth of the right kind of absurdity. I want, naturally, to make up for the lack.
The Great Christian Heresies crop up again and again, and the Church will probably have to deal with them all the way out to the eschaton. They tempt the mind because they are simply easier to take on board than many of the most difficult and mysterious Christian doctrines, such as the Trinity, the Incarnation, and the Atonement. Being easier to make sense of, they seem to make more sense. And they all start from, and partake of, some kernel of theological truth. This too increases their credibility. But they are all errors.
Over at What’s Wrong with the World the redoubtable Lydia McGrew has one of those posts making a point that’s obvious in retrospective, except that (almost) nobody said it before. When conservatives decry all the emphasis on sending students to major in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics), and call for a renewed emphasis on the humanities to produce well-rounded persons, they’re ignoring the obvious: The humanities have almost uniformly become cesspools of leftist perversion and idiocy. Sending students there does far more harm than good.
In response, reader Gerry T. Neal proposes a name for the newly-befouled districts: The Inhumanities.
So we may define any department or discipline ostensibly dedicated to English, Philosophy, Classics, History, or one of the “Studies” (Queer, Chicana, Black, etc.) as part of the Inhumanities unless it demonstrates clearly that its purpose is the study of truth, goodness and beauty.
[These remarks formed one part of the total contribution to a panel on “English and Literature Programs” at the 1 November 2003 Pope Center Conference on Academic Standards, held in Raleigh, North Carolina. Bonald’s latest post prompted me to revisit the text.]
I would like to begin with two brief preambles. The first one is that I authored what I believe to have been the prototype of what later became a spate of reports on degraded curricula in the state college systems – my Declining Standards at Michigan Public Universities, published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy in October of 1996. I mention this to indicate that I well understand the whole range of curricular, administrative, pedagogical, and political criticisms that conservatives and traditionalists characteristically bring against our existing distorted institutions of higher education. The other preamble is that, in my remarks today, I shall be departing in style and content from what I might call the standard technical admonitions – that ninety-nine per cent of humanities professors voted for Bill Clinton, that they have bounced Shakespeare in favor of Toni Morrison, that students now run a four-year gauntlet of tawdry, Marxisant propaganda – in order to take up another, as I insist a prior, issue.
Indeed, sufficiently different from the standard technical admonitions are the remarks I propose to make, that I should give a fair warning in advance. You should be prepared not to believe more than every other word that I utter, although I myself have come to believe it all quite implicitly, and it now informs my entire activity as a college literature teacher. Allow me to urge, then, that if I were you and you were me I should probably take me for a lunatic, and I shall lay no blame should you follow suit in so doing…
Bruce Charlton has a recent blog post about his piece in The Guardian in support of the academic lecture. He says,
But when lectures are taken seriously, and conducted in the proper way, they are the best pragmatic way of teaching knowledge to people who want to know. … when it ‘works’, a good lecture is an experience that may be remembered forever.
I agree. The best way to learn is to discuss the topic with a human teacher who is knowledgeable, articulate, and charismatic. There’s no substitute for having a personal relationship with a teacher.
I just want to add one point. There are many reasons why today’s educational authorities want to denigrate lecturing. But one big reason for contemporary antipathy to the lecture is that it’s a narrative. A person tells a true and compelling story and the listener can’t help but be drawn into it. And the narrative gives order to reality. It transforms a bunch of apparently unrelated facts and skills into a satisfyingly-ordered whole.
Be a Christian: Trust Jesus Christ
The Bible is not just an ancient holy book. It contains the words that God intended mankind to know in order have a right relationship with God and in order to have true wisdom about the world. According to the Bible, man’s greatest need is to have his sins forgiven through repentance from sin and faith in Jesus Christ, on account of Christ’s nature as both God and man and his work of living a sinless life and dying on the cross to take away our sins.
An important and necessary part of faith in Christ is knowing and believing what he taught. This is especially important these days, as the church (that is, the total of all Christian churches considered as one assembly of people) contains a great deal of bad and even false teaching about Christianity. Scripture itself, both Old and New Testament, warns Christians to guard against false teachers, false teaching, and “false Christs.” “False Christs” does not mainly mean people who falsely claim to be Jesus, although such people do exist. Instead, it mainly means false descriptions of Christ, false ideas about Christ, such as the idea that he is not God, or that he did not teach the necessity of faith in him for the forgiveness of our sins.
Therefore a good man studies Christian doctrine (teaching) so that he can recognize and reject false teaching, and so that he can hold more tightly to the true faith in Christ that saves him. But how exactly can one recognize false teaching? Continue reading
But first, we conclude the discussion at the end of the previous post:
Let’s understand that word “character.” When it refers to human behavior, character is the way you habitually behave. It doesn’t just mean how you behave some of the time, when you try hard to do something you don’t usually do. Instead, it means the way you naturally react to a situation. It’s the way you usually behave. For example, if you’re habitually lazy, this doesn’t mean that you never work hard. It means that it’s your habit to avoid work whenever possible, and it takes a great effort for you to work hard.
Maybe it doesn’t need to be said, but being habitually lazy is a very bad habit to have. Lazy people don’t achieve much in life, they rarely get what they want (unless they only want to be left alone), and other people don’t respect them. You should not want to have a lazy character.
And notice that character is based on habit. If you act lazily often enough, laziness becomes your habit. And when it becomes your habit, then you will either have to fight hard to change your character, a battle that will take a long time and much energy, or else you will just remain lazy for the rest of your life, and you will then be a failure.
And what can be said about laziness can also be said about the other bad character habits: greed, anger, impulsiveness (the inability to control your desires), pride (the desire for others to honor you), envy (the hatred of others for having what you want but don’t have), and so on. Once you have these habits, they are very hard to break, and they drag a man down to destruction. To be a good leader, a good man, you must have self-discipline so that you can control your bad habits and strengthen your good habits.
Thomas F. Bertonneau
This is the first in a series of three essays intended to critique selected aspects of the prevailing modern worldview of the West’s ubiquitous liberal regime. In the present essay, I am interested in the prevailing modern view of education; I argue that various pre-modern ways of understanding education address their topic with a good deal more penetration than that achieved by the modern view, which tends to insipidity. In a follow-on essay to this one I will address the question how revelation is related to reality; a third essay will devote itself to a discussion of memory considered as an institution.
The importance of books
To gain the knowledge you need to be a good man you must train yourself to be a good reader. Even in today’s internet / media age, most of the world’s knowledge and wisdom, the wisdom you need to live a good life, is in the written word.
There’s a reason for that: Wisdom cannot be learned through music or video. Music and video, although they have their value, are non-intellectual. They cannot communicate ideas correctly. They can suggest ideas. They can reinforce them. But music and video cannot communicate ideas accurately. Ideas can only be communicated correctly by words.
True, a video can include words that communicate ideas. But the communication of ideas in a video is done in a non-visual way. The words are a non-visual addition to a medium that is primarily visual.
Music and video, in fact, are often used to manipulate you, that is, to trick you into thinking or acting in the way that the author wants. Dishonest or evil people often use video and music to manipulate your emotions instead of trying to teach you truth. Instead of using words to teach you, they use music and pictures to get you to feel that something is true, or that something is good, when it really isn’t. Continue reading