标题: [2009.9.19]A history of Christianity-The greatest story, or the trickiest? [打印本页] 作者: woofwoof 时间: 2010-4-29 03:47 标题: [2009.9.19]A history of Christianity-The greatest story, or the trickiest? A history of Christianity
The greatest story, or the trickiest? 最伟大或最棘手的故事？ Sep 17th 2009 写于2009年9月17日
From The Economist print edition
Two books reveal the challenges of chronicling religious history
A History of Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years. By Diarmaid MacCulloch. Allen Lane; 1,184 pages; £35. To be published in America by Viking in March 2010. Buy from Amazon.co.uk
The Case for God: What Religion Really Means. By Karen Armstrong. Knopf; 432 pages; $27.95. The Bodley Head; £20. Buy from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk
A PROBLEM arises in any attempt to describe the whole of Christian history. From “inside”—in other words, for somebody who sees the story as a providential unfolding of God’s relations with man—it is possible to construct a single narrative, albeit one that outsiders would find skewed. From “outside” the historian faces a problem of meanings and cohesion. Whatever a “bishop” was at Christianity’s dawn, he was something different from the princes of the medieval church, and different from Rowan Williams, today’s top Anglican. It is not just a matter of marshalling facts, but a question of seeing what, if anything, holds the story together.
So for Diarmaid MacCulloch, an Oxford don who specialises in the Reformation, the challenge of chronicling Christian history in just over 1,000 pages is manifold. His narrative may not quite hold together, but it has very good bits.
During the period he knows best, it is hard to distinguish Christian history from European history. Since Europe’s wars were mostly fought in Christianity’s name, there is no bright line between the sacred and the secular. Mr MacCulloch describes the era with a skilful sweep, though little distinguishes this section from a more general account.
Some will be less happy with his treatment of Christianity’s early years, when basic doctrines were being hammered out. To this era Mr MacCulloch brings some baggage, and it can get in the way. A vicar’s son, he was ordained as a deacon but declined to become a priest in protest against a homophobic wave that gripped the Church of England in the 1980s. (He has been active in the gay Christian lobby.) More than once he makes the point that in telling the story of self-described Christians, one must look beyond texts by early Christian writers whose main purpose was to denounce heresy. Fair enough, but such is Mr MacCulloch’s preference for the heretical over the orthodox that a reader who relied on him alone might struggle at times to work out what the mainstream Christian view was, despite learning lots about those who were against it.
Take one example: the Christian tradition—to which hundreds of millions of Catholics, Orthodox and Anglicans are heirs—holds dear the belief that Jesus Christ was both fully man and fully God, a single person with two natures, divine and human. It is a belief that generations of Christians have wept over, experienced mystically and died for. But Mr MacCulloch devotes little space to that teaching, and many pages (complete with his own misleading terms) to those who rejected it.
He is better at describing the political and military uses of religion than religion itself. In writing of the Christian East, he makes good points about religious nationalism in the post-Ottoman world. But he stumbles in explaining the medieval split between East and West over mysticism.
Mr MacCulloch copes better with the challenges of writing about modern Christianity, relegated to the margins of social, political and scientific developments. Church leaders, conscious that the world can do without them, have had to act nimbly and tactfully if they were to have any influence at all. Mr MacCulloch’s tone changes sharply at this point, becoming lighter and more gossipy. He brings an insider’s wit to tracing the fate of official Christianity in an age of doubt, and to addressing modern surges of zeal, from Mormons to Pentecostals.
To work really well, a grand history of a religious tradition has to blend an account of the faith itself with the ways this faith has influenced behaviour and the various historic conditions in which it has been articulated. Karen Armstrong is a good blender, which has made her a successful ambassador of religion in a generally irreligious age. In over a dozen books she has delivered something people badly want: a way to acknowledge that faith can be taken seriously as a response to deep human yearnings without needing to subscribe to the formality of organised belief.
Despite the title, her latest book is not so much a case for God as a case against atheism. Those who do not already have faith will not come away with a logical reason to believe. But she argues that modern atheism is as one-dimensional and transient a phenomenon as the modern varieties of theism (including fundamentalism) to which it responds. She praises the best of contemporary theology for the way it manages, like the mystics of early Christianity and Islam, to stress the limits of human discourse in addressing the divine.
But she, like Mr MacCulloch, has baggage. An ex-nun, she too is “on the rebound” from old-time Christianity, and she deals more ruthlessly than he does with the classical axioms of faith. She insists that Jesus of Nazareth made no claim to be divine: a famous New Testament passage that expounds both his self-abasement and divine glory does not mean what Christians think it means, she adds.
Ms Armstrong has won admiration from Muslims and Jews for expounding their traditions in ways that earn respect from outsiders. But such is her animus against traditional Christianity that she cannot render quite the same service for the faith she was once devoted to. This is a shame, not just for Christians but for secular readers too. Perhaps one day an interesting history of Christianity will be written by somebody who is neither a Christian nor an ex-Christian.
阿姆斯壮女士赢得了穆斯林与犹太人对她的敬仰，因为她解释两大民族的传统的方式让他们获得了局外人对他们的尊敬。但这也是她对传统基督教的敌意，也即是她无法对自己曾献身的基督教信仰提供同等服务。呜呼！这真是个悲哀，不仅仅对基督教徒如此，对无神论的广大读者也是这样。也许有一天，某个人会撰写一段关于基督教有趣的历史，这个人不是基督教徒，也不是无神论者。作者: hongjing123 时间: 2010-4-29 04:32
I found some places that need to be more accurate – however, as usual, I did not translate them; I just point out the ideas.
Things that are related to religions are not easy to translate; so, it is a good start.
It is worth the effort -- knowledge about Christianity and Buddhism are crucial for understanding world culture. There are other religions, of course, but knowledge about those two is a good start and it can lead us to a good understanding of other religions too.
as a providential unfolding of God’s relations with man
-- “神性” should be “神助性”
Whatever a “bishop” was at Christianity’s dawn, he was something different from the princes of the medieval church
describes the era with a skilful sweep
-- sweep means 粗线条
when basic doctrines were being hammered out.
-- “hammered out” means “created”, “shaped”
To this era Mr MacCulloch brings some baggage,
-- “baggage” means bias, 思想包袱
declined to become a priest in protest against a homophobic wave that gripped the Church of England in the 1980s.
in the gay Christian lobby
-- “男性”is not necessary
in telling the story of self-described Christians
a single person with two natures, divine and human
He is better at describing
he stumbles in
Mr MacCulloch copes better
becoming lighter and more gossipy
to addressing modern surges of zeal, from Mormons to Pentecostals.
historic conditions in which it has been articulated
-- which it has been articulated
generally irreligious age
a successful ambassador of religion
a way to acknowledge that faith can be taken seriously as a response to deep human yearnings without needing to subscribe to the formality of organised belief.
her latest book is not so much a case for God as a case against atheism
Those who do not already have faith will not come away with a logical reason to believe.
for the way it manages
-- old-time, for old time’s sake, old timers: 传统老式基督教
does not mean what Christians think it means