Sun-Tzu said: Know thyself, know thine enemy; a thousand battles, a thousand victories.
Peter Kreeft apparently agrees with him.
In a recent blog post, the Boston College philosophy professor reflects on the culture wars with a combination of insight and inspiration that’s rare, to my mind, even among thinkers of Kreeft’s caliber. I think the whole piece is worth reading (and re-reading, and printing out so you can read it again tomorrow), and it’s providing me with a lot of food for thought. In the HP context, though, the things I find most interesting are Kreeft’s identification of our real enemy in the culture wars—and, concomitantly, his identification of those who are not our enemies.
Kreeft argues that in order to win the war against evil in the world we must acknowledge that we are fighting a war against evil. From the outside, in the form of Satan and his compatriots, the fallen angels who seek the destruction of our souls—and from the inside, in the form of sin. Victory in the culture wars requires nothing less than the defeat of evil, without and within, by the grace of God and our utter cooperation with it.
Now, Kreeft is a Catholic (full disclosure: so am I) and perhaps that is a Catholic argument. Perhaps there are readers of this blog who would disagree with the soteriology that undergirds Kreeft’s argument, and I’m sure we could have a long, acrimonious discussion about it—but I think, with Kreeft, that this would not be a very wise idea. Because, as he states so clearly, we are not enemies.
It is so easy for Catholics and Protestants—especially, I think, the overeducated, intellectually hyperactive ones (see my tongue? It’s in my cheek!)—to get caught up in the things that divide us. After all, our theological differences, from the obvious to the arcane, are interesting. Some of them, I think, are merely semantic, but very often they are real, and where they are real there is truth on one side and misunderstanding on the other, and I am not trying to gloss that over or brush it aside.
But. But. In the context of the war we’re really fighting? The vigor and vitriol we so quickly and frequently direct at one another are not merely foolish, they’re dangerous. It’s not just that every moment and every bit of energy we spend fighting one another are chunks of time and effort we cannot devote to growing in holiness. It’s worse than that. The truth is that exploiting the divisions within the body of Christ is one of the rankest, slipperiest, and gravest ways that Satan works against us—because it is one of the easiest ways he gets us to work against ourselves.
Kreeft delivers a sobering, thought-provoking challenge that ought, if it is taken seriously, to stir his readers to feats of heroic faithfulness. And perhaps, for some of us, that bold fidelity—to patience, to humility, to love—ought to start with our friends and acquaintances of different Christian confessions. The stakes are too high and the time is too short for us to risk the consequences of divided hearts.
Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God; for God is love.
~ 1 John 4:7-8 ~
Miriel Thomas Reneau is a member of the Humane Pursuits editorial board. She has served as an ISI Honors Fellow, a John Jay Fellow, and an American Enterprise Institute policy analyst in constitutional studies. She endures many a sleepless night, though reports differ on whether this is due to her concern over federal courts’ equity jurisdiction or her addiction to caramel lattes. In her daytime hours, she can be found defending St. Augustine against Calvinist co-optation and T. S. Eliot against everyone.