A Christian History
By Diarmaid MacCulloch
(Viking Adult, Hardcover, 9780670025565, 272pp.)
Publication Date: September 12, 2013
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A provocative history of the role of silence in Christianity by the award-winning, New York Times bestselling author
In this essential work of religious history, the New York Times bestselling author of Christianity explores the vital role of silence in the Christian story.
How should one speak to God? Are our prayers more likely to be heard if we offer them quietly at home or loudly in church? How can we really know if God is listening? From the earliest days, Christians have struggled with these questions. Their varied answers have defined the boundaries of Christian faith and established the language of our most intimate appeals for guidance or forgiveness.
MacCulloch shows how Jesus chose to emphasize silence as an essential part of his message and how silence shaped the great medieval monastic communities of Europe. He also examines the darker forms of religious silence, from the church’s embrace of slavery and its muted reaction to the Holocaust to the cover-up by Catholic authorities of devastating sexual scandals.
A groundbreaking work that will change our understanding of the most fundamental wish to be heard by God, Silence gives voice to the greatest mysteries of faith.
Diarmaid MacCulloch is Professor of the History of the Church at St. Cross College, University of Oxford. His most recent book, the New York Times bestseller Christianity, won several awards. A Fellow of the British Academy and the Royal Historical Society. He lives in Oxford, UK.
Praise for Silence
“Silence has all the spark of Christianity. . . . In MacCulloch’s hands, reading about Christianity often feels as soulful, as silently consuming, as prayer itself.”
—Tom Bissell, Harper’s Magazine
“Silence is excellent: a beautifully written, factually dense, intellectually sophisticated look at the theological uses and abuses of silence, from the spirituality of quiet to the Catholic Church’s horrifying reticence about child abuse and the Holocaust.”
—Kathryn Schulz, New York Magazine
“A stimulating and sweeping overview. . . . MacCulloch persuasively shows how the Church has constructed and reconstructed silence in ways that many Christian thinkers would neither have expected nor embraced.”
“Diarmaid MacCulloch charts Christianity’s problematic and often contradictory relationship to silence with aplomb. . . . Silence is intellectually robust, and without the prevarications and self-qualifications that sometimes stymie academic prose. Indeed, MacCulloch is by turns precise, poetic, and righteously indignant.”
“An enjoyable, intelligent meander through Jewish and Christian history . . . MacCulloch is a gifted scholar and his ideas are always worth hearing. . . . What holds the book together are his own sensibilities, which include an intense antipathy for ‘received’ ways of thinking and for doctrines that were upheld with the panoply of ecclesiastical and secular power.”
“Erudite and witty . . . The first half of this book is a brilliantly wide-ranging yet concise survey of the idea of silence in Christian theology and in the practices of all kinds of Christians through the centuries. In the second half, different kinds of quiet in Christian history come under scrutiny. There has been historical amnesia on the role of women in the early church, and recent reticence about clerical child abuse has unsettling parallels in the past. . . . Whether considering silences that brought worshippers closer to God or those that should be broken for the health of Christian society, MacCulloch has written a clever, demanding, and insightful book.”
—Sunday Times (London)