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

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  300 ratings  ·  80 reviews
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 groundwo ...more
Hardcover, 280 pages
Published August 2nd 2018 by Oxford University Press, USA
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Greg Watson
Apr 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed listening to this in the car. Jacobs provides a good overview of the Western intellectual response to events surrounding World War II and its aftermath. He places the work of C.S. Lewis, W.H. Auden, Simone Weil, T.S. Eliot, Jacques Maritain, Jacques Ellul, and others in their wartime context.

These thinkers struggled with how to challenge Nazism on broadly Christian grounds. They also realized that the West was susceptible to pragmatism and technocracy.

A key point in the book comes as
Sep 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Feb 05, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: books-owned
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
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. ...more
Feb 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Dan Glover
Apr 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
John Majors
Feb 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: c-s-lewis
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 ...more
Adam Shields
Sep 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Samuel James
Oct 17, 2018 rated it liked it
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 ...more
Michael Waugh
Mar 20, 2020 rated it liked it
In a way, my three stars here are dramatically unfair; I've given lesser books four stars. But at the same time, it was hard to read (this could be on me). Jacobs transitions so frequently between quotes and his own thoughts that the text is sometimes hard to follow. I also thought he could have done more to unify his central point at the end: democratic societies need a highly personal, Christian humanism to be self-sustaining. Though this might have been a secondary point to his summary of the ...more
Jan 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
The American Conservative
Though the term is rarely employed in our time, “Christian humanism” is one of the noblest movements of the last century. It’s a concept much older than the 20th century, of course, dating back to St. Paul’s visit to Mars Hill in Athens. There, Paul had challenged the Greek Stoics to discover and embrace their “unknown god.” A few decades later, St. John the Beloved sanctified the 600-year-old Heraclitean concept, logos (meaning fire, imagination, word), at the beginning of his Christian gospel. ...more
Justin Lonas
Nov 28, 2019 rated it liked it
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).
Tim Casteel
Feb 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
"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
Tim McIntosh
Feb 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
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
Nick Spencer
Jan 04, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018
nice idea but doesn't quite cohere
Jun 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
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.

Derrick Jeter
Jul 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
"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 ...more
Gavin McGrath
Mar 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
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
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 ...more
Paul Womack
Jun 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Joel Zartman
Jun 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book is engaging. What could be more interesting than a book about Auden, Eliot, Lewis, Weil and Maritain? It goes quickly, and it keeps one's attention. Many valuable observations and much helpful synthesizing and explanation.

With Alan Jacobs there's always the problem of drawing conclusions. He says of T.S. Eliot: "It seems, rather, the cry of a man who has traded his egalitarian American birthright for a class-based British traditionalism that now seems to be dissolving just at the momen
Anthony Rodriguez
Sep 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
First of all: Always read Alan Jacobs. On the book at hand: It was hard going in patches. But the book demonstrates the genuinely incredible breadth of learning that Jacobs has. The themes he saw to unite these five thinkers leaves one wondering how no one wrote this book before. But that really just illustrates Jacobs’ brilliance. This book left me with a lump in my throat and a bit of a pit in my stomach. But it also left a hope for my kids and my students. How do I help to address what these ...more
Jul 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Very fine writing, and astute analysis. This seems to be incredibly important date in an important era. I didn’t always know the details of the author was using to build his argument, but I was enthralled by his weaving together so many wonderful authors and poets to discuss important question: how do you rebuild after everything has come down?

This question of “zero hour“ is important for each generation and every epoch. It seems from so many of the primary sources used, one key ingredient to re
This was really very interesting and I learned quite a bit. It also inspired me to read Simone Weil and Jacques Maritain for the first time. Maybe Auden and Ellul too. And certainly more TS Eliot and CS Lewis! I have to admit, ruminating on these topics sort of makes me regret having spent 4 years studying engineering instead of classical liberal arts.

Here’s a more legitimate and informative review:
Very good. 4 stars until the afterword, in which Jacobs brings together and puts into perspective the experiences and thoughts of the five writers followed through the book, wallops you, and sends you off with a lot of food for thought. Going to be mulling this a while.
Clayton Keenon
Jan 08, 2020 rated it liked it
The biggest drawback of this book was the way Jacobs bounced around from thinker to thinker, rather than tracing one person’s thought at a time. Other than C.S. Lewis, I only have a general familiarity with most of the thinkers Jacobs was discussing. Some I knew almost nothing about. That was part of why I wanted to read the book. So it was disappointing that I had a hard time keeping track as he switched between them. For others who know more about these authors, Jacobs’ structure may not be a ...more
John Funnell
Dec 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An incredibly important work that will greatly assist us as history continues to repeat itself across Europe.

Jan 20, 2020 marked it as did-not-finish
This book had potential, but there was no structure and I couldn’t stick with it. Also, I didn’t have a strong interest in these philosophers’ opinions.
Nov 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is one of those tour de force books that comes along every now and then and which almost leaves you gasping for breath. It takes a scholar like Alan Jacobs to draw from a deep reservoir of knowledge and scholarship to spot parallels can, convergence and contrast in unlikely places. The situation in focus here was the significant number of Christian thinkers who, independently and from quite different starting points, reached similar conclusions about a postwar Europe (and indeed world).

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I grew up in Alabama, attended the University of Alabama, then got my PhD at the University of Virginia. Since 1984 I have been teaching at Wheaton College in Illinois. My dear wife Teri and I have been married for thirty years. Our son Wes begins college this fall, and to our shock, decided to go to Wheaton. I think he will avoid Dad, though.

My work is hard to describe, at least for me, because i

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