Truth

Poverty Is Not What You Think It Is

Poverty fell off a cliff after the Second World War. It fell like a stone, including for American blacks. The economy was booming and everyone benefited. The poverty rate dropped from 35 percent in 1950 to less than 20 percent when President Lyndon Johnson, nonetheless, announced his War on Poverty. By the time the War [...]

Epiphany: A Feast of Light

Several years ago, I had a student in my English class who was blind from birth—Charlie had lost his eyesight due to oxygenation at his premature delivery, weighing less than two pounds when he came into the world. We were reading Shakespeare’s King Lear that day. Not an easy thing to do with a class [...]

Down the Sociological Road to Nihilism

This semester I am teaching a basic undergraduate class in social theory, and the text we use (Contemporary Sociological Theory and Its Classical Roots, The Basics, Ritzer and Stepinsky) presents many “key concepts” in the field. The “definition of the situation,” is one such concept. This idea comes to us via American Pragmatism, and means [...]

Pursuing True Happiness in a World Without Truth

“[T]he direct and pure experience of reality in its ultimate root is man’s deepest need.” ∼ Thomas Merton Among the many confusions in our modern-secular culture is the fundamentally incoherent idea—which is also a promise, a hope, and a dream—that true happiness is possible without truth, but instead can be had with more freedom and [...]

Can Christianity and Post-Modernity Reconcile?

It is popular today to speak of clashing worldviews as “narratives.” History shows, we’re told, that it is almost impossible for a narrative to imagine a standpoint outside itself. That is what defines it as a narrative. It is only when it has been surpassed by another narrative—as paganism was eclipsed by Christianity and Christianity [...]

The Goal of Classical Education is Truth

“The least initial deviation from the truth is multiplied later a thousandfold.” Aristotle wrote this in the fourth century B.C. in a text called On the Heavens. Sixteen hundred years later Thomas Aquinas began his treatise On Being and Essence by paraphrasing Aristotle: “Because a small error in the beginning grows enormous at the end.…” [...]

When Teaching Truth Stops Being a Church Priority

Basic issues have basic importance. Does God exist? If he does, what is he like? If he doesn’t, can an objective moral order survive his absence? It seems obvious that such questions are crucial to all aspects of life, including our life together in society. That conclusion has inconvenient implications. Christian societies, Muslim societies, and [...]

What is Civilization?

Is civilization worth defending? Should we aim to conform to it so that we can be considered civilized? Should we aim to bring our children up according to its norms so that they can also be considered civilized? Should we try to make our country and our world as civilized as possible? The chances are [...]

Is Lying Ever Justified?

"The problem is not that we are sinners: the problem is not repenting of sin, not being ashamed of what we have done." In his homily at his daily Mass at Domus Sanctae Marthae on May 17, 2013, Pope Francis was discussing, and commending, the example of Saint Peter, who, having denied Christ, was now [...]

The Intolerance of Liberal Toleration

D. A. Carson, a well-known Reformed theologian and exegete, has written a clear and well-reasoned analysis of today’s imperialistic tolerance from an Evangelical and classically liberal standpoint. He tells us that the new understanding of tolerance has meant a shift from accepting the right of others to hold dissenting views to demanding acceptance of such [...]

A Catholic Response to Utopian Modernity

The world goes its own way without much regard for the Church, because it has very little regard for truth—that is to say, for reality. The problems go to the roots of current ways of thinking. The modern movement of thought began as an attempt to attain security and certainty by emphasizing what is practical [...]

Pope Francis and the Gospel of Life

Though the world barely knows Pope Francis, it has rushed to judge him. As Caitlin Bootsma has lamented, “Catholics, of all stripes, immediately sought to measure Pope Francis against their own goals for the papacy.” Rather than measuring him according to our interests and wants, we should make haste to pray for him. We should, further, [...]

The Black-and-White Pope

A few days ago we all had a shocking surprise as a Latin American, Jesuit archbishop emerged onto the loggia of St. Peter’s to the general joy of the Catholic world.  The rejoicing was widespread, but not universal, with some expressing misgivings.  These are clearly natural reactions, to be expected in any election, sacred or [...]

What to Hope For in a New Pope

Imagine members of the lay faithful being invited to instruct the cardinals who come to Rome to select a new pope.  They would be asked precisely whom they would choose as successor to St. Peter.  Of course the cardinals are not obliged to take counsel with mere mortals.  However avid some of us might be [...]

Politics, Virtue, and the Intellect: When Rulers Fail to Rule Themselves

In contemporary political systems, every citizen can vote no matter what his level of intelligence or relation to virtue. Some of the worst political systems have high turnouts on elections days. The worst rulers also want to be popular.

Converts and the Symphony of Truth

Why do adults become Catholics? There are as many reasons for “converting” as there are converts. Evelyn Waugh became a Catholic with, by his own admission, “little emotion but clear conviction”: this was the truth; one ought to adhere to it.  Cardinal Avery Dulles wrote that his journey into the Catholic Church began when, as [...]

What’s In a Name?

So it appears that Osama bin Laden, in the weeks before his death, was noodling the possibility of rebranding al-Qaeda, since the old name seems to have attracted a bit of bad publicity. I held a brief contest on my blog inviting readers to help these guys out by coming up with a new name [...]

Let the Children Come to Me

I remember seriously questioning the existence of God when I was eleven years old. I don’t think I was that unusual; like most children, I wondered about things, and God seemed to be the biggest thing I could wonder about. Unfortunately, very few adults besides my parents engaged me about the Faith -- and if [...]

Private Charity Versus Government Welfare

Less than three years has passed since the publication of Pope Benedict XVI's third encyclical, Charity in Truth. As some readers may remember, the encyclical caused quite a stir both in secular and religious circles -- as have many of the past papal encyclicals dealing with economic questions, going back to Pope Leo XIII's groundbreaking [...]

Five Habits of the Ideal Teacher

The defining characteristic of all my best teachers, from elementary school onward, can be summed up in one word: humility. I used to harbor the misconception that humility meant thinking less of yourself, but the ideal is much more honest. It is thinking of yourself exactly as you are -- no more and no less [...]

Disappointed by Truth

The ugly little secret of life, one I hesitate to share with students, is how disappointing all of it is. Indeed, if the reader is under 30, I'm tempted to tell him to click on some other column -- lest I drain from him the sparks of life and energy that are meant to keep [...]

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