Christianity has had a struggling relationship with silence. We have a wordy faith filled with volume that finds difficulty to accept anything less.
Pascal wrote that “all of man’s misfortunes come from one thing, which is not knowing how to sit quietly in a room”. Diarmaid MacCulloch here charts this problematic and often contradictory relationship with power, sensitivity and insight in Silence: A Christian History. Expanded from a lecture series, it is intellectually weighty and without the prevarications and self-qualifications that sometimes spoil academic prose. Comfortingly, it’s not overwhelmingly dense!
The final quarter for me is the most applicable and provocative. MacCulloch explores the diverse uses of silence: the silence surrounding the global suffering, slavery, abuses, the silencing of non-heterosexual, non-male voices within the church and more. There is an astonishing cadenza on “Nicodemism”, the term John Calvin left for us derived from Nicodemus, who only dared visit the tomb under cover of darkness.
This is a highly informative account of the nature and application of silence in the Western Church and parts of this in the East with rigorous engagement of the associated theologies that accompany this.
We speak more than we ever should, this is a substantive, important and sure-to-be classic on the subject. A valued counter-foil, so ssssssssssh!