BOOK REVIEW: "The Betrayal of Charity"

(Matthew Levering, The Betrayal of Charity: The Sins that Sabotage Divine Love, 2011, 219 pages.)

As a lifelong Protestant, it is often a refreshing change of pace to step into the world of Roman Catholicism. Sociologist Andrew Greeley, in his book The Catholic Imagination, beautifully describes some of the differences between the religious worlds of Catholicism and Protestantism. Many Protestants grow up worshipping in brightly-lit sanctuaries with stark, blank white walls. In contrast, many Catholics grow up in more dimly-lit, dark-walled, richly-ornate spaces. Greely writes that, “Catholics live in an enchanted world, a world of statues and holy water, stained glass and votive candles, saints and religious medals, rosary beads and holy pictures.”

With this somewhat overgeneralized contrast in mind between the “Catholic Imagination” and the “Protestant Imagination,” I enjoyed stepping into the textured and nuanced world of Catholic theology, featuring close readings of such prolific figures as Thomas Aquinas. But as much as I enjoyed my pilgrimage into the Catholic Imagination with Levering as my guide, I will confess that my Protestant leanings continually reared their heads. In particular, I was regularly more intrigued by Levering’s summaries of his Protestant interlocutors than I was compelled by his argument.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed reading a sophisticated Catholic theologian’s response to such major non-Catholic figures as the pacifist Mennonite John Howard Yoder, the curmudgeonly and eccentric literary critic (who in all seriousness seems to have read every major book in the Western canon) Harold Bloom, and (most interestingly for me) the pluralistic theology of multiplicity in Regina Schwartz and Laurel Schneider.

I am a longtime reader of both Yoder and Bloom, but I have not previously read Schwartz and Schneider, and I am grateful to Levering for introducing them to me. Through investigating these authors further, I found a new book which is not included in Levering’s bibliography, likely because it was published too late to be included in his manuscript: Polydoxy: Theology of Multiplicity and Relation, edited by Catherine Keller and Laurel Schneider. Thanks to Levering, I look forward to reading this book soon.

The Rev. Carl Gregg is the pastor of Broadview Church in Chesapeake Beach, Maryland. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

This book review is a part of the Roundtable at the Patheos Book Club. Visit the Book Club for more free resources related to this book.

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