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Wrestling with the Paradox of Jesus as Human and Divine

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In this secular age, few readers will venture into the recondite pathways of theological discourse, but I would encourage those with the slightest inclination to discover how contemporary thinking about Christianity has evolved to look into the writings of Rowan Williams. As good a way as any to begin would be to read his latest book, Christ: The Heart of Creation, a closely argued meditation on how Christians over two millennia have dealt with the paradoxes of Christian thought, as well as about the relationship between a creator God and creation itself.

Williams is the former Archbishop of Canterbury (2003-2012), the equivalent of the Pope within the Anglican Communion, which includes the Episcopal Church in the United States. But that hardly begins to describe him. He’s a first-rate poet, gifted with a rich lyrical style and the ability to think in earthy images that bely a deeply speculative mind. He’s a public intellectual, one who weighs in regularly on a variety of thorny topics, from war and peace to human sexuality. He’s also one of the most serious and compelling theologians of our time.

His theological works range widely, beginning with The Wound of Knowledge (1979), a distillation of Christian thinking about spirituality from the New Testament through the mystical writings of St. John of the Cross. This is one of those inexhaustible texts that demands re-reading: I’ve read it at least four times, and plan to revisit it again soon. He’s written more than two dozen important individual works of theology, including influential studies of Arius and Teresa of Avila. Among his many works, I would especially recommend his concise study of the Desert Fathers of ancient Egypt called (in the British edition) Silence and Honeycakes (2003) or, in an expanded American edition, Where God Happens (2005). More recently, in 2017, he published an erudite collection of essays on Saint Augustine, where he looks closely at this influential autobiographer, theologian and philosopher—a shaping mind in the development of early Christian doctrine.

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