Pricking The Preacher’S Pride

Christendom Revisited: A Kierkegaardian View of the Church Today, by John A. Gates (Westminster, 1963, 176 pp., $3.75), is reviewed by Jesse DeBoer, professor of philosophy, University of Kentucky, Lexington.

John A. Gates is qualified to write this useful little book. An earlier book of his, The Life and Thought of Kierkegaard for Everyman, was offered as an introduction to the work of the most important Christian writer since the Reformation. Having served as an ordained minister in a number of pastorates, he is familiar with the practices and attitudes of American Protestants. It is fortunate that in discharge of his present duties as professor of religion at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, he has had time to write out his reflections on how Sören Kierkegaard’s critique of the Danish State Church of his time may be restated in application to American Protestantism today. The project is worth doing, and the workmanship is sound; I hope that the book may stir American Protestants to read Kierkegaard and to ask themselves many disconcerting questions.

Let me present a few random samples of Gates’s Kierkegaardian observations in order to show the tendency and flavor of the book. Noting the contemporary neglect of discipline by ministers and officers, he says: “Now we do nothing except, perhaps, to erase the name of the erring member from the roll, and usually we do not even bother to do this. So far as we are concerned, they can go to hell.” The laxity veils a lack of love. Commenting on the motives from which a young man may enter the ministry, Gates provides a precious story: “… I recall one student who was very honest about his motives. He had lived across the street from a minister in his hometown, and had observed this minister’s daily routine—the easy hours spent on the front porch of the parsonage reading a book, waving to passing motorists, and chatting with pedestrians; the time available for golf; the fun had with youth groups; etc. He was well paid, liked by everyone, had enjoyable work and cradle-to-grave security. Where could one find a better deal?” (p. 58). Ministers are open to special pressures. “People don’t want their minister to be either a ‘fanatic’ or a ‘libertine’; they just want him to be a nice man” (p. 69). And it is not easy to consider one’s task before God when one has a wife and children. “As a middle-aged woman once said to me, ‘Ministers make such sweet husbands.’ So they do” (p. 64). Either “the soft arms of a blameless wife” (Kierkegaard’s words) or the normal desire not to disturb the public or repel approval, may lead a minister to forget what Christianity is. Then he may become an accomplice in perverting the truth, one who is posing, guilty of bad faith.

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So with all of us: we “Christians” are interested in religious values; we want to get something from religion; we want God to satisfy our wants; we would like to use him. We insist that the faith must not make us uncomfortable or ask us to do anything costly or difficult (a close look at financial statistics is shaming). We avoid being serious about Christian education (“children and young people have known that it would be all the same whether they learned anything or not.… Their parents also know this and most of them prefer it this way” [p. 168]); in fact, we arrange to press the youngsters into full membership at an age when they cannot “realize fully what they are letting themselves in for” (p. 103). Is this in part because we know that if the decision were postponed to maturity there would be more resistance to pretending that one is a Christian? Do we like childishness?

Kierkegaard did not want to reform theology or church government. Gates says he was a detective (p. 158); I would add that he was a prosecutor. The visible church tends to lose sight of God’s demands, confusing Christendom with faith and obedience. Sören Kierkegaard charges that we do not want to see the lowly Christ, God in the offensive figure of a servant, dying in the status of a criminal. We do not really want to begin with despair over self, humility and trust, repentance and complete surrender to God’s offer. In his last two chapters Gates presents a fine interpretation of Kierkegaard’s account of how a man, by personal decision, can become a believer, and of his remarkable loyalty to the Church on earth, which, despite its being painfully weak and human, is still God’s appointed agent. His plea for honesty can stir us to more sincere acceptance of the Christian task.

I find one error in the text. “The opposite of sin is not virtue, but faith. To believe that virtue is the opposite of faith leads either to frustration and renewed despair or to Pharisaism (which is also despair)” (p. 145). The second sentence should be amended to begin either with, “To believe that virtue is the result (or fulfillment) of faith,” or with, “To believe that virtue is the opposite of sin.” The second alternative makes better sense.

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‘Wise Men Never Try’

The Feminine Mystique, by Betty Friedan (W. W. Norton, 1963, 409 pp., $5.95), is reviewed by Lars I. Granberg, professor of psychology, Hope College, Holland, Michigan.

American society is being destroyed from within by a deadly hoax perpetrated upon its women. They have been infantilized (sic), yea dehumanized by the “housewife trap.” Seduced by the feminine mystique, a vision of feminine fulfillment through marriage, motherhood, and mutual orgasm, today’s women have repressed the wish to grow, to develop their full human capacities, to discover their identity. For the past quarter-century women’s magazines; advice columns; novels and television dramas; experts on marriage, child psychology, and sexual adjustment, along with their popularizes; and, most notoriously, the advertising world, have peddled the same phony image of ideal womanhood. The ultimates in life, they keep dinning into milady’s ears, are a home in the suburbs decorously filled with fine furniture and the latest labor-saving devices; four or five attractive, socially desirable children; and a devoted husband who is progressing in his profession. Live for your children. Be their confidant, social secretary, and psychotherapist. Don’t let yourself go to seed mentally or physically. Read the latest books. Be a good companion to your husband; keep his morale high; and keep him enchanted by being passive, frivolous, fluffy, and youthful. Above all, don’t neglect your physical allure! The transports of sex satisfaction are the ultimate in feminine fulfillment. So they said. And American women believed them. Result: dominated and sexually indifferent husbands; physically emasculated sons with a bent to sexual inversion; daughters who flee from the conflicts, pain, and hard work of growing up, into the solace of sexual adventuring or early marriage; and also “the problem that has no name.”

This is an angry book. Mrs. Friedan speaks with the voice of Amos of Tekoa. Women tried to be what America told them to be, she says. Submissively they tried to find fulfillment as good housewives. Now they suffer a deadly plague. They are tormented by a vague, nagging, guilt-ridden discontent (the problem that has no name). They poison the emotional climate of their homes. In droves they seek refuge on the psychiatrist’s couch. “For women of ability, in America today, there is something about the housewife state itself that is dangerous.… The women … who grow up wanting to be ‘just a housewife’ are in as much danger as the millions who walked to their own death in the concentration camps” (p. 305).

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Woe unto you, male editors of women’s magazines. You supplanted the image of the spirited career girl with the stultifying image of woman as housewife-mother! Woe to you, peddlers of the Freudian theory of femininity, spouting “biology is destiny,” shrinking women to childlike dolls who live only to love men and serve their needs, and stifling their protests over this caricature with, “Phallic envy.” Woe to you, functionalist educators, spawning rationales for the feminine mystique, seeking to adjust girls to the fraudulent, culture-sanctioned definition of femininity, and frightening them into repressing their desire to become full-fledged adults with cries of “Unfeminine!” Woe to you, Margaret Mead, who in Male and Female glorified the female sexual function rather than sharing your vision of woman’s great, untested potential. Except ye all confess your error, demolish the feminine mystique, and see to it via a national education program (similar to the GI bill) for women that the women deluded or cheated by the feminine mystique are re-educated, your sons and your daughters, your homes, and your nation shall all be destroyed!

Incredible, you say? The book is endorsed by such persons as Millicent McIntosh, Pearl Buck, Lillian Smith, Margaret Culkin Banning, and Ashley Montague, among others. But if Mrs. Friedan is right, how ever did American women, who are perhaps the freest and best educated in the world, embrace so monstrous a lie? Mrs. Friedan picks as reasons war-induced loneliness, a resurgence of anti-feminist prejudices rising from post-war competition for jobs, and subtle discrimination against women that kept them from being advanced according to their ability and drove many back to the home bitter over the injustice of it all.

The book is likely to bemuse the ordinary man, in whose lifetime women have so steadily encroached upon previously male territory that only the locomotive cab and pool hall are still sacrosanct (maybe we need a book on the male mystique).

Nevertheless, the book speaks to situations that concern many Americans. This past summer, for example, the World Council of Churches sponsored a four-day conference at the University of Rochester on the role of men and women in contemporary society. To me it seems undeniable that some women over-identify with the homemaker role to their own detriment and that of their family.

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A few demurrers: It seems unwarranted to assume that any women, including women of ability, who love homemaking and the role of housewife are engaged in a neurotic security operation. Mrs. Friedan may well be right in her contention that the core problem for women today is a problem of identity. Many psychologists think this is true for men and women alike, in America and perhaps in Europe, too. Her insistence that the sole road to personal identity lies in training one’s abilities and applying them competitively against all comers for the betterment of society is a severely constricted view. A sense of identity is gained through how one does what he must do. While achievement done in a spirit of concern for human betterment can bring about a sense of identity, this is by no means inevitable; nor does it seem to me always the main road. I also wonder whether the emptiness she sees as the fruit of the feminine mystique may not instead have been a large factor in bringing about its acceptance. This is an age of deep metaphysical hunger. People seek either to fill their spiritual vacuum or to anesthetize themselves against its call. Could this be the reason why the mystique took so well?

Whether or not you find Mrs. Friedan’s thesis credible or her mode of argument convincing, you will find the book sprightly and compelling, with impressive evidences of scholarship. It deals with a topic of particular importance today. If you do not like her analysis or her answer, yours will be the better for having considered hers.


Deserves Thanks

Censorship: Government and Obscenity, by Terrence J. Murphy (Helicon, 1963, 294 pp., $5.50), is reviewed by E. Merrill Root, author and lecturer, Thompson, Connecticut.

This book explores what is at present a no-man’s-land torn by crossfire, where ignorant armies clash by night. It does us a service and deserves our thanks.

Grave, scholarly, logical, it explores the field temperately. It distinguishes between the bold vital frankness of the artist imaging areas of passion frankly, and the furtive salacious exploitation of sex and incitement of sex for commercial gain by pornographers. It poses the conflict of what it calls the “absolutist” and the “libertarian”—the absolutist being one who places social good and moral values first, the libertarian one who places utter (and sometimes indiscriminate) liberty first. The author, while reverencing the libertarian, favors the goal (if not always the mood and methods) of the absolutist.

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The author sometimes seems (p. 124) to defend censorship for the wrong reasons: he says, “Many of the arguments raised against social reform legislation … are raised against government control of obscenity.” Such “reform” (he says) was called “creeping socialism”; but it was creeping socialism. And in ironic paradox, it is the Pharisees of “social reform” who now oppose social control of obscenity, whereas those who oppose the fiats of Caesar most question the trash and treacle of indiscriminate pornography. The paradox needs more exploration and explication than it finds here.

The author discusses Supreme Court rulings, which he rightly finds too lax and loose, and yet which (he finds) admit at least in principle the right of protecting immature and even mature minds, almost drowned in the tainted waters of pornography, from infection.

I wish he had made more clear that the subversion and dissolution of the Western soul, the destruction of values by indiscriminate cheap filth and by false art, is part of a conspiracy of the hidden persuaders of collectivism. But the book objectively and bravely explores a vexed limbo that must be mapped, and though it does not give the complete answer it raises the correct question.


Roman Debate

Scripture and Tradition: A Survey of the Controversy, by Gabriel Moran, F. S. C. (Herder and Herder, 1963, 127 pp., $3.50), is reviewed by James Daane, editorial associate, CHRISTIANITY TODAY.

This book is a sketch of the current debate within the Roman Catholic Church on the relative value and relation of Scripture and tradition. One group of Roman Catholic theologians insists that besides the Scriptures there is a “constitutive” tradition, which is defined as another and separate source of revelation, running from the time of the apostles to the present. They point to Mariology, and especially to the determination of the Canon, as examples of dogmas that are not based on the Scriptures alone.

Another group of theologians within the Roman church denies the existence of a constitutive tradition and urges that every dogma of the church has at least a seminal basis within scriptural revelation. Tradition for them is the church’s interpretation and development of a revelation contained in Scripture. This group is generally regarded as being among the “liberals” of Roman Catholicism, and most of its members have strong ecumenical concern.

Both groups agree that the original Tradition is the revelation that came through Christ and his apostles; but they differ on whether all essential revelation found its way into the Bible—so that the Bible is “sufficient”—or whether part was transmitted only by oral, unwritten tradition. Protestant ecumenical leaders have used this idea of an original tradition to make the general idea of tradition more palatable to Protestants, and have come to speak of the “Tradition and the traditions.” Neither group of Roman Catholics believes in the existence of a hidden esoteric revelation that originated in the apostles but was not made public until much later.

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Both groups, interestingly, appeal to the Council of Trent for support; those who reject an extra-biblical constitutive tradition contend that Trent’s rejection of Luther’s “sola Scriptura” must be evaluated in the light of Trent’s intent in the given situation. Trent’s rejection of “sola Scriptura,” they urge, did not mean that there is another source of revelation besides Scripture. Trent only rejected Luther’s insistence that he be judged solely by Scripture (and reason), apart from the official, traditional stands of the Church (just as Protestant confessional churches sometimes in actual practice judge their dissenting members’ biblical claims by a mere appeal to their confessional standards).

Moran seeks to mediate the two positions and urges that agreement can be reached within a proper understanding of the unity existing among church, tradition, and Scripture. He contends that this unity can be understood only if the church is seen in her dynamic, historical function of conveying and interpreting revelation.

Whereas the basic question in this area for Protestants is: Is the Bible, is tradition, God’s revelation?, in Roman Catholic thought the equally basic question is: What transmits the revelation? In this function of transmission the church, no less than tradition and the Bible, is said to have her role; indeed the church’s role would seem to be dominant by virtue of her dynamic, continuous conveyance and interpretation of the revelation of God. At this point one can understand the considerable interest Roman Catholic theologians have shown in Karl Barth’s conception of revelation as an event, for the Roman Catholic conception is more congenial to Barth’s view than is that of conservative Protestantism, which states that the Bible is God’s Word.

In a foreword Roman Catholic George H. Tavard has high praise for Moran’s presentation of the debate but has only limited expectations for Moran’s mediating attempts. Tavard feels that each of the two groups has a different theological method, a different understanding of how the Roman church develops its dogmas; and that the real task lies in critically examining these, rather than in simply getting both sides together.

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Protestants interested in theology will find this an interesting and profitable debate. They will discover what is going on theologically within the Roman church; they will also recognize problems that emerge in Protestantism, for it too has its traditions.


Book Briefs

The Cambridge Bible Commentary on the New English Bible: The Gospel According to Matthew, commentary by A. W. Argyle (Cambridge, 1963, 228 pp., $2.75; also paper, $1.65). The first volume in a series designed for schools, training colleges, and laymen. Informative, concise, with occasional historical critical leanings.

The Western Heritage of Faith and Reason, by Eugene G. Bewkes, et al.; revised by J. Calvin Keene (Harper & Row, 1963, 703 pp., $8). A revision of a college text whose merit explains its usage for almost a quarter of a century. Beginning with the religion of the Hebrews, the book deals with the interaction of Judeo-Christian religion and reason up to the present, and does so with considerable objectivity and great clarity. Almost any minister will find the reading of this text a wonderful refresher course in the basic problems of faith and reason.

The Voice of the Cross: Meditations on the Seven Last Words, by Marcus L. Loane (Zondervan, 1963, 127 pp., $2.50). Biblically grounded essays; scholarly and stimulating.

Champion of Liberty: The Story of Roger Williams, by Norman E. Nygaard (Zondervan, 1964, 159 pp., $2.50).

Christ and the Church: An Exposition of Ephesians with Special Application to Some Present Issues, by Dale Moody (Eerdmans, 1963, 153 pp., $2.95).

Romans: An Interpretative Outline, by David N. Steele and Curtis C. Thomas (Presbyterian and Reformed, 1963, 200 pp., $5). An outline treatment of Romans dedicated more to a vindication of the “five points of Calvinism” than to a full treatment of Paul’s thought.

The Big Read-To-Me Story Book, by W. G. van de Hulst, translated by Marian Schoolland (Zondervan, 1963, 178 pp., $3.95). A book of warm, gay, lovely stories of the wonderful world of make-believe. Written in language of literary grace; fine illustrations; well bound.

The Popes and World Government, by Emile Guerry, translated by Gregory J. Roettger (Helicon, 1963, 288 pp., $5.50). The story of the Vatican’s comprehensive program for a world order based on international law, with its rejection of the doctrine of absolute national sovereignty and its insistence that all national communities must recognize a trans-national universal moral law.

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The Bible History Told to Our Children: Old Testament, by John Vreugdenhil, translated by Aileen Hamilton (W. M. Den Hertog [Utrecht, The Netherlands], 1963, 830 pp., $6). A soundly evangelical Bible story book which regretfully suffered greatly in translation from Dutch to English. The English is often wooden, the style prosaic, the sentences lumbering (the first has fifty-five words), the inking bad, picture captions microscopic; it is also marred by misspellings, verbosity, unattractive paragraphing, faulty syllabification, and an inelegant title.

God’s Covenants, by Donald Grey Barn-house (Eerdmans, 1963, 176 pp., $3.50). The late Dr. Barnhouse’s exposition of Romans 9:1 through 11:36.


Preaching the Passion: 24 Outstanding Sermons for the Lenten Season, edited by Alton M. Motter (Fortress, 1964, 193 pp., $1.95). Twenty-four brief, readable, ethically orientated sermons of varying degrees of theological substance. By such men as R. Sockman, M. E. Marty, K. Haselden, G. Florovsky, D. H. C. Read, P. Scherer.

The Coming World Church, by James DeForest Murch, Clyde W. Taylor, John F. Walvoord, and John I. Paton (Back to the Bible, 1963, 70 pp., $.35). An unsympathetic critique of the ecumenical movement, whose goal is described as the creation of a super-church of doctrinal indifference. The proposed remedy looks to the mystical unity that already exists between Christians and to the return of Christ.

Church Growth in Mexico, by Donald McGavran, John Huegel, Jack Taylor (Eerdmans, 1963, 136 pp., $1.95). A valuable study of church growth and mission effort by men of evangelical theology and mission commitment. With graphs and statistical tables.

The Savior’s Suffering: Sermons on the Passion Symbols, by E. Kenneth Hanson (Augsburg, 1964, 80 pp., $1.75). Short, evangelical sermonettes; devotional, informative. Good reading.

The New Testament Witness to the Virgin Birth: Luke 1:1–12, by William C. Robinson (self-published, 1963, 16 pp., $.10).

Messages of the Helsinki Assembly: The Lutheran World Federation, a symposium (Augsburg, 1963, 128 pp., $1.95). Five significant, provocative theological lectures. They open a window on current Lutheran thought.

The Half-Known God, by Lorenz Wunderlich (Concordia, 1963, 117 pp., $1.95). A study of the Holy Spirit as the Lord and Giver of life, which any adult could read with profit.

Saint Francis of Assisi, by John R. H. Moorman (Seabury, 1963, 118 pp., $1.25). A sensitive story of the great Francis of Assisi. First printed in 1950.

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