Peter Kreeft, Catholic author and philosophy professor at Boston College, has a new book featuring advice he gives to his grown children, titled “Before I Go: Letters to Our Children About What Really Matters”. Now the Boston Globe publishes a Q&A interview with him on the subject of the book and his faith.
Of course, the Globe can print nothing about the Church without turning it into an ideological battle of some sort, and if anyone knows anything about Kreeft, they know that (a) he is as far from being an ideologue as one can be and (b) he is a master of Socratic dialogue. Thus the Globe’s interviewer comes to the battle of wits completely unarmed and unprepared.
Witness the ground being laid in the lede:
What goes unsaid during life stays unsaid when you’re dead. That perhaps obvious bit of wisdom compelled Peter Kreeft, a Boston College philosophy professor, to write of his love and offer his best advice for his four 30-something children in his latest book, “Before I Go” (Rowman & Littlefield). The counsel draws heavily on his Roman Catholicism, especially on social teaching, as the book makes clear his opposition to artificial contraception, gay marriage, and abortion.
I have not read this book (yet) but I will confidently predict that nowhere in it does Kreeft compose a belligerent argument in defense of the Church’s teaching. He mention these teachings and perhaps illustrate the logic and then assume that a Christian would hold them. But stridency is not Kreeft’s way.
Kreeft really shines in the interview, however, when he refuses to rise to the typical bait provided by the interviewer. To wit:
Q. You find much wisdom in your church. Is there any area in which you think the church misses the boat?
A. One of the reasons I became a Catholic when I was in college is my discovery of the astonishing gap between what the church teaches and what she practices. Her practice has been extremely spotty - she hasn’t lived up to her ideals very well at all - and yet her ideals have remained the same and consistent and faithful and very high.
Q. Are there ideals the church holds to that you think are wrong?
A. No. The church claims to be the authentic voice of Christ and his apostles on earth. If that claim isn’t true, it’s arrogant and blasphemous. If it is true, well, you eat all the food that Mother Church puts on your plate. Which does not mean it’s a complete meal. The church never claims to give you all the answers.
He also deflects the implicit challenge that questions how a believer in God can reconcile that belief with suffering the world. This is one the most basic challenges raised and answered in Kreeft’s famed book “Yes or No?: Straight Answers to Tough Questions About Christianity”, not to mention his book-length answer in “Making Sense Out of Suffering”. Of course one may doubt, he says, but that’s where trust comes in.
Doubts are the ants in the pants that keep faith moving. It’s similar to our relationship with other human beings. The decision to trust them is a gamble, and we can lose if we’re wrong. God doesn’t give you a guarantee.
What a refreshing change of pace to read in the Globe, a voice of one who is not selling something or polemicizing, but offering incisive and honest truth and logic.