The latest issue of the online quarterly religious journal Credo Magazine is devoted to the theme The Truth Inside the Lie: Theology through Fiction. Several novels are discussed in some detail. One of these is Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited which is surveyed by Timothy Larsen, Professor of Christian Thought at Wheaton College in Illinois. His article is entitled “Hound of Heaven”.
Larsen gets one’s attention with this opening paragraph:
Admittedly as a kind of provocation […], I have been known to declare while teaching a class that Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited (1945) is the greatest Christian novel ever written. One would never make such an unmeasured claim in print, of course. The most prudent qualifier would be “that I have read” or “that I know of.” The second would be “with the obvious exception of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov.” Furthermore, if writing for publication, my assertion would be leavened with at least one specimen of what are pejoratively known as “weasel words” – qualifiers such as “probably”, “possibly”, “perhaps”, or “arguably”.
After describing the book he explains how he, as a low church Protestant, came to read and interpret it. He also addresses the negative attitude toward the expressions of religious belief in the book, especially focussing on those of British literary critic and novelist A N Wilson. He then concludes with this:
…I was not as surprised as many others when in 2009 A. N. Wilson himself publicly announced his conversion to the Christian faith. I wrote about Wilson’s newfound faith in an article published in the Wall Street Journal which was titled, “Look Who’s a Believer Now.” It ended: “As is the case with Mr. Wilson, intellectuals often pursue long, drawn-out love affairs with Christian thought. Next time you hear someone fume that God is the most contemptible being who never existed, keep in mind that you just might be watching the first act of a divine romantic comedy.” When it comes to fiction, Brideshead Revisited is a powerful and delightful example of this overlooked genre of the divine romantic comedy.
Other literary works considered in the current magazine include Paradise Lost, Moby Dick, Go Tell It on the Mountain (James Baldwin) and Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” and Hard Times.