at culture and Christianity
By WILLIAM GLEN-DOEPEL
Culture and Theology by Brian Wicker (Speed and Ward, 13s. 6d.)
THISintelligent and provocative work elaborates further some of the themes of the same author's "Culture and Liturgy." it discusses three possible approaches to the problems of Christian life today: secular, modern, and radical.
The secular Christian, generally found in a political context of utilitarian liberalism and a philosophical one of positivistic empiricism, is more at home in countries with a Protestant tradition, whereas modernisation has tended to he the specifically Roman Catholic form of renewal. The emphasis in the latter on the community which pre-exists the individual and from which he draws his faith makes it more attractive than the lonely Cartesian individualism of the secularist. but the moderniser lacks reliable criteria as to what in the community's life is worth maintaining.
He is able to make short-term decisions only and acts in terms of • immediate practicalities. His is a Christianity without vision, pragmatic and basically conservative. In any dialogue with the modern atheist it is doomed to irrelevance.
The author holds that Christian radicalism contains the best of these two attitudes, an emphasis on both personal responsibility and commitment to the community, but, beyond this. he sees the Christian as called to help to bring about the revolutionary transformation of society along the lines set out by Karl Marx.
The theoretical basis for this view is provided by the work of three modern thinkers: the contemporary French philosopher Merleau-Ponty, with his insight that the world that we perceive through our senses does not stand over against us, as in the secular view from Locke onwards, but is something in which we inhere and which gives us our identity; Wittgenstein, who showed that this world is structured by our use of language; and Marx himself, who argued that the world becomes ours only as we trans
form it by the economic process. Participation, as the mode of man's being in the world, is the key motif of primitive religion, and the author points out that it is in the commerce between the world and ourselves that the former "gives to us its own immanent meanings, revealing its latent sacramentality."
The question of a sacred (i.e. "participating") or secular view of man and his world is, in addition. pursued through the work of four English novelists, George Eliot. Dickens, Orwell, and William Golding. It is this application of the insights of theology to literary criticism, a procedure already recommended in "Culture and Liturgy," that is one of the most distinctive contributions of this book to current thought.