Brock and Parker begin their research perplexed by a riddle: Why are images of the crucified Christ absent from early Christian art? After visiting Mediterranean and European sites sacred to early Christians, Brock and Parker formulate a provocative answer: the dying Christ never appears in early Christian art because early Christians did not believe Christ’s redemptive death had opened a heavenly afterlife for the faithful. Rather, Brock and Parker assert, early Christians looked to Jesus as the exemplar who showed how to defy injustice by creating paradise on Earth in a loving community. In this theory, images of Christ’s passion and death invaded Christian art only when the Church started using a theology of otherworldly salvation to recruit the forces necessary to build a Christian empire. Skeptics may view with suspicion the authors’ willingness to substitute conjectural interpretations of art and heretical gnostic texts for plain readings of the orthodox biblical canon. However, as the response to The Da Vinci Code (2003) established, highly speculative retellings of Christian history attract readers. --Bryce Christensen
"In the best tradition of theological inquiry, Saving Paradise
provides a history and a theology that helps us engage the pressing problems of the world. . . . In Saving Paradise
, Brock and Parker have brought forward a bright thread of the Christian tapestry that had been in the background, largely ignored. In so doing they have made accessible rich and vivid theological resources."
—Margaret R. Miles, Christian Century
"This humane and often beautiful study of faith, loss and hope straddles the boundary between historical discovery and spiritual writing."
, starred review
offers eye-opening explorations of the mixture of spiritual vision and myopia that marked many of the great figures of Western Christianity. Its rich text and the additional material in its notes should spur readers to examine both the darkness and the light that can be found in all of us."
—Darrell Turner, National Catholic Reporter
"Brock and Parker urge readers to see church history in a new light, with an eye toward social justice. . . . By re-emphasizing early Christians' focus on paradise, on the kingdom of God on Earth, the authors are convinced they are reclaiming authentic 'traditional' Christianity. It's a controversial thesis, deserving of debate and study."
—Douglas Todd, Religion News Services
"This powerful, unprecedented, and compelling book brings real Christianity out of the shadows."
—George Lakoff, author of Don't Think of an Elephant!
"Only rarely is a single book an event. This book is such a rarity."
—Professor Daniel C. Maguire, author of A Moral Creed for All Christians