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BOOK REVIEWS Twentieth-Gerbtury Religwus Thought: The Frontiers of Philosophy and Theology, 1900-1980. By JOHN MACQUARRIE. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1981. Revised Edition. Pp. 429. $19.95. Since its original publication in 1963, Macquarrie's text has rightly established itself as one of the best versions of the as yet untold story of twentieth century religious thought. Although he restricts "religious thought " to " all serious reflection of a philosophical nature on the central themes of religion" in "Western culture" (pp. 15-16), his expositions and criticisms are remarkably fair to a broad spectrum of religious thinkers. This judiciousness extends into the postscript on the last two decades added for this revised edition. Macquarrie is, I believe, more successful dealing with individual thinkers than with social movements-and more successful at noticing massive social transitions than sorting out the conceptual complexities involved. There are reasons for these weaknesses. But first it is important to note how his strengths enable him to tell his ta1e in several stages. The initial stage extends into the twentieth-century ideas already developed in the nineteenth century (pp. 18, 116). It is characterized by optimism , an interest in evolution and substance, an aim at systematic comprehension , and theism (pp. 19-21, 116-117). It is exemplified in various idealisms (Chapters 2-3), philosophies of spirit (Chapter 4) and value (Chapter 5), positivism, and naturalism (Chapter 6). The second stage yields new movements which reached their zenith by 1960 (pp. 18, 118-119). It is characterized by realism if not pessimism, a concern with process over substance, an aim at modest analytical or phenomenological goals, and is philosophically non-theistic (pp. 18, 118-119). This stage is exemplified in philosophies and theologies of history (Chapters 8-9), sociological (Chapter 10) and pragmatic (Chapter 11) readings of religion , philosophies of personal being (Chapter 12), phenomenology (Chapter 13) , New Realism (Chapter 14), and a New Physics (Chapter 15). The third stage deals with movements which held the field in the early 1960s (p. 18). It is characterized by battles with and between metaphysical and anti-metaphysical " schools" (pp. 253-56) and is exemplified in realistic metaphysics (Chapter 17), neo-Thomism (Chapter 18), logical empiricism (Chapter 19), and various theologies of the Word (Chapters 20-21), existentialism, and ontology (Chapter 22). In his new postscript, Macquarrie contends that the last two decades " resume the immanentist, humanist trend of nineteenth century theology, BOOK REVIEWS 128 after its interruption by the Barthian period in Protestantism and the Thomist revival in Catholicism" (pp. 380, 410). This, it seems, is precisely the direction he hoped for in his first edition when he expressed his preference for Heidegger, Bultmann, and Tillich over other religious thinkers (p. 374). It is, in any case, the " new humanism" with which Macquarrie is sympathetic (p. 420). The current stage of things is characterized by the death of Protestant theological giants (the Niebuhrs, Tillich, Barth, etc.), Vatican II in Roman Catholicism, neo-Marxism in philosophy, and various changes in science and technology. The last two decades are exemplified philosophically in various neo-Marxists (Bloch, Marcuse, and Habermas), existential phenomenologists (Gadamer, Ricoeur), and transcendental Thomists (Lonergan) {pp. 381-90). Theologically , Macquarrie surveys Continental (JYioltmann, Pannenberg, Ebeling , Ott, Gollwitzer, Jungel) and Anglo-American (Robinson, van Buren, Cox, Gilkey, etc.) Protestant theologies, Roman Catholic thinkers (Bouyer, Schillebeeckx, Kiing, Haring, Metz), and groups with "special interests" (liberation, feminist, and black theologies). But, although very successful in matters of exposition and criticism, this text is less successful when it comes to "the ultimate purpose " of the book: "to bring some clarification to the problems [of religion] themselves ," e.g., to help the reader "see what the current issues are and what seem to be promising ways of tackling them" {pp. 13, 18). Macquarrie 's subject matter is the frontier or boundary between philosophy and theology (p. 15). He aims to work out " a philosophical basis for religion that makes sense, is contemporary, comprehensive, and capable of further development; and, further, it is a philosophical basis which readily allies itself with the traditional Christian teachings that have inspired Western civilization from its beginnings, revivifying these teachings and making intelligible for our time their...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2473-3725
Print ISSN
0040-6325
Pages
pp. 122-124
Launched on MUSE
2017-05-15
Open Access
No
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