by DOMINIC BELLENGER
The Transfiguration of Politics by Paul Lehmann (SCM Press £5.50) God, Man and the Church by Vladimir Solovyev (James Clarke £3.50) It used to be axiomatic that the Christian was also the legitimist — thc man who, with his eyes fixed firmly on the City of God. left the City of Men to the powers that be. Render to Caesar what was his and all was well.
Such a supposition cannot be made today. The revolutionary is now also, at times, the committed Christian. Professor Lehmann. who teaches at the Union Theological Seminary in New York. attempts in his book to reconcile the Christian and the revolutionary by providing a fully argued theology of revolution which suggests that "God upholds the world by changing it. '
It is not an easy book, and for me not a convincing one. What makes writers like Helder Camara and Camillo Torres — who are highly revolutionary in their implications — authentically Christian is their response to personal pastoral need.
Dr Lehmann, on the other hand, writes as an American liberal burdened with all the jargon and the romanticism of the intellectual. He views revolution not as one in media res but as an outsider.
Revolutions have never been for the outsider; nor have they, for that matter, been as easy to analyse as Professor Lehmann suggests.
The dual theme of Transfiguration and Jesus' silent witness to the truth before Pilate rests uneasily in the matrix of blood and despair which often forms the mise-enscene of revolution. He offers little sign of that transfiguration which by humanising revolution will soften its face and make it free.
However good this book is as an introduction to contemporary revolutionary thinkers it strikes me that ultimately he supports the older view that it is only at a personal, non-political level that the Christian can hope to transform the world.
Vladimir Solovyev, a Russian writer and thinker of the immediately pre-revolutionary period — whose "God. Man and the Church" was first published in English in 1937, and has just been re-published, tries to show how the Christian can reconstruct society at this deepest level, the personal, which can then flood out to embrace the social. He calls for a return to spiritual foundations.
Surely this is what we need to do. If perhaps we rediscovered these foundations we might find that we have an answer and a hope for the problems of this world apart from the tendentious sail-trimming which a view like Professor Lehmann's necessitates.
The Noble Heritage by Alistair Duncan (Longman 15) The year was roughly 35 AD. The tomb was doublechambered, newly-hewn, a stone's throw from Skull Hill just outside the Ephraim Gate — and it was empty. The Lord had risen indeed.
Alistair Duncan has made the subsequent history of the Holy Place the subject of his rich and beautiful book The Noble Heritage. Through his pages we are taken, with meticulous care, through the tumult of the centuries to our own day.
Titus destroyed Jerusalem in AD 70. Less than a hundred years later Hadrian rebuilt it, erecting a temple of Venus over the Tomb and a statue of Jupiter on Golgotha. These were removed by Constantine's 'workmen. Then, under the personal patronage of the Empress Helena they built, by imperial command "the most beautiful edifice in the world."
By its description it must have been, yet in a few hundred years it was torn down by the Persians, Finally, Arabic invasion and earthquake left little but the broken base of the Tomh.and Calvary stripped to the rock.
The Crusaders built the massive Church of the Resurrection we see today. They incorporated Calvary and the Tomb under one roof with a magnificence in which kings were crowned by 1131, As we read we can turn at any page away from the squalor and splendour of history to exquisite photographs of the calm, multi-coloured beauty of this truly glorious church. The book is a brilliant work of art and scholarship about the fierce tenacity of faith.