Best Things in Life, The Brothers K and Christian poetry

A group of high school students meets here every week and over cookies and exotic teas we talk philosphy. A diverse range of worldviews and philosophical opinion are represented, and it isn’t a group designed for Christians. Several of the students have taken an introduction to philosophy class at the local high school, and we get together to keep at it. It is informal and fun. We have been reading—-sometimes out loud for effect—the great little book by Peter Kreeft, The Best Things in Life where a Socrates character comes to a modern college and asks good questions of Peter Pragmo and Felcia Flake. We don’t know that much about Plato, and I get my digs at dualism in when I can, but, mostly, we’ve been impressed with Socrates willingness to ask everybody the question of why they do what they do, why they believe as they do, and what reality or truthfulness they base their views upon, and what “ends” they most hope for.
Any of Kreeft’s books are well worth reading, and several are ideal for smart, young folks, so we commend them—The Journey is a walk through history where the seeker meets a variety of thinkers, each who offer him yet another piece of the puzzle of forming a coherent worldview. Between Heaven and Hell is a mythical, afterlife dialogue between three fellas that all died on the same day (yes, this part is true, as most BookNote readers will know): John F. Kennedy, Aldous Huxley, and C.S. Lewis. In Kreeft’s fun, fair hands, the three—an American humanist, a new agey Pantheist, and a classical Christian–wonder, first off, where the, uh, heck, they are.
Last night, though, we had some special guests. A local philosophy prof and a well-loved English teacher from the high school came to help us through “The Grand Inquisitor” (here for Wikipedia) that intense chapter, a prose-poem, from Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamozov. We had a long and wide-ranging discussion, with many of us wishing we were better read, in philosophy, literature, and, yes, poetry. Although there was not a consensus on that, despite the passionate cheerleading for poetry voiced by the lit teacher.
And so, today, in my in-box (and I hope in some of yours) came the weekly Trinity Forum on-line e-zine, Implications. There was a marvelous, marvelous piece by T.M. Moore on why the followers of Jesus should care about the “second sight” we can nurture by being poetry-lovers. He makes a theological and practical case for reading poetry, and offers three lovely meditations on three good ones (by Gerard Manley Hopkins, Denise Levertov, and Wendell Berry.) Please click here to read this wonderful essay “The World in a Ray of Sun: Poetry as Spiritual Discipline” by T. M. Moore. The most recent book of his that I have read, by the way, published by Presbyterian & Reformed, is a great study of creation, Consider the Lilies: A Plea for Creational Theology.
Moore recommends a great, thick, paperback, Sacrifice of Praise: An Anthology of Christian Poetry from Caedmon to the Mid-Twentieth Century edited by James Trott (with a forward by Larry Woidode.) Published by Cumberland House; $26.95 Of course, we stock it. Here is a good review of it, published at Ransom Fellowship’s website.

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9 thoughts on “Best Things in Life, The Brothers K and Christian poetry

  1. Tala,I am very sincere when I say that I’m proud and happy that you’d check into our blog. Thanks for reading, and thanks for posting this. Yep, this group has been fun, although a few of the students are just learning the philosophical vocabulary, and haven’t taken a “history of” class yet, so they don’t see the full development of the history of ideas. Still, it has been fun, interesting, good. You’d be great in such a group. Tell your sis I said hi!Laura:Weeee, this is great.It fills our platewith words so tastyand not at all nastyWe’ll fill your order fastily.Fastily? Thanks.Byron

  2. Paul,I’ll try to answer you here….if I had your email, we could talk more easily, perhaps.Yes, the Kreeft book would be good IF folks are willing to pursue nearly tedious lines of arguments. It isn’t anything like the real philosophers (like Lonegrin or Clouser that you mention in your bio.) And since it is written in script, like in a play (or a dialgoue) it is sorta fun. Socrates asks them what they mean when they say stuff, and they reply, in less than logical ways, and he comes back, probing more. It could be annoying if one doesn’t like that kind of thing, but, for folks willing to try to follow some basic philosophical arguments, it is a fabulous intro.By the way, in your profile you mention Lonergan and Couser (who, of course, is the best intro to Dooyeweerdian views.) I find some similiarities there, from what little I can gather, but one studious friend insists not. You like both of these scholars and their respective works. Do you seem them as similiar? Do you read one in light of the other??Eager to chat, if you’d like. Thanks.Byron

  3. A neighbor was just discussing Kreeft with Scott a few weeks ago, and we were wondering if he is still alive.Scott is the poetry reader in the house– sometimes poetry possesses me (Mary Oliver makes me turn over stones to see what’s underneath. Billy Collins makes me howl with laughter) but mostly I need to “run into” it in good magazines, since I don’t often go looking for it. Scott is tutoring a student studying Robert Frost this evening. I’ve noticed my children, ages 7 and 9, listen intently to Emily Dickenson and Robert Frost when I do chance to read them aloud.

  4. that is so cool! we had a little highschool philosophy group with daddy at one point, which unfortunately disbanded after one year. i’m taking the philosophy class when i go to highschool, which i’m excited about because people will be forced to talk about “Important Things” and will find themselves irresistably involved in debate. which i love. i wish i could come to that. i’ll have to satisfy myself by being excited that others are doing it. 🙂

  5. That book, Between Heaven and Hell,And perhaps a few others as well,Please send them my way,Of course I will pay,And the details by email I’ll tell.

  6. Would the Kreeft book be good for adults of the working-class variety?PS. I’m intrigued about high school philosophy courses. Are they common?

  7. Paul (and anybody else who cares):I almost forgot-you asked about the philosophy class (not our little informal bookshop gang.) The highschool here, Dallastown Area High School, seems to be one of the few public high schools that offers such a class. I don’t know this for sure, but the teacher who founded it, himself a very good friend, seems to think this is the case. It is pretty rare. There is an exchange student from Austria in our group—-she has a tee shirt with Freud on it—says that it is very common in her country, and that all teens must take some kind of philosphy class in school.

  8. Seconding Byron, could I suggest reading the book aloud? Kreeft repays the time to read the book alound and the arguments are easier to follow verbally. I still read to my daughters three nights per week (they are 16 and 18) and I learned new things from some of the books by reading aloud I missed otherwise–in particular “A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich” and “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” were better for me read aloud than my first reading.

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