The Counsel of Trent

writing is thinking

Thursday, January 11, 2007

"Christian Literature"

A few days ago a friend who's a lit teacher emailed me and asked me for my definition of "Christian Literature" (I taught World Lit for a a few years before going to grad school).

When I answered simply "Redundant!" she replied "Oh, that's helpful!"

Here's my reply:

I'm serious, I wasn’t kidding at all. The fundamental principle of Thomistic philosophy is that "All truth is God's Truth". And one of the fundamental doctrines of Thomistic philosophy is called the Transcendental Unity of Being which says that Truth, Goodness, and Beauty are all one with Being and just grasped by different aspects of humans. Truth is being as it perfects the Intellect, Goodness is being as it perfects the Will, and Beauty is being as it perfects the Emotions. Further, Saint Thomas says that the twin purposes of literature are to delight and instruct. Instruction pertains to Truth (including truth about what is Good) and delight to Beauty. So because literature of its essence pertains to Truth, Goodness, and Beauty and these are simply guises of being and God is YHWH, literature essentially pertains to the divine essence. Thus, "Christian Literature" is redundant.


At Thursday, January 11, 2007 11:19:00 PM, Anonymous Tim said...


How does what you say map on to really lame literature with no value. I'm thinking something like "120 days of Sodom"? I've read a bit of that work, and find no redeeming qualities in it. In fact, some works of art that lack redeeming qualities have the nice perk of having a redeeming quality insofar as they lack a redeeming quality. Like being such a bad movie that it is a good movie. "120 days of Sodom" doesn't even have that quality.

So, in short, what of literature devoid of truth, beauty, or goodness?


At Thursday, January 11, 2007 11:39:00 PM, Blogger Trent_Dougherty said...

I'm inclined to say that to that extent it doesn't count as literature. It's a cheap imitation thereof.

At Friday, January 12, 2007 10:07:00 AM, Anonymous tim said...

Maybe your teacher friend wanted a definition of something like (overtly) Christian literature, or maybe something like literature formed by positive involvement with Christians or their doctrine.

At Saturday, January 13, 2007 8:35:00 AM, Blogger Trent_Dougherty said...

Maybe, but I think she got something better. :-)~


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