This morning I finished Peter Leithart’s illuminating work Deep Comedy. I say “illuminating” because never before have I seen Solomon, Derrida, Homer, Shakespeare, & Jesus compared & contrasted in such a way as Liethart does in this book! A wonderful amalgamation of philosophy, poetry, literature, & theology, Deep Comedy explains just why all of these categories ultimate play off one another.
As I slowly work through James K.A. Smith’s work Desiring the Kingdom I notice him coming back to a familiar theme: Literature, poetry, art, etc. can do a better job getting at the heart of certain truths than theology, philosophy, science, etc. Smith doesn’t write this in order to disregard the didactic transfer of knowledge. To the contrary that’s what his entire book is (as he readily admits). Rather, Smith points out the fact that a theological treatise on courage doesn’t go nearly as far getting at what courage actually is than say J.R.R. Tolkien does when he writes about Gandalf standing down a balrog in Moria in The Fellowship of the Ring.
As I’ve already mentioned, one of the books I am currently working through is Peter Leithart’s book, Against Christianity. It truly is an intriguing read. Leithart’s critical eye to the current variation of Biblical faith we deem “Christianity” is one that is unfortunately very rare in our day. It should come as no surprise that Leithart offers many examples of where our society and the Church have turned from the path of Biblical instruction and instead accepted a more modern and liberal approach to things.
As heirs of modernity, we have a tendency to believe that tragedy is more “serious” than comedy. When I use the terms “tragedy” and “comedy” I’m using them in the literary sense. Tragedy is a work of literature in which community is broken in the end. Comedy is a work of literature in which community is restored in the end. Modern thought tends to believe that the world is random; we are all at the bay of impersonal forces moving us inexorably toward a black void we call “death”. Because of this belief we often believe that tragic literature and art is closer to reality than comedy. In a recent interview with Touchstone Magazine about his work on Shakespeare, Peter Leithart addresses this unfortunate misapprehension:
The other day I watched an interview of James K.A. Smith by Erdmans Publishing that I have embedded below. It’s about 25 minutes long and can get a little dense at times but overall I enjoyed the interview and think you might too if you have the time. The content of the interview was on Smith’s newest book How (not) to be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor. The interview covered a lot of ground in discussing the nature of belief in a modern & post-modern world. Throughout the interview Smith offered some wonderful insights. One thing in particular that I thought was really intriguing was the part of the interview where the topic of excarnation was discussed.