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American Academy of Religion

Review
Reviewed Work(s): Reaping the Whirlwind: A Christian Interpretation of History by
Langdon Gilkey
Review by: Philip Sageser
Source: Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Vol. 46, No. 2 (Jun., 1978), pp.
232+234
Published by: Oxford University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1462250
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Journal of the American Academy of Religion

232

Ogden,
Ogden, Richard
RichardH.
H.Overman,
Overman,G.G.
Palmer
Palmer
Pardington
Pardington
III, III,
Norman
Norman
Pittenger,
Pittenger,
and Jan
and Jan
Van der Veken.

Some of the essays, for instance Pittenger's, are broad, uncritical sketches
process philosophy with themes suggested for religious experience. Eugene Fontin
treates pragmatic philosophy that way in two separate articles. From their own lar
body of work with which we are familiar Professors Cobb, Griffin, Hartshorne,
Ogden develop ideas in imaginative and fruitful ways: this volume is essential to
bibliography of those thinkers. Only two articles have the direct, practical orienta
promised by the subtitle, Mellert's beautifully focused piece on death and Cooper's
essay on prayer.

Certain essays stand out for their excellence or interest. Brown's brief study

what makes a theology Christian is a relieving antidote to the more common attitude i

the book that process theology can be baptized into orthodox Christianity after al
Ford's two essays are genuinely creative theology, original, daring, and very careful
argued. They are the capstones on the general impression given by this book, th
process theology is the most vital theology today.
The disappointment with the book is that it is so uncritical. Process theology
neither so new nor so in jeopardy with the theological establishments that one shou

avoid asking whether or not it is true. This book only celebrates its intellectual powers

and hence does not push process thought to basic theological issues.
Robert Neville

State University of New York at Stony Brook

Reaping the Whirlwind: A Christian Interpretation of History. By Langdon Gilkey


New York: The Seabury Press, 1976. ix+446 pages. $17.50. ISBN 0-8164-0308-

The basic argument of Langdon Gilkey's Reaping the Whirlwind is that histor

may be most adequately understood by means of the Christian symbols of providen


christology, and eschatology. It presents an excellent analysis of the modern histor
consciousness and of such traditional Christian understandings of history as those

Augustine and Calvin and attempts to reinterpret history in the light of both th
traditional and modern factors.

The first four chapters of the book constitute a prolegomenon analyzing histori

experience as characterized by a free response to a given destiny, explicating

dimensions of ultimacy inherent in that experience, and examining vari

contemporary scientific and philosophical views of history. Then, after a two-chap

"Interlude on Method," the remaining five chapters are devoted to Gilkey's ow


revision of the traditional Christian interpretation of history as represented

Augustine and Calvin. This interpretation is understood to be more adequate than t


contemporary alternatives, both Christian and secular, for a concrete understand
of history because of its recognition not only of the dimension of ultimacy implicit i
all historical experience but also of the fallenness of all historical being and its need f
redemption.
Liberal theology is rejected as having placed too much confidence in progress and
as looking for the kingdom to be attained in history through the perfection of its own

culturally limited ideals. Neo-orthodoxy is dismissed as ignoring history as


meaningless in favor of "sacred" history. And the eschatological theologies of hope
and liberation are found to be ontologically confused about the effects of the future on

the present. However, Gilkey recognizes that there is much to be learned from these

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234

Journal of the American Academy of Religion

alternatives
alternatives
andand
Liberalism's
Liberalism's
emphasis
emphasis
on the importance
on the importance
of historicalofexistence,
historical
Neoexistence,
orthodoxy's
orthodoxy's
insistence
insistence
on the
onestrangement
the estrangement
of that existence,
of that existence,
and the eschatological
and the eschatolo
theologies'
theologies'
recognition
recognition
of the
ofneed
the for
need
radical
for change
radicalinchange
our history
in our
all are
history
taken up
allby
are taken up
him.
him.

Gilkey's
Gilkey'sown
own
interpretation
interpretation
of history
of history
is a revision
is a revision
of that of of
Alfred
thatNorth
of Alfred No
Whitehead
Whitehead
interpreted
interpreted
by means
by means
of traditional
of traditional
Christian Christian
symbols. Whereas
symbols.
in Wherea

Whitehead
Whitehead
Creativity
Creativity
is setisover
set against
over against
God as aGod
metaphysical
as a metaphysical
ultimate andultimate
assigned and assi
functions
functions
which
which
onlyonly
an actual
an actual
entity entity
could perform,
could perform,
Gilkey understands
Gilkey understands
creativity to creativi
be
be grounded
grounded
in in
GodGod
as anasessential
an essential
aspect of
aspect
his being.
of his
Thus
being.
a Christian
Thus emphasis
a Christian
on emphasi
the
thesovereignty
sovereignty
of God
of God
is seen
is as
seen
bringing
as bringing
greater internal
greatercoherence
internaltocoherence
Whitehead'sto Whiteh
view.
view.Further,
Further,
an interpretation
an interpretation
of Whitehead
of Whitehead
in terms in
of the
terms
Christian
of the
symbols
Christian
of
symbo

providence,
providence,
christology,
christology,
and eschatology,
and eschatology,
by recognizing
by recognizing
the estrangement
the estrangemen
of

historical
historical
beings
beings
andand
theirtheir
need for
need
redemption,
for redemption,
is seen as is
making
seen Whitehead's
as making analysis
Whitehead's an

more
moreadequate
adequate
to the
to the
character
character
of ourof
experience.
our experience.
Gilkey's
Gilkey'sstrengths
strengths
are in
areanalyzing
in analyzing
traditional
traditional
and contemporary
and contemporary
alternatives to
alternativ
his
his position,
position,
andand
his his
analysis
analysis
of ourof
situation
our situation
as historical
as historical
beings provides
beings
a helpful
provides a help
updating
updating
ofof
thethe
earlier
earlier
efforts
efforts
of Reinhold
of Reinhold
Niebuhr Niebuhr
and Paul Tillich,
and Paul
to whom
Tillich,
Gilkey
to whom G
acknowledges
acknowledges
hishis
indebtedness.
indebtedness.
But hisBut
proposal
his proposal
for a Christian
for a understanding
Christian understandi
of
history
historyis is
achieved
achieved
by modifying
by modifying
the views
theofviews
Augustine
of Augustine
and Calvin in
and
order
Calvin
to make
in order to
them
themcompatible
compatible
with
with
a modern
a modern
understanding
understanding
of historyof(no
history
small modification)
(no small modification
and
suffers
suffersfrom
from
an an
inadequate
inadequate
grounding
grounding
in the original
in the Christian
original witness
Christian
of faith.
witness of faith

Philip
PhilipSageser
Sageser
Dallas, Texas

Introduction to Theology: An Invitation to Reflection upon the Christian Mythos. By

Theodore W. Jennings, Jr.. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1976. viii+184 pages.

$5.95. L.C. No. 76-007867.

This introduction and invitation to theological reflection draws its distinc


bearings from the academy's current preoccupations with homo symbolicu

Accordingly, theology is defined as reflection upon the Christian mythos-"that s

symbols, rituals, narratives, and assertions which, taken together, announce


mediate the presence of the sacred so as to represent, orient, communicate,

transform existence in the world for a community of persons" (p. 2). Jennings s
out this definition in three parts-the "what," the "how" and the "that" of theolo
reflection. Part I delineates the "Christian mythos" in the context of a genera
discussion of the religious imagination. Part II details a dialectical joining of faith

reflection, past and present, individual and communal, particular and univer
validity and provisionality which is intrinsically required by the Christian mythos.

III briefly concludes this essay in theological method by suggesting how th


methodological principles articulated will operate in theology proper.
Jennings certainly places theological reflection in the right context but quest
remain about the success and significance of his achievement. His discussio
imagination and mythos skates over some extremely complex and difficult is
having to do with inventiveness/givenness, image/word, revelation/reality and
mercurial term "meaning." The crucial centerpiece of his essay comes across

dialectical balancing act (reason/faith, sacred/profane, subjective/objec


phenomenological/ kerygmatic, scripture/tradition, identity/ relevan

confidence/ tentativeness) that avoids all problems of one-sidedness by solving n

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