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July 1972 · Vol. 1 No. 3 · pp. 103–4 

Book Review

Christian Biopolitics: A Credo and Strategy for the Future

Kenneth Cauthen. Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1971. 159 pages.

Reviewed by Vern Ratzlaff

“Human life with its quest for enjoyment is. . .viewed in relationship to the natural, social and technological environments which shape man’s existence. I call this perspective Christian biopolitics.” (p. 102) Thus Cauthen, professor of Christian Theology at Crozer Theological Seminary, defines biopolitics, the view of man required to bridge the gap between secular and theological frameworks.

In the first half of the book he sketches the impasse which our society now faces—that “there are no technical solutions to such major world threats as war, population, and pollution. . .that no political solution is presently available for the same set of problems.” (p. 39) His concern goes beyond the “merely” ecological—he also stresses the impact of genetic engineering with its implications for the very nature of man himself.

The answer does not lie in a Marxian solution; Cauthen emphasizes the role of ideas in altering the course of history, and points out that “the most important single factor involved in the generation of change is the image of the future held by a given group.” (p. 61)

Such an “image,” he feels, is seen in the church’s concept of the eschaton, the goal toward which God works. (He affirms his confidence in process theology.)

Since there is available, then, an idea (i.e., an ideology) which can become the driving force for change, what forms will this change take?

Cauthen holds that man “needs to be viewed as a biospiritual creature who requires a delicate balance of favourable environmental conditions as the necessary prerequisite to any possible flowering of his unique human capacities.” (p. 109) Further, biopolitics must include both a “theory of value and a program of action,” (p. 110), i.e. the synthesis of ethics and religion. In brief, Christian biopolitics is future-oriented, goal-focused and life-centred. (p. 121)

Cauthen’s optimism in light of God’s eschatological promise is a healthy antidote to the gloomy predictions of many of our contemporary Cassandras; he draws heavily on Moltmann’s “theology of hope” motifs.

At the same time, it is significant that the prophets he cites most frequently are “secular” thinkers (Kahn, Polak, Platt, Mumford, Toffler) and not theologians. (Barth and Tillich are not mentioned at all, although de Chardin comes in five times for comment.) This may be a reflection on {104} theologians in general in that they are too obscurantist; it may also be a reflection of Cauthen’s own primary bent.

However, Christian Biopolitics is a book well worth going through to see whether our theology is large enough to speak to the total spectrum of man and his society.

Vern Ratzlaff
MBBC, Winnipeg

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