sellers by KERRY STEPHENSON LESLIE DEWART, the Spanish-Canadian Catholic author, is not a "death of God" theologian, but he ruefully admits his theology is "of the radical variety." He was in London last week to publicise his latest book, The Future of Belief, which has caused a furore on the other side of the Atlantic.
It won the National Catholic Book Award and within three months of being published sold 30,000 copies, a record when it is realised the book is a theological exercise directed more at the professional churchman than the ordinary man in the pew.
Mr. Dewart admits his book is rather highbrow. However, he hopes the clergy and informed layman will use it as a basis for further theological discussion.
GARAUDY'S WORK Said by some to be the American equivalent of the Bishop of Woolwich's Honest to God Mr. Dewart's 230page discourse on belief was written as a direct result of the Marxist theorist Roger Garaudy writing From Anathama to Dialogue. Originally Mr. Dcwart, who incidentally contributed a chapter to the influential symposium "Contraception and Holiness" in 1965, intended to answer certain challenges M. Garaudy threw down on ChristianMarxist thought.
However, as his own thinking began to emerge Mr. Dewart realised it would be more effective to address his book to his fellow Catholics, with, as it were, M. Garaudy "looking over his shoulder."
He told me that on some points his thinking was closer to that of Marxists than .Catholics. In fact, the whole exercise could be traced back to the Cuban Revolution where he could see that the Church's opposition was wrong, although its traditional opposition to aethistic Communism was by traditional Christian thinking, right.
In his book he tries to explore the development of Christian doctrine and show that it does not necessarily have to be tied to Hellenic moral philosophy.
He claims that Christians have gone awry on this emphasis. Instead of loving as Christ asked. they have become "hedonistic" about getting to heaven, or avoiding hell.
He quotes the legendary story of the saint who encountered an angel walking down the road with a torch in one hand and a pail of water in the other. When asked what they were for, he replied: "'Me torch is to burn down the castles of heaven and the water to put out the flames of hell and then we shall see who really loves God."
He says although Catholics don't believe this, its sentiment is very much in the spirit of contemporary man.
This view is acceptable, but when Mr. Dewart gets down to explaining the future of belief it takes a lot of persuasion and patience on his part and some heavy concentration from the inquirer. Followers of the writings of Marx, Bonhoeffer, Teilhard de Chardin will understand him more readily.
This book, he says, has led him to the challenge of trying to ascertain what role dying has in the fulfilment of man. "We haven't spell.; too much time so far in asking what death is?" says Mr. Dewart.
"The Future of Belief" is reviewed on Page Six