Reason and Imagination – Philosophy and Art: Together We Can …

The central miracle asserted by Christians is the Incarnation … it relates not a series of disconnected raids on Nature but the various steps of a strategically coherent invasion –  an invasion which intends complete conquest and “occupation.” – Christian Writer C.S. Lewis

Apologetics (a field which includes thinkers and writers like Oxford’s CS Lewis, or Augustine from ancient times or, perhaps most famously, the 12th century monk Thomas Aquinas) is classically defined as giving a defense of one’s faith – but this defense is just one part of the overall task of communicating the full truth of one’s faith.  One typically thinks of an apologist as arguing against scientific theories (such as Darwinian Evolution), moral relativism and the conflicting claims of multiple world religions.  But this is just defense – when on the offensive, the apologist is tasked with effectively communicating the full depth and meaning of the gospel, and that, to questioners who may cling to rational arguments while there is otherwise a cauldron of emotional questions begging to be addressed, such as the need for belonging, purpose and significance

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Steps to Recovery: Celebrate Life / Viva la Difference! A Literary Approach

I saw people coming to meet us. Because they were bright I saw them while they were still  very distant, and at first I did not know that they were people at all.  Mile after mile they drew nearer. The earth shook under their tread as their strong feet sank into the wet turf.  A tiny haze and a sweet smell went up where they had crushed the grass and scattered the dew. Some were naked, some robed.  But the naked ones did not seem less adorned, and the robes did not disguise in those who wore them the massive grandeur of muscle and the radiant smoothness of  flesh.[1]

Such glorious creatures in C.S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce were once humans, but now revel in the full flowering of their redeemed humanity. Their perfected masculinity, their ‘massive grandeur of muscle,’ as well as beautiful feminity, ‘the radiant smoothness of flesh,’ are on unashamed display.

They provide an example of the beauty and graces of the sexes, which we will examine from Literature Professor (Thomas More College, NH) and Dante translator, Anthony Esolen’s Defending Marriage

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Steps to Recovery: Defending Life


Some issues we face in this era of modernity / postmodernity be illuminated by wisdom that predates our era: the sanctity of life is one such issue. Here we (very) briefly consider the critique of abortion arguments, the definition of “life,” when it begins, its characteristics etc. as presented by Loyola Marymount University Philosophy Professor Christopher Kaczor in The Ethics of Abortion (2014).


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Steps to Recovery: A Heraclitean Fire, an Immortal Diamond – Gerard Manley Hopkins

In a flash, at a trumpet crash,

I am all at once what Christ is, | since he was what I am, and

This Jack, joke, poor potsherd, | patch, matchwood, immortal diamond,

Is immortal diamond.

from That Nature is a Heraclitean Fire and of the Comfort of the Resurrection

Gerard Manley Hopkins, 1888 (

Written in 1888 after an absence from poetry, and cheerful poetry at that, for a few years, this poem of Victorian poet Gerard Manley Hopkins offers a literary apologetic, or imaginative apologetic, exploration of the meaning of humanity both before and after its redemption in Christ.

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Steps to Recovery: Be Still, and know that … (Neil Postman)

In Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman makes the case for the form of communication deeply governing the content of communication.  “A Major new medium changes the structure of discourse,” Postman notes, but with a pessimistic tone, continuing “the epistemology created by television (is) not only inferior to a  print-based epistemology but is dangerous and absurdist.[1] Sophistication of language, and hence of conceptual reasoning, have evidenced a progressive decline from the era of oral cultures and particularly colonial America’s print culture, to culture as it saw increasing uses of the telegraph, photography and television. The attendant loss of depth in reasoning and public discourse has as one of its casualties the understanding and appreciation of history.

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TS Eliot’s The Wasteland: Modernity on Trial


‘The Great War’ (World War One) had exhausted both the actual population of Europe as well as cultural and spiritual vitality – and Eliot’s Waste Land captured this listlessness of life and loss of meaning.  The first of five sections of the poem, ‘The Burial of the Dead,’ thus opens with the imagery of a grave site, though ironically yet suggesting signs of life, however dreary:

            April is the cruelest month, breeding

            Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing

            Memory and desire, stirring

            Dull rooms with spring rain.[1]

Eliot brings to light the tired spirit following such massive amounts of death which, ironically enough, were often made possible by such human inventions as machine guns and gas warfare. In his own way, Eliot follows Romantic poets such as Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge from a full century before who sought to rehabilitate the imagination in the face of a dehumanizing urbanization and industrialization.[2]  But Eliot’s poetry spoke to the monumental collapse of confidence in the progress of civilization brought about by WWI.  The steady march of progress and attendant optimism of the Victorian  nineteenth century found poetic expression in the 1902 Coronation Ode for King Edward VII of England:

Land of Hope and Glory, Mother of the Free,
            How shall we extol thee, who are born of thee?
            Wider still and wider shall thy bounds be set;
            God, who made thee mighty, make thee mightier yet[3]

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Modernity & Postmodernity: Introduction

london fair 1851b

Land of Hope and Glory, Mother of the Free,
How shall we extol thee, who are born of thee?
Wider still and wider shall thy bounds be set;
God, who made thee mighty, make thee mightier yet

the 1902 Victorian hymn, Land of Hope and Glory, rings in the new century, gushing with an optimism of a full century’s worth of peace and prosperity behind it. But quickly this sense was lost, as the “Great War” (World War 1) soon enveloped powerful and dominant Europe in a massive crisis of confidence.  Poets bemoaned this unbrave, new world with lines such as

Things fall apart; the center cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world

in William Butler Yeats’s 1919 The Second Coming, or from TS Eliot’s 1922 The Wasteland: “I will show you fear in a handful of dust,” or from his 1925 The Hollow Men “this is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper;” or Eliot’s use of Dante’s end of the world imagery in both in describing lines of lost souls wandering about London Bridge and the like.

Thus entered the era of modernity – philosophical, literary and otherwise – into the early 20th century …

Picture Above: The transept of the Crystal Palace, designed by Sir Joseph Paxton, at the Great Exhibition of 1851, Hyde Park, London.Hulton Archive/Getty Images   (


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