Review by SIR ARNOLD LUNN
THE SECULARISATION OF CHRISTIANITY. by E. L. Mascot! (Dorton, Longman and Todd, 32s.) THE NEW REFORMATION, by John A. T. Robinson, Bishop of Woolwich (S.C.M., 6s.) FEW more effective defences have appeared in this country of the basic Christian beliefs than Professor E. L. Mascall's vigorous counterattack on Anglican modernists. The author is a profound scholar and a master of his subject, and what is rarer a master of controversy.
Again and again he finds the felicitous phrase, flavoured with irony, which is more effective in demolishing an opponent than many lines of invective.
The attitude of these extreme secularisers is due to a failure of nerve, which takes as its startingpoint, as Professor Mascall remarks, the outlook of contemporary secularised tnan and demands that the traditional faith of Christendom should he completely transformed in order to conform to it.
Professor Mascall quotes with approval, from The Christian Mind by Harry Blamires: "The Christian mind has succumbed to the secular drift with a degree of weakness and nervelessness unmatched in Christian history. It is difficult to do justice in words to the complete loss of intellectual morale in the twentieth century Church."
Professor Mascall is a distinguished Thomist, and he is careful to contrast the great Catholic theologians with Dr. John A. T. Robinson, the present Bishop of Woolwich. St. Thomas Aquinas and St. John of the Cross were anxious to stress the inadequacy of even our most augustly authenticated concepts and images of God; but none have been so conscientious in their eflorts to avoid imprecision and incoherence in their writing about him. Of all subjects theology is that in which it is most important not to be slipshod. The last chapter of this book on "Fact and the Gospels" is a defence, as erudite as it is brilliant, and in some places original, of the historical accuracy of the Gospels.
Dr. Robinson tells us that he has been freely called "atheist Bishop", but 1 share Professor Mascall's suspicion that Dr. Robinson is "after all really an old fashioned Christian theist", who labours under the pathetic illusion that he can coax secularists back into the Church by conceding most of their points. "One might," as Professor Mascall remarks. "he pardoned for supposing that Robinson had despaired of trying to convert the world to Christianity and had decided instead to convert Christianity to the world."
'Uhe Secular Society have issued a Press release in which Dr. Robinson is "congratulated for recognising the truth in charges that God is 'intellectually superfluous', 'emotionally dispensable' and 'morally intolerable' ", and is urged to be logical and reject Jesus.
As Dr. Robinson has made no real effort to state the case for theism and been at pains to state the case for atheism, he has no just cause for complaint—even though he is really "an old fashioned Christian theist".
am glad I read the few passages in which he describes his evening services with his children. It is sad that he has failed so lamentably to convey the essence of the religion which is certainly his.
also enjoyed the appendix by Mrs. Robinson. The children, it seems, are so accustomed to reading press attacks on their father that when one of them. Stephen, came across a friendly reference he exclaimed: "Gosh. Daddy! Someone has said something nice about you in a newspaper!"