Volume > Issue > Briefly Reviewed: November 1984

Briefly Reviewed: November 1984

The Motherhood of the Church

By Henri de Lubac

Publisher: Ignatius

Pages: 363

Price: $10.95

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

Publisher: Servant

Pages: 167

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

Pages: 269

Price: $14.95

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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