Book Bag

02.12.13

Garry Wills’s Religion Book Bag

So what if Benedict XVI is resigning? The prolific Pulitzer Prize–winning historian’s new book, Why Priests?, asks whether we need the pope in the first place. Here he picks his favorite theological works.

The Trinity
By St. Augustine

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Augustine, the only major thinker of Late Antiquity who was monolingual (Latin) and could not read the original Trinitarian speculations of the Greek Fathers, so he had to look inside himself for the image of God. He saw that he was many-in-one. He thought, remembered, and willed—distinct acts but all intertwined, and all him. That was how he thought of the Three-in-One Deity.

The Surprise
By G.K. Chesterton

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This two-act play, found after his death, proves Borges's point that Chesterton engaged in a playful metaphysics. The Surprise is a romantic comedy played by puppets that turn into living people, whose conflicts and interplay with the puppet master enact the meanings of free will, original sin, and the Incarnation of God as Man.

Paul Among Jews and Gentiles
By Krister Stendahl

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This Lutheran bishop corrects Luther and others who made Paul a tortured and torturing voice of bad conscience. The humane Paul turns out to be the one best grounded in his authentic letters.

Corpus Mysticum
By Henri de Lubac S.J.

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This Jesuit explores the rich meaning of “the body of Christ” before literalists contracted it to mean the Eucharistic host and chalice. Christians themselves, to Augustine and his later followers, are the living body of Christ.

On Consulting the Faithful in Matters of Doctrine
By John Henry Newman

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Newman was delated to the Vatican by its spies as “the most dangerous man in England” for writing this work. It proves that Christian believers were, in certain historical crises, truer to the Gospel than their ecclesiastical superiors proved to be.