Sunday, April 25, 2010

Robert Farrar Capon Is a Genius

I'm reading Kingdom, Grace, Judgment, a study of the parables of Jesus by Robert Farrar Capon, and I am thoroughly enjoying myself. I've only read one other book by Capon, and I thoroughly enjoyed it too. He writes the way I want to write--he's one of a handful of writers, in fact, who I've most consciously emulated in my own writing. These are serious-minded folks who nevertheless are not afraid to have fun with their subject matter, to tease and turn over concepts and ideas in ways many people think are either beneath themselves or scandalous to the subject. That's mainly because each of them, these writers of record, focus on the Bible and the Christian faith. I'd include in this crew Capon, G. K. Chesterton, Peter Rollins and Brian Mahan; I'm sure there are others (including, I hope, some women), but these are the guys I take particular delight in reading and rereading.

The main reason I enjoy them so much is their steadfast commitment to play, which they hold as devoutly as some hold dourness and sobriety. If you've read The Poisonwood Bible, you might recall the priest who stumbled upon the missionary family, whose delightfulness and big-heartedness immediately indicted the colonializing sufferability of the missionary father and the pathetic seriousness of his family of girls. Such playfulness is thoroughly defensible; it's only rejected by others because they don't trust joy--which is unfortunate, since joy is one of the fruits of the Spirit. Here's Capon defending the practice of playing with Scripture, of all things:

My commitment to Scripture as the inspired Word of God--as a sacred deck of cards, not one of which may be discarded and not one of whose spots may be altered or ignored--in now way inhibits me from playing with Scripture. . . .

We may be the oikodespotai of the treasure of God, but we were meant first of all to spend huge amounts of time in the attic just poring over it and trying all of it on for size. And were were meant, above all, to invite the world up into the attic to play dress-up with us. We are supposed to be kids, you see: "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and prudent, and revealed them to babes." You can't get more encouragement than that for holy horsing around.


For the record, there's about thirty pages between that deck of cards and that attic of treasures. So don't blame Capon for the mixed metaphor; blame me. In the meantime, consider the possibility that the news from God broadcast by Christianity is meant to be good; consider that the life of faith is meant to be full of joy. Then go and do likewise.

2 comments:

Rick said...

His BETWEEN NOON AND THREE totally ruined Grace for me, and I've continued to pick up his works over the years. Good call.

Drew Blankman said...

Big thumb-up for Father Capon. I'm presently rereading his Third Peacock, and enjoying it again.