Beauty and Meaning

Beauty and Meaning

Author Anthony Bloom (ed. James Heywood)
Publisher DLT £19.99
Format hbk
ISBN 9781915412195

This book reproduces for the first time four lectures on Beauty, originally delivered over forty years ago. The original lecturer was an archbishop, the book carries an introduction by another archbishop, is published by a firm specialising in religious works, and contains numerous biblical references. On the ‘quacks like a duck’ principle, this should be a work of theology. But it isn’t. It is an absorbing work of philosophy, albeit written from a clearly Christian perspective. The author died in 2003 and was highly regarded for his works on meditation and prayer – and these interests recur in varying degrees in all four lectures. I suspect that to academic philosophers of today some of the ideas here may now be dated. However, I was still fascinated, especially by the frequent references to other works in languages other than English. Bloom was a polyglot who brings his internationalism into his thinking as well. I enjoyed this book, but I must conclude that I think its use in parochial ministry would be extremely limited.

Reviewed by ALAN WAKELY



Philosophy and Christian Faith

Philosophy and
Christian Faith

Author Ben Pugh
Publisher SCM  £22.99
Format pbk
ISBN 9780334057109  2018

This contribution to the SCM Study guide series would be a useful tool to anyone studying, teaching, or simply wishing to have an over-view of the philosophy of religion. The book’s structure is chronological, starting with Plato, ending with postmoder-nism, and setting the various ideas in their historical and religious (mainly Christian) contexts with admirable clarity. This is but one respect in which it differs from the many lamentably poor textbooks recently published for A level use, which take a thematic approach, and present each topic in a muddled way and with little reference to context. Here, the author is particularly successful in showing how, although philosophical ideas and religious beliefs increasingly clashed from the early modern period onwards, neither philosophy nor the scientific method should in themselves be seen as threatening to belief. Not only can any Christian learn much that is positive from engaging with philosophy, but in recent years there have emerged many eminent philosophers of religion whose ideas are informed by a robust Christian faith. In such an overview, each section is inevitably rather brief, but an impressive range of names and ideas is covered with special sections helpfully set aside for discussion and reflection.




Contemplative Prayer: A New Framework

Contemplative Prayer:
A New Framework

Author Dom David Foster
Publisher Bloomsbury/Continuum
Format pbk
ISBN 9781408187104

This is a thoughtful, rewarding book which explores a way of prayer where an awareness of God’s presence is cultivated through stillness and silence. Foster approaches his subject philosophically. The book contains short readings of Nietzsche and Heidegger, both of whom, in their different ways, grappled with the subjectivity of human experience and how the individual faces their own frailty and vulnerability. Both philosophers sought to answer the subjectivity of human existence without the resources of traditional faith. In contrast, Foster argues, contemplative prayer makes us aware of our limitations and subjectivity in the light of God. Prayer which is a deep listening to God rather than, say, a talking to God, brings us to a place of threshold and limit; a place of creative mystery where we wait upon God’s initiative instead of our own.

Foster also draws on Wittgenstein, in considering prayer; a philosopher who highlighted the provisional and limited nature of language and indicated the places where language must give way to silence. Foster is good at drawing out the ways contemplative prayer can inform our lives. Prayer which practices a listening to God enriches our capacity to listen to others. A prayer which restrains our own wills and emotions and thoughts allows us to deepen habits of selflessness as we follow Christ. This book will help anyone who wishes to develop ways of prayer built around a loving listening to God in silence.


Prayer, Philosophy


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