Briefly Reviewed: November 1984
The Motherhood of the Church
By Henri de Lubac
Review Author: Stuart Gudowitz
After reading this book I vowed never again to refer to the Roman Catholic Church as “it,” but only as “she” or “her.”
The first part of Cardinal de Lubac’s book traces the nature of the Church as Mother, and of bishops and priests as having a fatherhood derived from God. Originally written back in 1971, before so-called “feminist theology” had arrived on the scene in a prominent way, this book makes no explicit reference to it. Yet the implications of his discussion for it are clear: an androgynous Church with an androgynous priesthood is incompatible with the revelation of the non-androgynous Christ.
In the second part of the book de Lubac discusses lucidly and trenchantly the nature of the particular churches (i.e., dioceses), the relationship of these to the Universal Church, the nature and role of the episcopal college, the nature of the much misunderstood doctrine of collegiality, and the role of the Petrine Office. De Lubac strongly maintains that attempts to modify what might be called the “constitution” of the Church, to have it conform more closely with this or that secular model, fail to understand the uniqueness of the Church’s nature.
After reading this book you are likely to see the Church in a far deeper way, perhaps even a different way, than you have before: the way the Fathers saw the Church, the way we ought to see the Church because it is seeing the Church as she really is. Then we will be able to say, in the words of a Russian journal quoted by Cardinal de Lubac: “Inestimable Mother, unforgettable Mother, radiant and all beautiful, Mother of sorrows, born on the Cross, you who give birth on the Cross, Mother of innumerable children, how sweet it is to meet you!”
Summons to Faith and Renewal: Christian Renewal in a Post-Christian World
By Edited by Peter S. Williamson and Kevin Perrotta
Price: No price given
Review Author: Kevin T. Kennelly
Summons to Faith and Renewal is a series of remarkably insightful essays dealing, in one form or another, with the state of our now effectively “de-Christianized” society and the role of Christians in such a society.
“Be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom. 12:2): that Christians today must be willing to be radically distinct from the world is one of the major themes emerging from this book.
Why is it now so necessary that Christians be different! Because, as Kevin Perrotta sees it, we have in the last two centuries entered a new, third period of Christian history.
The first period, from Christ to Constantine, was an era of persecution during which it was hardly possible, never mind likely, that Christians would confuse the City of God and the City of Man.
With Constantine, Christianity entered the second period and became more or less the official religion of Western civilization. While certainly imperfect, this marriage of Christianity and culture did produce an ethos under which a person could, to a degree, absorb Christian values and suppositions and practice such without constant intellectual or social opposition.
Not so today in the third period. As Perrotta and others point out, the fundamental moorings of the Western, Judeo-Christian tradition are pretty much gone. In this confusing period, we live off residual Christian capital while spiritual and cultural bankruptcy stare us in the face.
Another of the book’s themes is the matter of correct belief and fidelity to God’s Word. Harold O.J. Brown, a Protestant theologian, writes about the need to return to our intellectual roots — the creedal statements — which codify the “faith once delivered.” He writes: “The Nicene and Chalcedonian creeds survive, but often — alas! — more as museum pieces than as statements of anyone’s actual faith…. Thus when fundamentalist and evangelical convictions begin to drift with the tides of time, there is not so ready a reference point by which to check them and to verify the drift.”
In a similar vein, Ralph Martin, a Roman Catholic, speaks eloquently of the need to recover a spirit of faithfulness in searching the Scriptures for God’s truths.
Summons to Faith and Renewal is an excellent work in almost every regard, the type of book you want to force on, say, a modernist clergyman.
People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil
By M. Scott Peck, M.D.
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Review Author: Larry Chapp
“This is not a nice book. It is about our dark side, and in large part about the very darkest members of our human community — those I frankly judge to be evil.” This, indeed, is not a nice book. It is however, a very good one. Dr. M. Scott Peck has produced a fascinating book on the psychology of human evil that is bound to raise the hackles of not a few pundits in the arena of modern psychology.
Peck writes from a Christian point of view, and the conceptual incommensurability between Peck’s methodological assumptions and those of most modern psychological “schools” becomes immediately apparent. As I read the book I was reminded of Paul Vitz’s observation that modern psychology has created “an interpretive framework of human nature which has profound anti-Christian consequences.” What Peck has done is competently to lay out a Christian challenge to this framework.
This book is different from most standard Christian approaches. Topics are not treated with that foot-in-mouth regressiveness that characterizes so much of current Christian criticism of the prevailing cultural winds. If secularist values are inhuman and gnostic, while Christian values are humanistic and integral, then we cannot be content simply to cast stones at the secularist’s glass house — we must be ready to show why Christian values are authentic. And therein lies the value of this book.
Peck does not uncritically reject the findings of the modern sciences of the mind, nor does he offer in their place simplistic nostrums. Indeed, Peck brings to his study of human evil a strongly held conviction that the rift that has developed between science and religion since the Galileo debacle is in urgent need of repair. Peck sees a synthesis between religion and science as absolutely essential to the health of both: “The end result of a science detached from religious insights and verities would appear to be the Strangelovian lunacy of the arms race — just as the end result of a religion unsubmitted to scientific self-doubt and scrutiny is the Rasputinian lunacy of Jonestown.”
This multifaceted scientific/Christian synthesis is evident in the overall structure of the book. The empirical foundation upon which Peck builds his theoretical structure is based on several case studies drawn from his own private practice. Far from being tangential anecdotes, they comprise an impressive array of scientifically studied psychological dysfunctions.
When you read this book one of the first things that strikes you is Peck’s undeniable Christian pragmatism. Peck is not content simply to dissect evil in the rarified abstractions so loved by philosophers, but so infuriating to the average man. We no longer live in the age of Aristotle, but the age of Dewey, and what modern man wants to know is quite simple: Does Christianity, in fact, “work”?
The attempt to verify the Christian world view experientially — by Peck and others like him — may prove to be the beginning of a movement that will do for secular psychology what Thomas did for Aristotle.
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