ATHEISM IS DEAD by Arthur J. Lelyyeld


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Christians generally tend to forget, or at least to ignore, that Christianity originally was but one of the many Jewish sects that flourished in the first century A.D., and that from that Judaic heritage were taken the seeds from which were to spring the elaborate speculative syntheses of Christian theology. It is only superficially paradoxical, therefore, that the current ""renewal,"" which has as its end a return to a practical, living theology which is ""in touch"" with the needs of modern man, is, in a very real sense, a return to the Judaic principles of pristine Christianity. Mr. Lelyveld's point in this book--which is founded upon the fact of that return--is that while it is perhaps true that the God of the Christians is dead, it is equally true that atheism is dead, for in completing the theological cycle Christianity finds not a new god, but the old God and the old religion--one that meets the demands of the God-is-dead radicalists that religion function meaningfully and effectively in the lives of men and in the problems of society. So far so good. But that is only half the answer. The other half is to explain why man should believe in the old God any more than he does in the younger one conjured up by later generations, and here Mr. Lelyveld falls down on the job. The sum of his argumentation, once one cuts away the exoskeletal rhetoric, is that man needs God--and therefore God exists. And thus, another cycle is completed, and one that the author had neither foreseen nor intended: a return to an Aristotelico-Thomistic transition--as illicit as it is understandable--from the metaphysical order to the real order. Like the Scholastics, the author has carefully marshalled his premises in strict logical order; the trouble is, his conclusion doesn't necessarily follow from them. This does not make for good theology: but, in this case at least, it makes for interesting reading.

Pub Date: May 15th, 1968
Publisher: World