Briefly Reviewed: July-August 1984
Psychological Seduction: The Failure of Modern Psychology
By William Kirk Kilpatrick
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Review Author: Peter Kreeft
The cover of this paperback shows two seductive feminine hands holding up a misty, dreamy, juicy, bulbous apple. Coupled with the title (if the subtitle is ignored), it will probably seduce a goodly number of would-be Don Juans into buying the book under false pretenses, as Kierkegaard’s “Diary of the Seducer” in Either/Or fascinates college students by “setting them up” and then letting them down. But the “down” is really an “up,” an enlightenment, and their “up” was really a “down,” an illusion.
The illusion here has little to do with sex in the first place. Modern “pop” psychology itself is the snake in the grass, and Kilpatrick tells the story of Genesis 11 — of modernity’s falling for its promises. The subtitle is the point: Kilpatrick is the little child who dares to cry, “The emperor has no clothes!”
Everyone who has read Paul Vitz’s excellent Psychology as Religion will compare these two books, for they share the same fundamental thesis. Kilpatrick does very little repeating, however, and his book stands up very well in the comparison, both in attention-getting style and in wide-ranging content. Both books should be required reading for Christians because both expose the snake of modern psychology in the grass of Christianity.
Every chapter of this book (there are 16, each a nice bite-sized polemic) hits a bull’s eye. (There is a lot of bull to hit.) The author sounds like one part Chesterton, one part C.S. Lewis, and one part Thomas Howard.
The book clarifies and simplifies effectively, but occasionally is written down to “the average reader.” Yet we have here a style that does not lull us to sleep, as most of the glut of Christian books do, and also substance that slaps us in the face (“Thanks, I needed that!”). The object of the critique is not psychology as such but modern society’s substituting it for religion, and (worse) its unawareness of what it is doing. In a brief but crucial preface Kilpatrick qualifies his critique: he uses the word “psychology” to refer to psychology used as a social force, rather than psychology as a science. (He teaches the latter, after all; this is no “know-nothing” speaking.)
He largely limits his satire to “third force” psychology, or popular humanistic psychology a la Rogers, Fromm, Perls, and their ilk. The satire is so accurate (his instinct to go for the jugular is a joy to watch) and so wide-ranging that a reviewer despairs of picking out a few of hundreds of examples. But I content myself with these two:
On Truth: “I opened my intellect as I opened my mouth, in order to shut it again on something solid.”
On secularism: “When the sacred is cheapened, everything is cheapened.”
If “the hallmark of the psychological society seems to be an emitting seriousness,” we are grateful that Kilpatrick escapes that society. He is a Christian who understands “a darkness far darker and a glory far brighter than anything the psychological society has yet revealed to us.” Why then have so many, even many Christians, eaten the apple? “To us, psychology seems like a big thing but that is because we have misplaced the measuring stick…. It has the illusion of depth, but then so do facing mirrors. Sooner or later you will want to find the door.”
Christ is the Door. He is present in this book. That, ultimately, is the reason for its power.
Upon This Rock
By Valentine Long
Publisher: Franciscan Herald Press
Review Author: James Likoudis
This is an excellent popular work in Roman Catholic apologetics containing 20 essays steeped in the wisdom of St. Thomas Aquinas, a number of which have appeared previously in various Catholic publications, and richly deserve republication here.
Fr. Long writes with great clarity and philosophic acumen, demonstrating that the major contemporary denials of historic Christian dogmas stem from false and destructive philosophical premises. He aptly shows that the application of the philosophies of Kant and Hegel to Catholic doctrine is simply modernism, and that a deceitful atheism underlies the emergence of neo-modernism among Catholics in the post-conciliar period. Modern dissenters from traditional Catholicism are labeled the “oddity” they are for attempting to “remake the Creed after their own designs while claiming to belong…to the divinely founded institution they would demolish.”
Long is unsparing in his criticism of process philosophy and process theology, which have undermined the rational foundations of Christian belief and subverted the faith of many Catholics in divine revelation and a supernatural order. Many religion teachers in Catholic schools and CCD classes have added to the crisis of truth and authority in the Church by withholding from their pupils “the great, fixed, eternal truths” of historical Christianity.
Our Franciscan author brilliantly defends those same truths, drawing upon the riches of the Catholic tradition as exemplified in Scripture, the Fathers, the councils, the writings of St. Thomas and Cardinal Newman, and the papal encyclicals. A major part of Long’s book is devoted to defending the primacy of Peter in the Church and “the infallible authority which Christ invested in Peter to be passed on to his successors in the Roman See.”
The Liturgy Explained
By Thomas Howard
Review Author: James Jacob Hege
As a former parishioner at Christ Church (Episcopal) in Wenham, Massachusetts, I was one of the ones who got to watch the birth of this book: from its grassroots conception in our parish to the finished delivery by Morehouse-Barlow. Responding to the large interest among college students in the role and relevance of the liturgy, the vestry and wardens of the parish “commissioned” the author to prepare this work for the delectation and edification of the large number of students who had come to Christ Church from primarily evangelical, non-liturgical backgrounds.
The result was a number of dittoed, stapled sheets which were passed out during discussion evenings over the years at the author’s home: a formative period in which topics such as the Virgin Mary, prayers for the dead, and ember days were argued vigorously over beer, tea, and pipes. The finished product is The Liturgy Explained by Thomas Howard — himself a college professor and a convert to the Episcopal Church from an essentially evangelical non-liturgical background.
Crux et Cithara
By Edited by Robert A. Skeris
Publisher: Catholic Church Music Associates
Review Author: Giles R. Dimock
“Caviar for the generals” was the expression a theologian friend of mine used for very technical theological discourse not suited for general consumption, and so we might describe this fine collection of essays and lectures on sacred music published on the occasion of the 70th birthday of Msgr. Johannes Overath, president of the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music. Much of the material is the work of Msgr. Overath, but other German theologians (including Cardinal Ratzinger), liturgists, and canonists are included. Its primary appeal will be for those in the field of sacred music and liturgy, as the Latin title Crux et Cithara — cross and harp — suggests.
Reading these lectures and essays — which span the period leading up to the liturgical reform of Vatican II, the various stages of implementation after the Council, and the present liturgical situation — shows the discrepancy between what the Conciliar Fathers intended and the existing malaise that ensued.
Throughout this collection, much attention is focused on the Church’s own great treasury of Gregorian chant and polyphony, and deservedly so, but there are also interesting analyses of newer compositions.
All in all, I found this a valuable collection. For liturgists, organists, choirmasters, those interested in chant, polyphony, and good liturgical music, this collection offers a historical perspective and a richly nuanced overview.
The Restoration of Christian Culture
By John Senior
Review Author: Keith Bower
This is a sequel to Senior’s relatively unnoticed 1978 release The Death of Christian Culture, in which he analyzed the creed of “liberalism” not only as the death of thought, but as a sustained invocation of Non-being. He dated the descent into modernism from the publication of Baudelaire’s Fleurs du Mai and Matthew Arnold’s appointment to the first chair in English literature at Oxford, both in 1857. The first foreshadowed the death of literature, the second prefigured a radical disorientation in education.
Senior sees “liberalism” as a denial of the law of non-contradiction: that a thing cannot both be true and not true at the same time. The so-called “gray areas” that philosophical liberals see pervading all issues of any importance are really the onsetting gloom of a pitch dark era of thought, or rather, thoughtlessness. Denying absolutes, liberalism has given us the worship of nihilism in the arts, the craving for sterility, the obliteration of the notion of the soul, and, finally, the impossibility of imposing the a priori ground that things indeed are, that there is objective truth.
Senior’s prescription for cultural restoration is simple. At the heart of it is the assertion that there is but one purpose for Christian culture — the perpetuation of the Eucharist. It is in this act that the dogs of nihilism, the Real Absence, are held back. His advice is to simplify your life, pray mightily for reparation in the face of our Holocaust in the abortion clinics and throw your television out.
But this book is not limited to advice; it is an appreciation of the spiritual life.
©1984 New Oxford Review. All Rights Reserved.
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