Do-It-Yourself Religion

Stay Alive All Your Life, by Norman Vincent Peale, Prentice-Hall. $3.95.

The writings of Dr. Peale are easily criticized, but the importance of his work cannot be underrated. As pastor, he has attempted to deal specifically and remedially with the problems of his people. By the use of psychiatrists as a part of the church counseling program, he has emphasized the relation of mental and emotional health to spiritual health, and by his stress on such a healing as revivifying ministry, he has brought back into focus the fact that salvation includes the redeeming and enjoying of our lives here and now. All this constitutes a program of major importance and one deserving of study and commendation. Unfortunately, Peak’s thinking does not live up to the promises implicit in his program.

First of all, any emphasis on biblical faith is utterly lacking. Peak’s God is the God of all religions, and all men have “the instinct of God and immortality” (p. 300). God is never presented as Judge, nor even as Saviour. In the process of attaining help, God is essentially passive and is appropriated by men. Jesus Christ is quoted by Peak, though not so often as his many great friends, but there is no expressed regard for his Person and his atoning work. Man works, not God, nor Christ.

Testimonials abound in the book, but they are not to Jesus but to Peak and his friends of “inner power.” What we have here is not religion, nor is it even moralism. Peak does not deal with problems of good and evil, but only of “right and wrong” (p. 144f); moral categories are replaced by neutral ones, correct and incorrect. The “supreme personal test at all times” is not, Am I a saved man, or even, Am I a good man, but rather, “ ‘Am I a right ...

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