Ian Hunter

Ian Hunter

Ian Hunter is Professor Emeritus in the Faculty of Law at Western University in London, Ont.

When we lose the great hymns of our past we lose an irrecoverable legacy. Alas as much as we hear “Lord of the Dance” at Mass, such happy-clappy tunes will provide little solace amidst a dark night of the soul.

Now that I am under no professional obligation to read court decisions, I generally avoid them. The turgid prose, the unctuous self-regard and the complacent sense of judicial superiority I find unpleasant and soporific.

Long before today’s clamorous atheists (Christopher Hitchens, God is not Good; Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion; Sam Harris, The End of Faith, etc.) began filling bookshelves and public airwaves, there was one name that was synonymous, at least in England, with public atheism. That name was Antony Flew.

Is it just by coincidence that at the beginning and the end of the Bible there appears a rainbow?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran pastor executed by the Nazis in the dying days of the Second World War, has been recognized (perhaps by Protestant more than Catholic theologians) as one of the leading Christian thinkers of the 20th century. He was that, but he was much more: visionary, prophet, spy and martyr. 

How vividly I can still hear them — as though it were recently — the raucous cries resounding across university campuses in the 1960s and early ’70s: “Hey ho, hey ho, Western civ has got to go.” 

If Canadian author Malcolm Gladwell did not actually coin the term “tipping point” he popularized it in his book of that title. 

In 1975 I was five years into a career teaching law and had written two law books. I had also struck up an improbable friendship with the internationally known British author and journalist Malcolm Muggeridge, who had recently written an unlikely bestseller called Jesus Rediscovered.

When the disciples questioned Jesus about the end of the world (Matthew c. 4), Jesus described signs and portents, and then related what has since become known as the last judgment. The people of Earth are assembled and the King renders a verdict based on each person’s conduct: “I was hungry and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me to drink; I was a stranger and you took me in; naked, and you clothed me; I was sick and you visited me; I was in prison and you came to me.”

Ninety-five years old, in failing health, evangelist Billy Graham has summoned his energies to write what will almost surely be his last book: The Reason for My Hope. As I read it, I was struck by the extent to which Graham’s prose carries out the “new evangelism” to which Pope Benedict XVI insistently called the Catholic Church.

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