Yesterday BoingBoing flagged an argument by sf novelist Will Shetterly that reading science fiction helped make him a better Unitarian — and in the cited article, Shetterly makes an appealing case. On the other hand, students from Seabury’s Early Church History class may remember that nearly 1700 years ago, St. Basil [the Great*] of Caesarea made a comparable argument relative to the pagan literature of classical antiquity. The earliest Christians distanced themselves from pagan literature, as the Apostolic Tradition 16 illustrates when it limits the possibility of schoolteachers to become Christians (presumably because they inculcate the myths of Hellenistic civil religion). Basil, on the other hand, argued that when young people (“young men,” to Basil, despite Macrina’s good example) study the classics, they apprehend the dim outline of such Scriptural truths as they are not yet ready to encounter directly. The youths who study literature stand to learn nobility and virtue from authors whom everyone admires for their insight. At least, they stand so to learn as long as they don’t linger over the salacious passages.
Pretty good for an old guy, especially considering that Basil hadn’t read Dune even once!
* I was about to mourn the era in which theologians got jazzy nicknames like Basil the Great or Gregory the Wonderworker or Peter Comestor (“the Eater”) — but given the temper of the moment, when the cleverest nicknames flying around seem to involve calling the U.S. Presiding Bishop “Grizzy” or tagging the Archbishop of Canterbury as a “sick chicken,” I suppose we’re better off without, for now. . . .