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Why Study the Past? [Paperback]

Rowan Williams
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 April 2005
The old saying about being condemned to repeat the history we don't know applies to Church history as much as to anything else. But we are often at a loss to know how to approach it. Much of what passed once for Church history was propagandist; and much of the best now written is brilliantly done but apparently detached from the Church's present needs. We need a theological approach to Church history but not one that is just partisan. In seeking to explore this need, Rowan Williams offers some reflection on how we think about the past in general - a complex issue in today's culture. Emerging from this is a sense of the importance of Church history as something that deepens our present thinking and obliges us to think with more varied and resourceful analogies about our present problems.

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Why Study the Past? + A History of Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years
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Product details

  • Paperback: 129 pages
  • Publisher: Darton,Longman & Todd Ltd (1 April 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0232525498
  • ISBN-13: 978-0232525496
  • Product Dimensions: 13.4 x 21.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 198,109 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Rowan Williams was Archbishop of Canterbury from 2002 to 2012, and is now Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge. He has written 5 books for DLT. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book 20 Oct 2008
The book, Why Study the Past, published in 2005 shows the multiple layers of the Archbishop, as philosopher and theologian, adapt at the study of history and philosophy.

Although the book is a difficult read, the common theme and intention of the book is to deal with the question of the current view of Unity within the modern Church. Williams takes the Wittgenstein deconstructive view and asks us to consider again our perceived ideas of Unity in the early church, and later our view of Authority and consider the true complexity of the Church. This complexity, according to Dr. Williams, is construed as being not as transient humans with a hotchpotch of experiences, but as a common theme with our relationship with something `other'; and that `other' being in common with many other faiths that seek to grapple with the understanding of the divine and its interplay with us within a faith community such as the Christian Church.

Williams seeks to show how histories view of Unity can be played, either as a Marxist singularity with a particular advantage, offering a polished and manipulated aspect on the issue of our modern view of unity, or to read History with depth, to seek out the veritas of the subject and the individuals.

So why is the Archbishop of Canterbury so interested in Unity? In short he, in common with many Anglicans, is worried about divisions within the Church, in particular the arguments regarding the ordination of practicing homosexuals and women both to the clergy and the consideration of them to the episcopacy. Williams turns away from seeking high theological answers to these complex and angst ridden theological questions, and instead concentrates on about facing God and seeing God looking back at us. Williams' conclusion is refreshing and uncluttered: that Christian Unity ultimately rests on that we can still say the Psalms or pray the Lord's Prayer together as a community of believers.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pretty hard going but worth the effort 12 Sep 2011
By Melody
Reading this book gave me a much better understanding of why the church is the way it is, why certain traditions exist in different wings of the church and the Godly root of each. I think it will help me communicate more effectively with people in different christian traditions to me.

It also gave me a better understanding of Rowan Williams - his depth of thought, his compassion, his love for God and for the church.

I won't deny that it was quite a challenging read, though - I certainly wouln't like to play Rowan Williams at scrabble!
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25 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fine piece of work again by the Archbishop 19 May 2005
An excellent book which is very well argued and very helpful to people struggling with the necessity to look at history. More than that however, Williams does not get bogged down in detail and academic intimacies rather he presents information in positive manner so that the church can look forward referring to its past, neither brushing it under the carpet, nor dwelling on it, but to learn to help to come to undertanding of the direction it must pursue.
As with much Williams, this contains wisdom that leads one to want to read more and more and think beoynd the usual spectrum.
How well people could do to listen to the advice in this short, very approachable book.
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Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
26 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Faithful Narration 15 Oct 2005
By Billy O. Daniel - Published on Amazon.com
This is a must read for historians, and should be required reading for students entering Divinity School. Archbishop Williams gifts us with a candid picture of ecclesial scholarship from its inception on. It is not a detailed investigation into specific movements in church history, but reveals to the reader how specific movements tailored history in such a way that the 'winners' articulation of these occurrences prevailed--leaving us with a less than honest narration of that history. Williams presents an argument, much like Alisdair MacIntyre does in "Who's Justice? Which Rationality?," stating that 'we need to understand the other on the other's own grounds.' And in Williams' case, we need to do the grunt work necessary for doing history so to contextualize each period, as best as we can, as the events and language would have been understood to those who actually lived them. (As MacIntyre put it, 'languages can be learned, but they cannot be translated'). This does not mean that tradition and doctrine cannot be timeless. It does, however, mean that they must undergo constant renewal in the community through, as Williams puts it (using the language of Georges Florovsky), the "charismatic memory" as it is located in the liturgical activity of the church.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Discerning Overview of Church History 13 May 2007
By Carlton B. Turner - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
In 4 chapters and only 114 pages Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams gives a penetrating and discerning theology of church history. How has the church described what is unique to itself from the first early centuries, through the Middle Ages, the Reformation and modern times? Williams traces deep patterns of how the church has struggled through the pressures of different historical eras to witness to the unique community that is created by the work of God in Christ. A discerning look at the past will discover something strange and different from ourselves but in a way that helps us discover our community with the past in ways that will change how we see ourselves in the present and so face new challenges as we move into the future.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars History repeats itself 3 Jan 2007
By Larry Ellis - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The Archbishop does a fine job presenting the imortance of studying the past. Our history must be understood (actually learned) in order to wisely interpret our present spirituality and worship life. Many of us live a myopic spirituality, liking what we know and mostly only what we know. Rowan Williams pastors a large church (the Anglican communion) that is presented with divisions and is paying the price for the revisionist segment of the communion. The concept of via media is just one of the frames of reference that has come about due to an abismal lack of knowledge of Christian worship history. Hopefully this text will bring light into dark corners, not on specifics of theology but certainly on the importance of knowing our own history.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shipped on time! 20 Feb 2013
By Lurenna Hutchings - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a book required for my Church History course that begins February 26 so I have not began reading this book yet. I am pleased with the shipping and the price was great!
3 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars R U Ready? 10 Jan 2007
By Hugh Curtin - Published on Amazon.com
Everyone will increase their knowledge of early Christian Churches. There

were significant diferences, culturaly, theological, and socialy to

understand. For those not knowledgable of the causes for those diferences

it may be slow going. The author should be acquainted with what WSC

calls the power of the English simple sentence, Unfortunately because

of the complex subject very few are present.
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