From the Dean

News items, published articles, and reading recommendations from Dean Timothy George

The Dean Recommends: The New Dignity - Gnostic, Elitist, Self-Destructive Will-to-Power

By Roberta Green Ahmanson 
November 24, 2015

Planned Parenthood executives bargain to sell aborted body parts, Bruce Jenner strikes a pose across the cover of Vanity Fair, Justice Anthony Kennedy spews purple prose in Obergefell, and California Governor Jerry Brown signs a law allowing doctors to kill.

All in the name of dignity.

Underlying all of these events is a rapid and radical transformation in our culture’s understanding of what it means to be human, and, in particular, what it means to have dignity. Dignity apparently justifies abortion, transgenderism, the redefinition of marriage, and physician-assisted suicide.

But what exactly constitutes this New Dignity? The work of George Kateb, professor emeritus at Princeton, provides a clue. In a book titled Human Dignity, Kateb writes: “Since nature has no telos, the human species is at its greatest when it breaks out of nature.” Human dignity is grounded, according to Kateb, in our ability to defy nature—to go beyond natural limitations and thereby create ourselves anew. Kateb agrees with Sartre: the freedom to “become different through an upsurge of free creativity,” which “can never be conclusively defined or delimited,” is “the philosophical anthropology that underlies human dignity.” This is the meaning of human dignity in a world with no clear origin, no purposeful end, no intrinsic meaning, and nothing real beyond matter in motion.

The New Dignity demands new positive freedoms, freedoms to—to remake our gender, to marry someone without regard to sex or the procreative potential of the union, to choose our time to die and enlist the medical profession in ending our lives, to not only abort a child developing in the womb but also to harvest his or her body parts for commercial gain. It also calls for new negative freedom, freedoms from—from all unwanted pain or discomfort, from limitations on what I can do to or with my body, from language or ideas that offend me or that challenge decisions I have made.

Dignity is no longer so much about who or what we are; it is about what our unfettered will can do, and what it can forbid others to do. Read the rest at Public Discourse.

Posted by Kristen Padilla at Tuesday, November 24, 2015
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ECT at Twenty

By Timothy George and Thomas G. Guarino
November 16, 2015

From the introduction to Evangelicals and Catholics Together at Twenty: Vital Statements on Contested Topics (Brazos, 2015), edited by Timothy George and Thomas G. Guarino, with foreword by George Weigel, and prefaces by Timothy Cardinal Dolan and J.I Packer. This volume contains the nine public statements with introductions published by Evangelicals and Catholics Together since 1994.

The ecumenical initiative known as Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT) began more than two decades ago with a stroke of insight by Chuck Colson and Richard John Neuhaus. Their bold intention was to advance unity and fellowship among Christians by establishing a serious theological dialogue between Evangelicals and Catholics, the two largest Christian groups in North America.

Both men were concerned that religion in general and Christianity in particular were being increasingly relegated to the margins of public life in the United States. Religious faith, the most comprehensive and foundational of all realities, was being consigned to the provincial arena of private devotion and sectarian belief. Colson and Neuhaus argued, however, that the Christian faith is indispensable to understanding and addressing the great issues of the day. Evangelicals and Catholics needed to be fully engaged in the complex social, cultural, and political questions that the nation faced—illuminating them with the truth of the gospel. They concluded that if a common and public witness was to thrive and bear lasting fruit, it needed to be founded on a joint commitment to theological and spiritual unity, a unity for which Christ himself prayed (John 17). This fraternal union in Christ was the cornerstone on which ECT was founded.

But there was another element central to the founding of ECT. Tensions between Evangelicals and Catholics had been proliferating in various parts of the world, particularly in South America. Colson and Neuhaus feared that “animosities between evangelicals and Catholics threatened to mar the image of Christ by turning Latin America into a Belfast of religious warfare.” They hoped that a sincere and comprehensive collaboration between Evangelicals and Catholics—a collaboration that honestly faced theological differences—could also offer a useful word to the brethren in South America. A sincere ecumenical dialogue would serve to overcome the “stereotypes, prejudices and conventional ideas” that had been entrenched for decades and, indeed, for centuries. Read the rest at First Things.

Posted by Kristen Padilla at Monday, November 16, 2015
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The Dean Recommends: #PrayforParis - A Reaction

By Parker Windle
Nov. 13, 2015

Normally I don’t like to react. I prefer to reflect. I am going to rush through my reflection time and react this time. I am going to shoot from the hip. Don’t worry though-my aim will be true.

We have reflected. Two thousand fifteen began with Charlie Hebdo. Paris has already mourned this year. A hashtag of human empathy reigned supreme at that time. #iamcharlie. We went through it together, despite the fact that the target offended everyone. We celebrated free speech. We celebrated freedom of the press. We grabbed hands and declared liberté, égalité, fraternité. Paris went through it together.

Yet One was left out of the mourning process by the Parisians, and we need a new hashtag.


Not many like to pray anymore. Not many ever liked to pray. Praying is hard for more reasons than one. It is an abandoning of self-sufficiency. It is a declaration that empathy for the fallen and a boasting in the human spirit is not enough. Prayer is about something bigger; or rather, Someone bigger. Someone bigger is what we need right now. It is time to admit it. We need God.

I know you don’t like hearing that. We never do. God is the last place we want to go. Dumas wrote about it in his character Edmund Dantes. The Count of Monte Cristo himself would only turn to God as a last resort. Listen to Monsieur Dumas explain it to us:

"enfin il tomba du haut de son orgueil, il pria, non pas encore Dieu, mais les hommes; Dieu est le dernier recours. Le malheureux, qui devrait commencer par le Seigneur, n’en arrive a espérer en lui qu’après avoir épuisé toutes les autres espérances."

For you English speakers, who jumped through that, let me explain the situation. Only after he fell from the top of his pride to the very lowest place did our hero turn to God. God was the last option for him, and he turned to God only when he was down to his last hope. Parisians, we are in the cell with Dantes. After Charlie, we turned to each other. We turned to men. It is now time to turn to God.

No more seeking hope in men. No more blaming God for men’s evil. No more thinking that you are sufficient for what you need. No more lack of thanksgiving for the common grace that God is distributing. No more hope in kings and rulers. No more belief in the general benevolence of mankind. These things have not been successful. These things are not successful. These things will not be successful.

Instead, let the wicked man forsake his ways (and that means you and me, my Parisian friends). Let us turn to the Lord, who is slow to anger and abounding in mercy. The Lord who hears our cries and weeps for our pain. The Lord who understands our suffering, because he willingly entered into it Himself. Jesus. This is where we must turn. On a épuisé toutes les autres espérances. We have exhausted the other sources of hope. There is only One left.

And there was always only One. This only makes us realize it. We should have started with him. Now we are obliged.

So we must use a new hashtag.


Originally posted on Parker's blog here.

Parker Windle, who serves as a pastor of a church in Paris, is a Beeson graduate.

Posted by Kristen Padilla at Saturday, November 14, 2015
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