In A Dubious Direction

The Search for a Usable Future, by Martin E. Marty (Harper & Row, 1969, 157 pp., $4.95), and The Last Years of the Church, by David Poling (Doubleday, 1969, 153 pp., $4.95), are reviewed by John Snyder, acting chancellor, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana.

In the first of these two books Martin Marty (professor of modern church history at the University of Chicago Divinity School) notes the decline of traditional Christianity’s confidence accompanying the rise of secular man, the failing dream of social peace and affluence, and the oddly reasoned announcements of the death of God. Although he makes no mention (as does Poling) of the influence of McLuhan on his thought and his style, Marty seems to have adopted McLuhanese with the gusto of a desert wanderer crashing into an oasis. The result is the often turgid use of abstract notions as though they were concrete and the ability to turn quite ordinary phrases into cliches in the space of a page or two, as, for example, his frequent use of “game.”

It would be unfair, however, to be put too far off by style. Marty’s usable future comes at the end of a series of games. The Triumph-game is a hollow mockery because it is built upon (false) statistics, higher buildings, and prestige; it leads only to pretense and illusion. The Defeat-game, not to be confused with espousal of the death of God, leads only to equating the biblical God with Zeus, frozen in stone. The Retrench “scenario” (even Marty can get tired of -games) plays it safe, caters to the community, defends the old. “This hardly sounds like a futures-game at all, but it is regarded as one by its adherents and proponents.” The Adapt scenario, in its demand for relevance and plausibility, wrenches ...

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