Science in Christian Perspective


Book Reviews for March 1972

OUR SOCIETY IN TURMOIL by Gary R. Collins, Ed. Carol Stream, Illinois: Creation House, 1970.
GOD IN AN AGE OF ATHEISM by Paul S. Shilling, Abingdon Press, Nashville, Tenn. 239 pp. $5.50.
PSYCHOLOGY AND RELIGION: A CONTEMORARY DIALOGUE by Joseph Havens, Ed. Van Nostrand, New York 1968.
INTELLECTUAL HONESTY AND RELIGIOUS COMMITMENT by A. T. Bellinzoni, Jr., and T. V. Litzenburg, Jr., editors. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1969, 84 pp.
THE CHRISTIAN ENCOUNTERS THE AGE OF TECHNOLOGY by Hubert F. Beck, Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, Missouri, 1970, 133 pp. Paperback. $1.50.
THE LATE GREAT PLANET EARTH by Hal Lindsey with C. C. Carlson, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1970. 192 pp. $3.95.

OUR SOCIETY IN TURMOIL by Gary R. Collins, Ed. Carol Stream, Illinois: Creation House, 1970.

Evangelicals have been characterized as religiously-minded people who are "rushing pell-mell into the twentieth-century." Society in Turmoil may accelerate the pace, perhaps even to reach the seventies during that decade.

Most of the book's chapters use a format of facts, conjecture and Christian application. However, before specific issues are discussed, an initial tone-setting chapter by John Montgomery demonstrates a Scriptural basis for social involvement by the believer. In addition, Montgomery very lucidly challenges Christians to be as aware and outspoken in such areas as open housing and ecological responsibility as in the area of sexual freedom, the traditional fundamentalist's major moral concern.

Fourteen social issues follow Montgomery's chapter, most of them relevant in contemporary thinking.
A chapter on racism by William Pannell is an incisive plea for the church to stop being racist: "The sin of Evangelicism is not that we are un-American. It is rather that we are more American than Christian."
In a discussion of crime and civil disobedience, Russell I ledclendorf takes the sociological position that civil disobedience indexes a basic questioning of the "presuppositions which are fundamental to society." The distinction made between crime and civil rlisobedience is one of many extremely provocative notions set forth in this well-written and scholarly essay.

A chapter on birth control by Merville Vincent furnishes a good exposition of the problem: he presents the issue and the most viable alternatives before giving his bias.

Other lively and well-reasoned chapters focus on issues of war, space exploration and man's future with computers.

Some chapters, however, are not so strong.

The author of the chapter on drug use in America has seemingly not spent much time among those who make op the subculture he discusses. In addition, the writing often falls into sentimentality (Christianity is a "state with an unending euphoria untouched by illegality or a black market"), and implicitly the reader is led falsely to believe that drug research shows dangerous effects only with continued drug use. Most disturbing, though, is the lack of any suggestion for ameliorating this social problem other than bringing the drug user to salvation.

Another chapter with major weaknesses is the one which addresses itself to behavioral control through biological and psychological manipulation. No attention is given to recent research on biochemical memory transference between organisms, nor is the current research on behavior modification and behavior therapy techniques reported. Even on the basic issue of free will the author's argument is distressingly weak.

Explicit goals are stated in the preface of this book: the chapters will hopefully "stimulate discussion, reaction, action and a renewed dedication to Jesus Christ." It cannot be denied that this collection of essays achieves its first two goals. It is very lamentable, however, that the third is less well met. Most of the chapters are really empty of specific ideas on how to meet the social issue in question. Since many of the social issues discussed are acute problems, abstract ideas and principles must be supplemented by suggestions for specific action, something to stimulate activity and perhaps to develop momentum.

Despite some shortcomings, Society in Turmoil deserves reading by the great majority (silent) of Christians because of its unique willingness to grapple with contemporary issues. The final goal of the book is stated as challenging renewed dedication to our Lord. Potentially, the essays can serve as a basis for evangelical churches to "stir up that gift which is within them," so as to be aware of and involved in meeting our current social dilemmas in a Christ-like and informed manner.

Reviewed by Wayne V. Adams, Deportment of Psychology,
Colgate University, Hamilton N.Y. 13346

GOD IN AN AGE OF ATHEISM by Paul S. Shilling, Abingdon Press, Nashville, Tenn. 239 pp. $5.50.

Dr. Shilling's thesis is shared by any thoughtful Christian. We are living in an age of doubt; we must examine anew the meaning of the reality of God. His sub-thesis, that the serious atheist is more likely to contribute more to intelligent understanding of both God and man than the pious believer, is subject to debate.
Dr. Shilling's analysis of contemporary doubt forms the great value of this work. He sees the sources of modern unbelief in the nineteenth century attack upon religion by Feuerbaeh, the Marxists and Nietzsche.
lie then proceeds to examine the six major types of atheism present in our time with an objectivity that marks the serious scholar. Freudian psychoanalysis identifies God with the father image; religion is an illusion. Ernst Bloch, the Marxist, has no place for a static God in his not-vet program of evolutionary futurism.

Existentialism rejects God in favor of sel-fauthenticating humanism. Scientific humanism sees the issue as dogma vs. science and opts for man's technological progress. Linguistic philosophy analyses language to find the God-concept meaningless rather than absurd. Finally, Christian atheism or the "God is Dead" theology represents Christian disillusionment in a secular society. These various attacks upon the doctrine of of God must he faced by the believer.

Of less value for evangelicals is the supposedly constructive part of this work which explores afresh the
meaning of God. Dr. Schilling attempts this by an eclectic appraisal of the positive points of the atheist critique rather than by the approach of scientific theology, i.e., letting the object, God, speak for himself. Nowhere does he build theology upon the divine self-revelation. Rather theology must he relevant, thisworldly, cosmic, transcendent, eschatological, temporal, cooperative and participatory. The new eclectic deity is Being, Creative Process, Love, and Personal Life, a God scarcely recognizable by one who has come into personal relation with the Biblical Creator, Redeemer, Father-Son-and-Holy Spirit.

While modern man dues need a new sense of the meaning of God, the testimony of Christian theology and experience is that the God who has made Himself known in Christ and the Scriptures is the true God who can satisfy even needy modern man. While the atheistic critique may show up major short-comings of Christians-their traditionalism, their irrationalism, their failure to clearly communicate and their failure to support profession with practicethere is indeed little that atheism can add to Christian understanding of God's nature and will givers in His special revelation.

Reviewed by Bert H. Hall, Division of Religion and Philosophy, Houghton College, Houghton, New York

Nostrand, New York 1968.

This book is a summary of discussions which emanated from the 1959 meeting of the American Psychological Association. Under the auspices of Faculty Christian Fellowship of the National Council of Churches, a group of psychologists met twice yearly to discuss and present papyri during the succeeding years. The hook presents their ideas on the relationship between psychology and religion via a conversational format. In quasi dramatic fashion the reader is brought into much of the actual dialogue that ensued. In addition, Havens summarizes and theorizes on the issues.

The participants range from the Thnmistic Catholic psychologist, Charles A. Cuman, to the existentialist Jewish analyst, Richard A. Rubenstein. Others include many of the noteworthy scholars in the area. They are: James E. Dittes, Robert B. MacLeod, Paul W. Pruyser, Joseph R. Royce, Walter Houston Clark, and David Bakan.

The book recognizes in the beginning that most psychologists either keep what religious faith they might have separate from their professional work or they do not consider religious phenomena to be relevant at all. With this in mind, the several presuppositions of the participants are investigated. The question of whether a researcher has to believe in God to study religious phenomena is considered. The methods of theology and psychology are compared.

The more recent developments in humanistic psychology are reviewed. The sense in which all science and theology begins with man's experience is considered. It is suggested that intuition and the phenomenological method are the essence of all science and theology. The growing emphasis on human experience in psychology indicates a shift away from objctivism. This provides the basis for a continuing dialogue with religionists.

The report continues with a consideration of the nature of religious symbols as they relate to many of the constructs presently used to describe man in humanistic psychology. The nature of man's experience as seen in much existential psychology is very similar to religious descriptions.

Finally, the nature of religious experience is discussed and the demand of modern man for experimental events is noted Not only the young but psychologists in particular, are experientially oriented. The concern for experience to precede dogma is asserted.

At times the "alternative conversation essay format" makes for confusion. Yet in this rather relaxed manner one is introduced to the main themes of the contemporary scene in a short volume. A complete bibliography is included for further reading. Havens has done a commendable job. No other recent volume quite provides this survey. It is recommended for all readers who desire an introduction to the field.

Reviewed by H. Newton Malony, Assoc. Prof. Psychology, Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California

INTELLECTUAL HONESTY AND RELIGIOUS COMMITMENT by A. T. Bellinzoni, Jr., and T. V. Litzenburg, Jr., editors. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1969, 84 pp.

Mr. Bellinzoni and Mr. Litzenhurg have edited for publication three papers given at a symposium at Wells College on the topic which became the title of their book. Professors H. Aiken, R. R. Niebuhr and W, Alston were the original members of the symposium. Alston and Aiken are philosophers; Niehuhr is a Protestant theologian. Professor M. Novak, a Roman Catholic theologian (lay), was included in the publication "to 'widen the scope."

The editors in their "Introduction" state the question with which these men wrestle-"the question of religion: Is it reasonable or is it not, is it a matter of the mind or of the heart, or is it both?" They then give brief, but helpful, summaries of each man's presentation and then raise some questions for the reader to consider.

Dr. Aiken is first with his essay, "Honest' and Commitment: A Philosopher's View." Aiken defines religion "adjectively" rather than metaphysically. He describes it as it is, rather than as it might have been intended to be. He defines intellect as "the cognitive faculty par excellence" and then hastens to place 11 Common sense" limitations upon it. Would it not be better to take the opposite path, i.e., to look upon the formal intellectual processes as the demonstration of what "common sense" people do and believe intuitively? Aiken limits severely the role of reason in religion -"A religious discourse ... is primarily devotional in its intent, regardless of the terms in which it is being formulated." "Speculative theism" is no essential part of religion. By this I take him to mean "rational theism." If this is so, Aiken needs to define more specifically the relationship between religions of immanence and transcendence. To include classical Christanity under the general terns "religion" is simply to beg the question. At the end of his essay, Aiken states that religious commitment is not necessarily a good in itself since Hitler was religious. How he can distinguish between Hitler's "bad religion" and somebody's "good religion" without a more intensive use of reason needs explanation. And to ask that we transcend monotheism to "the God above God" sounds strangely as if we are being asked to worship no God or an idol. Aiken's perspective rests upon the modern disparagement of the role of the intellect in the religious sphere. It is illustrated in his question "was it not Jesus who said that the letter killeth but the spirit alone giveth life?" Jesus, of course, did not say that; St. Paul did. And he did not mean by it what Aiken forces him to say, i.e., that "religious thought and emotion [do not] require expression through any particular set of terms." Paul is arguing in the Corinthian letter that the letter [the Mosaic law] drives a man to despair; the Spirit of God brings life. Elsewhere Paul announces his belief in the importance of sound and correct doctrine. (cp. Galatians). In the final analysis, Aiken does not permit us to choose rationally among any religions or for religion at all, nor can he approach religion morally unless he can in some rational way tell us what this means. Granted that a man need not be required to give a systematic definition of God whenever lie uses the term, yet when chosen to proclaim a religion's message and beset by inquiring souls, he should be able to speak honestly and clearly.

If Aiken attempts to speak to the problem of intellectual honesty in religion by limiting the role of the intellect in the religious sphere and including Christianity wholly within the spectrum of religion, Professor Alston does so by differentiating between conscious intellectual dishonesty which involves deliberate misrepresentation for self-seeking purposes and unconscious intellectual dishonesty which involves the charge of selfdeception. Alston concludes that the latter almost never can he charged to a person on the level of religious belief because one never knows completely the personality factors involved and because the religious sphere is such a complex entity. I-Ic states that a "style explanation", i.e., the cognitive, intellectual environment of the thinker, conditions a man so that blind spots occur and that a "motivational explanation," wherein the thinker refuses to let himself see the weaknesses of his "system," is probably the less reasonable explanation of his deficiencies.

Alston rightly calls for sympathy, morality, and understanding so that one does not hastily attribute conscious or unconscious intellectual dishonesty to a man, yet his recognition that such a theologian as Tillich "grew up in an intellectual environment which placed little or no premium on careful distinctions" contains the seed of the proper Christian response. Until the role of the intellect is reasserted in the sphere of religion and revelation, the problem of honesty or dishonest' will suffer even more from ambiguity. Reason alone will not take a man to the love of God, but it will take a man to and through the speech of God.

With R. Niehuhr, we come to a more directly theological approach to the question of intellectual dishonesty in the sphere of religion. He intentionally bypasses the question of the existence of God in terms of religious statements and focuses upon the problem of evil and its relationship to honesty. Can a man be religious and rational in the light of the existence of evil? Niebuhr's answer is in the cross as an event, which keeps one from adopting too simplistic an answer, since the cross involves God and man in the agony and pain of existence. The cross frees one to he ever open to intellectual honesty. "It is not the guarantor of honesty but the means to honest' and openness and a symbol of the hopeful search for fresh attitudes.

With Niebuhr, we have refreshing emphasis upon the intellect as a faculty and process which seeks to remove inconsistencies and contradictions, but which still does not prohibit "a man from recognizing and entertaining two conflicting convictions." Hence, he finally rests in paradox and tension in the rational-religious sphere. lIe refers to theories of the atonement rather than to facets of the whole biblical view of the meaning of the cross. his welcome emphasis upon the intellect is weakened by his unwillingness to grant revelationalrational status to propositional revelation. One does not serve the intellect or religion by refusing to recognize God's revealed, rational word as the explanation of His deeds.

Novak approaches the problem through four perspectives: the genetic, which shows that honesty is not an unhistorical concept but springs from one's environmental development; the dialectic, which reveals honesty as necessarily operating in relationships with freedom; the universal, which describes the maximization of honesty and freedom as demonstrating the power of God; and the concrete, which describes man as living more by ritual and dramatic symbol than by creed or proposition. Novak's approach is basically anthropological; he does not mention the term or concept of revelation. He sets up a false dichotomy between life and creed-"The Catholic faith is not a set of propositions to which one must subscribe; it is a way of life." Hence intellectual honesty becomes almost entirely a quest for enactment of temporary symbols rather than faith in, acceptance of, or obedience to the rational as a revelation of the true.

This brings us to the main weakness of the essays. Despite many penetrating insights into the dilemmas that face religions and rational men, the emphasis falls upon religion. The Ian' of contradiction is not even mentioned let alone discussed. Until men come to grips with the basic law by which the intellect operates, the law of contradiction, and the presupposition which alone can validate it, revelatory Christian theism, religious commitment will be with us, but intellectual honesty with and before the truth will recede into the background.

Renewed by Irwin  Reist, Associate Professor of Theology, Houghton College, Houghton, New York

THE CHRISTIAN ENCOUNTERS THE AGE OF TECHNOLOGY by Hubert F. Beck, Cnncordia Publishing House, St. Louis, Missouri, 1970, 133 pp. Paperback. $1.50.

This book by the campus pastor for Lutheran students at Texas A & M is part of a series of "Christian Encounter" hooks by Coocordia. It is more the purpose of the author to raise critical questions than it is to supply final answers. Such questions, for example, as "Can the church continue to recognize possibilities for a just war?" "What is the ideal life?" "What should a man set as his life goal when vast blocks of leisure replace the old activities by which he made his contribution to society through labor?" "Are there dimensions of life that a man tampers with only at the risk of his own welfare?" "How can the church become known as the great reconciling agency, bringing love and light into the dark cells of solitary confinement that mark the technological age?"

The author argues that the growth of power and man's passion for power in the technological age are determining characteristics of this age. Both physical power and intellectual power have been vastly increased over any time in the past; political structures have arisen to handle these sources of power in their social context. How is the church, as a structure among structures, to relate in carrying out its mission?

The will to use power also characterizes our age. Consider changes in agricultural practices, the conquest of space, medical advances, and development of atomic energy and bombs. In this context, conventional conceptions of sin as weakness and limitations of man must be augmented by conceptions emphasizing sin as the misuse of power. Christ is the One who gives new direction to misdirected power. "How can the truth of the eternal God be impressed upon man of today as the truth not only of a very ancient God but also of a very young and contemporary God?"

In a day when the individual is becoming more and more victim to the loneliness of solitary confinement in this technological age, there is a need to recover a sense of community in addition to a sense of individualism. To this phenomenon the author applies McLuhan's phrase of "retribalization." Modern communication with its instantaneous bringing of significant events to all places in the world, and modern transportation with its shrinking of travel distances from weeks or months to hours, both act to effect this type of global retrihalizatioo. How does the church stand firm in fulfilling the fulness of the Gospel in such a rctribalized world?

The first industrial revolution dealt with man's physical system and brought economic problems of some magnitude; the second industrial revolution deals with man's nervous system and likewise brings economic problems and tensions. New definitions of work are needed; the assumption of productivity as the basis for economics must he questioned.

In an epilog the author sets forth Christian hope as the one great contribution Christians can make to these problems. A new Gospel is not needed or called for; but the changeless Gospel must be freed from constraints characteristic of particular and transient societal patterns, economic systems and styles of government. As seems to he so popular in books dealing with Christian hope in a technologically dominated future, the author espouses a kind of oco-postmillennialism in which with the "new heavens and the new earth" as our goal, we "bring closer to fulfillment the society that we should like to have ready for presentation to our Lord when lie comes again."

THE LATE GREAT PLANET EARTH by Hal Lindsey with C. C. Carlson, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1970. 192 pp. $3.95.

In 1963 John A.T. Robinson, Bishop of Woolwich, put together a non-scholarly but lively' popular agglomeration of Tillich, Boohoeffer and Bultmano, and made publication history with Honest to God. Although he added very little not well known to theologians, his approach hit the popular press as they had never done. In 1970 Hal Lindsey, a graduate of the School of Theology at Dallas Theological Seminary and currently teaching with Christian Associates, with the help of C.C. Carlson, a columnist and free-lance writer, put together a lively and popularly written summary of the traditional pre-tribulation rapture pre-millennial es
chatological position. The result, The Late Great Planet Earth, may have a large impact on the current Christian revival, especially among young people.

Lindsey offers nothing that is not part of the standard literature on the "pre-trib pre-mil" position, which was popularized in the early part of the current century through the Scofield Bible. But, whereas in earlier days scholarly authors had less popular appeal [C.C. Ryrie, The Basis of the Premillennial Faith (1953); R.D. Culver, Daniel and the Latter Days (1954); E.S. English, Rethinking the Rapture (1954); or basic Bible studies such as W.L. Pettingill, Simple Studies in The Revelation (1933), Simple Studies in Daniel (1933); to name just a few], Lindsey and Carlson have added color and pizzazz with phrases such as "The Future Fuchrer," "The Ultimate Trip," "Scarlet O'Harlot," "The Russian Waterloo," "What's Your Game, Cog?" They even refer to the people of China and Japan as "The Yellow Peril."

In the light of common deliberations today on such problems as the population explosion, environmental pollution, conservation of natural resources, etc., one might have expected the book to consider these questions in the light of the Biblical revelation. Such considerations, however, are almost completely absent. The authors favor instead a straight-forward development of the "pre-trib pre-mil" position, updating it only' insofar as to take account of the existence of the state of Israel, and the repossession of the old Jerusalem by Israel in the 1967 war with Egypt.

It's all there. The rebuilding of the Third Temple on Mount Moriab ("P.S. The Arabs are not going to like this idea of rebuilding the Temple one bit." p. 152) with sacrifices and oblations. The arming and organizing of a vast confederacy headed by Russia, which will attack Israel. Three other great powers: the Arab-African alliance, the restored Roman empire in which Western Europe will dominate and not the United States, and the oriental forces of China. As the European Common Market heralds the beginning of the restored Roman Empire centered in Western Europe, so the Ecumenical movement heralds the beginning of the great anti-Christian superchurch. Before the showdown, the Rapture of all Christians out of the earth ("We should be living like persons who don't expect to be around much longer." p. 145). Then the filial hostilities of World War Ill with Russia attacking Israel, sweeping through and double-crossing the ArabAfrican alliance, only to be utterly wiped out by the Roman dictator with supernatural overtones such that the remaining people of Israel are converted to Christ. After the nuclear holocaust accompanying these events, the remaining two great powers-the Roman Empire and China-will face each other as an Oriental army of 200 million soldiers marches to the eastern hank of the Euphrates. As this battle of Armageddon reaches its climax, Jesus Christ returns to "save man from self-extinction." Then He institutes his 100(1 year reign on earth, the final achievement of "The Great Society." At the end of the 1000 years, the era of eternity is entered.

Maybe. There are grave problems in the working out of these perspectives in practical Christian living. It seems to me that it is possible to retain the assurance of God's rule over the future, and to be able to joyfully proclaim, "Maranatha," without accepting a particular system of interpretation on the often ambiguous details of Biblical eschatology.

In a final chapter Lindsey and Carlson test their prophetic wings by offering a series of predictions based on their understanding of Biblical prophecy. Most of them seem quite independent of their particular escatological position. Growing apostasy in the institutional church and an acceleration of denominational mergers. Increasing use by apostate ministers of non-Biblical positions and techniques. Increasing exodus of young Christians from the church with the development of true Christian faith among the youth. Persecution of believing Christians by nominal Christians, Development of a true underground church of believers. A growing world religious organization with political interests. Efforts to make Jerusalem the religious center of the world and to rebuild the ancient Temple. The Middle East as the focus of world concern. Develop
meat of riches for Israel from the Dead Sea. Loss of world leadership by the United States. Emergence of a United States of Europe. Growing involvement of the papacy in world politics. Growing desire for one man to rule the whole world. Limited use of nuclear weapons somewhere in the world to set the stage for acceptance of the Antichrist. Increase in sociological problems, famines, drug addiction, merging of drugs and religion. Growing predominance of astrology, witchcraft and oriental religions in the western world. What should be the Christian response to these possibilities? Lindsey and Carlson suggest deepening of personal relationship with Christ and an added impetus to share the gospel with others.

We shouldn't drop out of school or worthwhile community activities, or stop working, or rush marriage, or any such thing unless Christ clearly leads us to do so.

Reviewed by Richard H. Bube, Department of Materials Science, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305