A work of Christian philosophy explores the factors that shape individuals.
No human is formed in a vacuum. All are the products of a web of interconnected influences— religion, education, psychology, and cultural traditions—that fashions them into the people they ultimately become. With this book, Mathunyane (Christian Identity Formation, 2015) examines some of these influences through the lens of what he terms dichotomy, or the notion that, in a pluralistic society, readers may not have been molded by the exact same influences as their peers. “In a diverse society,” writes the author in his preface, “apart from the prevailing similarities, there are also differences, which enrich the nation and have to be appreciated and celebrated.” Beginning with religion, Mathunyane looks at the various faiths (Judaism, Hinduism, Islam) that inform society, with a special influence placed on Christianity. He then describes the development of morality, the emergence of democracy and civil society, different types of leadership, and the means by which children are socialized. His conclusions for the ways that people should behave mostly fall on the conservative side of contemporary attitudes, with emphasis placed on the importance of faith, the home, and the significance of respecting one’s parents as well as other people. The work is formatted like a textbook, divided into chapters and subchapters by subject, each beginning with a table of contents and ending with a “Synthesis” section explaining the chapter’s main points. Mathunyane’s project is ambitious and curious. Despite its support for multiculturalism, however, its perspective is inherently theistic and Christian, and argues for the necessity of a religious education: “A child needs a religion that gives him faith in life, a faith to live by, and a faith that can help him learn to withstand the conflicts and doubts he” sometimes has. The prose is stiff and verbose. Even relatively simple concepts are made opaque by awkward syntax: “It became unfortunate when man violated God’s instructions and ended up with the introduction of death.” In the end, the reader is not quite sure of the book’s ultimate goal.
An ambitious, if messy, social treatise with a Christian perspective.