The Nightmare Goodness of God
The Making of the Christian Imagination
Imprint: Baylor University Press
358 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in
- Published: September 2011
The literary giant G. K. Chesterton is often praised as the "Great Optimist"—God's rotund jester. In this fresh and daring endeavor, Ralph Wood turns a critical eye on Chesterton's corpus to reveal the beef-and-ale believer's darker vision of the world and those who live in it. During an age when the words grace, love, and g ospel, sound more hackneyed than genuine, Wood argues for a recovery of Chesterton's primary contentions: First, that the incarnation of Jesus was necessary reveals a world full not of a righteous creation but of tragedy, terror, and nightmare, and second, that the problem of evil is only compounded by a Christianity that seeks progress, political control, and cultural triumph.
Wood's sharp literary critique moves beyond formulaic or overly pious readings to show that, rather than fleeing from the ghoulish horrors of his time, Chesterton located God's mysterious goodness within the existence of evil. Chesterton seeks to reclaim the keen theological voice of this literary authority who wrestled often with the counterclaims of paganism. In doing so, it argues that Christians may have more to learn from the unbelieving world than is often supposed.
1. Man as Holy Monster: Christian Humanism, Evolution, and Orthodoxy
2. Patriotism and the True Patria: Distributism, Hymns, and Christendom in Dublin
3. Militarism and the Church Militant: Lepanto, Defense of World War I, and "The Truce of Christmas"
4. The Waning of the West and the Threat of Islam: The New Jerusalem and The Flying Inn
5. Tyrannical Tolerance and Ferocious Hospitality: The Ball and the Cross
6. The Bane and Blessing of Civilization: Torture, Democracy, and The Ballad of the White Horse
7. The Nightmare Mystery of Divine Action: The Man Who Was Thursday
Wood's critical retrieval of Chesterton's work demonstrates very clearly how worthwhile it remains to engage with Chesterton's most essential and provocative ideas.~Fergus Kerr, Honorary Professor of Modern Catholic Theology at the University of St Andrews
Who better to make sense of G. K. Chesterton's quarrel with secular humanism? Wood brilliantly helps us navigate the trail Chesterton blazed through our modern Inferno.~Daniel McInerny, Associate Professor of Philosophy in the Honors College, Baylor University
Ralph Wood had given us an outstanding contribution to Chesterton scholarship, revealing both the depth of the author's intellect and the breadth of his imagination.~Dale Ahlquist, President, American Chesterton Society
The finest study of Chesterton in many years. It is precisely because Wood has not turned a blind eye to Chesterton's faults that he has succeeded so powerfully in demonstrating Chesterton's genius and continued importance for us today.~David Bentley Hart, author of Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies
Wood has triumphed once again. He shows how great Christian art is often paradoxically dark when conveying the light and he is a superb guide through the gloomy and yet glimmering wonderland of Chesterton's work.~Joseph Pearce, Associate Professor of Literature, Ave Maria University and author of Wisdom of Innocence: A Life of G. K. Chesterton
Wood does an excellent job excavating those moments in Chesterton where his Kipling-like jingoism gives way to a more chastened Christian vision that eschews triumphalism, exposes the dangers of a will-to-power mentality, and advocates the extending of hospitality even (and especially) to one's enemies.~Louis Markos, Reformation 21 blog