Tragedy & Transcendence
Patrick Henry Reardon on Futility & the Open Door to Deliverance
Although no period of history ever provided as much raw tragedy as the past hundred years, relatively few works have translated that experience into adequate literature and drama. When we consider the bloodshed and starvation of the Russian, Spanish, and Chinese revolutions; the two world wars; the atomic bomb; and the wholesale torture and slaughter of targeted ethnic groups in Europe, Africa, and the Far East, is it unreasonable to crave a modern equivalent of The Trojan Women or The Book of Job? Why settle for The Death of a Salesman and Waiting for Godot?
This inadequate literary and artistic expression does not surprise us, however, because the very idea of tragedy presupposes the transcendence of the human soul, a transcendence systematically doubted during the century just before that fatal shot was fired in Sarajevo. If there is no God and no transcendent soul—if the universe is a closed system—if everything can be explained by natural causes, there really can be no such thing as "tragedy." Indeed, wrote George Steiner,
THIS ARTICLE ONLY AVAILABLE TO SUBSCRIBERS.
FOR QUICK ACCESS:
Patrick Henry Reardon is pastor emeritus of All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church in Chicago, Illinois, and the author of numerous books, including, most recently, Out of Step with God: Orthodox Christian Reflections on the Book of Numbers (Ancient Faith Publishing, 2019).
more on theology from the online archives
calling all readers
"There are magazines worth reading but few worth saving . . . Touchstone is just such a magazine."
—Alice von Hildebrand
"Here we do not concede one square millimeter of territory to falsehood, folly, contemporary sentimentality, or fashion. We speak the truth, and let God be our judge. . . . Touchstone is the one committedly Christian conservative journal."Support Touchstone
—Anthony Esolen, Touchstone senior editor
• Not a subscriber or wish to renew your subscription? Subscribe to Touchstone today for full online access. Over 30 years of publishing!
Purchase Print &
Get six issues (one year) of Touchstone PLUS full online access including pdf downloads for only $39.95. That's only $3.34 per month!
Get a one-year full-access subscription to the Touchstone online archives including pdf downloads for only $19.95. That's only $1.66 per month!
GIVE Print &
Give six issues (one year) of Touchstone PLUS full online access including pdf downloads for the reduced rate of $29.95. That's only $2.50 per month!
Transactions will be processed on a secure server.
Order Touchstone subscriptions in bulk and save $10 per sub! Each subscription includes 6 issues of Touchstone plus full online access to touchstonemag.com—including archives, videos, and pdf downloads of recent issues for only $29.95 each! Great for churches or study groups.
OR get a subscription to Touchstone to read on your Kindle for only $1.99 per month! (This option is KINDLE ONLY and does not include either print or online.)
Your subscription goes a long way to ensure that Touchstone is able to continue its mission of publishing quality Christian articles and commentary.
more from the online archives