The Scandal of Truth [Book Review]

Philosophical Studies (Dublin) 13:322-323 (1964)
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This is a series of connected essays by an eminent French Jesuit theologian. The English translation is very readable; but in style and feeling the book remains thoroughly French. Daniélou confronts the attitude of despair of many contemporary French thinkers with faith in the worthwhileness of human existence and in the truth of Christianity. The essays are often suggestive and illuminating; sometimes ‘tantamount to dogmatism’. Daniélou traces the crisis of truth to an over-wrought confidence in science, to the largely justified mistrust of men’s word, to the substitution of the subjective viewpoint of sincerity for the objective one of truth, and to a concern for effectiveness and action rather than for truth. He then affirms that truth ‘must consist in the mind’s acknowledging God’s sovereign reality’. Against Merleau-Ponty he holds that phenomenology is neutral and does not necessarily imply or lead to atheism; against Malraux and Camus he denies the myth of unhappiness and contends that happiness is man’s heroic vocation; and against Rimbaud he challenges the mystification of poetry and claims there is no mysticism save that of God. To the Christian he underlines the responsibility to assert his faith in the presence of non-believers and says that in rejecting such atheistic humanisms as Marxism he is defending not only God but also man, for ‘man without God is maimed in the essential part of himself’. The solution to the tragedy of division among Christians, according to Daniélou, can be found only in truth; and reform is necessary before unity. Furthermore in a technological society Christianity must invent, for its permanent message, forms of expression which correspond to man’s technical advances; the Christian must consecrate earthly reality and so make the things which turn us away from God the means which lead us to Him.



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