Book Reviews for March 1985 Index
TEILHARD AND THE UNITY OF KNOWLEDGE by Thomas M. King and James F. Salmon, eds. Ramsey, N.J., Paulist Press, 1983, 172 pages, $6.95.
THE SPIRIT OF THE EARTH by John Hart, Paulist Press, New York, 1984, 165 pages, $8.95, paperback.
RITES OF LIFE, by Landrum B. Shettles with David Rorvik, Grand Rapids, MI., Zondervan Publishing House, 1983, 162 pages.
MORAL CLARITY IN THE NUCLEAR AGE, by Michael Novak. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1983. 144 pp.
IDOLS FOR DESTRUCTION by Herbert Schlossberg, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee, Hardcover, $14.95; Paper $8.95 (1983).
HARPER'S WORLD OF THE NEW TESTAMENT by Edwin Yamauchi. San Francisco, CA: Harper and Row, 1981. 128 pp. $9.95
Christianity was born in a world which was the product of the blending of three cultures-Near Eastern, Greek and Roman. Harper's World of the New Testament is motivated by the widely accepted presupposition that "the rise of Christianity cannot be understood without reference to its historical and cultural background. " It is this background that the book seeks to sketch. The focus of the volume is not the retelling of the story of early Christianity itself. Rather, it attempts to inform the reader concerning the setting in which that story was unfolded. In so doing a reminder is given that the events of the New Testament "took place in a real world, at an actual time in history, and in places that can still be seen, photographed and appreciated today."
The scholar entrusted with the task of producing this book was Edwin Yamauchi. As a committed evangelical Christian, historian at the University of Miami (Ohio) and officer of the Near East Archaeological Society, he was well qualified for this endeavor.
Harper's World of the New Testament is divided into four major sections. The first focuses on the Jewish religious and historical background, the second on Greek and Near Eastern intellectual culture and the final two on the Roman Empire. Each of the f irst three sections follows basically a chronological approach to the subject matter. The Jewish outline begins with the Maccabeans, whereas the Greek section includes the early philosophers.
The volume is written in a popular style. Numerous photographs, maps and sketches illustrate the text. The main narrative is augmented by short discussions of related topics placed in gray inserts. These features combine to make a useful and interesting reference work for the lay reader.
The drawbacks of the book are few. The topical arrangement is helpful. Yet, one wonders why the Greek and Near Eastern materials were placed together. Likewise, the division by cultural background, rather than by aspects of human life, does not bring together in one chapter the religious milieu of the first century, which for many readers may be the most important topic. The book also suffers from the lack of a concluding chapter, which could have tied the various strands together. A subject index would have been useful as well. Harper's World of the New Testament is designed to illumine the lay reader to the world which saw the rise of Christianity. It fulfills this purpose well.
Revieuwd by Dr. Stanley J. Grenz, North American Baptist Seminary, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, 57105.
BIBLICAL INSPIRATION, by I. Howard Marshall, Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1983, pb. 119 pp., $4.95, ISBN 0-8028-1959-1.
The title of this book disguises the length of the journey that the reader takes with the author. The same size, at 115 pages of text, as the recently reviewed (Volume 35, Number 3) The Divine Inspiration of Holy Scripture by W.J. Abraham (Oxford, 1981), it covers a lot more ground, necessarily at a quicker pace.
The author's first stop is an examination of what little can be taken from the Bible itself on the subject of inspiration. This is enough to indicate that inspiration does not always mean the same thing. What inspiration does mean is therefore examined as the second stop and seven views are presented succinctly and sympathetically, but with a brief criticism. Marshall then offers his own way of understanding how "the Bible can be regarded as both the words of men and the Word of God"; he uses an analogy to the complementarity between scientific explanation in terms of cause and theological explanation in terms of creation, "divine causation." This view does, as the author claims, make God ultimately responsible for both process and product, while wisely avoiding attempting to explain means. It copes with the variety in the product and the human "factors" in the process. But it says rather little.
If one were looking for an extensive discussion of biblical inspiration, what has been outlined above would be disappointing. But it is only the first third of the book. Despite its title, this book is not meant to be such a discussion, and even specific references are given for only three of the seven canvassed views, one of them W.J. Abraham I S, of what inspiration is. That question is fundamental but preliminary to the main portion of the text.
On the basis of the first two chapters outlined above, the author goes on to answer four questions. What are the results of inspiration? How are we to study the Bible? How are we to interpret the Bible and what are we to do with the Bible? As in the first part of the book, Marshall tries both to bring home to the reader that simple-minded answers to questions are inadequate and we need to base our answers on the Bible. He discusses as his third stop what one might mean by inerrancy in keeping with what the Bible says about itself. The result of inspiration is that the Bible is entirely trustworthy as selfrevealing of God.
Chapter Four is on biblical criticism, what it has done, what it has not done, and how to use it. Like any criticism, one should take it for what it is worth. But we must read the Bible critically if we are going to understand it at all. Interpretation follows naturally if not easily. In keeping with his apparent goal of stimulating the seeking of less easy but more adequate answers to questions, the author attempts to indicate the complex relation between how we can apply what we read and what the writer said to the original readers; how the words of men can be for us the Word of God. He examines several unacceptable ways of viewing that relation. Then turning to the Bible, he looks at its commands, its doctrine, apparent contradictions, and its different world view. As helps to interpretation he suggests both solving problems "in the light of the Bible as a whole" and "seeking a canon within the canon," suggestions which seem strangely contradictory. He also emphasizes help from other Christians, both contemporary and those in the past that offer us a constantly increasing "heritage of understanding." The last eight pages of the book are devoted to what we are to do with the Bible. The answer that the author expands is "submit to what it says.
I have thought it necessary to indicate in some detail what Biblical Inspiration is about, because so little of it is about biblical inspiration. It is more a guidebook for a journey into thinking about the Bible for the first time, and for this purpose it seems suitable, especially as it is well written, based on the Bible itself, and scrupulously fairminded. The least suitable feature for this purpose is its air of saying all that needs to be said, with no indication of the f urther reading that one might want and surely needs on each of the topics discussed if one wishes to consider it seriously. For its apparently intended audience the book can be recommended.
Reviewed by Robert Thomas, Applied Mathematics, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada R3T 2N2.
FROM MAGIC TO METAPHOR: A VALIDATION OF THE CHRISTIAN SACRAMENTS by George S. Worgul, Jr., Paulist Press, New York, 1980, 232 pp., $8.95.
Metaphor is currently demanding the attention of scholars in linguistics, psychology, sociology, artificial intelligence, computer science, and electrical engineering in addition to the traditionally interested disciplines, philosophy, theology, and literature. Reflecting this pervasive interest, Worgul draws from a wide range of sources, but the breadth of the enterprise is perhaps its downfall.
Part 1, titled "Introducing the Question," includes discussion of the "Sacramental Crisis" (p. 3), establishment of methodology, and definition of terms. In Chapter 1, Worgul describes the decline of participation in the Eucharist within the Roman Catholic Church, concluding that if "the sacramental economy was to survive, a change was in order. A repetition of the old order simply was not enough. A 'new' way had to be found. The pastoral rush to bandage the sacramental wounds of the Church records the final element of the Church's internal contribution to its own sacramental crisis" (p. 16). However, he makes no mention of the biblical institution of the Eucharist, thus leaving the reader with no foundation on which to base a resolution to the crisis.
Chapters 2 and 3 are a collection of investigative methods and definitions, with very little attempt at unification for the author's purposes. Chapter 3 defines only a small part of the subsequent jargon.
Part II, titled "The Anthropological Dimensions of Sacraments" includes chapters on psychology, sociology, and philosophy, while Part III includes five chapters on "The Theological Dimension of Sacraments."
Finally, Part IV on "Sacramental Models" contains chapter 12 "Celebration: Toward a Revised Sacramental Model" and 13 "The Challenge of the Crisis."
The impression one gets from the foreword all the way to the last page is carelessness. The book is littered with typographical errors. The sheer quantity of references requires a bibliography (chapter 5 has 123 end notes), and an index would appear necessary because of the number of technical terms and scholars referred to.
The quantity of terms includes a confusing array of jargon. For example, the reference on p. 66 to the "individual human person" is the roccoco extension of the baroque "human person" used throughout. The jargon is drawn from diverse quarters and its lack of unity is symptomatic of the lack of any unification of definitions or methodology. Father Fransen, who wrote the foreword, tries to excuse this as erudition and attempts to avert inevitable criticism with: ". . . some readers, less aware of the laws of human argumentation and thought, may regret that the author's (sic) psychological, sociological, and anthropological expositions were not f ully integrated into his theological expos6 (sic). This kind of mixture, however, would have been totally impalatable (sic) and even quite confusing.... This is a question of intellectual honesty" (p. xii). If the divergencies of methodology and definition were carefully drawn, this position would be proper. The lack of this delineation is only further proof of the careless haste of the project.
The most telling shortcoming, however, was the choice of models for the Christian sacraments. From "myth" to "metaphor" naively implies a movement from the primitive and unknown to the more modern, literate and comprehensible. Even a cursory look at the metaphor literature belies such a position. Max Black's Models and Metaphors is the only reference from the main body of metaphor literature cited by Worgul.
For those of us committed to the validity of the Christian sacraments based on the nature of their institution and the Christ instituting them, the project is ill-conceived from the outset. Given the importance of the project, it certainly warrants more care than this study affords.
Reviewed by Paul W. Kilpatrick, PhD, Depto. de Ingl6s, Recinto Universitario de Mayaguez, UPR, Mayaguez, Puerto Rico 00708.
SCIENCE AND CREATIONISM edited by Ashley Montagu. Oxford University Press, 1984. xvii + 415 pp. (no price given).
The 125th anniversary of the appearance of Darwin's Origin of the Species has passed, but the furor which it originally ignited continues to burn. Although the right to teach evolution in American public schools was established by the celebrated 1925 "Scopes monkey trial," the volatility of the issue caused most biology texts to utilize the term sparingly that is, until the launching of Sputnik I in 1957 catapulted the teaching of science to the center of our public education system. The new biology texts assigned a major role to evolution, which set in motion the anti-Darwinism forces once again.
The contemporary controversy, however, is somewhat different from that of the 1920's. Evolution is now opposed by Christians educated in the sciences but nevertheless committed to a literalistic interpretation of Genesis. Their program calls for "two-model" scientific education legislation which would require their understanding of supernatural creation presented alongside of evolution as a scientific model in America's public schools. A law to this end was enacted in Arkansas in 1981 but was successfully challenged in 1982 in United States District Court. Science and Creationism arises out of these recent developments.
The book is edited by Ashley Montagu, anthropologist, author of various works and lecturer at Princeton University. He also sounds the major themes of the book in his introduction. Nineteen scholars join in the discussion in separate essays. Many of the articles were written expressly for inclusion here, whereas others appeared in various journals previously. Also included is judge William R. Overton I s court decision which struck down the Arkansas legislation.
Taken as a whole the volume is highly beneficial. The arguments of the Institute for Creation Science are summarized and answered point by point. Likewise, the positive case for evolution is presented. The various considerations found in the book must be pondered by anyone who would question the validity of current scientific thinking on the question of origins. Of special interest is the repeated thesis that creation science advocates misunderstand and misuse the criticisms of evolution which have recently been voiced by certain leading scientists.
Science and Creationism is unfortunately plagued by certain faults common to collections of essays. The twenty offerings are of varying value to the volume as a whole and are uneven in length, rigor and style. Some, such as the article by Sidney W. Fox, are quite detailed and scholarly. Others seem to be merely a venting of personal frustration and emotion. Similarly, extensive footnotes and bibliography are offered by a few, but not all authors. Certain themes and reasoning patterns find repeated emphasis in the various articles, which makes for unfortunate redundancy.
The reader would have been assisted in his journey through the long volume by certain helps which were unfortunately not provided. No attempt is made by the editor to introduce the reader to the content and author of each article. The back cover suggests that the book's essays "reflect diverse fields of expertise and explore the creationism issue in all its aspects: scientific, historical, theological, legal and educational." Neither the table of contents nor the order of the articles gives indication of this. As for the promised theological exploration, no essay from a leading American theologian is to be foundl In fact, the authors included comprise an interesting theological mix. George M. Marsden, an evangelical from Calvin College, is perhaps the most conservative. His excellent article seems out of place, however, when one later reads L. Beverly Halstead's comment, "I do not see how the concept of evolution can be made consistent with that of creation by a personal god, or indeed any sort of god" (p. 240).
These numerous problems do not negate the significance of Science and Creationism. Christians, whether members of the ICR or theistic evolutionists, all affirm "in the beginning God created. . . ." This declaration concerning the origin of the world necessitates honest and open dialogue with science. Although the book fosters an unrealistic separation of science and religion, it is a valuable window on the contemporary scientific understanding.
Reviewed by Stanley J. Grenz, North American Baptist Seminary, Sioux
Falls, South Dakota 57105.
REVELATION DES ORIGINES: LE DEBUT DE LA GENESE by Henri Blocher, (Presses Bibliques Universitaires, Lausanne, 1979). ISBN 2-8285-0037-3, 50 FF, 242 pages.
This is not a book on Genesis that definitively answers all the questions. It is far better: a careful attempt to establish the meaning of the early chapters of Genesis. It is written by a French evangelical scholar who seems to have read everything on the subject and whose skills in theology, Biblical studies, and critical thinking enable him to discuss intelligently the strengths and weaknesses of the various answers that have been proposed.
The book begins with a discussion of methodology. Blocher insists that the text be interpreted according to the highest hermeneutical principles because it is in fact the Word of God and carries His authority. Rather than naively trying to divest ourselves of all presuppositions as we approach the text, or to read the text in the light of modern science (the science-Bible dialogue properly comes only after the text's meaning has been established), we ought to seek the frame of reference of the whole of Scripture. The "analogy of faith," that Scripture interprets Scripture, is thus a fundamental tool. But for Blocher, such a high view of Scripture implies a need to also take seriously the human element of the text. Since God has spoken through men in various ways (Heb. 1: 1), "one 'follows' God himself by paying attention, in the most methodical and best-informed manner possible, to the humanity of His Word, in all the forms it can take. " Thus a careful understanding of the genre of the biblical narratives, based on biblical and extra-biblical source material, is essential.
Blocher next discusses at length the genre of the "two tablets" of the creation story. It is a gross simplification to demand a choice between prose and poetry; he argues that Scripture abounds in examples of mixed genre. The presence of figurative elements does not necessarily imply that a narrative is merely symbolic, nor does an underlying historicity demand that literalistic language always be used (the book of Revelation, which describes "things that will soon take place," is a good example). The extreme care with which the Genesis 1 narrative has been arranged, both in its language and theological content, indicates that it ought to be interpreted as a "hymn in prose" of composite genre, rather than according to literalistic, concordist, or "gap theory" schemes. While many have advocated this sort of position in the past, I found it helpful and refreshing to see a discussion of the compellingness of this approach based on textual, rather than scientific or logical, considerations.
In successive chapters the book discusses: "being, order, and life" as a framework for the first creation narrative; the "image of God"; 11 male and female"; the "Edenic covenant" of Genesis 2 and the breach of that covenant (he prefers this notion to that of a "fall"); the wages of sin (with a helpful discussion of death); and finally, in treating Genesis 4-11, the further consequences of sin, its judgement, and the indications of God's grace-culminating in the call of Abraham. He finishes with two appendices, one discussing the reasons why he rejects a documentary hypothesis approach to the Pentateuch (Mosaic authorship seems to him as compelling as any alternative), the other relating Genesis, especially its first chapter, and modern science. Considering this question last is deliberate. While ultimately the two approaches must be integrated in some sense ("God's universal lordship prohibits a compartmentalization"), science must not be allowed to intrude prematurely in determining what the Biblical passages say ("Moses was unaware of [modern scientific hypotheses ... so] we should 'forget' them"). After reviewing briefly various scientific findings, he sees no a priori problem, biblically speaking, with theistic evolutionary hypotheses. At the same time he argues forcefully, on both textual and theological grounds, for an historical basis to the events of Genesis 2 and 3 (though this does not exclude the possibility of the use of figurative language to describe the events). Where exactly to place Adam with reference to the paleontological record is somewhat unclear-none of the possible solutions is without problems-but Blocher closes with a discussion of the various options, suggesting that this somewhat "embarrassing" (quotation marks his) problem illustrates well the proper approach of faith: "so sure of the Word of God that it can calmly make known its hesitations and wait patiently for the resolution of any unclear points."
If I found the book at all disappointing it was only because having whetted my appetite by his thorough scholarship and clear thinking, Blocher stops where he said he would-after an exegesis of the text-leaving largely unanswered the related issues of integrating this teaching (especially with regard to sin, death, and the "fall") with 20th century scientific perspectives. Still, if this book stimulates other Christians to works similar in scholarship, orthodoxy and non-polemic approach, it will have served a good purpose. Perhaps this review will help encourage some publisher to get the book translated into English, so it will be available to a wider audience. (Editor's Note: recently released in English under the title In the Beginning: The Opening Chapters of Genesis, D.G. Preston, trans., Inter-Varsity Press, 1984.)
Reviewed by Kurt Wood, chez Hiestand, 23 Ave. Charles Flahault, 34100
TEILHARD AND THE UNITY OF KNOWLEDGE by Thomas M. King and James F. Salmon, eds. Ramsey, N.J., Paulist Press, 1983, 172 pages, $6.95.
Teilhard and the Unity of Knowledge represents the proceedings of the Georgetown University Centennial Symposium convened in honor of the late French theologianscientist, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. The book includes essays by Frederick Copleston, Ilya Prigogine, Richard Leakey, Kenneth Boulding, Paolo Soleri and Raimundo Panikkar, a sermon by the senior editor and an appendix on Teilhard's involvement in the Piltdown hoax, also by the senior editor.
Prigogine's essay, Time and the Unity of Knowledge, provides an excellent review and integration of the concept of bifurcation leading to non-equilibrium systems in such diverse fields as physics, chemistry and biology. Panikkar provides a scholarly and radical view of human history in the essay, The End of History: The Threefold Structure of Human Time-Consciousness. Kenneth Boulding's The Concept of Evolution in the Interaction Between Science and Religion, contains a harvest of valuable historical insight. Thomas King's appendix on Teilhard's involvment in the Piltdown hoax is meticulously documented and well worth reading. Despite these strengths, the overall outcome of the symposium is disappointing. Teilhardians will discover that, despite the title, Teilhard's life and thought receive little critical attention. The most pathetic example of this emerges in Richard Leakey's essay, Human Unity: Past and Future, which opens with the statement, "I must confess ... having listened with you to so much that I did not understand-fills me with fear." Leakey admits that he has not "read a great deal of Teilhard" and demonstrates it conclusively in the rest of an essay that spends most of its time in diatribe with opponents of evolutionary theory. If Leakey is ignorant, Paolo Soleri is merely obscure is his essay, Teilhard and the Esthetic, which includes such doublethink phrases as "Given a reality which is intrinsically unknowable and which development, evolution, is intrinsically inequitable the human soul is prey of an inextinguishable anguish impervious to the blandishment of science, medicine, psychology, religion, philosophy, politics, etc."
Christian scholars hoping to discover fresh food on intellectual integration will go hungry. Despite the use of terms like God," "Lord," "creation" and even "Jesus" by many of the participants, their theological position is a thinly disguised pantheism. If Soleri is abstruse elsewhere, he is the most explicit on this, "My contention is that God and all its attributes is but an aesthetic manifestation."
In the familiar fairy tale, it is a child who must state, "The emperor has no clothes on." Likewise, it seems to have fallen to this obscure reviewer to say that many of the symposium's participants are intellectually naked. The book certainly demonstrates that clear, hard-headed Christian thinking is needed to solve the problems of a despairing world. However, attempts to find solutions in such pantheistic confusion only lead us to the words of Paul, "The world by its wisdom knew not God."
Reviewed by Fred Van Dyke, Fort Wayne Bible College, Fort Wayne, Indiana, 46807.
THE SPIRIT OF THE EARTH by John Hart, Paulist Press, New York, 1984, 165 pages, $8.95, paperback.
"The King decreed during a time of famine that for every poor person who died of starvation a rich person would be executed. Thereafter, no one starved." Such was the policy relevant to land ownership and use instituted by King Agud of Persia in 996 A.D., and cited by John Hart in The Spirit Of the Earth. In this book, subtitled A Theology of the Land, Hart surveys current trends in land ownership, use, and abuse in the United States, and suggests concrete courses of action for Christians concerned about justice related to land use. (King Agud's policy is not recommended.)
Hart, a faculty member in religious studies at the College of Great Falls, Montana, draws in this book from a 1980 work, Strangers and Guests: Toward Community in the Heartland-A Regional Catholic Bishops' Statement on Land Issues, of which he was the principal author.
in chapter one of this book, Hart paints a depressing canvas, depicting the current state of the land, particularly agricultural land, in the United States. His colours are bold and graphic, but unfortunately his strokes are too broad. Hart brushes only the surface of such serious problems as soil erosion, land lost to urbanization, land contaminated by hazardous wastes, acid rain and radioactive wastes, extreme reliance on the use of pesticides and herbicides, consolidation of farms and genetic homogenization. Each of these topics is complex, multi-faceted and difficult to discuss meaningfully in isolation. It is even more difficult to do justice to this complexity in a few sweeping pages. The use of herbicides in agriculture, for example, is best discussed in conjunction with overall energy use on the farm and alternative methods of tillage. Most farmers and industrial manufacturers probably fall somewhere between the extreme categories of exploiter and nurturer mentioned by Hart. In several cases, the author's arguments would have gained significantly more impact if he had cited sources in addition to newspaper articles.
The power of Hart's book lies in the chapters that follow, in which he presents a historical survey of attitudes toward the land and a program for re-forming the land.
Hart maintains in chapters two and three that Native American and Judaeo-Christian views are similar in their respect for the land and attempts to live in harmony with the rest of creation. Native Americans saw the land as provider, not property. Therefore it could not be owned by individuals and must be treated with respect.
At its roots, the Judaeo-Christian notion was that everything in the universe is created by God and anything that God creates is good. Hart leads the reader through a fascinating comparison of the Genesis story and its reversal in Exodus. In Genesis, Adam and Eve are thrown out of the Garden of Eden because of their sin. In Exodus, the Jewish people are called and led from exile in a strange land to triumphantly inhabit their new homeland.
The author presents an informative discussion of the concrete laws laid down by God to ensure that the Israelites took proper care of the homeland entrusted to them. In Leviticus 25:23 God tells the Jewish people: "The land belongs to me and to me you are only strangers and guests." The sabbatical year was instituted every seventh year, to both rejuvenate the land and force the people of Israel to rely on God for their "daily bread." The jubilee year (every seventh sabbatical) served the purpose of redistributing the land; all slaves were to be set free and landed property returned to owners. The practice of gleaning was one more indication of the right of the poor to be fed. Those who harvest their land are commanded (Leviticus 19:9-10) to leave some for the poor.
Turning to early American legislation regarding land use and distribution, Hart suggests such leaders as Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson intended to foster widespread ownership of the American land heritage by the new settlers. They made serious legislative attempts to ensure that most of the .. new land" not be owned by a small group of wealthy people, but be available to all. Unfortunately, history shows that the principle of distribution of land to all settlers who desired it was the beginning of the end for the traditional life of the earliest Native Americans.
Hart presents favorably both the early settler and Native American approaches to land use. Unfortunately, the success of one philosophy led to the demise of the other. Today, Hart says, both Christians and many Native Americans have wandered far from their philosophical roots in relating to the land.
In a chapter entitled "The Church and the Land," Hart focuses on attitudes of the Catholic Church toward land use. He includes 10 principles of land stewardship from Strangers and Guests: Toward Community in the Heartland, and argues compellingly for church involvement in stewardship of the land, to "reaffirm the worth of creation."
The book ends with a call to apply an ethics of transformation to the earth. Principles to follow in re-forming the land can be summed as follows: The land is God I s; the land is entrusted to humanity; and the land is to be shared equitably through the ages. To make these principles concrete Hart suggests 20 steps of land reform. His attempts to be specific and constructive in converting general ethical principles into avenues for individual and communal action appear to be carefully formulated and helpful.
Reviewed by Peter G. Mahaffy, Assistant Professor of Chemistry, The King's College, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada T5H 2MI.
In 1954 Landrum Shettles had the idea of fertilizing a human egg in a test tube and was successful but in 1972 he removed an egg from a Florida woman and fertilized it with her husband's sperm; a colleague destroyed it, following which jurors awarded the woman a substantial sum because her potential child was destroyed. Thus Dr. Shettles subsequently was convinced of the "meaningfulness of life before birth and consolidated his opposition to abortion." This book is a fascinating account of life before birth, a defense of the antiabortion position, and an evaluation of birth control methods to avoid the excuse for abortion. He believes life created in the laboratory should be intended for implantation in a womb to overcome infertility and embryos should be transplanted from women who don't want them to women who do.
The biology of egg and sperm cells is recorded accurately with special accounts of events not often realized, such as .. you could put all the eggs that were required to create the entire world population today in a single cookie jar. The sperm required for that same job would fill no more than a thimble." Life begins at conception; preventing implantation should be considered abortion.
Using such chapter titles as "Humanity at Under One Ounce, the Second and Third Months" and "Finishing School, the Next Six Months," Dr. Shettles holds your attention by his unique way of reciting well known facts and also observations not usually recognized. He points out "medicine's great and continuing progress in sustaining the fetus, at ever earlier ages, outside the mothers womb when it becomes necessary," and that there are "more than thirty different defects that can be treated in the womb." However, financial return directly influences a doctor's morality when it comes to abortion.
Do you know that "the thoughts and experiences of the mother during pregnancy can and do affect her unborn child"? Other details are equally enlightening about mother/ child relationships before birth.
Part 2 considers "The Debate: Life or Death" and includes a history of court decisions about abortion, which follow the new ethic. These decisions justify abortions with the sociological idea "to seek the greatest good for the greatest number, even if that means that some individuals must suffer and die in the public interest," i.e. that some fetuses should be aborted. However many people "are assiduously resisting the new ethic, convinced that it will ultimately undermine the freedom of all of us, not just the freedom of the unborn or others too weak to fight for their natural rights."
question of when life begins is dealt with from the viewpoint of those who
believe it happens at conception, implantation, "viability," birth, graduation
from Princeton, or never. Arguments pro and con are fairly considered.
Four case histories illustrate the disillusionment of women who have had abortions and add the reactions of the men who caused the pregnancies. In "Family Planning Versus Abortion" the author not only evaluates birth control methods but lists organizations which will help women through troubled pregnancies. Dr. Shettles concludes, "I may be wrong, but I will predict that the 'abortion era' will ultimately be judged by society with abhorrence." Instead of abortion, we should use adoption or transplants.
Reviewed by Russell Mixter, Professor Emeritus of Biology, Wheaton
College, Wheaton, Illinois.
MORAL CLARITY IN THE NUCLEAR AGE, by Michael Novak. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1983. 144 pp.
One of the most crucial and emotional ethical controversies faced by the contemporary church is the proper Christian response to nuclear weaponry. On May 3,1983, the American Rotn~n Catholic Bishops issued their historic pastoral letter on war and peace. Although hailed by many, the Bishops' statement was not greeted with universal acclamation. One Catholic who strongly disagrees with the drift to the left in the Church is Michael Novak, noted author and former professor of religion at Syracuse University. Moral Clarity in the Nuclear Age is the product of this disagreement.
The book consists of four essays on the subject of nuclear armaments. The title essay appeared in Catholicism in Crisis in March, 1983, and then in William Buckley's National Review in April, cosigned by 112 other Catholics, including nine Republican congressmen and several priests. Prior to its publication it was submitted to the Vatican and distributed to several European Catholic bishops. This statement seeks to present an alternative to the pacifist viewpoint which was being advocated by a segment of the American bishops during the long process of the formation of the pastoral letter.
Novak's second article seeks to address the topic of nuclear armaments from a European perspective. Attention is focused again on the pastoral letter in chapter three, which contains the author's response to the final draft and his evaluation of the changes from earlier drafts which it incorporates. A final short essay considers the possibility of arms reduction negotiations with the Soviets, especially in view of the bishop's demand that a nuclear deterrent is tolerable only when coupled with such actions.
The recurring thesis of the various essays is clear. Some ethicists have declared not only nuclear war itself to be unethical, but also the possession of such weapons, even as part of a strategy of deterrence. In contrast to this view, Novak maintains that to eliminate this deterrence would be immoral, for it would jeopardize the lives and freedoms of masses of people.
Behind the various arguments presented in the book is the author's distrust of the Soviet government, nurtured by its history of oppression and by the writings of leading Russian dissidents. His reminder of the dark side of the current situation is a sober deterrent to naive, utopian trust. Yet, until the nuclear burden is lifted, our world will likewise remain in need of those visionaries who will call us to take risks for the sake of peace and for the oppressed, risks nurtured by a trust in God.
Reviewed by Stanley Grenz, Associate Professor of Systematic Theology, North American Baptist Seminary.
Idolatry has been a popular theme in contemporary religious materials. This book should put much of the discussion to rest as it leaves little else left to say.
Schlossberg's thesis is that idolatry offers the best framework for understanding society. Because idolatry substitutes what is created for the creator, all relationships are altered. Man erects a pyramid of values and ultimately serves whatever is at the top. Consequently, his life and all of society is affected by an array of idols with their assorted and distorted notions of truth and beauty.
Schlossberg makes the distinction between secularizationa turning away from Christian faith-and idolatry which implies the substitution of something for God. In this sense, secularization is negative and idolatry is positive in its effect. In fact, idolatry provides a new unity and structure in society to counter the erosive and disorganizing effects of secularization. Ultimately, idolatry acquires the total capacity to reorganize society on values completely reversed from those intended by God.
Schlossberg has little concern for the usual listing of tangible idols; money, power and possessions. Instead, he concentrates on ideologies and faiths, which in their good intentions, present a distorted picture of some truth to be worshipped. Civil religion, for example, becomes an idol when religion distorts its true meaning and presents the people with false notions of eternal truths. Self-expression, by itself, may also be desirable. But when the individual believes himself to be the measure of all truth, self-expression becomes cultic.
Schlossberg's emphasis on the idolatrous nature of ideas and beliefs is
more striking when he adds history, humanity, and religions to his list. Each is
an idol in modern society because it has become an end in itself. Rather than
recognize God's creative and sustaining power over time, man, and the church,
each creation is absolutized and becomes a creator of something else.
Ultimately, it becomes an idol worthy of worship.
The reader is impressed with the subtlety of idol-making. Resentiment, for example, begins with the harmless comparison of one's attributes with another's and eventually leads to the distorted love of altruism. Rather than expressing concern for the genuine needs of the weak and helpless, altruism is directed toward abstractions and false notions of suffering. The result, as with all idols of humanity, is the worship of min's power rather than a concern for his weakness.
Schlossberg's scholarship is impressive. Indeed, the notes alone are worth the price of the book, which is provocative and wide ranging in its discussion. While one might prefer to see more in-depth treatment of the natural and physical sciences as idols of nature, his point is clear; reason is lost when it is valued to the point of idolatry. His conclusion that science is eclipsed by a new irrationality is familiar but trenchant.
When it comes to the destruction of idols, Schlossberg is skeptical about orthodoxy alone. What is needed is a recognition of the illusions with which we all live and a healthy suspicion of the world and its ways. The inevitable result would be persecution and a return of the church to its place as a first century community in a hostile world. As a minority group, Christians would understand more clearly the meaning of the New Testament and apply it in new found ways of faithful living.
Reviewed by Russell Heddendorf, Covenant College, Lookout Mountain, Tennessee.