Jesus Exultant, or, Christ No Pessimist, and Other Essays

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St. Francis, Christian Love, and the Biotechnological Future

Bindman suggests that Blake parallels the grief of Moses' parents, who must leave him unattended in the land of Egypt, with the grief of the parents of Christ at his eventual suffering on earth. Mary's swoon thus looks backward to the Moses Placed in the Ark of the Bulrushes to prefigure the revelation of Christ at the Nativity and forward to the Crucifixion. Likewise, Christ's exultant leap looks backward to the leap of Moses and forward to the Crucifixion and Resurrection c.

In the leap of Christ here one also recognizes Blake's Orc, personification or embodiment in the prophetic books of revolutionary energy and the proclaimer of a new order, whose Christian equivalent is Christ the Redeemer. This is most clear in the illustration to Blake's poem The Marriage of Heaven and Hell , plate 3, 12 where Orc is shown actually emerging from Enitharmon's womb in the ecstatic pose of the Christ child in the Butts Nativity.

Orc, like his antagonist Urizen, is a type recognizable, whether as an infant or grown man, by his pose-once again the ecstatic pose of Albion Rose. In it the three kings worship at the feet of Christ, but they continue to wear their earthly crowns, and one king bears the unmistakable features of Blake's Urizen, symbol of power and reason, who makes a show of worshiping Christ but retains his primary allegiance to the trappings of the world. The Nativity has two light sources, one from the nimbus around Christ, the other from the star of Bethlehem at the window.

But if there are echoes of Rembrandt, the primary spiritual reference is to Fra Angelico c. There is no direct quotation here from a work by Fra Angelico, but the austerity and simplicity both derive from him. Samuel Palmer wrote that Blake "loved the early Christian art, and dwelt with peculiar affection on the memory of Fra Angelico, often speaking of him as an inspired inventor and as a saint.

Geoffrey Keynes, ed. Oxford, Palmer to William Abercrombie, February 5, , in Keynes, ed. Oxford,, p. David Bindman, Blake as an Artist Oxford, Oxford, , p. Blake to William Hayley, October 23, in Keynes, ed. Oxford,, , p. London, 28 Broad Street. June Mona Wilson. The Life of William Blake. As he treated his fellow human beings so he treated all of his fellow creatures. His great canticle Laudes Creaturarum speaks of sun, moon, and water as brothers and sisters.

But clearly for Francis, that creation was simultaneously material and spiritual — sacramental through and through. This perspective on the natural world as a unity established and sustained within a structure of governing principle and overarching purpose, as opposed to the perverse and capricious inclinations of the gods of antiquity, contributed to crucial conceptual foundations for the birth of empirical science.

It is not an accident that Roger Bacon, the thirteenth-century naturalist often called the father of the experimental method, was a Franciscan friar. Moreover, this Franciscan frame of mind suggests limits on our modern project of biotechnology. Recognition of the fragile interdependence of living nature urges us to be cautious — lest we disrupt the basic balance of being and thereby drain the created order of its beauty, vitality, spiritual significance, and moral meaning.

We have no license for an attitude of arrogance as masters and possessors of nature. Plants and animals may be used, not as mere raw materials, but with tenderness, compassion, and genuine gratitude. Genetically engineered featherless chickens for cheaper pot pies and leaner pigs with severe arthritis are a violation of basic kindness and courtesy — of the concern that Francis extended to even the lowliest of creatures. It is clear that biomedical technology has moved away from its noble and compassionate origins, pulled and persuaded by more immediate desires and images of personal fulfillment.

Within the constraints of the natural world, desires provide directions that motivate and empower purposeful action. Now, in our technological era, they have increasingly become ends in themselves — an imperative of indulgence, with all the disproportions and dangers that implies. It is not difficult to see where this will go in the absence of a higher and more compelling ideal. First, the easy satisfaction of our most infantile and shallow desires, a voluntary trivialization and enfeeblement of soul. Then, an uninhibited technological exploration of the aesthetics of the self.

We are already somewhat familiar with these degraded manipulations of natural desire in the personal and social tragedy of substance abuse, but it seems likely that our advancing knowledge of neurophysiology and neuropharmacology will deliver temptations far more difficult to resist.

Equally troubling are the direct social dangers, the pervasive and open-ended competition with others, where biotechnology is deployed in the service of vanity and pride, or simply the unbridled quest for position or power. Building on the principled justifications already established in the practice of cosmetic surgery, we will seek better babies, more beautiful bodies, and superior performance. Finally, and most disturbingly, there is at least the possibility that the powers of biotechnology will be deployed by the state in a coercive program of social engineering — all in the name of building a better world.

It has been said that people who worship health will not remain healthy, but in the depths of our desires we have always dreamed of something even beyond health. The witness of human history testifies that when we elevate our natural inclinations to the level of a guide, when we move along the gradient of desire, we tend toward disproportion and even perversion — desires become tyrants. And now, in our age, such disproportions and dangers are dramatically magnified by our biotechnology. In light of all this, one can sense a wisdom in the severity and self-denial that were, for Francis, inseparable from the source of his joy.

He had rediscovered an ancient truth in the inversion of desire, not as a negation of being but as a positive passion. In the image of the Lord, he emptied himself and received all things back renewed, purified, and restored in their divine glory. In his humility and self-surrender, Francis became more fully human, more free from temptation and fear, and more free for the fullness of love. Indeed, if G. Francis understood that spiritual unity with a divine source and significance is essential for the fullness of human life and our capacity for genuine altruistic love.

From an evolutionary perspective, acts of altruism are usually described as a naturally grounded mechanism for sustaining social solidarity. And generally, within such accounts, the notion of divine love is considered a mere functional fiction, a projection of the idealizing imagination. In this sense, the heroic acts of Francis on behalf of Lady Poverty can be explained away as nothing but a sublimation of natural inclination. The experience of history, however, is that self-giving love is an indispensable dimension of human flourishing and even human survival.

Genuine altruism is the crucial element necessary to sustain shared community and personal peace. And when it is absent, we find conflict without conciliation, bitterness without forgiveness, and misfortune without mercy. Yet, even if we accept the idea that the self-giving spirit of Francis drew its sustaining power from a divine source, we still face a dilemma. However much we may wish to simplify and sanitize the story of St. Francis, an honest reading of the historical record brings us face to face with dimensions of his spirituality that are remote and disquieting to the modern mind.

The same man that greeted the glory of the dawn sought out the silence and solitude of the cave, and the same hands that stretched out in joyous welcome to the little birds, bore, according to the testimony of his companions, the very marks of the wounds of Christ. This was no mere moderation or rebalancing of desire; the spiritual transformation in the life of Francis was a radical realignment — a recognition that the whole of the present disposition of creation, in both its beauty and its suffering, is an unfolding story of sacrifice and redemption.

Meir Soloveichik contends that hatred is appropriate only when applied selectively in very limited fashion. Kindness and justice, on the other hand, retain their value whether administered in small amounts or with abandon. Although both Old and New Testaments encourage us to hate what is evil, nowhere in the Bible to my knowledge are we explicitly commanded to direct our hate towards individuals. Let me begin with the Bible. Yet in the Hebrew Bible we find both righteous men and Almighty God hating terribly wicked individuals. I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies.

In 2 Chronicles, the Almighty adds that those who love the very wicked will be punished. Therefore is wrath upon thee from before the Lord.

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And yet, asks Lawrence Goodall, do not Ezekiel and other prophets insist that God desires the repentance of the sinful? For God is the Father of both those who obey Him and those who betray Him, but not of those who hate Him. Kreeft, tellingly, compares sin to cancer, and a sinner to a patient.

It is this cancer, he argues, that will drag us to hell if we do not repent. Surely, he wonders, Jews understand this. The answer is that we do not understand this at all. Perhaps Prof. Kreeft sees sin as an illness that, like cancer, afflicts us with a condition that we never asked for in the first place. But Jews insist that sin is a state that only we can inflict upon ourselves, willingly and deliberately. To love Hitler, Jews insist, is to imply that it was not Hitler himself who chose to sin, and that we who chose differently are in some way no different than he.

Having addressed the biblical view, let me now approach the rabbinic tradition. Rabbi David Novak writes that he cannot recall a single rabbinic source that considers Samson a positive role model. Let me cite several of these statements. A prisoner who destroys an enemy fortress, killing himself in the process, is not committing suicide, any more than a soldier who falls on a grenade to save his battalion is committing suicide. But that passage is crucial, for Deborah the prophetess undeniably revels in the excruciating, well-deserved death of her very wicked foe.

In fact, the rabbinic view is fully consistent with, and is based upon, the view of the Bible. This distinction is reflected in the traditional Jewish liturgy, known as the Shemonah Esrei. Here are two of its blessings:.

Yes, God loves the wicked—but not the frightfully wicked. Rabbi Novak argues that Jews ought to hope for the repentance of the egregiously evil; yet as a traditional Jew, he recites the above prayer three times a day. If, as seems implied by his conclusion, Rabbi Novak prays for the wholehearted repentance of murderers like Osama bin Laden, or of Yasir Arafat, I wonder how he could ask God daily for the immediate destruction of the terribly wicked. The fact remains that not a single source cited by my Jewish critics indicates that we are to love extreme sinners such as Stalin, or Hitler, or Pol Pot.

Rabbi Novak concludes, wrongly, that Rabbi Meir would make no distinction between ruffians and the Hitlers of this world. Meanwhile, a plethora of sources—biblical, mishnaic, talmudic, midrashic—indicate that while we do deeply desire the repentance of most, there are a few figures whom we are entitled, and obligated, to hate. Finally, my Jewish correspondents resort to hyperbole.

We—Americans, Israelis, and other members of the free world—face enemies who cannot be deterred, haters of God who seek nothing but death and destruction. Smolin does not even delineate the ground of his own reservations. He implies, without quite arguing, that natural rights reasoning is a mischievous and fragile instrument—mischievous because it is sometimes put to perverse purpose; and fragile because it is apparently incapable of defending itself against misuse.

The inference is that natural rights reasoning is insufficient to establish an enduring constitutional jurisprudence, much less one capable of protecting human life. Without something more, Prof. Smolin suggests, the enterprise in which Arkes and others of his kind are engaged is ultimately a feckless endeavor. There may be an argument in there somewhere, but Prof. Smolin is troubled as he should be , but also seems puzzled as he should not be , about how American jurisprudence departed from the premises of the Framers and Abraham Lincoln.

But anyone wishing to learn about the course of constitutional thinking from Lincoln to Roe v. Wade could hardly do better than to consult the collected works of Hadley Arkes. Few scholars in our time have shed more light on the fateful turn toward nihilist jurisprudence, or pondered more deeply what might be done about it. And, on life and death issues, no one has argued more persuasively or to greater effect.

As for the book itself, it is positively brim-full of cogent analysis on how Roe , Casey , and Stenberg , e. On a theoretical level, Natural Rights and the Right to Choose is one of the most powerful statements on the necessity of recapturing a jurisprudence of natural right that I have ever seen. None of this, however, is accounted for in Prof. Smolin is under no obligation to agree with Arkes, but he does have an obligation to get his argument right. By way of full disclosure, I should note that Professor Arkes, in a gesture of undeserved generosity, dedicated his new book to me, which may prompt the thought that I write with a certain partisan interest.

No doubt I do, but not for that reason. Long before we became acquainted, I learned why Hadley Arkes is one of the most important public philosophers of our time. His tireless efforts to revive a Lincolnian understanding of the American proposition are not a mere exercise in theoretical reasoning, but an eminently practical endeavor that has helped to shape pro-life litigation and legislation. If ever a law may be said to bear the indelible stamp of a single mind, that was it; and the mind was that of Hadley Arkes.

For Prof. I fear he has done Arkes not only a disservice, but an injustice. Michael M. I take it that the first task of a reviewer is accurately to represent the argument of a book and then to propose pertinent criticisms. But the argument that Professor Smolin attributes to Arkes is nowhere in the book; and what Arkes does argue for never appears in Prof.

Humbled by Greatness: the Soul of Creatureliness – Shameless Popery

According to Prof. Smolin, the argument of Natural Rights is that, through Casey and its aftermath, the pro-life movement has effectively been defeated, and that, therefore, the United States must inevitably decline and collapse.

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Smolin to find passages that evince it. In fact, Natural Rights is a forward-looking, practical, and optimistic book. But those looks quickly gave way to a certain concentration as I set forth the logic of the problem, and people became engaged in the puzzle of the bill. Soon the hostility completely dissolved.

The philosophy of natural rights is by its nature optimistic—as even Prof. Smolin concedes at one point in his review, contradicting himself. Embracing an apparent relativism and anti-intellectualism, Prof.

For a Left With No Future

Arkes does much to demonstrate that the Founders had an understanding of that discourse which we ourselves generally lack; Prof. Smolin, in aiming to disagree with Arkes, inadvertently provides his own proof. Other readers of First Things, however, may not have had that good fortune. So, for their benefit, I offer the following. First, Arkes is without peer in his proficiency in stringing together—with wit and wisdom—apparently disparate ideas, stories and concepts, thinkers and politicians, into a tapestry that is as elegant as it is compelling.

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Smolin, for he employs—without any sense of irony—many of the fallacies Arkes surgically dismantles in the very book about which Smolin has offered his opinion. Consider just one example from Prof. Smolin responds by pointing out that people have believed evil things in the name of natural law. Smolin simply does not get: when racists appeal to natural law to justify slavery and white supremacy they employ principles that undercut their own rights.

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Consequently, the right to abortion can only be purchased at the price of abandoning natural rights and replacing it with the will to power. Thus, to conscript Prof. But if they insist on retaining their skepticism, then they are in no position to judge us wrong when we voice our disagreement with them.

But Prof. For if he had truly grasped the position Arkes defends he would understand that his own judgment—that Arkes is mistaken at points—is itself dependent on moral notions not contingent upon relative circumstances or the contingencies of history. By claiming, for example, that Arkes has incorrectly interpreted the reasons for the Civil War and the debate over abortion, and has neglected to provide a fuller picture of the Founders and their beliefs, Prof. Smolin is presupposing a moral notion that is logically prior to his analysis: historical texts and events should be interpreted accurately.

This, of course, is grounded in more primitive moral notions: to accurately interpret a text or event one should do so fairly and honestly, and one should pursue the truth while interpreting them. Both these moral commands are logically prior to, and thus not derived from, the events and texts themselves, for in order to extract truth from them, obedience to these moral commands is a necessary precondition.

Francis J. Robert P. He suggests that, in agreement with Lincoln, Supreme Court decisions should be binding only on the litigants and not on other branches of the federal government, nor on other states, as the case may be. For example, in Pierce v. Society of Sisters , the Court struck down an Oregon law that effectively outlawed parochial education.

Should other states have been free similarly to outlaw parochial education until they too had been individually dealt with by the Supreme Court? Legal anarchy by the states and separate branches of the federal government is a poor solution to the problem of an overbearing Supreme Court. Moreover, making the Supreme Court powerless is hardly a guarantee of civil rights. An assumption inherent in Prof. In our legal system, courts follow precedents. By their nature, then, courts are perhaps the most conservative of the three branches of government. Courts generally try to do so. Lower courts, at least, are bound by the hierarchical structure of the judiciary to follow precedents of a higher court.

Even state supreme courts and the U. Supreme Court are reluctant to overrule themselves, and often will not admit it when they do. The problem may be cast in a different way if we think of it as one of access to the courts. As long as parties are free to present a dispute in legal terms, courts will continue to make rulings. Under the precedential system followed in American jurisprudence, those rulings will be more or less binding on future disputes involving the same or similar issues.

President Lincoln, as an attorney, knew this.

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An executive or legislature might try to ignore it, but a slaveowner could seek relief in court, and the court would be bound to follow Dred Scott. Defiance of Dred Scott thus would be futile, as long as the courts were open. Roe v. Wade , which Professor George mentions only at the end of his essay, is of course the real subject. How is Roe to be got around? The birth control movement followed this course in the decades leading up to Griswold v. Suppose a state wants to go all the way and passes a complete ban on abortion. A practicing lawyer, advising a legislative committee or governor, would predict the following: the law would meet immediate legal challenge and be struck down by a federal district court, which would be affirmed by the court of appeals.

The Supreme Court, having no obligation to take any particular case, likely would deny a petition for certiorari, and that would be the end of it. It would be the end, that is, unless the political branches were willing to ignore the judgment of the courts. This would bring the matter to a constitutional crisis, resolvable perhaps only by force, as at Ole Miss in The Civil War would seem to be evidence that such a crisis in interpretation can result in violence and more death. This possibility should be considered. Bad law in a good system is better than no law at all.

Self-correction by the Court is possible, if litigants demand that correction through bold and creative argument.

Jesus Exultant, or, Christ No Pessimist, and Other Essays Jesus Exultant, or, Christ No Pessimist, and Other Essays
Jesus Exultant, or, Christ No Pessimist, and Other Essays Jesus Exultant, or, Christ No Pessimist, and Other Essays
Jesus Exultant, or, Christ No Pessimist, and Other Essays Jesus Exultant, or, Christ No Pessimist, and Other Essays
Jesus Exultant, or, Christ No Pessimist, and Other Essays Jesus Exultant, or, Christ No Pessimist, and Other Essays
Jesus Exultant, or, Christ No Pessimist, and Other Essays Jesus Exultant, or, Christ No Pessimist, and Other Essays
Jesus Exultant, or, Christ No Pessimist, and Other Essays Jesus Exultant, or, Christ No Pessimist, and Other Essays
Jesus Exultant, or, Christ No Pessimist, and Other Essays Jesus Exultant, or, Christ No Pessimist, and Other Essays
Jesus Exultant, or, Christ No Pessimist, and Other Essays Jesus Exultant, or, Christ No Pessimist, and Other Essays
Jesus Exultant, or, Christ No Pessimist, and Other Essays

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