B ackfriars Oxford
CANON CHARLES RAVEN tells us in the foreword to Religion and Modern Society by J. Chiari that it contains the "thoughts of a French poet and man of letters who is also a public servant and a man of affairs; who shares to the full the tensions and opportunities of today and who faces the partieular problems religious and political, economic and social, aesthetic and moral, philosophical and religious, sets them against a background worldwide in its scope and manifold in its contents, and presents them to us with insight, sentitiveness, and objectivity"
Canon Raven also points out how valuable a study of this sort can be, particularly for Englishmen who are so often restricted and insular in their outlook.
Reappraisal is the keynote running all through this enriching study. Four reappraisals are suggested and elaborated. The author pleads first for a realisation that there is a certain one-ness in all the great religions of the world: the same One God is worshipped under many names.
Secondly, the Western world's attitude towards Marxism needs revision, for Marxism, it is urged, is in reality a sort of Christianity manqué. Reappraisals are needed about the arts and about the effect of the arts of a society in which
things fall apart "because the centre is nowhere and values are without roots". Last comes the age-old problem of evil and free-will "which seem crucial to the relationship between man and God".
Reappraisal there certainly has been, and in the process there appears a curious blending of classic theological doctrine with startling ventures into unorthodoxy. St. Thomas is looked upon as the true founder of Existentialism because God "is the pure act of being, the existence itself, and he is the being whose nature is to exist" (o. 63).
At the same time original sin is deemed unacceptable on the grounds that relations between finite beings and Transcendence "ought to be relations of attraction and love and not relations of fear". Yet all who have passed from the old to the New Testament cease to fear.
There is unqualified praise for Mater et Magistra, "a striking document which shows the wisdom and vitality of Catholicism and the Christian religion", and a certain impatience with the preoccupations of the academic world.
The author argues that it is far more important to have concern for the wellbeing and dignity of the poor, and to bring together all men who believe in God, than to indulge in theological debates about demythologising, and the actual dwelling-place of God and the like (cf. p. 192).
Altogether, this is a valuable work with which we must disagree in part, and which we need to appreciate all over.
religion, and the content of their thought as they are taught religion, will have only limited value for the Catholic reader, since Catholic children (together with Jews, negroes and children of foreigners) were ex:luded from the author's inquiry.
The scope of this inquiry was not large enough to include children of widely differing background, and Mr. Goldman concentrated on those who were taught according to the various "agreed syllabuses" in use in State schools.
Since "Religious Instruction" in State schools means in the main "Bible stories", and since Mr. Goldman thinks tbat "religious thinking is no different in mode and method from non-religious thinking" (p. 3) the sort of questions asked. and the way they are asked would tend to be different in an inquiry among Catholic children.
Nevertheless, there is a great deal in this book which will be valuable for all concerned with the religious instruction of children. The author is careful about his procedure and deductions. though the reviewer finds some of the interpretations of the children's replies rather facile.
The author follows Piaget in his description of the development of the child's mind. Piaget, however, seems to have depended more on insight and understanding than controlled scientific experiment, and his conclusions have therefore to be used with caution. Mr. Goldman claims that his researches tend to confirm the work of Piaget.
It is one of the peculiarities of the current movement to reform the teaching of religion in schools that very little attention has so far been paid to the mind of the child who is to be the recipient of the instruction: (Mrs. Eve Lewis' "Children and their Religion" is a very notable and important exception). Mr. Goldman's hook is to be welcomed as an important contribution to the field of religious education, a field where we have lagged far behind. and where we most need to revise our ideas and practice. C.1.
In his enthusiastic letter-preface to the original 1956 edition of A Manual of Philosophy by Andre Murder the Archbishop of Chembery envies the author's pupils for having such a wonderful philosophical initiation. They certainly are fortunate in having ample courses given to them — the first volume covering cosmology and psychology runs to 562 pages of text — and more up-to-date ones than Fr. Gredt's manual used to provide.
But one wonders whether they would really begin with "immedi: ate experience, with data of commonsense, with elementary observations". For the sections invariably start with erudite theses and incomplete elucidations of what is meant by them without any explanation of how the problems arise,
The basic programme of the manual is not so much to ask philosophical questions as to provide proofs of the correctness of selected theses. The author seems to regard philosophy as a matter of propounding theses with a liberal dash of encyclopaedic second-hand scientific information.
For the awakening of minds to problems and for the acquisition of interest in the thinking of the contemporary world much of this tome will be useless. Whatever flay be the case in France or America. for which this translation is intended, in England Catholics will hardly find that this volume answers their needs.
And were they to form themselves philosophically along the lines suggested by the author. they would find themselves cut off from the rest of their countrymen. Perhaps occasionally they would even be a little misled about certain tenets of scholasticism. There is an extensive bibliography but no index. C.V.