- A Tale of Two AdamsInsights for the Integrity of a Catholic University
The Second Vatican Council describes the divided life as "the split between the faith which many profess and their daily lives." This split creates a false opposition between public and private spheres, faith and reason, professional and religious life. The Council explains that this split and divide "deserves to be counted among the more serious errors of our age."1 Alasdair MacIntyre calls this split "compartmentalization," which he argues is an increasing problem in modern life.2
In this article, I will examine the deep religious roots of this divided life, taking a cue from the book The Lonely Man of Faith by the Orthodox Jewish rabbi, Joseph Soloveitchik. The book originated, in part, in a talk to Catholic seminarians.3 Soloveitchik draws upon the two creation stories in the Book of Genesis that ground his insights in a theology of creation that is deeply if not entirely congruent with Catholic theology. I will then offer a critique of our contemporary attempts to solve the divided life syndrome by striving for "balance," rather than by insisting on a deeper integration of the active and contemplative life. In light of these insights on creation, on the divided life, and on the integrity of the active and contemplative life, I will draw some final insights concerning the Catholic university, which like all institutions suffers from its own form of divided life. The [End Page 132] university is a complex institution with many forces and factors influencing its life, and the analysis offered here is limited in scope, not meant to answer every challenge our Catholic universities face. But I think that we will make little headway in dealing with those many challenges unless we address the core concern of this article, namely that we are increasingly living in a world that discounts and suppresses the contemplative life and that elevates the active life alone. This unfortunate development in the wider society has profoundly affected our universities and the people who inhabit them. Josef Pieper has described the divide I am discussing here as the "total work mentality," a way of organizing life that creates proletarians whose inner poverty prevents the very conception of a reality outside the realm of activity and work. This "total work" disease has afflicted Catholic universities. Its presence can be seen in certain telltale symptoms, such as how they increasingly express their fundamental purpose, and how they are steadily distancing themselves from a Catholic understanding of the liberal arts, and the humanities in particular.
Adam One and Adam Two:
The Active and Contemplative Life and Its Alienation
We were created both to work and to rest, both to be active and to be contemplative. These two dimensions of our lives are meant to inform each other as part of a deeper whole rather than exist as two modes of being that balance each other or effectively cancel each other out. To gain a better grasp of this truth, we need to return to our origins, in particular to the Book of Genesis, where we will find the nature of the created order and how it becomes disordered.
Joseph Soloveitchik calls our attention to the fact that in Genesis there are not one, but two creation stories. He calls these two accounts "Adam One" and "Adam Two." For Soloveitchik, the reason we have two creation stories is not simply that there happened to be two alternative traditions kicking around; he suggests rather that each creation story is given to us to highlight an essential dimension [End Page 133] of our humanity.4 What he provides in his presentation of the "Two Adams" is not a complete exegesis of the texts, but a convenient way to perceive certain important truths about human nature. When taken together the two creation stories represent a profound synthesis of who we were created to be. Unfortunately, as we meet with these "two Adams" in life they tend to be alienated from each other, thus frustrating God's intention and disordering creation. Soloveitchik describes the tension between them as the great dilemma for the...