The negative is the criterion of the positive, cont.

In my last post I was vaguely looking around for an answer to why certain books bother me quite a lot whenever I try to think seriously about them, and are also wildly popular. I want to keep being vague, because you’re going to say, or I’m going to say: that’s none of your business! Why are you even writing about that? To which I could only reply: sometimes the negative is the criterion of the positive. The book my father and I were talking about was Wild at Heart by John Eldredge, and, peripherally, Captivating by his wife Stasi. It’s a subject for discussion because people we respect think they’re true and important — some of them in rather hyperbolic terms — and, while it’s tempting to ascribe this to differences in temperament, they’re so popular that it’s unfair to write them off so easily. I thought that the attraction of these books (besides, at least in Captivating, flattery) may lie in how they come right up to one of the central mysteries of humanity: “you are descended from the lord Adam and the lady Eve, which is both honor enough to lift the eyes of the lowest beggar, and shame enough to bow the head of the greatest king,” to paraphrase C S Lewis. However, they’re confused about it, and so fail, at least for me. They’re confused about it, and lose the paradox. They keep enough of it to be wildly successful, however, I suspect because of the two poles of the paradox — glory and wretchedness — we moderns tend to dwell too far on the side of wretchedness; in Nietzsche’s “slave morality;” but he didn’t believe in the paradox. He said we should go and make our own glory — all there was to be had. But the mystery of humility is that “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble,” and grace is much more glorious than we may imagine — immaterial radiance, uncreated energy of divinity.

How, though, might this be helpful, positive? More later.


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