This is a challenging and thought provoking novel, not easily understood or dismissed. O'Connor weaves several ideas throughout the work, bringing the...moreThis is a challenging and thought provoking novel, not easily understood or dismissed. O'Connor weaves several ideas throughout the work, bringing them to a conclusion that provides answers, though not easy ones.
Knowing of O'Connor's Catholic convictions, it came as no surprise that this book is chock full of religious themes and imagery. But what I found intriguing is the way that God is found in the work - not by his presence but by his absence. The three types of faith present - atheism, religious fanaticism and Tarwater's rebellious struggle - come together to form a sort of via negativa argument for God. Through their complete absence of true faith, they each wind up pointing to it and showing the great need for it.
As an interesting side note, I finished this novel one day after seeing the obnoxious Iron Man 3, a movie almost completely devoid of intelligence and determined to do whatever it can to force its audience's brains off. Given the timeframe, I couldn't help but contrast the two. Sadly, most stories - films and books alike - these days tend to embrace Iron Man's loud, stupid, pointless aesthetic, while only a precious few share the fierce, contemplative intelligence of O'Connor's novel. As a culture, we are quite poorer for this shift(less)
I read this back to back with Christopher Derrick's similarly titled C.S. Lewis and the Church of Rome. The danger of reading multiple books on the sa...moreI read this back to back with Christopher Derrick's similarly titled C.S. Lewis and the Church of Rome. The danger of reading multiple books on the same subject so close together is that can you can easily feel as though you've just read the same book twice. Despite a certain amount of natural overlap between the two, I'm please to report that this is not the case of Derrick and Pearce's books on this subject. On the contrary, the different takes the two authors use on identical material makes them imminently complementary. Despite their being written twenty years apart with no collaboration by the authors, they feel like two parts of a whole. Neither seems complete without the other.
Derrick's book is fairly critical and combative toward Lewis as it attempts to show fundamental contradictions in his thought on Catholicism and an unwillingness to resolve these inconsistencies. Pearce discusses this as well but his tone is more scholarly. The book follows a mostly chronological progression through Lewis' life giving it greater breadth than Derrick's work. While it too inevitably demonstrates inconsistencies in Lewis' thought, its purpose is primarily to describe rather than comment.
Far from contradicting Derrick's points, this approach strengths them. Pearce gives additional context that only add to the weight of Derrick's critiques. The two books thus become mutually dependent - in a sense - and create a wonderful portrait of Lewis' interactions with Catholicism.
After reading both books I've come to the conclusion that this is a sorely neglected aspect of Lewis' thought and life. In part, this is due to Lewis' own neglect of the question which, given the amount of material suggesting Catholic sympathies, he ought to have answered. Nevertheless, I'd love to see more authors take up this subject. Given that both Pearce and Derrick are Catholics, I think it would be especially interesting to see Anglican and Protestant scholars take on the subject. In lieu of that happening, however, audiences interested in Lewis' take on Catholicism will find themselves amply rewarded by reading both Pearce and Derrick's discussions on the subject. (less)
Chardin's posthumously published masterpiece is a must read for any student of science and or/theology. Being someone primarily on the theological sid...moreChardin's posthumously published masterpiece is a must read for any student of science and or/theology. Being someone primarily on the theological side of those two, there were parts of this book that were more densely scientific than I'm used to reading. Yet, even in the most technical portions of Chardin's argument, the theological implications of his writing came through perfectly clear.
Chardin himself lived deeply in both the theological and scientific worlds as a paleontologist and geologist - he was a co-discoverer of the Peking Man - and Jesuit priest. Reading this book when I did, it was difficult not to think of the recent - and in my view absurd - debate between Ken Ham and Bill Nye. Once again religion and science were presented to the public as two rival systems: a state many of us find endlessly frustrating. Yet Chardin's work points in exactly the opposite direction. Here is a thorough study of human evolution that not only points to religion but ultimately to Christianity itself. For those who have read N.T. Wright's work, think of this book as the scientific backbone for Wright's Kingdom of God theology.
I doubt Chardin's book is well known among more fundamentalist and conservative Christians, but if it was I have no doubt he be branded a heretic - or at least seen as very suspicious - on account of his embracing the dreaded "e word". That's a shame, because this work can actually be seen as a defense for conservative Christianity (provided, that is, that we're using the adjective in a technical sense rather than a cultural one). Its conclusion argues not only for the truth of the Christian message but for its unique place among world belief. As St. Paul says in Romans 1, all creation points to God - a passage frequently quoted by conservative Christians but almost never in the sense Chardin takes it!
I say all this, not to take jabs at the Ken Ham crowd but as an expression of my ongoing hope that the false war between faith and science will end once and for all. My hope would be that people on that side would realize that someone like Chardin, with his use of evolution, is an ally not an enemy. While the fulfillment of that hope seems unlikely, history shows clearly that it is by no means impossible. After all, Chardin was once condemned by the Catholic Magisterium, only to later be embraced by many of Catholicism great thinkers - including John Paul II and Benedict XVI(less)
After several months I have finally finished the City of God. The book is everything everyone claims it is - challenging and brilliant, a seminal work...moreAfter several months I have finally finished the City of God. The book is everything everyone claims it is - challenging and brilliant, a seminal work of Christian theology. This is a must read for any serious student of historical theology(less)
Prior to my conversion to Catholicism, I would have found this book's central question - why did C.S. Lewis never become Catholic - to be entirely per...morePrior to my conversion to Catholicism, I would have found this book's central question - why did C.S. Lewis never become Catholic - to be entirely perplexing if not a bit presumptive. From an Evangelical view of Lewis, he couldn't be farther away from Rome. Even his life as an Anglican seemed to be in contradiction with the otherwise Evangelical thrust of his writing.
In reexamining his writing after my conversion, I find my perspective to be almost entirely the opposite. Yes, Lewis had Evangelical elements to his writing but he also had a plethora of positions that seemed to be more at home in Rome than in his Anglican Communion. Looking at him through Catholic eyes, I find myself puzzled as to why he didn't follow the path laid out by Newman and others when it seems his thinking would have found a welcome and comfortable home had he done so.
It's this question that Christopher Derrick, one of Lewis' former students, sets out to answer. Although the question is ultimately unanswerable, Derrick's efforts are consistently commendable and his findings surprising. In knowing Lewis personally he encountered a man more than eager to debate and argue over nearly any theological questions - any question, that is, except this one. Discussions of the differences between Protestants and Catholics almost universally brought out a rare silence in Lewis and a quick demand that the subject be changed.
Derrick presents Lewis as a figure whose intellect was largely reconciled with Rome but whose emotions still harbored a self-acknowledged prejudice grown in him from childhood. The material presents a fascinating case study of one of the most brilliant thinkers of the 20th century being unwilling to work through one of the major contradictions in his thinking.
Next up for me is Joseph Pearce's book on the same subject. In the meantime, I highly recommend Derrick's treatment of C.S. Lewis and Catholicism. (less)
If you're a Christian or have an interest in Western Christianity, you owe it to yourself to read this book. Half history of 20th century religion in...moreIf you're a Christian or have an interest in Western Christianity, you owe it to yourself to read this book. Half history of 20th century religion in America, half critique of contemporary religious and pseudo-religious movements, Douthat's book is fascinating and engaging from beginning to end. Highly recommended (less)
I read this slowly over the past six months and found it to be a wonderful resource. The book is exactly what it promises on the cover: stories of con...moreI read this slowly over the past six months and found it to be a wonderful resource. The book is exactly what it promises on the cover: stories of converts to Catholicism - mostly evangelicals but several are from wider Protestant backgrounds as well.
While I really got a lot out of the book, I would probably only recommend it to a limited audience. Committed Protestants are unlikely to be swayed as the book is more testimonies than hardcore Catholic apologetics. Likewise, long time Catholics won't find much here they're unfamiliar with.
The book is much more for those of us who fall in between those two camps. Those either curious about conversion, converting or recently converted will find this to be a must read. The book will answer questions for the former group and be a source of empathetic encouragement for those of us in the latter two. (less)
It's rare to read a work of theology that also feels personal and deeply moving. Even though many theological topics are highly relevant to personal l...moreIt's rare to read a work of theology that also feels personal and deeply moving. Even though many theological topics are highly relevant to personal life, the precision and structure required in writing theology usually leaves emotion on the sidelines.
That makes this book all the more incredible. Von Balthasar has managed to write a book of deep emotion that never once compromises its intellectual investigation into the theology of anxiety.
As a theologian who struggles with anxiety this is one of those books that feels like it was written just for me. I loved it and highly recommend it.
*Note for Kindle readers: The Kindle version has numerous typographical errors. These don't make the book unreadable at any point, but they are a frequent distraction and a mar on an otherwise near perfect book. (less)