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Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Sanctification of Humanity

The Sanctification of Humanity

En-Godded by Christ In

The Christian Worldview's



of Flannery O'Connor and Percy Walker

as Incarnational Reality





A Critical Review

of

Robert J. Baker's

"That Was A Good Story You Wrote"





By




R. Alan Woods

San Diego: Rhema Rising


Copyright 2007


 




Robert J. Baker in his article “That was a good story you wrote”[1]- written as a critical review in the form of a dialogue- says,

“Being Catholic and writing fictions that were explicitly concerned with matters of... [Christian]... faith made them doubly alien in the South. Despite their status as outsiders, O’Connor and Percy largely initiated a sea change in Southern literature when they chose to depict a South no longer under the spell of the Civil War or the romanticized antebellum period, and O’Connor and Percy continue to be significant presences in Southern and American Literature” (p. 112).

Thus, Baker informs us of his purpose for writing the article and his thesis statement. The three resources that he uses to provide support for his thesis and from which he devises the analytical tools to illustrate his argument logically are articulate and valuable studies that are each different in their emphasis.* Of the different emphases expressed in the three resources utilized by Baker in his article, he says,

“Ralph C. Wood places O’Connor’s work in the social, cultural, and religious milieu of the South in which she wrote to demonstrate that her fiction challenges the beliefs and complacency of her time and ours as well... [in addition]... John F. Desmond presents a careful, meticulous analysis of the tension between solitariness and community in each of Walker Percy’s novels; Desmond makes obvious the Incarnational and Eucharistic nature of the community Percy sought, and he identifies the threats that contemporary culture poses for it..., and [finally]... Farrell O’Gorman explains the historical and intellectual contexts which shaped the faith and imaginations of O’Connor and Percy, and he argues for their continuing legacy among Southern writers” (p. 112).

In further reference to these three resources Baker says,

“In underscoring the great gift O’Connor and Percy left all of us in their intersection of the Catholic... [Charismatic]... Revival... [of the 1950’s]... and the contemporary South, of faith and literature, of prophecy and sacrament, Wood, Desmond, and O’Gorman’s studies remind us of the achievement of these extraordinary writers by stressing the depth of their faith through which they understood their region, writing, and themselves while additionally illustrating that their faith gave O’Connor and Percy a common vision of the world’s ailments and the joyful remedy of its ills” (pp. 120-121).

O’Connor and Percy were writers of short stories, novels, reviews, and essays based upon and sustained by their Christian faith. Their faith caused them to assume the “prophetic voice” in their writing, which warned us of the dehumanizing and alienating effects upon human beings that the encroaching menace of consumerism and scientism that began its expansion exponentially after World War II (p. 112).

Baker’s thinking- informed by his reading and study of O’Connor and Percy’s writing combined with Wood, Desmond, and O’Gorman’s accentuated studies of them- is logical, sound, clear, concise, and qualified. The information he utilizes is accurate and highly significant. He defines what he means when he uses terms, and has interpreted information and those terms fairly.

Further evidence of Baker’s thoroughness in revealing O’Connor and Percy’s worldview and subsequent mind-sets can be found in his discussions of the author’s that influenced their thinking. Baker’s economical use of word’s and laser beam focus on his thesis is evident by the ground he covers- well below the topsoil- within ten pages. Based on a preponderance of evidence, Baker’s presentation is valid.

It is a rare occurrence when one can say unequivocally that one agrees completely with an author’s views. This is one of those rare occurrences and I agree completely with Baker’s views. I have defined what I mean when I use the term “Christian Author”[2]- Mr. Baker does a much better job. My concurrence with Baker, O’Connor, Percy, Wood, Desmond, and O’Gorman’s views has been predicated on and informed by the works of Leanne Payne[3], Robert Banks[4], Saint John of Damascus[5], Agnes Sanford[6], Dorothy L. Sayers[7], and the Apostle Paul[8]- a three to five page limit does not allow me to cite all of these references.

The Triadic Trinitarian theology of Sayers, Incarnational Reality in the Christological theology of Payne, Saint John of Damascus, The Apostle Paul, and Sanford and the Ecclesiastic Communalism of Banks and Paul of Tarsus is readily apparent in the views of Baker and the thinking and writing of O’Connor and Percy.

Thanks to Baker’s success in achieving his purpose and aims in his article one can come to appreciate the tightrope walk that is required to balance the artistic and the didactic aspects of the style, form, and content of Flannery O’Connor and Percy Walker’s work as informed by their understanding of Theology and their Christian life experiences. This enabled both of them to pragmatise in there work that which is hard to perceive and understand as it relates to Lady Wisdom- “... we will define wisdom as the theory of knowledge that equipped individuals in the Old Testament...and [us moderns] to understand themselves and their world... Lady Wisdom is a heavenly creature, residing in proximity to God.”[9]

 

[1] Baker, Robert J. “’That was a good article you wrote’: Flannery O’Connor and Walker Percy”. The Journal of Christianity and Literature (54:1) August 2004.

*Note: Mr. Baker’s works cited for this article are: Wood, Ralph C. Flannery O’Connor and the Christ-Haunted South . Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004; Desmond, John F. Walker Percy’s Search for Community . Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2004; O’Gorman, Farrell. Peculiar Crossroads: Flannery O’Connor, Walker Percy, and Catholic Vision in Postwar Southern Fiction . Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2004.

[2] Woods, Rodney A. The Oracles of Christian Men: the “Christian Author” is a unique and necessary phenomenon of the postmodern church . San Diego: Rhema Rising, 2007. p. 1.

[3] Payne, Leanne. Real Presence: The Christian Worldview of C. S. Lewis as Incarnational Reality. (3 rd edition.) Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1995. Passim.

[4] Banks, Robert J. Paul’s Idea of Community . (2 nd edition.) Boston: Hendrickson Publishers, 1994. Passim.

[5] John, of Damascus, Saint. Three Treatises on the Divine Images . New York: Saint Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2003. Passim.

[6] Sanford, Agnes. Sealed Orders . (1 st edition) Gainesville: Bridge-Logos, 1972. Passim.

[7] Sayers, Dorothy L. The Mind of the Maker . (3 rd edition) Greenwich: Connecticut, 2004. Passim.

[8] Paul, of Tarsus, Apostle. 1 Cor, 2 Cor, Gal, Eph, and Rom . (3 rd edition) New International Version, 1984. Passim.

[9] Dumbrell, William J. The Faith of Israel: A Theological Survey of the Old Testament . Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2002. p. 263, 1p and p. 266, 2p.

 


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