Posts Tagged ‘Paul Johnson’

Adventures in Bookland: The Quest for God by Paul Johnson

Sunday, August 19th, 2018

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).

Adventures in Bookland: Jesus by Paul Johnson

Tuesday, October 17th, 2017

Here’s an impious thought for the impious: surely there’s something deeply wonderful that the most important man in human history was a carpenter, a poor man living in the first century equivalent of Walsall, rather than a conqueror or a king. Think of those other candidates for most important man in history, generally surnamed ‘the great’, such as Alexander or Cyrus or Napoleon: they arrived at their greatness by swimming across rivers of blood. What Paul Johnson does in this little book, and does marvellously, is show why that carpenter from Nazareth was:

so extraordinary and protean, passionate yet deliberative, straightforward and subtle, full of authority and even, at times, stern, yet also infinitely kind, understanding, forgiving, and loving, so dazzling in his excellences that those close to him had no hesitation in accepting his divinity.

There is a question that Jesus is related to have asked his disciples. “Who do people say I am?” And they answered, giving the speculations of the people as to who this extraordinary preacher and miracle worker might be. Then Jesus said, “But you, who do you say I am?”

The question is asked of each of us. It may be the most important question ever posed.