The Beauty and The Horror by Richard Harries
ISBN:9780281076932 published by SPCK
God is good. All the time. All the time. God is good. For that is His nature. But what about right now, in Aleppo? What about in oncology wards? Where is that goodness in the Congo as millions have been slaughtered over wars fuelled by a western desire for minerals to create a more powerful smartphone?
In The Beauty and The Horror, Richard Harries unpacks these often unnerving questions in a way that is both pastoral and yet unsatisfied with hiding from serious contemporary evils. Harries’ ability to communicate to an audience both in the Church and outside comes across as he beautifully weaves together strands of literature accessible to all. An obvious fan of Rowan Williams, R.S Thomas, Reinhold Neibuhr, C.S Lewis and William Golding, Harries takes the reader on an epistemological journey, presenting the precise nature of the Christian response to suffering in the world.
Richard Harries, whose influence spreads far and wide, is predominantly writing this as a response to a trajectory of atheistic rationalism however what is witnessed a few chapters in is a writer who cares about the reader’s opinion. This is not a book to just consume and move on but it asks questions of the reader; principally ‘Is Harries right?’
As to the answer to suffering,The Beauty and The Horror presents us with Jesus of Nazareth. Not only does Harries explore who we are talking about when discussing Jesus but goes on to say that through a filial relationship with this same One we may begin to experience the reality of how “the Christ who holds us now holds us close to himself through and beyond death.” (p.146) It is this Christian ‘hope in the face of death’ that rises above simple wishful thinking and presents an answer; suffering happens, it is not good, we shall overcome because He overcame.
In the chapter Beyond Tragedy, Harries uses a series of novels to describe how, a Christian experience of suffering is never a full-stop. Both the resurrection and redemption of and through Christ offer the best example of this. Novelists, filmmakers and other artists often attempt this as their story arc, maybe because it does in fact give us hope. Not hope of a sentimental sort but hope that changes the way we live and how we live. “Furthermore tragedy can actually make more luminous the values that apparently lose out in the world of events.”(p.199) Harries, by no means wishes to make light of suffering he wants to in fact suggest that a hope-filled engagement with very real suffering, and not wishful-thinking nor escapism, is what allows us to be ‘truly human’.
This book is great in prose and universal in accessibility. It is not, however, the final word on the subject but allows the reader to begin to unpack how a Christian may profess a good God who is always good and still watch the news daily. Harries does not go into detail of the parakletos that Jesus promises. The comforting Spirit that is a well of refreshment in a dry and barren land; however he does present such an evangelistic message throughout that the keen eyed reader will in fact see the embrace of the Holy Spirit woven throughout.