I’m reading this book for Random House, and finding it, well, it’s difficult not to attempt to correct her theological assessments of early Christianity. I do, however, feel she gets the late 4th century’s Trinitarian development and the subsequent development of Eastern mysticism related to this doctrine quite well. For me, the deity of Christ is fundamental to the Christian religion, but her book is not an attempt at theology, but to argue against the militant atheists who see religion only in extreme fundamentalists terms. Further, I think she treats the mystical religions with a great deal more respect than Christianity, but again, the point of her book is as I said above. I should have the review by the end of the week (or next).
Below is take on the book from someone else:
There is, perhaps, no symbol more powerful, no word more electric than ‘God’. And because the God of the monotheisms undergirds and sustains the structure of so many people’s worldviews, if you want to command the attention of said millions, all you need to do is invoke God—claim God spoke to you, name your will as ‘His’, or proclaim “God wants X,” “God thinks X”—and thank God when all is said and done. For good or bad, the world can be yours. Point being: God-talk can be dangerous.
But, insofar as it concerns the core of religion, that’s not the point. Or, it shouldn’t be.
In The Case for God, Karen Armstrong explains that until the modern period, the major Western monotheisms all concerned themselves primarily with practice, the doing of religion, rather than doctrine. A good Muslim was one who stood alongside and supported the Pillars; a good Jew observed Sabbath and remained committed to the Law and the ritual year; and a good Christian embodied the Sermon on the Mount by caring for the marginalized, promoting compassion and peace, and sharing God’s love. This is what it meant to be religious, Armstrong explains:
Religion as defined by the great sages of India, China, and the Middle East was not a notional activity but a practical one; it did not require belief in a set of doctrines but rather hard, disciplined work, without which any religious teaching remained opaque and incredible.