December 1999By David Arias Jr.
Natural Law and Contemporary Public Policy. Edited by David F. Forte. Georgetown University Press. 398 pages. $65.
In the past few decades natural law thinking has been making a comeback. Philosophers, political and legal theorists, and others have been looking back to the ancient and, particularly, medieval philosophies of the West for guidance and illumination. These thinkers are challenging the reigning ethical theories of relativism, consequentialism, and pragmatism. By offering an objective view of moral rights and duties, rooted in human nature, natural law theory provides real standards for real issues and problems. In this work the authors attempt to apply natural law principles to specific social problems of today. Such problems include the purpose of education, the nature of the family, war and national defense policies, taxation, the welfare system, homosexuality, and many others.
Vital Remnants: Americas Founding and the Western Tradition. Edited by Gary L. Gregg II. ISI [Intercollegiate Studies Institute] Books. 347 pages. $24.95 .
Americas Founders crafted a written constitution upon an inherited unwritten constitution. This inherited unwritten constitution consists of the mores and traditions of Western civilization which the document of the Constitution presupposes. Americas Founding Fathers had a sense of pietas for the past and for the moral and intellectual traditions that had come down to them. Modern Americans, however, have lost this pietas for the past and they suffer from an ignorance of the moral and intellectual traditions assumed by the Founding Fathers to be common knowledge. Gregg assembles 10 essays that strive to recover those remnants of the West that informed the Founding generation and to one degree or another support our polity still. The prize in this collection is an essay by Robert George that illuminates the present significance of the natural law foundations of Americas judicial system.
Original Sin: Illuminating the Riddle. By Henri Blocher. Eerdmans. 158 pages. $18.
Concerning Original Sin, St. Augustine said: Nothing is better known for one to speak about, nothing is more hidden to the understanding. Blocher is in agreement with St. Augustine on this point. On the one hand, he recognizes that the sins, moral perversions, and defects of man cannot be accounted for except in terms of the doctrine of Original Sin. On the other hand, Blocher sees that this doctrine is among the most difficult for us to grasp adequately. The author provides a Calvinist reading of the key texts in Genesis and Romans which explicitly reveal the biblical doctrine of Original Sin. He also defends the historicity of the biblical account of the Fall and shows that the objections of paleo-anthropologists and literary critics can be surmounted.
The Best of Mike Royko: One More Time. By Mike Royko. The University of Chicago Press. 275 pages. $22.
For almost 35 years the late Mike Royko was a daily columnist in Chicago newspapers. He exposed double standards and hypocrisy with wit, sarcasm, and insight, taking dead aim with his pen at important issues from the early 1960s to the late 1990s. Sometimes he was right, sometimes wrong, but Royko in his journalism made a serious attempt to do public philosophy. This collection has more than 100 of Roykos best columns, selected from some 7,500.
Religion, Politics, and Peace. Edited by Leroy S. Rouner. University of Notre Dame Press. 209 pages. $30.
Rouner and the 10 authors who contributed to this book hold that religion is inseparable from politics and peace. While religious commitments can lead to political division, without a religious basis the political arena lacks a theoretical and moral foundation. Similarly, religious beliefs can move people to violence, but they also provide the preconditions for peace and a humane way of life. The contributors recognize this phenomenon and explore the ways in which religion has enhanced political life and served the cause of peace.
Misión Guadalupe. By L. Brent Bozell and Eduardo Miles-Campos. Christendom Press. 311 pages. $12.95.
A decade ago L. Brent Bozell (a deceased Contributing Editor of the NOR) founded Misión Guadalupe as an apostolic outreach to Hispanics in order to help them recover or retain their Catholic identity. Under the guidance of that pre-eminent spiritual director, the Blessed Mother, Misión Guadalupe works for the sanctification of souls and the fostering of a solidarity rooted in fraternal charity. Loyal to the Magisterium and firmly grounded in Catholic spirituality, Misión Guadalupe is a refreshing alternative to the horizontalized social gospel movements of our time. This book, a bilingual edition in English and Spanish, gathers six meditations on the nature and purpose of Misión Guadalupe.