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This review is from: Arius: Heresy and Tradition (Paperback)
At first I seemed to hear Rowan William's gentle soothing voice as I read.The feeling is of something wanting to resolve disagreements,very opposite in tone to the real instigator of the book,John Henry Newman.He ,Newman ,soon turns up and the whole book turns really on what Newman made of the Arian controversy.In fact at Newman's old church ,the Oratory in Birmingham ,priests will give you still cogent expositions of this 1700 year old controversy much more readily than of their own much more recent ones.
But at first I expected a rehabilitation of Arius ,the bogeyman for centuries of theology.It was good to see Newman followed in the author's readiness to enter into the philosophical streams especially in Alexandria without the subtle feeling of handling dirty linen which most theology carried for so long regarding 'paganism' and which Newman maybe tried to revise in his day,
I half expected Arius to appear as a wronged hero.But no ,amid the details and niceties of the much travelled trails of history ,philology and theology we end up more or less in total uncertainty and if their is a certainty it is that an 'archaeological route to this question is by itself fruitless. It feels like the people trying to decipher the character of a Pharoah fro a fragment of mummified hair and a broken piece of inscription about him on a pot. ,So as the book proceeds we end up feeling that someone has to have some kind of intuition about how to read the evidenceue rather than just turn it over and over and criticize earlier archaeologist's findings.,
And as Williams does not really have an answer;maybe this was not the inbtention?,we find at the end of the book that we are back with Newman.it is clear that Newman had a strong ,non completely partisan 'hunch' about Alexandria and the character of thought which lived in that city.And after all Newman DID provide extremely fruitful answers ,open -ended in a way,which might be fruitful in reading the 'significance for us 'of the Arian controversy which Williams is or was also interested in at the time he wrote.
So the book is for me ,not enjoyable,sometimes frustrating ,but for all that a stimulus and can be recommended to anyone interested in this era.
It would be wonderful indeed to find out where reincarnated Arius ,Athanasius ,alexander etc would be found in history or even today !