Copyright (c) 1998 First Things 80 (February 1998): 60-61.
Aspects of the Canadian Evangelical Mind. Edited by G. A. Rawlyk. McGill-Queen's University Press. 542 pp. $55.
The twenty-eighth work in a series on religious history published by
McGill-Queen's University Press, this book is a significant contribution
to the increasingly lively study of evangelicalism in Canada. All but one
of the twenty-six papers collected here were presented at a conference
organized by the late George Rawlyk in 1995. With the exception of one
chapter devoted in large measure to howling about the absence of women
in Canadian historiography, this book is well worth reading. Robert Burkinshaw
writes on Canada's Bible colleges, Ronald Kydd on Canadian Pentecostals,
Bruce Guenther on the Mennonites. Kevin Kee, a graduate student with a
knack for digging up interesting stories, relates the conversion experience
of Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada's first prime minister. Mark Noll, Mark
Hutchinson, and David Bebbington offer their views on Canadian evangelicalism
from, respectively, American, Australian, and British perspectives. John
G. Stackhouse, Jr. feistily challenges evangelicals who might think their
influence in Canadian society is greater than it is. "For all the
vaunted vitality attributed to evangelicalism in Canada in the last quarter
of the twentieth century," he writes, "it is a vitality that
seems privatized into a subculture with no discernible influence upon Canadian
public life." Well, yes. But there are hopeful signs. Outspoken and
intelligent Canadian evangelicals such as Gregory Bloomquist, Graeme Hunter,
David Lyle Jeffrey, and John Patrick--all of the University of Ottawa--are
becoming increasingly well known in Canada and are writing and speaking
regularly in public forums. Canadians looking for an intellectually formidable
Christian movement should keep an eye on this group.
-- Preston Jones
Soul in Society: The Making and Renewal of Social Christianity. By Gary Dorrien. Fortress. 388 pp. $24.
The author, an Episcopal priest and dean of Stetson Chapel at Kalamazoo College, Michigan, provides a comprehensive overview of "social Christianity" from the late nineteenth century to the present. His treatment of contemporary debates pays particular attention to Stanley Hauerwas and to the work of the neoconservatives, notably Michael Novak and Richard John Neuhaus. These are voices, Dorrien writes, "that liberal church leaders and theologians need to hear." Designed for use as a textbook, the book is clearly pitched to liberal Protestants in religious studies and seminary education, and its liberalism is defined by economic democracy. The author has read widely and carefully, and yet he seems strangely unaffected by what he has read. He knows that his liberal vision is under siege. The penultimate chapter on economic democracy is titled "Failure of a Dream?" Grasping at straws such as worker participation in Sweden and John B. Cobb's eco-theological attempt to construct a "third way" in economics, Dorrien answers his own question simply by reasserting the once and future socialist dream. His clinging relentlessly to "social Christianity" has about it a note of desperation and denial, resulting in a book that seems caught in a time warp. Nonetheless, Soul in Society, especially in its historical chapters, is a useful introduction to a style of Protestant liberalism that once confidently believed itself to be on the cutting edge of history. Dorrien is keeping the faith, albeit not so confidently.
The Challenge of Pluralism: Church and State in Five Democracies. By Stephen V. Monsma and J. Christopher Soper. Rowman & Littlefield. 228 pp. $52.50 cloth, $21.95 paper.
A useful comparative study of church and state in the U.S., Australia, England, Germany, and the Netherlands. This survey can help Americans appreciate the peculiarities, both good and bad, of our church-state arrangements. Among the authors' conclusions is that there is no necessary relationship between state aid in education and social services, on the one hand, and the integrity of religious institutions, on the other. Whether institutions remain vibrantly religious depends upon the vibrancy of the churches that run them.
The History of the Armenian Genocide: Ethnic Conflict from the Balkans to Anatolia to the Caucasus. By Vahakn N. Dadrian. Berghan Books (Providence, RI). 452 pp. $39.95.
A new edition of a book that relates the story that many have been eager to forget. The author, director of a genocide study program of the H. F. Guggenheim Foundation, provides a detailed narrative of the massacre of the Armenians by the Turks at the time of World War I, and a searing analysis of the failure of Western nations, humanitarian organizations, and international law to face up to the horror. While it is said that justice delayed is justice denied, Dadrian is hopeful that the Armenian genocide may still be rescued from the memory hole to which it is too often consigned. This disturbing book is an important step toward that end.
Echoes of a Native land: Two Centuries of a Russian Village. By Serge Schmemann. Knopf. 350 pp. $27.50.
Long-time New York Times correspondent Schmemann goes back to the village of his rural gentry ancestors and provides an unblinking examination of the Soviet years, but also of the sordidness of peasant life under the Czars, which was comparable to the sordidness of today. He is especially effective in depicting the devastation of religion under the Soviets and its continuing consequences in a Russia that seems incapable of rediscovering its much-discussed soul. The author is the son of the distinguished Orthodox theologian, the late Alexander Schmemann.