Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The greatest story, or the trickiest?

The Economist (September 17, 2009) reviews A History of Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years, by Diarmaid MacCulloch, and The Case for God: What Religion Really Means, by Karen Armstrong. And reviews the authors.

On MacCulloch,
A vicar’s son, he was ordained as a deacon but declined to become a priest in protest against a homophobic wave that gripped the Church of England in the 1980s. (He has been active in the gay Christian lobby.) More than once he makes the point that in telling the story of self-described Christians, one must look beyond texts by early Christian writers whose main purpose was to denounce heresy. Fair enough, but such is Mr MacCulloch’s preference for the heretical over the orthodox that a reader who relied on him alone might struggle at times to work out what the mainstream Christian view was, despite learning lots about those who were against it.
On Armstrong,
she, like Mr MacCulloch, has baggage. An ex-nun, she too is “on the rebound” from old-time Christianity, and she deals more ruthlessly than he does with the classical axioms of faith. ...

Ms Armstrong has won admiration from Muslims and Jews for expounding their traditions in ways that earn respect from outsiders. But such is her animus against traditional Christianity that she cannot render quite the same service for the faith she was once devoted to.


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