Friday 16 March 2012
A Certain Faith
Barry Pearlman has lived and worked in the UK, USA, and Australia, and currently lives in Wales. A Certain Faith is a remarkable achievement, both inspiring and uplifting – an accessible synthesis of traditional metaphysics and fundamental theology that offers the basis for a renewal of apologetics. Such clarity, in such depth and breadth, is exceedingly rare in our time. Nor are theology and philosophy here separated from spirituality and the interior life, as is too often the case. It should find its way into libraries and reading lists. It is easily available from Amazon UK or Amazon US.
Here is a longer version of this review, as it will appear in Second Spring, issue 15.
A masterpiece of modern apologetics, this book would be an excellent read for the Year of Faith that began in October 2012. It builds upon the fact that there is an intrinsic, formative principle within thought — namely, being. It was the mistake of Descartes to begin with “I think, therefore I am.” We should begin at the very beginning, with “Being is” or “Something is”, closely followed by “It is what it is,” and “It cannot both be and not be” (the principle of non-contradiction). Having established the idea of being and indeed of Absolute Being as essential to all coherent thought whatever, the second chapter (on Creation) shows that it was a failure to appreciate the analogy of being – meaning the different degrees or levels of being – that led to the disastrous errors of Kant and postmodern philosophy. The analogy of being links everything that exists (at the same time differentiating it from God), providing the foundation for a high-level but extremely succinct and accessible introduction to cosmology, revelation, Christology, the nature of the Church, and the moral and spiritual life.
Though the book begins with philosophy, and is clearly aimed at the demolition of postmodernism, its deeper purpose is to strengthen and nourish the life of faith. In order to do this it takes the reader on a most extraordinary journey before it reaches the consummation of the life of faith in mystical union.
Barry Pearlman has lived and worked in the UK, USA, and Australia, and currently lives in Wales. He clearly has a very profound grasp of modern physics and mathematics, and is able to integrate this into his discussion of Creation in a way that alone would make the book worth having. But this is only the beginning, since he moves then into the questions surrounding the notions of good and evil, and from there to the more properly theological part of the book when he turns to Revelation. Pearlman is extremely good on biblical exegesis, and able to demonstrate the collapse of form criticism in the face of modern criticism by the likes of Richard Bauckham and John Redford, not to mention N.T. Wright and Roch Kereszty. With Pope Benedict, Pearlman adopts not a pre-critical but a post-critical approach, replacing the dichotomy of “Jesus of History” and the “Jesus of Faith” with the “Jesus of Testimony.” It can be clearly established that the Gospels are based on eye-witness accounts, that miracles are possible, that Jesus knew he was God, and that his rising from the dead is the most likely explanation for the survival of Christianity.
Reason and likelihood can only take us to the threshold of faith, and in the second half of the book the author takes us over that threshold – explaining how Christ founded the Church, and gave it a structure, with Peter as its foundation. He defends the Church, too, against common accusations that are largely based on misconceptions or deliberate propaganda by the Church’s enemies (Inquisition, Crusades, the repression of thought and science). In the third Part of the book, “Spirit”, he examines the way of Purgation, Illumination, and Union – the way of grace, prayer, and sacrament, by which the individual members of the Church may be sanctified and transformed by faith into the likeness of God.
Whether you are inquiring into Christianity or simply attempting to deepen your understanding, possessing a single book that covers so much and gives an organic sense of the Catholic faith as an inter-connected whole is a great gift, and this thoroughly up-to-date and intelligent volume is worth more than its weight in gold. A Certain Faith is a remarkable achievement, both inspiring and uplifting – an accessible synthesis of traditional metaphysics and fundamental theology that offers the basis for a renewal of apologetics. Such clarity, in such depth and breadth, is exceedingly rare in our time. Nor are theology and philosophy here separated from spirituality and the interior life, as is too often the case. It should find its way into as many libraries and reading lists as possible.