Bryce J. Christensen

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Recovering the Medieval Family

[This review first appeared in the July 1988 issue of Chronicles.]

Hatred of the past ill becomes a historian. Yet it is hard not to detect this disfiguring animus—paired with an overweening love of contemporaneity—in the works of many

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Petty Squabbles

Political Correctness continues on many of the nation’s campuses. Many Americans still regard the whole affair as a petty squabble among eggheads, unrelated to their daily lives. However, a recent skirmish in the PC wars illustrates only too well why

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The Streetwalker’s Story

Prostitution may not deserve its reputation as the world’s oldest profession, but it has been around for millennia, appearing in virtually every society. In this revised edition of a book originally published in 1978 (under a slightly different title), Vern

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By Blab Befuddled

Words cannot take us everywhere, nor should they. Before the most sublime truths, we grow reverently still. Confronted with bestiality, we shudder at the unspeakable. But in the Age of Blab, everything must be talked about.” Indeed, modem journalists consider

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Updating Paley

Like many Englishmen of his generation, Charles Darwin in his youth was an avid reader of William Paley’s The Evidences of Christianity (1794). As Darwin formulated his theory of evolution, he lost his faith in Paley’s argument that nature manifests

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Raising Concerns

Child abuse has become a national issue. But close scrutiny of the problem raises doubts about the current crusade to combat it. Before expanding the power of the state to intervene in the home, concerned citizens ought to take a

Dead Souls in the Classroom
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Dead Souls in the Classroom

“Thanatology” or “death education” now competes with driver’s ed and “social problems” for the attention of the nation’s high schoolers. First introduced on America’s college campuses in the 1960’s by such luminaries as Edgar Jackson, Richard Kalish, Robert Kastenbaum, and

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Prayer by Numbers

When sociologists look at religion, what do they see? Inevitably, they see statistical clusters of churchgoers sorted through ecclesiastical, geographic, and demographic grids. People who want to assess contemporary social trends in American religion would do well to consult this

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Galileo Brought to Book, Again

Galileo Galilei lives in the imagination of every high-school atheist as the archetypal champion of Truth, standing heroically against the malice and superstition of the ecclesiastical authorities who condemned him. This version of the events works wonderfully as melodrama but

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Recovering the Medieval Family

Hatred of the past ill becomes a historian. Yet it is hard not to detect this disfiguring animus—paired with an overweening love of contemporaneity—in the works of many modern historians of family life. In recent decades, men such as Philippe

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Shadows in the Limelight

An American television viewer will witness more violence in a single evening than an Athenian would have seen during a lifetime of theatergoing. Acts of violence were virtually prohibited in Greek drama, and Aristotle goes so far as to argue

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Cut-Flower Moralists

“Tell me, can you find indeed
Nothing sure, no moral plan
Clear prescribed, without your creed?”

—Matthew Arnold

Awaiting trial for a murder he did not commit, Dmitri Karamazov is visited in jail in the closing pages of Dostoevsky’s The

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An American Prometheus

Sprawled on the sands of the New Mexico desert, Isador Isaac Rabi was witness on July 16, 1945, to a demonstration of scientific power so spectacular that neither his welder’s glasses nor his analytical training could fully shield him from

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Plummeting Rates

America’s fertility rates plunged in the early 1970’s, falling well below the minimal Zero Population Growth (ZPG) of 2.1 children per American woman. Never before has this happened to the nation while enjoying peace and relative prosperity. But a decisive

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Invasion of the Child-Snatchers

Who has more rights in the American judicial system—a man accused of murder or one accused of child abuse? The accused murderer is guaranteed the good old English right of trial by jury; he’s presumed innocent until proved guilty. He

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Catastrophic Health Insurance

Catastrophic health insurance—already endorsed by the President and now on the fast track to approval in Congress—will soon shift the economic burden of huge unexpected medical bills from the elderly to the federal government. But already some members of

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Players of the Game

” . . . to chase the rolling circle’s speed
Or urge the Hying ball . . . “

—Thomas Gray

The Puritans, who once condemned stool ball, quoits, and bowls, would stand in stern judgment of the millions of

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Out of the Closet, Into the Morgue

Homosexual activists will not like this book. For if ever there were an empirical refutation to the “gay rights” agenda. Gene Antonio has written it. In convincing (sometimes nauseating) detail, Antonio explains why the homosexual movement has provided the ideal

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Clipping the Angel’s Wings

” . . . Words strain, Crack and sometimes break. . . . “
—T.S. Eliot

The ancients, wiser than modem theorists, recognized language as a gift and (at Babel) a curse from the heavens. Even pagans recognized a Word

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Affliction and Redemption

Fyodor Dostoevsky is among the pioneers of modern literature. However, like so many of the pioneers—particularly T.S. Eliot—he is acknowledged with ambivalence and even reluctance. Like The Waste Land, Dostoevsky’s works are prized for their subtle exploration of modern

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A Fragile Blossom

Feng Jicai’s volume of short stories is truly a remarkable work. It is one of the first publications by a writer in the People’s Republic of China in which the writer has allowed people to be people. The reader does

Before the Big Bang
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Before the Big Bang

“Oh hide the God still more!”
—Alexander Pope

These days orthodox Christians and skeptical physicists disagree over nothing—yet their disagreement is literally of the first importance. For the “nothing” that is at issue is the void that immediately preceded the

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A Woman’s Dreams

“Most women have no Characters at all,” wrote Alexander Pope: “Good as well as ill, / Woman’s at best a Contradiction still.” The contradiction of womanhood will perhaps never be fully solved, but it has generally been considered manageable within

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Writing Without Letters

Whatever happened to the old middle-to-highbrow American culture? Once upon a time, there was a fair-sized literate class that kept up on fiction and verse by reading the great organs of literary opinion. These days there is a great gulf

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Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places

Love is everywhere the theme of popular culture, but only rarely a subject for serious contemporary philosophy. Irving Singer, professor of philosophy at MIT, attempts to remedy this imbalance with these two volumes, the first two parts of a trilogy.

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The Great Cham at Prayer

For Samuel Johnson, imperatives were dictated by literature and religion. The two were closely tied together in his mind. Indeed, in his laudable study of Johnson’s religious life, Charles Pierce Jr. concludes “that Johnson came to regard his own work

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Stretching Angles and Banishing Angels

Geometry, most high school students will attest, is a dull subject. This dullness, however, is not only inescapable but essential. Memorizing theorems and deriving proofs is no fun, but doing such tasks teaches us—as “relevant” and “creative” courses in “communication”

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Mormons and Modernism

“So pale grows Reason at Religion’s sight, So dies, and so dissolves in supernatural light.” —John Dryden 

Leonard Arrington: Brigham Young: American Moses; Alfred A. Knopf; New York.

Richard L. Bushman: Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism; University

Scrambling the Schools
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Scrambling the Schools

 “With the same cement, ever sure to bind, We bring to one dead level ev’ry mind.”

-Alexander Pope

 

John Dewey: Types of Thinking; Philosophical Library; New York.

 

William C. Ringenberg: The Christian College: A History of Protestant Higher Education

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Private Faith & Public Schools

A Martian attending Inauguration Day ceremonies might be curious about the book upon which the President lays his hand as he takes the oath of office. “That,” we would tell him, “is the Bible, a book of Scripture sacred to

Making a Morass of Metaphysics
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Making a Morass of Metaphysics

Thomas Carlyle by Fred Kaplan; Cor nell University Press; Ithaca.

Most people know nothing about metaphysics and wish to know less. The case is not that they do not actually govern their lives in harmony with a set of metaphysical

Liberal Worship and Conservative Judgment
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Liberal Worship and Conservative Judgment

Joyce Carol Oates: The Profane Art: Essays and Reviews; E. P. Dutton; New York.

Kenneth S. Lynn: The Air-Line to Seattle: Studies in Literary and Historical Writing about America; The University of Chicago Press; Chicago.

Beyond any reasonable doubt,

Of Women and Wanderlust
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Of Women and Wanderlust

Elizabeth Arthur: Beyond the Mountain; Harper & Row; New York.

Blanche d’Alpuget: Turtle Beach; Simon &Schuster; New York.

Janet Turner Hospital: The Ivory Swing; E. P. Dutton; New York.

by Bryce Christensen

Home, as Robert Frost observed, is that place

Of Strife and Speeches
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Of Strife and Speeches

A New Birth of Freedom: Lincoln at Gettysburg by Philip B. Kunhardt, Jr.; Little, Brown; Boston.

On November 19, 1863, after Edward Everett had completed a now-forgotten oration of almost two hours at the dedication of a national cemetery on

From Berlin to Beruit
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From Berlin to Beruit

In the Land of Israel by Amos Oz; Harcourt Brace Jovanovich; San Diego.

According to numerous speculative historians and novelists, Hitler did not die in a Berlin bunker almost 40 years ago. He escaped, they theorize, to Brazil—or Argentina, or

Of Death and Diapers
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Of Death and Diapers

Our Endangered Children: Growing Up in a Changing World by Vance Packard; Little, Brown; Boston.

Who Will Take the Children? A New Custody Option for Divorcing Mothers—and Fathers by Susan Meyers and Joan Lakin; Bobbs-Merrill; Indianapolis.

Secular liberalism is the

Liberal Worship and Conservative Judgment
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Liberal Worship and Conservative Judgment

Joyce Carol Oates: The Profane Art: Essays and Reviews; E. P. Dutton; New York.

Kenneth S. Lynn: The Air-Line to Seattle: Studies in Literary and Historical Writing about America; The University of Chicago Press; Chicago.

Beyond any reasonable doubt,

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Strange Gods

For most modem Westerners, the word idolatry conjures images of dis­tant lands or times: saffron-clothed Oriental monks prostrate before golden Buddhas, ancient Aztec priests plunging their daggers into helpless virgins atop monumental temples, or iniquitous Israelites cavorting before Aaron’s golden

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Making a Morass of Metaphysics

Most people know nothing about metaphysics and wish to know less. The case is not that they do not actually govern their lives in harmony with a set of metaphysical principles, for that is simply not an option. As Aldous