One Religion?

The Coming World Civilization, by William Ernest Hocking, Harper, 1956. $3.75.

The first, shortest, and I believe the best section of this small book concerns “The Impotence of the State.” Clarity and force characterize Professor Hocking’s argument that a state depends on a motivation it cannot supply. A secular state cannot control crime: punishment presupposes that the criminal recognizes the justice of the penalty, but the state cannot produce a sense of justice. Nor can the state educate: teachers must have moral standards, but the state does not furnish them. All the less can the state safeguard the family. The state can, and Professor Hocking thinks that the state ought to control the economic life of the nation, but it cannot make prosperity produce contentment. Although the author repudiates the idea of unalienable rights, on which our nation was founded, he sees that the state cannot protect or create the conditions on which any rights exist. A “church” therefore is needed to supply the motivation that the state cannot give.

Despite the deficiencies of the state the author is apparently none the less a socialist. He equates individualism with solipsism and constructs some clever but not too convincing arguments against the latter. As a philosophic essay this second part of the book is highly entertaining.

The third section on the merging of the several historic civilizations into one civilization prepares the ground for the fourth section on the universalization of Christianity.

No religion can any longer remain ‘local’ (i.e., particular or distinctive). “Jealous gods and chosen people are normal chiefly within an accepted polytheism no longer thinkable” (p. 81). The particularity of Christianity, expressed ...

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