Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
BSac 115:460 (Oct 58) p. 357
Christianity Among The Religions Of The World. By Arnold Toynbee. Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1957. 116 pp. $2.75.
The four lectures here published in revised form were delivered by Toynbee as the Hewett Lectureship at Andover Newton Theological Seminary, Episcopal Theological Seminary, and Union Theological Seminary, New York, in 1955 under the auspices of the Hewett Foundation.
Toynbee treats his subject under four pertinent questions: What are the criteria for comparisons between religions? What are the characteristics of the contemporary world? What is Christianity’s relation to the western civilization that is unifying the contemporary world? and What should be the Christian approach to the contemporary non-Christian Faiths?
What are termed as living and higher religions—Hinduism, Buddism, Islamism, and Christianity are brought in review by the author in a discussion of the attitude of Christians toward adherents of the other religions. The criteria of evaluation is what attitudes Christianity has developed. Is Christianity to be considered as unique or must that concept be surrendered in recognition of worth-while contribution of the other religions.
Toynbee also endeavors to survey what position of these higher religions is and should be in relation to another religion, which he considers old but revived—man’s self-centered worship of himself. This religion he holds to be now manifest in two forms, which are variations of the same perverse theme, Nationalism and Communism. His suggestion is that in the face of such a formidable opponent the several religions should unite in preaching their common belief that man is not the highest spiritual presence in this universe; not ultimate reality; not God. “This belief,” says Toynbee, “is worth fighting for. If we lose it, we shall go to perdition. For only humility can save mankind from destroying itself.”
Such is not an adequate and satisfactory answer in the judgment of this reviewer, for not merely belief in the presence of God in the universe but belief in the presence of God in Christ reconciling the world to himself in redemptive purpose is the message to be preached. Christianity alone can preach such a message.
Though Toynbee had a “Christian upbringing and background,” and though he is conversant with the basic facts of historic Christianity, he does not view it as unique, but as one among other living religions. His concept is faulty, but his book gives stimulus to thought in evaluating Christianity’s effectiveness in this contemporary world. It is a book fundamentalists might read with profit.
C. A. Nash
Fundamentalism And The Church<...
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