October 5, 2008


TDR Exclusive Interview: Peter Kreeft (William D. Aubin | Saturday, October 4, 2008, Dartmouth Review)

Editor’s note: Last spring, Boston College’s PeterKreeftvisited Dartmouth to give a talk honoring St. Catherine of Siena. Professor Kreeft teaches philosophy at Boston College and is the renowned author of over 45 books, including a Handbook of Christian Apologetics, Christianity for Modern Pagans, Making Choices, Fundamentals of the Faith, and Making Sense out of Suffering. He sat down with The Dartmouth Review at that point to discuss the role of religion on a college campus. [...]

TDR Something I know you have discussed in your lectures and writing are the pitfalls of religious pluralism, as we understand the concept in modern America. What do you think of efforts and institutions that toss around terms like “pluralism” and “multi-faith”?

Kreeft My problem with pluralism is that it doesn’t exist. People who mouth the word most loudly are the farthest from being really pluralistic. They develop institutions and curriculums that have to hew to the party line of deconstructionism, relativism, feminism, etc. I have no problem at all with real pluralism; I think the ideal university would be radically pluralistic, a microcosm of the whole world.

TDR Debates between atheists and Christians are in vogue on college campuses today, yet there does not seem to exist a single case of conversion one way or the other that has resulted from such events. What is the benefit of engaging in theological arguments from your point of view, as a Christian apologist?

Kreeft When you wash clothes, you first put them in a hamper, and a hamper is not an airtight environment; it’s got little interstices where the air gets in. So you have to air the dirty laundry first before you put it in the washing machine. A debate airs the two sides out and exposes the logical problems of both sides. It doesn’t do the actual work of converting, but at least it gets the data out. It’s an educational enterprise.

TDR You’ve written that neither economics nor politics will exist in Heaven, as they are the creations not of God but of man. That said, do you believe either major political party in the United States has pushed an agenda that is closer to God’s law than the other?

Kreeft Well, no one of them is ideal. On some issues I tend to think that the Democrats have traditionally been closer: on ecology, on suspicion of war; but on the most important issues, namely abortion and individual responsibility, rather than trusting everything to the government, I think the Republicans are clearly closer to classical Christian political thought than the Democrats are today. I remember a survey in 1958, of the thirty most prestigious universities in America, asking the faculty, ‘Did you vote Republican or Democrat in the last election?’ Eighty-five percent voted Republican. The same study was repeated a few years ago, with almost exactly the same figures in reverse, somewhere in the eighty percent range were Democrats.

I asked myself the question, “Why?” And I think I figured out the answer. The most passionate public issue in the late 50s and early 60s was civil rights, and the Democrats were arguing, on the basis of a natural law ethic, that segregationist laws had to be changed. Republicans were saying no, it’s economically unfeasible. Today, the most passionate issue is abortion, and euthanasia, and now it’s the Republicans who are arguing on the basis of natural law that these things are wrong, and the Democrats are arguing against. So I guess academia naturally goes to the lowest ethical level. Professors should be expected to support moral monsters and tyrants.

Most of the tyrants of the 20th century had a lot of professors behind them. Pol Pot, the great Southeast Asian master of genocide, studied under Jean-Paul Sartre. John Dewey lauded Stalin. There was a Harvard sociologist who studied Hitler’s executioners. She paralleled level of education with willingness to support Hitler, and she thought there would be an inverse relationship; there was a direct proportion. The more educated you were, the more you tended to favor Hitler’s work and volunteer to do it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 5, 2008 7:31 AM
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