6 DECEMBER 1963, Page 27

Return • to Rigour The Death ' of Jesus. By

Joel Carmichael. (Gollancz, 25s.)

The Dogma of Christ and Other Essays. By Erich Fromm. (Routledge and Kegan Paul, 18s.) God is No More. By Werner and Lotte Pelz.

(Gollancz, 21s.) The Crucible of Love. By E. W. Trueman Dicken. (Darton, Longman and Todd, 63s.) Introduction to Thomas Aquinas. By Josef Pieper. Translated by Richard and Clara Winston. (Faber, 21s.)

WHAT should Christians do in a secular age? Mr. Munby admirably shows them why they should accept and rejoice in its positive gifts. The one thing they may not do, it seems, is pass a Christian-critical judgment on the age. So it is not surprising that Mr. Munby's own moving personal Christian testimony at the end of these his Riddell Lectures seems unrelated to all that has gone before.

Of course, the secular is bound to swamp and absorb Christianity if Mr. Carmichael's and Dr. Fromm's account of Christian origins is true. They tell us: there was a strange, eccentric prophet called Jesus; but his teaching got mysteriously blown up into a religion. Mr. Car- michael gives politico.:cultural reasons for this. Dr. Fromm psychoanalytical. But we seem to have been hearing this for many years: and . indeed, FrOmm's title essay dates from 1930.

Perhaps we can meet the secular challenge 'existentially'—not by talking about God since he must he demythologised, but by living the `Jesus-event.' Of all contemporary 'Christian- atheist' writers, Werner and Lotte Pelz arc the most attractive. The style is fresh and sensiti,e, many of the remarks-- about law, marriage, for- giveness--are arresting. But am 1 alone in finding the new% subjectivism rather exhausting? Professor Tillich, on the other hand, is at his best when dealing with Christianity confronting the world. Not confronting the `secular'—Tillich is convinced that 'the religious principle cannot come to an end'—but confronting other religions and quasi-religions. Whatever your doubts about Tillich's 'ultimate concern,' his specimen of a Christian-Buddhist dialogue is splendid.

Yet one wonders whether existentialism hasn't reached the menopause—whether there may not soon be a return to more rigorous modes of thought. Karl Barth's latest lectures (given in America—where he dared to say that anti- Communism is worse than Communism!) show the continuing vigour—and humour—of an older tradition. ('Agape is related to Eros, as Mozart to Beethoven.') It may seem a far cry from `Evangelical Theology' to St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross: but Barth's fine lecture on theology as prayer brings one close to the great Catholic mystics. Mr. Trueman Dicken, an Anglican priest, has written an enormous and scholarly work on the two Spanish saints. It is a clear exposition, and valuable for drawing on recent Spanish studies.

And behind these two, especially St. John, lies St. Thomas, greatest of them all. Dr. Pieper, with his usual felicity, shows us the actuante of St. Thomas: how 'worldly' he was, how critical of the `religionistic.' But also how hard he thought. Do we think hard enough?