The Anatomy of a Hybrid Paperback – 1 Jan 1976
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Top Customer Reviews
The book deals directly with the nature of church-state relationships - in fact, it deals with the way in which religion and state have worked together through the centuries, not just in 'Christian' countries, but in all societies through to the present day.
Before reading this, I had been unhappy with the idea of a state church: it seemed so far away from the life Jesus lived, and the life He called people to. This book gave me a clear theological grounding for understanding the issues, and thrilled me with the conviction that it is possible to follow Jesus honestly and consistently today.
I would love to quote so much of this book, but here is the first paragraph of the Introduction to give you a feel for where the author is coming from.
"During the past half-century the world has witnessed the rise of totalitarian governments and monolithic societies, that is, societies in which all are expected to share in the same ultimate loyalty. These are societies in which there is no room for diversity of conviction. I view this development with alarm. My conviction is that for a person to be his proper self he must live in the presence of genuine opinions, must be able to exercise choice, must, in a word, be free to enjoy a measure of sovereignty. In order to be fully human, a person must be part of a composite society."
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Leonard Verduin presents the case for a church that stands apart from the State, exerting influence, but not attempting to control the levers of power to enforce any ideas of morality, in The Anatomy of a Hybrid. What's interesting is that he does so not in the context of the modern world, but in the context of a study of the Constantinian Synthesis, the melding of the Church and State under the Holy Roman Empire. This book is, in a sense, an adjunct to his fine work The Reformers and Their Stepchildren.
The model he takes for his study is the incident of Genesis 6, when the daughters of men marry the sons of god. While this incident isn't well understood in a larger sense, he takes it as a wedding of convenience between two things that ought not be wed -the Church and the State. He begins by describing the ideals of a sacral society.
"In a sacral society one's religion is a matter of course, determined by one's inclusion in the societal unit. A sacral society is held together by sacrament. It has a shrine to which each member of that society is oriented, and it has a specified deportment before that shrine, deportment that is essentially sacramental in character. In fact, it may be said that the basic function of sacrament in such a sacral society is the tying together of the societal unit. Sacrament properly understood is a device whereby an already existing togetherness allegedly becomes a religious togetherness." -Page 11
The author goes to a good deal of trouble to show how this combination of religion and State has worked throughout history, drawing examples from the Scriptures as well as many well-known ancient writers. He specifically focuses on the situation in Rome, under which the Church came to begin, and the roots of its sacral condition.
After examining the concept of a sacral social structure, Verduin then goes on to examine how the writings of the Apostles and contemporaries describe the Church. Was it a part of society, or did it hold itself separate? He shows that, from the beginning, one of the accusations against Christians has been their lack of idols, settled houses of worship, public rites, and public meetings. He then turns to the idea of mission, and what mission must mean in a sacral society. If a nation can be saved, then what is the purpose of mission? It must only be to those in other nations.
Verduin argues that these two ideas alone rule out the idea of Church melded with State. There is no way to make sense of the idea of separate worship in the tradition of the Church, nor of the idea of a mission, if the Church and State are to be one. He also argues that so long as the Church insists on trying to meld itself into the warp and woof of the state, there is no way for the Church to see the State clearly; there is no way to develop a solid and lasting theology of the State, nor to see the relationship between the State and Christians aright.
Verduin has put together a masterful study of the relationship between Church and State -this is an important book for any Christian serious about understanding modern politics in reference to Church/State relationships to read.
The most significant theme the author hammers on throughout the book is the distinction between sacralism and authentic worship. The way I would paraphrase his argument would be that sacrament attempts to create or redefine religious unity based on something other than faith, and my interpretation of his conclusion is that sacralism is to be avoided by true worshipers as it invariably stifles that which is authenticity spiritual.
The historic case studies serve to make the point stick, and are also interesting in that they have an uncommon perspective.