Reviews - What do customers think about What is Christianity (Fortress Texts in Modern Theology)?
What is Christianity if Jesus were merely a prophet Jun 16, 2008
Harnack considers himself an imitator of Jesus, the man who did nothing more than (as a mere man) manifest the way to the Father for his fellow man. His book quite eloquently walks through church history from this novel premise and perspective.
The book contains many astute points. To highlight a few:
He agrees with Goethe "Let intellectual and spiritual culture progress, and the human mind expand, as much as it will; beyond the grandeur and the moral elevation of Christianity, as it sparkles and shines in the Gospels, the human mind will not advance."
The Pharisees proclaimed God through commands and earthly trade in contrast to Jesus who proclaimed God through the soul's nobility and love.
Meanings given to life that are not eternal are merely trite sophisms.
The cross cannot be gainsaid by philosophical argument. It is too sublime for man to reason against.
The power of the nascent church demonstrated itself by keeping its integrity while conquering all the three entrenched powers of its time - nature worship, state religion and pagan philosophy
The Roman Catholic Church is merely the continuation of the Roman Empire and is the opposite of the early Christian church at Rome in many ways.
Reformation always applies Ockham's razor by purifying down to the essentials.
Now the problems:
Harnack denies miracle yet speaks of a God who can "compel Nature" and by this, speaks in riddles. If God is above nature why can't He overrule the Nature He has made? Furthermore, how does Harnack think he possesses the qualifications, as a creature within Nature, to explain on behalf of God His limitations within His creation? Remedial reading of Job chapter 38 could have erased Harnack's presumption.
Harnack states " The Gospel nowhere says that God's mercy is limited to Jesus' mission." Is Harnack aware of John 14:6 "Jesus saith unto him, I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me.?"
Finally, Harnack's denial of the Divinity of Christ and consequently the Trinity define him as a Christian heretic. His castigation of Luther for stopping short of eradicating these dogmatic curses from the church is certainly shocking to orthodox Christian ears.
For doctrine (which Harnack does not have much use for) the book is a zero star. For historical insight subsequent to 200 A.D. the book is at least a three. I will give it a two with hesitation.
Great Work -- Faulty Binding Oct 21, 2005
Harnack's work is a classic in modern theology and deserves five stars for its influence alone. The binding of this edition, however, (at least the one I ordered for our university library) cracks almost anywhere you open it.