Who am I? Am I an autonomous being, able to define myself by my own free choices, or a created being with a given human nature, living in a world which, in significant respects, does not depend on me? Are these two views necessarily opposed? Wrestling With the Angel is one man’s attempt to answer those questions. Raised as a Protestant, the author lost his faith in his teenage years, and then gradually regained it – but in an unexpected form. This is the story of a spiritual and intellectual journey from Protestantism to atheism, and beyond: a journey which finally, and much to the author’s surprise, reached its terminus in the Catholic Church.
World rights excluding UK print.
The author’s account of his conversion to Roman Catholicism is offered in some thoroughness. Hard-won belief is presented as an act of rationality, and as an attitude not only of trust but of eschatological hope. Jon Elsby shows, using his own as a case study, that what gives rise to that trust and hope is the result of logical steps. It is simply not possible to make sense of ‘the good’ as purely subjective, and of ‘values’ as belonging to purely private judgement. He points out that the human mind is more than capable, when it suits its purposes, of simultaneously holding to two or more contradictory opinions, the will stubbornly refusing to assent to what the intellect understands to be the case. How, he asks, can we cleave to the view that the existence of the universe is accidental, yet insist that human life has intrinsic value, or that anything matters? To countenance these contradictions is to compartmentalise the mind, where one facet holds to the truth, another to values, and so on. For the believer truth and goodness are intimately bound, whereas a system of beliefs that requires its adherents to separate views about truth and value is irrational. Altogether, a thought-provoking look at what it is to believe in the truth of Christianity. Jack d’Argus