cover image The Soul of Christianity: Restoring the Great Tradition

The Soul of Christianity: Restoring the Great Tradition

Huston Smith, . . Harper San Francisco, $22.95 (176pp) ISBN 978-0-06-079478-1

An intriguing combination of apologia, early church history and cultural critique, this deeply personal book attempts to convey the foundations of Christian thought in a way that appeals to modern readers seeking authentic faith in a secular culture. The devotional tone is a distinct departure for Smith, a philosopher and prominent scholar of world religions. This may account for the erudite and occasionally rambling quality of the book's first section, where Smith delineates the "fixed points" of a Christian worldview; he uses science, psychology, the arts, Platonic philosophy and medieval theology to meditate on the nature of reality and the order of the universe. As Smith takes on the "shaky foundation" of modern culture, one of his central tenets is that modern culture has not been able to "distinguish absence-of-evidence from evidence-of-absence." The book's longest section is Smith's summary of the life and significance of Jesus, the history of the early church and various theological matters such as the Trinity and the nature of heaven and hell. While parts are relatively straightforward, Smith's use of anecdotes and willingness to make his own idiosyncratic interpretations of major doctrines of the Christian faith mean that this section cannot be read as a simple digest of previous scholarship. (Sept.)