by FR. T. COOPER
Religion and Change by David L. Edwards (Hodder and Stoughton 75p)
The Italian referendum on divorce is surely one more indication that the days of Holy Orthodox Nations or Most Christian Kingdoms have vanished. Throne and altar are no longer seen as indivisible and the dangers of pretending that they are have been admirably demonstrated on the Iberian peninsula, It was the genius of Courtenay Murray to show how the freedom to believe was damaged by a theocratic concept of society and to lead Christians to a welcome of the secular, pluralist State in place of their previous grudging coexistence with it.
David Edwards, in common with many theologians, is rightly concerned with the need to relate the Christian's experience of belief to his living in a society which is no longer consciously religious.
Religion and Change attempts to review the impact of secularism on Christianity and to map out the path that the Churches should follow if they are to have any relevance for the men of the twenty-first century. It is a vast and complex subject, and I think the great failure of this book is due not so much to the author's frankly quite boring style but to his illadvised attempt to treat so vast a subject exhaustively in less than 400 pages.
The book abounds with generalisations. For example, pre-revolutionary Russia and China are characterised as "two great peoples with essentially irrelevant, or even harmful religions." Whatever may be true of China, this is patently untrue of Russia.
Difficulties and blemishes there certainly were, the hierarchy had paid dearly for their dependence upon imperial patronage, but it is little short of bad taste to impugn the faith of millions of believers in so cursory a manner.
Canon Edwards is careless in presenting speculation as fact. He blandly asserts that "the French cardinals played a leading part in the election of the more liberal John XXIII." How does he know? What is his source of information for what took place in secret conclave? What does it mean to say that John was more liberal than Pius?