The address by Malcolm Muggeridge at the International Congress on World Evangelization, carried in the August 16 issue of CHRISTIANITY TODAY, attracted wide attention and earned a standing ovation at the congress itself.
The latter fact astonished me. The address was not vintage but latter-day Muggeridge, reflecting a septuagenarian’s young faith. It was hailed as a personal testimony, which it might have been. It had no obvious base in the congress theme. Its theological content had a certain wispish quality, calling for substantial amplification in the minds of his listeners. “A con job,” said one participant, but not without admiration.
Was it? Or was it a pilgrim coming at essential things from the only way he knows? Here undoubtedly is a professional purveyor of words; that insolent drawl, one suspects, could bring life to the reading of a Greyhound bus schedule. All his life he has been an entertainer; c’est son metier. Spiritual awakening for Muggeridge has not demanded the conversion of raciness into the sort of limp prose that is tolerated, even acclaimed, because it has the gift of orthodoxy. On one view we should be thankful that the craftsman’s workshop is still cluttered; old tools, after all, like old slippers and old friends, are often the best.
This leads me to mention of Muggeridge’s recently published volume, The Infernal Grove (Morrow, $7.95), which is the second installment of his autobiographical Chronicles of Wasted Time. The title comes from William Blake, a poet maverick enough to take the Muggeridgean fancy:
Till I turn from Female Love
And root up the Infernal Grove,
I shall never worthy be
To step into Eternity.
Muggeridge resumes the story where he left off in The Green Stick (see Current Religious Thought, ...1