Science in Christian Perspective
ALGENY by Jeremv Rifkin Penzum Books (1983). 298 pages. $6. 95
Jeremy Rifkin is perhaps best known for his opposition to the testing of biologically engineered bacteria. But what are the motives for his apparent anti-science attitudes? His recent book, Algeny, provides some insights into his position.
The industrial revolution relied on pyrotechnology to transform matter. The new age of biotechnology, which we are just entering, involves transforming the essence of a living organism through genetic manipulation-this is called "algeny." Until now, man has been able to manipulate only the environment, but with the age of biotechnology. living organisms will be redesigned and new forms of life will be engineered-some of this is already being done on a limited scale. The transition from one age to the next also requires a new cosmology for, according to Rifkin, cosmologies "serve as a distant mirror of the day-to-day activity of a civilization.... People create cosmologies to sanction their behavior" (p. 40).
Our present cosmology, based on Darwin's theory of evolution, has been largely shaped by the industrial age. "Darwin dressed up nature with an English personality, ascribed to nature English motivations and drives, and even provided nature with an English personality and the English form of government" (p. 72). Darwin's cosmology was used to legitimize social structures, political struggles, increased efficiency and empire building in the English world. His theory, in providing a mechanical theory of the origin and development of species, tied in well with the mechanical world view developed in physics.
The theory of evolution has been firmly entrenched in our society. Yet the charge that evolution theory is "pseudoscience" is being heard with increasing frequency (p. 117). "The evolutionist today" says Rifkin, "is every bit the true believer. Baptized in the theory of natural selection, he is prepared to spread the good news and bring his fellow human beings to accept Darwin's teachings. " He then questions some of the basic assumptions of and evidences for the theory of evolution.
But if you reject this theory, what do you replace it with? Rifkin points to the facts that (1) the development of an organism depends on more than its genes, (2) an organism is made up of individual parts working together as an integrated whole, and (3) the presence of biological clocks appears to provide an essential mechanism for survival. The new theory of evolution is based on a temporal conception of nature, rather than Darwin's spatial cosmology in which objects existed independent of time. Advances in the fields of physics, ecology and philosophy have helped to lay the groundwork for a new temporal theory of evolution in which organisms adjust themselves to a scarcity of time rather than a scarcity of resources. Rifkin summarizes this view on page 194, as follows:
The Darwinian views an organism' as a concrete structure that performs a specific function. The newer theory views an organism as a unique complex of behavior patterns. In this newer way of thinking, the behavioral complex that we call an organism is really a bundle of temporal programs that copy some combination of rhythms and periodicities in the larger environment. These temporal programs are predictive devices. They are the organism's way of anticipating the future in order to manage its own survival. Temporal programs are just another way of describing mind-which is to say that the mind is what the organism is all about. When we get to the species level, it is argued that each differs from the other in its ability to economize on time or respond faster to a greater range of external periodicities, which is just another way of saying that species differ in intelligence. All species, then, are bundles of knowledge, and each species is distinguished by its intelligence; that is, the speed with which it is able to utilize knowledge to control its own future.
The fusion of two of the most recent technologies, computer and bioengineering, will lead to organisms more adept in processing increasing amounts of information in shorter periods of time, allowing man to not only change his environment but also to control it. This new algeny will change the essence of life, transforming the world into a perfectly engineered state.
In the concluding section of his book, Rifkin provides us with two approaches to the future. The first is an engineered approach in which a totally man-controlled environment is created. This approach gives man complete control over his future, but he would give up companionship with other living things and live a life devoid of meaning. The second approach is an ecological one in which man lives in harmony with the rest of nature.
It is within the context of this consideration of a future cosmology that Rifkin's opposition to the testing of bioengineered organisms makes sense. Even though genetic engineering promises many benefits, where is this research leading us? What kind of world are we creating? Although Rifkin does not provide a biblical alternative to the Darwinian view, he does present a challenging sketch of a possible new cosmology.
Reviewed by Dr. H. Brouwer, Chemistry Department, Redeemer College, Ancaster, Ontario, Canada.
THE TRADEMARK OF GOD: A Christian Course in Creation, Evolution, and Salvation by George L. Murphy. Morehouse-Barlow Co., Wilton, CT (1986). 138 pages. Paperback; n.p.g.
This little, well written book is packed with provocative and enlightening relationships between creation, evolution, and salvation. Designed as a 12-lesson course, a leader's guide, an annotated bibliography on the topics covered, an an index are included. The useful guide includes sections entitled "Notes" on purposes and goals, "Matters Arising 11 to alert the leader to problem areas, "Openers" (questions for discussion starters), and "Resources." It has all the markings of a potentially useful teaching tool; but I would also highly recommend it for anyone interested in the relationships between creation, evolution, and salvation. It is one of the clearest and most understandable of any that I have read.
God's "trademark" is creation out of nothing, which always brings forth newness. God raises the dead, gives hope to the hopeless, and justifies by grace. The Incarnation shows God's trademark. The clearest example of his trademark arid masterpiece of all of God's work is the Cross and Resurrection.
Murphy draws out of biological evolutionary theory insights and interesting parallels to theology. In many ways he emphasizes the strong link between creation and redemption. He uses current illustrations from ecology, nuclear weaponry, modern political ideologies, and cosmology. His clear explanations are infused with Lutheran theology of the Word, the Sacraments, the nature of Christ and the Church.
Murphy succeeds in meeting all his "learning goals" listed on page 101:
to think about ways in which Christian faith and science can inform one another, to become acquainted with the organic and evolutionary character of God's universe, and to connect our evolutionary understanding of creation with current concerns such as the environment, abortion, and men-women issues.
Of special interest to this reviewer is one of Murphy's notes in his leader's guide section: "The 'theological proof of evolution'-combining the basic principle that 'what has not been assumed has not been redeemed', and the biblical witness that the whole creation is to be redeemed allowing us to show theologically that evolution is superior to 'special creation. ' "
Reviewed by Jerry D. Albert, Research Biochemisty, Mercy Hospital and Medical Center, San Diego, CA.
CREATIONISM ON TRIAL: Evolution and God at Little Rock by Langdon Gilkey. Winston Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota. 234 + 67 pages notes and appendices. Paperback; $12.95.
Langdon Gilkey, author of the classic Maker of Heaven and Earth and Professor of Theology at the University of Chicago Divinity School, served as a "theological witness" for the American Civil Liberties Union at the "creationist" trial in Little Rock, Arkansas, December 7-9, 1981. In this marvelous book Gilkey gives us, in about two-thirds of the text, his personal experiences related to the trial, and then reflects for the remainder on the significance of the issues. It is a book that anyone even remotely concerned about the interaction between "scientific religion" and "religious science" should read carefully.
In the first three chapters Gilkey gives us his experiences as
he prepared for the trial and was deposed by the opposition
lawyers. Believing that the enactment of the proposed law
posed a major threat to religion, the teaching of science, and
academic freedom, Gilkey was ready to serve as a witness. He
shares with the reader his reactions to the material representing the background of the trial and his conclusion that
creation science represents a quite contemporary, even
(alas) 'up-to-date' synthesis of both modern science and
contemporary religion, a synthesis to which each one had
substantially contributed" (p. 40). He also sees another synthesis that goes beyond the trial and threatens our future:
Our present political life illustrates another unfortunate but also very modern form of union: that of contemporary right-wing economic and imperialist politics on the one hand, combined with old-time fundamentalist religion on the other, both seemingly intent on forming a "Christian, capitalist America." As fundamentalism has joined with science to form creation science. so the politics of the Moral Majority is dominated by a union of fundamentalism with modern conservative social theory -and regrettable. neither one seems about to go away. p 41
The dramatic experience of the deposition is laid out in
detail, in which a witness faces the opposition lawyer's questions before the trial with the knowledge that
any small error or misjudgement may become the basis for a major assault during the actual
The next three chapters cover the details of the trial itself, up to the moment when Gilkey had to leave to return to Chicago. His own testimony is given to us in detail, and is a model of clear statement and delineation both in respect to the nature of science and to the relationship between science and religion. Anyone who has faced public interview can empathize with the problems in speaking clearly and fairly under stress to avoid misunderstanding; in fact, anyone facing public questioning about these issues could hardly do better than to review Gilkey's testimony. Especially telling in the trial itself are those moments when advocates of "creation science" are charged with heresy because they seek to discuss creation without talking about God as Creator, and when they are charged with following in the footsteps of Stalinist Russia where ideology attempted to rule scientific activities.
Part Il of the book is entitled, "Analysis and Reflection: The Implications of Creation Science for Modern Society and Modern Religion." It consists of two chapters, the first of which analyzes the interactions between "Science and Religion in an Advanced Scientific Culture," and the second of which deals with the religious significance of creation. I would like to share many of the cogent arguments set forth. I will, however, content myself with sharing a couple of remarks which indicate the nature of the approach:
Creation science embodies a common error of our cultural life, that all relevant truth is of the same sort: factual, empirical truth, truth referent to secondary causes-in a word, "scientific truth." (p. 171)
Despite this almost universal agreement among religious leaders, the widey public, both those who attend church and those who do not, remains apparently quite unaware that there is no longer any such conflict between science and religion.... The century-old rapprochement between science and theology is the best-kept secret in our cultural life. (p. 187)
In a "Time of Troubles" such as we are entering, the religious dimension tends to expand and, unfortunately, to grow in fanaticism, intolerance, and violence; science and technology tend accordingly to concentrate more and more on developing greater means of destructive and repressive power. This combination represents, as we can all agree, a most dependable recipe for self-destruction. (p. 206)
Gilkey gives us no one-sided attack on fundamentalism in the name of science; rather, he provides us with a careful analysis of both science and religion and the problems one encounters when one forgets the religious dimension of all human endeavor.
The book concludes with 25 pages of notes and two appendices, giving the text of Arkansas Act 590 and the judgment by the Federal Court at the conclusion of the trial.
Beyond its immediate relevance, this book can be strongly recommended as a clear presentation of the proper and improper uses of scientific approaches to life and its problems.
Reviewed by Richard H. Bube, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305.
EVOLUTION AND CREATION by Ernan McMullin (ed.). Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame, Indiana (1985). 304 pages. $24.96.
This book is based on a conference held in March, 1983, at the University of Notre Dame under the joint sponsorship of the Program in History and Philosophy of Science and the Center for Philosophy of Religion. Eight chapters correspond to papers read at the conference, which are published here together with three additional papers. Twelve authors are involved, all of whom are academics except one. Six of the authors are in the field of philosophy, three in theology, two in Old Testament, and one in genetics. The book is divided into four sections: a historical introduction by the editor, three chapters on evolution, three chapters on creation, and four chapters on evolution and creation.
This is not an easy book to read; it has in general a scholarly tone and depth that is often difficult to penetrate, and which seems sometimes to obscure rather than to clarify the issues. On the other hand, many of the chapters are quite perceptive and careful attention to their message is a fruitful endeavor. I found myself becoming more enthusiastic about insights gained the longer I read the book.
It is stated in the Introduction that the book does not deal with the "creation-science" approach at all. This is mostly true, but there are scattered brief discussions of "creationscience," all directed toward indicating the inadequacies of this approach.
In the Introduction, McMullin traces the early history of evolutionary ideas, the thoughts of Augustine and Aquinas, the rise of scientific understanding, the development of " physico-theology" (or, the attempt to found a basis for religious belief in the findings of science); for example, the argument from design, and the interaction between evolution and philosophy, physics, and politics.
The first chapter in the section on evolution is the only really scientific chapter of the book; a discussion of the recent successes and challenges of the theory of evolution by geneticist Francisco J. Ayala. He takes the position that the evolutionary origin of organisms is corroborated beyond reasonable doubt, supported by a weight of cumulative evidence so great that is has ceased to be a concern to the majority of scientists today. He then describes some of this evidence available from modern molecular biochemistry and genetics, and the use of these techniques to attempt to trace evolutionary histories. He concludes with the statement that 11 macroevolutionary theories are not reducible (at least at the present state of knowledge) to microevolution ... macroevolution is an autonomous field of study that must develop and test its own theories." (I must confess, as one who is prepared to accept some version of the evolutionary development of organisms, that I seldom feel as uneasy about this choice as when I listen to evolutionists who are dead sure that evolution is a "fact.")
In the second chapter of this section, John Leslie, philosopher from the University of Guelph, deals with the effects of modern scientific understanding and arguments from design for the existence of God. He suggests that arguments from design may not be dismissed as summarily as they have been in recent years. In view of our increasing knowledge of the "fine-tuned" nature of our universe in qualities and quantities essential for the development and existence of life, we are faced with two alternatives: (1) there have existed an effectively infinite number of different universes with a random variation of all the critical parameters, and it just so happens that the one universe suitable for human life was one of these "trial" universes, or (2) the special fine-tuning of our universe for life is indeed the result of the activity of creative power. Having made this point, however, Leslie then continues to propose that the creator, God, need not be a person at all but can be replaced by a "creative ethical requirement." It is not clear to me exactly what is meant by this phrase in spite of Leslie's attempt to clarify it.
The final chapter in the first section on evolution is a discussion of natural purpose by historian and philosopher Phillip R. Sloan. He deals with the issue of whether we can continue to argue that purpose exists in the natural world if it has come into being by an evolutionary process. Considering the various arguments advanced to deny this possibility, he concludes that none is ultimately damaging once we realise that the doctrine of creation does not demand a creation event "at some datable moment in time, nor ... the establishment of intelligible order in a preexistent chaos," but rather that "creation is an existence-giving act, an act establishing an ontological dependence of the world on a free act of the Jahweh of Exodus 2:14." Such arguments against purpose have power "only if it is assumed that Christian theology implies a natural order without evident defect or deficiency, able to reveal God's purposes and benevolence in some direct way without need at some point of a faith-response. "
In the section on creation, Dianne Bergant and Carroll Stuhlmueller, professors of Old Testament, consider the implications of the Old Testament texts with respect to the creation versus evolution debate. They conclude that these texts direct us primarily to the Person of the Creator, rather than to information about the details of the created world. Study of prophecy and psalms confirms this interpretation of Genesis, and shows that "creation is not presented as a cosmological account of the origins of the universe, nor is creation treated for its own sake, independent of faith or religious confession."
The doctrine of "creation from nothing" is explored next by theologian David Kelsey. The initial advancement of this formula was designed to express both the continuing dependence of the created universe upon God for existence, and the origin of the world in a singular event-in later discourse the latter implication came to receive more attention. The author considers various possible developments that might make the formula no longer useful or relevant.
"God's Action in the World," by philosopher William P. Alston, is the final chapter in the second section of the book. He explores the meaning of the affirmation that "God's creative or sustaining activity is continually required to keep the creature in being," and in what sense we might then also speak of God's activity in a small subset of events in some special sense. Problems in causal determination and human voluntary actions are considered, as well as reflections on the possibility or necessity of the "intervention" of God into natural phenomena. The author's use of the term "law" tends often to sound as if he were treating a natural law as if it were prescriptive, rather than descriptive; some of the problems might be resolved just by that realization.
The third section, "Evolution and Creation," starts with a consideration of the question, "Could humans have evolved, yet be capable of life forever with God?" by philosopher James F. Ross. This is perhaps the most difficult chapter of the entire book, principally because of the somewhat obtuse style of the author. On two pages, for example, there are fifteen parenthetical remarks. He supports a view called 11 nonreductive evolutionary naturalism," which he distinguishes from other views he considers inconsistent with the biblical promise of resurrection, including those of Descartes, Bonaventure, Plato, Kant, and Berkeley. The chapter is entitled, "Christians Get the Best of Evolution," and concludes with the statement,
To get the best of evolution, Christians need to live forever with God. That is what is promised in Scripture, advanced by the emergence of human life in the biotic system, and achieved by the cooperation of the Spirit over millennia: the Kingdom to come, a world without end.
Philosopher William H. Austin considers whether evolutionary explanations of religion and morality can properly be construed as "explaining religion away." He focuses particularly on the writings of Edward 0. Wilson and his exposition of sociobiology. He argues that Wilson's attempted explanation of religion is at best rather weak, unlikely to discredit anything; that Wilson's arguments taken at face value seem to point to that adaptive character of religion, which is not a viable way to discredit it; and that Wilson's own "scientific materialism" is hardly a creditable alternate source of moral guidance and strength.
Nicholas Lash, Professor of Divinity at Cambridge, reflects on the nature of Christian hope and original sin. This is perhaps the most moving chapter of the book, in my opinion. Lash deals with the relationship between evolutionary views of human origins and Christian doctrines of redemption. He avoids three common approaches to obtaining a coherent world view: (a) denying the cognitive character of theology, (b) recourse to metaphysical dualism, or (c) collapsing the languages of science and religion into a single pattern of description. Complete coherence may come at too high a price, given our own ignorance of the ultimate nature of things. "The mystery of evil is far darker than appears in our moralizing self -dramatization." His brief comment on the role of Genesis 2 and 3 is insightful:
The story in the second and third chapters of Genesis does not contrast the way things are with the way they once were. It contrasts they way they are and have ever been with how they should, in principle, be.... being God's garden is the destiny of the world.
Or again, "The context of the confession of God's good creation, the context of our celebration of God's good garden, remains (for the Christian) the garden of Gethsemane and the hill of Golgotha on which the tree of life was planted."
The final chapter by Christopher F. Mooney, S. J., Academic Vice-President of Fair-field University, presents a sympathic but realistic summary and assessment of the contributions of Tedhard de Chardin to the issues raised in this book.
In summarv, there is a lot of meat in this book that can prove profitable for reflection by Christians prepared to deal with the philosophical difficulties. At the very least, it provides many warnings against simplistic attempts to resolve the creation versus evolution debate. and points the way to more responsible evaluation.
Reviewed by Richard H. Bube, Department of Materials Science and Engineering. Stanford University. Stanford, California 94305.
WHAT ARE THEY SAYING ABOUT GENETIC ENGINEERING? by Thomas A.. Shannon. Paulist Press, Mahwah, New Jersey 1985 . 103 pages. Paperback; $4.95.
In this little book, Dr. Shannon. Professor of Social Ethics at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. summarizes many of the main ethical issues dealing with genetic engineering. Ninety-four pages of text are divided into eleven chapters; all of the chapters except three are only about six pages in length. The three longer chapters which account for almost one-half of the book, are concerned with recombinant DNA research, birth technologies. and a summary of various positions on genetic engineering.
The book is accurate in its title: it is a summary of what people have said and am saying about this group of ethical issues. In the words of the author. the first six chapters discuss .. the variety of ways in which different commentators have defined these contexts of perception and have identified various methods of interpretation." The style is relatively colorless and the impact is rather bland. Since the author provides only minimal analysis of his own, the book is almost limited to its use as the background for discussion in a group led by one experienced in this field.
Some of the more challenging issues raised include: In thinking about improving the species, why do we always tend to think of increasing intelligence rather than increasing compassion? How will we handle the approach to the fetus, that to date has not ascribed personal status, but now must consider the rights of the fetus as a patient? Will technology lead us to view conception under the category of manufacturing? If people think of human/non-human hybrids, they frequently do so in terms of developing a "slave-labor" class--does this imply a fundamental weakness of human beings? (And a question not asked in this book: at what point would we find the cross-over between hybrid mammals and organic machines?)
In the summary chapter, the author describes the recommendations of five different committees dealing with these issues. "Events and technologies continue to overtake us and problems continue to mount," he Writes. He then goes on to question the status of frozen embryos whose "parents" are killed in an airplane crash: should the embryos be implanted in surrogate mothers and allowed to develop, or should they be destroyed?
The book reminds us throughout of the relationships between values and science. It could serve as a useful study guide.
Reviewed by Richard H. Bube, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305.
GOD AND SCIENCE: The Death and Rebirth of Theism by Charles P. Henderson, Jr. John Knox Press, Atlanta (1986). 186 pages. Paperback; $10.95.
Charles P. Henderson, Jr., pastor of Central Presbyterian in New York and Assistant Dean of the Chapel at Princeton University, deals in this book with some of the major arguments advanced against belief in God, is generally effective in turning them inside out, and considers possible new evidence for theism. Although he spends considerable space on indicating why classical "proofs" for the existence of God do not fulfill that role, the author still insists throughout the book on speaking of a "new proof for the existence of God," and attempts to formulate such a new ' I proof," rather than simply recognizing that to speak of such "proofs" is to misuse language. He concludes the entire book by saying that,
When it is shown that faith is internally consistent, coherent, and responsive to new insights which arise at the forward frontier of knowledge, then one has in fact established a new proof for God.
But this is to use language in a misleading way. When we speak about establishing "proofs," and what we have really done is to supply further evidence, or, as the author states a few lines further, "to state the case for God in the strongest possible terms," we misrepresent our own arguments and lead others to misunderstand us as well.
The book starts with a chapter dealing with the thought of Einstein (unfortunately entitled, "New Proof for the Existence of God"), and then completes its first half with analyses of the thought of Freud, Darwin and Marx. In the next two chapters, the author turns to two prominent modern contributors to theological thought: Teilhard de Chardin and Paul Tillich. There follows a chapter on Fritjof Capra's and Gary Zukav's attempt to interpret modern science in terms of Eastern religion, and finally a chapter of the author's own conclusions.
Henderson's purpose in this undertaking is wholly commendable, namely to resolve the stance of conflict between science and religion. Many of his conclusions are closely related to those of informed evangelical Christians, but sometimes he arrives at them in a roundabout and ambiguous way, attributing weak positions to Christian writers and thinkers, which those committed to integrating authentic science and authentic theology have not held for some time. The reader often gets the feeling that the author is completely out of touch with informed evangelical thought on these issues.
Some of the surprising assertions of the book include: two references to Bonhoeffer as one who has surrendered completely to scientific atheism; the claim that Paul Tillich was the first major theologian to see the threatening implications of perceiving God as a finite being alongside other finite beings; the claim that "erotic love ... plays a central role in the religious life itself," and that "all forms of sexual expression are merely repressed spirituality"; the mistaken, or at least too broad, indictment of traditional (by which what is meant?) theology by saying that "The high and all-powerful God of traditional theology can influence the world only by intervening in its natural processes and contradicting its natural laws 11 ; the implication that Colossians 1:15-17 does not intend to declare "the supremacy of Jesus over all the other creatures"; the claim that the parables of Jesus _ are often nonsensical and paradoxical in relation to our commonsense view of the world," and that "the parables clearly transcend all conventional distinctions between good and bad, beautiful and ugly, birth and death"; and the conclusion that "a nuclear war which rendered this planet uninhabitable would be a precise refutation of the Judeo-Christian faith." We should no doubt grant to the author the possibility that in some of these cases, of which I have quoted a few here, he is speaking dramatically for emphasis or in exaggeration, rather than anticipating a careful interpretation of each statement.
The book has value for those who would like to see a different perspective on the thoughts of Freud, Darwin and Marx-through the eyes of a Christian theologian. If it can lead a wide spectrum of Christians to a more healthy integration of authentic science and theology, it will make a useful contribution. Christians already committed to such an integration may be puzzled, however, at why the author regards his major conclusions as new.
Reviewed by Richard H. Bube, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305.
THE TRAVAIL OF NATURE: The Ambiguous Ecological Promise of Christian Theology by Paul H. Santmire. Fortress Press, Philadelphia. 274 pages. Paperback; n.p.g.
I recommend this book to anyone in the ASA readership who is interested in what Christian theology traditionally has said about the creatures with which humans share this planet.
Santmire is motivated by his concern that too often Christianity has been blamed for the exploitation of nature that has led to our ecological crisis. He investigates the approaches of Christian writers and theologians to the natural world, and finds them ambiguous-sometimes affirming that nature is filled with God's immanence and goodness, and sometimes treating nature as a temporary disposable platform for the human drama. Santmire concludes that Christian theology has contributed in part to the ecological crisis, though it need not do so. The travail results from the mixture of distress and hope with which the church traditionally has approached nature.
The author begins with a set of metaphors by which nature, and human interaction with nature, can be described. The first is the metaphor of ascent, in which humans, the sole vessels of spirit, leave the world behind and ascend toward Heaven, progressively less encumbered by terrestrial things. Another is the metaphor of fecundity, in which the immanence of God radiates out and blesses the natural world. These two metaphors are related, be says, because both may be symbolized by images found during the ascent of a mountain. The first metaphor pertains to the view of the climber when he looks only upwards; the second is encountered when be looks down at the earth below him and sees that it is fed by streams flowing from the mountain he is climbing. The two metaphors conflict with each other, however, because the climber can only entertain one view at a time. The third metaphor concerns the migration to a good land. Santmire then defines two motifs: the spiritual motif, from the overwhelming emphasis on the metaphor of ascent; and the ecological motif, from the conjoining of the metaphors of fecundity and migration. The two motifs are fundamentally in conflict.
Certainly these metaphors are not the only possible Christian interpretations of nature. Instead of saying that the metaphors of ascent and fecundity are two aspects of climbing a mountain, he could just as easily have considered migration to heaven (ascent) and migration to the promised land to be opposites. The validity of Santmire's analysis, however, by no means depends upon his having identified the uniquely correct choice of metaphors.
Santmire then reviews the whole history of post-biblical Christian theology in the light of these metaphors. Specifically, he distinguishes between theological systems that are 1. asymmetrical" (the goodness of God created both humans and nature but grants eternal life only to the former) and those that are "symmetrical" (the goodness of God will redeem both humans and nature). Irenaeus and Augustine's visions of the renewal of the whole creation are contrasted with Origen's view of creation as a temporary stage. Thomas Aquinas, Bonaventure, and Dante appreciated nature, but thought nature valuable primarily for its usefulness to man and so emphasized man's progress toward pure spirit; in contrast to Francis of Assisi, who called on his fellow creatures, his brothers and sisters of the natural world, to praise God along with him. The Reformers saw God's goodness in the natural world, but their emphasis on the human drama allowed the secularization of nature, even among theologians such as Barth. Even Teilhard de Chardin, who paid more attention to the natural world than most others, saw the physical world as dying while humans advanced toward a spiritual omega-point.
Thus, the spiritual and ecological motifs have alternated throughout church history, with the ecological motif practically vanishing from modern theology. The Augustinian and Franciscan influences demonstrated that the ecological motif need not have been lost, however. Presumably Santmire intends to construct an ecologically sound theology in a later book; indeed, he has provided a brief outline of his approach in the final chapter, which presents an ecological understanding drawn from the Bible.
Starting with the Old Testament, Santmire points out the centrality of the migration metaphor. The Israelites' creation beliefs, and so their view of nature, far from having been derived from foreign sources, were the natural devolopment of their redemption experiences. The goodness of nature is, of course, seen in Psalm 104, and, even apart from its service to man, in Psalm 148. Turning to the New Testament, Santmire points out that the epistles describe the present cosmic lordship of Christ and the esebatological renewal of the earth. Santmire finds the fecundity metaphor in Ephesians 1: 10 and Colossians 1: 17, and the migration metaphor in the church's missionary commission. He shows that the creation beliefs of the chureb cannot be studied in isolation from its evangelistic outreach: "No biblically legitimate creation theology... will prompt its adherents to forsake the life and mission of the people of God under the cross" (p. 209). However, even in the New Testament the Bible is ambiguous toward nature, says Santmire. The Gospel of John treats nature as essentially hostile, and Hebrews depicts God's City as totally spiritual.
Santmire's book cannot be described as evangelical. Indeed, he hesitates to say whether or not Jesus was God or spoke with God's authority at the very point (chapter 10) at which that authoritv was important to establish. Santmire does not communicate the belief that the Bible as a whole is the word of God. Two consequences of this are, first, that while he claims that the Bible must be the basis of any Christian theology of nature (p. 175), he relies as heavily on theologians' opinions (especially those of Schillebeeck) as on the Bible; and second, that he sees the Bible as fragmented into viewpoints that are not completely reconcilable. For instance, he describes the contradiction between the ecological viewpoint of Ephesians and Colossians and the antipbysical viewpoint of John and Hebrews as if these books can be legitimately interpreted in isolation. Nevertheless, we can transfer most of Santmire's work into an evangelical framework and find it serviceable.
Santmire distinguishes between theologians like St. Francis, who have loved nature enough to mention its particulars-the plants and animals and climate that constitute nature-and those like Barth, who treat it as an abstract concept. Because of this, I had expected Santmire to review the many Biblical passages in which their writers exulted in the beauty and diversity of nature. Santmire cites only a few of these, however, and was himself somewhat abstract about nature. Many of us too have the problem of being abstract about the natural world. In article after article, we generalize about nature, as if it can be symbolized by boxes and arrows, rather than by examining the real world of colorful diversity.
Even if Christian theology were as anti-ecological as Lynn White claimed in his famous article, "The Historical Roots of our Ecologic Crisis," it is difficult to prove whether or not Christian theology has bad any influence on the economic developments of modern times. The exploiters of nature may not have cared one way or the other about what the Bible or theologians have had to say. Furthermore, if the dominance of the metaphor of ascent towards noncorporeality is a measure of ecological insensitivity, then the various Eastern religions are worse offenders. Nevertheless, Santmire's exposition has proven convincing enough to draw an endorsement from Lynn White, who was so critical of the anti-ecological effect of Christianity.
Thus, while we cannot agree with Santmire in every detail, let us join with him in his vision of:
a transfigured cosmos where peace is universally established between all creatures at last, in the midst of which is situated a glorious city of resurrected saints who dwell in justice, blessed with all the resplendent fullness of the earth, and who contirlually call upon all creatures to join with them in their joyful praise of the one who is all in all... (pp.217-218)
Reviewed by Stanley Rice, Plant Biology, University of Illinois, Urbana, Illinois.
THE WESTMINISTER DICTIONARY OF CHRISTIAN ETHICS by James F. Childress and John Macquarrie, (eds.). Westminster Press, Philadelphia (1986). xix + 678 pages, index. Hardcover; $34.95 (US), $50.00 (CAN).
The first edition of this work, prepared in 1967 by the philosophical theologian John Macquarrie, quickly became the standard Protestant dictionary in its field. Two decades later, the world is a vastly different place, and so are the institutional settings, social and intellectual concerns of Christian ethics. These changes are reflected in this useful and comprehensive reference tool edited by the biomedical ethicist James Childress. Approximately six-tenths of the material is new; those articles that have been retained have all been revised. There are 620 up-to-date entries by 167 contributors (but only nine of them women!)-more than double the number of authors in the previous edition.
The list of contributors reads like a who's who in Christian ethics and moral philosophy. Apart from the well-known editors, the authors include Charles Curran, Arthur Dyck, Tristram Engelhardt, James Gustafson, William Frankena, Beverly Wildung Harrison, Stanley Hauerwas, Carl Henry, James Nelson, John Noonan, Richard McCormick, Joseph Fletcher, Oliver O'Donovan, Gene Outka, Warren Reich, Roger Shinn and Robert Veatch. This group of scholars, wide-ranging in every sense, has been drawn not only from the United States and the United Kingdom, but from Canada and Australia as well. They represent mainline and evangelical Protestant, Anglican, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Jewish backgrounds. A sign of the tremendous interest in questions of applied ethics is that moral theologians and philosophers have here been joined by social ethicists, psychologists, educators, sociologists, biblical critics, bioethicists, systematic and pastoral theologians, lawyers, physicians, historians, anthropologists, and political theorists.
The resulting articles are lucid, authoritative, uncluttered and undogmatic. Each entry usually offers an outline of the development of, and current perspectives on, the issues. Articles, necessarily condensed, come equipped with ample bibliographies and cross-references, which ought to satisfy seekers of more information.
Entries fall into seven rough categories:
1. Basic moral concepts, such as duty, rights, goodness, conscience, benevolence, justice, free will.
2. Biblical ethics, with overviews of Old and New Testament ethics, and specific themes such as koinonia, prophetic ethics, eschatology, Jesus' teachings, and the Kingdom of God.
3. Theological ethics, as represented not only by entries on theodicy, love, faith, grace, sin, and orders of creation, but also by survey articles on such traditions as patristic, Augustinian, Thomistic, Lutheran, Mennonite, Calvinist, Orthodox, Puritan, Quaker, Roman Catholic, Wesleyan, Kierkegaardian, feminist, and liberation ethics.
4. Philosophical traditions, including Aristotelian, Stoic, Platonic, Kantian, utilitarian, natural law, and existentialist.
5. Non-Christian and ancient ethical systems, such as Buddhist, Jewish, Islamic, Hindu, Humanist, Marxist, Zoroastrian, Manichean, Taoist, Egyptian and Babylonian are discussed.
6. Political, social, psychological and other concepts relevant to Christian ethics are also addressed, including laissezfaire, industrial relations, media, civil disobedience, mental health and illness, marriage, communism, socialism, refugees, homosexuality, and torture.
7. Specific and substantial ethical problems, such as unemployment, war, peace, and world hunger.
It is in this last category that the Dictionary excels as a guide for those interested in religious-ethical perspectives on the issues of technology, science, medicine and health care in the 1980s and beyond. Thus, there are entries covering computers, robots, nuclear warfare, psychoanalysis, population policy, environmental ethics, sexual ethics, science and ethics, care of the aged and the handicapped, energy, evolutionary ethics, and more. Turn to the entry on bioethics, for instance, and you will be led through a series of crossreferenced articles on fetal research, abortion, euthanasia, organ transplantation, genetics, reproductive technologies, experimentation with human subjects, hospices, and eugenics.
The Westminster Dictionary of Christian Ethics is a fine addition to an outstanding series of "Westminster Dietionaries". Other one-volume reference works in the series deal with Christian Theology, Christian Spirituality, the Bible, Worship, and Church History. A copy of this book belongs in every pastor's library. Its value for members of the ASA/ CSCA should also be obvious.
Reviewed by Paul Fayter, institute for the History and Philosophy of Science of Technology, University of Toronto, Canada.
PEACE IN OUR TIME? Some Biblical Groundwork by David Atkinson. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids (1985). 219 pages. Paperback; n.p.g.
This book by the chaplain of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, provides a biblically oriented background for Christian students confused by the resurrection of an old Roman precept: "If you desire peace, prepare for war!"
"Clearing the Ground" reviews historically the just war tradition (Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin) and the pacifist point of view (Mennonites, Quakers). The author sketches the Old Testament concept of a holy war as God's use of war as a judgement against His people, as well as the later development Of militarism by the state. In New Testament times, however, warfare was commonplace under the political and social conditions. Christian pacifism was envisaged between individuals. The manifesto, based on the principle of good overcoming evil, was "Love your enemies." The author, believing that the Bible is a guide for knowing God, raises a question as to its value today as a moral textbook, considering such new problems as global nuclear war. Is the extrapolation of personal ethics justifiable for current social ethics? Atkinson also reviews the historical development of the concept of a just war. Was World War 11 just? Is a just nuclear war possible?
Part 111, "Putting Down Markers-Towards a Theological Foundation," considers the human predicament in light of the existence of an evil power. Is it possible to live the Christian life in a modern state with its powerful control? Can one maintain one's allegiance to God? to His demand of the sanctity of human life and the stewardship of His world? For the maintenance of both the rights and obligations of peace there must be justice embedded in order, all leading to "the peace of God, which passes human understanding"-peace in Christ. The individual is required to "render unto Caesar . . . " what actually belongs to God. What about the state's self-escalating armaments, its so-called defense strategy, its vaunted control of space? How can the individual respond to the divine imperative: "Be perfect!"? Is there a limit to the state's use of force? What does the Christian peacemaker do when there is a call to arms? As the author emphasizes, each one must answer for him or herself. I would add: you do not know what you will do until you have to do it.
The author gives his own personal conclusions in the last section: "Starting to Build-Right, Wrong, War and Nuclear Deterrence." He views war as "a last resort defensive action against unjust aggression --limited by noncombatant immunity with respect to both discrimination and size. He notes that the NATO Cruise and Pershing " missiles are "not unambiguously weapons of defence and deterrence." Is the neutron bomb, preferring property to people, a deterrent? -Noting that deterrence is always based on distrust and irrational escalation is potentially hazardous, Atkinson concludes that all strategic nuclear weapons and, indeed, all battlefield weapons, must eventually be abandoned. One must say no to all indiscriminate weapons. Their very possession is morally wrong. "Atomic peace can never be a settled and reassuring peace."
As a thoughtful analysis of everyman's awful problem, this
book is worth studying and discussing.
Reviewed by Raymond Seeger, RSF Ret., Bethesda, Maryland.
WHOSE VALUES? THE BATTLE FOR MORALITY IN PLURALISTIC AMERICA by Carl Horn, ed. Servant Books, Ann Arbor. Nil (1985). 205 pages. Cloth; n.p.g.
Recognizing that American society is characterized by conflicting fundamental values or world views, and at the same time aware that decisions are being made by appropriate authorities of Government (United States) on legal and other public policy matters which tend to affect the quality of societal life. the eleven authors of this collection collectively address the question: "Whose values should inform and form the bases of such decisions" Their answers tend to favor traditional moral -and faith-centered values, reflecting a belief that these values will hold a pluralistic society together and ensure its moral strength. They do not directly and explicitly argue that these values must necessarily be rooted in one traditional religion.
Chapter one. "The Politics of Morality and Religion," by Terry Eastland. tram the relationship of politics and religion from the founding of America to contemporary times. The changes noted are said to be due to the extension of Federal Judiciary powers to decide over substantive Moral and religious matters which previously were left to the decision of the states and localities- For example. the Federal Court's decision in Roe r. Wade, which was based on a right to privacy, led to the invalidation of the abortion laws of fifty states (p. 19). The promulgation of this decision has led to the usurpation by the Judiciary of the creation of policy, previously thought to be the prerogative of Legislature. The questions this chapter raises are how to restrain the Judiciary and return it to its proper role and how to enhance the capacities of self-government.
Chapter two, "Disentangling the Secular Humanism," by James Hitchcock, and chapter three, "Secular Humanism" or "The American Way," by Joseph Sobran, deal with secular humanism and its pervasive influence in society by means of the media, public schools, and the Courts. Of the latter, Sobran says: "The judiciary, custodian of the secular humanist ground rules, has served as a theocratic priesthood which, in the name of the American Constitution, has successfully circumvented popular politics to realize much of the liberal agenda" (p. 48). So, the authors urge Christians to disentangle influences of secular humanism from their lives and not to be misled by the posturing of secular humanists as upholders of the American Way, evidenced by the causes they champion which are often settled by appealing to the First Amendment of the Constitution.
However, disentangling such influences necessitates a correct understanding of what constitutes secular humanism. Unfortunately, discussion on this is meager, and what there is is not always instructive, perhaps even inaccurate. An example would be: "The secular humanists deplore any talk of a 'Communist menace,' because they look on Communism as an essentially rational (though no doubt occasionally brutal) social principle, akin somewhat to their own, and therefore eligible for 'dialogue' and 'negotiation.' After all, Communism never adverts to the supernatural. it is only a variant of secular humanism, which is why secular humanists remain far more scandalized by religious wars and persecutions than by the continuing oppressions ... of the Communist regimes" (pp. 50-51).
Both chapters are correct in associating secular humanism with secularization, described by sociologists as the process of differentiating categories of human action, identifying that which is public and that which is private. Religion has been identified as a private affair. On examination, however, the problems that have caught the attention of the public, are being discussed by politicians, and decided upon by the Courts of the land, are decidedly religious in nature; for example, abortion, mercy killing, and so on. Religion does Dot seem to be an altogether private af fair! Both chapters remind Christians not to remain passive and naive in their understanding of the political process but to act when their religious beliefs are taken for granted and violated.
The factors that are said to be responsible for the breakdown of religious faith, strong family bonds, and moral probity in post-World War II America are discussed in chapter four, "On Parents, Children, and the Nation-State" by Allan C. Carlson. These factors are divided into two categories: that of 'internal weakness' and 'the cultural war.' The former includes (1) the failure of mainline churches, (2) the race question, and (3) the image of the American woman. These weaknesses rendered American society an easy target for a whole range of ideological opponents, creating a culture war. Among the opponents enumerated are the Marxist Left, the Sexual Libertarians, the Neo-Malthusians, and the Radical Feminists. American culture, says the author, became a 11 cockpit in conflict" (p. 68).
Despite the enormity and complexity of recreating moral communities, the author goes on to suggest steps that could help create a new vision of moral community (pp. 69-72), one designed to reinstate the centrality of family authority and the right of families to preside over the education of their children. in turn, these steps suggest changes regarding schooling practices.
Continuing the theme that American society is deeply divided over its core of values, the discussion moves on to such matters as abortion and infanticide. These are the topics of chapter five, "Abortion: The Judeo-Christian Imperative," by W. Douglas Badger, and of chapter six, "Rationalizing Infanticide: Medical Ethics in the Eighties," by James Manney. At once, Badger puts to rest the questions of whether or not a fetus is a human being or of when life begins by citing statements of different scientists affirming the humanity of a fetus. indeed, he says that this is not the question at issue. Rather, underlying all moral and value problems in America is an irreconcilable conflict between two views of human life, namely, the sanctity-of-life ethic which is the Judeo-Christian moral tradition-one which emphasizes the intrinsic worth and equal value of every human life regardless of its stage or condition (p. 98)-and the quality-of-life ethic which allows relative rather than absolute value to be assigned to human lives (p. 99). Increasing acceptance of the quality-of-life ethic may have been encouraged by the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade-that the right of privacy was broad enough to encompass a woman's decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy (p. 79). The chapter includes some descriptions of actual performance of abortion in order to focus " . . . on the undeniable reality of precisely what an abortion is" (p. 87). It concludes with an affirmation of the Christian stand on the sanctity of life; hence, its opposition to abortion. The question of whether there are cases where abortion may be morally justified on Christian grounds is not raised. What is emphasized is that in principle Christians are opposed to abortion.
The conflict of the two world views is evident in the discussion on intentional killing of innocent newborn life, 'beneficient' euthanasia, killing of disabled newborns, and so on. An attempt which is supposed to be informed by Christian beliefs and which provides ground for deciding when to sustain or to terminate life is presented for analysis. It is the so-called "relational principle" authored by Fr. McCormick and also used by the American Medical Association in 1981 in a paper entitled "Quality of Life." The principle is based on I John 4:20-21: "If any man says I love God and hates his brother, he is a liar, For he who loves not his brother, whom he sees, how can he love God whom he does not see?" From these verses Fr. McCormick concludes that the substance, meaning, and consurnation of life is found in human relationship, along with supporting qualities of justice, respect, concern, and so forth (p. 104). The question then becomes, on what basis may mentally retarded or handicapped children be judged capable of sustaining human relationships? And how should their quality of sustaining such relationships be judged? By whose standards? The guideline is too broad and vague to enable someone to decide whether human relationship is sustained or not. It may be applicable to difficult and extreme cases, but not to a wide range of cases of varying degrees of abnormality, or mental retardation. The author concludes the chapter with a brief discussion on the employment of medical technology and on vitalism. Suggesting that discussion on these matters are sometimes misdirected, the author once more directs himself to the issue of whether handicapped infants should receive the same treatment as non-handicapped infants. If not, why not? Too often social rather than medical reasons justify the answer. The child's projected I.Q., the parents' aspirations, a doctor's view of a meaningful life, et cetera, make him a target for infanticide. But the disabled child is, says the author, "one of us, a creature of God, a pearl of great price" (p. 112).
If public schools are said to promote the values of secular humanism, then inquiry into the bases for teaching moral education should be made. Accordingly, chapter seven, "Ideological Biases in Today's Theories of Moral Education," by Paul Vitz, discusses two popular theories of moral education; namely, values clarification and Kohlberg's theories of moral development. At once it should be said that values clarification has lost much of its attraction and popularity. It has received numerous critical commentaries, the foremost of which question its understanding of what constitutes 'values.' Most of its game-like strategies tended to render complex moral problems into mere likes, dislikes, wants, or wishes. It tended to concentrate on "getting in touch with one's self " to the exclusion of others. The primary moral question of "How ought I to behave considering that there are others like me" tended to be obscured or rejected. Most of the criticisms in this chapter to the theory may no longer be necessary. Values clarification is now out of fashion!
Kohlberg's theory of moral education, on the other hand, continues to enjoy some popularity and to draw attention. But it is no longer viewed as the primary source for understanding the complex field of moral education. Questions have been raised regarding the reliability and validity of his empirical data. And even if they were all acceptable, on examination, his theory is an evaluative one, mixed with some of his own beliefs about what one's overriding principle ought to be. His overriding principle of justice competes with other principles, e.g., respect for persons, love, God, et cetera. And the absence of such concerns as care or compassion reduces Kohlberg's understanding of moral problems to nothing more than rational, cognitive commitments. Consequently, the central problem of uniting one's moral decisions with moral actions is not or cannot be solved.
Given the pluralism of the times, how then should Government decide on public policy matters? if neutrality is taken to mean respect for every individual's view, the reducing of moral problems to radically individualistic problems, then there is no need for a public morality. This could mean societal chaos. Chapter eight, "Pluralism and the Limits of Neutrality," by Francis Canavan, S. J., gives suggestions on how to respect the individual and at the same time cultivate the view that we are a community of communities" (p. 160).
"World Views and Public Policy," by Carl Horn, concludes the collection of essays. He reiterates a basic theme of these essays that Christians must be alert to the rhetoric of pluralism and alleged neutrality of values. Behind them, he warns, " . . . lurks an alternate religious vision for man and society" (p. 168). So, to every decision by the Courts over certain cases, to every TV programme that invades one's home, and to every teaching that public schools provide the children, Christians must ask, "Whose values are being reflected and affirmed to be desirable in all these?"
This collection of essays answers the question, "How ought we to live and how ought we to conceive of what the good life is?" The authors state their views boldly and unequivocally on such matters as mercy killing, abortion, handicapped newborn children, and so on, many times without argumentation; at times they appear to address complex moral problems in beguilingly simple terms. There is, however, an urgency in their concerns over an American society so deeply divided over a core of values. Their motivation is right, and for the wide range of people who label themselves either Christian, orthodox, or traditional, it is certainly acceptable.
Reviewed by Evelina Orteza y Miranda, Professor, Department of Educational Policy and Administrative Studies, The University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
NEED-THE NEW RELIGION by Tony Walter. IVP, Downers Grove, IL (1985). 173 pages. $6.95."A new moralitv is all about us, and virtually nobody has noticed. Its center-piece is 'need.' Needs are good things, and meeting them is the ultimate good" (p. 1). Thus opens this useful but sometimes puzzling book.
Tony Walter (Ph.D., Sociology, Aberdeen), a writer living in England, has set about the task of arguing that "need" has taken the place of all previous legitimate and illegitimate justifications for our, and by extension, our societies' behaviors. (He is writing for both English and American readers.)
Essentially his argument traces the Western understanding of acceptable authority for backing up what we do relative to our selves, our work and leisure, our spouses, our children, and all others in our societies. Then he discusses the nature of 11 need" and "want" and the problems involved in attempting to spell out exactly what constitutes true or basic human needs. Finally he concludes with a discussion of some biblical ideas for how we might get out of the trap of being respondents to need and finding liberation in being respondents to Christ.
This book presented some real difficulties for this reviewer. While the main point is clear and there is much good information, the act of reading the book is rather like riding a horse that is prone to bucking for no predictable reason. just when the reader gets used to a style of presentation there is an abrupt change of course! This makes it very hard to determine the intended readership.
As a scholarly work, it betrays four major weaknesses, the first being the making of many assertions with no reference to supporting evidence. There is also some questionable use of the Bible. For example, he asserts that the New Testament portrays no conflict between needs of the flesh and the needs of the spirit, but that the church has been aware of just such a conflict. Even though the church does not view human needs as "sacrosanct," it has been involved in addressing "human want and misery." This leads directly to his conclusion: "Christian thinking therefore has, at best, appreciated the ambiguity and complexity of human needs; at worst, been confused by them" (p. 13). I'll say!
The third problem is a seeming inconsistency in the use of need" and "want," as illustrated above, and throughout the text.
The fourth difficulty is probably a matter of debate, but I have trouble with some of the assertions-unsupported-of what Karl Marx believed about society and history. Sadly, this is all too common for disciples, and critics, of Marx and even of Christ.
It is also not possible to characterize the intended reader as the academic "layman." Walter regularly uses names of notable scholars as if the reader already knew the implications of their work relative to his current subject. Could it be that the "average" Briton is so much better schooled in philosophy and psychology that this is really only a problem for American readers?
In any case there is a real problem for us Yanks. In American politics the term "liberal" generally refers to Democratic politicians in recent history and/or anyone outside the New Right today. For Walter, "liberal" refers to pre-Depression capitalism and current Reaganomics. Students of American political economy understand this use because the term refers to the liberation of the market place from irrational (royal or big government) influences.
There is a similar confusion in the use of "ideology." Throughout the text it refers to the world view we all accept from our culture as Reality and not as a socio-linguistic construction. This is the way Marx used the term, but the common use in this country is in reference to communism, and, by extension, to false beliefs.
Although I found the actual reading an irritating experience due to the above "curiosities," Walter's main argument-that we are caught in an ideology of need which reifies perceived wants and desires as objective facts of need and thus imparts an oughtness to their fulfillment-actually does appear to hold water. Probably the clearest example is the current popular understanding of marriage as a contractual agreement to get our ego needs met until poor performance do us part!
Walter's alternative to struggling to create our selves out of nothing but man-made ideas, e.g., "I think therefore I am," "I desire therefore I am," and "I need therefore I am" is to adopt "I respond therefore I am." The response is to the love and grace which predates us in God and in the community in which we find ourselves. This implies, of course, that society should model the behaviors it wants from us-rather like a loving family-instead of assuming the worst and then organizing around coercive philosophies to keep us in line.
This sounds rather utopian but Walter is not so naive as to assume the perfectability of people through social change. His contention is that we would do better to at least try to model acceptable behaviors and risk being "taken" sometimes than to err on the side of a worst-case scenario of human nature. Although be does not use the term, it seems be is applying the theory of self-fulfilling prophecy to entire societies.
Someone has accused sociologists of explaining the obvious, and there is something to that. On the other hand the "obvious" seldom becomes obvious until someone points it out to us. Sociologists are interested in understanding how, and how much, society influences us, but this is the first time I have encountered this popular theory applied in this way. Justice-as-fairness is not uncommon among social theorists, but pointing out the modeling aspect of governmental behavior is new ... at least to me.
Even with its shortcomings I recommend this book, if nothing else the reader will sense a "red f lag" every time s/he hears or utters the word "need." I am finding it somewhat disconcerting to notice how few "needs" actually f it the term. If this sounds "merely obvious" recall the first words of this review and Jesus' words about becoming as little children (who see what "mature adults" have learned not to see?)
Reviewed by Larry Riedinger, MRE, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, KY, and graduate teaching assistant (sociology), University of Louisville.
VITAL SIGNS by George Barna and William McKay. Crossway Books, Westchester, Illinois (1984). 155 pages. $6.95.
In recent years, a number of Christians in the field of sociology have begun writing books relating their faith to this discipline; several deficient approaches have surfaced. Some write extended opinion pieces that propound favorite ideological or political positions, with a few verses of Scripture tacked on here and there. Others dialogue with major thinkers and researchers in the field, but the Christian perspective again seems superficial and incomplete. A few exceptions to this dismal trend exist (for example, Tony Campolo), but overall, these attempts come off as weak and boring.
In contrast to this trend, Barna and McKay have compiled a considerable amount of recent research and have written a very readable and interesting work. The authors are associated with the American Research Bureau, which has conducted a great deal of research for religious organizations. They make use of not only their own research but also that of Gallup and other polling agencies (an endorsement by Gallup can be found on the back cover).
The book opens with a short overview, followed by an initial chapter on the family. The authors document how attitudes about divorce have changed in the church, such as the f act that two out of three Christians see divorce as a reasonable solution to a problem marriage. Attitudes about abortion among Christians (40% are relatively uncommitted) and the recent shift in values among college students are detailed.
Education is considered in the next chapter, The historical shift in the context of education is considered, as well as alternatives to public schools-home schooling and Christian schools. Evidence of threat to the Christian college is carefully considered. The chapter concludes that decisions by Christians regarding education are very personal matters, with no clear cut answer.
The media are considered, including the topics of cable television, Christian television, satellites, movies, and reading. The increase in sex, violence, and profanity is well-documented, although it may be noted that some of the statistics are already dated.
The political involvement of Christians is dealt with in chapter four. The authors consider the religious beliefs of political leaders as well as the inactivity of evangelicals in the political process, concluding that evangelicals are not a "moral majority" but rather a "mild minority." Throughout these early chapters of the book a conservative orientation is sometimes found, yet there are also statistical data cited that are contrary to conservative assumptions.
The last three chapters of the book specifically deal with indications of spirituality and the institutional church context. In my opinion, these chapters alone are worth the price of the book. A number of the findings contrast with common assumptions held by church people.
For example, the authors state that there is no real evidence of revival or decline in the church, although there are indications of a preparation for revival. The authors forecast a shift to smaller churches because of indications of a willingness to sacrifice first-rate preaching and Sunday school teaching for the opportunity to develop deep and lasting bonds with other Christians." The amount of prayer and attitudes about women ministering in the church are also considered, as well as the evidence of secularization among evangelicals.
I tested this book as a supplement in my introductory
sociology classes, and found that students were at times
shocked, at other times excited, and almost always interested
in what the book stated. The topics correspond with half or
more of the chapters in a standard sociology text, so it works
very well as a secondary textbook. In addition, I have found
myself returning to these chapters to quote a statistic or
conclusion to students and colleagues.
This is an outstanding contribution from Crossway Books, perhaps the best they have released to date. Perhaps this fine quality can be attributed to their editor, Lane Dennis, who has a doctorate in sociology. We need more of this kind of sociology research by Christians!
Reviewed by Donald Ratcliff, Assistant Professor of Psychology and Sociology, Toccoa Falls College.
LOGIC by Gordon H. Clark. The Trinity Foundation, Jefferson City, Maryland (1985). 124 pages. Paperback; $8.95.
Readings in Ethics, Gordon Clark's first book, was published in 1931. Logic is his thirty-third. Logic has eleven chapters and a glossary, but no index or bibliography. It is intended for use as a logic textbook by Christian schools and colleges.
The jacket blurb calls Clark "America's foremost theologian and philosopher." indeed, Clark has held a prominent place in Christendom for nearly 60 years. Trained at the University of Pennsylvania and the Sorbonne, Clark has taught at several colleges and universities during his distinguished career.
John Robbins, the president of Trinity Foundation and publisher of the book, has written an introduction entitled "Why Study Logic?" He translates John 1:1 thusly: "In the beginning was the Logic, and the Logic was with God, and the Logic was God." The introduction is something of a paradox, since it contains several non sequiturs. One example: "The results of this rejection of logic-mass murder, war, government-caused famine, abortion, child abuse, destruction of families, crime of all sorts-are all around us" (p. ix). it is not the rejection of logic which leads to these evils, but rather the rejection of certain premises.
Some of the topics Clark discusses are: why study logic, definition of logic, inference, syllogism, sorites, dilemma, and truth tables. There are both verbal and pictorial illustrations. Nevertheless, a good deal of concentration is required to follow the book's progression. It is not light reading.
It can be useful reading for anyone who has never given much thought to logic and the importance it plays in arriving at valid conclusions. Clark is very good at offering contemporary illustrations and then dissecting them. He shows that many false conclusions could be avoided if the laws of logic were applied.
This book might serve as a textbook in a course supplemented by lectures or other materials. Although the book is somewhat skimpy, it has the virtue of not overwhelming the reader. It is occasionally opaque, but this could provide the teacher an opportunity to wax eloquent. Why the book is intended especially for Christian colleges is not clear. The religious references and illustrations it includes do not seem intrinsic to Christianity.
Reviewed by Richard Ruble, John Brown University, Siloam Springs, Arkansas 72761.
HOMOSEXUALITY AND HOPE: A Psychologist Talks about Treatment and Change by Gerard van den Aardweg. Servant Books, Ann Arbor, MI (1985). 134 pages. Paperback. ISBN 0-89283-265-7.
Dr. van den Aardweg is a Dutch psychologist who uses his experiences over the past twenty years of treating more than 225 homosexual men and about 30 lesbian women as the basis for much that is in his book. He believes that "homosexuality is a form of self-pitying neurosis" (p. 45). By understanding homosexuality in this way, one has an appreciation for its nature that provides insight about ways of treatment which allow realistic hope for change, in contrast to the widespread belief that homosexuals are trapped by the purported inherent and unchangeable character of homosexuality.
The position that homosexuality is a neurosis and can be overcome in ways similar to the manner in which other neuroses can be overcome is a wholesome contrast to much of what is found in contemporary literature about homosexuality. Dr. van den Aardweg does not claim that the change is easy, but presents a convincing case that change is possible. The approach that he proposes is "anticomplaining theory." His experience is that about two-thirds of his homosexual patients who continued the treatment program achieved long-term change from their homosexuality.
The description of factors causing or promoting homosexuality and its relation to "self-pity addiction" are helpful. unfortunately, the portion of the book devoted to "the road to change" is very short (12 pages) and does not provide as much help as one would desire. The book does not treat the important and complex issue of how to help homosexuals find the motivation to put forth the effort required to change. And the two-page chapter on ways to prevent homosexual orientation is too brief to be useful.
My overall reactions to this book are negative, but I have been hard pressed to really understand why. Obviously, I think Dr. van den Aardweg is right on target in describing homosexuality as a treatable problem and appreciate his data about changed homosexuals. However, I found his discussion of the factors leading to homosexuality somewhat simplistic and lacking in new or additional insight to the materials already prevalent within the evangelical community. I was disappointed at the lack of depth in the discussion of his treatment for homosexuals. And I was sorry that the book had little of substance about the power of God or His Word in helping homosexuals to change. Consequently, this is not a book that I can strongly recommend.
Reviewed by D. K. Pace, The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Maryland.
THE FREEDOM WE CRAVE by William Lenters. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan (1985). 177 Pages. Cloth; $9.95.
The Freedom We Crave has already received high praise from reviewers: Lewis B. Smedes calls it "a splendid gift," J. Harold Evans labels it "a great book," and Wayne E. Oates says it is "technically informed and clearly Christian." What can I add to the comments of such notables? Perhaps a little information about the author, a synopsis of the content and a few random observations.
William Lenters is a certified addictions counselor and an ordained minister, who presently serves as campus minister at Purdue University. From 1973-1981 he served as director of Calvary Rehabilitation Center, a drug and alcohol treatment agency in Phoenix. The author has counseled over 500 people addicted to beverage alcohol.
The book has no index, although it does have endnotes. The six chapters present addiction as the response of people to the stresses of life ("The problem of addiction in our culture is ... a people problem"). Addictions discussed include alcoholism, love, religion, workaholism, food and fitness. Finally, Lenters concludes with a chapter on recovery from addiction. An appendix on steps to healthy living contains a self -test.
Addiction is endemic to the human condition and everyone is addicted to something: "A major contention of this book is that addiction describes something that happens to everyone at the deepest level ... The addiction experience is the human experience" (p. 4). What is addictive behavior? It is any activity that provides a temporary relief from emotional or physical discomfort but is not a permanent solution to the discomfort. While some addictions are more harmful than others, all addictions are harmful. Chronic addiction is detrimental to addicts' mental, physical, spiritual, and social well-being. Addicts' disorders have a detrimental effect on those around them, also.
The author concentrates mainly on the addictions of love, alcohol, and religion. The chapter on the addiction of love opens with an observation from Plato: losing the sex drive in old age is like being allowed to dismount from a wild horse. On the other hand, learning to love is the key which unlocks our potential and the most important process which continues throughout life. Love has many illusory aspects which the author debunks.
Lenters thinks that we are living in an age of pharmeceutical buffoonery, as indicated by the 13 million alcoholics in the United States. Alcohol abuse is a learned behavior which results from a person's inability to deal sucessf ully with stress. For every obvious addict, there are many less obvious ones who use alcohol or take drugs because of their inadequacy, inferiority, and impotency. However, even people not addicted to chemicals are addicted to some other form of "patterned existence."
Lenters sees many similarities between addiction to alcohol and addiction to religion. They both provide relief from weariness, boredom, drudgery, rejection, loneliness, fear, meaninglessness and anomie. "Bellying up to the bar for another glass of fire-brewed magic and shuffling up to the altar for the mystical host are not altogether unrelated motions.... Chemical intoxication and spiritual euphoria are akin" (p. 80). Lenters reminds us that the disciples at Pentecost were mistaken for drunks.
Some of Lenters' statements will perhaps arouse the reader to debate. He believes that "people do not change their ways ... via the costly route of psychotherapy" (p. 6). Lenters thinks that "abstinence as a norm is simply not biblical" (p. 63). Furthermore, some hymn singing can be pathological: "but 'I Surrender All,' despite its noble sound, is sentimental trash, symptomatic of pathological religion, unless it is followed up and counterbalanced by the readiness for engagement in life: 'Am I a Soldier of the Cross?"' (p. 88). And on an errorless Bible: "Pathological fixations on 'biblical inerrancy' suck the life out of a lively theological debate" (p. 90).
This book may disturb the reader occasionally when controversial topics are dispatched in a cursory fashion. On the other hand, the book contains many useful insights which make for informative and stimulating reading. All addicts should find it beneficial. That means everybody.
Reviewed by Richard Ruble, John Brown University, Siloam Springs, Arkansas 72761.
THE INTELLECT AND BEYOND Oliver R. Barclay. Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan (1985). 157 pages. Paperback; $6.95.
Barclay's plea in this book is for Christians to think Christianly. He stimulates the reader to do just that. The author has obviously given a good deal of thought to Christian thought, and the result is a provocative, interesting, wellwritten, insightful book. It is highly recommended for Christians who are eager to bring every thought captive to Christ. While Barclay believes that all Christians have a Christian mind, it is possible for believers "to be more deeply Christian" and to develop a Christian outlook that controls life and thought.
Trenchant insights and opinions abound. Barclay is uncomfortable with so-called Christian philosophy. Christianity, argues Barclay, will not fit into a philosophical mold. This is because Christians do not have a complete world-and-life philosophy given to them in the Bible. Therefore, a complete Christian philosophy is very difficult to justify since the Bible does not provide a complete intellectual system.
Barclay takes a swipe at the exclusivity of Christian education. While "God's psychology and sociology are better than ours," they are not complete and therefore do not provide the basis for Christian isolationism. "The idea that the children of Christian parents should be withdrawn into Christian schools, universities or trade associations is ... not of the teaching of the Bible, which does not even hint at such a thing."
The author also is wary of Christian politics. Since Christian ethics depend upon Christian doctrine, Barclay continues, Christians must systematize their faith if they are to think as Christians. However, "the lust for intellectual tidiness must be resisted when it leads us to dogmatize about what is not clear in Scripture." This dogmatizing can lead to a "Christian political position" which is sometimes a real embarrassment to other Christians.
This anecdote, told by Barclay, perhaps summarizes the gist of this book. A German evangelical theologian was complimented for taking his stand firmly on the Bible. He responded, "On the contrary! I sit under the Bible." Barclay argues that such a subservient attitude is the place to begin in developing a Christian mind. The book tries to steer the reader clear of the excesses of extreme intellectualism or emotionalism. The solution to combating these excesses is Spirit-led understanding and application of the Word.
The book's nine chapters fall into three categories. The first five define the Christian mind; the next three deal with a Christian view of man, work, job, unemployment, and culture; and the final chapter gives advice on developing a Christian mind. Bibliography. index, and endnotes are omitted. included are a brief introduction and an appendix entitled "The Dooyeweerdian Christian Philosophy."
Oliver R. Barclay, now retired, was general secretary of the Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship (formerly Inter-Varsity Fellowship) in the United Kingdom. This book is a revision of Developing a Christian Mind which was published in 1960 by Inter-Varsity Press in the United Kingdom. I am glad it has been revised and reissued. May it be widely read!
Reviewed by Richard Ruble, John Brown University, Siloam Springs, Arkansas 72761.