Spencer Reece, The Road to Emmaus
This book is a collection of narrative and prose poems written by a gay Episcopal priest. Although Reece’s poems are studded with beautiful nature and religious metaphors, he writes about people - family, friends, lovers and strangers, whom he has befriended. Reece’s poetic vision brings the reader out of the world of self-centered meditation into the real world around us, with its many personalities, and with love.
Peter Heather’s history, The Restoration of Rome : Barbarian Popes and Imperial Pretenders
This book attempts to fill in the historical gap between the demise of the last Roman Emperor in 476 and the assertion of papal control over all of Europe in 1215. That is, the transition between Ancient Times and the High Middle Ages. Heather argues that during this period of time, political control in Europe shifted from a military Roman Emperor, designated by a pagan or Christian God, to a religious bureaucracy run directly by the Christian Pope in Rome. From the perspective of the common people, the Roman system simply meant taxation of their agricultural and mercantile pursuits. Papal control, on the other hand, continued the taxation, but added theological/ideological intervention into everyday life. For the Episcopal reader, Heather’s well documented account of the ninth century (i.e., post-Charlemagne) reworking of Christian theology and liturgy raises a legitimate question about whether “High Church” traditions are really traditional practices of the early church or whether our modern liturgy was created by Charlemagne’s very literate churchmen in order to enhance papal authority and enforce uniformity in the medieval church. Heather is quick to add, that despite its dubious origins and moral lapses, the medieval Christian church, overall, provided a powerful cultural anchor during a time when political government was virtually absent in Europe. Its Christian culture has endured even longer than that of the original Roman Empire.
James Turner, Philology : The Forgotten Origins of the Modern Humanities
This book reviews in detail how ancient techniques of interpreting classical Greek and Roman texts were applied to the Christian Scriptures in order to reconcile them with the classical pagan writings of Greece and Rome. Turner argues that these techniques led to the development of the modern “humanities” which are still studied in secular liberal arts colleges. He suggests that philology continues to be the intellectual basis of theological studies in seminaries and divinity schools. Turner’s attention to details make this book difficult for the general reader. However, serious students of religion should take a look at Chapter 13, “Biblical Philology and the Rise of Religious Studies after 1860.” Unfortunately, Turner stops at 1920, when intellectual studies of the Scriptures started to become interesting, i.e., the discovery of the Nag Hammadi gospels, the search for the historical Jesus and the rise of popular fundamentalism are not discussed in this book.