Reviews Of Books -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 20:2 (May 1958)
Article: Reviews Of Books
Author: Anonymous

Reviews Of Books

H. van Riessen: The Society of the Future. Translated and edited under the supervision of David Hugh Freeman. Philadelphia: The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co. [1957]. 320. $4.95.

“A new book is news” used to be the emphasis of a former editor of The New Yorker, and one may agree that Dr. van Riessen’s latest publication, now on the American market in translation, falls into this category. It is one of the very few attempts made so far to diagnose the ills of modern western society and prescribe a remedy, all from the point of view of Reformed Christianity. Starting from the “sphere-sovereignty” concepts of H. Dooyeweerd’s cosmonomic philosophy, the author endeavours to show by a detailed discussion of the west’s present social development that it is heading rapidly towards a planned totalitarianism in which the independence of the various spheres of life is crushed under the universal domination of the “scientifically” directed state.

In presenting his thoughts on this subject, van Riessen begins with a discussion of the views expressed in various utopias written from the days of Plato’s Republic down to Orwell’s 1984. Believing that these various works all reflect man’s views on the matter, he points out that the authors always assume the need for a collectivization which then progresses to some type of socialism, ending with the twentieth century’s terrifying concept of Orwell’s “Big Brother”, a fiction governing the state with all the resources of modern mechanical and psychological techniques. Thus man’s paradise, which he hoped to construct through social control, actually becomes his hell, destroying his freedom by an over-extension of authority and his personality by an enforced mass security.

That this is a present threatening possibility becomes very clear from the current trend in both political and social thinking, and in their resulting action. As van Riessen points out, increasingly, even in the western world, a distinction is arising between the leaders, the planners, the elite on the one hand and the masses on the other. The former group equipped with all that modern science can produce in the way of mechanical brains such as computers, and employing the most advanced means of propaganda to achieve mental control, will endeavour to make men over into what they feel to be the proper personalities for the perfect, secure state. Yet even

this is not the end, for the elite themselves will become the victims of this machine, giving the final Antichrist the power to work his will as he sees fit. This according to the author is the threat which hangs over the western world, even without the possib...

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