Poetry and Beauty as Apologetics

I have already listed Peter Hitchens’ book, The Rage Against God, as one of the best books I read last year. I had meant to comment much more on the books contents which are rich on a variety of topics and levels.

One point made often in the book is the power of poetry and beauty, particularly their apologetic power. People wanted to see him lock intellectual horns with his outspoken, atheistic (and now recently deceased) brother Christopher. However, Peter eschewed bare academic argument. Rather he stated:

“It is my belief that passions as strong as his [Christopher Hitchens’] are more likely to be countered by the unexpected force of poetry, which can ambush the human heart at any time.” (12)

This was true in his own conversion as he related how a medieval painting gripped him and then how the beauty of the Anglican worship services he had grown up with began to draw him back. He told how after years of avoiding church he found himself slipping into several services of Christmas music. He also stated:

“…I can certainly recall the way the words of the Church of England’s marriage service awakened thoughts in me that I had long suppressed.” (105)

As a result he has worked in his own denomination to preserve beauty and grandeur in their worship, referring to this as his “small, private battle for poetry and beauty” (112).

In an era which has largely lost its appreciation of the poetic, being far more interested in the common and the comfortable than the grand and the challenging, we would do well to ponder this.

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