Gary Wills, Why Priests? A Failed Tradition, Call Number 262.14 Wil, argues that the authority of Roman Catholic priests is derived from their power to invoke the “real presence” of Christ in the Eucharist and their ability to arbitrarily withhold access to the “real presence” from other Christian followers. As a church historian, Wills traces this authority to the Letter to the Hebrews, a late New Testament document, which according to Wills, incorporated a modified version of the Jewish high priest blood sacrifices in Jerusalem into the early Christian church. The blood sacrifice tradition was then preserved in the Roman Catholic Church through the atonement theology of Anselm and Aquinas. Wills argues for a modern shift to the more positive and inclusive theology of Augustine, another early church father. He ends with a powerful personal statement of which Roman Catholic traditions should be retained and which traditions are outdated and need to be reformed or abandoned. This challenging book should interest both Episcopalians, who are attracted to Roman Catholic traditions, and Roman Catholics who have been injured by outdated Roman Catholic traditions.
Lesley Hazleton, The First Muslim: The Story of Muhammad, Call Number 297.63 Haz 2013, is an attempt by a Western writer to recount the recorded details of Muhammad’s life, and place them into the cultural context of seventh century Arabia. There are followers of Islam who would argue that this very exercise is improper because the Islamic faith consists of the life, deeds and words of the Prophet and a true believer cannot separate Muhammad’s biography from his teachings. (A similar objection can be made to the search for the historical Jesus who, unlike Muhammad, left very few contemporarily recorded biographical details.) Hazleton’s efforts are further limited by her training as a psychologist and a journalist, which leads her into unsupported biographical speculations. However, as other reviewers have pointed out, this book is a good introduction for Westerners who have no idea who the historical Muhammad was or why his revelations became so important.
A number of new books are in the collection, especially regarding Navajo and Native American spirituality.
We have also received some generous donations of works in theology and church history from retired clergy.