Christian Themes

(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

McInerney’s autobiography, as well as the body of his scholarship, focuses primarily on tradition, specifically the usefulness and relevance of the thought of Thomas Aquinas to modern Christianity. Like Aquinas, McInerny considers it self-evident that the human mind is a meaning-making device. An innate desire to know, humanity’s defining trait, not only motivates the mind’s practical, secular curiosity, which has produced a wide range of accomplishments in the arts and sciences, but also drives the human being to know God. One’s innate logical powers, McInerny feels, can lead one to respect the hard-won truths of tradition and apply their guidelines to contemporary life.

While it does not have the ecstasy of mysticism or the fire of dramatic conversion, McInerny’s experience of Christianity does not lack joy or depth. McInerny does find in his examination of the details of his ordinary life an intriguing element of mystery. Particularly where self-knowledge is concerned, he finds himself, like Saint Paul, unable to say with certainty at some moments whether he is in a state of grace. McInerny’s definition of faith is, in part, the willingness to rest within occasional uncertainties, comforted by similar experiences expressed by saints and mystics throughout the history of Christianity.

As his autobiography progresses, McInerny’s concern for the future of Christianity emerges as an overriding theme. In the latter chapters, McInerny sees modern philosophers and theologians as those who, in the abandonment of authority and tradition, have set on a clear path toward disaster. In his arguments, McInerny repeatedly relies on common sense and elementary logic to show that the dismantling of faith and ethics through pluralism, relativism, or simple wrongheaded dissent is for him fraught with peril. In this domain, McInerny presents himself candidly as a prophet calling on church officials, scholars, and laity to review their faith and return to its core values.