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ARNOLD J. TOYNBEE'S PHILOSOPHY OF RELIGION Arnold J. Toynbee is surely ecstatic, and possibly sincere, in the testament he delivers at the end of A Study of History, (Oxford University Press, London-N. Y., Vols. I—III, 1934; IV—VI, 1939; VII—X, 1954; references below to volume and page): What do we mean by History ? And the writer . . . would reply that he meant by History a vision ... of God revealing Himself in action to souls . . . (X, 1). The meaning behind the facts of History ... is a revelation of God and a hope of communion with Him . . . (X, 126). The reader would like to believe in Toynbee's subjective sincerity, even if elsewhere the eminent historian may irritate (". . . this triumphant British apostle of Ireland (St. Patrick) . . ." II, 323), or horrify (". . . Jesus 's half-brothers are sons of Mary by Joseph." VI, 469, n. 1), or bewilder ("But whether . . . Marxism or Protestantism ... is eventually to be victorious in Russia is a question . . ." V, 364). But even if Toynbee's intellectual honesty be conceded provisionally, the question remains whether he has achieved his purpose objectively; and it is not a sterile, academic question. His opinions are widely circulated by press and microphone. The Abridgment of the last four volumes of his Study should make the best-seller list, as its predecessor did. Non-readers will hear his conclusions and predictions via many media of communication. There is reason to forewarn and forearm the unwary who may be overawed by Toynbee's vast erudition, by his use of the Holy Bible, and by his international prestige. He may cause as much controversy in the second half of this century as John Dewey did in the first half. Toynbee and Christianity Some may be shocked to learn that he revives an old error to the extent of disavowing Christianity: . . . The writer of this Study will venture to express his personal belief that the four higher religions (Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism) that were alive in the age in which he was living were four variations on a single theme, and that, if all the four components of this heavenly music. . . could be audible on earth simultaneously . . . the happy hearer would find himself listening, not to a discord, but to a harmony (VII, 428). 23 24P- KENNEDY Arthur Vermeersch, S. J., identifies the above mode of thought: Many and varied also are the modernist dreams of an understanding between the different Christian religions, nay even between religion and a species of atheism, and all on a basis of agreement that must be superior to mere doctrinal differences. (Modernism, in Cath. Encyc, X, 416; The Catholic Encyclopedia, to be quoted below, was published by R. Appleton, N. Y., between 1907—1914) Martin Wight's criticisms are incorporated in A Study, and when he questions the equivalence of "the four higher religions", Toynbee answers : If the writer (Toynbee) were to be asked : 'Do you believe or disbelieve that Christianity or any other higher religion is an exclusive and definitive revelation of Spiritual Truth ?' his answer would be: ? do not believe this. I believe that any such claim is an error which is at the same time a sin (VII, 428, n. 2) When Toynbee equates under "Holy Writ" all "sacred books" of all religions without singling out the unique, Divine inspiration of the Holy Bible, Wight observes: The reader may legitimatelv feel that you can not be both as sceptical and anti-providential in your historical conclusion about the Christian Scriptures and as Christian as, in general, you are throughout this Part. (VII, 754, n. 2) In a moving reply which may blind some to the objective truth, Toynbee calls his plight "the war between Heart and Head," and compares himself to Moses given no more than a sight ofthe PromisedLand to which he led others. Toynbee's Challenge This acknowledgment of his inner turmoil and of his failure to accept Divine revelation is indicated, but not so explicitly, elsewhere. It is permissible to speak of "Christianity's two forerunners, Judaism and Zoroastrianism" (VI, 8); both were prior to our Lord's revelation; the reader registers the difference between the Divinely revealed preparation for Christianity and a...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1945-9718
Print ISSN
0080-5459
Pages
pp. 23-42
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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