Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 17:2 (Spring 1974)
Article: Book Reviews
Author: Anonymous

Book Reviews

The Renewal of American Catholicism. By David J. O’Brien. New York: Oxford, 1972. Pp. 302, $7.95.

Revolution in Rome. By David F. Wells. Chicago: Inter-Varsity, 1972. Pp.149. $4.95.

Bare Ruined Choirs: Doubt, Prophecy and Radical Religion. By Garry Wills. New York: Doubleday, 1972. Pp. 272, $7.95.

Reviewed by Leslie R. Keylock, College of Mount St. Vincent, New York, NY.

Ten years have passed since the revolution called Vatican II shook the old Catholic church, time enough to begin to assess the significance of its impact. It is therefore not surprising that in 1972, the tenth anniversary of the beginning of Vatican II, a number of books appeared on the market that endeavored to chronicle the changes that have occurred. Among them are The Renewal of American Catholicism, Revolution in Rome, and Bare Ruined Choirs: Doubt, Prophecy and Radical Religion. Each nevertheless has its own distinctive contribution and perspective. O’Brien writes as a professional Catholic historian, methodical and at times pedestrian, concerned with theology largely in terms of a theology of history. Wells is the irenic evangelical Protestant historian sincerely interested in describing recent changes in Catholic doctrine. And Wills is the brilliant Catholic homme de lettres who examines his church with a critical and frequently scathing eye and discovers philosophical insights which his fertile mind translates into an indicate mosaic of delightful prose. An unevenness is apparent at times in the works of both O’Brien and Wills. Several of their chapters originally appeared as independent articles and still reflect their alien birth through more than a trace of foreign accent. In a book on American Catholicism, for example, it is jarringly incongruous to find lengthy discussions of Saul Alinsky (a secular Jew) and Paulo Freire (a Brazilian Catholic). Wells’ book marks a major advance in the quality of American evangelical-Catholic dialogue, but his training as a historian rather than a theologian is embarrassingly evident in some of his conclusions on theological questions.

Although the jacket of The Renewal of American Catholicism suggests that it is concerned with the past fifty years of American Catholic experience, in actual fact O’Brien’s vision ranges back to the American revolution. A more accurate title for the book might have been An Intellectual History of American Catholicism. The emphasis here as in Wills’ book is on Catholocism not as a system of beliefs but as a religiously motivated and sociological entity in American life. Underlying the ten rather heavily academic chapters is a Social Gospel view of the church: “The church, the local com-<...

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