I wonder if it possible to develop an apologetic ‘argument from strangeness’. The trouble is, it hardly seems reverent to discuss what I have in mind; yet if it is true, it can’t be impossible to discuss it reverently. I mean the fact that Catholics believe some things which, to one who had never come across them before, must seem extremely strange. For example, that what appears to me to be bread is in reality the body of one who was a village carpenter two thousand years ago; that a certain man, tried and executed in accordance with Roman law for an offence committed in an out of the way province of the empire is almighty God; that a little oil placed on a dying man’s senses may make the difference between eternal happiness and eternal misery.

Of course I think all these and other dogmas can be explained in a way that shows that they are not contrary to reason, but harmonious with it. But stated baldly, they could seem so far from experience and probability that those who held them would hardly seem to be of sound mind. And yet clearly Catholics are not all mad, or feeble-minded, or brain-washed. We hold down responsible positions, we are professors of philosophy or poets or politicians or bus-drivers.

But how can people of sound mind hold tenets that are so unsupported by sensation and so discontinuous with all ordinary ways of thinking and reasoning? It seems to me that no natural explanation is possible of this phenomenon, of this combination of, on the one hand, ordinary practical sense and, at least sometimes, intellectual sophistication, and on the other hand, of firmly-held beliefs having this quality of strangeness. To explain this combination, one must invoke a cause transcending nature. I would call this cause divine grace, the honest agnostic might simply call it a ‘powerful unknown x’; perhaps we wouldn’t be far apart in our conceptions of it.

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