When I was a student at Williams College in the 1990s, Professor Mark C. Taylor was the big man on campus, the intellectual figure to reckon with. If a book had been written with the title God and Man at Williams, the man would have been Taylor, according to whom God was dead. Taylor loomed especially large for students like me who came to Williams with faith in God as well as aspirations, or pretensions, to be intellectually sophisticated. For faith in God, at least according to Taylor and his protégées, was intellectually disreputable.
After living in England for a year, and eating one too many dishes of poorly cooked, unidentified meat, I came home to the United States a vegetarian. Over Thanksgiving dinner, my uncle jokingly proclaimed that I had become an Episcopalian. Admittedly, what makes the joke funny is obscure. But there is a hint in it that becoming a vegetarian is not, well, altogether kosher—that it is something like giving up old-world Catholicism for new-age Episcopalianism.
In Plato’s Apology, Socrates’s claim to be wiser than anyone else in Athens rests on a paradoxical assertion-that he, at least, knows he is ignorant. If institutions spoke as forthrightly, some Catholic colleges and universities today might make a similar claim. More than other colleges and universities in the United States, they know that they do not know, or at least are questioning what the mission of a college or university should now be.
Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer’s elegant little book has gotten a lot of press. The reason for the buzz is that the view of constitutional interpretation that he puts forth directly challenges the view of the Court’s most outspoken conservative, Justice Antonin Scalia.
Of all the many documents produced by the Second Vatican Council, none systematically takes up the question of God. More precisely, though the documents refer again and again to God, and in Trinitarian terms, none is devoted to rethinking the church’s understanding of God and God’s relation to the world.