January 2000By David Arias Jr.

The Augustine Catechism: The Enchiridion on Faith, Hope, and Love.  Saint Augustine of Hippo. New City Press. 144 pages. No price given..

This is a recent translation by Bruce Harbert of St. Augustine’s masterly, brief presentation of the Faith to his spiritual son Laurence. (Enchiridion is simply the Greek word for “handbook.”) In response to Laurence’s queries about matters divine, the Doctor of Grace explains that genuine wisdom is nothing other than piety, that piety is the worship of God, and that God is not worshiped properly unless He is worshiped in Faith, Hope, and Love. St. Augustine’s subsequent catechetical exposition surrounds and issues forth from the nature of the three theological virtues. This is a profound presentation of the Faith which can speak as clearly to the faithful now as it did in the fifth century.



The Common Things: Essays on Thomism and Education.  Edited by Daniel McInerny. American Maritain Association. 281 pages. $15.

Fifty-six years ago Jacques Maritain described North America as being “at the crossroads.” Since then it has become all too clear that the majority of educational institutions have pursued the road that leads away from the quest for objective truth, objective moral standards, and especially wisdom. Rather than seeking to know the common things available to every human mind, these institutions pursue “the privacies of custom, technique, and contingent desire.” The evident — and tragic — result has been the radical fragmentation of an academic curriculum that has no genuine principle of integration. These 22 essays, however, can all be integrated by one principle. They all share in the spirit of St. Thomas Aquinas and, accordingly, they point educational institutions back to the road which leads to those common things to which man’s intellect is naturally ordered.



Religious Values at the Threshold of the Third Millennium. Volume XXXI of the Villanova University Theology Institute.  Edited by Francis A. Eigo, O.S.A. The Villanova University Press. 228 pages. No price given..

This collection of six essays attempts to view modern media, politics, and science in light of contemporary religious values. Of particular interest are the articles by Laura Garcia and Robert George (with W.L. Saunders) which consider politics. Garcia argues that the liberal attempt to separate radically religious values from the public domain is not only impossible practically but also indefensible theoretically. George and Saunders, who are in the camp of “conservative Catholicism,” nonetheless argue that to be a faithful Catholic is, to some extent, to transcend the present categories of “liberal” and “conservative” and is, at the same time, to be a “liberal” in the sense delineated by Pope John Paul II.



Revoking the Moral Order: The Ideology of Positivism and the Vienna Circle.  By David J. Peterson. Lexington Books. 191 pages. $50.

“In the English speaking democracies and throughout most of Europe, society is increasingly polarized over the question of the fundamental nature of man and the role of the moral order.” At one pole is the view of complete autonomy while at the other is the view of complete Theonomy. What has led to this great divide within society and what spirit has infected the Western liberal tradition so that it has given birth to rampant relativism? In order to answer these queries Peterson escorts us on a fascinating exploration of the relevant philosophical, social, and economic contributions to the contemporary moral problems of Western society made by Hume, Comte, Spencer, Russell, von Hayek, Popper, and others.



Unsnarling the World-Knot: Consciousness, Freedom, and the Mind-Body Problem.  By David Ray Griffin. University of California Press. 266 pages. $45.

The mind-body problem, which Arthur Schopenhauer termed the “world-knot,” has been one of the central problems in philosophy since the time of Descartes. While most contemporary philosophers are in either the materialist camp or the dualist camp, Griffin proposes an alternative known as “panexperientialism.” This view, which attempts to give a purely naturalistic account of the emergence of the mind, attributes experience and spontaneity (the two basic features of mind, according to Griffin) to all genuine unitary or individual beings. By proposing panexperientialism, Griffin thinks that he has both transcended the stalemate between materialism and dualism and provided a supposedly Theism-free account of the mind-body problem.



Plague Journal: A Novel.  By Michael O’Brien. Ignatius. 273 pages. $19.95.

This is a prophetic and unforgettable work. Plague Journal is the second novel in O’Brien’s Children of the Last Days series and is set in the final year of the 20th century. The central character, Nathaniel Delaney, is the editor of a small-town newspaper in rural Canada. Before long, Delaney becomes a target of the silently emerging totalitarian regime for his habit of speaking the whole truth, rocking the PC boat, and preventing his children from falling prey to the “education” system of the state. As the government seeks to stamp out Delaney and his family, he keeps notes of his thoughts, tactics, and trials in a journal. O’Brien weaves together the story line and Delaney’s journal entries in such a brilliant way that the reader is invited to look into the soul of a man undergoing very real and eschatological trials.



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