Monday, September 13, 2004


'As I began to write [a] review of Jonathan Hill's The History of Christian Thought (Lion Publishing, 2004) a useful distraction surfaced. BBC Radio 4's 'Start The Week' programme, a weekly airing of cultural, literary, social and scientific thought, was broadcasting in the background. The topic was the task of seeking truth, justice and reconciliation in South Africa, in post-war Iraq and in Israel/Palestine. Alongside a journalist, a politician and a psychologist in the studio was an Archbishop. Much of the discussion revolved around religion as a force for both good and evil.

'Most of it was encouraging. Here we had a Christian leader who could acknowledge the deep problems posed by misshaped faith, a non-believing activist who nevertheless considered himself a 'student of the teachings of Jesus', a practitioner interested how our mental / spiritual maps shape the world, and a commentator who brought questions about the internal logic of Judaism and Islam to bear on the issues concerned.

'Nevertheless, even among a well-educated forum, there were some pretty superficial judgements flying around, too. What's more, I couldn't help thinking how difficult it would be to hold a conversation as good as this (let alone better than) in many churches. Whatever is going on ‘out there’, most of our faith communities remain closed in upon themselves -- talking about the wider world as a problem or as an opportunity, perhaps, but often finding it difficult to deploy a wide ranging understanding that would enable us to face the lesions at the core of the Gospel message.

'Jonathan Hill's excellent volume is surely part of the intellectual armoury that can help Christians to shift the balance in favour of faith that seeks understanding and (just as important) understanding that mediates faith. Not 'intellectual' as in obscure, difficult or elitist, I should stress; but as in the necessity of loving God with the head as well as the heart, particularly in a fast-changing, forgetful world.' More.

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