The Tides of the Ocean, the Cycles of Faith | Chilton Williamson, Jr. | CWR
Are we at the end? Has Christianity runs its course? Or is this another beginning for those willing to embrace it?
In The Unquiet Grave Cyril Connelly, the 20th century Anglo-Irish critic, writer, and editor, having acknowledged the existence of the thousands of people like him (“…Liberals without a belief in progress, Democrats who despise their fellow-men, Pagans who still live by Christian morals, Intellectuals who cannot find the intellect sufficient—unsatisfied Materialists…”), concludes nonetheless that “there can be no going back to Christianity, nor can I inhabit an edifice of truth which seems built upon a base of falsehood.”
Connelly’s conclusion is poignant and tragic. How many kings and prophets, Christ remarks to His disciples, have longed to see and hear the truth as you have seen and heard it, without ever doing so. And how many wise men and philosophers of the ancient world struggled heroically, and with equal poignancy, through no fault of the virtue and of the intellect that were in them but rather by temporal accident of birth, to make sense of a world without possessing the Key which alone could allow them to do so.
One is struck, reading Clive Fisher’s excellent biography of Connelly, by the pagan character of English literary society (reflecting English society as a whole) in the first half of the twentieth century (Yeats, Orwell, Woolf, Huxley, Greene), relieved by a small though distinguished minority of literary Christians (Chesterton, Belloc, Eliot, Waugh). Despite two cataclysmic wars that nearly destroyed Europe in the short run, and may well have been fatal to European civilization in the long one—wars that represented, as Waugh memorably said of the second World War, the modern scientific-materialist world in arms—for most Western writers and artists of the period the Faith, core and lodestone of the western intellect and sensibility for centuries, seemed to have exhausted itself through its belligerence, its persecutions, cupidity, reaction, and hypocrisy. To them, Christianity was an integral organ of the same bourgeois materialist-scientific world whose center, after two millennia, could no longer hold and was visibly collapsing all around them.
In with the Old, out with the New—even if nobody, Cyril Connelly included, had the vaguest notion of what the New might be.
From the Christian perspective, the situation has not improved since Connelly’s time (born in 1903, he died in 1974). Instead it has deteriorated still further.