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Episode Info

Episode Info:

"By our nature, we are eccentric. We're off center. The world has its own center: fallen, lost, though many ways good. Christians have a different center. Christ is our center. That makes us stand out if we're faithful in ways that are odd. That's who the saints are. The saints are the odd wads who have stood out from society—cultures they would have been predicted to conform to."

Oddities, weirdos, monsters—what is the place of the strange and monstrous in literature and film? And how does can these products of the human imagination help us understand the fallen condition of humanity?—both in the great depths of sin, and in the heights of redemptive possibility.

Ralph C. Wood has served as University Professor of Theology and Literature at Baylor University since 1998, and taught at Wake Forest University prior to that. He is an expert on 19th- and 20th-century literature, especially at the intersection of Christianity and secularity. He’s author and editor of many books and articles, including Tolkien Among Moderns, Chesterton: The Nightmare Goodness of God, Literature and Theology, Flannery O’Connor and the Christ-Haunted South, The Gospel According to Tolkien, and The Comedy of Redemption: Christian Faith and Comic Vision in O’Connor, Percy, Updike, and De Vries.

In this episode, Ralph Wood casts light on the monstrosity of humanity, the goodness of God, and finding grace and hope along the dark terrain of human history, all through the lens of literature and faith.

Show Notes

  • 1:18—Frankenstein, "It's alive!!"
  • 1:34—King Kong
  • 1:48—The Wolfman
  • 1:59—The Blob
  • 2:17—Godzilla
  • 2:20—Gremlins (mogwai!)
  • 2:32—Alien
  • 2:37—The Fly
  • 2:44—The scariest and goriest of them all...
  • 3:02—A Quiet Place
  • 3:14—Stranger Things
  • 5:35—Ralph Wood's early life and how he came to love books
  • 7:12—Reading is under threat; "sustained imaginative sympathy"—how to be a good reader
  • 11:55—Poetry as the highest of literary forms—"Above all, learn to read poetry. Poetry was once, I'm sure you know, the common pastime of every educated person. It's now almost entirely lost."
  • 13:30—There is no such thing as "Children's Books"
  • 14:07—On the Catholic writers of the 20th Century—the echoes of their imagination; their strange, violent, grotesque characters
  • 17:39—"Catholics have a tremendous advantage over us Protestants in having at the core of Catholic faith and worship, the sacramental imagination. ... I'm glad to see that in our time, evangelicals are recovering that sacramental imagination because without it, we're doomed."
  • 20:15—Ad break. "Charting a Course Through Grief"
  • 22:13—What we can learn by thinking of ourselves as 'monsters'—"Not all that is monstrous is evil."
  • 29:30—Christian Eccentricity; Christ as our center; man as the good monster, not just the evil monster
  • 32:12—On Chesterton's fiction: "Chesterton's fiction has about it that wonderful lightness, comedy, paradox of the Christian faith. He defines paradox wonderfully. 'Paradox,' he says, 'is truth standing on its head and waving its legs to get our attention. It's truth upside down.' Of course, that's what the Kingdom is, the Kingdom is the world turned upside down."
  • 32:52—Chesteron on "Nightmare" and encounter with horror
  • 34:45—Is there any hope of waking from the nightmare? Chesterton as Augustinian
  • 35:35—The Ballad of the White Horse—"I tell you naught for your comfort. Yea, naught for your desire, save that the sky grows darker yet, and the sea rises higher. Night shall be thrice night over you, and heaven an iron cope. Do you have joy without a cause? Yea, faith without a hope?"
  • 37:25—"Christians don't live on the hope that things are going to get better. If we live by that hope, we might quote St. Paul, 'We of all men are most hopeless.' Things are not going to get better. The trajectory of history is not upward, onward, progressive, but always an undulating hope, followed by loss of hope, followed by new hope, etc."
  • 38:15—Death has already been conquered
  • 40:26—"My best teachers were those who really pushed my nose into the cold snows of modern horror. That's my point. Unless you face the horror, that's what the cross is, the ultimately horrible event that we call, as Elliot says, 'Good Friday,' because God made it good. Not only in the Resurrection, but of course in calling us to live out the life of the cross, being willing to die without earthly hope, but in the confidence of hope beyond hope."


  • Hosted and produced by Evan Rosa
  • Resource of the Biola University Center for Christian Thought, which is sponsored by generous grants from the John Templeton Foundation, Templeton Religion Trust, and The Blankemeyer Foundation
  • Theme music by The Brilliance
  • Additional Scoring by Una and the Sound
  • Production and Engineering by the Narrativo Group. More info at
  • Edited and mixed by TJ Hester
  • Production Assistance by Kaleb Cohen
  • Follow: @EvanSubRosa / @BiolaCCT /

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