The Ephemeral Man

by Anthony Esolen

Sometimes the grace of God comes through unlikely and even unseemly channels. When I was an undergraduate at Princeton, surrounded by disaffected materialists, and as yet almost entirely innocent of the Christian intellectual heritage, I happened upon Father Hans Küng's book, Does God Exist? I have it still, though I have not opened it in thirty years, nor have I found a need to do so. Küng decided the question in the affirmative, but in doing so he took the reader through a Grand Tour of the question, visiting, usually with a real desire to find what was true or good in each author, anyone important who had taken it up.

His book was therefore my introduction to other authors who would be far more important to me than Küng himself was—Pascal, most notably. For this, and for some intellectual ammunition when I most needed it, I owe him a debt of gratitude. But Küng, unlike the far more original Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar, seems to have been a proud man, conscious of his clerical celebrity, and unwilling to be corrected. His liberal political opinions became predictable, and his ecclesiological opinions became indistinguishable from them. He was a Catholic dissident to the end. His day has passed. May God have mercy on his soul.

Anthony Esolen is a professor and writer-in-residence at Magdalene College of the Liberal Arts in Warner, New Hampshire. His many books include Sex in the Unreal City: The Demolition of the Western Mind, Life Under Compulsion: Ten Ways to Destroy the Humanity of Your Child, Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture, and The Hundredfold: Songs for the Lord. He is a regular contributor to Chronicles, Crisis Magazine, The Claremont Review, Inside the Vatican Things, The Catholic Thing, and American Greatness. He has translated Dante's Divine Comedy. He is a Roman Catholic and lives with his wife in New Hampshire. He is a senior editor of Touchstone.

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