Prelest in Religious Literature

Discussion in 'Non-Anglican Discussion' started by Religious Fanatic, Oct 2, 2019.

  1. Religious Fanatic

    Religious Fanatic Well-Known Member

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    Liturgyworks, I know we've talked about the concept of Prelest in Orthodoxy. I always found the subject to be interesting when I first learned about it. Would you consider there to be prelest in religious literature? Some examples struck me.

    The Knox Bible, by Ronald Knox. I was fortunate enough to pick up a free copy of The Knox Bible (long out of print until recently) at a book shop's liquidation. I was impressed and it's actually what led me to start researching different bible versions. The prose was magnificent enough to rival the King James. However, upon meditation, it dawned on me that something wasn't right. The verses seemed to radiate an air of pompousness in spite of all its eloquence. It occurred to me then that Knox used sacred scripture as a platform to magnify himself. While I think it's not wrong for a person to use their gifts to help promote the kingdom, I have no doubt in my mind that this, and possibly Tolkien's rendering of Jonah in the Jerusalem Bible, were used to flaunt their 'literary genius'.
    Doing a search online, I found that I was not alone in my concern:

    The thing about the Anglican King James bible is that it took the best qualities of the Protestant Geneva, the Roman Douay, and put the icing on the cake. It took out the biased footnotes, only cross referencing passages in the bible that are referenced by other books of the bible, while still honoring catholic tradition overall. It had the best aesthetic traits, but kept a sense of fidelity. Some of the renderings of the Proverbs by Knox made me laugh because they were so pretentious, and I am not surprised it was out of print for long song after being published.

    Since I mentioned Tolkien, you could say that the Christian foundations of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings is more cloudy and obscured than in Narnia. This fits in with a Romanist scholastic character. Lewis, on the other hand, wanted to make the message of Narnia clear from the beginning. Lord of the Rings is only conservative enough that it doesn't offend religious readers, but satisfies secular readers enough so that in my experience, even if they know of the Christian basis for it, they will never find it as offensive as what is being communicated in Narnia. At most, it is just a good fairly moral fantasy story. To be more like the scriptures is not to be like Tolkien or even (if we speak of apologetics) G.K. Chesterton, but simple and clear and yet profound like Aesop's Fables, and Lewis came closer to this, even though he was criticized for it by literary elite. They have a computer system called a fog index which analyzes complexity of interpreting texts, and found the bible is relatively low compared to most literary works. This makes it easier to translate into other languages without losing too much meaning.

    I think I agree with the author of this article regarding Lord of the Rings:

    Some other religious authors of note:

    Charles Perrault, French father of the fairy tale genre. He wrote a collection of Catholic poetry that was panned by his critics and is largely forgotten, but his fairy tales are what is remembered. However, upon closer inspection his fairy tales contain worldly themes and are not often in accord with scripture, even if taken with a symbolic application. Maybe it's because he was not using his gifts enough with God in mind:
    -Riquet of the Tuft is one of the worst offenders and is rightfully the least popular story in the collection. Two sisters compete for the love of one man, one ugly but smart and kind, and the other beautiful but stupid. The latter gets his favor when an enchantment gives her intelligence, and that is based mainly on her good looks, whereas the one who was ugly but smart and kind is shunned purely for aesthetic faults.
    -Puss in Boots has the Cat doing dishonest acts like stealing and lying to get what he wants.
    -Most of the other stories emphasize aesthetics and wealth more than they should.

    The problem goes back even to King Arthur, who is considered a prime example of pagan/Christian syncretism in literature. While I do feel the post-evangelized Arthur is a more admirable hero than the raunchy protagonists of Greek literature, the main problem is mostly how the character of Merlin is reconciled within the story's supposedly Christian worldview. The same is often said of Gandalf in Lord of the Rings.

    Robin Hood. Involves a friar and some other religious characters, but is inconsistent with Anglican doctrine in several articles. One of them involving obeying civil magistrates who are legitimately elected even if it requires putting up with their bad behavior unto martyrdom. That, and 'stealing from the rich to give to the poor'. Christians are never to steal from those who legitimately earned their assets, even if they are cold, unless it's in self-defense.

    The Decameron by Giovanni Boccacio. On one hand, it is bawdy enough to raise an eyebrow even today, but also clever and upfront enough to be an expositor of church corruption in his day and age. Debatable whether or not a good example of religiously-themed fiction. Boccacio is said to have resented writing it at one point.

    JK Rowling (Harry Potter series) should not even be considered a Christian writer. She goes further than Madeleine L'Engle, who was a new age universalist syncretist, influenced herself by the heretic George MacDonald (another liberal giant of "Christian" fiction). She announced that Dumbledore the wizard was gay, even though it is not mentioned in the books. She did not claim the man was celibate out of moral conviction. I knew for one minute that she should not be trusted to even dare to say such a thing. since that would kill her following and audience. That is asking too much from her. Her views are precisely post-modern, liberal "Christianity", regardless of how one reconciles the witchcraft depicted in the series.
  2. Liturgyworks

    Liturgyworks Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Christian Orthodoxy
    Prelest is a specific state of spiritual delusion, and the examples you cite are rather potential moral defects on the part of the authors of works. Which can lead to prelest, but prelest is more dangerous.

    For example, assuming his experiences were genuine, Mohammed would be an example of someone in Prelest.

    Or St. Nikon of the Kiev Lavra, who was visited by a demon posing as an angel who advised him that he did not need to pray, because he was so holy the angels were praying for him, and that his understanding of the New Testament was complete and he should read the Old Testsment exclusively. When his brethren found out, through prayer they were able to disabuse him and free him from this delusion, which is classic prelest.

    And then there were monastics told they could fly by demons posing as angels, who believed them, and jumped; we know this was not mere suicide in part because on more than one occasion a monastic, usually a hermit or an idiorythmic (semi-hermetic monk) living with other semi-hermits in what is commonly called a Skete, from Scetis in Egypt, was rescued by fellow monks or hermits before going over the precupice.