"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Plug for Hewitt and Hillsdale

Hugh Hewitt does a tremendous thing on his radio program every week.   Where so much of our media, even our political talk shows, is focused on the issues of the moment, and, too much, on the political gamesmanship involved, Hewitt pulls back once a week to take a very long view -- he speaks with Dr. Larry Arnn of Hillsdale College in Michigan about the great books.   The talks are both intellectual and accessible -- the conversation of educated men, or at least the way educated men used to converse.

This week's talk can be found here, with links to the podcasts, available for free.   In it, Hewitt and Arnn discuss the New Testatment Letters of Paul:

HH: Dr. Arnn, when we were talking last segment, and you were talking about the things that Paul had to accomplish, I was marveling to myself again at how the extraordinary just existence of the events, Jesus enters into the world at a particular time and place, and Paul enters immediately thereafter to provide the transition to the new world so that just the sequencing of events ought to give a non-believer pause, because none of this happens but for the miraculous intervention and the reality of Christ, and then the following on of Paul to establish, along with Peter, the working out of how this is going to grow. It’s really kind of remarkable, and it’s never happened to anybody else. 
LA: That’s is. It’s, you know, and it’s…they’re struggling. You know, these letters, by the way, you see, Paul writes these letters to people. They’re called letters, because they’re letters. You know, Dear Joe, Dear Philemon, Dear whoever I’m writing to. And many of the contentions, many of these subjects, I think it’s probably true to say most of these big, theological subjects that are made, that are raised by the phenomenon of Christ, are worked out in the letters of Paul in an argument through correspondence, because you say it’s this, and no, it’s got to be like this. That won’t work, right? And that’s a preview of what the great Christian synods and arguments have been about, and the work that was done to develop the creeds that are since early Christianity, still recited today in most Churches. So Paul is doing that work, and it’s an intellectual work. And of course, it’s more than that, too, because Paul’s body is on the line, just like Jesus’ was, and just like Peter’s eventually would be. Paul is stoned, he is arrested. Several of these letters, and several of the best of them, are written from prison. And sometimes, he goes on about that, this sounds to me like a little unmanly, like maybe he’s whining a bit, but most of the time, not like that. Most of the time, they’re simply sublime. And he counts the privilege of being there. And so he produces these writings. And you know, here’s another thing about it that I wish I were a better scholar. I studied Greek in graduate school, and I’ve not used it for 30 years, so I’m miserable. But not New Testament Greek, and so I can’t, I don’t really know how it works. My favorite translation is the King James translation, because it’s very beautiful. But Paul can be terribly awkward to read. And if you read it carefully, you can see what’s he’s saying. But Lord, why doesn’t he just say it, you ask yourself, and I don’t know for sure if that’s a translation problem. 
HH: But there are points where in Corinthians, if I speak in the tongues of men and of angels but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clinging symbol. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have faith that can move mountains but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flame but I have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love it kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered. It keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease. Where there are tongues, they will be stilled. Where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and prophecy in part. But when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror. Then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part. Then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain – faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. Is that not a perfect chapter? 
LA: Sometimes, I think God abandoned him to poor grammar and construction. But God talked to him often, too. It’s just lovely.

In prior weeks they have talked through the Old Testament and the Gospels.   Next week they are doing Herodotus and Thucydides.   You get the picture.  

I don't see why any high school shouldn't be having these sorts of classes routinely as part of a core curriculum.   Keeping the great books of the western world alive for future generations ought to be one of our generation's main goals.

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