Slaves To Necessity

Need: The New Religion, by Tony Walter (InterVarsity, 173 pp.; $6.95, paper).

“I need a vacation” and “You need a break today” fill the tube tunefully and persistently. And in contemporary ethics, the language of need has replaced the languages of obligation and/or pleasure. We no longer say “I ought” or “I want”; we say “I need.”

British social critic Tony Walter is onto something that drives our culture. “We feel ourselves to be slaves to necessity. The best reason that I can give for an action is that I, or you, need it.… This is the new language that tells you and me whether or not what I am doing is right.” Even the church says, “Jesus will meet your every need.”

After a chapter on the historical background (in Greek and Enlightenment philosophy) to the twentieth-century concept of need, Walter surveys material wants, the self, work and leisure, sex, children, and welfare as areas deeply affected by the new religion of need.

As an alternative, the author affirms the Christian belief “that creation was richly endowed by God and that life [is] full of blessings—good health, fertility, national security—which [are] to be enjoyed and appreciated when available, but which [do] not destroy the meaning of life when removed.” A fully Christian view of need begins by rejecting the Enlightenment’s starting point of the autonomous individual in favor of “I respond, therefore, I am”—the creature responding to the Creator.

Save The Rain Forests

Tending the Garden, edited by Wesley Granberg-Michaelson (Eerdmans, 150 pp.; $7.95, paper).

As responding creatures, how shall we care for ...

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