Friedrich Nietzsche's Genealogy of Morals (1887) amounted to a full-blown indictment of Christianity for its failure to face reality and act heroically. Now, very much out from Nietzsche's shadow, but with a different agenda, literary scholar Roger Lundin has provided a powerful "genealogy of moral authority."

From Nature
to Experience:

The American
Search for
Cultural Authority

by Roger Lundin
Rowman & Littlefield
280 pp.; $39.95

He begins with two works by Ralph Waldo Emerson: Nature (a prose poem from 1836) expressed confidence in the human ability to know the world as it really is, while "Experience" (an essay from 1844) heralded the replacement of that confidence with a trust in humankind's own life experiences. From this move came the pragmatism of psychologist William James, who spoke for intellectually elite Americans at the start of the 20th century. His position, in turn, led to the secular evolutionary naturalism exemplified by contemporary pragmatists such as Richard Rorty and Stanley Fish.

Lundin's reading of this intellectual history is rewarding in itself, but even more for how it sets up his full-bodied Christian response. Drawing especially on what the modern German philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer wrote about tragedy and what his contemporary Karl Barth wrote about God, Lundin finds a Way out of aimless experience, a Truth to counter wanton power, and a Life that illumines purposeless darkness. For a gospel message as liberating as the chains of modern self-fixation are strong, this is the book.

Related Elsewhere:

From Nature to Experience is available from and other book retailers.

More about Roger Lundin is available from his page at Wheaton College.

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