Christian Foundations Parts 1 and 2, "Spiritual Renewal" from Teaching Tapes by David Watson (Falcon Audio Visual Aids, £1.70 per cassette plus 25p postage)
I DO NOT easily become enthusiastic: quite against the grain I do so now. My praise for David Watson's offering is the greater because I have spent some years producing tapes on religious themes. and when interviewed by Ivor Mills of Thames Television he considered that I had opened a up a new field of what he saw as cassette sermons.
In trying to make a success of my own tapes I have listened to many by other people. as well as working to produce good talks on various spiritual themes.
So when I say that nothing of my own, or by anyone else I know of comes up to the high standard of David Watson's talks, it is real praise.
As a busy parish priest I was reluctant at this Christmas season to sit down and listen, but having done so 1 could hardly wait for the next opportunity to put on one of the talks and admire the clarity of tone and delivery, the solidity of thought and doctrine, and the pleasant manner in which they are produced.
The fact that they are not as expensive as other types should not mislead a prospective purchaser into believing they are inferior. Each cassette lasts between 45 and 60 minutes and is accompanied by a printed synopsis of each talk and on the reverse side some simple questions for group discussion. Five such sheets are included for each of the talks.
The manner of presentation is that of question and answer, with a young lady interviewing and David Watson, answering. The style is relaxed and conversational. The teaching on basic questions of faith and renewal is direct and straightforward.
David Watson is a married vicar of the Church of England, who mentions his wife and children in the course of the series. Ins teaching is quite authentic from a Catholic point of view, except that his statement that God suffers can be misleading.
His quoting of Martin Luther
on occasion should not be offputting to Catholics. It is truth he seeks to show, and succeeds in showing.
The first two cassettes are on "Christian Foundations" and answer the questions What can we know about God?, Who is Jesus Christ?, Who is the Holy Spirit'?, Is The Bible the Word of God?. Is there life after death'?, Why the Cross? as well as Prayer and The Church.
The only section which is dissappointing is the final talk on the Church. What he says about it is fairly comprehensive as far as it goes, but for a Catholic it does not to far enough, as it avoids any reference to the problem of authority and the Papacy.
Yet the depiction of the Church as a kingdom, family, building, body of Christ and so on is completely in line with Lumen Gentium of Vatican 11.
The third cassette is on "Spiritual Renewal". This is the most level headed discussion on openness to the Spirit and the real meaning of the -Charismatic Movement".
He avoids the effervesence of many zealous pentecostals, while showing the importance of the Holy Spirit in the Church and in our lives.
At the same time he steers clear of the opposite extreme of rejecting the upsurge of devotion to the Spirit. His four themes in this section are The gifts of the Spirit, Being Filled with the Spirit, Spiritual Warfare and to prepare .for these a fine talk on the meaning of Worship.
He points out that to use the word charismatic in a divisive sense is wrong and harmful. Every Christian receives charismata or gifts from God. Spiritual pride is the sin that besets those Christians who feel that they are superior to others because they are charismatic.
There are some very helpful thoughts in his talk on Worship. It must be borne in mind by Catholics that these talks are a good basis for understanding, but that such important matters as the Mass, the Sacraments and the Papacy are not covered in the series.
David Watson says he prefers to be called simply a Christian. I hope Catholics will find his work helps to make them better Christians and so better Catholics.
F. Leo Smith SDS