The theory of the transference of knowledge has been formally rejected by educators. At the same time the reading public continues, in many cases, to proceed on the hidden assumption that an author’s proficiency in one specialized area qualifies him to speak in other fields. In few cases has this principle been applied with more enthusiasm than to Arnold J. Toynbee. The massiveness of his historical research seems to have persuaded many readers (and perhaps Professor Toynbee himself) that he possesses a special capability in religion and theology.
Certainly his studies in history, to which he has recently added his twelfth volume entitled Reconsiderations, are impressive. Sections of this volume do, however, tend to raise the guards of the reader. With great forthrightness he expresses as a canon for his religious interpretations that the Incarnation must be rejected as being unworthy of God. To him, any loving overture made by God toward man would need a priori to be made in an unspecialized and universal manner. He rejects categorically any view of a unique (that is, given at one time or in one place) movement of God toward the human race.
This proposition involves Toynbee in other problems, to which Edward Whiting Fox calls our attention in “The Divine Dilemma of A. J. Toynbee” (Virginia Quarterly Review, Winter, 1963). The dilemma proves ultimately to be a multiple one. In this article we propose to draw attention to three of its aspects.
First, in his analysis of sainthood—an element to which he attaches great historical importance as well as great significance for man’s future—Toynbee observes that sainthood requires a belief in the perfectibility of the self. At the same time he notes that this element, involving as ...1
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