Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Return of Christian Humanism

Lee Oser, The Return of Christian Humanism: Chesterton, Eliot, Tolkien, and the Romance of History. University of Missouri Press, 2007.

Lee Oser believes that Christian Humanism can provide a rebirth to culture in our day. He observes, "At the heart of twentieth-century letters was the clash between a dogmatically relativist type of modernism and Christian humanism." The author proposes Christian humanism as a middle position between modern day extremes. He looks as three authors as models of this position: G. K. Chesterton, T. S. Eliot, and J.R. R. Tolkien.

Part one of the book covers "Humanism and Culture." Oser notes, "As creative writers of genius, Chesterton, Eliot, and Tolkien are orthodox in this humanistic sense, leaving the reader to unfold their theological and metaphysical implications." He thinks they provide examples on how belief and culture intersect. Oser notes, "The argument of this book is that Christian humanism conserves the radical middle between secularism and theocracy."

Part two discusses the three humanists: Chesterton, Eliot, and Tolkien. There is a chapter for each of them. Oser says that Chesterton "learned to defend his humanistic faith in reason and nature as a faith." Oser notes how Eliot relied "considerably on the light of reason to open his religious perspective," however, he thought faith supplied the answers to our questions and provided the orientations for our lives. Oser speaking of Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings: "If the great myth is a work of subcreation, a fantasy whose connection to reality is indirect, Tolkien asserts his scholarly craft in the framework supporting his myth. This framework is ineffect, a humanistic meditation on the nature of scholarship, and on the uncanny grounds of its health and continuity." The only displeasing part of this section is that it is so short. I definitely agree that Chesterton, Tolkien, and Eliot are excellent models of Christian Humanism. Oser seems to think the arguments for Eliot is the weakest because he spends most of the book defending him.

My favorite part of the book was part four. In this part the author presents his case for the radical middle position. In chapter seven he discusses the relationship between reason and nature. He speaks of the contribution of philosophy and theology to Christian humanism. In the next chapter he discusses literature. He makes an interesting comparison between Christian humanism and nihilism. Kurtz' statement: "The horror, the horror," and the Christian viewpoint that sees goodness at the bottom. The last two chapters cover "canon and literary form," and the "Romance of History."

This book was an enjoyable read. It is more of an argument of a need to return to Christian Humanism. Oser sees as the the best choice between liberalism and fundamentalism.

No comments:

Post a Comment