cover image Silence: A Christian History

Silence: A Christian History

Diarmaid MacCulloch. Viking, $27.95 (338p) ISBN 978-0-670-02556-5

Throughout the history of Christianity, silence has been as much a path toward human knowing of God as have vocal proclamations about God. Yet, as acclaimed church historian MacCulloch (A History of Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years) points out in this stimulating and sweeping overview, the Christian church encourages silence as a useful theological method while also remaining silent in the face of evils that have devastated individuals and cultures. MacCulloch traces the religious emphasis on silence to pre-Christian times, discovering the impulse toward silence that Christianity adopted, then follows it through the New Testament and the early Church thinkers, and on through the iconoclastic reforms of the early eighth century and the much later Protestant reforms that often pitted word against silence. The author then turns to the grave and harmful silences in which the Church has been in varying ways complicit, such as clerical child abuse, the Holocaust, and slavery. MacCulloch persuasively shows how the Church has constructed and reconstructed silence in ways that many Christian thinkers would neither have expected nor embraced. Agent: Felicity Bryan, Felicity Bryan Associates. (Sept. 12)