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The Year of Our Lord 1943: Christian Humanism in an Age of Crisis

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By early 1943, it had become increasingly clear that the Allies would win the Second World War. Around the same time, it also became increasingly clear to many Christian intellectuals on both sides of the Atlantic that the soon-to-be-victorious nations were not culturally or morally prepared for their success. A war won by technological superiority merely laid the groundwor By early 1943, it had become increasingly clear that the Allies would win the Second World War. Around the same time, it also became increasingly clear to many Christian intellectuals on both sides of the Atlantic that the soon-to-be-victorious nations were not culturally or morally prepared for their success. A war won by technological superiority merely laid the groundwork for a post-war society governed by technocrats. These Christian intellectuals-Jacques Maritain, T. S. Eliot, C. S. Lewis, W. H. Auden, and Simone Weil, among others-sought both to articulate a sober and reflective critique of their own culture and to outline a plan for the moral and spiritual regeneration of their countries in the post-war world. In this book, Alan Jacobs explores the poems, novels, essays, reviews, and lectures of these five central figures, in which they presented, with great imaginative energy and force, pictures of the very different paths now set before the Western democracies. Working mostly separately and in ignorance of one another's ideas, the five developed a strikingly consistent argument that the only means by which democratic societies could be prepared for their world-wide economic and political dominance was through a renewal of education that was grounded in a Christian understanding of the power and limitations of human beings. The Year of Our Lord 1943 is the first book to weave together the ideas of these five intellectuals and shows why, in a time of unprecedented total war, they all thought it vital to restore Christianity to a leading role in the renewal of the Western democracies.


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By early 1943, it had become increasingly clear that the Allies would win the Second World War. Around the same time, it also became increasingly clear to many Christian intellectuals on both sides of the Atlantic that the soon-to-be-victorious nations were not culturally or morally prepared for their success. A war won by technological superiority merely laid the groundwor By early 1943, it had become increasingly clear that the Allies would win the Second World War. Around the same time, it also became increasingly clear to many Christian intellectuals on both sides of the Atlantic that the soon-to-be-victorious nations were not culturally or morally prepared for their success. A war won by technological superiority merely laid the groundwork for a post-war society governed by technocrats. These Christian intellectuals-Jacques Maritain, T. S. Eliot, C. S. Lewis, W. H. Auden, and Simone Weil, among others-sought both to articulate a sober and reflective critique of their own culture and to outline a plan for the moral and spiritual regeneration of their countries in the post-war world. In this book, Alan Jacobs explores the poems, novels, essays, reviews, and lectures of these five central figures, in which they presented, with great imaginative energy and force, pictures of the very different paths now set before the Western democracies. Working mostly separately and in ignorance of one another's ideas, the five developed a strikingly consistent argument that the only means by which democratic societies could be prepared for their world-wide economic and political dominance was through a renewal of education that was grounded in a Christian understanding of the power and limitations of human beings. The Year of Our Lord 1943 is the first book to weave together the ideas of these five intellectuals and shows why, in a time of unprecedented total war, they all thought it vital to restore Christianity to a leading role in the renewal of the Western democracies.

30 review for The Year of Our Lord 1943: Christian Humanism in an Age of Crisis

  1. 5 out of 5

    Cindy Rollins

    Recommended to my by my co-host of The Literary Life Podcast, @AngelinaStanford, this book is one that the minute you finish it you want to pick it right back up. The ideas are dense and therefore it leaves your brain turning a hundred miles an hour but it does a great job of looking at modernity through Christian eyes. Two quick takeaways: If American ever becomes facist it will frame it as anti-facism (That is about the truest thing I have read in a long time) and the description of the middle Recommended to my by my co-host of The Literary Life Podcast, @AngelinaStanford, this book is one that the minute you finish it you want to pick it right back up. The ideas are dense and therefore it leaves your brain turning a hundred miles an hour but it does a great job of looking at modernity through Christian eyes. Two quick takeaways: If American ever becomes facist it will frame it as anti-facism (That is about the truest thing I have read in a long time) and the description of the middlebrow person was just so terribly, terribly familiar. The middlebrow man is not passionate about anything, he dabbles in criticism of all things. He is a user.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Murtaza

    In the midst of World War II, a group of Christian intellectuals sorting through the wreckage of their collapsing world tried to articulate a basis for its spiritual rejuvenation. Simone Weil, W.H, Auden, C.S. Lewis and Jacques Mauritain were among a group of sensitive people who began to realize during the war that the “machine civilization” of modernity had gradually evolved into an instrument of mass dehumanization. Their hope was that the darkness of the war would give way to a new dawn in w In the midst of World War II, a group of Christian intellectuals sorting through the wreckage of their collapsing world tried to articulate a basis for its spiritual rejuvenation. Simone Weil, W.H, Auden, C.S. Lewis and Jacques Mauritain were among a group of sensitive people who began to realize during the war that the “machine civilization” of modernity had gradually evolved into an instrument of mass dehumanization. Their hope was that the darkness of the war would give way to a new dawn in which Western society would be rebuilt according to a more humane vision, necessarily informed by Christian values. In retrospect, as Jacobs describes, their effort was mostly a failed one. If anything the barons of industry and technology gripped the world even more tightly after the war was over. With their otherwordly and metaphysical outlook and behavior, the Christian intellectuals stood little chance of matching the organizational power of their relentless secular competitors. Like Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore and many others before them, these Christian humanists had warned that there would be little to celebrate in winning the war if it meant assimilating the basic materialistic outlook of the enemy. Their great fear was that even if Hitler lost, "Hitlerism," which could be defined as a technocratic and power-driven view of human relations, might still win. They warned too that a morally drifting, relativistic society could not survive its own internal contradictions, nor could it defend itself against a barbarous enemy whose convictions are solidly rooted. Echoes of these concerns continue to exist today. To my mind they stand as a warning to those who would uncritically adopt every aspect of the modern West, considering such mimicry to in itself constitute positive progress. As Lewis wrote: “Progress means getting nearer to the place you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turn, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man.” Of all the figures in this book the ones I’ve had the most longstanding interest in are Weil and C.S. Lewis. I’ve always been amazed at Weil’s prodigious literary output over her short life (she died at 34) and been humbled by her spirituality. C.S. Lewis is undeniably one of the greatest Christian intellectuals of modernity and is justly celebrated by many today. My only complaint with this quite good book is that it in its style it seems to mimic the unworldly, head-in-the-clouds attitude of its protagonists. If you don't pay close attention to what the book is trying to tell you, you could easily miss it. Nonetheless there is a subtle and powerful message about modernity in here, and it is a good reminder of some of the sensitive people who tried, to the best of their necessarily limited ability, to raise the alarm about where Western society was headed.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kris

    This really isn’t a book. This is a collection of random research notes that Jacobs took down, in preparation for writing a book. I wish I could read the book these notes should have turned into. But sadly this isn’t it. As much as I like Jacobs’s writing and research interests (and this is getting three stars purely for those reasons) this was a disappointment. He has no comprehensive organization, no developed argument, no cohesive narrative. I couldn’t track his train of thought because he see This really isn’t a book. This is a collection of random research notes that Jacobs took down, in preparation for writing a book. I wish I could read the book these notes should have turned into. But sadly this isn’t it. As much as I like Jacobs’s writing and research interests (and this is getting three stars purely for those reasons) this was a disappointment. He has no comprehensive organization, no developed argument, no cohesive narrative. I couldn’t track his train of thought because he seemed to be flipping from thing to thing, from quote to quote, without stringing it all together. Now, he does warn us of this “eccentric means of narration” in the preface. I thought he was just being modest. But man. It felt like Jacobs was talking casually to his fellow academics instead of presenting reasoned analysis to a layman audience. Perhaps I’m simply not well versed enough in his field of scholarship to catch on quickly. “The primary task of this book is to explore this model of Christian humane learning as a force for social renewal.” Does Jacobs accomplish what he set out to do? Maybe? But when you can’t see the forest for the trees in all the mess, does it matter if you answered the question with an argument? At least it was an interesting mess. Others seemed to like it more than I did. So take my review with a gain of salt. See Brenton's great review here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... I would definitely still recommend Jacobs's The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of C.S. Lewis.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy

    Miles Smith gave this book to me as a gift (Christmas 2018). Review by Jeff Bilbro. WORLD comments here. Birzer review here. Jake Meador's TGC review here; Jake also recommends it here. Review at Comment. Modern Age review here. C&L review here. Donnelly says here that Jacobs considers five Christian intellectuals "who turned to the topic of public moral deliberation amid questions about post-war society building—a topic that was newly urgent when the Allied victory became apparent in 1943" (32n6 Miles Smith gave this book to me as a gift (Christmas 2018). Review by Jeff Bilbro. WORLD comments here. Birzer review here. Jake Meador's TGC review here; Jake also recommends it here. Review at Comment. Modern Age review here. C&L review here. Donnelly says here that Jacobs considers five Christian intellectuals "who turned to the topic of public moral deliberation amid questions about post-war society building—a topic that was newly urgent when the Allied victory became apparent in 1943" (32n6).

  5. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    Reading this book was rather like returning to my 18-year-old self sitting in a college philosophy class for the first time. It was both thrilling (so many new ideas!) and completely over my head (so many new ideas!). I'm leaving this unrated for the latter reason. C.S. Lewis writes in An Experiment in Criticism that the first task of the reader is surrender to the work. As my knowledge of history and the history of ideas continues to grow and expand, I could revisit this book in six months, a y Reading this book was rather like returning to my 18-year-old self sitting in a college philosophy class for the first time. It was both thrilling (so many new ideas!) and completely over my head (so many new ideas!). I'm leaving this unrated for the latter reason. C.S. Lewis writes in An Experiment in Criticism that the first task of the reader is surrender to the work. As my knowledge of history and the history of ideas continues to grow and expand, I could revisit this book in six months, a year, two years and my grasp of its concepts and the brilliance of the writers it covers will have grown and evolved. I felt fleetingly frustrated at times reading this because of the density and complexity of the subject matter, but more often I felt reassurance that just because I don't understand this concept now doesn't mean I won't ever understand it. So, in a funny way, this book has served the purpose to remind me how much I have grown intellectually since I was that 18-year-old young woman...and how much more room there is for growth and discovery in the years ahead. And, it turns out that I'm not much different than the five thinkers covered in this book (C.S. Lewis, T.S. Eliot, W.H. Auden, Jacques Maritain, and Simone Weil) in having to wrestle with concepts before I can make anything of them. Their own ideas about how to approach a world in crisis were the product of much wrestling. Each writer covered was deeply concerned about what kind of human being the modern world is producing with its mechanized technocracy and with the crises of war and economic depression. As Christian thinkers, they felt deeply that the Christian faith needed to take part in shaping a post-war world that forms human beings in virtue. The book explores each thinker's wrestling with and approach to these fundamental issues in the modern world. There is so much that echoes the challenges of today's world with the pandemic and our bitter ideological differences. What is the role of Christian faith and theology in today's world? What does it mean to be a real human person who is formed by virtue? How does that change what we think is important? These are age-old questions and Jacobs is so good at pointing us to the Christian thinkers of the past who offer their humanity with their own cultural strengths and blind spots and their wisdom.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Brenton

    In 2012 I was at a dinner table at my first C.S. Lewis conference, the biannual Lewis & Friend colloquium at Taylor University in Indiana. I was admittedly a little out of place, a bit far from home and presenting my ideas for the first time. I grabbed my food and as I find a circle of people one of the most terrifying objects in culture, I sat at a new table. A minute or so later, the keynote speaker, Alan Jacobs, asked to sit with me. Not really feeling any more comfortable, I offered a spot a In 2012 I was at a dinner table at my first C.S. Lewis conference, the biannual Lewis & Friend colloquium at Taylor University in Indiana. I was admittedly a little out of place, a bit far from home and presenting my ideas for the first time. I grabbed my food and as I find a circle of people one of the most terrifying objects in culture, I sat at a new table. A minute or so later, the keynote speaker, Alan Jacobs, asked to sit with me. Not really feeling any more comfortable, I offered a spot and the table filled in around us. As part of the conversation, someone asked Alan what his next project would be. I knew of his book, The Narnian, which I still think to be the most literary of Lewis biographies. I also knew he was a conservative Christian intellectual, so I was curious about what he would say to what I (naively?) thought was then a divided American culture. He had just finished his Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction (2011). I have since read his biography of the Book of Common Prayer (2017), and I knew that the thread that held his books together was not always obvious to casual readers (even if I have a hunch myself). He then began talking about the Winter of 1943, about how a number of Christian intellectuals in Britain, France, and the United States were struggling with particular ideas and doing so in public lectures. The connections were intriguing. We all nodded and the conversation moved on. Now, six years later, the book has appeared. Though I presumed that Alan had moved on to other projects--including a move from Wheaton to Baylor--I had not forgotten about the idea of the book. I am fascinated by a "synchronic" approach to a history of ideas. We often go through time tracking an idea, as Jacobs did in his 2008 book, Original Sin. What would it be like, however, to steady the lens of history to a particular point in time, and to just a few neighbourhoods, and see how rich and magnetic thinkers struggled with such a dynamic moment? The result of that experiment is The Year of Our Lord 1943: Christian Humanism in an Age of Crisis, released in 2018 by Oxford University Press. As the war tilts toward allied victory, it was clear to a number of Christian public intellectuals that English, French, and American culture faced a moral and cultural challenge in a post-Christian, post-war era--a challenge that far exceeded austerity measures and the rebuilding of infrastructure. In this technocratic age, issues of what it means to be human surfaced in poignant ways. In what ways would Christians lead, speak, and serve in this age of machines after a techno-ideological war? To struggle with the question, Alan Jacobs turns to a number of Christian intellectuals, mostly disconnected from one another, and the popular work they did in 1943. Jacobs looks at the lectures, talks, broadcasts, poems, essays, journals, and reviews of Jacques and Raïssa Maritain, T.S. Eliot, C.S. Lewis, W.H. Auden, and Simone Weil, as well as figures like Charles Williams, Mortimer Adler, Reinhold Niebuhr, Hannah Arendt, Jacques Ellul, and the WWII-era Oldham-Mannheim "Moot," a religious, male serial conversation about Christian faith and public order in Britain. The conversation that results from these Christian intellectuals is a movement to restore a Christian understanding of the world in contemporary culture. Historically speaking, the movement is largely a failure. From this broader conversation, however, there is a great deal of energy and idea-formation that comes from these figures. Sometimes controversial, betimes problematic, though this group differed on political views there is a desire for rootedness in their thinking that unites what is different and remains an intriguing foundation for Christian thought today. As an experiment 1943 works pretty well, though it is, in the end, a sad book. It is, however, literary, informative, and weighty. My reading was largely receptive, and a good reading of this text would stop and read all of the great texts that are central to the conversation, like The Screwtape Letters, The Abolition of Man, Till We Have Faces, The Age of Anxiety, For the Time Being, Art and Scholasticism, The Twilight of Civilization, The Need for Roots, "Little Gidding" and Four Quartets, The Idea of a Christian Society, The Technological Society and a dozen other texts. But, for now, I merely listened in on Alan Jacobs' work to gain what I could from it. And I gained a lot. Mostly, I gained a sense of urgency. It is, after all, time for social justice activists, Christian intellectuals, and conservative thinkers to work on the project of deepening views rather than merely pointing out the shocking sins and sillinesses of the other side. If we want that deepening--if we want our thinking to be anything more than notes in the pop song of our age--then books like this can help us in rootedness.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kerianne Noel

    Friendly heads up: If you listen to this as an audiobook, as I did, you are going to want to buy yourself a hard copy - it’s full of anecdotes and quotes you will want to be able to flip through and find again. Jacobs shares the work and ideas of several Christian humanist writers who around the Second World War were voicing similar concerns as to the state of modern man. Unfortunately, as Jacobs grimly concludes, their ideas lost out to the oligarchs and technocrats whose influence we are still Friendly heads up: If you listen to this as an audiobook, as I did, you are going to want to buy yourself a hard copy - it’s full of anecdotes and quotes you will want to be able to flip through and find again. Jacobs shares the work and ideas of several Christian humanist writers who around the Second World War were voicing similar concerns as to the state of modern man. Unfortunately, as Jacobs grimly concludes, their ideas lost out to the oligarchs and technocrats whose influence we are still living under. If you are baffled by the times we are living in, this book offers a starting point from which to see how Western thought has been hijacked by the very forces that made modernity possible. In spite of where things are headed, I am grateful to have encountered these thinkers in the context of their Christian humanist ideas, some for the first time (I’ll be reading more by Auden and Weil in the future.) I’d also add that anyone who is put off by the word “Christian” in Christian humanism because their direct experience of the word is one of intolerance, would actually be the person to get the most out of this book. One of the cornerstones of a healthy society, according to these Christian humanists, was tolerance of contrary beliefs (no matter how strongly we disagree with them) - intolerance would be a mark of the very totalitarianism that these thinkers saw rise up in their own age and whose ideas and regimes they opposed. It is a hard to swallow pill for some that concepts like freedom, social welfare and dignity for all persons are ideas that exist because of the rise of the Christian tradition (no matter how imperfectly realized in actual practices.) There is a lesson for all of us in that.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Aaron Ventura

    Alan Jacobs curiously weaves together five thinkers (C.S. Lewis, T.S. Eliot, W.H. Auden, Jacque Maritain, and Simone Weil) who anticipated the rising totalitarianism of technocracy. Fearing the deal with the devil the Allied nations were making to win the war against Hitler, what would life be like in the aftermath? Jacobs concludes that for all their clairvoyant diagnoses, "their prescriptions were never implemented, and could never have been: they came perhaps a century too late, after the rei Alan Jacobs curiously weaves together five thinkers (C.S. Lewis, T.S. Eliot, W.H. Auden, Jacque Maritain, and Simone Weil) who anticipated the rising totalitarianism of technocracy. Fearing the deal with the devil the Allied nations were making to win the war against Hitler, what would life be like in the aftermath? Jacobs concludes that for all their clairvoyant diagnoses, "their prescriptions were never implemented, and could never have been: they came perhaps a century too late, after the reign of technocracy had become so complete that none can foresee the end of it while this world lasts." A good book worth pondering as the technocracy continues to dominate our world. Highly recommend.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Samuel James

    This is a lucid and fascinating work of scholarship on how a group of Christian intellectuals thought and wrote through the Second World War. Jacobs is one of the finest Christian writers doing work today, and his prose is as sharp and clear as ever. The only reason for 3 stars is that I wasn't quite prepared for how academically oriented this book is. It would be best to read this after consuming a primer on 20th century Christian intellectualism and literature, and then to appreciate Jacobs' w This is a lucid and fascinating work of scholarship on how a group of Christian intellectuals thought and wrote through the Second World War. Jacobs is one of the finest Christian writers doing work today, and his prose is as sharp and clear as ever. The only reason for 3 stars is that I wasn't quite prepared for how academically oriented this book is. It would be best to read this after consuming a primer on 20th century Christian intellectualism and literature, and then to appreciate Jacobs' work as a historical survey that could apply to our own fractured, anxious age. A fine work that deserves to be read.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Brice Karickhoff

    This book was the intersection of everything I find important and interesting. It was basically written for me. An overview of the writings of six prominent Christian thinkers about society during World War Two… doesn’t get cooler than that.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Dan Glover

    Who would like to sit down for a conversation about what is wrong with the modern age and what to do about it? How about a conversation regarding how the Allied nations in WWII were basically built upon and assuming at their core all the same things as the Axis nations? What if that conversation was centered around the questions of “how might an increasingly secularized and religiously indifferent populace be educated and formed in Christian beliefs and practices?" (xvi-xvii) and in what way sho Who would like to sit down for a conversation about what is wrong with the modern age and what to do about it? How about a conversation regarding how the Allied nations in WWII were basically built upon and assuming at their core all the same things as the Axis nations? What if that conversation was centered around the questions of “how might an increasingly secularized and religiously indifferent populace be educated and formed in Christian beliefs and practices?" (xvi-xvii) and in what way should the "free societies of the West" educate their young people "in a way that made them worthy of that victory" in WWII? (xv). Suppose that the conversation partners in this discussion were C.S. Lewis, T.S. Eliot, Jacques Maritain, Simone Weil, and W.H. Auden, and the whole thing was insightfully moderated by Alan Jacobs? What if at the very end of the conversation, Jacques Ellul stopped in and Jacobs asked him, in light of subsequent years, what he agreed and disagreed with from the perspectives of his interlocutors? What if the perspectives of the main interlocutors was set within the context of a broader cultural conversation with other opinions also represented (John Dewey, Mortimer Adler, Reinhold Niebuhr, Karl Barth, Henri de Lubac, Charles Williams, for starters)? If this sounds like a good time, then this book is for you. If this doesn't sound like a good time, then probably we can't be friends. I can't give this a proper review right now (end of term pressures) but this is just such a good read. Far from being a work of mere historical reflection, the questions Jacobs asks are as pertinent as ever. I have loved everything I've ever read by Jacobs and this is not only up to his usual standards but perhaps edges past a bit. I liked it so much, as soon as I finished, I re-read the preface, the opening stage setting section ("Dramatis Personae"), the interlude (a short section in the middle where Jacobs discusses what some other intellectuals were doing and thinking at the same time mid-war - such as Dorothy Day, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Graham Greene, etc.), and the Afterward (where Jacobs deals with Jacques Ellul's thought on the same issues as his main thinkers). This is a Christianity and culture course outline in a book.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Bob

    Summary: Drawing upon the work of five Christian intellectuals who were contemporaries, explores the common case they made for a Christian humanistic influence in education in the post-war world. By 1943, it was becoming apparent that the Allies would eventually win the war. For the five Christian intellectuals in this book, the crisis had shifted from resistance to authoritarian regimes, living in the shadow of death, and how one persevered in intellectual work in war-time, to what ideas would s Summary: Drawing upon the work of five Christian intellectuals who were contemporaries, explores the common case they made for a Christian humanistic influence in education in the post-war world. By 1943, it was becoming apparent that the Allies would eventually win the war. For the five Christian intellectuals in this book, the crisis had shifted from resistance to authoritarian regimes, living in the shadow of death, and how one persevered in intellectual work in war-time, to what ideas would shape the post-war world. The five intellectuals featured in this book, along with a cameo by Jacques Ellul in the Afterword, were known to one another but tended to operate in separate circles. They were: Jacques Maritain, T. S. Eliot, C. S. Lewis, W. H. Auden, and Simone Weil. The basic thread of this book was the common advocacy Alan Jacobs sees among these authors for a kind of Christian humanism that would shape education over and against the rising pragmatism and technocracy that prevailed in wartime. Jacob’s method is to follow these thinkers more or less chronologically, leading off with a particular thinker, and then turning to what others were saying, sometimes in response, but often independently. Negatively, Maritain, Lewis and Weil particularly warned against technocracy. Maritain characterized it as demonic, and Lewis created the memorable N.I.C.E. in That Hideous Strength. Without the moral framework of Christian humanism, you had the “flat-chested” men of The Abolition of Man. Weil called for a society that began with the notion of obligations rather than rights. Eliot and Auden, the older and younger, contributed to a Christian poetics, a vision of vocation, and a vision of Christian culture. These were formidable thinkers yet one wonders why in the end technocracy and pragmatism prevailed. Jacobs describes a wider circle that several of these participated in called Oldham’s Moot. A more extensive study of this group would be fascinating. Most of those involved were Christian and were concerned with rebuilding the Christian underpinnings of European culture. They met regularly, debated various schemes, but eventually lost energy, especially after the death of German sociologist Karl Mannheim, a Hungarian Jew who was both odd man out and set the intellectual tone. They illustrate a challenge that faced the five principals of this book as well–translating these ideas into the warp and woof of society–its political, educational, industrial, and civic institutions. Perhaps that is always beyond the capacity of such thinkers, except that they need to capture the attention and imagination of those working in these other realms who have some influence and the creativity to translate these ideas into policy and practice. One wonders if it was a lack of people outside their circles who shared their vision and worked entrepreneurially to foster it that consigned the vision of these thinkers to their books and publications. Many think we are at another time of crisis, one that calls us first to prayer, and then to the communal work of thinking and refining and implementing anew. Jacobs shows us what these five were able to accomplish and educates a new generation to their work. Who will be the thinkers who engage in the retrieval and refinement of their work for our time? Who will be the actors who combine thought and action in creative ways? And will it be enough to check our slide into decadence and disorder in the year of our Lord 2022? These are the questions posed to me in this work.

  13. 5 out of 5

    John Majors

    One of the most thought provoking books I've read in a while. Sent my brain off in 20 different directions all tied back to what is the purpose of man and how does the individual fit within a society and how does the education system relate to that? It's more interesting than I just made it sound for sure. Jacobs surveys the influence of a few key thinkers who all were at the height of productivity in 1943: C.S. Lewis, W.H.Auden, Simon Weil, T.S. Elliot, and Martinique. They were all pressing fo One of the most thought provoking books I've read in a while. Sent my brain off in 20 different directions all tied back to what is the purpose of man and how does the individual fit within a society and how does the education system relate to that? It's more interesting than I just made it sound for sure. Jacobs surveys the influence of a few key thinkers who all were at the height of productivity in 1943: C.S. Lewis, W.H.Auden, Simon Weil, T.S. Elliot, and Martinique. They were all pressing for an absolute truth basis for education vs. some more prominent relativistic models that had emerged. Why was 1943 significant? At the beginning of the war, intellectuals were asking the question, "Should we be wasting our time in the thought world when the entire world is at war? Does intellectual work even matter at all?" But in 1943 - when the end of the war was on the horizon - educators/thinkers were realizing that their role was going to be CRITICAL to the shaping of culture once the war ended. And they were trying to figure out how exactly they would shape the moral culture of the world moving forward. This really was a fantastic book. The only reason I gave it a 4/5 is that I felt the ending could have done a better job of wrapping together the collective influence of each of the five authors. He does a great job showing their individual influence and surveying the contribution of each, but I didn't see how these five really made a dent collectively in the conversation. Of course, he may have perfectly stated it and the conclusion gone over my head. I would definitely put this at the top of your reading list for the year.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Adam Shields

    Short Review: I really appreciate Alan Jacobs. I always learn something (usually lots of things) and come away from his writing with a new perspective. This is basically an exploration of six thinkers that broadly fall into the category of Christian Humanists during WWII. Other than CS Lewis I was not really familiar with any of the thinkers. So I need another reading, to really understand the broader argument that Jacobs was making. I was too focused on being introduced to new people and ideas Short Review: I really appreciate Alan Jacobs. I always learn something (usually lots of things) and come away from his writing with a new perspective. This is basically an exploration of six thinkers that broadly fall into the category of Christian Humanists during WWII. Other than CS Lewis I was not really familiar with any of the thinkers. So I need another reading, to really understand the broader argument that Jacobs was making. I was too focused on being introduced to new people and ideas on this first reading. My not much more than this review on my blog is at http://bookwi.se/the-year-of-our-lord...

  15. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    I don’t know exactly how to rate this book 4.5? 5? It definitely made me think and I now have a bunch of other books I need to read. I listened to it on audiobook but I need to reread it in print to have a better grasp of all the ideas in this book.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Tim Casteel

    "This was a time…when prominent Christian thinkers in the West believed that they had a responsibility to set a direction not just for churches but for the whole of society.” May it be so in our day. The Year of Our Lord 1943 is not an easy read. But it’s fascinating, even if much of it went over my head. It’s very academic and literary. But Year of Our Lord exposes you to thinkers who understood the world on a higher level, and leave you wanting that for yourself. Jacobs explores the 1943 writings "This was a time…when prominent Christian thinkers in the West believed that they had a responsibility to set a direction not just for churches but for the whole of society.” May it be so in our day. The Year of Our Lord 1943 is not an easy read. But it’s fascinating, even if much of it went over my head. It’s very academic and literary. But Year of Our Lord exposes you to thinkers who understood the world on a higher level, and leave you wanting that for yourself. Jacobs explores the 1943 writings of five Christian intellectuals: Jacques Maritain, T. S. Eliot, C. S. Lewis, W. H. Auden, and Simone Weil. Hitler and the near-collapse of civilization in 1943 brought an "intensification of focus [that] produced some especially remarkable work.” Independently, the five were answering this question: "If the free societies of the west win this great world war how might their young people be educated in a way that made them worthy of that victory - and that made another war on that scale at worst avoidable and at best unthinkable?" Particularly relevant to our day: "How might an increasingly secularized and religiously indifferent populace be educated and formed in Christian beliefs and practices?" What particularly resonated with me was their insights on understanding the present by looking to the past. "For [Simone] Weil, the great task of thought is just this, to discern the eternal, that which is always and everywhere true but also always and everywhere obscured by the “attachments and passions” of a given person or a given culture." C. S. Lewis: “We need intimate knowledge of the past. Not that the past has any magic about it, but because we cannot study the future, and yet need something to set against the present, to remind us that the basic assumptions have been quite different in different periods and that much which seems certain to the uneducated is merely temporary fashion. A man who has lived in many places is not likely to be deceived by the local errors of his native village; the scholar has lived in many times and is therefore in some degree immune from the great cataract of nonsense that pours from the press and the microphone of his own age.” Simone Weil: Why dwell on the past, instead of directing one’s thoughts to the future? We cannot be made better except by the influence upon us of what is better than we are." Now, it may be that in the future there will be societies better than ours, but we do not have access to them-nor will it do any good to exhort us to imagine them, for that just presents us with the intractable problem that we are then doing the imagining: “the future is empty and is filled by our imagination…it is just as imperfect as we are.” Therefore we must turn to the past, not because it is necessarily better than our own world, but because it is different. Lewis: Every age has its own outlook. It is especially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books. All contemporary writers share to some extent the contemporary outlook--even those, like myself, who seem opposed to it. The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only be reading old books. Not, of course, that there is any magic about the past. People were no cleverer then than they are now; they made as many mistakes as we. But not the same mistakes. Two heads are better than one, not because either is infallible, but because they are unlikely to go wrong in the same direction. To be sure, the books of the future would be just as good a corrective as the books of the past, but unfortunately we cannot get at them.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Tim McIntosh

    Here's a review that I wrote for publication: For those invested in the Christian classical renewal (like I am), reading Alan Jacob’s The Year of Our Lord 1943 feels like discovering a picture album of a hazy family history. Jacobs tells the story of five Christian writers, T. S. Eliot, C. S. Lewis, W. H. Auden, Jacques Maritain, and Simone Weil, who emerged from World War II and attempted to renew the spiritual vision of Western democracies. Their efforts provided a sort of blueprint for the con Here's a review that I wrote for publication: For those invested in the Christian classical renewal (like I am), reading Alan Jacob’s The Year of Our Lord 1943 feels like discovering a picture album of a hazy family history. Jacobs tells the story of five Christian writers, T. S. Eliot, C. S. Lewis, W. H. Auden, Jacques Maritain, and Simone Weil, who emerged from World War II and attempted to renew the spiritual vision of Western democracies. Their efforts provided a sort of blueprint for the contemporary classical renewal. Most remarkable about this five-part biography is the similarity of the authors’ visions. Despite not collaborating in any serious way with each other, all pointed to a common enemy: the technocratizing of modern education. In Jacob’s album, the normally avuncular Lewis plays the role of the determined prophet, organizing various genres (science fiction, essays, educational books) to attack the technocratic spirit. Likewise, Maritain, Eliot, and Auden. But my favorite character in this photo album was the estranged cousin, Simone Weil. Although she died at age 34, she left a legacy of philosophical activity and a passionate activism that I found inspiring. Reading The Year of Our Lord 75 years later after World War II, Christian classical teachers and parents will be enlightened by the prescience of Lewis, Weil, et al. and should be encouraged to be providing the sort of rehumanized education advocated by these five remarkable souls.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Nick Spencer

    nice idea but doesn't quite cohere nice idea but doesn't quite cohere

  19. 5 out of 5

    Justin Lonas

    Felt a little like a vanity project. Good, but mostly insofar as it makes you want to read the writers Jacobs highlights (Eliot, Auden, Maritain, Weil, and Lewis).

  20. 4 out of 5

    Bryan

    I loved this book. It covers a variety of Christian thinkers such as C.S. Lewis, T.S Elliot, Simone Weil, Jacques Maritain et al, as they grapple with the causes of the Second World War and question how the future of the Western/Christian world would look like after the conflict. Going into this I was not familiar with some of the texts discussed, but I found Jacobs to be an excellent guide throughout 200ish pages of the story. This book raises many interesting questions and has made me interest I loved this book. It covers a variety of Christian thinkers such as C.S. Lewis, T.S Elliot, Simone Weil, Jacques Maritain et al, as they grapple with the causes of the Second World War and question how the future of the Western/Christian world would look like after the conflict. Going into this I was not familiar with some of the texts discussed, but I found Jacobs to be an excellent guide throughout 200ish pages of the story. This book raises many interesting questions and has made me interested in delving deeper into a few of these writers. I would highly recommend for anyone with an interest in Culture, Christianity, and Intellectual History.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Amy Edwards

    Highly recommend this one. There is much to think about, especially as I happened to read this the week following the January 6 riots/insurrection here in the US, and finished it just two days before the inaugural of Pres-Elect Joe Biden. Jacobs’ examination of several Christian writers who were wrestling with how to be a Christian and participate in culture in the midst of war feels very relevant. Here we are 80 years later grappling with a similar problem: what is the role of a Christian in pu Highly recommend this one. There is much to think about, especially as I happened to read this the week following the January 6 riots/insurrection here in the US, and finished it just two days before the inaugural of Pres-Elect Joe Biden. Jacobs’ examination of several Christian writers who were wrestling with how to be a Christian and participate in culture in the midst of war feels very relevant. Here we are 80 years later grappling with a similar problem: what is the role of a Christian in public life, in culture?

  22. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    My next task is to read Alan Jacobs's book How to Think. Maybe it will give me a shot at synthesis like this. Great notes, too. My next task is to read Alan Jacobs's book How to Think. Maybe it will give me a shot at synthesis like this. Great notes, too.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Renee

    This was a very good read. The chapters on culture made me think and I know I will be thinking about culture and education and the other ideas of this book

  24. 4 out of 5

    Gavin McGrath

    Anything by Alan Jacobs is worth reading! His writing is lucid, stimulating, and well-researched. This book doesn't disappoint - well, at least as it displays Jacobs's characteristic writing. Others will, no doubt, know far more than I about Maritain, TS Eliot, CS Lewis, WH Auden, and Simone Weil, so I will avoid any assessment of Jacobs's treatment of these 5 writers. What I did find less than clear (and, thus, unconvincing) is Jacobs's overall thesis: each of these writers/thinkers in 1943 (the Anything by Alan Jacobs is worth reading! His writing is lucid, stimulating, and well-researched. This book doesn't disappoint - well, at least as it displays Jacobs's characteristic writing. Others will, no doubt, know far more than I about Maritain, TS Eliot, CS Lewis, WH Auden, and Simone Weil, so I will avoid any assessment of Jacobs's treatment of these 5 writers. What I did find less than clear (and, thus, unconvincing) is Jacobs's overall thesis: each of these writers/thinkers in 1943 (the time when, from all appearances, the Allies looked to be able eventually to defeat Hitler) in his or her own way critiqued Western culture and concluded there was a moral and spiritual paucity. Each, without necessarily collaborating with the others, saw Christianity as the only real source for regeneration. They all feared the rise of scientism and technology: while possibly helpful in limited ways technology both assumes a reductionist view of humanity and culture as well as leads to a spiritual, moral, and ethical dimunition. According to Jacobs, these writers addressed the importance of education - both its content and those who teach. This is a stimulating thesis; the problem is I wasn't sure I understood the writers whom Jacobs presents. Jacobs is very clear; I had no problems following him. Lewis was, for me, the clearest of them all. Auden and Eliot were, given the quotes Jacobs provides, opaque. Weil, from what I read, was beyond opaque! To give Jacobs credit, he regularly alerts the reader to this problem: he, too, found/finds their arguments lacking clarity and, at one or two points, finds/found their specific argument unconvincing. Consequently, while I sensed Maritain (and Mortimer Adler) and Lewis demonstrating Jacobs's thesis I am not confident I grasped the argument sufficiently or with the appropriate discernment Jacobs would wish for me! I am not sure I understand what Christian humanism really means (while agreeing with Jacobs's observation concerning the fluid definition humanism often receives). Quite honestly, I didn't see all that much Christian thinking reflected in Weil, Auden, or, even, Eliot (I realise I am now displaying my ignorance). Perhaps, I will return to this book again to see if I can improve my reading. I have no regrets purchasing the book and reading the book. My hunch is: both Jacobs and those upon whom he draws in this book are right (and were prescient back in 1943) about the moral and spiritual emptiness of the Western world (both Europe and the US).

  25. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    Alan Jacobs wants to answer this question “how might an increasingly secularised and religiously indifferent populace be educated and formed in Christian beliefs and practices?“ Pivoting around a key moment: 1943, Jacobs does this through the thought of Jacque Maritain, TS Eliot, CS Lewis, WH Auden, and Simone Weil. His conclusion is that by end of World War II the question these writers are trying to diagnose and answer had been surpassed. Invoking the diagnosis of Jacques Ellul he claims that Alan Jacobs wants to answer this question “how might an increasingly secularised and religiously indifferent populace be educated and formed in Christian beliefs and practices?“ Pivoting around a key moment: 1943, Jacobs does this through the thought of Jacque Maritain, TS Eliot, CS Lewis, WH Auden, and Simone Weil. His conclusion is that by end of World War II the question these writers are trying to diagnose and answer had been surpassed. Invoking the diagnosis of Jacques Ellul he claims that the “reign of technocracy had become so complete that none can foresee the end of it while this world lasts“. Jacobs claims, following Ellul, that “technocracy” fundamentally changes the way we see human nature, education and purpose: “All human beings under technique are instruments of something- are technicians - and Elul argues that the primary function of education within this regime is to use psychotechnique to create those technicians. “Education no longer has a humanist end or any value in itself; it has only one goal, to create technicians““(202)

  26. 5 out of 5

    Hunter Quinn

    I enjoyed this book, but it challenged me. I need to get a hard copy in order to fully understand it (I would not recommend the audio version). Jacobs (a professor at Baylor) examines a crucial point in Christian thinking: the turn of the tide in WWII. When it became clear that the Allies would win the war, Christians began to discuss the shape of the post-war world. Jacobs examines in-depth the following authors: C. S. Lewis, T. S. Eliot, W. H. Auden, and Simone Weil. These thinkers were extreme I enjoyed this book, but it challenged me. I need to get a hard copy in order to fully understand it (I would not recommend the audio version). Jacobs (a professor at Baylor) examines a crucial point in Christian thinking: the turn of the tide in WWII. When it became clear that the Allies would win the war, Christians began to discuss the shape of the post-war world. Jacobs examines in-depth the following authors: C. S. Lewis, T. S. Eliot, W. H. Auden, and Simone Weil. These thinkers were extremely different. Lewis was an orthodox Anglican. Eliot described himself as "a Catholic cast of mind, a Calvinist heritage, and a Puritanical temperament." Auden followed an unorthodox, existential Christianity. Weil was a Jew who followed a Catholicism of sorts; she never joined the church because she believed she had to morally perfect herself. What did these thinkers have in common? While differing in the specifics, they held to the broad idea that Christianity had a cultural duty to shape a truly-human person. They held that the individual is ill-prepared for life on his or her own, and his or her affections must be properly ordered. Those with properly-ordered affections are equipped to build a flourishing society. Modernity's failure to train the individual led to Nazism and bolshevism. Unfortunately (according to Jacobs), these thinkers lost out to the American vision for the future. American pragmatism has reduced the individual to cogs in the technocracy machine. Education does not train humans...it trains technicians. These technicians enter society with the sole goal of affecting change in society through changing *method,* not changing *minds.* Individuals rule the machines. Therefore, like Nazi Germany and bolshevist Russia, our societies are composed of people with disordered desires. The technocrats rule, and we will reap the consequences. While this particular narrative of history has some truth, it is primarily a narrative of decline. Weil explicitly locates the beginning of this decline in 1229, while Lewis implicitly shies away from anything post-Renaissance. I think this particular narrative only works in an aristocratic context. The average person on a global scale lives a vastly improved lifestyle compared to most times in history. People are freer, healthier, and safer. People have access to the entire library of human history through the internet. Warfare is down, and non-western nations are no longer dominated by western empires. The church is growing explosively across the world. These are all good things that contradict the declinist narrative. That said, we all know that something is still wrong. Nuclear disaster hovers over all. The environment is filled with plastic and pollution. People feel disconnected from one another. This is where these four thinkers provide answers. Christianity highlights humanity's fallen condition and points to our dependence on God. It seeks to reorder our affections in order to shape our lives. Our education needs more Christian humanism, but it does *not* need less technological method. Perhaps the answer lies in technology wedded to Christian humanism?

  27. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    Is democracy worth fighting for and even dying for? Does it have greater goals than itself? What should be the shape of our social order? In an era gone by, Christian thought leaders believed they had a public role in answering such questions, and the public thought they did too. In 1943, as the Allies began to realize that victory over the Axis powers was inevitable, the independent work of five key intellectuals coalesced in remarkable ways concerning what the post-war world should look like. I Is democracy worth fighting for and even dying for? Does it have greater goals than itself? What should be the shape of our social order? In an era gone by, Christian thought leaders believed they had a public role in answering such questions, and the public thought they did too. In 1943, as the Allies began to realize that victory over the Axis powers was inevitable, the independent work of five key intellectuals coalesced in remarkable ways concerning what the post-war world should look like. In that year a French Catholic philosopher, a British poet living in America, an American poet now a British citizen, a French mystic working for the resistance in England, and an Oxford Don gave lectures, wrote poetry, produced books, and spoke on the BBC. The five—Jacques Maritain, W. H. Auden, T. S. Eliot, Simone Weil, and C. S. Lewis—all addressed the larger questions of society and politics for what would soon become the post-war world. Taking up themes of education, the demonic, and force, all asked how Christian perspectives might inform such answers. Since the Allies used the methods of mechanized, technocratic warfare against the Fascist powers who employed the same techniques, the five wondered, What was needed so that we would not become like them? Despite the best efforts of these intellectual powerhouses to point society in a different direction (spoiler alert here), they failed. Such thinking and warnings were overwhelmed by the ultimately dehumanizing technological worldview that had been employed to win the war—and which would permeate the peace. Of the five, only Jacques Maritain actually engaged substantively in the world of politics after the war as the French ambassador to the Vatican. Weil died and the others moved on to other concerns. Alan Jacobs concludes his study with an afterward about a somewhat younger Frenchman who had many of the same concerns as the five—Jacques Ellul. His conclusion about what Christians ought to do in such times is outrageous for the age we live in. I will not spoil the shock of that recommendation here but will encourage you to read it. The unwritten agenda of this book and its relevance for today seems to be the similar questions that are now afoot. Does democracy have a future? Can it withstand the impulses of our now hyper technological society paired with the forces of nationalism which once more assert themselves--now in currently democratic societies like Great Britain, India, the United States and elsewhere? What role if any does Christianity have to play other than chaplain to the powers or hand-wringing bystander?

  28. 4 out of 5

    Derrick Jeter

    "Ares at last has quit the field"—so the poet W.H. Auden declared at the end of World War II. But war, depending on which side of it you were on, wasn't victorious or defeated by peace; it was victorious or defeated by technology—the hitherto fore unimaginable ability to destroy mankind, not by men and arms but by harnessing the power of the invisible. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who had witnessed the awful destruction of technological warfare, warned in 1961 against a reliance on the "milit "Ares at last has quit the field"—so the poet W.H. Auden declared at the end of World War II. But war, depending on which side of it you were on, wasn't victorious or defeated by peace; it was victorious or defeated by technology—the hitherto fore unimaginable ability to destroy mankind, not by men and arms but by harnessing the power of the invisible. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who had witnessed the awful destruction of technological warfare, warned in 1961 against a reliance on the "military industrial complex." Twenty-five years later, educator Neil Postman warned that technology would be used to amuse ourselves to death. But before Eisenhower and Postman there was Auden, Jacques Maritain, T.S. Eliot, C.S. Lewis, and Simone Weil—five Christian thinkers who wrestled with the question of technology during the Second World War and its affects on humanity after the war. All were concerned that the victorious West was ill-prepared spiritually, morally, or culturally for their success. All feared the West would succumb to a world run by mere technocrats—button-pushers and lever-pullers who controlled and used the rest of us to feed their machines. In the face of advancing technology, these five Christian humanists believed the individual would be lost in a collective mindset and that the things that make us human—truth, beauty, and goodness—would have no place in a world run by machines. In the world they envisioned at the close of the World War II we would read Paul's admonishment in Philippians 4:8 as, "Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, *DO NOT* dwell on these things." Why? Because what is art or philosophy or theology in the face of a technology that can vaporize you and your loved ones in the blink of an eye, or can order your lives around engineering advancements and gadgets developed to distract you from the harsh realities of life? If only Auden, Maritain, Eliot, Lewis, and Weil were alive today to contend with computers, smartphones, the Internet, and social media. Professor Alan Jacobs has written a fascinating account of how these five Christian thinkers grappled with the rise of technology and technocrats during the war years and what they foresaw in the future of the West after the successful conclusion of the war. Their warnings about human flourishing in the face of technology are worthy of serious consideration by serious Christians. And Jacobs' volume, "The Year of Our Lord 1943," is a fine place to start such a consideration.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Paul Womack

    For me this was an enthralling book. I had some vague awareness of its theme.. who should I be and by what light should I walk? The quest to answer those questions in the period of time discussed by this book are still relevant. Indeed, as I attended Seminary in 1970-1973 (after my return from War), my professors were trained in the era when the writers surveyed were prominent: Eliot, Auden, Lewis, Maritain, Weil, and Ellul. But this treatment has added depth to my superficiial knowledge and has For me this was an enthralling book. I had some vague awareness of its theme.. who should I be and by what light should I walk? The quest to answer those questions in the period of time discussed by this book are still relevant. Indeed, as I attended Seminary in 1970-1973 (after my return from War), my professors were trained in the era when the writers surveyed were prominent: Eliot, Auden, Lewis, Maritain, Weil, and Ellul. But this treatment has added depth to my superficiial knowledge and has sent me scurrying to my study to find their books and this rediscover these writers for my spiritual enrichment. I may not have gained such richness if I had not first has the vague awareness, but I encourage the soul wanting to get some sense of where our 21st Century world may nave gone off the tracks to read the book and study all the more these figures of thought and faith.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Christie Wessels

    Dense and philosophical, about some of the world's best Christian thought leaders, Auden, Lewis, T.S.Eliot, Simone Weil, etc. and their ideas regarding education and culture in a world that no longer sees people as persons but either as a collective or as individuals that are merely interchangeable pieces of society. Some thoughts I took away: That historically the meaning of "humanism" "came to stand for a clearly defined cycle of scholarly disciplines, namely grammar, rhetoric, history, poetry Dense and philosophical, about some of the world's best Christian thought leaders, Auden, Lewis, T.S.Eliot, Simone Weil, etc. and their ideas regarding education and culture in a world that no longer sees people as persons but either as a collective or as individuals that are merely interchangeable pieces of society. Some thoughts I took away: That historically the meaning of "humanism" "came to stand for a clearly defined cycle of scholarly disciplines, namely grammar, rhetoric, history, poetry, and moral philosophy, primarily pursued through reading the greatest Latin writers..." "The umanistas were doing something unprecedented in keying the search for wisdom--including specifically Christian wisdom--to the study of literature." That true science, according to Weil, is "the study of the beauty of the world." That humans are "persons," unique, and also created in the image of God, and how that is different from the idea of simply "individuals." That true education is concerned with fostering virtue and ordering affections. Eliot's definition of culture: "Culture may even be described simply as that which makes life worth living."

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