A morally charged contemplation of silence in the history of the Christian church.
This book introduces a polyphony of silences from the whole span of Christian history and beyond. Some are holy; some skirt the borders of evil. Besides prayer and mystical contemplation, there are shame and evasion; careless and purposeful forgetting. Diarmaid MacCulloch, acknowledged master of the big picture in Christian history, unravels the surprisingly mixed attitudes of Judaism to silence, the Jewish and Christian borrowings from Greek explorations of the divine, and the silences which were a feature of Jesus’s brief ministry and witness. He highlights the importance of long-forgotten Christian personalities in setting patterns of silence and contemplation still central to Christianity’s approaches to God, and points to the sudden eruption of relentless noise in the Protestant Reformation, and the Counter-Reformation’s efforts to defend centuries of insights about listening rather than speaking.
The book also singles out darker themes. Christian Churches have often persecuted both other Christians and people beyond Christianity, particularly Jews, so producing silences of hidden religious belief and practice. Many deliberate silences are revealed: the forgetting of histories which were not useful to later Church authorities (such as the leadership roles of women among the first Christians). Behind all this is the silence of God; and in a deeply personal final chapter, MacCulloch brings a message of optimism for those who still seek God beyond the clamorous noise of over-confident certainties