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The Closing of the Western Mind
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About the Author

Charles Freeman is the author of The Greek Achievement and Egypt, Greece, and Rome. He lives in Suffolk, England.

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Freeman repeats an oft-told tale of the rise of Christianity and the supposed demise of philosophy in a book that is fascinating, frustrating and flawed. He contends that as the Christian faith developed in the first four centuries it gradually triumphed over the reigning Hellenistic and Roman philosophies. Christianity's power culminated when Constantine declared it the official state religion in 312. Freeman points to Ambrose, the bishop of Milan, as the figure who showed Constantine that the bishopric could wield power over the state. From then until the Middle Ages, Freeman argues, the church ruled triumphant, successfully squelching any challenges to its religious and political authority. Yet Freeman (The Greek Achievement) fails to show that faith became totally dominant over reason. First, he asserts that Paul of Tarsus, whom many think of as the founder of Christianity, condemned the Hellenistic philosophy of his time. Freeman is wrong about this, for the rhetorical style and the social context of Paul's letters show just how dependent he was on the philosophy around him. Second, Freeman glosses over the tremendous influence of Clement of Alexandria's open embrace of philosophy as a way of understanding the Christian faith. Third, the creeds that the church developed in the fourth century depended deeply on philosophical language and categories in an effort to make the faith understandable to its followers. Finally, Augustine's notions of original sin and the two cities depended directly on Plato's philosophy; Augustine even admits in the Confessions that Cicero was his model. While Freeman tells a good story, his arguments fail to be convincing. 16 pages of illus. Not seen by PW, 1 map. (Oct. 12) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

"Enjoyable and illuminating. . . . Clearly and plausibly argued . . . full of fascinating detail." -The Boston Globe

"Entertaining. . . . An excellent and readable account of the development of Christian doctrine." -The New York Times Book Review "There is much here to admire. . . . It is a panoramic view that Freeman handles with grace, erudition and lucidity." -The Washington Times "A triumph. . . . Engrossing. . . . Successfully realized. . . . Wholly admirable. . . . Freeman is to be congratulated on a broad-brush approach that throws the main issue into sharp focus. . . . [He] has added a new level of understanding." -The Times Higher Education Supplement "A fascinating account." -The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

"Engrossingly readable and very thoughtful. . . . Freeman draws our attention to myriad small but significant phenomena. . . . His fine book is both a searching look at the past and a salutary and cautionary reminder for us in our difficult present." -The New York Sun

"One of the best books to date on the development of Christianity. . . . Beautifully written and impressively annotated, this is an indispensable read for anyone interested in the roots of Christianity and its implications for our modern worldview. . . . Essential." -Choice

"Engaging. . . . Refreshing. . . . A memorable account. . . . The author is always interesting and well informed. Freeman's study moves with ease between political and intellectual history. . . . The cumulative effect is impressive." -The Times Literary Supplement

"A fine book for a popular audience that enjoys history, clear writing, and subject matter that reflects our own time." -Houston Chronicle

"The narrative is clear and fluent, the nomenclature is studiously precise . . . and the theological conflicts of the fourth century are analyzed with . . . subtlety." -History Today

"Ambitious, groundbreaking. . . . In the tradition of . . . Karen Armstrong's A History of God . . . a scholarly history that is accessible, passionate and energetic." -Hartford Advocate

"Freeman has a talent for narrative history and for encapsulating the more arcane disputes of ancient historians and theologians. . . . He manages not only to make these disputes interesting, but also to show why they mattered so much. It is a coup that few books on the early church pull off." -The Independent

"Engaging and clearly written." -The World and I

"[A] lucid account of an intellectual and social transformation that continues to shape the way Christianity is experienced and understood." -The Dallas Morning News

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