The BBC has an online archive of video interviews conducted with several of the great British novelists of the last century (Iris Murdoch, J. R. R. Tolkien, P. G. Wodehouse, et al.). Here is an interesting bit from the interview with Muriel Spark, discussing her conversion to Catholicism:

Spark: Largely I’m still a Catholic because I can’t believe anything else. I’d often like to, but I can’t.

Host: And you find it a satisfying religion for you?

Spark: No, but I can’t believe anything else. Perhaps the truth isn’t satisfying. It may be that.

Spark was not exactly a saintly role model. It seems that her life parallels Graham Greene in this regard. Both led lives marked especially by “lusts of the flesh,” both experienced profound conversions to the Catholic faith, after which they both wrote their best novels. But the further removed from their conversions, the worse the novels get. Catholicism for both resulted in an introspective deepening and imaginative boost, but the dominance of sin ultimately dampened their genius.

So, what are we to think of Dame Spark’s statement (“Perhaps the truth isn’t satisfying”)? Of course, I heartily agree that the truth condemns our complacency and pet idols, calling us to a radical obedience. Herein we find discomfort. Yet, the truth of the Cross includes the truth of the Resurrection, and this truth is the most satisfying of all truths: life freely given. The Holy Spirit convicts, yes, but he also bears fruit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control. This was said by Saint Paul, who was equally quite aware of the hardships bestowed by the Lord. Once again, we have a dialectic where discomfort and comfort are united in one expression of truth. If you lose the dialectic, you lose the truth. Unfortunately, we live in an age where the comfort side of the dialectic is elevated over-against the discomfort. In this context, Spark’s statement is refreshing.

The Southern Minister

March 2, 2009


Christianity Today has posted a review on a noteworthy new book, Preachers and Misfits, Prophets and Thieves: The Minister in Southern Fiction (WJK, 2008). It looks like an excellent study in theology and culture.