MacCulloch’s new book is reviewed in The Guardian:
Diarmaid MacCulloch charts this [i.e., the ‘silence’ of the people of God] problematic and often contradictory relationship with aplomb in Silence: A Christian History. Expanded from his Gifford lectures, it is, as one might expect of the author of A History of Christianity and Reformation, intellectually robust, and without the prevarications and self-qualifications that sometimes stymie academic prose. Indeed, MacCulloch is by turns precise, poetic and righteously indignant. In the introduction, for example, deploying a judicious use of understatement, he writes: “Those who have a particular reverence for the Church in communion with the Holy See will no doubt feel that I have been unduly hard on it. If they do, my regrets are not very fulsome.”
MacCulloch divides his inquiry into four stages. First he discusses the depiction of silence in the Bible – in the Tanakh, with its insistence on the dumbness of idols, and in the New Testament, culminating in the very odd reference in Revelation when, at the opening of the seventh seal, there is silence in heaven “for about half an hour”. It also examines the competing claims for the role of sound in worship, with speaking in tongues and reverential silence occupying opposed positions. The second chapter covers the rise of monasticism, making a bold claim for the continuing influence of the mystical writings once attributed to Dionysius the Areopagite.
It sounds fantastic. Read the rest of the review. The book is already available in Britain but it won’t come out here until September. Which is, I have to say, a bummer. I don’t understand why such delays are necessary or even reasonable.