The Structure of Christian Existence [Book Review]

Review of Metaphysics 22 (3):566-566 (1969)


Cobb's stated purpose in this book is to inquire into what is distinctive about Christianity and into its claim to finality. Hence half the book is taken up with the explication of other "structures of existence" which antedated or which have paralleled "Christian Existence." For Cobb, the term existence refers to how a subject relates itself to itself and what it is in and for itself. Cobb traces the move from the primitive self, which is not yet conscious of itself as a self, across the threshold to "axial" man who breaks with the primitive mythic age by exhibiting a "seat of existence" or center of consciousness which involves a new role for rationality and which for the first time subordinates the unconscious to the conscious. The particular structures of axial existence which Cobb explores are Buddhist Existence, Homeric Existence, Socratic Existence, and Prophetic Existence. In contradistinction to these, Christian existence emerges as the crossing of a new threshold: it is spiritual existence expressing itself in love. Cobb's efforts to fulfill the second purpose of the book are half-hearted and unconvincing, a fact perhaps consistent with the book's objectivity: it is not Christian apologetics. Cobb's well known Whiteheadianism is only subtly and incidentally evident in this work, although occasionally it is used directly to expand and enrich certain explanations. The print in the book is annoyingly small.--S. O. H.

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