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silence isn't always golden
on 13 December 2014
It is characteristic of my introvert spirituality that I would avow waiting on God in silence and preferring said to over-dramatically sung acts of worship. Perhaps it comes from my upbringing when, I was told, that `little boys should be seen and not heard'.
Judaism is quite a noisy religion, which makes you wonder how some forms of Christianity have embraced silence. Judaism tends to see silence as negative
It's a shame that the author spells out the divine name which, although popularised by the Jerusalem Bible, is ever pronounced by Jews.
Diarmaid is mistaken in asserting that `scriptures' was only applied to Christian writings in the Second Century CE. 2 Peter 3:16 refers to Paul's letters as `scripture'.
Jesus is silent when charged. He also withdraws but this isn't a reference to later monastic withdrawal but a simple move to avoid trouble.
The so-called `messianic secret' in which Jesus enjoins silence on people is more about tensions between the Jerusalem Church and the Pauline churches and the polemic between them.
Paul silences prophets, not because silence is good in itself but in order to make Christians appear more respectable in a Roman world, where decorum is valued
Silence seems to have become part of Christianity via the Greek philosophers.
It's interesting that the rosary may have originated from monks plaiting ropes while listening to readings and that the Muslim minaret may have originated in the pillar used by Simon the Stylite.
A frequent theme of this author is that the Western churches are limited in their understanding of history and miss other times of reform in the East: Each deserves to be given the name 'Reformation' which is generally reserved for the last of them, despite their three very different outcomes.
The protestant reformation marked a return to pluralism and tended towards noise - preaching and hymn-singing, though the Quakers brought quietude and some went in for `standstill' - an inner receiving of the sacrament rather than any physical reception. Meanwhile, the Counter Reformation encouraged the silence of the confessional and the silencing of books by censorship. It was suspicious of contemplation.
But in the world of the Inquisition, silent prayer was safer.
His description of the culture of Anglo-Catholicism, in which we both grew up, is painfully accurate.
I was shocked to hear of the immorality of my hero Paul Tillich but glad that he suggests that my nemesis Karl Barth deserves similar scrutiny.
I like the author's cavalier dismissal of scripture, saying that `it got it wrong'. After all, if Martin Luther could dismiss `'an epistle of straw', why can't we, for example, when it comes to issues like slavery?
Overall, the church has covered up much. Chalcedon marginalised many in the ancient churches (who still exist to this day). The role of women as leaders has been airbrushed out as have the sexual proclivities of some male leaders. Clerical sex abuse was swept under the carpet.
I didn't know that the origin of the title `arrow prayer' is the javelin - to deter demons.
The author, rightly, does not dismiss the seekers who buy book from the `Mind, Body and Spirit' section of bookshops and it's a pity that the churches usually fail to offer, from their great resources, what these people desire and need.