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Book and Media Reviews

The most recent Commentary items which review books and other media.

Another glimpse of Tolkien by Thomas Van - Aug 18, 2014

On a whim, I recently went to the library and picked up a book that may interest Tolkien devotees like myself. Every year from 1920 to 1943, Tolkien wrote letters to his children in the character of Father Christmas, who sent them not just presents but lovely drawings and stories of his home at...

How we should and should not think of the Church by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Aug 14, 2014

Between about 1960 and 1985, some remarkably weird theories about the nature of the Church emerged in fashionable theological circles. As a general rule, these theories were mirrors of the prevailing Western cultural euphoria. Indeed, they were based almost exclusively on wishful thinking. All of...

Talk to your kids about porn! by Thomas Van - Aug 1, 2014

Parents typically find it easy to talk to their young children about the dangers of drugs, alcohol, peer pressure and “stranger danger.” So why is it that so many parents are so afraid of or uncomfortable with talking about sex? It could be because sex is the most personal of all of...

In other words, to be a Christian means this: by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Jul 31, 2014

After reading my three part exploration of Hans Urs von Balthasar’s trenchant book, Who Is a Christian?, some have wanted a more precise explanation of how to be a truly devout Christian. Here is the best advice I can offer. The virtue of devotion is nothing other than a general...

Renewal with God before Us: Christ Determines All by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Jul 30, 2014

As I outlined previously, Hans Urs von Balthasar found the main lines of Catholic renewal sullied by various human evasions—by our pervasive eagerness to soften our goals according to human standards. It is in the third section of the book we have been discussing that he finally sets forth...

Renewal with God Behind Us: Man Determines All by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Jul 28, 2014

In the first section of Who Is a Christian?, Hans Urs von Balthasar discusses the difficult situation the Church finds herself in today (or, to be more precise, in 1983 when the book was published; for background, see the previous installment, Hans Urs von Balthasar on Renewal that Matters). He...

Hans Urs von Balthasar on Renewal that Matters by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Jul 25, 2014

The brilliant Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905 – 1988) was for a long time a controversial figure. Perhaps in some circles he still is. During his formation and education as a Jesuit, von Balthasar encountered Henri de Lubac and Jean Daniélou, and so found himself drawn...

Self-Esteem: Beyond Pop Psychology by Thomas Van - Jul 23, 2014

There are words and concepts in certain disciplines – philosophy, theology and psychology come to mind – which, as they enter the popular lexicon and become operative in daily life, lose their power to illuminate and require immediate clarification in order to retain their...

John Allen’s Take on the Catholic Church by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Jun 3, 2014

Our readers have sometimes wondered why we make occasional references to the reports and insights of veteran Rome correspondent John Allen—considering that he was employed for so many years by that scurrilous rag, the National Catholic Reporter. Our excuse has always been the same: Allen is...

Ideology vs. individual: a novel of ideas by Thomas Van - May 29, 2014

One of the tragedies of World War II is that, as much as it was “the good war,” many of its winners never completely understood what they were fighting for. This is true even in an external sense – the British and Americans were simply unaware of much of what was going on in...

Ebook for Ordinary Time after Easter Released by Dr. Jeff Mirus - May 26, 2014

We have just released the fifth volume in the 2013-2014 Liturgical Year series of ebooks. Volume five covers the first half of the long stretch of Ordinary Time between the close of the Easter Season on Pentecost and the beginning of Advent. Like all CatholicCulture.org ebooks, this volume is...

What’s Wrong with Historical Criticism of the Bible? by Dr. Jeff Mirus - May 19, 2014

When Pope Benedict XVI wrote his trilogy of works on Jesus of Nazareth, one of his purposes was to blend the useful aspects of historical criticism with a neglected tradition of Patristic exegesis. He wanted to suggest the limits of modern historical criticism and call new attention to the...

Making Gay Okay: Robert Reilly Explains How and Why by Dr. Jeff Mirus - May 14, 2014

Ignatius Press has recently published an excellent book by Robert R. Reilly, entitled Making Gay Okay: How Rationalizing Homosexual Behavior Is Changing Everything. The focus is on the extraordinary rapidity of the change from social rejection to social affirmation of homosexuality. The author...

Faith of the Fatherless: The Psychology of Atheism by Thomas Van - Apr 24, 2014

For as long as atheism has existed as a significant intellectual movement, there have been attempts by atheists to psychoanalyze religious belief – to explain it or explain it away not with regards to its inherent truth or falsehood, but rather in terms of psychological needs, as...

Round Trip to the present moment: a Catholic jazz artist's latest offering by Thomas Van - Apr 22, 2014

“Art is not something that has ceased to be created.” Michael Levey began and ended his History of Western Art with these words, and what with the tendency of modern Catholics towards cultural pessimism, we could always do with a reminder. Of course, since a mere assertion will not be...

The Holy Spirit and Evangelization: A Primer by Thomas Van - Apr 16, 2014

One thing I have come to realize over the past few years, especially during the reign of Pope Francis, is that in a culture hostile to religious orthodoxy, it is easy for Catholics to fall into the trap of treating orthodoxy as an end in itself. When Francis warns us not to become a...

Journey to the Sun: A Strange Biography of Junípero Serra by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Apr 16, 2014

Gregory Orfalea’s biography of the great missionary to California, Junípero Serra, is exceedingly strange. In the good sense of the word, it is genuinely foreign and fascinating. The author has a gift for telling an exotic story with plenty of intriguing detail, even when the evidence...

Noah: far from a natural disaster by Thomas Van - Mar 29, 2014

Darren Aronofsky’s Noah lets us know within the first thirty seconds that it isn’t a literal translation of the Biblical account. In the course of a text opening that quickly recounts the story of Eden, the fall of Adam and Eve, and Cain’s murder of Abel, we learn that Cain and...

Two great, chart-topping Benedictine chant albums by Thomas Van - Mar 29, 2014

Weeks ago, we reported the unusual phenomenon of two chant albums reaching the top of Billboard’s traditional classical music chart. I say this is unusual, but not unheard of, because it seems to happen every few years since the ‘90s chant craze was kicked off by the 1994 rerelease of...

Mother Teresa, the Enigma by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Mar 26, 2014

Is David Scott’s biography of Mother Teresa of Calcutta a disaster or a smashing success? It’s published by Sophia Press, so there are no qualms there. It is spiritually sound, even illuminating, so there are no qualms there, either. But like every other study of Mother Teresa, it...

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