Generous Orthodoxy  

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Aristotle and Christian doctrine in The New York Times

Whenever "the crisis of the West" is referred to, I prick up my ears. My idea of the crisis of the West does not seem to be shared by most of the commentators and analysts that I read (I am probably not reading the right things), so it was electrifying to come across this in The New York Times Book Review today:

…the West is the civilization constituted at its core by the coming together of
classical philosophy and biblical revelation. The vitality of Western
civilization results from the interplay of these alternative principles, though
each contains within itself what claims to be exclusive and irrefutable
authority. Symbolic of this authority are Athens and Jerusalem. In “The Second
World War,” [Winston] Churchill remarks that everything valuable in modern life
and thought is an inheritance from these ancient cities. The debunking both of
Socratic skepticism (“the unexamined life is not worth living”) and of biblical
faith (“Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”) has led to the crisis of
the West, a chaos of moral relativism and philosophic nihilism in which every
lifestyle, no matter how corrupt or degenerate, can be said to be as good as any

Hooray, hooray, and hooray for Henry V. Jaffa who wrote those lines. It's a review of a new translation of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics. I have already ordered my copy. I read Aristotle in college, but not since. I have thrown around Tertullian's line "What has Jerusalem to do with Athens?" all my adult life, but of late I have begun to realize--and indeed have written--that Western civilization is built upon this double foundation, just as Jaffa describes it. In this sense, though I remain a triple-convicted Reformed Protestant, I see anew the greatness of Catholic theology and Thomas Aquinas' Aristotelianism in particular.

Here is the link to the whole review: