Thursday, December 22, 2016

A Review Of Alfredo Fierro's Después de Cristo

AP: Some of our readers on Across the Atlantic, since this blog is devoted primarily to our English-speaking audience, might not have heard of the book reviewed in this post. That makes this post all that more important. The title of the book is Después de Cristo (Madrid: Trotta, 2012), written by Alfredo Fierro. The title in English would be "After Christ." It has a total of 559 pages. If you're curious about the author, you can read a little bit about him on Wikipedia (here) or on his personal webpage (here). Just use an online translator to convert the Spanish to English. The translation won't be perfect (none of them are), but they will get you pretty close so that you can get a feel for what you're looking at.

This book deserves a careful and slow reading because it is a history of religious ideas that have sustained the evolution of the West and at the same time a history of the stellar moments of Christianity, a basic pillar of that West. It is a well written book, well-developed, dense, scholarly, and at the same time clear, direct to the reader, questioning. I liked it a lot because it is a lucid criticism, a bit skeptical, and a personal reflection that can be shared on the data that unquestionably provides us with the critical history of ideas.

The author claims that his book has an air of "accounting," and this in a double sense. First of all, accounting with himself: the author has been educated as a Christian and wishes to express his disagreement with his own past. On the other hand, an adjustment of accounts with the heavenly Christ, the idealized Jesus, or rather not with him, but with the myths, legends, and absurdities that he was taught during his childhood and education. The author states that other historians and philosophers have already written much on this issue, but that he wishes to contribute with a historical essay to clarify why he now thinks in a way that is contrary to what would be expected of an educated person like him.

The thesis of the book is found in the prologue. There are three parts. First, Jesus––not the historical Jesus, the popular Galilean rabbi who was ultimately unsuccessful in his endeavors, but the Jesus transformed by Paul and others into the heavenly Christ––is the most influential person, without question, of the Western world. The traces of the impact of this figure in our lives have lasted all the way to the present day. We even count the years from the moment that is believed to have been his birth. From there it is verified that Europe and the western world have been Christian for many centuries; a "Christology" has been built, a science of Jesus as the Christ or Messiah, and a theology around that theology, which has shaped people's lives for centuries. Second, we are now in a post-Christian era, that is, the Western world is deeply de-Christianized. How did this come to pass? And third, the answer: About five centuries ago there was an intellectual explosion, a movement of ideas opposite to the one that guided Europe as Christian region; this is a movement that has torn down traditional Christology, and the theology based on it, piece by piece until it ends at an age that is no longer Christian in its very foundations. This tearing down of Christianity has turned a Christian culture to a sort of orphaned religion, which is what we now see around us.

The book is divided into Old Age, Middle Ages, Modern, and Post-War periods. And within these broad divisions the stellar moments bear an epigraph and a date that indicate in summary a decisive time of development. Thus, in the Old Age period, which is the period I focus on in my studies and in our blogs, the titles found in Fierro's book are as follows: (1) "At that time" (year 30); (2) "The Myth of Christ" (50); (3) "Legends of the Gospels" (70); (4) "Confrontations" (250); (5) "God is Christ" (325); and (6) "The Religion of the Prince" (391). You can get a pretty good feel for what the author discusses just from reading these headings.

The titles of the chapters are marked by dates that serve as anchor points for the exposition of the facts, themes, and illuminating discussion that they provoke. No doubt the author is interested in the the events themselves, but mostly the themes, ideas, and currents of thought that led to such events. Fierro looks at the whole history of the West from the vantage point of Christianity, with the underlying idea of ​​what it still means for him, and––I presume––that also for his readers. In other words, the imprint of that story is still perceptible today. It is a past not totally submerged, but still afloat between us.

In summary, Alfredo Fierro exposes the reader to his thesis, which is convincing in my opinion, that understanding the history of what revolves around Christianity: its birth, its progress and maturity, its deterioration and decay. By studying these we stand to learn a great deal about the whole history of the West. I agree with him. As far as I am concerned, with respect to the first part devoted to the origins of Christianity to Nicea and Theodosius the Great, the development of the thesis with the exposition of the facts and their interpretation seem to me tremendously sensible: I share a great deal in common with his analysis and results. For example, on Paul's role in creating the almost definitive image of Jesus and on which he laid the groundwork for his powerful later impact; his ideas on the historical-critical vision of the Gospels and the development of Christology are very well seen and synthesized; likewise the fundamental role played by the Fourth Gospel; the exposition of the development of the confrontation between Christianity and the Empire, until the triumph of the first, is generally convincing. Regarding the rest: I have read the whole book and it too also seemed reasonable. The end generates, without a doubt, a taste of pessimism, but not entirely, since the author leaves open the possibility that, even if the humanity of the West alone is without God at this moment, it is possible that the true God is yet to come. In summary: I highly recommend the reading of this volume. You'll learn a lot and it will definitely cause you think.

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