Tying up loose ends after fifty years
An “about me” page is supposed to let its readers know what its author can do for them. I understand. A string of autobiographical tidbits from me should bore you to tears. But I have no idea (yet) how what I write here might benefit you, now or later.
You’re here. You’ll return only if you’re curious about what a Bronx-born, Jesuit-educated baby boomer learned from having been Herbert Aptheker‘s research assistant and comrade–while attending an ROTC high school in Manhattan during the Vietnam War!–one of Sidney Hook‘s last students at New York University, and Murray Rothbard‘s acolyte and friend. Nearly fifty years after walking into Aptheker’s lecture hall I settled accounts with my erstwhile political conscience with the publication of Herbert Aptheker: Studies in Willful Blindness.
You are indeed an odd duck if my winding path through philosophy and politics piques your curiosity, but here goes. The first step was Bertrand Russell’s Why I Am Not a Christian; shortly thereafter were Maurice Cornforth’s books on dialectical and historical materialism.
When after six years I broke with Stalinism, I gave myself permission to enjoy Brand Blanshard, who showed how elegantly one can express a philosophical idea; Lonergan, who asked us to reflect on what we are doing when we are knowing and ended his magnum opus with an elaborate theistic proof; and, much later, Alfred North Whitehead who, when I was agonizing over the problem of evil, offered what I now regard as a pseudo-solution to it.
I left all that by the side of the road a few years ago after finally “getting” the Bible-inspired critique of non-Christian philosophical practice by Cornelius Van Til (1895-1987), especially as Greg L. Bahnsen (1948-1995) interpreted it. I began investigating their ideas in the late ’80s, which now provide the philosophical background for the Biblical theology I took up in 1978 after dropping Marxism. The occasion for my doing so was the preaching of Gabriel Monheim (1936-2015) on the northwest corner of Wall Street and Broad. (I was then working in the mail room of Sargent Shriver’s law firm a block away at 120 Broadway.)
Gabe introduced me to the writings of Otis Q. Sellers (1901-1992) and then to the man himself during one of his New York conferences. Being associated with Sellers’s “ultra-dispensationalist” system is not the best way to make friends and influence people, but it has stayed with me for four decades. For most of that time, however, I suppressed my awareness of it in a bid to be known as a more “respectable” mainstream Christian. But the inexorable prodding of conscience liberated Sellers’s insights from the vault into which I had ignobly interred it. With the cooperation of his descendants I’m working on a book about his life and thought.
There are other people, places, and ideas not mentioned in the above sketch that have made an impression on me. I hope to treat them on this platform.