MacIntyre, Alasdair. After Virtue (Notre Dame, IN: U. Notre Dame Press, 1984).
A professor of philosophy at U. Notre Dame, MacIntyre is disturbed that: "There seems to be no rational way of securing moral agreement in our culture" (p. 6). He identifies the source of the confusion in "Emotivism… the doctrine that all evaluative judgments and more specifically all moral judgments are nothing but expressions of preference" (pp. 11-12). He comments: "Emotivism has become embodied in our culture… What once was morality has to some large degree disappeared—and… this marks a degeneration, a grave cultural loss" (p. 21). MacIntyre asserts that: "Nietzsche is the moral philosopher of the present age" (p. 108), and contends that only "something like" Aristotle's "shared vision of the common good," as mediated in the Catholic tradition, is capable of replacing "modern individualist morality" (pp. 113,146,161, 241).
MacIntyre concludes by drawing a parallel between our point in history, and "the epoch in which the Roman empire declined into the Dark Ages": "A crucial turning point in that earlier history occurred when men and women of good will… set themselves to… the construction of new forms of community within which the moral life could be sustained so that both morality and civility might survive the coming ages of barbarism and darkness… for some time now we too have reached that turning point. What matters at this stage is the construction of local forms of community within which civility and the intellectual and moral life can be sustained through the new dark ages which are already upon us… This time however, the barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers; they have already been governing us for quite some time" (pp. 244-45).
Man, Paul de. Allegories of Reading (New Haven, CT: Yale U. Press, 1979). De Man is a leading American postmodernist and proponent of literary deconstruction. Like the French scholars, Derrida, Lyotard, and Foucault, de Man has argued that the interpretation of literary texts is completely relative. Texts will convey meanings which cannot be bound by what their authors intended. Consequently, no one can make a valid claim to know the correct or final interpretation of any text, not even the author. A corollary of this view is the conclusion that the attempt to make such interpretations is an exhibition of intolerance. Universal truth claims are the tools of political oppression. As A. McGrath explains in his A Passion for Truth, de Man's claim that "the very idea of 'meaning' smacked of Fascism" came under scrutiny when it was discovered that he had written Fascist propaganda during WW II. In December, 1989, McGrath writes: "the New York Times reported the discovery of anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi articles, written by de Man for the Belgian Nazi newspaper, Le Soir. A scandal resulted. Was de Man's deconstructionalism an attempt to deny his own past? Was de Man himself really a former Fascist, trying to escape from his own guilt?" (p. 188).
Marsden, George M. Fundamentalism and American Culture (Oxford, England: Oxford U. Press, 1980); Understanding Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1991).
Marty, Martin E., and Scott Appleby, eds. Fundamentalism Explained (Chicago, IL: U. Chicago Press, 1993).
Marx, Karl. "Manifesto of the Communist Party," and "Excerpt from Toward the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right" in: Basic Writings on Politics and Philosophy: Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, ed. Lewis S. Feuer (Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1959). Karl Marx (1818-1893), the German socialist and political philosopher, co-founder of communist socialism, took a revolutionary, hostile position toward religion, morality, and tradition. In the Communist Manifesto, which he wrote in 1848 with F. Engels, Marx asserted that: "communism abolishes eternal truths, it abolishes all religion, and all morality, instead of constituting them on a new basis; it therefore acts in contradiction to all past historical experience" (p. 27). In his Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right, first published in 1844, Marx asserted: "Man makes religion, religion does not make man… Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of an unspiritual situation. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness" (pp. 262-263; italics in the original).
McCallum, Dennis, ed. The Death of Truth (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 1996). The senior pastor at Xenos [Gk—"stranger"] Christian Fellowship in Columbus, OH, McCallum is also a participant in the Crossroads Project, an "interdisciplinary apologetics ministry" associated with Xenos, which conducts seminars on postmodernism at universities across the country and which maintains a website at http://www.crossrds.org. Most of the book consists of chapters which evaluate the impact of postmodernism on various disciplines, such as literature, education, health care, history, law, science, and religion. The Death of Truth defines postmodernism as: "The movement in late twentieth-century thought that rejects enlightenment rationalism, individualism, and optimism. Postmodernism is characterized by nihilism and radical subjectivity. 'Affirmative' postmodernists believe that social reality can be changed by activism" (p. 283).
Several of the chapters are written by Jim Leffel (B.A. in philosophy, Ohio State; M.A. in the philosophy of religion, TEDS), director of the Crossroads Project, education director for Xenos, and an adjunct prof. at Ohio Dominican College. Leffel compares and contrasts "Modernism," "Postmodernism," and "Theism" regarding their views of human nature, free will, reason, and progress. For modernism, human beings are "material machines;" for postmodernism they are "cogs in a social machine;" for theists they are "created in the image of God, both spiritual and material" (p. 21). Leffel explains: "Postmodernists believe that things like reason, rationality, and confidence in science are cultural biases. They contend that those who trust reason—and things based on reason, like science, Western education, and governmental structures—unknowingly act out their European cultural conditioning. This conditioning seeks to keep power in the hands of the social elite" (p. 20).
Leffel believes that "our culture widely accepts the basic tenets of postmodernism," which he articulates as the following: (1) "Reality is in the mind of the beholder… I construct my own reality;" (2) "People are not able to think independently because they are defined—'scripted,' molded—by their culture;" (3) "We cannot judge things in another culture or in another person's life, because our reality may be different from theirs;" (4) "We are not moving in the direction of progress, but are arrogantly dominating nature and threatening our future;" (5) "Nothing is ever proven, either by science, history, or any other discipline" (p. 50).
Leffel critiques postmodernism in the following points: (1) "The success of scientific technology is a strong argument that our perceptions of the world are relatively accurate…[e.g. putting a man on the moon, etc.];" (2) "[S]cientists from different cultures [successfully] replicate experiments that yield exactly the same results," indicating that all cultures share a common reality; (3) "[P]ostmodern cynics betray the inconsistency of their skepticism [regarding objective, scientific knowledge of the world] every time they drive a car, ride on an airplane, dial a telephone, or write on a computer;" (4) "If postmodernism can be shown to be true," then it too is a "social construct," and self-defeating, subject to the same criticism which postmodernism makes of other worldviews (pp. 52-53).
McGrath, Alister E. Intellectuals Don't Need God and Other Myths (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1993); Evangelicalism and the Future of Christianity (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1995); A Passion for Truth: The Intellectual Coherence of Evangelicalism (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996). McGrath is principal of Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, and research prof. of theology at Regent College, Vancouver. The purpose of A Passion for Truth is "to build" on his earlier work, Evangelicalism and the Future of Christianity, and "to consider what its future might be in the postmodern western world, with its competing ideologies and widely diverging theories of legitimation" (p. 9). McGrath defines evangelicalism around four emphases: (1) "a focus, both devotional and theological, on the person of Jesus Christ; (2) The identification of Scripture as the ultimate authority in matters of spirituality, doctrine, and ethics; (3) An emphasis upon conversion or a 'new birth' as a life-changing religious experience; (4) A concern for sharing the faith, especially through evangelism" (p. 22).
The first part of A Passion for Truth focuses on the coherence of the first two points: "the uniqueness of Jesus Christ" and "the authority of Scripture" (pp. 25-117). The remainder of the book engages and evaluates "the intellectual rivals [of evangelicalism] in the contemporary intellectual and cultural world… liberalism and modernism…postliberalism, postmodernism and pluralism" (p. 24). McGrath interprets postmodernism as a response to "the trauma of the Holocaust," which shattered "the pretensions and delusions of modernity" (p. 180). Yet he proposes that "postmodernism" may prove to be "a movement within modernism," since: "for all their divergences, both movements are directly or indirectly concerned with the fostering of human freedom" (p. 184). He defines postmodernism as: "a cultural sensibility without absolutes, fixed certainties or foundations, which takes delight in pluralism and divergence" (p. 184); "an inbuilt precommitment to relativism and pluralism… mark[ing] the end of the possibility of fixed, absolute meanings" (p. 185). For McGrath's critique of postmodernism see the entries in this catalog for M. Foucault and J.F. Lyotard.
McGuire, Meredith B. Religion: The Social Context, 3rd ed. (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1992).
Medved, Michael. Hollywood Vs. America: Popular Culture and the War on Traditional Values (New York: Harper Collins, 1992). Co-host, since 1985, of the popular PBS television program, "Sneak Previews," and host of a syndicated radio program based in Seattle, WA, Mr. Medved is a practicing Jew, and a close friend of Rabbi Daniel Lapin. Medved asserts that "Hollywood's persistent hostility to religious values is not just peculiar, it is positively pathological" (p. 71). He reports that "Hollywood [is] hopelessly out of touch with the public they are trying to serve" (p. 14). After five years of asking movie professionals at Hollywood parties and receptions to guess the percentage of Americans who attend church or synagogue every week (40% or more), the highest estimate was 20%, and "the most common response was '5% or less'" (p. 72). A secular, university study in 1992 "found that 'only 5.4% of [TV] characters had an identifiable religious affiliation—although 89% of Americans claim affiliation with an organized faith,' and concluded: 'Television's treatment of religion tends to be best characterized as abuse through neglect'" (p. 80).
Medved warns that "the dream machine has become the poison factory" (p. 3), and that its influence may be more pervasive than we think: "the power of the entertainment industry to influence our actions flows from its ability to redefine what constitutes normal behavior in this society. The popular culture now consumes such a huge proportion of our time and attention that it has assumed a dominant role in establishing social conventions" (p. 261). Medved recounts a discussion about this book, before it was published, with a Hollywood executive. He was warned that if he went ahead with it, he should expect to be blacklisted. "The struggle for the soul of the popular culture promises no quick or easy victories" (p. 345). He recommends "sponsor boycotts" (p. 328) as a more effective strategy than "official censorship" (p. 321): "the right to protest degrading material" (p. 331). Finally, Medved offers this insight: "[The cultural battle] is about the meaning of culture" (p. 22).
Meeks, Wayne A. The First Urban Christians: The Social World of the Apostle Paul (New Haven, CT.: Yale U. Press, 1983); The Origins of Christian Morality: The First Two Centuries (New Haven, CT: Yale U. Press, 1993). These historical studies by a church historian from Yale emphasize both the corporate and public character of early Christianity. For example, in The Origins of Christian Morality, Meeks explains the historical origins of the term "church": "Church (the Gk ekklesia) from the fifth century B.C. onward referred to an assembly of citizens called to decide matters affecting the common welfare. The Hebrew qahal denotes a solemn, deliberative assembly of Israel's tribes… When the ancient Jews translated the OT into Greek, qahal was rendered ekklesia. This is the term the Christians seized on to describe their own assemblies. Thus the 'Ekklesia of God' means roughly the same thing as what New Englanders might call the 'town meeting of God'" (p. 45).
If Meeks is correct in his interpretation, the early church experienced little of the individualism which pervades the church today. Early Christian morality was also "essentially communal," Meeks says. "Even those practices that are urged upon individuals in the privacy of their homes… are extensions of the community's practice—indeed they are means of reminding individuals even when alone that they are not merely devotees of the Christian's God, they are members of Christ's body, the people of God. That was how the Christian movement differed most visibly from the other cults… The Christian's practices were not confined to sacred occasions and sacred locations—shrines, sacrifices, processions—but were integral to the formation of communities with a distinctive self-awareness" (p. 110; cited by R. Clapp in A Peculiar People, pp. 80-82).
Milbank, John. Theology and Social Theory (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1990). An Anglican scholar and theologian at Cambridge U., Dr. Milbank opens this rich and insightful investigation with the enchanting words: "Once, there was no 'secular'" (p. 9). Cited positively by R. Clapp. S. Hauerwas, and W. Willimon, Milbank argues that the church went astray in following Ernest Troeltsch and the reformers in the privatization of faith and the "domestication" of the gospel, allowing the secular culture to set the agenda: "the protestant reformation and 17th century Augustinianism…completely privatized, spiritualized and transcendentalized the sacred and concurrently reimagined nature, human action and society as a sphere of autonomous, sheer formal power" (p. 9; cf. p. 68; cited by R. Clapp in A Peculiar People, p. 215, n. 24); "the way we've been taught to think by Troeltsch cannot help resulting in the domestication of the gospel" (pp. 111-121; cited by W. Willimon in Where Resident Aliens Live, p. 68).
Milbank concludes by calling upon the church to rediscover her distinctive public, social identity: "The logic of Christianity involves the claim that the 'interruption' of history by Christ and his bride, the Church, is the most fundamental of events, interpreting all other events. And it is most especially a social event, able to interpret other social formulations, because it compares them with its own new social practice" (p. 388; cited by R. Clapp in A Peculiar People, pp. 89; 185). The church is called "to exhibit the exemplary form of human community" (p. 388).
Milgram, Stanley. Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View (New York, NY: Harper & Row, 1974).
Mill, John Stuart. On Liberty (London: Everyman ed., 1910; orig. pub., 1859). An English philosopher and political economist, Mill (1806-1873) made a strong impact on the founders of the American experiment. This, his most famous work, has become the classic text of liberalism, having strongly influenced American economics, politics, and philosophy. In the following passage, Mill asserts his central principle of individual sovereignty and freedom from government coercion: "That principle is that the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can rightfully be exercised over any member of a civilised community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others…Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign" (pp. 72-73; cited by G. Himmelfarb in On Looking into the Abyss, pp. 76-77).
Molnar, Thomas. Twin Powers: Politics and the Sacred (Grand Rapids, MI.: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1988). A professor of philosophy at the University of Budapest, Molnar’s thesis is that the attempt to separate politics from religion has created a fundamental crisis in our time. Since religion provides the sacred source which legitimizes political power, and the ordering principle upon which society is founded, what will prevent disorder and anarchy as a result? Until the Enlightenment, he contends: "every civilization" in the world acknowledged "the supernatural as the repository of the realities that the society took for granted" (p. 58).
Muggeridge, Malcolm. The End of Christendom (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1980); Vintage Muggeridge: Religion and Society (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm.B. Eerdmans, 1985).
Murchison, William. Reclaiming Morality in America (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1994). A syndicated newspaper columnist, a national political commentator, and a graduate of the U. Texas and Stanford, Murchison identifies his church affiliation as that of "a regular practicing member of a large Christian communion. In this lightly documented, popular treatment, the author aims at an accurate "analysis" and a hopeful "prescription" for the current moral decline (p. vii). The problem, he thinks, is the contemporary return to "the utilitarian conception of the Greeks and Romans," and the rejection of Judeo-Christian heritage of "a strictly nonutilitarian view of life" (p. 53). The problem also stems from loss of the Biblical teaching of creation: "The very existence of civilization depends on [the ability to] distinguish man from the animals" (p. 126). The cause and the remedy for American's moral decline is to be found in the failure and success of "society's three teaching institutions…church, school, and family" (pp. 122-127).
Murchison concludes: "Now may be the time for a new counterculture…to counter the culture of fear and fast-spreading confusion" (p. 173); "The modern counterculture must first locate and identify its [religious] moorings, including: "Repentance," and belief in "a Creator God;" "The theory of man without God is the unhappiest and most barren theory human history offers" (p. 176). This will require a "fight for the right—indeed for the truth," against prevailing "cultural mores and tribal norms" (p. 181).