Tuesday, 15 March 2016

"Jesus Before the Gospels" by Bart Ehrman

This is the latest book by Bart Ehrman, the New Testament scholar and popular writer.  In it, he seeks to track what happened to memories of Jesus of Nazareth in the interval between the time of his ministry and the appearance of the Gospels.

Friday, 4 March 2016

"Hands of Apostasy: Essays on Traditional Witchcraft", Michael Howard and Daniel A. Schulke (eds)

A guest review by Dr Francis Young

Following on from Michael Howard’s Children of Cain (2011), a history of traditional witchcraft in the UK (and, to some extent, in the USA), this volume is a collection of essays by experts in and practitioners of traditional craft. The volume is a valuable contribution insofar as it reveals the sheer diversity of those traditions that might be labelled ‘traditional witchcraft’. In contrast to Gardnerian Wiccans, practitioners of traditional witchcraft are reluctant to adopt a reductionist approach to traditional practices, and generally accept them whole and unreconstructed into the loose family of traditions that constitutes traditional witchcraft. Perhaps most notably, traditional witchcraft embraces traditions that draw on Christian imagery, words and symbolism and avoids the retrospective ‘paganisation’ of occult traditions of which Wiccans have sometimes been guilty.

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

"Crazy for God" by Frank Schaeffer

This is a memoir by Frank Schaeffer, the son of Dr Francis Schaeffer (1912-1984) - a man who will be remembered as one of the architects of the American Religious Right.  The subtitle of the book is "How I grew up as one of the elect, helped found the religious right, and lived to take all (or almost all) of it back".

Thursday, 4 February 2016

"The Invention of God" by Thomas Roemer

This book, by Thomas Roemer of the Collège de France, seeks to trace the evolution of "the god Yhwh, a desert war god who became the one unique God of the monotheistic religions".

Saturday, 26 December 2015

"The Holocaust and Halakhah" by Rabbi Irving Rosenbaum

This is a strange and haunting book - a testimony to the efforts of orthodox Jews to live in accordance with Jewish law (halakhah) under circumstances of Nazi persecution.  It consists in large part of responsa, or rabbinical opinions on what Jews were to do in order to keep in the way of the Torah.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Reflections on the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament)

For most Jews and Christians, the Bible is an artefact.  It is revered rather than read.  Even in the secular world, politicians and commentators occasionally claim that our country was built on the Bible or on Biblical values - but this is a claim that needs to be unpacked quite a bit.  The truth is that the Bible is at once a much more foreign and a much more interesting book than most people realise.

Two ultramontanist Catholic texts

  • Louis Cardinal Billot SJ, Tractatus de Ecclesia Christi, 3rd edition, 1909-10
  • John S. Daly, Michael Davies: An Evaluation, 2nd edition, 2015

The first text that I want to look at in this post is the Tractatus de Ecclesia Christi (Treatise on the Church of Christ) by Cardinal Louis Billot (1846-1931).  Billot was a star theologian in his time, but he is largely forgotten today.  His undoing was dabbling in far-right French politics.  He gave his support to Action Française, an essentially secular movement which supported the restoration of absolute monarchy; and he was forced out of the College of Cardinals by Pope Pius XI as a result.  In his treatise, he quotes Charles Maurras, the ideological leader of Action Française, despite Maurras being a religious sceptic with a particular dislike of Christian doctrine.