Ronald Knox, bust by Arthur Pollen, Trinity College, Oxford
Ronald Knox was first and last an apologist for the Faith although his techniques varied extensively over the course of a lifetime. His early works are combative, satirical, ruthlessly logical. His later works are characterized more by his charity and humility. Robert Speaight comments on the transition: "He had used the weapon of laughter in addressing himself to people who could no longer laugh, and the weapon of reason in talking to people who could no longer think and the weapon of knowledge in informing people who were indifferent to fact."
THE BELIEF OF CATHOLICS (1927) asks, and answers, fundamental questions such as: Is there a God? Does He care about us? Has he ever revealed Himself? Can we prove that He established a Church? What does that Church teach? What is its spirit? Does it make any claim on our allegiance? (read an excerpt).
THE CHURCH ON EARTH: The Nature and Authority of the Catholic Church, and the Place of the Pope Within It (1929) is a defense of the hierarchical structure of the Church, Her infallibility, Her teaching authority, etc. It very clearly explains the radical difference between Protestant concepts of an assembly of people and the visible church instituted by Christ.
CALIBAN IN GRUB STREET (1930) is Knox's response to literary contemporaries who participated in various newspaper symposia - My Religion, If I Were A Preacher, God in These Times, to name a few. Literary giants of the day, such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Mr. Arnold Bennett, Mr. Phillips Oppenheim, Miss Rebecca West, Mr. de Vere Stacpoole and others, are taken to task for their modernist and irrational views of religion. Arnold Bennett seems to come in for more than his fair share of self-imposed ridicule - he contradicts himself on such basic beliefs as the immortality of the soul - and Knox's arrows are sharp: "Is it too much to ask that Mr. Bennett should keep his religious convictions filed somewhere on a card-index, so that his secretary may have easy access to them when occasion arises?" Still, one gets the impression that this is really shooting ducks in a barrel for Knox. "...religion, to the moderns, is no longer an attitude of mind towards a Person, but a mere attitude of mind." Professor Irwin Edman states that "God becomes the metaphor for the humanitarian intention; Heaven the metaphor for the humanitarian ideal". "Precisely", replies Knox, "it is convenient to have a metaphor like God for the humanitarian intention; it saves you the trouble of trying to explain what exactly the humanitarian intention may be."
BROADCAST MINDS (1932) Knox tackles several prominent atheists and modernists of his day, those who preached an antithesis between religion and science: Professor Julian Huxley, Mr. Mencken, Lord Russell, H.G. Wells. From the Contents: "The "omniscientists" - those authors with a smattering of knowledge who seek to astonish us with apparently encyclopedic works which are, covertly, a concerted attack on religion - are not clear what they mean to give us in place of religion."
IN SOFT GARMENTS (1942) From the preface: "When the Holy See gave a general permission for Catholics to matriculate at Oxford and Cambridge, the stipulation was made that lectures should be provided for them, to safeguard their faith against the influence of an uncongenial atmosphere. During the years between 1926 and 1938, when I was chaplain at Oxford, I delivered a good many of these myself; and I have collected some of them in this book, in the hope that they may suggest useful lines of thought to a wider (though I hope not much more learned) audience....It will be seen, from a glance at the title-page, that this book does not represent a complete course in any branch of apologetics. But I have tried to deal, unprofessionally, with some of the hesitations that most naturally occur to us Catholics, when we compare our intellectual commitments with the current thought of the present day...."
OFF THE RECORD (1954) From the introduction: "It is good for us to know that other people have difficulties; good for us, even, to know that they are not the same as ours; what if they should cancel out? And if [this book] is read by others, to whom clear faith has been granted, may it inspire them to be more patient with those who are less fortunate than themselves, to pray for them oftener and more urgently. Here, under a mask of anonymity, you have a glimpse of thirty or fourty human souls that asked advice from a stranger. How many others are there, too shy, too proud, too dilatory to invoke any human counsellor in their bewilderment? We jostle them day by day without knowing it; joke with them, weary them, perhaps disedify them. Something is lacking in our prayers if we forget the secret maladies of men's hearts."