The structure of religion, in ten clear, elegant, but rather dry lessons. Slater, who teaches religion at Carleton...

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THE DYNAMICS OF RELIGION: Meaning and Change in Religious Tradition

The structure of religion, in ten clear, elegant, but rather dry lessons. Slater, who teaches religion at Carleton University in Ottawa, is partly creating a grand taxonomic model of religious evolution, and partly pleading the cause of religious innovation, as against the ""archaistic fallacy."" He wants to define the common ground shared by thinkers as apparently diverse as Tertullian and Tillich (one of Slater's own teachers), and to describe the boundaries that separate men like Tillich and Tagore. He sees religion as as ""personal way of life informed by traditional elements of creed, code, and cult, and directed toward the realization of some transcendent end."" Religious people ""center"" their lives on a dominant symbol (Jesus, Torah, the Tao, etc.), which is surrounded by a cluster of primary and secondary or peripheral symbols. Relationships between believers and their symbols are never static, and so religion is always in the process of change. In fact, Slater says, anyone who wants to keep the faith exactly as his fathers did, has already lost it; every generation must tell its religious ""master story"" in its own way. (Thus, contemporary Christians recognize the Virgin birth and literal redemption as patterns of storytelling they can no longer use.) Slater's argument is cogent and erudite, but like a lot of liberal theology it doesn't quite do justice to the problems of ordinary believers. Where he sees a mere shift in patterns of thought, many Christians and Jews may see the collapse of a spiritual world. He notes the continuity, they feel the terrible trauma of change. Good general analysis--as far as it goes.

Pub Date: Dec. 13, 1978

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1978