Wednesday, March 06, 2013

The Joy of Reading Great Books, Part III

Years ago, I came across this meaty article. I tried to relocate it (the former link is now broken), finally found it, and reposted it here divided into five parts due to its length

Enjoy and tell me your favorite quotes!

Part 1 is here.
Part 2 is here.

The Joy of Reading Great Books
by Kathleen Nielson

The Best Books Reflect a Redemptive Worldview

However, that second doctrinal truth pushes us on to the next, the doctrine of redemption, the beautiful heart of the gospel whose rhythm sounds in any great literary work, even if ever so faintly. I’m not talking about a happy ending, but about a sense of the restoration of something lost, even if that sense is only a haunting one—as in the fiction of Flannery O’Connor, whose central characters are tormented by their need for redemption and by the one Redeemer whom they often deny or don’t even know.
Centuries before Christ, writing in a pagan culture, a writer as distant as Homer offers an amazing example of a redemptive worldview. The Odyssey is far from a Christian work, but it communicates that universally understood sense of redemption, even restoration, pictured through the epic tale of a man trying to get home. Homer’s story somehow echoes or reflects the one, big, true story of the universe: a story of redeeming (at great price) what was lost. The sense of home and of hope, of course, stretches the doctrine of redemption to its ultimate end, reaching out to the final restoration and glorification of heaven, that home for which every human being longs, knowingly or not. There is a kind of homesickness with which every person instinctively resonates, because of the truths of creation and fall and redemption which are at the heart of the universe God created and over which He reigns.

If it is indeed true that these biblical doctrines tell the true big story of the universe, then every little story of every kind must relate to it. If not—if there is no such intrinsic relation between the fundamental doctrines of the faith and the literature we read—then that literature may be accurately deemed irrelevant, evil, or simply useful as a mouthpiece for propagandizing the Christian message. None of these perspectives is dead these days. I recently spoke with a young lady who stopped dating a man who refused to read fiction because it took away from his Bible reading. And of course we have only to visit some of the more popular Christian bookstores to find the kinds of novels or poetry written simply to propagate the most simplistic or sentimentalized versions of Christian truth.

Part 4 tomorrow.  

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