Tuesday, July 7, 2015
Book Review: Coming Out Christian in the Roman World
This is one of those rare books that convinced me of the opposite of the author's thesis. There's some interesting historical examples but they don't connect, possibly because the author explicitly rejects the idea of explaining history through a narrative. If you don't think history forms any kind of narrative, then the narrative you present in your book will probably not be very engaging or cohesive. One chapter takes Constantine to task for being confused in one of his pivotal speeches, but I don't think it's Constantine who's confused here. I also don't feel like there's much of a window on the ancient psyche here -- the author protests against Manichean dichotomies, then turns around and sets a dichotomy between the firebrands preaching Christian separation from the world and the average Christian trying to figure out a balance. This is an issue Christians have always dealt with but I don't see additional insight beyond a list of the various historical pressures. How are those put together in the process of "Coming Out Christian" as in the book's title? I still don't know. I very much wanted to learn from this book, but it just has too many problems.