FREEDOM FOR MINISTRY by Richard Neuhaus

FREEDOM FOR MINISTRY

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Wide-ranging reflections on the Christian pastorate. Neuhaus is a Lutheran minister (Trinity Church, Manhattan), a political liberal and theological moderate, best known for his book on Christian Faith and Public Policy. Here he surveys the doings and dilemmas of the American clergy, attacking what he views as their excesses with indignation and occasional wit. For some of his trendy brethren, he complains, ""it seems the image of Jesus is stuck somewhere between Carl Rogers and Che Guevara."" Clerical therapists confuse salvation with adjustment, and radical liberationists substitute guns for the gospel. Psychologically or sociologically inclined ministers promote liturgy because it makes the congregation feel good or meets its various needs, but, Neuhaus stoutly declares, ""We worship God because God is to be worshipped."" He rejects secular or so-called religionless Christianity, arguing that Christianity has no existence at all apart from the ""thus and so-ness"" of the concrete historical community that incarnates it. Elsewhere he strikes out at ""solid-state spirituality"" (religion via TV and tape cassettes), careless preaching, the delusions of activism, etc. Not that Neuhaus is overwhelmingly negative or an angry scourge of his fellow pastors: in fact he devotes a lot of his book to a positive vision of ministry and a hopeful ecclesiology. Unfortunately, when he waxes positive, his writing also tends to sag into flatness. And this in turn only makes the semi-incoherence of his structure more apparent. An astringent, thoughtful, uneven performance.

Pub Date: April 25th, 1979
Publisher: Harper & Row