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art

Augustus Pugin and his Gothic Revival home

The Grange, Ramsgate

The Landmark Trust have restored and refurnished The Grange, on the cliffs at Ramsgate. This is the house which Pugin built for himself and his family, where he lived with his wife and his children and where he died, at the early age of 40. He is famous for the interior of the Houses of Parliament, for the Roman Catholic Cathedral, St Chad’s, in Birmingham and many other Gothic Revival Churches (including two built and furnished to his designs in Tasmania). The Grange at Ramsgate is part of a complex of buildings designed and built by Pugin after he converted to Roman Catholicism, and were intended as an expression of his faith. He built what he described as ‘a most substantial catholic house,’ a church, cloister and sacristy, a school and a walled garden, financing it entirely himself. The Benedictine Abbey that now uses the church was built after Pugin died. The house, now fully restored, strikes one very much as a family home. During the restoration work, a number of fragments of Pugin’s original wallpaper were found, and these astonishingly bright colours and strong diagonal lines have been reproduced in the rooms. Pugin made great play with his family crest (a martlet, a foot-less bird), his monogram and motto, and those of his wives. He was widowed twice, but his third wife outlived him into ripe old age. Mottoes and crests, quotations from the Book of Proverbs, tributes to friends and places he loved – these are painted on library shelves, carved into fireplaces, and fill the coloured stained glass windows. They also appear on the beautifully designed and executed Minton tiles. The library, with its painted ceiling, survives almost exactly as it was when he used it. Pugin was passionately fond of the sea, and owned a boat in Ramsgate; with its crew it was often involved in rescue operations when ships got into difficulties on the notorious Goodwin Sands. In the bay window, where he worked standing at his desk, he had plate glass windows fitted, giving him a panoramic sea-view over the garden. In the upper lights of the windows, heraldic stained glass sheds sunny coloured lights into the room. Unusually, for a house of this modest size, there is a small chapel, correctly placed liturgically at the east end of the building where he would pray daily. Little of the furniture now remains but the lovely stained glass windows are still there. The house, unpretentious in size and proportion, greatly influenced the building of medium-sized and larger houses in the years after Pugin died. It has a domestic feeling; the stained and painted pine panelling, the tiled hall and passages, the solid doors and comfortable proportions – all have familiar resonances for us. Pugin designed and built St Augustine’s Church which stands close by The Grange. He intended it as a gift to the people of Ramsgate. It is flint, and banded with Whitby stone, and the interior, also faced with Whitby stone, is full of beautiful things. Pugin oversaw every detail of the fittings and carvings, the windows and the Minton tiles on the floors. He is buried there in a tomb designed by his son, who was also an architect, with carvings of his children on the tomb-chest. The 16-foot high tabernacle (alas, no longer on the High Altar) and the towering Gothic font cover were both in the Great Exhibition of 1851. The church contains work by his sons, Edward and Peter Paul Pugin, both of whom had successful careers as architects. The stained glass windows, the elaborately carved and painted Flemish Stations of the Cross, the beautiful metal screen by the Lady Chapel, these and many other wonderful things are a powerful demonstration of the influence Augustus Pugin had on both ecclesiastical and domestic architecture and furnishings.

Anne Gardom

Music

CHORAL MUSIC

Malcolm Williamson

Joyful Company of Singers, Peter Broadbent

Naxos 8.557783, £6·00Malcolm Williamson, remember him? He was the Australian composer who resided in this country and to the surprise of many was appointed Master of the Queen’s Music in 1975. You might be forgiven for calling to mind the name but little else. Although he held that distinguished post for nearly thirty years he made little impact in it. His output seemed to trail away and latterly there were rumours of delayed commissions, with his music appearing increasingly infrequently in concert programmes. Yet, as the notes to this recording remind us, his output was large and varied. While writing operas, concertos and other orchestral works, he was particularly concerned to write smaller pieces which would be suitable for amateur forces and for young people. Continuing its outstanding work of recording lesser-known music, Naxos gives us here a selection of Malcolm Williamson’s work for unaccompanied chorus, including the Symphony for Voices (1960–1962), the Requiem for a Tribe Brother (1992), and the choral suite from his opera, English Eccentrics. This is an adventurous disc, but I’m not sure that it does Williamson many favours. On the evidence of these works he was a composer with great technical facility but no very pronounced individuality. This is not to say that the music does not make worthwhile listening – it is sometimes very beautiful – but a little goes a long way. Concentration on this purely choral repertoire exposes the same compositional tricks being put to repeated use. Furthermore, by the time he came to write his Requiem for a Tribe Brother it would seem that the music of this Christian composer (he was a convert to Rome as a young man) could teeter dangerously close to sentimentality rather than serving as the vehicle for the deep feeling he wished to express. The major shortcoming of this disc, however, is nothing to do with the music or with the excellent singing. Apart from the texts for the Requiem, which any informed listener is going to know, Naxos is unable to give us the words for the poems used in the Symphony or the libretto of the operatic suite, presumably for copyright reasons. The diction of the Joyful Company of Singers is excellent, but without printed words the listener has to work unnecessarily hard to appreciate what Williamson does with the texts he uses. All praise to Naxos for giving us this recording. I wish I could get more enthusiastic about the music; but that may well be due to a shortcoming on my part. The price is not too much to pay if you feel like experimenting with unfamiliar compositions. Perhaps if Naxos gives us the opportunity to sample some of Williamson’s orchestral pieces, it might help us to get his work into perspective.

C.V. Sterndale

Books

Journey to Easter

Spiritual reflections for the Lenten Season

Pope Benedict XVI

Crossroad, 182pp, pbk0 8245 2382 2, $14·95

Thin, over-hyped, and with little staying power, the Lent Book is the Beaujolais Nouveau of religious publishing. Don’t be fooled like your reviewer and think this book falls into that genre. Though it reflects on the seasons of Lent and Easter, you couldn’t easily use this book for the Lent Course. It does, though, provide a rich source for sermons for these two great Christian seasons and beyond (which is a good reason to review it now – it might be less obvious where my own sermons came from this Lent and Easter). The book is a collection of occasional pieces which have Lent and Easter in common. It begins with meditations on the Masses of the first week of Lent, delivered to the Curia as retreat addresses by the then Cardinal Ratzinger in 1983. The intention behind these addresses provides the otherwise not obvious backbone to the other addresses in the book: to prepare the soul to make a better response to her call from God. The central mystery of this vocation is also the central mystery of the God made man, that is, the death and Resurrection of the Lord. So, here in the Easter mysteries, we find our vocation. We enter on this vocation through worship, above all the sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist, and it is the unfolding of these sacraments in our own lives which Benedict seeks to nourish through ‘an education in faith.' It is this education in faith which sets Benedict apart. Though never less than intelligent, scholarly and well-informed, he writes with his customary clarity in the belief that there is an essential unity between Old and New Testaments and that the Bible as the Church’s book is most fully understood within the Church’s corporate worship of God. The Paschal mystery which we enter on our Christian way, is, therefore, always a mystery of Christ and His Church, and Christ and His priests. So the book ends with meditations on Pentecost, both as the liturgical completion of Easter (Benedict is always a man of Vatican II) and as the place where we, the Church, begin our journey into the Paschal mystery. Perhaps the best way to characterize this collection is as a present to the Church of the fruits of lectio divina. It is a rich present in which almost every page provides an inspiration for Christian living simply by stating the obvious, even the trite; ‘the world does not need that we agree with it, but that we transform it with radical evangelisation’, ‘to believe means to stake one’s life on the word of God,’ only when we understand that God comes from on high to the lowly will we bring true equality to our world (to paraphrase). Again and again, Benedict clarifies and deepens our understanding of liturgy, Bible and dogma (the history of the Councils on the person of Christ in three pages would get most of us through finals, and through a life’s ministry). In Benedict’s hands those three are no longer the stale matter of the Academy or the sacristy, but genuinely the basis for the new and living way of God’s pilgrim people, the inspiration and the means by which to live and work in the Paschal mystery to the praise and glory of God the Father.

Owen Higgs

IN SEARCH OF HUMANITY AND DEITY

A Celebration of John Macquarrie’s Theology

Edited by Robert Morgan

SCM Press, 322pp, hbk

0 334 04049 3, £40

It was Bishop John Richards, first Bishop of Ebbsfleet, who cheerfully asked me whether I would agree to speak to a gathering of his clergy in the West Country on the subject of prayer. I agreed. ‘There’ll be another speaker,’ said Bishop John with characteristic directness, ‘John Macquarrie. He’ll be on before you. That’s alright then, isn’t it?’ Sleepless nights followed, as I wondered what I could possibly add, of any theological or pastoral value, when my audience had already heard from the author of Paths in Spirituality, that outstanding guide and companion to prayer – and eaten their lunch. I needn’t have worried. I can scarcely recall what I did say in the end; but I have an abiding memory of John Macquarrie’s graciousness, and of his talking to me before, and during, the day itself, entirely without condescension, for all the world as if he and I were entirely equal partners in the project. What is more, whenever we have met since then, whether in Pusey House Library when John has come in to continue his research (for example, on his most recent book on mysticism, Two Worlds Are Ours) or, as most recently, at a Chrism Mass celebrated by the Bishop of Ebbsfleet in Holy Week earlier this year, his greeting has always been the same – ‘Ah, Father Jonathan, how are you since we travelled together and talked about prayer?' All of this, by way of introduction, is to state the obvious: that Professor Macquarrie is the most delightful of men, as well as one of the (small) handful of genuinely outstanding Anglican theologians of the twentieth (and now twenty-first) centuries. In 1999, SCM Press published Macquarrie’s own ‘theological autobiography,’ On Being a Theologian; now comes this volume with a distinguished list of contributors and a brief foreword from the Archbishop of Canterbury who commends ‘this collection of tributes to a much-loved servant of God, God’s Church and God’s truth.’ The book traverses the spectrum of Macquarrie’s interests from philosophy to the Sacraments, and takes in all those of whom he has made a particular study and with whom he is always in conversation, from Heidegger and Bultmann to Schleiermacher and Rahner. Proper attention is paid to the centrepiece of Macquarrie’s work, his one-volume treatise in systematics, Principles of Christian Theology, first published in 1966. Among the heavyweight theological material sit a number of more biographical – and anecdotal – contributions, with much to enjoy. (The editor’s chapter on ‘John Macquarrie in Oxford’ paints an affectionate and illuminating portrait of Faculty and University life, with an eye for the instant summing-up of character: a former Principal of Pusey House, careful with the heating bills, is ‘a delightful churchman, keen to minimize global warming.') If one word were to characterize Macquarrie’s written corpus as filtered through this book, it might well be ‘tension.’ There is the tension between the commitment to be faithful to the classic formulations of Christian orthodoxy, notably the Chalcedonian definitions (Macquarrie was alarmed by The Myth of God Incarnate), and the struggle to express the faith of Chalcedon in terms intelligible to modern man (one wonders whether Macquarrie’s high view of the Enlightenment is not already looking more questionable). There is the tension between Macquarrie’s restrained, classically Tractarian understanding of the Real Presence and his enthusiasm for Eucharistic adoration and Benediction, very usefully explored in the essay by Peter Groves. There is the tension between Macquarrie’s own hesitation about the use of the term ‘panentheism,’ and the outworking of his theology of the relationship between Being and ‘beings’ which points so clearly in that direction (here, the clear and helpful guide is Michael W. Brierley). Then there is what might be called the tension between Macquarrie the theologian and Macquarrie the man of the Church: yes, as Bob Morgan reminds us, Macquarrie has always argued that there are no fundamental theological objections to the ordination of women: but as those who have followed not only his writing on this subject in recent years, but observed his actions, his objections on ecumenical grounds have grown so strong that one must surely say he is against proceeding in practice, especially with the ordination of women to the episcopate. Here there is a link with the compelling contribution by Daniel W. Hardy on ‘John Macquarrie’s Ecclesiology,’ and to themes which are also picked up in the essay by Geoffrey Wainwright. Hardy, fascinatingly, begins by setting out why it is that ecclesiology has never been considered an entirely respectable or top-drawer field of theological study and research. Ecclesiology is ‘merely practical,’ the stuff of tradesmen, as against the ‘purely cognitive’ higher reaches of theological and philosophical thought. Wainwright notes that in Principles of Christian Theology, Macquarrie himself asserts that questions of the Church and the Sacraments ‘do not have the same centrality as…the doctrines of creation or the work of Christ,’ yet they constitute ‘the most controversial area of theology.’ If by ecclesiology we mean the study of the historic community which is the locus and bearer of the faith, then surely the time has indeed come to rescue ecclesiology from its tradesman’s-entrance status in the academy, and accord it a proper place at the theological table. Whether the general reader will find £40 to spend on this excellent book (spoiled only by the vicious and unworthy final chapter by Alistair Kee on Mariology) I doubt: but search it out in the library, and read it all the same.

Jonathan Baker

 

THE BEIJING FACTOR

How Christianity is transforming China and changing the global balance of power

David Aikman

Monarch Books, 344pp, pbk1 85424 715 8, £8·99

Within the next thirty years a third of China’s population could become Christian. In the most comprehensive recent study David Aikman who worked for Time magazine paints an encouraging picture of Christian evangelization there. Even if the nineteenth century imperialist ‘barking cannons deafened many Chinese to the serene sounds of the Gospel…that moment may occur when the Chinese dragon is tamed by the power of the Christian Lamb.' There are currently two streams of Chinese Christianity, official and underground, which flow closer in Catholic than in Protestant mission where the official church is liberal and the underground charismatic. The author chronicles the heroic struggles of Western missionaries and how their brand of self-sacrifice has been taken to heart in the contemporary resurgence of the church so that missionaries are leaving China to head across Asia towards Jerusalem. We are told unsurprisingly that the Muslim world opens more readily to Chinese than to Western evangelists. If this movement of the Spirit continues the centre of the Christian world is bound to shift east in years to come. If the Chinese can now wear what they want, go where they want and marry whom they want, they are still inhibited so far as believing what they want. Although China’s latest 1982 Constitution speaks of ‘protecting normal religious activities’ what is ‘normal’ remains negotiable, as does the distinction between mainstream religion and cult. The underground house churches issued a significant common statement of belief in 1998. They seek to distinguish themselves from movements like ‘Eastern Lightning’ which follows Deng, a female alleged incarnation of Jesus. By contrast hopes are rising of recovering full communion between the underground and official Roman Catholic churches. The suspicion of overseas links, at the heart of attempts to control believers, derives from the terrible treatment of China by western powers over recent centuries. Aikman quotes high Chinese officials who say Christianity is attractive because it is perceived to have made possible the emergence of capitalism and democracy. At the same time they see no easy transition ahead of any kind given the record of how change has come about over the centuries in such a large country. Church leaders are also fearful that a transition that favours Christian allegiance will lower the spiritual temperature of that allegiance. Meanwhile many Christians are praying for a revival in association with the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, mindful of the worldwide interest that will occur at that time. The Bejing Factor is an encouragement to Western readers in its evidencing of vibrant Christianity overseas, a challenge to churches that are not so much failing as shrinking back from the task of evangelization which continues in China even in the face of civic hostility and persecution.

John Twistleton

TIME TO PRAY

Prayer during the Day and Night from

Common Worship: Daily Prayer

CHP, 112pp, pbk

0 7151 2122 7, £12·99It is encouraging to think that there are sufficient people concerned to make time for prayer during their day for Church House to publish forms for such devotion, including Night Prayer (Compline), based on material in Common Worship. It is handsomely produced, too, though in a size too big for the average pocket. There is rumour that church people are rediscovering the possibilities of the Daily Office, both individually and in groups, something much to be encouraged. This small book contains basic but valuable suggestions about reciting the Office, including reminders of the importance of posture and of silence. There is also helpful instruction on the recitation of the Psalms. But who will use this book? Those committed to the Daily Office will want a full version, including Morning and Evening Prayer. Furthermore, the selection of Psalms printed here for use in the Office is very small. The reader is told that other Psalms, which are suggested for each day, are not printed for reasons of space, which means owning another book containing the full Psalter. The Psalter used is that of Common Worship, which for this writer presents a further problem. The version of the Psalms found there is based on the excellent American Psalter, but it has been altered (in the interests of ‘accuracy,’ I am told, though how one assesses accuracy when translating poetry is a tricky question), and altered sufficiently to spoil it. Comparing the Common Worship Psalter with the American I have yet to find an alteration which is an improvement. Generally speaking, the result shows a disregard for speech rhythms (an area where the American Psalter scores highly), which makes recitation and singing more difficult. (Mind you, the Common Worship Psalter is a joy when compared with the frightful rendition of the Psalms in the Roman Divine Office.) Quotations from Scripture are in the inclusive language of the New Revised Standard Version. For what it contains, Time to Pray is an expensive book. To express a personal preference, I would say that anyone wishing to pray the Daily Office would be much better advised to spend five pounds more buying a copy of Celebrating Common Prayer, based on the Anglican Franciscan Office (Mowbray, 0 264 67284 4). This contains Morning and Evening Prayer, a Midday Office and Night Prayer, plus a generous selection of material for Saints’ Days and other occasions, biblical readings for those travelling so that you do not have to carry a Bible as well, and (need I add?) the American Psalter, which stands up to repeated use very well indeed. A final point about Time to Pray. I do not know who reads through these things before they go to press, but they should have been alert to the comic implications of the rubric The Lord’s Prayer is said (inside back cover)

Dale Cover

 

 

CHRIST TRIUMPHANT AND OTHER HYMNS

Michael Saward

Jubilate Hymns

0 9505589 9 0

The writing of hymns is a serious matter
It isn’t a game for your idle half hours.
It won’t make your bank balance grow any fatter
Yet asks you employ the full range of your powers.

A good sense of rhythm, an ear for metre,
Are things you will need walking hymnody’s way.
Mix with fine language and what could be sweeter,
Provided, of course, you have something to say?

But why make the effort? Why work till you’re tired
At dactyls and spondees, at verse strict and free?
For hymns, as we learn, are the last thing required
In Archbishop Rowan’s ‘Right On’ C of E.

Praise songs and choruses! Shout that out proudly!
These are the things which will speak to our time;
Words that a mission-based Church can use loudly,
Deficient in reason and lacking in rhyme.

Purchase a screen! (No more the expense buying
New English Hymnal or A & M R.)
Project on it praise song and chorus supplying
Both themes sentimental and English to jar.

One or two hymns we’ll retain for appearance
Provided they’re not nineteenth century fare;
Sing them, when given ‘modernity’ clearance,
(Remembering to wave just one hand in the air).

We who love hymns go to church to endure.
Noise and banality drive us to tears.
Our minds work on words like ‘decay’ and ‘manure
’When Shine, Jesus, Shine batters sensitive ears.

Hymns with good words and good tunes, which will lodge
In our minds and instruct us in true Christian goals,
How do we find them, and how do we dodge
Here I am...is it I, Lord?, which withers our souls?

And so, with church music gone weird and wayward,
Wistful and woeful we wonder ‘What next?
’But look! Here’s a volume of HYMNS, by M. Saward,
To solace the weary and comfort the vexed.

Rejoice, for in these more than seventy writings
There’s praising in plenty, and praising again,
Boundlessly cheery and up-beat, inviting
A bright view of faith to the final Amen.

The hand which has written the verses here offered
(And this is a fact we are told in the book)
One day in St Paul’s shook the hands which were proffered
Of fifty and five Heads of State! (Take a look.)

Journalist, hymn writer (more than a hundred),
With many achievements it’s humbling to see,
Here are his efforts at which a Church wondered.
Want them? Believe it or not, the book’s FREE!

Copies of the book may be obtained from

Canon Michael Saward, 6 Discovery Walk, London E1W 2JG

 

WHO KILLED THE BIBLE?

Ian Robinson

Edgeways Books, 140pp, pbk

0 907839 49 5, £7·80

In this lively and authoritative book, Ian Robinson kills off the widely-held supposition that ‘meaning’ is something separate from the words in which it is expressed. It is the view of most biblical translators that the Bible exists – almost we might say in Platonic space – susceptible to being put into a great variety of new editions. Robinson’s demolition of this foolish though prevalent idea reminds me of a similar put-down by C.H. Sisson when he said, ‘Unfortunately, the choice of words determines what is being said.’

Nowhere is this truer than in versions of the Bible. For example, Robinson thinks it is absurd that the King James rendering of Isaiah 30.27, ‘Behold, the name of the Lord cometh from far, burning with his anger, and the burden thereof is heavy: his lips are full of indignation and his tongue as a devouring fire’ can be adequately replaced by the Message Bible version, ‘Look, God’s on his way and from a long way off! Smoking with anger, immense as he comes into view, words steaming from his mouth, searing, indicting words.’ Robinson comments, ‘Tell me another! Is this God or Stephenson’s Rocket?’

The prominent theory – actually Eugene Nida’s – in biblical translation supposes, ‘that the thing said is assumed to be somewhere other than the saying.’ To validate his view of the matter, Nida would have to produce unpacked content. But content is always and only found in one expression or another. The suitcase image is misleading because in language we can never get the contents without a suitcase.

Are different versions of the Bible serviceable in different ways? Is one as good as another? Robinson denies it: ‘There is no point in offering as the Word of God a version that is evidently godforsaken. Our world of science and celebrities is not one of religious seriousness.’

So many translations are studies in deprivation – and it is the reader who is deprived: ‘The people who translated the Song of Songs ‘How pretty you are. How beautiful!’ cannot express love in their own private lives’.

Examples always provide the acid test. Does anyone really think that ‘And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth’ (KJV) can be satisfactorily rendered (or even rendered at all) by ‘The Word because a human being and lived among us. We saw his glory, full of grace and truth. This was the glory which he received as his father’s only Son’ (Good News Bible).

It is not just a matter of ‘beautiful language’. It is a matter of meaning and truth. What then is to be done? Robinson concludes: ‘In the twenty-first century there is only one of the 106 English versions that could possibly fulfil our requirements and that is the King James Version suitably expounded and annotated, but used.’

Dr Peter Mullen is Rector of St Michael’s, Cornhill

THE HOMILIES

Brynmill Press, 464pp, hbk

0 907839 82 7, £27

The two Books of Homilies, mentioned as they are in Article XXXV, are still available ‘to be read in the churches by the ministers, diligently and distinctly, that they may be understanded of the people.’ There have been occasional facsimile reprints, but this is the first newly edited and typeset edition in living memory – as such it is admirably laid out for use in church. Whether the minister would seek to do so is another matter. There is certainly much that is of interest for scholars, and all ordinands to the sacred ministry should have some direct knowledge of the homilies if he or she is to have a proper understanding of the cultural and theological heritage of the CofE. The best and the worst of the sixteenth century controversies find clear expression in these sermons.

It will be of interest to note how each writer, even for the second set in 1562, tended still to use the Latin text of Scripture, making his own translation according to his purpose. Note too how extensive is their knowledge and use of the Apocrypha (now almost entirely redundant in church worship and teaching), and how broad is their knowledge and interest in the Fathers. Another surprise may be how repeated is the concern for public order, how pervasive is the great Tudor concern for the avoidance of sedition and rebellion.

The second book is of most uneven quality. The third homily ‘Of repairing and keeping clean of churches’ is quite short and not without charm: any churchwarden in our own day might be encouraged to know that their problems with the fabric are nothing new, while those of a Catholic persuasion will find clear proof of how care for a church building declines disastrously if one disrespects its ornaments and objects of devotion – remove a statue of a saint and you will pay a heavy price in wider neglect.

By contrast, the second homily ‘Against peril of idolatry’ is appalling. Long and angry, it reveals all the most shameful aspects of the denigration of images. There may be an argument against statues, even icons, but the CofE has never managed to maintain sober argument over this issue, and no wonder if this was the official church teaching. The tone here is shrill; the impression given is one of base fanaticism; the net effect is disgraceful and depressing.

Its only echo in the first book of homilies, from 1547, is from one of Cranmer’s own texts, ‘Of good works annexed unto faith’, where towards the end he launches into a tirade against ‘papistical superstitions and abuses.’ This intemperate passage is unusual in the first collection, which is generally of remarkably high standard. The language to the modern ear may unduly circuitous and long-winded, but the ideas expressed are clear and generally admirable. Cranmer’s ‘Fruitful exhortation to the reading of holy Scriptures’ conveys beautifully what it must have meant to be able for the first time to read God’s word in one’s own language. Archdeacon Harpsfield’s sermon on ‘the misery of all mankind’ is a haunting piece of late medieval spirituality, a fine antidote to modern complacency. ‘Against swearing and perjury’ is a powerful plea for clarity and honesty in public dealings: if ‘an Englishman’s words is his bond’ were ever true, it was thanks to this homily read regularly from the pulpit.

John Turnbull

THE SPIRITUAL DIMENSION

John Cottingham

CUP, 186pp, pbk

9780521604970, £14·99 If religion is about finding inner transformation and meaning in life, why do psychology and philosophy nowadays largely balk at it? If Christianity is true, its truth has psychological and philosophical outworkings, so that any wisdom Christians can find in these two realms will serve both the defence and spread of their faith. Such collaboration is hampered by the specialist jargon of psychology and philosophy, which makes a lot of wisdom inaccessible to the layman, besides the contemporary suspicion of religion already mentioned. In less than 200 pages Professor Cottingham maps the lands of religion, philosophy and psychology leaving the reader more aware of some key issues and more optimistic about their convergence. Central to his thesis is recognition of the framework intrinsic to religion that fosters spiritual transformation within a believing community, as in the book’s title: The Spiritual Dimension. In a potted history of psychology he explains how Freud was helpful in establishing the struggle human beings have with their inner life whilst at the same time he rejects Freud’s negative picture of religion. To see religion as an illusion born of helplessness does not marry with religion’s practical concern to bridge the gap between what we feel like doing and what we feel called to do. Moreover in applauding radical vulnerability psychology applauds what is distinctive about Jesus Christ and hopefully his disciples. As a philosopher of religion the author insists that a religious world view is multilayered and much more than the adherence to dogma, important as that is, so that philosophical scrutiny must make a wider allowance than it often does at present. In a beautiful analogy Cottingham explains that the traces of God in the world claimed by believers are like the traces of electromagnetic radiation stemming for the Big Bang in their pointing to a reality that cannot be seen objectively in this world. The pages contain lucid arguments for and against belief in God whilst affirming the importance of trust, humility, integrity and vulnerability. The Spiritual Dimension is a splendid apologetics primer, helping believers see themselves as others see them and looking to the convergence of psychological maturity, moral growth and religious enlightenment. It is a book that puts things as simply as I have seen psychology, philosophy and religion ever expounded which is a sign that the author knows what he is talking about in all three realms.

 

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