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Nearer, My God: An Autobiography of Faith Paperback – October 15, 1998


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Product Details

  • Series: Harvest Book
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; 1 edition (October 15, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156006189
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156006187
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #175,830 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In Nearer, My God, William F. Buckley Jr. turns away from the political concerns that form the crux of his reputation and offers a series of thoughtful meditations upon his Roman Catholic faith. Although the book is subtitled An Autobiography of Faith, only portions of it are strictly autobiographical. Other sections include ruminations on the controversies of the modern Church--such as the continued ban on birth control and the ordination of female priests--and an exegesis of Difficulties, a remarkable 1934 collaborative debate between a Catholic priest and an amateur theologian. ("The volume has slipped from regular use," Buckley writes, "and even from the memory of younger people, but it is not anachronized, though it takes on some questions that no longer vex the religiously curious.")

Buckley writes with consistent intelligence and precision; how, indeed, could it be otherwise? Even those who do not agree with him politically will be struck by the sensitivity of his spiritual inquiry, particularly in his elaboration of the distinction between contemporary Catholic practice and the enduring Catholic heritage. Nearer, My God serves as a splendid testimony to the maintenance of faith. --Ron Hogan

From Kirkus Reviews

This eloquent spiritual ``autobiography'' is, disappointingly, almost entirely about people other than Buckley, and about theology rather than faith. Buckley, erstwhile leader of the political right (founder and editor of the National Review) has departed from his usual subjects here. (Refreshingly, he humbly admits that this book took five years to write and that he was dissatisfied with the finished product, feeling that it lacked the fervor and narrative vigor usually associated with spiritual memoirs.) The book begins wonderfully: Buckley recounts his Catholic childhood in England and America, describing his devout parents, his privileged life of tutors, travels, and boarding schools. With his customary humor, he offers a teenager's view of Jesuit education; he also reveals a tender side, recounting his early prayers for his beloved mother's health (somewhat precarious after bearing 11 children). Yet the tenor of this chapter is in no way sustained throughout the book, which becomes an argumentative debate about the great issues of the Catholic Church. Even here, Buckley does not reveal much of himself, choosing instead to recount the intellectual struggles of adult friends who converted to Catholicism, among them Malcolm Muggeridge, Clare Boothe Luce, and Richard John Neuhaus. Buckley calls these pundits ``the forum,'' and he solicits their advice about many of the great theological debates: theodicy, the meaning of the crucifixion, papal infallibility (``the forum is divided on the issue of contraception,'' he tells us). Even the chapter entitled ``Experiencing Lourdes'' is primarily a detached observer's discussion of the site's history and the Church's lengthy process for authenticating miracles. One of the few hints we get about Buckley's own position is his restrained comment that ``the spiritual tonic is felt'' by pilgrims at Lourdes. But despite the aloofness, Buckley remains, as ever, a witty and controversial commentator. Readers looking for meaty discussions of Catholic doctrine could do a lot worse. (1 b&w illustration, not seen) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

This book is perhaps one of the most profound books on Theology I have yet read.
ConrailErie
I personally like how he seperates his defenses of Christianity and Catholicism, allowing this book to be tolerated for even the most evangelical Christian.
J. R. Davis
First, Buckley's employing Cardinal Newman's defense of Catholicism is an excellent presentation of Catholic thought.
John Bickett

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

49 of 52 people found the following review helpful By taking a rest HALL OF FAME on August 4, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Mr. Buckley is an exceptionally talented man; his writing is only one of many disciplines at which he excels. And even within this field he is an accomplished novelist, essayist, speech writer, author of monographs, and the author of a syndicated national newspaper column. This particular work could be legitimately characterized as theology although the author denies that he is so qualified. By his definition this may be true, but his level of expertise on Christianity, and on being a Roman Catholic far surpasses the knowledge the majority of the practitioners of the faith can claim.
I came back to this book for a second reading after Mr. Buckley was mentioned several times in the new book by Gary Wills, "Why I Am A Catholic". Mr. Buckley's working title was the same as that of Mr. Wills, but when his book was published in 1997 it had become, "Nearer, My God". Mr. Wills and Mr. Buckley had worked together with Mr. Wills having written for the National Review. Their personal preferences in the political sphere were to become incompatible, and the professional relationship ended.
"Nearer My God", is not as critical of the Church although it does raise a variety of questions about Vatican II, and the decline of virtually any form of religious instruction in education, public or private. Mr. Buckley shares the changes that have taken place at the preparatory school he attended, and includes at the end of his book a list of quite prestigious private schools generally founded by Christians, and their present course offerings that are devoid of anything other than religious homogeneity. The effort spent ensuring that any discussion/teaching is as far from any study of specific religions, is either laughable, or offensive depending on the reader's point of view.
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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Anthony G Pizza VINE VOICE on January 2, 2005
Format: Paperback
As founder, editor, and post-retirement conscience of "National Review," William F. Buckley Jr. acknowledges being described as an evangelist for conservative political and economic ideals. This world view, fueled by efforts to bring faith-based, like-minded people to the polls, helped George W. Bush's 2004 re-election.

In "Nearer, My God," written before President Bush took office (and whose title springs from the hymn,"Nearer My God To Thee") Mr. Buckley draws from Catholic liturgy, philosophy, dialogue, art and debate (reaching to Scripture itself) to describe and affirm his love for Christ and his Catholic faith.

The book is subtitled, "An Autobiography of Faith," and often reads with warm, vivid, humorous family memories and familial wit (a WFB trademark.) Mr. Buckley vividly describes his youth in strict but nurturing St. John's school in Beaumont, and recalls his parents and siblings' religious practice (closing with tender remembrances of his mother Aloise, to whom he dedicated the book). Mr. Buckley tempers memories of a nephew's ordination into a strict Benedictine order, a Sistine Chapel TV taping and audience with Pope John Paul II with humorous asides on bad wine, camcorder angles and papal misintroductions. Mr. Buckley also bemusedly describes his years at Yale, from where gradual, hard-hearted removal of Christian symbolism and ethos inspired his first best seller and a recurring theme in this book. (WFB's dismantles Millbrook College's Christmas, um, "Candlelight" service with particular humor and relish.)

But WFB also at times falls into the moderator role he often took on his flagship PBS show, "Firing Line.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Dave on May 20, 2001
Format: Paperback
William F. Buckley's extraordinary literary talents come forth once again in this personal journey and growth within his chosen faith. Totally unlike most of his books that I have read, I found myself compelled to keep the pages turning, and found that many (certainly not all, since I have yet to have an audience with the Pope!) questions and experiences I have also shared. Highly recommended.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By John Bickett on February 11, 2001
Format: Paperback
I am a former Catholic turned evangelical. I must say that despite great differences in Catholic and evangelical thought, there is a goldmine of information that Buckley presents. First, Buckley's employing Cardinal Newman's defense of Catholicism is an excellent presentation of Catholic thought. Equally interesting are the real-life apologetics afforded by Monsignor Knox to one, Mr. Lunn (the latter converted to Catholicism in part due to M. Knox's incisive responses). Evangelicals must understand Catholics, and they will walk away from these exchanges with a vivid, intelligent overview. Incredibly enough, the platforms used to buttress Catholic doctrine serve well, in logical terms, for Christian apologetics at-large. These gems, alone, are well-worth the read. Another fascinating feature includes snippets of responses from various luminaries on their opinions involving three questions. I won't spoil the plot; suffice it to say their responses bring joy to anyone thirsting for relevance in the Gospel and the Christian faith. The slice of life descriptions of involvement with David Nevin, Grace of Monaco, Charleton Heston, Malcolm Muggeridge, etc....well, you won't want to miss these. There is a wide difference between Catholicism and the evangelical world. Nevertheless, the essentials of Christianity are captured in Buckley's recountings--to the extent that reading them creates an intellectually and emotionally satisfying journey. The reader must invariably see Christ just as He was portrayed at the climax of "Ben Hur": God, Who is near. Lastly, I surely came away in awe of Buckley's caressing of the English language. Yes, Bill, "Well done, Lord...our Lord." And, "well done" to His servant, too.
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