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Adventures in Bookland: The Quest for God by Paul Johnson

Paul Johnson is one of the outstanding historians of our time. His History of Christianity is both illuminating and, for the Christian, excruciatingly honest. There is no whitewashing of the sins of church or Christians in his history, quite the opposite. So it’s fascinating to learn that he wrote his history even while being, and remaining, a Catholic. In the introduction to his history, he excoriates those who would whitewash the past, or suppress it, are doing mortal damage to Christianity while thinking to protect it. The religion depends, fundamentally, on the truth. It makes claims, historical claims, upon which it rests. Jesus was a man, who lived and died in a particular place and time. Johnson subjects them to the most rigorous historical investigation, for as a believing Christian he can do nothing else, for if Christians are not committed to the truth, wherever it leads, then they are not Christians. In his meditation on the existence of God, Johnson does something similar. This book is more personal and, as such, is not likely to change anyone’s mind. But it’s a beautiful insight into the working of grace in the life a scholar and it finishes with its most valuable section: some of the prayers Johnson has composed during the course of his life. These are quite lovely, and deserve to be more widely known (and, dare I say, prayed).

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