Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Soteriology According to Walker Percy Part 1

Andrew Smith, "Soteriology Accoring to Walker Percy." Encounter 62.3 (2001): 251-267.

Percy questioned on "how salvation works" responded: "I don't know. Trying to describe how a person receives God's unmerited grace gives me writer's block" (251). Percy was probably speaking truthfully when he gave this answer; however, according to Smith, "that does not mean that he thought little about the issue of salvation and how it could be communicated to others" (251). One might possibly say that all of Percy's writings are about salvation. Smith thinks that "salvation is a major theme running through almost all of Percy's writings" (251). I believe Smith is correct in stating the importance of salvation as a major theme in all of Percy's writings. For example, there are atleast two themes in Percy's writings: the pointing out that something is wrong and hints or clues to an answer.Smith notes, "Granted, this theme exits implicitly at best and is rarely approached in direct fashion, but it is there" (251). This leads us to ask the following question: Is salvation a major theme running through almost all of Percy's writings? The purpose of Smith's paper is to place Percy in his context and to look at three of his works, Lost in the Cosmos, The Moviegoer, and The Second Coming and to see if salvation is a major theme in these works. Smith's method is to ask three questions of these texts: "(1) From what is the person being saved? (2) By what or whom is the person being saved? (3) To what is the person being saved?" (258).

Smith begins the paper by looking at the personal context of Person. He provides biographical information on Percy and the major individuals who influenced him. Smith thinks it is important to know the biographical information of Percy to understand his works. The reason for this, according to Smith, is "Percy's life shows up again and again in his works, and the one who has some understanding of the man him-self will more accurately interpret the intentions found in his writings" (252). I have found this to be true. For example, I have recently read Tolson's Pilgrim in the Ruins. It did make sense of Percy's writings, but, I knew most of what was said in it without reading a full biography on Percy. I am glad to say I read all the works of Percy before reading biographical or criticism of his work. I think one can take this too far that we need biographical information on Percy to understand his works. I think the works can be understood without the biographical information and the works are not autobiography.

Smith emphasizes the biographical information about Percy's salvation. He states that "one of the driving forces behind hs [Percy] conversion and subsequent development of Christian thought was the writings of Soren Kierkegaard" (252). This has been many reviewers of Percy's work and even acknowledged by Percy himself. It seems that Percy's influences came in stages. Kierkegaard seemed to be more primary in the beginning, Charles Pierce and Marcel more primary in the later stages. Kierkegaard still was an influence in these later stages. To show this influence Smith summarizes some of Kierkegaard's "main ideas" and statements made by Percy concerning his work.

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