on 14 April 2015
A major strength of David Bentley Hart's study is the fact that it has a truly ecumenical approach. While Hart is a Theologian of the Eastern Orthodox Church, he nonetheless provides a study of all Churches, movements and includes the sects that essentially failed or went extinct.
Hart includes all the historical events one would expect, the early Church Councils, the Great Schism of 1054, the Reformation and the Enlightenment, but his concluding chapter has some ground breaking insights.
Apparently, movements such as Pentecostal and Charismatic are more widespread than one (or at least this reader) had imagined and it's now not inconceivable to encounter a Catholic church service involving Spiritual gifts.
But his most sobering analysis is in Christianity's global shift from north to south, and from East to West.
Hart concludes that while Church numbers may be declining in Europe and the US, Christianity has literally exploded in Africa and is growing ever faster in China, and perhaps this is where Christianity's future may be strongest.
on 10 June 2014
Despite the first couple of chapters, this turned out to be an engrossing book. At the current price this is excellent value for anyone intereted in religious and historical subjects, though readers should be aware that parts of the e-book were diffficult to read on my (two-year-old) Kindle reader (though not on my laptop or noebook). This was because some quotes were in a "greyer" font and difficult to read.
Apart from the opening chapters on the Bible, this is an excellent analysis of the Christian faith up to the present time; a noble attempt given the book's 270-or-so pages. The book's strength is that it includes the story of the less well-known (at least here in the "West") aspects and growth of the Orthodox and Syrian Churches - which often had very different theologies to those of the West.
One of the early church "Fathers" was Origen and although respected by the Catholic Church, he was never made a "saint". This was because some of his works were heretical, he "beleived that human souls existed before their lives in the body, and had turned away from God in eternity, and that God had created the world as a moral academy by which to restore them to innocence."
As virtually every church since then has rejected this analysis (which is true) we can then see why it has taken 2,000 years of stupidity to reach the truth. And we are very far away from attaining it; which is why we currently have idiots like Pope Francis. Justim Welby, Rowan Williams and Rick Warren and Benny Hinn (and too many others to mention) proposing all matter of theological stupidity - and people buying into it by the bucket-load (and making many of them richer than they should be).
Towards the end of the book the writer refers to Freud and states that his work on the unconscious (that which you are not truly aware) revealed that the human pshyche has "hidden, largely irrational impulses, repressed desires, secret resentments, tacit memories and conflicting sexual urges."
That is exatcly what the Hebrew Bible stated (nearly 2,500 years ago) and the New Testament elaborated on (for a "Greek" audience). Unfortunately, because the Catholic Church (and subsequent Protestant Churches) rejected Origen's flawless analysis (and made a saint out of the idiot St.Augustine), we have had 2,000 of complete stupidity where no-one could agree on anything - not even if Henry VIII had beem "married" to Catherine of Aragon or not!