A Better Reason

  If you felt the ground shake a few days ago, it is because Princeton University has just named Professor Robert George, a brilliant young political philosopher and stalwart Christian, to the Cyrus Hall McCormick Professorship, the most prestigious endowed chair at Princeton. Only five people have ever held it, starting with Woodrow Wilson. The chair will provide a fantastic opportunity for Professor George to serve as a foil against academia's monolithic secular liberal orthodoxy--- providing an example for other Christian academicians on how to be salt and light even on the toughest campuses. Like the rest of the Ivy League and most elite institutions, Princeton is dominated by the ideology of secularist liberalism, which is what makes the appointment of Dr. George so astonishing. He is an orthodox Catholic and an outspoken defender of the Christian worldview. He confronts the reigning liberalism with rational philosophical objections and defends Christian morality with philosophical arguments. Take abortion. According to George, Princeton students typically assume that the rational position is the so-called prochoice position. They assume that the only reason someone would not support abortion is that he is biased by religious belief. But students are disabused of that notion the minute they walk into George's classroom. First, George says, "I invite the students to consider the overwhelming scientific evidence for the humanity of the unborn child." He then confronts them with "the profound philosophical problems with any position that supposes there are two classes of people: Preconscious humans who allegedly don't have rights, and humans who are already born and therefore DO have rights." As George observes, "That is, philosophically, a very difficult position to defend. For example, my students don't want to be in favor of racial discrimination. They're appalled by the idea that there could be two classes of people, one white and one black, with whites having certain rights that blacks don't have." But with abortion, George says, "they find themselves falling into a liberal view that arbitrarily distinguishes one group of humans as a class with rights, and another group as a class that doesn't have rights. Well, I demand a philosophical justification for that." When you look at the issue that way, George notes, "you realize there's a serious problem right at the heart of secular liberal orthodoxy on an issue that matters very greatly to most secular liberal academics." Despite--or perhaps because of the fact that Dr. George challenges everything his students believe-- his classes are among the most popular on the Princeton campus. Political activist Paul Weyrich recently said that Christians ought to separate from America's "culturally and morally decadent institutions... and build our own." Robert George is giving us a better answer: He's standing his ground in a secular institution and demonstrating that Christian teaching is rationally defensible, reasonable, and even intellectually superior to the prevailing liberal orthodoxy. You and I ought to take note of George's strategy. The way to influence our culture is not by hitting people over the head with our Bibles but by making thoughtful, reasonable arguments. The secular bias of most academics is real. But as Professor George shows, Christians can fight and win the culture war by confronting secularism with the very weapons secularists claim to champion: facts and reason.


Chuck Colson



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