The Transfigured World by ProQuest

VIEWS: 3 PAGES: 3

More Info
									          soul and a great teacher. He became an               William L. Portier
          ardent Tolstoyan Christian after discov-
          ering the master’s The Gospel in Brief in a
          little bookshop in Poland while on leave             The	Transfigured	World
          during the war. The way of Jesus—hu-
          mility, renunciation, drawing close to                                                             put their faith in a tired Enlightenment
          God—was his answer to the horrors of                 Atheist	Delusions                             view of history and a nihilistic under-
          his time. Being rich was intolerable, so             The	Christian	Revolution	and	Its	             standing of human freedom. In what he
          he gave his share of the family money                Fashionable	Enemies                           describes as a “historical essay” focused
          to his siblings and to creative people,              David Bentley Hart                            on the first four or five centuries of the
                                                               Yale University Press, $28, 253 pp.
          including the poet Rainer Maria Rilke,                                                             early church, Hart relativizes this story
          the painter Oskar Kokoschka, and the                                                               with a counternarrative of Christian


                                                               W
          architect Adolf Loos.                                             hen St. Peter heard the cock     revolution.
             Waugh’s nice phrase for the sight of                           crow early on the morning           In part II, Hart addresses the “soothing,
          Wittgenstein at work—“the spectacle of                            of the first Good Friday, the    self-righteous fantasy” of Christianity’s
          his thinking”—captures the drama of his              synoptic Gospels tell us that he went         history as “nothing but an interminable
          teaching. Wittgenstein’s Blue and Brown              out and wept bitterly. “We are the heirs      pageant of violence, tyranny, and sexual
          Notebooks—the record of his Cambridge                of a culture that, in a sense, sprang from    neurosis.” If students know nothing else
          lectures in the 1930s—“came to be re-                Peter’s tears,” writes David Bentley Hart     of church history, they can almost al-
          garded with the same reverence and                   in his new book, Atheist Delusions. The       ways be counted on to know about the
          mystical fascination as the apocalypse               pathos of this gospel scene would have        Crusades, the Inquisition, and Galileo.
          gospels that passed surreptitiously under            been invisible to the late antique moral      Hart covers these and other familiar
          the togas of ancient Christians during               sensibility. The weeping Peter and our        episodes. His engaging account of the
          the period of Rome’s decline.”                       response to him stand for the “Christian      emergence of modern science features a
             There were sorrows and scandals.                  Revolution” of Hart’s subtitle, a trans-      memorable description of the Ptolemaic
          Wittgenstein admired the Soviet ex-                  formation of the moral imagination that       system as “a magnificent achievement
          periment, wanted to be a laborer in Rus-             allowed Christians to recognize the full      of mathematical choreography” hav-
          sia, and has been associated with the                humanity of every person. This book           ing “precious little to do with anything
          infamous Cambridge spies. Waugh tells                presents the moral world of late antiquity    we would call ‘science.’” According to
          us that Ludwig had been in “close con-               and the scandalized response of its pagan     Hart’s account of the wars of religion,
          tact” with known agents. But whatever                inhabitants to the “bizarre prodigality” of   the “violence increased in proportion
          his real connection with this group was,             the Christian belief in universal charity,    to the degree of sovereignty claimed by
          Ludwig’s effort to transform philosophy              which descended upon it “rather like a        the state.” The most “pitilessly and self-
          partook of old Karl’s ambition and heroic            meteor from a clear sky.”                     righteously violent regimes” explicitly
          single-mindedness.                                      In the first of the book’s four parts,     replaced a Christian vision with a more
             Alexander Waugh is the son of the                 Hart gestures dismissively in the direc-      “human” one. Historians may already
          essayist and novelist Auberon and the                tion of the “new atheists.” But Daniel        know all of this, but someone who picks
          grandson of Evelyn. He has written a                 Denne
								
To top