Religion And Psychiatry
God and Freud, by Leonard Gross (David McKay Company, Inc., 1959, 215 pp., $3.95), is reviewed by Lars I. Granberg, Professor of Pastoral Counseling and Psychology, Fuller Theological Seminary.
This is a book which is bound to call forth strong reactions. The author is a journalist who compiled material for his book by interviewing some 200 persons throughout the United States—ministers, theological professors, religious historians, psychiatrists, and others interested in the relationship between religion and psychiatry. The book is written in an easy style and characterized by the kind of positive pronouncements based upon sweeping generalizations that should make it widely quoted. Reading it is like being caught in a conversation with an opinionated nonstop talker. One keeps trying to insert, “Yes, but …”
The book is essentially a tract. Its thesis appears to be that psychiatry has provided a way to preserve significance for religion, which had become in good measure either irrelevant or inhumanly destructive—irrelevant as a result of its propensities for platitudinous homilies, and destructive because it has been responsible for producing guilt-ridden neurotics by an unmitigated diet of angry harangues on the vengefulness of God. Psychotherapy, he argues, has shown unmistakably the primacy of love in changing anxious, angry, guilt-ridden men into loving, constructive persons.
A chapter titled “Sin or Symptom” points up the neurotic dimension in problems that have been traditionally treated as purely moral problems and with great severity. To provide the church with a psychologically oriented theology, he suggests Paul Tillich’s view of man and Martin Buber’s view of God. There is also a survey of the impact of psychiatry upon the various functions of the church: pastoral counseling, institutional chaplaincies, teacher training and curriculum appraisal in the Sunday School, assistance in the screening of applicants for theological training through clinical tests, and the use of small group techniques to appraise one’s “working creed” and induce a deeper personal commitment. To my mind his chapter, “God, Freud and Susan Peters” should be given a thoughtful reading by every pastor who is concerned about how to help his people into a personal wrestling with the demands of Scripture. It describes the Parish Life Conference of the Protestant Episcopal Church. The chapter should prove both disturbing and of great potential benefit.
A book such as this can be criticized from many perspectives. Theologians are likely to feel that he has pretty well equated religion with morality, and has defined morality in terms of the current concept of mental health. Moreover, his strong sense of kinship with what he calls “the progressive elements in Protestantism” may cause some to dismiss it prematurely as a disguised return to nineteenth century liberal theology.
Nor are many religiously oriented psychologists and psychiatrists likely to give the book wholehearted endorsement. His tendency to derive neuroticism from “condemnatory religion” on a kind of 1:1 basis, for example, leaves a good many questions unanswered. Most people are not neurotic, he states. This presumably includes members of congregations which are rather persistently exposed to a portrait of God as angry, harsh, and vengeful. Even if it should turn out that most members of such congregations were neurotic, could one not as readily conclude that this kind of preaching attracts people who suffer from certain neurotic trends as that the preaching caused it?
His assumption that morbid guilt inheres pretty much from the harsh, exacting demands made by “condemnatory religion” also seems oversimplified. (It is regrettable that he does not distinguish between morbid, emotionally-based guilt and objective guilt. While I do not think he actually subscribes to this, he seems to be saying that guilt is per se bad, whereas what can be bad is guilt that becomes fixed in an unresolved state. Guilt should lead to repentance and forgiveness, and it is the essence of the Christian Gospel to delineate the true nature of sin so as to point men to its proper resolution through Christ.)
In counseling one finds harsh superegos among nonreligious people who have been reared apart from condemnatory religion. While it is possible to attribute this to a harsh puritanism that has permeated our entire culture, I am inclined to think this is not the explanation. Persons reared in the benign tradition that the author endorses do have harsh superegos, but these are oriented toward economic success and enhanced social status rather than religious prohibitions. Man is a standard-setting being. If no standards were created for him, he would create them for himself. This is intrinsic in the capacity to value. Therefore it is dubious that a program of setting “attainable standards,” which he appears to endorse, will have the salubrious effect of lessening neurotic guilt.
Moreover, in an age of “permissiveness,” can one really trace all cases of fear to excessive moral structuring? Some of our penetrating social commentators are suggesting that today much fear and guilt stems from a lack of moral structuring, which has led to moral confusion and the conviction that one is not an object of real moral concern—i.e., that one does not matter enough to people to get them excited about his moral condition.
It is undeniable that the church often has tended to use approaches apparently based on the assumption that most men were conscienceless psychopaths who needed a shock treatment to awaken their moral sense. For this reason the discoveries of psychiatry concerning the dynamics of neuroticism deserve careful consideration by those who propagate the Gospel. But may not an appreciation of these psychiatric insights lead one into the opposite error? May it not cause him to universalize techniques which have proven themselves effective for treating neurotics but which have had little success with psychopaths? Nevertheless, the church cannot afford to dismiss the lessons from psychotherapy which the book underscores: 1) God’s judgment should be preached in a context that gives primary stress to his mercy and forgiving grace; 2) all guilt is not objective and a sign of moral awakening; 3) men, including preachers, do tend to structure God in their own image, and their own unresolved guilt and anger may well cause them unconsciously to distort the character of God in their preaching and teaching (but we can distort in the direction of a vapid benignity as well as toward capricious vengefulness); 4) the positional doctrines, which God provided to enable us to deal with his absolute standards, need greater clarification and emphasis—they are crucial in the healing aspect of the Gospel.
While this may not be the best book available to orient one’s self regarding the present interaction between religion and psychiatry, it does provide a certain type of shock therapy of its own (guilt-inducing?), is highly readable, and will prove profitable to such persons as are not too familiar with the movement but who are able to give thoughtful consideration to well-intended and serious criticisms leveled at one’s cherished convictions.
LARS I. GRANBERG
Revelation and the Bible, edited by Carl F. H. Henry (Baker Book House, 1958, 413 pp., $6), is reviewed by Andrew K. Rule, Professor of Church History and Apologetics, Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.
Until quite recently, the evangelical Protestant was in danger of being a frustrated and lonely person. Indeed, most of the religious and theological books asserted or implied that since fundamentalism, liberalism, and Catholicism were the only possible points of view, and since he belonged in none of these, he really did not exist—a somewhat disconcerting conclusion, to say the least. It was perhaps some temporary relief to watch theological liberalism run into frustration, but that relief did not last long. For all the world then seemed to be running after the realists as they poked around in man’s darkest experiences in search of grounds for hope, or running after the ponderous neo-orthodox who have never been able to extricate themselves from a rational presentation of irrationalism. Now, however, the evangelical scholars, who were really present all the time, have begun to speak up and talk back. In the process, they are discovering one another, and the loneliness is disappearing. In this volume, 24 of them are collaborating upon a single theme. They come from the British Isles, France, South Africa, the Netherlands, and our own country. It would not have been difficult, perhaps, to select a similar number from a totally different part of the world.
One wonders whether they will receive much of a hearing except among those already interested in, or committed to, the evangelical position. They deserve to be heard, for they are really scholars, and they have obviously given a courteous if critical hearing to contemporary scholars of a different persuasion. The index shows that nearly three hundred scholars have been cited, a large proportion of whom may be classed as contemporaries. Each of the authors deals with their subject in the light of most recent factual discoveries. They show scholarly restraint in their assertions and a due respect for their opponents. This is polemics at its best.
The topic under discussion is of fundamental importance and one to which general approach has become more reverent and constructive than was the case a generation ago. At that time the main thrust seems to have been an effort to eliminate or at least minimize the supernatural by every possible device. Today the effort is rather, as these writers show, to reverence and defend the written Word while finding some middle ground between supernaturalism and naturalism. Evangelicals are not satisfied with such a middle ground. As the editor says in his preface: “Indebtedness to Kant and Kierkegaard, as well as additional liability to Ebner and Buber in formulating the divine-human encounter; perpetuation of Schleiermacher’s profoundly unbiblical notion that God communicates no truths about himself and his purposes; and above all, injustice to the revelation-status of Scripture were some of the features of neo-orthodoxy that specially troubled us.”
The authors in this book argue for the complete authority of the Holy Spirit, speaking to the whole person, through the Scriptures of which He is the ultimate author. They are contending for no dictation theory. They recognize that, in revelation and inspiration, the human factor was employed and honored; but they maintain that through such means and not in spite of them the Holy Spirit succeeded in imparting the divine message reliably and authoritatively. The present canon of Scripture is the result. The present text, though it contains some errors, most of which are inconsequential, and other parts which may or may not be errors, is a very reliable representation of what was originally written. At least one of the authors seems ready to contend that the original autographs were without error, though many of the writers make no mention of this claim except to maintain that error cannot be attributed to the Holy Spirit.
It seems to this reviewer that they have made out an excellent case for the orthodox view of Scripture which is really, as they show, the Scripture’s own conception of itself. At one point, we started to select which of the chapters seemed to be the most attractive and convincing; but we presently abandoned the attempt through inability to decide which of them could be omitted from the list.
That is not to say, of course, that one will agree without reservation to everything in the volume. For example, we may conclude that the charge made against the claim for inerrant original autographs on the grounds that no one for centuries has ever seen them may be a good debating parry, but it is not good logic to reply, as one of these authors does, that no one has ever seen erroneous original autographs either. For, since the documents now available do seem to contain errors, the burden of proof would seem to lie on those who claim absolute inerrancy for the originals. It would seem better to maintain, as one author does, that in the present state of knowledge and ignorance there are passages over which judgment should be reserved. But that counsel applies to the facile critics as well as to the more cautious orthodox.
This volume should do much to restore to the world of scholarship that respect for the Scriptures which is the characteristic of true Christian piety and which never wholly disappeared even from among the critics.
ANDREW K. RULE
Erecting The Sanctuary
A Guide to Church Building and Fund Raising, by Martin Anderson (Augsburg, 1959, 69 pp., 45 plates, $5), is reviewed by F. R. Webber, Author of The Small Church.
This book is written by a fund raising consultant. His 17 pages devoted to fund raising contain many useful suggestions and may well be used by building committees in their study of the project. The 48 pages of text in which the church building itself is discussed are rather brief. One wishes that Mr. Anderson had said more, for he has some good ideas. For example, he says correctly that choir stalls in the chancel are losing their popularity. A few arguments in favor of the organ and choir loft over the doorway in the architectural “west” end of the building might help convince the building committee. A number of congregations in our eastern States have returned to this arrangement.
The chapter on The Building Committee and Architect is excellent. The organ is worthy of more than five or six lines, and the pulpit, communion rail, and altar cross deserve more than the three words “of appropriate design.” Building committees welcome dimensions.
There are many books on church building. The writer of this review has some 20 shelves of such books, and they all have one shortcoming. They are too vague. It is to be hoped that somebody may write a book on church building that will include full length chapters on such subjects as stone, brick, concrete, timber and other materials of construction. To a building committee stone is stone. They are not aware that there are many grades of stone, ranging from excellent to worthless. It is not enough to specify wood for floor joists and girders. What kind of wood, and what grade? Shall it be structural, select structural, common or ordinary yard-run? How about spans, and spacing? It is just such things that determine whether a church floor will be strong enough to support the live load of 100 pounds per square foot that most laws require, or whether it will sag under its own weight. Three church floors have actually collapsed within living memory. The book that approaches church building from the standpoint of materials of construction has yet to be written.
Augsburg is to be congratulated both for a pleasing example of typography, and for their praiseworthy omission of pages of advertisements of commercial church supply firms and jobbers. Such things are publishers’ devices, and can only bring unhappiness to the man who writes the book.
F. R. WEBBER
Evangelist And Scholar
The Book of Nahum, by Walter A. Maier (Concordia, 1959, 386 pp., $5.75), is reviewed by Edward J. Young, Professor of Old Testament, Westminster Theological Seminary.
Can scholarship and evangelism go hand in hand? Is it possible for a man to be deeply concerned about the eternal welfare of men and at the same time be a genuine scholar? Will not scholarship kill evangelistic fervor? Dr. Walter A. Maier, author of this work, was one of the greatest evangelists of our generation. He was great, not merely because he loved the souls of sinners, but because in great humility he faithfully preached the Word of life. He was a man unwilling to compromise with error, and utterly abhorring expediency. He preached God’s Word as a twentieth century prophet.
At the same time, he was a great scholar. The book under consideration is a scholarly, capable commentary on the biblical book of Nahum. It is quite different from some commentaries produced today. There is none of the verbiage that glosses over biblical passages in the interests of Kierkegaardian existentialism such as some modern writers are fond of employing. There is rather a serious grappling with the text and an honest endeavor to present its meaning. Dr. Maier does not give us the Bible in the light of existentialism and dialectical theology. Rather, he is truly biblical in his presentation and gives us the thought of the Bible as it actually is.
This book comes to serious grips with questions of introduction and exegesis. It is solid treatment of the Hebrew text, a real commentary, the kind of work that will prove of inestimable benefit to any student who truly desires to understand the message of the prophet Nahum.
EDWARD J. YOUNG
The Spiritual Order
A New Heaven and a New Earth, by Archibald Hughes (Presbyterian and Reformed, 1958, 222 pp., $3.75), is reviewed by Loraine Boettner, Author of The Millennium.
This book deals with a subject concerning which there is considerable difference of opinion, namely, the return of Christ and the attendant eschatological events. The author traces the unfolding of revelation from the beginning of the Old Testament, through the prophets, until it becomes clearer and more specific and reaches its climax in the New Testament. The viewpoint is that of Amillennialism.
An admirable feature of the book is the writer’s constant reliance on Scripture to support his position. References are quoted, not merely cited, which is a considerable convenience to the reader. Throughout most of the book controversial matters are kept at a minimum, although in the latter part such matters are anticipated and are dealt with quite fully. The writer is a true scholar and the book bears abundant evidence of careful research.
The peculiar genius of Old Testament prophecy is well brought out in the author’s handling of that subject. He shows that the prophets in portraying the Church era could not use the richness and fullness of New Testament language, for such language would have been largely meaningless to their hearers. Instead they found it necessary to picture the unknown under the terms familiar to their people, such as the land, the temple, and the sacrifices. Similarly he shows that the “natural” children of Israel, the Jews, are for the most part blind to their true inheritance, that they read the Old Testament and long for a restoration of the political kingdom because they do not see that Christ is the promised Messiah and the key to the understanding of the Old Testament. And it is pointed out that the preservation of the Arabs who, through Ishmael, also are descendants of Abraham, is scarcely a less remarkable phenomenon than is the preservation of the Jews.
The kingdom of God as it relates to this world is presented as a spiritual order, inward and individual, which lies within the visible world and expresses itself through its subjects. Furthermore, it is shown that as men are changed, they change institutions and thereby change nations.
A little known quotation from Dr. G. Campbell Morgan is given in which, in 1943, two years before his death, he expressed a view quite different from those he had promoted earlier, which reads as follows: “I am quite convinced that all the promises made to Israel have found, are finding, and will find their perfect fulfillment in the Church. It is true that in the past, in my expositions, I gave a definite place to Israel in the purposes of God. I have now come to the conviction, as I have just said, that it is the new and spiritual Israel that is intended.”
The writer was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, educated in England, and has spent most of his adult life in Australia. He has served as lecturer in the Wesleyan Bible College in Melbourne, and has had a fruitful ministry primarily in the Baptist denomination.
The book is heartily recommended for all who seek a clearer understanding of the events connected with the return of Christ and the attendant events of the end time.
For Sermon Tasters
Great Sermons of the World, edited by Clarence E. Macartney (Baker Book House, 1958, 454 pp., $4.95), is reviewed by V. T. Crawford, Minister, La Grange Methodist Church, North Carolina.
Preachers, students of preaching, and the Christian public will welcome this large and beautifully-bound reprint of Dr. Macartney’s compilation of great sermons. There are 25 given in this book, and they range “from Clement of the first century after Christ to G. Campbell Morgan,” and are prefaced by the Sermon on the Mount and two other sermons taken from the Bible.
Dr. Macartney’s rare selective judgment, always evident in his own religious writings, is seen here in his choice of great sermons.
V. T. CRAWFORD
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.