Review by Dr Pravin Thevathasan
Ironies of Faith
The Laughter at the Heart of Christian literature
by Anthony Esolen
In this splendid work, Anthony Esolen uses some of the classics of Western literature to examine
some of the ironies of the Christian Faith, including the irony of time because we believe in eternal life although
we live in time, the irony of power because Almighty God became man and died for us, the irony of love because
God loves us even when we do not know how to love and the irony of childhood because unless we become like children,
we cannot enter the Kingdom of God.
In Browning's "The Ring and the Book" it is the humble Pomphilia whose virtue moves
the Pope. In Shakespeare's "King Lear" only when Gloucester loses his eyes does he begin to see. In "King
Oedipus" by Sophocles,we learn that the lofty will fall precisely because they consider themselves lofty.
The story of David and Bathsheba reveals the workings of a God whose ways are not our ways. The sinner makes much
of his cunning (David) or intellect (Oedipus) only to realize that he has been exposed for what he is. If only
they had the wisdom of a Socrates who knew how ignorant he really was.
In the pagan world,as found in the works of Homer or Virgil, providence is something ambiguous and ultimately meaningless.
All paganism ends in despair and there is nothing redeeming. In contrast, Christians believe in a world made by
God who loves, full of grace and meaning.
In Manzoni's "The Betrothed" it is the weak Lucia who overcomes her seemingly invincible
opposition. She does this by praying for them and by forgiving them. And there looms the figure of the great Cardinal
Frederigo Borromeo whose own weakness is compensated for by the strength of God.
All in all, this work wonderfully opens our eyes to the ironies of faith.
Copyright ©; Dr Pravin Thevathasan 2016
Version: 13th February 2016