Religion And The State: Some Pointed Questions

Religion, the Courts, and Public Policy, by Robert F. Drinan, S. J. (McGraw-Hill, 1963, 261 pp., $5.98), is reviewed by John Vanden Berg, professor of economics, Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

No domestic problem facing the people of the United States today is of greater consequence than that of the relationship of religion and the state. For on the solution to this rests the future of freedom in this country. The immediate occasion of the problem is found most specifically in questions related to the place of religion in public schools and the relationship between the government and the non-state school. The problem is also found in the field of Sabbath laws.

Robert F. Drinan, dean of the Boston College Law School, has made a splendid contribution to the dialogue on these vital issues, with particular emphasis on problems in education. In a lucid and fascinating manner he clarifies historical and constitutional contexts and the positions of the major faiths.

Dean Drinan does more, however, than merely relate historical, constitutional, and sectarian positions; he has some pointed questions to ask and some provocative observations to make. He does so graciously but with forthrightness and candor.

Although these questions and observations are directed to all Americans, this Protestant reviewer believes they have special significance for Protestants, for they reveal sharply the Protestant dilemma in regard to questions of religion, the state, and education. Dean Drinan observes that although most Protestants “desire the public school atmosphere to be ‘friendly’ to religion.” they have in fact aligned themselves with “most secular humanists and the Jewish community [to] constitute a powerful working force to secularize the public schools, while at the same time making it more difficult for church-related schools to obtain even indirect aids.”

Illustrative of Protestant efforts to maintain a “friendly” atmosphere toward religion in the public schools is the widespread practice of religious exercises in these schools (cf. R. H. Dierenfield, Religion in American Public Schools, cited by Drinan on p. 71). Further evidence is found in an opinion poll of public school administrators, reported in The Nation’s Schools (September, 1963); 72 per cent of the administrators polled stated that the Supreme Court decisions in the Bible reading and Lord’s Prayer cases would not modify any current practices in their school districts; 52 per cent disagreed with the Supreme Court decisions; and 57 per cent would support a constitutional amendment permitting Bible reading or recitation of prayers in public schools. In summarizing the opinion of the majority, a schoolman noted that “the practice of prayer and Bible reading gave our schoolboy a thoughtful beginning for which there is no adequate substitute in a country where ‘in God we trust.’ ” At best these efforts to be friendly toward religion can preserve only the form or symbols of the Protestant religion, without transmitting any of its power or commitment.

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At the same time that strenuous efforts are being made to preserve at least the forms of the Protestant religion in the public schools, equally strenuous efforts are being made, in the name of religious liberty, to prevent even indirect aid to nonpublic, religiously oriented, and particularly Roman Catholic, schools. What is ostensibly a defense of religious liberty on the part of some Protestants is, in fact, an oppression of that liberty for Roman Catholics and others who believe that education must be permeated with a religious philosophy. What some Protestants and others want for themselves they too gladly deny to adherents of other faiths.

Dean Drinan acknowledges the problems of church-state relations to be complex. But he makes the alternatives bluntly clear when he states that the basic public policy question in education is “whether the … government should encourage or discourage nonpublic schools in America” (p. 183). For the government to choose against the non-public schools is to choose for a purely secular education. More significantly, to choose against the non-public schools is to ignore the claims of conscience and religious liberty which are the very essence of the grounds upon which Roman Catholics and others petition for an equitable sharing of the compulsory educational tax dollar. So long as America ignores these claims and places the power, prestige, and financial resources of the government exclusively behind the secular public schools, religious positions are not equal before the law and religious freedom is oppressed. And when religious freedom is oppressed, all other freedoms are in danger.

Religion, the Courts, and Public Policy is “must” reading for anyone concerned with the problems of religion and the state. Comprehensive notes and bibliography add to its value.


Sizing Up The Religious Press

The Religious Press in America, by Martin E. Marty, John G. Deedy, Jr., David Wolf Silverman, and Robert Lekachman (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1963, 184 pp., $4), is reviewed by David E. Kucharsky, news editor, CHRISTIANITY TODAY.

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Religious journalism has been in poor health, by and large, for most of this century. At long last a major publisher has called in specialists to diagnose the ailment and prescribe treatment.

The symptoms which afflict the religious press are not obvious. In the commercially competitive secular publishing field, the health and productivity of a periodical can be gauged somewhat by circulation and advertising volume. Religious journalism, wherein subsidy and guaranteed circulation are common, is harder to examine. This attempt at analysis is to be welcomed, therefore, inasmuch as it has been decades since a comparable volume appeared on the market.

The book consists of four essays. Marty, whose views on the contemporary religious scene have won wide attention, surveys Protestant publications. Layman Deedy, outspoken editor of the Pittsburgh Catholic, writes in a similar framework of Roman Catholic journals, while Conservative Rabbi Silverman deals with the multilingual Jewish press. Dr. Robert Lekachman, an economics professor, contributes the final brief essay as “a concerned outsider.”

The essayists get right to the point: Is the religious press trying to speak for the Church or to it? Most religious periodicals today are house organs for denominational organizations, and many of their inadequacies stem from this fact alone.

Marty sees the ecumenical cause as a redeemer. He asserts it “could rescue the Protestant press from its microscopic preoccupation with the mirror.” One wonders, however, if such a shift would mean much more than mere substitution of one form of institutional promotion for another.

Marty and Deedy occasionally are sidetracked in their analyses by a love affair with selected social issues. That they see the necessity for involvement of religious journals in world problems is commendable enough. They overlook, however, important matters within the religious press itself which have yet to be resolved. Marty’s need of bifocals is especially apparent in his blurred view of journals competitive with his own. The Christian Century. In place of the lengthy emphasis on editorial positions, a lot more could have been said about the desirability of interpretative reporting, which is something different. Publication of sheer opinion is important, but intelligent readers can rightly demand information for its own sake to enable them to arrive at their own viewpoints.

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None of the essayists cites the conflict of interest between organizational publicist and bona fide reporter which crops up so often in religious journalism. The role of advertising and other commercial factors are hardly touched upon.

One gets the impression that preparation of this book was hurried; several errors in Marty’s essay can hardly be excused otherwise. In one place he gives the circulation of the Christian Herald as 431,000, in another as “almost 450,000.” He seems to attribute Pilgrim’s Progress to Milton rather than Bunyan. He speaks of “the School of Journalism at Syracuse University”; the “school” is really a program in the Magazine Department of the School of Journalism.

The essayists, for some unknown reason, fail to draw upon the highly regarded insights of such journalism educators as Wolseley, Schramm, MacDougall, and Krieghbaum. These men have grappled for years with the problems that plague religious journalism, and their voices deserve to be heard.

This book deserves a sequel, one which must involve considerably more research. If the pattern of parallel essays is again to be employed, it might be interesting to commission the specialists not along lines of the three major faiths but according to underlying philosophies. Is the religious journalistic enterprise to concentrate on packaged judgments or interpretative reporting? Does it exist to propagate the faith according to long-range fixed principles, or should it be a fluid forum? To what extent should reader interests be catered to? How do you tell the reader what he ought to know if he is indifferent to the message?


Making Job Rhyme All The Time

The Divine Challenge, Being a Metrical Paraphrase of the Book of Job, by Thomas M. Donn (published by the author [The Manse, Carr Bridge, Inverness-shire], 1963, 120 pp. 15s.) is reviewed by J. Stafford Wright, principal, Tyndale Hall, Bristol, England.

There are people who believe that honor is paid to the Word of God by a word-for-word translation into English. Indeed “paraphrase” can be a term of contempt. Yet a paraphrase often conveys the sense of the original more truly than a close translation. A versified rendering of the Book of Job must obviously be a paraphrase, but it can be justified. The author of this translation is probably not a Hebraist, but he has turned to the best commentaries to find the sense. If I criticize him, it is because his adoption of rhymed four-line anapestic tetrameters has tied him unduly, and the total result is less effective than, say, Ferrar Fenton’s continuous unrhymed anapestic trimeters. Thus one finds only too often that the extra words, inserted for the sake of the rhyme, lower the level of the whole. To take an average verse at random, 31:21, 22 is rendered:

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If an innocent man I have taken to law,

And because I was certain the verdict to win,

Let the blade of my shoulder be cut with a saw,

And my arm be removed for committing such sin!

Here Ferrar Fenton is able to write more pithily:

If I raised up my hand on the weak, When I looked on my power in the Court: Let my shoulder fall off from its blade, And my arm at its socket be broke.

Yet with these criticisms one can say that the author has produced an intelligent rendering, bringing out the general shades of meaning and making the argument clear. He translates the whole book, but indicates in footnotes those passages, such as the Elihu speeches, that he believes to be later additions.


‘How Can These Things Be?’

A Theology of History, by Hans Urs von Balthasar (Sheed & Ward, 1963, 149 pp., $3.50), is reviewed by James Daane, editorial associate, CHRISTIANITY TODAY.

This is a small book on what is just about the biggest topic there is: a Christian view of history. Since it traverses the dimentions of the cosmic and the eternal, the treatment is sweeping yet rich in both the profundities and the practicalities of the Christian faith. Being too brief, however, it is more suggestive than persuasive. The author himself suggests that there are questions on every page which cry out for fuller treatment, and he reserves the right, he says, to return later and write again on various aspects of his theme. Since he also writes for Protestants, Swiss Roman Catholic von Balthasar, if he returns, would do well to make smaller assumptions about Protestants’ knowledge of Roman Catholic thought.

Christ, of course, is said to be the Center and Lord (Norm) of all history. But how can this be? How can Christ have time and history? How can Christ include in his own history the sacred history of Israel and the whole of secular world history so as to be the Center and Lord of all history?

The form of the eternal Son’s existence is that openness of receptivity by which the Son receives himself eternally from the Father. This mode of the Son’s existence is revealed in his incarnate life, for in it he receives his time and his task, moment by moment, from the Father, never anticipating the Father (as we in our sin do) but receiving his mission and his knowledge as the Father gives it to him. Concrete, historical time is wholly real for Jesus.

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The author then shows how history is included within the history of Jesus, by showing how Jesus is related to creation, the Old Testament, and to that future that lies beyond his own historical existence. The past, the Old Testament, derives its meaning from Christ; otherwise the covenant, the promise, the prophets and election of Israel would be meaningless. Even the creation which was framed in Christ derives meaning from Christ; indeed, the Cross is said to be the condition for the possibility not only of sin, but also of existence and of predestination. “All existences, both before him and after him receive their meaning from Christ’s existence.” Therefore, concludes von Balthasar, “the significance of past ages and individual destinies is not irrevocably fixed, and they remain accessible to us; their meaning can always be newly defined and be transformed with the passage of time.”

While this raises questions, still others arise when von Balthasar declares that creation and secular (as distinct from sacred) history has an eidos, an intelligibility of its own. He illustrates his meaning by saying, “It is not a definition of the essence of man that he is a member of Christ.…” How can every existent thing receive its meaning from Christ’s existence and yet have a content and meaning proper to itself outside of Christ? That the history of Israel, as he urges, has its meaning in its recapitulation in Christ is one thing; but what is said about creation falls into a different category. Similarly, when secular history and culture is said to have a progressive upward movement of and on its own, and yet is said to attain its meaning by being caught up and redirected toward redemptive goals in Christ, one asks, “How can these things be? The author wants to eschew Barth’s “pan-Christism,” yet he seems to raise more answers than are adequately met with the idea of the “sacred completing the secular” inherent in the Roman Catholic schema of nature-grace. His contention that Israel’s fullness of time is the kairos for all nations and thus a guarantee—as is Mary in another fashion—of the ultimate indivisibility of sacred and secular history (now hidden but to be fully revealed in the Judgment) cries for more light and fuller treatment. With Mary, the reader asks, How can these things be?

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The author writes from the midstream of contemporary thought. He speaks of “risk” in the current theological sense, of the “development of dogma”; he employs Barth’s concept “from below,” and like Barth gives special attention to the “forty days.” And this too has familiar echoes: Christ “as the uniquely Chosen of the Father” is he who “bears the burden of all human rejectedness” and thus “reverses the course, throws the tiller across for good and all, and frees first those who were not chosen, the pagan nations, the Gentiles, and then, eschatologically, the first-chosen, the holy stock as well.”

The book is cast within the framework of Roman Catholic thought, yet it is richly rewarding reading for anyone interested in a Christian conception of history, for it is a book much bigger than its size or origin.


One On Nine

The New Community in Christ: Essays on the Corporate Christian Life, edited by John P. Kildalh and James H. Burtness (Augsburg, 1963, 201 pp., $4.50), is reviewed by Bert Hall, professor of philosophy, Houghton College, Houghton, New York.

Nine young Lutheran theologians interpret the Christian life in terms of corporate living. The result is a mediocre interpretation of religion, colored by conclusions of liberalism and existentialism. The nine essays are of unequal value, but their general tone denies the heart of biblical faith and traditional Christianity.

The first. “The Corporate Character of the New Life” by Joseph M. Shaw, goes far beyond the New Testament emphasis on the balance between the individual and the community in an attempt to argue that the church is more important than the individual. His fine distinctions between the “individual” and the “person” (p. 30) and between “impersonal collectivism” and “personalistic collectivism” (p. 32) have little meaning. His denial of the second coming of Christ (p. 31) shows utter neglect of the Pauline hope in First Thessalonians.

The second essay. “Community and the Church” by Kent S. Knutson, suggests that modern Lutheranism is rapidly drifting away from conservative evangelicalism to confessionalism.

Roy A. Harrisville, writing on the “New Birth,” illustrates the modern attempt to overcome the scandal of the personal presence of Christ in the believer’s life. His esoteric explanation of the terms of the Gospel (p. 92) suggests one reason why many moderns are not aware of the personal working of Christ in man’s life. His unscriptural account of the New Birth neglects the personal implications of John 3; Romans 12; Titus 3:5–7, and Galatians 5 and 6.

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In the fifth essay Carl E. Bratten engages in a theological hairsplitting not unlike that of the seventeenth-century Lutheran theologians, with their lack of emphasis upon biblical theology and their use of logical categories. There is little here that would commend the doctrine of justification by faith to lost men.

Two of the essays, “The Concept of Selfhood in the New Testament” and “The Secular: Threat or Mandate,” give clear insights into the predicament of our times. They are the best in the book. However, even Editor Kildahl, writing on “Emotional Health,” does not take into account the real power of Christ and what he can do for the individual personality.

Evangelicals will find little of interest in the book with its neglect of the Scriptures and drift to “church-ianity.”


Book Briefs

The Greek-English Analytical Concordance of the Greek-English New Testament, compiled by J. Stegenga (Hellenes-English Biblical Foundation [Box 10412, Jackson, Miss.], 1963, 832 pp., $14.95). An elaborate volume which combines the features of a Creek word and analytical concordance, but is woefully outdated, based as it is upon the Greek text of Desiderius Erasmus, the contemporary of Martin Luther.

The Secular Meaning of the Gospel, by Paul M. Van Buren (Macmillan, 1963, 205 pp., $4.95). The author provides an empirical grounding for the language of faith which reduces Christianity to its historical and ethical dimensions; this, he contends, loses nothing of its essence.

A Woman’s World, by Clyde M. Narramore (Zondervan, 1963, 207 pp., $2.95). A popular Christian writer invades the world of the woman who is unloved, unmarried, wedded to the non-Christian man or to the boy who didn’t grow up, or caught up in the many conflicts and dilemmas of her woman’s world.

Life Can Begin Again, by Helmut Thielicke (Fortress, 1963, 215 pp., $3.75). A series of sermons which interpret the Sermon on the Mount on the premise that it can be rightly understood only as the words of Christ. Reflective and analytic, the sermons peel back the layers of the human soul and the life it leads in this twentieth century. The sermons were first delivered in crisis-torn postwar Germany. These are sermons that cannot be reproduced, but they can produce others in the soul of the preacher-reader.

A Miscellany of American Christianity, edited by Stuart C. Henry (Duke University Press, 1963, 390 pp., $10). Essays written in honor of H. Shelton Smith of Duke. The Great Awakening, the religious frontier, the witchcraft episode of Salem, the steel strike of 1919, and other great moments and men in American religious history make up this literary tribute.

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The Art of Christian Living, by Ralph Heynen (Baker, 1963, 171 pp., $2.95). In a series of short, practical essays a chaplain in a psychopathic hospital discusses the emotional problems and conflicts, the tensions and fears of everyday people. Attractive jacket and a good cover, cover a format that seems wholly accidental.

The Catholic As Citizen, by John F. Cronin (Helicon, 1963, 176 pp., $3.95). The assistant director of the Social Action Department of the National Catholic Welfare Conference discusses the image of the Roman Catholic citizen in the United States: what he can do to improve it, what he cannot do to eliminate it, and how it looks to others. Though written for Roman Catholics, it will give Protestants an insight into the Roman Catholic mind.

The Spiritual Dilemma of the Jewish People: Its Cause and Cure, by Arthur W. Kac (Moody, 1963, 128 pp., $2.25). Largely a mosaic of quotations, and so put together as to create no clear picture.

How We Got the Bible, by Neil R. Lightfoot (Baker, 1963, 128 pp., $2.50). Popular, readable, thumbnail sketch.

The Churches and Christian Unity, edited by R. J. W. Bevan (Oxford, 1963, 263 pp., $4 or 25s.). Worthy essays on the problem of ecumenical unity by a Roman Catholic, an Anglican, an Orthodox archpriest, the general secretary of the Baptist Union, and other representatives of leading churches.

The Eastern Orthodox Church, by Ernst Benz (Aldine, 1963, 230 pp., §5; Doubleday, paper, $.95). A competent discussion of the liturgy, sacraments, dogma, constitution, and much more, of the Eastern Orthodox Church. For those who want to get to know Orthodoxy.

That Hearing They Shall Perceive, by Charles Duell Kean (Seabury, 1963, 92 pp., §2.50). Because men often hear but do not understand the Gospel, Episcopalian Kean probes for an understanding of life in the light of the Gospel. With a direct style and an erudition lightly worn, he shows that a true perception of ourselves and the world of others can occur only within a triangular relationship which includes Christ.


What Every Christian Wife Should Know and What Every Christian Husband Should Know, by William W. Orr (Scripture Press, 1963, 32 pp. each, $.30 each). The first offers Christian advice to a wife—spoonfed, with a sticky maudlin (“May I whisper a secret?”) sentimentality. Chapters inform the wife, “You’re Specially Designed,” “Weddings Are So Delicious,” and about such matters as “God’s Beautiful Sex Plan” and “Keep Yourself A Pretty Package.” Advice is proffered on hair care but none on fixing a meal. Pamphlet for husbands is in the same key.

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I Saw the Light, by H. J. Hegger (Presbyterian and Reformed, 1963, 169 pp., $2). A Dutch priest who left the Roman Catholic Church opens the window of his soul and with considerable introspection tells a story which is better than the average in this category.

The Letter to the Hebrews and Letters to Ephesians and Philemon, by Clarence L. Jordan (Koinonia Farm [Americus, Ga.], 1963, 15 and 7 pp., $.35 each). The principle of the Incarnation applied to the translation of the Bible on the level of the cottonpatch. Samples: Melchisedec was a “great guy” to whom Abraham gave a tenth of “his very best loot”; the reader is exorted to “tank up on the spirit”; the “Gentiles” of Ephesians 2:11 become “Negroes.” Written for cottonpickers, by the white promoter of Koinonia Farm in Georgia.

Introducing the Christian Faith, by A. M. Ramsey (Morehouse-Barlow, 1963, 95 pp., $.75). Brief, pithy essays in simple language on great Christian themes. First printed in 1961.

The Voices of Negro Protest In America, by W. Haywood Burns (Oxford, 1963, 88 pp., $1.95). The story of Negro protest in the past and an analysis of the legal-judicial approach of the NAACP, of the students’ sit-in and freedom-rides movement, and of the radical-separatist Black Muslim movement. The author is a Negro American, a Harvard graduate, and a good writer.

Education for Decision, a symposium edited by Frank E. Gaebelein, Earl G. Harrison. Jr., and William L. Swing (Seabury, 1963, 125 pp., $2). Brief addresses presented at the Seventh National Conference on Religion in Independent Education (Colorado Springs) by such men as Ernest Gordon. Elton Trueblood, and John Crocker. With reports of discussions.

Jesus Christ and History, by George Eldon Ladd (Inter-Varsity, 1963, 62 pp., $1.25). In crisp, sketchy fashion the author probes the meaning of Christian eschatology for the realm of historic life and takes critical glances at views that dissolve the second coming of Christ.

The Prayers of Kierkegaard, edited by Perry D. LeFevre (University of Chicago. 1963, 245 pp., $1.75). One hundred prayers of Kierkegaard, a chapter on Kierkegaard as a man of prayer, and an interpretation of his life and thought. First published in 1956.

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