Christian Themes

(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

According to von Hügel, the true Christian feels a deep, strong responsibility to obey God. Without religion, humans would not have the means to apprehend moral and spiritual perfection. Because people are finite, have a limited ability to perceive, and are impelled by animal needs and desires, they need a reality higher than their own to guide and sustain them. To grow spiritually, people need a thirst for wisdom. They need to be humble, to open their souls, and to strengthen their will. Instinctively, with the help of others—for no one can grow spiritually and mentally without help—and with the soul’s judgment, people can surmount their old selves and move toward the reality of God.

Although suffering cannot be explained, it is unavoidable, even sometimes necessary, if people are to grow spiritually, von Hügel says. Paradoxically, humans suffer because they are not cut off from outward realities; their closeness to nature brings to them the awareness of suffering. However, behind nature is God, who is love, which the religious soul must trust. People must emulate Christ, who exemplified the essence of the Christian spirit: courage, purity, endless compassion, humility, truthfulness, self-denial, and, most important, heroism.

If people view Jesus as both human and the incarnation of God, their sense of ideal reality will be deepened and enriched. Essentially, Christians who strive for redemption must have open souls, ever prepared to receive divine intimations; they must also strive, with a deep thirst, for union with God, who represents goodness, beauty, and truth. With this disposition and by studying reality and the natural world of the senses, people can find God. Von Hügel states that the Catholic Church offers history, institutional guidance, and moral support to help people’s spiritual growth.