Page 6, 10th October 1941

10th October 1941
Page 6
Page 6, 10th October 1941 — Philosophy

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Challenge to thc Churches. By Joint Macmurray. (Kcgan Paul, Is.).

Reviewed by MICHAEL DE LA BEDOYERE IN some sixty brief pages Professor Macmurray has succeeded in laying bare the necessary distinctions if we are to understand the present relations between religion and politics. He lays down the principle of political democracy as "all political authority is limited." In democratic tradition this principle was applied by limiting the democratic State in respect of economic hle and religion. But. according to the author, it is no longer possible to exclude business and industry from the authority of the State.

There is only left. therefore, religion as the field over which the State must be denied control. The freedom of religion, in other words, stands alone between democracy, where " political authority is limited," and totalitarianism where "political authority is unlimited."

IS religion, however, capable in practice of fulfilling the tremendous role assigned to it in our times?

Professor Macmurray is doubtful. He delines religion as the expression or fostering or creating of the community, based upon the human need for companionship and sharing. The motive force of religion is luvce

Rligion is distinct from politics which is the compelled organisation 01 society tor the enforcement of law, and its motive force is fear. Since the breakdown of medieval Christianity religion has retreated Wore politics, and totalitarianism, whether apparently dictatorial or democratic, has been the inevitable result. Religions themselves are distinguished as " conservative " and " creative."

The inherent danger of religion is its tendency to become conservative, to preserve the old social order instead of creating the new. " The religious transition from Judaism to Christianity which is recorded and reflected in the New Testament is a perfect instance of the transition from a conservative to a creative religion."

*But Christianity, in its turn, according to Professor Mactuurray, became " conservative " when Christianity was adopted as the religion of the Roman Empire. This conservatism was strengthened when Catholic philosophers in thc Middle Ages effected 14 synthesis between Catholic teaching and the cultural tradition of the West: " Elements derived front Stoicism. front Neo-Platunism, from the Aristotelian philosophy were fused together . . . in this way Christianity conic to be identified with a conception of the world and of life which is largely pagan in origin . . . and in consequence became the bulwark of a traditional paganism which it had set out to supersede."

Thus Professor Macmurray reaches his conehision: " The condition which contemporary Christianity must fulfil is this: It must cease to f t(110011 as a conservative religion. 11 must reassert in action, and not merely in ssords, its own essence us a creative religion. lt must function as the religion of the new community which is struggling to be burn."

THE reader will'probably agree that Prot Jessie Macmurray's argument is along the right lines, especially in his eloquent insistence that religion stands alone between a civilised social order and totalitarianism. But the Catholic, while acknowledging that there is much truth in the distinction between religion as a conservative factor (which it too easily tends to become) and a creative factor (which it ought always to be), will have grave doubts — in terms of practical politics aloue — whether Professor Macmurray's rather nebulous hopes about a new religious spirit could ever replace the cei mimics of dogma and traditional moral teaching about the relations between God, man and the wordd.

It is the Catholic view—and we do not think that the author, despite his valuable and Ingestive criticisms has said anything tow8ken it—that nothing in the long run will stand firm against the encroachments of totalitarianism except rooted faith in God and in God's revelation and order as consistently taught by the Church.

If Christians, instead of perpetually compromising with the State, stood by the teaching of Christ and the dogmas and moral principles of the Church, religion would be creative enough even for Professor Macmurray and a tar more powerful bulwark against State aggression than anything suggested in these pages.

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