Same As The Ice Age
“Unsecular Man, by Andrew M. Greeley (Schocken, 280 pp., $7.95), is reviewed by Robert H. Mounce, professor of religious studies, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green.

Andrew Greeley is, among other things, a Catholic priest, a sociologist (ten years at the University of Chicago), a prolific author (some forty books), a weekly columnist (fifty U. S. newspapers), and “the Howard Cosell of the Catholic church” who, according to a recent Time article, has labeled the present leadership of the church “morally, intellectually and religiously bankrupt.” Little wonder that his reading public anticipates every new volume with a sort of intellectual breathlessness. His three latest books—all published within a three-month span—deal with politics (Building Coalition), theology (The New Agenda), and sex (Sexual Intimacy).

Unsecular Man is a well-written, interesting elaboration of the thesis that man’s religious needs are essentially the same now as they were in the Ice Age. Whatever minor changes have occurred make religious questions more rather than less critical in the contemporary world. Greeley is not at all bothered by the conventional wisdom that sees man evolving away from any need for faith and the sacred. In fact, the opening chapter begins, “Let us be clear at the beginning: this is a volume of dissent. It rejects most of the conventional wisdom about the contemporary religious situation.” Greeley argues that the “man come of age” mentality is based not on empirical evidence but on a priori assumptions about the nature of the evolutionary process. It simply does not face up to the persistence of religion among the overwhelming majority of people in the Western world, nor can it explain the resurgence of bizarre forms of religious behavior among today’s young.

The basic thesis of man as homo religiosus is supported and expanded by a number of secondary themes. Perhaps the most important is man’s need for a meaning system. It is not by choice but by an absolute biological necessity that man is driven to the search for meaning. As a symbolizing, conceptualizing, meaning-seeking being, man demands form, order, and direction in life. Man without meaning is not man. Religion provides him with an interpretive scheme about the nature of ultimate reality. Since the search for meaning is indispensable for many, so also is an interpretive scheme (which by definition must be labeled religion). These maps that chart man’s course in the areas of bafflement he encounters in life are conveyed by means of symbols or myths. Questions about the “truth” of myth result from the repression of our mythopoetic instincts by positivist education. Myths are true in the sense that they purport to interpret the meaning that underlies the events of history.

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Since Greeley faults his opposition for not basing its opinion of man’s increasing secularity on any empirical evidence, we may ask if Greeley provides evidence for the counter position. The answer must be, Perhaps. He cites the conclusions of several surveys that seem to establish the premise that religion has in fact persisted in the modern world. Careful scholars would wish to examine the studies more thoroughly before yielding to Greeley’s conclusion that the evidence is “overwhelming.” Greeley, however, is a bit piqued by the intellectual community which, while it may itself be involved in a religious crisis, mistakenly asserts that its problem reflects the religious situation of the mass of people. His “kinky Irish tongue” (conceded by Greeley, according to Time) encourages him to say that Roszak is “clearly in love with his own erudition and powers of articulation,” that a certain article in Commentary is “the sort of superficial smartness that one has come to expect from intellectual journals,” and that Harvey Cox has made statements that “in a lesser man” would be contradictions. Such a style makes for interesting reading but fails to promote constructive dialogue or to further understanding.

The book is laden with long verbatim quotations from a galaxy of contemporary writers. Take chapter 7, on religion and sex, for example. If I counted correctly, of the 1,046 lines, 468 are Greeley’s and 578 are quotations from other authors. Some quotations are more than a page in length. I would appreciate more of Greeley and less of what he has been reading.

Contrasting Evaluations

The Supreme Court and Religion, by Richard E. Morgan (Free Press, 1972, 216 pp., $7.95), and The Great Church-State Fraud, by C. Stanley Lowell, (Robert B. Luce, 1973, 224 pp., $7.50), are reviewed by Ruth Pinches, student, National Law Center, Washington, D. C.

The proper relation between church and state has been a controversial issue since the earliest days of the colonies. Although church membership was generally a requirement for holding office and voting during the seventeenth century, the church and state served different functions in the communities, and the state could not in any sense be considered the police arm of the church. When the framers sat down to write a constitution for the new nation in the late 1780s, they defined this doctrine in that first and vital amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” This writing did not solve the question of the exact relation between church and state. In fact, it had provoked nearly two centuries of discussion, in book and newspaper, classroom and courtroom. The two authors in view here approach the question from different perspectives and arrive at different conclusions.

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In The Supreme Court and Religion, Richard Morgan provides a relatively objective historical view, from the time of the colonies through controversial questions of 1972. His treatment, specifically of litigation that has reached the Supreme Court, would hardly qualify as a text for a constitutional scholar, but it provides a good overview for the interested lay person. Only in his concluding chapter does Morgan specifically reveal his own views. C. Stanley Lowell’s opinions are more evident throughout his work. It is quite clear from the first chapter of The Great Church-State Fraud that he is a vehement proponent of “the wall of separation between church and state” (a phrase first used by Thomas Jefferson in a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association around 1800 to describe his view of the proper effect of the First Amendment).


Lord, Make My Life a Miracle!, by Raymond Ortlund (Regal, 154 pp., $1.25 pb). Challenging call to and survey of discipleship, with references to how it has worked in the author’s own congregation.

The Bible and Drug Abuse, by R. A. Morey (Baker, 1974, 110 pp., $1.45 pb). A brief but convincing argument from Scripture against the use of drugs. Also contains practical counseling advice for teachers, pastors, and parents of drug abusers.

The Nabataeans in Historical Perspective, by John Irving Lawlor (Baker, 159 pp., $3.95). Archaeological findings about the next-door neighbors (to the east) of first-century Palestine. Geared to the layman.

Works of Richard Sibbes (Banner of Truth, 587 pp., $7.95). Reprinting of all the writings of one of the foremost Puritans published during his lifetime (1577–1635). Includes a lengthy memoir by Alexander Grosart.

The Gospel and the Ambiguity of the Church, edited by Vilmos Vajta (Fortress, 239 pp., $8.95). The church will be significant to society when it remembers and retains its history. Seven articles stress various aspects of this theme, including “The Gospel of the Kingdom of God and the Church,” “The Gathering of the Congregation,” and “Authority in the Church.”

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Christian-Muslim Dialogue, edited by Samartha and J. B. Taylor (World Council of Churches [150 route de Ferney, 1211 Geneva 20, Switzerland], 167 pp., n.p., pb). Some of the papers presented at the 1972 consultations in Lebanon between Islamic and World Council of Churches leaders promoting interfaith dialogue.

Unvanquished Puritan: A Portrait of Lyman Beecher, by Stuart C. Henry (Eerdmans, 299 pp., $7.95). Fascinating and authoritative portrait of the theology and activities of the famous nineteenth-century evangelical minister.

Face to Face and Leading Groups in Personal Growth, both by Jackie M. Smith (John Knox, 143 and 180 pp., $3.45 pb and $4.95 pb). The first is a self-directed improvement guide that offers psychological aids based on general scriptural understanding. The second is a leader’s guide for group use of Face to Face. Both stress the psychology of self-acceptance far more than specific biblical teachings on the subject.

Classical Approaches to the Study of Religion: Volume I, edited by Jacques Waardenburg (Mouton [The Hague, Netherlands], 741 pp., 50 guilders). Anthology of selections illustrating the development of the academic study of religion from the works of forty-one of the pioneering scholars of two to four generations ago. Well indexed. Important for university and seminary libraries.

Find Yourself in the Bible, by Karl A. Olsson (Augsburg, 1974, 126 pp., $2.95 pb). An honest account of Olsson’s own struggle with interpersonal relations and the help he found in group Bible study. Offers guidance for setting up such groups. Includes thought-provoking relational studies of some Bible passages.

New Testament Words, by William Barclay (Westminster, 300 pp., $3.95). Excellent studies of the meanings of sixty key Greek words used in the New Testament. For laymen (and as an example for scholars).

The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, by C. K. Barrett (Harper & Row, 354 pp., $8.95). Seventh volume in “Harper’s New Testament Commentaries.”

Behold My Servant, by Gaëtan Bourbonnais (Liturgical Press, 158 pp., $3.95 pb). Scholarly study from Genesis to Revelation of what the Bible teaches regarding servants and service.

Ethics For Environment: Three Religious Strategies, edited by Dave Steffensen, Walter Herrscher, and Robert Cook (University of Wisconsin Ecumenical Center [Green Bay, Wis. 54302], 132 pp., $2 pb). Report of a conference that attempted to pull together ethical implications for environmental responsibility from the Judeo-Christian, Asian, and American-Indian traditions.

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Christ and Spirit in the New Testament, edited by Barnabas Lindars and Stephen Smalley (Cambridge, 440 pp., $23.50). Twenty-seven scholarly essays in honor of C. F. D. Moule, including studies of Christology in Mark, the punctuation of Romans 9:5, the “grievous wolves” of Acts 20:29, and the Spirit in the Apocalypse.

Esther: For Such a Time as This, by Carl Armerding (Good News Publishers, 96 pp., $.95 pb). Helpful commentary by a widely respected evangelical elder statesman.

Future Hope, by John Wesley White (Creation, 149 pp., $4.95). Excerpts from fourteen television programs conducted by the Canadian evangelist and college president.

When God Says No, by William P. Barker (Revell, 160 pp., $4.95). Fourteen expanded, modernized accounts of biblical figures who demonstrate the idea of God’s rejection of our plans for his own. The point is stretched with some of the illustrations, especially Joseph.

FitzRoy of the Beagle, by H. E. L. Mellersh (Mason and Lipscomb, 308 pp., $8.95). Biography of the devout captain of the ship on which the young Darwin sailed. (He later was governor of New Zealand.) Recounts the influence of the men upon each other, especially in areas of religious convictions.

The Image of Joy, by Jeanette Lockerbie (Revell, 125 pp., $3.95). Examination of the joyless existence and practical suggestions for the joyful life promised the Christian. Informal and challenging.

Charles Fillmore, by Hugh D’Andrade (Harper & Row, 145 pp., $5.95). Sympathetic biography of the founder of the Unity School of Christianity movement, which next to Christian Science is the best-known expression of “metaphysical Christianity.”

God Incognito, by S. Paul Schilling (Abingdon, 207 pp., $5.95). On the basis of human experiences—his own, those of others, and those who have reflected on them scientifically and artistically—the author attempts to point toward the reality of some kind of transcendent God.

Capturing a Town for Christ, by Elmer Towns and Jerry Falwell (Revell, 191 pp., $5.95). The same two men recently wrote Church Aflame (Impact, 1971) about the same fast-growing congregation: Thomas Road Baptist of Lynchburg, Virginia. The later book differs only in that the account of the church, by Towns, is much briefer, and six representative sermons of Pastor Falwell are included.

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Identity and Faith in Young Adults, by Jacques de Lorimier, Roger Graveline, and Hubert April (Paulist, 275 pp., $4.95 pb). Translation of a French Canadian study of the psychosociological aspects of religious instruction of college-age students. For the specialist in campus ministries.

Lowell deals exclusively with the First Amendment’s prohibition of government establishment of religion, charging deceit, gimmickry and trickery to those who have, in his opinion, violated the constitutional provision by soliciting government funds for religious purposes. The worst accusations are directed at the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church! Lowell ignores, or is unaware of, the difficulties caused by the second aspect of the freedom of religion clause—that of protecting the “free exercise of religion.”

Morgan’s more scholarly work illuminates this problem and how the Court has attempted to reconcile the two clauses throughout the years. The key question is: When does allowing free exercise become establishing, and conversely, at what point does non-establishment prohibit free exercise? Recent issues involving this question are conscientious objection (is not its exclusive nature an establishment of religion as opposed to irreligion?); compulsory school attendance (is not this a restriction on the free exercise of religion by such groups as the Amish?); prayer in the schools and released time for religious instruction (establishment?); and government funding for church-related schools, hospitals, and other welfare projects.

This last issue is viewed as particularly explosive since it involves the use of taxes, and both authors spend a good deal of space on it. They agree that recent interest in government funding stems from the decline in church strength in the United States; both membership and giving have dropped sharply in recent years. Morgan’s solution is to place less emphasis on strict separation. He believes government subsidy would be appropriate to preserve the diversity provided by sectarian organizations:

It is important to encourage the development of private charitable and educational styles.… I believe that the conventional liberal positions on the religion clauses are obsolescent—that they no longer serve the liberal goal of maximum diversity and individualism consistent with a decently ordered government and society.

Lowell’s conclusions are somewhat different. Although he does not oppose the influence of church-related schools and charities, he abhors the idea of their continuance only through government subsidy. He particularly praises the Southern Baptists and Seventh-day Adventists for standing firm against the acceptance of government funds. This “has kept the muscles firm and accentuated the reliance of these votaries upon their own efforts and the help of their God.” The breaking down of the wall of church and state causes harm to both sides. The church is sapped of its religious significance, and the state loses the prophetic voice of the church. “When the state needs the voice of the church and listens for it, all it hears is its own voice.”

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More evangelicals would probably agree with Lowell’s conclusions, despite his rather violent attacks on certain religious bodies. In any case, for a person interested in the church-state relationship, Morgan and Lowell provide an informative contrast, and if one studies both books he will touch on all the major points of present-day controversy.

Call To Missionary Urgency

Breaking the Stained Glass Barrier, by David A. Womack (Harper & Row, 1973, 167 pp., $5.95), is reviewed by Leroy Birney, Christian Missions in Many Lands, Medellín, Colombia.

Womack charges that present missionary methods result in little more than a token presence in each country, and that radical changes are required to fulfill the Great Commission. The strategy he proposes is to begin national churches that are not merely indigenous but capable of inciting the conditions in which spontaneous lay movements of church expansion may occur. The national churches would thereby evangelize their own nations. Easier said than done, but nonetheless necessary. The intention of this book is to show how to do it.

Womack finds in Paul’s evangelism of Ephesus and the Province of Asia an example of successful strategic missionary work that may be followed today. From Paul’s ministry he draws ten principles which he applies to the development of missionary methods for evangelizing today’s world.

The book generally seems well researched, but it is not documented, and there are cases of overstatement or inaccuracy. For example, the assertion that there was one pastor (elder or bishop) over each city to whom the deacon (minister) of each house church was responsible is contradicted by the case of Ephesus itself, which had a plurality of elders (Acts 20:17, 18, 28; see also Philippians 1:1 and Titus 1:5).

It is also questionable to regard the twelve former disciples of John the Baptist as the initial nucleus of the congregation in Ephesus (Acts 18:26–19:2).

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We thank God for the growth of evangelical Pentécostal churches, but it hardly seems accurate to write, “It [Pentecostalism] is the only kind of Christianity that is growing at any realistic rate in the world today.” The Plymouth Brethren in Venezuela, the Seventh-day Adventists in Peru, and the Methodists in Honduras are all outperforming their Pentecostal brethren in their respective countries (described in Latin American Church Growth, by Read et al.).

Nevertheless, the positive contributions of both ideas and information far outweigh any flaws. For example, Womack claims that there are three facets of apostolic ministry—not only kerygma (gospel proclamation) and didache (teaching) but also semeia (signs, miraculous answers to prayer). If the primary value of the signs in the New Testament was communication of the power and veracity of the Gospel, we should not ignore their value for communicating the same message to the masses today. The thesis that our evangelistic ministry today will be enhanced by including these same three elements is worthy of further study, both exegetical and observational.

The chapter on teamwork relates specific plateaus of church growth to degrees of organization, with each increase in number requiring increased lay involvement and more efficient teamwork by leaders.

Also helpful is Womack’s conceptualization of the church-planting process, from the lonely beginning to the emergence of a vigorous movement of spontaneous lay witness. First is the patient formation of a control group with all the important characteristics that the final result should exhibit (apostolic doctrine, experience, practice, and priorities). This is necessary because the next step is to go to the masses, which are irrational and will simply follow the pattern already established.

The only purpose and result of mass communication, he says, is to make the Gospel an issue and gain favorably disposed contacts who can then be fully taught and assimilated into the original group. As the group grows, congregations should be multiplied. They will take the Gospel to the masses again, assimilate the results, and return to the masses for another group of favorable contacts.

Such expansion will require more leadership, which implies a realistic method of financing and the training of fresh leaders who can maintain the momentum of the expansion. The Assemblies of God mission, of which Womack is home secretary, is a rather good example of this process.

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The author refers several times to a factor that is too often unmentioned in books on missionary methods and unmeasured in church growth studies. It is the effect on church growth of having and inspiring a militant sense of cause, a powerful religious enthusiasm, an attitude of intense dedication. It is perhaps true that “most missionary work … is far too casual ever to fulfill the Great Commission even locally, far less on a worldwide scale.”

This book is not a theoretical discussion. It is an urgent proposal of a plan of action for right now. With a world population of four billion living persons (half of whom are outside even nominal Christendom) soaring toward 6.5 billion in the year 2000, untold millions of persons live and die with no opportunity to know the Saviour Jesus Christ. Caring about these persons gives a sense of urgency that makes missionary strategy and methods a matter of (eternal) life and death.

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