Reviews Of Books -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 09:2 (May 1947)
Article: Reviews Of Books
Author: Anonymous

Reviews Of Books

Shirley Jackson Case: The Origins of Christian Supernaturalism. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. 1946. vii, 239. $3.00.

This book is an abridged edition of a book published in 1929 under the title Experience with the Supernatural in Early Christian Times plus a chapter in which its author makes explicit what in his larger volume he had left largely to inference, namely, his conviction that only a desupernaturalized version of Christianity can meet the need of those abreast of modern knowledge.

The occasion of this particular book — apart from the fact that the former edition is out of print — is the revival of interest in supernaturalism in recent years. Dr. Case speaks of it as a “vigorous” revival, doubtless with Neo-orthodoxy in mind. It is not surprising that he should be exercised over this revival, not to mention its continued stress on the part of the traditionally orthodox, in view of the many books and numerous monographs he has written to combat it. It is hardly too much to say that the dominant motif of his learned efforts for some thirty or forty years has been to commend a non-supernatural conception of Christianity. Now in his seventy-fifth year, still of the opinion that the supernatural is outmoded, he naturally views with concern this revived rather than decreased interest in what, during his many years as professor in the Divinity School of the University of Chicago, and later (since his retirement from that school in 1938) as dean of the School of Religion at Lakeland, Florida, he has striven to eliminate from “Christian” thinking.

The purpose of this book, as already intimated, is to point out not only that the supernatural does not belong to the essence of Christianity but that the continued use of this category in interpreting Christianity is outmoded for those in touch with modern knowledge. Our author does not hold that the supernatural is inherent in and inseparable from Christianity as those calling themselves Christians have all but universally done — at least until the rise of the empirico-scientific world and life view in the eighteenth century, which professes to explain the entire world, including man and religion and morality, without the aid of any supernatural factor, wholly from resident forces and according to unvarying

laws. Hence he does not think that the question of the origin of Christian supernaturalism is bound up with the question of the origin of Christianity itself. The technique that he employs to get rid of the supernatural that has been associated with Christianity throughout its history is that of the functional psychologists, more broadly speaking of the pragmatic philosphers. He does no...

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