Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Review: The Church: The Evolution of Catholocism

The Church: The Evolution of Catholicism

I thought this would be a little more historical and devote less pages to a religious vocabulary than I am not used to absorbing (liturgy, ecclesiology, monastic, eucharine, etc etc). Also, apparently Marionology (Mary) and Christology (Jesus) are words. And disciplines. Yes, religious scholars have taken scientific terminology and used it on characters in the bible, and have devoted whole areas of study to them. I just don't get it.

I skimmed through pretty quickly over the parts that had constant biblical citations or paragraph after paragraph of the aforementioned language. But the parts I did read were a slightly interesting summation of the history of the church, albeit one-sided. I will give McBrien credit for acknowledging some of the seedier sides and epochs of the Catholic church, and celebrating the small steps forward (he particularly loves Vactican II, and he wrote warmly about Pope John Paul II genuflecting at the Wailing Wall and writing some apologetic things about the Holocaust. So that's nice. Bu the rest of the book either bored me to death, or insulted my intelligence. I just don't understand a life, be it layman or scholarly, devoted to these amorphous formulations, theories, terminologies, and artifices of faith. I'd understand if it was historical (in fact, that's exactly what I was hoping this book would be), but it's pseudohistory. It's scattered too-brief sketches of what the people behind the bible might have done, plus the bible itself, and then an examination of church behavior since its founding colored through esoteric and artificial terms like eucharist, body of Christ, Holy Ghost, and Church (evidently I still don't understand what they mean that word to mean).

So I gave it a shot! Now when I read my Dawkins, I have something to compare it to.


  1. If you think theology is totally not exciting at all, you should read Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose. Maybe it'll change your mind? It was one of my favorite books that I read last year.

  2. this is gabe, by the way. ;)

  3. I saw the movie a long time ago and loved it - is the book that stellar? I thought about adding it to my list but then saw good reviews for another of his books, Foucault's Pendulum and added that instead. I wouldn't mind switching back to Name of the Rose - the cast was stellar and I loved the story. I bet the book actually is pretty amazing.

    And to your original point - THIS kind of theology is not exciting. Believe me. It's awful. Save your sanity from finding out yourself and just take my word for it.

  4. Foucault's Pendulum is very good, too. I read both books in German, but I'm sure the English tranlation is just as good if not better!

    The Name of the Rose is more than the movie makes it out to be. That is, the whodunit is not really the point. (I never watched the movie but that's what people say).

    I guess I'll have to take your word for it!

    As a political junkie, you should have some Orwell on your list. He's a brilliant writer. Have you read Homage to Catalonia? I'm reading Keep The Aspidistra Flying at the moment and loving it.