By Charles W. Moore
One of the keynote speakers at the National Pro-Life Conference in Toronto this October will be Peter Kreeft, a prominent Christian apologist and a professor of philosophy at Boston College. Dr. Kreeft was brought up in the Christian Reformed Church and taught philosophy at his alma mater, Calvin College, prior to his becoming a Catholic
I am a big Peter Kreeft fan. Like me, he is a culture warrior and something of a polemicist, who sharply criticizes contemporary Christians for being too irenic and wishy-washy with regard to the onslaught of neo-paganism both outside and inside the churches.
“Too often,” writes Dr. Kreeft, “we are spiritual pacifists, more terrified of conflict than of defeat, and too often we mistake friends for enemies and enemies for friends.”
We are in danger of losing the culture wars, Kreeft warns, because too many of us do not recognize or refuse to acknowledge that we are engaged in full-scale spiritual warfare – not with our human attackers and ideological adversaries, who are merely pawns and victims themselves; but rather with Satan and his minions; the “principalities and powers” we are warned about in the New Testament.
We are also endangered due to our confusion about what weapons are required to defeat those enemies. “To win any war,” Kreeft writes, “the three most necessary things to know are (1) that you are at war, (2) who your enemy is, and (3) what weapons or strategies can defeat him. You cannot win a war (1) if you simply sew peace banners on a battlefield, (2) if you fight civil wars against your allies, or (3) if you use the wrong weapons.
The right weapon, says Peter Kreeft, that will win the war and defeat our enemy, is Sainthood. To those Christian defeatists who protest that the triumph of secular humanism in public culture is complete and total, and argue that they can’t imagine how Christianity could ever regain its former (and rightful) place at the head of Western society’s table, Kreeft answers:
“No, you can’t imagine it, any more than anyone could imagine how twelve nice Jewish boys could conquer the Roman Empire. You can’t imagine it, but you can do it. You can become a saint. Absolutely no one and nothing can stop you. [Quoting William Law]: ‘If you will look into your own heart in complete honesty, you must admit that there is one and only one reason why you are not a saint: you do not wholly want to be.'”
“What holds us back?” Kreeft asks. “Fear of paying the price …. A worse martyrdom than the quick noose or stake: the martyrdom of dying daily, dying to all your desires and plans, including your plans about how to become a saint.”
Part and parcel of that fear is based in our own personal and respective state of compromise with secular culture, some of whose aspects most of us, if we are honest with ourselves, will be obliged to admit we’re rather fond of. “Since God is the source of all being and goodness, we can’t even exist without Him.” Unfortunately, we live in a culture that largely imagines it has “outgrown” God. Our imagined sophistication is an impediment to not only sainthood, but to basic Christian faith itself.
Western Church culture on the cusp of the 20th/21st Centuries has a bad case of what Peter Kreeft calls “the warm fuzzies, the fur coats of psychology-disguised-as-religion” caught up in the false dichotomy of sweet and gentle Jesus as a sensitive New Age kind of guy, as opposed to a terribly old-fashioned wrathful and warlike Jehovah – exemplified in the notion that the New Testament somehow cancelled and repudiated the supposed excesses and political incorrectnesses of the Old.
Kreeft identifies and dismisses this revisionism as the old Gnostic-Manichaean-Marcionite heresy, “as immortal as the demons who inspired it,” noting Jesus’ New Testament affirmation: “I and the Father are one.” “The opposition between nice Jesus and nasty Jehovah denies the very essence of Christianity: Christ’s identity as the Son of God,” says Kreeft.
The real Son of God is “Christ the King, not Christ the Kitten,” and “If he loves us, he will prune us, and we will bleed, and the blood of the martyrs will be the seed of the Church again, and a second spring will come – but not without blood. It never happens without blood, sacrifice, and suffering.”
“The theme of spiritual warfare is never absent in Scripture, and never absent in the life and writings of a single saint,” Kreeft observes. “That’s why we must wake up and smell the rotting souls. Knowing we are at war is the first requirement for winning it.
“In fact, every page of the Bible bristles with spears, from Genesis 3 through Revelation 20. The road from Paradise Lost to Paradise Regained is soaked in blood. At the very center of the story is a cross, a symbol of conflict if there ever was one … God is a lover who is a warrior. Love is at war with hate, betrayal, selfishness, and all love’s enemies. Love fights. Yuppie-love, like puppy-love, may be merely ‘compassion’ (the fashionable word today), but father-love and mother-love are war.”
Specifically regarding pro-life concerns, Kreeft notes that our present century (four months to go), christened “the Christian century” at its birth, has turned out instead to be “the century of genocide.”
“If the God of life does not respond to this culture of death with judgment,” Kreeft says, “God is not God. If God does not honor the blood of the hundreds of millions of innocent victims then the God of the Bible, the God of Israel, the God of orphans and widows, the Defender of the defenseless, is a man-made myth, a fairy tale.”
Peter Kreeft is not universally revered, and he is especially viewed with suspicion, even disdain, by some evangelicals and Reformed Christians. In a review of Kreeft’s book, “Ecumenical Jihad,” Rev. Gary L.W. Johnson of the Church of the Redeemer in Mesa, Arizona, accuses Kreeft of syncretism because he calls on other world religions to join with Christians as allies in the great culture war against secular humanism, and asserts that other religions are not necessarily outside the scope of God’s salvatory grace.
I think Rev. Johnson protests too much. In reading through some of Kreeft’s essays on comparative religion, I found no watering down of the Christian Gospel:
On Jews: “When a Jew becomes a Christian, he is completed.” On Muslims: “If Moslems are saved, they are saved by Christ.” On Buddhists: “Buddhists… desperately need to hear what they do not know: the news about God and His love.” On Hindus: “Thus the two essential points of Christianity, sin and salvation, are both missing in the East. If there is no sin, no salvation is needed, only enlightenment.”
Peter Kreeft is a prolific writer; author of several books and many articles and published essays. I encourage readers to seek out his work. Agree or disagree, you will Kreeft a worthwhile read.