Reviews Of Books -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 36:1 (Fall 1973)
Article: Reviews Of Books
Author: Anonymous

Reviews Of Books

Os Guinness: The Dust of Death: A Critique of the Establishment and the Counter Culture—and a Proposal for a Third Way. Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 1973. $7.95; $4.95 paperback.

This is an excellent book. It is a complex analysis of many trends in our culture, and a presentation of a Christian alternative, a “Third Way.” In a sense this book is an answer to the many recent analyses of culture, including Roszak: The Making of a Counter Culture, Toffler: Future Shock, and Clark: Civilization. Some of these have in fact influenced the organization of this book, although a glance through the footnotes will show that Mr. Guinness is not dependent on any of them in a limiting way.

The style is rich and powerful, and the vocabulary pregnant almost to excess. A random sampling reveals such sentences as “If the Inquisition stands as the starkest example of the overkill of an authority with no legitimate basis, Martin Luther’s attitude toward the peasants is an example of overreaction in the name of truth” (179); or, “With the numbing prospect of interminable reincarnation on the wheel where the raw unsatisfactoriness of life is basic and where there are no grounds for any positive affirmation of individuality, can men be other than pessimistic and mutely resigned?” (222). But the depth of the book goes beyond stylistic considerations. Throughout, there is a refusal to handle issues superficially. This is in itself a welcome relief from the many Christian books on today’s market which give pat solutions to complex problems. Mr. Guinness recognizes the need to respect the depths of a situation: “Cheapness and confusion will be the religious climate of the next years. If it is twice as easy for a Christian to speak into such a situation, it is also twice as hard to speak into it intelligibly. Faith that is faddish can be as dangerous as faith that is false” (54). On other occasions, when the reader expects a cliche, he finds that the author has an ability to carry an idea further than it usually is carried (see, for example, his use of the concept that Christians must be “radical” —pp. 370 ff.).

The Dust of Death is an encyclopedic book in many respects. In one way it is a kind of “Who’s Who” of the West from Kant to the present.

There is an almost staggering diversity of names and trends discussed in the body of the work. There is a good system of footnotes at the end of the whole book, but it is regrettable to find no index, since perhaps one of this volume’s chief values is for reference work. There are also a great number of well-chosen quotations from every conceivable source.

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