Today we add a new book review to our Pages list.
We also post it here.
Confessions of a Born-Again Pagan by Anthony T. Kronman, Yale University Press, New Haven & London, 2016, 1161 pages.
Notified of the existence of this book by its publisher, I undertook to review it. When it reached me I knew immediately that my review would be short, for out of its bruised packaging, which had barely contained its load through the mail, thudded an enormous volume that would surely daunt a professional theologian sentenced to life imprisonment. One thousand one hundred and sixty-one pages! One thousand and seventy-six without the notes and the index. The use of so many words could only mean one thing to me – that the writer had little or nothing to say.
About what then has he so little, or so much, to say? Nothing useful like Nuclear Physics for Dummies. Just one man’s religious meditations, plastered thick on an armature of historical and cultural exposition. In such cases, the weight of the physical book is almost always in inverse proportion to the weight of its message. In this case, the title is a sufficient miniaturization of the contents. My advice to a browser who comes upon it is, look no further than the title; what you’ve got is what you’d get, without growing old over it.
It would be amazing if it were not typical that an opus so physically heavy is composed of pronouncements as light as these that I now quote. (I choose them from page 1074 because the author himself says that they re-state the idea that his immense labors were exerted to express.)
We are awash in eternity. God is present in every thing and every moment. In this sense, the atheist has it backward. The real challenge is not to disabuse ourselves of the idea of eternity. It is to open our eyes to it; to see how fully present it is even in the least of things.
The fundamentalist has it wrong too. There is no God beyond the world. The world itself is divine. To reach eternity, it is not necessary to go outside the world; indeed, this cannot be done. …
Our encounter with eternity is brief. Death comes all too soon. But it cannot cut us off from the everlasting and divine because we are already in it. We are born to disappointment but not to despair. Our condition is one of joy, however long it lasts.
There opines a lucky man!
As for the world itself being divine: the world itself IS. Call it divine if you will, delight in it, wonder at it, but it remains literally mundane. And astrophysicists tell us it is doomed to extinction.
If out of intellectual generosity you are tempted to grant Professor Kronman a point for echoing Spinoza’s idea – declared by him in an age when atheism was punishable in Europe – that nature is God, it is still to be remembered that giving nature an additional name adds nothing to it. God remains superfluous to all requirements.
Jillian Backer March 2, 2017