YIMC Book Club “The Great Heresies” Chapter 3

Vienna, as we saw, was almost taken and only saved by the Christian army under the command of the King of Poland on a date that ought to be among the most famous in history: September 11, 1683.

This is one of the sentences that hit home for me in this weeks chapter “The Great and Enduring Heresy of Mohammed.” There is a lot going on in this chapter, for sure. I compare it to a Cliffs Notes version of the History of Western Civilization 630AD – 1683AD. Sure, Belloc’s book may not be an unbiased, footnote toting, peer-reviewed, Ivy League approved, history text book, but that really wasn’t his point here.

Sure, anyone with even a hint of curiosity could plug the date “September 11th” into a search engine and eventually find out the significance of that date in the history of Western Civilization. But only Belloc, writing in 1936, in the middle of what would later become The Great Depression, could claim that it “ought to be among the most famous in history.”

Of course, we don’t get to that line until we are taken on a whirlwind tour of close to 1000 years of events on the world stage as the Roman Empire fell away, Christendom established itself, and a new religion out of the desert formed and built a civilization that would attack Christendom and the West.

Attack is a mighty harsh word, huh? I find that as I read Belloc, the reading voice in my head is that of actor Jack Webb playing Detective Joe Friday from the old television series Dragnet. “Just the fact’s, ma’am”, or sir,in my case, is what Belloc says as he reels off line after line of the history of the era, of Islam, of the Catholic Church, and what it all means.

I suspect Belloc was familar with the work of Blessed Peter of Montboissier, aka Peter the Venerable. In case you weren’t, join the club! I couldn’t find a copy of Peter’s The Summary of the Entire Heresy of the Saracens or his The Refutation of the Sect or Heresy of the Saracens either. But Belloc was probably very familiar with them both as well as this book published in 1907 entitled Islam: A Challenge to the Faith.  Those interested in learning more about this subject may also be interested in A History of Apologetics, written by Cardinal Avery Dulles and  published by Ignatius Press.

In the early 1990′s, my wife enjoyed reading a novel by Donna Tart entitled The Secret History. I don’t know anything about the book really,  except that I love the title. That’s because it fits with how I’ve been thinking about how little I actually know of this world.  Not just since reading Belloc, but since becoming a Catholic and sinking my teeth into the history of Christianity and of the Church.

From this single chapter in Belloc’s book alone, do you see what I mean? Sheeeeeeeh!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01658116461483425280 Brandon Vogt

    I was overwhelmed by the amount of history compared to the earlier sections of the book. Religious battles, political schemes, and military strategy seemed to trump the doctrinal debate between Christianity and Islam. Whereas Belloc probed the theologies behind each of the earlier heresies, but for this one, he didn't focus as much on Islam's faulty beliefs.Also, I was surprised to see Islam not as a new religion, but as a "Christian heresy". I had never considered it to be that, but I supposed it is. And I think the distinction is important, because it determines how you engage religious dialogue. Did we start from a shared cornerstone and diverge or have we been approaching faith from two completely different directions?I didn't enjoy this chapter as much as the first few, only because it was way over my head. I think some basic background on historical Islam would have been a welcome prerequisite. My mind was stretched, so for that Belloc has my thanks.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01819831282677092730 Frank

    Yes, there is much to consider in this chapter (which is why I went looking for more sources!). There is probably more relavent information from an apologetics perspective at Catholic Answers. Have a great weekend!


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