The Revenge of the Conscience

The Revenge of Conscience, by J. Budziszewski ★★★★
My intention was to start the book Biblical Theology by Geerhardus Vos. The read started out a little thicker than I anticipated. Hopefully, I will be able to review that book within the next month. Dr. Jason Lattin at Malumghat Major Medical Center loaned me this book while over to dinner. Thus, the read. From the stars, you might properly deduct that I thoroughly agreed with Dr. Lattin’s assessment of the text. I would have given this book 5 stars, save for three minor issues which will be discussed later. First, the strengths of the book. Budziszewski is an excellent communicator that writes with a heightened style, which does not lend to a lightning read. Each page is thick, and to progressively pondered. Budziszewski is a political scientist that teaches in Austin, TX, and orients the text on a series of loosely connected essays about politics and Christian faith. The first chapter deals with defining the moral situation in the USA, titled “The Fallen City”. He uses this chapter as a general introduction to the rest of the book. The second chapter, named “The Revenge of Conscience”, discusses the role of natural law in bringing about much of the public dynamics that we observe. Subsequent chapters work through the problem of neutrality, of issue of virtue and vice in politics, and of the Christian approach to “communitarianism”. The last three chapters discuss the issues of the problem with liberalism, followed by the problem with conservatism, followed by an in-depth psychological explanation of the pro-death movement. It is these last three chapters that offer the greatest strength to this text, dismantling notions that either political movement is more or less Christian than the other. In an epilogue, Budziszewski offers suggestions for presenting the truth in the public square, by challenging the false notions of either the right or the left. Disagreements? 1) I am a touch uncomfortable with where Budziszewski runs with the notion of natural law. Is natural law really as usable as he proposes to explain the human situation? Perhaps. Yet, natural law tends to be used by (mostly) Catholic theologians to explain much more. I find it difficult to imagine that natural law could be used to order a common consensus of right and wrong, simply because since the human mind in fallen, we have not only a diminished conscience but also a distorted conscience, from birth. Budziewski certainly realizes that, and yet plays out the role of natural law in a manner that other terminology could have used and suffice. 2) Budziszewski sometimes swims in the wrong swimming pool. In his discussion of communitarianism, he offers that perhaps Stanley Hauerwas is the best example of ideal communitarianism. Having read much Hauerwas, I note that Hauerwas has much to offer, yet much that can be criticized, which would be inappropriate to labor over in this review. 3) Budziszewski offers a poor explanation as to the ideal politic. What should be the model for a Christian Volk? He remains silent and focuses only on one issue, the pro-life issue. Is there an ideal politic prescribed in Scripture, or, is the Bible silent? I argue that there is a politic, which God prescribed to Israel. To what extent and in what manner these laws apply to our society remains an issue for public and theological debate, yet the information is there to discuss and measure us as a society.