Tag Archives: humanism

Things Medieval – a podcast conversation with Dr. Grace Hamman

Photo by Chris Lawton on Unsplash

Dr. Grace Hamman invited me to join her on her podcast, Old Books with Grace, and we had an enjoyable and wide-ranging conversation–largely about Things Medieval and why they still matter today. Boethius, Anselm, Margery Kempe, and Christian humanism all made appearances, among other people and topics. Thank you, Grace! You can find her podcast on all major platforms; for convenience, here’s a link to this new episode on one of those.

Did either Martin Luther or C. S. Lewis understand (and appreciate) Thomas Aquinas?

For a while this summer, I dug deep in the sources to try to discover whether C. S. Lewis’s strong taste for virtue ethics, manifested both in his Abolition of Man and in his Mere Christianity (among other places) reflected an equally strong appreciation for Thomas Aquinas. At the Marion Wade Center, I pored over the massive four-volume set of Aquinas’s Summa that once resided in Lewis’s library. There were almost no annotations in that set by Lewis, but then again, many of the books he loved most were likewise unmarked.

I read through certain letters of Lewis in which he cautions his correspondent to stay away from the neo-scholasticism of Jacques Maritain and others (he identified T. S. Eliot with this movement). To Dom Bede Griffiths he wrote, “There is no section of religious opinion with which I feel less sympathy.” Lewis seems to have objected to the neo-Thomists’ insistence on certain philosophical formulations and understandings as essential to the faith: “there are some of this set who seem to me to be anxious to make of the Christian faith itself one more of their high brow fads.” This would seem to rub against Lewis’s commitment to “mere Christianity.”

Also, Chris Mitchell of the Wade Center warned me that Lewis got most of his understanding and appreciation of virtue ethics directly from Aristotle, rather than via Aquinas. So I began to worry that Lewis was in fact anti-scholastic, and that I would have a hard time using him in my Medieval Wisdom book as an guide into the passion for precise theological understanding that characterized the great scholastics. Continue reading

Star Trek a paean to humanism, says Gene Roddenberry’s former executive assistant

Here‘s an interesting article. Gene Roddenberry’s personal executive assistant from 1974 until his death in 1991, says what we all knew about the Roddenberry and his Star Trek franchise, but fills in the portrait of Roddenberry-as-humanist with some interesting details. His former assistant, herself a member of the American Humanist Association board (a fact buried in the article’s second-last paragraph) describes in the article just how much Roddenberry disliked religion in any form, and how deeply he injected his personal creed into the substance of the Star Trek franchise.

I’ve put a snippet of the article below, but it made me wonder about the many flavors of humanism. The late Stanley Grenz used to make a distinction between the “modernism” of the original Star Trek series and the “postmodernism” of Star Trek: The Next Generation. (Here‘s one take on that distinction.) In the original series, the Vulcan Spock, though frequently ribbed for allowing a few cracks to show in his rational exterior, was a powerful, in-control character who got the others out of many a jam through rational deduction. In Next Generation, the android Data, though physically and intellectually powerful, spent many episodes playing the unintentional buffoon and trying to get in touch with what it meant to truly be human–emotions, sense of humor, and all. Continue reading