Reviews of Books -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 10:2 (May 1948)
Article: Reviews of Books
Author: Anonymous

Reviews of Books

Ernest J. Chave: A Functional Approach to Religious Education. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. 1947. ix, 168. $2.50.

“Brother, that sounds well, but where is the revelation of God in Jesus Christ.” Such was the reaction of a minister of a leading church to Professor Chave’s presentation of functional religious education. Thereupon the author scornfully cancels him with the comment, “He had ceased to think critically and, like an infallible pope, asked all to bend before his gilded images” (p. 110). The great offense of this minister was his abandonment of liberalism for conservative orthodoxy. But one must question at once the seriousness of the charge since the spiritual pilgrimage of Professor Chave himself involved a similar change of position but in reverse order. To hear him tell it, it was a real advance. At one time he rowed his theological dinghy in the backwaters of supernaturalism, but now he sails a sleek craft on the high seas of naturalism driven by the winds of free inquiry. Can such a person pass objective judgment on the actions and attitudes of another when these are the converse of his own?

It is always interesting to hear the plea of the innovator or reformer when zealously presented. Likewise, a new approach to a subject is usually welcomed when the field is bestrewn with exhausted ideas. But the effect is dulled when the argument is laden with scorn. Furthermore, one who is pleading for objective views and decrying prejudice can ill afford to indulge in derision.

The disdain that Chave has for supernaturalism comes to immediate expression in the Introduction. “The author recognizes two great handicaps to the effective functioning of religion in the modern world — sectarianism and supernaturalism. . .” (p. v). “Supernaturalism is a prescientific view of the world, and though many try to rationalize it in order to make it fit a modern world, it leaves a blurred theistic symbolism” (p. vi). With such bald statements there need be no doubt as to the direction of the argument. One can admire his frankness but not the logic that sweeps away the philosophy of the Bible and then pretends seriously to deal with the education of human beings — and religious education at

that! That is not to say that the author has no right to differ with the Bible in a free society, but on the ground of his own delimitation of evidence to the area of human experience, he does not fairly evaluate the influence of the Hebrew-Christian tradition on human life.

It is to be expected that supernaturalism would be explained within the framework of naturalism as prescientific thought, a cousin of superstition and magic. How...

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