Volume > Issue > Briefly Reviewed: July-August 1984

Briefly Reviewed: July-August 1984

Psychological Seduction: The Failure of Modern Psychology

By William Kirk Kilpatrick

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Pages: 239

Price: $5.95

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

Pages: 255

Price: $12

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

Publisher: Morehouse-Barlow


Price: $1

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

Pages: 290

Price: $40

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

Publisher: Ignatius

Pages: 244

Price: $9.95

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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