Reactions To Radicalism

The Future of Belief Debate, edited by Gregory Baum (Herder and Herder, 1967, 229 pp., $2.45), is reviewed by Milton D. Hunnex, professor of philosophy, Willamette University, Salem, Oregon.

Radical theory reaches into Catholic as well as Protestant thought. Leslie Dewart’s The Future of Belief is a “theological bombshell” designed to catapult Catholic theology into the twentieth century.

One is reminded of Anglican Bishop Robinson’s earlier bombshell, which was followed up with The Honest to God Debate. But one is also impressed by the greater philosophical strength of the Toronto professor’s book, since he works out the foundations of his existential Christianity with much greater technical adequacy. Also, his radicalism is much more far reaching. Whereas Robinson tried to recast the content of the Gospel in more intelligible form, Dewart holds that the content itself must go. What was proclaimed in the first century in Hellenic terms, he argues, can no longer be true or relevant today. Hence the contemporary Christian should not even try to say what Paul said—however differently. He should articulate the Gospel in contemporary concepts only.

Dewart’s Catholic reviewers freely acknowledge that his program reaches beyond demythologization or even dehellenization. It is revolutionary in political direction as well as theological content, since it paves the way not only for the reconciliation of all Christians but also for a rapprochement of Christianity and Marxism.

According to Dewart, “Christianity has a mission, not a message.” Its mission is to bring about the progressive intensification of man’s awareness of himself as a creature who is responsible ...

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