Monday, April 18, 2005

Honest to God

At the library I picked up an old book called The New Theologian (1965) by Ved Mehta and looked through it in a desultory way until I came to the chapter called 'The Ekklesia', an account of some prominent theologians in England. In the course of time it came to Bishop John A.T. Robinson, who wrote a rather superficial treatment of Bultmann, Tillich, and Bonhoeffer (inventor of religionless Christianity). His short book was called Honest to God.

I had read the book back then, and it seemd to me more like a college student's term paper than the work of an Anglican bishop. However it was timely, and it became a sensation. Together with the earlier work by Bonhoeffer (Letters and Papers from Prison) Robinson was said to have initiated the Death of God movement which dominated theology in that era.

From a distance of 40 years it seems to me that perhaps the primary theological change they brought about was to emphasize the immanence of God over the transcendence (thus bringing theological currents of thought closer to classical Quakerism); the God up there or out there is not as popular as it used to be, the God within (everyone) has become more so.

Bonhoeffer and Robinson both were writing to large audiences of people (in Europe) who had pretty thoroughly abandoned their faith, a movement that came along some time later in America.

As I intimated above, I didn't think highly of Robinson's book when I read it. But now, reviewing a plethora of Cambridge avante garde theologians (of the 60's), Robinson made a better impression on me. He seemed considerable more real and down to earth than the others. I also found that his ideas are no longer revolutionary, but fairly commonplace in current theology--- and in my own faith.

It would be nice to attempt here a more thorough evaluation of Honest to God, but first, I no longer have the book, and second, Tom Frame has written an excellent one.

Blessings to all who come this way.

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