Fr. Robert Farrar Capon – author, theologian, and American Episcopal priest – passed away this Thursday at the grand old age of 88. Following his death, tributes began making their appearances in sundry and significant places throughout the Christian blogosphere.
This is not at all surprising. What is surprising, at least to me and a handful of friends I’ve spoken to, is that next to nothing is being said about certain aspects of Capon’s theology which are frankly rather troubling.
Let me begin, therefore, with the necessary disclaimers. First, I’m not a thundercloud trying to rain on the funeral parade here. I am a keen admirer of Capon’s writing. I read through Supper of the Lamb and Party Spirit earlier this year, and I loved them both. I’m also enjoying Bed and Board, a tremendously awesome little book which will probably make my top ten list come December. To be honest, when it comes to the consideration of food and feasting, there is almost no one else I’d rather read than Fr. Capon.
Second, several of these tributes were written by men whom I hold (and will continue to hold) in very high regard. This is not a chest-thumping exercise, nor an excuse to hurl arrogant challenges at men of far greater stature than myself. I have my questions and my observations, and I will state them without blushing; but I am fully prepared to admit that I could be missing something.
I was aware that some of Capon’s theology was a bit odd, but it didn’t really start to bother me until recently, as I started learning more about him. Among other things, I read this, and this, and this, and this; not to mention this bit about universalism. While I’m not interested in striking up a debate here, when the claim is made that Christ has taken away the sins of “every last being” in the world, and that He has “shut up forever on the subject of guilt,” I can’t help but sniff. Something doesn’t smell right.
So I’m asking: why isn’t there more discussion going on about this iffy stuff? I’m not on a Quest for Perfect Theology, but a lot of this stuff sounds disturbingly edgy (if not actually over-the-edge), and last I checked, being edgy was not the most commendable trait for a theologian to have. Are we “going easy” on Capon merely because 1) he has passed away, and 2) he sang so beautifully the praises of hearth and home? Would we be so lenient with a theologian who hadn’t written a book like Supper of the Lamb? Are we cutting him some slack in these areas simply because he was so right on in others?
It’s something to think about, anyway.
Death by Living by N.D. Wilson
I have laughed, I have cried, I have cheered – and I’m barely fifty pages in. This is a beautiful, beautiful book. “Stories mean trouble. Stories mean hardship. The fall of man did not introduce evil; it placed us on the wrong side of it, under its rule, needing rescue. And God is not an aura of ruling auras. His Son is flesh even now. You have flesh. This story is concrete, it is for real, and it is played for keeps.” (I’ll be participating the official Death by Living blog tour later this month; look for my review on the 30th.)
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
My third time through. McCarthy is my favorite contemporary novelist, and perhaps my favorite novelist period – but as much as I love and admire the rest of his work, The Road has been, is, and always will be his magnum opus as far as I’m concerned. Seldom is literature more haunting, more gut-wrenching, more powerful than this.
Liberal Fascism by Jonah Goldberg
I’ve followed Goldberg’s writing on the web for some time, but this is the first book I’ve read by him. It hasn’t disappointed. In fact, the next time I hear a liberal throw the word “fascist” around as an insult to his conservative opponents, I may just hand him a copy of this book – a stinging reminder that the original fascists were actually on the left, not the right. Talk about taking the wind out of someone’s sails.
The Search for God and Guinness by Stephen Mansfield
A biography of the beer that changed the world. Halfway through and enjoying it immensely. I like Douglas Wilson’s endorsement the best: “Pour this book into a frosted glass and enjoy.” While you’re at it, I’d also advise wearing your favorite Guinness t-shirt. Y’know, just because.
Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith
A remarkable debut effort – chilling, intelligent, and very well-written: “When war hero Leo Stepanovich Demidov, a rising star in the MGB, the State Security force, is assigned to look into the death of a child, Leo is annoyed, first because this takes him away from a more important case, but, more importantly, because the parents insist the child was murdered. In Stalinist Russia, there’s no such thing as murder; the only criminals are those who are enemies of the state.”
The Supper of the Lamb by Robert Farrar Capon
Oh, how I love this book. It’s a culinary reflection, a cookbook, and a theological treatise baked into one single tasty volume, garnished with enough joie de vivre to make the sourest food cynic smile. Delicious stuff. Here’s a taste for the hungry and the curious.
What’s on your bookshelf right now?