Faith's Book Blog

Faith’s BookBlog 

Capsule reviews of books in Faith’s library, which is open whenever the church is open, and from which any Faith member may borrow any book.

This month’s reviews by Ruth H. Sanders 

The Life of our Lord, by Charles Dickens. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1934. Russian writer Fyodor Dostoyevski called him “the Great Christian” because his works centered on moral concerns. Indeed, the lives of the poor, the need for social reform, and the effect of sin upon both sinner and sinned-against were themes in the novels of Charles Dickens, whose now-classic works include Oliver Twist, A Christmas Carol, and A Tale of Two Cities. Yet Dickens during his lifetime never published anything directly about religion. This little book (126 pages), written by Dickens in 1849, was intended by the author not for publication, but only for his children. His heirs decided to publish it in 1934. Today it remains just as sweet, as informative, and as readable as it must have been in 1849. In simple and dignified prose the story of the life of Jesus is told, and the book ends by exhorting the reader: “Remember!—It is christianity TO DO GOOD always—even to those who do evil to us. It is christianity to love our neighbour as ourself, and to do to all men as we would have them Do to us.” The foreward, by Dr. D. James Kennedy, cautions that “readers should view this book as a paraphrase of the life of Christ, and not as a doctrinal essay….Rather than stating that we are accepted by God through faith alone, Dickens sometimes implied that people are saved by their good works.”  So true; but this is nonetheless a beautiful little book, which you may like to read to children you know.

Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew, by Bart D. Ehrman. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

“During the first three Christian centuries, the practices and beliefs found among people who called themselves Christian were so varied that the differences between Roman Catholics, Primitive Baptists, and Seventh-Day Adventists pale by comparison,” writes noted theologian Bart E. Ehrman in introducing his topic. But: “most of these ancient forms of Christianity are unknown to people in the world today, since they eventually came to be reformed or stamped out,” he adds. Examples include: that there were two, or thirty, or even 365 gods; that the world had been created by a subordinate and ignorant divinity, responsible for misery and hardship; that the world was created by a malevolent divinity to trap and punish humanity. These beliefs seem today so far out of line that we can’t even understand them as Christian. Why didn’t these believers just consult the New Testament? The reason is, Ehrman tells us, that there was no New Testament; not until after the second century were the writings that today make up the New Testament collected and gathered into what became known as the authoritative canon of Scripture. In the process, texts previously considered holy were discovered to be, or believed to be, forged. An example is the second-century Acts of Thecla, an account of a woman disciple of St. Paul who was once a household name, vying with Mary as the most important person outside the Trinity. Alas, this book, like the Acts of Paul, the Gospel of Thomas, and the Apocalypse of Peter, was discovered to be a forgery. Other ‘alternative Christianities,’ involving differing interpretations of the accepted Scriptures, were rejected and suppressed; some simply died out. Ehrman closes optimistically, “there is a sense that alternative understandings of Christianity can be cherished yet today.” May it be so! All members of Faith are invited to write capsule reviews of books from Faith’s library for this book blog. The blog is moderated by Ruth Sanders; if you would like to schedule your reviews or ask any questions about the reviews, please e-mail her at sanderrh@miamioh.edu, call her at 523-8111, or just talk to her before or after the Sunday service

 

 

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